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Friday 28 June 2024

Bloodstock Metal To The Masses Finalist Interview: Rites To Ruin (Interview By Matt Bladen)

Bloodstock Metal To The Masses 2024 Finalists Interview With Rites To Ruin (Interview By Matt Bladen)

First of all congratulations on getting to the final, which this year is the biggest one yet!

1. You’re going to be a part of the inaugural Day Of Wreckoning at The Patti Pavilion in Swansea. How does that feel?

We’re really looking forward to it. The organisers for the South Wales region have really upped the ante this year and the final is going to be an incredible event regardless of the outcome. We’re just thrilled to share the stage with so many incredible bands.

2. From what we’ve seen your campaign to get to Bloodstock has been very successful (obviously). How has the experience of this year’s M2TM been for you?

It’s been a wonderful experience as always. The team behind this region are just incredibly generous and lovely folks and the bands have all been superb to share the stage with. Once again we’ve made plenty of new friends and we hope we’ll get some gigs together soon.

3. M2TM is all about supporting your local scene. How important is the local scene to you as a band?

The local scene is huge for all bands, without it we wouldn’t get to meet so many other bands, we wouldn’t get the opportunity to network at gigs whether we’re on the bill or not and you might end up with a tasty support slot you might not have considered yourself for previously.. It’s the lifeblood of the industry and it deserves everyone’s full support.

4. To add to that. How strong do you feel the scene is at the moment?

It’s the strongest it’s been in while in South Wales and that’s only a good thing. There’s always peaks and troughs and I hope we’re getting on the way to a peak and that it stays there for sometime!

5. What should people expect when you take to the stage at the Patti. It’s a pretty big stage so are there more nerves than playing say Fuel or The Bunkhouse?

The same energy and fun we have playing every other stage. Every gig is a Stadium gig regardless of the size of stage or venue. Bring your absolute best to every gig and you rarely get any nerves or at least that’s my experience.

6. What other bands are you looking forward to seeing on the day?

Everyone if I’m honest. Really looking forward to catching up with the Kill By Mouth and Verletzen gangs again as we’ve not seen them since last year, and then going a bit barmy to Raging Speedhorn and Discharge! But we’re looking forward to the day as a whole. It’s going to be a long day but an amazing one.

7. If you were to get to play Bloodstock on the New Blood Stage, how would that feel for you as a band?

Awful, just awful! Kidding, we’d be overjoyed, it’s a hell of an opportunity and my (Krissie) favourite festival in the UK. To get your music to a possible audience of hundreds if not thousands? It's huge regardless of what level your band is at.

8. Would you recommend the M2TM initiative to any band looking to showcase themselves in their scene and further away?

Absolutely. It’s a great networking opportunity and gives you chances to hone your stagecraft while experiencing a silky run event and evening regardless of whether you progress or not. The organisers tend to be band members themselves or in the industry in some format and are always open to giving you feedback as well.

9. In addition to that question. What advice would you give them in order to get where you are?

When you get feedback from the organisers, especially if they are performers themselves and not just fans of music, take it in the manner they mean it which is to help elevate your performance as a band. Watch other bands and learn what you think worked for them and adapt it to suit you. But be yourselves and have fun!

* This last question was invented by Mr Paul Hutchings who sent the Heat interviews so it’s an homage*

10. As we are a Welsh publication and this is M2TM South Wales. The final question is: What is your favourite sheep?

Of course Paul came up with this one, haha. Black Welsh Mountain obviously!

Thank you very much for answering these questions! Good luck on 29th June from everyone involved with Metal To The Masses South Wales.


Bloodstock Metal To The Masses Finalist Interview With Thrakian (Interview By Matt Bladen)

Bloodstock Metal To The Masses 2024 Finalists Interview With Thrakian (Interview By Matt Bladen)

First of all congratulations on getting to the final, which this year is the biggest one yet!

1. You’re going to be a part of the inaugural Day of Wreckoning at The Patti Pavilion in Swansea. How does that feel?

It’s surreal. When everything else in the world feels like it’s crumbling, we’re suddenly within reaching distance of a big milestone for the band. We’re excited to showcase our art in front of a massive audience, on a bigger scale than ever before, and with maybe our most crushing sound yet.

It’s also a huge honour – being on an all-day line-up with legends like Raging Speedhorn and Discharge is a real privilege, and we’re proud to represent the Cardiff scene.

2. From what we’ve seen your campaign to get to Bloodstock has been very successful (obviously). How has the experience of this year’s M2TM been for you?

Being a part of this showdown for the very first time was a unique learning experience. It gave us something additional to strive for and united all of our friends and families to support us.

Personally, this has been a road to redemption for the band too, and strengthened our relationship. And sharing our music in a packed venue to appreciative crowds over the competition has been awesome.

3. M2TM is all about supporting your local scene. How important is the local scene to you as a band?

The South Wales scene has been incredibly welcoming over the past year (our first ever show as Thrakian was actually in Fuel last July). A local scene is extremely important to any new band, but we’ve still been absolutely humbled and flattered by the response and support.

We have to thank the many amazing bands – Lung, Froglord, Gévaudan, Phantom Droid, Pantheist, Ofnus and Root Zero (also in the final) – who have offered us a hand and spots on their shows over the last year.

Shout out to the great venues we’ve played in Cardiff, Newport, Swindon and Bristol, too, who support these underground gatherings.

One day we hope to return the favour to other bands who are trying to get exposure.

4. To add to that, how strong do you feel the scene is at the moment?

Despite the cost-of-living crisis and difficulties for independent music venues, the scene feels strong, and that’s down to the dedicated people on the ground making it happen. A strong and united local scene is essential for heavy underground music to thrive, so we’ve been really pleased to see how active and supportive South Wales bands are. We’ve also seen some great new bands with a lot of potential.

We think more and more people have started to realise that it is us, the underground bands, who offer a pure and passionate representation of current experience and life’s struggles and victories.

Over the next few years, we’d love to see the Cardiff metal audience come together to support all local bands and genres, and attend these shows as a unit.

5. What should people expect when you take to the stage at the Patti. It’s a pretty big stage so are there more nerves than playing say Fuel or The Bunkhouse?

Patti Pavilion will definitely be the biggest stage we’ve taken so far, but we’re excited rather than nervous.

We know our show offers something unique and powerful, inspired by and rooted in our Bulgarian ancestry – and we also know how hard we’re working to create something truly unmissable.

Playing such a big stage needs special preparation, especially to capture the raw aggression and energy we bring to smaller venues, but we’ve been doing our research, and focusing our rehearsals on how we will use that space to put on the best show possible.

People can expect huge slabs of filthy post-metal sludge and earth-shaking riffs. Bring ear protection for your ear protection.

We’ve wanted to play an iconic stage of this size for years, so honestly we can’t wait to take it all in. The crowd can look forward to seeing a more buffed-up, vicious and determined Thrakian warrior than ever before.

6. What other bands are you looking forward to seeing on the day?

We’ve played alongside Root Zero and Kill by Mouth before M2TM, so we’re really proud and excited to see them on the big stage. They deserve it.

And as the final is a celebration of the South Wales scene, we’re looking forward to seeing everyone putting on the show of their careers so far.

The line-up is wild, and playing on the same bill as Raging Speedhorn and Discharge is just unreal. We’ll be enjoying the day as music fans as much as competitors.

7. If you were to get to play Bloodstock on the New Blood Stage, how would that feel for you as a band?

It would be a dream coming to fruition after years of hard work. And as we’ve only been playing together in this current line-up for a year, it would be a huge confidence boost and validation of what we’ve created so far.

It would be another big challenge to rise to, but it’ll inspire us to push even further and aim even higher

8. Would you recommend the M2TM initiative to any band looking to showcase themselves in their scene and further away?

Yes, 100%. The judges, organisers, as well as Musipedia Of Metal (Blushes - Ed), have been extremely supportive and given us lots of useful feedback and advice. Thrakian are a much better band as a result.

The M2TM initiative gives bands an opportunity to face their weaknesses and compete against talented peers for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Beginner bands need to take any opportunity for exposure they can get, and it’d be hard to beat playing the New Blood Stage at Bloodstock. So even if you don't win, the competition will direct some eyeballs towards you, something we’ve been really grateful for.

We’ve watched our committed Thrakian army grow on our socials and at live shows this year, and that’s been massively boosted by the M2TM platform.

9. In addition to that question. What advice would you give them in order to get where you are?

Of course you need to practise consistently, work hard on your craft, and promote the hell out of each show, but it’s also important to approach the competition as professionals and not underestimate the task ahead.

If you put on a great show, are helpful, cooperative and easy to work with, then M2TM can be a great chance to win new fans, connect with other bands and people in the scene, as well as learning how the business side of things works.

It’s also really important to be analytical about your performances: watch videos back, study your heroes, seek feedback from the judges and friends, try things out in rehearsals and discuss what works and what doesn’t.

Aim to make each show better than the last.

Lastly, you will only stand out if you present something from yourself that is unique and genuine.

* This last question was invented by Mr Paul Hutchings who sent the Heat interviews so it’s an homage*

10. As we are a Welsh publication and this is M2TM South Wales. The final question is: What is your favourite sheep?

Three-way tie: Dorset poll, Shetland, Portland Lamb.

Thursday 27 June 2024

Bloodstock Metal To The Masses Finalist Interview: Verletzen (Interview By Matt Bladen)

Bloodstock Metal To The Masses 2024 Finalists Interview With Verletzen (Interview By Matt Bladen)

First of all congratulations on getting to the final, which this year is the biggest one yet!

1. You’re going to be a part of the inaugural Day Of Reckoning at The Patti Pavilion in Swansea. How does that feel?

It feels bloody good. For us to be in the final again we see it as an honour and it shows the support is true! The Patti Pavilion is a target we've wanted to hit and we look forward to it! 

2. From what we’ve seen your campaign to get to Bloodstock has been very successful (obviously). How has the experience of this year’s M2TM been for you?

This years experience as always has been immense from the fan base all the way to the fellow competing bands

3. M2TM is all about supporting your local scene. How important is the local scene to you as a band?

Important! Support the underground because without it we'd be nothing! 

4. To add to that. How strong do you feel the scene is at the moment?

The scene is definitely going strong with more new blood popping up etc. We think it's definitely become tighter even over the last year.

5. What should people expect when you take to the stage at the Patti. It’s a pretty big stage so are there more nerves than playing say Fuel or The Bunkhouse?

Welsh Black Fucking Metal. 

6. What other bands are you looking forward to seeing on the day?

Discharge! And our fellow brethren 

7. If you were to get to play Bloodstock on the New Blood Stage, how would that feel for you as a band? 

Bloodstock has always been one of the goals for us and we will strive for that whether we win this competition or not. 

8. Would you recommend the M2TM initiative to any band looking to showcase themselves in their scene and further away?

Of course. From the exposure to the experience its good for all bands to give it a go. It's nice feeling pressured being judged rather than just typical gig nerves. 

9. In addition to that question. What advice would you give them in order to get where you are?

Overall practice, keep at it and be true to yourselves as a band! 

* This last question was invented by Mr Paul Hutchings who sent the Heat interviews so it’s an homage*

10. As we are a Welsh publication and this is M2TM South Wales. The final question is: What is your favourite sheep?

As for the sheep we will chose the Llanwenog as that image with the three sheep just depicts our unholy triad hah! 

However here's us with the true beasts....the goats!

Thank you very much for answering these questions! Good luck on 29th June from everyone involved with Metal To The Masses South Wales.

Reviews: Sunbomb, White Stones, Wraith, Oh Hiroshima (Reviews By Rich Piva, Matt Bladen, Paul Hutchings & Mark Young)

Sunbomb - Light Up The Sky (Frontiers Music Srl) [Rich Piva]

Did Tracii Guns and Michael Sweet just put out a proto/Doom NWOBHM record that sounds like it was recorded in the early 80s? The short answer is yes, as they combine their talents on the second album, Light Up The Sky, under the Sunbomb moniker, and goddamn is this good. This may sound like I may need to be institutionalized, but hear me out. Tracii Guns can rip it up no matter what style he is playing and you know where he came up, so that era of metal was for sure an influence on him. 

Sweet’s vocals are huge, no matter what he is singing, even if it is a love song to Jebus, or if it is classic metal type stuff ala Priest and Maiden, that works for his style too. The real surprise to me is the production. Every review I have written for an album released by Frontiers, who is putting out Light Up The Sky, has involved me writing in some form or fashion that I hated the overproduced slickness of whatever I had in my ears. This is not that at all. All of this seems crazy, right? Well, this is happening, and I suggest you all get on board and check this out.

Whether it is the riff right off of an 80s Ozzy record like on Rewind or the crunch proto vibe on Unbreakable, Light Up The Sky is a classic metal time machine in all the best ways. Don’t get me wrong, even though Sweet sounds great, it may be tough to get past his vocals if you are not a fan of his Stryper stuff or his more recent material, but to me it works perfectly on these eleven tracks. Steel Hearts could be off of Too Fast For Love, but even chunkier and with a trademarked Guns solo. How about a straight up doom track with a riff that could have been stolen from an early Trouble record on In Grace We’ll Find Our Name? Yes, I just name-dropped Trouble here. 

Dio is channelled on Scream Out Loud and Scorpions on Winds Of Fate. Speaking of channelling, Tracii may have been doing the same with Randy Rhodes given that riff and tone on Beyond The Odds. The record isn’t perfect, as it may be a song or two too long, and if I were to pick one to leave off it would have been the ballad Where We Belong. It is not terrible; it is just not great with the flow of the rest of the record. The lyrics can be a bit on the cheesy side at some points but that can be easily overlooked by how good the record sounds and Guns’ playing.

Lite Up The Sky is one of the surprises of the year for me. The Guns/Sweet duo has found something on album number two as Sunbomb. Let’s hope they can keep this one going. 8/10

White Stones - Memoria Viva (Reigning Phoenix Music)

Formed by Opeth bassist Martín Mendéz, he's joined by vocalist Eloi Boucherie and drummer Joan Carles Marí Tur. The guitar solos come from João Sassetti as José Ignacio Lagos adds flute as Joakim Svalberg brings keys. This third studio album brings the Spanish language to the forefront in the same way Mägo De Oz, Diabolus In Musica, Angelus Apatrida and Breed 77 do but keeping the experimental progressive rock/metal of the previous two albums. 

Driven by Mendéz' fleet fingered bass work on little flashes such as Somos and rhythmic, tribal drumming on Humanoides, it's almost like a Latin infused Opeth as the death metal vocals are used well on the aggressive D-Generación and Grito Al Silencio, as Zamba De Orun brings some jazzy moments as does La Ira the Flamenco style at the forefront here. Memoria Viva uses the Spanish language well, but musically it doesn't vary too much from the last two records. Which is not a criticism. 7/10

Wraith – Fueled By Fear (Prosthetic Records) [Paul Hutchings]

Album number four for the Indiana Blackened Thrashers and once more it’s a no-nonsense riff fest that leaves dirt under your previously clean fingernails. 45-minutes of gnarly demonic and deliciously gruesome metal awaits those who venture into this album.

My last encounter with this band came on the savage four-way split Faster Than The Fucking Devil which saw them share airtime with Black Knife, Unholy Knight and Graveripper. And it’s back to business with a bang here with little pomp or ceremony. Wraith do what they do well. It’s not sophisticated, in fact it’s unreconstructed, but that’s most definitely part of the appeal. Thrusting riffs, snarling roaring vocals and chaotic lead bursts along with just about controlled drumming, it’s all included here in songs such as Ice-Cold Bitch, the punk-edge of opener Asylum and Shame In Suffering.

But it’s not all your standard fare, for Wraith have managed to provide some variation in this snarling beast of a record. Warlord is a slower, but heavier track, whilst Heathen’s Touch will have you banging your head within seconds. They may have a formula and stick to it, but this is all good with me for rampantly unashamed heavy metal with a gritty edge tick all the boxes.

New bassist Mike Drysch has slipped into the low end with ease, and along with drummer Mike Szymendera controls the pounding drive of the album. Why does Wraith work? Mainly because they are unashamedly focused on a sound that sits in the early -mid 1980s but can give it just a splash of the contemporary feel. It’s not clever or polished, but it works on every level. If you don’t like this album, one would suggest that you don’t really like heavy metal at all. 8/10

Oh Hiroshima - All Things Shining (Pelagic Records) [Mark Young]

The 5th album from Sweden’s Post-rock outfit Oh Hiroshima sees them return as a duo, the two brothers taking their music into the next phase of a career that has taken them on a diverse journey since starting out some 15 years ago.

It is by no means the kind of music I listen to, and being honest I know little about post-rock other than it can sometimes lean into the more thoughtful side of guitar music. Some of the bands I’ve heard place emphasis on having songs that are sung, often exposing the artist beneath for all to see. Wild Iris is our opener, and immediately it surges forward amongst a restrained structure. It has a heavy and oppressive feel, vocal lines that are delivered softly before building but it never feels overwrought. Drum lines provide that necessary backbone that carries it onwards with myriad guitar lines weaving in and out. 

When I say that this would be at home with some of the classic college sounds of my youth, I don’t mean it as a negative. It reminds me of that time whilst being its own thing, which is sometimes lost with others. Holiness Movement has a euro rock taste to it, guitars that float set against an insistent arrangement where the bass and drums are steady away, doing enough to serve the song. Eschewing traditional lead breaks, they add layer upon layer to it to really widen the sonic palette that they are playing with. Only in the final moments do they offer a lead that totally reflects the music before it.

Making your way through it, what strikes you is their ability to craft brilliant songs, each arrangement is chock full of moments that resonate. The rising build of Swans In A Field is mesmeric, starting subtly before bringing strings to the fore. They strip this back to a lone guitar and voice before they expand once more, whilst Secret Youth is up-tempo with a swing to it and is a perfect live song. Close your eyes whilst listening and you imagine how the stage would be lit as the song progresses, flowing and moving to its end.

What you have is an incredibly consistent album. The 8 songs all attain a high bar of quality, just in the way they are put together. None of the songs are alike and yet they sit side by side so well. There is an incredible attention to them, for example, the repeating melody that pops up in Deluge, guitar lines that weave a spider web and patterns that come and go along with the measured use of strings. There is a heavy touch on Leave Us Behind, but it isn’t heavy just for being heavy. They still manage to ensure there are moments of quiet, skilfully letting it develop into a gentle piece until they go loud once more. That ability to judge where and when to go loud or pull back is not common to everyone. 

Album closer, Memorabilia with its softly delivered vocal lines is a drawn-out affair that could have been trimmed but it gives All Things Shining the suitably grandiose end it deserves. 8/10

Reviews: Pijn, Rob Harrison, Dactyl Terra, Sarmates (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Pijn - From Low Beams Of Hope (Floodlit Recordings)

Instrumental band Pijn are at the turning point of their career, eight years in they have seen their stock rise due to their creative brilliance and by being unafraid to experiment, be it the re-imagining of their debut album Loss from 2020, expanding on their 2018 debut or the Curse These Metal Hands collaboration with Conjurer, they have become known as an innovative, perception altering unit who try to live up to the heady sounds pioneered by bands such as Mono, Pelican, Russian Circles and Godspeed You! Black Emperor.

The work on this four track, 45 minute opus began in 2019, the record having to be recorded twice due to line up changes but this ability to re-work, rewrite and replay the songs with different members has led to a level of refinement many bands cannot achieve, it’s also meant they have produced and accompanying ambient EP which takes themes from the record and uses them in a more minimalist, stripped back way. It’s this level of detail, this attention to how music should be interpreted that makes From Low Beams Of Hope such a beguiling all-consuming listen.

Despite there being no vocals this album, other than the poem on the first track and some voice recordings and snippets of a band in more vulnerable, human moments. Their music says more than words ever could and while Floodlit and Loss were about grief and how to deal with that, here its’ a focus on life in all its unique, often confusing, beauty and how even in the darkest times there’s hope, melancholy is good, and strewn throughout the album, but only if it’s focussed onto something that will improve the state of mind.

From Low Beams Of Hope will improve any state of mind, it’s audio catharsis and to me stands alongside the new Mono record as one of the most impressive post-rock record of 2024. Musically taken to a more widescreen approach, especially on A Thousand Tired Lives, where the guitars, bass, cello and violin intertwine in wondrous unison, keys glisten beneath the wall of sound, sax slinks and the drums bind it all together with a sense of urgency and a heartbeat. Self-written, recorded, produced and released, Pijn ascend From The Low Beams Of Hope to the highest reaches of majesty on this third album. 9/10

Rob Harrison - Explode My Head (Self Released)

Influenced by The Groundhogs, Captain Beefheart, Frank Zappa, Syd Barrett, King Crimson and many more from the weird and wonderful fringes of experimental rock music. Explode My Head is a solo record from Rob Harrison, known to anyone in the local scene as a member of Attercopus and Z Machine he's also a regular of bands such as Mascot Moth and The Felix Subway Band.

Rob is a guitar player first and foremost inspired by Tony McPhee he also provides vocals alongside playing flute and saxophone. Those two influenced by Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull and Ian East of Gong. Under the tutelage of East during the pandemic he improved his sax life enough to attempt a solo album. Explode My Head is that debut album, Rob leaning on his inspirations to write an album that is first and foremost for him. Paying homage to his favourite bands, more Syd Barrett worship, Harrison plays all the guitars, saxophones, flutes, bass on the record as well as vocals and sound effects of which there are many.

A deeply personal record, it is hard work if you're not a fan of the crossover, fusion sound of a virtuoso going wherever his mind takes him but if you stick with it you'll get an intimate look at the weird world of Rob Harrison. With him playing most of the music there's a lot of guest who join, there are two violinists; Julia from Who Knows Sound and Jess Townsend, two cellists; Polina Faustova and Tom McCluskey, and a choir. The drums are mainly handled by Eliseo Salaverri, though Lloyd Stratford plays on A Fragile Harmony Of Desires. Pedro Vieira supplies the piano and Ian East himself joins to give flute and bass clarinet. Accompanying the album is a series of brilliantly animated videos all by Rob, again using Avant Garde art and more than a whiff of Peter Gabriel.

Explode My Head will do just that, progressive rock fusion that will surprise and excite. 8/10

Dactyl Terra - Fee Fi Fo Fum (Self Released)

Fee Fi Fo Fum is the debut album from retro psych rockers Dactyl Terra. Self recorded and released this D.I.Y Cardiff outfit fly their freak flag proudly with 10 tracks that dig themselves into a some heavy 60's grooves. Jangly guitars, buzzing riffs, odd synth patterns, harmony vocals and instrumental jam sections where the foursome lock in to some tight grooves.

Influences stem from leaders of that scene such as Syd Barrett (Intergalactic Eyeballs) and The Pretty Things, alongside Caravan and Soft Machine of that touted Canterbury scene. These Welsh youngsters paying homage in the best possible way they can on their full length debut.

As well as these throwbacks to a time well before they were born there's also a well mined seam of 90's indie psych (I mean probably also before they were born), the time where bands such as Primal Scream, The Stone Roses and Wales own Super Furry Animals ruled the world, these can be heard on a tracks such as Floating Island and Cheeseburger.

Fee Fi Fo Fum is tribute to a by gone age, music from two eras with a 30 year span, recorded and played another 30 years later. If all that makes you feel extremely old, don't worry as you can just get lost in the paisley and patchouli of Dactyl Terra and their modern retro moods. 8/10

Sarmates - Sarmates (Self Released)

Sarmates are a French(?) band who play metal alongside some traditional musical influences, much like Breed 77, Alien Weaponry, The Hu, VIC and even Soulfly/Sepultura they have blended a few different styles and use an instrument called a Sarmata, which is a hybrid instrument tuned in quarter tones, which allows them to add Oriental and Persian music.

They travel the The Silk Road with their music, calling them a Steppes metal band. For those uninitiated the Steppes is the region between what is modern day Ukraine and China. The songs and music are inspired by the people and ancient stories from Central Asia (Scythians, Huns, Mongols). As well as their collective travel experiences, the Persian poet Rumi and a poem by Maria Tsvetaeva. Singing in English, Slavic, Turkish and Persian they also use Jew's harp, the sax and throat singing alongside the Sarmatas and the normal metal band instruments.

So what does this all mean? What does the album actually sound like? Well kind of like Metallica on Another Way and Wherever You Are, a bit like Breed 77 on Zatmenia Gorad but mainly it's thrash-like heavy metal (Fallen Angels) that's augmented by the other instruments to broaden the sound. Gün (lead guitar), Antonio Xenfeild (bass) and Jeremy Marie (drums) take the bulk of the riffs, as Davoriin Sirok plays that Sarmata alongside Laurent Broda who also brings some great vocals. This debut album takes a little while to fully connect but when it does, it's an interesting, innovative metal album. 7/10

Wednesday 26 June 2024

Bloodstock Metal To The Masses Finalist Interview: Root Zero (Interview By Matt Bladen)

Bloodstock Metal To The Masses 2024 Finalists Interview With Root Zero (Interview By Matt Bladen)

First of all congratulations on getting to the final, which this year is the biggest one yet!

Thank you, happy to be answering your questions! There's been much deliberation over the last question haha

1. You’re going to be a part of the inaugural Day Of Reckoning at The Patti Pavilion in Swansea. How does that feel?

Honestly I don't think all of us have quite processed it yet. It's mental to think we'll be sharing the stage with such monumental acts performing in the later evening. We're properly chuffed to be honest.

2. From what we’ve seen your campaign to get to Bloodstock has been very successful (obviously). How has the experience of this year’s M2TM been for you?

This year's M2TM has been quite different for us from the first time we did it two years ago. We unfortunately didn't register in time to compete last year, but if anything that's given us a lot of time to work on our stage presence since 2022, particularly since we've grown into a 6 piece band with the addition of Rob on bass and Giac moving to keys.

3. M2TM is all about supporting your local scene. How important is the local scene to you as a band?

The Cardiff scene means so much to us as a band. There's very few UK cities that have a music scene that would accept the fairly weird sound we have. Most of the band's personnel came from the same uni town where there was no chance of 'making it' as a band, and the last few years since we started performing have just shown how good it is to have a scene that supports creativity in the way Cardiff has. Plus we've made so many lifelong friends from playing with other bands around the area.

4. To add to that. How strong do you feel the scene is at the moment?

It's difficult to gauge since we weren't all that involved before the UK scene was brought to a total standstill at the start of the decade, but we feel like it's only getting stronger and stronger with some mental new acts getting out there. The only thing that saddens us to see is local venues struggling, and we'd obviously implore anyone to support their local scene as much as possible by going to gigs. You never know when you'll find artists you really enjoy at small shows.

5. What should people expect when you take to the stage at the Patti. It’s a pretty big stage so are there more nerves than playing say Fuel or The Bunkhouse?

The nerves are definitely going to be more than at Fuel, that's for sure. Fuel is home ground for us, and we're used to that stage, but all the fresh nervous energy is sure to be burned out with a whole lot of movement on the bigger stage! It's a bit of a struggle going crazy as a 6 piece band at Fuel without clonking someone on the head or ripping out some hair by accident!

6. What other bands are you looking forward to seeing on the day?

There's been a lot of hype about the feature bands in the Root Zero camp of course. We're really stoked to see Mother Vulture and Silverburn again since they tore up the stages at Arctangent Festival last year, and are really looking forward to the reunion with Rites To Ruin and Thrakian as well as seeing the heavy stuff Swansea's M2TM has to offer!

7. If you were to get to play Bloodstock on the New Blood Stage, how would that feel for you as a band?

Honestly, unbelievable. A bunch of us have been going to Bloodstock for a few years with friends, but to be able to play there is a dream opportunity. It's been great seeing people we've played with in the past go on to play the New Blood stage, and if we could get up there it'd be a real milestone.

8. Would you recommend the M2TM initiative to any band looking to showcase themselves in their scene and further away?

Oh absolutely. There's no reason not to give it a try even as a completely new band, because you're bound to get to know some great people regardless of how far you get. As well as that, it's worth going out to other Heats just to see great new bands that you might be suited to doing gigs with in future. M2TM is all about showcasing the local scene at all levels, and bands should be making the most of the opportunities to discover the scene.

9. In addition to that question. What advice would you give them in order to get where you are?

Practice. That's not necessarily just about practicing the songs and playing them note for note whilst stood still, it's also about practicing your stage presence, your ability to move around and engage with the crowd, how you move on from an inevitable missed note or technical problem. Hell, just the other day I had no signal coming from the guitar at all during the second to last song of our set, but just moving on, performing energetically and bouncing off the positive energy of your bandmates and the crowd is everything.

* This last question was invented by Mr Paul Hutchings who sent the Heat interviews so it’s an homage*

10. As we are a Welsh publication and this is M2TM South Wales. The final question is: What is your favourite sheep?

Giac - Hebridean because it looks black metal as hell
Sash - Manx Loghtan for the forest spirit vibes
Wren - Jacob because they look friendly (until they have horns)
Llyr - sad there's no Lleyn sheep for the North Wales representation so will go with Clun Forest
Rob - Shetland because of the absolute majestic aura
Josh - Balwen because the name is straight out of Lord Of The Rings

Thank you very much for answering these questions! Good luck on 29th June from everyone involved with Metal To The Masses South Wales.

Thank you for the interview, we'll see you at the final!

Llyr - Root Zero

Reviews: Rifflord, Bus The Unknown Secretary, Billy Morrison, Floating Worlds (Reviews By Rich Piva & Matt Bladen)

Rifflord - 39 Serpent Power (Ripple Music) [Rich Piva]

Having Rifflord back in our musical lives is a wonderful thing and having them back in our lives on Ripple Music makes this even better, because the new record, 39 Serpent Power is just a gigantic beast of heaviness coming from the best label in heavy rock. 

The first record in six years and full-length number three overall is the heaviest and darkest record from the South Dakota band yet, with lead crazy man Wyatt Bartlett leading the way across the eight tracks of foundation shaking metal. Seriously, this is some heavy ass metal…forget the stoner and whatever other labels you have put on these guys in the past. The 70s are over and we are now closer to the 80s thrash than anything else, and I am here for it.

You may think I am nuts when I say things like thrash and Rifflord in the same sentence, but I hear way more Slayer in these songs than I do Queens Of The Stone Age, for example. Upon listening to the first two songs, the title track and Ohm Ripper, I though that Rifflord made a Motorhead album, and that would be fine with me. This is some heavy stuff. Some of the heavy stoner side came out with Blessed Life, which is very dark and deep lyrically, reminding me during certain parts of Monster Magnet at their heaviest. 

There needed to be song about an amp, so LM 308 represents nicely, with some a seriously chunky riffs and a heavy fuzz that makes this one my favourite of the eight tracks. I love the vocals on this one too as well as the back end of this track when the band just goes off with some killer metal goodness. Grim Creeper is the slowest burn on 39 Serpent Power, and incorporates some elements of psych and a kind of metal blues to the heaviness. 

Church Keys opens with handclaps (!) and a very cool and unique riff that then morphs into full on thrash metal, executed perfectly. The drum work is excellent on 39 Serpent Power all through the record, with Hoof being the number one example, partnered with some insane guitar parts and some kind of industrial cowbell that takes this one to the next level. Wow, that breakdown during the “chorus”. This record never let’s its foot off the gas, even with the closer, Tumbleweed, that continues the Motorhead/thrash comparisons I mentioned earlier, but with Rifflord’s unique spin on this kind of heavy. We finally can hear some of that organ that has been ubiquitous with the band in the past too. So great.

This album kicks so much ass. This is heavier than anything that Rifflord has done and heavier than anything I was expecting from the band. The only thing missing to me is that organ I mentioned; I have come to really enjoy that aspect of the band and it was, for all intents and purposes, missing on the album, but nevertheless, 39 Serpent Power is such a glorious and heavy return for Rifflord. 9/10

Bus The Unknown Secretary - We Are The Night (Sound Effect Records) [Matt Bladen]

Third album from Greek riff masters Bus The Unknown Secretary and they've moved away from Heavy Psych Sounds towards Athens based label/record shop Sound Effect Records. Recorded live in the studio in just three days alongside John Vulgaris at Electric Highway Studio it's a righteous slice of D.I.Y doom/stoner/proto metal, which moves more towards the latter than on their first two records. The title track gets the joint moving, the gravestones shaking and the corpses rising from the grave for some occult tinged rocking. 

It feels a like an album recorded in a hurry, Bill Politis and Fotis Kolokithas with those lush twin axe harmonies of Lizzy, Priest and Wishbone Ash, filling the songs with as many solo sections as they can. With the title track they set out the stall, this is what's on offer like it lump it. Bill's vocals are in the vein of Angel Witch or Satan, as they rush through the NWOBHM inspired Somebody Spits On You, the gang vocals coming into their own as Efthimis Ragousis (bass) and Aris Fasoulis (drums) play those galloping rhythms with pace and precision. 

Their earlier days are revised on the doomy Rumours and the grooving Rise Of The Fallen too while I'll Be Dead For You adds some synths which go into the likes of Uncle Acid and even Ghost. Amass Empathy diving right back into bass heavy NWOBHM and this is where they mainly stand their ground on We Are The Night, I mean listen to Under My Skin and tell me I'm wrong!

It seems as if Bus The Unknown Secretary have packed up their bongs for leather and studs, but they've shined both up really nice on this frantic third release. 8/10

Billy Morrison - The Morrison Project (Virgin Music Group) [Rich Piva]

Billy Morrison has been around for a while, most known for being the rhythm guitarist, partnering with the legend Steve Stevens, in Billy Idol’s band for the last 15 years or so, as well as a stint playing bass with the Cult. The Morrison Project is a cumulation of tracks that Morrison wrote, produced, and brought in a bunch of his buddies to guest on resulting in what is a fun, yet uneven collection of 12 tracks that in some cases work better as stand alone tracks then they do as a free-flowing full length, but still mostly an enjoyable listen nonetheless.
Overall, the production on The Morrison Project is very slick as you may imagine for a project like this, and maybe a bit too slick for me, but there are certainly some great tracks on the record. Give me Ozzy on just about anything and I am happy but partnering him with Morrison and the aforementioned Steve Stevens on the bluesy and riff heavy Crack Cocaine makes me very happy. It’s Come To This is a fun little ripper and of course I love the track, The Ayes Have It, with Uncle Al from Ministry where he brings his trademark delivery and industrial heaviness.

I love having Steve Vai on the record but I could do without him partnering with Corey Taylor on vocals but dig that solo. Points for creative partnering with DMC for Just Like A Movie but the real star of that one is Gary Numan’s daughter, Persia. The track with Stevens and Billy Idol, Mr. Dream, is a lot of fun too. The track I was most surprised that I enjoyed was the closing ballad, Chasing Shadows, where he partners songwriter and head 4 Non Blonde Linda Perry that is a cool hair metal meets Beatle-esque ballad. The songs Morrison collaborated with Twiggy Ramirez on mostly fall flat to me and are the main reason why the record seems so uneven.

The Morrison Project is a mixed bag for me, some really good and fun and some that I didn’t connect with. I think this record would have been more fun as 12 songs all with guest stars or maybe just a record with all his stuff and no guests to get away from the feeling of such a mishmash of material, but at the very least check out the Ozzy, Al, and Billy Idol tracks and raise up a lighter during Chasing Shadows. 6/10

Floating Worlds - Skywatcher (Self Released) [Matt Bladen]

The fourth album by Greek conceptual metal band Floating Worlds. It sees the story of journalist Paul Rogers who this time narrates the disappearance of Winston Smith a young boy who wanted to meet his lost father in a distant star by peering through a telescope. Winston's father was directly involved in the events of their previous album Battleship Oceania but of course neither characters now that. 

What follows is the full story, played once again with their usual melodic prog rock sound shifting towards 80's and 90's AOR and movie soundtracks. The trio of Jon Soti (vocals), Andreas V (guitars/synth/drum programming) and Mike Papadopoulos (bass) as Stelios Pavlou is the special guest on drums. 

I loved Battleship Oceania and while I liked Skywatcher too, I found it a little too, I want to say, upbeat for the story it's trying to tell. It's like H.E.A.T doing a concept album, there's layers of story and they do still manage to write some interesting, engaging music with a cinematic feel to it but it's quite a powerful shift from their previous record. Skywatcher continues the long running thematic releases of Floating Worlds in a new musical identity. 7/10

Reviews: Alcest, Replacire, Vexing Hex, Foreign Hands (Reviews By Matt Bladen, Zak Skane, Rich Piva & James Jackson)

Alcest - Les Chants De L'Aurore (Nuclear Blast Records) [Matt Bladen]

Happiness is not something that you would really associate with French blackgaze band but Les Chants De L'Aurore (The Songs Of Dawn) begins a new dawn for main songwriter Neige. This is a bright album, still keeping the primal power of their black metal blasts/screams but with an all round lighter, more upbeat tone, it's Alcest's summer album.

I'd never thought I'd could listen to an album from this band in blazing sunshine with a Pina Colada but if you wanted to choose to do that it would be Les Chants De L'Aurore. Neige adds new wrinkles to his vocals, using more clean voices here in addition to the frigid black metal screams. His guitars/bass/synths are the cacophony of noise on this seventh studio album as the drum assault of Winterhalter is varied and interesting.

The theme of the album is renewal and rebirth, strongly suggesting that the band who have always been outsiders in the metal world (maybe not at Arctangent or Damnation) move more towards the lighter side of their experimentation more to the euphoric post rock of bands such as Mono, Mogwai or Sleepmakeswaves on Komorebi and Améthyste. But there's also the some cathartic moments of bands such as Anathema on L'Envol or Flamme Jumelle or the title track.

With the 15th anniversary of Écailles De Lune coming up next year, Les Chants De L'Aurore is more like their ten year old release Shelter, a stylistic shift towards the incandescent from a band who have never tried to be anything than themselves. Another stunning journey into the world of Alcest. 9/10

Replacire – The Center That Cannot Hold (Season Of Mist) [Zak Skane]

Replacire began as a solo project that Alper formed in from a kickstarter project in 2012 along with three other friends Zak Baskin, Kee Poh Hock and Joey Feretti that he met in Berklee and James Dorton following after for vocal duties. Since then the band have paved a reputation of being the must see up and coming progressive death metal act especially, when it comes to touring with bands such as Hate Eternal and Beyond Creation, gaining the praise from established media outlets like Metal Injection. With two full lengths under their belt The Human Burden and Do Not Deviate, the five piece tech metal outfit are releasing their third output The Center That Cannot Hold.

Through out this 11 track album the band do not hold back from placing all their eggs in one basket, for example one of the main elements that you can hear in this album is Djenty Meshuggah influences especially on the opening track Bloody-Tongued and Screaming where the riffs stagger and stomp in a violent manner as well being followed and accompanied by black metal dissonant chords as well some Animals As Leaders clean sections that brings that classic Tosin Abasy styled thump played riffs. Later in the album these djenty riffs are pushed more front and centre on the track The Helix Unravels with it opening with the classic ba-ba-baba styled rhythms met with some machine gun sextuplet kick patterns that could tear the skin off the bone in seconds if applied at military styled volumes. 

In the song as well we also get the violent screeches of the Digitech Whammy being put into good use as it provides these hyper energised Mathcore influences that sound like a aggressive modern re-vamped Dillinger Escape Plan. Following this you get to hear these mathcore influences on songs like their title track The Center That Cannot Hold which brings these Miss Machine era styled accented grooves that involve these intellectually placed chugs along with franticly hammer and pulled off chromatic melodies over jungle styled drum beats. In the track the vocalist James Dorton also harnesses his mathcore influences by channelling his inner Greg Puciato firing his vocals off with this punk hardcore intensity with these furious mid ranges. 

Transfixed On The Work also has these mathcore styled accented blasts and guitar riffs in the mix, but Tranfixed also brings in a great mix of everything deathcore. With it’s Death and Job For A Cowboy influences that are matched up along with Whitechapel brutality with its locked in tremolo picked guitar riffs that are eternally bound to the double kick drum patterns followed by virtuosic dissonant chords place to add variety and dynamic breaks into the brutal mix. The arrangements bring in these more proggy elements that were more prominent in more modern JFAC releases. In relation to this, even the vocals bring in some Jonny Davy styled flemmed up fried vocals that match this frenzied delivery. 

Following the JFAC influences can also be found on the track A Fine Manipulation that reminds me of their track Ruination with it’s mid tempo speeds and it’s sludgy, eerie chord voicings which then leads us into some classic Deathcore breakdowns. The Ghost in the Mirror continues these vibes by pushing the bass a bit further in the mix so each riffs has this added low mid bite to them and later it allows the bass to cut through the mix when it comes to the bass solo. Living Hell provides some old school Death influences with odd meter Chuck Schuldiner style riffs that come at are followed with some of the most disgusting beatdowns that can easily compete with the best in the game.

Along with the brutal elements James Dorton can also deliver some of beautifully sung clean vocals that sound quite familiar to Opeth's Mikael Åkerfeldt, especially on how the vocal passages follow the dynamics as vocals go from delicate melodies in the quitter sections to heavy harsh vocals in the loader heavy sections. The closing track Uncontrolled and Unfulfilled on the album also delves more into the progressive arrangements talking a lot nodding to Opeth's sound by in incorporating jazzy chords and lead lines whilst hypnotising verses followed with chaotic tremolo picked riffs to close this album to a grandiose finale.

Replacire's The Center That Cannot Hold is a multi tool blade that combines the caveman brutality of bands like Slaughter To Prevail and Spite whilst capturing the intellectually beautiful progressive melodies of bands like Opeth. From the murderous assault of Inglorious Impunity to the intricate technical masterpiece of a closer Uncontrolled and Unfulfilled, this album will give you all the heavy you need. For fans of Death, A Job For A Cowboy, The Dillinger Escape Plan and Opeth. 8/10

Vexing Hex - Solve Et Coagula (Wise Blood Records) [Rich Piva]

Vexing Hex’s lead singer is named Cadaverus, Lord Of Dread, so right off the bat you have scored some points when you are a band that has such tags as “horror” and “occult” in their profile. When you partner that with some of the catchiest and fun heavy rock out there, you are going to have a winner, which is exactly what Vexing Hex has with their second LP, Solve Et Coagula. There are elements of 80s rock, grunge, doom, and some obvious love of grandiose horror imagery, ala Ghost. Ghost is an easy but lazy comparison. Vexing Hex is their own beast, and is way more all over the place than Tobias and his band of ghouls, in all the bet ways.

No matter what direction the nine tracks go on Solve Et Coagula, they are all super catchy ear worms, case in point being the opener, Into The Night, which is more of a pop song with some oohs thrown in to hammer home the point. I love how organ is used on the album and the vocals are the driving force in these tracks sticking with you. The dual guitar solo screams 80s metal in the best ways. Can you sound like Death Angel but still be poppy? The answer is yes, just listen to Besmirched, but also add some cinematic elements to it and what you have is another killer track. 

How about The Ramones meets Devo meets Ghost meets Gary Numan, like we get on One Thousand Eyes? The opening of VViccaphobia could be the opening of a Slayer track and settles firmly into a proto doom kind of groove, but if done by Alice In Chains, and kicks all sorts of ass. The spooky instrumental title track is used like the same on the Ghost debut record, as a bridge to the just as spooky Mind Funeral, which is more catchy ear candy of those who like to wear and paint their walls black. 

Straight up 80s stadium heavy rock is what you get with Poison Apple, with the spooky (there it is again) organ in all its glory, like the band was listening to Type O right before they recorded it. The heaviest riff comes from Sarcophagus, but that riff is partnered with harmonized vocals and a grungy undertone giving us another strong track amongst an album full of them. Revivified closes us out with the perfect microcosm of the whole record. Catchy, a little bit poppy, nice, heavy riffs, harmonized vocals, and the organ that will have the metalheads and goths dancing together as one.

Wise Blood Records is on a role with their heavy yet catchy releases, first with Castle Rat and now, even more, with Vexing Hex. This record will be in your head for a while, so do not try to resist the temptations of Solve Et Coagula. 8/10

Foreign Hands - What’s Left Unsaid (Sharptone Records) [James Jackson]

A collection of singles and EP’s precede this debut full length album from American metalcore act Foreign Hands and it starts off kicking and screaming with Resetting The Senses, a track that shows all that the band has to offer within its three and a half minute duration; the chugging riffs are on point for the genre, almost melodic one moment and mosh pit inducing the next.
The staple tradition of clean vocals picking up the choruses is evident throughout the album, whilst the rest is the same style that personally I find rather irksome, it’s just shouting, with little effort or emotion. And whilst the general musicianship within each of the songs isn’t particularly original, the composition is enough to get your teeth into and head nodding and no matter how melodic some of the elements are, how contrasting they are against some of the more traditional metalcore riffs, the grating vocals are far too intrusive for me to let them go and just appreciate the music beneath them.

I’ve entertained a vocal style I’ve disliked for the sake of the music before but in that case the actual music had far more to offer than this had and therefore felt more like something I could enjoy rather than endure; What’s Left Unsaid isn’t going to be such an album however.
Musically it’s a good album, let down by the vocals for me. 5/10

Tuesday 25 June 2024

Bloodstock Metal To The Masses Finalist Interview: Kill By Mouth (Interview By Matt Bladen)

Bloodstock Metal To The Masses 2024 Finalists Interview With Kill By Mouth (Interview By Matt Bladen)

First of all congratulations on getting to the final, which this year is the biggest one yet!

1. You’re going to be a part of the inaugural Day Of Reckoning at The Patti Pavilion in Swansea. How does that feel?

To make it to the final (again) is a great achievement. Who says lightning never strikes twice? Playing a new venue also makes things a bit nervy, especially with the bigger bands being there too!

2. From what we’ve seen your campaign to get to Bloodstock has been very successful (obviously). How has the experience of this year’s M2TM been for you?

Last year's competition was the first 4 shows we'd played with this lineup, as if M2TM wasn't stressful enough! This year we've got more shows under our belt, and we are just more comfortable as a band. That's something that only comes with playing together. I think that has come across this year, as we've won the crowd vote by quite a margin in the rounds that counted it. It's always good to win new fans!

3. M2TM is all about supporting your local scene. How important is the local scene to you as a band?

It's obviously very important. I mean, what would happen without a scene? Would bands even bother playing or forming in the first place? They'd just be tiktok influencers and basement musicians. Who wants that? As a musician, the live experience is just as important and the writing process. Without a scene, you'd have to question just why you do it.

4. To add to that. How strong do you feel the scene is at the moment?

Outside of Kill By Mouth, we've all been gigging since the 90s, and while the number of venues in Swansea is nowhere near what it was 30 years ago, the quality of venue is so much higher. Venues like The Coach House are deservedly legendary, but give me the modern venues any day. The Swansea scene is great, and going from strength to strength. 

There is such a diverse range of music that's really great to see. And with the bigger venues now able to accommodate bigger artists, there is a real chance that we can compete with cities like Cardiff and Bristol in the near future. Even in this competition, there's a wide range of styles, and the value of making new friends with these bands at the shows cannot be underestimated. We are still in touch with bands from last year, and we've played together since then too, so even if you don't win the Bloodstock slot, there's still a great reason to enter.

5. What should people expect when you take to the stage at the Patti. It’s a pretty big stage so are there more nerves than playing say Fuel or The Bunkhouse?

There are always nerves, especially before the final. Thankfully we know all but one of the bands, so that makes things easier. Performance wise, you know we are going to go hard and loud. There's a lot on the line, so we are not giving any half arsed show on the day. The people who have supported us all the way through deserve a good show. And we aren't saying any more than that!

6. What other bands are you looking forward to seeing on the day?

We were in the final with Verletzen and Rites 2 Ruin last year and we played with Thrakian and COASK outside of the competition last year too. It's always great to play with those guys. Cardiff last year had one guest headliner, as did the earlier rounds. It looks like you were keeping your powder dry for this though! To turn it into a one day festival is great. It would be stupid not to want to see all five of the main bands. It just goes to show that Swansea have something to prove to the rest of the UK! Nowhere else can compete with our final!

7. If you were to get to play Bloodstock on the New Blood Stage, how would that feel for you as a band?

Obviously, to get to there is an incredible achievement. We've played for years in separate bands, but I don't think any of us have got to that kind of level before. A major festival would be the highlight of any bands career.

8. Would you recommend the M2TM initiative to any band looking to showcase themselves in their scene and further away? 

Of course. We've been fortunate enough to have made it to the last two finals, and there have been many bands that didn't make it, but the opportunity to meet new bands and network is a reward in itself. After the competition, and after Bloodstock, you have all the bands you’ve met along the way to organise and play shows with. Why would I not recommend that to anyone? Especially new bands. Breaking into a scene can be tough, almost like a catch 22. Having a competition like M2TM as an introduction is a great idea.

9. In addition to that question. What advice would you give them in order to get where you are?

Load in on time, start on time, don't overrun, don't be a twat. And be nice to the soundman!

* This last question was invented by Mr Paul Hutchings who sent the Heat interviews so it’s an homage*

10. As we are a Welsh publication and this is M2TM South Wales. The final question is: What is your

favourite sheep?

I think it would have to be the Derbyshire Gritstone. With its pretty cool looking corpse paint, it’s got to be the most metal sheep out there.

A View From The Back Of The Room: Urzah, Tides Of Sulfur, Lung & Inerrant (Live Review By Matt Bladen)

Urzah, Tides Of Sulfur, Lung & Inerrant, The Moon, Cardiff, 21.06.24

What's better than a gig in a Friday night? A free gig on a Friday night? A free gig featuring spine of South Wales and South West's loudest bands? That what we got when I went to The Moon for the second time in a week.

It wasn't just me though, a big chunk of Cardiff's noise needers, doom mongers, riff worshipers, leaf lovers and those who like things loud, slow and angry packed into The Moon, alongside a lot of bewildered day wanderers as four bands looked to knock the hell out of the audience

First up were Inerrant, the two pronged vocal assault saw both of them in the pit screaming and shouting at people's faces and creating their own pit with anyone that dares to join in. Playing it fast and loose there's a huge level of professionalism from the instrument players (down on due to family bereavement), while Paul and Ben lived in their own little world of in jokes and political indignation as they deliver their counteracting but harmonious vocal shouts.

With a lot of love in the room they rightly have a confidence about them, something they have earned with their collective experience in various bands in the South Wales scene. Clearly having the time of their lives, this hardcore laced unit were an ideal beginning to what was to be a heavy night.

Next up were Cardiff doom trio Lung, a band who worship at the altar of Iommi, if Budgie took mescaline they'd sound like this heavyweight stoner doom trio. The hypnotic riffs, fuzzed up guitar/bass, powerhouse drumming and shouted/clean vocals made for a rhythmic journey through the their most recent album, including a new song which may have run a little longer than billed but had a psychedelic cleanly played middle section as all three men locked into a groove. Odes to mysticism, magic, extra-terrestrials and 'oregano' the likes of Sleep, Sabbath and Electric Wizard can be called upon when watching Lung live. This was my first viewing but it won't be by last.

Next something with a bit more aggression, the luxurious, lengthy tracks of Lung replaced by seething rage and ear bleeding noise from Tides Of Sulfur. Hardcore sludge trio blew whole through The Moon as they do whenever they perform, wide eyed screams of anguish from Chris who abuses his bass, while Tom wails on the drumkit, adding flashes of technique when they move towards the sparse quiet bits, Snake's riffs bit with heavy distortion and feed back. Another band trying out a new song, to me it sounded great but I assume only seeing them again will show how much it develops. Raw and visceral ToS always deliver live and it seems like new music is in the offing which is a major bonus

Closing out the night were ToS' APF Records bandmates Urzah who brough their intergalactic doom/sludge to Cardiff while supporting their latest record The Scorching Gaze. I was in awe of this record, to be honest most records on APF can't lose, but having watched Urzah in the build up to that debut, they are a different beast, very little chit chat, very little movement just four class players focussing in their instruments and making a colossal noise inside Cardiff's little bunker. By this point the alcohol had been flowing and god knows what else had been ingested so towards the back end of ToS and throughout Urzah's set there was the most movement of the night, warranted though as this was a very visible shift in Urzah's evolution as a live band.

Four great bands, lots of old faces, big dirty riffs, new friends made and an atmosphere that felt like home, gigs like this are always fun so the whole evening gets a big fat 9/10

Monday 24 June 2024

Reviews: Sumac, Codex Mortis, Cainites, Illdisposed (Reviews By Dan Bradley, Rick Eaglestone, Mark Young & Richard Oliver)

Sumac – The Healer (Thrill Jockey) [Dan Bradley]

Post-metal pioneers Sumac have been destroying, rebuilding and refining the genre boundaries of heavy music for almost a decade. Their latest album The Healer is no less ambitious, consisting of four tracks spread over 76 minutes; the first and last tracks, World Of Light and The Stone’s Turn, more than earn their sprawling 25 minutes and bookend the merely 13-minute tracks Yellow Dawn and New Rites. It’s an album to be savoured. 

Led by vocalist and guitarist Aaron Turner (ex-ISIS) and featuring Brian Cook on bass (Botch, Russian Circles) and Nick Yacyshyn on drums (Baptists), the supergroup takes an avant-garde approach that tests the limits and emotional range of guitar-driven art, incorporating elements of noise, sludge, metal, drone and improvisation. The production is raw and claustrophobic, rough edges gloriously intact, and effectively captures the electricity of a live performance. You can hear this from the outset in Cook’s gritty, stumbling bass improvisations that sound like you’re sat cross-legged in front of his amp, every bit of creaking string noise and squeak audible, before Yacyshyn opens up his kit with battering, exploratory runs. 

Their violent improvisations gradually ascend into several minutes of sublime feedback and drone, then only at the 6-minute mark do we get anything resembling a post-metal song as the full band reforms, commanded by Turner’s vicious growl. This oscillation between form and formlessness, structure and chaos, is a constant thread through Sumac’s work. The Healer is driven by such momentum too, moving from unhurried improvised guitar and bass sections, to liminal spaces of quiet, melodic reflection, to unsettling dissonance, noise and feedback, allowing ideas the time and space to breathe and develop over the long tracks. 

For riff-lovers, there are plenty of thrilling, cathartic landslides of guitar, bass and drums, as well as searing solos like the extended workout in Yellow Dawn. The album is ultimately restless, questing, and never lets the listener get too comfortable, with grooves hitting their stride, disintegrating into hopeless chaos, before rising again. In a New Noise interview, Turner talked about not only the importance of catharsis in Sumac’s music, but also “sustained tension and creating states of suspension, where there’s not an obvious beginning or end”. The Healer demands – and rewards – your full attention. 8/10

Codex Mortis – Tales Of Woe (Black Lion Records) [Rick Eaglestone]

Dutch extreme metallers Codex Mortis return with their latest album Tales Of Woe – a tale of an evil spirit that tortures a man through demonic possession and mind control. Opener Forsaken immediately places the listener into the album’s narrative with a blistering delivery with Capricious Disembodied Villain rife with dissection fury and influence.

There are some additional soundscapes on Chosen which really add to the atmosphere and also the use of tempo changes give a chance for other instruments to have that dominate place and overall have a nice blackened tone to it, also the solos are incredibly noteworthy. 

Already past the halfway point there is more of a death metal approach on Trenched In Blood to continue the circle of terror as it crashes into the foreboding yet savage Fire, Screams And Death before finally ending the bleak and terrifying subject matter contained in the album although embodying the fast paced overall nature with easily Tales Of Woe’s heaviest track It Dies With Me.

Overall, the album is well produced and delivered with high intensity throughout. Impressively Concise 7/10

Cainites - Revenant (Scarlet Records) [Mark Young]

Right, so some albums can get hold of you right from the start. Others can take their time to get under the skin and become essential to you. And then there are those that no matter how many times you listen to them you just can’t get onboard. Unfortunately, this is one of those times. Revenant is the debut release from Cainites, a duo that have formed the band under as two orthodox vampire priests. 

I’m not entirely sure if this is meant to make them stand-out amongst their peers? Anyway, it is a collection of melo-death that for the most part does what is expected of it but does so without really grabbing me. There is nothing wrong with it and I would think that fans of that genre would find a lot to love but for me it felt a bit tame. The songs themselves have a blend of the heavy and the melodic whilst there is the clean / growled singing that is commonplace nowadays but there was no real visceral thrill.

Darkness Awaits starts us off on the front foot, with a quirky hook, followed an energetic riff with drums to suit. It’s a fine start but sets out the template quite early for me. The extreme into clean vocals didn’t add anything and the cleaner section is aimed at a core group of fans, at least that is my take. Theotokos has that similar feel, and once that sets in it starts to lose me and no amount of speedy drumming is bringing me back in. 

Running through the remainder of the tracks, what strikes me is that there are some good progressions on here, but the way they are put together it comes across as contrived, like it has been specifically written in a style to attract a certain age bracket. I could be wrong, but as an example, Vampire God has that particular arrangement of a descending chord progression whilst some thin, clean vocals are dropped over it which set my teeth on edge.

As a whole, it didn’t click with me at all. I don’t know if it is how they are built, or if it is not aimed at my age group (which is entirely possible) but it didn’t resonate at all. I hate not liking new music and I equally hate writing something negative, but I can’t help it on this. I couldn’t get on with any of the songs at all and found myself wanting to skip to the next track which is unforgivable. Rather than go on and moan, I’ll just say that they have work to do for the next release. 5/10

Illdisposed - In Chambers Of Sonic Disgust (Massacre Records) [Richard Oliver]

In Chambers Of Sonic Disgust is the fifteenth album from long running Danish death metal band Illdisposed. Always a band that release albums on a regular basis, a combination of factors has resulted in a five year gap between albums with their last release being Reveal Your Soul For The Dead in 2019. We all know the fuckery that happened in 2020 which was a contributing factor but guitarist Rasmus Henriksen was diagnosed with brain cancer and has unfortunately left the band to focus on his treatment. This has meant that former guitarist Ken Holst has re-joined the band bringing Illdisposed back up to a five piece.

Musically this album is more of the same from Illdisposed with this being a groove heavy take on death metal and melodic death metal but with an emphasis on atmosphere. The groove takes centre stage on songs such as I Walk Among The Living and The Ill-Dispose whilst the melodic and atmospheric side of the band comes to the fore on songs such as Start Living Again with its use of keyboards and the melodeath of I Suffer. The band does also nod to its death metal origins in the furious And Of My Hate.

Illdisposed have been in their comfort zone for a good number of years and apart from the odd experimental moment here and there they remain in their comfort zone on In Chambers Of Sonic Disgust. It’s a solid eleven song album of groove laden melodic death metal but it is a bit on the repetitive side meaning that not much really jumps out on the album. It’s certainly not a bad release by any means but it’s also not the strongest release by the band.

If you want a solid and reliable release from Illdisposed then this album will tick all the boxes as it meets all the prerequisites of a good Illdisposed album but it’s not going to wow the average listener. This is Illdisposed playing to their strengths but sounding just a bit too comfortable. 6/10

Bloodstock Metal To The Masses Finalist Interview: Confessions Of A Serial Killer (Interview By Matt Bladen)

Bloodstock Metal To The Masses 2024 Finalists Interview With Confessions Of A Serial Killer (Interview By Matt Bladen)

First of all congratulations on getting to the final, which this year is the biggest one yet!

1. You’re going to be a part of the inaugural Day Of Reckoning at The Patti Pavilion in Swansea. How does that feel?

Truly humbling, it's been an electrifying and inspiring experience throughout and we cannot wait to take our stage show to a bigger stage.

2. From what we’ve seen your campaign to get to Bloodstock has been very successful (obviously). How has the experience of this year’s M2TM been for you?

It's been a great insight into what is required for such a prestigious event and an incredible opportunity to build our following and get our music out to a larger audience.

3. M2TM is all about supporting your local scene. How important is the local scene to you as a band?

It is absolutely integral to us and all bands at a grass roots level, and the Swansea scene is definitely on the rise and we have felt that more than ever over the competition.

4. To add to that. How strong do you feel the scene is at the moment?

It is in a state of flux and we believe heading into a resurgence, the local promoters etc really are building a scene we can be proud of.

5. What should people expect when you take to the stage at the Patti. It’s a pretty big stage so are there more nerves than playing say Fuel or The Bunkhouse?

Nerves are something that fuel us so we thrive on that in all honesty , we truly look forward to a larger stage as we pride ourselves on an energetic and engaging show and the more space the better, expect a new chapter in Audio Violence.

6. What other bands are you looking forward to seeing on the day?

In particular the mighty Raging Speedhorn a band we've been fans of for a very long time indeed.

7. If you were to get to play Bloodstock on the New Blood Stage, how would that feel for you as a band?

It would be like a genuine dream come true, this is our lives and we have invested all we are into this band and to hit that Bloodstock stage would be a true accomplishment, an affirmation and sign for us on all levels that this is our fate.

8. Would you recommend the M2TM initiative to any band looking to showcase themselves in their scene and further away?

Absolutely and without question , it is by far the biggest chance for any band in the scene to further themselves on all fronts.

9. In addition to that question. What advice would you give them in order to get where you are?

Be humble and kind to all around you , act Professionally and courteous and pay close attention to the rules, and most of all have fun and embrace the whole experience.

* This last question was invented by Mr Paul Hutchings who sent the Heat interviews so it’s an homage*

10. As we are a Welsh publication and this is M2TM South Wales. The final question is: What is your favourite sheep?


Thank you very much for answering these questions! Good luck on 29th June from everyone involved with Metal To The Masses South Wales.

A View From The Back Of The Room: Witching, Gimic & Hollow Blessings (Live Review By Matt Bladen)

Witching, Gimic & Hollow Blessings, The Moon, Cardiff, 20.06.24

A Thursday night gig with only one band I had seen before? Yeah lets do it.
First up Hollow Blessings (8), Cardiff hardcore/sludge noisemakers who impressed the first time I saw them at The Moon, and while that was one of their first shows as a band since then they have become a vicious, visceral and very loud addition to the Cardiff metal scene. It wasn't long before frontman Ben was in the crowd intimidating the audience with his roars, the distortion longing between the songs making any between song banter unintelligible. It wasn't needed though as they brought punch after devastating punch including a new song, which was their most dynamic of the night.

Up next were Gimic (8), hardcore punks from Bristol. Diving straight into their set, it was frenetic and furious. Screaming vocals and choppy riffs this was one for the oi crowd. What I noticed was the lack of distortion, the guitars were jangly and screamed with feedback as the propulsion came from the Flying V bass and the crazed drummer. While their singer had a broken rib she was in constant motions as they ploughed through short stabs of acerbic punk rock. While punk is not my thing, their stage presence and cleaner approach which brought some psychedelic leaning groove to guitars won me over and I found myself bouncing on the spot.

Finishing the evening was Philadelphia melodic black metal act Witching (9). I respect any band who drag themselves over from American and play to 25 people on a Thursday night as Crowded House brought the weather with them over at Cardiff Castle. In The Moon on this most special of pagan evenings, darkness descend and it was an overall more frosty atmosphere, inside as the twilight dwelled on Womanby Street in the last moments of the Summer Solstice. We were exposed to blasts of frigid black metal were counteracted by occult doom wandering as the influence of Myrkur could be felt. With blasts of extreme metal there was also proggy/doomy/atmospheric, especially when they played Damnation of their most recent record. 

Dreamy vocals and open clean chords that created a haunting soundscape as you just waited for it to get heavier and with a fuzzy riff it did exactly that, the unhinged banshee screams and crushing doom riffs creating the perfect peak. Saving this track until the penultimate song made sure that the pacing was just right for their last blast of blackened metal. The last but one show on a very long tour Witching were highly impressive showing no signs of fatigue when they stormed the stage in The Moon and they will be going on my watch again list. 

Reviews: Danava, Construct Of Lethe, The Mercury Riots, Joe Bonamassa (Reviews By Rich Piva, GC, James Jackson & Paul Scoble)

Danava - Live (Heavy Psych Sounds) [Rich Piva]

There are certain bands that, even if you never experienced it first-hand, you know are excellent live. Portland, Oregon’s Danava would fit in this category. I myself have never seen them live, and if were to bet I would say the probably rip it up. My thoughts are confirmed with the new record, the correctly titled Live, that documents the band in all of their glory.

The cool thing here is that you get two era of the band live. Side A is from their European tour from 2008 supporting their second album, UnonoU and side B from their most recent tour in 2023 supporting the excellent Tee Pee Records ripper, Nothing But Nothing. Live comes to us via Heavy Psych Sounds, who have been bringing very cool live records from some amazing bands like Nebula, Duel, Ecstatic Vision, The Atomic Bitchwax, Bongzilla, and The Lords Of Altamont. Danava live is right up there in quality with those other killer bands who bring it on stage.

As mentioned above, the first two tracks are from way back in 2008, and whoa does the band rip it up, especially on Maudie Shook where the solo is just mind blowing and the drum work seems impossible for a human outside of Keith Moon. The band goes off on these tracks, one each from their first two records, with the twelve-minute (including intro) Spinning Temple Shifting kicking it off right, with controlled chaos around fuzzy, frantic, swirling psych guitars and amazing jamming from the five-piece. At about the four-minute mark the band just goes off and never looks back. The guitar and synth combo is just next level. Amazing stuff from a band still young in their days as a band.

We get a band 15 years later with the last five tracks, spread across material from their full discography. First is the opener from 2011’s Hemisphere Of Shadows, Shoot Straight With A Crooked Gun that also kicks all sorts of ass, especially with that riff and guitar work. The title track from their most recent studio album is next and does nothing except confirm how awesome this band is live. The 2023 part of the set is focused more of the straight forward (for Danava) songs, so there are less long jams and more of the shorter Danava songs, but that doesn’t mean the band doesn’t continue to go off.

The first record is represented again in the form of Longdance which is one of my favourite Danava songs (that dual guitar work!!!) and the live version does nothing to change my mind as well as a second cut from the new record, Let The Good Times Kill which is heavy psych perfection. The CD gives you a bonus track in the form of The Last Goodbye, also from Hemisphere Of Shadows, and I hope those who bough the vinyl of this grab the digital too because no quality is lost by adding this one to the set.

So obviously I need to find a way to catch Danava live because if this record is any indication, I will surely have my mind blown by the killer dual, trad metal combined with psych guitars, the Moon-esqe drumming, and the mind-blowing heavy psych these guys bring. Hat’s off to Heavy Psych Sounds for brining another killer live record to those who have not been lucky enough to see Danava live. 9/10

Construct Of Lethe - A Kindness Dealt In Venom (Transcending Obscurity Records) [GC]

Usually when I see a Transcending Obscurity release in my inbox, I generally get excited as they pretty much always hit the spot, after a quick read about this, I am a bit nervous, this album is meant to be listened to as 1 entire track that has 12 relatively clear sections apparently and before a note has been played, I feel confused and a little weary as it’s all about depression and suicide, so clearly this will not be an easy listen! 

It all begins with Artifice and it’s all very chaotic, thundering death metal that chops and changes its stylistic attack every 5 seconds and you can feel that there are absolutely some unsettling feelings in the lyrics but the constant shifting of the song makes it difficult to connect with fully, following this up with the 9 minute long Bete Noir is a brave move but one for the most part that pays off as the lengthy run times allows for the chaos and time changes to be put on the back burner and a more straight forward structure takes its place and it really benefits from this, the song is a big, towering collision of slow doomy death metal mixed with more of the heartfelt, pain ridden lyrical content and when given the time to breath the music really comes into its own. 

Creating a suffocating blanket of horribleness that is followed up by Contempt which instantly reminds me of Today Is The Day and their depressed induced noisecore but this is slowed down to fit in with the feelings of utter helplessness a person goes through when suffering depression and with the additions of furious blasting death metal it is an unsettling but ultimately rewarding listen. Denial In Abstraction is more utter chaos that throws you off slightly guard but is also very needed as it picks up the pace and focuses everything on the anger a person may feel for themselves and its more brutally savage honesty that you usually don’t get with a death metal release. 

Then for reasons I cannot fathom we now get 2 instrumentals in the shape of Flickering, which shows off excellent technicality and musicianship but takes a bit of the emotional sting out of the album and I Am The Lionkiller is just not really anything apart from a bit off chugging guitars and drums but for me really serves no purpose other than some respite from the rawness which for me isn’t really what is needed and so when they do get back to business with Labyrinthine Terror it’s a relief and of course it’s more of the usual chaotic and uncomfortably bleak death metal furiousness that made the beginning of the album so urgent and engaging with every note they play. 

You get more dragged in to the fragility of the lyrical content which is again highlighted beautifully on Monument To Failure in a relatively short run time it creates a massive uneasy and uncomfortable feel with its mix of atmospherics and short blasts of doomy death metal the usual vocals are mixed with some spoken word interludes and that up the unease quota further and it’s probably a good thing as well as the next 4  tracks Paroxysm As PragmatismRaw NerveIron WillSacrosanct and Tension- There is Nothing For You Here are ALL instrumentals barring Sacrosanct that does have some spoken words in it but, once again while showing they are very capable musicians they just take away that gut wrenching feeling needed to full appreciate the lyrics and sort of ends the album on a bit of a low.

When A Kindness Dealt In Venom concentrated on the emotive lyrical content of suicide and depression this was a brutally raw and savage experience to listen to and while I assume the 6 instrumental tracks fit into Construct Of Lethe’s overall vision of the album, they do not fit into my listening habits and really take a lot of impact away from the actual songs. If this had 10 tracks with perhaps 2 instrumentals my score may have been way higher, but alas it does not. 7/10

The Mercury Riots - In Solstice (SAOL Records) [James Jackson]

Aerosmith, Motley Crue and Guns N Roses, just a few of the names that spring to mind when listening to this album; The Mercury Riots, a three piece LA based Hard Rock outfit, is comprised of members who have played in a variety of bands within the South California region, acts like Bullets And Octane who have been a staple of the scene since the late nineties. As with the vast majority of bands within this genre, the lyrics are centred around that old adage of “Sex, Drugs and Rock n Roll”, the sleazy guitar riffs accompanying the lyrics are as low slung as the tight denim jeans that they’re singing about. 

And whilst neither the lyrical sentiment nor the riffs feel particularly original, it’s exceptionally hard to not tap along or find yourself singing to a track you’ve heard only once and surely that’s a sign of a good album? The hooks do their job, the choruses are catchy and designed to be sung along to, simple and to the point, the chorus to Save Me A Drink literally revolves around those few words, instantly something that you’d be shouting out to in a live environment. Overall, a catchy, feel good album that fans of 80’s Glam Metal will enjoy. 7/10

Joe Bonamassa – Joe Bonamassa At The Hollywood Bowl With Orchestra (J&R Adventures) [Paul Scoble]

Over the last couple of years my musical taste has changed completely. Ever since I was 12 (39 years ago) I was obsessed with heavy metal and rock. From NWOBHM through all forms of extreme metal up to crazy stuff like War metal, heavy metal was everything to me. Then about 2 years ago I started to get bored of metal. I spent hours searching through Bandcamp and YouTube looking for music I liked, but most metal just left me cold. I then stumbled across some Stevie Ray Vaughn videos and was blown away at how good they were. So, I started looking at more blues and was fascinated and enthralled by what I found.
I pretty much only listen to blues for pleasure, and I am loving the history and listen to loads of 50’s, 60’s and 70’s Blues. I do listen to some contemporary Blues; I like Joanne Shaw Taylor (whose new album I reviewed recently), Gary Clark Jr and The Black Keys. One contemporary act I have avoided is Joe Bonamassa. I have several friends who are big blues fans and amongst those friends Joe Bonamassa seems to be divisive. 

Some love him and see him as an important artist, but some of them think he isn’t really blues and is as authentic as Greek antiquities made of Plastic. I figured I’d learn more and could make up my mind when I felt I understood the blues a little better. So, when Musipedia’s editor asked me to review this album, I was a glad I would be finding out what Joe was like, but I was also a little nervous, an Orchestra to me is the antithesis of what the blues is all about.

Joe Bonamassa got his break in music when he got to support B.B. King at the age of Twelve (Joe was 12, B.B. was much older). The 47 year old from New Hartford, New York has released 16 album since his first, A New Day Yesterday in 2000, his last album was released in 2023 and was called Blues Deluxe Vol 2. Joe has also released countless live albums and several albums with Black Country Communion, Rock Candy Funk Party and 4 with Beth Hart.
This album was recorded in August 2023 at The Hollywood Bowl with a 40 piece Orchestra. In addition to the Orchestra Joe was joined by Keyboardist Reese Wyans, Guitarist Josh Smith, Drummer Lemar Carter and Backing Vocalists Jade MacRea and Danielle DeAndrea and Calvin Turner on Bass.

The album opens with When One Door Opens Overture a short Orchestral instrumental. The track feels like a soundtrack from a Game Of Thrones offshoot, I would have expected some sort of Fanfare for the start of the gig, but this is more dirge like. The fact that this sounds like a sub-par film soundtrack does not bode well for the rest of the album.
It doesn’t bode well because this isn’t a very good album, and it’s the concept behind it that is at fault. Blues is a music form that is simple and intuitive, its tempo and pacing is based on feel, groove and syncopation. Orchestral / Classical music is complex and controlled, its tempo and pacing is based on rigidity, conformation and power. The two forms of music are diametrically opposed, the whole point of blues is that it isn’t classical. 

The problem for Joe Bonamassa and Co. is that the sections that are blues based with Joe and his band sound like warm melancholy blues, but as soon as the Orchestra joins in the timing has to keep 40 classically trained musicians in time, the whole feel shifts to rigid classical. You can’t mix blues and classical, as soon as you add the orchestral elements it immediately stops feeling like blues and becomes classical, and as soon as you lose the orchestral sections it immediately becomes blues. The outcome is something that is like a patchwork quilt of ideas that does not feel like a whole, it’s as if the album has Multiple Personality Disorder.

The first song on the album Curtain Call is a good example, the song opens with blues rock with the orchestra, as this is a song with vocals it actually sounds like a slightly weird Bond Theme. The song then goes into a verse section that is all blues and feels great, the chorus then goes back to orchestral so suddenly it’s an odd Bond Theme again. The fact that a lot of the material ends up sounding like Bond Themes has another issue; Joe’s Voice is fine for blues or blues rock, but Bond Themes need huge voices like Tom Jones or Shirley Bassey, the orchestral parts highlight that Joe Bonamassa’s voice is probably the weakest part of his performance.
I ended up finding the tracks with the least orchestral elements the most enjoyable; so, No Good Place For The Lonely, and Prisoner are in my opinion the best two tracks. In both cases the songs are treated pretty strait with the orchestra only supplying String Swells or a little bit of Flute or Oboe. Whenever this is subtle it works, but whenever the Bombast comes in it falls apart. There are also some very good guitar solos on the album, on a lot of the songs the solo is left alone by the orchestra, so this is full of very good guitar solos.
The songs that had a lot of orchestral elements I found hard going, The Ballad Of John Henry was particularly difficult as this has orchestra throughout it almost feels like a violation, No soul, no feeling and to be honest no point, it sounds like the soundtrack to a bad advert.
I realise I haven’t been very positive about this album, but at the same time I see this as more of a mistake than anything else. It’s an experiment that has definitely not worked. However, until I heard it I wasn’t sure it wouldn’t work, so I imagine everyone involved had good intentions and thought they were making something special. Art will always need artists to experiment, but sometimes experiments don’t work. 

I don’t think Joe has been well served by the people who wrote and arranged the classical elements, a lot of the big orchestral material felt quite flat and uninspiring, the opening instrumental that felt like a dirge being a case in point. Hopefully Joe will go back to blues and blues Rock, He’s good at those parts, maybe leave the Bond themes to people with bigger voices. 5/10

Friday 21 June 2024

Reviews: Rendezvous Point, Seven Spires, The Mysterines, Sons Of Arrakis (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Rendezvous Point - Dream Chaser (Long Branch)

Norway keeps giving the world emotionally resonant, musically impressive and forward thinking progressive music, similar to fellow Norwegians Leprous, Dødheimsgard, Borknagar and of course Ihsahn, Rendezvous Point have been part of this group of musicians push boundaries with their sound. Based around drummer Baard Kolstad, who is also a member of Leprous, Rendezvous Point have that strong rhythmic backing as their countrymen, while also taking the introspective moments of both Leprous and Soen, putting them against some striking, synth heavy, ultra-modern prog metal.

Dream Chaser is their third album and it’s those parping EDM synths of Tangen Svennæs (Ihsahn) who creates the main melodies over the throbbing rhythms from guitarist Petter Hallaråker and bass player Gunn-Hilde Erstad on first track Don’t Look Up. An opener full of groove that got my hips moving, but the pre-chorus/chorus has that melancholic vocal from Geirmund Hansen, the pace and soundscape adapting as it goes on, that synth refrain turning into a shimmer behind the more riff driven Oslo Syndrome, a track that isn’t even prog, it’s telling that the band wanted to write more focussed and concise tracks with this third album, going towards a more radio friendly rock sound.

With a slinky solo in the middle of it and hooky chorus, prog nerds have to wait until Utopia for some jazzy rhythms and quirky playing. The keys are important to this album as major melodic element, as is Baard’s widescreen drumming on Utopia for instance. Personal lyrics and societal struggles occupy the lyrics, which is why there’s melancholy and catharsis when a track such as Fireflies builds with a slow burn towards a euphoric chorus and a keyboard solo, the mood kept gloomy and reflective on Presence, which has a echoed quality to it single note guitars airily drifting in the background until the distorted riff comes back.

With Wildflower adding some Peter Gabriel layers and The Tormented giving you the heavy quotient Dream Chaser successfully takes Rendezvous Point into their next era as a band. 9/10

Seven Spires - A Fortress Called Home (Frontiers Music Srl)

The fourth record from melodeath/power/symphonic/black metal band Seven Spires is their most accomplished to date. Skillfully mixing their signature sound perfectly for the most aggressive, intoxicating album they've created. The follow up to 2021's Gods Of Debauchery, it's the culmination of a long term touring schedule with recent support slots to Eluveitie, Twilight Force, DragonForce, Kamelot and many more. The Denver based band have channelled this unstoppable touring schedule into this new record, focussing on harnessing not only their live synchronicity but their technical virtuosity and massive hooks. 

After the introduction what we get is an album of gothic romance, self empowerment and personal study but delivered in the hybrid/conceptual sound of Seven Spires, if Meat Loaf was power metal or Disney was death metal then tracks such as Songs Upon Wine-Stained Tongues a duet with David Åkesson or the poppy Almosttown would fit right in, the first more of duet while the second shows the full range of front woman Adrianne Cowan, be it her soaring soprano or her black metal squawks and everything in between. There's a reason why she has become an integral part of Avantasia live and this album draws a lot of the bombastic influences from Tobias Sammet's rock opera, including some backing vocals from Angelica Sandnes Åkesson.

As you would expect from a band who formed from the Berklee College Of Music alumni, it's ridiculously technical, the bass from Peter de Reyna is especially great, drawn from the jazz expressionism, the little flourishes are strewn throughout, especially on Portrait Of Us and No Place For Us. Though Jack Kosto's guitar playing and production is also magnificent, he not only plays up a storm with lightspeed shreddingo/melodic leads on No Place For Us but also gives drama to tracks such as Where Sorrows Bear My Name and melody and emotion to the mega ballad Emerald NecklaceA Fortress Called Home is the final album with drummer Chris Dovas behind the kit but he absolutely explodes on tracks such as the operatic Love's Souvenir or Architects Of Creation.

Inspired by the Romantic-era, there's full use of an orchestra, I even hear some harpsichord and other instruments that come from that period. I guess you could call Seven Spires "Bridgerton Metal" (I want credit if other people start using this) as A Fortress Called Home puts evocative orchestral soundscapes with a myriad of metallic flourishes. Fantastic! 9/10

The Mysterines – Afraid Of Tomorrows (Fiction Records)

Sometimes seclusion is what a band needs to tap into their most creative side. Fresh from supporting Arctic Monkeys in arenas, the Merseyside foursome known as The Mysterines purposefully recorded their latest album in the countryside along with producer John Congleton (St Vincent) to make sure they could focus on what they wanted to say, to redefine and solidify who or what The Mysterines are. Inspired by trauma, love unbounded, addiction “but ultimately a desire for life” Afraid Of Tomorrows has the band at their rawest and open.

The jangly The Last Dance starts the record with some moody, regret filled garage fuzz, Callum Thompson’s guitar sound hard on the ears but that’s the point. The Mysterines are going abrasive, hazy and fuzz drenched with a steady bass walk from George Favager on Stray. As the album continues there’s lots of musical experimentation, be it repeating electronic drum patterns, angular guitar riffs, new wave grooves, post rock experimentation and indie darling rock explosions.

The constant though is Lia Metcalfe’s breathy, lackadaisical, drawl, though she adds some clarity to Hawkmoon, a short moment of stripped back beauty. Then we’re back to attitude and distorted riffs on Sink Ya Teeth, propelled by Paul Crilly’s impressive drumming, whether it’s in the more naturalistic tone or the mechanical beats of Goodbye Sunshine. Alongside the Grammy winning producer, The Mysterines have produced an album that uses its core song writing talent as jumping off point for audio alchemy.

Afraid Of Tomorrows uses modern production techniques, genre bending and a whole host of effects to create unique sounding songs. However it never forgets the core principal of hook driven rock music. 7/10

Sons Of Arrakis - Volume II (Black Throne Productions)

Grab your Sandworm popcorn bucket (just wash it first) and settle in for another selection of spice flecked cuts from Frank Herbert's Dune novels. Yes its Volume II the second album from Canadian desert rockers Sons Of Arrakis, get it desert rock, Dune? See? Anyway yes SoA are a desert rock/doom/stoner band who pack their songs with chunky riffs, slinky leads and great vocals. As well as Herbert’s sci-fi epic they also write songs inspired by the likes of Dostoyevsky, Chekhov, Camus, Gary, Sartre, and Lovecraft, so well read, heavy riffing is the name of the game and on Volume II they build on what they did with Volume I but make it better, like any good sequel (though in Dune’s case maybe stop at book 2).

As this is journeyman music, fit for travelling in a Bedouin caravan, it means that they're masters of the build and release on tracks such as High Handed Enemy, elongated psychedelic sci-fi rock tracks, that have layers of QOTSA/Sabbath/Sleep like cinematics. Frédéric Couture has those hazy, melodic vocals and starts these songs with an acoustic guitar, before switching to an electric and then brining in the rest of the band. Joining on guitar is Francis Duchesne, who also plays organs/keys, Victor Lepage adds the low end groove to Beyond The Screen Of Illusion which has some tasty dual harmonies, the shifts in pace given a rudder by Mathieu Racine’s drums.

Volume II though is a guitar player’s record, the six string synergy can be heard on every track, from the psychedelic journeys, doom crawls and stoner bounces it’s a tribute to the mighty power of the riff. SoA remind me of Aussies Dr Colossus who in turn remind me of Sleep, now if we could get a tour between the Canadians and the Australians in the UK, that would be great. Play loud enough to attract Shai-Hulud. 9/10