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Tuesday 30 April 2024

Reviews: Arð, ACxDC, Glassing, Stormborn (Reviews By Matt Bladen & GC)

Arð – Untouched By Fire (Prophecy Prodcutions) [Matt Bladen]

Mark Deeks has been trading under the name Arð since 2019. You may have seen him tinkling the ivories and providing backing vocals for Winterfylleth for a bit longer but Arð is his project dedicated to the cultural heritage and identity of his native Northumbria. 

Deeks is Arð and Arð is Deeks, he is vocalist, keyboardist, guitarist (rhythm), pianist and bassist, relying on a band for live performances which includes Nick and Chris from Winterfylleth and Pantheist main man Kostas. 

The music of Arð very similar to that of Pantheist, evoking the liturgical soundscapes of the church but using it to delve into a pre-Christian world. Winterfylleth do the same but while they use black metal Arð is firmly in the doomsphere. 

Untouched By Fire is his second full length and again relies on heavy usage of monastic chants and church organs for the main crux of the music, slow repeating guitar riffs and drumbeats, from Callum Cox, are used to great effect on the frostbitten He Saw Nine Winters, the composition skills to keep the songs slow and heavy but engaging melodic much higher than anything a lot of musicians could do.

Unlike Pantheist, who played with Arð at what was dubbed Organic Doom Fest in Hull where a cathedral organ was used to support both bands, the clean vocals are perhaps a bit more palatable for those new to the funeral/atmospheric doom sound. 

With so much instrumentation coming from Deeks and it being so densely layered some of the other standout performances may be overlooked as Rubina Huy adds some stirring cello, Dan Capp of Wolcensmen, gives searing lead guitars and the Northumbrian pipes are a welcome addition on Beset By Weapons, which while the shortest song here, definitely has the most profound effect. 

You can imagine and visualise the misty moors of Northumbria, the desolation, steeped in magic and myth but a hard impenetrable place to anyone not local. As with the debut there is a concept, Untouched By Fire, taking us to the time when Germanic kings laid siege to Northumbrian lands. These historical narratives a ripe for musical adaptation and Arð make sure to show them the proper respect with an epic musical score.

Included in the deluxe package is the set from Organic Doom Fest, which is fantastic and will fit right in with the songs from same show on Pantheist's last EP. I’ve compared the two a lot but there is a lot of crossover between the bands. The UK a fertile breeding grown for grandiloquent doom. 9/10

ACxDC - G.O.A.T (Prosthetic Records) [GC]

Back with my other release this week from California quartet ACxDC, their latest release G.O.A.T is classed as power-violence which mixes grindcore, punk and death metal, the legendary Spazz were the masters of this style and not many have done it better than them but let’s see if we can get something close!!

Wanna See A Dead Body puts an instant smile on my face as it is utterly fucking bonkers just as I wanted it to be, its fast as fuck, mental vocals and everything just crashes and smashes around you for just over a minute and then it’s over, Boxed In really hones in on the hardcore feel of the power-violence style and has some great crunchy riffs and drums that can get you 2 stepping and dropkicking nans in just under 2 minutes of pure adrenaline fuelled anger which follows directly into Clout Chaser which has more of the more groove filled hardcore essence and is another absolute blast of a song! 

Greatest Of All Time is an absolute belter of a song its death metal sped up and compressed into just over a minute but with and beautiful dollop of hardcore added for good measure and the same can be said of Mortality Salience when they turn on the hardcore its just done so well and its urgent and full on not one second is wasted or mis-judged here. 

This is evident on At Midnight that is here and gone in a whirl of scathing guitars, blasting drums, thick bass and screeching vocals that if you blink you will miss it. Into The Void finally clocks in at under a minute but still manages to pack in as much madness as you could ever want, they keep the onslaught going with the crusty hardcore punk of Definition Of Insanity that has a lovely breakdown at the end and mixes almost every style possible in to one song. 

Fairweather almost clocks the 2-minute mark and has a much slower death metal pace to it and doesn’t really kick off until a minute in and when it does again it’s a slower pace that we have had but doesn’t lack anything in the savage department, Thot Police harks back to the crusty hardcore punk scene that was breaking out in the early 80’s and the nostalgic feel is something that makes this another absolute worldie of a song. 

This is followed swiftly by Flying Pigs which is just pure grindcore brutality in the best way possible, clocking in at a mighty 35 seconds and I absolutely love it! Inside Joke is suitably disgusting mix of hardcore and death metal and once again I’m 2 stepping and wind milling around the room with a big cheesy grin on my face. 

Vested Interest is a pure 100% hardcore punk track and while it manages to always get some grindcore essence in there it never loses that hardcore spirit and the just like that they switch it back to death metal tinged hardcore with Karoshi, that is easily one of this albums top features you never know what style is next up. 

It keep you guessing at all times on Feed The Blade its back to pummelling and scathing grindcore mixed with savage and unrelenting hardcore punk and it is utterly exhilarating, Goatcore is one last shot of insanely fast pure grind before Expired throws together more death metal but then adds a slower and meatier groove filled hardcore punk into the song to finish off this truly wonderful record!

I think it is plain to see that I fucking loved this record, every single second of it is thrilling, ACxDC never take their foot off the gas, and everything is done with conviction and purpose, and it creates an absolute riot of an album that I guarantee you will go back to again and again and again! A truly wonderful and gloriously angry record that packs all the necessary punches you need. An absolute must hear!! 10/10

Glassing - From the Other Side Of The Mirror (Pelagic Records) [GC]

This review sees me taking a little break from my usual extreme or death metal shenanigans and as there is no label type information on Glassing, I am going in a bit blind and not sure what to expect, the description is hardcore (I mean I have to make it appeal to you somehow - Ed) so hopefully that’s what I am going to get!

Opening track Anything You Want is certainly NOT hardcore, its slow and doomy sludge that has layers of atmospherics mixed into the sound and loads of melancholic guitars that hit hard and while it’s not what I was expecting I enjoy it, with Nothing Touches You we get an almost Stone Roses type intro with a swirling and echoey build up that then explodes into what can only be described as a chaotic noise that intertwines with the swirling echoeyness and it’s a real gut punch of a track that while never really easing off it also is managing to create that feeling of what coming next? 

Defacer is definitely more focused rather than just another unhinged mix of chaos and sadness, there is a definite post hardcore/black metal influence on show here and it’s nice to hear that amongst all the madness there is some order. Sallow is just 3 minutes of ominous noise that is a welcome break from the onslaught but is also completely fucking annoying as it totally stuns the progress of the album and really what is the point in including this?? 

Nominal Will throws the shackles off again and thunders forward with an unhinged and almost withdrawn sound that throws back to the mid 00’s screamo scene while still managing to maintain mystique and intrigue and always having that emotive post-hardcore sound as the comfort blanket. 

Ritualist brings back the slow doom parts of the Glassing sound and here they add in some almost monk like chanting to replace the high-pitched screeching vocals and this manages to create that incredible feeling once again of unease throughout but once the usual vocals resume the pace stays the same and it’s a devastatingly effective combination. 

As My Heart Rots returns to the more insane sounding side of things and has the black metal influence running through and also manages to mix in more rich atmospherics again in a whirlwind of savage beauty, Circle Down continues with the same pulling at the heart string emotive heaviness that has made this so far a bit of a hard listening experience in a good and not so good way, the good part is that its unrelentingly heavy and brutally raw and open, the not so good part is that it starts to weigh you down a bit and feels like you are starting to get depressed yourself which isn’t what I aim for when I’m listening to an album. 

The Kestrel Goes then is ANOTHER 5 minutes of rumbling noise that once again does nothing for the album and is just infuriating, just don’t bother if you haven’t got a song? Stuff like this winds me up because, it never adds anything to the flow of the record it just slows everything down. 

Anyway after that little annoyance Wake bursts into life with one final blast of noise that is melancholic, dreamy but ultimately savagely open and vulnerable but never lacks the edge needed to really make you feel everything with full force.

Now this has finished I feel drained, it was a cathartic and harsh listen that was covered with darkness but also has spots of light in between, in places it might have been a bit too emotionally charged and it really did bear down on you. 

But if you can get through that there is a lot to like on From The Other Side Of The Mirror if you don’t want to be challenged or confronted by the harshness of life then this is not for you, if you want to explore the darker sides and psyches of your inner self then this album will take you to all this places and more. 8/10

Stormborn - Zenith (Rockshots Records) [Matt Bladen]

A storm, crashing thunder and lightning, slow building guitars and then an explosion into neo-classical soloing. Yeah ok it’s cheesy and it’s been done before but there’s just something about it that makes me smile. Literally born by a storm, Zenith is Kent metal band Stormborn’s second album and it’s got classic heavy metal trappings but with some heavier thrash and prog elements too. 

Firstly vocally Christopher Simmons is really reaching into the Halford range, he’s got the snarl, the diction and some of the highs too on Death Incarnate and the rip snorting Land Of The Servant King, so the whole of Zenith feels like post-Painkiller Priest. 

But there’s more, there’s some Maiden in there on the bassy (Simon "Steve" Ball) Echo which is the final track as well as on Serpentine. Out In The Weird feels like Blizzard Of Oz Ozzy, the guitar playing of Laurence Armitage and David Viner sparkling throughout, shredding up a storm on Dawn Will Come Again as Andrew Felton’s drumming maintains a pacey gallop for more Maidenisms.

What I enjoy about this album is that they have brought these trad metal sound up to date with a louder, heavier approach that lends itself to power metal band such as Rage or Grave Digger, it’s also got a refined, but warm production method that is a treat in a pair of headphones. Zenith reaches higher than Stormborn’s debut, setting them on a path that will only reap rewards. 8/10

Reviews: Darkthrone, Inter Arma, Moon Shot, Old Painless (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Darkthrone - It Beckons Us All (Peaceville)

Twenty One! Darkthrone have released twenty one albums, perennial meme Fenriz and Nocturno Culto have been churning out various types of metal since 1986, beginning their career as one of the pioneers of black metal but in recent years they've adapted their sound to bring more classic, speed, punk, doom, thrash and death. 

On this album putting together the anguished barks of Nocturno with Fenriz providing more of the clean vocals on this album to make it much more like classic metal album than previous efforts, if you've heard Coffin Storm you'll know the score.

The sounds of Celtic Frost are very strong on Black Dawn Affiliation, the production is raw and dirty, recorded live as per usual, both sharing the bass work and doubling up on the guitars, so they can bring some shredding leads on The Bird People Of The Nordland

Far beyond genre tags at this point in their career I'm sure there will black metal aficionados that will decry this as not cvlt but screw it as Darkthrone have never really been ones to concern or restrain themselves by genre boundaries.

Swelling synths beckon the beginnings of Howling Primitive Colonies The Heavy Hand grinds away with early black metal meets doom, those slow heavy riffs continuing to power the epic cinematic The Lone Pines Of The Lost Planet

It's a natural continuation of what they have been doing on previous albums Eternal Hails and Astral Fortress, Darkthrone carve a path of their own as always but It Beckons Us All is in the style I enjoy most from their shapeshifting. 9/10

Inter Arma - New Heaven (Relapse)

There are bands that sit in one extreme metal genre or another but then there are bands like Inter Arma. Bringing a concoction of doom, death, black, prog, hardcore and god knows what else, their latest album New Haven is not a casual listen, not a one and done review either. 

It wants your time, it needs to bludgeon you, it has to tell you that not everything will be ok, sometimes you don’t triumph over adversity, you just have to accept it and move on. Swirling maelstrom of angular leads, tumbling, cacophonous rhythms, vocals pulled from the depths of despair and thrown at your ears full throttle all the time, New Haven is not an album to relax on a sunny night with.

Moreover it’s the type of thing parents would describe as ‘just noise’, but behind that there is some, impressive musicianship going on, Joel Moore saving the bands bacon as he stepped into be their bass player after they had gone through four in the writing process of this album. 

His musical talents are usually of the six string variety so he plays the bass like and additional lead guitarist, joining Trey Dalton, Steven Russell and T.J Childers as the guitar players on these blistering slabs of blackened sludge such as the title track and Violent Seizures, putting the bottom end gurgle to the harmonic Endless Grey.

He like most of the band is a multi-instrumentalist, adding synths, tape loops, samples and noise, Dalton bringing mellotron and synths as well. These electronics are vital to the panoramic sound Inter Arma have been trying to perfect on their previous records. 

They improve the Gothics of Gardens In The Dark, singer Mike Paparo adopting a baritone croon over his harsh vocal style. He does so again on The Children Of The Bombs Overlooked, T.J Childers drumming feeling like falling armaments, he too bringing extra instruments such as percussion, lap steel and piano.

New Haven is Inter Arma trying to shake off their ‘curse’ one that over 20 years, has led to multiple episodes of member changing, visa issues, stolen passports, near death experiences and much more, it’s about taking on these battles and producing music that they want to make, no matter whether people decry them for not being what they want. 

They consider it to be the most cohesive and honest they have been in these 20 years, I’d consider it to be absolutely skull crushing. A New Haven isn’t easy, but it’s rewarding for fans of extreme experimental music. 8/10

Moon Shot - The Power (Reaper Records)

Finnish band Moon Shot bring the modernity with their second album The Power. Following up their debut in 2021 with a punchy rock record that comes from a long line of Finnish bands such as H.I.M, The Rasmus and Poets Of The Fall, but also Von Hertzen Brothers as well. The foursome have honed their chops in bands such as Disco Ensemble, Children Of Bodom and Lapko.

They have refined themselves into a radio pop rock juggernaut, with an experimentalism that a lot of bands would shy away from on the Linkin Park-like Ride Faster. This is rock music redefined, there's massive choruses on the title track, the hooks grabbing you on every track. 

It's Ville Malja's diverse and impassioned vocals tag are the reason for this. On tracks such as Shadow Boxer, Moon Shot remind me of 30 Seconds To Mars as the excellent drumming from Mikko Halila is a key feature, but on Stars Are Holes they propagate intelligent Coheed & Cambria style progging.

This can also be said about Yes! where the VHB influence I mentioned earlier comes in from the oscillating keys is locked onto the guitars of songwriter, composer and producer Jussi Ylikoski, his playing really the core sound of Moon Shot, from the choppy riffs, varied effects driven parts, that brings some Muse-like thrust to Deep Hood, to the proggy structures, aided by Henkka Seppälä's basslines on the funky Supercharged Love.

I went into this album not quite knowing what to expect but it unveiled itself to be a brilliant modern rock album, if you love poppy, radio friendly progressive rock the Moon Shot' second album The Power will excite you as much as it did me! 9/10

Old Painless – Demo Songs (Self Released) [Matt Bladen]

Andy (bass), Dave (vocals), Lewis (drums) and Nathan (guitar) aka Old Painless are the latest band to emerge from the grim Yorkshire stoner/sludge/doom scene, championed by APF, a label Old Painless would slip into like a fine smoking jacket and an aged whiskey. 

They’re inspired by Fu Manchu, Clutch, Helmet and I’d also say Viking Skull and Pig Iron as they put bluesy backing riffs and distort them through sludge nastiness.

All four men are veterans of the Manchester scene and have played in stoner/sludge/punk bands, so they bring all this experience Old Painless and they’ve got what they want to be nailed from Deep & Wide, forward marching fuzzy rock n roll that is made for live shows. 

No aspirations of taking the world by storm but to share their riffs with the masses, and they have plenty of riffs to spare, on these four songs they showcase just some of them but I’m sure there’s plenty more lingering in their hazy brains.

Fleetfooted Mankiller adds lashings of groove while Just Another Case Of Bad Luck gets dirty in the low end, those sludge metal backgrounds rumbling here as this set of demos closes with the stomping Rusty Hammer

The production on these demos isn’t actually that bad as some bands actual records so this feels finished rather than early recordings. If we get a full length anywhere near this good, then I’m sure Mr Field will come calling! 8/10

Monday 29 April 2024

Reviews: Morgul Blade, Dolmen Gate, Son Of Man, War Grave (Reviews By Matt Bladen & Paul Hutchings)

Morgul Blade - Heavy Metal Wraiths (No Remorse Records) [Matt Bladen]

The works of Tolkien form the basis of so many bands, his epic tales are just as prevalent in power/epic metal as they are in black metal, so Morgul Blade have brought both together with Heavy Metal Wraiths the follow up to their 2021 debut Fell Sorcery Abounds

Formed by vocalist/guitarist Lord Klauf, Spectre joined on drums in 2020, the Heavy Temple sticksman also known as Baron Lycan (or Will to his mum) also producing as they solidified their line up with Jimmy Viola on bass/guitar/keys and Sister Midnight aka High Priestess Nighthawk in Heavy Temple on lead guitar. This line up have brought a bit more bite to Heavy Metal Wraiths, taking classic metal glory on the title track and fusing it with glacial black metal on tracks such as Razor Sharp, they add folky synths on A Welcoming Hearth which is an intro to the fist pumping Neither Cross Nor Crown, the storming bassline paired with tremolo picking. 

These are songs to headbang too, Celtic Frost if they played with Blind Guardian, or Mercyful Fate fronted by Venom’s Cronos, is the general vibe and Morgul Blade manage to pull it off. When they lean into the black metal it’s savage and blistering but when they pull back and go down the trad metal route, you forget about the harsh vocals and just get down to rocking with a twin axe attack and songs about fantasy lore. Having been welcomed at classic metal festivals in Germany and beyond and like their namesake will leave a part of them with you, slowly turning you into one of them. 8/10

Dolmen Gate – Gateways Of Eternity (No Remorse Records) [Paul Hutchings]

Forged from the fires of other Portuguese metal bands. Dolmen Gate is unashamedly epic heavy metal, in the style of Omen, Manilla Road, Cirith Ungol and Sentry. This album is a pleasingly old school styled release, with the nine-tracks all neatly crafted and delivered. It’s no wonder that the band have already played at the Up the Hammers Festival and will be making their Keep It True debut this year.

Vocalist Ana brings a fresh yet familiar voice to the classic metal that is conjured up, with the lyrical content reassuringly mystical and mythical. Songs such as Rest In Flames and Chambers Of Magic work in every way, bringing an urge to pump that fist in the air and bang the head.

It may be a retro sound, but the production is spot on, giving it the old school flavour throughout whilst ensuring that there is clarity and contemporary delivery. In fact, it’s the heady mix of 70s and 80s influences that make Gateways Of Eternity so enjoyable. With the resurgence of bands playing what we might call traditional or classic heavy metal, Dolmen Gate need to bring something a bit extra to the party to stand apart. They do that with ease, their songs full of thick, heavy riffs, crashing drums, and with Ana’s vocals providing a different angle to the usual high-pitched male power metal version.

The songs are catchy, focused and anthemic. There isn’t a duff track here, with The Wheel amongst the standout songs. Of course, there needs to be some longer, epic songs to truly tick all the boxes, and penultimate track Betrayer does that with aplomb. It’s an eight-minute monster, which charges along and provides that glorious dual guitar sound that you’d demand from a band of this genre.

Gateways Of Eternity is a fine debut, and the band from Lisbon should be rightly proud of their efforts. A must for any fan of heavy metal. 8/10

Son Of Man - Gaslight (Cherry Red Records) [Matt Bladen]

I'll save you the convoluted history of the Welsh band Man, that's what Wikipedia is for. However what you need to know is that the they formed in Merthyr and played psychedelic/progressive/jam rock, releasing countless albums while having enough members over the years to field a rugby team. They experienced deaths and disaster but are still going to this day. Two former band members formed Son Of Man a few years ago and now they are releasing their third studio album called Gaslight. Get it? Got it? Good? 

To the album itself and this has got some progressive parts to it but Son Of Man takes more a classic rock route with bluesy Whitesnakeisms on Can't Stop Loving You and some Uriah Heep organ playing on Down, there's a mixture of styles but most could be played on classic rock radio stations without stirring up too much negativity. 

The former men from Man are guitarist George Jones (who is now the only guitarist and is the son of Man founder Mickey Jones) and drummer Bob Richards. Gaslight also sees bassist Ray Jones (of Sassafras) return to the band to join singer Richie Galloni and keyboardist Marco James. The latter's contribution adding all sorts of Floyd to Far From Home though on Tomorrow it's all about those Gilmour slow hand emotive solos. 

Gaslight is an eclectic record, the swaggering hard rock, classic prog are put with southern rock on There Will Come A Day to give you a well rounded listening experience. Gaslight won't leave you in the dark, it's a classy rock record from this Welsh legacy. 8/10

War Grave – War Grave (Self Released) [Paul Hutchings]

The debut EP from London’s War Grave comes with added Ripper. Yes, by whatever means they have done it, the frontman of KK’s Priest contributes his shrill falsetto to one of the tracks on this five-song EP. It certainly gives an edge to the release, but we will get to Mr Owens later.

Formed in 2021, War Grave straddle several genres. There are elements of thrash, power metal, speed metal and even more traditional heavy metal strewn across the five songs. Vocalist Roman Kantoch has a decent range, even if he does struggle with some of the higher lines. But utilising a twin guitar approach is always going to get bonus points in my book, and with Trent Powell and Stuart Layne providing the incision, War Grave have nailed an individual style that makes this EP eminently listenable.

No messing around on the opening song War Graves. It’s full steam ahead with the powerful drumming of Steve Brill an immediate focus. It’s a brave start, with a song that is over seven-minutes long. It works brilliantly though, with the switch to an Anthrax type chug sure to grab attention of those who like to stomp. Searing lead work rips through early, and the combination of power and thrash metal is an alliance that will get heads nodding. Even the drop in tempo on War Graves works when it maybe shouldn’t, although it’ll be interesting to see how this changes reaction halfway through when it’s played live.

It's the blend of old school and contemporary flavours that make War Grave stand out. They don’t rely entirely on the old guard influences, adding their own dashes to the mix, but underneath it all, this is heavy metal, pure and simple. And for me that works.

There’s plenty of fists aloft opportunities throughout this EP. Enchained is drenched in old school power metal but works because it’s just bloody good. And then we arrive at Witch, and the shrieking power of Ripper Owens. Opening with solid if standard riffage that gets the head moving, it’s the dual scream off between Kantoch and Owens that grabs you from the start. 

Now, I dislike Ripper’s vocals, always have, and always will, so his presence on this song doesn’t help me at all, and Kantoch gives a winning performance regardless of the guest. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that Owens’ singing detracts from a well structured and vibrant track. But I know that for many, the Ripper is a big deal, and I can’t argue with his presence bringing something extra to the song.

It's down to the final duo to bring War Grave over the line and they do so in style with the explosive Revenge Is Near, which is top drawer metal that for me is the standout track on the EP. Even the harmonies and vocal histrionics lock in superbly. They finish the EP with another solid track in Price To Pay. A bit more pedestrian than what has gone before, it still ticks just about every metal box going. 

With a fresh production, War Grave has delivered an impressive opening salvo on what one hopes will be just the start of their journey. 8/10

Saturday 27 April 2024

Reviews: Tombstoner, Obscurial, Baron, Blessed Black (Reviews By Gavin Brown, Mark Young, Joe Guatieri & Rich Piva)

Tombstoner - Rot Stink Rip (Redefining Darkness Records) [Gavin Brown]

New York has had a long and storied past when it comes to death metal with bands like Suffocation, Immolation, Incantation and Mortician being just four classic examples  that come immediately to mind. The future is in safe hands too with the likes of Pyrrhon at the forefront 

You can definitely also add Staten Island, NY death metal crew Tombstoner to that lists as they stake their claim to be the next to blow when it comes to NYDM and beyond with their latest album Rot Stink Rip, which is a slamming and grooving slab of riff heavy Death Metal from start to finish.

Tombstoner waste no time by proceeding to bludgeon the listener with their sickeningly heavy grooves and this time around, they come armed with an even slicker sound that amplifies their brutality even more.

Songs like Sealed In Blood, Fuckin’ Nasty, Desperate Dreams and Rot Stink Rips filthy title track are perfect examples of the Tombstoner sound and the whole album rolls through with blatant disregard to anything other than crunching death metal, and sounds all the better for it.

With gloriously deranged dual vocals aplenty and a twin guitar attack, this is relentless stuff and Tombstoner go for the jugular constantly with their venomous music and it has to be said that Rot Stink Rip is a nonstop barrage of deathly goodness on their best album yet, and the future of death metal is in safe hands with these guys. 8/10 

Obscurial - Heretic (Violence In The Veins/Memento Mori/Necrolatry Records) [Mark Young]

From Kuala Lumpur, Obscurial spew forth their latest for your delight and delectation with Heretic, their second full-length release. 

There is a grim intro, which could have been lifted from your worst nightmare or from a gore-filled horror and as Hexed wraps with a scream, Blasphemous Cult bangs in and goes straight at you. It’s direct as you might have expected but with one rotted eye on bringing the merest touch of melody to it. Its enough to keep this brutal without it becoming just a one-note affair. 

Circle Of Heretics has this grinding approach, slow and muscular riffing that speeds up as is necessary. It has that ‘chunk’ sound, the strings being brutalised that emphasises the attack upon them. In keeping with that gore-centric theme.

Maggot Incubation unfolds as a high-speed blitzkrieg, charging forward with some razor-sharp picking that hits so well. There are touches of atmosphere and melody within the final third which is welcome as when they take off once more it is brutally effective. 

Locust Plague brings more of those little touches, once again delivering that satisfying chunk that is missing. It cuts through so well and is a definite high point for me. Serpentspawn keeps the momentum running with a riff line that goes for a walk along the neck of the guitar, but it feels as though this could have been shorter to maximise the effect of that riff. Carrion Disease is all frenzied guitar work, the tempo shifting up and down to suit. Like Serpentspawn, it suffers a little from being stretched out when a shorter runtime would have been better suited.

Entering the end zone with A Cure For Sickness, a near 9-minute track that feels is to be meant as their grand opus. There is a class build in here within the main verse, chock full of galloping riffs and all the double bass you can eat. 

Its like the album condensed into one song, showing what they are capable of in one spot. It also shows that they should look to being ruthless with arrangements but that is just me. It has in its favour that it doesn’t stop and throw in a subtle acoustic break. 

Final track, Endless Trauma starts with a subtle guitar and stays with it. I’ve said before those instrumental tracks at the start, the middle or the end have to bring something that gives the album a boost. Hexed, at the start works in setting the scene for what is to come next whereas Endless Trauma sees the energy fall away. Shifting this in front of A Cure For Sickness might have been a better bet and would have resulted in ending on a better note.

As death metal goes, its sits within that genre well. There are blast beats, guttural vocals and questionable lyrics that are generally associated and expected, and they are played with a degree of confidence. Its difficult to enter what is becoming a crowded arena again and have material out there that is different enough to stand out. One on hand this isn’t an original undertaking, but after nearly 40 years of music being released under the death metal banner, I suppose enjoyment of any new material depends upon how you receive it, whether it possesses a certain energy that you know will be translated live. 

Here, the songs have all the key ingredients as noted above and are presented well enough, its possible that some are a tad overlong as sometimes the ideas repeat themselves, but honestly that is a minor note. Overall, you really can’t find fault with the music here because it will tick the necessary boxes required by fans of the genre. For me, the last song should have been A Cure For Sickness, but this is a minor moan. All told, a worthy 7/10

Baron - Beneath The Blazing Sun (Transcending Obscurity Records) [Joe Guatieri]

Finnish Death Doom band Baron have been around for a while now and after a few EP
releases and a Demo, they finally bring us their debut Full-length, Beneath The Blazing Sun in

Track Two, Primordial Possession presents an assault on the senses from start to finish with the
bands three guitarists engaging in massive whaling riffs, all heard and all felt. The drums to me
are the star of the show here, I love their attack and how pronounced they are. By the end of the
track everything is ringing with danger like alarm bells in a laboratory containing an unknown

This proceeds very well into the next track Infernal Abandonment which is my favourite on the
album. The previous warning signs are still felt here but a new Doom Metal riff enters from the
shadows, accented by bends at the end of the notes, each one more unhinged than the last.

This pattern is echoed several times throughout the song in several different ways, showing the
amount of ideas that Baron has available to them. One displays a synthesizers take on it but
what means the most to me here is when a haunting piano has its turn.

This moment feels like Infernal Abandonment as a concept in its inception, showing what beauty there is to be appreciated within it, a real diamond within the rough. To my surprise this wonderful song then
ends with a meditative acoustic guitar, giving me Opeth vibes within its closing moments.

Track seven, Swallowed By Fires Beneath ends the record on a unique note with an
experimental soundscape. Low end rumbles dance with each other in the distance as you’re
being teleported to another world, away from the pain and the anguish that you were suffering

Overall, Beneath The Blazing Sun puts Baron in a good place for a solid debut full-length.
Excitement is offered within the guitars, programming and especially within the drums but with
that being said, the bass unfortunately feels second rate here, just following the guitars and
never having its time to shine. 7/10

Blessed Black - Seasons: Vol 2 (Self Released) [Rich Piva]

Cincinnati, Ohio’s Blessed Black are back with Volume 2 of their Seasons EP set, this time with three more great doom with stoner leaning tracks to continue the excellence of the first volume brought to us back in September of last year.

All three tracks are great, including the opener, Asunder, which brings their usual excellent doom stylings and pairs them with some grungy metal vibes for excellent results.  This one has a killer riff and manages to be catchy as well. The songs on the Seasons EPs all sound great as the production is spot on. 

Serpentine Sisters is more crunchy doom goodness, and when the band includes keys in the mix is when they really excel and stand out amongst the throngs of bands doing this today.  The vocal performance on this track is top notch as well. Solve et Coagula may be my favourite track from the band till date, bringing the heavy and serious Dio era Sabbath vibes that you all will be there for, believe me. 

I can’t help but wonder if Seasons would be more widely consumed and understood as a full-length record, but for now I will take what I can get from Blessed Black. Check out this and the other Seasons EP because this band is just excellent. 8/10

Friday 26 April 2024

A View From The Back Of The Room: CJ Wildheart (Live Review By Debby Myatt)

CJ Wildheart, Face Up!, The Scumbags, KK’s Steel Mill, Wolverhampton 20.04.24 

We’re back at KK’s in Wolverhampton, this time for a show full of punk rock attitude.

First up is local trio, The Scumbags (7) This is straight up street punk -  fast, infectious and in your face. 

The songs are the best sort of street punks songs, those about everyday stuff that we all relate to. Guitarist/vocalist Ross keeps things flowing with his banter in between the songs that come thick and fast with a cheer of approval when they play Never Going Back To Gornal (an area that is the butt of jokes from the rest of the Black Country). A fun and energetic way to get the crowd warmed up!

Main support for tonight comes from West Midlands punk stalwarts Face Up! (8) It’s not often you see a five piece punk band, but Face Up! don’t really go by the punk rock rule book and have forged their own path with a bombastic style that has made them a popular booking up and down the country as well as in Europe. Their songs are more edgy, angry even and speak of more political and socially aware subjects. 

The set comprises mainly of songs taken from their albums FU! and The World Is Ours. Roxy is the focal point with the rest of the band playing off her, and she is in her element leading the crowd (many who wouldn’t have seen them before) in joining in with the anthemic songs like “The World Is Ours!” and “Stand, Fight, Live, Die” 

In having two guitars (Neil and Tom), there’s more depth and layers to their music which is finished off by the booming rhythm section of Gav (bass) and Bez (drums), who is probably the hardest hitter of the skins that I’ve ever seen! Above all they are having fun on stage and that spills over into the crowd. This is punk rock more along the lines of Bad Religion than The Ramones and a perfect foil for the rock ‘n’ roll to come.

CJ Wildheart (9) founding member of the most dynamic, explosive and volatile rock band in recent British rock, The Wildhearts. That’s what you often see or hear, but CJ is much, much more than that. An eloquent, intelligent man who writes great songs and has a wit and humility that seems a world away from fractious band politics.

He’s touring with his band to promote his latest album Split which is peppered with hard hitting tracks that are woven with CJ’s trademark melodic groove.

Tonight sees him in a reflective mood, giving us a small insight to his past as he reminisces about points in time that inspire much of his writing. Kick Down The Walls and All You Rude Boys speak of his angry youth, with songs like S.D.E. and Fire The Battery are still full of anger but are much more about the here and now.

CJ has had a long and productive career and not just with that other band, and in this retrospective mood he treats us to some tracks from The Jellys - Lemonade Girl and Honeycrack - Go Away and Sitting At Home. And yes we do get a couple of Wildhearts tracks thrown in, not any of the obvious ones but ones that CJ wrote and probably have a special meaning to him - O.C.D. and Little Flower

At the start of the show he said “The older I get - the more noise I want to make” and that’s definitely an aspiration that we can fully get behind, if this latest album and tour is anything to go by, we’ll be seeing a lot more of CJ in the future.

If you missed him on this tour he’ll be back in the Midlands on the 7th September to headline the Brum Punx Picnic at The Castle and Falcon. https://www.seetickets.com/tour/brum-punx-picnic-2024 

Reviews: Accept, Edit The Tide, Vesperian Sorrow, The Loyal Cheaters (Reviews By Matt Bladen, Paul Hutchings, Mark Young & James Jackson)

 Accept – Humanoid (Napalm Records) [Matt Bladen]

Accept embrace/reject the technology age, those historical takes in Blood Of The Nations/Stalingrad now replaced by fear of A.I and technological attachment as the German metal legends add another classic to their late period repertoire. Recorded with Andy Sneap again, it’s got all the fire and fury of the most recent Judas Priest albums, Sneap knows how to make a classic metal band sound up to date while keeping things similar to their earlier works. 

Mark Tornillo’s vocal performance on Humanoid is particularly good, snarling and snide he delivers The Reckoning and Diving Into Sin with apocalyptic venom, while on the glammy Nobody Gets Out Alive it’s refined for a more radio friendly cut and with Ravages Of Town he turns into Rod Stewart as a husky voiced crooner. Lyrically there’s focus on A.I and technology, but also the passing of time and ultimately death. The one problem I have is Man Up which I’m trying to work out if it’s serious or satirical, the idea of Manning Up in 2024 is perhaps a little old hat, but it’s got a AC/DC backbeat so may be tongue in cheek, the AC/DC influences come on Straight Up Jack too. 

Anyway away from me being a snowflake and back to this killer metal album we have. Wolf Hoffmann and Uwe Lulis bring that Teutonic twin axe terror to HumanoidMind Games and Unbreakable, it almost seems stupid to talk about dual harmonies and precision riffing as these are the foundations Accept, and most German metal are built on. However there’s some bluesy rock as well, the glammy stuff I mentioned earlier and neo-classical opening on Southside Of HellUnbreakable and Nobody Gets Out Alive highlight the work Martin Motnik (bass) and Christopher Williams (drums) put in in the backroom to keep this metal machine firing at full pace. 

Much like Priest, bands of this vintage could be just resting on their laurels but Accept are actively trying to better themselves with each album. Humanoid is a mechanical masterwork delivered by honed homo-sapiens. 9/10

Edit The Tide – Reflections In Sound (Self Released) [Paul Hutchings]

Bridgend five-piece emerged in 2023 and took early plaudits at their appearance at Swansea’s Station 18 festival. Their music is a combination of classic and modern styles, with some intricate guitar work adding to an overall melodic flow.

This five-track EP brings the band to the attention of the rock world in a wider way, and for a debut EP it’s certainly worth a listen. The band are no wet behind the ears outfit, with experience in other established acts evident in their confident approach. Opener Ambience is a pleasing combination of intensity and catchy hooks, ample harmonies which stick in the memory and a hard enough edge to interest those whose penchant maybe for things a little heavier.

Unite And Rebel has some heartfelt vocals that are underpinned by solid musicianship. It’s a contemporary approach, with the clean and gruff vocals working well. A song about the impact of the pandemic, it’s a darker song with a defiance that we can all appreciate. Paradigm reminds us that you get but one shot at life, so take it with both hands. It’s another deliciously crafted song, with the intricate guitar work more evident and clearer than I’ve heard when they play live. Harmonies are key to this band, and they’ve worked hard to ensure that they aren’t too intense but also deliver in the right way.

With Regret is another honest and complex piece of work, with a clear message that resonates throughout. That brings us to the final song, The Moment, a song focusing on determination and never giving up.

If I had one criticism, it’s the formula that the band use can present as a little repetitive. Whilst that could be levelled at most bands, a little more variety on style would be welcome. It’s a very minor quibble though. Overall, if you are a fan of the modern rock/metal sound, then Edit The Tide should be of interest. It’s an EP that is well delivered and provides South Wales with another band who are potentially on the edge of a wider audience, likely to appreciate their honesty and sincerity in sound. 7/10

Vesperian Sorrow - Awaken The Greylight (Black Lion Records) [Mark Young]

And now a blast of symphonic black metal to close out your April. Vesperian Sorrow bring you Awaken The Greylight, their 5th album and one that is presented as a new collection of music that ties together with that previously released over the course of their previous albums. 

With that in mind, I don’t believe that you must have experience of those in order to appreciate or enjoy what they have here. For the purposes of the review, I’m going to treat this as an album which represents their ‘jumping on’ point, is this any good, will it make you want to seek out these earlier releases and furthermore follow them going forward? This will depend entirely on if you like the symphonic genre.

What we have is 10 songs that sit in that genre very well. Fans of the band, and of this music will take pleasure as they do exactly what is expected. From the extreme drumming, melodic flourishes, guitars that rumble and vocals that switch between clean and dirty it has everything that you would associate with it. What I didn’t get was a sense of the epic, the grandeur that I thought would be present here. There are moments where it shines through, the opening of As The Pillars Were Raised screams out of the traps like a man possessed. 

There are subtle echoes of Nile and Morbid Angel in it, at least to these ears and it is effectively a snapshot for the songs that follow. There is that Middle Eastern theme that runs through it, from the vocal phrasing to the synths, the ever-present double bass, it’s all there but it runs too long and what could have been one of the best opening tracks of the year has its impact reduced. 

It feels as though this is something that is repeated as we progress through the album, there is an undeniable quality here, but the songs are stretched out too far, it’s almost as though there was a conscious decision not to have any short songs on here. A great example of a song that would have benefited from being a touch ruthless is Antediluvian – Proceeding The Unshaping. There is a section that is repeated and it doesn’t add to song at all.

The piano and harmony guitars at that usher in Traverse The Vorthonian Passage are well done, and this one zips along at a decent pace and has that bit of oomph that is needed to keep you onboard; there are some furious guitar lines, and the double bass again is laying down suppressive fire of the highest order. It’s a belter of a song and should have provided the springboard for them to kick on with but they seem to miss the target with the next one, opting for what felt like a safe option, or maybe something drawn from a template. 

Either way, the songs themselves are decent enough, well played and arranged but for me something is missing. It’s definitely a sense of familiarity bleeding through in each song, and by the time we get to the title track they hit it the mark but it’s too late. Awaken The Greylight is urgent, flying in parts and pulling back to allow their sense of melody to come in. Its rapid, heavy and there should have been more like this here. I don’t think it is a coincidence that it is one of the shorter ones here, and by being shorter it impacts so much better.

All being said, it’s not a poor release. It just feels top-heavy in execution and had the songs varied in length a little more then I could have enjoyed this more. It is not short of good ideas but the song lengths mean that these are stretched out too far. 6/10

The Loyal Cheaters - And All Hell Broke Loose (Go Down Records) [James Jackson]

This German/Italian Rock outfit, fronted by Vocal/Guitarist Lena McFrison play a mashup of Rock, Glam and Punk, all seemingly influenced by 70’s acts like Cheap Trick, a band whose song Surrender was covered by The Loyal Cheaters, on their previous album. 

The songs are short but punchy, the raucous Punk influences driving the upbeat tempo for the majority of the album, especially on tracks like Eat The Rich and Spit On Me. The tempo only dials down on a few tracks, the bluesy sway of Hound Dog shows that not everything has to be driven at full speed, for it’s change in tone makes it stand out from the rest of the album.

I feel slightly indifferent to the album however; it’s not anything I’d particularly listen to though it doesn’t make me immediately want to turn it off, the riffs are solid enough and the choruses catchy, vocally it’s a strong performance just as it is instrumentally, it’s Turbo Rock n Roll according to the bio and if that’s your style then I’m sure it’s one to try. 6/10

Reviews: Full Of Hell, Night Shall Drape Us, OU, Darkness (Reviews By GC, Rick Eaglestone, Mark Young & Richard Oliver)

Full Of Hell - Coagulated Bliss (Closed Casket) [GC]

Since their formation in 2009 Maryland’s Full Of Hell have released an absolute shedload of stuff on a variety of labels which include numerous collaboration albums, EP’s and now they are preparing to release their 6th album Coagulated Bliss, in the course of their career they have mixed powerviolence, hardcore, grindcore, death metal and noisecore all into one and that sound like something I can get on board with!

Half Life Changelings has an upbeat and slight pop melody to the first 8 seconds before all hell breaks loose and then its and uncompromising mix of grind and death metal that has all the nastiness needed before Doors To Mental Agony is a sludgy and thick death metal track all thrown together in just over a minute and a half and even manages to slow the pace down at the end to just throw you of guard before one last blast of violent grindcore finishes the song off nicely. 

Transmuting Chemical Burns has an awesome bass lead D-Beat mid 80’s hardcore feel at the start before the now familiar grindcore hits but it never loses that groove either and the way both styles are done is magnificent Fractured Bonds To Mecca then dials everything down and falls straight into doomy and uncomfortable noisecore that drags along and has an unsettling and downright horribleness running through the whole song and the changing up of tempo’s is also another curveball before the hardcore punk stomp of the title track Coagulated Bliss is here and gone in a blink of an eye in another wonderful display of short, sharp, shock treatment only for them to then thrown in Bleeding Horizon which at 6:13 is almost as long as the first 5 tracks combined. 

To start its just a slow and brooding guitar and slight feedback that sets the tone that’s build into a slow and droning riff with the vocals paired back and echoing over everything just enough to create a suffocating feeling, this doesn’t stop for the duration of the song towards the end we get a bit more depth added and while I appreciate the attempt to mix everything up drastically, I definitely feel this song is just that little bit too long, this of course doesn’t last long as the beautifully titled Vomiting Glass is 56 seconds of absolute grinding chaos that wakes you up again and reminds you to not get to complacent while listening to this album. 

Schizoid Rupture is a gloriously OTT old school death metal track, the vocals are thick and heavy to match the thundering drums, but both seem to drown out the guitars a little bit and make it hard to really pick out the vast majority of riffs but still an enjoyable track non the less, Vacuous Dose goes full of grind again and is a savage and unruly noise that shows for me that they should probably concentrate more on this side of things because when they do it just sounds phenomenal like on Gasping Dust which is another violent attack from all angles and again the unrelenting nature of this song is what makes this album such a good listen. 

Gelding Of Men then throws in an experimental alt-rock mixing jagged and jarring noisecore style in and as the song goes on just seems to get more and more aggressive and shows another way of doing things, Malformed Ligature closes the record with a mix of slow and doomy death metal with a little blast of grind thrown in for good measure.

It’s plain to see that Full Of Hell don’t like to do things half-hearted, when they put their foot down, they are an urgent and invigorating blur of violence and savagery but they can also take it right back and make you feel uncomfortable and anxious, the mix of styles creates a nervous energy in you and not knowing what is coming next is the real high point of this wonderful mindfuck of a record. 9/10

Night Shall Drape Us - Lunatic Choir (Season Of Mist) [Rick Eaglestone]

Finland’s Night Shall Drape Us unleash their own Blaze In The Northern Sky with eight heretical hymns on debut album Lunatic Choir

The albums opener Hymn Of Rebellion really lulls the listener into a false sense of security at the very start with its almost prog like tones that is before the tremolo and crashing of drums into a melting pot of fury with anthemic screams which continues into the entirety of Dead Eden which highlights the rawness that really unpins the release.

For me Ethereal Constrictor really nails the aesthetic of the album, this may be down to the atmospherics the layered vocals or just the overall grandiose nature of the presentation but whatever it maybe it is then smashed out of your subconscious as Ashes Of Man introduces the halfway point of the album kicking and screaming into oblivion.

It feels like each track is looking to outdo the previous one & well, Unification is no different – wave after wave of tempo increase, sharp guitar work and visceral vocals aplenty and if I had to select a track for someone new checking out the band it would have to be this as the inclusion of other dynamics that are subtly lurking really build up into a substantial serving of satanic majesty

The aptly named Lunacy And Horror is nicely constructed again containing fresh elements that enhance the blistering descent which weaves into Under The Dead Sky which after me mentioning for previous track I can now categorically that this is 100% the albums most relentless track and the windswept woefulness deserves a corpse painted chef’s kiss.

Lunatic Choir concludes with the short no nonsense The Queen Of The Red Streams and is a great closing choice and fitting for such a great debut offering.

Although initially conceived as a solo project the decision to form an unholy Nordic alliance bringing other musicians into the fold has proved a glorious manifestation of a collective goal. Uncompromisingly & Unrelenting.7/10

OU - II: Frailty (Inside Out Music) [Mark Young]

OU is a 4 piece that arrived on the progressive/fusion scene in 2022. Dummer, Anthony Vanacore bringing together the necessary component pieces and releasing ‘One’ via Inside Out records. OU have brought their unique vision to bear on II: Frailty, and having the mighty Devin Townsend along to Co-produce it can’t be a bad thing. This time round they look to push the envelope of prog past breaking point.

Frailty starts and straight away that promise of bringing the best of fusion sounds is delivered. Lynn Wu’s vocals have a dramatic range, moving through different gears from a gentle delivery to full bore. The mix of piano and guitar brings a heady mix with Lynn’s vocals dominating. Everything is super tight, the arrangement ever building and expanding with some of the gnarliest guitar tones coming in like a monster stomping on famous landmarks. That mix of the heavy with those clean but strident vocals is royal and serves as a statement of intent. 

Purge brings more of the electronica to the fore; background space being filled with the kind of soundscapes you’d hear in Blade Runner (Big Up Vangelis - Ed). This is not the prog I expected, it’s something else. The crazy Meshuggah riffs and drums with their stabbing feel, the building ambient sound behind, and again Lynn’s vocal stylings over it is mesmeric. There is a spot about 3 minutes in that is amazing, what the drums are doing are mental. Its brilliant stuff, especially when Devin gets in on the act and provides backing vocals that just round their sound out. 

The breadth in scope becomes further apparent with Ocean, it starts with a more restrained approach, less noisy guitar and more keyboard. This sounds like Prog, but with that modern filter applied to it. The one constant to it is Anthony Vanacore’s drums. They are just supreme, providing both the anchor and the propulsive force in moving the song forward at speed. Guitars too, with Jing Zhang dropping riff bombs that fit so well within the electronica.

Redemption is a haunting piece, soft piano and barely breathed vocals with an arrangement that builds gradually, the sound swelling just enough to carry us through to Capture and Elongate (Serenity) which starts with drum / electronica that reminds me of Raw Sex (duo that supported French and Saunders – google it, you will get the reference) in tone but not in execution. When it kicks in it is glorious, using the noise as a break and loop us back to the maddening keyboard, that starts, stops and starts again. When they get heavy, its heavy but still within the context of the song.

Spirit Broken brings back the guitar, focused and controlled with an arpeggiated section that is hypnotic when combined with the almost angelic vocals. If anything, this is like prog that I am used to, simple chords repeating without actually going somewhere. It’s the first misstep of sorts for me, of course, the vocal performance is total quality, but it feels as though the song is treading water.

Yyds is crafted from those classic prog chords that evoke a feeling of cosmic places, keys that are wandering whilst the drums are doing their magic and then they drop the technical on proceedings, just listen to it from 1.37 to 2.25, it’s a machine-built jam session and is something to behold. I actually can’t decide how to describe it, except that it is the sound of a band just on fire. Is it even prog anymore, I think that they are moving far beyond what the image of prog is. 

Reborn is the polar opposite of Yyds relying on Lynn to carry the song with an arrangement of keys to support and serves as a reset before they hit us with the final track, Recall. Unfortunately, Recall is a maddening track, the first half consisting of electronica and vocals repeating but going nowhere. The second half changes only slightly, a vocal refrain that is different, a loop that went on too long. They wish to push that envelope of what is expected from Modern prog, which is fine, but I think your last song has to be a song, one that is epic to really make it stick in the memory.

One thing I should have mentioned is that Lynn sings in her native language, not English which gives the album a unique feel but also hampers slightly. For me, the last track could have been removed and it wouldn’t have affected it one bit. The quality on display, the craft and sense of arrangement is top class. Each of the band are pulling in the right direction, all totally focused on the song. Admittedly out of the 9 songs there are 2 I didn’t care for, but that doesn’t make it any less exciting. If this is the state of progressive music in 2024, then it is in a great place. 8/10

Darkness - Blood On Canvas (Massacre Records) [Richard Oliver]

2024 sees more obscure and cult old school thrash metal rearing its head though since their reformation in 2013, Darkness have been fairly prolific with a steady amount of releases. The German thrashers formed in 1984 and are probably best known for their 1987 album Death Squad and 1988 album Defenders Of Justice.  Since their comeback they have released two full length albums and two E.P.’s which were very solid but unspectacular releases. Now with the release of their sixth album Blood On Canvas it seems that Darkness have finally hit their stride and released an album that can stand tall alongside their first two albums.

Darkness have deemed this to be “the most ferocious album to date” from the band with songs that are “more aggressive and heavier than anything else in the Darkness discography” and upon listening to Blood On Canvas it is hard not to argue with this statement. Someone has definitely lit the fire underneath the collective feet of Darkness as this album does absolutely rip your head off and is an all out thrash metal attack. The latter albums by the band did have their ultra fast and aggressive songs but there were also plenty of plodding moments but Blood On Canvas mostly dispenses with any mid paced or slower moments with the sole intention of decapitating listeners with the sheer power of their thrash attack. 

If you like to more aggressive side of thrash then this album has plenty to offer from the savagery of album opener Wake Up In Rage, the raging attack of Nights In Turmoil and the speed assault of Defcon Four. The only moments of respite come in Human Flesh Wasted which opens with a brief acoustic intro before leading into one of the most ferocious songs on the album and the closing 8 minute plus title track switches between some gentler and more melodic moments and those of pure thrash chaos.

The line-up for the album remains the same as it was on the Over And Out E.P. in 2020 bar guitarist Meik who departed the band during the production process so Blood On Canvas was recorded as a four-piece. The band are on truly ferocious form with drummer Lacky truly pounding his kit, guitarist Arnd delivering some thrashtastic riffs and some very sweet solos and bassist Ben pounding out those beefy basslines. Frontman Lee is the only weaker link with his ferocious barks sounding a bit one dimensional at times though his vocals are in keeping with the aggression of the music so it is a very minor criticism.

Darkness have never been seen as an essential thrash band even by the most ardent fans of the genre but Blood On Canvas really sees the band up their game and it is easily the strongest release since their debut album Death Squad 27 years ago.  This is a pure thrash white knuckle ride which delivers on speed, aggression and attitude which are the essential component parts of any good thrash album.  Death metal may be more violent and brutal, black metal may be darker and more evil but when thrash kicks it up a notch there is nothing else like the sheer rush it gives. Blood On Canvas has those moments in abundance and will definitely be seen as one of the strongest thrash releases of the year. 8/10

Thursday 25 April 2024

A View From The Back Of The Room: Tailgunner, Toledo Steel & The Rattlebacks (Live Review By Matt Bladen)

Tailgunner, Toledo Steel & The Rattlebacks, Fuel Rock Club 18.04.24

I could just recycle my last review of trad metal rising stars Tailgunner (8) when they played Fuel Rock Club but they did play things a bit more differently this time easing off on the covers for more of their originals which was welcomed though Beast In The Night and Painkiller were firm favourites with the Fuel faithful, Craig Cairns hitting those high notes with ease. For me their own songs such as the boisterous Guns For Hire, the nuclear Warhead and Revolution Scream are perfect for some Priest/Accept/Maiden worship, Tailgunner letting the leather fly while trying to navigate the Fuel stage to throw some metal poses. 

Twin axe harmonies from Zach Salvini and Rhea Thompson lead to a guitar battle and In The Hall Of The Mountain King, the Grieg version not the Savatage one, Tailgunner rattling through their set with maturity that comes from relentless touring. Using as their intro tape always throws me off, or gives me flashbacks to my Greek in-laws but as soon as the fret slides, rollicking rhythms from Thomas Hewson’s bass and punching drum beats from Jani Pasanen, kick in we’re back in Blighty with some NWOBHM power. 

Back on tour again with KK’s Priest in August, I expect more of the same but each time the British metallers improve on their showing from last time, taking up the mantle laid down by the 80’s glory days with ease.

I’m doing this backwards now as like I said it wasn’t long since I’d seen Tailgunner, but last time it was two local bands that supported. This time it was some hand picked support from West Sussex classic rockers The Rattlebacks (7) who aren’t the sort of band you expect to be out with two trad/speed metal acts. Still they came on with attitude, drawing from the bluesy rock n roll swagger of Aerosmith, a bit of G’N’R and some grunge for those who love plaid. They played a good rock set with a weighty rhythm section, two skilled guitar players and a singer who had the right voice but clearly had never played Fuel before as he turned up in a fur coat! Sweaty, booty shaking Brighton rock that got the night moving.

After this though it was our first taste of British Steel, with a band named after a hardened type of Spanish steel that was used by Hannibal. I’d wanted to see Toledo Steel (8) for a while and with two albums, two EP’s and an early years comp for those that didn’t get the EP’s they were actually the most experience band on the bill forming in 2011. They made the most of what I think was their first show in Cardiff with a set drawn from both of their albums and a couple from their EP they showcased the NWOBHM sound they are very, very good at. 

Influenced again by Maiden/Priest, they are a little more rounded than Tailgunner with a few sleaze/glam elements creeping in on Visions In The Fire driven by Felix Dock’s bass. Founder member Rich Rutter (vocals) looks for the crowd to sing back as co-founder Matt Dobson (drums) keeps the beat. With the faster cuts such as the galloping On The Loose, Writings On The Wall, the speedy City Lights or the Priest-like Rock Nights the riffs of Tom Potter and Michael Lewis come thick and fast as Rutter explodes into falsetto screams. They closed with Speed Killer/Toledo Steel gave the headliners a bar to try and beat. I’ll be seeing them again as soon as I can!

On a Thursday in April it was proven that classic British metal and also classic hard rock are both alive and well.

Reviews: EYE, Loch Vostok, Fractal Gates, McPharaoh (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

EYE - Dark Light (New Heavy Sounds)

Relocating from her native Wrexham to be with her partner, fellow musician Gid Goundrey, MWWB's front woman/synth player moved into a Grangetown, Cardiff flat, feet from my own house just as the pandemic hit. 

They both started making music together, inspired by their situation feelings of being trapped and isolated, making this music in a tiny flat as the pandemic raged, heightened by Covid-related stroke suffered by MWWB guitarist Paul “Dave” Davies, who was left fighting for his life but slowly and sure is returning to health. All these factors inspire a dark, disturbing, introspective album that is not quite on the metal or rock spectrum but dances round it with shimmering electronica, ambient and trip hop soundscapes influenced by Björk, Tori Amos, Portishead and Chelsea Wolfe. 

Many of the songs date from before MWWB so they now finally see the light of day, having had plenty of time to be composed and created into what you hear on Dark Light. Most of the record is gothic, ambient, electronic music with Jess' trademark breathy vocals, but she also rediscovers her love of the guitar with the rhythmic playing of PJ Harvey or St Vincent, that incorporated angular alt rock, doom metal and shoegaze phrasing, this is dream pop that occasionally veers into a nightmare. 

Take the disquieting and meditative, In Your Night which builds into the apocalyptic doom of MWWB, See Yourself does something similar with euphoric vocals and heavily distorted repeating riffs and twitching electronics. It's all heavy in a manner of ways the production of Chris Fielding as deep and resonant as it is with sludge and doom bands, allowing Ball's vocals and guitars, Goundrey's drums and Jonny Eye's electronics and samples to stand resonant and powerful. 

With MWWB still on hiatus EYE is a band born out of near tragedy, seriously good musicians with a collective vision to experiment with what really is 'heavy' music. 9/10

Loch Vostok - Opus Ferox II - Mark of the Beast (ViciSolum Productions)

Swedish prog metal band Loch Vostok continue the concept they started with their previous album on Opus Ferox II - Mark Of The Beast, this is the second part of a trilogy and brings more darkness as we get into the mest of tne storyline. 24 years into their career, Loch Vostok are perhaps not as well known as some of the compatriots but they managed to highlight the more gothic, introspective style of Evergrey or Nevermore founding guitarist Teddy Möller providing harsh vocals to counterpoint clean singer Jonas Radehorn. 

Co-founding guitarist Niklas Kupper brings the twin axe attack to this album as they shifted between songs Loch Vostok balance simplicity and complexity, very similarly in instrumental and vocal approach to Evergrey, atmospheres on The Great Wide Open are given dramatic vocals while Children Of Science is drilled by Patrik Orwald's bass and William Parkstam's drums and gets a load of shredding solos to open as Senses makes it all darker as we shift to melodeath. Each song on this album adds something a bit different to their established prog/power metal style. 

With another entry to go, Opus Ferox may be the defining trilogy of Loch Vostok's career. A must for fans of heavy yet melodic progressive metal. 8/10

Fractal Gates - One With Dawn (Self Released)

After 6 years floating through the ether of deep space, the French sci-fi metallers Fractal Gates emerge like a comet with their new album. You can't fault their ambition as that time in the wilderness has resulted in an album that is 16 tracks long. 

Two of said songs are re-recordings of what they call "fan favourites" but the rest of the album is brand new with a lot of tasty melodeath morsels to sample. With the founding members Stéphane Peudupin (lead/rhythm guitars/synths) and Sébastien Pierre (vocals/synths) composing all the music here, as well as handing most of the production to, they brought in Juho Raïhä of Swallow The Sun to take on the mixing and mastering.

The trio have created a record that really draws on cinematic, galactic melodic death metal where the Swedish founded sound is refined by these Frenchmen, the usage of synths really making things similar to Children Of Bodom, Scar Symmetry, Insomnium and Soilwork. The synths in union with the stunning virtuoso melodic guitar playing, as Jari Lindholm (Enshine) brings two additional solos. Peudupin also locks in very well with Antoine Verdier (bass) and Arnaud Hoarau (rhythm guitar) for some shredding, death metal riffs as Jérémy Briquet brings double kicks behind the kit. 

Yeah it's long with a lot of songs packed in to the album, special guest vocals from Deibys Artigas and Egan O'Rourke (Daylight Dies) bring yet more talent on top of the bands virtuoso performances. Fans of melodeath that is progressive and broad will love One With Dawn. 8/10

McPharaoh - The Rise And Fall Of McPharaoh (Self Released)

What do you get if you put Ray Kroc, Marty Friedman, Primus and Gioringio A. Tsoukalos in a blender add to it lots of Egyptian history/conspiracy, possible lawsuits, fast food induced diabetes and ramp up the silliness to Monty Python levels? Well you'd go halfway to expalinging what the hell is happening on the debut album from McPharaoh. 

Inspired by a terrible piece of A.I. art, virtuosos Ryan Martin and Ben Baljak, gained the inspiration to create a concept album based around the McPharaoh, telling the tale of Pharaoh who invents fast food and is then wrapped up in conspiracy, betrayal and rivalry with The Borg El King. They do this through progressive instrumental playing that merges metal with rock, blues and everything in between. Khanka Festival Conspiracy has a melody that's very similar to I've Got A Little Something For You by MN8. Papyrus Of Cornholio blends 8-bit with Beavis And Butthead. The swaggering Proper Giza Blues also reminds me of something but I can't put my finger on it as Khepri Sun is a lū'au. 

There's country picking, EDM and more and that's just on Kom Ombo, much of the album also having cutaway gags, samples from Ancient Aliens and even a bit of "Professional Geezer" Danny Dyer. The 10 songs and 12 segues making it a pretty hefty 24 songs and over 100 minutes of instrumental music, you could say it's showing off but these songs are all different, they tell the bat shit story in their own way within a designated musical genre. 

Shamelessly D.I.Y but absolutely professional, if you're a musician then it's all very moreish like 20 Chicken Nuggets at 3am, but non musicians may find it to be a little too long. Still I suggest you stick with it as the prog is very strong here. Check it out before they get sued! 8/10

Reviews: Folterkammer, Replicant, Verikalpa, Post Death Soundtrack (Reviews By Gavin Brown, Charlie Rogers, Zak Skane & James Jackson)

Folterkammer - Weibermacht (Century Media) [Gavin Brown]

Folterkammer are an interesting prospect indeed, a colossal melding of black metal and operatic/classical music that uses the grandeur of both these varying styles delivered in a way that is both elegant and devastating and with their second album Weibermacht, they do so in style.

With the bands lineup containing guitar maestro Zachary Ezrin of Imperial Triumphant, you can appreciate the decadent nature of the music of Folterkammer, but when you add in the stunning vocals of Andromeda Anarchia, you will be blown away by what the band do on this album.

Weibermacht contains eight tracks, and over them Folterkammer explore many different musical avenues, from the sublime to the brutal but the one thing that ties them all together is a desire to showcase the bands unique nature, and it does so in spades.

Folterkammer means Torture Chamber in German, and this is especially apt on the bands cover of Venus In Furs by The Velvet Underground that finishes the record off, but the whole album contains that vibe of BDSM elegance set to music especially on songs like Algonagnia and Die Unterwerfung.

One things is for sure, you won’t hear another album that sounds like this all year such is its unique approach to extreme music, and that innate uniqueness is something that should be roundly celebrated.

Weibermacht is a triumphant album and one that revels in its devotion to both classical music and black metal delivered with an air of dominance, which these differing sounds coming together and raising the bar for one another in a triumphant fashion. 8/10

Replicant - Infinite Mortality (Transcending Obscurity) [Charlie Rogers]

New Jersey death dealers Replicant are back with their third album Infinite Mortality - an angular, abrasive soundscape, that feels like the audio version of one of those colourful vibrating spiky balls you used to get as an infant. And by that I mean you turn it on, it shakes about in seemingly limitless anger, you can’t really tell if it’s the right way up (or even if there is a right way up in the first place), and it doesn’t really fit in with any of the other toys. It demands centre stage. You’re going to play with me now. Don’t ask how. Pay attention. Dissonant death metal seems to be having a renaissance at the moment, and Replicant are definitely doing their best to throw a bag of live grenades into the mix to keep things interesting.

Straight off the bat, opening track Acid Mirror jarringly crashes into the ear with discordant, obtuse riffing, tortured screaming, and a blitz of different drum attacks. There’s a good sense of groove between riffs, mixing the chaos in with moments to bob your head to. Captivating harmonic content alongside a vortex of unpredictable fret abuse. The song clumps together and comes apart like someone manipulating a piece of gum, or possibly like the fleshy mass depicted on the album artwork. 

Sticky, writhing, globular. It slides seamlessly into the next track, Shrine Of The Incomprehensible, which continues the same vibe. In fact, the whole album follows a similar pattern - that is, a pattern of pulsating, complex movements, sharing blistering blast sections with open noodling and sinewy, chewy riffs. There’s a brief atmospheric interlude for track 5, SCN9, which acts as the only real reprieve and respite, but at 61 seconds long it basically acts as an intro to 6, Pain Enduring, anyway. Like I eluded to in paragraph 1, this album insists on your attention, and refuses to compromise on that.

I’m so far not familiar with Replicant’s previous work, but given the strength of this record, it’s caustic yet oozing melodies, and it’s similarity to bands I adore (Demilich, Diskord, Chthe’ilist) - I better get listening to their other records. If you also enjoy chaotic death metal, you’ll dig this record. If you don’t, it might feel like someone trying to shove a star shape into a circular hole. 9/10

Verikalpa - Tuomio (Scarlet Records) [Zak Skane]

Hailing form Northne City of Oulu in Finland, the Troll/Beer metal band Verikalpla have made a name from forging groovy riffs and rhythms whilst infusing twisting styled folk melodies to accompany the Finnish lyrics that are sung in an Oulu accent. The band have continued their journey with their fouth 12 track instalment Tuomio.

Through out this album the band have proven that can they can still hold up with the greats such as Turisas, Sabaton and Finntrol. The battle metal sprit energy on this album comes in strong with its reckless double kick and blast beats especially on tracks like Noijan Sauna and Hakkaa Hakkaa

The guitars on this album deliver this type of Yin and Yang approach through track to track, from providing us neo classical styled licks filled riffs in the open track Arvon Tuomari, full thrashastic wrist snapping riffs on songs such as Noijan Sauna and Sammalsynti, then go full death and black metal inspired riffage with harmonised tremolo picking locked in with reckless blast beats. 

The orchestration of accordion and violins really makes a perfect marriage between the guitars keeping up with some of the neo classical flavoured licks especially in songs like Laulava Vinaja, the accordions can also provide polka influenced melodies in songs like Sammalsynti and can provide additional melodies non linear to the guitar riffs to in songs like Tulimerten Taa. Finally the snarling vocals throughout this album provide this classic Scandinavian snarl that is so prevalent from singers like Alexi Laiho (Children Of Bodom), Tomos Lindberg (At The Gates) and Mathias Lillmåns (Finntroll).

From the triplet-grooved tracks on Arvon Tuomari, the thrash and death grinding assaults on Sammalsynti and Hakkaa Hakkaa to the festival ready hits like Laulava Vainaja and Tulimerten Taa. This band keeps true to the modern battle formula but will still please the masses. 7/10

Post Death Soundtrack - Veil Lifter (Self Released) [James Jackson]

The info that comes with this one is a bit sparse, however the genre tag of Doom Grunge seems to offer an interesting, if not slightly odd, combination. In fact, the more you listen to the album from the Vancouver based duo, that tag seems quite restrictive, there’s actually so much more going on, that to define it, you’d find it easier to list genres they’ve not covered.

Whilst researching the band I’ve found references to Grunge, Alt Rock, Doom, Industrial and something called Doomtronica (note to self: look that up). After a purely instrumental and experimental intro, The Die Is Cast kicks off and the initial feeling is that of the kind of Stoner style Doom that has been often inspired by Black Sabbath, it’s dark but with a groove to it.

Killer Of The Doubt, the second track upon the album is pure Grunge, most evident within the chorus. And such is the template for the album, genres and styles thrown together to pretty much great effect; I wouldn’t class this as Doom by a long shot but the influence is certainly there, as is Electronica, the aforementioned Grunge and Classic Rock/Metal; compartmentalising this album, or pigeon holing if you will, is as easy as catching smoke.

There’s such a lot happening to good effect, the riffs are catchy, the vocals poignant and importantly, it’s cohesive, I’ve heard plenty of albums which attempt to mix genres, some to great effect whilst others fail at the first hurdle, this however is very much a good example of how taking different styles can work when done properly. 8/10

Wednesday 24 April 2024

M2TM South Wales 2024: Swansea Heat #4 Interview With Catalysts By Paul Hutchings

Interview With Catalysts – Heat 4 Swansea, M2TM 27th April 2024

1. Let's start with introductions. Who is who and what does each person do in the band?

We're Catalysts!  A 5 piece band of best mates from South Wales.  

David Challenger - Vocals

Elliot Blake - Guitar

Craig O'Connor - Guitar and Backing Vocals

Paul Owen - Bass

Haitham Alhardan - Drums

2. Where are you from and how long have you been together?

We're all born and based in South Wales.   A spread from Newport, to Monmouth, to Ebbw Vale.  We've been together for 8 years.  

3. Describe your music in five words.

Energetic.  Melodic.  Loud.  Electronic.  Riffy. 

4. What prompted you to apply to be part of Metal to the Masses - South Wales?

We played M2TM's in 2022 and LOVED the set up M2TM's created.  I believe I applied for us to play this year but we couldn't make one of the dates.  Luckily for us, a spot became available for Swansea April 27th, so we jumped at the chance.  (Thanks again!)

5. If you have played Metal to the Masses before, tell us about your previous experiences and importantly, why you've returned!

As per above, love the set up and competition.  It's an event that's organised really well.  With people that are friendly, passionate for music and support local artists who may not have a large following.  

6. Bloodstock is a big festival - have you attended the festival in the past? If so, what would you say are the best things about the weekend?

Never attended bloodstock but would love to go!  Would be even better to attend as an artist ;) haha  

7. Apart from Metal to the Masses, what do you have planned for 2024?

We'll soon be filming to star in BBC's Casualty for a rock concert scene.  We have new material ready to record and will start filming music videos for them songs also.  We also want to gig as much as we can.  

8. What can we expect from you in your heat?

Energy.  Passion.  

9. And what are you expecting in your heat and journey through the competition?

We're expecting from all bands, what we deliver.  As above, energy and passion.   If i'm being completely honest, whilst we do want to do well in this competition, for us it's about having a great time, showcasing our music, meeting new local artists and ensuring the audience leave that venue entertained with great value for their entry fee.  

10. Finally, where can people find details of the band promote your socials here

LinkTree:  https://linktr.ee/CatalystsUK 

Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/catalysts.uk/ 

YouTube:  https://www.youtube.com/@CATALYSTSUK 

Spotify:  https://open.spotify.com/artist/1zcCikpGRcl1GlbQGFzgYg?si=iKj_daxvRTSlPODJMU1Cjg

Reviews: Couch Slvt, Hollow Blessings, Rad, Motions (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Couch Slut - You Could Do It Tonight (Brutal Panda Records)

This is a hard listen. In a lot of ways. Musically Couch Slut are aggressive, uncompromising and relentless in their extreme noise terror, lyrically they rage about self harm (Wilkinson's Sword), killing sprees (The Weaversville Home For Boys), bloodbaths and assaults on women. It's ferocious and fiery, Megan Osztrosits' firebrand vocals that alternate between unhinged screams, guttural growls, hardcore roars and spoken word manifestos. It's thrown at you without trigger warnings and without hesitation. Confrontation through characterisation is what Couch Slut do, paying tribute to things personal to them, such as a local bar on Ode To Jimbo, a home invasion on Laughing And Crying and Megan's journey with self harm, all hard to hear all viscerally performed.

Along with Megan is co-founder Theo Nobel (drums), Kevin Hall (bass), Dylan Diella (guitar) and Amy Mills (guitars), the band are now well skilled having been together for over a decade and they produce their noise very slickly, throwing huge amounts of musical curve balls featuring members of Imperial Triumphant, Pyrrhon and Uniform adding vocals, synths piano and more. I'll be honest my head hurt when I first listened to You Could Do It Tonight but after repeated listens it really opens up itself as the extreme music classic it really is. If Couch Slut are half as antagonistic live as they are on record (by all accounts they are), then it will be something to behold. Until then though make sure that You Could Do It Tonight cleaves your ears. Not for the faint of heart but worth the audio abuse. 8/10

Hollow Blessings - Who Will Dig The Graves When There Is Nothing Left Of Us (Self Released)

Hollow Blessings play nasty, abrasive hardcore which often delves deeper with feedback drenched noise. Formed by members of South Wales sludge/hardcore outfit They Live We Sleep, Hollow Blessings play music that is shorter, more direct but every bit as abusive to the ear drums. As Charonium crashes into life, it's obvious that Hollow Blessings have a lot more to them usually than just hardcore bluster and noisiness. Instrumentally there's a lot going on as this track creeps out with anguish cries, From Nothing is driven by some gut punching basslines, choppy guitar breaks and even something that resembles a melody on the chorus. 

Breakdowns are juxtaposed by arpeggios, as we get some angular riffs and more pained shouts on Host Disorder. It's visceral stuff, mixed so it sounds filthy to the ear, relying a lot on the bass for it's main rhythms as the guitars are heavily distorted and fizz like white noise. Those of a nervous disposition best not listen as Who Will Dig The Graves When There Is Nothing Left Of Us, wields a rawness suitable only for a dead planet killed by hubris, Hollow Blessings have tapped into melancholic acceptance with their debut. 8/10

Rad - Demo (Self Released)

Were you like me brought up with Tony Hawks Pro Skater? Great Rad have a demo that you'll love! Just three tracks of crossover skater thrash which is inspired by D.R.I or Suicidal Tendencies, it's actually more like 2 songs and an intro, the band formed by a member of hardcore punk band Barriers. 

They say they're inspired by all thing bodacious, chunky breakdowns and thrash riffs are the order of the day on Dying To Live which is the longest cut here closing the demo strongly. There's lots of promise on Rad, gnarly skate thrash from Brighton. 7/10

Motions - Paralysis EP (Self Released)

Recorded at homes in Teeside, Motions recorded their EP based around the psyche of a person contemplating suicide, each part of the EP telling another chapter of this story. They hope the EP will help them support and push suicide awareness and that people may find catharsis through the modern metalcore Paralysis gives you. 

With so much riding on it conceptually, musically it delivers atmosphere and introspection from the off. Pugnacious on Deathgrip, Never Enough has grooves while Save Myself is more emotive with electronics fizzing. Paralysis brings a modern metalcore sound with pertinent lyrics, emotional and powerful. 7/10

Review: Flamebearer (By Matt Bladen)

Flamebearer - Brazen (Self Released)

I'm usually pretty good with talking to bands, I mean they are just people, I even managed to sit through breakfast with Steve Harris without going full fan boy. But at Masters Of The Riff 2023 I made a tit of myself in front of Flamebearer frontman Andy Valiant (formerly of Oak and currently 1968), but that's only because I had seen them totally destroy Hackney with their own rip snorting rock n roll and their explosive cover of W.A.S.P's Wild Child. (And I'd had a few ales)

So when this album landed in my inbox I could barely contain my excitement. It came to the top of the pile and was played several times before I even sat down to write this review. The organic nature of Brazen means it gets the blood pumping, brash and indeed very brazen. Inspired by 70's heavy rock (See The Lies), 80's traditional metal as well as stoner/doom. All three are woven seamlessly through Flamebearer, for every moment of heaviness, there's a melody, every mountainous doom slab, a traditional metal gallop. 

The riff worship begins in earnest, that simple drum pattern from Thiago Pinho, direct and driving, his percussive power sturdy and steadfast. He's underscored by a grooving bass from Dom Bailey, the rhythmic heart of the band. Closing out the instrumentals are the distorted, dirty riffs from scene veteran Alastair Riddell. On Seed Is Sown these riffs weave into a harmonic guitar solo, the classic metal style bleeding into their muscular doom rocking. 

This is their full length debut, following a debut cassette/digital EP and the Wild Child single release, several tours with big names honing the Flamebearer sound enough to get them back in the studio with Wayne Adams for just two weeks and launch the next phase of the Flamebearer story where they want to make music that is a vital and vibrant as their live show. 

So what else does Brazen offer us? Well on Taste Hell they have some 80's style gang vocals with a sleazy chug to the riff, we get our first slab of doom on Walls Crumbling. Valiant addressing his followers with his Osbourne/Wyndorf reverbed vocals on this psychedelic tinged number. It leads into the thundering The Grey, which is yet more more doom but this time with a NOLA wooziness. 

Flamebearer sweat talent from every pour, hitting what is a sweet spot for me. Insecure for example is just a wild bit of doom rock, Sabbath worship but with bigger choruses. Then on Holy Rose they totally blindside you with what is similar to a Thin Lizzy Celtic macho ballad. The lyrics of Flamebearer are used to uplift the listener, they don't dwell in the maudlin, always focusing on conquering adversity than being consumed by it. 

Holy Rose recalibrates this album, segueing into the truly evil sounding Black Tower which again hints at Sabbath but also Cathedral with its slow, brooding riff and airy drumming. If you don't gurn to this your definitely dead, just as you get into a groove it speeds up into the goth punk of Misfits (it's the gang vocals). 

The wildness of Clutch, the Brit Grit of Orange Goblin (Kiss The Veil) and a singer who channels the snarl of Point Of Entry/Hell Bent For Leather Rob Halford, Flamebearer are on fire with this record!! Gather ye Greebos and hail the riff! 10/10

Tuesday 23 April 2024

M2TM South Wales 2024: Swansea Heat #4 Interview With Gyro By Paul Hutchings

Interview With Gyro – Heat 4 Swansea, M2TM 27th April 2024

1. Let’s start with introductions. Who is who and what does each person do in the band?

I’m Ethan, I’m the long haired, pretty one, I play 8 string guitar and vocals and the bald, broad shouldered one is Marc, he plays the drums.

2. Where are you from and how long have you been together?

I’m from Bridgend originally but have since moved to Abergwynfi and Marc grew up in Neath, moved to Bridgend, then Birmingham and now he’s back in Neath.

We started Gyro in late 2022/early 2023 but prior to that we had a mostly online instrumental prog metal band called Earthen that we worked on together on and off for about 8 years, eventually we realised that playing a G minor scale at 300bpm is all impressive but no one wants to bounce their hips to that so we started Gyro with the intention of gigging and making crowds move.

3. Describe your music in five words.

Progpunk Grungecore up your batty.

4. What prompted you to apply to be part of Metal to the Masses – South Wales?

We were in the market for gigs that would spread our kind of dirty music to audiences that wouldn’t normally hear it but that we thought would be receptive to a new sound and also the opportunity to network with other bands and get some more fun gigs organised down the line.

5. If you have played Metal to the Masses before, tell us about your previous experiences and importantly, why you’ve returned!

First time for us but we’ve got a lot of friends who’ve played previous years and previous heats this year, thought we couldn’t let them have all the fun.

6. Bloodstock is a big festival – have you attended the festival in the past? If so, what would you say are the best things about the weekend?

Never attended bloodstock ourselves but we have friends who go religiously and alcohol aside everyone is there to have a good time and to go as hard as possible which we abide heavily.

7. Apart from Metal to the Masses, what do you have planned for 2024?

We’re going to release an EP or 2 and just try to grow as much as possible and play as many great gigs as we can.

8. What can we expect from you in your heat?

Other bands will try to make you headbang, we will get your hips moving too

9. And what are you expecting in your heat and journey through the competition?

Regarding our heat there’s some great bands who’ve played m2tm before and are very talented people and artists, we don’t really see it as a competition more so an opportunity to get our name out there and mingle with some of the other festival headliners of tomorrow?

10. Finally, where can people find details of the band – promote your socials here!

A. On everything we are @gyrocymru, this is all our links in one convenient place https://linktr.ee/gyrocymru