Orphaned Land – Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs

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

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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

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?

 

Dyscarnate – With All Their Might

Release Date: September 15 2017. Label: Unique Leader.

DYSCARNATE are finally releasing their hotly anticipated third album, With All Their Might after a five year wait; but after the close-to-perfection-groove-fest which was 2012’s And So It Came To Pass, how does it compare? Well, DYSCARNATE fans will be pleased to know this new release shows no mercy; faster, tougher, more ambitious and almost impossibly groovier, With All Their Might is all that you wish the new DECAPITATED would be. With new bassist Al Llewellyn in tow, the trio, completed by guitarist/vocalist Tom Whitty and drummer Matt Usworth, create a sound far bigger and more dynamic than most bands double their size. After being blown away by their groovy ritual at Tech Fest this year, Metalmance couldn’t wait to get our grubby mitts on the new album. The new songs they played live were a taste of the darker, more metallic album With All Their Might promised to be.

Bludgeoning their way into our consciousness with the gloriously punchy opener Of Mice And Mountains, DYSCARNATE are back in business. They are the British death metal riff masters after all and the track sets the unforgiving pace for the remainder of the album. Immediately you are confronted with the freshly diverse screaming on this record, for here is a band who are getting musically heavier with each release rather than others who are becoming softer. Straight to your face and triumphant, the instrumentation is relentless in its brutality and groove. The two things which form the backbone of the band’s strongest release to date.

The metallic crunch of the opening riff to second track This is Fire! gives it a blackened tinge to proceedings. The first track needed an equally punishing follow-up track and This Is Fire! certainly delivers. The chorus will most certainly become a firm fan favourite to shout along to, but it is the riff which drives the song to become the musical equivalent of sharpening steel. The track also features the surprise of ‘clean vocals’; not in the singing sense, but more of a chant which propels the song into a new dimension before plummeting into an absolute beast of a closing riff.

Lead single Iron Strengthens Iron should be the soundtrack to a bloodthirsty epic, like Spartacus or Gladiator. Crushing and heavy, DYSCARNATE truly do use ‘all their might’ to conduct this wounding, modern death metal classic. A good transition from old album to new, it’s easy to understand why it was chosen to be the first single. It has the same tone as And So It Came To Pass but with the new ambition of With All Their Might. A terrifically bruising composition, Iron Strengthens Iron is the sound of a raging battle.

Things slow down a tad with the intriguing Traitors In The Palace. Another blackened ambience greets the listener with bell tolls and hellish riffs. The gutteral vocals drag the song into a deeper circle of hell. A menacing riff erupts before we witness the evil sound of the band. Brutal, dark and dynamic, DYSCARNATE sure as hell are raising the bar for British death metal.

A bassy, whirring monster comes in the form of To End All Flesh Before Me. Another suffocatingly punishing track, the song breaks into a bass-heavy lull before pummeling the listener with rapid-fire drumming and DECAPITATED-esque riffage. The machine-gun pace continues with Backbreaker. It should be noted DYSCARNATE wouldn’t be DYSCARNATE without the impeccable drumming of Matt Unsworth. In an age of programmed drums, it’s refreshing to hear the organic sound of a talented drummer.

Now it’s time for arguably the standout track of the album – or at least the one which Metalmance has had on repeat the most; All The Devils Are Here. With its thrashy beginning, it levels out into a groovy divine force. The vocals reflect this god-tier level, with screams straight out of a fallen angel’s mouth. It also feels like a call and response is happening before we are chucked head first into and rumbling riff. One of the most diverse songs on the album, this track selects limbs from all extreme genres to create its own hellish hybrid. When you think you’re safe, you’re then exposed to the most spellbinding and spine-tingling outro of 2017. It will make you bang your head into oblivion.

If you’ve survived the album so far and have enough energy left for the finale, stick it out, for Nothing Seems Right will bang the final nail in your coffin. One last atmospheric blackened intro graces our ears for the album’s swansong. With its apocalyptic ambience, it is a fitting end to what is a flawless work of art. 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.

Cryptopsy + Jøtnarr + A Bribe For The Ferryman 

Colchester Arts Centre. 19 August 2017.

(Apologies for poor picture quality, had to use phone camera instead) 

Colchester Arts Centre is a quirky little venue, and a regular spot for all genres of music and arts. Tonight, the former church is host to Montreal’s finest, CRYPTOPSY. As the death metal fans of Essex start spilling into the room, opener A BRIBE FOR THE FERRYMAN get underway with their set. 

Over the past year, the band from Colchester have gained momentum round the local scene. Metalmance last saw the band open for SEAWOLVES at Colchester’s Three Wise Monkeys, and since then the band has had a lineup shake up in the form of new drummer Joshua Moreton, the former drummer of REZINWOLF (RIP). ABFTF aren’t the most original band, their brand of recycled riffs making them sound more like a college band. That’s not to say everyone feels this way; the band had their own crew of hardcore fans and a small group moshing down the front, but the band and music just didn’t seem quite suitable for a death metal show. Luckily, Moreton has injected a new energy into the band, and bassist Chris May is well worth a watch purely for his stage presence alone. However you’re left wishing frontman Rob Norrington was less static on stage, but as a band they are still finding their feet and ABFTF really need to establish their own sound or risk failing to break out of the local scene. 

Gracing the stage next were local troupe JØTNARR. Always a safe choice for an extreme metal gig in Colchester, the trio brought the gritty noise and chaotic energy to the Arts Centre and got the crowd warmed up for the noisy ruckus to come. The simplicity of the band being a three-piece is a deceiving disguise for the huge wall of sound and screams they make. Their performances are always captivating, with all members unleashing a sound akin to the soundtrack of the expulsion of demons. If you’re from the area and haven’t yet witnessed the mighty JØTNARR, then what has possessed you? 

Iconic in itself, the painting Herodias with the Head of John the Baptist by the artist Elisabetta Sirani is no doubt more infamous now for being the artwork for CRYPTOPSY’s None So Vile, with John’s decapitated head decorating the scrims on the stage. It is this album which the masters of death metal are playing in its entirety tonight. With his exuberant long hair, frontman Matt McGachy whipped his locks round and windmilled enough for everyone down the front to caught tangled up in it or have it dip in their drinks at some point. Intense and loud as ever, it was evident the band were experts at their aural craft, oozing professionalism and menace with their fans lapping up each riff and scream. Unrelenting throughout the playthrough of None So Vile, when the opening riff for the classic track, Slit Your Guts resonated round the room, the band had the crowd eating out of their hands. Legends in their own right, it was a very special occasion that the band were gracing Colchester with their presence, it is hard to do the band justice with this little review. The only disappointment of the night was that the show didn’t have a larger turnout. This seems to be a repeating pattern at Colchester gigs recently  (possibly even the region as a whole). If CRYPTOPSY played here ten years ago, it more than likely would have been near to selling out. But tonight is the present, and everyone in attendance had a ghoulishly good time otherwise. 

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.