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Tuesday 16 April 2024

Reviews: Benighted, Vulture, Nocturna, Harvestman (Reviews By GC, Matt Bladen, James Jackson & Paul Scoble)

Benighted - Ekbom (Season Of Mist) [GC]

Having formed all the way back in 1998 when the world was overtaken by Nu-Metal, France’s Benighted had other ideas and decided they were going to mix grindcore with brutal death metal and it’s obviously been a roaring success as Ekbom is their 10th album.

Now, I have said it before and will say it again I LOVE death metal BUT also feel that ‘’brutal’’ death metal is so hit and miss that I cannot stand most of it, as many of my reviews will attest to! However, everything deserves a chance to prove me wrong and this is Benighted’s turn.

Prodome is an intro so doesn’t really offer much in the way of preparation for Scars which comes blasting out of the blocks and it’s a savage mix of grindcore and black metal and unlike most BDM bands you can actually make out what is being played and the mix is spot on and they even manage to add a slow an atmospheric section towards the end that fleshes the song out and adds more depth.

I will say though the brie brie vocals are still a bit annoying, Morgue is more scathing and vicious grinding blackened death metal that also manages to also add in some deathcore sounds with the beatdowns sprinkled violently throughout the song.

Le Vice Des Entrailles probably means something horrific when translated because translated into music form it’s a brutal slab of solid blackened deathcore that’s hits all the right levels of nastiness required. Nothing Left To Fear thunders forward and even when it does ease up slightly on the pace it then descends into absolute chaos again and the groove sections mixed with more unnecessarily heavy beatdowns are wonderful!

Ekbom is a towering monster of a tune that starts off with a slow and unusually sedated start before breaking into an all-out assault on the senses mixing in the grinding drums with some more paired back sections and the guitars throw all sorts of different styles in here and while this could usually go tits up it all mixes so well here.

Metastasis is another whirlwind of speeding drums and razors sharp riffs and although it all sounds technically excellent, I just struggle to enjoy this track as much as I feel I should. A Reason For Treason has a more refined groove in the song and it’s also probably the most deathcore song on the whole album and probably suffers slightly for this as it sounds a bit more basic than a lot of the other songs.

Fame Of The Grotesque then proceeds to blow away the cobwebs of the previous 2 tracks that made me feel a bit like they had lost their rhythm, here were get back to the usual excellently executed blasting blackened death metal that has served so well on most of this album so far.

It comes as relief as I was thinking they had used up all their A material and things were fading away, the opening riff on Scapegoat veers dangerously close to that dreaded Nu-Metal-esque metalcore core sound that is around at the moment but just manages to steer it away and save face, the song itself is a short, sharp kick in the face and there is a very decent brie section in here that actually adds to the song for once!

Flesh Against Flesh is another song that I can’t really grasp, it’s full of thundering drums and cutting guitars but I feel there have been better tracks on the album than this one and because of that it just doesn’t stick in my mind so much? Mother Earth, Mother Whore takes over a minute and a half to kick in and when it does, we get one last furious blast of the type of grinding blackened death metal that made so much of this album a pleasure to listen to.

After listening to this album, I feel it could probably do with a bit of streamlining and focus in places because when they want to they can create absolute world class brutality but sometimes it gets a bit muddled and lost with all the different ideas, however this overall was a really good album and finally is a brutal death metal album I don’t hate! Overall: 8/10

Vulture – Sentinels (Metal Blade Records) [Matt Bladen]

For all the love for the NWOBHM, much of the focus moved away from the UK as the Yanks began to adapt it into something faster and more vicious, thrash, and speed metal as it evolved into death/black metal as it reached out to Europe. The initial sounds of bands such as Priest and Maiden, taken at light speed with a more punk focus. So too the same thing has happened with bands who have come out of the NWOTHM scene.

On Vulture’s fourth album Sentinels, they give us 11 thrash metal bangers from right at the beginning of that Bay Area sound. With the title track Sentinels (Heavier Than Time) they manage to also pay homage to Priest with that Screaming For Vengeance/Defenders Of The Faith echoed chug in the guitars, but the double shot of the openers Screams From The Abattoir and Unhallowed And Forgotten, the blistering sounds of Slayer and Exodus are obvious, the screeching vocals augmented by gang choruses, dive bomb guitar soloing and a breathless pace.

Their last album leaned a little too into melodic sing alongs, this one puts the gas pedal down again, the harmonies of Transylvania merging Maiden with Helstar (remember Helstar?), as Draw Your Blades goes into the screeching speed metal of Mercyful Fate as does Oathbreaker, while Death Row features the vocals and constant riff changes of Annihilator.

It’s fast and filthy, inspired by horror movies and has Screamer embracing classic thrash/speed metal with both hands. 8/10

Nocturna - Of Sorcery And Darkness (Scarlet Records) [James Jackson]

From the opening refrain of Burn The Witch with its use of choirs, double bass drums and melodic lead guitar, the band aren’t holding back, the Symphonic and Power Metal influences coming through.
The Symphonic elements are most prominent in the band through the two female vocalists, Grace Darling and Rehn Stillnight who formed the band in Italy, 2021.

Vocally there’s a contrast between the two artists, one is more classically trained by the seems of things, reminding me very much of former Nightwish vocalist Tarja, the other slightly grittier at times, though not quite as distinctive as a Male/Female duet, the two styles are complimentary and work well, adding further flair to the mix.
Musically it feels more in common with Power Metal bands like Powerwolf than it does Nightwish but that line between the two genres often feels blurred as bands push boundaries and experiment with sounds and styles. Definitely one that I’ll be listening to in more depth, as well as their previous album Daughters Of The Night. 8/10.

Harvestman – Triptych: Part One (Neurot) [Paul Scoble]

Harvestman is a side project of Steve Von Till Guitarist and Singer in Neurosis (although I feel the less said about Neurosis the better), and as a solo singer songwriter. The Harvestman project has been in existence since 2005, releasing four albums since it’s inception, the first being Lashing The Rye in 2005, and the last being Trinity released in 2020. Harvestman has used a lot of Folk influences, and has mixed them with electronica, Triptych: Part One is mainly electronics with very minimal Folk, with a style that looks towards Dub and Drone.

Opening track Psilosynth is a Dub track, a slow pulsing Bass line runs throughout the song, backed up by simple echoed percussion, and electronica. The track does have a clean and again echoed Guitar line, but Psilosynth is mainly about the pulsing Dub. Give Your Heart To The Hawk is a minimal track of gentle Bass and Guitar with a spoken word sample that runs throughout the track. It has a meditative quality that I enjoyed.

Coma is a minimal Drone track. There is a long build up to fairly slight Drone, with the occasional electronic buzz or burr. Next comes a remix of the opening track Psilosynth (Harvest Dub), which is a Dub mix of the Dub track from the beginning of the album. It is fairly similar but with the bassline being higher in the mix and the percussion having more of an electronic and echoey feel to it and being louder. I’m not sure if we really needed another version of this track, it is a bit different, but not enough for it to feel like anything other than a repetition.

How To Purify Mercury is another Droney piece of electronica with a pulsing bassline. The track builds as it goes, with extra tones added. Nocturnal Field Song is a minimal Drone / Ambient track with occasional percussion and tones, but not much else. The album comes to an end with another Drone track; Mare And Foal. Mare And Foal is slightly brighter and more ethereal than the track that preceded it, and has a more positive feel to it.

Triptych: Part One is an interesting album, of Dub, electronica and Drone. I’m not sure that the two mixes of Psilosynth are needed, it’s interesting to hear an alternative, but I don’t think they are different enough for it to be worth it, it feels more like padding. The Drone material is interesting, and, due to the short lengths of the Drone tracks I found them to more palatable that a lot of Drone that I’ve heard before, but I also feel like I need more music in my music. I’d expect Steve Von Till obsessives will lap this up, and someone who was more of a Drone and Dub fan would probably get more out of this than I have, for me this is more interesting than enjoyable. 6/10

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