Tag Archives: Singing

Battle Beast – Bringer of Pain

Nuclear Blast

Review by Rick Ossian

Here at WWRS we are all about equality of the genders.  Hell, you probably tire of hearing me go on and on about female singers from the Norse countries in my reviews.  It is true, I probably do it ad nauseum…in all fairness, there are quite a few bands out there who are sporting a sultry seductress on the vocals.  Well, folks, here’s another one from Helsinki.  Her name is Is Noura Louhimo, and she fronts a Metal Monster known as Battle Beast (fourth album, no less.  Been looking forward to this one! – Ed).  Oh, no, not again, Rick! I can hear you from across the pond.  She is different, I’m telling you.  She really attacks the vocals.  She literally lances the lyrics, if you will.  Her partners in crime are Pyry Vikki on drums, Joona Bjorkroth on guitars and vocals, Juuso Soinio on guitar, Eero Sipila on bass and vocals and Janne Bjorkroth on keys and vocals.

Bringer of Pain is the fourth outing from this group, following 2012’s Steel,  a self-titled disc in 2013, and 2015’s Unholy Savior.  These folks formed in 2008, and they have been a winner of Wacken’s Metal Battle!  So, as you read, not just another nuisance from the North.  Once you hear the tunes involved, you may be on the wagon with me.  In fact, I believe I will cue it up again right now as I type!

Straight to the Heart is the perfect lead off track.  It is bright, heavy and very punchy.  How apt is that title?  It cuts to the bone, readers, and you will soon hear how full of purpose these musicians are.  This is great stuff, and the vocals lend an added urgency to the proceedings.  In fact, Noura’s opening scream should put you at the edge of your seat, just as it did me to mine!  Wait, did I just say that out loud?  Love the chugging beat to this uptempo number, and I’m sure you will too.  Nice shredding lead at 2:15, and another at the three-minute mark.

The title track is up next, and it features that double-bass kick drum you always hear me blathering on about.  It is used to great effect here, as you will no doubt surmise upon your listening.

King For a Day is an excellent tune with a wickedly cool chugging riff.  Oh, and is that a xylophone I hear?  Haven’t heard one of those for a bit.  Fair enough.  There are some guitar pyrotechnics here, especially those squeals you hear Zakk Wylde do so often.  Only hear it’s pretty cool and not overdone.  The vocals are, for lack of a better word, vengeful.  Angry but not boring.  For those of you who still aren’t blown away, there are plenty of FX and keys/strings to keep you tuned in.

Beyond the Burning Skies is powerful stuff.  Pretty straight forward, for the most part.  I am digging the drums and the vocals.  “Close your eyes and reach beyond the heavens“, Noura beckons us.  There is a solo at the three minute mark, but I’m kind of wondering if the keys and the guitars are so in sync that they are both soloing in and out of each other’s paths, so to speak.  Very enticing stuff indeed.

Familiar Hell has one of those eerie vocal FX intros, but is swiftly followed by big heavy riffy power chords.  This is the way to Riff City right here folks, and while it might not quite be on Heavy as Fuck Avenue, I think we’re in the right neighborhood!  This tune features that all-too-familiar chugging uptempo beat, which though it can be a pattern, it is a welcome one to these ears.  The rant/rap at about three minutes in is a refreshing update to the vocals, and is an element that I would not hesitate to leave in during the editing process.  That evil wicked laughter at the end is also very nice.

Lost in Wars features more super-heavy riffs and vocal FX, but it is used in a stately, almost enigmatic fashion.  It is a powerful number , with big chords on a midtempo template.  There is also a vocal duet, if you listen closely you may be able to detect another voice amid the din.  The keyboard also imitates the violin very well here.

Bastard Son of Odin is next in the queue, and I believe everyone will join me in lauding 5 cool points awarded to the group for sheer awesomeness of the title alone.  It does not disappoint in the tune department, either.  This one features big keys, big drums and even bigger guitars, plus a beautifully heavy main riff and those vengeful vocals again.  Man, I just can’t get enough of that voice! I’m also digging the way the guitars gallop along à la Maiden.  About two-and-a-half minutes in we get some more shredding, this time a dual lead as well.  At 2:55 we get some nice vocal FX too.  Oh, and the main riff is a face-melter!

We Will Fight features another killer main riff, and the steady, powerful pumping that is Noura’s vocal ability.  This is powerful stuff, peeps.  Dig it, and check out the next track!

Dancing With the Beast is everything you might expect from a band like this and then some.  It shows the eclectic nature of the beast, particularly the bizarre techno opening.  This is kind of a haunting tune, and I know I’m fond of saying that, but this had that creepy feeling that you get when your hair stands on end, you know?  It’s also a bit different tempo-wise.  It may even be kind of radio friendly.  There’s a good beat, and you can dance to it.  I give it a 69, Dick!  Again, I’m digging the vocals, and at 2:50 you can hear the guitars and the keys battling for space again.

The closer for the day, Far From Heaven, is not just another stab at radio-friendly Battle Metal.  This begins with a beautiful piano, and just when you think it’s going to be a ballad, it is, but it’s more.  This is mellower, but it also has that bluesy, soulful bluster to it.  It’s a tear-jerker, and it’s stately, and elegant, but it’s still very very good.  We get a nice Blues-laced guitar and keyboard break at 2:50 again, and of course the vocals do NOT disappoint!

Over all, if you’re looking for a reason to make a purchase, then take this with you.  Though there may be many bands out there who fall into Battle Beast‘s category/genre/pigeonhole/whatever, these folks really nail it, and they do it with conviction.

Verdict: 9/10

Triaxis announce new vocalist

Welsh Heavy Metal band (and Wyrd Ways Rock Show favourites) Triaxis have finally announced who will be taking over Krissie Kirby‘s place as the band’s lead vocalist.

The news was announced via their Facebook page at 10am this morning:

We are proud to announce the incredible Angel Wolf-Black as the new vocalist for Triaxis!  Have a listen to Angel‘s take on our song Stand Your Ground and please join us in welcoming her into the band.

We are looking forward to start performing together next month, kicking off with a support slot at Firehouse, Southampton (Official) on Saturday 25th Feb and a headliner at Power Metal Quest Fest in Birmingham. (Get tickets from THIS LINK)

Those with a keen interest in European metal will know Angel from her own solo work, or with bands such as Seduce The Heaven, Bare Infinity featuring in Vivaldi Metal Project or working with female metal vocalist community Eve’s Apple.  Having recently moved from Greece to study music in Southampton, UK, this is a perfect time for Angel to bring her unique tones to mix with a typically British classic metal sound, forging something exciting for Triaxis fans old and new to enjoy. Angel comments:

Over the last couple of months I have loved learning and rehearsing the Triaxis material and I am so excited to perform it live! I hope that the fans will share in my excitement and enthusiasm for the future. We have already begun to write for our next release so they shouldn’t have long to wait!

Angel joins Glyn Williams and Matt Chambers (guitars), Becky Baldwin (Bass) and Gareth Arlett (drums), to work together rehearsing for upcoming shows and writing the band’s fourth album. Becky comments on the recent changes and the future of the band:

We are very happy to welcome Angel on board, it was pure good fortune that such a perfect fit for the band had just moved to England when we had started advertising for a singer.  We would also like to thank the Triaxis vocalist of 10 years, Krissie Kirby, for all her work with the band.  When she first spoke about leaving the band we were of course feeling low and uneasy.  But now we are honoured to have Krissie’s blessing in continuing the band in it’s new chapter with Angel at the helm.  There is still an exciting future ahead for Triaxis!

Wyrd Ways Rock Show Presents: Powerzone! 19th September 2016

Over a couple of hours, tonight you see,
A Powerzone show is a real treat for thee!
New tunes from Sonata Arctica, Testament & Tengger Cavalry,
We’ve also got new stuff from Running Wild, Hammerfall & Lost Society.
From 9pm we’ll be here with all this and more,
Other radio shows right now will be such a bloody bore.
To try and resist such great metal would be completely futile,
So turn to 105 FM and make your Monday BRUTAL.
Ah, close enough, m/

Evil Scarecrow – Hurricanado
Sonata Arctica – Life
Hammerfall – The Sacred Vow
Running Wild – Warmongers
Judas Priest – Eat Me Alive
Krampus – Beast Within
Eluveitie – Omnos
Tankard – Fooled By Your Guts
Lost Society – Hangover Activator
Metallica – One (Epic Track)
Testament – Brotherhood Of The Snake
Stratovarius – Dragons (Volt Track)
Edguy – Down To The Devil
In Flames – Pinball Map
Soilwork – Rejection Role
Sinergy – Gallowmere
Children Of Bodom – Silent Night, Bodom Night
Iron Maiden – Dance Of Death (Epic Track)
Tengger Cavalry – Mountain Side
Nine Tresures – Sonsii
Rammstein – Das Modell [Kraftwerk Cover] (Coverzone) {Overload}
Bear Bear – Мать троллей/Trollhammaren [Finntroll cover] (Coverzone) {Overload}
Tragedy – Jive Talkin’ (Bee Gees Cover) [Coverzone] {Overload}
O.Children – Ruins

The Agonist announce new album release

The Agonist have announced they will release their new album Five on 30th September through their new label, Napalm Records.  They also released the first official video from Five, called The Moment.

Watch it here:

About making the video, singer Vicky Psarakis stated:

The Moment was probably the most exciting and demanding video I’ve had to shoot so far. Chris (bassist/FTB Visuals director) came up to me with the idea to create a “storyline” with a close up of just my face singing the lyrics underwater. And we achieved it by building a box with a plexiglas panel that fit my head, while the rest of my body was standing and perfectly dry. I guess you could say it was scary and awkward to have just your head submerged underwater and a bit dangerous to have to perform the entire song in that position, but honestly, I wouldn’t mind doing the whole thing all over again!”

If that’s not enough for you, here’s the lyric video for the first song released from the album, The Chain:

Five was produced by Mike Plotnikoff at West Valley Studios.  Mike has engineered and produced such artists as Buckcherry, Flyleaf, My Chemical Romance, Apocalyptica, P.O.D, Halestorm, Skillet, Seether, Three Days Grace, Aerosmith, and Kiss.

Maor Appelbaum handled the mastering at Maor Appelbaum Mastering studios.  Maor has had the pleasure of mastering recordings for major international acts such as: Faith No More, Yes, Starset, Ill Nino, Dokken, Fates Warning, Sepultura, Yngwie “More is more” Malmsteen, Armored Saint, Lita Ford, Butcher Babies, and more.

Five Track Listing:
1. The Moment
2. The Chain
3. The Anchor And The Sail
4. The Game
5. The Ocean
6. The Hunt
7. The Raven Eyes
8. The Wake
9. The Resurrection
10. The Villain
11. The Pursuit Of Emptiness
12. The Man Who Fell To Earth
13. The Trial
14. Take Me To Church (Hozier cover) (Bonus Edition Only)

Just to put the proverbial tin hat on it, and get their moneysworth out of Napalm’s PR team (hello Andy and Will!) the band have also announced a slew of tour dates across the world with various bands:

European Tour:
27.09.2016 – Fryshuset Klubben- Stockholm, Sweden
28.09.2016 – Sticky Fingers – Gothenburg, Sweden
30.09.2016 – Tube – Dusseldorf, Germany
01.10.2016 – Epic Metal Fest – Tilburg, Netherlands
02.10.2016 – De Kreun – Kortrijk, Belgium
04.10.2016 – Opera Concert Hall – St. Petersburg, Russia
05.10.2016 – Клуб Театръ – Moscow, Russia
07.10.2016 – Sala Becool – Barcelona, Spain
08.10.2016 – Sala la Burbuja – Castellon, Spain
09.10.2016 – Sala Maladar – Seville, Spain
11.10.2016 – Sala tbc – Lisboa, Portugal
12.10.2016 – Sala Lemon – Madrid, Spain
13.10.2016 – Sala Azkena – Bilbao, Spain

Canadian Tour with Xandria, Epica and Fleshgod Apocalypse:
04.11.2016: Quebec City, QC @ Imperial Theater
05.11.2016: Montreal, QC @ Corona
06.11.2016: Toronto, ON @ Phoenix Concert Hall

American Tour with Arkona, Epica and Fleshgod Apocalypse:
08.11.2016: Chicago, IL @ Concord Music Hall
09.11.2016: Minneapolis. MN @ Cabooze
11.11.2016: Saskatoon, SK @ Saskatoon Event Center
12.11.2016: Calgary, AB @ Marquee
13.11.2016: Edmonton, AB @ The Ranch
15.11.2016: Vancouver, BC @ Vogue Theatre
16.11.2016: Seattle, WA @ Studio 7
18.11.2016: San Francisco, CA @ Social Hall
19.11.2016: Los Angeles, CA @ The Regent
20.11.2016: Las Vegas, NV @ Vinyl at Hard Rock Hotel
22.11.2016: Denver, CO @ Summit Music Hall
23.11.2016: Lawrence, KS @ Granada Theater
25.11.2016: Dallas. TX @ Gas Monkey Live
26.11.2016: Austin, TX @ Empire Control Room
28.11.2016: St. Petersburg, FL @ State Theater
29.11.2016: Atlanta, GA @ Masquerade
01.12.2016: Baltimore, MD @ Soundstage
02.12.2016: New York, NY @ Webster Hall
03.12.2016: Worcester, MA @ The Palladium

Fractal Cypher – The Human Paradox

Asher Media

Review by Rick Ossian

While this quintet from Montreal may not be the next Dream Theater or Symphony X, they are clearly stalwart enough (and widdly enough) to withstand the slings and arrows of what can oftentimes be the cruel world of prog metal criticism.  Fractal Cypher are  Simon Lavoie on vocals, Ludovick Daoust on piano and keys, Steven Cope on drums, Tommy Fradette on bass and Vincent Bruneau on guitars.  They began their road to Prog Metal notoriety in 2014.  It won’t be long before they’re touring the world opening for the likes of whom I mentioned earlier.  So then let’s take a look/listen to the tunes, shall we?

fractalcyphergroupshot

Up first is the debut single, Lost.  This is BIG prog metal here, folks, complete with heavy riffage and squalling lead guitar breaks.  There’s even a bit of Cookie Monster vocal rage thrown in for the guys over at No Clean Vocals.  At about six minutes in we get a nice lead guitar solo, and the piano bit at the close is simply beautiful.  Off to a nice start, they are!

Next on the platter is Endless Circle, featuring a very heavy intro with big drums and riffs.  The bass and the keys definitely play their parts well also, and we even get a bit of a bombastic keyboard solo (3:15) before it’s all said and done.  At 4:25 we have the requisite lead guitar bit, and the vocals at 5 minutes in are nothing short of arena-level readiness.

Shinning A While is our next eight-minute monster, and it starts off its existence with a gorgeous piano intro.  This is a powerful ballad-style piece with nice, clean, white bread vocals.  Watch out for the kick-in at 2:05, however – it will grab you by the short and curlies!  At 4:45 there is a slight downshift in proceedings, then we get a big guitar piece at 5:15.  This is more of a blues shredding, and then of course we get the beauty of the piano and the vocals at the close again.  There may be a bit of a pattern developing here, readers!

Prison Planet is the shortest track on board here, but at five-and-a-half minutes in length it still packs quite a punch.  There is an excellent heavy riffy intro, replete with vocals and guitars and everything a little prog metaller might need.  Some rough vocal passages almost made me haul out the CM reference again, but I put it away quietly and as sneaky as possible cos the clean vocals soon make a swift return.  There is an almost widdly guitar bit at 3:30, and the shift at 4:20 is no slouch.  Heavy riffing pounds us into submission at the close.

Imminent Extinction follows suit, and begins with a heavy prog intro.  There are also some vocal FX, keys, drums, bass and guitar who come along for the ride.  Though we do get a prog metal widdle-fest about one minute in, things soon shift.  These widdlings give way to a guttural scream (1:50), then at two minutes in we get another shift.  These blokes can be angelic for a moment and then devilish the next.  It’s really quite hairy at times!  A mix of clean vocals and CM can be heard on this track, and the lead guitar bit at 3:20 is a good long Proggy shredding.  Some BIG drums again on this number, and some stop-start antics that will have the Dream Theater fans squealing for joy.  Another guitar solo at 5:45 fairly well brings thing to a ringing close.

Final Abode, another eight-and-a-half minute monstrosity, starts out life with a lovely pounding, heavy intro.  The main riff is a nice one, also – made me feel like standing up and doing the air guitar thing!  Widdle, widdle, widdle seems to be the theme of the day, however, as there is more than enough of that going on here.  At 50 seconds in we get our first taste of lead guitar, and some clean vocals accompany.  The next of several guitar bits is the curving, curly affair at about three minutes in.  The instrumental breakdown at about four minutes in is also noteworthy.  The vocalist (yay! our hero) returns to the fray at 4:40 and shows us why he is the frontman.  More lead guitar stuff at 5:40 and 6:35,  nice, long melodic shreds.  A very cool fadeout later and we are done with track six.  On to the follow up!

Awakening is another gorgeous ballad-style number, with that absolutely beautiful piano bit at the start, and a slight hint of Flamenco guitar to accompany.  There is also some violin-sounding keyboard work going on in there.  Drums and bass bash us over the head ever-so-slightly (1:50), more to remind us of their presence than anything.  “As the memory goes on” seems to be the presiding vocal refrain, as it is uttered twice here and then again at the end.  At 3:45 everything comes to a full stop, giving way to a nice vocal/piano interlude, then at 3:55 there is a lovely bluesy shredding guitar bit that goes on for almost a minute of pleasant widdling.  There’s that widdle again, they seem to be almost obsessed with it, don’t they?  But no matter, we like a bit of widdling around here, don’t we?  Some big drums again on this track, and a plaintive, emotional ending with the return of the acoustic guitar and piano at the close.

Idles Word is another big bit of our heroes emulating their heroes.  This piece may be a bit reminiscent of Dream Theater.  In fact, at times it even seems down right derivative of them.  At least we can see that, for one, Fractal Cypher aren’t a bunch of blokes who are afraid to wear their influences on their sleeves.  But to dress out completely like the boys from Jersey..?  I can see where this might tend to lose a few of their traditional fans, but then their fans are also no doubt fans of DT also.  This track is in what I fondly refer to as storyteller mode.  There is no doubt a lesson to be learned here.  I love how the riffs slam at us right away – no fooling around, right down to business.  This is Prog Metal at its semi-finest, baby!  Good use of vocals here as well.  The way they alternate the heavy and the light is deftly, almost expertly handled here.  At five minutes in we get a slight shift to the angelic side of things, and a WTF? moment of smooth jazz during the following instrumental breakdown.  At 5:40 there is an all-out prog attack (featuring the keys), and then another Prog shred on the lead guitar at 6 minutes in.  Some good vocals toward the close, and before we know it another eight-minute masterpiece has passed us by.

Ghost of Myself is our closer for the day, and it is a heavy duty one.  An excellent heavy main riff starts things off after a brief keyboard intro, and we are off again!  At 1:40 there is a brief widdle – you have to be quick to catch this one!  More shredding of keys and guitars follow shortly after, once at 2:20 and again at 3:10.  At 4:20 we get another of many beautiful shifts, this time with a piano and vocal breakdown.  Things kick back in at 4:50, and at 5:15 we get another hot lead guitar bit.  The fade out at the close follows more of the BIG bad drum work we’ve come to expect, plus a hint of sitar among the light guitar work at the very end.

I have no complaints in particular about this recording.  In fact, if I was a certain pair of old-school movie critics, I’d give it two thumbs way up!  Though not a stone cold classic by any means, it certainly warrants another listening – or more – and at the very least consideration by prog metal radio outlets…if there are such things!

Verdict: 9/10

Be’lakor – Vessels

Napalm Records

Review by Tom Mead

amazon_badgeThe relentless globalisation of metal in recent years has thrown up plenty of surprises.  Fertile scenes have sprung up in the remotest corners of the world, far removed from where you’d traditionally expect.  So it is that Be’lakor, one of the most talked-about melodic death metal bands of recent years (largely thanks to their significant Facebook following), comes not from a typical location like Finland or Sweden, but from Australia.  The Melbourne 5-piece, named after a Warhammer character, have built up a reputation over the past decade as a band who sound like Metalcore never happened; they’re a breath of fresh air for fans who fondly reminisce about the Gothenburg scene’s glory days.

Vessels is Be’lakor’s fourth full-length album and first to be released on the acclaimed Austrian label, Napalm Records; such a move is bound to increase the band’s profile in Europe and beyond.  The 8 tracks span 55 minutes, and are all fairly epic and progressive in terms of both sound and delivery.  2-minute opener Luma is a short, sharp introduction; chugging, discordant riffs build to a lush In Flames-esque melody to set the tone for the whole album.  There’s a brief, crisp and engaging guitar solo before the song fades, somewhat abruptly.  It could be a minute or 2 longer but it fulfils its essential purpose; it whets the listener’s appetite for what’s to come next.

An Ember’s Arc, the first full song, starts with a gentle acoustic section that is as melancholic as it is uplifting before chugging staccato riffs and clean, crisp lead guitar parts takeover.  Frontman George Kosmas has a mighty set of pipes, with his death howl rising effectively above the band’s sonic onslaught.  Moreover, there are several parts where traditional Death Metal elements intertwine with atmospheric keyboards and acoustic guitars to create an impressive progressive landscape not a million miles away from the work of Opeth.  The album’s off to a solid start.

Vessels, overall, is an intense battle between light and dark, heavy and soft, and the next 2 tracks accomplish this most effectively.  Just shy of 11 minutes, Withering Strands is the longest track and, in many ways, the album’s centrepiece.  It’s a thoroughly energetic song with a brooding, repeating riff played as a duel between guitar and piano, with a thick, layered lead guitar melody that rivals Iron Maiden at their most epic.  It cuts to an isolated piano melody 7 minutes in before chugging guitars build back up, leading to a frantic twin-guitar section that’s right out of the At The Gates playbook.  The ending though is truly sublime; the bands gallops along in true Rime of the Ancient Mariner fashion, with dive-bomb runs along the fretboards of both guitar and bass, before the introductory riff repeats again and fades; it’s the sort of song that leaves you breathless.

Roots to Sever has a similar mood, though is comparatively brief at 7 minutes.  A gentle chamber piano riff starts things off before the rest of the band crash in, powering along at breakneck speed à la Amon Amarth at their most ferocious.  Keyboardist Steven Merry puts in a superb performance here, and throughout the album, as he expertly juxtaposes his piano with the savagery of his bandmates.

The next trio of tracks, whilst not bad, are unfortunately not quite in the same league as their predecessors.  Whelm contains great Doom elements, with the juxtaposition of piano and death howls illustrating an intense feeling of anguish but it is a key example of what happens when you try and fit too much into a song; there’s so much alternating between mid and fast paces, quiet and loud parts, that the whole thing’s quite unfocussed and haphazard.  A Thread Dissolves is a 3-minute, largely instrumental, interlude that is well executed but unnecessary.  Grasping Light is a decent mid-paced number, with some good folk metal-inspired guitar melodies, but is otherwise fairly forgettable.

Thankfully, the closing track, The Smoke of Many Fires, ends the album on a high.  At nine and a half minutes long, it’s a triumphant, fast epic. It’s probably the heaviest song on the album too, with several riffs and atmospheric elements recalling the title-track from Opeth’s Blackwater Park.  A beautiful mellow section then starts about 7 minutes in, which leads the song, and the album as a whole, to a truly satisfying finish.

Overall, Vessels is an album of two halves: there are four great tracks, one good one, and another three that are just ok. The album’s highlights, Withering Strands, Roots to Sever and The Smoke of Many Fires, are amongst the best songs I’ve heard all year and many Melodic Death Metal fans will truly treasure them.  However, it is undeniably the case that Be’lakor’s sound is HIGHLY derivative (essentially a mix of Amon Amarth, early In Flames, and Opeth), which might go some way towards explaining Vessels’ inconsistency.  There’s not much here that’s not been done countless times before and, particularly if you’re a seasoned fan of this kind of music, you will inevitably find parts of it quite boring and uninspired.  However, as is evidenced by the three tracks mentioned above, the members of Be’lakor clearly have the musical and compositional skills to be successful.  Hopefully in future, with the new backing of a larger label, they will consolidate their creativity, forge a unique identity, and deliver works of greatness.

Verdict: 8/10

Aktaion – The Parade of Nature

Bandcamp

Review by Rick Ossian

amazon_badgeThose of you who regularly read my missives will recognize the Scandinavian outfit Aktaion from Halmstad.  You may remember my review of their previous recording, Throne.  If nothing else they’ve at least scaled those lofty heights again.  Aktaion are Jonas Snackmark (vocals), Francis Larsson (guitars), Axel Crone (bass), Jonatan Ney (guitars, vocals) and Oskar Johnsen Rydh (drums).  They can jam or gel or even pull off the occasional Metal/mental cacophony whilst they are jamming.  This is no mean feat, reader.  Read on if you dare!

aktaiongroupshottwo

As the Hope Collapses starts things off in fine form, although the tune is only just shy of three minutes in length, there are some serious busy goings-on involved.  There is first off, a sweet riffy intro with creepiness and a mixture of clean and growl where the vocals are concerned.  It is kind of Blues but super fucking bad-ass heavy at the same time.  I was blown away, and for an opener to do that is considerable.

Candid Flow of the Shrapnel Dust is winner of the work for cool song title award.  I believe at least 10 cool points are in order for title alone.  So, what is the tune itself made of?  There is a heavy opening with some serious riffage to begin with, amidst a  barrage of growls from Mr Snackmark.  The drums sound as if they are off to a Heavy Metal march.  There is a lead guitar break at the six-minute mark, and some blues at around four minutes in, but safe to say this was a full-on seven-minute mindblower!

Seven boasts another heavy-as-hell intro, and there are more growly vocals.  There are also moments of metal madness, if you will.  There are times when the vocalist(s), as well as the rest of the band, sounds as if they may be possessed by some sort of demon! There is a super heavy shift at the four-minute mark, and more Metal/mental anguish at the close.  If you are clinically depressed you may want to take your happy pills before listening…just saying!

The Walrus March is another seven-minute plus behemoth, featuring growls mixed with clean vocals.  The opening sequence is a sort of metal ambience, if that’s even possible.  Listen and hear.  The lyrics are nothing if not pointedly prophetic: “If you should burn/ I should do the same”.  There is a lead guitar bit at about three minutes in, which gives way to a super fucking heavy shift in the proceedings.  This is followed by what I could safely say is the tearing of vocal chords (3:30-4:00), kind of makes me wonder what they look like on the inside!  Another big shift at the five-minute mark gives way to more breakdowns, both instrumental and vocal.  This is some serious Metal/mental anguish here, folks.  Dig in.  This is another seven-minute arse-kicker, and for whatever reason at the close we get a taste of some late night jazzy horns… what the hell?  Not sure, but it’s still kind of cool.

The title track is up next, and features Christopher Amott (Arch Enemy, Armageddon) as a special guest.  This begins life as what sounds like a vinyl haunted house, very creepy, fuzzy, scratchy and cool all at once!  Simultaneous psych, if you will.  There are also elements of Prog and Blues here, people, but don’t be musically shy!  You’ll never get anywhere with that attitude!  At 4:45 we get a nice long shredding solo that takes us to the close.

Stones Into Sand also features a member of Armageddon, Mr. Joey Concepcion.  No doubt he is responsible for some of the heavy riffing going on here.  It is at the intro and at the end, and throughout the main part of the tune.  There are growls aplenty and lots of speedy shredding as well.  The main spots to keep an ear out for here at at the 3 and 4-minute points.

Death Coloured Gold (again featuring Chris Amott) includes a super heavy duty opening with lots of instruments banging around, and even a burst of blasting lead guitar at about 30 seconds in.  More growling and lead guitar parts (2:20 and 3:40), and some neat playing around/jamming at the close.

Gold Coloured Dreams begins life with an introspective guitar piece and some particularly anguished vocals.  These are, again, mainly of the growl variety, but there are some clean parts mixed in.  At the two-minute mark there is a breakdown and a shift at the same time. This is eerie as all fucking hell, and there is a Blues Metal attack of sorts as well.  At 3:20 we return to Riff City (twice, even!), and one can’t help but wonder if this is riffing for the sake of riffing?  Who cares?  We love the wicked riffs, right?  Of course we do!  Another creepy close, like a Metal haunted house, takes us into the next number, but I must ad that though this track was a powerful, solid mover, it did bog down in the doom and gloom side of the street for a bit.  No matter…moving right along, then!

For All Things basically is another super heavy riffer, with a lead guitar bit at about one minute in, and a Metal cacophony from four minutes in to the close (about a minute later).  Good stuff, again a bit growly for my tastes, but it fits.

The Silent Song is another that features fellow Halmstad special guests, this time Chris Amott again and John Anderberg.  It has one of those creepy cool vocal/guitar intros, mainly clean vocals operating here.  At 1:30 things kick in, which I immediately revelled in as I thought they were going to mellow out or slow down or something… whew!  The instrumental breakdown at three minutes in again almost slows things to a crawl.  It’s still Heavy, and still very good, but is a bit mellow and Bluesy at times.  Again, there are elements of Prog at work as well.  At 3:20 there is a Heavy Psych/Blues/Metal cacophony of horror.  The vocals finally cut through the mix at 3:50, and we get a “wow!” moment at the close.  Some excellent work here.

The closer, Silence, has a cool guitar intro, but is mainly just a leftover blurb from the sounds of it.  I would say this – it could be more, if it were fleshed out a bit.  In this state it is more of a structural skeleton of a tune.

One thing keeps coming to mind here, readers.  This is not just a good Metal album.  This is a great Metal album from a great band.  I am looking forward to their next outing!

Verdict: 8/10

Ragehammer – The Hammer Doctrine

Pagan Records/Bandcamp

Review by Rick Ossian

On first listen to Ragehammer‘s first full-length outing, I have to admit that I was NOT impressed.  Of course, I’ve never heard their 2012 demo War Hawks.  Nor have I ever heard their split earlier this year, Enlightenment by Bloodletting.  You should also know that this kind of Metal is not particularly my cuppa.  If you like indiscernible vocals, instruments that unfortunately get lost in the mix, etc., then perhaps this is yours.  I do not know.  I am merely the conduit between these fellows and you, the reader/potential listener.  These metallurgic fellows are from Poland, and they are Corpsebutcher on bass, Mortar on drums, Bestial Avenger on guitar and Heretik Hellstorm on vocals.  It is fairly easy to see why they wouldn’t use their own names… but then, THAT is another story, and though my opinion may not matter to some, THAT is why we are here.  Let’s move on, shall we?

The tunes are not what’s to blame here.  The mix is mainly to blame, and the fact the vocals can’t really be deciphered.  Again, this is my opinion.  I’m sure that in their native Poland they are the next best thing to creamery butter and homemade bread.  I, unfortunately, have heard far too many outings just like this.  Speed for the sake of speed does NOT make good Metal, I’m afraid.

ragehammergroupshot

Take the opening number, for example.  First Wave Black Metal starts out with feedback, drums and guitar – in that order.  Now, normally, I would say they have the makings of a great tune.  However, this free-for-all, frantic, frenzied mess is just that – messy.  They are no doubt busy, and the shouting vocals sound as if they have genuine purpose.  There are some good moments, as well – the guitar breakdown/shift at three minutes in, and the guitar solo at 3:45 features some serious shredding.  Other than that, there is nothing much to say about this track.

Unleash the Dogs boasts a heavy, riffing intro, which gives way to an uptempo slammer.  The vocals, predictably enough, are rough again, and some are discernible, but most are not.  The drums are very busy, but unfortunately for the most part get lost in the mix.  What a shame!  Close finds some big feedback thrown our way, but that is the highlight of the tune.

Wrog features lots of riffing, and is another toe-tapper.   Definitely a speedy number, with a busy drummer.  The vocals are muddy at best.

Warlord’s Fall, with a drum intro and a very heavy assault, could be a great song.  Just check out the title!  It makes you think, maybe…  Again, there is lots of screaming going on, and the players are extremely busy.  Sometimes it takes more than that to make a song.  The shift at 2:30 gives way to some heavy, sludgy riffs, almost a Bluesy Black Metal/Thrash.  At four minutes in we get another drum and bass attack, and an unholy wicked scream at 4:40.

Knives, at six-and-a-half minutes, is the longest track on board.  There is more screaming, and some serious bass and drums again.  There is a shift and a lead guitar bit at 3:30, and a stab at some clean vocals at 4:30.  There are what I would perceive to be some mixing problems again with this tune.  Towards the close, the bass player shows off again.  That may be the highlight within this one.

I Am the Tyrant is a five-minute ditty which is impressive for the pure speed of presentation alone.  However, when it’s obvious that this is their only real foundation for the track, one may tend to lose interest.  I know I did.  Sorry.  Lots of worthy instrumentation again, and lots of screaming.  Moving on!

Pure Hatred has what could be another promising beginning that quickly falls into speed for the sake of speed.  The bass player is at it again, that may be their trump card, if you like.  More indiscernible vocals, and a bright spot with the guitar at three minutes in.  However, it is not enough to save this one.  There is another super-speedy guitar bit at 3:50.

From Homo Sapiens to Homo Raptor should win cool points for its title alone.  Then we hear it, and it is, unfortunately, more of the same.  Mr Hellstorm tries to save his soul briefly, trying to sing some clean vocals at around the four-minute mark.  He should have saved his breath.  There is a decent jam at the three-minute mark.

The closer, Spotkanie z Diablem (“Meeting With the Devil“) is actually a cover of Poland’s Krzystof Klenczon i Trzy Korony, and is most likely the high point of this set.  There is a heavy instrumental intro and a jamming midsection.  However, the evil laugh(s), one at 2 minutes in, and one at the close, could have been better.  MUCH better.  Just saying.

Verdict: 5/10

Trivium – Silence In The Snow (Special Edition)

Trivium- Silence In The Snow

Roadrunner Records

Review by Suzi “Elfie” Horsley

amazon_badgeTrivium. As ever I’m late to the review party, but given I’m supposed to be at a Trivium gig *right now* and instead I’m laid up with actual ‘flu (I’ve had a fever for five days now, so what I write might be total shite), what else can I do but listen to Silence in the Snow and therefore review it?  Nothing it seems.

Here, therefore are my feverish ramblings on the subject of one of my favourite bands.  Anyway.  I’m listening to a digital Special Edition of the album (legitimately obtained via Groove Music, so pipe down in the back please. I pay actual monies for my music).  It has 13 tracks (you get two bonus tracks from the standard release) and kicks off with Snøfall a glorious and evocative instrumental introduction.  It does rather set the scene, and in my head listening to it you’ve got an abandoned landscape covered in snow, with bare trees and mountains and eagles screeching……… where was I? Oh yes, anyway, it’s a lovely start, and then the album segues right into the alarmingly catchy Silence In The Snow.  It’s a bit odd really – Trivium have cleaned their act right up for this album, and dropped all of their growling, but initially it seems  they haven’t lost depth by doing so.  Anyway, this is a catchy track, easy to headbang too, and I’ve been singing it for three weeks now, so it clearly isn’t terrible.

Then, the guitars get heavier and a little more vintage Trivium and we get Blind Leading The Blind.  This is the bit where I have to have a rapturous moment describing the loveliness of Matt Heafy‘s voice.  Seriously – he’s a good growler but give that boy some clean vocals to do and he’ll bat them out of the park.  This is another very catchy track, and I can see why Wyrd Ways new boy Nathan says this is his favourite Trivium album. He isn’t a massive Trivium fan though, so that’s not necessarily a good thing.

Next up we get Dead and Gone.  I should point out that at this point we’re three vocal tracks into the album and so far there has been *no growling*.  Yes, you read that right – there’s lovely melodies, and some awesome clean vocals, and guitars filthier than my mind after three pints, but there is NO GROWLING.  I’m thoroughly enjoying the album so far, but we’ll just file that bit of information away for later.   Anyway, Dead and Gone is another excellent track, nice to headbang too and with memorable lyrics.

It’s followed by  The Ghost That’s Haunting You, which is slightly heavier than the more melodic offerings of Silence In The Snow so far.  It also utilises a weird vocal thing I mostly associate with 80’s Glam Metal.  Actually, I think that’s what this album is – it’s Trivium‘s glam metal moment – the guitars on this track are well guitar wanky as well.  I don’t know.  There’s still nothing wrong with this track, although at this juncture I’ve got a horrible suspicion that’s it’s just all a little bit too… pop-ish?

Pull Me From The Void is till rather radio single-ish but it does distinguish itself with some excellent drumming . There’s still only clean vocals to be found.  Until The World Goes Cold doesn’t do much to dispel the growing cold feeling I’m developing about the album.  There’s nothing bad about it and it’s perfectly enjoyable, it’s just a bit… safe.  And commercial.  I mean my 12 year old (currently attending the aforementioned Trivium gig) has gone Taylor Swift > Black Veil Brides > Trivium but doesn’t like Ascendency and loves Silence In The Snow. 

Rise Above The Tides is more of the same: melody, melody, clean vocals, wanky guitars…  I might be running out of patience.  Luckily The Things That’s Killing Me starts with some heavy guitars, and some thrash drumming. And then Matt opens his mouth, and the vocals are still clean with harmonies (but A SWEARWORD!!) and it’s all just a bit blaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah, safe listening for work or whatever.

Beneath the Sun is track 10, so on the standard edition is the penultimate track.  Look, lyrically it’s a lovely song but again BLAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH.  Luckily for everyone who had the standard edition Breathe In The Flames  is a bit less blah, but only a bit.  It’s just still all very safe.  It does have some very nice guitar solos in it though.

BONUS TRACKS TIME: right so first up you get Cease All Your Fire and now thank you, we are talking.  Why is this a bonus track?  I’d have stuck it in and not put in Rise Above The Tides.  It’s much heavier, clean vocals not withstanding.  This is a track that has some of that Trivium grit that I so approve of.  I am utterly bemused as to why this got slapped onto the Special Edition as a bonus and wasn’t put on the standard release.  Bizarre decision making there Trivium.  After that you get the last track of the album The Darkness Of My Mind  and WHAT DO YOU KNOW?  It’s really good as well, and not as samey as the rest of the album.  This was a bad call on Trivium‘s part, in terms of picking out tracks for the final cut.

Alright then summary: this isn’t a *bad* album per se.  I’ve been happily listening to it on and off for a few weeks, so it’s got listenability, it’s identifiable as Trivium in terms of both the instrumental content, and the vocals. Although, I may well demote Trivium from my favourite bands list if they persist with the refusal to growl.  It is however, a very commercial and safe album.  I’m not going to criticize them for that.  At the end of the day, musicians need to eat and pay bills too, and if it means my previously pop-obsessed 12 year old listens to more Metal I’m all for it. It’s just not likely to appeal to long standing hardcore Trivium fans because it is just oh so very safe. Overall I’m going to give it a slightly disappointing…

Verdict: 6/10

Desolate Pathway – Valley of the King

desolatepathwayvalleyofthekingcover

Independent

 

Review by Rick Ossian

Here we find London’s Desolate Pathway following up their Withered Heights recording with all the bluster and bravado that battle-hardened metal blokes should bring.  Herein lies doom.  There is also spoken word battle bits.  There are lots of lead guitar pieces.  There are clean vocals!  Not that unclean vocals are bad, mind you – clean vocals are just easier for this scribe to understand.  Desolate Pathway are Simon Stanton on vocals, Vince Hempstead on lead guitar, Nuno JB Silva on rhythm guitar, Jim Rumsey on bass guitar and Mags on drums.

desolatepathwaygroupshot

First up is the title track.  This is classic proto-metal, doomy with a spoken word battle intro followed closely by a sweet guitar lead.  There are plenty of biting, clean vocals and crisp drumming.  There is also a lot of nice guitar work throughout, with leads at 4:40 and 5:50.  At 5:10 there is also an upshift in tempo.  Not bad at all for starters.

Desolate Pathway (the song) is up next, and features a doomy, Sabbath-style intro.  This is mid-to-slow tempo ‘caveman’ rock, if you will.  Definitely heavy metal, but also a sad lament.  The vocals reminded me of Paul Stanley (KISS), and not for the last time.  The 3:20 mark boasts an upshift and a lead guitar solo.

Forest of Mirrors is another classic doomy number, with a riff very reminiscent of Sabbath (again) at about :40.  This is elementary stuff, my dear Mr. Watson, but not in a bad way.  The crows cawing at three minutes in again reminded me of the evil Sabbath men, and there is an evil spoken word bit (very brief) just in case we were in any doubt.  There is also another lead guitar solo at 3:30.

Last Of My Kind has one of those freaky weird intros with sound bites and FX, followed by lead guitar – slow and doomy (surprise!), with some excellent bass work.  There are nice leads at 2:15 and 4:00.  The vocals again reminded me of Paul Stanley.  This is a bit derivative but good.  There is a storm at the close, again, I suspect, in case we were in doubt as to Desolate Pathway’s intentions.

Season of the Witch is NOT a Donovan cover, as I suspected it might be.  It is a short but sweet mid-tempo metal number with a cackling intro and a cool main riff.  Guess who the vocals reminded me of?  There is a breakdown/shift at two minutes in, and a neat lead at 2:20.  At 2:40 it’s back to the main riff and out before you know what hit you!

King of Vultures features another classic doomy riff, and shifts even further down and heavier at about one minute in.  Again, elementary work here, but not in a bad way.  Sabbath came to mind again; perhaps Desolate Pathway worship at the Iommi altar?

Shadow of the Tormentor is almost depressing in its delivery, and features a very cool double riff at the outset (with yet another doomy intro).  A scream in the background vocal mix reminds us of where we are, and we get another lead guitar solo at the two-and-a-half minute mark.

Upon the Throne of Lights is a bit different.  The goblins and wizards make another appearance, but the opening actually features brighter riffs, as if to say that doom and gloom might NOT be their only trademark swagger.  There is also a good lead guitar piece at three minutes in.

So, in short, if you like the doom and gloom, and you also worship at the Iommi altar, then perhaps Desolate Pathway is for you.  If you do not, it is not.  That is all.

***/5