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Pantheon of Blood – Consociatio Solis et Lunae

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , , , on 19th June 2012 by underthenorthernstar

Pantheon of Blood
Consociatio Solis et Lunae
Released: 13th December 2011
Black Metal
Glorious North Productions

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pantheon of Blood are a three-piece Black Metal band, originating from Finland. “Consociatio Solis et Lunae” is their second release, after their 2010 demo.

First off, the production on this EP leaves a fair amount to be desired. It doesn’t quite lend itself to the poor quality of early black metal EPs that made them more intense, but nor does it achieve a clarity that would significantly improve it. It’s not TERRIBLE, but a lot seems to be lost in this muddy work, particularly most of the drumwork and any bass.

What instantly strikes me, as soon as “Crimson Empress of the Night” begins, is that they have misjudged their guitar tone for their clean section considerably. It seems like a poor man’s attempt at the bleakness of an early Primordial track, with a distinct lack of the soul or subtle brooding that makes the latter so successful. Once the actual Black Metal begins, it improves. The songwriting for the EP is solid enough, with progressive influences dropping in, a time change here, a tempo shift there. More of it would probably be better. The riffing seems solid, if unimaginative throughout.

I feel that the band has skill, but makes too many ill-informed decisions to be great. Aside from the truly abysmal artwork, the Laughing and clean vocals towards the end of “Crimson Empress…” are probably intended to create a sense of insanity and evil, but they just end up being cringeworthy. The guitar solo going on at the same time as this seems somewhat irrelevant as well. Another significant point is that the B-side, “Overflowing Manifestation”, improves significantly in its latter half. Where its beginning was messy and overcrowded, it ends with what seems to be the aim of the whole EP; an expansive, bleak and engaging mood. The inclusion of much-improved acoustics over the traditional BM-tremolo picking and subtle group vocals it what there needs to be far more of in this band.

Pantheon of Blood end up being just fairly unremarkable with this. I don’t feel particularly drawn in, nor particularly excited by what they’ve showcased. If they continued in the vein of the very end of the EP, I would be far more interested, but as it is it seems they have a long way to go.

1.5/5

Alasdair Dunn of Norderobring

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Dragonforce – The Power Within [2012]

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on 17th April 2012 by underthenorthernstar

Band: Dragonforce

Album: The Power Within

Release Date: 15/04/2012

Genre: Extreme Power Metal

Label: Electric Generation Recordings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Review is dedicated to the memory of Vadim Pruzhanov’s Hair. RIP.

It’s been 4 years since the release of the last Dragonforce album, “Ultra Beatdown”, shortly after which singer ZP Theart left. It’s been a fairly brutal 4 years for the London-based Extreme Power Metallers; a new album in the works, a GARGANTUAN world tour freshly completed, and the singer, beloved of the fans, is gone? Surely, a bell tolling death for most bands? Not Dragonforce. Since footage of “Cry Thunder” was leaked, having been filmed by fans watching the band support Iron Maiden, I have been far more than enthralled. As for new singer Marc Hudson, I could hug the man. He is everything ZP was and more, and his entrance has injected huge amounts of life into the band once more. The songs are far more varied in structure, and thus make for a much more enjoyable listen, but every single one still manages to soar to the octane-guzzling heights of Glory of previous albums.

“The Power Within.” There could not be a more appropriate title. The whole album is overflowing with POWER. Herman Li and Sam Totman’s epic guitar shreddery is prominent in everything the band does, their mastery being an album’s worth of an air guitarist’s wet dreams. Drums are utterly insane; while restrained on tracks like “Cry Thunder”, the 220 bpm monster of “Fallen world” (fun fact: Dragonforce’s fastest ever song, beating “Cry of the Brave” at 215 bpm) shows off Dave MacKintosh’s insane skill. There are even a couple of moments where Bassist Fred Leclerq gets to show off his talent in several extreme bass passages. And one Mr Vadim Pruzhanov (God rest his hair) is one of the greatest musicians to ever mangle a keyboard. Wizardry is the only way to describe it. But Marc Hudson’s vocals are ridiculously good – he far surpasses the expectations of any of the fans, many of who would, in normal circumstances, be winging and pining for ZP. He has stupendous amounts of talent, and with layered vocals, he sounds positively majestic.

One of the main criticisms of Dragonforce with regards to previous works was that “all the songs sound the same.” It was often insisted that they relied purely on technical ability to make interesting songs, and that was included in every song. This is not a criticism that has any grounds on this album – the songs have for the most part been shortened to be more digestible by the listener (most previous songs were around the 7 minute mark), and not every song is a hyper-speed blast to the end. “Seasons”, “Last Man Stands” and “Cry Thunder” are all fairly different to the usual Dragonforce way, but in no way unwelcome. Songs like “Die by the Sword” also mark a return to the Lyrical style of fantasy, swords and battles, not seen truly since 2003’s “Valley of the Damned.”

This album… blew me away in a way I’m quite sure most of the albums released this year will fail to do so.  All the apprehension is gone, and we should welcome the new Dragonforce with open arms. Utterly, utterly stunning, utterly, utterly brilliant.

5/5

Alasdair Dunn of Norderobring

Alestorm w/Support @ Garage, Glasgow

Posted in Gig, Live with tags , , , , , on 2nd March 2012 by underthenorthernstar

Bands: Alestorm, Claim The Throne and Darkest Era

Location: The Garage, Glasgow

Date: 10th February, 2012

Having arrived at the venue a total of 4 hours early, escaping the tedium of normal life, I proceeded to get into a suitably piratey mood for the reason the horde had gathered (well, there were 6 of us at the time, but it grew). Having been backstage to interview Gazz and Elliot, grabbed a beer or two and engaged in all manner of forms of lunacy, I returned to the ever-swelling mass and entered Glasgow’s Garage on a mighty quest for gold, rum and Pirate metallers, self-proclaimed “Useless Drunken Bastards” Alestorm.

Opening the gig were Irish metal warriors Darkest Era, a personal favourite of my own. They thundered through a glorious half hour set, playing mostly from their new album, “The Last Caress of Light,” but “On the Crest of Doom” sneaking in from their “The Journey Through Damnation” EP. Whipping the Glasgow crowd into a frenzy wasn’t difficult with such incredible sings as “Heathen Burial,” “The Morrigan” and the 11 minute wonder of “The Last Caress of Light Before the Dark.” The latter in particular I didn’t expect to see, due to its epic scale, but it was somewhat more than welcome. One of my favourite bands certainly proved that night that they were more than worthy of the awesome reception they got. Get them back here, is all I can say!

Claim The Throne, of an Australian origin, followed. A band that I had not heard much of, until that point, they proved extremely entertaining, with the first use of tambourine at any metal gig I’ve been to.  The crowd loved them though; songs like “Set Sail on Ale” resulted in copious amounts of moshing. The appearance of Alestorm’s Gareth Murdock with a beer funnel went down with ecstatic applause, especially when the keyboard player drank the whole thing. While playing. She also got lost crowdsurfing at one point. Safe to say, this is a brilliant band, with a brutal edge and a horde of fans. No doubt they would be welcomed back with reckless abandon as well!

Of course, there was no stopping the onslaught of our Scottish (well, two of them are Scottish) brethren, and to the tune of a dance remix of “Shipwrecked,” Alestorm leapt heartily onto stage. Alestorm are one of those bands that it is desperately important in your life to drop everything to go and see, and without a doubt, it was one of those nights where everything went brilliantly.  “Shipwrecked” into “Wenches and Mead” into “Leviathan”… it was relentless, and all the better for it. Of course, one doesn’t just go to see Alestorm for the music, oh no… the in-between song banter literally had me in tears of laughter. When a Glaswegian crowd begins to shout “CHUG CHUG CHUG” at your buckfast-occupied hands, you’d normally do what they say… Chris Bowes dismisses this with “Yer all Dicks!” Getting “A wee bit slow… and homosexual,” they jumped straight into “Nancy the Tavern Wench,” which had the entire crowd swaying like Glaswegians on a Friday night… which, coincidentally, they were. Other highlights included “No Quarter” and it’s brilliant Pirates of The Caribbean theme, which had a massive singalong , the black metal brutality of the epic “Death Throes of the Terrorsquid,” a wall of death and the amount of crowd surfing indicated that the crowd would make incredible seamen… or, at least, were incredibly drunk. They go hand in hand really.

A truly brilliant gig, all in all, and one that had to be experienced… this review in no way does it justice. Get Drunk or Die!

Alasdair Dunn of Norderobring

Soulflame – Heaven and Hell

Posted in CD, Metal, Rock with tags , , , , , on 1st February 2012 by underthenorthernstar

Band: Soulflame
Album: Heaven and Hell
Release Date: 2009
Genre: Blues Rock/Metal
Label: Unsigned

 Soulflame are a hull-based Rock/Metal band formed in 2003. They have released Debut album, “Heaven and Hell,” and established for themselves a loyal fan base and developed a staggering live reputation.

The band’s old school fusion of Blues and Metal with a Rock and Roll mentality is incredibly infectious; immediately, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Thin Lizzy leap to mind. This is largely due to the band’s impeccable reproduction of the Old-school sound – through production as well as music. That said, there are moments, such as the riff on “Falling Hard” that are most definitely metallic in origin, Thrashy almost, and sometimes, it is more Mötley Crüe that infiltrate their sound, seen best on the title track. Musically, the band is more than sound, they are completely brilliant – despite being very clearly influenced by 70s/80s rock and metal, they maintain a significant high standard of originality. They’ve bypassed the bargain bin of second or third-hand riffs, and wear the guise of a band of a vintage far beyond their years.

Not a thing more could have been asked for with regards to guitar work – solos here are positively golden, especially on “Get a Grip.” The drumming is restrained but invigorating, and the vocals are earnest and classic. Lyrically, there’s not a whole lot that’s new… but let’s face it, nobody cares about that, they’re still brilliant. Their songs are clearly designed for the live show, a group of definite crowd-pleasers from start to finish, even the ballad “Sands of Time,” But the energy of that environment is captured excellently on record. It’s a testament to the band’s supreme talent.

Heaven and Hell is an amazing album, brought to the fore by a band with the sound of the legends of yesteryear and the energy of a hyperactive toddler. Just as loud too. With a truly disappointing lack of nationwide (Read “world”) success, I say get it sorted, Britain!

4.7/5

Alasdair Dunn of Norderobring

Seelenmord – …And We Will Find Only Solitude – Part 1 [2011]

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , on 30th December 2011 by underthenorthernstar

Band: Seelenmord
Album: …And We Will Find Only Solitude – Part 1
Release year: 2011
Genre: Black Metal

Seelenmord is an Argentinian Black Metal project consisting of two members – Daniel and Enrique (no second names given). They have just released their debut EP, “…And We Will Find Only Solitude – Part 1,” and plan to record and release several more for free via mediafire and other file sharing sites.

First off, I have to say that the first thing my Mother said upon hearing “The World Cries in Rain” was that the chord progression reminded her “of Abba.” How Kvlt is she.  The songs, underneath a layer of brutality and “rawness,” do have fairly musical chord progressions, and enjoyable melodies. That said, they do not detract from the overall intensity of the record, far from it; it adds a layer of complexity that provides a challenge to the listener: peel away the layers and find your reward. The group’s guitar work doesn’t exactly leap into devastatingly melts-your-face-like-corpsepaint-on-a-hot-day territory, but such is the nature of Black Metal. The songs are less technical proficiency and more the capture of an atmosphere – that said, the addition of a full minute of wind sounds on either end of the EP seems slightly pretentious. Thankfully, that is easy to overlook, because the brutality is upped to a maximum with punishing blastbeats, tremolo riffs and utterly indecipherable vocals, particularly evident on standout track “Hunters.”

When most people think of “Melodic Black Metal,” they’ll think of bands like Dimmu Borgir, but comparing such a band with the brutality of Seelenmord is like comparing the holocaust with sticking a frog in the microwave. The production values are understandably low – the EP is self-financed – but that lends towards the rawness that the group is trying to achieve. However, this does mean that much is lost with regard to recording quality (not that that would matter for a black metal release). I feel that the drums and vocals could have been mixed a bit higher than they are, as it is, the vocals seem like an addition to the actual music, rather than part of it, and the drums could certainly have done with being clearer.  But brutality is achieved outstandingly.

I really like this release. It’s brutal and it’s awesome. Sure, it’s not been polished or refined, but it’s well written and filled with an underground spirit. It’s definitely worth a look, for all you grim warriors out there who just can’t get enough Norwegian black metal churching-burning anthems on cassette tapes. Can’t wait for the next EP.

4.1/5

Alasdair Dunn of Norderobring

Skin The Pig – Article XIX [2011]

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , , , , , on 23rd December 2011 by underthenorthernstar

Band: Skin The Pig
Album: Article XIX
Release year: 2011
Genre: Progressive Sludge Metal/Metalcore

Skin The Pig are a Manchester-based six-piece who play a mixture of Progressive Metal and Hardcore. Formed in 2000, they have since released their latest effort “Article XIX” in March 2011 and have been hailed by fans and critics alike.

It is apparent from the very outset that the album is incredibly well produced, the sound clarity being excellent and mix being just right. This is particularly apparent in the drumming, which sounds like it’s been recorded onto water a la Metalocalypse, and is clearer than polished mountain air. The guitar work sounds just as excellent whether the task is an ambient, clean passage, a crushing, chugging riff or a swooping solo. The vocals are handled brilliantly. There’s nothing to be asked for in the production department at all.

The songwriting ability of Skin The Pig is, for the most part, excellent. The beautiful ambient passages and grooving, sludgy riffs are a joy to listen to. However, it is a frustration for your humble reviewer whenever they incorporate their “Hardcore” edge into the songs. In some cases, it works, but, for example, the use of a breakdown at the end of “I Rise, You Fall” seems completely unnecessary. I can’t help feeling that the songs would be improved by scaling back on the use of fairly unoriginal Metalcore elements in favour of their more progressive approach. I’m sure the style will appeal to many, and if you like Metalcore more than anything else in the whole world then this album will be great for giving you that bit of musical variation. That said, the use of the Metalcore sound is justified on “Yet Nameless”, as the contrast emphasises the solo work and the groove of the more sludgy parts. The songs on which a more Mastodon-like sound is incorporated are the more enjoyable, from my point of view, as they feel so much more like the band is showing off its real talent. And although I can’t help feeling reminded of Bullet for My Valentine for the first three minutes of “Room 121,” the lyrical content is resolutely great.

However, it must be said that the musicianship is Phenomenal. The band has more talent than a greedy ancient Egyptian tax collector. The soloing is incredible, particularly on tracks like “In Loving Memory” and “Factory Factory,” and the drumming on “No Man’s Land” is eargasmic.  The way that the band play as a whole makes me think that they must be a brilliant band to see live, and that is something I certainly plan on doing.

I think that Article XIX is a solid album by a great band. I hope to hear more of them in the future, and I know that there will be hundreds of fans of this style, and it really is a great example. Definitely check it out if you’ve always dreamt that one day Lamb of God would meet Mastodon, get to know them and eventually have a screaming child together.

3.9/5

Alasdair Dunn of Norderobring