Roundup – April 2018

My top picks from April.

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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.