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Wednesday 3 April 2024

Reviews: Hamferð, Rage, Coffin Storm, Little Albert (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Hamferð - Men Guðs Hond Er Sterk (Metal Blade Records)

Faroese death/doom band Hamferð have been on an upward career trajectory since their formation, creating emotionally powerful and evocative music that brings to mind the early heavier sound of Icelandic band Sólstafir. 

Having wrapped up a three album concept with their last studio full length, they had the opportunity to start something new with this fourth record. Men Guðs hond er sterk is inspired by the 1915 whaling disaster off the Faroe Island village of Sandvik, so there is still that penchant for sadness, tragedy and a general state of ennui. This is reflected in their music as huge riffs come cascading like the waves crashing on the coast back in 1915 as destruction was all around. 

The creative vision of guitarist Theodor Kapnas, the album comes into being with the torrid Ábær (To The Storm), extreme metal the backing for some atmospheric clean vocals that I adore, even in their native Faeroese it oozes emotion, sending a chill down the spine. From here there's gothic sweeps, frigid blast beats and monolithic doom, recorded organically, you can feel the cohesion between the members, the instrumentation in harmonic union, utilizing space between the notes to bring unease and drama. 

The concept is dense and traumatic but there is always a note of optimism no matter how small, the radio interview with one of the survivors, talks of the boat that got through rather than focus on the disaster so this adds a sliver lining to this largely downbeat concept. Evocative music that straddles many genre boundaries, Hamferð continue with storytelling magic. 9/10

Rage - Afterlifelines (Steamhammer/SPV)

If there's one thing you can't ever accuse Peavy Wagner of, it's doing things by half. Throughout the long history of Rage, they've taken every route, dabbled in every style, but have always maintained their German heavy metal heritage. 

On new album Afterlifelines they celebrate forty years of metal with a two disc set, the first album Afterlife is 11 tracks that are there to show the band in their current form as a trio Wagner on bass/vocals, Jean Bormann on guitar and Vassilios “Lucky” Maniatopoulos on drums, songs about the environment, the world and what we as humans do to it. It's pacey, heavy and classic Rage as a trio, stripped back but with proggy passages and Wagner's great vocals. So this is the new album for fans of the old school, though there's also huge swathes of modern metal that will impress long term fans too. 

However it's Lifelines that is the second disc that will really sell this set. It's a fully orchestrated set of songs that features Marco Grasshoff who has brought the strong arrangements, piano and keys tying this a but more to Wagners Lingua Mortis album with Rage. So side two is a bit more grandiose but still ultimately is Rage once explain showing why they are more than just another heavy metal band. 8/10

Coffin Storm - Arcana Rising (Peaceville)

From the dark forests of Kolbotn in Norway Coffin Storm is a band that features Apollyon (Aura Noir/Lamented Souls) and Bestial Tormentor (Infernö/Lamented Souls) on the musical side Darkthrone’s Fenriz on vocals. 

No black metal here though as Coffin Storm is a much more classic sounding affair, with influences from classic metal, occult doom and even thrash, with Ole Jørgen behind the drum kit Coffin Storm was born and the album came together reasonably quickly, analogue production makes it feel like the tape trading days, as the band themselves were inspired by Candlemass, especially Fenriz histrionic vocals, as did Agent Steel but a lot of this record also has nods to Mercyful Fate, Paradise Lost, and the nastier sounding thrash of Venom or Celtic Frost. 

They dub it slow thrash and with the title track they encapsulate everything they want to be as a band. The thrash is dialled up on the Open The Gallows but it sits at a head nodding middle pace that drives into a great solo section, things are kept reasonably quick with Ceaseless Abandon but closing track Clockwork Cult they revert back to a NWOBHM chug that reminds me of the much missed Hell. 

A band of friends playing music to show their talents and the wealth of excellence in their home town, Coffin Storm is a great project for fans of doomy epic metal. 8/10

Little Albert - The Road Not Taken (Virgin Music/Universal Music Italia)

Alberto Piccolo, is perhaps better known as the man behind the skull rattling riffs of Italian doom band Messa, but here he chills out and embraces the blues evoking the fuzzy, harmonic guitars and echoed vocals of The Black Keys and Gary Clark Jr. 

As soon as Still Alive gets this solo record going these influences are obvious, it's Delta Blues but in the modern era, Alberto showing his reverence for the blues with every shimmering riff or slinky strut such as Demon Woman, which reminds of SRV as bassist Alex Fernet and drummer Diego Dal Bon lay down the impressive rhythms that never overshadow the guitar work but bring flesh out these impressive blues rock cuts. 

Recorded on analogue tape it's as authentic as it gets, be it the slow burning See My Love Comin, which has a incendiary crescendo solo, the jazzy atmospherics of Hiding All My Love Away or a pretty faithful cover of Little Walter's smokey Blue And Lonesome, Little Albert has established that his blues credentials are just as good as his doom ones. 8/10

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