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Damaj -The Wrath Of The Tide (EP)

Posted in CD, Metal 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
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Iron Altar – Iron Altar [EP]

Posted in CD, Metal 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 CD, Metal 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

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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 CD, Metal 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 CD, Metal 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 CD, Metal 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