Author Archive

Interview with Vaarwel of Frozen Ocean

Posted in Interview on 23rd December 2015 by Paul Macmillan

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Somewhere in the cold wilderness of Russia, a man going by the name of Vaarwel has been cultivating a complex musical concoction for the last decade. His is an intriguing blend of many influences, culminating in a unique identity, nesting in the realms of extreme metal. Rather allowing it to become a burden, Vaarwel has channelled his isolation in art unhindered by current tropes, to deliver Frozen Ocean, whose first release with label Apocalyptic Witchcraft, The Prowess Of Dormition, was covered recently at Valkyrian. Intrigued by his strange tale, we dug deeper into the thoughts and processes of the man behind the music, starting with his mild – yet reasoned – rejection of the ‘black metal’ tag.

Vaarwel: “There’s a lot of talk about “blackness” of metal nowadays: holy wars of trve vs hipsters, discussions about experimentation within style, invention of “new” subgenres (like, for fuck’s sake, “transcendental black metal”), et cetera. And I remember that it always was like that. I had been listening to black metal of all possible kinds for some time, and found that I am relatively close to (a) conservative position in this respect. Black metal should be devoted to Satanism/misanthropy/occultism/hatred/ intolerance, or at least to something that is close to one of those subjects, otherwise it is not actually black. Being a bit purist here, Frozen Ocean’s music does not match such a requirement, maybe only “Norse” trilogy (which is an homage) and “And Hoarfrost Blooms Henceforth” could fit, but I don’t insist. So, that’s why I prefer to specify it as vague as “atmospheric metal”. Moreover, style tags are relatively powerful instrument of promotion. Too many people want to jump the train of black metal, because (of) its history and attractive, badass image. I would like to walk my own way, (and) it is evident for me that it doesn’t belong to black metal.”

This is a musician with very solid, if not forceful, opinions on how his creative ouput fits into the world. Still, he seems open to experimentation, such as the use of traditional instrumentation.

Vaarwel: “Well, honestly I don’t very much like both pure folk music and its fusions with something else (folk metal, for example). If one can see an influence, it is perhaps unintentional. On the other hand, folk music melodies, and folk instruments are considered, and will be considered, as a good tool for building the music of Frozen Ocean – as well as such for electronic music.”

It seems like a massive thought process to go through for just one person, and you have to wonder if it is as demanding as it appears. Does he find that this is a struggle?

Vaarwel: “It is hard to say, because one can scarcely see a challenge here. Somebody is satisfied with raw, and what is offensively called “bedroom” sound, and if this fits the goal – why not? Some just make music with dense studio, or studio-like sound, because it seems necessary – again, why not? I doubt that there is somebody who intentionally accepts the challenge to make the music alone, but make it sound like the whole band. Yes, I would like to manage the sound of Frozen Ocean releases as good as possible, but this is not a competition.”

…but what comes first? Where does it begin?

Vaarwel: “Like gangrene, from scratch. It is always the music. I guess that’s why Frozen Ocean has so many instrumental compositions recorded. I fully record the music of a new track, and only then write the lyrics. As a musician, it is vital for me to describe necessary emotions, images and visions by means of music, and lyrics should be just assistance, and nothing more. Otherwise, one can just declaim the lyrics as poem, with minimum accompaniment (and so we get dark folk!)”

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With Frozen Ocean’s music being fairly open to variety, within its own world, past releases have seen more loose, jangly atmospherics. Does he see a return to the likes of the tripped-out style of Space Orchards?

Vaarwel: “I do. Although I consider post rock generally a stillborn style, with several lodestars and hordes of copycats, it can surely bring some useful tools and approaches to new music from Frozen Ocean.”

Are there any other musical genres he might try with Frozen Ocean, which he hasn’t used before?

Vaarwel: “You will never know, neither will I. For now, I have an unfinished IDM album with elements of folk music and metal; death metal always attracts me, being a music that I generally listen to. Everything that can be integrated, and give advance to Frozen Ocean’s artistry can be used. Speaking of what will never be used, there are Russian chanson (pop music about prison culture), hip-hop and club electronics such as bigroom, house of all kinds, etc.”

Russian chanson is new one to me! Then again, Moscow, and Russia in general, isn’t a place that people in the west hear much about in terms of metal, but it is massive. How has the metal scene over there treated him? Is Frozen Ocean well received at home?

Vaarwel: “Frozen Ocean is unclaimed and unknown in Russia. I seem to have twenty, maybe thirty Russian listeners that are not friends of mine or familiar with me. I am happy that these people found Frozen Ocean and appreciated its music legacy. Speaking of the scene, it is well-developed and indeed has some good music acts, bands and projects. I know, personally, some people, and I am in good relationships with them, but Frozen Ocean still remains obscure and unclaimed, even for the scene. I can do nothing with that, and will not do, thus turning my expectations towards Western audiences.”

So, can we expect to see a live incarnation of Frozen Ocean coming our way any time soon?

Vaarwel: “I did consider it several times, but I am not a big fan of live music, both listening and playing. Besides, making a gig makes sense when you are sure that somebody will visit it, and I am not sure. Maybe in next decade.”

If not live, then does he have plans for future releases already in place?

Vaarwel: “I do, as always, and plans are totally beyond the possibilities. Now I am recording the next Frozen Ocean full-length named “There Will Come Soft Rains”, named after Sarah Tisdale’s poem, which was used by Ray Bradbury in his famous short novel. It will be another recording of atmospheric metal, similar to material on “The Prowess Of Dormition”, but faster, better and more emotional.”

by Paul Macmillan

Echelon – Indulgence Over Abstinence Behind The Obsidian Veil

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on 18th December 2015 by Paul Macmillan

Echelon
Indulgence Over Abstinence Behind The Obsidian Veil
Released October 17th 2015
Blackened death metal
Released via Metal Inquisition Records

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At first listen I wasn’t dragged into this one, but it’s really starting to grow on me. This is surely standard, old school death metal on introduction, but there are some nice touches of ‘other’ brought into play as well. From opener Adversary you get the feeling that there is a Satanic angle at work, as the title may suggest. The album name including the phrase ‘indulgence over abstinence’ only adds to this supposition. It’s enough to set the curiosity burning, and, sure enough, right there in their logo stands proud the symbol of the Satanic cross.

The digging further revealed that, interestingly, this is a two man project, featuring none other than Dave Ingram (ex-Bolt Thrower), with all music created by Rogga Johansson (Down Among The Dead Men – with Ingram – and far too many other bands to mention!). With that in mind, it’s easy to see why the classic DM vibe inhabits such a vast part of of their world. Don’t be misled, though. Aside from the vocals, Indulgence… bears only some resemblance to BT, or DATDM. Less choppy than the latter, and heavier than the former were during Ingram’s tenure, it’s still in the same ballpark, but is also identifiable as a distinct entity.

It is the darker experimentation brought about by the ‘black’ edge that fattens out this release, allowing Echelon to expand into areas which may be avoided by other DM bands. However, there’s one point at which I’m not sure they shouldn’t have reined in the divergence a little. The closer, Regenerative Genesis, begins by sweeping through with an ethereal narrative, backed by creaking soundscape, yet somehow, it’s the comical finale of the last few seconds that really stick out in the mind. The ‘no spoilers’ rule dictates that I can’t spill the beans on what that is, so you’ll just have to listen and find out for yourselves!

Chips down, this is a quality spin, sure to appeal to followers of traditional death metal who want a little something extra.

4/5

Paul Macmillan

Frozen Ocean – The Prowess Of Dormition

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on 10th December 2015 by Paul Macmillan

Frozen Ocean
The Prowess Of Dormition
Released February 26th 2016
Atmospheric black metal
Released via Apocalyptic Witchcraft Records

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I don’t think this band could have picked a more fitting name, judging by the unveiling of The Prowess Of Dormition’s first track. This is like sailing face first into a blizzard of ice, albeit in an eerily pleasant way. When discussing black metal, the term ‘atmospheric’ tends to feed me a pre-emptive expectation of slow, meandering ponderings, but this leans far more heavily on the BM side of things. ‘Atmospheric’ in Frozen Ocean’s universe might be better replaced by other words. Not that I’m keen on expanding the list of sub-sub-sub-genre tags already available, unless through descriptive necessity, titanic black metal does have a certain ring to it.

I’m not sure whereabouts in Russia they hail from, but they seem to have taken influence from the folk music of The Steppes which stretch out into Northern Asia. However, it is in a far more extreme direction than, say, Mongolia’s Nine Treasures. The import of the folk element would be better compared Melechesh’s inclusion of Persian sonic idioms, or the metalised Celticisms of Cnoc An Tursa. Blending this with the depth of Moonsorrow, and the pace of Enslaved, TPOD is delivered with a certain charisma which makes it stand out from its contemporaries.

The ability to capture such a distinct essence is all the more impressive, considering this all created by the individual known as Vaarwel, the single contributor to Frozen Ocean’s output. It’s a shame, as it would be easy to imagine this music performed by a full line-up in an open air environment, under the likes of Primordial or Satyricon. However, if you’re not big on society’s take on the coldest season, yet still have an affinity for winter, TPOD is the perfect partner to isolated ambulations and frostbitten retrospect. Definitely worth putting on your mp3 player and letting yourself become immersed for a while.

4/5

Paul Macmillan

Eradikator – Edge Of Humanity

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on 9th December 2015 by Paul Macmillan

Eradikator
Edge Of Humanity
Released July 17th 2015
Thrash metal
Self-released

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Having been a fan of Eradikator before the release of Edge Of Humanity, I had a pretty good idea of what to expect; full on Bay Area style thrash, and that is exactly what has been delivered. When all is said and done, thrash really was over played and rehashed for a long time of late, but every so often one stumbles across an absolute gem of a band. Eradikator are definitely one such discovery.

Even the casual listener will definitely be able to pick out some big influences. Megadeth, Metallica, and Testament are emblazoned shamelessly on the denim vest of Eradikator’s cannon, so much so that you could firmly believe they were spawned in the same era. In spite of this, every blast from this record is the band’s own, and the similarities, strong as they may be, are blended throughout as tribute rather than replication.

This is a cumulative effect, as each member brings their own slice of genius to the table. Pat Cox’s vocals, while holding a Hetfield-esque timbre, are also reminiscent of Chuck Billy before illness gave him that demonic growl. Matched with incredibly well-crafted lyrics, they nestle comfortably between Andy MacNevin and Liam Priest’s wide array of progressive thrash, and the Nick Menza backbone provided by drummer Jon MacNevin (yes, they are related). If only those artists were still putting out albums of this calibre.

Capturing the intensity and excitement of the original movers and shakers of the scene, particularly late 80s releases, Edge Of Humanity is a prime example of what many have tried to do and failed. Eradikator totally own this sound, with creative riffs and structures, and have well and truly raised the bar for future classic thrash bands to reach.

5/5

Paul Macmillan

Lurid Memory – Dematerializing [EP]

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on 30th November 2015 by Paul Macmillan

Lurid Memory
Dematerializing [EP]
Released September 18th 2015
Progressive death metal
Released via Funeral Noise Records

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Although self-described as progressive death metal, there is genuinely a bit more to this band than has come to be associated with the genre tag. A blazing solo is nice, but sometimes you just don’t want to hear every member of a band try to pull one off at the same time for 45 minutes. Lurid Memory, seem to have a firm grasp of both these facts.

This release is a clear development from their chaotic debut Unclear Mental Portraits From Lives Past, in terms of song-writing, carrying much of the same character. However, they have reached a new level of maturity by embracing a slightly more blackened essence, supplementing their already diverse blend of heavy prog, thrash and classic DM. Hints of its presence seem to have been lurking from the off, but on Dematerializing it is allowed to surface with beautiful results. The atmospherics are darker than on their previous releases, and occasionally lend a folky arm to proceedings, bleeding into a more traditional prog sound.

At times, this release is very straight forward, but that in itself is refreshing, and the palette which Lurid Memory have at their disposal should more than satisfy those ravenous for intense musicology in their listening. For me, personally, they have hit the prefect stroke between technical ability and knowing when to rock the f*** out, with the final landing point somewhere between the jagged constructs of Death and the floating ephemera of Cynic.

The one significant draw back with this EP is that it reeks of restricted potential. It would be interesting to hear the results were this lot locked up in an isolated location with nothing to do but write a full album. This is hardly a major flaw, but it appears that the next step is an obvious one. Lurid Memory are already a cracking band, with much to offer the metal world, but it’s hard not to imagine them exploding into something more, given the opportunity.

4/5

Paul Macmillan

King Witch – Shoulders Of Giants

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on 19th November 2015 by Paul Macmillan

King Witch
Shoulders Of Giants [EP]
Released November 09th 2015
Doom / classic metal
Self-released

King Witch - Shoulders Of Giants

Kicking off with an eerie intro to the title track, the real fun with King Witch’s debut EP, Shoulders Of Giants, starts when they cut to the chase with their strange concoction of slightly black, doomed-up, sludgy trad metal. Although this may leave you expecting a drawling beast of a record, lumbering on at tectonic velocity, there’s actually quite the rapid flow at times, and in shying from self-indulgence, King Witch make every shot count, never lingering in one territory for too long.

They also seem to have access to bottomless pockets of metal-ology into which to delve in the quest to keep things engaging. While Black Sabbath are riding high in the Shoulders… world, there is equally a shadow of Death looming ominous on the barren horizon, casting a prog-metal tone over the landscape. When you have three tracks of doom to state your case to the world, set to diverge at several musical tangents, it should be self-apparent why KW have seemingly made efforts to keep things moving along fairly swiftly.

The warlock on top of the mountain, however, we have still to address here. As some may already know, King Witch included the talents of long-term partners in crime, Laura Donnelly and Jamie Gilchrist, formerly operating in the much lauded Firebrand Super Rock. Where Gilchrist’s guitar work shines through as part of the musical character described above, Donnelly provides what is quite simply ultimate power, full blast, metal vocals; a classic delivery in the realms of Tony ‘The Cat’ Martin or Brittney Slayes, with the slightly cheesy undertones switched out for something altogether darker.

Although this is their first release, and they only formed in 2015, this is something special, and King Witch could well make a significant dent in the scene in 2016 if they keep up this level of work. There’s nothing quite like this kicking about at present, and it’s likely that any who tried to emulate it would fall far short of the mark. Powerful, professional and unique.

4/5

Paul Macmillan

Thurisaz bring avant-garde, Belgian doom to Perth for Scottish exclusive

Posted in News with tags , , , , , , , , on 16th November 2015 by Paul Macmillan

Having just completed a run of Irish dates in October of this year, Thurisaz have now set their sights on the rest of Europe, with their Pulse Of The Mourning tour taking in live appearances in England, Belgium, France, Malta, The Netherlands, and now Scotland.

Thurisaz - Hordes Hexmas Bash 3

Topping the bill at the 3rd Hordes Hexmas Bash on December 05th, their latest album – Pulse Of The Mourning – was described by Metal Observer as “an all-encompassing atmosphere that transcends a mere sum of the single parts” (8.5/10), while Metal Underground dubbed their 2004 debut full-length – Scent Of A Dream – “a spectacular piece of work” (4.5/5).

Their main touring support comes in the form of Cheltenham’s Edenfall, who’s dual-vocal, goth-drenched, doom metal is the perfect warm-up for the Belgian’s icy, winter raid. Reminiscent of the likes of My Dying Bride, this tour is the latest addition to Edenfall’s growing catalogue of credible live work, which includes supports with Blaze Bayley, Leaves Eyes, and Hecate Enthroned.

The Perth date will also see these bands joined by a clutch of Scottish supports. East Kilbride’s Not The Messiah, finalists in 2015’s Metal To The Masses in Scotland, bring some brilliant stomping grooves to the table, while Blood Thread from Glasgow delve deep into technical death metal territory.

Event details:

Hordes Hexmas Bash 3: The Dead Of Winter

Venue: The Corrina, 44 Atholl St. Perth

Date: Saturday December 05th 2015

Doors: 6:30

Entry: £5

Artists: Thurisaz, Edenfall, Blood Thread, Not The Messiah

Advance tickets: www.wegottickets.com

Salem’s Pot launch pre-orders for The Vampire Strikes Back vinyl EP

Posted in News with tags , , , , on 11th November 2015 by Paul Macmillan

Suzzed out Swedes Salem’s Pot have opened up orders for the 2-track vinyl release of their most recent EP, released in digital format this Halloween.

Salem's Pot - The Vampire Strikes Back

The record is available in a number of physical versions; test pressing, black vinyl, and clear vinyl. To order one up, head over to their label, Riding Easy’s online shop. The Vampire Strikes Back will see its hard copy release on Christmas Day.

You can listen to and share the EP at their Soundcloud page here

The Paradigm Complex – Amygdalopolis

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on 8th November 2015 by Paul Macmillan

The Paradigm Complex
Amygdalopolis
Released November 1st 2015
Progressive rock
Self-released

The Paradigm Complex - Amygdalopolis

This is quite simply one of the most bizarre things I think I’ve ever had the pleasure to analyse in the process of reviewing music. Really weird. Really, really weird. The Paradigm Complex are the genuine stuff of twisted fever dreams, and have elevated themselves beyond the state of yet-another-prog-band, to actually using their instruments (including frontwoman Alexandra Pawlitka’s voice) to tell a story.

Drafted in from classic Hammer Horror films, themes from lycanthropy to extra-terrestrial abduction are used to break up the main track of almost an hour into mini-stories, each with their own, highly characterised musical backdrop, and engaging storytelling. It is powerfully tangible how much thought, effort and ingenuity has gone into the creation of what is not just a music release, but essentially a piece of art. A certain Mr Zombie would quite possibly be a little jealous (as a director) of the effectiveness of The Paradigm Complex’s cultural appropriation.

As the recording spirals through various atmospheres, it’s difficult to pin down any continuous comparison to other artists, but they are there. There is a film score flavour akin to John Carpenter colliding with Goblin, liberally splattered with classic prog and acid rock, while the vocals meld from Bjork into Lacuna Coil, into Angelspit, and back again. There is also a thread of metal sewn into the fabric, but this is not a metal album, per se; it simply encompasses some of that spirit.

The project in its entirety is held together very aptly with bleak interludes, which serve to complement the neighbouring movements, and amalgamate this as one fluid piece, an apocalyptic infection creeping up the listener’s spine. It’s one wild trip, and White Rabbit is going to have to try mighty hard to survive this audio conflict between War Of The Worlds and The Walking Dead.

4.5/5

Paul Macmillan

Suicide Silence – Sacred Words (EP)

Posted in Review with tags , , , , on 7th November 2015 by Paul Macmillan

Suicide Silence – Sacred Words (EP)
Released October 23rd 2015
Deathcore
Released via Nuclear Blast

Suicide Silence - Sacred Words (EP)

Although this is billed as an EP, I certainly feel more like I’m listening to an old school single. The release comprises of the title track, plus its instrumental version, remix version, and live version, accompanied by live recordings of a further two tracks – Cease To Exist and Inherit The Crown. It’s a minor detail, but I think most people have come to expect more new material from musical output in this format. I also feel that four renditions of the same work is total overkill.

The focus track itself (taken from 2014’s You Can’t Stop Me) is a good display of ‘Eddie’ Hermida’s more core oriented vocal style, which has naturally divided opinion amongst fans since the untimely demise of original frontman Mitch Lucker. The music, however, lacks some of the vehemence of their previous recordings, and, for me, it’s the live takes which lift this platter to its peak. The energy they are delivered with is akin to that on some of extreme metal’s brightest moments in concert audio recordings. The immediate comparison which springs to mind is Pantera’s Live 101. The song-writing is a different pot of spuds, but the essence and tangible energy is very similar.

As someone who was never a fully-fledged admirer of Suicide Silence, or, indeed, deathcore in general, I am quite prepared for my opinion to be called into question on this, but to a certain degree, I find the new vocalisation more fitting to their current sound. That doesn’t mean better, and it could well be the case that the music has changed subtly in order to make this happen. The truth is we may never know, but in all honesty, it has turned me on a little to a band who I never really gave much thought to in the past, and I’m not really sure where many of their old school fans have found the ammunition for hate.

If you were a die-hard fan of You Can’t Stop Me, this will most likely please you as a behind-the-scenes collector’s piece, but I would personally hold out for the next full-length to effectively sate any death-core cravings.

3.5/5

 Paul Macmillan

All Consumed – No World Order

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on 24th October 2015 by Paul Macmillan

All Consumed
“No World Order”
Released October 31st 2015
Death metal, hardcore
Self-released

All Consumed - No World Order

It’s been quite a while since the world churned out a truly engaging ‘hardcore’ metal album. Decent hardcore albums, yes. Decent metalcore albums, also kicking about (indeed, it’s true that such things do exist, I assure you!). However, a fully functioning metal album that is also hardcore, and not sugared down, ‘McAudio’ for wannabe cage fighters..? Let’s just say, I haven’t been holding my breath of late. Listening to All Consumed’s No World Order has been an utterly satisfying rebuttal.

Much of the ‘core’ side of things here has been derived from the harder edge of the mid-to-late 1990s scene. Hewn from the memorable foundations of acts such as Hatebreed and Biohazard, the bottom floor of this hateful tenement is populated with urban aggression, yet there is more here than tribute or replication. In the same way that Pissing Razors brought a new angle to this form, All Consumed have broken down the gates and let the metal flow freely.

With the added layer of Rob Thomas’ Jason Netherton style vocal – although delivered in a slightly heavier manner than in Misery Index – there is further reinforcement to the feeling that this is, in its purest essence, a death metal album, albeit one with head-bouncing hook riffs leading the way. Producer, Samuel Turbitt, has also performed excellently in capturing live energy here, ultimately allowing All Consumed to truly indulge in their innate heaviness, something which, it could be said, limited their previous recording efforts. The blending of genres feels entirely natural, though, and rather than a disjointed amalgam of two distinct sounds, it hammers home a brutality that will appeal to followers of both real hardcore and old school death metal.

This record is a dark and menacing piece of work, with no pretensions to virtuosity, and is, consequently, a highly listenable record.  Repeat spins do it no harm, either, making it a cacophonous pleasure, and an essential keeper for all curators of eclectic, heavy, audio libraries. All hail the No World Order!

4.5/5

Paul Macmillan

Metal Allegiance – Metal Allegiance

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on 9th October 2015 by Paul Macmillan

Metal Allegiance
“Metal Allegiance”
Released 18th September 2015
Metal
Released via Nuclear Blast Records

Metal Allegiance - Metal Allegiance

Ok, I hit play expecting this to be utterly terrible; a seismic collision of super-egos in a tumultuous ocean of abyssal phalli. I’m not saying that every successful metal musician ever is a complete tool, but I do think there’s only so much room for the necessary swagger which comes hand-in-hand with that line of work. This shouldn’t work! Yet, it kind of does…

This revolving door conglomerate of many of the biggest names in modern metal, is hardly ground-breaking, but there doesn’t appear to be any battle of wills in the forming up of the songs. I mean, there are some seriously big names involved here; Phil Anselmo, Randy Blythe, Troy Sanders, Mike Portnoy. It would only be natural to expect friction, but if there was any along the way, it has been lost on its path to the listener.

True, the recording in total doesn’t sound like one band. That would be incredibly hard to achieve with even just the different vocalists throughout. However, there is certainly a consistent energy, and whether the music itself rocks your boat or not, there’s no denying that the quality is right up there with any release offered up by the participating musicians in recent years.

In examining the music, it seems like each vocalist has brought a certain expectation to the band behind them in regards to the direction the music should take. For example, with Anselmo fronting, there is a definite echo of Down’s Over The Under, but when Chuck Billy takes the reigns, you’d be forgiven for mistaking Can’t Kill The Devil for a bonus Testament track, left out of Low at the last minute.

All in all, I’m actually pleasantly surprised by this release. For a fan of many of the artists involved, it’s fantastic to see and hear such a coherent piece of work. It’s not just more of the same from each musician so much as a little something extra you missed along the way. If you don’t like them, though, this definitely isn’t for you. You’re not going to suddenly find that one new thing that turns you on to any of the contributors. Familiar faces, characters easily identified from behind, whether you loved or hated them to begin with.

4/5

Paul Macmillan

Insanity – Visions Of Apocalypse

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on 12th September 2015 by Paul Macmillan

Insanity
Visions Of Apocalypse
Released 13th November 2015
Extreme thrash
Released via Unspeakable Axe records

Insanity - Visions Of Apocalypse

Well, insanity is as insanity does, and this bunch of original bay area movement death-thrashers do more than a little of that. Furious energy, blazing leads, and venomous vocals are slathered over liberally, and all truly does come across as a little unhinged. However, that isn’t the be all and end all of a great metal band for me. The disjointed must be hammered together in function as well as form, and this particular promethean project is somewhat of a lumbering monster rather than a slick reflection of god, lacking the smooth grace of today’s polished icons.

It’s surprising that this is only Insanity’s second album, and that their sound is still “of its age”. The inexorable march of time seems to have left them to the dusty labyrinths of history, still following the thread that will eventually lead them to the light of day and the modern metal world. That’s in no way a fatal flaw, and many will certainly see the stoically traditional approach that Insanity continue to employ as endearing and charming. Furthermore, it is to be admired that they have released this opus at all, as the intended re-recording was sadly put to rest with the passing of drummer Bud Mills in 2007.

Where ingenious ideas flare up, they are really noticeable, but they do seem a little unfinished, and the production is so cushioned that it takes the edge off the impact that these moments could have had. It’s possible that if this issue was pulled up to date that the entire thing would take on a new life. Visions… is definitely worth a listen or ten, but it kind of seems like the demo version of what it could have been, especially when compared to their 1994 full-length Death After Death. A nice collector’s piece for the heavy thrash connoisseur at any rate.

3.5/5

by Paul Macmillan

Nile – What Should Not Be Unearthed

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

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

Nile - What Should Not Be Unearthed

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

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

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

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

4.5/5

Paul Macmillan

Krysthla – A War Of Souls And Desires

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

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

Krysthla - A War Of Souls And Desires

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

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

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

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

5/5

Paul Macmillan

Dirty Judas – Every Bullet Is Another Nail

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on 7th August 2015 by Paul Macmillan

Dirty Judas
Every Bullet Is Another Nail
Self-released July 03rd 2015
Metal

Dirty Judas - Every Bullet Is Another Nail

I keep a very close eye on the local underground scene when it comes to metal. Dirty Judas, from Dundee, have been floating around the Scottish metalsphere for a while now, but it’s only with the release of debut full-length, Every Bullet Is Another Nail, that we start to see their potential. There’s a fire in the eyes in this release, and a will to deliver the vitriol with strokes made against the flow.

Influences are immediately on display here that may seem obvious to some, and not so much to others. The album as a whole sways from left to right, light to dark, and it’s most certainly an enjoyable ride. Epic, goth-washed choruses give way to chuntering hooks, and brutal growls are complimented by grungy harmonies. Even the spoken word sections make the Scottish accent sound cool; no easy task, it has to be said.

The character continues to shift throughout, from an enthusiastic bounce to a cold morbidity, not unlike Paradise Lost caught some audio-venereal groove syndrome from Pissing Razors or Konkhra. Yup, definitely Paradise Lost, and those moments truly send an ethereal shiver up the spine, before diving into, dare I say it, proto-nu-metal waters. Think really early Faith No More, beefed up to almost death metal levels, and maybe the first Korn album, re-written by Pepper Keenan.

Flipping the bird to genre boundaries, Dirty Judas have managed to walk the tightrope between variety and identity like a jaguar on crank; intense, and perfectly balanced between the two. Incredibly well rounded, and with a uniqueness which should inspire jealousy, Every Bullet… is a fantastic starting point for a band showing real personality. The chances are pretty much against you having heard them before now, but all serious metal fans should put giving this a spin on their to-be-achieved list.

4/5

Paul Macmillan

Kataklysm – Of Ghosts And Gods

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on 3rd August 2015 by Paul Macmillan

Kataklysm
Of Ghosts And Gods
Released July 31st 2015
Melodic Death Metal
Released via Nuclear Blast Records

Kataklysm - Of Ghosts And Gods

Does more or less exactly what you’d expect from the label on the tin, this one; melodic death metal, via In Flames/Arch Enemy territory. Opener, Breaching The Asylum, is particularly thick with the incense of Swedish melodeath. The initial effect is solid, but leaves me feeling somewhat un-gripped.

Things do improve a bit throughout. The pace certainly picks up, and the second half of the album kicks the pants off the first. Carrying Crosses and Shattered feature glimmers of greatness in the axe-work and vocals, but sadly smudge back into tepid watercolour. It’s a bit of a shame, because some of their recent material has been quite promising. 2013’s Waiting For The End To Come was really quite brutal, and Heaven’s Venom in 2010 was brimming with intelligent song-writing snatches. I personally feel they would have benefited from concentrating on progressing with music of this level rather than creating a concept video for each song on the album.

Soul Destroyer stands out by far as the best track within. It’s got smart riffs that differentiate it from the rest of the songs, vocals with rhythmic intelligence, bass heavy outro with swagger; basically everything that’s missing elsewhere. The album as a whole also ends on a high note in The World Is A Dying Insect.

While professionally played, I found this release somewhat uninspiring and a little predictable, which, although not cardinal sins, are amplified by such similar, prevalent artists overcoming those obstacles. This could be just the ticket for life-long devotees of the band, but I personally think they could have achieved more lion-and-shark-surf-and-turf, rather than the standard pub fare offered up herein. Not for me, but with about half a million Facebook likes, I reckon I’m in the minority here.

2.5/5

Paul Macmillan

Lifer – Black Mountain Rising

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on 25th July 2015 by Paul Macmillan

Lifer
Black Mountain Rising
Released September 5th 2015
Metal
Released via House Of Doom Records

Lifer - Black Mountain Rising

Well, some of us have been waiting quite a while for the follow up to Lifer’s 2011 debut full-length, Cursing Them Out, and the Welsh lads have answered that call with a flaming uppercut straight out of Streetfighter. If you hadn’t heard of them before, their name, shared with that of a track by a certain New Orleans super-group, could well have you expecting riffed-up, heavy blues metal. And you’d be absolutely right!

There’s definitely more than a hint of NOLA involved here, with pummelling, addictive riffs, Sabbath worship, and wah-wah solos pouring out of every sweaty gland. Black Mountain Rising, however, has the added character of a rock and roll vibe, possibly hinted at in the title’s similarity to a line in Clutch’s The Swollen Goat. As is often the case with UK metal bands, though, Lifer churn out at slightly grittier, dirtier sound than their predecessors.

Where this release differs most from Cursing… is the way in which the above mentioned R’N’R’ has replaced much of the original hard-core element of their sound. That really is just another way of infusing a bit of punk ethic to the massive, overarching metal components. Naturally, this second opus enjoys a bigger production, making it easier for the hard edge of their non-metal influences to come through, so nothing is lost in terms aggression at all.

Hugely enjoyable, and stacked with groove and attitude, this is set to be yet another icon of UK sludge oriented music in 2015. Stood next to Diesel King’s Concrete Burial, there’s currently some formidable output in that particular corner of the metal scene. To think it started off looking like the year of British thrash. Maybe it can be both. One thing’s for sure; Lifer have unleashed a beast in Black Mountain Rising. If you like to party loud and heavy, you need this in your life!

4.5/5

Paul Macmillan

Blackened Ritual – Blackened Ritual

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on 19th July 2015 by Paul Macmillan

Blackened Ritual
“Blackened Ritual”
Released July 16th 2015
Thrash/metal
Self-released

 Blackened Ritual - Blackened Ritual

It might just be because this a local band who I have watched build up from their very beginnings, but by Cthulhu this album has been an incredibly long time coming! Having just won the Scottish Metal To The Masses, there’s some pressure on Blackened Ritual for this to be solid gold, too. Cool cover? Check! Sound production above ‘demo level’? Check! Riffs? Oh yes indeed!

If you were ever stuck wishing that Lamb Of God would just go back to their early aggressiveness, this could be just the ticket. Added to this, the Testament-infused thrash ethic of the group, combined with the ever pervading southern US bounce that sticks to many Scottish bands, and choruses to die for, delivers something which, while not genre-destroying, is definitely unique enough to be undeniably Blackened Ritual, and Blackened Ritual alone. In years to come, other bands may well be imitating them.

Remembering these guys from the extensive period during which they struggled to find a vocalist, it’s fantastic to see that, not only have they sourced an absolute gem in front-man Tom Simpson, but the musicians at the core of the band’s sound have leapt forward immensely in terms of song-writing and playing finesse. There’s a thoroughly professional swagger to this debut, fuming with attitude and atmosphere that many further along in the game would struggle to compete with.

As a guitarist, there are already a good few riffs on here that I would love to get my teeth stuck into, and that is arguably a quality that could take a band to the next level; the feeling of wanting to engage in their world in more than just the capacity of listening to the record. It wouldn’t be the furthest stretch of the imagination to think that others may feel the same, and I can vividly picture swathes of metal crazed gig-goers shouting along to each track. I’m already itching to hear the next one.

4/5

Paul Macmillan

Web – Everything Ends

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on 19th July 2015 by Paul Macmillan

Web
Everything Ends
Released 23rd May 2015
Thrash metal
Released via Raising Legends Records

 Web - Everything Ends

Within the first note of Web’s Everything Ends I’m dragged back to my teenage years of the late 90s. There’s an immediate vibe of The Haunted’s first two albums, mixed with Face Down, but there’s more to it than the sneaking suspicion that Marco Aro may have had a hand in the proceedings. If anyone else remembers one certain disbanded UK metal group going by the name Dearly Beheaded as fondly as I do, there’s plenty contained herein to tickle your fancy. There’s even a hint of the creepy, musically narrative atmospherics of Rage’s Black In Mind.

Where this release excels in comparison to those mentioned above, is in production values. It doesn’t suffer from the testing ground that was late 20th century mixing and mastering experimentation, but has stepped beyond the bounds of the early stages of studio digitisation. The result is that it has both the chops from an era when individuality was celebrated rather than scorned, and the vibrancy of modern refinement in extreme music sound engineering. And it’s a rather pleasant result indeed.

Web have actually been around since the mid-80s, so this is no contrived attempt to instigate a new phase of looking backwards in metal. These guys are the genuine article. They just happen to have not received the global recognition that some of their contemporaries have enjoyed. Unafraid to move through various changes of tempo,- including, but not limited to, mid-paced, double-pedal stomping – Web have a pretty wide palette to choose from within a tightly defined character.

Comparisons are pretty easy in listening to this, but they are all good ones; influences worn with pride, perhaps, rather than stale carbon copying. This album is a human one, and shuns the pull and sway of current trends. Dark and energising at the same time, it is exactly the sort of music I couldn’t get enough of when I first got into anything heavier than Iron Maiden, but pumped up and turbo charged for the modern age.

4/5

Paul Macmillan