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Tuesday 2 April 2024

Reviews: Vorga, Wristmeetsrazor, Words Of Farewell, Ascia (Reviews By Paul Scoble, GC, Mark Young & James Jackson)

Vorga – Beyond The Palest Star (Transcending Obscurity Records) [Paul Scoble]

An interesting offshoot of Black Metal has revealed itself over the last few years, the style is known as Cosmic or Space Black Metal. As the name suggests this is a style that is less obsessed with frostbitten Grimness of the frozen tundra, and more obsessed with the coldness of the interstellar depths of space. 

Bands such as Imperialist or Mare Cognitum have led the emerging subgenre, another band that is becoming a big deal within that scene is German band Vorga. Vorga have been making space inspired Black Metal since 2016, in that time the band have released a debut Ep in 2019 called Radiant Gloom, three years later came the debut full length in 2022’s Striving Toward Oblivion, Beyond The Palest Star is the band second album.

The style on offer on Beyond The Palest Star is big dramatic Black Metal with lots of Keyboards, sometimes sounding very ‘synthy’ and sometimes having more of a strings / orchestral feel to it. The style tends to have lots of layers and is absolutely dripping with melody, whilst at the same time having some savage, and aggressive blasts beats. The mix of melodic tunefulness and very aggressive Black Metal elements works very well and gives the material a nice balance.

The album opens with the track Voideath, which, after a dissonant into, is a mix of Blasting fast spacy Black Metal with a very cold production with lots of Synths and slower, mid-paced material with keyboard atmospheres, and lots of melody. Second track The Sophist has a slow and expansive opening with lots of keys, which builds to mid-paced Cosmic Black Metal. The expansive parts return, before a dissonant Guitar returns to build us back to the Mid-paced Black Metal that takes the song to its end.

Magical Thinking is a stunning track, opening with very synth heavy Black Metal that is a little reminiscent of Mesarthim, the song builds adding layers of keyboards, strings and very melodic tremolo picked Guitar riffs. When in full flight this track feels huge and dramatic, melody packed and blasting, it reminds me of Mare Cognitum, and that is a comparison that should please anyone with good taste. Next comes The Cataclysm the shortest track on the album, the song is a Blast of fast melodic Black Metal which, in places, is a little reminiscent of Immortal in their Sons Of Northern Darkness heyday. The track is full of melody, drive and great energy.

Tragic Humanity has two main sections, one that is full of Blasting fast and aggressive riffs with the occasional slower and melodic part, and much more melodic and tuneful second half that is slower and less aggressive. It feels like the band have got the balance just right. Fractal Cascade has a slow and drifting tempo to it that feels dreamlike, this builds in intensity and drive until we reach a section of full-on Blasting that is super-fast. The dreamlike drifting returns for a while before the track drops back into Blasting, taking the song to its end.

The album ends with the song Terminal, which has feels like a song of two halves. The opening feels like psytrance before the song goes into a mid-paced section that much closer to Progressive Metal that Black Metal, the song builds bringing in more aggression and drive. The song builds until it drops us into a savage Blast Beat section that is ridiculously fast and aggressive, with lots of layers and melody again reminding me a little of Mare Cognitum. The song blasts to its and the albums end with lashings of melody and savagely blasting drums.

Beyond The Palest Star is a cracking album, with it Vorga have moved from a promising band in the Space / Cosmic Black Metal scene, to one of its leaders. Everything is done so well, the song writing is excellent, all the performances are very good, in fact if I try to single out any of the performances it feels unfair to everyone else, as everything is done so well. The production and mixing is also a treat, any album with this number of layers is a minefield when it comes to mixing and the mix is perfect. An incredibly enjoyable piece of piece of Black Metal, highly recommended. 8/10

Wristmeetrazor - Degeneration (Prosthetic Records) [GC]

The old saying is that you should never judge a book by its cover, and dear readers I have just seen a picture of Wrismeetrazor and almost decide that surely, I can’t be reviewing this! I totally judged them by the way they looked in the picture, they wouldn’t look out of place in a dingy goth basement drinking absinthe or whatever goths do, BUT that’s not how things are done here so time to knuckle down and actually listen (then judge). 

The beginning of Turn On, Tune In, Drop Dead doesn’t fill me with much optimism as it has that electronic nu-metal tone way to many bands seem to be re-introducing to their sound but, to credit them it does get better as it goes on and actually packs a punch with some nice crunching guitars and pitch harmonics colliding with pounding drums and it has a great vocal performance throughout.

Static Reckoning is a savage slice of mid 00’s sounding American metalcore but the decent sort and even the weird gothy signing adds another layer you kind of enjoy but aren’t sure why and for good measure the beatdowns midway are also a lot of fun. I think Trepanation tries a bit too hard to be well, hard I guess its full of staccato riffing and double bass drums and the odd sprinkling of a beatdown but just seems to lack the killer edge needed to elevate it, still not a bad song overall. 

Xeroxed Reflection has the familiar galloping metalcore guitar work that also caters for the traditional metal fans out there, but then on the flip side, I do not like the clean vocals on this song at all as they stunt the pace and it all goes a bit flat from their introduction, Dogdaygod is an absolute blast of a song as its fast, furious and has an energy that is interspersed with more goth influence and makes for an interesting contrast in sounds, an unexpected album highlight! 

Love Thy Enmity once again goes straight for the throat and keeps the galloping nature going and this album feels like a real throwback to the peak of the NWOAHM that took over the world at one point but doesn’t sound dated, or uninspired in anyway, Culled And Forgotten blasts by in under a minute and is a short, sharp blast of insanity that throws you for six in the best way before Synthetic 51 is a bit meat and 2 potatoes metal, it’s a bit of a knuckle dragging show of macho-ness that seems out of place and not needed, cant win 'em all I guess! No Ceremony goes back into the more familiar and ultimately enjoyable metalcore/electronic mix and all through this album the vocals have been savage and none more so than on this track and it has some great guitar solos thrown in at the end before one more round of beatdowns for good measure! 

The Vanity Procession is an absolute beast of a song full of melody and aggression but always in the right amounts it’s never too much on or the other and it’s that knack of knowing what to do and when that has made this album such an enjoyable listen so far. Negative Fix might be my least favourite song on the album as it leans HEAVILY on the nu-metal element and sounds a bit dated because of this and while for most bands trying this style this would be their best song.

Wristmeetsrazor have more to them than this, final track Greatest Love Offering In The History Of The World thankfully shows us exactly what they are good at and is one more frantic and savage metalcore assault that manages to mix in the goth atmosphere brilliantly again before ending on an anthemic and thundering wave of metal goodness. 

Well, fuck me! I was NOT expecting that! I judged this book by its cover far too early. I really enjoyed this album, it has got everything you need in a modern metalcore record, there are parts that can veer dangerously off track and worry you slightly but it’s not long before they reel you back in and all is forgiven, a pleasantly surprising and overall, massively enjoyable album. Highly recommended. 8/10

Words Of Farewell - Stories To Forget (Seek And Strike) [Mark Young]

Melodic death metal served up from Words of Farewell, who drop their new EP with lead track A Lesser King blasting out of the traps, with hints of Lamb Of God in amongst the synths and super-tight arrangements. That LOG feel is ever-present but in a good way as the riffs unfold combining to great effect with the keys. Drums too are on point, motoring through the song without overshadowing everything else. That’s one of the key strengths here is that everything is balanced, the solo break is built well, showing enough ability without it being soulless. 

That immediacy is kept up for Stories To Forget (first single released in support of this), guitars dropping back during the opening moments to allow vocals to kick in first. The arrangement is one that we have heard before, with those quiet / loud sections, kept alive by keys as the guitars follow up and is more like the melodeath I’ve heard previously (and wasn’t a fan of) in that there is nothing wrong with it, but there is nothing that wows me either at the same time. 

Parting Ways is up next, bringing of the good stuff from A Lesser King and amping up the synths with a belter of a movement that allows the riffs to support in the background. It's still heavy, they make sure that the riffs keep coming in but utilising those synths to build mood at the same time. It reminds me of sci-fi films from the 80’s in a way to keep the movement pushing forward. 

Mono No Aware begins with a gentle acoustic moment that is booted out of the way for a song that just stomps its way along, its heavy and moves with the melodic guitar lines filling the space well. True to melodeath form, there is a softer-spoken section, complete with solo that is pretty good. Again, it does its thing well, ending on that acoustic moment once more but if you are not a fan then you might not appreciate it that much. 

Final track, This Mirage starts on a softer note but comes in with a razor-sharp riff, which is spot on. There are little fills in there which are great, and they use some quality chords here that really shine. This is an absolute stand-out of a song, everything is top drawer on this one from start to finish and it closes out an uneven EP with a cracker of a song. 

This is a shame in some respects as there is no doubt that they can write some barnstorming songs, This Mirage is one of the best things I’ve heard in ages, especially with the way they manage to keep the emotional chord use going in the heavier sections. Fans of these (and melodeath) will find a lot to keep them going here. 6/10

Ascia - The Wandering Warrior (Perpetual Eclipse Productions) [James Jackson]

The Wandering Warrior album is a compilation of sorts, tracks taken from previously released demos and remastered for this year’s release; the band were formerly a solo project but branched out into something more traditional in order to play live.

The bio describes the sound as being “Raw, Caveman Metal meets Stoner/Doom” and whilst I’m not sure what Caveman Metal (I mean it's bands that sound like Conan - Ed) is, the Stoner Doom sounds are pretty evident, from the distorted “fuzzy” guitar sound to the sludgy down tempo riffs, this is as expected with a genre description such as it is.

There are some nice riffs throughout, some interesting solos that wander amidst the guitar riffs that maintain a head nodding rhythm through the majority of the songs on offer. The drums on a few of the songs are tribalistic, holding a solid groove upon which everything else is based and whilst the vocals are low in the mix, they suit this sludgy tone well.

Overall a good, solid album that fans of the Stoner/Doom genre will find appealing I’m sure; as for that Caveman Metal, I’ve still no idea. 6/10

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