Author Archive

The Raven Age – Conspiracy

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on 27th March 2019 by Paul Macmillan

The Raven Age

Conspiracy

Hard rock/metal

Released March 8th 2019

Self-released

This is an interesting release for one major reason; it doesn’t fit neatly into a specific sub-genre of either rock or metal. Kicking off with an orchestral piece, which comes across like a meandering fantasy adventure film soundtrack, could easily give you a false impression of what follows on Conspiracy. This is, however, the second long-player from Londoners, The Raven Age, so if you’re familiar with predecessor, Darkness Will Rise, you might be more prepared than others. Regardless, they are still a difficult prospect to pigeonhole.

Whatever they are, it seems to be working for them. Their mass-appeal, melodic metal has already received rave reviews from Kerrang, Metal Hammer, and Powerplay magazines, to name a few of the bigger hitters. It’s easy to see why. These accessible tunes come from the shared house of Disturbed, Killswitch Engage, and, maybe at the rough edges, In Flames. There’s certainly a large, existing market for that.

While there are immediate metal tinges, this release leans more to the classic end of that spectrum much of the time, overlapping into old-school hard rock, despite the overall contemporary feel. The clean, powerful singing throughout is one of the stand-out features to represent that. Heck, I think they might have even half-borrowed a vocal melody from Phil Collins’ Land Of Confusion at one point. It’s catchy and effective, and one of the most memorable parts of their sound.

Perhaps one of the reasons this band are currently picking up so much speed, and in just a few years a few years of existence, is that not many others are currently taking this approach. If you like your heavy not so heavy, this might just tickle your fancy. However, if something more extreme is your go-to, it ain’t gonna tick your boxes. Either way, it’s worth a spin, just to find out.

3.5/5

Paul Macmillan

Paul’s Top Ten Live Performances of 2018

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on 13th January 2019 by Paul Macmillan

As these end of year lists tend to go, a lot of those based on releases are quite similar. So, to side-step that, this one is going to be quite the personal account of various live experiences. Some may have been shared with tens of thousands. Others with barely one hundred. The one conjoining feature of each and every one is that they are embossed upon my own memory as something far beyond the average. So, without further ado,  and in no strict order, here’s my top ten list of live performances from 2018.

1 – Virus at Smashed Fest, Perth, SCO

While this was an amazing show to be part of, for many reasons, one of the things which will stay vibrant and real in the memory is the performance of headliners Virus. Headed by self-proclaimed “geriatric thrasher” Coke Finlay, this was the first of a big set of shows celebrating the 30th anniversary of their Force Recon album. At around an hour and a half, it was a pretty demanding gig, but they laid down the riffs and showed the young uns how it’s done!

2 – Arroganz at The Viper Room, Vienna, AT

While on a run to Vienna, we decided to take a chance on a local show. I had no idea who any of the bands were before buying tickets, but a quick advance scan of online videos quickly showed it was a full black metal event. While every band churned out a quality performance, it was Arroganz who really clinched it. Bringing their own sludgy death-groove riffs to a hard-hitting BM tradition, to sent me home with a big grin and a big handful of merch.

3 – Krysthla at Hordes Of Belial, Dundee, SCO

This Northamptonshire based tech-death outfit have got to be among the top five of British extreme metal bands at present. The never fail to blitz the audience at every show, from toilet gigs to big fests. Their first time at Hordes Of Belial saw them take on main support on stage one, and I have to say, they just blasted the place in half, leaving the Dundee crowd completely and utterly shell-shocked. The level of intensity delivered was simply unhinged.

4 – Power Trip at Bloodstock Open Air, ENG

Somehow, I hadn’t properly heard Power Trip before this show. A friend camping with us let me listen to a snippet or two, but the sound didn’t really let me know what I was in for. From start to finish their mid-afternoon onslaught was irresistible, and saw me inexorably drawn into the pit for a band with which I was previously unfamiliar. I didn’t remember having “my shit” with me when they kicked off, but I had sure as hell lost it by the time they were done.

5 – Vuur at The O2 ABC, Glasgow, SCO

Having been a fan of vocalist Anneke van Giersbergen’s previous band, The Gathering, for many years, I’d put my expectations on hold for this one. I was surprised to see the evening’s activities were to take place in a small-ish, cosy room of the (sadly now destroyed) venue. This only elevated the special charm of what turned out to be a beautifully intimate show, featuring emotional favourites, acoustic renditions, and sparkling new numbers.

6 – Annihilator at QMU, Glasgow SCO

It’s always great to see Testament, but I think I speak for everyone who was in attendance at this event, when I say Annihilator were truly the kings of the kill. Tighter than Scrooge McDuck’s bum, they smashed out hit after hit, Jeff Waters commanding the crowd with a maniacal grin. There was no huge stage spectacle. No special occasion. No tricks and traps. Just a phenomenal performance, at a great gig, from a band who nailed every aspect of being them.

7 – Watain at Wacken Open Air, DE

Have you seen Watain live? I’d only ever seen videos before. Witnessing their 2018 show live (twice, actually) was really something else. So much atmosphere. And so much fire! It’s no wonder they are gathering a mass fan-base with increasing pace, as being there could make you feel like you’re part of something bigger. Something empowering. Something dark. Looking close, one could even see rituals being muttered between lyrics. If the heat didn’t melt your eyeballs first.

8 – Suicidal Tendencies at Bloodstock Open Air, ENG

The odds were stacked against this legendary band making BOA, from the sound of things, mainly in the form of  various ‘transport issues’. When they finally arrived, their set shifted from the RJD stage to the smaller Sophie tent, they rolled straight into high-energy mode. Seemingly powered up by the trials of the day, they went on to make their show all about the audience, getting a kid involved in the drumming, and one wheelchair bound crowdsurfer pushed up and down the stage by Mike Muir. Simply lovely and legendary.

9 – Heilung at Wacken Open Air, DE

“Ethereal” is probably the one and only single word which could begin to describe this experience. Taking to the medieval themed Wackinger outdoor stage, in the middle of the night, Heilung swamped the intoxicated masses. I didn’t manage to catch them on their subsequent tour, but it’s really hard to imagine indoor venues matching the character of this performance being cast out into the dark of Germany’s witching hour. It was simply one of those moments in time which I don’t believe it will be entirely possible to replicate. You were either there or you weren’t. I would love to watch them again, but I suspect I would be chasing the elusive “first hit”.

10 – Slayer at SSE Hydro, Glasgow, SCO

Well, at the start of this article, I did say these events were in no particular order, but you know what they say about rules. The live metal crown of this year absolutely has to go to original thrash titans, Slayer. Aside from hosting one of the best under-cards for a long time, the atmosphere when the headliners took to the stage – seemingly for the last time in Scotland – was insane. This was not only down to them playing at their best. Credit is also due to the production crew, because they transformed that venue into another world. One last time, we were taken into Slayer territory, deeper than we had ever dared before. It was one Hell of a farewell.

2018 – It was a real live one…

Arroganz. Photo Paul Macmillan/Slow Dragon Music

Paul Macmillan

Sunflower Dead – Coma

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on 12th November 2018 by Paul Macmillan

Sunflower Dead
Coma
Released  16th November 2018
Hard Rock
Released via Combat Records

Featuring former Fear Factory bassist, Christian Olde-Wolbers, Coma is the latest recorded work from Californian rock band, Sunflower Dead. If you’re expecting chuntering, mechanical metal, however, sit back and prepare for a surprise. This is nothing like the aforementioned metal giants of the 1990s.

Drawing in equal parts on nu-metal and 80s classics, SD have melded together a surefire concoction, utterly guaranteed for rotation on mainstream alternative channels. Big chunks of Korn, Dope, and Disturbed have been cherry picked to form a large part of the body of sound, but are equally matched by volumes of Skid Row, and Zakk Wylde (especially in some of the lead work shredding). Everything is further fleshed out with something else of the band’s own creation, plus a spritz of something akin to Pist. On. jamming with Sevendust.

Nothing groundbreaking, then, yet it still has character worth giving a chance. It wouldn’t be too much of a shock to see this band taking the reigns of the soundtrack for a sequel to Queen Of The Damned. Looking over their back catalogue, Coma is certainly a big step up from previous releases, but continues in the same style. Existing SD fans should get a real kick out of it. Personally, I’ve moved away from such things for the most part, as years have gone by. I wouldn’t shy away from it, but I’d be more likely to plump for yet another spin of Demanufacture. Maybe I’m just old…

3/5

Paul Macmillan

Bad Wolves – Disobey

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on 3rd October 2018 by Paul Macmillan

Bad Wolves

Disobey

Released 11th May 2018

Melodic metal/hard rock

Released via Eleven Seven

It’s been some time since I listened to a full album of music of this ilk. Falling somewhere between the ballparks of nu and 00s melodic metal, the tone really pulls me back to when I was a young un. To be honest, I didn’t even realise people were still putting out releases quite so earnestly in this style. It’s no big surprise when you find out that Bad Wolves feature among their ranks former members of Snot and In This Moment. The result is neither as urban or as soft as that might lead you to believe, however; possibly under the influence of other contributors’ previous employ in the likes of Devildriver and Divine Heresy.

The full and final effort is most assuredly accessible, mainstream heavy metal, but so much time has traveled by since that sound was originally formed, that it’s somewhat ‘retro’. If you dug into the easier metal bands of the late 1990s and early 2000s, you’ll no doubt have some familiarity with Sevendust, and, unavoidably, Killswitch Engage. Throughout Disobey, whether in emotional melody or grunting angst, these are the kind of artists who are brought to mind. It’s not as technical as the former, or as strictly structured as the latter. They would maybe have been more at home during the heyday of such trends, rather than stepping into a scene which has exploded into diversity, and away from the swansong of traditional progression paths via big labels. Perhaps the protracted release and promotion schedule (the first single came out November 2017), is aimed at finding a new way to get around this.

This is an easy listen, and a well executed album, but I do wonder if modern metal fans will be as inclined towards it as they might have been a generation ago. (Yes, it has been that long!) Their huge single in Cranberries cover track, Zombie, will no doubt keep them remembered for years to come. Could it have been bigger with different timing, though?In my own opinion, the album kicks the a*** off bands like Nightwish or Ghost, as music with a significant amount of clean singing, but I would have likely been more instantly gripped by it 15 – 20 years ago. It’s a hard call as to how far this could go with metal Joe public, now. In total, we can be a fairly unpredictable bunch.

3.5/ 5

Paul Macmillan

Blue Cheer – Live At Rockpalast – Bonn 2008

Posted in Gig, Live with tags , , , on 9th September 2017 by Paul Macmillan

Blue Cheer

Live At Rockpalast – Bonn 2008 (double live CD & DVD)

Hard rock/Blues

Released 31st March 2017 via M.I.G.

 

Blue Cheer might ring a bell, but I’d be lying if I said I thought they were a household name. This is certainly the first time I’ve actively sat down and listened to them, or rather, watched, as is the case here. Not for the first time, I wish I’d paid more attention. This is some badass old-school riffing, with an incredible level of energy for doomy blues/metal, especially doomy blues/metal churned out by three fairly haggard looking old dudes.

The video itself is a little odd. The footage is great; nice angles, every member gets some screen time, and the quality is nice. It’s more a case of the setting. It’s a little like a cross between a music college theatre and The Old Grey Whistle Test stage. From the start, you can spot bar maids carrying crates (not trays) of empty glasses, and punters making their way to and from the toilet. It is nice, up close, and personal, but there’s something about it which seems at odds with the massive sound coming from the stage.

And it is massive! This shouldn’t have come as a surprise, though. If my German is correct, the announcer tells us at the start that they once claimed the title of ‘loudest band in the world’. Sharing that part of rock and roll which saw the likes of Cream, Sabbath, and Motorhead at their most basically visceral, this is absolutely a band who were part of the melange which gave birth to what we now know as heavy metal. There are all the best characteristics of what made that movement in the beginning. Suzzed out, aggressive blues. Post-Vietnam punk energy. UK power trio riffs. It’s all there.

Sadly, founder and frontman, Dickie Peterson, is no longer with us, otherwise this band may still be giving the young ones a run for their money. If you, like me, hadn’t given Blue Cheer a proper day in court, and you want to dig deeper into the (pre-) history of stoner doom, give this a spin. It’s a great performance, featuring some surprisingly recognisable musical moments which may or may not have been pinched by a number of our heroes down the line. I’m looking at you, Clutch and Alice In Chains.

4/5

Paul Macmillan

Hordes Of Belial – The Burning H8: Final line-up

Posted in Festival, Live, Misc., News with tags , on 18th July 2017 by Paul Macmillan

Organisers of Scottish hard rock and extreme metal showcase, Hordes Of Belial, have announced the full line-up for their 8th yearly edition of the event. Sub-titled “The Burning H8”, it again fills two stages with veterans and newcomers from across the underground spectrum. Travelling from classic thrash with Virus to brand new filthy doom with Dolour, the HOB battle train stops off at some of the best, secret beauty spots of death, trad, black, crossover, and just straight up metal along the way.

13 bands in all will take to the two stages this September 30th, two less than the 15 which have featured in recent years. The quality is convincing, though, especially when looking back at the event’s history. HOB is one of the places where Scottish bands such as Dog Tired, Ramage Inc, and Party Cannon started rubbing shoulders with bigger names, and where the likes of De Profundis and Diesel King based their first forays north of the border. There may be bigger shows, but few are as focused on diving into the depths to retrieve the treasures which grace the Hordes Of Belial stages each and every year. Even if you hadn’t heard of any of the bands, you can still be sure there are some priceless gems within.

 

Event Details:

Hordes Of Belial – The Burning H8

Beat Generator Live, 70 N. Lindsay St., Dundee

Saturday September 30th 2017

Doors: 15:25

Ages 14+

Virus, Dog Tired, Damaj, Overoth, Rabid Bitch Of The North, Drekavac, Perpetua, Catalysis, Drive By Killer, Somaesthesia, Multistorey Lover, Dolour, Volcano X

Advance tickets now £10 from www.wegottickets.com

Solitary – The Diseased Heart Of Society

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on 18th June 2017 by Paul Macmillan

Solitary
“The Diseased Heart Of Society”
Thrash metal
Released March 03rd 2017
via UKEM

If you pretty much live for the full Baskin Robbins, 31 flavours of thrash, Solitary’s latest release is an absolute must for your collection! No messing about with too much unnecessary cross-over into other genres, The Diseased Heart Of Society just gets straight to the point. It’s doubtful this would be a surprise to those aware of the band’s 2014 live opus I Promise To Thrash Forever. While this might put certain restraints on musical endeavours, Solitary pull it off with such flair you wouldn’t ever care.

This could be down to them being an expert hand at cherry-picking the essence of some utterly classic albums, without simply replicating them. There are definitely some shades of Master Of Puppets, as well as the hugely underrated …And Justice For All. I think I pick up a hint of The New Order era Testament (in fact I Promise… features an excellent cover of Into The Pit), as well as incredible lead-work nods to Rust in Peace and/or Countdown To Extinction. While these are artists who play in the same park, if not by the same rules, Solitary have created their own hybrid game. I think they might have pinched all the newer equipment, too.

Sharp, crisp guitars, thundering drums, driven bass make the production on this release a bit of a gold standard for me, and highly enjoyable to listen to for that aspect alone. This musical backdrop makes the perfect nest to carry what is possibly my personal favourite element of TDHOS; the vocals. Now, there is certainly an undeniably English accent, but the delivery fully puts me in mind of German band Rage’s frontman Peavy Wagner! That might not work for everyone, but right here, that is God status!

As much as I would normally lean towards it, I’m not sure if diversification would help in this case, or end up being a bit of a downer. The thrash energy is high, the solos are on fire, and the hooks are plentiful. One thing I do know is this is a solid keeper, and a prime example of the UK metal, and thrash, scene.

Paul Macmillan

4.5/5

Maxdmyz – Alchemical Metal (EP)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on 17th June 2017 by Paul Macmillan

Maxdmyz
“Alchemical Metal” (EP)
Released April 17th 2017
Electronic/metal
Released via Renegade Records

This swift EP from London’s Maxdmyz is an odd, and mildly confusing one. Hell, I don’t even know for sure how we’re supposed to pronounce their name! Yet it’s the audio which keeps chucking out curveballs.

Swamped in the soundscape of 1990s rock and metal, collective tastes are somewhat obvious. The electronic edge of Obsolete era Fear Factory taken to its club friendly extreme, and the odd power-pop metal of Faith No More’s The Real Thing; the classics of that era are the big player’s in the canon of influences on display. One could also put some credence behind picking out the occasional nod to Alice In Chains, One Minute Silence, Rage Against The Machine, or even early nu-metal such as Hed(pe) or System Of Down.

There is plenty play on more current trends, though, albeit far more subtle in application. It does take a bit to push the overarching style to one side to filter them out, and then another shove to allow your head the space to blend everything back into one again. It’s no wonder they opted for the title of Alchemical Metal, as this pulls on predecessors from all throughout the metal and rock kingdom. From flecks of melo-death to stoned-out sludge, old-school to futuristic, the sonic melange is openly bizarre.

Not for the first time in reviews, I have to say, this should, in theory, have ended up a bit of a mess of mismatched tropes and idioms, but has managed to come together as one solid sound. Hopefully, the prevalence of this type of free-roaming artistic success story is a sign of things to come. Slightly disjointed at times, if you really look for it, but delivered with passion and talent, accessible, yet powerful and genuinely musical.

Paul Macmillan

3.5/5

Damaj -The Wrath Of The Tide (EP)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on 12th December 2016 by Paul Macmillan

Damaj – The Wrath Of The Tide (EP)

Released March 1st 2017

Heavy metal

Self-released

Although Greenock’s Damaj have been cutting about for some three years or more – playing with Blaze Bayley, Tygers Of Pan Tang, and headlining Spanish festivals, as you do – The Wrath Of The Tide appears to be the first physical release they’ve put their name to. It presents a somewhat personal blend of numerous classical elements, drawn from the spectrum of metal; thrash, prog, and classic British heavy metal being the order of the day.

Vocally, there is much in line with the more accessible edge of the current UK scene, comparable to the likes of Reign Of Fury or Sumer, but the music behind is telling a different story. The lead work on the guitars is quite the trip. Incredibly professional in terms of technical ability, yet without plumping for mindless shred overkill, it really feels like something great has been accomplished in this respect. There are some very nice touches and twists in many of the riffs and rhythms, too, indicating that consideration and taste have been injected throughout. If I was to be mean, I’d have to say there’s something about the production value on this release which doesn’t quite click for me. It’s like later Voivod (i.e. the eponymous 2003 album). The edges of the sound are a little too… fluffy.

However, this doesn’t stop the integral energy of the collective breaking through. In fact, it doesn’t seem too farfetched to wholeheartedly believe Damaj have an almighty live presence, based purely on this EP. Now that they’ve cut their teeth on the recording front, and nailed their song-writing style to boot, they’ve laid the groundwork to make themselves a formidable force.

4/5

Paul Macmillan

Iron Altar – Iron Altar [EP]

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on 26th September 2016 by Paul Macmillan

Iron Altar
Iron Altar [EP]
Metal
Self-released: August 22nd 2016

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There are some practiced hands at work in Iron Altar’s eponymous debut EP, the band featuring Simon Anger (King Witch) and Andrew Callis (ex Torn Face). The disparity in the related acts lends itself to a unique metal sound, which is marvelous in its open-ended creativity. While there is one solid character, those of different tastes in heavy music will likely pick out completely dissimilar comparisons. On first full spin of the release, I swear I heard the footsteps of Faith No More, Annihilator, In Flames, Skid Row, Lamb Of God, Mastodon, and American Head Charge in just the opening track!

If the above makes this sound like a confused mish-mash of styles, be assured that assumption is mistaken. Shifting seamlessly between grunting thrash, monolithic atmospherics, eye burning lead work, and something altogether more… twitchy, this is metal that plays in its own league, and doesn’t give a good god damn about what is outside of those parameters. Iron Altar know what they like, and they’re not afraid to try melding any of it into their own world. They do it with panache and professionalism, and pool it together very nicely indeed.

I could be wrong. It might have been a naturally flowing writing process, but I imagine it took some doing to bring the composite elements into one cohesive sound. That said, I’d really like to hear this band delve yet further into their influences and come out with something even more distanced from their peers. It seems like that could well be within their collective powers.

4.5/5

Paul Macmillan

 

Cancerous Womb – It Came To This

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on 14th July 2016 by Paul Macmillan

Cancerous Womb
It Came To This
Released July 5th 2016
Death metal
Released via Rising Nemesis Records

  photo Cancerous Womb - It Came To This.jpg

So, the third of my three death metal reviews this week, and in my opinion, the best has been saved for last. Cancerous Womb have recently been through a bit of a shake-up, parting ways with original vocalist Chris Lewis, but this doesn’t seem to have slowed them down. They have been very active both at home in the UK and across the rest of the world, and returned to the land of recorded works with an absolute beast of a new sound.

As was subtly hinted at on their debut long-player, Born Of A Cancerous Womb, this is a band with a will to deconstruct, then reassemble, the tropes of modern DM. The difference here is that they have fully flung open the floodgates of restraint and just gone for it. Welcoming in the memorable hooks of thrash, alongside some mind-boggling grind, they have ditched any concept of genre defined song structure, and it has resulted in a collection of attention grabbing numbers, which crash through the headphones all too quickly.

There is a sense of the tongue-in-cheek to some of the passages, which makes them stick in the mind even more, but that may not be as apparent to non-musicians. Regardless, they are highly enjoyable purely as musical moments. Some are simple and powerful. Some are furious and intricate. Every second is gold.

If you are intrigued by the concept of Suffocation/Nile DM riffs meeting the jangle of Mastodon, the chaos of Pig Destroyer, and a scattering of evil thrash – handed out with complete disregard for expectations, and a little indefinable something else – this is an EP you really need to cram into your lugholes. Short and sweet. And sour. Bring on the album!

4.5/5

Paul Macmillan

Defiled – Towards Inevitable Ruin

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on 12th July 2016 by Paul Macmillan

Defiled
Towards Inevitable Ruin
Released July 8th 2016
Death metal
Released via Season Of Mist

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The second of a triple hit of death metal reviews for this writer this week, and for the second time, I am not really a fan of the production values. Towards Inevitable RuinDefiled’s fifth full-length – states flat out, from the beginning, that this is an album which is ‘not pretty, nor pretending and reduced to the bare bones. DEFILED are definitely making a statement of naked brutality.’  I understand that minimalist sound can be a characteristic with charms and appeal, but on this occasion, I really feel it has missed the mark.  It takes a bit of perseverance to see through it to the album underneath. That said, it is possible to get used to it after a couple of spins, once the initial impact has dissipated, and you know what to expect.

Musically speaking, it’s insane! Sporadic drums and twisted riffs, blasted out in an aural labyrinth bizarre. What more could you ask? In terms of technical listening challenges, TIR tramples In Crisis, delivers a sneaky uppercut to Ugliness Revealed in passing, and leaves Erupted Wrath’s crippled body in a road-side ditch. Divination is likely the closest song-writing match from their back-catalogue. Naturally, this turn-on-a-dime complexity comes, to some degree, at the expense of coherence, but to different listeners, this will have different pros and cons. Considering the band in question, you would expect more pros, but the mix/master is still a little distracting, which may harm the delivery on first contact.

Defiled have well and truly invaded grind territory on this one, steaming headlong into crust-punk influenced lunacy, and who knows, maybe it will pay off in the long run. The riffs are there, as is the indefatigable, essential energy. These are ingredients which have seen other albums rise above uncomfortable mixes to classic status in the past. After all, people still love …And Justice For All, right?

3.5/5

Paul Macmillan

 

Gorgosaur – Lurking Among Corpses

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on 11th July 2016 by Paul Macmillan

Gorgosaur
Lurking Among Corpses
Death metal
Released April 25th 2016
Released via Memento Mori records

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There isn’t a heck of a lot of information available about this Swedish, DM two piece. Lurking Among Corpses is only their second release, the first being the Gashes And Demise demo from 2014 (of which new versions of all tracks seem to be included herein). It opens up with what seems to be a tribute to 1980s horror movie theme tunes, with Basement Funeral Hymn, but what follows is, for the most part, fairly standard fare d-beat DM, broken up by the occasional groove-heavy riff section.

I have to admit, I’m not a massive fan of the production, but there is a certain aspect to its lo-fi character which may be a bonus to some. There’s a kind of Atari Teenage Riot frantic messiness to the mix. It seems to work better with the more blackened vocals of Åsa Hagström than Martin Schönherr’s full-on, guttural DM approach. While they list bands such as Celtic Frost and Venom among their influences, and these can be he heard to a degree, a better comparison would possibly be early works of fellow Swedes, Entombed, or even more so the previous band featuring many of the same members, Nihilist. Very old school and very dirty.

As a first full-length, LAC is absolutely a solid release in a field which has seen a lot of travel, but it would be nice to see this band develop a little, and grow a more unique identity. There are glints of that coming through already; they’ve got the passion, and a really good grip of what makes a classic death metal riff. It’s the spaces between which seem to need to be brought to the fore a little bit more. If that can be nailed, this could be a truly formidable sound.

3.5/5

Paul Macmillan

Beholder – Reflections

Posted in Uncategorized on 26th April 2016 by Paul Macmillan

Beholder – Reflections

Released April 12th 2016

Progressive power metal

Released via Razorline Music

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Throughout the whole of their career, one of the most noticeable, stand-out features of the Beholder sound has been the vocal style of frontman, Simon Hall. Falling somewhere between Ronnie James Dio and Blayze Bayley (although with significantly more bite and snarl), his is a voice most certainly soaked and aged in classic metal. He actually has a beautiful set of pipes for such a great mountain of a man, but plays out on the rougher end of the field a lot of the time.

On Reflections, however, the musical backdrop has altered noticeably from that on previous releases. If you’ve followed Beholder from their earthly beginnings, you’ll most likely have picked up on the djent/prog leanings which supplemented their original power/thrash sound on sophomore album The Order Of Chaos. Well, that edge has been ploughed up and lathered on with a spade for 2016. Think that sounds like a bad thing? You’re wrong. Throw any negative associations you have (involuntarily?) cultivated surrounding djent and prog in recent times clean out the window.

What Beholder have done here is create a machine out of organic parts; a kind of ironclad Frankenstein’s monster of sorts. No carbon copy from the sub-genre factory, this is cutting edge experimentation. No doubt this is informed by their old school roots, and where Hall’s vocal seem like they should clash on paper, they actually do more to make this a unique and flawless article. It could potentially see them held aloft as a contender for ‘the big leagues’, pulling up behind the Gojiras and Mastodons who have climbed the ranks on their own terms.

With a cold and angry attitude, Reflections is defiant upstart, calling the world to rights. The raised fist. The death-stare. It’s a new phase in the band’s development, and I don’t think they’ve ever sounded better.

5/5

Paul Macmillan

Dog Tired – It Came From The Sun

Posted in Review with tags , , , on 22nd April 2016 by Paul Macmillan

Dog Tired
It Came From The Sun
Released April 30th 2016
Heavy metal
Self-released

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Dog Tired have been a solid metal staple of the Scottish scene for many years, now. Elements of Pantera, Machine Head, and Lamb Of God have always been part of their well-rounded character, smeared over with a bit of tongue-in-cheek swagger. Their first two albums, Dead Head Rebel and Titan were both very well received by those who experienced them, and you should really hear them first for a full background, but It Came From The Sun is somewhat of a new beast.

The whole package on this latest release has taken on a more professional veneer. While there’s still a fair ol’ whack of high tempo shenanigans, it is delivered within the bounds of a more laid back, comfortable feel; DT have certainly heaped on the sludge attitude for this one. I wouldn’t out-and-out say that they have re-invented themselves. They have redefined with a sense of maturity which, while not previously absent, has massively developed.

The step-up in production has certainly helped them to achieve this, bringing a more streamlined sound – epic vocals and huge guitars – giving much needed breathing space to the new material. The lyrical content seems to have taken on a more serious bent as well. On first quick spin, I honestly wasn’t sure if I liked missing out on the ‘Mad Jack’s and the ‘Booze Hound’s of old, but that fear was quickly annihilated by the roars of ‘history repeats itself’ and ‘Dominus victorious’. It’s blatant that effort has been lavished on this aspect of the creative process, in order to match up to the advances in the instrumental aesthetics.

In total, it’s become a lot harder, if not irrelevant to compare them to the bands above, and it seems that this is now the sound they always aimed for; part ‘90s, part swedeath, part sludge, part hardcore, all fresh, driven metal. At any rate, this is pretty exciting, for DT, for their existing fans, and for those yet to discover them. Hopefully they will turn out more material of a similar ilk. This album is one (slightly unexpectedly) grim monster, and will hunt you down in your metal dreams. Earmark it as a future classic!

5/5

Paul Macmillan

My Silent Wake – An Unbroken Threnody

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on 24th February 2016 by Paul Macmillan

My Silent Wake
An Unbroken Threnody
Released 08th February 2016
Doom metal
Released via Stone Groove Records

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‘Best of’ compilations can be a great way to introduce new listeners to a band, and in An Unbroken Threnody, My Silent Wake have properly grabbed my attention. This collection of music is drawn from the first ten years of their fairly prolific career, and therefore encompasses a fairly wide spread of style, ranging from more or less pure doom, through a touch of death metal, and what might even be a hint of psychedelic doom, a la The Blood Divine’s Mystica.

As the press release states, this is ‘for fans of’ Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride, and Indiscience. The influences of these bands are plain as day, out there for all to see – and it’s glorious! PL and MDB are clearly a massive part of the mix, and, for someone who remembers the soul shaking gothic riffs of the  1990s, it is a welcome return to a sensation long resigned to the ‘meh’ pile of life. If I’d been aware of this band throughout their existence, I would have devoured their releases one after the other. However, I’m almost glad I didn’t, as this is a real pleasure to delve into without prior warning.

There are naturally parts which are stronger than others. It’s a good sign that two of the crowning moments, Highwire & And So It Comes To An End, are taken from 2015’s Damnatio Memoriae, and show a band who have matured rather than grown flaccid with age. Older material still stands up perfectly well, such as the diabolically hefty Tunnels – the opener from 2008’s  A Garland Of Tears -and the almost folk-infused Shadow Of Sorrow from their debut of the same name.

It’s inspiring to hear a band who have delivered such consistently high-calibre output, even more so when a decade’s worth of their music hits you square in the chops in one sitting. If you were a fan of any of the acts mentioned in this review, but haven’t yet checked out MSW, I highly recommend you do. Although the comparisons are spot on, this is no imitation. This is the real deal.

4.5/5

Paul Macmillan

Hordes Of Belial announces Lifer and others for 2016

Posted in News with tags , , on 11th January 2016 by Paul Macmillan

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It’s that time of year again when annual, Dundee based metal showcase, Hordes Of Belial start rolling out the names, and 2016 is off to a great start.

The 7th edition of the event sees its first ever Welsh band in sludged up metal and rollers, Lifer, fresh off the back of their 2015 album Black Mountain Rising. They will be joined by, among others, a raft of bands from around Scotland, including Glasgow’s Seraph Sin and Blood Thread, as well as Excellent Cadaver.

Early bird tickets will be on sale soon, from www.wegottickets.com

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Beholder release video for Frozen Steps Of Utøya

Posted in News with tags , , , on 5th January 2016 by Paul Macmillan

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Drawing its lyrical content from the horrific attack of school children on Utoya island, Norway, in 2011, this is the first glimpse we have of what will be Beholder’s third album, to be titled Reflections. Although musically un-mastered as of yet, it gives an indication of what seems to have been going on behind the scenes at the camp of Simon Hall and co; the familiar sound of The Order Of Chaos taken to a new extreme.

It’s certainly a statement of intent to make the introduction to this next release something which covers well known, yet lesser discussed events, which shook the public to the core, but got somewhat pushed aside by mainstream mass media in favour of other agendas. It would appear the plan is to go against the grain, and hard. So, who better to pull together a fitting visual representation than Very Metal Art, who have been providing fantastic, professional quality lyric videos for underground bands for a while now.

This has got the feathers all a-flutter in anticipation and excitement, and if the rest of the album matches this first peek, there are going to be Beholder shaped chunks knocked out of the musical landscape all over this year. For the time being, however, we’ll have to make do with this rather haunting and heavy offering. First week of 2016; well played!

Northwinds – Eternal Winter

Posted in Review, Uncategorized with tags on 4th January 2016 by Paul Macmillan

Northwinds
Eternal Winter

Released: July 10th 2015
Prog Rock/Trad Metal
Released via Black Widow Records

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It’s my personal opinion that some sub-genres have been expanded repeatedly to the stage where certain fringe elements are no longer a part of the original movement in any recognisable way. Some atmospheric black metal, to me, just isn’t ‘black’ in any shape or form. Likewise, and probably even more so, the ‘doom’ moniker has been diverted from what it means to me, and, I can imagine, to a vast number of metal aficionados. Northwinds are one of the bands that fall outside of the bracket they have self-chosen; the latter above-mentioned category of doom.

I can certainly see that, if you were to pick out a cross-section of young-ish metal fans of today, you’d find that the ones most likely to give this band a warm welcome would be those obsessed with the slow dirge of doom, but that doesn’t make them any more of a doom band than Deep Purple or Uriah Heep. That might sound like a slating, but it really isn’t. I love classic rock (another designation with moving goalposts), and that is most certainly what this is.

I can’t help but feel Northwinds are missing a trick by not playing on that a bit more. All the original bands who they bring to mind – Black Sabbath, Angelwitch, Rainbow, and the like – are slowly but surely coming to end, as much as we hate to hear it. Although those progenitors of metal were most certainly the founding fathers of the doom genre, Northwinds sound more like one of them than a band influenced by them. They are a fairly long-running band, but not quite that long-running.

This is a solid player, straight out of the 1970s, and if that’s what you’re looking for, this will most definitely hit the spot. Let’s face it, if you don’t occasionally feel like getting your trad metal fix, you probably don’t get metal in general, and Northwinds are tapping right into that old time vein.

3.5/5

Paul Macmillan