Vexes – Ancient Geometry

Release date: 23 February 2018.

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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.