As Paradise Falls – Digital Ritual

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Eighteen Visions – XVIII

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Royal – Seven

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

She Must Burn – Grimoire

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Crystal Lake – True North

Label: Artery Recordings. Release Date: 2nd Dec 2016.

Punishing. That is the word to describe True North, the fourth album by this Japanese metal troupe from Tokyo. Now under MDDN management (Joel Madden of GOOD CHARLOTTE fame) this album is set to propel CRYSTAL LAKE  into the metal stratosphere. True North is an exciting and absolutely blistering record; full of surprises, this band definitely have a few tricks up their sleeve.

Their explosive brand of hardcore infused metalcore has made them pioneers of heavy music in their homeland, and now they are causing quite a stir in Europe and North America with their first single off the album, Omega. Crashing in with absolutely lethal vocals by Ryo coupled with the ferocious guitars and drumming, Omega is a blinding statement that CRYSTAL LAKE mean business. A truly crushing song, relief is found in melodic electronic effects which adds an interesting dynamic to the brutality of the composition.

Things then take an interesting turn with Hatred, an impressive example of metal with a hip hop flourish. CRYSTAL LAKE execute this mix of genres with aplomb, making this one of the most memorable songs from True North. The band then turn all of that on its head with Metro, a surprisingly catchy song with pop punk overtones, yet it maintains the band’s hardcore intensity. It is this intensity which CRYSTAL LAKE channel into the pummelling title track True North, a brutally honest anthem with lyrics such as “This is the way we are, this is the way we die.” It stands as a testament to how we are who we are, no matter the changes which occur around us.

It would ruin the surprise if the stylistic direction of every song on the album was described in this review, but one song you can become acquainted with before the release is the new track Six Feet Under. A violent 2 minute blast of pure hardcore which will most certainly feel like the aural equivalent of having your face ripped off. It kicks you in the throat then leaves you for dead before you’re washed up by the stunning album closer, Waves. This song perfectly juxtaposes melodic components with unforgivingly heavy elements, which results in a breath-taking finale to a truly spellbinding album. Believe the hype, CRYSTAL LAKE have arrived to claim the metal throne.