Svalbard – It’s Hard To Have Hope

Label: Holy Roar Records. Release date: 25 May 2018.

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The Bristolian quartet SVALBARD are proving to be a gem in the British metal scene. It’s Hard To Have Hope, the band’s second album is sure to propel the band further in high esteem. A band who do not shy away from tough topics, it would be easy to fall in the trap of focussing on the song titles and lyrical content, but the band’s music is just as hard-hitting. So much aggression AND passion has been poured into this album, I genuinely think it’s going to blow everyone away.

Starting with a topic most of our generation can unfortunately relate to, Unpaid Intern is as angry and aggressive you feel when you’re confronted with the pessimistic job prospects of today. What I find exciting about SVALBARD is their ability to avoid being pigeonholed. Hardcore is present, as well as post-rock riffs and black metal musings…and that’s just the beginning. I think this diversity hopefully predicts the longevity and accessibility of the band, as they will comfortably flow from one scene to another and it’s sometimes the crossover bands who achieve the most awesome things. Unpaid Intern is a perfect example of what SVALBARD are all about.

The dual vocals of guitarists Serena Cherry and Liam Phelan have a nostalgic KYLESA feel about them. I’ve always thought Cherry sounds a cross between Laura Pleasants and WALL OF JERICHO’s Candace Kucsulain. One of the most unforgiving female vocalists around, Cherry often steals the show on this record with her screams and hushed vocals. The latter can be heard at the beginning and end of second track, Revenge Porn. If the subject matter wasn’t so serious I would dare to call this song beautiful. A disgusting yet current topic, this song is complimented by the equally damning approach the band take with their delivery. A black metal influence is strong here, with its soundscapes and hectic drumming. Comparisons to OATHBREAKER could easily be made here but you can understand why label mates MØL will be joining SVALBARD as support for a few of their forthcoming shows, as they both have that glorious post-black metal sound.

Feminazi?! continues the black metal feeling with the drums and riffs sounding like WINTERFYLLETH and ENSLAVED. It is quite spectacular and once the middle eight kicks in you will be well and truly under SVALBARD’s spell. After two strong opening songs, this track keeps up the pace and gives It’s Hard To Have Hope a further, darker edge. Things slow down a notch with the opening of Pro-Life?!; Cherry sounds like she is channelling her inner MYRKUR, but things accelerate again in the usual black/post metal manner. The laidback moments shine and emphasise the heavier parts.

Next track For The Sake Of The Breed is one of the album’s highlights for sure. It rages HARD. It charges, drops, crashes and has the most brilliant pacing, bringing back those KYLESA vibes again. Things take more of a post-hardcore turn with How Do We Stop It? There is something about this song that feels different to the others. There’s less urgency but the emotions feel deeper, giving the track a heightened aura of importance. Similar can be said for Try Not To Die Until You’re Dead; the pace and delivery is modest and eerily mesmerising, but bursts of determination crash through with triumphant riffs and passionate vocals. This could be a dark horse to be fan favourite.

The album finale Iorek is an entirely different beast. It is an instrumental wonder, taking influence from post-rock and even indie, it provides light to the dark intensity of the record. The bright riffs create shimmering soundscapes and shine hope on the darkness. It provides a stunning conclusion to an incredible album. The organic production of It’s Hard To Have Hope ensures the gritty tunes retain their rawness. Beautifully constructed and executed, SVALBARD have potentially made a modern classic. The British underground scene is bursting with potential and SVALBARD are worming their way to be the cream of the crop.

Boss Keloid – Melted On The Inch

Label: Holy Roar Records. Release date: 27 April 2018.

Holy Roar Records know a good thing when they hear it. Since the end of last year, the record label have signed the likes of MØL, GARGANJUA and BOSS KELOID, all of whom are on the verge of great things. The latter two also share a sludgy, doom style. With Melted On The Inch however, BOSS KELOID are veering towards a progressive multi-dimensional sound that 2016’s Herb Your Enthusiasm hinted at. This is, hands down, the best material the likeable chaps from Wigan have blessed upon us weary doom travellers. Six tracks of massive and expansive noises are sure to set BOSS KELOID amongst the ranks of British metal hopes. With Melted On The Inch, they’ve nurtured and fine-tuned their style. They sound like…BOSS KELOID.

Opening with the absolute cracker Chronosiam, it sounds like a glorious sea shanty. Vocalist Alex Hurst absolutely belts out as usual and it is cathartic to listen to his warbles. The production and mix leaves an organic rawness which provides a refuge of comfort in Hurst’s voice and the band’s psychedelic riffs. Very hypnotic in places, the song effortlessly flows from calm and brooding to loud and rapturous. An ambitious start to the album, Chronosiam is seven minutes of pure joy, it doesn’t seem quite right to use the word ‘doom’ here.

Tarku Shavel begins as quite a relaxed affair, but the chorus is absolutely storming. I really enjoy this aspect of BOSS KELOID, the quieter moments versus the bolder segments. Each delivered with confident aplomb. The verses have a gorgeous colour to them, sounding like sun-soaked days on a lengthy voyage. It is halfway through Tarku Shavel that shines. A large helping of psychedelic doom gives the song an exotic edge. Hurst once again interrupts our thoughts with his killer vocal delivery. An absolutely stellar tune.

The opening of Peykruve reminds me of that hypnotic bass tone in Lung Mountain from Herb Your Enthusiasm. The first minute and a half is a spectacular instrumental which teases and soothes with its retro meanderings. Hurst yet again impresses, but it is the gorgeously retro instrumentation that steals the show in Peykruve. The band sound like PURSON in places, conjuring a psychedelic paradise with a combination of the irresistible organ and thumping doom riffs. Peykruve is a treat for the senses.

The organ is back for Jromalih but after the fantastic Peykruve I find this song a bit trickier to get into. The intro is a funky little ditty but for me, with the exception of Hurst belting out some killer choruses, the song doesn’t really go anywhere. Lokannok has a few interesting nuggets going on though. With groovy and whirring instrumentation, things really pick up with a fantastic riff and the signature blarings of Hurst that continue to ramp up.

Then all of a sudden we have reached the finale of the album, Griffonbrass. One of the shorter songs on Melted On The Inch, it gets the job done by giving BOSS KELOID the blistering send-off they deserve. The song seems to feature motifs from the album; from the rumbling bass and exotic guitar licks, to a cheeky bit of organ and a large dollop of Hurst. Bold and epic, BOSS KELOID are well on their way to getting their hybrid of metal launched to the masses. With oodles of appeal and a lush colour to their sound, don’t be surprised if the Boss hoss their way further into the metal community’s hearts.

Tesseract – Sonder

Label: Kscope. Release date: 20 April 2018.

One of the most hotly anticipated albums of the year is almost upon us, and if you’re a big TESSERACT fan like me, you might also be wondering how on earth they could top 2015’s Polaris. It always seems effortless for TESSERACT to evolve with each album and fourth album Sonder is no different. TESSERACT have now fully established themselves as progressive metal greats and this reflects in their sound and songwriting. An incredibly mature and focused approach is used for this album. With many rip-off TESSERACT bands on the scene, the group now need to avoid becoming a parody of themselves. Luckily they manage this.

I must admit, after hearing Smile when the band previewed it last year, I wasn’t enamoured at all. I had the same reaction during the first spin of Sonder, however I am a firm believer this often signals an album which grows over time. It is the effort of the digesting of the record after a few listens which rewards you with a superb album that just ‘clicks’.

Sonder kicks off with Luminary. Most fans might expect a twinkly intro, but this opener immediately packs a punch. Have they got your attention? Yes. During the melodic verse, there are some CALIGULA’S HORSE vibes but THAT chorus blows any soft vocals out of the water. An excellent start with some token TESSERACT motifs here and there, you’re on tenterhooks for more. Thankfully for us, more is what we get with next track King which is a right ol’ jewel in the crown. Hopefully you will have already heard this blistering single, but hearing it in context with the rest of the album creates an incredible, new experience. With this single, TESSERACT declare this is us, this is our sound, watch us evolve. TESSERACT are well past using screams to be heavy, but the screams on King do take it to the next level. The song is probably longer than it needs to be, but it is an outstanding track.

TESSERACT has always been one for atmospheric and broody songs but next track, Orbital is quite unlike anything the band have done before. A short song, but the instrumentation sounds colossal, yet really subtle. It is one to expand the imagination and I think it is truly beautiful and moving. It has to be heard to be believed. It merges into the next gem of the album, Juno. It is quite an upbeat, djent ditty making it one of the more memorable songs on Sonder. The lyrics tie in nicely with the name of the album; ‘sonder’ is a term coined by writer John Koenig to express the indescribable emotion we experience when we realise each of us are simultaneously living vivid and complex lives. It is this disconnection that Sonder hints at – the thought that something greater is happening within.

Beneath My Skin harks back to the glory days of One, with the build up of tension before the sweet release of a bit of djent. Old school fans will probably swarm to this track, but it does follow the more thoughtful and melodic approach the band are now known for. Mirror Image follows TESSERACT’s newer formula of straight-up melodic metal. Using less djent and incorporating more keys, it’s grown into one of my favourite songs on Sonder. After first listen, I completely overlooked it, but it has a charm about it which has enchanted me.

As mentioned earlier, when I first heard Smile last year I wasn’t blown away at all. However, hearing it on Sonder has made me appreciate it a lot more. A great deal happens in this song and once again Dan Tompkins pushes himself to be on of progressive metal’s best vocalists. With a couple of strong songs at the beginning of Sonder, the album also needed two strong closers to anchor it. Smile provides one and the finale, The Arrow provides the other. Normally TESSERACT like to have a lengthy conclusion to proceedings but The Arrow is really short in comparison at two and a half minutes. It was important not to drag Sonder out and luckily this final track keeps it short and sweet with a killer melody and twinkly instrumentation. Eight songs might not seem enough but I do genuinely think TESSERACT made the right decision here. Sonder is a terrifically solid body of work. I don’t think it will progress to being my favourite TESSERACT album, but album of the year..? Well, it wouldn’t be impossible.

Midas Fall – Evaporate

Label: Monotreme Records. Release date: 27 April 2018.

The long, dark nights of winter are hopefully behind us…but it’s almost a shame as MIDAS FALL would be the perfect soundtrack to a cold, crisp night. Elizabeth Heaton and Rowan Burn are the masterminds behind this Scottish duo and they are a prime example of less is best. There is a beguiling sense of enchantment with fourth album Evaporate. You scuttle to the edge but are quickly absorbed into the chilling beauty of Keaton’s vocals and the progressive post-rock soundscapes.

The album opens with the mesmerising Bruise Pusher which really captures the heart early on. The dark broodiness reminds me of AEREOGRAMME’s Nightmares and a little of A Warm Place by NINE INCH NAILS – you know, that glorious sprawling texture that sounds like an oncoming storm. The atmosphere is stifling yet has a deceiving simplicity to it. Keaton’s vocals are perfection and it sounds like she is potentially a more talented vocalist than she lets on. This somehow adds to the duo’s charm and mystique.

The title track is another strong song, starting with strings before some tasty synth. Their pulsating electronics are reminiscent of a more reserved ZOMBI or the soundtrack of AXIOM VERGE. Keaton’s voice drives the song but it is the rumbling bass and piano motif which hypnotizes the listener further. In Soveraine it is Keaton who dominates. It is a low-key affair but we can fully appreciate the range of Keaton’s vocals in this track, from her whispers to her bolder projections. It’s a stunning piece.

Glue has to be one of my favourite songs on Evaporate. The heartfelt lyrics and beautiful melodies are accompanied by super slick instrumentation and spectacular electronics. It is probably the ‘poppiest’ track on the album with its lyrical content, but it is one of the more memorable ones. An absolutely gorgeous song it is now coupled with an equally attractive, animated music video. After the groovy electronics of Glue, next track Sword To Shield is a reserved and modest affair. The opening melody reminds me of Carl Espen’s Silent Storm (yes, the Norwegian Eurovision entry in 2014, and yes, it is a compliment) which might give you an indication of the hushed tones and intricate melodies on display in Sword To Shield. There is more orchestration too which adds to the beautiful and serene tones.

Dust And Bone has a glorious, nostalgic tinge. A bit of 80s/90s vibes with a bit of Bjork and Madonna thrown in. It’s another brooding track with post-rock undertones, ending on a high with instrumentation which wouldn’t sound out of place on albums by 65DAYSOFSTATIC or MAYBESHEWILL. It is more of an acoustic affair on Awake with the guitars sounding like aural equivalent of the first glimpses of sunlight through the canopy of a forest. This track has another old school vibe to me, sounding like a hushed FLEETWOOD MAC or a shy Kate Bush. The quieter moments of MIDAS FALL are often the most outstanding.

The same can be said for In Sunny Landscapes which could be a spectacular finale for a folky album. It just grows and grows into a beautiful bloom, shining in the sunlight. Keaton truly shines here. Burn’s twinkly guitars and the piano and cellos create an irresistible, uplifting mood, it is a delight to the ears. The mood shifts dramatically in Lapsing; a dark horse of a track, it could end up being a favourite for some. With PORTISHEAD vibes, Keaton sounds like she is singing on an über cool Bond soundtrack. It’s an incredibly mesmerising song, with its modest beginning to its melancholic hooks. An absolutely dark gem of a track, it’s one I keep returning to again and again.

Unfortunately, we’ve already reached the finale of the album, Howling At The Clouds. It has echoes of the earlier tracks of the album, bringing Evaporate full circle. It has a brooding expanse with post-rock components, along with synths and spellbinding melodies. MIDAS FALL are pretty hard to pigeonhole, but that’s part of their charm. Definitely on the NORDIC GIANTS end of ‘metal’, MIDAS FALL are one of those appealing crossover bands that you can rely on when you’re craving something a bit calmer. Evaporate is a charming masterpiece, both chilling and warming. It’s got enough interesting dynamics to make you return time after time.

Temples On Mars – Self titled

Label: Primordial Records. Release date: 6 April 2018.

TEMPLES ON MARS – a name inspired by advanced ancient hieroglyphs that were allegedly created with the assistance of extra terrestrial entities, who also supposedly were responsible for the construction of temples on the surface of Mars. This concept has been translated audibly in first track Bon Voyage, with futuristic atmospherics, space-age commentary and an enticing, yet simple motif repeated throughout the song. We are being led on a journey and TEMPLES OF MARS are our pilots on our prog rock odyssey.

The second track Gods & Kings bursts in with stratospheric radio-friendly riffs. Frontman James Donaldson croons along, yet when the chorus kicks in you could be forgiven for including him with the otherworldly entities the song title suggests. An absolute cracker of an opener, our progressive troupe from London are already threatening to break the mould and launch themselves to be their own colossal entity.

TEMPLES ON MARS continue their massive sound with the delightful Afraid Of Living and its hypnotic riff. Blending loud and proud guitars with catchy melodies, the band run the risk of becoming dangerously addictive. The same can be said for next track and lead single, So In Love With Your Drug. It’s a catchy beast that’s more radio friendly than prog rock, with the cheesy key change at the end of the song, but a highly memorable tune all the same.

When I listen to this album I occasionally think I’m listening to a band from Australia, as their prog drenched rock reminds me of bands such as THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT, DEAD LETTER CIRCUS and even KARNIVOOL. Fifth track, How Far Will You Go demonstrates a darker side of TEMPLES ON MARS that is reminiscent of the more brooding songs by the bands just mentioned. I think How Far Will You Go is a little gem on this self titled record; it has quite a cold ambience compared to the catchiness of previous songs, making it an edgy yet rewarding listen. Don’t worry though, the big riffs and catchy lyrics return in leaps and bounds on Death In The Afternoon.

There is something nostalgic about Make No Bones, in fact there is a sense of familiarity which runs through the whole album. TEMPLES ON MARS have already achieved THAT sound which hopefully means this album could end up becoming a timeless classic later down the line. With this song however, it does make me think of THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT again and even DORP (remember them?) and just that general warm, fuzzy feeling you get when you listen to a good song.

The beginning of Black Mirror is a curious one. With its beautiful, proggy intro, it is soon accompanied by a heavy and chuggy riff which sounds more metalcore than anything. Donaldson’s vocals soon provide some light to this darkness. It is a very interesting song as these elements continue to battle it out for the duration of the song. Suicide Tiger also becomes a curious listen; with its mesmerising and brooding first half. As it starts to gain momentum I hear echoes of CAESAR’S ROME and Back To Oblivion-era FINCH. TEMPLES ON MARS somehow manage to nail a slow-burning song as well as an up-tempo rock hit.

When I review an album I like to give it a couple of listens to digest it before I can form an opinion on it. This morning I woke up with When Gods Collide in my head, so that is a very good sign that this album had ‘clicked’ with me. And who can blame me with the ridiculously charming melodies and catchy chorus. If this doesn’t become one of the hits of the album then I’ll despair. Definitely more on the ARCANE ROOTS end of things, this song has ‘winner’ stamped all over it. Next track Dining With The Devil doesn’t quite match up to its predecessor but it is still one hell of an impressive track. Its ambitious length (8 minutes) and its proggy interludes maintain your interest through its diversity of styles and unpredictability, oh and of course its MUSE-esque breaks.

After such a fun journey through prog and rock, TEMPLES ON MARS needed a suitable finale to terminate the voyage…and it doesn’t disappoint. With more samples like the first track, it comes full circle; almost like the first and last tracks are bookends for the record, containing the prog-rock package within. It will be interesting what TEMPLES ON MARS pull out of the bag for album number two. Will they go more prog or more rock? We’ll have to wait and see but no doubt, like their namesake, it will be out of this world.

Valis Ablaze – Boundless

Label: Long Branch Records. Release date: 6 April 2018.

You may remember Bristolians VALIS ABLAZE were featured twice on Metalmance last year; the first time being a review of their stunning EP Insularity, then the second time being a review of their impressive performance at Tech Fest. This year is destined to be an incredible year for the tech metallers; having signed to Long Branch Records, supporting legendary acts such as SIKTH and now releasing their hotly anticipated debut album, Boundless. VALIS ABLAZE have seriously stepped up a notch and are bound to set the British tech scene – ahem – ablaze.

The parallels to TESSERACT cannot be ignored as the opening notes in Afterlight ring. Vocalist Phil Owens is coming to the fore here on Boundless, demonstrating his talent that was only hinted at on Insularity. This is true for the remainder of the band too, VALIS ABLAZE sound more confident which has resulted in a solid body of work. But I’m getting ahead of myself here. The band aren’t just a TESSERACT rip-off, yes the influence is there, but there are also nods to so many other genres and bands. Afterlight sounds similar in style to other British progressive hopefuls, BRUTAI. Instantly with this first song the massive production propels VALIS ABLAZE into the stratosphere, with the irresistible melody raising the emotion higher. The song flows seamlessly into the second offering, The Crossing, a brooding track which blossoms halfway through into a proggy joy.

This joy carries on with third track, and arguably the masterpiece of the album, Lumen. Beginning beautifully with a blissful piano melody and rumbling bass, the song explodes into a memorable tune. Every instrument has its part with many dynamics and interesting riffs, courtesy of Tom Moore and Ash Cook, providing a rich depth that their EP was lacking in parts. If you are unable to appreciate this song then you don’t deserve the rest of the album.

The TESSERACT-esque notes are back again in Evade, but they soon evaporate when the killer riff and drums crash in. Evade ends up being one of the heaviest songs on the album, making it an unexpected delight. An unexpected twist occurs again with Hex, with the vocal melody having an enjoyable pop stance amongst the guitars that are akin to the likes of MONUMENTS and DEITIES.

The start of The Static Between Us has an ambitious drive to it, which then spans out into a NORTHLANE-esque sprawl. Another bruiser of a track, The Static Between Us packs a punch. When you think you are safe in their melodic clutches, VALIS ABLAZE soon shatter the illusion.

Faster Than Light marks the first of the guest appearances. This impressive slab of metal features the disgustingly talented SITHU AYE, who assists in kicking things to the next level. Everything about Faster Than Light is spot on; the riffs, the melodies, the pace… you can understand why the band are gaining quite quite a reputation. The same can be said for next track Frequency, which features the band’s long term friend – and producer of Insularity – DREWSIF. It is an exceptional track, oozing with a maturity that is rare to hear on a debut album. VALIS ABLAZE are nurturing their sound and are not afraid to threaten the world with the promise of something special.

The penultimate track of Boundless is also the first single off the album, Paradox. I have to admit I have found this song difficult to digest and it still has not fully ‘clicked’ with me. Personally, it doesn’t sound as focused as other songs on the album. Having said all that, it is still a strong song but it just doesn’t quite match the calibre of the others.

Reece Fullwood of MASK OF JUDAS and EUMERIA guests on album finale, Reflections. His awesome guitar playing compliments the song beautifully and quite frankly, steals the show. Boundless is brought to a spellbinding close with a stellar melody and riffs, with the last notes resonating in your end until the very end. An absolute stunner of a debut, VALIS ABLAZE have been patiently honing their craft, perfecting every detail, before bestowing it on the world. If the band haven’t cemented themselves as rising stars of the British scene by album number two, then Metalmance will be stumped as to why. VALIS ABLAZE’s potential is indeed…boundless.

Møl – Jord

Label: Holy Roar Records. Release date: 13 April 2018.

I’ve already said it once this year, but I’m going to say it again – Denmark sure has its finger on the pulse of metal at the moment, and their latest export MØL can be added to the list of hottest bands to watch. MØL are blistering yet charming in equal measures. Their brand of ‘black shoegaze’ is nothing short of mesmerising. At times it sounds like the torture of a soul, but other times it sounds oddly soothing; you’re swept up in a whirlwind of dark emotion, then you’re set down in an array of screams and twinkly instrumentation. On paper it shouldn’t work, but it does. MØL have a winning formula with debut album Jord and hopefully they’ll stick to it.

The word ‘jord’ means land/earth and this nicely translates to the sprawling mass of heaviness MØL supply. Shoegaze provides the foundations while black metal influences are firmly rooted in, but the blooms are the spellbinding cascades of feeling MØL conjure. A perfect example of this is opening track Storm. Easing in with a scattering of bold notes, the song soon blooms into a huge wall of sound. The amazing blackened screams of frontman Kim Song Sternkopf are mixed brilliantly with the triumphant guitars. It oddly sounds like black metal indie but it’s far more ambitious than that. The ‘calmer’ moments of the song sound a tad KVELERTAK but the ending rings and resonates in a glorious haze.

The surreal and beautiful Penumbra is a standout track, with its fast riffing and drumming and soaring instrumentation. It sounds like the lovechild of EASTERN FRONT and EDITORS; an unusual but winning combination for sure. The middle eight showcases the band’s ability to pen a tranquil metal tune, before bursting with that black shoegaze sound you’re already falling in love with. For me, the vocals and riffs create an overwhelming atmosphere of feeling, they just hit an emotional nerve. This feeling continues with Bruma, an absolutely spectacular tune of massive proportions. Yes, the heavy breaks are impressive, but the quieter moments provide a mesmerising depth. MØL only need to strike one note and they have filled the mind and soul with an glowing warmth.

Vakuum starts as a straight-up metal track, with the extreme influences coming to the fore, but beautiful guitars interrupt the beastly ruckus to stamp that fantastic shoegaze sound all over it. This steps up a notch with Lambda, a beautiful instrumental piece that fans of MAYBESHEWILL and PELICAN will adore. This post-rock masterpiece enables you to reflect for a moment; it is quite quite a neutral song but has such a strong ‘colour’ you still find yourself swooning along.

The instrumental interlude is soon shattered by the WINTERFYLLETH-esque Ligament. The relentless pace and gut-wrenching screams gets the heart pumping but your pulse is allowed to slow down a bit when the melodic riffs sneak their way in. MØL both ignite and soothe the soul, it’s a wonderful combination. Ligament is the longest song on Jord but it is in no way a slog to get through. It is not easy to predict what shape the song will form, but there is an unexpected, yet nicely executed element towards the end. I won’t spoil it for you, it is one song you will have to indulge in yourself.

It’s tricky to describe Virga without using an oxymoron, but this song is morbidly upbeat. The screams aren’t the most optimistic yet the riffs are so uplifting your spirits can’t help but be raised. The drumming at the end reminds me of One Time For All Time-era 65DAYSOFSTATIC, providing a sense of warming familiarity. MØL do not follow a routine, unlike your typical metal form of screams/clean/sceams/clean. There is no soft/heavy/soft/heavy and this unpredictability of it makes it exciting. This also stands true for the title track, which is also the finale of Jord. The beginning has quite a techy start with its heavy riffs and dark groove. The first half has a menacing ambiance whereas the second consists of surreal melodies and a spellbinding climax. Before you know it, Jord has come to an end and you’re left awestruck and eager for more. Eight tracks might not seem enough for such an impressive release, but it works in MØL’s favour as they don’t out-welcome their stay. Jord is is a spectacular debut album and you can’t help but feel curious about what the band have up their sleeves for album number two.

Cabal – Mark Of Rot

Label: Long Branch Records. Release date: 23 February 2018.

The Danes sure have their finger on the pulse of metal these days, with the likes of GHOST IRIS and VOLA, but now an expulsion of the darkest matter is spreading from Copenhagen. This darkness goes by the name of CABAL, a band who sap all the doom and evil from black metal, death metal, djent and hardcore and mutilates it further to forge its own hybrid of brutality. CABAL will unleash this brutality in the form of their debut album, Mark Of Rot, the follow-up to their critically acclaimed EP Purge.

The rot begins with False Light, a raw and chuggy dark mass of metal. CABAL start as they mean to go on. Expelling the evilest of filth, it snuffs the flame of any hope or optimism you may possess. A blackened masterpiece ensues with Nothingness; an organ from Hell resonates before blastbeats and black metal riffs rip the breath from you. Featuring the vocals of THY ART IS MURDER’s CJ McMahon, you can guage the putrid violence this track belches. Much like the title of the song, you feel the spiralling void of nothingness threatening to consume you.

Blackened Soil is a bit of a ballsier affair. Throwing a myriad of styles in the air and constructing a song with the order of whatever plummets to the ground first, is the best way to describe this track. Beginning on the techier end of the spectrum, an eruption of hardcore occurs before a theatrical black metal break. All the while, blackened deathcore and the heaviest djent lurks round every corner, a morbid delight for the ears. This can also be said for the next offering, Rah’Ru. Starting like an opus by FLESHGOD APOCALYPSE, the atmosphere builds and endures during these four minutes of intensity.

Halfway through Mark Of Rot we are exposed to the devastating Empty. Two and a half minutes of terrifying ambience and the doomiest and blackest riffs, the brooding darkness is stifling. It demonstrates how CABAL can carry the weight of its menace in an instrumental. The vocals spit venom with avengence in Unworthy however, commanding your attention and willingness to obey.

The pace quickens with Blinded, a suffocating track of constant assault. Relentless in its attack, when you think you can make a break for it, you’re dragged back to the depths by its monstrous breakdown. The song seems to merge into the next track, Whispers; a curious mixture of tech, black metal, hardcore, all cut up and meshed together like some sort of Frankenstein’s monster.

Birds crow at the start of The Darkest Embrace; an unsettling yet groovy effort. The crowning glory is the guest vocals of Filip Danielsson from HUMANITY’S LAST BREATH. Much like Danielsson’s band, this song is spine-crushingly heavy. With its whirring riffs and atmospheric flourishes, it’s an absolutely massive beast. It has an air of SHOKRAN halfway through but it once again burrows into the depths of djent. An absolutely colossal track, Danielsson brings an extra layer of darkness to CABAL’s gloom.

This all leads up to the spectacular climax of Mark Of Rot – its title track. This is an epic finale of disturbing layers of sound and punishing vocals. It deceives you with its simplicity but it once again catches you off guard with its unnerving instrumentation. Fading out with an eerie shroud of doom, you may find yourself turning on all the lights once CABAL’s ritual is complete. This album is not for the faint hearted.

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.