Author Archive

Sigiriya – Darkness Died Today

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on 11th May 2014 by Paul

Darkness Died Today
Released April 21st, 2014
Stoner metal
Released via Candlelight Records

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Sigiriya’s new album is called Darkness Died Today, which isn’t a very Heavy Metal sounding title, but don’t be fooled; this is straight up Stoner Metal. The band hail from Wales, not a country particularly known for its contributions to Metal unless you’re a huge fan of Bullet For My Valentine or you think that Budgie are the best thing since powdered milk. Fortunately the Welsh are not ones to let the team down, and when they do strap on some guitars to make some Heavy Metal noise they do it well. Case in point: This album.

On the face of it, you might expect some Pentagram and early Doom influences from this band, judging by their logo. Whilst it’s certainly heavy as hell and full of fuzz, this album only flirts with dark and doomy riffs and mostly chugs along on a well thought out Retro-Rock riff-fest. The style hits the sweet spot between Heavy Metal and Classic Rock, in the classical Stoner Rock tradition.

The band doesn’t sound particularly unique, but I don’t think that is what most Stoner Metal fans are looking for anyway. At 38 minutes in length this record doesn’t overstay its welcome or get too boring, though some of the songs may be a bit droning at times. The band can write generic rock hits but they can also segue into something monumentally heavy every now and then that may surprise the listener. Every time the album threatens to slow down and get tedious, the band pulls another rabbit out of the hat and hits you hard with a great riff that will get your head banging or at least your foot tapping.

Like the bird on the cover, the album soars through a smoky wasteland – a wasteland of cool desert rock riffs and a thick heavy atmosphere. All around a good listen and a solid album. Highly recommended.


Paul Gibbins

Allen Weber – Hot Shock

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on 7th May 2014 by Paul

Allen Weber
Hot Shock
Released: Summer 2013

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Allen Weber’s Hot Shock’s music gives the impression of peacefully bobbing along the ocean, just offshore of some tropical island. What a shame I had to listen to this during a dreary British winter. The band’s eclectic style includes: Jazz, Caribbean, Funk, Blues, Rock and R&B, which they have managed to form into a pleasantly cohesive sound that benefits from all these influences by never becoming boring or stale.

You can see that certain songs have a particular leaning to a style. For example one song might focus mostly on Jazz whilst another may adopt a more funk orientated sound, but fortunately the music casually blends from one end of the spectrum to the other making it feel more interesting. They call this “Sandunga Jazz Fusion”. I can imagine seeing this band perform in a city centre on a sunny day or perhaps in some cool restaurant. The music totally suits a laid back afternoon – it speeds up, slows down, and sometimes goes off on some interesting tangents as the listener is taken on a journey through funky riffs and bluesy solos.

There’s still plenty of energy too, though far removed from the more intense sounds usually featured on Valkyrian Music. It’s a fun album and just about every song is worthwhile and earns its place on the record. This is a good effort from a talented band.

Paul Gibbins

Hell – The Age of Nefarious

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 3rd November 2013 by Paul

The Age of Nefarious
Released October 25th 2013
Released via Nuclear Blast
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Hell are one of the greatest success stories in the recent renaissance of NWOBHM. Of all the bands that have come back from the dead to play the oldest style of Heavy Metal, Hell has been one of the most successful. This EP, The Age of Nefarious offers a new song as well as three live performances from their Human Remains album. Hell have a style that goes beyond the simple punk rock/Motorhead formula that typifies NWOBHM, being more theatrical and epic, like Dante’s Divine Comedy played through a Heavy Metal filter. I managed to catch the end of Hell’s set at Bloodstock 2011, and it was clear that the band are very talented performers, the recordings here sound just about as good as they do in the studio, however the problem is that the audience is very quiet in the mix here, so it doesn’t feel like there is all that much point in listening to these over the album versions from Human Remains. It’s a good release though and a good, though short preview of what is to come on the next album. The Age of Nefarious doesn’t deviate much from the sounds on Human Remains, which is largely a good thing. It sounds like Hell are getting ready to release a great album, and I look forward to hearing it.


Paul Gibbins

Hell online:


End Of Green – The Painstream

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on 28th August 2013 by Paul

End Of Green
The Painstream
Released16th August
Depressive Rock
Released via Napalm Records

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German rockers End Of Green can be best described as the hard rock Type O Negative. That doesn’t quite tell the full story, but it’s a good start. The band describe their music as depressed subcore, an unholy trinity of doom, gothic and hard rock. This release leans more toward a more accessible rock sound than previous efforts and despite the depressive subject matter; it makes for some pleasant listening. Having been producing albums since ’96, the band has clearly developed some noteworthy talent and experience, which really shows on this album. Each one of these melancholy rockers has a great hook and a simple but effective formula, with occasional splashes of gothic theatricality and black humour.

At 11 tracks, it’s difficult to pick any weak moments, and this is a very strong album. From slow, depressing, droning dirges to more pop orientated, upbeat songs with great hooks, this album has a lot going for it, and the band never wallow in their excesses but manage to sound fresh all the way through. Released just as summer is fading into autumn, this is one of the best examples of all things gothic and gloomy in 2013. A very pleasant listen.


Paul Gibbins

Black Sabbath – 13

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on 2nd August 2013 by Paul

Black Sabbath
Released June 10th, 2013
Heavy Metal
Released Via Vertigo Records

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In 1970, this Birmingham quartet created the first Heavy Metal album and gave birth to the genre that would go on to conquer the underground music scene for the next four decades. Legend has it that the band took their name from Boris Karloff’s horror film Black Sabbath after wondering if people would pay for a similar Gothic and disturbing experiencing from music. What resulted was an unholy orgy between Hard Rock, Blues Rock, Prog, and no small parts of Psychedelia, Lovecraftian horror and nuclear anxiety that today is infamously known as the Devil’s music: Heavy Metal. Tony Iommi, having lost the tips of some of his fingers in an accident at a sheet metal factory created his own unique style of playing guitar with dropped tuning and incorporating the so-called “devil’s tritone”, leading to the creation of the heavy, riff driven music the band would go on to define. Thus it can truly be said that the music of Heavy Metal was quite literally created in an industrial accident.

After going through many line-up changes, and releasing over ten albums throughout their decades long career, the band have finally returned in (almost) their original line-up. Sadly, Bill Ward declined to join due to contract negotiations going sour, and is replaced here by Audioslave and Rage Against the Machine drummer Brad Wilk. The end result is surprising and pleasing.

13 has a lot of things going for it. After the lacklustre Sabbath albums of the 90s, Tony Iommi has fortunately found his stride once more, following on from the well-received Heaven and Hell album The Devil you Know, the album features some of the band’s strongest song writing since Born Again. Once more, the gothic, occult theme has returned, with many of these songs resembling the band’s first eponymous song, and with recognisable progressive elements that made Vol. 4 and Sabotage innovative. Having Ozzy back is a big plus also, and the band effortlessly step back into their roles as a cohesive unit. Despite these strengths, the album often comes across as slow and plodding, which isn’t so much of a problem for long term fans and those that recognise the band’s influence on Doom Metal, but won’t win the band any new converts. It’s unlikely that any of these songs will become regular rock radio staples or appear on the Iron Man 4 soundtrack, but that’s OK, as this album is full of good moments and will sell well due to band’s deserved rabid cult following. Those new to the band would be better off sticking to the anthems on Paranoid that made the band into revered legends.

There are also certain trademark Sabbath elements that are missing. The album could certainly benefit from some more of the acoustic work that livened up previous Sabbath albums and showcased their underappreciated versatility. The album also lacks a solid, no-frills headbanger like Paranoid, instead making its statement to the world with the single God Is Dead. A great song no doubt, but at eight minutes long and with a tedious pace it is unlikely to have great appeal to the average festival-goer who just wants four minutes of catchy riffs and a sing-a-long chorus. The fact that this song is the second on the album, and follows on from the similar and also eight minutes long album opener End of the Beginning is proof that the band is doing things on their own terms and isn’t interested in reinventing the wheel or creating an album of radio hits, instead making an album that feels more deep and contemplative. And why not? After all if anyone deserves to take this route, it should be a band as influential and successful as Black Sabbath who don’t really have anything to prove to anyone except that after all this time, the original line-up can still make decent music; and they have definitely succeeded. This album will likely grow in its appeal over time and contains much of what made the band great – epic, apocalyptic riffing, gloomy atmosphere, and most importantly a sense of dread and anxiety that distinguished the band from the love and peace hippy bands that saturated the sixties and seventies. Best moments include End of the Beginning, God Is Dead?, Age of Reason, Zeitgeist, Dear Father, and Live Forever. It may not match their 70s masterpieces, or become a legendary comeback album resembling Painkiller, but this is a great record that features a band returning to what made them great and will most definitely please long term listeners.


Paul Gibbins


Hot Shock – Hot Shock Demo

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on 16th July 2013 by Paul

Hot Shock
Hot Shock Demo
Released: Summer 2013
Jazz Fusion

Sometimes on a sunny afternoon, Heavy Metal just doesn’t cut it. Instead, something jazzy and bluesy goes down better. Hot Shock describes their music as Jazz Fusion infused with Latin, Caribbean, Funk, Blues, R&B, and Rock. If this sounds like an enjoyable musical cocktail to you, you’d be right. This laid back sound makes for the ideal chill out track, with vague flourishes of each of the previously mentioned genres fading in and out naturally. Neither style dominates any song, but Jazz is indeed the underlying style that drives each song forward. The music here is instrumental, and the band aren’t afraid to take their time, with most of the songs gleefully meandering beyond the five minute mark. Not the most complex or inspiring music, but then again that’s not the point and it’s difficult to dislike music in which the musicians are clearly enjoying what they do. I look forward to hearing more.


Paul Gibbins


Helloween – Straight out of Hell

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on 20th May 2013 by Paul

Straight out of Hell
Released January 16th, 2013
Power/Speed Metal
Released via Sony Music Entertainment Germany GmbH

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Along with Blind Guardian and Grave Digger, Helloween are one of the longest running and most prolific bands of the German Power Metal scene. Their career is a textbook example of the journey that many metal bands go through. Their first album, Walls of Jericho was a highly acclaimed debut that shortly followed by the band’s masterpieces: The Keeper of the Seven Keys parts 1 and 2. In typical eighties Metal band style, the group entered their second decade of existence with an awkward experimental phase in the early nineties, recording Pink Bubbles Go Ape and Chameleon, to far less success and acclaim than their previous releases. After this, the band bounced back with The Time of the Oath and Better than Raw and have since settled into a more stable pattern of creating a decent album every few years for the last decade or so. This brings us to 2013 and Straight out of Hell.

What should listeners expect of this album? It’s a solid effort from a mostly solid band. Worth at least a listen or two, the record features a relatively diverse amount of songs that showcase Helloween’s great style. Fast songs, slower songs, the epic 7 minute opener, anthemic songs and a decent sprinkling of the band’s trademark eccentric humour for good measure make up this record. Some album highlights include Far From The Stars, Church Breaks Down, the title track Straight out of Hell, the gloriously cheesy Hold Me in Your Arms and the epic starter track Nabatea. This is a reliably good record that should sit comfortably in the collection of any Helloween fan, but also any fan of modern Power Metal. With typical Maideneque song writing that has so often defined the band, soaring choruses and epic, neoclassical elements, this album is proof that Helloween can still write some entertaining songs.


Paul Gibbins


As They Burn – Will, Love, Life

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , on 19th March 2013 by Paul

As They Burn
Will, Love, Life
Released February 19th 2013
Deathcore/Death Metal
Released via Victory Records

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Deathcore has undergone a noticeable evolution in recent years. Gone are the “BREE BREE” pig squeals, needlessly misogynistic imagery inherited from gore metal and the pseudo thug attitude from hardcore, at least for the most part – as is evidenced in this latest effort from French band As They Burn. In its place has come more of an emphasis on groove riffs and quirky song structures that are more inspired by Meshuggah and Between the Buried and Me than the original Death Metal meets Hardcore and Screamo style, moving more towards the progressive metalcore and djent sounds.

Will, Love Life is an example of this more mature breed of death core, with the harsh vocals and groovy riffs leading the way and a strange amount of atmosphere incorporated in this style. The fate of this album may be that it is too much of a transition between styles, being neither fast or aggressive enough to be in the purely hardcore camp (and too well polished in production values perhaps); not musically complex or “Lovecraftian” enough to be considered straight up Death Metal and the guitar work here is also not start-stop-meshuggah-style-palm-muted enough to be in the Djent genre. As a result, this album occupies a grey area between genres that makes it sound more like the logical conclusion of the so-called “New Wave of American Heavy Metal” genre that dominated the early 2000s. I imagine this would appeal to those who want something that treads the line between Death Metal influenced Lamb of God style Groove Metal and the Progressive Metalcore bands that have come to prominence in recent years such as the previously mentioned Between the Buried and Me.

The band is clearly aiming at something new and progressive but get a little stuck trying to incorporate all that makes the modern Death/Metalcore scene interesting and end up sounding generic. The album manages to be more avant-garde in a way than the average Deathcore release most have come to expect in elements such as its interesting song titles but does not seem to have to have a unifying theme or message that more developed genres easily incorporate. This album is interesting because it is a bridge between the current state of Metal along the “core” spectrum and wherever it may be evolving and maturing to in the future. It very nearly manages to get itself written off as being a product of its time, but I think there is enough here for this to be popular among fans of this particular style.


Paul Gibbins


Chinese artist Ai Weiwei to release Heavy Metal album

Posted in News with tags , , , , , , , on 15th March 2013 by Paul

Surprising news this week as controversial Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, whom calls “the most influential artist in the world” has announced plans to release a Heavy Metal album. The BBC reports that the album will be entitled Divina Commedia – which is the epic poem Divine Comedy by Dante, a typically heavy metal concept, and is written by musician Zuoxiao Zuzhou. The content however, is said to be political with at least two songs being about Chen Guangcheng, a Chinese activist and friend of Weiwei who recently took refuge in the USA, causing concerns over human rights in China. Weiwei also stated that some of the songs would be “more punkish” and “more pop” so I suppose a blackened funeral doom album is out of the question.

This news follows other strange happenings in the world of Metal in recent years, such as Metal album releases by Christopher Lee, Friar Brother Cesare Bonizzi, as well as the humorous news reports about the granddad who listens to Heavy Metal. This also has implications for Metal on the international stage, with the genre becoming popular in such far-flung and politically turbulent areas as Israel and Baghdad. Is Heavy Metal a useful political tool for activism in countries with oppressive regimes and political strife?

With Heavy Metal now in its fourth decade of existence, showing no signs of slowing down, and having attained a dedicated international cult following; perhaps the time has come in which the genre will be accepted as less of a passing trend but a fully-fledged musical style such as Jazz, Blues and Rock ‘n’ Roll (all of which were derided as the Devil’s music in their time). After all the founders and innovators of the original Heavy Metal genre – Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and so on are now well into the third or fourth decades of their careers, or split-up/retired; with the majority of their fans being of older generations and much of their musical style being categorised as “Classic Rock” despite being extremely dissonant, heavy and largely rejected by the mainstream in their prime.

With Heavy Metal occupying an increasing awareness in the public consciousness, is Heavy Metal – at least in its broadest sense and it’s more mainstream, arena-rock style being more accepted by the world at large? And should it be? Perhaps only time will tell, but this announcement certainly adds to the ever increasing recognition of Metal in the world today.


Monolithe – Monolithe III

Posted in Review with tags , , on 19th December 2012 by Paul

Monolithe III
Released: November 16th 2012
Doom Metal
Released via Debenmur Morti Productions

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Monolithe are a Funeral Doom band hailing from Paris, France. To date, they have produced three full length albums, titled simply Monolithe I, Monolithe II, and now Monolithe III. Each album features one 50 minute track, named after the album. This is a band that doesn’t mess around.

Monolithe III is 52 minutes of epic, crushing doom. Like Sleep’s renowned Dopesmoker album, it rolls onward from riff to riff, somehow managing to get heavier as it goes along. This is intermittently broken up by numerous atmospheric interludes, as the album gradually fluctuates from heavy to light, fast to slow. The album slowly builds and builds as the song becomes more immediate and fast as time rolls on, and the ending is incredibly dramatic, though still retains its dark, menacing sound as the journey comes to an end and the song fades away. Whilst a lot of Epic Metal such as this attempts a sound that is more emotionally moving, like the sound of a great battle, Monolithe instead create a huge and mysterious sound that is more distant from the listener. This is more guitar based and less keyboard-laden than a lot of atmospheric metal, but there is a haunting sparseness to much of the music which conjures up mental images of the vastness of space and the ominous monolith that adorns the album artwork.

The band’s lyrical themes are listed on Metal Archives as “Origin of Mankind” and by taking a look at past album lyrics, and bearing in mind the band’s chosen moniker, I suspect there may be a Stanley Kubrick/Arthur C Clark influence here. Either way I find this far more interesting than the usual self-pitying doom and gloom lyrics that the Funeral Doom genre is saturated with. It’s this conceptual integrity that holds everything together, despite its ambitious scope and allows the band to tell a surreal story through their music. I wouldn’t recommend this to the average listener, but this album is a rewarding journey and I only wish more bands had this kind of singular focus.


Paul Gibbins


The Sword – Apocryphon

Posted in Review with tags , , , , on 4th November 2012 by Paul

The Sword
Released October 22nd 2012
Released via Razor and Tie Entertainment

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I’m a bit of a sucker for 70s and early 80s Heavy Metal. Simple riffs, guitar solos, silly lyrics about space and dragons and such; artwork that looks like a Molly Hatchet album cover, and so on. It seems that Texas band The Sword feel the same way, and their brand of retro metal has been among the most noteworthy examples of the past decades wave of retro bands. You probably have a good idea of how this band sounds by this point. Stoner Metal with an emphasis on simple and catchy riffs with no frills and a lot of fun. It is simple and it works; and manages to sound mellow and heavy at the same time which means it is quite a fun listen, especially if you spend your days listening to extreme metal.

The band have slowly adopted a more Classic Rock approach over time, though they no longer seem to have the energy they once had, and very few of these songs are anywhere near as memorable as their great debut Age of Winters. My favourite track is the title track, which somewhat unconventionally appears at the end of the record. It’s an album full of well-constructed hooks and riffs, and the songs do their job although but most of them are not as memorable as they should be. The song writing is tighter and more controlled but it lacks the vitality of previous releases. It doesn’t help that the production on this release is more polished than the more raw sound of their earlier work. Still this is an enjoyable effort that should please fans of the band. The Sword seems to really enjoy the kind of music that they make and it shows. They are now well-versed in this particular niche and continue to produce this no-nonsense music. An enjoyable way to spend 45 minutes.


Paul Gibbins

Nine Covens – On The Coming of Light

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , on 11th October 2012 by Paul

Nine Covens
On The Coming of Light
Released November 12th, 2012
Black Metal
Released via Candlelight Records

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Nine Covens are a Black Metal band from the UK, a place not known for a particularly vibrant Black Metal scene, despite one or two hidden gems scattered here and there for those with an interest in this particular scene. Are Nine Covens one of those gems? Perhaps. I have yet to listen to their previous effort “…On The Coming of Darkness” in full yet, but I have read mixed reviews and heard enough to gain a general idea of what this band are all about: a more or less traditional, no nonsense Black Metal band with a lot of ideas and interesting lyrical themes. This release feels like a much more straight forward and focussed effort. Gone are the unnecessarily long song titles and now the band are represented by a much more slick piece of album artwork that wouldn’t look entirely out of place on the cover of say – Behemoth’s next release.

By glancing at the album cover and somewhat unconventional song titles, it might be a good guess that this is a band trying to emulate the new wave quasi-religious, occult avant-garde Black Metal, mostly centred on French acts Blut Aus Nord and Deathspell Omega. Well not quite. Whilst I can’t really guess at what half the lyrics are (this is Black Metal after all and the lyrics aren’t entirely discernible), I can tell you that musically this is much closer to the traditional fair that your average Black Metal fan will expect. Aside from a few interesting flourishes here and there, it is a more or less straight forward take on the genre that has been done a thousand times. Every now and then an unorthodox riff will kick in or the vocalist (/s?) will incorporate some deeper vocals more in the style of Death Metal than the typical shrieks – which are done quite well – that are present throughout this album. At its best, it’s quite interesting; at its worst it is boringly average (though it is simply average and never actually bad). A standout track for me was “White Star Acception”, but there is plenty for listeners to find here.

Although played at a fast pace for much of the album, The band do quite a good job of creating an often droning sound that slowly shifts the song forward, lending the songs a feeling of mystery and longing; however very few of the songs cross the five minute mark and the pacing of this album never feels self-indulgent, as a lot of bands that incorporate these droning tremolo riffs tend to do. At times there is a feeling of something more epic and supernatural. This rarely feels like “angry” or “blasphemous” Black Metal on display here, instead it seems to be trying to communicate something much more hypnotic and profound, and I think that for the most part it succeeds in this.

The band have chosen to remain anonymous, letting the music do the talking. It more or less pays off. I am sometimes left wondering if this band might achieve a more noteworthy style if they pushed the boat out a bit more. There are obviously some interesting ideas here and a lot of thought has been put into the crafting of this release, however not all modern Black Metal should be completely unpredictable or avant-garde. Obviously meant as a sequel to …On The Coming of Darkness this is a record defined by confident song writing and interesting themes. Time will tell whether or not this becomes a cherished classic of the genre, but it is certainly one of the more interesting Black Metal releases I have heard from the United Kingdom.


Paul Gibbins

Master – The New Elite

Posted in Review with tags , on 2nd October 2012 by Paul

The New Elite
Released July 5th, 2012
Death Metal
Released via Pulverised Records

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Any other band releasing an album under the title of “The New Elite” might come off as being a little silly, but if any band deserves such a title, it is Chicago veterans Master. After all, this is a band who named their sophomore effort “On The Seventh Day God Created…Master” back in 1991 and got away with it – rightfully so: it is now a genre classic. This is a band that to this day retains their technical flair that sets them above the rest. However that is not to say that this album is fully what can be described as “Technical Death Metal” – there are no unnaturally complex riffs or flamboyantly difficult solos here (well – maybe a little), but for the most part this is pleasingly no-nonsense Death-Thrash without too much intricacy. Indeed, this album is as much a solid Thrash Album as it is a Death Metal one, with a few typically twisted Death Metal riffs thrown into a whirlwind mix of Thrash played at a blistering pace with Death Metal vocals and a dark guitar tone along with some impressive soloing. Its fast, it’s brutal, the production is heavy; everything is in order to make this a very competent release. Whilst not as…”Masterful” (sorry) as their classic albums, this is an album filled with tenacity and I sense that the band is really enjoying themselves here. The bass rumbles along under shredding guitar work, whilst the drums carry the rhythm of the song along in classic early Death Metal style. The production is modern but the music is only half so; which is a good thing – if like me you have a penchant for Death Metal that still shreds and rips in the old way. Paul Speckmann has taken this band through thick and thin, and fortunately is firmly in control with this album, as ever. The New Elite? Perhaps “The Old Elite” would be more pertinent title here. I’m tempted to say this is a return to form, but in truth it is more a raising of the bar for a band that has always been more or less on form. If you like your Death Metal played at a reckless pace in the style of the genre’s early beginnings; that pays homage to the Death/Thrash Possessed and Slayer influenced sound (and even early Master themselves), then look no further – this is probably the best example of such a release this year.


Paul Gibbins

Khroma – Chariots

Posted in Uncategorized on 27th September 2012 by Paul



Released 19th September 2012


Released via Inverse Records

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Khroma’s new single “Chariots” begins with a thin and raspy guitar intro that would seem to signify that start of what might be a Sludge Metal album. Only a few seconds later the electronics kick in and suddenly I find myself transported to that gothic nightclub that Neo visited in The Matrix. Trance like synths dance around the listener whilst haunting whispered vocals begin to play. Industrial, eerie, and…wait what’s this? Suddenly the band erupts into a crushing guitar breakdown reminiscent of a sludgier Meshuggah – or at least one of the numerous Meshuggah inspired Groove Metal bands that are everywhere these days.

The music then continues with this heavy guitar centric sound, more breakdowns than they are riffs; interrupted with a creepy atmospheric electronic interlude until the song is brought to its climax with a powerful, plodding outro. The vocals alternate between whispering and harsh, shouting. This is an interesting combination of synth laden industrial music and what might be described as modern Groove Metal, but I will admit I am not sure what this band is trying to communicate. The band hail from Helsinki, Finland and describe their music on their Facebook page as “metal, trip hop, electro, darkstep”. A quick search online reveals their page on Inverse Records, which states:

“2012. The Year of the Dragon. Societies on the brink of collapse. Natural resources scarce. The threat exterior, a campaign based on consumption and fear. Be it the ever more frequent floods or the burden of debt – all shall drown. Helsinki-Based Khroma conveys this decline in the 2010s into an assaulting soundtrack.”

I can see now why the band attempt to produce a chaotic sound infused with more electronic genres such as darkstep and electro. A 21st century soundtrack to the end of the world as we know it. Not really my thing, but if you like any of these genres, you might want to try it, particularly if you like the sound of electronic influenced Groove Metal.


By Paul Gibbins

Glowsun – Eternal Season

Posted in Review with tags , , , , on 24th September 2012 by Paul

Eternal Season
Released September 28th, 2012
Stoner Metal
Released via Napalm Records

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Stoner Metal has a tendency to be an American and British phenomenon, so as it was I found myself surprised to learn that “Glowsun” are from France, a country not particularly known for its output within the Stoner/Doom spectrum of the Metal genre. If you hear the name “Glowsun” and think of bizarre, psychedelic atmospheres, you’d be right – that’s exactly what’s going on here. The album begins with “Death’s Face” featuring light and echoey melodies, then towards the end of the album’s first song, the guitars really start to kick in and things get a little heavier. It’s a creepy psychedelic song that builds to a crushing crescendo. Much of the rest of this album follows this formula of blending the soft with the heavy into a strange brew that is crushingly heavy and also strangely calming and meditative. The album chugs along at a medium pace for much of its duration and achieves that great paradox of Stoner Metal that is to sound huge and intense whilst also relaxing. This is attained through the repetition of simple melodies at a slow to medium pace. This isn’t a very exciting album, but that isn’t usually what the genre is all about.

Judging by the colourful album cover, I assumed this album would sound more “warm” than it does. Instead much of the music here is intentionally atmospheric and strange. The vocals are sparse to say the least, and mostly unintelligible, this being primarily an instrumental release; however the song titles such as “Death’s Face” “The Thing” and “Sleepwalker” give away the darker theme that fits the style present on the album. Legend has it that Black Sabbath decided upon their sound when going to see a horror movie and wondering if people would appreciate the same kind of atmosphere in a musical format; and in truth the music here has more in common with the dark, apocalyptic riffs of early Black Sabbath than it does with the desert rock of Kyuss. That is not to say the album is totally dark and dismal however, and admittedly it is more psychedelic than anything else. The songs plod along at a comfortable pace and feature a more open composition than the pop sensibilities of bands like Spirit Caravan and Orange Goblin. Unlike their contemporaries Om, who build a spiritual, meditative sound, this has more in common with traditional riff based Heavy Metal. This record sort of straddles the line between obvious throwback retro metal and the more modern approach of largely instrumental, atmospheric and avant-garde Stoner Metal with long and repetitive, drawn out song structures. Like a soundtrack to a 70s horror movie played with heavily distorted guitars, it’s creepy, atmospheric and psychedelic in all the right ways. I don’t think this kind of thing will win any converts to the genre, but this is really quite enjoyable to anyone who has the patience for this style of music. I can see myself listening to this release many more times over the coming months. An acquired taste, but a taste to savour.


Paul Gibbins

Grave – Endless Procession of Souls

Posted in Review with tags , , , , on 12th September 2012 by Paul

Endless Procession of Souls
Released: August 27th 2012
Death Metal
Released via Century Media Records

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I would describe Grave as the dark horse of the original Swedish Death Metal scene. Although never achieving the level of prestige attained by genre favourites Entombed and Dismember, they, like their contemporaries Unleashed have been one of the most consistent and reliable groups in their native scene. This may not be a coincidence. Whilst Dismember sadly decided to call it a day recently, and Entombed changed their style completely to a Punk/Death ‘n’ Roll combination (not necessarily a bad thing), Grave kept chugging along producing more or less the same Old School Death Metal they had been making since their formation. After a turbulent middle period defined by several somewhat mediocre releases, Grave struck back with their 2010 release Burial Ground. Now, the band have returned with Endless Procession of Souls, featuring similar production values as well as similar a similar visual style and colour scheme on the album cover as its recent predecessor. It seems like the old vanguard are on a roll again, one that I hope continues well into this decade, and even beyond.

The album kicks off with the doomy instrumental intro “Dystopia”. I’m not usually one for intros unless they are especially good, but fortunately this one does its job and the band promptly moves into a blistering opening with “Amongst The Marble and the Dead”. The first impression I feel here is that the album achieves a similar ferocity to modern Death Metal bands, with a similar crisp and clinical production and clarity of instrumentation that can only be achieved with modern music producing technology. However this is not to say that the band have sacrificed their old school, deep and muddy sound, and fortunately the guitar tone is as crushing as ever, if not more so. It’s polished, but not to the point of sterility. In fact, this is almost what I would call the essential meeting of production sounds between the old school and the new wave in the genre. Death Metal, of all genres in the Metal world is also perhaps the guiltiest of sounding generic, partially due to the sheer volume of bands attempting its macabre style over the years – this band however, as fans would rightly expect, is a step above the competition, and are easily capable of writing some satisfyingly crunchy riffs and morbid lyrics.

There really isn’t all that much else left to say about this release. It’s more or less classic Grave song writing that should please long term fans. If you’re the kind of person that finds early Death Metal boring, then perhaps this album will feel like it drags sometimes across the 10 tracks and 45 minute run time, but that’s only because the band are not afraid to slow it down and add a much needed ebb and flow to the heaviness. Modern blast beat obsessed Br00tal bands could learn a thing or two. The musical style here moves all across the basic spectrum of Death Metal, featuring thrashy face-rippers like the album opener “Amongst The Marble and The Dead” and the almost pure thrash “Perimortem”; as well as thick, sludgy Doom-like riffs that add to the dark atmosphere. The album is fairly solid throughout but some of my own favourite tracks include “Amongst The Marble and The Dead”, “Winds Of Chains”, “Perimortem” and the Epic finale “Epos”. The spiritual successor to Burial Ground, Endless Procession of Souls is a very capable record from a stalwart band that deserves every success that comes their way.


By Paul Gibbins

Lustre – They Awoke to The Scent of Spring

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , on 11th September 2012 by Paul

They Awoke to the Scent of Spring
Released September 1st 2012
Atmospheric Black Metal
Released via De Tenebrarum Principio

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This album by the Swedish one man band Lustre falls under the subgenre known as “Atmospheric Black Metal”. If that phrase has you thinking of bands such as “In The Woods…, Walknut”, “From The Sunset, Forest and Grief”, “Wongraven” and “Drudkh” then it’s probably a term that is familiar to you. From what I have gathered from other fans of the Black Metal genre, this is either loved or loathed. If you don’t like it, it’s easy to describe as boring or even pretentious. If like me, you are a fan, then it’s a genre that is similar to Funeral Doom, in that it is fairly difficult to do wrong. You know the deal: 9+ minute songs about forests and winter and stuff, echoey, haunting vocals, minimalist drumming (if featured at all), stretched out, melancholy riffs that repeat ad nauseum and perhaps some spooky keyboard sounds. Slap on a grayscale photograph of a forest and you’re good to go. And that perfectly describes this album.

Another common genre trait of this release is its concise format, with only four songs, each around the ten minute mark, slightly diminishing in length with each successive track, producing a kind of “fading away” effect on the listener. This leads me to draw mental comparisons to Nocturnal Depression’s Four Seasons to a Depression and numerous Wolves in The Throne Room albums, which are also around four songs in length, containing enthralling ten minute songs mostly based around natural landscapes, the changing of the seasons and mysticism. The music here is similarly minimalist, but does make use of keyboards, albeit very little: a few sparse melodies resonate in the backdrop of the music, whilst the melancholic riffs lead the way (though admittedly, at times they lead nowhere). The production is predictably murky and cold and the final track is entirely ambient; played over the gentle sound of falling rain. This kind of music is far less dynamic than the frenetic riffing found in most other genres of Metal, but instead the music rises and falls like the slow rolling of ocean waves. Whilst mainstream Heavy Metal projects itself in a bombastic manner akin to Arena Rock – a sort of cacophonic grand symphony of guitars; this kind of music echoes around the listener as if projected in a church or a dark Scandinavian forest. The effect is simultaneously more intimate with the listener, and also more distant and less immediate; producing a kind of dark romantic projection of wild landscapes. It is best listened to in the dark, just before attempting sleep.

It’s difficult to call this album “depressing” in the conventional way but it is certainly gloomy and obscure in its atmosphere. It’s sometimes a difficult musical style to describe when compared with more straightforward Metal, but words such as meditative, mystical and most obviously atmospheric come to mind, and occasionally words like beautiful and haunting. I’m a long term listener to this peculiar subset of Black Metal, and an album rarely catches my attention so easily on the first few listens. “Lustre” is very appropriate moniker for the sound that Nachtzeit has created and this album does as good a job of any at evoking a sense of longing for forests and dark, primeval Swedish landscapes. This is a cold windswept journey through ancient lands that man has long since forgotten, and in that it is a very successful album.


By Paul Gibbins

Saint Vitus – Lillie: F65

Posted in Review with tags , , , , on 9th September 2012 by Paul

Saint Vitus
Lillie: F-65
Released April 27th 2012
Doom Metal
Released via Season of Mist

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California Doom legends “Saint Vitus” are back after a long hiatus, with their first album since 1995’s “Die Healing”, “Lillie: F-65” seeing the return of vocalist Scott “Wino” Weinrich, who joins founding members Mark Chandler and Dave Adams to produce a record that includes a total of three of the band’s classic eighties line-up. Good news for any fan. It’s a shame that long time drummer Armando Acosta sadly died of a brain tumor in 2010, otherwise I’m sure we’d be seeing the whole band together again. Fortunately for the others, it’s as if they had never been away.

The album begins with “Let Them Fall” – a textbook Saint Vitus song, and “The Bleeding Ground” which rightfully speeds things up with a good old bluesy solo. As soon as the distortion drenched guitar tone kicks in, you’re transported back to the eighties. “Vertigo” however, is an unexpected strange little atmospheric instrumental, a half-time slowdown that comes out of leftfield. The band is not entirely resting on their laurels with this gloomy instrumental. The remaining three songs are all enjoyably solid slabs of old school Doom Metal. “Dependence” is perhaps the standout track and opens with an eerie acoustic intro which opens into a predictably depressing song – the slowest on the album, and the band round off the record with a disturbing psychedelic instrumental “Withdrawal” that I think runs for just a minute too long.

With the laid back, droning pace of Saint Vitus’ signature style and catchy riffs, the band makes it seem easy. The album is short (just over half an hour), but after waiting 17 years for this release, I think the band can be forgiven, especially as some of the band’s best work such as “Born Again”. “Hallows Victim” and their self-titled debut also finish up around the 34 minute mark. This is not a band in their prime producing an innovative work of art, but rather a more or less direct continuation of an otherwise winning formula. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

This album features two things that have been (with the exception of a few niche genres) sorely missing from the Metal world since the beginning of the 80s: The first being blues influence, and the second being a sense of fun. This album is set squarely in the Black Sabbath style of early, featuring bluesy-rock guitar based metal that is equal parts Doom, Traditional and Stoner Metal. Yes – this is Doom Metal, and the lyrics feature the usual doom and gloom that is expected (the albums strange title is named after a depressant), but in a genre that has been dominated by 30 minute Atmospheric Funeral Doom songs for the past decade, this is a breath of fresh air. Band’s such as Ghost, Witchcraft and Orchid have been spearheading a retro/stoner/doom movement in recent years, but old legends Saint Vitus show them how it’s done. As nice at it is to listen to new bands inspired by the late 70s and early 80s Doom and Heavy Metal sound, it’s even better to hear the return of one of the genres great pioneers. If you were expecting some kind of shift towards modern sounding Metal music – perhaps cleaner sounding guitar tones or the more guttural, Death Metal influenced vocals that have leaked into just about every genre of metal in the past decade, then look elsewhere. This is a band returning the vintage Heavy Metal music that they helped to create, and the world of Metal in 2012 is better for it.


Paul Gibbins