METALMANCE RETROSPECTIVE: The Hurt Process

A look back at one of Britain’s unsung heroes. Feat. a Q&A with vocalist Daniel Lawrence.

Over the festive period, one particular band announcement proved to be one of the best gifts of the season. I’m not talking about all those MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE reunion posts and teasers. No, no. I’m talking about the return of British metalcore darlings THE HURT PROCESS and their announcement of a reunion show this year (London, 23rd April to be exact). It seems all the 30-somethings who honed their emo craft to the band’s music, are now crawling out of the woodwork faster than you can say “Myspace”.

After forming in the early noughties, the band achieved success both here in the UK and over the pond in the US after a successful stint on the Warped Tour in 2004. Shortly after the release of the second album A Heartbeat Behind in 2005, the band split up. It seems they split just as emo and melodic hardcore really hit the big time. As THE HURT PROCESS shrivelled into obscurity, their American contemporaries catapulted to stardom i.e. SILVERSTEIN, HAWTHORNE HEIGHTS amongst others.

With such strong roots and oodles of promise, it seems a shame THE HURT PROCESS never quite became a staple band in British metal history. At the height of their success, British fans were also obsessing over the likes of FUNERAL FOR A FRIEND, HUNDRED REASONS and MILLION DEAD whose legacy seem to hold greater stead. Did THE HURT PROCESS break up too soon? Didn’t they look emo enough? Were the dual vocals too radical? Who knows.

THE HURT PROCESS did nail the glorious emo/metalcore sound of the early noughties but with an added post-hardcore crunch. Being British they sounded less whiny and nodded less to pop punk than their peers overseas. After numerous line-up changes over the years and their sound maturing with each release, THE HURT PROCESS ended on a metalcore high. I think their crossover appeal will ensure the band have the freedom to experiment with styles if they dabble in writing new material.


THE HURT PROCESS – Drive By Monologue. Year: 2003.

After two successful EPs (Another Day and Last Goodbye) the band released the absolute gem that is Drive By Monologue. Raw, honest and charmingly melodic, this album encompassed everything that the golden age of melodic hardcore harnessed. The riffs are rock solid on this album and still make your inner-emo shake its studded-belted-butt. The first two tracks This Piece and White Butterflies (The Sky Bleeding) are two of the best songs the band ever wrote; This Piece captured that glorious early noughties melodic hardcore sound as well as the awesome dual vocal approach, while White Butterflies boasted the band’s ability to write a crushing emo anthem. THE HURT PROCESS also penned some beautifully heartfelt songs including Tuesday and Clarity, but somehow managed to avoid being overtly cheesy and cringy…perhaps because they sounded so sincere? It will be interesting to see how these songs hold up live now! At the time Drive By Monologue was exactly what I wanted to hear, it satisfied my emo cravings but with an extra metallic crunch. Surprisingly, it’s aged quite well!

THE HURT PROCESS A Heartbeat Behind. Year: 2005.

After some line-up changes and a small shift in direction, next (and last) album A Heartbeat Behind ended up being more of a straight-up metalcore venture. This album dropped as I was getting into heavier stuff, so for me this album arrived at just the right time. Immediately with opening track Anchor, the heavier riffs and screams smacked you in the face and whacked you from being an emo darling into an angsty metalhead instead. Sometimes the impact got lost (You Don’t Get Gold For Second Place and The Night Before The Morning After) but this album featured more belters than before (see: the brilliant My Scandinavian Ride and Delicious 53). My two favourite THE HURT PROCESS tracks are on this album; the moving Boogie Nights In Michigan and the colossal Reading Into It. Both songs are unlike anything the band had done before. The former being confusingly uplifting with its bright riffs but sorrowful lyrics and the latter providing the dramatic cello-infused finale the album (and band) deserved. A Heartbeat Behind is a British metalcore underdog indeed.


Q&A with THE HURT PROCESS vocalist Daniel Lawrence

Q. How did the reunion happen?

Lawrence: We’ve been talking about meeting up for years, primarily to catch up with each other. Then the opportunity for some shows came about so we made it happen. It’s been great so far.

Q. How are rehearsals going after over a decade apart?

Lawrence: It’s been awesome and sounding just like the old days. Cannot wait to get it to the stage for everyone to see.

Q. Which songs are you most looking forward to playing live?

Lawrence: All of them! I can’t wait to get the pit moving in front of us again.

Q. What can THE HURT PROCESS fans expect from the live show?

Lawrence: If rehearsals are anything to go by, expect it to be heavy and poppy along with high energy.

Q. Can we expect new songs? If so, what style are they heading in?

Lawrence: There will be new songs. Style wise….you will have to wait and see! Come to the shows to find out.

Metalmance's Top 20 Releases of 2019

The best 20 releases of the past 12 months

What a year! I was absent for most of it but that didn’t mean I wasn’t lurking and listening to albums. I’ve kept the list honest this year, with the releases I’ve listened to the most. If you’ve come here expecting to see SLIPKNOT and TOOL then you can go to Metal Hammer for that. As always I’m featuring EPs as well as albums…so behold! My Top 20 releases of 2019!


 

20. HOUR OF PENANCEMisotheism. Release date: 25 October.

It’s been a couple of months since Italy’s HOUR OF PENANCE dropped the meaty slab of death metal that is Misotheism and it still absolutely slays. Out of all the brutal death metal releases which have dropped this year, Misotheism is one of the most consistently punishing. Tracks such as The Second Babel and Lamb of the Seven Sins are violent delights. The brutal grooves and relentless battering of the senses are a morbid treat. Instead of focussing on how fast or how extreme they can go, HOUR OF PENANCE ensure there is some form of structure and substance to their songs which is sometimes missing in extreme music today. If you’re also a glutton for punishment then you could do a lot worse than giving Misotheism a spin.

Roundup – Oct & Nov 2019 feat. Misotheism


 

19. ABIGAIL WILLIAMSWalk Beyond The Dark. Release date: 15 November.

It’s great when a band’s first album in almost five years doesn’t suck. ABIGAIL WILLIAMS have always been a bit of an oddball (in the best possible way) and have upset the most cvlt of black metal fans through the years. Walk Beyond The Dark is their best album since In The Shadow Of A Thousand Suns. That’s a big statement I know, but it just emphasises my point on how good Walk Beyond The Dark Is. Atmospheric enough to be gripping and chilling, succinct enough to remain ambitious without overstaying its welcome. Sun and Moon and Into the Sleep are some of the more storming tracks on the album, but no second is wasted on this beauty. The darkness and colossal atmosphere is something else and proof that ABIGAIL WILLIAMS have not lost an ounce of intensity. In fact, it seems they’ve gained more.

Roundup – Oct & Nov 2019 feat. Walk Beyond The Dark


 

18. BAESTVenenum. Release date: 13 September.

I’ve probably said this a few times but BAEST are what I wish BLOODBATH still were. Their old school death metal is addictive as hell and with Venenum their second album, they sound beastlier than ever. The riffs are utter filth and the venom spat by frontman Simon Olsen is some of the most terrifying you’ll hear from a modern death metal band. Heresy, As Above So Below and Sodomize are ferocious additions to BAEST’s arsenal of death metal delights. With hellish lyrics and a relentless delivery, BAEST are firmly on the rise to extreme metal royalty. This year saw their ascent escalate with successful support slots for the likes of DECAPITATED and ABORTED. Their recorded material is impressive but their live show absolutely slays. One of the most promising death metal acts out there, beware the BAEST.

Roundup – September 2019 feat. Venenum


 

17. WORMEDMetaportal EP. Release date: 19 July.

Another death metal delight, this time in the form of WORMED’s incredible EP Metaportal. Their technical death metal is some of the best I’ve heard all year, like old school DECAPITATED with extra speed, madness and sci-fi themes. Metaportal is four tracks of unapologetic tech death bludgeoning. 2019 saw some albums which should have been EPs and some EPs which should have been full-lengths, including this one. Spain is rapidly gaining a reputation for its quality, extreme death metal acts and there’s no reason why WORMED can’t join Spain’s metal elite. A polished slab of the most unforgiving metal around, Metaportal shows the newbies how it’s done. Full length next please!

Roundup – July 2019 feat. Metaportal


 

16. CRYSTAL LAKE Helix. Release date: 15 February.

The last couple of years has seen Japan’s metalcore troupe CRYSTAL LAKE grow from strength to strength. Last album True North was a bit all over the place, but Helix is an absolutely punishing release. Aeon has remained one of my favourite songs of the year with its flawless execution. If the same focus was given to the remainder of the album then Helix would rank higher in the list. Agony and +81 are other bangers and things get brutal again with the heavy Hail To The Fire. Helix features lots of riffs to die for and some of the most ferocious drumming of the year, but it’s front man Ryo Kinoshita who is the [not so] secret weapon of CRYSTAL LAKE’s appeal. The technique and talent on display in Helix is incredibly exciting. Once they tap into which sound works best for them and stick to it, world domination awaits.

Crystal Lake – Helix review


 

15. AENIMUSDreamcatcher. Release date: 22 February.

Californian brutal troupe AENIMUS are slowly but surely working their way through the ranks to being one of the best progressive extreme acts out there. I’m surprised they haven’t gained more recognition off the back of the incredible Dreamcatcher album. One of the most polished and consistent extreme records of 2019, Dreamcatcher is a spectacularly dark record. Any moments of light and optimism are briskly extinguished to maintain a fiercely dark atmosphere. Songs like The Ritual fill the empty BLACK CROWN INITIATE-shaped hole that is in our lives at the moment, while My Becoming could have been what we wanted from SHOKRAN this year…there is something for every extreme metal fan on Dreamcatcher. Fingers crossed we get more live shows and we can get our faces ripped off in person.

Aenimus – Dreamcatcher review


 

14. SCHAMMASCHHearts Of No Light. Release date: 8 November.

One of the most atmospheric black metal bands out there, Switzerland’s SCHAMMASCH never fail to bring the most chilling and ambitious black metal to our ears. SCHAMMASCH achieve blackened brilliance without all the cringey cvlt gimmicks of the genre. Hearts Of No Light is another superb effort from the Swiss demons. Polished and bold, but not so it loses any raw power or impact, the album is sure to finally put the band on a level which they deserve. There are a few interesting nuggets on this album which hint at the band experimenting with new ideas and approaches (the bewitching I Burn Within You anyone?) which is exciting as some black metal bands churn out the same stuff year after year. SCHAMMASCH are a band you can’t wait to hear more of or see what they conjure up next. All hail the new dark lords!


 

13. THIS GIFT IS A CURSEA Throne Of Ash. Release date: 14 June.

I made a bold statement at the beginning of the year, saying 2019 was going to be the year for black metal and sludgy hardcore. Sweden’s THIS GIFT IS A CURSE mix all these genres into a terrifying aural assault in the form of latest album A Throne Of Ash. This album is anything but uplifting and optimistic. Harking back to the glory days of CURSED and chaos, THIS GIFT IS A CURSE have produced one of the most bleak, yet rewarding albums of 2019. The unforgiving Blood Is My Harvest and Gate Dweller provide some of the noisiest and most disorientating metal of the year. If you’re a sensitive soul then avoid THIS GIFT IS A CURSE.


 

12. MYRATHShehili. Release date: 3 May.

Shehili by Tunisian metallers MYRATH is a bit of a gem. If you like your progressive metal with a little extra something, then MYRATH are for you. They often get compared to ORPHANED LAND but MYRATH are more power metal than oriental metal. MYRATH write catchy songs and go easy on heavy messages, so it’s a good time all round. Tracks like You’ve Lost Yourself, Dance and Darkness Arise are absolute belters. If you don’t get your shimmy on with this album then you might not have a musical bone in your body. Shehili is a solid, catchy, polished album that is a fun listen and rewarding every time. Well worth checking out.

Roundup – August 2019 feat. Shehili


 

11. CAR BOMBMordial. Release date: 27 September.

Ah CAR BOMB. Previous album Meta was mathcore perfection, yet with Mordial they have pushed the boundaries further and created something so genius and mindblowing I am almost lost for words. I mean, we all fell in love with the laser effects on Dissect Yoéurself but CAR BOMB mostly avoid gimmicks and let their otherworldly music speak for itself. Some fans have expressed their dislike of the ‘clean’ vocals but I love the DEFTONES edge they give. Mordial is one of those albums that you find yourself shaking your head at in bemusement and awe. The crunchy, metallic riffs, the whirring instrumentation and crazy time signatures all add up to a cacophony of brilliance and madness. Indulge if you dare.

Roundup – September 2019 feat. Mordial


 

10. GODEATERAll Flesh Is Grass. Release date: 27 September.

America might dominate the tech metal scene but Glaswegian darlings GODEATER are sure as hell worming their way upwards to the British elite. Their debut album All Flesh Is Grass has thankfully smashed out of the UK tech bubble and has been invading its way into the wider metal community, both at home and overseas. Environmentally conscious but not in the way that dominates the music, GODEATER are a band with a conscience…and tasty riffs. Standout songs Silent Spring, Blood Moon and Inertia Haze exhibit the technical brilliance of the band, but technical brilliance which also shimmers with heart and soul. There is substance to the songs which prevents it from becoming soulless guitar noodling. This is only the beginning.  

Tech Fest 2019: Part 1 feat. Godeater

Roundup – September 2019 feat. All Flesh Is Grass


 

9. ISSUESBeautiful Oblivion. Release date: 4 October.

ISSUES’ first self-titled album was perfection and their second album Headspace fell short of expectations, so I wasn’t expecting much from third album Beautiful Oblivion. That was until they released lead single Tapping Out and I got all excited by its promise of a heavy direction. When I first listened to the album I was bitterly disappointed. But once I got over that it wasn’t the self-titled 2.0, I began to appreciate the gem that it is. Mature, catchy and subtly heavy, Beautiful Oblivion is a solid, melodic metal album. It’s a passionate, thoughtful, polished slab of joy, but nothing quite prepares you for the brilliant Flexin and its irresistible hooks. Some might see ISSUES as a guilty pleasure. I see them as a melodic band worthy of your attention.


 

8. TIDES FROM NEBULAFrom Voodoo To Zen. Release date: 20 September.

Polish post-rockers TIDES FROM NEBULA released their most ‘electronic’ album to date, with the incredible From Voodoo To Zen. From the breath-taking opening track Ghost Horses to the sublime closer, Eve White, Eve Black, Jane, TIDES FROM NEBULA have created a post-rock masterpiece for the 21st century. The synth greatness which ensues in tracks such as Dopamine and the mesmerising title track, elevate your senses to a stratospheric level. The shimmering tracks take you on a journey and the bright, crisp sounds are oddly reassuring and positive. An outstanding album by one of the greats. Phenomenal.


 

7. SIGNS OF THE SWARMVital Deprivation. Release date: 11 October.

I was honestly surprised by how much I enjoyed SIGNS OF THE SWARM new album Vital Deprivation. I’ve always liked them, don’t get me wrong but they have seriously stepped up their game with this latest effort. Last year it was all about WITHIN DESTRUCTION for slamming deathcore, this year it’s about SIGNS OF THE SWARM. Songs such as Malformed Dissonance and Malevolent Enslavement bring the best slamming grooves, while Lost Within Reflection and Tempting Death (featuring Tom Barber) bring something a bit more mature and nasty to the table. It’s really promising to hear such a huge jump in progression between albums, I wonder what SIGNS OF THE SWARM will pull out of the bag for album number four?

Roundup – Oct & Nov 2019 feat. Vital Deprivation


 

6. VOYAGERColours In The Sun. Release date: 1 November.

VOYAGER have always been a quality prog band but with newest album Colours In The Sun they have really surpassed themselves. It’s the old cliché of the album being their poppiest, yet heaviest to date. But it only takes one listen to realise this is true. Tracks like Colours, Brightstar and Reconnected are some of the best songs VOYAGER have ever penned. A glorious highlight is the magnificent Entropy which features none other than LEPROUS’ Einar Solberg which makes for a terrific proggy surprise. Colours In The Sun is the band’s most solid and consistent release and it’s a gem from start to finish. Fun, upbeat, heavy and catchy…what’s not to like?!


 

5. PORT NOIRThe New Routine. Release date: 10 May.

PORT NOIR’s previous album Any Way The Wind Carries was my second favourite album of 2016, but their newest effort The New Routine hasn’t quite matched its predecessor for me. BUT, The New Routine is still one of the slickest releases of 2019. PORT NOIR have dropped their heavy, progressive edge and embraced their funkier, poppier side, and it’s divine. Tracks like Champagne, Blow and Flawless are some of the catchiest and smoothest songs of the year. They will have you groovin’ and movin’ in no time. No one really qute sounds like PORT NOIR and their experimental side is utterly irresistible.  

Roundup – July 2019 feat. The New Routine


 

4. NUMENOREANAdore. Release date: 12 April.

Over the course of the year Adore has really grown on me. NUMENOREAN are one of the most promising post-black metal bands out there and I’m beginning to wonder how they will ever top this masterpiece. So many blistering yet moving tracks feature on Adore; the brilliant Horizon, the bewitching Stay and all the cacophony of terrors in between. NUMENOREAN appeal to the blackgaze community with their black metal approach and their melodic twists. The atmosphere that NUMENOREAN create is unlike any other, it’s both chilling yet heartwarming, an amazing feat without losing any of their impact. An incredible album by a band still so early in their career. Ones to watch for sure.


 

3. GHOST IRISApple Of Discord. Release date: 22 February.

Danish progressive metallers GHOST IRIS are always one of those reliable bands you know are going to smash it with every release. Latest album Apple Of Discord is a magnificent release and easily their best record so far. Last album Blind World hinted at the band’s talent at writing brutal yet catchy tunes, but nothing prepares you for what they’ve achieved with Apple Of Discord. Crushing riffs with Jesper Vicencio Gün’s menacing growls and impressive cleans are the order of the day. One of the standout songs The Rat & The Snake features the bludgeoning growls of TRAITORS’ Tyler Shelton and is unforgettable. GHOST IRIS also drop some absolute belters with the likes of Heaven Was Pure Hell and The Devil’s Plaything to keep you nodding along. Such an underrated yet talented band!

Ghost Iris – Apple of Discord review


 

2. PIJN & CONJURERCurse These Metal Hands. Release date: 16 August.

Is this an EP? Is this an album? Who the hell cares this trumps most releases which have dropped this year. PIJN and CONJURER are both exciting up and coming bands from the UK, but together they are phenomenal. Curse These Metal Hands sees the material the bands wrote for ArcTangent Festival finally see the light of day as a recording. It mixes the mesmerising post-rock of PIJN and the storming venom of CONJURER and the result is something so special it makes me want to weep. High Spirits sounds like MAYBESHEWILL with BARONESS riffs and a bit of the ol’ shouty, shouty. whereas Endeavour sounds like a KYLESA/CONVERGE gritfest and I’m all for it. Such a treat.

Roundup – August 2019 feat. Curse These Metal Hands

Pijn & Conjurer – Curse These Metal Hands review


 

  1. CARTOGRAPHS wilt & blossom. Release date: 1 March.

Well, here you have it, my favourite release of 2019. Earlier in the year I said this was a contender for album of the year…and no other release has topped it for me. Post-metal is seriously gaining some traction and Denmark’s CARTOGRAPHS have proved they are one of the genre’s most promising bands with the sublime wilt & blossom. The passion, the fire, the grit and the power in each song is unforgettable and incredibly striking. Wilt Over Time and Peace Was Never Mine To Be Found are two standout tracks but the biggest gem of them all is the superb Through The Garden Gate with THAT riff and all the feels. It’s no surprise no other band have touched the top spot for me after this release. Listening to wilt & blossom again nine months on feels like I’m listening to it again for the first time. I am winded by its colossal power and numbed by its heartwrenching melodies. Just…incredible.

Cartographs – wilt & blossom review

Metalmance's Top 20 Albums of the Decade

20 of the best albums from 2010-2019.

Album of the Year lists aren’t enough this year. 2019 heralds the end of one of the best decades of metal. Emerging genres have really come to the fore in the past ten years (blackgaze anyone?) whereas we’re all surprised at how metalcore has survived and evolved. With technology advancing, the decade has also seen different consumer habits as well as advances in music technology as a whole. But that’s enough faff and chat. Without further ado, behold my Top 20 Albums of the Decade!


 

20. ORPHANED LANDAll Is One. Release date: 24 June 2013.

I’ve always enjoyed oriental music but hearing it in a metal context was a phenomenal concept to me. When I finally checked out Israel’s ORPHANED LAND I fell in love immediately. To me, they’re still the best ‘oriental metal’ band out there. They mix traditional instruments, metal elements and heartfelt messages so seamlessly it’s hard not to fall under their spell. All Is One is a superb example of the epic anthems they create to help reunite people of all faiths, race and genders. Tracks such as the title track, Freedom and Children emphasise their mission, all the while keeping tracks catchy and heavy. A must-listen for all.


 

19. SLEEPING WITH SIRENSFeel. Release date: 4 June 2013.

Now before you close this post and avoid my blog forever, hear me out here. Every track on SLEEPING WITH SIREN’s Feel is absolute gold. There’s a song for every occasion and emotion and it beckoned the start of their retreat from poisonous emo-pop-punk to the boring rock music they create today. With Feel they get it just right. Personally for me, this album dropped at a huge transitional period of my life so tracks such as Free Now, Congratulations and Satellites became anthems of this time. It’s not only teenagers who relate to Kellin Quinn and co. and their lyrics are more honest and relatable than many of their peers (FALLING IN REVERSE I’m looking at you).


 

18. TESSERACTOne. Release date: 22 March 2011.

I just had to include something by TESSERACT in this list. It was a tough choice between One and Polaris, but I chose One in the end as it was unlike anything I had heard in the metal world. Yeah there was PERIPHERY as well but for me, TESSERACT had a little something extra…mainly the vocal expertise of Daniel Tompkins. The first track I heard was The Impossible – Concealing Fate Part. 3 and I will never forget its melodies, djent and overwhelming atmosphere. In a way One signifies the innocence of the beginning of the djent genre before it became oversaturated by awful bands and copycats. Today it’s evolved into a whole new progressive metal beast but it’s good to look back on One and see how far metal has come.


 

17. AVASTMother Culture. Release date: 26 October 2018.

This decade saw the rise of blackgaze as a genre and it is one of the best things to have ever happened for metal. Mixing black metal and shoegaze to create highly emotive extreme metal is a dream come true. Only a handful of bands are getting the formula right and Norway’s AVAST is one of those bands. Last year’s debut album Mother Culture is a superb example of the heavier end of the genre. Tracks such as the title track and The Birth Of Man show some of the best that AVAST have to offer, but their instrumental tracks also trigger a strong emotional response. Powerful, climatic and devastating, Mother Culture is an important album.


 

16. MOTIONLESS IN WHITEReincarnate. Release date: 15 September 2014.

reincarnate

Metalcore is alive and well and MOTIONLESS IN WHITE have helped the survival of the gothic strain of it. Reincarnate saw the band at their most industrial, experimental and arguably…their catchiest. The guest features on this album are spot on, with the likes of Dani Filth, Maria Brink and Tim Skold making Reincarnate a goth’s wet dream. There is absolutely no filler on this album like a lot of their others, with tracks Break The Cycle and Wasp being some of the best keyboard-led metalcore for years. Now if only MOTIONLESS IN WHITE took the blueprint for The Final Dictvm for the latest albums…


 

15. TIMES OF GRACEHymn of a Broken Man. Release date: 18 January 2011.

I am one of those fans who think the new Jesse Leach-era KILLSWICTH ENGAGE has never surpassed what Leach and Adam D achieved with Hymn of a Broken Man. Yes, TIMES OF GRACE was always meant to be a more melodic and honest project, and remember Howard Jones was still in KILLSWITCH ENGAGE at this point, but Hymn of a Broken Man is one of the most beautiful albums created this decade and few have surpassed its melodic prowess. Live in Love, Where The Spirit Leads Me and Willing are some of the most stirring metal tracks this decade has seen. It’s just a shame the duo decided to lead the album with one of the weaker tracks, Strength in Numbers. Let’s hope they release a new album next year.


 

14. 65DAYSOFSTATICWe Were Exploding Anyway. Release date: 26 April 2010.

65dos

We Were Exploding Anyway was everything I wanted from 65DAYSOFSTATIC. The Sheffield post-rockers have always pushed the boundaries of the genre and have created the most phenomenal sounds. With this album, the band were their most ‘dancey’ and it even saw the inclusion of vocals on Come to Me, but they were very cleverly sliced and used as samples. Mountainhead, Crash Tactics and Piano Fights are some of the most genius songs 65DOS have written and the album as a whole is a delight from start to finish.


 

13. BLEEDING THROUGHThe Great Fire. Release date: 31 January 2012.

The Great Fire

Before the Orange County crew split up in 2014 (and reformed in 2018) the metalcore darlings dropped one of their finest albums to date, The Great Fire. This glorious slab of brutality incorporates every genre that BLEEDING THROUGH can execute so well, metalcore, hardcore, punk, black metal, melodic death metal…tracks like Goodbye To Death and Everything You Love Is Gone are perfect examples of their melting pot of styles. No metalcore band have achieved this again.


 

12. ABORTEDRetrogore. Release date: 22 April 2016.

retrogore

I must admit I was a bit late to the ABORTED fandom, but once I finally got there I was besotted. Retrogore was my first exposure to the Belgian death metallers and it’s still my favourite. Everything just seems to gel on this record and the blackened elements which play a big part on 2018’s Terrorvision come to the fore on this record. Termination Redux and Divine Impediment are brutal gems, dark death metal at its best. The band aren’t showing any signs of slowing down, constantly evolving to remain one of the most terrifying bands out there.


 

11. NORDIC GIANTSA Séance of Dark Delusions. Release date: 20 April 2015.

nordic giants

NORDIC GIANTS are always best to experience live, but 2015’s masterpiece A Séance of Dark Delusions brilliantly captures the intense material this post-rock duo create. The guest vocalists on this album are all outstanding with standout tracks being Dissolve (with SATURDAY SUN), Rapture (with Beth Cannon) and the superb Futures Dark (with Nadine Wild-Palmer). Each tracks tells its own story and every track with vocals could easily be a radio hit, making NORDIC GIANTS your favourite secret.


 

10. EIGHTEEN VISIONSXVIII. Release date: 2 June 2017.

XVIII

C’mon you knew EIGHTEEN VISIONS were going to make an appearance. This was the comeback of the decade for me. In true 18V fashion, their comeback album XVIII sounded unlike anything they have recorded before. The throwback references to earlier material (film samples, insects buzzing and the objects in the artwork) create a nostalgic record which still bludgeons you with modern, crunchy metal. Songs such as Oath and Live Again are the perfect tributes to the band’s roots and their late bassist Mick Morris (RIP). This is definitely an album for the loyal fans, but any lover of heavy, crushing metal will equally enjoy this album.


 

9. SOILWORKThe Ride Majestic. Release date: 28 August 2015.

soilwork

The kings of melodic death metal, SOILWORK seem to get better with age. The Ride Majestic is a sublime album by the modern version of SOILWORK. This is an absolute belter from start to finish. Some old school fans look down on it for not being Natural Born Chaos 2.0, but this album is the full package. The vocals, lyrics, instrumentation, flow of the album are outstanding. When their peers are crashing and burning, SOILWORK have evolved and grown to be the melodic death metal darlings they are today. The title track, Death In General and the stirring finale Father and Son, Watching the World Go Down are some of my favourite songs of the decade. The fact that the band are still going strong is a blessing.


 

8. BLACK CROWN INITIATE Selves We Cannot Forgive. Release date: 22 July 2016.

blackcrowninitiateselves

Selves We Cannot Forgive was my first ever Album of the Year when I started this blog back in 2016. It has stood the test of time and cemented itself as one of my favourite progressive death metal records of all time. There has been a surge of progressive death metal bands in the past few years and BLACK CROWN INITIATE remain one of the best. This album exhibits the best aspects of the genre, with tracks such as Belie The Machine and For Red Cloud providing the brutality, and the title track and Again providing the soaring melodies. This album has it all.


 

7. DYSCARNATEAnd So It Came To Pass. Release date: 27 February 2012.

and so it came to pass

DYSCARNATE’s last album With All Their Might topped my AOTY list back in 2017, but I couldn’t have two of their albums in my top 20 of the decade so I’ve opted for their phenomenal second album And So It Came To Pass. If you’re still unfamiliar with this death metal trio (yes, they’re a trio and still heavier than most bands) then you are seriously missing a trick here. A band haven’t been this brutally groovy since…well…forever. And So It Came To Pass is a tremendous example of this, with The Promethean, In The Face of Armageddon and A Drone In The Hive bringing the hardest bangers of the album. Fingers crossed there will be a new album in the new year!


 

6. DREAMSHADEThe Gift of Life. Release date: 25 January 2013. 

gift of life

DREAMSHADE are always such a treat. These Swiss metalcore lovelies are still relatively unknown yet every album is an absolute blinder. 2013’s album The Gift of Life saw the band hit their stride. Photographs, Your Voice and Consumed Future are some of the best metalcore tracks you haven’t heard yet. Not only do DREAMSHADE write catchy songs but somehow their riffs are hella catchy too. A super slick and polished beast, DREAMSHADE are currently working on a new album and it promises to be another stellar effort.


 

5. DISTORTED HARMONYChain Reaction. Release date: 9 July 2014.

chain reaction

Discovering DISTORTED HARMONY was one of the best things I did in the past few years. Their progressive metal is fuelled by melodies and heart. Their second album Chain Reaction has just the right amount of technicality and melody to make it a beautifully balanced record. The charm and passion oozes out of this record with tracks such as Every Time She Smiles, Hollow and Natural Selection being some of the most stirring. With the ever-growing prog metal scene it takes something special to standout from the rest of the pack these days, these guys have got it.


 

4. MAYBESHEWILLI Was Here For A Moment, Then I Was Gone. Release date: 30 May 2011. 

maybeshewill

So this is my third and final post-rock album in this list. I Was Here For A Moment, Then I Was Gone is my favourite of them all, for a number of reasons. The main one being, the album triggers the biggest emotional response of any album without vocals. It demonstrates the sheer, emotional power that rock instruments have. The melodies and climaxes are sublime, there’s no other post-rock albums quite like this one. Another reason why this ranks so highly is because MAYBESHEWILL were one of the pioneers of British post-rock and they are very sorely missed by fans. Just listen to the song Accolades, Critical Distance and Red Paper Lanterns and you’ll see what I mean.


 

3. EARTHSIDEA Dream In Static. Release date: 23 October 2015.

earthside

There are few bands who make a huge impact with their debut album like EARTHSIDE have. This is modern prog rock at its finest. But the thing that EARTHSIDE has that sets them apart from the rest is their expert musicianship. Each member is an incredibly talented musician and this talent can be heard in the ambition of their tracks. They execute their brilliance without any pretentious fluff and they scored some of the best vocalists in the business to elevate their tracks to new levels (see: Crater, the title track and Mob Mentality). With a new album being recorded as we speak, we can expect big things from the rising proggers.


 

2. MØLJord. Release date: 13 April 2018.

mol

It’s probably no surprise MØL have ranked so highly on this list, considering they were my Album of the Year last year. It’s been warming to see Jord resonating with other people so strongly. Songs such as Storm, Bruma and Penumbra are some of the most striking blackgaze tracks of the past decade. Their shoegaze riffs, black metal vocals and chilling melodies add up to a spectacular album. I’ve already written so many words about this album but I never run out of praise to say about it. Emotion and soul drip from every note and syllable screamed. A phenomenal album by one of the most promising acts around.


 

1 . ANAAL NATHRAKHVanitas. Release date: 23 October 2012.

vanitas

Behold, my album of the decade! ANAAL NATHRAKH have always been one of the best extreme metal acts from Britain, but 2012’s Vanitas shows the band at their most ambitious and polished. These songs are huge! I honestly don’t know where to start with this album. A lot of their albums prior (and after) have a few standout tracks and the rest are forgettable. Vanitas has banger after banger, with every track being its own individual beast you’ll remember for a long time to come. Yes, Forging Towards The Sunset and To Spite The Face are incredible, but can we just talk about album finale A Metaphor For The Dead? With one of the most climatic choruses the band have ever written, along with some of the most devastating riffs, it has gone down in history as my favourite album closer of all time. A strong statement I know but once you hear it for yourself, you may agree! Every great album needs a powerful closer and Vanitas concludes in such a roaring fashion, you feel compelled to start over again. After seven years no album has topped this for me.

Decay The Ocean – Hopeless

Self-release. Release date: 30 November 2019

If I gave Metalmance Awards for ‘Most Improved Band’, I would give this year’s to King’s Lynn’s metalcore younglings DECAY THE OCEAN. Second EP Hopeless is a major step up from their debut EP Mirror City, which was released after their formation in 2017. Gone are the adolescent lyrics and mediocre riffs, and in storms an unrecognisable maturity from the band and a raging fire of determination. Yes, their sound has a long way to go, but their potential is rapidly exposing itself. DECAY THE OCEAN still wear their influences boldly on their sleeve but they now sound less like a poor man’s A DAY TO REMEMBER and more like a band channeling their love of ARCHITECTS, KILLSWITCH ENGAGE and WHILE SHE SLEEPS.

Lead single Wake Up kicks off proceedings with strong KILLSWITCH vibes and energy. Big, crunchy, metalcore riffs are the deal of the day while front man Mike Jenkins screams and croons his way through the number. Wake Up isn’t the most original thing you’ll hear all year but it’s ballsy and catchy enough to maintain your attention.

Hopeless on the other hand is by far the best track DECAY THE OCEAN have ever written. The heavy brutality blasts out of nowhere and it’s refreshing as hell. If they write more material like this I would not be disappointed. With its big riffs, Jenkins’ spitting venom and a punishing pace, Hopeless is an unforgiving offering. Instead of trying to mimic their heroes, DECAY THE OCEAN sound like they’re unleashing their inner demons. More please.

More madness ensues in Peace of Mind. Chuggy riffs and aggression galore, it does go a bit southern and cringey in places, but the ambition is there. DECAY THE OCEAN are clearly capable of a huge sound but it does lose momentum towards the end. Things go a little post-hardcore with EP closer Before It’s Gone. The second half feels a lot more honest and genuine than the first. There’s a lot of mish-mash of styles happening in Before It’s Gone which sometimes makes it sound unfocused, but it is still a strong finale. The last minute trumps the rest and provides a late highlight for Hopeless as a whole.

DECAY THE OCEAN have produced a strong body of work but now need to focus on their strengths and nurture their sound. Adding every style into the melting pot won’t save them next time. The passion, ambition, and potential are there, the lads just need to tap into it and write from the heart. With a lot of hot talent emerging from Norfolk, DECAY THE OCEAN can’t risk being left behind.

Roundup – Oct & Nov 2019

The top releases of the past two months and soundbite reviews

So life got in the way and I didn’t manage to publish my October roundup. Instead I’m mixing both October and November ahead of my Album of the Year list which is in progress. This roundup also sees some ‘Soundbite Reviews’ of albums I wanted to review when I was on my blogging hiatus, but they’re too good to completely forget so I’m happy to share them with you now! Also featured is one of my favourite discoveries since the last roundup. Keep reading for a gem from the archive and see you for my AOTY!


 

Metalmance’s Discovery of October/November

DEVOTION

I have to be honest here, I’ve been aware of German post-hardcore group DEVOTION for a couple of years but never really followed them after the release of single Hiraeth in 2017. September saw the release of new EP Your Love Never Found A Home In Me and it is a collection of five heart-felt and emotionally stirring songs. From the powerful Apnea to the melodic Discordance, this EP blasts and shimmers its way through the realms of post-hardcore. The thing I enjoy most about DEVOTION is the sheer passion dripping from every screamed word and every note. This is one appealing feature of the genre anyway but DEVOTION get the balance of passion and power just right. Stunning and stirring stuff.


 

Metalmance’s Top 3 Releases of October and November

October and November have been absolutely mad for releases! There have been some disappointments along the way (LEPROUS for me) as well as some absolute bangers (IVY CROWN, LACUNA COIL, DESPISED ICON and VOYAGER I’m looking at you) so it’s been hard to pick just three across the two months.

1

HOUR OF PENANCEMisotheism. Release date: 25 October.

Even though I’ve been a fan of Rome’s death metal troupe HOUR OF PENANCE for a number of years now, I somehow forgot their eighth album Misotheism was being released this year. This only meant their album knocked me for six when it did drop in October, and I’ve felt sorry ever since. Easily their best body of work to date, Misotheism is everything HOUR OF PENANCE stands for, and more. Beastly riffs for days mate, but songs such as The Second Babel and Lamb Of The Seven Sins threatened to rip my face off with their sheer savagery. This is exactly how I imagine a DECAPITATED and ABORTED lovechild would sound like, but HOUR OF PENANCE makes everything sound more evil and brutal. Absolutely incredible, this is one album of the year contender for sure.

 

2

ABIGAIL WILLIAMS – Walk Beyond The Dark. Release date: 15 November.

The announcement earlier in the year of a new ABIGAIL WILLIAMS album sent me into a bit of a frenzy! Having been besotted since debut EP Legend, ABIGAIL WILLIAMS have always been one of my favourite black metal bands. They have never quite fitted into the scene which is probably one of the main appeals of them. Later down the line their sound ended up more expansive and experimental and new album Walk Beyond The Dark continues on this thread but with added vigour. The break has done the band good as tracks such as I Will Depart and Sun and Moon sound as ambitious and as devastating as ever. ABIGAIL WILLIAMS sound more focussed and ferocious than before. It’s so nice and refreshing that a comeback album doesn’t suck nor resort on nostalgia. All hail ABIGAIL WILLIAMS.

 

3

SIGNS OF THE SWARMVital Deprivation. Release date: 11 October.

I’ve always enjoyed SIGNS OF THE SWARM but I REALLY enjoy Vital Deprivation. Their slamming deathcore is up there with WITHIN DESTRUCTION for me and this new album exposes the band at their fastest, filthiest, most unforgiving and most punishing. An absolutely brutal ride from start to finish, it is another quality release from Unique Leader Records. Songs such as Malformed Dissonance and Tempting Death show some of the best material the scene has to offer. Now with a solidified line-up and quality albums under their belts, there’s no reason as to why SIGNS OF THE SWARM can’t invade the wider metal world.


 

Soundbite Reviews

Below are independent releases which I’ve been enjoying but haven’t had the time to dedicate a full review to. One thing I want to include more in my blog is coverage of independent releases. Over time due to receiving bigger promos I’ve lost sight of what I originally wanted Metalmance to be a platform for; underground and unsigned bands. Each release below deserves your attention. Take the plunge!

 

ISBJÖRGIridescent. Release date: 26 April 2019.

The Danes are leading the way in all sub-genres of heavy music it seems! What about piano prog you may be asking? Well, ISBJÖRG have you covered. Back in April, this talented group released their debut album Iridescent and it is an incredible effort. Emotionally stirring and ambitious, their songs are full of emotion and progressive drama. Vocalist Niklas Jespersen sounds like he was made to sing alongside Mathias Bro Jørgensen’s piano playing. Songs such as Stockholm Reversed are poppy and piano-heavy whereas While The Sunlight Grace The Mourning has a dark undertone and NORDIC GIANTS vibes. Sometimes not all the instruments and vocals quite gel, but the music is so honest and natural, it ends up being a part of the charm. Once ISBJÖRG have refined their sound, they’ll give the melodic prog-rock bands a run for their money.

 

GHOST ON MARSLost Signals. Release date: 9 October 2019.

Italian dark metallers GHOST ON MARS have unleashed their debut EP Lost Signals and it’s a bold and polished effort. Channelling the dark melodies and ballsy riffs of their fellow countrymen LACUNA COIL, GHOST ON MARS still sound like a band trying to figure out their sound but the songs are hugely enjoyable to listen to. Songs like The Black Rose and That Time I Saw The Moon feature huge MUSE-esque melodies, with the latter sounding more ‘genuine’ and therefore more easily digestible. For a debut release, it’s a really solid EP. It might be best if the vocalist avoided growling but the clean vocals are top notch. It’s clear all the band are talented musicians and the chemistry is flawless, each component merging into one. With a bit more experience and nurturing of their songwriting, GHOST ON MARS might prove to be a stellar band. 

 

MOON AND AZURE SHADOWAge of Darkness and Frost. Release date: 26 August 2019.

I do get a lot of emails from solo black metallers asking me to review their project and the majority of the time the music is almost too painful to listen to. Sean Yoshioka on the other hand has produced some absolute gold with MOON AND AZURE SHADOW. Seeking to combine aspects of Japanese soundtracks with atmospheric black metal, latest album Age of Darkness and Frost is definitely an interesting and different beast. The title track is a perfect example of this unique hybrid of styles and sounds like IHSAHN atop a Japanese mountain. It’s almost as if the word ‘ethereal’ was invented for this album alone. This is one solo project that you wish would expand to a full band, just to flesh out the sound to its full potential. Promising stuff from a talented and passionate black metal musician. More please.


 

From The Archive

If you follow American proggers EARTHSIDE on social media you will have seen the band are FINALLY underway with album number two. After their spectacular debut album A Dream In Static was released way back in 2015 I’ve been an avid fan and eagerly anticipating their next release! Back in early 2017 I caught up with guitarist/mastermind Jamie Van Dyck about the release of their video for the title track, featuring TESSERACT’s Daniel Tompkins. You can read a snippet of the interview below and follow the link to the original post:

I think music videos are inherently somewhat of an abstract art form, given the lack of dialogue and how the plot cut-ins are interspersed with band performance shots[…]A lot of our A Dream In Static album deals with the internal struggle of having these lofty seemingly unattainable dreams and then a self-doubt that sets in. Our character confronts the manifestation of her self that is a shell of herself, a fear of what she may become. But when you let that fear consume you, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

Earthside – A Dream In Static Video, an interview with Jamie Van Dyck

Axiom – Metathesis EP

Release date: 25 October 2019. Self-release.

Instrumental, progressive metal can be a bit of a minefield, with some bands attempting to rip off pioneers such as ANIMALS AS LEADERS and INTERVALS, but ending up sounding like a band who fail at attracting a vocalist. Luckily, Birmingham trio AXIOM bring a refreshing stance to instrumental prog which is typically dominated by guitar noodling. On the same sunny edge of the prog spectrum as CHON, AXIOM also incorporate some awesome, funky bass to keep things retro and upbeat. The best thing about debut EP Metathesis though? It was all recorded live within 24 hours and it makes for an energetic and organic production!

Opening track Slumber builds up gently to a wonderfully steely riff. The title is apt as the instrumentation conjures the image of a ride through a cityscape at night. The neon lights are reflected in the dazzling riffs, with bold, slap bass accompanying the super slick guitar. Being recorded live makes the drums sound natural, with the cymbals providing a cascade of crashes which almost sound like fireworks amongst the metallic crunch. The melody throughout the verses is delicate enough to avoid being a long-winded guitar solo. After a couple of minutes Slumber launches into a striking wall of loud rock which the likes of MAYBESHEWILL would be proud of. A storming start.

Lead single Believe is easily the most charming track on Metathesis with its twinkly notes and fun bass hooks. Considering there’s only three members being recorded, the sound is huge, with oodles of energy. The riffs shine bright while the drums maintain the upbeat rhythm. After a groovy first half, it erupts into a progressive ruckus we haven’t seen since the likes of ARCANE ROOTS. Things escalate to a heavy, triumphant break before resorting back to the funky barrage of riffs. Serious progressive rock with a cheeky twinkle in the eye is the best way to describe AXIOM’s delivery and it is irresistible.

Scared is a sublime and heavy offering compared to its predecessors. A fluid, bass riff provides the foundation of a dreamy sequence before the guitars provide the sharp edge. With heavy riffs throughout it is outrageously rocky but somehow seems ballsier as it’s wholly instrumental. The hooks are stellar in every song on Metathesis but Scared boasts catchy hooks as well as a deeper depth to its overall sound. Seriously impressive stuff with only a live recording, it proves AXIOM’s quality as a band.

EP finale Serpentine gets even heavier and is definitely the most ‘metal’ track on Metathesis. The opening melody is a bold, metallic treat which lapses into a softer interlude. This is only the quiet before the storm as the riffs get heavier and crazier. The bass attempts to keep some civility to it but soon joins the assault. The last minute is a bludgeoning farewell and ends the EP with an impact. AXIOM bring the fun, groove and addictive hooks with Metathesis. In a time where bands try to out-tech each other, it’s reassuring that a band like AXIOM can still bring progressive goodness with plenty of heart while keeping the writing honest. Every track on Metathesis is a solid slab of rock. We can be confident that AXIOM will deliver a top-notch full-length. Watch this space.

Soulsplitter – Salutogenesis

Release date: 18 October 2019. Self-release.

Any form of artistic collective is bound to be chaotic and beautiful, Funnily enough, these two words easily describe Salutogenesis, the debut album by German progressive troupe SOULSPLITTER. The group consists of four members, but involves other musicians and artists to fulfil their creative vision. Expanding the collaborations pays off as Salutogenesis is a sprawling mass of intense and emotive rock. Incorporating different musicians and styles makes SOULSPLITTER exciting and unpredictable, with the music taking ambitious twists and turns. Salutogenesis takes a few good listens to process, like any good prog record should. I don’t even know if I’ve digested the album enough to write a review which does it justice, but let’s give it a go.

Opening track The Prophecy heralds the beginning of the madness. With a string arrangement akin to the accompaniment for a baddie at the ballet, The Prophecy is a raw concoction of organic instrumentation and unnerving spoken word. The chilling piano introduces the haunting soundscapes which are scattered across Salutogenesis. The Transition sees the start of SOULSPLITTER being at their progressive best. Full of energy and jazz elements, it’s a track full of interesting nuggets which never becomes too overloaded. An ambitious song at over eleven minutes, it ‘transitions’ from upbeat jazz to STEVEN WILSON-esque melancholy courtesy of the female guest vocalist and the musical brilliance of Trautonia Capra. If you have a friend who doesn’t know what modern prog is, show them this song.

Heaviness ensues with the utterly brilliant The Moloch. The tracks prior have had raw instrumentation whereas this offering boasts raw emotion. The harsh vocals and surreal piano notes collide with the heavy riffs for a WITHOUT WAVES-esque chaotic prowess. Easily one of the strongest songs on Salutogenesis, The Moloch will remain with you for a long time to come. The Maze‘s haunting melodies are some of the most bewitching on the record. Dipping into progressive heaviness which DISTORTED HARMONY would be proud of, SOULSPLITTER also venture into a theatrical climax. The passion of expression pours out of every outlet, creating an overwhelming, yet euphoric intensity. The Sunset provides another mesmerising instrumental interlude before we plummet into the second half of the album.

The Dream is blissful post-rock with classical instruments and jazz weirdness. The title is very apt as the mood is very surreal and other-worldly. Music should always have the ability to transcend you, and SOULSPLITTER achieve this with aplomb. The heavy sections are astounding but it is the ending which elevates the album to a phenomenal highlight. Absolutely breath-taking. It would take a lot to match The Dream, but SOULSPLITTER go down a different route for The Eye Of The Cyclone. Any eye of a storm will be the calmest moment and this is beautifully reflected on the stripped back artistry of this track. The male and female vocals are sublime and the piano is some of the most moving on Salutogenesis. It makes for a spellbinding penultimate track.

Album closer The Sacrifice is as ambitious a finale you could expect from a progressive album. Channelling old school prog tendencies and fresher approaches, SOULSPLITTER have created a colossal tune which would satisfy prog fans both young and old. With strong CALIGULA’S HORSE vibes, The Sacrifice ends Salutogenesis on a resounding high. SOULSPLITTER are exactly what progressive music should be about and their collaborations enhance the diversity of their sound.

In a time where new bands try to feature scene legends on their songs for some street credibility, it’s refreshing to hear under-represented talent in SOULSPLITTER’s work. The collaborations never detract from the progressive foundations, each component compliments the other. With other prog bands turning to pop for inspiration, SOULSPLITTER are turning to the arts and it’s incredibly inspiring and reassuring. This is the beginning of something special.

Singularity – Place of Chains

Label: The Artisan Era. Release date: 11 October 2019.

Technical death metal is experiencing such a heyday this past year or two, it’s been hard to keep up with all the quality releases. Here’s another for you though, Arizona’s SINGULARITY are releasing a contender for tech death album of the year with Place of Chains. Their first release since 2016, their absence has been well worth the wait as the band are now stronger than ever. The blackened and symphonic elements of their music is definitely one of their greatest strengths and adds a dramatic flair to their brutality.

It is the symphonic Bellum which kicks off proceedings. This instrumental opener is not quite as elaborate as SEPTIC FLESH or FLESHGOD APOCALYPSE, but it’s still enough to set a futuristic and other-worldly tone to get you in the mood for a technical romp. The pace quickens as Victory or Death bludgeons the senses with the ferocious drumming, fiery riffs and punishing vocals. The track also demonstrates the beastly range of growls SINGULARITY have to offer. Throw in an extra punishing riff and you’ve got a winner.

The menacing Sisyphean Cycle begins with a blackened riff and atmospherics alongside unsettling, whispered vocals. The blackened symphonies escalate in an ABIGAIL WILLIAMS style before the verse batters its way in. The beastly blackened breaks in the track make their brand of tech death irresistible. Things get really techy on Ritual of Regret with the symphonics matching the chaotic speed of the opening riff. The monstrous pace is not speed over substance, oh no, each second is dripping with fascinating depth and a myriad of textures, making this track an incredible feat.

Consume and Assume proves that the faster the riff, the better the song. However, the slower sections brilliantly contrast, making the pummeling riffs sound even more unforgiving. The blackened symphonics return for the stunning first minute of Desmoterion. This song boasts such dark depths, it is its own monster. Blackly bewitching, SINGULARITY’s savagery will have you in their clutches. With the addition of an acoustic refuge, this track is a rollercoaster of light, dark and downright evil. Serpentes, Eternal continues this violent monstrosity with such blackened vigour you’ll be praying for a small glimpse of light. One of the strongest songs on Place of Chains, it is its dips into blackened brutality which dims the prior highlights.

Penultimate track Dead Receptors is a beautifully ferocious track with the most striking drumming heard so far. The intimidating delivery of this track is not for the faint-hearted and strengthens the band’s case to be new legends in the tech death scene. After your ears are truly assaulted by the relentless Dead Receptors, album finale As Dark As This Nefarious Night continues SINGULARITY’s blackened voyage. Finally the bass joins its comrades into the mix and gives a glorious OBSCURA twang to proceedings. If Place of Chains has battered you into the ground then this closer will put you out of your misery for good. The dramatic chants provide such a spectacular climax, the haunting conclusion will leave you stunned and at the band’s mercy.

Place of Chains is set to launch these tech death nobodies to the forefront of the genre. Some bands can’t execute symphonic extreme metal without sounding like they’re using atmospherics to hide lack of substance. If you take the symphonics away from SINGULARITY you would still be left with one of the most brutal releases of the year. Place of Chains sees a band who have grown in confidence of their talent, to the extent that news of their unbelievable riffs are spreading like wildfire through tech death forums. Believe the hype. SINGULARITY are coming for the tech death crown.

Rivers of Nihil/Black Crown Initiate/Møl/Orbit Culture

The Dome, London. 2 October 2019.

Considering the show is starting early on a weeknight, there is still a generous crowd gathering for Swedish death metal troupe ORBIT CULTURE who are opening the show. Their riffs thump enough to get the audience in the mood for a night of blistering metal. However, it’s not until the band play new single Nensha that things start to get interesting. Once the band get more material and live experience under their belts then maybe they will have more of an impact.

It’s reassuring to see so many members of the audience wearing MØL tshirts tonight. Knowledge of their stunning live show has been spreading and there are many curious onlookers this evening. Front man Kim Song Sternkopf has not lost an ounce of his power and energy on this mammoth tour and is as captivating as ever. Screaming every word with such passion and intensity is incredibly moving as a spectator. A short spell in the crowd enables some fans to scream along with Sternkopf and everyone wants part of the action. The band play tracks from their debut album Jord – with the blackgaze sounding as equally superb and moving in the live setting. Guitarist Nicolai Busse Hansen is the contemplative counterpart to Sternkopf’s fiery persona, and the guitar notes shimmer over the crowd. Their live show is quickly becoming legendary. Surely we are due a MØL headline tour next?

After MØL stunned us into silence, it’s the turn of progressive death metal heavyweights BLACK CROWN INITIATE to pummel us into submission. Driving fans wild by playing the majority of their debut EP Song of the Crippled Bull and other older gems, the crowd were going fanatic! New song Years in Frigid Light sounds immense live and was lapped up gratefully by fans. Bassist Nick Shaw and guitarist Ethan McKenna spend the set flexing their faces making damn-good-riff expressions while drummer Sam Santiago proves he might possibly be an actual machine. Andy Thomas amazed with his impeccable voice, while front man James Dorton sounds as colossal live as he does on record, his penetrating growls commanding the crowd. With their long-awaited new album rearing its head soon, you can expect to see more (hopefully) from these prog death titans.

It’s been an epic night so far with MØL and BLACK CROWN INITIATE providing headline-worthy sets. RIVERS OF NIHIL had hard acts to follow but, my word, they were phenomenal! Listening to last album Where Owls Know My Name in full is always a treat, but hearing it in full live…? Nothing short of sublime. Throw in numerous spots by a real life sax man (a headbanging one at that) and you’ve got yourself an other-worldly experience. Front man Jake Dieffenbach is extremely striking in his unusual attire but his roars are formidable. With extremely brutal circle pits and a wall of death, the crowd were running riot. Being one member short tonight (guitarist Jon Topore was unfortunately in hospital) didn’t deter the band from delivering one of the tightest sets I’ve seen all year. After selling out The Dome and getting the whole venue moving, it won’t be long before RIVERS OF NIHIL sell out bigger venues. Watch this space.

Roundup – September 2019

Looking back at the hottest albums and singles of the month.

August might have been a mad month for mainstream metal releases but September has certainly seen its fair share of mammoth albums from the underground. This roundup sees the staple Top 3 releases of the month and then a look at September’s singles, of which there have been some huge releases! But to start things off I introduce my discovery of the month. If you stick around long enough you can dip into a highlight from the archive. See you in October!


 

Metalmance’s Discovery of the Month

IVY CROWN

I have to confess, Danish metalcore troupe have been on my radar for a little while now but after last month’s single Our Worst Days and the fact their debut album is out in October, I’ve been giddier about IVY CROWN this month! Previous singles Run and Lonesome and Cold (which features Kim Song Sternkopf from MØL) have been promising good things from IVY CROWN. Newest single Our Worst Days has an infectious sense of mischief and fun, but underneath each track is a dark undertone which makes this all-female group even more intriguing. Gaining momentum in the Danish scene, it won’t be long before IVY CROWN make their mark in the UK. With the forthcoming album being produced by Chris Kreutzfeldt (CABAL), vocal production by Mirza Radonjica-Bang (SIAMESE) and guest appearences from the Danish talent of Sternkopf and GHOST IRIS’ Jesper Gün, you can get a sense of what a big deal the women are becoming in their homeland. You’ll be silly not to check them out! 


 

Metalmance’s Top 3 Releases of September

This month has been hard to rank my Top 3. A special mention must go out to 65DAYSOFSTATIC and their amazing new release, replicr. This band always surpass themselves yet remain humble and create outstanding soundscapes. However, this month has seen some monstrous albums and here are the best three…

1

CAR BOMBMordial. Release date: 27 September 2019.

After releasing the singles Dissect Yourself and Scattered Sprites, I knew I was going to love this new CAR BOMB release. However, I had no idea how much Mordial was going to blow me away. It’s felt like a long wait since 2016’s breath taking album Meta, but the growth by CAR BOMB since that album is bewildering. I have seen a lot of mixed responses about Michael Dafferner’s clean vocals on some of the songs but for me, it adds a surreal element to their music, making them sound like a mathcore DEFTONES. Meta was always going to be impossible to top, and thankfully CAR BOMB haven’t given us more of the same with Mordial. Yes, their distinct mathy riffs are there, yes the songs are insane, but there is now so much depth to their textures and dynamic it is staggering. Second track Fade Out even has a pang of indie and shoegaze underneath the brutality and it makes for an interesting listen. CAR BOMB are still a band who are evolving after almost two decades in the game, and that is terrifyingly good.

 

2

BAESTVenenum. Release date: 13 September 2019.

If like me, you believe BLOODBATH should have called it a day after The Fathomless Mastery, Danish death metallers BAEST could easily fill the death metal void in your life. After last year’s incredible Danse Macabre, BAEST have stepped the menace up tenfold with Venenum. Each track drips with venom and malice. Reaping from old school death metal influcnces, the band conjure up filthy riffs and hellish growls. Main singles Vitriol Lament, Gula and As Above So Below do standout, but album highlights come in the shape of Empty Throne and Sodomize with their beastly grooves and violent lyrics. Causing a stir in the European scene after huge tours supporting the likes of DECAPITATED and next month ABORTED and ENTOMBED A.D., the band are constantly on the up. For the love of metal, listen to BAEST.

 

3

GODEATERAll Flesh Is Grass. Release date: 27 September 2019

GODEATER’s debut album All Flesh Is Grass is everything I wanted the new SHOKRAN album to be. The Glaswegians have nailed technical death metal with oriental passages thrown in but with an important environmental message too. Not willing to shy away from the planet’s climate issues, GODEATER are unleashing their views with their equally compelling music. The fast pace and brutality of their songs is mightily impressive for a new band, but the atmosphere they conjure would be the envy of bands twice their age. Tracks like Salvation and Inertia Haze also boast ABIGAIL WILLIAMS-esque blackened brilliance. Unlike some of their UK Tech Metal scene contemporaries, GODEATER write ridiculously technical songs, but with enough heart and substance to actually keep you interested. If the band have achieved this masterpiece with their debut album and so few shows under their belts, imagine what GODEATER will be capable of with album number two.


 

September Singles

It’s mad to think we’re still promised so many awesome albums before the end of 2019. Some of the tracks below are singles from forthcoming albums and they are a sign of the quality to come. If metal keeps up like this, then we’re in for a blistering end of year. Behold my top singles from September!

SCHAMMASCHRays Like Razors

It’s been a while since Switzerland’s black metal elite SCHAMMASCH have graced us with their infectious misery. Rays Like Razors hints at a progression in sound for the band. The dark atmosphere and intense black metal is still there, but the crisper production and polished madness somehow makes the band sound bolder and even more frightening. The mature sound on show here pushes the envelope of black metal. SCHAMMASCH have always been atmospheric but the tone here is absolutely suffocating with an edge of the progressive. By the end of the track you feel like you haven’t received the full blow of what the band is promising, but this hopefully means the band will unveil all that they have up their morbid sleeves on the full length.

 

END OF DAZEReach Out

Who said metalcore was dead? Harking back to the sound of the late noughties, these young Britons are channelling MOTIONLESS IN WHITE, ATREYU and ASKING ALEXANDRIA and other bands of that ilk, but with more heart and less make-up. Hailing from Weymouth, END OF DAZE is threatening to bring British metalcore back to glory. Even though their sound isn’t anything ground-breaking, Reach Out included, there is something so pure and brilliant about what they play, you can enjoy the music exactly for what it is – good, honest metalcore. The metal scene is so saturated with bands searching for likes and followers, if a band is sincere and write enjoyable songs then I’m all for it!

 

BLACK CROWN INITIATEYears In Frigid Light

You may remember BLACK CROWN INITIATE’s last album Selves We Cannot Forgive made it to the top spot in my 2016 Album of the Year list. So it goes without saying their forthcoming album is one of my most eagerly anticipated releases of the year. They finally released the first track Years In Frigid Light this month and I’m having mixed feelings about it. The vocals are too high in the mix and it takes a long while for the song to really get going, but the dissonant air is spectacular. Once again the clean vocals raise the track to new heights, but the impact is too late and underwhelming. After a three year wait, the song unfortunately doesn’t cut it for me.

 

KILL THE KONGInterstellar

Yet to make a mark on the British scene, Swedish metalcore outfit KILL THE KONG have been on my radar for a few years now and have been featured in my blog a few times. New song Interstellar sees the band further remove themselves from their dual-percussion element (thankfully, as there’s only so many tribal rhythms you can include before it starts to sound repetitive) and deeper into metalcore territory.  The energy is still infectious and it sounds like KILL THE KONG are finally hitting their stride. Bold, heavy and energetic, the Swedes should really start to gain more attention now. They’ve proved they have the staying power and ability to evolve, they just need to continue working hard and hone their sound to becoming something unstoppable. 

 

ABIGAIL WILLIAMSI Will Depart

ABIGAIL WILLIAMS mastermind Ken Sorceron has been teasing new AW material for a while now but this track seemed to drop out of nowhere. I Will Depart is the opening track for forthcoming album Walk Beyond The Dark and it spells a new era for the American black metal band. This terrific track sees the band return to the blackened brilliance of their glory days, but with an older and wiser air to proceedings. The technicality remains and the atmosphere is colossal, but the writing is more focussed making for a brutal assault. If the remainder of the album is as mesmerising as this, then we’re in for a right ol’ black metal treat.

 

LOATHEGored

LOATHE were responsible for one of the darkest and most chilling albums of 2017, The Cold Sun. If single Gored is anything to go by, then LOATHE will surpass themselves with their darkest and most furious material to date. Crushingly heavy and suffocating, LOATHE are not here to soothe your soul or ears. The dense riffs would make CODE ORANGE proud but it is the intensity of the band which always shakes you to the core. Vocalist Kadeem France sounds like a man possessed on this single, his unnerving vocals leading the way for the hefty racous of riffage which ensues. Truly spectacular, LOATHE have been going from strength to strength but this release will be sure to see them rocket to the Kings of the heavy British scene.

 

LEPROUSAlleviate

It’s a good thing that I’m a huge fan of Eurovision otherwise I might never revisit LEPROUS again after their new single, Alleviate. I love the song and the band, but I find it amusing how they’ve evolved from being the backing band for IHSAHN and now LEPROUS seem to be the backing band for Einar Solberg. Even if the band are going down a pop route, they still make better pop music than the majority of chart artists. The subtle elements happening in the verses keep things interesting but it is the catchy folk pop chorus which will continue to pull in new fans. Read below for a snippet of my first post about LEPROUS from the Metalmance archive.


 

From the Archive

After the recent release of two singles from LEPROUS’ forthcoming album Pitfalls, I wondered if I could have predicted their prog pop direction… 

Band to watch: LEPROUS

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

Weekly Roundup #3