Suffolk – home of CRADLE OF FILTH, Aspalls and…ED SHEERAN, but now there is a new staple of the county. Ipswich heavy metallers KILLERKORP (or THE KILLER KORPORATION as they’re also affectionately known) have been tearing up the local scene since 2017 and are threatening to take the rest of the UK by storm with their debut EP, Pain.
The band don’t mess around on opener Nightstalker. With its fast pace and crushing groove, the band are clearly wearing their influences on their sleeve; imagine LAMB OF GOD with straight-up riffs and a hardcore attitude. The production is nothing to be admired but this just emphasises KILLERKORP’s potential as the song still slays. Frontman Benjamin Lyddiatt is clearly an asset to the band as his screams cut through with monstrous affect.
Survival of the Fittest is undoubtedly KILLERKORP flexing their love of black metal; with the muddy riffs, ferocious drumming and machine-gun pace, it’s a surprising track but one executed with aplomb. The blackened groove is akin to LEVIATHAN and is an absolute delight. The stomping riffs at the end give it a hardcore feel. Blackened hardcore? Yes please. Luckily the band deliver more blackened punky goods with third track Hysterics. With a distorted sound which just screams THE MISFITS in a crypt, KILLERKORP are providing utter filth with this track.
Things take a thrashy turn with Deadly Nightshade which would normally fill me with despair as this sound can come across as extremely amateurish and is what separates local bands from the wider world, but somehow KILLERKORP add their own twist to proceedings with their groovy stance and the impressive Lyddiatt.
To Be The Hunter is a bit of an unfocussed mess and could have been left off the EP but the menacing riff and chaotic yaps at the beginning show promise. Last track, Pain is anything but disappointing as it’s half a minute of delicious hardcore punk. Reading this sentence will probably take longer than listening to the whole of the song.
Pain, the EP as a whole, proves KILLERKORP are anything but another run-of-the-mill thrash band from East Anglia. Even though their sound is sometimes sprawled across genres, they are still creating something no one else is churning out in the region and that is very exciting. With a bit more experience under their belts and a bit more focus in their songwriting, hopefully by the next release we will hear more snippets of a distinct KILLERKORP sound. The components are there, the formula just needs fine-tuning.
Metalmance is well and truly back after a well-deserved break. There is so much to catch up on, this year is proving to be a corker of a year for new albums. In the coming months Roundups will also include releases which have captured my attention and singles you might have missed. Links to features this month will also be shared as well as a gem from the archives. This month I’ll start with my Top 3 releases of July and then feature some of my favourite albums of 2019 I’ve been enjoying on my break. Thanks for reading, see you next month!
Metalmance’s Top 3 Releases of July
This month has been a death metal paradise with regard to releases. With the scorching heat wave and the wave of brutal tunes, it’s been feeling like hell with a devilish soundtrack! My top releases of this month reflect this, so without further ado here are my Top 3:
WORMED – Metaportal EP. Release date: 19 July 2019
I don’t know how I’ve completely slept on WORMED until now, but goodness me am I happy I’ve discovered them. The Spanish sci-fi tech death troupe sound like all my favourite extreme metal bands all rolled into one. Metaprotal is an insane little record. One which you wish was a full length, but perhaps it is better off this way because you can savour each of the four tracks until you’ve consumed all the brutality. Songs like Bionic Relic boast DECAPITATED-esque riffs (cirqa. Organic Hallucinosis) while Cryptoubiquity harks back to the filthy days of BERZERKER, but it is E-Xystem://Ce which has a contemporary dissonant air about it (imagine if NIGHTMARER wrote Carnival is Forever). These four songs are enough to strike plenty of damage, approach at your own peril.
DISENTOMB – The Decaying Light. Release date: 12 July 2019.
One of my most anticipated albums of 2019 finally landed this month and it was well worth the wait! Brutal death metal Aussies DISENTOMB have returned with the spectacular The Decaying Light and if they weren’t on your radar, then they sure as hell will be now! The dissonant tones which run underneath their ferocious tunes give it an extra menacing edge. The production is as murky as the depths of despair which is a good thing when you want to spread your misery. The pace is relentless throughout the album and vocalist Jordan Phillip is continuing to impress as one of the scene’s most unforgiving guttural merchant. If you’ve yet to venture into the depths of DISENTOMB, then tread carefully.
Thy Art Is Murder – Human Target. Release date: 26 July 2019.
It’s easy to say Human Target, the fifth album by Aussie death metal merchants THY ART IS MURDER could be the raucous soundtrack to our inevitable dystopian future. Truth is, Human Target hits home in the dystopia which is the world TODAY. Never a band to shy away from sensitive topics or worldwide scandels, THY ART IS MURDER channels our sick world into some of the most brutal metal of our time. Human Target is arguably the band’s most blackened material to date and the results are outrageous. There’s oodles of CABAL-esque desperate despair as well as the predictable nods to politics today (Make America Hate Again) but with this album you can really feel every word and every note of misery played. The band are angrier than ever which means the state of the world is even worse, but it’s good news for us because we get an even more relentless steamroll from THY ART IS MURDER.
Metalmance Catch Up
As I said above, there’s been plenty of releases I’ve been jamming on my break and so many I want to share with you! This month I’m sharing some of my top albums which dropped in the Spring.
PORT NOIR – The New Routine. Release date: 10 May 2019.
Much like the title of the second track of this album, The New Routine is indeed Flawless! You might remember Swedish rockers PORT NOIR’s last album Anyway The Wind Carries was my second favourite album of 2016 and it’s felt like a long wait for this third album. Now signed to Inside Out Music I’m glad the band are amongst a progressive roster as PORT NOIR’s music is tough to pigeonhole and needs a label which will let them grow and fly. I was worried their new direction might be a lot poppier and it is in a way, but there is still such an appealing organicness to their music which is irresistible. I love they’re a trio with a huge sound and they really do get their groove on with this album. They sound like DEATH FROM ABOVE but sassier and bassist/vocalist Love Andersson is sounding as delightful as ever. The riffs are on point and the melodies are so smooth and sexy it will make you dream in velvet. Hot stuff, check them out before they get huge.
BRUTUS – Nest. Release date: 29 March 2019.
I bought Nest just on the basis of falling in love with a live video of BRUTUS’ song War. At the start I thought it was just going to be folky rock (which isn’t my cup of tea) but it developed into an intense, raw display of power and they blew me away. They’re only a trio but they create such huge walls of sound and blistering soundscapes they can be lumped in with post-rock bands as well as your conventional alt-rock groups. They’re signed to Hassle Records so you can expect an element of chaos to what they do. They chuck a lot of styles and influences into the pot yet they create their own BRUTUS sound; black metal riffs, punk energy and shoegaze visions all make an appearance on Nest making it unpredictable yet fresh. Stunning stuff.
EMPLOYED TO SERVE – Eternal Forward Motion. Release date: 10 May 2019.
This album goes bloody hard! EMPLOYED TO SERVE’s Eternal Forward Motion is absolutely devastating! I wasn’t expecting the brutal pace and relentless ferocity. I really liked their last album Warmth of a Dying Sun but this new album is something else! It makes me stomp around with the ugly riff face, exactly what I like in a record! There’s been a lot of hype around this band for a few years now so if you still haven’t checked them out or seen them live, then you’re really missing out.
From The Archive…
After reviewing the band’s second album Render earlier this month (link to review at the bottom of this Roundup), I was curious to revisit my first review of Bristolian proggers VALIS ABLAZE back when they released their EP Insularity. Here’s a snippet of what I had to say…
VALIS ABLAZE – Insularity EP. Release date: 30 January 2017.
“To push themselves to the forefront of the scene the band should focus on nurturing and fine-tuning their own sound, as the band have proved with this EP they already harness the talent and passion to potentially become a leading force themselves.”
After a cracking Friday we all thought we could take it easy Saturday lunch time but no, ARMED FOR APOCALYPSE well and truly blew the cobwebs away. Their ferocious sludgy metal obliterated our senses and played their set with furious energy. You could not take your eyes off the band, front man Nate Burman especially, as they performed with the intensity of a headline act. An early highlight for most on the third day of Tech Fest.
The next act ended up being another ‘DIVIDUM’ for me, a band who I glanced over on the line-up announcement but who ended up being one of my favourite discoveries of the weekend. That band was UNSEEN FAITH, a tech band from Denmark (there’s been a bit of a Danish invasion this year at Tech Fest but that just reiterates what I kept claiming last year – that Denmark is exporting the hottest acts in metal right now) and they are definitely a band you need to listen to NOW. Front man Alexander Eriksen was truly captivating with his intense stares and formidable presence. The band performed as a unit and were utterly spellbinding to watch. Their brand of techy metalcore sounded fresh with just the right amount of familiar elements to keep things interesting, but it was the delivery which won over new fans. One to watch for sure.
One band which most Tech Festers were anticipating were up next and it was one band I was never sure if I’d be able to witness on UK soil – SHOKRAN. The Russians have released some of the most innovative and downright brilliant progressive metal since their formation in 2012 and everyone was curious to find how their oriental metal translated into a live setting. It’s safe to say SHOKRAN smashed all expectations. Considering they arrived as a trio, every song still sounded colossal. Guitar aficionado Dmitry Demyanenko wowed in yellow with his distinct technical wizardy, but it was vocalist Andrew Ivashchenko who stole the attention with his flawless voice and commanding stage presence. Playing songs from all three of their albums, including new album Ethereal, the material sounded as strong live as it does on record. Ending with fan favourite Creatures From The Mud, it was evident SHOKRAN had proven themselves to be a sublime live act. Do not miss them at Euroblast.
Headlining the Fireball Stage were British hardcore metallers PALM READER. “This is the first time we’ve played Tech Fest and we’re headlining the stage!” gushed humbled front man Josh Mckeown. The room was packed to witness their unique slab of hardcore and their intense delivery never fails to amaze. Tracks from latest album Braille go down a treat and the crowd response shows the band is going from strength to strength. PALM READER are definitely one band who do not get softer the bigger they get (oo-er).
The crowds were gathering for Tasmanian tech death metallers PSYCROPTIC and the wait was worth it because the set was phenomenal. With brutal circle pits, brutal tunes and stellar front man Jason Peppiatt owning the stage, PSYCROPTIC’s set was an obliterating sensory experience. With a wealth of material under their belts, their set was always going to be one to remember, but tracks from last year’s album As The Kingdom Drowns took on a life of their own in a live setting and fans went into meltdown. Rapidly becoming one of the most celebrated bands in the tech death scene, it’s no wonder why when you see PSYCROPTIC live!
It was inevitable that tonight’s headliners were going to stir up emotions. British prog metallers MONUMENTS have always been firm favourites at Tech Fest, having played the very first instalment of the festival back in 2011. The week before this year’s edition, the band announced the departure of vocalist Chris Barretto and the introduction of Andy Cizek of MAKARI as stand-in for the tour and festivals. Tonight’s set was met with anticipation, but only one word can describe the event – otherworldly.
With the biggest crowd Tech Fest had seen so far this weekend it seemed the whole festival had packed into the main room to witness this spectacle. A mystical light show, bodies moving, John Browne’s signature riffage and Cizek’s phenomenal vocals, resulted in a mind-blowing performance. Newer songs from last year’s Phronesis held their own amongst older classics but each song merged into the other creating a never-ending flow of glorious progressive metal and never-ending mosh pits. It was clear Cizek was winning over the audience and after the set, many were heard saying they wouldn’t complain if he stepped up as a full time member.
Sunday is usually the hardest day to get through, with hangovers, fatigue and sobering up before the Monday drive home, all taking their toll. Luckily for us Indian proggers PROJECT MISHRAM woke us all up and got us on our feet. The progressive Carnatic fusion band wowed the crowd with not only their djent, but their violin, flute and traditional Carnatic vocals. ‘Mishram’ means ‘mix’ which is truly apt for the concoction of styles PROJECT MISHRAM provide. This is what Tech Fest is about; innovation, discovering unknown bands and celebrating how diverse the metal community is. PROJECT MISHRAM attracted the biggest audience for this time in the afternoon and certainly became one of everyone’s favourite discoveries.
It is always a pleasure to witness Hull metallers SWORN AMONGST. Flawless, fun and professional, this band have worked so hard in the scene and their experience as band is reflected in the quality of their live show. Front man Darryl Jones is an unstoppable force with his boundless energy on stage. The band had a great turnout and passionate fans down the front screamed back every word. With three albums and two EPs under their belts, including this year’s brilliant Reclamation EP, SWORN AMONGST have plenty of material to play a blistering set. Their positivity and talent never get boring to watch. Higher up the bill next time please?
CARCER CITY have always been darlings of the scene but sadly today was their farewell show. “Support bands, buy a CD, buy merch.” warns front man Patch Pinion to the crowd. The bittersweet set was a tremendous send-off for the lads from Liverpool, with circle pits and a wall of death to say goodbye. The band played their hearts out, clearly not having lost any passion for their craft after announcing their split. One of the most polished and tightest bands of the weekend, it’s a sore reminder of what the world will miss. Support the scene kids.
UK tech wizards HARBINGER’s stage presence has mightily improved since their last Tech Fest appearance in 2017. However, they are still not living up to the hype for me and still have a long way to go to really capture everyone’s attention during a live show, the same way next act FROM SORROW TO SERENITY do. They utterly blew me away last year at Tech Fest, so expectations were high for their set today. I needn’t have worried as their performance was faultless. Vocalist Gaz King was most impressive of all, a true professional, his voice did not falter once considering the extreme workout it was getting. New album Reclaim was released earlier this year and the songs played today sounded absolutely huge. Being signed to Long Branch Records is suiting them well. Surely it’s only a matter of time before FROM SORROW TO SERENITY hit the big time.
Having reviewed new album Render before the weekend by VALIS ABLAZE (it’s bloody brilliant), I was curious to hear how the new songs fared live. Now with a solidified line-up, the proggers from Bristol had a fuller stage presence and everything seemed to gel really well. New songs Hollow Heart, The Convincer and State of Decay all took on a new power in a live setting, and old reliables Insularity and Paradox still packed a punch. This band have ‘grown up’ playing at Tech Fest through the years, we’ve seen it all, from their numerous line-up changes, their Insularity EP, last year’s debut album Boundless and now Render. There is an air of ‘this is it now, watch us fly’ surrounding the band and the crowd can feel the buzz too. A band finally hitting their stride, see them before they get huge!
The real buzz today was around the highly anticipated co-headline set by VILDHJARTA. This would be the first time witnessing these elusive Swedes for the majority of people here tonight. In fact this is the band some had only come to Tech Fest for at all, so it was a momentous occasion and the pits and perspiration in the air were testament to that. Playing tracks such as Dagger and Eternal Golden Monk, the crowd were going wild and lapping up each moment. “Banana guy, get up here and headbang” led to the most legendary moment of the weekend. When people thought the set couldn’t get any better, they brought out Filip Danielsson from HUMAITY’S LAST BREATH to do guest vocals. That, my friend is how to go down in history at Tech Fest.
After that colossal set the pressure was on for Norwegian proggers LEPROUS to finish the weekend on a high. Of course they were up to the task and they were nothing short of spectacular. A godly set, LEPROUS churned out all the favourites including The Price and The Flood and played From The Flame and Mirage for their encore. Even the burliest metalhead was singing along to LEPROUS. Their crossover appeal is one of their greatest assets and their melodic prog was the perfect way to end the weekend. With a surreal atmosphere thanks to the ambient lighting and magical riffs, front man Einar Solberg “Aaahh-ah-ah-aaa”-ed his way through the set, much to the delight of fans. His luscious tones resonated around the room, somehow uniting all witnesses in this moment. Listening to LEPROUS, we could all forget we’d be returning to reality the next day. It concluded a spectacular weekend of innovative music, up and coming bands and old favourites. Repeat after me: TECH FEST IS BEST FEST.
It was a rainy evening in the fine city of Norwich when WOLF JAW vocalist Tom Leighton met me at The Waterfront venue. Poking his head out the side door to greet me while I looked like a drowned rat, we went upstairs to meet the rest of the band. Bassist Dale Tonks was glued to a retro pinball machine while drummer Karl Selickis was chilling on a leather sofa. Passing me a beer as we all sat down to chat, I was eager to hear about the guys’ year so far and plans for the future.
Q: WOLF JAW! Thanks for meeting me. You’ve just played Download, you’ve been signed to Listenable Records and you have your album out in the autumn, what has been your personal highlight of the year so far?
All: Definitely Download.
Q: Did you play three times?
Tom: We did three sets yeah, we did a VIP one on the Thursday, acoustic on Friday and the Dogtooth stage on Sunday. So it was pretty hectic.
Karl: It was all very, very surreal. It was a massive highlight of the year and the career so far.
Tom: We don’t live too far from where Download is, about 45 minutes away so we’ve always gone as kids and grown-ups. Always gone to Donnington to see our favourite bands play and we got asked to play it. It was like “Jesus!” it really blew our minds a bit. I don’t think we really got it until we got on stage…
Karl: You know what, for me it didn’t really sink in until we came off stage on Sunday.
Tom: Yeah I was standing there when we got off stage. We were on quite early Sunday, um…ten to twelve, when we got there and looked across it was completely empty. Looking at the mainstage and it was like…yeah this is really cool.
Q: I guess playing Download would be the dream for every band! Download also premiered your Hear Me single, how was that received?
Dale: That was received really well. We’ve really been feeling now anticipation for this, because this is something we’re really excited about. Not that we weren’t about the first one, but this feels like it’s got something else about it, and that’s just us hearing the tracks over and over again and every time we listen to it, it’s like listening afresh and the guys at Download putting it on there is just incredible. This is like, it couldn’t have gone any better than having the video there and the three sets as well, it’s just incredible.
Tom: All the guys there at Download and the organisers were great, we got Instagram takeover for the day so we just messed around on there. And when they premiered the video it was like, this is cool yeah. It got good reviews and went really well.
Q: It is a good track! What I like about WOLF JAW and Hear Me in particular is how riffy you guys are. Do you have any kind of riff heroes? Or any favourite riffs?
Tom: Anything by BLACK SABBATH.
Karl: Just SABBATH, yeah!
Tom: Um…Jimmy Page, you know, all the original guys [laughs] so to speak when it comes to rock. Um yeah…I mean modern guys like CROBOT who we’re playing with tonight, and CLUTCH, all stuff like that we have on in the van. Just riff hounds [all laugh].
Dale: I was brought up on the same stuff, like SABBATH, bands like THIN LIZZY as well. We were very into that and WISHBONE ASH.
Tom: We bonded over THIN LIZZY didn’t we?
Dale: Yeah [laughs] worst day of my life that was [all laugh]. I mean, there are so many classic bands, even stuff like bands like TRAPEZE, that sort of funkier, groovier side of it.
Tom: They’re from our hometown, our neck of the woods.
Q: Where is your hometown?
Tom: Me and Dale are originally from Cannock in the Midlands, where Glen Hughes and Mel Galley [from TRAPEZE] and all that are from. So it’s in the heritage really, we were all brought up on that kind of thing. Karl’s from Rugby…so…
Karl: I like odd-shaped balls…[all laugh].
Tom: Use that in a quote!
Q: I will! So with the singles Hear Me and I Lose My Mind, is that a good taste of what’s to come on the album? Or are there other surprises?
Tom: Um…there’s so much on this one. With Starting Gun, when we released that when we were the band formally known as THE BAD FLOWERS [laughs] we tried to be as varied as possible and put all sorts of different stuff on. But it was songs we worked with for years and years wasn’t it? [Dale agrees] You know, four or five years of writing. And this one, we wrote the songs in about two months.
Karl: It was written and mostly recorded in the space of the two – two and a half months.
Tom: Yeah so we just absolutely went for it and like, it’s riffy, but there’s also some heartfelt stuff on there as well. From a songwriting point of view, there’s a lot of what’s gone on in my head, things that have happened like in the last couple of years, so it’s quite a personal record. Yeah it’s good.
Q: Yeah, from the transformation of THE BAD FLOWERS to WOLF JAW, is there anything you want to talk about?
Dale: Just how well it’s been received by people. Like, we were honestly really concerned about it, ’cause we built that name up and had the followers. To that extent we thought, if we change the name do we lose everything? The way people have backed it and received it and got behind it as well…
Karl: It was nerve wracking wasn’t it.
Dale: It was very tense and it was like, is this the right thing to do? Looking back at it now – Download and rolling into the new album, it was.
Karl: One hundred percent…One hundred percent.
Tom: We changed the name and wanted to go a little heavier, I think the name reflects it. Not heavier as such it’s just…
Karl: A bit darker, a bit grittier.
Tom: Yeah, yeah. And then, like you say, we signed with Listenable which is good and they’ve been great so far to us. We’re really looking forward to working with them on the new record, and Download got confirmed when we changed the name. So…so far so good, definitely.
Q: Especially Listenable, they’re famed for signing GOJIRA and other techier metal bands, so are you excited to bring more of a rock aspect to their label?
Tom: Yeah definitely, I think the label itself is expanding a little bit, like they had JARED JAMES NICHOLS, I’m wearing his shirt right now, he’s a friend of ours, we’ve toured with him and played a lot of shows with him. I think that’s where a lot of this came from and they’ve signed AARON BUCHANAN AND THE CULT CLASSICS too, so I think it’s maybe showing a new a direction, broadening their horizons maybe. We’re just happy to be a part of it because I think we can crossover that boundary quite well.
Dale: I think it shows a change in the way people are listening to music and what music people are listening to. From people wanting to expand, wanting to dip their toes into something that’s being marketed to suit everybody.
Q: I agree from a personal point of view. But one question I did want to ask you, the name WOLF JAW in itself…were you thinking of animals and body parts? Where did the name come from? And were there any names which were Plan B?
Tom: Well, we had about four hundred different names didn’t we? And they were mostly all stupid [laughs]. Mostly all silly like, WOLF JAW was…I don’t really know…Me and my partner have got a five year old, and he likes Jaws, always singing Jaws. We’ve never let him watch it but he’s obsessed with sharks. The wolf thing came from…he just calls himself a little wolf cub or something and he was singing it…so er, [laughs] it’s probably not as rock n roll… ‘Cause we were racking our brains and we needed to sort something out and everyone said yes to it so…
Karl: It works. There was that many names floating around, it was like “that’s cool…that one’s cool”, that one was right down and it was like, yeah, that works.
Dale: It was all shooting backwards and forwards on Whatsapp and when you see it you think “oh yeah, that’s the one”…
Tom: We always had animal connections really, our famous tshirt, the best-selling one we ever did was a lion, a phoenix and a shark on it. ‘Cause Dale’s got a shark tattooed on him, Karl’s got a phoenix and I’ve got a lion. So we drew them into one thing and we’ve always had that I suppose.
Q: I guess as you were changing your name there was more pressure as well…
Tom: Tonnes of pressure. It was like, we’ve got to get this right. Like what Dale said earlier, we didn’t want to lose any fans. It was mostly received really well, there were a few people who were a bit funny about it which I can understand ’cause they spent money on merch and everything, but all we’ve got to do now is do really well so it’s worth a lot of money for them [laughs] in a few years, you know.
Dale: The nice thing is, you [Karl] were saying you went out to a gig the other night there was someone still wearing a BAD FLOWERS tshirt and stuff…
Tom: Yeah we’re still the same band.
Tom: A few letters different.
Q: So this is the first night of the tour [with CROBOT]. Is there anything you’re expecting or wanting to achieve on this tour?
Karl: Personally I don’t want to fall off my drum stool this time [all laugh], ’cause that kinda sucked. That was the what, first or second show of the last tour?
Tom: Yeah last tour we did in September, Karl fell off his drum stool on the first gig [laughs].
Karl: Properly damaged and really hurt my neck and my back and that really sucked for the next couple of days, but no…we just wanna go out and premiere some of our new stuff and maybe stuff people haven’t seen before. So we’ve got a mixture of old tracks, new tracks and it’s just a bit of a belter really.
Tom: We’ve got two stops in the whole set so we just go through and fit as much in as we can.
Dale: Just blow the roof off every night. That’s it, that’s my aim! Be as loud as possible and just rip the roof off of everywhere we play.
Tom: Yeah we’re really looking forward to it, we played with CROBOT three years ago, maybe longer?
Dale: It’s just coming up to four years.
Tom: Nearly four years ago yeah.
Dale: Both bands have changed.
Tom: Yeah, and we’ve stayed in touch with the guys and we’re excited to be back out with them for sure.
Thanks guys! I hope tonight and the rest of the tour goes well.
After last year’s UK Sweatfest, everyone was hoping for things to be a little cooler. A shame then the bands brought the heat and set Newark Showground alight.
It all started for me on the Early Bird Thursday with the mighty KARYBDIS, the melodic death metal band from ‘Laaandaan’. Pulling in a decent crowd for a Thursday afternoon, the band played bangers from their latest album In The Shadow of Paradise which lured in more curious onlookers. With a tight set, punishing vocals and good vibes all round, KARYBDIS got everyone warmed up for a weekend of tech.
“We are not a kinetic band” states VOICES FROM THE FUSELAGE front man Ashe O’Hara. However, witnessing their super melodic prog metal live transcends you. Playing songs from both Odyssey: The Founder of Dreams and Odyssey: The Destroyer of Worlds, the riffs twinkled and the vocals soothed. Ending with the upbeat Vestibule of Hell, the band proved they could also pack a punch.
Unfortunately my Thursday ended here due to pollen sending me into a stupor…
Kicking off the morning with ABHORRENT DECIMATION, who definitely blew away any cobwebs which may have accumulated the night before. Their ballsy set should have been illeagal for this time in the very early afternoon.
After everyone got their ears pummelled, a few dazily wandered to the Fireball Stage to check out DIVIDIUM. This ended up being one of those special moments of a festival when you watch a band on a whim and fall completely in love with them. The passion, energy and talent oozed from these melodic tech metallers from Hull. Playing songs from records In Terrifying Colour and T.H.R.E.E, DIVIDIUM got the crowd onside with front man Neil Bailey performing the majority of their set amongst the dazzled witnesses. Leaving the stage with a whole new legion of fans in tow, the band ended up being a hot topic for the remainder of the day.
Next up were Metalmance regulars SIAMESE. These Danish rockers played the Early Bird last year but the demand for more of their catchy-as-sin rock brought the loveable rogues back for this year and on the Line 6 Stage. Playing songs from Shameless and new album Super Human, each song went down a treat with the very charismatic front man Mirza Radonjica winning over the punters. Opening with B.A.N.A.N.A.S and confusing the newcomers, their high-energy set continued to pull in crowds, so by the time the band ended with the euphoric Soul and Chemicals, they had garnered many a new follower to their rock flock.
After briefly checking out ODD PALACE and their ‘odd’ concoction of quirky ditties, it was time for one of my mostly eagerly anticipated sets, that of COLD NIGHT FOR ALLIGATORS. Last year’s album Fervor was spectacular and the band’s fans, me included, couldn’t wait to hear the new material live. Not letting technical issues deter them, the band delighted fans with the likes of Black Swan and Canaille and songs from 2016 album Course of Events. Vocalist Johan Pedersen commanded the crowd and brought the energy, ensuring the audience were warmed up ready for the monstrous acts later. COLD NIGHT FOR ALLIGATORS are still a band to watch, if they keep this up they’ll be headlining soon.
No time to rest, as Scottish tech death darlings GODEATER were getting underway on the Fireball Stage. Just think, back in 2017 the band played their second ever gig here, and now they’ve packed out the room. The new material and latest single Exsanguinated sounded absolutely devastating live, with lots of SHOKRAN-esque oriental twangs thrown into proceedings. An intense performance by all members and a terrific turnout proves bright times ahead for GODEATER.
Norwich deathcore veterans ANNOTATIONS OF AN AUTOPSY hit the Line 6 and pummelled the crowd with old classics and material from their comeback EP World of Sludge. Delivering an absolutely punishing set, it felt like the band never went away. Welcome back lads.
Nothing prepared anyone for the absolute side-splitting sesh that was ARCHSPIRE. Their unique tech death is hard to rival, but now their live show is too. From their clam hands clap, the ‘Applause’ signs and banter of eating your better half’s prosterior, fans were not only entertained but blown away by the technical brilliance of the disgustingly talented Canadians. The venue was absolutely rammed, the circle pits around Banana Man were relentless (if you know, you know) and the positivity in the room was overwhelming. THIS is what Tech Fest is all about.
BLACK TONGUE were getting nasty over on the Line 6 Stage. The down-tempo misery merchants were stirring up the most violent pits of the festival so far. Their self-proclaimed ‘doomcore’ sounded absolutely colossal, with front man Alex Teyen pacing the stage barefoot with a fury in his eyes and a fire in his barks to the crowd. Playing tracks from their whole back catalogue, the intensity BLACK TONGUE stamp up is mightily impressive, with the crowd antics matching the energy. A brutal set which raised the bar for the remainder of the acts this weekend.
Tonight’s headliner need not worry about keeping proceedings brutal. DYING FETUS have punished the masses for longer than some of the audience have been alive. Their destructive grooves were exactly what was needed to conclude a blistering Friday. The death metal trio didn’t let up the pace at all and blasted the crowd into oblivion. DYING FETUS showed the young ‘uns how it’s done and were the cherry on the cake that was an outstanding second day at Tech Fest. Superb.
A Saturday night in The Fine City is the perfect time for a night of hip-shaking rock. Kicking off the night was Norwich stoner rockers KAMENSKO. It was reassuring to see a good amount of the local music community had come down early to catch the band’s groovy riffage. Playing tracks from their forthcoming EP and their current material, KAMENSKO blitzed through their set with guitar solos aplenty. Clearly humbled by the turnout and crowd response, the band stumped up the good vibes which continued throughout the evening.
Up next were the Midlands rock n rollers WOLF JAW. Last month saw this loveable trio play three sets at Download no less, and they treated The Waterfront Studio like any stage at Donnington. Spoiling us with new tracks from their forthcoming debut album as WOLF JAW as well as gems from their time as THE BAD FLOWERS, the band were addictive to watch; dungaree-clad Dale Tonk’s bass face, drummer Karl Selickis’ energetic drumstick twiddling and flying hair and front man Tom Leighton’s distinct gritty vocals and raucous guitar playing made for a blistering live show. WOLF JAW sounded huge and would give any headliner a run for their money, proving three is the magic number when it comes to making a monstrous impact on the live stage. Playing at the barrier and getting the crowd involved got everyone on side and in the palm of their hands. If these chaps continue the rest of the tour in this manner, they will and truly cement themselves in the music world as WOLF JAW.
After the riotous second set, tonight’s headliners CROBOT had a hard task to top what we had just witnessed, but the American groove rockers absolutely smashed it. It was impossible to take your eyes off charismatic front man Brandon Yeagley. His bejewelled waistcoat, allure with his mic stand tricks, and most importantly his talent as a rock vocalist will surely make him a legendary rock star. The chemistry between all members was something special and any interaction between each other was comedic, yet real. However, they made sure the crowd felt part of the family, even inviting one young punter to play the last riffs of the night.
Treating fans to lots of new songs from their soon-to-be-released album Motherbrain, CROBOT also entertained the room with snippets of BLACK SABBATH, TOTO and…Ghostbusters. In an age of super serious bands, playing their super serious music with super serious stage presence, it is so refreshing to watch a band who are both professional yet visibly still having the time of their lives. This sense of fun is infectious and dominates the atmosphere. Guitar slinging, harmonica solos and clambering on top of monitors (and each other), CROBOT are full of tricks and mischief which is a dangerous combination when coupled with the grooviest riffs. Their energy didn’t dip for one second ensuring everyone left the venue a hot and sweaty mess and a massive smile on their face. An absolutely blinding evening, tonight will go down as one of the best Norwich gigs of the year.
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!
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.
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.
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.