Noctem – Haeresis

A review of the blistering new opus by Noctem

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When you think of Valencia, you might imagine sun, sea and sangria. Who knew then, that this Spanish city could be the home for a metal band so ambitious and extreme they’d give the Scandinavians a run for their money. Introducing NOCTEM, a black metal band that have more tricks up their sleeve than you might first perceive. They sound like all of your favourite extreme bands rolled into one delicious, morbid package, each track offering a new twist to proceedings.

Indeed this is no thrashed out, rushed output, but a well thought out and composed album which should propel NOCTEM amongst the extreme greats such as BEHEMOTH and DIMMU BORGIR. Opening track The Black Temples of Disaster kicks in straight away, unleashing the band’s lethal dose of metal. Ferocious drumming, complex and mesmerising guitars lead the way, but it soon becomes hard to ignore the variety in vocal styles frontman Beleth can achieve with his hellish growls; chants like DIMMU BORGIR, screeches straight out of CRADLE OF FILTH and low guttural growls which wouldn’t sound out of place on an AKERCOCKE album, this guy is one versatile extreme metal warbler.

There are a few interesting little nuggets throughout Haeresis, including the acoustic interludes which add a unique classical twist to songs such as single The Submission Discipline. With track The Dark One, it is indeed the dark one of the album, demonstrating a confident black metal swagger you normally hear from ANAAL NATHRAKH. The album as a whole shimmers with NOCTEM’s confidence, so by the time the pummelling closing track Pactum with the Indomitable Darkness rolls round, there is no doubt NOCTEM will soon become the ones to watch in the extreme metal scene.

Weekly Roundup #3

3 is the magic number

Band to watch: LEPROUS. They’re about to embark on an extensive North American tour but it’s most likely you haven’t heard of these Norwegian fellows. Four albums into their career and they’re finally gaining momentum and praise around the world. Deliciously on the melodic end of the metal spectrum, LEPROUS’ beautiful melodies are made the more spine tingling thanks to the incredible vocal talent of Einar Solberg. You might have heard his voice recently as guest vocalist on IHSAHN’s track Celestial Violence on this year’s Arktis. In fact, LEPROUS used to be the backing band for IHSAHN. The haunting Nordic sound is ever present in LEPROUS’ songs, but their influences range from MASSIVE ATTACK to GOJIRA. The heavier side of metal unexpectedly is unleashed now and then in their compositions which further emotionally charges the music. Most recent album The Congregation boasts elements from a variety of genres, everything from prog to djent and jazz. There’s no denying LEPROUS add their own twist to proceedings and really push themselves to the front of the melodic metal pack. You can catch them on tour in the UK with prog contemporaries TESSERACT and DEVIN TOWNSEND next March. Expect to hear more about these guys in the coming months!

https://www.facebook.com/leprousband/?fref=ts

Video to watch: SKYHARBOR. Last year SKYHARBOR released the track Out of Time which show cased new vocalist Eric Emery, proving he is more than capable of filling the shoes left behind by Daniel Tompkins (now back in TESSERACT). Now with new video Chemical Hands released last week, SKYHARBOR are prepared to take over the world with their new line-up and their own strain of progressive metal. The song itself is a stellar piece of melodic, proggy, technical goodness, fully demonstrating Eric’s vocal capabilities. The video accompaniment itself can only be described as a glorious sci-fi vision akin to films The Matrix and the Riddick trilogy. The stunning visuals compliment the heart wrenching melodies to create an all encompassing sensory experience. Director Michael Di Lonardo sets out a barren, futuristic landscape occupied by machines, with the band appearing like a transmission from outer space. SKYHARBOR, we read you loud and clear, we’ll see you in the UK next week!

Most anticipated release: WINTERFYLLETH. New album The Dark Hereafter will be released this Friday!

https://www.facebook.com/Winterfylleth/?fref=ts

Still in the stereo: WALLS OF JERICHO. When you think of female fronted bands you probably think of your pop punk types or your metal ARCH ENEMY like bands. But Candice Kucsulain, along with the rest of the band WALLS OF HERICHO, delivers such straight up, no nonsense hardcore punk, it’s mind boggling this hardcore troupe from Detroit do not receive more credit and recognition. Easily just as relevant and ferocious as contemporaries HATEBREED and SICK OF IT ALL, it is refreshing to hear a band so passionate and aggressive minus all the poser bullshit the scene can be now guilty of at times. So when WALLS OF JERICHO released No One Can Save You From Yourself back in March this year, it was gratefully received by fans as it had been roughly 8 years since last album The American Dream came out. It was well the worth the wait with the band sounding angrier than ever but also aiming to reunite people across not only their fan base, but across the scene, especially through tracks such as Relentless and The Anthem. It is a solid piece of honest work by a band who obviously still have a lot to say. They announced a UK/EU tour this week, so let’s hope they stick around for a little while longer at least.

https://www.facebook.com/WallsofJericho/?fref=ts

Band to rediscover: BYZANTINE. I must admit, I thought BYZANTINE were long gone, dead and buried in the metal graveyard, but lo and behold, they are now signed to Metal Blade Records with a self-titled album available in stores and a new record underway! 2005’s album …And They Shall Take Up Serpents rippled a few waves in the underground metal scene, then they seemed to vanish. To be fair, they can be pretty hard to Google, but now it shouldn’t be hard to find them and fall under their spell once again. Their progressive thrash metal, reminiscent of bands such as TESTAMENT, LAMB OF GOD and PANTERA, also incorporates instrumental sections, tribal drumming and killer solos bordering on progressive jazz. Now the band are back and stronger than ever, it is time to punish our ears once again!

https://www.facebook.com/Byzantinewv/?fref=ts

Band yet to listen to: PORT NOIR. I keep hearing about this band and their ability to mix up all sorts of genres to create their own brand of gorgeous metal. Next on my list to check out.

 

Insomnium – Winter’s Gate

A review of the Finns’ new corker of an album

When you think about what Winter sounds like, what do you hear? Chilling winds? Crisp echoes reverberating around you? Well, funnily enough that is how Part 1 of Winter’s Gate begins. The gate soon opens to a classic, triumphant INSOMNIUM riff leading the listener to the band’s familiar melodic death metal sound. Very quickly you realise this is the strongest the band has ever sounded.

Part 3 is gloriously melodic with delicate, crystal clear guitar notes unexpectedly reminiscent of bands such as ANIMALS AS LEADERS. But this proves how versatile the band still is and the track soon explodes into pure INSOMNIUM territory, with plenty of nods to peers such like AMON AMARTH and AMORPHIS. A few calmer interludes only emphasise how on form these Finnish masters are as they take you by surprise.

It is soon hard to ignore the use of strings and piano which perfectly compliment the metal, creating an epic audio landscape topped with Niilo Sevänen’s rumbling growls. Indeed it is the piano which begins Part 5 and it erupts into old school INSOMNIUM – with the low, slow growls and no nonsense death metal ambience. The final song, Part 7 flows from Part 6 to the climatic end. The album is after all, meant to be appreciated as one song, with all seven parts seamlessly transitioning from the one before to the next.

This is an ambitious album but it pays off as Part 7 is an impressive beast in itself, with previously used elements all thrown together to create a superb, heavy finale. Even rumbles of thunder make an appearance to bring the album to a thumping end. Soon everything fades to piano and whispers in the dark before Winter’s Gate finally closes.

Trap Them – Crown Feral

A review of the new album by the Boston mob

Opening track Kindred Dirt starts as a bit of an unexpected slow burner, then all of a sudden the ferocious drums and THAT guitar tone kicks in so when second track Hellionaires begins, we’re back to where ’14 album Blissfucker left off. However, Crown Feral is Blissfucker version 2.0.

Darker, angrier and more desperate, the collaboration once again with producing maestro Kurt Ballou has resulted in TRAP THEM’s signature distorted sound of a metal-punk-hardcore mess. Fifth track Malengines Here, Where They Should Be almost has a groove metal element to it and it keeps the album kicking our eardrums into oblivion. Vocalist Ryan McKenney never lets up, barking from start to end, bringing the raw aggression. When the slow, commanding beats open Twitching in the Auras, the listener is transported to a tortured existence which gives way to a southern haze and rumbling bass.

TRAP THEM hark back to the days of bands such as HOPE CONSPIRACY and CURSED but bring the style kicking and screaming into 2016. Closing track Phantom Air storms in with a crushing riff but ends abruptly, leaving no doubt the band have said all that needs to be said. In these darks times, Crown Feral could be the soundtrack to the modern horror we call life.

Weekly Roundup #2

Some bands to warm your cockles in this autumnal week…

Band to watch: BRUTAI. Last week this promising metal band from London announced they had signed to Transcend records which was the cherry on top of a successful Summer. Over the past few months they have shared stages with the likes of TEXTURES and SOILWORK and played a storming set at Bloodstock Festival much to rave reviews. Their debut album Born will be released (or should that be ‘will be born’?) on 25th November 2016 through their new label and if it’s anything like their last single Deep then we are all in for a treat! Mixing melodic melodies and screams with metallic riffs and a touch of keyboard sprinkled over the top, results in a solid sound from the young band feeling more confident with their sound. There is certainly a British feel with elements of SIKTH and even INME seeping through into the song writing but BRUTAI manage to use their influences to their advantage to create music which will appeal to fans across both the rock and metal spectrum alike. This is surely the beginning of great things and with a tour due in January supporting metal greats DEVIL YOU KNOW and WESTFIELD MASSACRE, we can expect to see more of these London lads!

https://www.facebook.com/brutai/?fref=ts

Video to watch: GHOST. You either love them or hate them, but you cannot escape this ghoulish rock band’s catchiness. The video to their new single Square Hammer from their EP Popestar is a fiendish delight. Their cinematic influences are on full display here as aesthetically, the video looks like it could have stepped straight out of the 1920’s era horror cinema. Fans will appreciate nods to cult classics Metropolis and Nosferatu in the video and GHOST along with director Zev Deans recreate this style to make their own grainy, spooky visual treat. The unnatural colours and fuzzy outlines add to the vintage style which compliments the song perfectly as Square Hammer is retro in feel and tone. If you adore them or despise them, there’s no doubt they are here to stay.

 

Most anticipated release: TRAP THEM. This Friday TRAP THEM will be releasing their fifth album Crown Feral through Prosthetic Records and it’s bound to be a raw, dark beast. This underground band from Boston and Seattle is hard to pigeonhole, and that’s a good thing! Taking hardcore, metal, punk, black metal, and even sludge, TRAP THEM mixes them up and fires out pure rage and aggression to create their own bleak, sonic soundscape. This band hint this album will include riffs inspired from their love of horror soundtracks, so expect a new type of unsettling darkness from this truly underrated band.

Still in the Stereo: LACUNA COIL. When eighth album Delirium dropped back in May, fans were greeted with a darker and heavier LACUNA COIL. Based around an abandoned asylum near to where the band live in Italy, the album is full of tales of illness, betrayal, death and the darker side of the human mind. The subject matter helps to shape the band’s most intense album to date with opener House of Shame bursting in kicking and screaming with the heaviest riff and vocals we’ve heard from LACUNA COIL in a long, long time. But Christina Scabbia’s faultless voice provides a beacon of hope for all the darkness and woe. Video for single Delirium was released earlier this month and it reminded fans just what good form the band are in. The solid and polished production are what keeps pulling us back to the album and Scabbia’s soaring vocals still stun. Catch the band on tour in the UK this November.

https://www.facebook.com/lacunacoil/?fref=ts

Band to rediscover: OPEN HAND. It was announced last month that new material will be released soon, so this would be a good opportunity to remind the world just how good this band is. OPEN HAND are ridiculously talented songwriters and musicians with their crowning glory being the album You and Me released in 2005 on Trustkill Records. How this album wasn’t huge, I do not know. Its complex instrumental layers topped with gloriously slick and sweet melodies and catchy vocals is a bliss rock treat for any music lover. A couple of songs were graced with delicious male/female vocals which shaped such an irresistible boy vs girl sound (refer to songs Tough Girl and Tough Guy) that personally, no other male/female vocal has topped since. Go on, treat yourself and indulge in a bit of OPEN HAND.

https://www.facebook.com/OpenHandRocks/?fref=ts

Band yet to listen to: KROH. This doom band from Birmingham have been slowly working their way into the underground community’s conscience and have recently been added to the Damnation festival bill. Expect to hear more about these guys and gal soon.

https://www.facebook.com/XKrohX/?fref=ts&ref=br_tf&qsefr=1

Listened to anything good lately? Comment or email Metalmance!

Tesseract – Errai EP

A review of Tesseract’s new EP

When TESSERACT’s third album Polaris dropped in 2015 it catapulted the band into the prog stratosphere. The album was nothing short of spectacular and now, a year later, their EP Errai has been brought to us. Errai offer re-workings of four tracks from Polaris; Survival, Cages, Tourniquet and Seven Names. These stripped down tracks demonstrate the song writing calibre the band harness. The standout talent of vocalist Daniel Tompkins is on full power here with the calmer accompaniment of the instrumentation.

First track Survival is a totally different beast to its Polaris counterpart, with piano replacing the original crushing riff. It does not lose its original haunting feel, instead it has accelerated through Tompkin’s intense vocal delivery. It is surprising that Tourniquet could be stripped back even further, but on Errai the emotion is ramped up with the song’s climax not losing any of its original potency. If you’re having one of those days when you want to listen to your favourite band but can’t deal with screams, riffs and breakdowns then this EP is for you!

Vola – Inmazes

A review of album by the promising Danes

Starting with MESHUGGAH-esque riffage, opener The Same War soon dissolves into a blisteringly melodic chorus. This sets the scene the remainder of the album Inmazes. The young band from Copenhagen have already fine tuned their sound which incorporates chugging guitars giving way to soaring vocals and catchy keyboard hooks. Asger Mygind’s soothing voice brings a pop element to the sound as if VOLA are one big djent disco and fans across all genres are invited.

Latest single Stray the Skies is definitely a standout track with its  dominating keyboard riff and a chorus so catchy it will remain in your head for days. It is refreshing to hear a band with keys strong in the mix and it adds to VOLA’s unique sound which sets them apart from the rest. No two songs sound the same on Inmazes with the band’s own melodic metal style tying the album together.

Emily provides a calm interlude halfway through the album but is delivered with as much heart and soul as the rest of the album you can’t help but be swept up by the dreamy sonic landscape. A Stare Without Eyes begins like old-school TESSERACT but it soon evolves into its own progressive beast, a bit like newer OPETH.

Closing track Inmazes opens with an unsettling combination of a disjointed riff and eerie keys, then explodes into such a heart wrenching conclusion of a song it leaves you feel like your among the stars. If you could choose the soundtrack for your daydreams, choose VOLA.

Weekly Roundup #1

Proggy, black metal and pop rock madness

Welcome to the first Metalmance Weekly Roundup! What else is there to do on a Tuesday evening? Back in the day I used to live for Tuesday nights as that was when Mike Davies on Radio 1 used to do his Lock Up punk rock show, remember that?

So this is where I’ll be summing up what bands I’ve been listening to this week and what new bands I think you should check out. So, without further ado…

Band to watch: VOLA. These lovely Danes mash up all sorts of genres to create music which sounds as refreshing as it is unique. Elements of djent and prog all settle nicely under soaring keyboard hooks and catchy lyrics. Look out for a review later in the week of the reissue of their album In Mazes which will be released this Friday. You can catch VOLA supporting KATATONIA in the UK next month! The band also released their new music video this week for song Stray the Skies it is made up of more than two thousand hand drawn frames which makes a truly amazing visual experience for such a brilliant song. Trust me, once you’ve listened to it you’ll have the song in your head for days. You can see the video and read more about the band via the link below.

https://www.facebook.com/volaband/?fref=ts

Video to watch: CARACH ANGREN. These Dutch horror metal masters dropped their new video yesterday for their track When Crows Tick on Windows and you really shouldn’t watch it alone at night. Visually it looks like the film Sinister, only with a better soundtrack. The attention to detail here and quality of the visual production stops CARACH ANGREN feeling like a second rate GHOST.  If you’re feeling brave you can watch the video via the link below.

Most anticipated release: TESSERACT. This Friday TESSERACT will reissue their third album Polaris as a new entity titled Errai. With Polaris, the band really stepped up the game and removed themselves even further from their former djent label into a more progressive style. It will be interesting to see what new treats Errai will offer fans. They will support DEVIN TOWNSEND PROJECT in the UK next March.

Still in the stereo: BILLY TALENT. Billy Talent’s fifth album, Afraid of Heights was released last month and it just gets better and better with each listen. The hooks and catchy lyrics hark back to their early days but there also is a new confidence to their sound. The title track proves to be a moving track and reminds you that you almost forgot just how poetic and honest their material is. You can see them on tour in the UK in October.

https://www.facebook.com/billytalent/?fref=ts

Band to rediscover: HIMSA. It’s been eight years since this Seattle metalcore crew disbanded yet their material hasn’t aged at all. Managing to avoid all the whiny vocals the genre was associated with, HIMSA proved to be a brutal beast, capturing the energy and aggression  of hardcore and metal and combining it to create their own metal sound. Their music videos were a treat too, with the tennis parody of Unleash Carnage to the puppet production of Big Timber. This was a band which could have fun and poke fun at themselves which is what the ‘scene’ really needs these days. If you listen to one album by them, then let that be Summon In Thunder (2007). Produced by the master himself, Devin Townsend, this album which proved to be their last was also their most brutal and varied.

Band yet to listen to: INQUISITION. I’ve heard a lot about this riffy black metal band, but yet to fully indulge myself in their stuff. New album dropped last month.

Any good bands to check out? Get in touch!

 

 

 

Rezinwolf – Poison Ivy

A review of the new track by Harwich’s own heavyweights

After numerous line-up changes and uncertainty about the band’s future, Rezinwolf’s metamorphosis into the band they are today is the equivalent of metal’s own thrash butterfly. Returning with a crisper sound, the band still wear their thrash influences on their sleeves but now with an added classic rock punch. Managing to avoid heavy metal clichés, Rezinwolf are now a beast to contend with. Injecting the song with hooks and guitar licks aplenty, it is clear the band now feel comfortable with their sound. Like the title, it’s hard not to be stung by frontman Murf’s words “Sweet Miss poison ivy. The lips that sealed a thousand deaths.” If the energy in the track is anything to go by, then Rezinwolf’s live set would be an event not to miss. Who knows what this band will evolve into next?

Arch Enemy, Soilwork, The Infernal Sea.

The Waterfront, Norwich. 21st August 2016.

THE INFERNAL SEA

This black metal troupe from Peterborough kicked off the night with their black death inspired noise. Clad in a uniform of hoodies emblazoned with their logo, plague masks and shrouded in green light, punters in Norwich hadn’t been greeted with this much intensity since OATHBREAKER shattered eardrums last year. Ferocious drumming, raw vocals and a taste of most recent album The Great Mortality, leave the crowd in awe of the ear battering they have just received. It is safe to say new fans joined their ritual tonight. British black metal is safe in The Infernal Sea’s hands.

 

SOILWORK

As soon as these Swedish melodic death metal Kings hit the stage with opener The Ride Majestic, The Waterfront turned into a hot, sweaty mess of flailing limbs and banging heads. Soilwork had released rarities album Death Resonance a few days previous, and tonight really felt like a celebration of their long career and back catalogue. Old favourites such as Nerve sat seamlessly alongside newer anthems like Death in General. The crowd were putty in Bjorn and co’s hands and when old fan favourite Bastard Chain erupted, it almost reduced The Waterfront to rubble. Charismatic tongue-wagging guitarist Sylvain brought the fun and smiling faces were seen all around after the victorious set. After almost two decades as a band, Soilwork have proved tonight they are still one of the pioneers of the melodic death metal genre. Let’s hope they don’t leave it another ten years until they return to Norwich.

 

ARCH ENEMY

Overhearing other members of the crowd it is clear what is on everyone’s mind; will Alissa live up to Angela’s legacy? The answer is an undoubtedly, resounding YES! From the start Alissa took command of the crowd and the room was filled with her distinct rumbling growl. Material from most recent album War Eternal went down a storm. The title track was screamed back at Alissa with such a passion from the fans that the band could not help but lap up the crowd’s enthusiasm and return such an energetic performance for the hour and a half they were on stage. Old gems such as Ravenous, My Apocalypse and Nemesis still sound just as devastating as when they were first released. Light hearted fun was brought by Alissa encouraging the crowd to ‘sing along to’ the solo in My Apocalypse, have you ever been encouraged to sing along to a solo? The thing which stood out tonight was Alissa’s professionalism and pure admiration for her band mates, always moving the focus from her to the rest of the band when it was their time to shine. By the end of the set there was no doubt Alissa had cemented herself as the frontwoman of Arch Enemy and one will garner respect from metal fans for many years to come.