As Paradise Falls – Digital Ritual

Label: Eclipse Records. Release Date: 21 July 2017.

Australia is gaining quite the reputation for quality metal acts; KARNIVOOL, VOYAGER, NORTHLANE, AVERSIONS CROWN…get the idea? Now you can add Brisbane’s AS PARADISE FALLS to that list too. The band who are proving to be an unstoppable force, faced a few setbacks while the recording of Digital Ritual, mostly the sudden passing of guitarist Glen Barrie in late 2015. Not only did the band have to regroup and support each other after his death, but the band were also more conscious about creating an album worthy of preserving Glen’s legacy. Produced by Shane Edwards (NORTHLANE, TROPHY EYES, HELLIONS) the band have achieved a solid album; a heavy tech record full of interesting nuggets here and there, with more grooves, beats, riffs and curious titbits than you can shake a stick at. Influenced by bands such as EMMURE and fellow Aussies THY ART IS MURDER and PARKWAY DRIVE, it’s no surprise Digital Ritual is an album which packs a punch.

The title track kicks off proceedings with a tense introduction, erupting into an instrumental banger with a smattering of electronic tinkles. Balance then completely blows the senses with its massive drums, ferocious riffs and the raw vocals from frontman Shaun Coar. One of the heaviest tracks on the album, Balance threatens the listener with what AS PARADISE FALLS are capable of.

The chuggy, EMMURE-ish riffs soon break way for the start of Star Blind. The lead single entices with its calming intro of blissful clean vocals but we’re soon back in business with a punishing riff to make sure you continue your way to the killer chorus reminiscent of AMORPHIS or even ORPHANED LAND. Once again, nothing prepares you for the switch in style for next track, The Ultimate Consumer. With a riff not too dissimilar to DECAPITATED’s Spheres of Madness, the song switches between mesmerising vocals and downright punishing metal.

Automated Sacrifice is a mish-mash of all sorts making it one of the more rewarding tracks on Digital Ritual. With the album’s best guitar solo and breakdown , this song also features more of Coar’s versatile vocals as well as more atmospheric flourishes which enriches the dynamic. A relentless groove greets listeners for Glory To The Server, but frequently breaks into djent moments with a SIKTH-esque edge.

A melodic opening to Reborn soon evolves into something reminiscent of a MALEVOLENCE groove but with an extra metallic crunch. This intensifies for Dead Message, an absolute stomper of a track. It’s becoming evident AS PARADISE FALLS pull off every style they play, but this also means they are lacking a sound which is distinctly theirs. Having said this, the material is strong enough and exciting enough to kick up anticipation to see how the band will progress. A very promising full-length, AS PARADISE FALLS should be on your radar.

 

 

Eighteen Visions – XVIII

Label: Rise Records. Release Date: 2 June 2017.

XVIII might just take the crown for most unexpected 2017 release. Last year Metalmance raved about EIGHTEEN VISIONS’ back catalogue in Weekly Roundup #6, and stated it would be very unlikely there would be a reunion in the near future. Well, 10 years on from their breakup, EIGHTEEN VISIONS sneakily reformed and recorded a new album with the help of ANAAL NATHRAKH’s Mick Kenney (who also produces ex-EIGHTEEN VISIONS and BLEEDING THROUGH member Brandan Schieppatti’s solo project THE IRON SON.) and it’s fair to say it’s a return to their roots. Everything, from their logo to shots of bees and mannequins in their promotional materials, all hark back to their first major release Until The Ink Runs Out in 2000. XVIII feels like a homage to their past selves and their late bassist Mick Morris, as it meanders through familiar territory (i.e the use of film samples which has not been practised since Vanity in 2002), but in true EIGHTEEN VISIONS fashion, it sounds nothing like anything they have written before. Each album shifts massively from style to style and this new release is no different.

Blasting in with Crucified, EIGHTEEN VISIONS are shaking off any false impressions from their last self-titled album, an album which saw the band being branded as sell-outs. This storming intro, with its ferocious drumming and blackened riffs, immediately makes the point that EIGHTEEN VISIONS are heavier than ever and are back to show the scene how it’s done. The lyrics themselves could be interpreted in many ways; “Still crucified. I’ve never been consumed. Never conformed like you.” Could this be the band’s response to comments about their last album? How they’ve always done what the hell they’ve wanted despite what fans and the scene say?

The Disease, The Decline, and Wasted Time is quite a groovy fair, with James Hart’s distinct screams tearing through the track. The chorus is not too dissimilar to something you would hear on their self-titled, infectiously catchy yet backed up with heavy accompaniment. They always had killer breakdowns (Tower of Snakes anyone?) but the breakdown in this track is something else. Guitarist Keith Barney has seriously concocted a batch of tasty riffs for this album and has plunged the band into another level of heaviness. This formula continues for the third track Underneath The Gun, with the vocal melody in the middle eight and the end sounding reminiscent of the self-titled track off Vanity. Heavy. There’s that word again, heavy…

A tribute to Mick Morris comes in the form of the intense track Live Again. An unapologetically heavy single, it features more top notch riffs but also some of the album’s most carefully considered lyrics; “Stay inside me. We’ll never forget the days. We made the most of our memories.” The song descends into a powerful rock chorus but never strays far from the brutal foundations of the composition. A fitting, and heartfelt tribute to Morris’ legacy indeed.

Hart’s rock vocals raise their head again in Laid to Waste in the Shit of Man but erupt back into their raw state for the punishing Oath. Many have interpreted this song to be the band’s loyalty to the straight edge, but it could represent many things. A likely interpretation is staying true to music and family, it follows the same attitude as You Don’t Have to be Blood to be Family-era THROWDOWN. The gritty instrumentation is a mish-mash of all their previous albums, it sounds like Until the Ink Runs Out, Vanity and Obsession all rolled into one. Ladies and gentlemen, this is EIGHTEEN VISIONS.

Spit and Picture Perfect are further examples of filthy tunes with oodles of groove and distortion. If their self-titled album was geared towards an 80’s vibe then XVIII definitely veers towards a 90’s ALICE IN CHAINS edge in places. Fake Leather Jacket could easily fit on 2004’s Obsession, with its groovy riff reminiscent to Crushed and its crushing chorus. The lyrics are also quite curious; “Said youʼd make me famous. The year of the “v.” But youʼre just so epic full of shit.” Could this be directed to Epic Records who let them down with promoting their self-titled? This track is full suggestive comments but once again in true 18V fashion it could be interpreted in many different ways.

Each EIGHTEEN VISIONS’ album has an absolutely spellbinding track and XVIII is no different. A solid album and one which has exceeded all expectations, this record needed a statement finale. With For This I Sacrifice they have achieved this, a track dripping with passion and feeling, it is one of the heaviest love songs you’ll hear all year. It also demonstrates just how far Hart’s vocals have come since the introduction of cleans on Vanity. A spine tingling ending for one of their best albums to date, there’s no doubt about it, EIGHTEEN VISIONS are back and ready to rejuvenate the metalcore scene again. Welcome back chaps.

 

The Royal – Seven

Label: Long Branch Records. Release Date: 31 March 2017.

Since releasing their debut album Dreamcatchers in 2014, THE ROYAL have slowly been causing a stir in the European metalcore scene, and now hopefully with the band’s first label release Seven through Long Branch Records, this group of promising Dutchmen are set to take the scene by storm. Seven continues where Dreamcatchers left off, but things sound a lot sharper, more structured, and vocalist Sem Pisarahu has definitely found his vocal niche with this release.

To kick off proceedings, Thunder storms in with riffs galore, and soon enough we’re back amongst THE ROYAL’s safe clutches. With this opening track, the band’s confidence oozes through the speakers, with bold tones and an urgent presence, the song soon gives way to one of the album’s highlights, Feeding Wolves. Featuring Carlo Knöpfel of BREAKDOWN OF SANITY this song features a lot of exciting elements; elegant riffs which soon erupt into a crushing mass of tech riffery and catchy lines which are destined to be firm favourites for fans to shout along to. Unapologetically heavy, yet diverse enough to remain interesting, this track sets the milestone for the remainder of the album.

The third track, single, Wildmind maintains the band’s infectious energy and features one of the album’s most memorable riffs. It is becoming apparent THE ROYAL are definitely ones to watch, with their mix of a bruising foundation, topped by piercing guitars and crushing vocals. This variety is worked to create an interesting and unpredictable bag of metalcore. Creeds and Vultures surprises the ear with tech riffs that border on the djent, along with an unexpected acoustic middle-eight and a triumphant outro. A truly impressive track in terms of seamlessly mixing all these components together, THE ROYAL confidently demonstrate they are still unfazed by including acoustic and orchestral parts, as any fan of the debut album would be familiar with.

This continues with the piano opening of Counterculture, the second single taken from Seven. With a desperate message, the band storm their way through the song, once again with killer riffs and a hardcore attitude of camaraderie. A thought provoking song about the state of the world, this message has time to sink in during the album’s atmospheric interlude, appropriately named…Interlude. This is soon interrupted with the whirring riff of the title track, which is an example of the band’s leaning towards the more tech side of metal.

Life Breaker and Thalassa are chock-full of tech influences, with both songs of course containing signature killer riffs, you can just assume by this point that the remainder of the songs will also plentiful in the riffage department. Indeed, closer Viridian needs something special to offer to put the tech metal cherry on top of THE ROYAL’s metalcore cake. And it certainly delivers; a fast-paced, energetic number, it is the perfect counterpart to Thunder, nicely sandwiching all the riffs and screams between two solid tracks of THE ROYAL goodness.

A seriously blinding effort, Seven will hopefully propel THE ROYAL to the forefront of the burgeoning scene. It will be exciting to see what the future holds for this promising lot and how the band evolves for future releases.

 

NOAD – Nature of a Doppelganger EP

Self-release. Release date: 27th January 2017.

Solo instrumental djent EPs are often very much hit or miss, but in the case of Mike Vermeire’s NOAD, it’s a hit. Featuring enough elements to stay interesting yet be able to maintain a sound unique to the musician is always a challenge yet Vermeire has managed to achieve this with his 8 string guitar for Nature of a Doppelganger. Also incorporating ambient metal and death metal, the EP is an enjoyable slab of trusty ol’ djent, but it is in no way tech-metal-by-numbers.

Nature of a Doppelganger begins with a heavy ambient track called Intro which soon blends into Collapse; a punchy tech track full of djent mannerisms and rumbling bass. It soon becomes noticeable how full the mix is which is impressive for a solo production, some one man band recordings are sparse on layers of sound, but Vermeire has produced material rich in substance and textures – a bit like an indulgent djent dessert.

The atmospheric start to Deceit soon breaks away to a punchy, chuggy riff. A few GOJIRA-like squeals here and there help make this track a heavy tech metal track which pounds through the headphones. Deceit is probably the song most likely to induce some head nodding as it never lets up. It is one constant riff-athon. At first the drums do not sound entirely convincing but halfway through the song they’re close to stealing the show.

A killer riff kicks in with Forlorn before it erupts into another splendid array of ferocious heavy progressiveness. There is an opportunity here to go full riffy djent but it is a relief in a way that Vermeire doesn’t as it would have been too predictable and not the most original. Instead he provides us with interesting effects and an ambience not too dissimilar to SHOKRAN.

With Bardo we hear NOAD’s more ambient side, a treat of a song with harmonics galore and a Fragile-era NIN vibe happening with the main guitar hook. Although it is unlike the other tracks on the EP it does not sound out of place. It is a beautiful and well composed piece and is actually the most memorable track on Nature of a Doppelganger. If NOAD end up pursuing the ambient route of metal, it certainly wouldn’t be the worst idea.

Bardo almost acts as a palette cleanser before the punishing closer Antumbra. By far the heaviest track on the EP, the middle of the song absolutely obliterates the senses and keeps on delivering until the very end. An impressive release, there are enough components to Nature of a Doppelganger to make you want to return to the EP again and again.

She Must Burn – Grimoire

Label: Artery Recordings. Release date: 3rd March 2017.

After the success of their self-titled EP in 2015, SHE MUST BURN are now unleashing their new material in the form of album Grimoire. Thankfully the album is the EP 2.0, more of the same blackened symphonic metal, but with more confidence. Overall, the album has the feel of The Great Fire era BLEEDING THROUGH, which is not a terrible thing at all. With a good deal of CRADLE OF FILTH and MOTIONLESS IN WHITE influences thrown into the mix, Grimoire will no doubt catapult SHE MUST BURN into the blackened metal stratosphere.

No black metal influenced album would be complete without an atmospheric opening, and Grimoire does not fail to disappoint in the form of Ritual, an unsettling piece of audio which is probably the aural equivalent of paranoia and pyromania. The Wicked soon blasts in with the band’s signature sound of ferocious drumming and the hellish screams of frontman Joseph Sinclair. Female vocals soon haunt the chorus, hinting towards the gothic masterpiece this album could become. This track sounds more like a glorious finale, but instead it plays its part as a spellbinding opener.

Sean Harmanis from MAKE THEM SUFFER guests on next track Gloom, which erupts into a deliciously morbid composition. Gloom is blackened metal personified; fast riffs, fast screams, even faster drumming, with a shroud of chaotic gloom (‘scuse the pun). A perfect example of the manic darkness SHE MUST BURN offer to the unsuspecting masses. Victoria is almost blackened hardcore if that’s even a thing, but it works so well. The shouty vocals along with the keys compliment each other beautifully, it shouldn’t gel but somehow SHE MUST BURN achieve it. The song also includes clean male vocals which demonstrates the band’s willingness to display their talent and influences. So far with Grimoire, SHE MUST BURN do not disappoint.

The melancholic piano in A False Heaven provides a calm interlude in the middle of the album. Beautifully haunting yet classical, it would be the perfect soundtrack for a gothic period drama, think Pride and Prejudice if the Bennet sisters had a penchant for the dark arts. This illusion is shattered when the machine gun drums of From The Grave blast their way into your consciousness. The song takes a few unexpected turns; with a more melodic stance in parts, a mellow mood seeps in before a progressive ending brings the track to a thumping end.

Album closer After Death is a culmination of all the elements previously heard on the album. The most dramatic song on Grimoire, it is a fitting finale with soaring vocals and triumphant riffs. Just like the beginning of the album, the track closes with an atmospheric end, so that when the last note of the piano resonates you’ll already be willing to play Grimoire all over again.

 

White Stag – Emergence

Self-release. Release Date: 17th February 2017.

Silent Riddles is a nine minute epic opener which starts with a strong melodic CYNIC vibe and erupts into a spacey riff the likes of MASTODON would be proud of. This song is a good introduction to what the remainder of the album has to offer; a mixed bag of a lot of progressive and experimental elements. Halfway through the song there is a strong post-rock feel too, a bit like if OPETH went down the MAYBESHEWILL route.

The title track takes more of a BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME turn, with the ambitious length of the song (16 minutes) and the constant fluid changes between styles. Beginning with an eerie, ambient feel it soon breaks away to a gritty, almost black metal verse. After the IHSAHN-esque vocals, the song floats and crashes along in a wave of prog. 11 minutes in and Emergence descends into an unnecessary midi haze. The song redeems itself by the end as it lapses into a metallic groove.

Track three, Torrential Skylines provides a short instrumental interlude before the song Inhabitant which follows a similar structure to the title track but in a more focused way. Starting with a post-rock ditty, the song then moves into MASTODON territory again. The band’s experimental edge emerges again for the remainder of the track, resulting in a chaotic crash.

Accidental Entity is the heaviest ten minutes of the album and probably one of the more consistent songs on Emergence, but closer Soak Up The Fall has definitely been saved for last. The most rewarding track to listen to in terms of melody and direction, WHITE STAG show their song writing talent with this song. The band sound a bit unfocused at times during the album but with the last two songs everything seems to come together, demonstrating the band’s progressive potential. An ambitious effort, the band clearly are not afraid to take creative risks.

 

Valis Ablaze – Insularity

Self-release. Release date: 30th January 2017.

The opening bars of Insularity confront you with an instant TESSERACT vibe, which is never a bad thing if executed well, luckily in VALIS ABLAZE’s case, it is! Over the duration of the EP, this TESSERACT influence slowly ebbs away enabling VALIS ABLAZE to demonstrate the beginnings of the niche they are carving themselves in the UK tech metal scene. With the impressive vocals of new frontman Phil Owen and the progressive guitars by Ash Cook and Tom Moore, this band from Bristol achieve an ambitious sound with the help from producer Drewsif Stalin.

First track Resolution is reminiscent of One-era TESSERACT, with the bass-heavy verse and sprinkling of guitars which soon crash into a beastly riff and a catchy chorus fellow British metallers EXIT TEN would have been proud of. Inertia bursts into your consciousness with a glorious VOLA-esque riff, and it soon becomes apparent that VALIS ABLAZE have developed a knack for penning killer choruses and irresistible riffs. As unoriginal as that combination sounds, this band do actually provide top notch melodic goods with plenty of heart and power.

The electronic effects at the beginning of Lost in Syntax add another appealing dynamic to VALIS ABLAZE’s sound. The urgent riffs set the foundation for a high energy song which gathers pace then clears into a delicious haze of intricate elements. Title track Insularity has one of the most memorable beginnings on the EP, with a riff which borders on post-hardcore and a smattering of piano. This is one of the strongest tracks in terms of an original sound and diversity. Phil Owen also seems to find his own vocal style with this track which carries the song beautifully along until the last note fades out.

The urge to describe the opening riff of Persuasion as djent is strong, but it is a terrific punchy progressive number with subtle electronic flourishes here and there which enriches the sound. Things slow down a bit for the EP finale Legacy, which brings Insularity to a spectacular close. Bassist Kieran Hogarty also has his chance to shine, providing a rumbling bass riff throughout the emotionally intense song. The triumphant riff towards the end of the track leads into the progressive outro and brings Insularity to a final halt.

An impressive effort from another promising British progressive band, VALIS ABLAZE have all the components for something truly special. To push themselves to the forefront of the scene the band should focus on nurturing and fine-tuning their own sound, as the band have proved with this EP they already harness the talent and passion to potentially become a leading force themselves.

Levels – Exist

Self-released. 7 May 2016.

Reading this band’s press release, an unfamiliar phrase caught my eye; ‘progressive metalcore’. Another silly term to use when pigeonholing bands? Or an accurate description? Well after a listen to their debut EP Exist, ‘progressive metalcore’ does seem quite fitting. A real mish-mash of styles come together in this record by this Arkansas group, and considering they only formed in late 2015, they already have a confident sound.

New single Slip is definitely more on the metalcore side of things, fans of ARCHITECTS and DEVIL WEARS PRADA would approve, but there are hints of other elements starting to emerge. Opening with a devastating riff, Jakes Sanders’ vocals soon blast in with brutal aplomb. As expected, clean vocals kick in for the chorus, but all the vocals on this EP are delivered with such heart and rawness it’s hard not to be drawn into the world of LEVELS. A djent breakdown doesn’t go unnoticed and it is here you start to get a taste of the more progressive components the band are teasing to offer.

American Dream is a bit of a groovy, technical affair then clears into a bluesy interlude which shouldn’t really fit into a song like this, but somehow LEVELS make a seamless transition and demonstrates the band are open to experiment with styles. Contaminate also shows its metalcore and progressive influences on its sleeve. Sounding a cross between DEVIL SOLD HIS SOUL and COUNTING DAYS, it is a brutal assault on the senses with the EP’s most crushing riffs.

A calm riff entices you into Manifest, but the aggression quickly storms in and takes over. The technicality and vocals enter SIKTH territory in places, making this tune one of the more progressively chaotic of the record, but one of the most memorable. The Lender seems to mix hardcore and djent which is normally a bit of a risky combination but one which LEVELS executes so well. Bands such as THROWDOWN and A LIFE ONCE LOST spring to mind while listening to this song, bringing an old school sound kicking and screaming into this decade.

Last track Exist is a bit of a darker beast. Probably the most ‘djent’ of all the songs, it has more of an atmospheric vibe happening too. It collapses into a devastating breakdown a band like OCEANO would be proud of. A worthy finale for the EP, the title track definitely has the most happening. Bringing the EP to a crashing close, LEVELS have proven they have what it takes to make an impact on both the metalcore and progressive scenes. Considering how early the band is in its career, the potential here is astounding. Roll on the debut album!

 

From Inside – The New Era

Release date: 13th January 2017. Self-release.

Barely a year old, Liverpool’s alternative metal outfit FROM INSIDE are set to unleash this beast of a debut EP, The New Era. Aiming to offer fans something which will help through dark times, what else would be better than catchy, emotionally driven metal to guide us into 2017? Drawing from bands in the same vein as BRING ME THE HORIZON, you might be wondering what FROM INSIDE could possibly bring to the table we haven’t already heard a million times before. Well by incorporating electronic, orchestral and atmospheric elements to their material, their sound already sounds richer than many established bands, hopefully meaning this young group aspire to stand out from the crowd and become game-changers down the line.

Launching into the opening track Still Breathing with samples and electronics, the song soon clears into a parade of raw and clean vocals aplenty with the subtle electronic hook driving the song to its crushing breakdown. The production is slick with the help of Drew Lawson of Steel City Studios (BRING ME THE HORIZON and WHILE SHE SLEEPS) but still keeps the tone heavy.

Second track Be Yourself continues to demonstrates the band’s ability to pen an irresistible tune and deliver the soaring vocals. But in the background there is plenty to keep the ears entertained, with plenty of atmospheric flourishes to notice after a few listens. The same can be said for first single Find My Way, which seems to pull from a range of influences from post-hardcore to heavier bands such as MOTIONLESS IN WHITE.

Two Sides of Me fully displays the emotional tone of the band, both through their honest lyrics and their heartfelt music. It starts off like a laidback PIERCE THE VEIL but soon storms in with raw vocals accompanied by the shimmer of piano notes. The switch between raw and melodic is something FROM INSIDE have already fine tuned and is definitely one of their strengths.

Last track There Was A Time moves into DEVIL SOLD HIS SOUL territory with absolutely gut-wrenching vocals propelling the band to a climatic finale. The electronic elements steal the show at the end though, bringing the EP to a chilling and spine-tingling close. A promising start from new hopes of the British scene. Get set for the new era of alternative metal!

Deities – Archon

Self-release. Release date: 15th Dec 2016.

Easing in with some feedback static, Archon suddenly crashes into our consciousness with the crushing riff of opener, Luna. Dan Earl’s punishing growls resonate, and from there on in, Norwich’s DEITIES are unstoppable with their own brand of experimental metal. During this first song it becomes clear that with Archon, their second EP, DEITIES are beginning to nurture a more dynamic, mature sound which will be vital for them to thrive in the burgeoning British tech metal scene. The band’s influences are still there, with Luna reminiscent of the grooves of LAMB OF GOD’s Cursed the Blackened Sun, but DEITIES take their influences and twist them into their own aggressive sound thanks to the zeal of guitarist Dave Klussman and drummer Jon Curtis.

Second track Archon is an impressive slab of progressive groove metal, sounding a bit of Silhouettes-era TEXTURES here and there, the band harness their energy and propel it into a full-throttle assault. The song packs a punch with the lyrics also creating an impact “I am enlightened, the apex of humanity. I am resistance, a monolith of the mind”. DEITIES create intelligent music with lyrics to match. Each component is clearly thought out and passionately crafted. The same can be said for Psychonaut, which proves to be a more progressive affair with the soaring vocals of guest singer Dave Maclachlan and the subtle use of djent, which when brought together creates a totally spellbinding composition.

Sol is a straight-up, no-nonsense, metal-de-force and whatever other hyphenated adjectives you can think of. Once again Dan Earl’s lyrics about the state of the Earth and mankind have a profounding effect “We are exiled by the divine, tainted creatures born of spite”. This unbridled frustration makes DEITIES a band of constructive aggression. Penultimate track Bloodletting is another stunning example of what DEITIES have to offer. It is hard to believe this standard of material is already reached by the band’s second EP.

If Archon hasn’t already blown you away by now, then the EP’s finale Blackened will most definitely pummel you into the ground. The masterpiece of the EP, the closing track is a 7 minute shift between styles yet remains a focused triumph. The rich depth of production creates layers of organised noise which lapse together into an utterly compelling opus. If DEITIES have already established a strong sound such as this by their second EP, just imagine what a monster their debut album could be.