Roundup – July 2019

It’s been a scorcher of a month and that’s just this month’s releases!

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:

 

WORMEDMetaportal 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.  

2

DISENTOMBThe 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. 

3

Thy Art Is MurderHuman 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.  

 

BRUTUSNest. 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 ABLAZEInsularity 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.”

Valis Ablaze – Insularity Review

 


 

DON’T MISS…

Metalmance interview with WOLF JAW

INTERVIEW: Wolf Jaw

Metalmance Tech Fest 2019 reviews

Tech Fest 2019: Part 1

Tech Fest 2019: Part 2

Metalmance live review of CROBOT

Crobot/Wolf Jaw/Kamensko

Metalmance review of VALIS ABLAZE Render

Valis Ablaze – Render

Tech Fest 2019: Part 2

Sat 6th & Sun 7th July 2019. Newark Showground.

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

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.   

   

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!       

Metalmance’s Top Releases of 2018: 40 to 31

The first instalment of Metalmance’s Top 40 Releases of the 2018.

Welcome to my first instalment of my Top Releases of the 2018. I decided to not only have albums in the list, but EPs too, purely because of the wealth of fantastic ones released in the past 12 months. I will post 10 albums at a time, so without further ado enjoy my Top 40 to 31 albums of the year!

40

VEXESAncient Geometry

Released back in February, it feels like a long time since VEXES released their debut album Ancient Geometry yet it hasn’t lost any of its punch. The album has a shimmering nostalgic, progressive rock tinge, with a large helping of DEFTONES-esque melodies and ambiance. Featuring past members from a variety of established bands, VEXES bring all their skills and expertise together in this impressive record. Do not sleep on this album. My full review is linked below.

Vexes – Ancient Geometry

39

PSYCROPTICAs The Kingdom Drowns

Still a relatively new album as it was only released last month, As The Kingdom Drowns is the seventh album by Austrailian tech mertallers PSYCROPTIC and it’s making enormous waves in the tech death scene. It’s been a cracking year for tech death with the likes of BEYOND CREATION, INFERI and OSBCURA releasing albums, but for me, this effort by PSYCROPTIC surpasses those others as it’s the one I feel compelled to return to again. The instrumentation is absolutely stellar on this album, proving PSYCROPTIC are only getting better with each release. Cracking stuff.

38

WALK IN COMABlur The Line of Fiction and Hate

Here is the first of the EPs I have included in this year’s list. Southend’s WALK IN COMA are establishing themselves as one of Essex’s most promising metal acts with their EP, Blur The Line of Fiction and Hate. The band produce strong, in-your-face metal with good hooks and enough riffs to keep a PANTERA fan happy, but it is the second track Through Your Eyes which proves to be something very special indeed.

Walk In Coma – Blur The Line Of Fiction And Fate 

37

ORPHANED LANDUnsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs

Way back in January, Israeli progressive metallers ORPHANED LAND released the stunning Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs, and we need this album more than ever. The band have always flawlessly tied oriental elements in with their metal foundations and it always creates a spectacular result. Much like most of their back catalogue, ORPHANED LAND stresses the importance of equality, acceptance and love. The topics and themes feel a lot more urgent on this release, copying the state of current affairs in the world today. If you want an album where you feel you can unite with humanity, this would be it.

Orphaned Land – Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs 

36

TESSERACTSonder

When I reviewed Sonder, the fourth album by British prog metallers TESSERACT, back in April, I said it’s nowhere near the band’s best album but it could potentially worm its way into album of the year lists. Unfortunately the album didn’t stick with me throughout the remainder of the year, hence its low placing in my album list. Sonder has lots of good songs but it doesn’t maintain momentum or interest for me, compared to albums released by their contemporaries this year which have ranked higher. It’s still a strong album but I’m not convinced it will stand the test of time in the long run.

Tesseract – Sonder

35

WOLF KINGLoyal To The Soil

WOLF KING sound like what I always wanted TRAP THEM to become. They boast filthy, blackened hardcore along with strenuous screams that make their debut album Loyal to the Soil absolutely disgusting – in a good way! WOLF KING sound like the aural equivalent of a full day down the mines; dark, suffocating, dirty and forever plunging into the depths. An incredibly underrated debut release this year, I’m hoping Loyal to the Soil will eventually be celebrated as one of the finest slabs of blackened hardcore to date.

34

JESUS PIECEOnly Self

Speaking of filthy hardcore (oo-er!) Only Self is another breathtaking debut released this year…breathtaking in the winded kinda way. JESUS PIECE are rapidly emerging in the hardcore scene thanks to their CODE ORANGE-esque riffs and their 90s-inspired beats. This year has seen a lot of hype for JESUS PIECE’s contemporaries VEIN, but personally I think the former have the edge. The brutality, the ferocity and downright filth is both crushing and considerably impressive for a debut release. Expect big things. You can read more on what I have to say about Only Self in the link to the Roundup below.

Roundup – August 2018

33

MECHROMORPHSelf-titled EP

I couldn’t write my top 40 releases of the year list without including a quality band from my hometown. Slam metal band MECHROMORPH are the best metal band to burst out of Clacton since…well…ever. The band are proving their worth in the scene, having played shows all over the country and lighting a fire under other local bands. Their self-titled EP features old school sounds along with contemporary slam elements in the same vein as VULVODYNIA, INGESTED etc. Once the band have established their sound there is no reason they couldn’t also prove to be an unstoppable force.

Mechromorph – Self-titled EP

32

BLEEDING THROUGHLove Will Kill All

I always thought any new BLEEDING THROUGH album would be in my Top 10 albums of the year, so I’m surprised with myself for placing the band’s comeback album fairly low in the rankings. The metalcore darlings ended their career on a high with 2012’s The Great Fire and frontman Brandan Schieppati released a brilliant solo album as THE IRON SON in the meantime, but unfortunately Love Will Kill All didn’t quite live up to expectations compared to their peers ATREYU and THE AGONY SCENE who released better quality albums this year. Don’t get me wrong, this is still a solid album, and last track Life is positively stunning. Check out my BLEEDING THROUGH retrospective I wrote earlier in the year for my low-down on each of their albums.

METALMANCE RETROSPECTIVE: Bleeding Through

31

VALIS ABLAZEBoundless

This mesmerising debut album by Bristolians VALIS ABLAZE is the album I’ve moved around the most whilst compiling this Top 40 list. Boundless is an awesome progression from the band’s EP Insularity, but it’s an album I’ve struggled to return to throughout the year which is why I haven’t placed it higher. There are several particularly stunning tracks on here such as Lumen, Afterlight and Frequency which prove VALIS ABLAZE are one of the leading lights of British progressive metal. Choosing Paradox as their lead single might not have been the wisest choice as it doesn’t show the band at their most original, but bloody hell the potential is there for greater things.

Valis Ablaze – Boundless

Tech Fest 2018

Newark Showground. 5th-8th July 2018.

There was quite a merry buzz running throughout Tech Fest this year, what with England doing well in the World Cup and the constant predictions of who the *Secret Act* would be on the Sunday (it was SLEEP TOKEN). Personally it felt like it was gearing up to be the best year but unfortunately due to an emergency in our camp I had to miss the bands Sunday (so, sorry for no reviews of the bands that day!). Despite this and the hottest weather on Earth, the atmosphere this year was unparalleled and the quality of the bands just kept getting better and better. I know I’m not the only one already looking forward to next year! For now, here is my rundown of the bands I saw (in between eating delicious food and avoiding the sun). Photos are a combination of my own and Lee Harper/Go To The Gig.

Thursday

It was absolutely staggering to see the amount of people already settled in and checking out the bands when I got to the showground Thursday afternoon. Definitely the most people I’d seen on a Thursday at Tech Fest which was a very promising sight. After pitching the tent I went to catch Danish rockers SIAMESE. If you read my last Metalmance Monthly Roundup you will know how much I was looking forward to catching these guys but I was also nervous about how they would be received by the rest of the Tech Fest crowd. I needn’t have worried as they totally owned the room and got everyone nodding along while they played songs from last year’s Shameless. The majority were surprised to see a violinist in tow but this adds such an awesome dynamic to their sound, the band as a whole sound irresistible. Frontman Mirza Radonjica is a captivating frontman and closing the set with Soul and Chemicals and Ablaze they got the early evening of Tech Fest off to a kicking start.

20180705_204950.jpg

I was glad to see a big turnout for CRYSTAL LAKE on the Winspear Stage. All the way from Japan, these guys really got the party started with their mix of hardcore and progressive metal. Frontman Ryo charms the crowd and when they break out with a cover of LIMP BIZKIT’s Rollin’ then that’s when all the bodies erupted. The band all looked thrilled to be there and it was this energy and passion that the audience fed off. A stellar performance, it’s safe to say the band won over a new legion of fans tonight.

Headlining the night was a very special set from HEART OF A COWARD. The band have always been lodged firmly in the hearts of Tech Fest fans and this year felt like a celebration of the band’s new lineup and the promise of the future. Last year at Tech Fest Kaan Tasan (formly of NO CONSEQUENCE) made a guest appearance during VALIS ABLAZE’s set, but no one could have imagined this year he would be back fronting HEART OF A COWARD and headlining the opening night. Everyone knew he would be able to deliver but bloody hell he surpassed expectations. Clearly thrilled to be there in the moment, Tasan and co conquered the stage and conquered the hearts of the crowd. The professionalism and talent oozed from the band and the audience lapped it up. A set I am very proud to have witnessed. With a reception such as this, who knows what new heights HEART OF A COWARD could achieve in the future.

The after parties at Tech Fest are always a goldmine of bands and sets and this opening night was no different. Tonight saw Dutch tech metallers THE ROYAL make their second Tech Fest appearance. This was my third time seeing this brilliant group and it was hands down the best set I’ve seen them play to date. The energy these guys have is i20180706_004149.jpgnfectious and the way frontman Sem Pisarahu commands the crowd is always a sight to behold. THE ROYAL just keep getting better and better and the response from the crowd during songs from albums Dreamcatchers and Seven was very promising, proving the band are continuing to be on the up.

 

Friday

Today was the day I was looking forward to the most with favourites VOYAGER, VOLA and SIKTH playing later, and it proved to be my favourite of the whole weekend. I kicked off my day seeing FROM EDEN TO EXILE, having heard their latest release Modern Disdain I was looking forward to seeing how their metallic intensity translate live. I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to witness these guys live as I was completely blown away by their brutality and composure. This is exactly how you should get your Friday afternoon off to a cracking start. Frontman Tom Franklin is proving to be an unstoppable force and the whole band are equally as ferocious. One of the unexpected highlights of the weekend.

Nothing quite prepared me for the FROM SORROW TO SERENITY extravaganza that was to follow over on the Winspear Stage. I hate to admit I’ve always seen their name dotted around and knew they had recently signed to Long Branch Records, but until this 20180706_145322.jpgmoment I hadn’t actually committed to listening to a full song. So it’s safe to say the set was always going to be a bit of a surprise but I was utterly enthralled by their explosive performance. I’m now beating myself up for sleeping on this band for too long. Just a few minutes in their presence you can understand why they’ve pulled crowds of people to their set early in the afternoon and why they have been signed to an excellent label. The energy on stage was overwhelming and I was left a little shell shocked after. Absolutely superb.

I was curious to see how the mad genius of THE DALI THUNDERING CONCEPT fared live, but a few technical issues hindered their sound a tad. Despite this, the French math-metallers still sounded unbelievable. Every member performed with a fierce passion making the set an intense affair. Having been promoted up the bill in the place of JINJER (who unfortunately couldn’t make it due to visa issues) THE DALI THUNDERING CONCEPT performed to a very generous crowd, proving they’ve got what it takes to play higher up the bill. Let’s hope we see these guys again very soon.

There was a real excitement in the air before VOLA began their set. The band from Denmark always win new fans wherever they go with their stupidly catchy and charming prog metal. There were still some technical issues on the Winspear Stage but 20180706_164627.jpgVOLA still sounded brilliant. Their secret weapon is their keys player Martin Werner, whose skill and performance excels the band’s dynamic. Singer and guitarist Asger Mygind proved to be one of the most charming frontmen of the weekend, with his signature voice and his composed stage presence. The band played songs from their debut album Inmazes and their older EPs, much to their hardcore fans’ delight. They even generously threw a new song into the set, which was a very curious song including spoken word elements and a poppier approach. It will be very interesting to see what the band have conjured for their next album. Of course, the majority of the crowd wanted to hear one particular song and VOLA obliged by playing it as their finale. Stray The Skies got one of the biggest sing-a-longs of the weekend and VOLA was a name on the tongues of all who saw them.

Releasing one of the best metal albums of the year so far, BLEED FROM WITHIN are back on fine form and were ready to prove to Tech Fest why they’re becoming one of BBleed From Withinritain’s metal heavyweights. A big crowd, big sound and a big stage presence, it’s clear the Glaswegians are comfortable with the heights they are reaching but they have remained humble and interact with the crowd with joy and professionalism. Songs from Era sound utterly flawless live and the exciting thing is, BLEED FROM WITHIN still have so much to give. Don’t be surprised if the next time we see them at Tech Fest they’re headlining.

Next up were Australian prog metallers VOYAGER deservedly headlining the Waghorn Guitars Stage. With an impressive back catalogue, the band had a wealth of disgustingly Voyagerbrilliant songs to choose from for their set, but they chose one of their best to open – What A Wonderful Day. And what a wonderful set the next hour would be. VOYAGER are one of those bands where every member brings their unique element to the live dynamic and the band are highly addictive to witness live; guitarists Simone Dow and Scott Kay bounce off each other, while bassist Alex Canion is such an entertaining sight to behold, drummer Ashley Doodkorte is a beard with a beast attached and singer Danny Estrin is truly captivating with his 80s pop voice and keytar skills. Songs from latest album Ghost Mile go down a storm, such as Ascension and Misery Is Only Company. But the highlight of the set was when Estrin played the opening note of DARUDE – Sandstorm that things got really riotous. It’s so much fun to see a band who are comfortable playing together and who exude such magnificent showmanship you dread when the set ends. Until next time.

All throughout the weekend, choruses of “IT’S COMING HOME!!” ring out and in the queue for SIKTH it becomes deafening while two lads with Gladiator style inflatable Sikthsticks bang them together to drum the rhythm. Everyone is in good spirits and there is a good energy which erupts during the headline set of tech veterans SIKTH. The room seemed to be at full capacity with sweaty and hot bodies flailing around to classics such as Bland Street Bloom and Summer Rain. The band knew which songs the crowd wanted and they delivered, playing plenty of songs from Death Of A Dead Day especially. It’s crazy to think over a decade ago SIKTH played their farewell show in London. Now in 2018 their audience is bigger than ever and the quality of their performance proves their talent of raising venues to the ground, yet they still have plenty in the bag. An absolutely chaotic set with euphoric vibes afterwards, this is how you headline Tech Fest.

After a day of chaotic sets and dancing I was after something a bit slower to end the day with. Luckily Norwich doom merchants NERVEWRECKER were playing the after party and if you’ve been following my blog you may remember my recent review of their latest EP Murmur and a review of their support slot with EMPLOYED TO SERVE and CONJURER (both of whom were playing the Sunday). This was NERVEWRECKER at their best, a hardcore attitude and energy with a massive sound, this is doom metal with a big “fuck you”. The crowd loved it and lapped up every resonating note, proving the band were the perfect choice for the after party. Despite their disgustingly slow riffs, NERVEWRECKER whipped up a frenzy and the support from their fans was golden. Same again next year please!

 

Saturday

Saturday afternoon was something of a little Long Branch Records show case, with VALIS ABLAZE and THE FIVE HUNDRED releasing their debut albums through the label (the latter is still yet to be released) and playing after one another today. Last year Bristolian progsters VALIS ABLAZE played the smaller stage, but this year they finally get the setting they deserve and stormed the Winspear stage. With a new bassist in tow, it was great to see the new lineup and to hear the new songs played live. The band released debut album Boundless back in April and the new tracks went down a storm. Most of the fans in the crowd have been with the band since the beginning so there’s always a buzz when the tech homeboys play. This year DREWSIF STALIN was absent for a guest spot, and if you’ve heard Frequency off the new album you will know what a little gem this song is and how it really does shine with two vocalists present. The band instead had called upon WHITE DOVE to do the guest vocals and she absolutely killed it. A superb substitute for a winner of a song. It’s only a matter of time before VALIS ABLAZE burst into the wider metal community.

Up next on the Waghorn Guitars stage were Nottingham metallers THE FIVE HUNDRED. I’ve been listening to this band since they released their Winters EP back in 2015 but this was my first time seeing them live. It’s safe to say they completely blew my hangover away. I don’t know what’s in the water in Nottingham but the new songs they teased sounded beastly and a blistering progression from last year’s EP The Veil. Performing like they were playing a stage twice the size, it’s great to see the band’s energy match their sound. With their debut album soon to be released this set has made me even more excited for the record. Long Branch have snapped up one of the most promising tech acts around, fingers crossed next year will see the band will launch to new heights.

I was super eager to catch DVSR during half time of the football. Last year we had HACKTIVIST, but this year we had DVSR providing the rap metal and playing an exclusive UK DVSRset and I am very proud to have witnessed such an incredible show. Pulling in the punters despite the game, people knew this was a special occasion and the band delivered. Groovy, confident and downright heavy, this band were the perfect edition for a Saturday afternoon.

I had no idea INGESTED would turn out to be my last band of the weekend, but I’m very glad the slamming death metal band wrapped up my weekend as things got a little bit insane. Last year the band absolutely decimated the smaller stage when they headlined the Sunday. It was about time the Manchester mob played the main stage and after the release of their incredible new album The Level Above Human earlier in the year, it was well deserved. Seeing the biggest wall of death of the weekend, I don’t know if it was the sun or the football or the alcohol, but the room was whipped up into a frenzy and remained so the entirety of the set. Commanding the crowd, vocalist Jason Evans is an absolute demon live, some other frontmen could learn from his example. His energy and passion is unparalleled, one of the reasons why they always slay live. A superb set and a superb end to my Tech Fest weekend. See you next year.

 

 

 

Roundup – April 2018

My top picks from April.

If you’ve been with me since the beginning then you might remember the time I used to do a weekly roundup of my favourite artists and songs from the last seven days. Unfortunately due to a busy schedule I had to give that up, but now I am resurrecting it as a monthly roundup. I’ll aim to feature my top 3 albums of the month, what else I’ve been enjoying and other interchanging sections. Thanks for visiting and I hope you enjoy this first roundup!

 


 

Metalmance Top 3 Albums from April

We’ve been utterly spoilt by the releases this month. You have probably gauged from my recent reviews that it has been a hard choice to only pick 3, but here we go…

Link to reviews after each entry.

1. MØL – Jord. Release date: 13 April 2018.

molWhen I reviewed Jord back in March, MØL were relatively unknown but their blackgaze material completely blew me away and I’ve been besotted with the album ever since. Obviously I am not alone with this as the band have absolutely exploded this month with their single Bruma being aired by the likes of the BBC and Kerrang! Jord is possibly the best debut album you will hear all year; a passionate, mesmerising and incredible masterpiece. The band will be playing their first UK shows next month, so be sure to catch them then.

Møl – Jord Metalmance Review

 

2. VALIS ABLAZE – Boundless. Release date: 6 April 2018.

Boundless

These Bristolian tech metallers are always a joy to review and while reviewing the band’s debut album Boundless, it dawned on me just how hard VALIS ABLAZE have worked, and are still working, to get where they are today. They’re still at the start of their careers but they have put in the hard graft to build their strong foundations in the scene. Their admirable work ethic and impeccable song writing will only proper the band further. One of the most promising British bands around, Boundless is only the beginning.

Valis Ablaze – Boundless Metalmance Review

 

3. MIDAS FALL – Evaporate. Release date: 15 April 2018.

EvaporateSomething a bit different, MIDAS FALL chuck enchanting melodies and spellbinding soundscapes into one big melting pot, and out of it the glorious album Evaporate is born. Chilling and beautiful, it will appeal to a vast array of alternative fans, from post-rock enthusiasts, to gothic admirers. There are many fascinating components to their work making you eager to return to the record again and again. With only two members, they’re proof that less is more. Delightful stuff.

 

Midas Fall – Evaporate Metalmance Review

 


 

On the playlist…

Albums that were not released this month but have been on heavy rotation the past four weeks.

WITHIN DESTRUCTION – D E A T H W I S H. Release date: 30 March 2018.

Within Destruction

Everyone’s favourite Slovenians are back, and this time with a contender for extreme metal album of the year! After the beastly Void, it was always going to be a challenge to top this album – but somehow WITHIN DESTRUCTION have topped it with the absolute slamming deathcore masterpiece, D E A T H W I S H. Chock full with references of the impending extinction of man, it may be common lyrical material, but bloody hell WITHIN DESTRUCTION know how to execute it well. Add to that the sheer brutality that is on display here and you’ve got a winner.

 

HARM’S WAY – Posthuman. Release date: 9 February 2018.

Harm's Way

This has got to be one of my contenders for album of the year. Posthuman is an absolutely brutal output from hardcore mob HARM’S WAY. Completely unforgiving and utterly devastating from the get-go, Posthuman also features some industrial elements and irresistible groove. It’s not just hardcore, there’s also a power violence influence here too, akin to NAILS. This album is heavy, heavy, heavy but never, ever boring. Each track is an absolute fiendish delight to listen to and every hard-as-nails album which will be released this year will have to live up to this. Posthuman will be a challenging effort to beat.

 


 

It ain’t metal, but I like it…

ELEANOR MARSH – Splashes of Colour. Release date: 24 March 2018.

Eleanor MarshYes, I know it was released in March but I didn’t actually discover Splashes of Colour until this month. And I’m glad I did; ELEANOR MARSH is a talented singer-songwriter based in Suffolk and this charming album covers topics from heartbreak and love to travelling and the countryside. A beautiful folky stance coupled with a delicate song writing approach, results in a wonderful collection of heartfelt songs. MARSH’s voice and instrumentation has a gorgeous organic sound which makes it perfect for relaxed days and times when you need something gentle to listen to.

 

Valis Ablaze – Boundless

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tech Fest 2017

6 Jul – 7 Jul 2017. Newark Showground.

THURSDAY

A small festival filled with technical metal bands, death metal and progressive metal? Yes please. Add to that the tight-knit tech community of people from all around the world, heavenly pizza, and tiny pancakes and you have a stellar weekend on your hands.

Thursday was the early bird day, with CHELSEA GRIN headlining. However, with Metalmance participating in camping shenanigans and being flooded out by rain of biblical proportions, there was only time to see THE ROYAL in the afternoon. Last time Metalmance saw these Dutch metalcore chaps, was in Boston Music Rooms supporting DREAMSHADE in March. Back then the band managed to stir up the crowd with their jumping-inducing tunes, and at Tech Fest it was no different, just on a bigger scale. Playing material from albums Dreamcatchers and their newest release, Seven, the band certainly won new fans over with their energetic set.

 

FRIDAY

Kicking off the weekend proper were London prog darlings FRAKTIONS. Metalmance recently had the pleasure of witnessing the band in Bristol supporting DEITIES, but their Tech Fest set was on another level. The group had brought their A-game, with vocalist Joel Pinder leading the performance with every vocal spot on. It was great to see a big turn out for the first band of the day and it’s clear to see how firmly wedged in the tech fam hearts FRAKTIONS are. If Tech Festers weren’t warmed up already, then they most certainly were after Kaan Tasan of NO CONSEQUENCE made a guest appearance. An impressive start to the festival by one of Britain’s promising progressive hopes.

Metalmance caught the second half of DREWSIF STALIN’S MUSICAL ENDEAVOURS and it was exactly as expected; fun, bordering on chaos with the man himself commanding the stage along with vocalist, Lee making a damn fine effort.

VALIS ABLAZE were up next on the Gigantic Stage. A solid set, the band were clearly well rehearsed, with material from latest EP Insularity shimmering amongst the setlist. Vocalist Phil Owen hits every note while guitarist Tom Moore steals the hearts with his evident joy of being there, demanding the most attention by performing on a front speaker. That is until the guest appearance of Drewsif Stalin (the producer of Insularity) stealing the focus away. Ending the set in high spirits and to a great response, it’s wonderful to see this talented band starting to receive the recognition they deserve.

Metalmance Valis Ablaze

From VALIS ABLAZE’s melodic progressive metal to something quite different, Metalmance entered the main arena to the irresistible riffy ruckus of British death metallers DYSCARNATE. Having never encountered the band before it’s safe to say the brutal trio ended up being one of Metalmance’s highlights of the festival. No nonsense, straight to your face, no gimmicks, the band deliver their material at 100mph. They treated their fans to a few new tracks from their forthcoming album. These songs have a blackened tinge to them, making the next release one of the most hotly anticipated of the year for us.

Deathcore masters MARTYR DEFILED deliver a polished set which loses none of its impressive intensity. This British lot have been touring for well over 5 years now, their ease at playing a ferocious show is evident. One of the veterans of the British scene and should remain so.

In a drunken haze, Metalmance caught bits of WITHIN DESTRUCTION and VIRVUM, both on the gigantic stage. Both very heavy. Heavy is the word which came to mind…

By the time the evening rolled round, everyone was buzzing for the headliners THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER, but beforehand we all got warmed up with an absolute pummelling from the legendary ABORTED. Intense, disgustingly heavy and incredibly tight, the pioneers of Belgian deathgrind delighted the crowd with their impressive stage presence and set up. Skeletons graced the stage, backlit by eerie lighting. This, coupled with frontman Sven De Caluwe pacing up and down the platform and the technical instrumentation, all contributed to arguably one of the tightest sets of the whole weekend.

It was always going to be a challenging job to top ABORTED’s flawless set, but who better for the job than THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER? Their live reputation is well known, a stupidly tight and professional band, TBDM have always moved from strength to strength. Performing material spanning across their whole back catalogue, from Unhallowed to Abysmal, every song went down a treat with their fans. Of course, this year signals 10 years since the release of classic album Nocturnal, so several tracks were played tonight, including the fan favourite What a Horrible Night to Have a Curse, in preparation for their forthcoming tour playing the album in full. Feeding off the crowd’s enthusiasm, the band were clearly in high spirits and knocking out tune after tune. Frontman Trevor Strnad grabbed the inflatable banana which was being crowd surfed to the front. This bode the start of what would become a legendary year for inflatables at Tech Fest… Heads banging, pits, cheers and smiles all round were the result of TBDM’s set. You can’t help but to be left feeling impressed and upbeat once the band have rolled into town. A hard act to follow, the bar was set for the remainder of the weekend.

Valis Ablaze – Insularity

Self-release. Release date: 30th January 2017.

The opening bars of Insularity confront you with an instant TESSERACT vibe, which is never a bad thing if executed well, luckily in VALIS ABLAZE’s case, it is! Over the duration of the EP, this TESSERACT influence slowly ebbs away enabling VALIS ABLAZE to demonstrate the beginnings of the niche they are carving themselves in the UK tech metal scene. With the impressive vocals of new frontman Phil Owen and the progressive guitars by Ash Cook and Tom Moore, this band from Bristol achieve an ambitious sound with the help from producer Drewsif Stalin.

First track Resolution is reminiscent of One-era TESSERACT, with the bass-heavy verse and sprinkling of guitars which soon crash into a beastly riff and a catchy chorus fellow British metallers EXIT TEN would have been proud of. Inertia bursts into your consciousness with a glorious VOLA-esque riff, and it soon becomes apparent that VALIS ABLAZE have developed a knack for penning killer choruses and irresistible riffs. As unoriginal as that combination sounds, this band do actually provide top notch melodic goods with plenty of heart and power.

The electronic effects at the beginning of Lost in Syntax add another appealing dynamic to VALIS ABLAZE’s sound. The urgent riffs set the foundation for a high energy song which gathers pace then clears into a delicious haze of intricate elements. Title track Insularity has one of the most memorable beginnings on the EP, with a riff which borders on post-hardcore and a smattering of piano. This is one of the strongest tracks in terms of an original sound and diversity. Phil Owen also seems to find his own vocal style with this track which carries the song beautifully along until the last note fades out.

The urge to describe the opening riff of Persuasion as djent is strong, but it is a terrific punchy progressive number with subtle electronic flourishes here and there which enriches the sound. Things slow down a bit for the EP finale Legacy, which brings Insularity to a spectacular close. Bassist Kieran Hogarty also has his chance to shine, providing a rumbling bass riff throughout the emotionally intense song. The triumphant riff towards the end of the track leads into the progressive outro and brings Insularity to a final halt.

An impressive effort from another promising British progressive band, VALIS ABLAZE have all the components for something truly special. 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.