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.

Stillbirth – Back To The Stoned Age

Label: Unique Leader Records. Release date: 30 August 2019.

German slamming death metal band STILLBIRTH have been riding on the wave of success after signing with Unique Leader Records last year for their album Annihilation Of Mankind. Playing shows with the other hottest slamming stalwarts around (i.e. VULVODYNIA and WITHIN DESTRUCTION) has only raised their profile even higher. Mad to know then, that STILLBIRTH have been alive since 1999 and releasing albums since 2002! Before embarking on their next chapter, us lucky sods will be treated to Back To The Stoned Age, a collection of reworked songs from their back catalogue. Spoiler alert: it’s as fresh and as brutal as ever.

Killing it with Riot Auffer Buehne 2.0, even with the new mix is sounds like the filthiest detritus. With their CREPITATION-esque deathgrind moments and best pig squeals, this is one hell of a revisit. The slamming groove continues with Open Up This Fucking Pit 2.0 which features its genius gunshot breakdown and punishing slam riffs. An absolutely disgusting assault of a song, it still crushes today.

Endgame Is Near 2.0 is STILLBIRTH at their most unforgiving. The plunging depths the band go to with this track is something else entirely. Much like Human Parasite 2.0 which is immediately penetrating with its slamming groove and death metal bluntness. The demonic vocals harvest your soul as the riffs pummel you into oblivion. Chainsaw VS Face 2.0 is equally as relentless making sure you are unable to stop for breath for all its 49 seconds.

Beating Pacifists 2.0 is a dark and menacing track. Its pace is stepped down a notch which adds to its creeping lust for maximum damage. Add a feature by EXTERMINATION DISMEMBERMENT’s Vladislav Martirosov and you’re onto a punishing winner. The focussed savagery continues with Global Error 2.0 which boasts one of the filthiest breakdowns of the whole album (if not their whole back catalogue). When will the brutality end?! Thankfully not during Individual Related 2.0 which features the disgusting vocals of CUMBEAST’s Iiro Rosonen. This short but sweet track is a rollercoaster throughout and is a must-listen for any aspiring extreme metal vocalists. Incredible stuff.

Legalize It is a phenomenal example of all which STILLBIRTH have to offer (and their love of the green stuff). Beastly blastbeats, whirring riffs and guttural growls are the rule of the land here. The band maintain the pace with Steuerklasse 1 Und Keiner Sagt Danke 2.0 and its hard, metallic edge. This is what slamming hardcore thrash would sound like and we want more! The ridiculous Addicted To Abortion 2.0 is also a morbid treat, bordering on grindcore delights. So much is happening in this track it’s one to keep crawling back to!

BENIGHTED fans rejoice! Julien Truchan lays down his obliterating vocals for On The Edge Of Society 2.0 and it’s an absolute beast! Hard, fast and nightmarish it sounds like it was composed from the very depths of the lagoon itself. By the time Brootal Party 2.0 rolls round your ears will be at risk of turning to sludge after the battering they’ve been receiving. The energy and build-up of this song is unforgettable. Mix in a guest feature by VULVODYNIA’s guitar god Kris Xenopoulos and you’ll soon be begging for more.

Back To The Stoned Age is one of those rare records when the reworkings really do bring the material up to scratch to match the current material. A band full of fun with a tongue in cheek attitude but serious riffage is a winner. Hopefully when they drop their new album next year they would have climbed the slam ranks and gained the recognition they deserve.

Krysthla – Worldwide Negative

Label: PHD. Release date: 16 August 2019.

No doubt you’ve seen KRYSTHLA’s name on a festival or show line-up along the years. This Northampton lot are hard grafters in the scene but I don’t think anyone could have predicted what the band were capable of achieving with this, their third album Worldwide Negative. This incredible body of work can be summed up in two words…riff city.

Beginning with the addictive groove and unabashed brutality of Negative, KRYSTHLA are starting as they mean to go on; hard, fast and unforgiving. With distinct drumming courtesy of Liam Turland, the guitars are also a morbid delight with bold, metallic goodness. As a whole, the tone has a very THREAT SIGNAL feel to it; a confident swagger of ferocity.

A wholesome metalcore riff graces the opening minute of Reawaken. It all escalates with a glorious tech groove slant before erupting into a fantastic SOILWORK-esque chorus. KRYSTHLA are flexing their melodic prowess alongside their savage tendencies. The result is mesmerising.

Chaos and manic screams introduce Grief Is New Love and the filthy depths KRYSTHLA reach make you believe every word is drenched in grief. With a pace and groove MALEVOLENCE would be proud of, the band show their crossover appeal. Things do take a blackened djent turn with marvelous effect. The monstrous pace continues in Zero Sum Game. The fierce drums steal the show here but clean, melodic breaks provide some shelter from the violence.

Another blackened section pummels White Castles into your consciousness. This along with the soaring riffs make you start to wonder how KRYSTHLA have managed to cram this much awesomeness into the first five songs. There’s still three to go! With a hardcore stance on the vocals which makes it devastatingly heavy, the groove continues with a quick dip into grunge nostalgia. Stunning stuff.

Channeling their inner MESHUGGAH for the beastly Psalm Of Heartlessness, it’s another breathtaking slab of crushing metal. Aurea Mediocritas is an even darker progression of KRYSTHLA’s punishing metal which I didn’t think was possible. It becomes an absolute stomper with jarring riffs and bassy grooves.

Instead of concluding the album all guns blazing, there is more of a laidback feel about album closer, The Gift. That’s not to say the song doesn’t slay, it does but with more of a considered pace and tone. The beautiful guitar work resonates until the calm outro leaves you to ponder the brilliance of what you have just listened to. No longer just a band on a bill, KRYSTHLA deserve your attention and every piece of praise coming their way. Worldwide Negative is phenomenal.

Pijn & Conjurer – Curse These Metal Hands

Release date: 16 August 2019. Label: Holy Roar Records.

This is going to be one of the best things you’ll hear all year. Unless you’ve been sleeping under a rock these past few years, you will already be familiar with the extreme progressive metal of CONJURER and the post-rock brilliance of PIJN. Both bands are British stalwarts in the metal community and are part of the staggering roster of Holy Roar Records. Last year, members from both bands created the group CURSE THESE METAL HANDS for the 2018 edition of Arctangent Festival and now the songs they wrote are being released for the first time. The four tracks have been reworked and the result is stunning.

Aptly named first track High Spirits is nine minutes of pure bliss. Light and bright twinkles like the first sighs on a Spring morning. You can feel everything coming to life. Each component is slowly waking and finding their voice. Finally it all erupts into a terrific post-rock crescendo. A wonderfully raw yet perfected sound is tipped over the edge by vocals and the ferocious riffage. If the beginning was a Spring morning, the second half is the chill and darkness before a storm. The sound is resoundedly British, harking back to the days of the delicate tones of MAYBESHEWILL, the intensity of  TALONS and the atmospheric passages of the much-missed AEREOGRAMME. If Curse These Metal Hands only consisted of this track, it would still be one of the best records of 2019.

The Pall begins with a slow build-up in the same vein as BATTLES or 65DAYSOFSTATIC before it boils over into a full bodied riff. The introduction of the shoegazy riff has tremendous effect, providing clarity to the short notes before all sense is obliterated by the thunderous vocals. Quiet eventually ensues with a brooding ambience. The track breaks with an atmospheric riff (bordering on IHSAHN-esque) which soon becomes triumphant. This section with the desperate vocals moves into blackgaze territory with the outro returning to triumph, ending the song on a high after moody dips into darkness.

Endeavour bursts in with a bold riff the likes of KYLESA and BARONESS would be proud of. The tumultuous vocals bring an air of CURSED to the chaos. The shortest song on the record (just over two minutes) it is also one of the most impactful, with its gloomy tone and monstrous riffs. Sludgy yet effective at the same time, Endeavour packs a punch before the finale Sunday closes proceedings. Warm tones and delicate notes beckon the end with an air of The Fire in Our Throats Will Beckon The Thaw-era PELICAN surrounding the intro. The dreamy riffs entwine with the storming vocals and atmospherics with colossal effect. Triumph returns with the powerful vocals and robust riffs. Featuring the only clean vocals on Curse These Metal Hands, they provide a crystalline conclusion to this phenomenal closer.  

The only downside to Curse These Metal Hands is the uncertainty of a second record of material being produced. This does however, make this body of work that little bit more precious. A unique and beautiful slab of metal by two of our finest exports. The record will daze and stun for many years to come before becoming legendary.    

Valis Ablaze – Render

Label: Long Branch Records. Release date: 19 July 2019.

This is exactly what I’ve been waiting for from VALIS ABLAZE. After reviewing their EP Insularity back in 2017 and then their debut album Boundless last year, I’ve always had high hopes for these Bristolians but they were yet to reveal their full potential. Render, the band’s second album to be released through Long Branch Records, showcases a band who have finally hit their stride. After numerous line-up changes and career defining shows, Render is the sound of VALIS ABLAZE ready to unleash their powress and put their stamp on the progressive scene in 2019.     

Mesmerising riffs and an alluring depth entice the listener with opening track Neon Dreaming. This track also introduces what their previous material lacked a little bit – ‘oomph’. This confident appeal oozes through the rest of the album. Second track Hollow Heart is a prime example of VALIS ABLAZE’s newly found vigour. This glorious track is the best single the band have released to date and is an absolute belter. The staggering climax and triumphant riffs fill our hollow hearts to the brim.          

The Convincer is an interesting beast. The jerky riffs and shimmering notes are shadowed by a dark undertone, yet the devastating chorus will make the track one which you’ll remember for a while. Speaking of memorable tracks, Ascent is an absolute corker of a song. The upbeat and infectious energy which punches at the beginnng is unlike anything we’ve heard from VALIS ABLAZE before and it’s flippin’ fantastic. The cheeky screamed vocals raise the song even higher. This track shows how versatile vocalist Phil Owen has become with his incredible vocal talent. If you think Ascent cannot get any better then the inclusion of MASK OF JUDAS’ Sam Bell just tips it over the edge. Absolutely outrageous.   

After that triumph, next track Saturation provides a haunting and offbeat song which makes for a perfect interlude for an album full of unexpected twists and turns. States of Decay is another dreamlike and modest track which has stuck itself in my mind considering it’s quite laidback. The quirkiness continues with Infinite World with its opening notes which might deceive you into thinking you’d accidently skipped to ANIMALS AS LEADERS. The track continues with fresh energy and a few surprises; the 3 minute mark will blow you away. I’ll say no more.

Album finale Elevation is a mini masterpiece. The band don’t mess around here; immediately there is an impact at the beginning followed by a fast-paced chorus with a commanding energy throughout. The song elevates (sorry) with the breathtaking performance by Danish beauty WHITE DOVE, whom provided guest vocals during the band’s Tech Fest set last year, so I’m thrilled she’s back on a recorded track for Render. This conclusion is a stunning effort by VALIS ABLAZE. 

Render is the band’s biggest achievement yet, each song has its own vibe and own story to tell. If they’ve improved and progressed this quickly between albums, just think of what VALIS ABLAZE will be capable of by album number three! If you’re still yet to check out this band (I’ve been blogging about them enough) then don’t wait any longer!       

Cartographs – wilt & blossom

Label: Prime Collective. Release date: 1 March 2019.

I’m not shy to admit this is my favourite release of 2019 so far. wilt & blossom is a suitable title for an album featuring euphoric highs and devastating lows. This album moves me like a blackgaze album would, and CARTOGRAPHS use fragments of blackgaze in their crushing debut album. The Danes borrow from post-rock, experimental and ambient rock, black metal and folk, amongst others to create their own brand of atmospheric music – with dazzling effect.

wilt over time broods as the atmosphere gradually builds up to a CULT OF LUNA-esque passage. The turbulent moments also remind me of Origo-era BURST, so you can probably gauge how powerful CARTOGRAPH’s material can be. There is a post-hardcore edge to the vocals which gives the music such a heart-wrenching and intense dynamic – you can’t let go. ever scaling latches on with its delicate post-rock beginning, exuding the light atmosphere of the first rays of sunshine after a harsh winter. It continues on the rise before lapsing into MAYBESHEWILL-esque riffs; bewitching, captivating…beautiful.

You might remember I wrote about lead single peace was never mine to be found in my last Roundup, stating it as a “stunning example of what’s to come” and it’s reassuring to discover I’m not wrong. The brooding passages and modest intensity is utterly mesmerising. Wearing their ambient metal influences on their sleeve there is a vein of nostalgia running throughout this track and wilt & blossom as a whole, but there is a crisp freshness to CARTOGRAPH’s take on post-rock, threatening to reinvent the genre.

Charming acoustic notes draw you into through the garden gate before a raucous 10 minutes unfold. The climatic riffs are unforgettable, taking you to stratospheric highs before plunging to urgent depths. The pace and execution is perfect for a track of this epic length. When you think you’ve recovered, they hit you with THAT riff again and you collapse into your own despair. CARTOGRAPHS wouldn’t be as heart-wrenching without the raw vocals of Joachim Jensen, but each member is a pivotal component in the CARTOGRAPHS experience.

Second single more string than pearls is another breath-taking example of how the band gel all the textures and instruments into one flawless wall of resounding vehemence. Things calm down a tad with in teal and that irresistible acoustic guitar. Dramatic yet serene, this album is all about opposites clashing together to make something utterly spellbinding.

The song title blossom under leaves conjures the image of hope hiding until the opportune time. The gentle opening minute does reflect this before the optimism is hindered by some spectacular blackgaze. The track continues to climb then dive before it reaches a constant state of post-rock enlightenment, making it a stellar conclusion to such a stunning debut. Last year I raved on about how Danish metal was leading the race, but with the likes of GHOST IRIS and now CARTOGRAPHS releasing excellent albums this year, Denmark might just hold onto the crown for one more year.

Aenimus – Dreamcatcher

Label: Nuclear Blast Records. Release date: 22 February 2019.

California’s AENIMUS have slowly been on the rise since their debut album Transcend Reality, but one thing’s for sure, second album Dreamcatcher will only propel the progressive metal band to new heights. The technicality and ambition on display here will make you think you’re listening to a band well into their metal career, making AENIMUS that little bit more exciting to listen to and to watch grow, because in reality they’re still honing their sound! In an oversaturated scene of so-so bands, groups have to really churn out something special to stand out, luckily AENIMUS have upped their game with this album as it really packs a punch.

The phrase “start as you mean to go on” springs to mind when Before the Eons bursts in. It’s a really technical track but extremely listenable, and the album continues in the same manner. The band channel their inner OPETH and BLACK CROWN INITIATE while BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME-sounds provide the quirkier moments. An uplifting riff and epic solo storms the middle. Delicate guitar work provides a darkly soothing interlude, making this opening track a mesmerising feat. A blistering start.

Eternal sounds like the lovechild of CABAL and SHOKRAN – a terrifying lovechild. The song boasts the first of the spectacular clean vocals on Dreamcatcher. The vocals haven’t been chucked in for the hell of it, oh no, they ramp up the coloassal intensity of the track. This brilliant intensity continues into The Ritual which is a song which would please BEYOND CREATION and BLACK CROWN INITIATE fans. The bass really comes to the fore here, making this track a real progressive and technical beast.

The fantastic orchestral and oriental My Becoming is another one for SHOKRAN fans. Not only do AENIMUS nail the technical aspect of their sound, but they could easily be the masters of melodic tech death if they so wished. This is an absolutely huge track of epic proportions. Next song The Dark Triad is also a bit of a belter. Beginning with a big ol’ groovy riff, this is one song I’d like to see live! The darkness and rich textural depth matches the artwork for Dreamcatcher, you’re also never quite sure what monstrous element is around the corner!

Between Iron and Silver is an ambitious song which is beautifully executed. The dark, brooding moments collapse into passages of sheer magnificence, this won’t be a song you’ll easily forget. The instrumental and orchestral moments on Dreamcatcher are brilliantly composed and deserve a special mention. It is the dark soundscapes such as the ending of Between Iron and Silver which complete the album. We are violently brought back to our senses with the face-ripping riff and ferocious drumming on The Overlook. The vocals almost have the same impact as ARCHSPIRE at the very beginning, the intensity of the whole track is terrifying.

Technical death metal takes over in Caretaker which is one of the heaviest songs on Dreamcatcher. The heavy technicality of AENIMUS is flawless and when the breakdowns crash in you’ll be running for cover. Second Sight is another relentless track. The melodic moments remind me of DISTORTED HARMONY but the illusion is soon shattered by the trenchant end.

Penultimate track Day Zero provides a violently perfect start to the album finale. The terrific title track brings Dreamcatcher to a bewitching and storming conclusion, exactly what an album of this calibre deserves. If you haven’t been blown away by a record yet this year then Dreamcatcher will change all that. AENIMUS seem to masterfully mix progressive and technical metal with elements of deathcore and melodic prog metal into one exciting and unforgettable package. Outstanding.

Ghost Iris – Apple of Discord

Label: Long Branch Records. Release date: 22 February 2019.

Denmark’s GHOST IRIS never disappoint do they? 2017’s Blind World was a superb album and I had no doubts in my mind that the band’s third record Apple of Discord would be anything but spectacular…but bloody hell this record blows everything the band have ever done out of the water. This record is insane!

Apple of Discord begins with the title track, an instrumental song with a classic GHOST IRIS riff and a huge and crisp production. The dreamy riffage is soon obliterated by the absolutely storming The Devil’s Plaything. If there is one thing to note about this album it is frontman Jesper Vicencio’s vocals and how his cleans have become utterly colossal. His outstanding vocals plus the cheeky djent and the intense breakdowns make The Devil’s Plaything an excellent choice for a single. The track and Apple of Discord as a whole sounds a lot more serious and intense than their previous work, and even though there is a decent dollop of melodic passages, it all feels a lot heavier in general.

The riffs are another level on this album and next track Final Tale is no exception from the rule. It is a darkly groovy beast heightened by the catchy chorus. GHOST IRIS have oodles of appeal and seem to be channelling everything that works into a brilliant and concise record. The chunky riffs continue in After The Sun Set Pt. II which will certainly get a few bodies moving when played live. A proper bouncy and ferocious number with an epic chorus – this track is pure fire. 

Beauty in Expiration is already potentially my favourite song of 2019 so far. There is a real ISSUES edge to it in terms of melodies. A brilliantly executed track, Vicencio’s vocals reach new heights and the instrumentation is perfect to say the least. It has the right balance of skull crushing riffs and delicate notes. Everything is just spot on. The same can be said for The Rat and the Snake which is one of the heaviest songs on Apple of Discord with its crushing CABAL-esque atmosphere. This is GHOST IRIS at their most brutal and it’s a truly thrilling experience.

The energetic Heaven Was Pure Hell is a triumph from beginning to end with its huge and catchy melodies and savage breakdowns. The tech fury continues with the brilliant Cowardly Pride. This track wouldn’t sound out of place on Blind World but its awesome melodic death leanings make it more like Blind World 2.0. GHOST IRIS surpass themselves once again with Magenta Moon which is a perfect modern metal song with a brilliant pace and lift to it. The uplifting riffs with the blistering breakdowns creates a masterpiece of a track full of striking contrasts.

Album finale Virus is well and truly an infectious track. A fabulous bouncy and groovy riff greets you before the brutal vocals threaten to tear your face off. It’s a good ol’ stomper which provides a monumental conclusion to a phenomenal album. GHOST IRIS are and remain one of Denmark’s most talented metal bands, but their crossover appeal and incredible talent demonstrated with Apple of Discord will surely threaten the big players worldwide.

Crystal Lake – Helix

Label: Sharptone Records. Release date: 15 February 2019.

Back in 2016 when they released breakthrough album True North, Japan’s CRYSTAL LAKE were a little speck on the tech metal scene. In my review of True North I predicted the album would “propel CRYSTAL LAKE into the metal stratosphere”. The band did indeed progress into the greater metal realm, with worldwide tours and a slot on the main stage at last year’s Tech Fest. The band are slowly but surely getting bigger and gaining momentum and new album Helix will most certainly launch the band to wider audiences. Compared to its predecessor, Helix is a real tour de force with its ferocious consistency.

Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! springs to mind when AEON kicks in. The programmed effects are spot on in this song and Helix as a whole. The opening minute has everything; blast beats, blackened passages, deathcore moments and dark TED MAUL moments. The sound is HUGE. AEON has already surpassed anything CRYSTAL LAKE have done before. So much happens yet it all flows seamlessly, but nothing prepares you for the slamming deathcore riffs and beats and the relentless tech metal at the end. Unbelievable.

Next track Agony is a bit more of a ‘typical’ CRYSTAL LAKE track (think Omega from True North with more melodic moments). The drumming and programming are once again insane, yet the ending is unexpectedly but welcomely soothing which enables you to process the brutality of the album so far. The rap returns in +81 but it’s executed perfectly making the track a disgustingly fun listen. There are some FAITH NO MORE-esque passages with the funky bass and seductive vocals. This is a real party metal anthem and will be stuck in your head for days.

By the time Lost in Forever bludgeons your ears it’s become clear CRYSTAL LAKE are sounding more focussed and mature with Helix and this track continues the brutality but with a more melodic slant. The jumpy riffs sound very much like the energetic guitar work of THE ROYAL which makes for another song to bounce to. Something a bit more unusual happens with Outgrow, with its FAITHLESS-esque passages and the slower pace, but it’s good to catch your breath during a high-octane album.

With its big ol’ swagger of a riff and the distinct vocals, Hail to the Fire becomes a bit of an unforgettable track. There is a real groove straight out of KILL THE KONG before it lapses into more slamming deathcore territory. Lots more interesting snippets happen in Devilcry which is a solid track with a catchy motif. The brutality and melodicness are perfectly balanced here making this track a bit of a dark horse to be Helix‘s best track.

Just Confusing is more ISSUES than CRYSTAL LAKE but somehow it works! The chorus could easily upset some old school BRING ME THE HORIZON FANS (if you get what I mean). CRYSTAL LAKE can even master the new wave of emo and I’m not even mad. The bouncy, tech riffs return with Apollo along with the ferocious drumming. It’s not a particularly memorable track but it’s a fun track all the same (especially with the DISTURBED moments…you’ll see what I mean).

Sanctuary makes sure Helix gets the storming send off it deserves. A straight-up, no-nonsense song, the urgent energy of Sanctuary gets the job done. The riffs are stratospheric and the hypnotic end brings the album to a dramatic close. The crossover appeal of CRYSTAL LAKE cannot be ignored. This is their secret weapon and the biggest threat to their contemporaries. Every metal style they attempt to capture they expertly execute. The quality of their work just keeps on getting better and better. What will the band achieve by their next album? One thing’s for sure, you won’t want to be late to the CRYSTAL LAKE hype.

Minors – Abject Bodies

Label: Holy Roar Records. Release date: 22 February 2019.

This is already a contender for nastiest album of the year. Canada’s MINORS are set to release second album Abject Bodies and it’s the finest slab of noisy, sludgy hardcore you’ll hear all year; it would even make the likes of CONVERGE and WILL HAVEN weep from the bleakness of it. It begins with the dismal title track – a doomy and dissonant instrumental before second track Consumed rips you a new one. Powerviolence bludgens you at the start of the song along with its urgent ‘chorus’. The brilliantly punky vocals make for a more intense listen.

Meanderist continues the angry-as-fuck intensity with its ferocious groove. It really does sound like the lovechild between CURSED and NAILS. It’s a white knuckle ride throughout. The noise seamlessly meanders (pun intended) into Flesh Prison which is a deliciously morbid and darkly groovy track. The sludgy riffs topped with powerviolent tendencies is fantastically striking, making for an all-rounded assault.

A chaotic, grindcore punkfest ensues with the magnificent Boneyard. It sounds exactly what you’d expect a boneyard to sound like; crushing, ugly and complete with unexpected blackened passages. The last half is a stunning chunk of devastating riffage. An outstanding track which is followed by an entirely different beast in the form of Erode. Beginning with a soundscape akin to ISIS or PELICAN, it slowly develops into the sludgy opus it turns out to be. The slow start heightens the sense of incoming catastrophe. The down-tempo continues with the addition of the tortured vocals, making for a downright filthy penultimate track.

The brooding finale Garden of Dismalism is back to the dark and distorted textures. The contorted soundscape builds up to create a chaotic and claustrophobic climax. Abject Bodies is anything but a relaxing listen with an uneasy tension throughout. One thing’s for sure – MINORS are more than an angry hardcore band…their sound is mature, calculated and terrifying. Listen at your own peril.