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Thursday 25 April 2024

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

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