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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Album Review: Purified In Blood – Flight Of A Dying Sun

It was I that hailed Under Black Skies, Purified In Blood’s sophomore album, as 2010′s best, calling it “crepuscular, bellicose, demented, swaggering, invasive” but, ultimately, “consummate”. In my mind, it blew away the competition that year, and I’ll stand by that opinion today. So, two years, down the line, one vocalist down and with a fervent desire to return to the raw potency of their Reaper Of Souls debut, have the band managed to retain the black magic that still gets me so hot under the collar?

Well, they’ve attempted to get around the loss of Glenn “Reaper” Rasmussen (who does make a brief showing for the track “Iron Hands”) by cramming in a few guest spots. Drummer Anders Mosness uses his Kvelertak connections to convince their frontman Erlend Hjelvik to rip into “Mot Grav” and Siberian throat singer Albert Kuvezin lends his extraordinary, never-ending rumble to the introductory “The Absolute”. Otherwise, it’s all down to Hallgeir Enoksen who, to be fair, has an absolute beast of a vocal that more than stands up to scrutiny. More than anything it’s this man’s nail-gargling roar that so endeared to me to the band in the first place.

“Storm Of Blood” is ripped with it, Enoksen digging out fury to go with the sort of drum battery and rotational guitar grot you’d associate more with the hammer and anvil stoner attack of High On Fire or the crust-covered ‘core of Black Breath. When the crush returns for “Mind Is Fire” (the thrash attack and vocal patterning on the chorus oddly reminiscent of Sylosis’ “Reflections Through Fire”) it’s even more powerful. Even that though is not the heaviest thing on the album. That honour goes to the galloping, blocky crush at the four-minute mark of the title-track; check it… it’s an utter mind-bender.

One reason for this increase in brutish weight requires a glance at the men responsible for twiddling the knobs. There’s few safer pairs of hands than those of Jacob Bredahl and Tue Madsen and they certainly haven’t impeded any of the thunderous intensity that the band have managed to knock out here. When they dial it down a notch and inject some driven groove they manage to produce the album highlights. Tracks like the throbbing neck-snappers of “Void” and “Iron Hands” come closest to matching the addictive peaks that Under Black Skies reached. Hjelvik brings along his black n’ roll spikes, and with “Mot Grav”s added thrash licks, the band dig out a real powerhouse.

Other than those rutted monsters though, the band are found to be rather wanting. At times, it is Ådne Sæverud’s frantically whining Hammond organ or Sander Loen’s wild, disconnected solos that are to blame as they succeed in derailing PiB’s chug-worthy building blocks; at other times it is the speed and noise-worshipping, a desperate search to raise the raw and inject the heavy, that has negated the neck-snapping cool of their sweetest rides. Although they manage to fish out several interesting minor chords, some swathed entirely in black, for long periods they seem to entirely forgo their fondness for structural build and plaster over any potential breaks in sound, ditching the chance for barbed hooks or sharp licks, to create yet more bulging angst and all-encompassing heavy. Worst of all, with only eight tracks to play with and running times trimmed, we get fewer changes of direction and a stingy 35-minute total.

Despite these flaws though, I simply can do nothing other than stringently insist that you try this on for size. Okay, it’s not the game-changing album of the year that their 2010 effort so obviously was, but it’s still got big, bushy chops on it and enough shades of black to make it worthy of your undivided attention. It will certainly be interesting to see how much of an impact they make on the scene this time and, more importantly, in which direction they will head with their next release.

Also online @ Ave Noctum = http://www.avenoctum.com/2012/06/purified-in-blood-flight-of-a-dying-sun-indie-recordings/

Friday, June 22, 2012

Album Review: The Elijah – I Loved I Hated I Destroyed I Created

Can you begin to imagine what a combination of ambient and screamo might sound like? Perhaps a combination of hardcore and shoegaze? I think my brain just got knotted trying to pull the two concepts together. And yet we know there are bands out there, right now, attempting to meld the two concepts into one. In fact, I have one here in front of me. They are the UK’s and they are in the business of carefully creating softly, shuffling, rangy pieces, only to pepper them with vicious, derisive howls in an attempt to drive their true intentions home. Their music is mind-bogglingly vast. If you were to describe any band as epic it would be this band. Rather than merely listen to their songs, you live them. But is the gap between polished smooth and hacked rough just too wide to suck you in; to keep you hooked?

cite influences like ’ control of classical and electronic ambience and the experimental post-rock of but, more pertinently, the combination of feather-light touch and slap in the chops instantly draws comparison with and and, to an extent, and .

Recorded in an abandoned country mansion in Shropshire, the band have utilised the structures’ natural reverb; the music reaching deep into those resonant recesses to dredge up a complex, textured and inherently bleak sound which they use to blanket the listener with. Whilst the instrumental beauty of “In Regret” is a track that allows for those many textures to be dissected, with its metronomic sweeping bows and harsh, hammering strings, the album’s heart and soul lies in the vocals. They sit atop this multi-layered wall of gently-shifting emotion like bricks and mortar on concrete foundations. Dan Tomley is the screamer, providing the blocky, vein-bulging angst, whilst Mike McGough is the crooner, the binding agent, smothering the cracks with a dark, sweeping sorrow.

Back to that question and here we are being sucked in by “In Misery”. Closing your eyes it’s easy to picture a turbulent, boiling surface of a horizon-filling ocean. When the moment arrives for Tomley’s roars to cut in they come without apology – “I can barely breathe, I can barely speak”, he falteringly croaks. Yet here, surrounded by gut-wrenching pain, they feel integral. Tracks like “In Death” and “I Hated” benefit similarly with “The thought that I have torn the smile from your pale-skinned face” being a barbed lyric that will worm its way in deep. However, throw those screams into direct conflict with McGough’s subtle hues, as they do at the very peak of “I Loved” and those foundations begin to sink, the cracks reappear and their is a sudden loss of cohesion between each element. The levels become overloaded and the listener can find thereselves overwhelmed as the basic instinct for “fight or flight” is triggered. That takes some getting used to, but those who stick with this can learn to stay hooked and possibly even love this. I’ll admit, I ran away like a little girl and it was a while before I crept back from behind the couch to press the “play” button once more.

Ultimately, it’s not the aggressively maudlin content or the clashing vocals that irk the most, it’s the repetitious nature of the tones and hues that leaves somewhat of a bad taste in the mouth. have produced a debut album with sharp claws and hackles that are quick to raise during its darkest, most volatile moods. All well and good but, by my reckoning, they need to show a little more control and a touch more ingenuity if they are to stand out from their peers. Prepare accordingly.

Also online @ The NewReview = http://thenewreview.net/reviews/the-elijah-i-loved-i-hated-i-destroyed-i-created

Mini-Album Review: Twin Atlantic - Free


Where Biffy Clyro took a career to hone their sound, Twin Atlantic have nailed it at their second attempt and their album “Free”, with it’s rough edges and unctuous core, hellishly addictive riffs and bitingly honest lyrics, delivered in Sam McTrusty’s thick Glaswegian brogue, are radio-rock’s secret weapon.

A small piece I wrote for TLOBF's Scottish Album Of The Year Award 2012 - also online here.