Cabal – Mark Of Rot

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

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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.

Good Tiger – We Will All Be Gone

Release date: 9 February 2018. Label: Blacklight Media/Metal Blade.

It’s not easy to pigeonhole GOOD TIGER, and that’s part of their appeal. While listening to second album We Will All Be Gone, one word does spring to mind – nostalgia. With its emotive melodies, lyrics and riffs, you just can’t help but be reminded of bands like CIRCA SURVIVE. GOOD TIGER no doubt would appeal to the teenagers of a decade ago, but they also have a progressive factor, thanks to featuring ex-members of TESSERACT, THE FACELESS and THE SAFETY FIRE amongst others. If SAOSIN had a love child with SKYHARBOR, then it would probably sound like GOOD TIGER. Dripping in blissful melodies and warm, fuzzy feels We Will All Be Gone is is a beautiful follow-up to 2015’s stunning debut A Head Full Of Moonlight.

Things blast off with an energetic start with The Devil Thinks I’m Sinking with Coleman expertly executing THOSE highs. Like the last album, there is a hint of HE IS LEGEND with those edgy grooves. One of the best tracks on We Will All Be Gone, this is an absolute killer of an opener. This is followed by the mesmerising Float On which is one of those songs that reminds you of simpler times. There is something about the chorus…something very warm and comfortable…that…sound. This sound shouldn’t work in 2018, but it does and it sounds as fresh as ever.

Such A Kind Stranger has a bit of an old school pop punk vibe, but with an intelligent approach in the same vein as THE AUDITION, or the slow tempo moments of EMANUEL. The twinkling guitars make GOOD TIGER sound so damn shiny, along with the organic feeling of the production completing their irresistible compositions. This shiny, organic goodness continues in Blueshift, an exciting track of slow burning verses with intense choruses (think PVRIS). It would be deceiving to say GOOD TIGER are upbeat, as there are a lot of brooding moments on the album, but there is a strong pulse of strength and positivity running throughout.

Halfway through We Will All Be Gone we are rewarded with two of the strongest tracks of the record; Salt Of The Earth and Grip Shoes. The former is already a contender for best chorus of 2018. You can see it now, everyone trying to sing along but either ending up shouting or going massively out of tune. Further proof Elliot Coleman needs to be recognised as one of rock’s most talented vocalists. Grip Shoes is an absolute shimmering stunner of a track. It’s what you would imagine a proggy TAKING BACK SUNDAY would sound like – bloody wonderful. The glorious and spine-tingling middle eight once again will remind you of the heart-wrenching melodies of CIRCA SURVIVE, but GOOD TIGER collapse into such a melodically heavy state, they’re well on their way to being the King’s of progressive-post-hardcore-rock-emo-metal-whateveryouwannacallit.

The prog shines through on Just Shy; the verses could easily fit on a CALIGULA’S HORSE track. Chilled vibes with vibrant bass charms the listener before another killer chorus storms in. This song is anything but shy. The same goes for Nineteen Grams, which is another delight for the ears. The pop-rock sound is strong with this song, giving an indication that GOOD TIGER could easily smash into the mainstream. The band calm down a bit in the short but sweet Cherry Lemon, a shoegazey wonder which the likes of MY VITRIOL would be proud of. With this track GOOD TIGER prove that it is not just Coleman who is the most talented member. Drummer Alex Rüdinger demonstrates his technical ability with his tight beats, and guitarists Derya Nagle and Joaquin Ardiles remind fans of when they first fell in love with them in THE SAFETY FIRE. The ending of the track fizzles out in an OPEN HAND-esque haze. Blissful and mesmerising.

This bliss sees us through until the end, with album closer I’ll Finish This Book Later. The hushed beginning sounds very JONAH MATRANGA; wonderful and mature like your favourite cave-aged cheese. The epic finale brings We Will All Be Gone to a soaring close. A suitable ending for a pretty spectacular album. GOOD TIGER might boast some of progressive metal’s brightest talents, but this second album should hopefully mark the beginning of recognising the band as an important influence on modern metal. 2018 could very well be the year of the tiger.

Mechromorph – Self-titled EP

Release date: 22 January 2018. Self-release.

When you hear the name Clacton-on-Sea you’ll probably think of old people, chavs and underage sex under the pier. With Clacton lads MECHROMORPH, it’s more sun, sea and SLAM. Raising the banner for extreme metal from the sunshine coast, they bring the darkness and sickness with their blistering infestation in the form of their self-titled debut EP.

The nightmare begins with Existential Echo, an unnerving introduction to the INGESTED-inspired terror beyond. MECHROMORPH get straight to business with Welcome To The Sprawl, a messy delight of disgusting riffs, ferocious drumming and the guttural prowess of vocalist Mac Mills. All the slam influences are here, but other influences can be heard such as similar beats to Sheffield bruisers MALEVOLENCE. Hints of deathcore also threaten to unleash themselves; they may be no SIGNS OF THE SWARM, but MECHROMORPH are definitely showing some symptoms of something promising.

The impressive beast that is the delightfully titled Vaginal Ventriloquist, is a truly brutal affair. Sounding a bit more bdm than the last track, it has an air of DISENTOMB about it, as well as some BERZERKER-esque flourishes. However, MECHROMORPH do throw all sorts of styles into the pot; a bit of MAGGOT COLONY here, a bit of CRYPTOPSY there.

High Hrothgar Slam Squad lures you into a false sense of security with its slower-paced beginning, but it soon erupts into blastbeat central with Mac Mills spitting venom at a hundred miles per hour. It slows down again but some standout moments ensue, such as the blackened rush towards the end, followed by the filthy solo and chugs into the fade.

When the first riff of Lord Of The Harvest is heard, you know it’s going to result in a hammering assault of the senses. Everything gels disgustingly well in this song; the guitars and terrific drumming of Louis Marson create a truly solid track of sickening triumph. An unforgiving slice of slam with the vocal assistance of Kurt Donahue (of GUTTERAL PAWNBROKEN RICKHARRISONECTOMY) you might think Lord Of The Harvest could be the best track of the EP.

This thought is obliterated when the EP’s finale Rupture Farms invades its way into your consciousness. Mac Mills is once again on fine form here, with his screams being just as impressive as his gutterals. The song feels bigger somehow, their talent oozes out and spills into your ears. The first breakdown surprisingly has an ANAAL NATHRAKH tinge to it, making Rupture Farms the evilest sound to come out of Clacton.

You can’t help but wonder what malice MECHROMORPH could achieve with a bigger budget and a bigger production. It would be interesting to see what elements they include in their next release; a bit of deathcore? More bdm? A blackened stance? One thing’s for sure, I haven’t been this excited about a band emerging from Essex in a long, long time.

Orphaned Land – Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs

Label: Century Media. Release date: Jan 26th 2018.

Metalmance has always admired Israel’s metal masters ORPHANED LAND, and it’s been a long five years since 2013’s All Is One. One of the most politically vocal bands around, there is a comforting sense of belonging and optimism when ORPHANED LAND is experienced. The combination of metal and oriental elements is utterly irresistible; but it is their message that we are all equal, no matter what religion, race or creed you are, which is the most poignant.

All Is One would always be a hard album to top, but my word ORPHANED LAND manage to surpass themselves with the very first track alone – The Cave. An absolutely stunning opener for Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs, this song features everything you’d expect from ORPAHNED LAND and more; haunting vocals, a rapturous chorus with a theatrical touch, an impressive and heavy breakdown, a diverse array of instruments and of course, thought-provoking lyrics. The metal elements of the songs have really ramped up with this album; the riffs are crunchier, the solos are sharper, the breakdowns are heavier… However, ORAPHANED LAND combine everything so flawlessly, you shake your head in wonderment at how they actually pull it off.

This thought continues with the next track, the stomping We Do Not Resist. It kicks in with a thrashy bang and erupts into a storming chorus, accompanied by those irresistible Oriental strings. ORPHAND LAND’s material has always had a rich depth to it, and Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs also has that organic, wholesome sound from its instrumentation and production. Every part has its place and moment in the spotlight, it is a glorious feat of song writing and production. The use of the ‘beep’ in this song is also a powerful addition, a reference to censorship perhaps and the denial of information. One way to make sure your listeners are listening.

Third track In Propaganda has quite a nostalgic feel as a lot of the main ‘riff’ is reminiscent of the title track of All Is One; a possible indication that in those five years not much has changed or improved so their message needs to be reiterated. The verses are some of the most melodic on the album and this is when the prog shines through, reminding you of other contemporary melodic prog bands such as CALIGULA’S HORSE, because of the delicate and carefully considered approach to vocal delivery.

Yedidi is a relatively short, yet charming track entirely in Hebrew, with the songs either side, All Knowing Eye and Chains Fall To Gravity both being unashamedly dramatic and atmospheric. ORPHANED LAND always manage to capture the essence of the climax of a musical with aplomb.

Lead single Like Orpheus is a powerful and an extremely passionate song, featuring the magnificent vocals of BLIND GUARDIAN’s Hansi Kürsch. The track begins with an awesome riff that AVENGED SEVENFOLD would be proud of, but we’re soon greeted with that classic eastern ORPHANED LAND sound. The lyrics once again heighten the notion of equality and humanity with great effect. If you’ve already seen the video for Like Orpheus, you will know how incredibly moving this song is.

Things calm down a notch with the mellow Poets of Prophetic Messianism. With the instrumentation and moving vocal performances, it’s truly an amazing alternative-prog triumph. It merges delightfully into the storming Left Behind. If you’re a fan of fellow Israeli prog-metallers DISTORTED HARMONY, then this will be up your street. My Brother’s Keeper wouldn’t sound out of place on All Is One; there is something about the spoken words of vocalist Kobi Farhi that really stir the soul, but his growls also stir the sleeping beast within. It is his cleans though which resonate the most and it is no different on Take My Hand which is an absolute anthem. The riffs are very rock n roll but they meld seamlessly with all other aspects of the song.

I won’t spoil the penultimate track for you – Only The Dead Have Seen The End; but it is most certainly one of the standout tracks on Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs, for numerous reasons. After this blistering track, you wonder how ORPHANED LAND could top it, let alone compose a fitting finale for this absolute masterpiece of an album. The band achieve this with the unexpectedly reserved The Manifest – Epilogue. For the first couple of minutes you are able to reflect on and process the album and its message. The sombre conclusion brings Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs to a sudden and chilling end. After the comfort and feeling of belonging felt during the course of the album, it makes the ending that much more unnerving – like the sudden snap back to reality.

I’ve always felt ORPHANED LAND have never had their chance to shine in the wider metal community, but with Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs hopefully this will all change and more people can be united under the banner of love and hope. In such troubled times full of war and hate, we need ORPAHNED LAND more than ever – a beacon of hope in the darkness. With Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs they have achieved an album of progressive excellence, a masterpiece in the age of disposable nonsense.

 

Garganjua – Through The Void

Blistering doom, for fans of Pallbearer, Warning and RIFFS

GARGANJUA just might be one of Britain’s brightest doom hopes (oxymoron much?). With Through The Void, the Leicestershire troupe are hoping to cement their place in the metal scene, but after a few listens it’s evident GARGANJUA don’t just play slow, riffy metal. No, no, the band use PALLBEARER-style prog and KYLESA-esque sludge in their hotpot of doom. 

The devastating, slow riff of Crushed Beneath The Tide launches the album into the brooding, dark mass it remains to be. A looming, yet triumphant break with the essence of PELICAN entices the listener before the crushing vocals demolish the mood. The clean vocals are strangely mesmerising, with the backdrop having a nostalgic doom tone. As expected, the song is a slow burner but unlike some repetitive instances of the genre, GARGANJUA keep it interesting with a tweak in dynamic every couple of minutes or so. The finale of Crushed Beneath The Tide comes full circle with the satisfying mirroring of the beginning of the track.   

A bold guitar tone introduces the next track Adrift, but it is the verse which I find the most interesting. The vocal melody and distorted guitars make my mind hark back to the melodic moments of DEVIL SOLD HIS SOUL and HE IS LEGEND, although this is most likely not GARGANJUA’s intention to remind me of post-hardcore, this is what I mean when I said the band can’t be easily pigeon-holed as doom. What is exciting is everyone will hear different elements and make their own comparisons, enabling GARGANJUA to crossover a spectrum of genres. The doom does return in abundance though, with whispers adding to the darkly dulcet tones before the pace slows down a few notches. 

The album’s title track is arguably the standout song on Through The Void. The riffs, tone and melody create a spellbinding ambience. There is something about the heaviest parts of the songs which are reminiscent of the heavier end of progressive metal, such as CULT OF LUNA and Silhouettes-era TEXTURES, making Through The Void the progressive doom you’ve been dreaming of. The track is one epic, heartfelt journey, one you will have to listen to yourself to understand the colossal atmosphere GARGANJUA conjure. 

Only four tracks in 45 minutes, A Distant Shore signals the end of Through The Void. This song needed to be a fitting conclusion to an ambitious album, but for the first half of the track I wasn’t convinced it would be a suitable finale. But suddenly A Distant Shore shifts into an acoustic wonderland with strings and a sombre tranquility. This is all before it is whipped from under your feet in a climatic sense of closure. The distortion and riffs continue like a soothing pat on the back after a monstrous feat.

Through the Void is most certainly a grower. GARGANJUA are one of those bands with heaps of potential, a group you hope will mature into an unpredictable beast of metal. If you’ve been observing from a distance, it’s probably time to creep closer before GARGANJUA leap ahead of the pack.  

GARGANJUA are currently running a Pledge campaign to raise funds to release Through The Void on vinyl. If you would like to know more or would like to pledge then more information can be found at  https://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/garganjuavinylpledge

Metalmance Top 20 Albums of 2017

Our hottest albums of 2017…beware…there’s a turkey in there…

No. 20  THE ROYAL – Seven

The Royal

Metalmance have mentioned THE ROYAL a lot this year, and once again they feature in one of our posts. This time they kick off our Top 20 albums of the year list! In a scene which is becoming overwhelmingly full with bland groups and so-so tech, these Dutchman are slowly but surely gaining a reputation for themselves as a talented and promising metal act. Seven sees THE ROYAL gain confidence and the nurturing of a signature sound. Once the band finally have a firm footing in the metal world, who knows how high they could climb?

“A seriously blinding effort, Seven will hopefully propel THE ROYAL to the forefront of the burgeoning scene.”

The Royal – Seven

 

No. 19  EMPLOYED TO SERVE – The Warmth of a Dying Sun

Employed to Serve

One of 2017’s breakthrough bands, Britain’s own EMPLOYED TO SERVE rightly deserve all the attention they’ve been receiving this year. Their sophomore release The Warmth of a Dying Sun is proof they are worthy of your time. With a gloriously sludgy, nu-metal-ish, heavy hardcore energy, they throw together old and new influences into a melting pot of riffy joy. If new kids CODE ORANGE and OATHBREAKER were bred with old daddies WILL HAVEN and BOTCH, then you will more than likely achieve the perfection of EMPLOYED TO SERVE. These are the new masters of British forward-thinking metal.

 

No. 18  NORDIC GIANTS – Amplify Human Vibration

Nordic Giants

Since Metalmance first discovered the intriguing and mysterious NORDIC GIANTS last year, we’ve been utterly in love. You can’t treat Amplify Human Vibration as a continuation of A Séance of Dark Delusions however, no, no, it is a much deeper and a more thought-provoking affair than that. Predominantly using spoken word samples to accompany the duo’s stunning soundscapes, Amplify Human Vibration is about re-awakening the human spirit, to realise our true potential as a power together on this planet. The songs do summon some kind of deep inner-awareness, a feat which not all of NORDIC GIANTS’ peers and contemporaries would be able to accomplish.

“Their last album released in 2015 A Séance of Dark Delusions is a truly spellbinding record, with each listen exposing something missed before.”

Weekly Roundup #9

 

No. 17  VIPASSI – Sunyata

Vipassi

This instrumental effort from the progressive metal supergroup VIPASSI unfortunately seems to have slipped under the carpet a bit this year. Hopefully this could mean Sunyata could become a sleeper hit in the prog metal world. A sprawling mass of complex rhythms, heavenly bass and stunning soundscapes, VIPPASSI have created a blackened beast of complexity. All tracks seem to merge into one, allowing the listener to be transported to a progressive paradise. More please.

“With only seven tracks, Sunyata feels a bit like a tease, a bit like a punishing starter before a main course. Go on, indulge.”

Weekly Roundup #18

 

No. 16  CODE ORANGE – Forever

Code Orange

This year has certainly been the year of CODE ORANGE. At the end of 2016 they were threatening the world with something special, then in January they dropped Forever, and the rest is history. Dark, disturbing, modern and unpredictable – their energy is infectious. Their arrogant swagger in the scene make them an unstoppable and untouchable force. In our Weekly Roundup #8, Metalmance said they were a band to watch. We weren’t wrong. Will you join forces with them? Or be part of the wreckage they’ll leave behind?

“If the band are able to maintain this rawness then the future of hardcore is bright, the future is CODE ORANGE.”

Weekly Roundup #8

 

No. 15  LEPROUS – Malina

Leprous

Back in 2016, Metalmance hailed the Norwegian progsters as a band to watch, and rolling off the back of 2015’s The Congregation and this year’s Malina, the band have been growing from strength to strength. Malina sees the band stretching the term ‘progressive metal’, with their stupidly catchy and melodic songs, the band seem to be veering towards a lighter approach. They have always been good songwriters but with Malina, LEPROUS finally seem to have hit the nail on the head. One of our qualms with The Congregation was the songs didn’t know really when to get going or where to end, but Malina is far more of an enjoyable and rewarding listen.

“There’s no denying LEPROUS add their own twist to proceedings and really push themselves to the front of the melodic metal pack.”

Weekly Roundup #3

 

No. 14  NORTHLANE – Mesmer

Northlane

Remember earlier in the year when NORTHLANE shouted ‘SURPRISE!!!’ and dropped Mesmer with no warning? Well it certainly paid off as it got people talking. And for good reason! Mesmer is easily the most focused and accomplished work by NORTHLANE to date. Savage, yet emotionally heavy, the feels the listener experiences during the Mesmer sonic experience is plenty. Each member has improved as a serious musician and the sound created is a mature one, with oodles of depth. Heart-felt songs which still drop hard, NORTHLANE seemed to have mastered the knack of combining emotion and heaviness.

 

No. 13  ENTHEOS – Dark Future

Entheos

A bit more of a progressive affair than previous album The Infinite Nothing, ENTHEOS are definitely gaining momentum as their own entity rather than some sort of supergroup (with ex members of ANIMALS AS LEADERS and THE FACELESS). Vocalist Chaney Crabb once again proves she is a force to reckon with because of her impressive performance and aggression. Hopefully in 2018 Chaney will gain more recognition as one of extreme metal’s finest vocalists. Dark Future isn’t an album you can absorb and process in one listen, its complex design and dynamics each come into their own individually after numerous listens. This is one album we will still be exploring into the new year.

 

No. 12  IGORRR – Savage Sinusoid

Igorrr

You either love this intriguing French group, or they leave you thinking what on earth??? Metalmance is the former and we witnessed them live at Tech Fest and were very glad to find this eclectic troupe were just as weird and as intense live as they are on record. One of the amazing aspects of the band and the album is the ‘samples’, each individual part is played and recorded which gives Savage Sinusoid an impressive depth. Full of heavy, yet charming tracks, the classical vocals sit surprisingly well among the more, er, primal screaming. And if we ran an award for best album opener of the year, we’d sure as hell choose Viande.

 

No. 11  GHOST IRIS – Blind World

Ghost Iris

As soon as these techy Danes released their catchy single Save Yourself back in February, Metalmance have been hooked. They released Blind World a week later and it is still on heavy rotation even now in December. A more focused effort than their previous releases, they seem to have their fingers well on the pulse of European tech metal. The album boasts tracks which are upbeat, heavy, melodic, yet deceivingly complex. GHOST IRIS really seem to have finally found their sound, and it’s a winning formula. Each song is a standout track, making Blind World an album you can happily listen to all the way through and return to again and again. Trust us, you won’t get bored.

“An album which keeps you on your toes yet constantly brings the fun, Blind World is sure to launch GHOST IRIS into the tech metal stratosphere.”

Weekly Roundup #19

 

No. 10  MUTATION – Dark Black

Mutation

In a time of super slick production and programming overload, it’s refreshing to hear something with a bit more of a raw approach (oo-er!) in the form of MUTATION’s Dark Black. With an organic and nostalgic feel, Dark Black has been one of 2017’s surprises. A thoroughly enjoyable and chaotic listen, you can read more about the band and the making of the album (which also features the one and only, DEVIN TOWNSEND) in our recent interview with Scott Lee Andrews from MUTATION.

“Both of us wanted to one-up each other in terms of how far/fucked up to go, and neither of us said ‘That’s too far’.” – Scott Lee Andrews

Q&A with Mutation

 

No. 9  CALIGULA’S HORSE – In Contact

Caligula's Horse

You may remember we featured CALIGULA’S HORSE in our Prog Down Under feature last year (which reminds us, we never did finish a second part) and 2017 saw these Aussie chaps release the breath-taking In Contact. From the stunning opener Dream the Dead to the sax-fuelled epic Graves, this is without a doubt CALIGULA’S HORSE finest work to date. Heavier than anticipated, In Contact also charms with the delicate compositions and expertly executed flourishes. Jim Grey once again impresses with his distinct voice and lyrical magic. Expect big things in 2018.

“No two songs sound the same, with CALIGULA’S HORSE mixing up the styles; a hint of folk here, a little indie there, but it’s all wrapped up in their own brand of infectious melodic prog.”

Prog Down Under Part 1

 

No. 8  ALLUVIAL – The Deep Longing for Annihilation

Alluvial

At the very beginning of 2017, we were spoilt immediately with the release of The Deep Longing for Annihilation, the instrumental masterpiece by metal greats, Keith Merrow and Wes Hauch. If you remember BLACK CROWN INITIATE were our album of the year last year, then you can understand why we were thrilled to begin our year with ALLUVIAL. Dark and brooding, the album hones both Merrow and Hauch’s signature styles, so much so they raised the bar so high for other instrumental albums this year.

“Imagine BLACK CROWN INITIATE, DECAPITATED and GOJIRA all rolled into one. This album is proof progressive metal does not necessarily need vocals to make it heavier.”

Weekly Roundup #14

 

No. 7  LOATHE – The Cold Sun

Loathe

One of the darker albums featured on our list this year – The Cold Sun has the same atmosphere as its namesake. A deep, stunning, yet unpredictable slab of British tech metal, this album is proof of why you should be paying attention to LOATHE. Astonishingly heavy, yet fiendishly melodic in places, they throw all sorts of extreme elements into the pot; the blackened influences, the instrumentals and the electronic/orchestral parts all pay off massively. Each listen unveils new layers you were unaware of before, and that demonstrates a maturity and love for the craft which will hopefully keep them ahead of the pack.

 

No. 6  EMMURE – Look At Yourself

Emmure

Look At Yourself indeed. Who would have known you would become an EMMURE fan in 2017? Metalmance in all honesty never really gave EMMURE the time of day, but after the announcement that members of GLASS CLOUD and TONY DANZA TAPDANCE EXTRAVAGANZA were joining the ranks, curiosity got the better of us and we’re very glad it did! Look At Yourself is the aural equivalent of ejecting bile and defecating over your enemies. The album is one of the heaviest featured on our list this year. If we gave an award for heaviest track of the year, then Natural Born Killer would win hands down.

 

No. 5  WITHOUT WAVES – Lunar

Without Waves

Earlier in the year, Metalmance labelled WITHOUT WAVES as a band to watch and once their album Lunar was released, we stood by our decision. Listening back to it now, the diversity and variety of genres the band squeeze into their song writing is still mind-blowing; progressive metal, grunge elements, some post-rock tinkles, lots of nostalgic sounds in the same vein as CAVE IN and Say Hello To Sunshine-era FINCH. Yet, somehow WITHOUT WAVES stamp all over these styles with their own sound. How these chaps haven’t blown up in the scene yet is one of 2017’s greatest musical mysteries.

“Anthony Cwan’s vocals really come to light here, his mesmerising voice runs the risk of being contemporary metal’s most alluring warble.”

Weekly Roundup #17

 

No. 4  DEATH FROM ABOVE – Outrage! Is Now

Death From Above

Metalmance are so, so happy DEATH FROM ABOVE are back on top form as we were massive fans of 2004’s You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine, but Outrage! Is Now has completely surpassed all expectations. The Canadian duo deliciously create bass and drum fuelled rock, yet the music they produce is heavy in its own way. Addictive, with a punk energy, Outrage! boasts an impressive array of irresistible riffs, beats and croons. DEATH FROM ABOVE have always had a mainstream sound, sounding a bit like JACK WHITE and MUSE here and there, but with Outrage! the band sound like they are confident in themselves and finally ready to take over the world.

 

No. 3  THE RASMUS – Dark Matters

The Rasmus

You’re probably disgusted by our choice for the no. 3 spot, but bear with us. We all have that one band who were our gateway into rock and metal, it just so happens our feathery friends THE RASMUS were ours. Dark Matters manages to achieve a similar atmosphere to 2004’s Dead Letters, and we can’t help but feel all warm and fuzzy and nostalgic. It’s a much poppier affair than their more recent releases, but we would be lying to ourselves if we didn’t admit it’s one of our favourites this year. Still full of catchy choruses and a healthy dollop of European cheese, we almost feel compelled to dig out our old wristbands, beanies and crow feathers, but we’re respectable adults now so we’ve managed to refrain…ahem…

 

No. 2  EIGHTEEN VISIONS – XVIII

XVIII

The biggest surprise of the year was the news that our metalcore heroes EIGHTEEN VISIONS had reformed AND were releasing a new album after ten years apart. We thought our 2017 couldn’t get any better than that…until we heard the actual album that is. It was everything old school EIGHTEEN VISIONS fans could ever dream of. Harking back to their glory days, XVIII is an incredible gift to the metal community and tribute to the late Mick Morris who played bass in their heyday. They’ve borrowed elements from their most popular albums; Until The Ink Runs Out, Vanity and Obsession, and have created a fresh new sound with subtle nostalgia. We hope they’re back for good.

“…there’s no doubt about it, EIGHTEEN VISIONS are back and ready to rejuvenate the metalcore scene again. Welcome back chaps.”

Eighteen Visions – XVIII

 

No. 1  DYSCARNATE – With All Their Might

Dyscarnate

We threatened back in August that With All Their Might could end up being our album of the year – and it bloody well is! No other album this year has been better in our eyes. An absolute corker of a beast, DYSCARNATE are a stupidly talented trio who know how to the bring the groove and the brutality. We don’t think we’ve heard any riffs this year which top what can be heard on With All Their Might. This album has WINNER stamped all over it and we seriously cannot wait to hear the songs live. Congratulations DYSCARNATE!

“If With All Their Might doesn’t cement DYSCARNATE as Britain’s heavyweight heroes then we might just have to crack our skulls in disgust. With their no-nonsense attitude, DYSCARNATE will have you gagging to join their ranks.”

Dyscarnate – With All Their Might

Q&A with Mutation

From ‘Chaos-punk’ to Devin Townsend, Scott Lee Andrews gives Metalmance the low-down on what makes Mutation chaotically tick

Metalmance witnessed MUTATION’s chaos recently at Damnation festival in Leeds, and it’s fair to say the band’s sound is not for the faint hearted! Featuring Ginger and Denzel (THE WILDHEARTS and many other projects), and Scott Lee Andrews (EXIT_INTERNATIONAL, JAWS OF DEAF), their third album Dark Black is a noisy affair and Scott kindly let Metalmance pick his brain about the album and the band’s direction.

Q. Hi Scott, great set at Damnation! I must admit, I hadn’t checked out MUTATION before the festival as I was keeping the sound a surprise, I heard it was unlike anything Ginger had done before and chaotic! And I was glad to find it was all true! How would you describe MUTATION’s style? Or is it more a spectrum of styles?

Scott: For sure – it’s an exploration of Ginger’s more extreme tastes, and that also shows in the personnel brought to the table to make this record. From Shane Embury to Merzbow to Devin Townsend, all sit in distinct pockets of the heavy/extreme music world, and guys who are visionaries with it. MUTATION’s use of an ensemble cast during the first two records allowed a wide coverage of these genres to be touched upon. Someone recently described our live show as ‘Chaos-punk’ which I thought was fucking great.

Q. Since Damnation, we’ve had Mutation III: Dark Black on heavy rotation! I feel like the whole album has a nostalgic feel, it reminds me of all sorts; a bit of MARTINI HENRY RIFLES here, a bit of 90s there, did you have a production style in mind while recording?

Scott: Your MARTINI HENRY RIFLES reference – I’ve been in a band with Fudge (bassist – MARTINI HENRY RIFLES) since 2009! That might be a bit of him rubbing off on my influence that has shown up there. I’m more into ‘alternative’ noise – SONIC YOUTH, NIRVANA, PART CHIMP, ATARI TEENAGE RIOT for example, this was the vibe I wanted to bring to the table, to allow Dark Black to stand out as a fresh record. When Ginger and I were passing song ideas and riffs back and forth via email, we were listening to THE BODY as a main reference point. The intention was to make a thoroughly disgusting album.

Q. With bands choosing to have a more polished production these days it’s refreshing to hear more of a raw and chaotically rich sound with MUTATION. Was this something you were aiming for?

Scott: Absolutely, mainly due to the fact the sonics used in heavy music seem to adhere to a quite narrow set of guidelines. As neither of us have day jobs in that realm, it was obvious that to be taken seriously, we had to push everything into the red. Both of us wanted to one-up each other in terms of how far/fucked up to go, and neither of us said ‘That’s too far’.

Q. A standout track for me (I’m sure also for many others too) is Irritant. I think everyone would find this song highly relatable and honest! But I find this with Ginger’s/your lyrics in general for MUTATION. What do you draw from to produce such brutally honest and unforgiving lyrics?

Scott: Ginger titled each song from a list he had prepared prior to the writing sessions. The one-word, succinct nature of them tell you off the bat this record was going to be very direct, certainly from his lyrics. It’s not as wordy or poetic as his other output, probably to ensure maximum effect. We both wanted to make a warts n’ all record in all aspects. I cannot comment on specific examples that birthed a chorus as vitriolic as Irritant, but as you picked up on, people have found the record dropping at such a low point economically, politically and even personally in many of our lives this record speaks for its time.

Q. You’ve just completed a tour in Japan. You’ve said before how much you like the country and playing there, what makes you go back time and time again?

Scott: That was my second time to Japan on tour, I think Denzel has been there around 7 times with Ginger and fuck knows how many times he has been over the last 20 or so years. But from my experience it is like being on another planet. Every single waking second is filled with awe. It’s very hard to vocalise. The people of Japan, from demeanour to our label’s organisation leaves you in a dream state. Such an incredible experience.

Q. It’s always fun to see who you collaborate with, and seeing Devin Townsend credited may come as a surprise to some people if they don’t know about his WILDHEARTS days. How involved was he in the writing of the album?

Scott: We wrote and demoed the album in 5 days in North Wales in the summer of 2015. The last time Devin worked with Ginger I believe was on a b-side called Kill Me To Death, during THE WILDHEARTS’ Endless Nameless campaign. Devolution was the final track we wrote for Dark Black. We knew someone like Devin could just take our version and stamp his style all over it. There was no direction given, and [he] let us have it. The stems/tracks he sent over broke my computer when I tried to load the session up. Many people believe Devin had a hand in the album, as comparisons to STRAPPING YOUNG LAD kept cropping up, but it was just that track. Devin was a pleasure to work with, and will also feature in the forthcoming video for the track.

Q. I saw PRIMITIVE WEAPONS live back in January and their brand of noisy post-hardcore isn’t too dissimilar to MUTATION, although I was still surprised to see Arthur Shepherd from PW also contributed vocals to Mutation III: Dark Black. How did that collaboration come about?

Scott: Arthur has been a friend of mine for a few years – he is a fantastic human. I am a massive fan of many of one of his previous projects by mostly GAY FOR JOHNNY DEPP – my band EXIT_INTERNATIONAL played with them a few times. When we had finished the tracking of the album (Ginger and I both tracked our own verses/lyrics without hearing each other’s input) we found the gaps for some guests. I reached out to a wishlist of friends who I thought could push it further and Arthur stepped up. He tracked his vocals in NY with Travis Bacon of BLACK ANVIL/HOGWASCHE.

Q. Scott, thank you for your time! Lastly, Metalmance aims to cover new and underground bands, are there any groups or artists on your radar you think the metal community should know about?

Scott: BARRABUS for a start – featuring the mighty Paul Catten. Fucking great band and honoured to have them perform with us at our London show. MADE OF TEETH who have an ex-TAINT member in the ranks were awesome too. We also played with an insane band called DISGUNDER at one of our Tokyo shows – well worth checking out. I look to Belgium for most of my heavy/noisy fixes these days. Bands like RAKETKANON, DRUMS ARE FOR PARADES, STEAK NUMBER EIGHT, THE ROTT CHILDS, KABUL GOLF CLUB…all making very non-traditional heavy music.

Kill the Kong – Colossus

Release date: 24 February 2017. Label: GAIN/SONY

Back in February we featured these beastly Swedes as a ‘band to watch’. With their unusual line-up of seven members including two vocalists and two percussionists, everything about KILL THE KONG feels like a two-pronged attack; a Two-Pronged Kong if you will. Now with second album Colossus almost ready to be unleashed, it’s time for you to sit up and pay attention.

“Why can’t you see I have multiple hearts beating?” is the first lyric uttered in the suitably titled opener Hearts Beat. Could this be a reference to the colossal beast of their namesake? Or the hearts of the multiple members of the group? Either way, the track gives a good indication of the straight-up metalcore this album channels compared to their self-titled 2016 debut. No quirky percussion is present in this tune, but despite the limited lyrics it still provides a killer hook and the hope that the band have honed their song writing skills for this release.

This hope is realised when second track Juggernaut (wolfpack) crashes into our consciousness. Just a few seconds into the song, it can be heard their ambition and production has doubled in size; a shiny, massive sound to match their colossal line-up. The KILL THE KONG energy is there in bucket loads as we finally hear their signature drumming style for the first time in Colossus. With a vibe akin to newer PARKWAY DRIVE, the shout-along chorus perfectly matches the metallic groove of the instrumentation. The song breaks way to a satisfying clean vocal melody; wearing their metalcore influences on their sleeve KILL THE KONG clearly gain inspiration from bands such as ARCHITECTS but add their own refreshing twist to proceedings.

Just when you think you can predict how the next track will sound, the band let loose in Nerve; a song with a more hardcore stance. The groove is still there but the delivery and aggression is channelled in a similar manner to newer COMEBACK KID. Nerve also features a decent bit of riffage which maintains their energetic pace. The dual vocals of Timo and Sebastian really pay off as it provides subtle shifts in dynamic to keep the listener on their toes.

Pitch Black is a curious beast in itself. With another cheeky change in style, the song is a tad more unpredictable than the others; with a sound not too dissimilar to the quirkier end of metalcore such as HE IS LEGEND and EVERY TIME I DIE, yet the chorus almost has a nu metal element to it. A very interesting track, Pitch Black might prove to be an unexpected fan favourite with its hint of chaos and unforgiving attitude.

Another nice, crunchy riff greets the listener at the start of The Antagonist before it erupts into metalcore galore. A mature and focused song, everything about this track is spot on – its approach, execution and feeling. Atmospherics lurk in the background of the verse before a killer chorus catapults the song to a new level. But before you can get comfortable with the familiarity of the safe metalcore, KILL THE KONG unleash more impressive percussion to keep things interesting and make the sound truly their own.

A Swedish influence breaks through in Close to the Bone. The beginning has a strong THE HAUNTED groove which evolves into a contemporary metallic crunch. The band once again demonstrate their chorus game is getting stronger but the song is over before you know it! However, things take another interesting turn with Map of Wounds; the verse sounds reminiscent of LACUNA COIL with its bassy undertones and dark melody, yet the chorus blows up into a thumping ruckus.

Burning in Water, Drowning in Flames has some good ideas yet doesn’t quite take off like the other tracks. But it does feature the most pulsing breakdown of the album. If this song was likened to another band, you could argue it has a similar approach as newer KILLSWITCH ENGAGE, the chorus especially. Hopefully the song will become a grower.

We’re back in business when we’re introduced to the addictive beats of Snake Eyes. A whirring, storming thumper, it energetically pumps along like a good ol’ SOILWORK ditty. The song keeps on giving with its relentless energy holding out before its exhale at the very end. Album finale The Hurt Stays continues this energy, with the gang vocals returning in abundance expelling passion and emotion until the descent to Colossus‘ conclusion.

While offering nothing particularly groundbreaking, KILL THE KONG remain memorable with their quirky grooves. There was always the danger two percussionists could become a gimmick but luckily the band avoid this through their mature song writing. The foundations are set for something truly colossal in the future, but will KILL THE KONG break free from the chains of the underground and make an impact in the mainstream?