Archive for August, 2015

Nile – What Should Not Be Unearthed

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , on 30th August 2015 by Paul Macmillan

Nile
What Should Not Be Unearthed
Released August 28th 2015
Technical death metal
Released via Nuclear Blast

Nile - What Should Not Be Unearthed

Nile are just one of those bands who have miraculously passed me by. I’ve always known of them, and even more or less what their sound and content is all about. It’s just that the jigsaw pieces were never quite in the same place at the same moment, so this is one of those occasions where I get to make up for lost time and broaden my musical horizons in a very enjoyable way; the way of theologically horrific death metal!

Spin one, and it’s instant, visceral blast after visceral blast, direct to the face, and I instantly regret not having followed this band more closely in the past. It’s all about investigation and discovery, though, so back I go, through the sands of time, right back to the beginning. In truth …Unearthed 100% plays the older and more cultured brother to all of their previous releases; a natural progression point to be expected from a band of Nile‘s vintage. There’s an obvious easy confidence carrying this thunderous uproar that comes with settling into self-assurance in one’s abilities; not arrogance or cockiness, but a belligerent nonchalance, blazing through mind-bending intricacies with a comfort not previously displayed.

Yet behind every blinding flash of frenzied frettage is an undeniable musical intelligence. Too often bands which fall under the ‘technical death’ banner are only really any good for one thing – shredding. While anyone who claimed that Nile couldn’t give these musicians more than a run for their virtuoso money would be, quite rightly, decried as a fool, they are leagues and aeons away from being branded in the one-trick-pony trap. They seem to be at a stage where they are more happy than ever to slip into a thick riff, owning it entirely, and there’s plenty of the atmospheric character shown in previous works such as (the reportedly less-well-received) At The Gates Of Sethu.

Some of the best recordings in extreme music are those which you can listen to in quiet reflection, but which also grow arms and legs of engagement when the volume is cranked up to the point of a physical sensation of sound. This is definitely one such, and more, it is razor-sharp precision work, with youthful intent and intensity. In terms of quality, 2015 has been a somewhat golden age of metal so far. What Should Not Be Unearthed is simply the latest nail in the sarcophagus.

4.5/5

Paul Macmillan

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Amorphis – Under The Red Cloud

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , , , on 28th August 2015 by Pieni

Amorphis
“Under The Red Cloud”
Melodic metal
Release: 4th September 2015
Via Nuclear Blast Records

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First thing you need to know – in case you’ve missed both singles “Death Of A King” and “Sacrifice” – is that Amorphis are still on the melodic metal path. Touring in celebration of the 20th anniversary of “Tales From The Thousand Lakes” was just that – a celebration of the past. They’re not returning to the death-ish doom of those early days, although the melancholy is still there in full (as it’s always been). Mind that I’m not complaining; personally, I prefer this smoother approach. I just thought I should warn the old school fans who went bananas with the aforementioned tour. I will complain, though, about the somewhat disappointing album that “Under The Red Cloud” turned out to be, regardless its genre.

The opening title-track is quite good, the keys combined with the guitars building that typical Amorphis atmosphere. The riffs and Tomi Joutsen’s growls make a hell of a chorus and the song eventually sticks to your brain. But sadly, that doesn’t happen much more throughout the rest of the album.

“The Four Wise Ones” has some spirit to it, having the faster and heavier rhythm. “Death Of A King” was a brilliant choice for single, as the sound that Amorphis got us used to is played in Arabic variations and the result is positively interesting. As for “Sacrifice”… well, that’s more radio-friendly and probably why it was released as a single. Apart from an elaborate guitar solo, its composition is not very impressive. The folkish “Tree Of Ages”, that features Eluveitie-Chrigel Glanzmann playing flute, is pretty catchy and I guess that “White Night” may stand out for the participation of Aleah Standbridge, although the song itself is a bit dull. And that’s about it. It’s not that “Under The Red Cloud” is a bad album, but there’s something missing to make it a great one. The everyday fan of the band will probably enjoy this, but the most demanding music lovers will sense that “lack of something”.

3/5

Renata “Pieni” Lino

An Autumn For Crippled Children – The Long Goodbye

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , on 28th August 2015 by izaforestspirit

An Autumn For Crippled Children
The Long Goodbye
Released 23th February 2015
Atmospheric Black Metal
Released via Wickerman Recordings

‘The Long Goodbye’ is the new album from the Friesland-based Dutch black metal band An Autumn For Crippled Children. It is the follow up to ‘Try Not to Destroy Everything You Love’. The band’s name is derived from a song by the avantgarde Gothic metal band Ebonylake.

Now, they say that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but in this particular case the cover is a perfect depiction of An Autumn For Crippled Children. Their sound is melancholic and eerie, just like the gloomy looking clouds and the dark mountains on the front cover, but despite this it also offers that strangely soothing feeling that you might experience when observing this type of landscape.

Amidst the singer’s raw shrieks there’s a certain beauty and tranquility to be found in the sombre melodies; the soft guitar tunes working with the atmospheric keyboards to create a pleasant and (dare I say it) “relaxing” effect. Only Skin is a good example of just how well the other instruments diffuse and soften the blow to the eardrums that were caused by the harsh vocals. It’s a delicate balance which is very hard to maintain but these guys make it work. In fact it’s fair to say that the predominant and often the only black metal elements here are the vocals because the music itself is rather mild and more akin to radio-friendly rock than extreme metal. For example, the atmospheric and serene She’s Drawing Mountains is one of those; without the shrieking vocals it would be just a pleasant instrumental track which you could easily play in a café. Gleam caught my attention as one of the few tracks on here which has that catchy, “rocking” tinge to it thanks to the keyboards, making it one of the more memorable tracks on here.

Overall, the main problem that I have with this release is that there is very little distinction between the tracks. You can go through over half of the album without even noticing the songs change. An Autumn For Crippled Children tend to play it safe and stick to the same tried and tested formula of non-offensive, melancholic and pleasant-sounding, atmospheric metal with black metal shrieks. It works well as a background noise to tune into whilst you’re concentrating on something else.

3/5

Iza Raittila

Soilwork – The Ride Majestic

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , on 18th August 2015 by Pieni

Soilwork
“The Ride Majestic”
Melodic death metal
Release: 28th August 2015
Via Nuclear Blast Records

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Soilwork haven’t had the need to prove themselves to me for a long time now. After albums such as “Figure Number Five”, “Stabbing The Drama” or the previous “The Living Infinite”, they’ve achieved a solid rank on my list of bands. But I confess I didn’t think they could impress me more either. Well I’m biting my tongue right now.

The richness in details was taken to the next level and the result is a classy mix of extreme rhythms with vibrant melodies. The first title track (yes, first – there are two, although the second adds “(Aspire Angelic)”, to make the difference) is the bridge between “The Ride Majestic” and “The Living Infinite”, given the similarity in riffs and licks. If you listen to one album after the other, this track makes a smooth, natural transition between them. Because “Alight The Aftermath” will then sound like an outburst of power; way faster, way heavier, way darker.

“Death In General”, on the other hand, is the least heavy track (which doesn’t necessarily mean light). Its composition is too enthralling and seductive, the drums achieving a tribal beat on a couple of occasions, and Mr. Speed showing he can do whatever he wants with his voice.

The bluesy intro of “Enemies In Fidelity”, which underlines some further parts in an otherwise thrash/death composition. The earworm-ish chorus and break of “Petrichor By Sulphur”. The epic, extreme piece that “The Phantom” is through and through (definitely my favorite). The sharpness of “The Ride Majestic (Aspire Angelic)”, in contrast with the gloominess of “Whirl Of Pain”. A gloominess that continues on “All Along Echoing Paths” but at a heavier pace. The mosher-friendly of “Shining Lights”, featuring a massive guitar work. And the deep grand finale of “Father And Son Watching The World Go Down”. Eleven new tracks, all majestic indeed.

5/5

Renata “Pieni” Lino

Blackwelder – Survival of The Fittest

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , on 16th August 2015 by izaforestspirit

Blackwelder
Survival of the Fittest
Released 24th April 2015
Power Metal
Released via Gold Core Records/ ZYX Music

‘Survival of the Fittest’ is the debut album from the international power metal super group Blackwelder. The band features Ralf Scheepers of Primal Fear as well as former members of Gamma Ray, Angra and Yngwie J. Malmsteen. Blackwelder was originally formed by the American heavy metal guitarist Andrew Szusc (Seven Serafim) back in 2012.

So, after reviewing some melancholic Gothic doom metal lately, I decided that it was time to lighten things up a bit. It is still summer after all, the sun is shining and everyone is out there sunbathing, swimming in the nearby lake or river or heating up the BBQ. There’s no better music for times like this than power metal. My personal power metal collection is limited to a handful of Sonata Arctica albums along with several releases by Sabaton and Helloween. Having said that, I have been to a Primal Fear show a few years ago, so when I heard about their singer’s new project I decided to check it out.

First up is The Night of The New Moon which is packed with lots of catchy guitar riffage and fast drumming paired with Ralf Scheepers’s high pitched, storytelling vocals. As far as this genre goes, Blackwelder’s signature sound tends to be a little slower than the speed-power metal style of Primal Fear and more akin to that of Helloween. They do pick up the pace at times though, such as the ultra fast “catch this if you can” guitar shredding at the start of Freeway of Life or the headbanging-friendly guitar solo at the start of Remember The Time.

Yet no matter how fast or aggressive the music gets, the vocals remain melodic and the chorus of each track is easy to sing along to. With Flying Colors is a good example of just how well the vocals fit in with the rest of instruments. Whilst the song is still very guitar-driven, the vocals are powerful enough to make the chorus linger in your head and to tempt you to start headbanging along to the tune.

Overall, this album was fun to listen to and it definitely has that “summer metal” feel that I was hoping for. It’s great to see that a bunch of experienced musicians from various corners of the world can get together to create something new and fresh. I’d recommend this to fans of Gamma Ray, Primal Fear and Helloween.

4/5

Iza Raittila

Krysthla – A War Of Souls And Desires

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , , on 16th August 2015 by Paul Macmillan

Krysthla
A War Of Souls And Desires
Release: September 28th 2015
Metal
Released via Initiate Audio and Media

Krysthla - A War Of Souls And Desires

Holy shit sticks! This is heavy! I mean, it was always going to be a hefty slab of meat, coming from former members of Gutworm (as well as Deadeye), but this is HEAVY heavy. Be prepared to be smashed in the face with a dump-truck’s worth of satisfaction. Then wait with glee for it to back up again.

There are a number of essentially British characteristics raised to the fore in this offering, the hardcore vocal timbre of Adi Mayes being the most prominent. However, this Wellingborough based quintet are far from being tied down to geographically dictated audio trends, and there is a panoply of international vibrations laid out; Meshuggah-esque jazz metal collides with the freneticism of City era Strapping Young Lad, with hints of the twisted simplicity of Gojira. Yes, it does sound that big, that hard, and that clever, and with more influences and personal touches to boot.

Certainly, a number of the djenty riffs employed here simply won’t appeal to those detractors from the genre as a whole, but to me they are utilised to great effect. If you’re more open-minded as to the means of deriving pure heaviness, these occasions will set your head bobbing with a gurn of approval. It’s like any other cross-section of music, in that you can cherry-pick the stuff you like. E.g., I really like Xerath’s first two albums, but this is, in my opinion, a superior work. Krysthla create less of a modern, generic effect, and instead, as hinted at above, deliver a rather more Duplantier/Hagström feel.

Having heard a few snippets and teasers in the run up to the release of A War Of Souls And Desires, I have to admit, I was already expecting something a bit special, but this is a truly and surprisingly monstrous sounding band, with a lot of potential to offer the UK and global metal scene. To sum it up in the most basic of two word phrases: Unbelievably good!

5/5

Paul Macmillan

Potergeist – Crocodile Tears

Posted in CD, Metal, Rock with tags , , , , on 15th August 2015 by mickbirchy

Potergeist
Crocodile Tears
Southern metal / stoner rock
Released: 1st May 2015
via G.O.D. Records

The down and dirty Greek rockers Potergeist return with their fourth offering of riffy goodness.  The four piece, consisting of Alex S Wamp (vocals), Nick XP and Stratal (guitars), Kostis Vihos (bass) and Tolis Toleas (drums), have delivered some great work over the years producing three great albums. This new studio album Crocodile Tears was produced and mixed by Pete Rutcho (Falling In Reverse,The Ghost Inside, etc) and is released on G.O.D. records. Crocodile Tears is just the next chapter in this band’s amazing story as their name keeps growing all the time. They have even supported some of the biggest names in the genre such as Black Label Society and Corrosion of Conformity. .

The album begins with the haunting little opening “Swamp Muse Summoning” which is atmospheric and sets the tone brilliantly. Then the music roars in with the title track “Crocodile Tears” which I actually find to be the weakest song. Don’t worry, the album gets much better from here. I just find the title track to be a little drudging and non-interesting, it’s not bad necessarily, it’s just weak. However, once the album kicks into high gear it doesn’t let up for a second.  The song “Visit from a Swampire” is a nice call back to their previous record Swapires and contains all of the same southern style metal.  Their riffs sound big and are very fluent. Every song just flows with bluesy licks and stoner riffs seamlessly matching up.  The melodies are really catchy and get stuck in your head with ease. Like their past work, this album is very accessible with tunes such as “Eve” and “The Preacher and The Witch”. I think people who aren’t even into this style of music could groove to these riffs.

In all honesty though, I don’t feel this is the band’s strongest work to date. Whilst it is a worthy follow up to their 2013 effort Swampires, this record isn’t a patch on the 2012 album Muddy Mermaids. It’s quite difficult to explain but I feel that their work in 2012 had a lot more power and scale in it’s execution. This record is still one fun album to listen to but there are just one too many moments where it feels like you’re being pulled through it rather than wanting to hear it. Also there are a couple of times on the album where the production gets really muddy and hard to hear. That might not be the worst thing on a southern style stoner rock album, but when you compare this to bands like Godsized, Orange Goblin or Planet of Zeus you can certainly hear a noticeable difference in the quality of the sound.

Yes, this is a cracking album but there are just a few points that bring it down.  However I still have fun listening to this band and this album does have some great riffs and well executed solos.  There’s enough here to keep me, and I’m sure many others, entertained. I look forward to whatever else this band brings to the table.

4/5

Mick Birchall