Posts Tagged ‘Metal’

12th June 2020

James Wells

According to their bio, Milton Keynes based British metal outfit Chasing Ghosts were ‘born of a passion to create dark and melodic music’ and their latest offering ‘is no doubt their biggest and most ambitious record yet, a union of haunting female harmonies and natural sombre strings, resulting in an evolution of all the darker elements in their already present sound since the release of their critically acclaimed debut album in 2018’.

Cynic that I am, was prepared for this to bring me some suffering, with a load of overblown bombastic rock – and make no mistake, there are elements that creep towards being OTT, but they manage to balance it with enough drive and majesty and emotional resonance as to render it an engaging and powerful release.

Opener ‘Until the End’ is a bold, gothic sweep of a song with intricate guitar lines that interweave across choral vocals that evoke the spirit of The Sisters of Mercy, and, moreover, the myriad bands who followed in their wake. The rhythm guitar chugs hard while the lead picks a serpentine thread and the baritone vocals (which aren’t short on a hint of Carl McCoy) cast a mix of gloom and drama over the whole thing.

Brooding violins sway through the intro to ‘A Darker Place’ that pitches somewhere between All About Eve and Evancessence, while the title track, ‘Bring Me Suffering’, which draws the curtain, is what one would justifiably describe as an ‘epic’, a seven-minute, string-soaked rendition of emotional anguish that rides post-rock crescendos while surging to a slow-burning climax that makes you ache as you listen.

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Inside Out Music – 28th August 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Almost 30 years into their career, Sweden’s Pain of Salvation, led by multi-instrumentalist Daniel Gildenlöw land a new album with the ambition of demonstrating that ‘Ultimately, progress will not be stopped’. They go on to unravel the details that ‘Pain of Salvation have been firmly at the forefront of the progressive rock and metal scenes for nearly three decades now’, and that ‘the Swedish band have consistently demonstrated a sincere passion for moving their own extraordinary music forward, while always remaining lyrically enlightened and ferociously intelligent. As a result, the band’s return in 2020 could hardly be better timed’.

The press release makes a gargantuan leap from the band’s formation and crash-lands us with a ‘Fast forward to 2020 [when] the world is in a state of disarray’. It makes sense in a way: we’ve all landed where with absolutely no fucking clue how 2020 actually relates to or connects with anything: the past has dissolved in a haze of time eroded to desert and a future that seems impossible. Chronology is utterly screwed. I can barely remember last week, or even what I had for dinner last night.

This is one of those multi-layered, multi-textured, multi-genred and highly detailed albums that is simply impossible to digest on the first few cycles. I sat, a shade bewildered, a tad giddy, and not just on account of a couple of strong, hoppy American IPAs down on an evening after three hours sleep the night before. The album’s first track, ‘Accelerator’ collides myriad elements, twisting together contemporary prog with an electronic twist, some dancy synths and some chugging industrial guitar riffage that slams in and it all coalesces to a bewildering sonic whiplash that works well and hits hard.

Next up, ‘Unfuture’ steps up the weight, slugging hard some industrial country with menace that’s a melange of Alice in Chains and Nine Inch Nails and it’s both brooding and heavy. And it’s clear that on Panther, PoS have hit their stride with optimum, riffage and a weight that achieves critical mass when it matters.

It’s not all good: the title track is a cringeworthy and incredibly dated-sounding stab at a hip-hop nu-metal crossover that doesn’t sit comfortably anywhere in 2020, let alone with the rest of the album, and when placed alongside contemporary grunge-tinged prog efforts like ‘Species’ – which comes on like Pearl Jam crossed with Amplifier – it just sounds odd.

Then again, songs like ‘Species’ bring full-blooded riffs and some solid overdrive, and the thirteen-minute finale, ‘Icon’, is the album’s ultimate pinnacle, as a snaking, picked lead guitar line rattles against its cage to twist around a gritty, thick-chorded riff. It yields to moments of folksy levity, but they’re gloriously crushed by the weight of big, grinding chuggery, not to mention a pyrotechnical guitar solo around the eight-minute mark. Miraculously, it actually works without sounding like indulgent wank, and that’s no small feat.

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InsideOut Music – 24th July 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s almost as if they planned it, or saw it coming (although not sufficiently to prevent the release date being put back three times). And you could almost believe it, too: there’s a potently portentous aspect to Haken’s brand of progressive rock, and Virus is very much timely as much for its ruminations on the psychology of contemporary culture, as the press release explains:

‘If ‘Vector’ was an origin story, ‘Virus’ portrays an ascent to power, tyranny and subsequent endgame. The opening track, ‘Prosthetic’, bridges the two albums where scars of institutional abuse are brought into focus. This 6-minute onslaught of brutal riffing starts the spread of a virus that affects all aspects of our lives, be they biological, psychological, technological, environmental or political.’

They’ve been working on the album since the release of Vector in October 2018, and it shows: the level of detail in the interweaving guitars and the spacious melodies are remarkable, but then, so are the thunderous riffs.

The ten-and-a-half-minute ‘Carousel’ is a clear standout, and packs the experience of an entire album into a single song. The rest of the songs are much more concise, at least if you take the five-part ‘Messiah Complex’ suite as separate chapters. As you’d perhaps expect, this is a grand and grandiose sequence, with everything elevated and amplified, and with the addition of some bombastic orchestral strikes, while the final part, subtitled ‘Ectobius Rex’ goes full-on industrial metal riffage.

Elsewhere. ‘Canary Yellow’ is a condensed epic, soaring shoegaze anthem, while the final song, ‘Only Stars’ is a magnificently sparse affair which finds Ross Jennings emoting an almost choral elegy. It feels like a moment of calm reflection in the wake of a wave of devastation.

For all of the heavy power chords that crash like slabs of granite in a most contemporary metal way, I’m in some way reminded of Jeff Wayne’s musical version of The War of the Worlds and Mansun’s Six, although Jennings’ vocals often carry that rich but troubled soulfulness of Dave Gahan. If this all sounds like an unlikely and improbable cocktail, it’s testament to Haken’s abilities that they make it all work not only cohesively, but deliver some great songs along the way.

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Following on from their 2016 record “You Will Burn”, Scottish hardcore quartet Razor Sharp Death Blizzard have returned with their new album “The World Is Fucked” which is set for release on July 17th. Ahead of this the band have released a video for their new single “Suicide”.

Frontman Jamie Clark had this to say on the track:

“When we write our songs, we almost always write in the practice room. “Suicide” took me by surprise by the intensity of the music. I like to stand in the room with Daz, Liam and Ross going for it so I can feel the song. The music brought out a lot of emotion in me be it anger, be it tearful. The emotion that came was the feelings for suicide I’d had off and on for a number of years and this song really helped me bring things out. I tried to put into word some of the feelings and thoughts I had.

From the crushing self-defeat to the feeling of wanting to through myself from the Newcastle to Amsterdam ferry on my way to and from holiday with my wife and kids. From not knowing what I was feeling, the utter confusion, wondering if someone would help me now that ‘I’ needed help. All things came to a head when we were a couple of weeks away from a European tour and I ended up doing one show and the rest of the guys played as a three piece for the remaining shows. It coming to a head was the best thing to happen. I was able to talk to those closest to me and turn a lot round.

The end of the song says it all and is a mantra I kind of abide by and its was Daz that said it ‘ no matter how dark the night may seem, tomorrow may be brighter’. What advice I try to give is please talk to someone, that first step will take so much weight from your shoulders. It won’t cure you but will give you courage to talk. It really is okay to not be okay. The hardest step is talking to someone but trust me it’s the best step you can take.”

Both tracks can be streamed here:

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Loyal Blood Records – 22nd May 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Nothing says metal like calling your band Barren Womb. And nothing says DIY like making that metal / noise-rock hybrid racket like being a duo. Norwegian noisemongers Timo and Tony have been hard at it for nine years, and Lizard Lounge is their latest effort: it’s pitched as being for fans of Quicksand, Melvins, Clutch, Refused, and Big Business, and the work of a band who capture ‘their raw and unpolished live energy in studio recordings’.

‘Raw and unpolished’ perhaps does them a disservice, with implications of amateurism and a certain shambolicism. Lizard Lounge is cranked up, the production direct, unfiltered, but they’re tight and everything is perfectly balanced. They know what they’re doing, and they fucking nail it here.

Bringing the intense blast of 80s hardcore but with a twist of humour (as titles like ‘Crop Circle Jerk’ and ‘Karma as a Tour Manager’ indicate), and elements of mania that so indeed call to mind Melvins and also contemporaries Cinema Cinema, they burst out of the traps at a hundred miles an hour with ‘Cemetery Slopestye’, a sub-two-minute punk roar that sounds like a full band.

‘Hairy Palms’ brings a loose swaggering groove and grunge pop flavour that combines Pulled Apart by Horses with DZ Deathrays, and this pretty much encapsulates the playful edge that brings light to the hefty riffery that defines their sound.

The aforementioned ‘Crop Circle Jerk’ is jaunty, almost indie, in its funk-tinged style, but its delivery is more like Melvins or JG Thirlwell covering Tom Waits, while ‘Molten Pig’ brings the sweaty, grungy heft of Tad: it’s dirty, dingy, the cyclical overdriven riff simple but effective and played hard and fast, while the vocals grunt and snarl, and it certainly captures the essence of that late 80s / early 90 Sub Pop sound. ‘Nerve Salad’ continues along the same vein. It’s not pretty, but it’s got a vital energy.

Likewise, ‘Be Kind, Have Fun, And Try Not to Die’, which is the poppiest song on here by a mile. Fuck me, I might even call it ‘anthemic’, but it’s anthemic in the way bands like, say, hawk Eyes’ do anthemic, and melds Kerrang! Radio with full metal edge that borders on a mid-90s Ministry kind of grind, and closer ‘Hydroponic Youth’ carries that Filth Pig vibe to the close.

It’s no criticism to say that for all the lyrical intents and purposes, this is an album you just allow to pummel you. The sentiments are articulated through the medium of sound more than the words themselves, the delivery of which conveys more power in context. Lizard Lounge is wild and loud and absolutely hits the spot.

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Cruel Nature – CN133

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s not often demo tapes get a ‘proper’ release. Then again, it’s not often you actually get demo tapes these days: cassettes may be making something of a comeback on the underground, but you’re more likely to get a demo recorded on mobiles with the tracks assembled using some smart software than on a four track. I remember my old Fostex X-18 seeming incredibly compact back in ’92. Less true of the X55, but with its double-speed spooling and advanced mixing capability, it was more like having a proper studio on your desk. How times have changed.

But when it comes to black metal, low-grade production is integral to the aesthetic. It’s supposed to be impenetrably murky, the songs emerging from a booming condenser mic recording overloaded with volume, crackle, and hiss.

I was fortunate to catch Petrine Cross virtually live at a Heinous Whining streaming event the other week, and it was devastating: I was blown away by the dark intensity of the performance, and this release confirm this was no one-off or a case of me being carried away with too many cans in my atempt to recreate the gig experience at home.

A solo project for Esmé Louise Newman of emotionally-charged black metal duo Penance Stare (and her resumé is pretty impressive too), Petrine Cross is pitched as ‘Thought-provoking raw ambient black metal, inspired through solitude and literature, that hits hard in all its oppressive glory.’

‘Charred Skirts and Deathmask’ could be read one of a number of was, but it begins with a soft-edged undulating drone, which continues throughout its eight-plus-minute duration beneath a crushing deluge of punishing guitar noise. There are no discernible chords, no clear structure, just a full-on deluge of sludge. There are some vocals in there somewhere, too, I think. I don’t need the details, and that’s perhaps as well, as they’re obfuscated by a dense wall of undifferentiated sound that’s all in the mid and lower ranges.

I’m listening by candlelight and screen glare, and it seems appropriate as the snarling blast of ‘I Beneath a Rougher Sea’ tears from the speakers, a muffled, murky blast of a cyclical chord sequence, overloading with distortion. It takes some time for any form to emerge from the searing sonic wall, and when it does, it’s vague, melting in its blisteringly intense grind.

The recordings may be primitive, but I’m not sure they would necessarily benefit from a more luxurious, layered studio treatment. The context is key: this is black metal – albeit in a stripped-back, ambient form – and doesn’t require polish. These recordings are cavernously dark and dredge the depths of the soul. Search deep.

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Christopher Nosnibor

I’m both intrigued and vaguely amused by the focus of the press release, which informs us that ‘In anticipation of their upcoming European tour in support of Suffocation, Belphegor and Hate, Italian metallers Necrosy have released a brand-new video for the track “Drown In Perdition” (at 320 bpm)’. But then, in certain circles, presumably including those of Thrash Speed, and Technical Death Metal (the latter being where this Venetian foursome position themselves in genre terms), the pace is of importance.

The album, Perdition, was in fact released back in 2015, and this video single is something of a stop-gap while they piece together album number two and gear up for a significant tur of the European mainland. What no UK dates? Well, no, and it’ probably not necessarily a Brexit thing, but while we’re at it, fuck Brexit and the damage the latest piece of hateful, movement-limiting legislation will do to touring bands and the music industry. Bands and fans and the economy alike will suffer.

On the subject of suffering, ‘Drown Into Perdition (at 320BPM)’ (and yes, the parenthetical element is noted on not only the video’s YouTube post, but also the album’s track list) is pretty fucking punishing, a whiplash blur of frenzied guitars and drumming which provide the backdrop to a guttural howl and while the lyrics are wholly unintelligible, the sound articulates by the medium of sound a fair approximation of the song’s title – a hellish, torturous assault.

The woman in the white dress / sheet who features in the video feels like a bit of a superfluous addition, but provides a nice visual contrast to the hairy, tattooed blokes lunging and prowling while wielding their instruments menacingly. It doesn’t detract from the song though, and of this is any measure, both the live shows and upcoming album should be pretty intense.

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Tour dates are as follows:

March 11th – Legend Club – Milan, Italy
March 12th – Kufa – Lyss, Switzerland
March 13th – Gare De Lion – Wil, Switzerland
March 14th – Le Jas Rod – Marseille, France
March 15th – BT 59 – Bordeaux, France
March 17th – Stage Live – Bilbao, Spain
March 18th – Capitol – Santiago, Spain
March 19th – Hard Club – Porto, Portugal
March 20th – RCA Club – Lisbon, Portugal
March 21st – Independance – Madrid, Spain
March 22nd – Razzmatazz – Barcelona, Spain
March 24th – Grillen – Colmar, France
March 25th – Garage – Saarbrucken, Germany
March 26th – Helvete – Oberhausen, Germany
March 27th – Felsenkeller – Leipzig, Germany

Christopher Nosnibor

Leeds’ DIY scene is becoming increasingly adept at turning poky rehearsal spaces into gig venues: it makes sense from a funding perspective, but also means that while conventional scenes are struggling to stay open for various reasons (as often redevelopment as being squeezed financially) and new and niche acts are finding it increasingly difficult to get gigs, the Leeds scene is thriving and as diverse as ever.

I’ve previously sung the praises of rehearsal-room-turned venue CHUNK, and it’s Theo Gowans, who does a lot of the stuff there, who’s behind this evening’s show. Tonight, Mabgate Beach (or Madgate Beach, as the poster has it), tucked away in a corner of an industrial estate in an obscure corner of the city plays host to a brace of Newcastle noisemongers, supported by a brace of very different local supports.

I’d been forewarned that the room was small, but that’s something of an understatement.

Intimate isn’t even close.: it’s about the size of my living room, although it’s still probably a few feet bigger than The Hovel in York’s South Bank Social, which has a capacity of maybe 16. The drum kit and back-line fill most of the room, after which we manage to pack in maybe 20. And the lighting is as minimal as the space, only less consistent.

The Truth About Frank have been knocking around for over a decade now, and Alan Edwards’ sets don’t get any more mellow over time. Kicks off the bill with a riot of samples, the set comprises a single continuous improvised soundwerk, a jarring audio cut-up through which murky beats fade in and out through an ever-shifting collage of noise, creating what cut-up originator Brion Gysin would refer to as ‘a derangement of the senses’. Playing in near-darkness with a pencil beam of light emanating from the arm of his glasses to illuminate his minimal digital kit, Edwards’ stubby nicotine-stained fingers manipulate shapes on a touch screen and jab buttons, and with each prod and poke, more strange sounds emerge, and it’s brilliantly bewildering.

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The Truth About Frank

Things start to feel quite cramped when a full band with bass and two guitars play, and I’m less concerned about site lines for photographs than being smacked by the bassist’s headstock, meaning I’m happy to settle for the second row to observe Loro spin a set of mellow post-rock. It’s kinda standard circa 2004 fodder for the most part, but it’s nice, and with twists of mathiness and jazz without being indulgent.

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Penance Stare prove to be an absolute revelation. Their recent recordings are a hybrid of ethereal shoegaziness with black metal production values, and while those elements are very much present here, witnessing their colossal noise in such an enclosed space is an incredibly intense experience. There’s ferocious reverb on the vocals, and murky as fuck guitar duels with thunderous drumming. The duo explore some deep, dark atmospheres, too, and coupled with Esmé’s brutal anguished shriek, there are comparisons to both Amenra and early Cranes to be drawn here. Some of the soft instrumental segments are achingly beautiful and affecting, and are invariably obliterated by devastating distortion and howling agony. This is music that reaches deep inside and leaves one feeling somehow altered.

James Watts has more bands and projects than I have albums in my review pile, and having met him and performed alongside Lump Hammer in the summer, I was keen to see how things worked with a different slant and lineup, and an absence of knitted head/face garb. Whereas Lump Hammer ae sludgy and repetitive, Plague Rider mine a seam of pounding math metal, with Watts’ vocal veering between shrieking demonic and guttural taking a shit deep grunt. And what the fuck even is his two-string instrument with some kind of touchscreen attached? In the less-than—half-light, I’m struck by how much Watts resembles a young Alan Moore. It’s so dark, I can barely see the rest of the band to know what they look like, but they relentlessly kick out juggernaut riffs that hammer hard.

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Plague Rider

Technical difficulties struck 15 minutes in, with a power outage on the guitarist’s pedal board bringing a halt to the set, but after a brief intermission they resumed as loud and punishing as before, and then some.

In such a confined space, the effect is staggering: every beat, every chord, lands like a punch to the gut. It’s exhausting but exhilarating.

Since 2017, something has been lurking in the shadows around Merseyside, snarling from the unseen corners with a piercing horror-metal atmosphere; that something is Video Nasties, and they’re ready to strike with their moral-panic inducing heaviness.

Comprised from members from some of Liverpool’s finest heavy exports in The Bendal Interlude, SSS, Magpyes and Iron Witch,  the quintet that is Video Nasties mix death metal with punky and thrashy undertones, creating something morbidly macabre and devilishly debauched.

Recently signed to the label – on Halloween 2019 no less – Video Nasties finally bring their reign of terror to APF Records. Set to unleash their debut full-length Dominion [APF025] on Friday 13th March (of course) on all good formats – LP, CD, cassette and digital – Video Nasties are content to lurk no more; get ready for their slasher soundtrack to rip your eardrums to pieces soon.

‘Drone Eagle’ is the first taster to be shared, described by bassist Rick Owen as a song about, ‘Armageddon. We’re going to hell in a hand basket, baby and there’s nothing we can do to stop it. A demise driven by power, greed and corruption.’

Listen to ‘Drone Eagle’ here:

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Upcoming Video Nasties shows:

31st Jan – Alma Inn, Bolton (free entry)

14th March – Sound Food and Drink, Liverpool (album launch show)

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Video Nasties

Godsticks open 2020 with their new and most accomplished studio album, Inescapable. Their mix of heavy rock, progressive and alternative metal with a dynamic range of angular riffs and emotional depth will leave listeners reeling. The band’s sound has refined over their releases on Kscope, beginning with the technically astounding metal on Emergence to the more industrial and progressive-influenced Faced With Rage. Now, with Inescapable, the band have channelled their energy and technical ability into the melody, phrasing and vocal performance, allowing emotion to take centre stage.

The band found themselves wanting a definitive theme running through Inescapable, without turning it into a concept album, of being more open, more personal and ultimately one that shines an inquisitive light on Charles’s struggle with inner demons which gave the songs a new level of intimacy. “Lyrically, I’ve always shared personal thoughts, feelings and experiences but in a very ambiguous way. For Inescapable – in a conscious effort not to repeat ourselves – I thought I’d be a little more self-reflective and perhaps examine some of my inner demons. I have a strange relationship with music, and especially playing guitar. I would struggle to survive without either, but equally they have made my life mentally torturous because my own self-worth is completely wrapped up in them. I used to be very much a perfectionist in my early years, and whilst some people may wear that as a badge of honour, I eventually viewed it as huge heavy weight dragging down. It was a long time before I arrived at the realisation that perfection was impossible to achieve.” elaborates Darran Charles.

As a taster, they’ve released a video single for ‘Denigrate’. Watch it here:

Godsticks are supporting the new material beginning in April with a UK tour followed by summer festivals

2/4/2020 – Cardiff – Fuel Rock Club

3/4/2020 – London – Black Heart

4/4/2020 – Manchester – Gullivers

5/4/2020 – Edinburgh – Opium

Godsticks