Reviews Coming Soon

Album Reviews Coming Soon: Queen Elephantine - Kala, Karg - Weltenasche

Monday, May 27, 2013

EP Review: NVRVD - Coma

NVRVD are, undoubtedly, a band of contradictions. If, like me, you’ve never come across them before, this 6-track EP of theirs may just leave you feeling a little burnt out. Just as soon as you believe you have a solid idea as to what brand of heavy they are throwing down here, they will switch up or switch down and you’ll have to start all over again. It’s kind of like the first time you try to wade through The Dillinger Escape Plan jungle of sounds or try to decipher The Chariot’s ADHD-afflicted blueprint. The answer may lie in their variety of listed influences which stretch from the ‘core blitzkrieg of Trap Them and Converge, on through the groove-injected crush of Gojira and Machine Head and far out to the stoned chug of Mastodon and Down.

A quick trawl through the NVRVD (a.k.a. Never Void) web-lopaedia reveals that they are a trio who hail from the German state of North-Rhine Westphalia and, since forming back in 2004, have independently-released three albums and a couple of other bits and bobs and have now ended up, most suitably, on the Hummus label owned by The Ocean’s Jona Nida.

Heading down through Coma‘s layers, the chasm of “Oberohe” opens up to reveal a deep, ethereal doom that builds through a series of echoing crashes. The twist is the monster within which bursts forth to sink its teeth into death-fuelled hardcore and thrash elements, before returning to its vast underwater cave again. “Impartial Eyes” and the enigmatically addictive “We Are” give us an unfiltered, raw mix that rips off its punk n’ roll skin to reveal a blackened ‘core. The Braunschmidt brothers’ distant, reverb-loaded screams are so disembodied here that it’s almost as if they’ve been shackled to the studio back wall, away from their mic stands.

“An Echo To Your Unbeliefs” revisits the subterranean doom of “Oberohe”, whilst “Niederohe” pitches at us a move from the dark into the light with a sweet, wandering bassline and smarting chugs that branch out into yet another reverberating wall of sound. Wedged between these two lies the antithetic “No Heaven” which stands guilty of getting drunk on its own dizzying power. It tosses us from empty feedback into raging hardcore lunacy and back again, offering little but impact.

There’s something distinctly loveable about the honesty of Coma‘s nerve-frazzling ride through its peaks and troughs. You’ll feel like the proverbial punchbag… at times you’ll be hanging still, soaking up the atmosphere of a dark gym and at others you’ll be getting seven shades of shit knocked out of you. Perhaps not one for the mainstream metalheads amongst us, but the more contrary souls should lap this up.

Also online @ Ave Noctum = http://www.avenoctum.com/2013/05/nvrvd-coma-hummus-records/

News: Amon Amarth Unveil "Forging Mjölnir" documentary


Today AMON AMARTH reveals a trailer for their forthcoming mini documentary which can be viewed at http://www.metalblade.com/amonamarth. Fittingly titled Forging Mjölnir, the short film will appear as a three-part series with each official segment slated to premiere via the band's microsite at http://deceiver.amonamarth.com


The Forging Mjölnir documentary comes in anticipation of AMON AMARTH's ninth studio offering, Deceiver of the Gods. Recorded at Backstage Studios in Derbyshire, UK, and produced, mixed and mastered by Andy Sneap (Opeth, Megadeth, Exodus, Arch Enemy, Killswitch Engage), the follow-up to the band's critically acclaimed 2011 Surtur Rising full-length delivers ten fiery battle hymns made of buzzsaw riffs and epic harmonies all driven by vocalist Johan Hegg's commanding Viking roar and absorbing accounts of Norse crusades and treachery. Deceiver of the Gods comes adorned with another outstanding Tom Thiel-created cover portraying a mythical battle between the Norse Gods Loki and Thor. As an added bonus,Messiah Marcolin (Candlemass) makes an appearance as guest vocalist on eighth track, "Hel."


 

Deceiver of the Gods will be released in the UK via Metal Blade Records June 24th.

Monday, May 20, 2013

EP Review: In The Guise Of Men – Ink

I’m currently holding a beautifully-packaged promo by a band calling themselves In The Guise Of Men and I’m thinking what an awesome moniker they have. The implication is that they are really aliens squeezed into human skins bent on world domination. Or, an undead zombie horde on the hunt for “braiiiiins”. It’s a far cry from the bad old days of the “The” bands (The Hives, The Vines or The Strokes), those groups that clearly used a “heavy metal band generator” (Iron Fire, Bloody Hammers or Steel Panther) or, worse still, the recent spate of “Verb the Noun” kids (Design The Skyline, After The Burial or… wait for it… Verb The Noun – yes, really). No, it’s forward-thinking experimentalists, like this Parisien quartet, that prove you really can name your musical combo something fresh and exciting and still sound cool as fuck.

A quick search through ITGOM’s history and it seems they aren’t the most prolific of groups. Having formed back in 2005, this is their first release since they birthed a demo back in 2006. This EP has clearly been a labour of love. Dissection reveals a strong, groove metal spine onto which is fused an extensive interlocking system of jazz and progressive metal elements. The whole creates a complex ident that will make them hard to pin down.

“Suicide Shop” opens the EP with a fizz, a cry of anguish and a jarring, polyrhythmic smackdown. Diving between rapidfire screams and melodious cleans the deep, thunderous attack tears away at your ears like a caged animal. Vocalist Kkrys Denhez has the odd off-key moment through the croons but he excels down in the psychotic howls of “Violent Overthrow” and the snatches of hacked rap that lurk in “Drowner” and “Dog To Man Transposition”. With furious drums, damaged chugs and melodious power choruses weaving their way throughout, it’s like listening to the bastard child of Killswitch Engage and Periphery. There is much that, initially, seems impenetrable and perseverance is definitely required. However, “Blue Lethe”, with its dark melancholic tones, provides an easy access point with a defined sense of direction which helps it to stand out clearly from the rest.

There is no doubt the songs have been written and performed with the intention of pummeling and invigorating the listener. These Frenchmen might have pulled this off completely but a heavy-handed studio mix hasn’t helped, resulting in far too many clashing overlaps. Take the verses of “Drowner” where the vocal and backing touches get all but washed out by the wall of guitar sound, or “Sale Paradise” where the brutal drum and bass levels threaten to rip the whole track to bits. Despite this, there is still enough that remains unimpeded for us to recognise the band’s high technical ability, songwriting prowess and impressive variety of vocal techniques.

Truth be told, they are a group who make quite a first impression. Startling, colourful features (Rorschach artwork courtesy of Stan W. Decker), strangely-alluring moniker and excitingly complex innards – maybe these are aliens after all. Keep an eye out for their mothership and all future communications.

Check the EP out here.

Review also online @ Ave Noctum = http://www.avenoctum.com/2013/05/in-the-guise-of-men-ink-dooweet/

Monday, May 13, 2013

Album Review: Iron Tongue – The Dogs Have Barked, The Birds Have Flown

The origins of heavy metal are consistently fought over by rival factions, but one irrefutable fact that stands out from the bickering, regardless of whether you stand in the Blue Cheer, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple or Cream camps, is that without blues music, metal probably would never even have made it that far. This is an interesting counterpoint to consider when rolling Iron Tongue‘s debut album around your skull for the first time.


With its heart in blues and its soul in metal, this cathartic crusher, hammered out by a mélange of Arkansas veteran musicians, pays due deference to its forbears. Initially, the music bears a strong resemblance to the recent batch of Townes Van Zandt covers, perpetrated by doom Illuminati Steve Von Till, Wino and Scott Kelly. Brief bursts of it emerge as Iron Tongue roughly feed their country affectations and hefty, blues-tinged rock through the chomping maw of old school doom metal in much the same manner. However, there is no getting away from where much of this album’s running time is spent; playing between the twin forces of St. Vitus and The Allman Brothers Band.

As an addendum to this, it is worth noting that leading the line here is Rwake‘s vocalist Chris “C.T.” Terry. Although The Dogs Have Barked, The Birds Have Flown oozes with a far more laid-back, almost-jammed approach to songwriting, it still comes as no great surprise to discover that there are also strong hints of the Little Rock sludge-flingers’ Southern drawl, twang and propensity for experimentation coursing through this.

Kicking us off, the soft-hearted, warm and gently twinkling ‘Ever After’ sucks up a Cream-esque vibe and neatly introduces us to the juxtaposition between Stephanie Smittle’s crystalline high-pitched backing and CT’s cracked, gnarly growl. Step forward a notch into ‘Skeleton’ and you’ll find yourself cornered by controlled, insistent chord rotations. Intense disillusionment and anger begin to flood through in the lyrics, fed by the steady pounding of skins and dense bass thunder. Sneaky Hammond organ rushes leak into the kind of bleak, glacial riffery employed by Dave Chandler (only without the cone-splitting distortion) as we drink in echoes of his first-love, St. Vitus. To finish, Smittle’s emotive bullet-points ram home the power of the wordplay as the valve amps creak and cry for mercy.

For those in search of walking riffs and a spot of bluesy swagger, head over to ‘Lioness’ and ’7 Days’. The former offers jinking boy-girl vocals, fuzzed-up bass and a tune-in, drop-out, throbbing four-chord trick, as Iron Tongue menacingly wrap you around their collective finger. The latter is all whining leads, sweet drops into half-time, more background Hammond and a croaky, lived-in vocal that winds itself up into a tuneless howl.

Realistically, for a seven-tracker to really shock and awe, you do need to be able to dig through all the songs and hit gold and that isn’t the case here. Some less-hardy souls might find things a little repetitive, and a couple of tracks, despite their reasonable running times, fail to keep producing and, consequently, do stretch the limitations of patience. Sadly, closer, ‘Said n’ Done’, by conjuring up the Blue Cheer proto-metal spirit – a matter of dispensing with the formalities with a simple grip and rip – suffers most of all. It stomps about, before it petulantly sinks down to a lethargic plod, where it revels in its own soul-sucking wedge of sludgy dissonance like a sullen brat. Thankfully there’s album highlight, ‘Moon Unit’, surely a reference to Frank Zappa‘s wackily-named first-born, there to save the day and act as a Sabbathian counterbalance, and it does hit like a brick between the eyes. Making plenty of room in the music, it sticks CT front and center. From this position of dominance, his vocal shifts from frazzled to fragmenting as he sets about bellowing out this trip of a track like his very soul depends on it.

Neurosis’ Steve Von Till has been moved to refer to this release as one containing “a power and an edge and soul that rarely exists in music today”. Now there’s a man who knows his onions and there is no arguing with that as the perfect one-line analysis for this beasty. As the viscious lyric from ‘Moon Unit’ warns – “The lights are out, engine is running and I have got you in my sights”. CT and, indeed, Iron Tongue have got metal history to back them up here, so take note.

Also online @ Heavy Blog Is Heavy = http://www.heavyblogisheavy.com/2013/05/10/iron-tongue-the-dogs-have-barked-the-birds-have-flown/

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Album Review: The Ocean - Pelagial

Written to be consumed and performed as one singular piece of music, Pelagial is a fascinating concept album that tells a tale of life in the big blue. Songwriter Robin Staps’ plan, to begin at the surface of the ocean and sink the listener steadily through the five pelagic depth zones, could have led to a simplistic 53-minute soundtrack going “glug, glug, glug”. However, unsurprisingly, he has quashed what could have been viewed as a gimmick by fully realising and integrating the notion, with individual tracks able to work both as standalone songs and also as part of the all-encompassing whole. As a consequence, this means drinking in the immensity of the ocean / The Ocean is not a task to be taken on lightly – repeated listens are essential to gauge just how deep this beast goes.

It is not by chance that you can sense the increasing depth, pressure and diminishing light as you progress through the album. “My original plan was to write a stepless musical progression, like a continuous colour blending from white to black”, says Staps, “but I soon realized that it could not be that linear.” The need for soundman Jens Bogren to create 288 separate audio tracks is proof alone of what a complex task this was to try and smoothly patch the entirety together. Consequently, there are plenty of overlapping glugs after all, as well as bubbles, babbles, sloshes and groans and the journey is not a direct path downwards.
 
The rippling wash of the introductory “Epipelagic” is dappled with light; emerging sounds that range from wind chimes to a distant oriental orchestra. A gentle movement into the mesopelagic and a bowed cello for “Into The Uncanny” drops away to finally reveal the waves of electrics. For a while, we swim through this and the bathyalpelagic zones; rocky, hard waters with fist-pumping anthems and catchy riffs. “Impasses” hits hardest with a strong undercurrent of post-metallic crush driving us deeper. Already, Loic Rossetti’s screams are raining down and the jaws are dropping at the manic tapping and rhythmic patterning.

A sudden drop-off into the black-edged death rattle of “Disequillibriated” is the first point where the oppressive crush becomes apparent as The Ocean raise their metal flag and rage without remorse. It is also the marker where the lineal process downwards also becomes fragmented. “Boundless Vasts” offers a fresher wider vantage point which “Signals Of Anxiety” leaps upon as an opportunity to introduce the perception of size and pressure. Our tiny sonic diving bell suddenly seems minute in these immense waters. The layering of the music is impressively thick here in the abyss with the echoing choruses taking the spotlight. There are washed-out melodics and lightness of tone to contend with here and these do contrast, jar even, when placed against a backdrop of bass-loaded bottom-end.

A depth marker further, the hadopelagic, serves as an oddly buoyant build into the finale and feels a little frivolous – these twinkling, disjointed precursors seem anomalous, almost rushed pieces, acting as little more than padding. The final depth gauge markers, demersal and benthic are, as expected, monstrous beasts. “Cognitive Dissonance” is full of sudden hammering, panic-stricken chugging and twin roars that squeeze and squeeze until “The Origin Of Our Wishes” slows heartbeats with a pounding, dissonant doom that claws at bodies; snatching lives. Sound the death knell. Davy Jones’ Locker has taken us.

It is perhaps true that this project could just have easily been flipped on its head and taken the listener on a steady rise to the surface. It certainly would have roused the listener from the off with a hefty opening salvo and also produced an uplifting finale. One would imagine that the band’s proggier side could have flourished a little more overtly than this version’s obvious propensity for overdosing on metallic power. Given time though, it is clear that this shoe fits and The Ocean most definitely stretch themselves to plug the gaps. The ride may not be the smoothest but, undeniably, this Pelagial is still a conceptual masterpiece with genius to be found in both its shifting, beguiling, expansive post-metal wash and in those thick, dark brushstrokes that produce such thunder throughout.

Also online @ Ave Noctum = http://www.avenoctum.com/2013/05/the-ocean-pelagial-metal-blade/