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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

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