Tesseract – Sonder

Label: Kscope. Release date: 20 April 2018.

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One of the most hotly anticipated albums of the year is almost upon us, and if you’re a big TESSERACT fan like me, you might also be wondering how on earth they could top 2015’s Polaris. It always seems effortless for TESSERACT to evolve with each album and fourth album Sonder is no different. TESSERACT have now fully established themselves as progressive metal greats and this reflects in their sound and songwriting. An incredibly mature and focused approach is used for this album. With many rip-off TESSERACT bands on the scene, the group now need to avoid becoming a parody of themselves. Luckily they manage this.

I must admit, after hearing Smile when the band previewed it last year, I wasn’t enamoured at all. I had the same reaction during the first spin of Sonder, however I am a firm believer this often signals an album which grows over time. It is the effort of the digesting of the record after a few listens which rewards you with a superb album that just ‘clicks’.

Sonder kicks off with Luminary. Most fans might expect a twinkly intro, but this opener immediately packs a punch. Have they got your attention? Yes. During the melodic verse, there are some CALIGULA’S HORSE vibes but THAT chorus blows any soft vocals out of the water. An excellent start with some token TESSERACT motifs here and there, you’re on tenterhooks for more. Thankfully for us, more is what we get with next track King which is a right ol’ jewel in the crown. Hopefully you will have already heard this blistering single, but hearing it in context with the rest of the album creates an incredible, new experience. With this single, TESSERACT declare this is us, this is our sound, watch us evolve. TESSERACT are well past using screams to be heavy, but the screams on King do take it to the next level. The song is probably longer than it needs to be, but it is an outstanding track.

TESSERACT has always been one for atmospheric and broody songs but next track, Orbital is quite unlike anything the band have done before. A short song, but the instrumentation sounds colossal, yet really subtle. It is one to expand the imagination and I think it is truly beautiful and moving. It has to be heard to be believed. It merges into the next gem of the album, Juno. It is quite an upbeat, djent ditty making it one of the more memorable songs on Sonder. The lyrics tie in nicely with the name of the album; ‘sonder’ is a term coined by writer John Koenig to express the indescribable emotion we experience when we realise each of us are simultaneously living vivid and complex lives. It is this disconnection that Sonder hints at – the thought that something greater is happening within.

Beneath My Skin harks back to the glory days of One, with the build up of tension before the sweet release of a bit of djent. Old school fans will probably swarm to this track, but it does follow the more thoughtful and melodic approach the band are now known for. Mirror Image follows TESSERACT’s newer formula of straight-up melodic metal. Using less djent and incorporating more keys, it’s grown into one of my favourite songs on Sonder. After first listen, I completely overlooked it, but it has a charm about it which has enchanted me.

As mentioned earlier, when I first heard Smile last year I wasn’t blown away at all. However, hearing it on Sonder has made me appreciate it a lot more. A great deal happens in this song and once again Dan Tompkins pushes himself to be on of progressive metal’s best vocalists. With a couple of strong songs at the beginning of Sonder, the album also needed two strong closers to anchor it. Smile provides one and the finale, The Arrow provides the other. Normally TESSERACT like to have a lengthy conclusion to proceedings but The Arrow is really short in comparison at two and a half minutes. It was important not to drag Sonder out and luckily this final track keeps it short and sweet with a killer melody and twinkly instrumentation. Eight songs might not seem enough but I do genuinely think TESSERACT made the right decision here. Sonder is a terrifically solid body of work. I don’t think it will progress to being my favourite TESSERACT album, but album of the year..? Well, it wouldn’t be impossible.

Midas Fall – Evaporate

Label: Monotreme Records. Release date: 27 April 2018.

The long, dark nights of winter are hopefully behind us…but it’s almost a shame as MIDAS FALL would be the perfect soundtrack to a cold, crisp night. Elizabeth Heaton and Rowan Burn are the masterminds behind this Scottish duo and they are a prime example of less is best. There is a beguiling sense of enchantment with fourth album Evaporate. You scuttle to the edge but are quickly absorbed into the chilling beauty of Keaton’s vocals and the progressive post-rock soundscapes.

The album opens with the mesmerising Bruise Pusher which really captures the heart early on. The dark broodiness reminds me of AEREOGRAMME’s Nightmares and a little of A Warm Place by NINE INCH NAILS – you know, that glorious sprawling texture that sounds like an oncoming storm. The atmosphere is stifling yet has a deceiving simplicity to it. Keaton’s vocals are perfection and it sounds like she is potentially a more talented vocalist than she lets on. This somehow adds to the duo’s charm and mystique.

The title track is another strong song, starting with strings before some tasty synth. Their pulsating electronics are reminiscent of a more reserved ZOMBI or the soundtrack of AXIOM VERGE. Keaton’s voice drives the song but it is the rumbling bass and piano motif which hypnotizes the listener further. In Soveraine it is Keaton who dominates. It is a low-key affair but we can fully appreciate the range of Keaton’s vocals in this track, from her whispers to her bolder projections. It’s a stunning piece.

Glue has to be one of my favourite songs on Evaporate. The heartfelt lyrics and beautiful melodies are accompanied by super slick instrumentation and spectacular electronics. It is probably the ‘poppiest’ track on the album with its lyrical content, but it is one of the more memorable ones. An absolutely gorgeous song it is now coupled with an equally attractive, animated music video. After the groovy electronics of Glue, next track Sword To Shield is a reserved and modest affair. The opening melody reminds me of Carl Espen’s Silent Storm (yes, the Norwegian Eurovision entry in 2014, and yes, it is a compliment) which might give you an indication of the hushed tones and intricate melodies on display in Sword To Shield. There is more orchestration too which adds to the beautiful and serene tones.

Dust And Bone has a glorious, nostalgic tinge. A bit of 80s/90s vibes with a bit of Bjork and Madonna thrown in. It’s another brooding track with post-rock undertones, ending on a high with instrumentation which wouldn’t sound out of place on albums by 65DAYSOFSTATIC or MAYBESHEWILL. It is more of an acoustic affair on Awake with the guitars sounding like aural equivalent of the first glimpses of sunlight through the canopy of a forest. This track has another old school vibe to me, sounding like a hushed FLEETWOOD MAC or a shy Kate Bush. The quieter moments of MIDAS FALL are often the most outstanding.

The same can be said for In Sunny Landscapes which could be a spectacular finale for a folky album. It just grows and grows into a beautiful bloom, shining in the sunlight. Keaton truly shines here. Burn’s twinkly guitars and the piano and cellos create an irresistible, uplifting mood, it is a delight to the ears. The mood shifts dramatically in Lapsing; a dark horse of a track, it could end up being a favourite for some. With PORTISHEAD vibes, Keaton sounds like she is singing on an über cool Bond soundtrack. It’s an incredibly mesmerising song, with its modest beginning to its melancholic hooks. An absolutely dark gem of a track, it’s one I keep returning to again and again.

Unfortunately, we’ve already reached the finale of the album, Howling At The Clouds. It has echoes of the earlier tracks of the album, bringing Evaporate full circle. It has a brooding expanse with post-rock components, along with synths and spellbinding melodies. MIDAS FALL are pretty hard to pigeonhole, but that’s part of their charm. Definitely on the NORDIC GIANTS end of ‘metal’, MIDAS FALL are one of those appealing crossover bands that you can rely on when you’re craving something a bit calmer. Evaporate is a charming masterpiece, both chilling and warming. It’s got enough interesting dynamics to make you return time after time.

Temples On Mars – Self titled

Label: Primordial Records. Release date: 6 April 2018.

TEMPLES ON MARS – a name inspired by advanced ancient hieroglyphs that were allegedly created with the assistance of extra terrestrial entities, who also supposedly were responsible for the construction of temples on the surface of Mars. This concept has been translated audibly in first track Bon Voyage, with futuristic atmospherics, space-age commentary and an enticing, yet simple motif repeated throughout the song. We are being led on a journey and TEMPLES OF MARS are our pilots on our prog rock odyssey.

The second track Gods & Kings bursts in with stratospheric radio-friendly riffs. Frontman James Donaldson croons along, yet when the chorus kicks in you could be forgiven for including him with the otherworldly entities the song title suggests. An absolute cracker of an opener, our progressive troupe from London are already threatening to break the mould and launch themselves to be their own colossal entity.

TEMPLES ON MARS continue their massive sound with the delightful Afraid Of Living and its hypnotic riff. Blending loud and proud guitars with catchy melodies, the band run the risk of becoming dangerously addictive. The same can be said for next track and lead single, So In Love With Your Drug. It’s a catchy beast that’s more radio friendly than prog rock, with the cheesy key change at the end of the song, but a highly memorable tune all the same.

When I listen to this album I occasionally think I’m listening to a band from Australia, as their prog drenched rock reminds me of bands such as THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT, DEAD LETTER CIRCUS and even KARNIVOOL. Fifth track, How Far Will You Go demonstrates a darker side of TEMPLES ON MARS that is reminiscent of the more brooding songs by the bands just mentioned. I think How Far Will You Go is a little gem on this self titled record; it has quite a cold ambience compared to the catchiness of previous songs, making it an edgy yet rewarding listen. Don’t worry though, the big riffs and catchy lyrics return in leaps and bounds on Death In The Afternoon.

There is something nostalgic about Make No Bones, in fact there is a sense of familiarity which runs through the whole album. TEMPLES ON MARS have already achieved THAT sound which hopefully means this album could end up becoming a timeless classic later down the line. With this song however, it does make me think of THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT again and even DORP (remember them?) and just that general warm, fuzzy feeling you get when you listen to a good song.

The beginning of Black Mirror is a curious one. With its beautiful, proggy intro, it is soon accompanied by a heavy and chuggy riff which sounds more metalcore than anything. Donaldson’s vocals soon provide some light to this darkness. It is a very interesting song as these elements continue to battle it out for the duration of the song. Suicide Tiger also becomes a curious listen; with its mesmerising and brooding first half. As it starts to gain momentum I hear echoes of CAESAR’S ROME and Back To Oblivion-era FINCH. TEMPLES ON MARS somehow manage to nail a slow-burning song as well as an up-tempo rock hit.

When I review an album I like to give it a couple of listens to digest it before I can form an opinion on it. This morning I woke up with When Gods Collide in my head, so that is a very good sign that this album had ‘clicked’ with me. And who can blame me with the ridiculously charming melodies and catchy chorus. If this doesn’t become one of the hits of the album then I’ll despair. Definitely more on the ARCANE ROOTS end of things, this song has ‘winner’ stamped all over it. Next track Dining With The Devil doesn’t quite match up to its predecessor but it is still one hell of an impressive track. Its ambitious length (8 minutes) and its proggy interludes maintain your interest through its diversity of styles and unpredictability, oh and of course its MUSE-esque breaks.

After such a fun journey through prog and rock, TEMPLES ON MARS needed a suitable finale to terminate the voyage…and it doesn’t disappoint. With more samples like the first track, it comes full circle; almost like the first and last tracks are bookends for the record, containing the prog-rock package within. It will be interesting what TEMPLES ON MARS pull out of the bag for album number two. Will they go more prog or more rock? We’ll have to wait and see but no doubt, like their namesake, it will be out of this world.

Valis Ablaze – Boundless

Label: Long Branch Records. Release date: 6 April 2018.

You may remember Bristolians VALIS ABLAZE were featured twice on Metalmance last year; the first time being a review of their stunning EP Insularity, then the second time being a review of their impressive performance at Tech Fest. This year is destined to be an incredible year for the tech metallers; having signed to Long Branch Records, supporting legendary acts such as SIKTH and now releasing their hotly anticipated debut album, Boundless. VALIS ABLAZE have seriously stepped up a notch and are bound to set the British tech scene – ahem – ablaze.

The parallels to TESSERACT cannot be ignored as the opening notes in Afterlight ring. Vocalist Phil Owens is coming to the fore here on Boundless, demonstrating his talent that was only hinted at on Insularity. This is true for the remainder of the band too, VALIS ABLAZE sound more confident which has resulted in a solid body of work. But I’m getting ahead of myself here. The band aren’t just a TESSERACT rip-off, yes the influence is there, but there are also nods to so many other genres and bands. Afterlight sounds similar in style to other British progressive hopefuls, BRUTAI. Instantly with this first song the massive production propels VALIS ABLAZE into the stratosphere, with the irresistible melody raising the emotion higher. The song flows seamlessly into the second offering, The Crossing, a brooding track which blossoms halfway through into a proggy joy.

This joy carries on with third track, and arguably the masterpiece of the album, Lumen. Beginning beautifully with a blissful piano melody and rumbling bass, the song explodes into a memorable tune. Every instrument has its part with many dynamics and interesting riffs, courtesy of Tom Moore and Ash Cook, providing a rich depth that their EP was lacking in parts. If you are unable to appreciate this song then you don’t deserve the rest of the album.

The TESSERACT-esque notes are back again in Evade, but they soon evaporate when the killer riff and drums crash in. Evade ends up being one of the heaviest songs on the album, making it an unexpected delight. An unexpected twist occurs again with Hex, with the vocal melody having an enjoyable pop stance amongst the guitars that are akin to the likes of MONUMENTS and DEITIES.

The start of The Static Between Us has an ambitious drive to it, which then spans out into a NORTHLANE-esque sprawl. Another bruiser of a track, The Static Between Us packs a punch. When you think you are safe in their melodic clutches, VALIS ABLAZE soon shatter the illusion.

Faster Than Light marks the first of the guest appearances. This impressive slab of metal features the disgustingly talented SITHU AYE, who assists in kicking things to the next level. Everything about Faster Than Light is spot on; the riffs, the melodies, the pace… you can understand why the band are gaining quite quite a reputation. The same can be said for next track Frequency, which features the band’s long term friend – and producer of Insularity – DREWSIF. It is an exceptional track, oozing with a maturity that is rare to hear on a debut album. VALIS ABLAZE are nurturing their sound and are not afraid to threaten the world with the promise of something special.

The penultimate track of Boundless is also the first single off the album, Paradox. I have to admit I have found this song difficult to digest and it still has not fully ‘clicked’ with me. Personally, it doesn’t sound as focused as other songs on the album. Having said all that, it is still a strong song but it just doesn’t quite match the calibre of the others.

Reece Fullwood of MASK OF JUDAS and EUMERIA guests on album finale, Reflections. His awesome guitar playing compliments the song beautifully and quite frankly, steals the show. Boundless is brought to a spellbinding close with a stellar melody and riffs, with the last notes resonating in your end until the very end. An absolute stunner of a debut, VALIS ABLAZE have been patiently honing their craft, perfecting every detail, before bestowing it on the world. If the band haven’t cemented themselves as rising stars of the British scene by album number two, then Metalmance will be stumped as to why. VALIS ABLAZE’s potential is indeed…boundless.

Møl – Jord

Label: Holy Roar Records. Release date: 13 April 2018.

I’ve already said it once this year, but I’m going to say it again – Denmark sure has its finger on the pulse of metal at the moment, and their latest export MØL can be added to the list of hottest bands to watch. MØL are blistering yet charming in equal measures. Their brand of ‘black shoegaze’ is nothing short of mesmerising. At times it sounds like the torture of a soul, but other times it sounds oddly soothing; you’re swept up in a whirlwind of dark emotion, then you’re set down in an array of screams and twinkly instrumentation. On paper it shouldn’t work, but it does. MØL have a winning formula with debut album Jord and hopefully they’ll stick to it.

The word ‘jord’ means land/earth and this nicely translates to the sprawling mass of heaviness MØL supply. Shoegaze provides the foundations while black metal influences are firmly rooted in, but the blooms are the spellbinding cascades of feeling MØL conjure. A perfect example of this is opening track Storm. Easing in with a scattering of bold notes, the song soon blooms into a huge wall of sound. The amazing blackened screams of frontman Kim Song Sternkopf are mixed brilliantly with the triumphant guitars. It oddly sounds like black metal indie but it’s far more ambitious than that. The ‘calmer’ moments of the song sound a tad KVELERTAK but the ending rings and resonates in a glorious haze.

The surreal and beautiful Penumbra is a standout track, with its fast riffing and drumming and soaring instrumentation. It sounds like the lovechild of EASTERN FRONT and EDITORS; an unusual but winning combination for sure. The middle eight showcases the band’s ability to pen a tranquil metal tune, before bursting with that black shoegaze sound you’re already falling in love with. For me, the vocals and riffs create an overwhelming atmosphere of feeling, they just hit an emotional nerve. This feeling continues with Bruma, an absolutely spectacular tune of massive proportions. Yes, the heavy breaks are impressive, but the quieter moments provide a mesmerising depth. MØL only need to strike one note and they have filled the mind and soul with an glowing warmth.

Vakuum starts as a straight-up metal track, with the extreme influences coming to the fore, but beautiful guitars interrupt the beastly ruckus to stamp that fantastic shoegaze sound all over it. This steps up a notch with Lambda, a beautiful instrumental piece that fans of MAYBESHEWILL and PELICAN will adore. This post-rock masterpiece enables you to reflect for a moment; it is quite quite a neutral song but has such a strong ‘colour’ you still find yourself swooning along.

The instrumental interlude is soon shattered by the WINTERFYLLETH-esque Ligament. The relentless pace and gut-wrenching screams gets the heart pumping but your pulse is allowed to slow down a bit when the melodic riffs sneak their way in. MØL both ignite and soothe the soul, it’s a wonderful combination. Ligament is the longest song on Jord but it is in no way a slog to get through. It is not easy to predict what shape the song will form, but there is an unexpected, yet nicely executed element towards the end. I won’t spoil it for you, it is one song you will have to indulge in yourself.

It’s tricky to describe Virga without using an oxymoron, but this song is morbidly upbeat. The screams aren’t the most optimistic yet the riffs are so uplifting your spirits can’t help but be raised. The drumming at the end reminds me of One Time For All Time-era 65DAYSOFSTATIC, providing a sense of warming familiarity. MØL do not follow a routine, unlike your typical metal form of screams/clean/sceams/clean. There is no soft/heavy/soft/heavy and this unpredictability of it makes it exciting. This also stands true for the title track, which is also the finale of Jord. The beginning has quite a techy start with its heavy riffs and dark groove. The first half has a menacing ambiance whereas the second consists of surreal melodies and a spellbinding climax. Before you know it, Jord has come to an end and you’re left awestruck and eager for more. Eight tracks might not seem enough for such an impressive release, but it works in MØL’s favour as they don’t out-welcome their stay. Jord is is a spectacular debut album and you can’t help but feel curious about what the band have up their sleeves for album number two.

INTERVIEW: Dreamshade

An interview with the Swiss metallers about their music loves, touring the UK and the Swiss scene.

Interview 26 March 2017.

Nestled in a cosy corner of an Irish pub in Tufnell Park, DREAMSHADE members Kevin Calì (vocals), Fernando ‘Fella’ Di Cicco (guitar) and Gian-Andrea Costa (bass) are relaxed with pints of Guinness and are excited for their first ever London show. Conversing with friends and their old vocalist (who later provided guest vocals during their set), the guys were in high spirits and excitedly chatting about their European shows and their world tour for latest album Vibrant.

First UK tour, first time in London, what has taken you so long to come over here?!

Fella: It’s actually not really easy to come to the UK for a Swiss band. Actually nothing is easy for a Swiss band. We never really had a good proposal from the UK before, so this is the first time we’ve had a nice tour set for this part of the world.

Gian: For us it’s very good because much of the music we listen to comes from England, it’s a special country for music, especially rock and metal music. So it is a good place to be invited for a Swiss band who come from a very small city like Lugano which is where we come from, so it is a great pleasure to be here.

Yeah I was going to ask, because over here we’re not familiar with many Swiss bands, is there a scene over there and where do you fit in that?

Fella: There is one. But first of all Switzerland is a special country because it’s kinda divided in the middle, it’s not really united. Mostly because the language changes along the way. The northern part is really influenced by the Germans, they speak German. The western part is influenced by the French. We are from the south, we’re influenced by and speak Italian. So we live in the same country but we don’t really share the same music scene. We’re kinda divided but there is a music scene. It’s quite good, not really big obviously because it’s a small country but there are cities like Zurich which is in the centre of Switzerland which is pretty good. The clubs are also small, it’s a small country so you can’t expect 10,000 people for a show.

Gian: We get a lot of Summer festivals and open airs, it’s kinda a tradition. I think it’s the country in Europe with the most open airs during the summer.

Really?!

Gian: Yeah it’s crazy, you can believe that! Every weekend during the summer and even during the week there are some open airs at the same time as other countries. It’s crazy for us Swiss people, it is usual for us to do an open air in the summer.

So how many are you playing this summer?

All: We don’t know yet!

Gian: We don’t know but we will have some festivals of course. And bands from all over the world come to Switzerland to play a festival. The biggest ones always come to Switzerland.

I did not know that!

Fella: The summer is actually really good.

Kevin: Also with the weather it’s usually pretty good which is good for festivals.

Gian: Traditionally you have the Montreux Jazz Festival which is the biggest in the world. So yeah, it is a special country for festivals.

Fella: For festivals yeah. [laughs]

So you were saying about the British bands that you’re into. Are there any British bands in particular that are your favourites or influences?

Fella: Yeah, from the classic ones like GENESIS and er…

Gian: THE POLICE.

Fella: THE POLICE definitely. STING.

Gian: ECHO AND THE BUNNYMEN, we’re big fans of British music in general.

Fella: Yeah we’re big fans of the rock style. But also the newer bands, even more heavy like ARCHITECTS, or LOWER THAN ATLANTIS, DON BROCO…

Kevin: BRING ME THE HORIZON. They’re really, really good. I mean, I could name like, a thousand groups.

Gian: Yeah, we like many! Many good bands here.

Fella: Especially for rock, but also for rap. I like some rap artists, there’s this guy called P MONEY. I don’t know where he’s from [London], but he’s really good. And also some female rap artists.

I remember you saying when you brought out Vibrant you wanted to get your rap and hip-hop love into that.

Fella: Yeah we’re really into that, especially the three of us.

Gian: I used to listen to Italian rap because it’s easy for the words and language you know.

Fella: It sounds good actually, the Italian language fits really well.

Gian: That’s why personally, I don’t listen to a lot of British hip-hop, or British rap…

Kevin: Or American.

Gian: Yeah we’re big fans of Italian rap and it’s come out in our music.

Would you add more into later records?

Fella: We can’t really tell. When it happened we did it with some songs like You Don’t Wanna Go and Sleep Alone, but we were just like, fucking around.

And it works!

Fella: [laughs] Yes, exactly! It was like I cannot think of anything else that fits on this particular piece. It’s just small pieces, here and there and it sounded good to us.

Gian: Because we love hip-hop music, also the hip-hop culture, but we are quite far away from that being in a rock band. But for Vibrant we asked a friend of ours to dj and do real scratches on the album because I was thinking if we were doing something with hip-hop then we’d do it in the real way. We wanted a real dj with real turntables to do the scratch sounds.

It does work on Vibrant! So, how are you enjoying the UK then?

Fella: I love it, I’ve already been here a few times before.

Kevin: It’s really, really good.

Are you enjoying the breakfasts? (The band had been uploading photos of their English breakfasts on social media during their tour)

Gian: Absolutely yes!

Fella: I’ve actually had too much so I really need to stop, because otherwise my cholesterol levels will go… [laughs]

Gian: Each morning since the beginning of tour we have been eating just English breakfasts…

Fella: It’s too many eggs, it’s too much!

You can never have too many eggs!

Fella: [laughs] Oh you can! When your heart stops beating…[Gian laughs]…that’s when you know!

Gian: But you know, we love beers, we love music, we love pubs, so the UK is perfect for us.

And we’re here in an Irish pub! You’re going to have to come back soon.

Kevin: We hope so.

So, you have quite a strong presence on social media and you’re in touch with fans. The DREAMSHADE community is so tight knit, how much does that fan community mean to you as a band?

Fella: I think we build that up, because we had a hard time in the beginning to come out and reach people. Actually the audience has always been the most important part of the project, because we really felt that everyone we could reach, even playing at smaller shows , like with five people in the front row, that was really good because we could actually get to them and they were so happy to see us and meet us, to talk with us, to say what they think about the music. That’s what really matters to us, when someone else can recognise what you’re doing is actually good and you’re doing the right thing. We may not be the most famous band in the world , but it’s really good because they feel like us when we play. So we’re really into this community style, social media managing and it’s working really good.

As it’s your first UK tour, how has the turn out been for each show?

Fella: It depends on the night, depends on the city. The last show we did in Derby…

Kevin: Last night in Derby was really good.

Yeah? Was that the best one so far?

Fella: Yeah because of the quality of the people.

Gian: Yeah everybody knew all the songs, a lot of sing alongs…

Fella: It’s really good for us, especially for the Vibrant songs because they’re new. It was surprising to see some of the songs we didn’t really push, actually people knew and were singing.

Gian: It’s really interesting because the song Sleep Alone…it’s quite strange for us because we don’t understand how important it is for people yet, but yesterday we saw many of the crowd singing it. It’s interesting because we love that song, it’s one of my favourites.

Fella: Also You Don’t Wanna Go was really surprising.

Gian: It was a nice place to test songs yesterday.

Fella: That’s so true, that’s so true. Manchester was really good too.

That’s always a really good city for music.

Fella: Yeah it was on a Tuesday so we didn’t really expect a lot of people, but the quality of the people like for Derby, everyone knew all the songs we played and that’s what really matters to us because we don’t want to have singles here and there and everyone knows the singles but for the whole set they’re not really having fun. But most of the people yesterday who we met [in Derby] told us they’re really into the albums. They’re in love with the albums, not just the songs and that’s what really matters to us because we really put a lot of effort in each song and they’re really different from each other, and the album shapes…that’s what’s really important to us.

Yeah, when you released a couple of tracks off Vibrant early, there was a lot of people like “are there gonna be any heavy songs”…

Gian: Yeah it’s a very different album, to listen to it and we also had some fun looking through the comments…

Kevin: It was funny…

Gian: For the people saying “oh no, where’s the heavy parts” on Youtube, and we’d think, wait, next week we’ll release another song and this will be heavy enough. So for us it was quite fun.

Fella: It was even funnier that most of the people that were commenting like “ah, this sucks, it’s too soft, it’s too rock, it’s too pop”…it is really pop actually haha. It was really funny to see those people commenting on the first song releases like You Don’t Wanna Go, which is really pop…they fell in love with the album. After they were like “ah, this is shit I’m never listening to DREAMSHADE again”. Then the album drops. You’ve got to see the album as a piece of art, not just the song. That’s our way. Maybe we’re doing everything wrong, whatever…[laughs]. We like it that way, so…

Gian: We love dynamics, we don’t believe in a kind of music where the beginning is the same as the end…

Fella: Same bpm, same notes…

Gian: This is also because the lyrics are quite different. There are different moods on the album, there are songs that are really positive in a certain way, there are personal stories about our families, and you can’t see all the songs in the same way…

Kevin: Yes [claps] makes no sense.

Fella: Just to be metal. It makes no sense.

I mean, even on The Gift Of Life [previous album] and Vibrant, each song does have its own sound. I get that. Maybe Vibrant is a bit heavier emotionally?

All: Yes.

Fella: That’s nice that you’ve noticed that. You know, the average metal listener is maybe looking for something, so then they find the bands that they like. But if you’re giving yourself through music, then you just need the right people to get it. It’s very difficult. But when they do, they’re hooked because they really enjoy what they’re listening to and they can see themselves through the lyrics and the mood of the songs and the ambiance, whatever. That makes sense for us.

So, after the UK tour, is there anywhere you haven’t played yet that you want to play?

Fella: Australia…United States…

Haven’t you played the United States yet?!

Fella: Ah actually yes, we’ve played there before, but never toured…not even Canada, Brazil or South America. South America would be really good…

Kevin: Mexico…

Every band, their fans are like “come to Brazil!”…

Fella: It’s a really big audience!

It’s a big country!

Fella: It’s a big country, a lot of people, but especially a lot of rock, a lot of punk rock. And metal. A lot. A lot of festivals like Rock In Rio.

Gian: We also know we have fans down there, we continue to receive proposals for gigs there. We just have to arrange the right time, the right moment, it’s all organisation with all the tours. But we just wait for that. We’re almost ready to do that.

Guys, thank you for you time, enjoy the rest of the tour and your breakfasts!

Vexes – Ancient Geometry

Release date: 23 February 2018.

There seems to be a trend of nostalgic sounding metal as of late, with the likes of GOOD TIGER and their new proggy post-hardcore – and now VEXES and their spectacular DEFTONES-tinged metal. From the ashes of several established bands, a phoenix formed with the name VEXES and they have just released their beautiful debut album Ancient Geometry.

Smashing in with Helion, you’d probably think you were hearing the warblings of Chino Moreno, but you’d be mistaken. They are in the fact the luscious vocals of Charlie Berezansky, former member of VESSL. Helion boasts a wealth of influences. After the initial comparison to DEFTONES, elements of late FINCH and THRICE can also be recognised through the emotive attitude and subtle technicality wrapped under huge dollops of melodies. The ending takes an interesting turn with the heavy riffs sounding not too dissimilar to  A LIFE ONCE LOST, the former band of drummer Justin Graves. A subtle hint to past lives?

Second track Lift is sugar-soaked with Mesmer-era NORTHLANE vibes and the spacey chorus has CIRCA SURVIVE stamped all over it. The glorious and deep feelings VEXES have already stirred with the fist two songs is impressive stuff. It’s beginning to give the impression this is an album to fully immerse yourself in. This is a great feat by frontman Berezansky who engineered and mixed the album, the tones are spot on and it’s all helped along by the mastering of Mike Kalajian (THE DEER HUNTER, SAOSIN, EMMURE).

Decisions Are Death Here is a brooding track that erupts into a heart wrenching chorus. Drenched in dark emotion, it would sit quite happily an album such as Saturday Night wrist. A similar formula is used for Plasticine, a song which has some hints of grunge, but is very unashamedly DEFTONES in its melodies.

The impressive and ambitious No Color features guest vocalist Mikey Carvajal, from ISLANDER. Carvajal gives this punchy song a hard, nu-metal edge. Having said that, this track still sounds as fresh as ever, giving dated styles a modern crunch. The riffs are reminiscent of MATCHBOOK ROMANCE in places which drives the song home. Sometimes VEXES also remind me of CAVE IN, most likely because of the clean, slick sound and the old school riffs and melodies. VEXES chuck it all into their melting pot and serve their own hybrid. A nod to CIRCA SURVIVE is once again heard in Terra; another impressive slab of metal.

While listening to Ancient Geometry, one word keeps springing to mind. Coincidentally this word is also the title of the next song – Lush.  The instrumentation shifts and shines and makes this song a very enjoyable listen. With a heavy crunch from the middle onwards, it has a hint of TESSERACT with its melodic twinklings and heavy accompaniment.

A short interlude titled Meridian Response clears the mind and cleans the palette before the storming Photochrom smashes your senses. Screaming through the first chorus, the song continues with FINCH-esque melodies and catchy choruses. You can’t help but hope the song will take another heavy turn again, but VEXES remain melodic with irresistible riffs.

The title track is also the finale of Ancient Geometry. A chilled out affair, the blissful melodies provide the perfect setting to close this spellbinding album. The track is chock-full of delights, ensuring you finish Ancient Geometry with goosebumps. I don’t know how VEXES have done it, but they have achieved something special with their debut album. Not every band could accomplish wearing their influences on their sleeves so openly, yet still produce an album that sounds fresh and innovative. It will be interesting to see what direction VEXES will progress with album number two, but for the moment let’s enjoy the triumph that is Ancient Geometry.

Cabal – Mark Of Rot

Label: Long Branch Records. Release date: 23 February 2018.

The Danes sure have their finger on the pulse of metal these days, with the likes of GHOST IRIS and VOLA, but now an expulsion of the darkest matter is spreading from Copenhagen. This darkness goes by the name of CABAL, a band who sap all the doom and evil from black metal, death metal, djent and hardcore and mutilates it further to forge its own hybrid of brutality. CABAL will unleash this brutality in the form of their debut album, Mark Of Rot, the follow-up to their critically acclaimed EP Purge.

The rot begins with False Light, a raw and chuggy dark mass of metal. CABAL start as they mean to go on. Expelling the evilest of filth, it snuffs the flame of any hope or optimism you may possess. A blackened masterpiece ensues with Nothingness; an organ from Hell resonates before blastbeats and black metal riffs rip the breath from you. Featuring the vocals of THY ART IS MURDER’s CJ McMahon, you can guage the putrid violence this track belches. Much like the title of the song, you feel the spiralling void of nothingness threatening to consume you.

Blackened Soil is a bit of a ballsier affair. Throwing a myriad of styles in the air and constructing a song with the order of whatever plummets to the ground first, is the best way to describe this track. Beginning on the techier end of the spectrum, an eruption of hardcore occurs before a theatrical black metal break. All the while, blackened deathcore and the heaviest djent lurks round every corner, a morbid delight for the ears. This can also be said for the next offering, Rah’Ru. Starting like an opus by FLESHGOD APOCALYPSE, the atmosphere builds and endures during these four minutes of intensity.

Halfway through Mark Of Rot we are exposed to the devastating Empty. Two and a half minutes of terrifying ambience and the doomiest and blackest riffs, the brooding darkness is stifling. It demonstrates how CABAL can carry the weight of its menace in an instrumental. The vocals spit venom with avengence in Unworthy however, commanding your attention and willingness to obey.

The pace quickens with Blinded, a suffocating track of constant assault. Relentless in its attack, when you think you can make a break for it, you’re dragged back to the depths by its monstrous breakdown. The song seems to merge into the next track, Whispers; a curious mixture of tech, black metal, hardcore, all cut up and meshed together like some sort of Frankenstein’s monster.

Birds crow at the start of The Darkest Embrace; an unsettling yet groovy effort. The crowning glory is the guest vocals of Filip Danielsson from HUMANITY’S LAST BREATH. Much like Danielsson’s band, this song is spine-crushingly heavy. With its whirring riffs and atmospheric flourishes, it’s an absolutely massive beast. It has an air of SHOKRAN halfway through but it once again burrows into the depths of djent. An absolutely colossal track, Danielsson brings an extra layer of darkness to CABAL’s gloom.

This all leads up to the spectacular climax of Mark Of Rot – its title track. This is an epic finale of disturbing layers of sound and punishing vocals. It deceives you with its simplicity but it once again catches you off guard with its unnerving instrumentation. Fading out with an eerie shroud of doom, you may find yourself turning on all the lights once CABAL’s ritual is complete. This album is not for the faint hearted.

Despised Icon + Malevolence + Archspire + Vulvodynia

The Dome, London. 11 February 2018.

We’re only two months into 2018 and we’re already being spoilt with what could be the line-up of the year. A night of brutal metal awaits. Filled with slam fans, technical metalheads, hardcore lads and old school deathcore lovers, The Dome at Tufnell Park welcomes all punters and tonight it does feel like the perfect venue to host these stellar bands.

The room was almost full for opening band VULVODYNIA; ultimately one of the biggest crowds for an opening band seen for a long while. This is reassuring to see as the up-and-coming slamming brutal death metal group (and super nice chaps too) rightly deserve a large crowd, especially as they’ve travelled all the way from South Africa and we don’t see them enough! Circle pits immediately erupt as the band perform in front of the gory backdrop of the album cover for Psychosadistic Design. The eerie stage and lighting set the mood for their unforgiving show. Headbanging and windmilling while the drums and guitars threaten to pummel us into the ground, frontman Duncan Bentley is a mass of hair and underworldly vocals. VULVODYNIA had a lot of fans in the crowd tonight as Bentley only needed to say the last song was the first song the band ever wrote together, for the crowd to start chanting “DROWNED. IN. VOMIT!” Needless to say no one actually drowned in vomit, but we were at risk of drowning in other people’s sweat, and it was only the first band of the night! A fantastically chaotic start to the evening.

Metalmance has always been curious to see how ARCHSPIRE’s impressive technical death metal translates live. Opening with Calamus Will Animate, the machine-gun vocals unfortunately weren’t phased in fast enough, denying the crowd of the sudden brutal impact the band is well known for. Nevertheless, the Canadians proved to be an impressive force, expertly delivering their technical tunes with an irresistible flair. It is clear each member of the band is an extremely talented musician; almost to the point you become concerned the complexity would detract from their joy of performing, but no need to worry as they all look absolutely thrilled. None more so than frontman Oliver Rae Aleron, whose unique vocals are shot out of a mischievous grin. The diction could be a little clearer but this is to be expected in a live setting. The mix gradually improves during the set and by the time ARCHSPIRE close with Remote Tumour Seeker, the sound is spot on and the riff grooves harder than ever. Don’t be surprised if the next time ARCHSPIRE play the UK they’re headlining a whole tour.

Up next are Sheffield bruisers MALEVOLENCE. Last time Metalmance had the pleasure of witnessing the group tearing up a stage was last June when they headlined this very venue. And now they are supporting their heroes; “We’ve been fans of DESPISED ICON since we were *this* high!” claims frontman Alex Taylor. The band seem more relaxed at this show than last time, they were in good spirits and seemed to be buzzing about playing in this line-up tonight. They completely owned the stage and their fans owned the pit. Playing a lot of songs from last year’s blistering Self Supremacy, MALEVOLENCE are an untouchable team of brutality. If you’re not stomping along to their grooves, then you’re shouting along with guitarist Konan Hall to Slave to Satisfaction, Wasted Breath and Serpents Chokehold. With stage divers and fists in the air, this is exactly where you want to be on a cold and dreary Sunday night. MALEVOLENCE are a family and they always make their fans feels as much too. This, coupled with their monstrous anthems make the band truly unstoppable and it still only feels like the beginning.

Finally, the pioneers of deathcore grace the stage; DESPISED ICON are here to show the young ‘uns how it’s really done. The mix for the band was incredible with the vocals of dual vocalists Alex Erian and Steve Marois sounding crystal clear and resonating to devastating effect. Listening to classics such as Day of Mourning, Furtive Monologues and Retina, it’s easy to hear how DESPISED ICON have influenced countless of bands including tonight’s supports. They oozed professionalism and confidence, yet remained humbled by the crowd’s response and participation. A great band with a sickeningly impressive back catalogue, DESPISED ICON reminded everyone tonight of why they are still well respected in the scene. Smashing through songs from latest album Beast, including the punishing Inner Demons, the group prove they are still relevant and pack a greater punch than the majority of their peers. One thing’s for sure, tonight has set the bar high for the rest of the gigs in 2018.

Photo courtesy of Daniel Earl.

The Faceless + Osiah + Sworn Amongst + Jonestown

The Underworld Camden. 2 February 2018.

No one was really certain if tonight would ever happen. After several tour and show cancellations, every notification by the promoter in the Facebook event dropped a feeling of dread. But, no. THE FACELESS were here and were playing tonight. It seems despite the recent negativity surrounding THE FACELESS, they are held high in esteem amongst their peers and wider metal community.

Considering the early show start, there was a decent sized crowd to witness Brighton group JONESTOWN. This groovy lot got a few heads nodding along, with frontman Harley Anderson having a commanding presence. In a live setting the band don’t completely gel on stage, but nonetheless they each confidently perform. The band get a good response from the crowd when they play their single Borderline, but JONESTOWN top this with their crushing offering Mass Extinction Six; a brutal end to a solid set.

SWORN AMONGST swarm the stage next and show Camden how it’s done. The cowboys from Hull fill the room with their metallic brutality. They really are gaining momentum in the live scene and it’s probably partly due to their captivating stage presence; they capture the crowd’s attention and maintain it. Frontman Darryl Jones is an impressive force; his vocals and moves being on point as well as his interaction with the crowd. There’s something special about this band and it will be exciting to see how SWORN AMONGST have evolved the next time Metalmance sees them.

Nothing ever quite prepares you for the devastation that OSIAH bring to the table. The heaviest band of the night threaten to tear the venue down with their obliterating set. Backlit by strobes and emitting sounds from Hell itself, OSIAH prove exactly why they deserve to be main support tonight. They most certainly converted new fans, playing corkers from their debut album Terror Firma, such as Humanimals, the band received a terrific response. Beware, OSIAH might just become the new kings of deathcore.

Well, the time has finally come for Michael Keene and co to grace the stage and blow us away. After several years wait, it’s almost too much for some. It was well worth the wait though; the sound and atmosphere were spot on as well as the banter between vocalist Ken Sorceron (also of ABIGAIL WILLIAMS) and the crowd.

THE FACELESS delighted fans when they played Autotheist Movement I to III, along with Xenochrist, Ancient Covenant and Son of Belial. Only one song off latest album In Becoming A Ghost was played, which was The Spiraling Void. Unfortunately there were some technical issues with the backing track, but it was still a pleasure to see it live. The nicest surprise of the night was seeing the band afterwards, chatting to fans and signing cds at the merch table. After a blistering night of quality metal, this was the cherry on the cake. Hopefully with this tour THE FACELESS will prove their doubters wrong.