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Friday 19 April 2024

Reviews: High On Fire, Dvne, Atrae Bilis, Maere (Reviews By Rich Piva, Matt Bladen, GC & Mark Young)

High On Fire - Cometh The Storm (MNRK Heavy) [Rich Piva]

High On Fire are one of those bands you can identify after just a couple of seconds of a song. Whether it’s Matt Pike’s guitar sound and trademark riffs or a bit of his unique sing/scream voice, you know it’s them, and you also pretty much know what you are going to get, which for this band is never a band thing, just different levels of good. 

If you are not familiar with High On Fire then I can’t help you, but I will say this is the first album in six years from the deliverers of riffs, heavy sludgy goodness, and UFO conspiracies and will in no way disappoint long time fans who have been anxiously awaiting new material from Pike and this next configuration of the band, which this time includes former Melvins and Big Business drummer Coady Willis and boy does he make a difference because the drums sound amazing on here along with everything else Cometh The Fire brings.

The riffs are all over the place on Cometh The Fire, right from the beginning on Lambsbread for example. You get a great example of the new drummer’s work on this track too. I love the second track, Burning Down, how it kind of rises up from the ashes. You immediately hear some Big Business with this track on not just the drums, so Willis is having influence on Pike for sure. HOF is at their best with their sludgy, mid-tempo tracks where the riffs and now also the drums rule all, like on Tough Guy. Obviously, the band is not afraid to rip it up too, like the breakneck tracks TrismegistusLightning Beard, and The Beating

The title track is killer too, highlighted by what would be the closest Pike comes to crooning and a great build driven by those drums and whoa when that chunky riff kicks in. You even have some Middle Eastern vibes going on (Karanlik) and the most Mastodon sounding song of their discography, Hunting Shadows. The ten-minute Darker Fleece is a strong, albeit a bit too long closer, but it still slays. If I had one gripe, I would say Cometh The Storm is a bit long at almost an hour, but hey, it’s been six years so I get it.

So, worry not High On Fire fans, if you like this band you will totally dig Cometh The Fire. Just don’t come in to it thinking Pike is going go in some crazy new direction, which is fine with me given all of the godly riffs and pummelling of the rhythm section you get for sixty straight minutes. A great late career album from a great band. 8/10

Dvne - Voidkind (Metal Blade Records) [Matt Bladen]

French/Scottish act Dvne have been creating a beautiful heavy noise for over 10 years, releasing two studio albums and glut of EP’s, the founding duo of Victor Vicart (guitar/keys/vocals) and Dudley Tait (drums), play music inspired by Tool, Gojira, Cult Of Luna, Conjurer and The Ocean, post metal atmospheres with pulverising sludge grooves, progressive compositions that put hypnotic grooves against cascading riffs. 

On this third full length Dvne bring their music to a new nadir, Vicart and Tait are joined by Allan Paterson (guitar/bass), Daniel Barter (vocals), but it’s the addition of Maxime Kelle on keys and vocals that gives Voidkind a more eclectic ethereal sound that takes them further towards what Baroness do. Now expanded to a five piece, it’s their live shows that has influenced this record. Playing shows and festivals has meant that the focus was on creating tracks that were still intense technical workouts but also concise, still with long slithering epics but mostly writing music where you can play five or six songs in a set rather than say three. 

Concise but not simple, Dvne still have a knack for the slow burn, their music undulates and shifts, songs build, crescendo and then fade back out or segue into something else entirely. Victor also notes that he wanted the album to sound more like their live show so there is less overdubbing and layering, keeping it distinctly to a couple of guitars through one channel each, the rhythm section, keys and vocals, not fifty layers of everything. It means that Voidkind sounds more natural, a bit barer but it forces you to really get to the crux of Dvne as a band, that decade of maturity obvious. 

Elonora brings the Dvne sound right from the off, fluid basslines take the lead in the middle section, put between two massive slabs of stop start riffage, keys providing texture as we move into repeating arpeggios and breakdowns for Reaching For Telos as the dreamlike Reliquary takes the journey into a nightmare, the astral soundscapes inspired by the 1989 novel Hyperion by Dan Simmonds. This affinity with dark science fiction (I mean their name comes from Frank Herbert’s worm-filled epic), gives them a lot of room to play with dynamics, such as Cobalt Sun Necropolis which closes the album with some inspiration from Tool.

The production makes it sound cinematic highlighting the individual performances inside the whole song, the focus on making their music more direct while adding more ‘real’ layers with additional keys and vocal harmonies. Voidkind is the third album Dvne deserve to make, honed by their live show and at their very best. 9/10

Atrae Bilis - Aumicide (20 Buck Spin) [GC]

This week’s review from me comes from a 20 Buck Spin signing, I have the new album, Aumicide from Atrae Bilis, 20 Buck Spin usually are spot on with their bands and I’m not sure I have heard one of their releases I don’t like, so hopes are high for this one.

If the tech death and djenty instrumental intro Protoxenesis sets the mood for what we can expect for the rest of the album were in for a treat, see I don’t hate ALL intros!! Hell Simulation explodes into life with a beautiful BLERGH and then is a sharp mix of technical and angular death metal, that also has the required crunchy beatdowns included to make this a whirlwind start.

Before Salted In Stygia starts with some almost brie brie br00tal death metal vocals but manage to veer away just enough to save face, musically it’s another maelstrom of technical, jagged riffs mixed with some impressive drum work and the intertwining of almost but not quiet grind sections doubling onto more paired back and atmospheric sections is a wonderous effect. 

Inward To Abraxas is an absolute thunderfuck of a track and mixes all the best bits of death metal into one huge wall of destruction the drums pound and dismantle, the guitars slice and jab with such ferocity and savageness, you get the rich and thick basslines worked through and here we get some definite brutal death metal vocals that enhance everything and take the song to another level. 

To Snuff The Spirit Guides continues the sterling work with yet another dose of masterful and brutal death metal that while sounding chaotic and out of control also at the same time is precise and to the point and that is the magic of this album the mix of chaos and control is on point! 

Next up is the title track Aumicide which is and slow and paired back instrumental that unfortunately is a bit of a misstep in my opinion as it slows the pace of everything down completely and just seems a bit out of place here, A Kingdon Of Cortisol begins with the slowed pace of the previous track but doesn’t take long to pick the pace and violence back up, there is a more atmospheric feel to the production on this track in places. 

When they put the foot back on the ‘’fucking heavy’’ pedal its all systems go again in a quiet magnificent and delightfully savage way, Monolith Aflame begins with a doomy echoey silence that the explodes into what may be the most old school death metal feeling track on the album so far, not to say they lose any of the edge of the modern side of things it just seeps in together and sound magnificent. 

Through The Hologram’s Cervix wins the most absurd death metal song tile award on the album award and is also the shortest and therefore most grind influenced track, it’s a 2:30 mix of buzzsaw sharp riffs, battering drums and some more fantastic vocal work that turns up, puts its boot on our throat, stamps repeatedly on it and then just leaves, fantastic stuff. 

Excruciate Incarnate is left with the job of closing the album and does so in glorious fashion with one last show of everything Atrae Bilis are capable of, there’s technicality, grind influence and a healthy dose of djent all mixed together just because the can and it’s an absolute joy to listen to.

This album is a little over 40 minutes long and 35 minutes of it is as close to perfection as you can get! The inclusion of an instrumental track is frustrating, because while its decent enough it just doesn’t really fit into the whole album for me, but me having had that little moan should not in any way take anything away from this absolutely fucking phenomenal piece of death metal artistry. 

This is a truly magnificent album and dare I say it already but if this isn’t featuring on some peoples AOTY lists then I really will be shocked because I know it will be in mine! 10/10

Maere - And The Universe Keeps Silent (Transcending Obscurity Records) [Mark Young]

A debut album of death metal that takes in dissonance, doom and atmospheric motifs across its 5 songs. This is not an easy listen; It is not your straightforward blast beat-unintelligible vocals affair. This is a brutal release that doesn’t rely on standard practice. 

The use of those dissonant chord shapes and arrangements adds to a general sense of unease in place. All Those Things We’ve Never Been (The Grandeur Of Nihilism) starts us off with an arrangement that lurches from one narrative to another, guitar lines that repeat maddening lines that drop into the darkest extreme riffs.
They build their songs in a way that is reminiscent of Morbid Angel, those heavy stabs that although aren’t fast hit still hit hard, nonetheless. There is an intelligence behind them, behind the way they are deployed. This is showcased on Traumlande (Ascending The Abyss) where each member is completely locked in with each other. The guitar sound just fits the music so well, its gritty whilst possessing a clarity to it that allows you hear everything in such a defined way. When they do adopt an almost normal approach, there is still that quality to it that makes it stand-out from other acts. 

The Darkness Is Your Mother is an example of this approach as they batter you with riffs that seem to stretch out, then falling away leaving the drumming alone to continue pushing forward until they come together once more. It is intelligent brutality, a deft touch instead of a sledgehammer approach and it is fantastic.
Closing track Think Of Me As Fire is excellent, it builds upon what has come before with those melodic lines offset against the double bass, the trem picked guitar coming in as a transition to another atmospheric passage where two riff lines face off until they disappear into feedback. The chords are jarring, the speed is there, and the rhythm is off kilter but together it all works.

There are reviews online already, some that are making this one of the albums of the decade, others one of the albums of 2024. The latter is probably closer to the mark, if you imagine trying to place this alongside what we have seen so far, I cannot think of anyone else who sounds like they do. I said earlier that the music reminds me of Morbid Angel, in the way that they used to put differing melody lines together and they way that they would drop their riffs but that is where the similarities end. 

Their music is unique to them, its approach and execution makes them stand apart from the extreme crowd. It won’t be for everyone, in that there are no clean / dirt switch vocals going on nor constant guitar and drums battering forward at 240bpm. They have a vision of what their art should be, and they have the confidence and the talent to stick with it. When you are looking for originality in an ever-growing pool of sound-a-likes this is who you should be listening to. 9/10

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