SVOLK | chaosweaver | king of asgaard | THE GRAVIATORS | beardfish
The Contortionist vintersorg intrinsic motivation
t h e st o r m b e fo r e t h e c alm
Editorial... welcome to our last issue as Scratch the Surface ISSUE #4 september 2012
4 HELLYEAH F E AT U R E S : 04. HELLYEAH 06. THE CONTORNIONIST 08. VINTERSORG
Magazine. We have prepared a number of changes for this publication in the upcoming weeks and one of them involves a change in name. In October, Scratch The Surface will vanish to give its place to Ghost Cult and just as the phoenix rising from the ashes this magazine will surely emerge stronger and greater than ever before. One of the other changes involves the editorial board, and yours truly is stepping down as editor chief and is handing over this task to more capable and hard-working hands, so I’m delighted to announce that our writer Raymond Westland will assume the editor-in-chief functions following this issue. Raymond has played a pivotal role in making this new number possible, in fact without his contribution this new issue ran a serious risk of not being published on time. This is also our best number to date and in it you’ll find interesting conversations with great bands like Hellyeah, Vintersorg and Chaosweaver among many others. Now it's my turn to pass the pen to the new editor Raymond Westland, who will be delighted to explain all the changes we have planned and the overall vision for Ghost Cult.
10. CHAOSWEAVER 12. BEARDFISH 14. king of asgaard 16. THE GRAVIATORS 18. SVOLK 20. REVIEWS CREW... Editor: raymond westland senior editors: chris wright, pete ringmaster, david alexandre Contributors: Matt Spall, John Muskett, John Toolan, Cheryl Carter, Catherine Morris, Myron Schmidt, Curtis Dewar, Ian Girle, Jodi Mullen, Chris Ward, Berneau van der Merwe, Christine Hager, Chantelle Higgins, Dewie, Gilbert Potts design: david alexandre INFO... www.scratchthesurface-webzine.com (@) firstname.lastname@example.org www.ghostcultmag.com (@) email@example.com If you'd like to submit a CD, record, DVD or other kind of promotional item please email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Some time ago David Alexandre approached me whether I had some ideas to evolve and improve the existing quality of Scratch The Surface. Our discussions proved to be very fruitful, so he asked me whether I was willing to spearhead the whole operation. Realising the potential of our new setup I could only say yes. Chris Wright was elevated to senior editor status and along with the new faces coming in it became apparent that we needed a new name. A couple of ideas were bounced back and forth, until we decided to go with Ghost Cult. It’s a powerful and enigmatic, thus perfect for our merry little venture. With Ghost Cult we’re going to bring you a fine selection of up and coming and forward thinking bands with a good underground twist to it. Other zines can have Metallica or Iron Maiden, we prefer to stick to the “no names, just talent” approach. High quality writing and insightful reviews, interviews and editorials will be Ghost Cult’s backbone. Welcome and enjoy Ghost Cult - the spirit of metal! DAVID ALEXANDRE & rAYMOND WESTLAND CONTEST WINNERS ISSUE#3 KATATONIA - DEAD END KINGS WINNER: MARIUS HANSEN - DENMARK ANSWER: Jhva Elohim Meth BARONESS - YELLOW & GREEN WINNER: ARTUR SANTOS - PORTUGAL ANSWER: Tower Falls, Coeur Scratch the Surface | 2
september top 5
THE RECORDs THAT CHANGED MY LIFE Guillaume Bernard - klone (guitarist)
RAYMOND WESTLAND | Editor-In-Chief 1. Enslaved - Riitirr 2. The Faceless - Autotheism 3. Kontinuum - Earth Blood Magic 4. The Gathering - Disclosure 5. Beardfish - The Void
King Crimson - Red
Soundgarden - Superunknown
pete ringmaster| SENIOR EDITOR 1. Guano Padano - 2 2. The Faceless - Autothesism 3. Terror Empire - Face The Terror 4. Frater - Into The Light 5. Negative - Self Titled EP
Pantera - The Great Southern Trendkill
david alexandre | designer 1. klone - The Dreamer's Hideaway 2. baroness - yellow & green 3. katatonia - dead end kings 4. burning love - rotten thing to say 5. process of guilt - faemin
The Beatles - Sgt Peppers
HE LLY EA H He was my best friend and we did pretty much everything together. He’s still there watching over me every day and I live for the two of us, man. I embrace the good things in life even more. He’s become an icon and he’s a hero to many in the metal community. He’s larger than life. vinnie paul on his late brother dimebag darrell
WORDS: RAYMOND WESTLAND
BROTHERS IN ARMS ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
Vincent Paul Abbott, also known as "Vinnie Paul" for all he has done and achieved with the mighty Pantera has already earned his place in metal history. But that does not mean that this veteran musician from Texas is ready for retirement just yet, quite the contrary, as his most recent work with Hellyeah shows that there is still a fire burning inside him. Raymond westland questioned the mighty drummer about this new effort “Band of Brothers” and all his side projects.
One of the benefits of being a freelance rock/metal writer is that you get the chance to speak with people you admire. One of those persons is former Pantera and current Hellyeah drummer Vinnie Paul. Recently I had the chance to sit down with him and have a friendly chat. He turned out to be a very down to earth guy and accessible guy who spoke candidly about his adventures with Hellyeah, dealing with the tragic death of his brother Dimebag, his various business ventures and he gave his vision on the current state of the music industry... Hellyeah pretty much brought you back playing music. The band is really taking off. How do you like the experience so far? It’s been great! After the death of Dimebag I didn’t know what to do for a couple of years. I didn’t know whether I wanted to play music, play drums or be in a band again. At some point I got approached by the rest of the Hellyeah guys if I wanted to be the drummer in their band. They’ve been busy with the band for several years, but they never could find the right drummer. At first I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to
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do this, but they were very persistent. I decided to give it got, it felt great and I ran with it. The rest is history as they say. Let’s talk about the new Hellyeah album. It’s called “Band Of Brothers”. What does the album mean to you personally? It means everything to me, man. We really found our stride on this album. The first two records were about having fun, experimenting with different genres and doing something totally different from our old bands. This time we decided to embrace our metal roots and go for a much heavier direction. Band Of Brothers will be the blueprint for future Hellyeah albums. Thematically it’s all about brotherhood and what we stand for as a band. Five guys having great fun playing together. That’s what Hellyeah is all about, dude. When I first heard the album it immediately reminded me of Vulgar Display Of Power and Far Beyond Driven in terms of relentless drive and energy. Especially the title song reminds me of I’m Broken and 5 Minutes Alone.. Thank you, brother, that really means a lot to me, because I played on those records, I co-wrote that material and I produced it, so why not take something to that to Hellyeah? Indeed! Would this also be a convenient excuse to incorporate some old Pantera and Mudvayne songs into the live set as an encore for instance? No, we decided a long time ago that Hellyeah need to stand on its own feet and that we’re not going to play songs from Damageplan, Mudvayne and Pantera. The band is doing really well and we got three albums to pick songs from, so why would we? Fair enough. The recording sessions of the first two albums is stuff of legend as far as the alcohol intake and partying goes. How did things go for Band Of Brothers? Pretty much the same. We recorded the new album at my house and it went very easy, especially during the recording of the first Hellyeah album. We recorded that one at Dimebag’s place and that was very confrontational experience. I really didn’t know whether I was able to make it through the entire experience. There are all these great stories about Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath recording in medieval castles and dungeons and what Rick Rubin did in the Houdini mansion, so I wanted to do the same at my place. It’s a really relaxed way of recording and when we don’t feel inspired we can drink a beer or BBQ. It’s good for the overall creative vibe. It’s been many years after the tragic shooting of your brother. How do you cope with his loss on a day to day basis? It’s still really difficult. He was my best friend and we did pretty much everything together. He’s still there watching over me every day and I live for the two of us, man. I embrace the good things in life even more. He’s become an icon and he’s a hero to many in the metal community. He’s larger than life. All the respect and admiration people still show to my brother is simply amazing. Let’s talk about your other ventures. You have your own label called Big Vin Records and you also own a couple of strip bars. What’s up with that? Big Vin Records was something I started after the death of Dimebag. One of his biggest wishes was to release the Rebel Meets Rebel record. It was a project with me, him and country singer David Allen Coe. No record company was interested at the time, so I created my own label and put the record out myself. It ended up selling 150,000 copies in the States alone. Vin records is in a state of hibernation, because I’m fully focussed on touring and recording with Hellyeah. I still have one band signed to the
label called Seventh Void. It features Kenny and Johnny from Type O Negative. The debut album is still great album, but sadly it sold very poorly. I may pick Big Vin records up again once the touring cycle for Hellyeah winds down. I still have loads of demos to go through, haha! I’m also a business guy and I love going to strip clubs, so the only way to prevent from losing money there was to own one myself. My club is in Dallas, Texas and it’s called The Road House. We play rock and metal there all day there, like AC/DC, Pantera, Damageplan, Black Sabbath and Hellyeah of couse, haha. The song Poll Rider was actually inspired by one visit at a strip club. Many strip clubs are just pure business, but at my place it’s all about having a genuine good time with good music, a great atmosphere, beautiful girls and lots of alcohol. Talking about the business, you are a veteran in the music business. What are the biggest changes you’ve seen so far and what tips do you have for aspiring bands and musicians? It’s very difficult nowadays to make living, because of all the illegal downloading. Many of the old bands are still doing well, but many of the younger bands simply don’t get the chance to develop themselves. You either have to become an overnight sensation like Linkin Park or you otherwise get dropped by the label. As far as tips go, I don’t know, man. You have to be really dedicated. Go out touring in a smelly and crappy van for months on end and then you’ll know soon enough if you’re made of the right stuff or not. Would you ever considering do something like Rebel Meets Rebel again or a blues/country project, something totally away from loud metal? Rebel Meets Rebel was very much a one off project and my brother was instrumental in getting the whole together, so no. As far as a country or blues project goes, I don’t think so. It takes a very different kind of technique to play that type of music and I’m simply not good enough. I’ll just stick to listening to it, haha. What’s the touring cycle going to look like supporting Band Of Brothers and who would you like to tour with? We’re currently touring in North America with Fozzy and Iced Earth and that’s an awesome package. We’re going to tour Europe by the end of this year or early next year. We’ll be on the road supporting our new record for the next one and a half years and when things keep on going well like they are now, I don’t see any reason that the other members of Hellyeah are going to return to their old bands. Everyone is fully dedicated and focussed on Hellyeah. We’ll take on touring with any band. It would be awesome to tour with Metallica, haha. Rumour has it by the way that there’s a tour in the works with Black Label Society and Lamb Of God. Zakk Wylde is really good friend of mine and BLS is probably the band out there that comes closest to our own sound. It would be killer touring with these guys. Time for the final question. Hellyeah has quite a reputation as far drinking and partying goes, but who’s the biggest party animal in the band? Haha, that would be Tom (Maxwell) and me. We’ll have a few beers and shots just to loosen up for a show, but the real partying starts after the show. We’ll still look after each other and Chad doesn’t drink at much to keep his vocals in shape. As for me, I still love to drink, play loud music and to go strip bars. I’m not a family guy like Metallica guys, because I don’t have a wife and kids. The family lifestyle is nothing for me. Things are way too serious now in the rock and metal world. What the hell happened to rock n’ roll?! www.hellyeahband.com
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Words: Myron Schmidt
intrinsic motivation One of the brightest new stars on the progressive metalcore firmament are the youngsters from The Contortionist. They caused quite a stir with their debut, but it’s with their latest album, entitled “Intrinsic”, they prove they’re here to stay. Jonathan Carpenter (keys/vocals) was more than happy to answer Myron Schmidt burning questions about the new album, his favourite tour package and his sources of inspiration...
Thanks Jonathan for taking time for us, I hear you are from Indianapolis, I know a few Indie bands, Apostle of Solitude, when they were together Gwen Stacy and a few more, how hard is it to get noticed in Indianapolis. It’s really hard, there’s a real lack of venues that support our style or even heavier styles so it's really hard to get prepared for live shows with the lack of them and get yourself out there. You have to be a little creative with on line things and getting yourself out there, it takes a lot more work and creativity. So we talked about how hard Indianapolis is for metal venues, where is your home away from home when it comes to you performing? We have had great success with our reception in California. We have really seem to struck a chord with that fan base and they really seem to respond great to our music. Did you feel any greater pressure in writing the new album? After doing a lot of touring we really started to get a clearer idea of what we wanted to do. I did some tweaks in how I handled the vocals and another example is we recorded the drums in a pristine room so we could get the cleanest sound from them. It was these things we
learned on touring we tried to apply to the new release. The biggest pressure really came from us trying to find the sound we wanted for this new album. Were there any larger themes and concepts from this new album or is the whole album a concept album? We definitely did not want to dedicate an entire album to any one concept or theme. There are songs one can group together and then there are some songs that are really standalone ideas. We wanted to mix it up, and give people a little of everything - larger themes and stand alone identities. Were there any major creative process differences between this and your previous album? Touring as much as we have has really focused and in some ways altered our thinking in preparing for the new album. We have really just taken our experience and took it from there to the next album. Meshuggah, Between The Buried and Me, and Cynic have been mentioned as sources of inspiration, what do you find inspiring about at least these three bands? Their musicianship and focus on a high degree of professionalism they
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all display. It's the attention to all the small music details including vocals that really draws me to these three bands. Their focus is just amazing and something we strive for in our band. You are still a young band, what's your long term look on career given the state of the music industry?We are trying to take it one year at a time and one album cycle at a time. We are constantly looking for bands we want to tour with and we then try and deliver a great time for the crowds. We want to do this is long as we can but trying to keep it in manageable chunks. Speaking of this how do you feel about downloading of music? Its positive for bands with no distro network and no funds to hire one. It does cut into profits though. The more established bands it sure hurts more than ones starting out and trying to get their music heard. Bands nowadays have to strive for a good quality product and do what they can to get people out there buying their stuff, this is a very tough issue. What is the perfect tour package for you? That is always one of the toughest questions to answer, the three bands you mentioned above are three we would love to tour with. I think their crowds would really respond well to our type of music. Would you guys like to play Mayhem Festival? Funny you say that we were talking about that very thing last night or the night before. I think we would be a great match for those crowds. Yeah you would fit in great with the Mayhem Crowd. So how do you keep fit and occupied on the road, you mentioned that you tour quite a bit? There are a lot of rough times but really we have started to get a lot smarter lately, we know now better what to bring and what not to bring when we head out on the road. Any chance you will see European soil soon? We have been trying to get there but its not the easiest thing for us to do, its hard to drive there in a van. Any last words to your Scratch the Surface fans? Please come out and see our headline tour! www.facebook.com/thecontortionist
The Contortionist – Intrinsic (eOne Music / Good Fight Music) US-based progressive metal outfit The Contortionist made quite a splash with “Exoplanet”, their debut album. Coming up with an equally good follow-up album is a daunting task by any stretch of the imagination, however The Contortionist lads pulled their creative weight again with “Intrinsic” being the stunning result. Let’s take a closer look. Like many modern progressive metal bands The Contortionist take their cues from luminaries like Dream Theater, Meshuggah, Between The Buried And Me and Cynic. It has to be said that band really found their stride on “Intrinsic”. Granted, the Meshuggah and Cynic influences are still clearly recognisable, but they’re used in a fairly original fashion. The whole album revolves around the impeccable songwritership of Robby Baca and Co. These lads certainly know how to hold their instruments, but their instrumental skills are used to really enhance the song material. Tracks like “Holomovement”, “Feedback Loop” and “Dreaming Schematics” are clear examples of that. “Intrinsic” is very guitar-driven album, but it’s the tasteful synths by Jonathan Carpenter that give the album a spacey atmosphere. It’s the contrast between the relentless guitar riffs and the melodic keyboard parts gives the album a dynamic of its own. Carpenter is also responsible for the vocals. His processed clean vocals are very reminiscent of Cynic’s Paul Masvidal and his barks bring Between The Buried And Me’s Tommy Giles Roberts to mind. The Contortionist’s secret weapon is definitely its rhythm section, consisting of Joey Baca on drums and Christopher Tilley on bass. Both lads can serve a song, but they’re not afraid to make their mark in the technically demanding parts. “Intrinsic” benefits from a clean production, but it also has a nice dirty edge. This prevents the album from sounding too polished, which is a virtue in my book. The production chores were expertly handled by Eyal Levi (Daath, Job For A Cowboy) and Jason Suecof (Chimaira, Trivium). I find “Intrinsic” by The Contortionist one of the better progressive metal records I’ve heard so far this year. These guys have the chops to become one of the major players within their particular in the not too distant future. Recommended! Raymond Westland
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vintersorg the storm before the calm
The last two years have seen Swedish band Vintersorg raise the bar for other progressive metal acts with the release of 2011’s Jordpuls and now their stunning new album, Orkan. Described by reviewer Jodi Mullen as “a monumental achievement and one of the finest records you’ll hear in 2012”, Orkan is a more contemplative affair than its predecessor but remains every bit as challenging and vital. Jodi caught up with Andreas “Mr V” Hedlund from Vintersorg (and also of Borknagar and more bands besides) to get under the skin of the new record and ask just how the prolific Mr V manages to keep to a schedule that will hopefully see another album released next year. Words: jodi Mullen
First of all, congratulations on the release of Orkan and on a personal note, a thank you for putting out one of my favourite albums of the year so far. Have you been pleased with how the record has been received? Thanks. We’re a bit overwhelmed with the great response we’ve picked up so far. Of course there’s always some who like earlier albums but didn’t really think that this new one is our best record so far, but that’s a very minor group of people it seems. We’re very pleased with the album ourselves and think that we really managed to do a very interesting and adventurous album. I know it can be a bit of a challenging album but after some spins it’ll reveal itself to you. It has only been a little over a year since Vintersorg released Jordpuls. How have you managed to get another album out so quickly? I write and record music on a daily basis as I have my own small studio to work in whenever I have the time and inspiration. Somehow my inspiration to write new songs just seems to persist each and every day so it’s a joy to record the stuff that just pours out of me. I don’t force myself doing this, it’s all about inspiration but I guess when you’re passionate about something inspiration is there for “free”. Last year was a bit busy of course as we’ve also released a new Borknagar album but I think that this year will follow down the same track. We’ve already started some recordings for the next Vintersorg album and I also work with Cronian, Fission, Gravisphere etc…just can’t help myself. A few months back you described Orkan as a "continuation" of Jordpuls? Are the two albums linked lyrically or musically? “Jordpuls” was the “earth” album and this new one is the “air” album. As you figure we’re doing a sequence of four albums dealing with the classic four elements. So, the cycle of albums will be connected but music and lyric wise but it’s not a chronological story that goes throughout the whole album sequence. My favourite track at the moment is probably Polarnatten, it's very dense and atmospheric yet for all its complexity there are also these huge riffs and so many catchy melodies and vocal lines. Is there any one song from the new record that you're particularly proud of? I have a hard time to just pick out one or two tracks from the piece as I’m an album guy. For me music is about “wholeness”, you build this large picture out of puzzle pieces. The sum is something vaster than the parts that it’s built out of. I like to listen to a record from track one to the last track and therefore I find it hard to attend to, for example, a house party when the host have this random playlist in the computer. You just jump from one emotion to another without any logical transition. With that I don’t mean that I don’t like contrasts, I love contrasts …Vintersorg’s music is based out of such things but you have to get a flow in the different positions and the contra positions. Can you tell us a little about the album art for Orkan? It's really quite spectacular. The title would be something like “Hurricane” in you language and I guess that the cover really put a nice “face” to that kind of events. It’s this giant ocean wave that is just about to hit the coast line and you see this tree…which is hard to judge the size of…that is bent horizontally by the force of it. The colours also appeals to the overall atmosphere. It’s an original painting made for this album by an artist called Kris Verwimp. I just had this idea and he executed it perfectly. This year, I've really enjoyed both Orkan and Borknagar's Urd,
which Andreas is obviously heavily involved with. How do you balance the needs of both bands when both are working on new material at around the same time? It’s actually not that hard. In Vintersorg I write both the music and the lyrics and work on every detail. In Borknagar I focus mostly on the vocal lines, some lyrics and some arrangements. I’ve found a nice way to handle it and don’t really reflect on it that much as it all comes very natural. The only conflict that I ever can think of is the time frame…I mean time is my greatest enemy and sometimes it can be difficult to do the stuff I like too due to that factor..did I mention that besides all my bands I work full time as a teacher and also have two kids. Over the years you've switched from writing lyrics in Swedish to English and then back again. Did you consider doing Orkan in English? Actually not. I feel very inspired to write in both languages but all my other band are using English so I’ve come to the conclusion that Vintersorg should have Swedish lyrics as I just love to explore new and broaden my linguistic grounds all the time. But that doesn’t mean that I’ve closed the door for Vintersorg in English…but at the time we like to have it like this. Many of your songs deal with the relationship between man and nature. Are environmental issues important to you? They’re important for every organism that stays on this planet But somehow some people have forgotten this or did never learn it. Still, we’re not a Greenpeace-band in any sense. We don’t preach and we don’t have any political agenda. We rather put it out through a more philosophical aspect and just try to find our place in this multitude of nature issues. It has been quite a while since Vintersorg have played live and I understand there are no plans to do so any time soon. Why have you chosen to stay as a studio-only band? Due to several reasons. We’re only a two piece band and finding fitting session members where we live is very hard. I also have a hard time to get “time” off from work and that goes to Mattias as well. I also have family with kids that needs a lot of my attention. But this may change later on…we just have it like this at the time being. You've been very productive over the last couple of years. Is it too much to hope for another Vintersorg album in 2013? I think it’s realistic to put out the third album of the sequence next year. www.myspace.com/vintersorganic
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C H AOS W EAVER Words: raymond westland
One of the more intriguing musical trips of this year is “Enter The Realm Of The Doppelganger” by Finnish avant-garde metal outfit Chaosweaver. Keyboardist Max Power was more than happy to share his thoughts on his remarkable band, the story behind the album and the acceptance of metal as a legitimate form of art in his home country... Hi there and thank you for doing this interview. I’m simply stricken with awe about the diversity and rich textures of “Enter The Realm Of The Doppelganger”. Are you happy how the album turned out? Thank you for the interest and support! Yes, we’re really pleased with the outcome. We pretty much worked on the album for three years, one and half of which in the studio. We are suckers for details, and “Doppelgänger” sure is full of them… I must confess that I’ve never heard of Chaosweaver before. Can you share some light on the band’s origins? Kole (ex-guitar) and I founded the band in 2004 in Helsinki, Finland. We polished the concept for two years before making our first demo “Weaving the Chaos” (2006). In 2007 we made a second demo “Cult of the Buried Serpent”, and got signed to Shadow World Records. Our debut “Puppetmaster of Pandemonium” (2008) got phenomenal reviews all around the world, which was kind of a surprise, because it is not the easiest listening stuff around. If you haven’t heard it, you’ll probably like it, because it has also got thousands of layers to it, and it
it is very dark. Compared to “Doppelgänger” it is even more avantgarde. Napalm signed us in 2011, and “Doppelgänger” finally came out in the summer of 2012. It was mastered in May of 2011, so we’re really happy to have it in the stores. Now we’re planning the musical direction of the next one. It might be even more cinematic as this one… “Enter The Realm...” is a concept album of sorts. Can you explain the storyline, please? The storyline actually continues from where the last track of “Puppetmaster”, “Son of the Moon”, ended. In that track the main character tries to find a gateway to the land of the dead, and reach eternal peace. In some of the stories in Finnish mythology, one must pass through a great whirl in the sea, a Kinahmi, in order to do so. In my head, a Kinahmi shaped up as a wormhole between two worlds. And wormholes can obviously be found in theoretical physics. So, I got super-excited about the superstring theories, especially the M-theory, and I combined them with Finnish folklore and a bit of Twin Peaks, and came up with the story, which goes through the whole album. The main character wakes up on the seashore, not knowing where he is or if he is. When he comes to his senses, he soon realizes that he has taken a wrong turn at some point, and is stuck between dimensions studied in the M-theory. According to the M-theory, there are 11 dimensions all together, and not just three or four. Some of them might be “heaven” or “hell”, but the one the main character gets spat on to, is a nightmare reflection of his previous reality, inhabited by shadow souls, doppelgängers. Everything seems familiar, but is bizarre and distorted like in a bad dream, but with no chance of waking up. On the last track, a gateway between two worlds opens, and the main
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character meets his doppelgänger. As they get in physical contact with each other, the vibrating strings of different dimensions collide, and the consequences are absolutely devastating. The album took quite some time to put together. What happened? First of all, this sort of grandioso spook opera is very slow to write. Secondly: we had a lot of problems, which caused delays. The studio’s computer broke down twice, a lot of orchestration sounds disappeared, I became a father and moved 400 kilometres away from the other guys, some of us had relationship break-ups and personal issues, and there was a lot of substance abuse going on and so on. But all in all, this shit reflected positively on the outcome. The album is in a way very angry, and full of emotion. In my review I drew comparisons with Arcturus, The Kovenant, Septic Flesh and Moonspell. Are you guys influenced by any of the aforementioned bands? The influence thing is a tricky question, because we don’t think of other bands or songs when we are composing. We try to capture moods of movies, and lean more towards soundtracks than metal as influences as such are concerned. Having said that, The Kovenant is for sure our mutual favourite, and there is one riff on the album, which is very much influenced by “Mirror’s Paradise”. I wrote it in 2000, way before Chaosweaver was founded. I’ve of course got albums by all the bands you mentioned in my collection, and see certain similarities between our craft and theirs, but wouldn’t call them influences. Arcturus embraces our avant-garde side; Septic Flesh has also got massive orchestrations; The Kovenant uses industrial elements geniously; and Moonspell has a gift of coming up with catchy gothic stuff. Vaudevillian theatrics seems to another important aspect of Chaosweaver. Where does this originate from and how is this tied in with the overall concept of the new album? The way I see it Chaosweaver is one artistic entity, which consists of cinematic music, “plot-like” lyrics, nightmarish artwork and a theatrical look, which is a dark extension of our own personalities. To tell you the truth, our look is not a product of large marketing machines or crap like that, but the pieces have fallen into right places very naturally, without giving it too much thought. Heat of the moment sort of stuff. And our photographer, Jarmo Katila (jarmokatila.fi), is a fucking genius. In the past the band decided not to do live gigs. Nowadays you do. What changed your mind? Well, we haven’t played live since August 22, 2009… We’ve only done two shows so far: the first one at the main stage of Finnish Metal Expo right before the main act, and opening up for the mighty Samael in Helsinki. We couldn’t say no to offers like that. Right now we are weighting options, and giving the live thing a lot of thought. Finland is a country with majestic landscapes and long and dark winters. How does this affect you as a musician? I believe the melancholy and darkness flows in our blood. It would be unnatural for us to write happy reggae sunshine stuff. There is huge ancient forest right in my backyard, and it certainly has affected my creativity. We just finished our debut album with my other band Kuolemanlaakso, featuring among others Albert of Chaosweaver on guitar and Mikko Kotamäki of Swallow the Sun and Barren Earth on vocals. The album is above all influenced by the grandeur of the Finnish nature.
seen as a legitimate art form. In many other countries that’s sadly not the case. What’s your take on this? It’s a double-edged sword. On the other hand it is super cool that people have a great taste in music, but metal is always about rebellion and giving the middle finger to everyday norms. I despise people who just follow trends and don’t take the thing seriously. Fuck those hipster fuckers. Time for the final question. What is next for you guys in terms of touring and other (possible) projects? For me personally it’s most likely the release of Kuolemanlaakso’s album. We are just finishing negotiations with a killer label, and the album should be out by the end of the year. It is very, very heavy, and super dark. We recorded it at V. Santura’s (Triptykon, Dark Fortress, ex-Celtic Frost) Woodshed Studio in Furth, Germany. The recording session was one of the highlights of my life. Santura is such a cool guy, and one of the most talented sound god’s I’ve had the pleasure of working with. He even played guitar on five tracks on the album, which was a trip, because Triptykon’s “Eparistera Daimones” was the reason this band got started in the first place. I’ve written all the songs on the album, and I play guitar and keys on it. www.chaosweaver.info
Chaosweaver – Enter The Realm Of The Doppelgänger (Napalm) Finland has graced the metal world with a host of fine bands; Amorphis, Ghost Brigade, Swallow The Sun, Barren Earth and Insomnium to name a few. My latest slice of metal from the land of a thousand lakes is a peculiar musical ensemble called Chaosweaver. Their latest album, entitled “Enter The Realm Of The Doppelgänger”, is an album you should hear at least once in your life. “Enter The Realm Of The Doppelgänger” is a concept album of sorts. It combines the Vaudevillian theatrics of Arcturus with the atmospheric dark metal of Septic Flesh and Moonspell. Slumbering influences from Dimmu Borgir and The Kovenant are never far away either. The material on this album is an eclectic mish-mash of different styles, but it works surprisingly well. I could write a novella on the musical exploits of each individual track, but I’ll suffice by saying that every song is a mini symphony in its own right. “Wings Of Death”, “Maelstrom Of Black Light” and “Ragnarök Sunset” are wonderfully diverse and very rich in atmosphere and texture. This makes “Enter The Realm Of The Doppelgänger” a rather difficult album to get into, but it’s well worth the effort. One minor complaint is the somewhat messy production. The emphasis lays clearly on the theatrical and symphonic elements, but this does take a lot of punch away from the drums and the guitars. It may be a matter of taste, but I wouldn’t a little bit more meat on the proverbial bones. “Enter The Realm Of The Doppelgänger” by Chaosweaver should satisfy the craving of everyone with a taste for theatrical and vaudevillian types of metal. The production may be somewhat off at times, but I prefer these types of records over the usual meat and potatoes type of metal any day. I’m hooked! Raymond Westland
Finland is also one of the few countries where metal as a whole is
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B E ARDFIS H
in t o th e vo i d Words: Raymond Westland
Beardfish is one of those progressive rock/metal bands that you can totally rely to deliver high-quality music. The latest album by these Swedes, entitled “The Void” is their heaviest and darkest effort to date. Singer/keyboardist Rikard Sjöblom was more than happy to share his views on the latest Beardfish album, the recording sessions and the current retrotrend within the prog community. Hi there, and thank you for doing this interview. Your latest album, “The Void”, is, once again, a high-calibre progressive rock/metal record. Are you happy with the way it came out?
“The Void” is arguably the heaviest and darkest Beardfish album to date. What triggered this new direction? We’ve been down this road before, but maybe we’ve never really committed to metal as much as we did on "The Void". We basically felt that we should let the heavy songs be as heavy as they could be on the album, not only live. With some songs in the past, such as “The Platform”, “Green Waves” or “Destined Solitaire”, we probably chickened out a bit in the studio, because those songs are a lot heavier in concert. The album still has some nods to 70s progressive rock. Bands like King Crimson, Yes and Genesis. But that sound isn’t as dominant on this album, especially when you compare it to the sound on “Sleeping In Traffic” and “Destined Solitaire”. How will longtime Beardfish fans react to this?
Hello! Yes, I’m really happy with it, I think we all are actually – for once! We had a great time recording and it was actually a pretty easy album to record, overall.
We don’t know yet, and I like it that way. We’ve played Voluntary Slavery live for about a year now and people seem to really like it when we play it. They even ask for ”that new song” that they’ve seen on YouTube! (laughs)
What’s the story behind the album title?
Will “The Void” act as a blueprint for future Beardfish albums?
I went through some tough stuff last year, and when it was over there was this void inside me. I had no ups or downs. My emotions were basically a flatline. When I finally picked up the guitar, everything came back to me and I had to get it out of my system, and the only way I knew how to do that was to write songs.
No, no more than any other Beardfish album has in the past. We tend to just go with the flow. In what ways did the creative and recording process for “The Void” differ from previous experiences?
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We’re going on a tour throughout Europe in September supporting Flying Colours. It will be awesome. After that I think we’re gonna try to do some more touring in early 2013. www.facebook.com/beardfish
Beardfish – The Void (InsideOut)
We didn’t record the basic tracks live, for starters. We focused more on the individual sounds creating a fuller sound together, rather than just recording everything as it sounds in the rehearsal space and then equalizing it afterwards. There are a breed of bands and musicians who make music for the sake of making music and they don’t really care what the outside world might think of their latest ventures. Would you describe Beardfish's attitude that way? Well, that’s what we’ve been doing since we started out in 2001, basically. And it has taken us this far, so it appears to be working to some extent, at least. But I don’t know if this band could survive if we were doing it just to be famous. We’ve never tried that. Beardfish seems to have a certain cult status within the progressive rock/metal community, but it’s never seen as one of the “big guys”. Is this something that bothers you? Or are you perfectly happy with the niche the band currently occupies? We make the music mainly for ourselves, so I won’t be sad if we never get any bigger than this. But it would be nice not to have to do anything but Beardfish, because it’s hard to play at this level and keep a day job! Emulating/revisiting 70s progressive music seems to be all the rage within the progressive rock/metal community these days. What is your take on this phenomenon? It’s no different than what a soul artist or a blues band does, really. Many of the eclectic prog bands mix their take on the 60’s and 70’s music with a lot of fresh ideas too. I think that’s when it becomes interesting. I’ve never really understood a lot of the comparisons that not only we, but a lot of the prog bands get with older bands that we’ve never even heard of. A lot of times I think it just comes down to people's love of putting everything in a folder because that’s the first thing we do when we hear a new artist. We look through the catalogue in our brain of stuff that we’ve heard before and try to find a match. I do it too. It’s a disease really. Time for the final question. What is next in terms of touring and any other musical ventures?
Beardfish is one of the unsung heroes within the prog rock/metal genre. Their album are as consistent and intricate as any Porcupine Tree or Dream Theater album, but they never seem to break through to a wider audience. Hopefully things will change for the better with the latest Beardfish album, entitled “The Void”. The band latest effort is a surprisingly dark and heavy effort. The frivolities of the earlier Beardfish material has been put by the wayside in favour of a more metal oriented approach. Some fans may regret this, but I think think it adds a lot of new shades and colours to the already rich Beardfish palette. The album starts with an ominous monolog only to burst into “Voluntary Slavery” and “Turn To Gravel”. Those two songs perfectly underscore the dark and brooding character of “The Void”. Luckily there’s also room for some more jazz-oriented material in the form of “They Whisper” and “This Matter Of Mine”. It’s on those songs singer/keyboardist Rikard Sjöblom shows what an incredible versatile vocalist he is. “Seventeen Again” is the most lighthearted track on the album. It’s playful and vintage character comes closest to older Beardfish albums, like “Destined Solitaire” and “Sleeping In Traffic”. The most elaborate composition on “The Void” is the 13 minute long “Note”, which is a foray into jazz rock. It can easily rival with any track of Steven Wilson’s “Grace For Drowning” album. The dark atmosphere of this album also comes forward in the heavy production. The emphasis is clearly on the guitars. The fuzz and reverb which characterised the previous Beardfish productions has been reduced to almost zero. Luckily the production is dirty enough to give “The Void” a somewhat vintage feel. “The Void” is arguably the darkest and heaviest Beardfish album to date. It’s not Opeth or Dream Theater-style heavy, but it seems Sjöblom and his comrades in crime are gradually shifting towards a more metal oriented direction. This makes me curious where the band will go next on future albums. Raymond Westland
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KI N G O F A SGARD
WARRIORS OF THE NORTH Words: Raymond Westland
One of the most solid records I've had the pleasure of listening to so far this year is the latest album by Swedish metallers Kings Of Asgard. “...To North” may not be the most ground breaking release around, but it has enough to offer to enthrall fans of Enslaved, Primordial and Amon Amarth. Bass player Jonas Albrektsson was more than happy to shed some light on the last Kings Of Asgard album, working with Metal Blade and the always infamous road stories... Thank you for doing this interview. “...To North” has been released and it’s very solid album in my view. Are you happy the way it came out? Our pleasure! Thanks for supporting King of Asgard. Well, we are very pleased with the outcome of “...to North” even though it's not really breaking any boundaries. We're satisfied with our achievements this time and feel we’ve done something out of satisfaction and worth both for us and our fans. Seems our followers embrace the album and appreciate it a lot too. Which is great, of course. Viking mythology is at the heart of all the lyrics. What do you find so inspiring about the stories and sagas of old? Yes, our main source of lyrical inspiration is based upon Norse mythology, legends and sagas but not entirely. There are main themes that are Norse mythology based, prehistoric tales and beliefs, but no more than that actually. As for the sources used it is mainly literature based
upon the Poetic Edda and such, but I would say our lyrics aren’t that hard to grasp either. Could be retelling or simply being a reflection of what or how life in ages of old could be like. We find this interesting due to many reasons but as for King of Asgard we use it more in a way of telling these stories of our forefathers and bringing our heritage further on. Still we do not limit ourselves on just these topics so there are other matters to reflect upon. It is probably or certainly the name King of Asgard that has kind of made us painting ourselves into that corner. But our tentacles reach far! “...To North” does share some musical similarities with Enslaved and Primordial. Are you guys inspired by those bands and can you share some light on other (musical) sources of inspiration? These two are for sure both great acts and they might be slightly influential to us but not the ones I would mention first. Some of our immediate inspirational sources would be Bathory as well as much of the say mid-nineties black and death metal acts really, such as Dismember, Satyricon, Dissection, Storm etc. could go on for hours. The ones we listened to a lot and still do and sort of pay tribute to with King of Asgard. On the more folk music side I’d say Jan Johansson’s “Jazz på Svenska” (Jazz in Swedish) has made quite big impact on the King of Asgard sound as well as traditional Swedish folk music. How did the writing and recording sessions for “...To North” go compared to previous experiences? It all went nicely I think and the writing process worked out safely in a pleasant way. When we started working on the songs for " ...to North" we just let creativity flow and didn't set any boundaries. We appointed some small goals of what we wanted to accomplish and achieve, such as building atmosphere, power, aggression - alone or combined. We wanted to build sensations and feel to the music and hopefully we de-
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livered it in such way as well. The base of King of Asgard is really just making strong songs, which goes both for “...to North” as for its predecessor, which we can all stand behind and from there it goes, taking different directions. What makes "..to North" different from the debut is basically that it is a much better album and the songs are much more thought and worked through. So, entering Sonic Train Studios this (second) time around were way cooler as we were much more prepared, pretty much everything was finished and just needed to be set on tape. We were armed to the teeth! It was great getting back together with Andy, as we work extremely well together and he's really open and understands our goals and intentions with KoA. We made clear as we arrived how we wanted this album to sound etc. and together we discussed on how to reach those goals and from there on the hard work started. The actual recording session was pretty much the same as on the debut apart from that it was more obvious to us on what we wanted the final result to be like. Working with Andy is very easy for us by now as we've known him now since many years and before King of Asgard as well. He's helping us out a lot and gets the picture of what we want to accomplish which is the most important point for us when picking out a studio to be creative in. A cool thing is that he's also very proud of what we achieve together especially on the new one, "...to North". Are you guys involved in any side projects? If so, which ones? Actually not any active in terms of ‘side’ project. Karsten handles the drums for Swedish metallers Falconer which also include one old Mithotyn member, Stefan Weinerhall, also on Metal Blade. Other than that there’s not much to mention. We had our past of being in several bands at the same time during the nineties but it doesn’t work really and so we’ve learnt. Lars has some electro/ambient/noise projects and I’ve got some more brutal duties at times but King of Asgard is for now the main activity and the most relevant one. The band is signed to Metal Blade now, which one of the most revered record labels within metal. How are things working out so far and to which extent will they push Kings Of Asgard to greater heights? It’s been perfect and Metal Blade work and push us in a way we need to get things done. It is really easy going working with them and we are sure happy with how they treat us. We have a terrible past of dealing with unprofessional and lousy labels thinking of bands we’ve, personally, been related to in earlier stages. We've experienced some real disastrous shit during our involvement in the music business. Now getting to work with one of extreme metal's finest is a walk in the park, really. Things really happen as we're told they will and there's no major surprises showing up when you least expect it. They are very professional in all aspects and push us as a band as well and they help us out a lot. Be it recordings, artwork stuff, promotion etc. you name it, there's always someone that's sorting things out and in a reasonable time. So, horns up to them all! They are, to say the least, a large part of our ‘success’ and have pushed and moved us in a pleasant direction. More and more bands are looking for ways to release their music without the help from a record label. Is this something you’re also looking into? Never thought about it, nor considered doing it. We feel safe being on a label with people handling what they are meant to handle. I don’t think any one of us would have the time it would take to handle this. We are fully busy pursuing the creative process and to bring our work together. To have someone who makes the second piece easy is a must for our continued existence.
What will your tour schedule look like for the next couple of months? We’ll try our very best to come out as much as possible as the music of King of Asgard deserve a live setting and we’re eager to present the new songs and meet our followers. Tours are really tricky for us to conduct, which is a pity. Easiest for us are one-off shows like festivals and such, due to personal situations. But we sure want it to happen as often as possible! So, hopefully there will be some within the near future but as for now there’s none on schedule, unfortunately. Bring us your offers! Time for the final question. What’s the best road story you got? The usual drunken stories, I guess. Just totally pissed-off, drunk Swedes relaxing after gigs far away from home... often ends in slight disaster. Nothing more really. You've heard them all before. There was a small incident after the last Ragnarök Festival when we arrived well over the drinking limit to the hotel. We met the guys from Fejd in the lobby and continued partying till early morning. All was fine until we woke up with our drummer passed out on the floor in our room (where he wasn't supposed to be) with a trash bucket filled to the brim with his daily intake of food and drink. All fine. He, or we, couldn't find his room which was across the corridor opposite our door. Two meters away. Floor is fine too though. Where were the instruments? Apparently we just left them behind in the lobby and luckily they were still there. Might be a good thing to bring assistants next time as we're obviously not able to handle ourselves! There are no good stories, really just miserable ones that we can share. www.kingofasgard.com
Kings Of Asgard – To North (Metal Blade) Kings Of Asgard is a Swedish metal band, featuring (former) members from Mithotyn. They have been around for a couple of years of now, releasing a demo and a full length album in the process. “To North”, the second album, is about to see the light of day.. The music and lyrics of this band are firmly rooted in Scandinavian lore and music, with Bathory, Amon Amarth and Enslaved being main sources of inspiration. Some musical touches by Primordial come into to play as well. Kings Of Asgard isn’t the most innovative outfit on the block, but they make up for that in sheer quality. Tracks like “The Nine Worlds Burn”, “The Dispossessed” and “Up On The Mountain” are as well-rounded and solid as they come. This no-nonsense approach is both the greatest charm and the proverbial Achilles’ heel of “To North”. Songs like “Gap Of Ginnungs” and “Plague-Ridden Rebirth” are perfectly to sing/growl/holler along with, they do miss the depth that makes Enslaved and Primordial such great musical entities. But then again, Kings Of Asgard aren’t about musical experimentation or pushing envelopes. They simply do what they are good at, namely writing memorable tunes with a nice epic feel to it. Andy LaRoque (King Diamond, Death) took care of the production chores. He did a splendid job and he gave the album its gritty, yet heavy sound. If you’re looking for some good quality epic metal in the vein of Bathory and Amon Amarth, “To North” by Kings Of Asgard will fulfill your needs adequately. If you’re looking for something with a little more depth and substance I’d suggest you’d better check out the latest albums by Enslaved and Primordial. Having that said, “To North” is a solid release in its own right, just don’t expect anything truly earth shattering. Raymond Westland
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TH E G RAVIAT O RS
Mysteries of the Occult Words: Raymond Westland
Occult rock and doom is becoming more and more popular nowadays. One of the finer releases in that particular genre is Evil Deeds by The Graviators. Recently these Swedes signed a record deal with Napalm Death, which should push the band to greater heights. Martin Fairbanks (guitar) provided some very interesting insights on the new album, the creative process within the band and the joys of living in Sweden. Congrats on releasing such a solid album! Are you happy the way it came out? Thank you! Yes, we’re very happy about the new album. We recorded the first album basically in our backyard, at a studio which is more used to recording artists like In Flames. Those guys are really good at what they do, within their own genre, so no disrespect to them, but we feel like the sound on that album wasn’t really what we were after. But then our singer Niklas had the brilliant idea to contact Berno studio, the studio in which Spiritual Beggars recorded “Another way to shine”. And we all know how good that record sounds! We had the best time working with Berno, and we definitely hope to work with him on all future albums. What’s the story behind the album title? The story behind the lyrics to Evil Deeds is that God created Satan to take the blame for all evil he’s done. In religion you’ve got to have a
scapegoat, that’s the golden rule. If there is only one God and he is almighty, then he’s also responsible for everything bad that happens. It would be hard to form a religion where the almighty creator is both good and evil. So we need something to fear, something to threaten people with, so they know their place. It’s also a fitting title if you look at what’s going on in the world today. Right-wing assholes rule the world... hang em’ high! Can you tell something about creative process within The Graviators? How did it go for the new album? It’s kinda hard to work out who does what, because everybody is involved and intertwined in the songwriting process. For example, 'A Different Moon' is completely written by Martin, and 'Häxagram' is a team effort, with everybody contributing to the structure of the song. But mainly we have a bunch of riffs, and then we try them all together with one-another to see what fits with what. When all that is done, we work on the vocal melody, and then the lyrics are written. How did the recording process go? What hurdles did you need to overcome? The recording process was very pleasant, thanks to our producer Berno. We recorded the drums, guitar and bass in the same room, live, so the basics for all the tracks were laid down in 48 hours. The only hurdle really was that we started the sessions at 9 A.M, and I don’t think we made it on time once! (laughs) We feel very fortunate to have found the right studio and producer for us. It’s an analogue studio, and the equipment we have is all from the 70’s. Berno is just a wizard at the knobs, and our new improved sound is all thanks to him. Doom metal/stoner rock with a occult twist seem to be quite pop-
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“In religion you’ve got to have a scapegoat, that’s the golden rule. If there is only one God and he is almighty, then he’s also responsible for everything bad that happens.”
The Graviators – Evil Deeds (Napalm Records)
ular nowadays. What is your take on this phenomenon? Yes, the Swedish band Ghost is a great example of that. But I don’t think the occult themes have got that much to do with their popularity. It’s the quality of the music that matters in the end. Is the occult something you’re really interested in or it perhaps more of an image thing, something that comes along with this kind of music? We grew up in the deep forest with Mother Nature in all her glory right outside the door. We have always been into old Swedish pagan beliefs and rituals. In our youth we used to hang with this witch that taught us about witchcraft and different states of mind. We did a lot of astral trips to try to evolve ourselves to become better human beings. We spent a lot of time in the woods with this 300 year old tree that was just amazing. The occult theme isn’t a self imposed image, we write about things we have experienced and are interested in. The band is signed to Napalm records. They recently signed a massive business deal with Universal Music. What kind of impact will this have on you guys? We don’t know. This is news to us but it sounds great, and we hope it will have a big impact on us. We really want to quit our jobs and we would definitely love to do music full time. Sweden has a very rich history in rock and metal. What are other bands in your particular field to watch out for? We would recommend the contemporary bands Ghost, Graveyard, Horisont, Lord Vicar, and oldies but goodies Count Raven (Storm warning & Destruction of the void), November (A great 70’s outfit with Swedish vocals) and Spiritual Beggars (Another way to shine & Mantra III). What is the main reason that there’s so much music coming out of Sweden lately? It’s because you can rehearse basically for free in Sweden. Also, music schools are free of charge for kids, so if you want to learn the drums, bass, piano or the guitar, you can do so for free. In our case we, along with every band in our area that we know of, receive money from a culture association, funded by the government, to endorse people that are into music or art. So these things are the secret to the Swedish music phenomenon. A lot of Swedish death-metallers probably started out playing the trumpet.
The Graviators is a Swedish stoner/doom metal band, not much unlike Spiritual Beggars, Hermano, Kyuss and Sahg. They recently released their second album, entitled “Evil Deeds”, on Austria-based Napalm Records. Let’s see what evil men can do... The themes and lyrics touched on “Evil Deeds” are drenched with references to the works of HP Lovecraft. His books are a source of inspiration for many bands that dabble with occult themes and wizardry. Musically the band reminds me of Sahg and a less spaced out Monster Magnet and they also rub shoulders with their fellow countrymen in Spiritual Beggars and Grand Magus. Originality is not The Graviators strongest asset, but their song material has an undeniable vintage quality. Another key factor is the band’s collective ability to write some engaging and memorable songs, with “Soulstealer”, “The Great Deception” and “Presence” being some particular fine examples of their craft. At first I had some qualms with the vocal qualities of Niklas Sjöberg. His vocal timbre is a typical love/hate thing, but it does give The Graviators a distinct face of their own. After all, Ozzy Osbourne isn’t the most gifted singer in the history of metal, but his distinct tone was one of the distinguishing features of Black Sabbath. In short, “Evil Deeds” by The Graviators is a great musical treat for everyone with a taste for some high quality (stoner) rock and doom metal with a vintage and occult touch. Nice! Raymond Westland
What touring plans do you guys have? Any chance we’re going to see you all over Europe? We’re going out on a European tour in October, along with Brain Police from Iceland, and Greenleaf from Sweden. We will play Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Belgium. Hopefully we will be able to tour more regularly now, that’s what we want to do! www.facebook.com/thegraviators
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knights of the holy riff Words: Raymond Westland
Norwegian stoner rock outfit Svolk just released a very solid album in the very best stoner rock tradition, entitled “Nights Under The Round Table”. On behalf of the band, vocalist Knut Erik Solhaug (KE), bassist Halstein Røyseland (HR) and guitarist Jengt Castral (JC) were more than happy to provide some comments on the latest album, touring with Annihilator and White Russians. Congratulations on releasing another slab of pounding (stoner) rock in the form of “Nights Under The Round Table”. Are you happy the way the album turned out? HR: We are very happy with the result. I think we’ve progressed from Svölk Em All, but we still pack a ferocious punch in our bear paws. It’s unmistakably very Svölk. KE: I didn`t listen to the album for a month or so after we had sent the master tape to Napalm. But during my summer holiday we spent hours almost every day, driving from one place to another in Norway, and the only thing my two year old daughter wanted to listen to was “daddy” (that means Svölk). So for/in two weeks I listened to the entire album about 20 times! I don`t want to sound cocky, but I was blown away by the quality of each and every song. Often I would just smile and think to myself, "this is fucking awesome!" Even my dad (63) is convinced that this is going to be our breakthrough album.
What’s the idea behind the album title? It seems like a tongue-incheek play to the famous Round Table. HR: It was Martin that came up with the idea, and we all felt at home with it. Being a band is kind of like being a part of the knights of the round table, but being a part of Svölk, especially if you’re drinking together with Martin, means that you’ll end up on the floor somewhere. Just ask Jengt how it goes when you try to drink a gallon of White Russians. Can you tell something about the creative process of your latest record? In what way was it different from previous experiences? HR: Martin actually quit his day job to focus 100% on songwriting. That’s dedication! He and Jengt writes the riffs, so they should really be the ones that answer how the songwriting process works. JC: I always start with a riff. I make song sketches in Cubase from the best ideas with drums, guitar and bass. If I'm happy with the result Knut Erik comes over to try some vocal lines. Then we'll jam out the final result in our rehearsal room. KE: Vocal-wise we`ve used the same recipe as last time. Martin and Jengt writes the riffs, and they`ll send the finished songs to me. Then I'll come up with some mindblowing vocal-lines and lyrics. How did the recording process go? What hurdles did you have to overcome? HR: When it came to recording the bass we faced a few problems. During the past winter we built our own recording studio, and we got it
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done in time for me to record the bass tracks before I left to spend some time in America. But it turned out we had recorded the bass in a different format than the drums, so we needed to re-record the bass. I ended up entering the studio in Las Vegas. It’s called The Tone Factory and is run by Vinnie Castaldo. He was really good and set me up with a Mesa M2000 and a ’72 Fender Precision, and dialled the bass settings into awesome. So even though we had to re-record the bass, we ended up with a much better bass sound. So luckily for me I don’t sound like Jason Newsted on ...And Justice For All.
Do you guys have any tour plans to promote the new album? Can you share some dates, please?
JC: Justice is my favorite Metallica album. Bass or not.
Your new album will be released on vinyl. What is your take on the rise of vinyl in this digital age?
KE: A louder version of 10.
HR: First of all, it will be awesome to unwrap the vinyl version of Nights Under The Round Table and take it all in. And I think the fans appreciate buying the albums they want on vinyl. It just looks cooler than a CD. I’m not a HIFI guru so I can’t go into a debate about vinyl vs digital. But I bet you Jørgen and Jengt could... Norway is mostly known for its black metal scene. Is there a lively rock scene in your countries? If so, what are the bands to watch out for? JC: It's a handful of good bands. And you have the so-called supergroups being hyped up. Not so much the real thing. Most of today's music scene is overrated. HR: Svölk, of course! And then there’s my other band, Deathtrack (www.facebook.com/deathtrack). In the last couple of years a band called Kvelertak has taken Norway by storm. They won two Norwegian Grammys for their debut album, and have toured the world. They’re great, and have their follow up album coming up this year. KE: I would also like to mention Tombstones. A kickass doom band. And Sahg, an awesome stoner/metal band from Bergen. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to make a decent income as a musician. How do you guys cope with this situation? HR: Luckily we live in the social democratic paradise that is Norway, so even though Martin quit his day job he still got welfare from the government. The rest of us have day jobs, so we’re basically working for the weekend just to stay alive. There's not much money for bands like us on the way up. You have to get out on the road to try and make money, and even that is much harder now – because all the other bands are touring as well. It’s a cutthroat business, but we love it. You guys did a tour with Annihilator back in 2010. Jeff Waters is quite a prankster, so how was it like to tour with them? What are your fondest memories? HR: Jeff is quite the prankster and we saw his white ass butt cheeks more than one time. But Annihilator were great to us and we had a blast criss-crossing Europe for five weeks together with them and Sworn Amongst. There’s a lot of highlights from that tour. I think me and Martin’s absinthe adventure in Prague, our red wine and cheese binge in Paris, the giraffes in Montpellier, pies in Sheffield and Dave Padden joining us on stage in London rounds up the top five-list. But then of course it was the Halloween party we crashed in Austria, and the free vodka in Milan. Lots and lots of highlights!
HR: We’re working on it, and we would love to come to America. So promoters! Give us a shout out! Time for the final question. How rock and roll is Svolk on a scale from one to ten?
Svölk – Nights Under The Round Table (Napalm Records) Svölk are a hard rock or heavy metal band out of Sweden. At this end of the metal spectrum some may call it hard rock some may call it heavy metal, I call it solid. Having made their appearance in the recorded world around with their EP “Beast Unleashed” this band of hard driving Swedes have been going strong ever since. Their latest offering, Nights Under The Round Table, continue their tradition of in your face, straight forward, hard driving music. This release is stack from top to bottom with hooks and grooves reminiscent of the 70’s classic rock phase, albeit with a heavier delivery. There is no hint of 80’s hair metal here at all it is nuts and bolts, riffs and beats, constructed around melodious vocals. ‘Painbringer’ and ‘Bearserk’ are certainly offer their trademark sounds, unapologetic hard rocking music. ‘Fallen’ tends a little to the more doomier side of things but they capture their unique spirit in this one mainly through vocal delivery. This shows some great versatility for Svölk without being silly about it. Its nice to see a band branching out and showing some variation while maintaining the spirit of their own brand of music. Svölk is a tight band giving forth some great catchy heavy metal tracks. The catchiest little ditty on the release is ‘This Is Where It Ends”, its just a track that screams fun, and what is wrong with that, well nothing! This is the perfect sound track to great summer nights where the beer is flowing, the grill is fired up, friends and gathered and fun ensues. This may never make album of the year but in the end who cares. It music that will appeal and make you feel like moving and grooving albeit with a brewsky in your hand and at the end of the day, its just good. Myron Schmidt
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ALBUM OF THE MONTH
ENSLAVED - RIITIIR (NUCLEAR BLAST) Well, what a year it’s been for Norwegian metal, particularly for musicians of the blackened kind. Ihsahn’s Emerita was a wonderfully inventive slab of darkened, progressive metal that had a few nods to its creators black metal past but was boldly looking forward and adding in layer upon layer of musical experimentation that was, quite frankly, astonishing. Fellow countrymen Enslaved have also come a long way from their gnarly black metal roots, having begun toying with prog on 1997’s Eld album and with 2010’s Axioma Ethica Odini earning the band several ‘Album of the Year’-type awards, it seems their popularity has never been higher. Which is just as well, because RIITIIR is something of a beast that’s bound to satisfy even the most cynical of black metal fans. Beginning with the heavy ‘Thoughts Like Hammers’, which is based around a solid Black Sabbath-esque doom riff during its main verse, the song veers from that mid-paced grind into a cleaner up-tempo pace before racing off into more proggy areas. It sounds quite complex but the massive production makes the transitions feel effortlessly smooth despite the metallic assault that the band provide. And it’s also a good indicator of how the album as a whole plays out, although that song is probably the most instantly accessible song on here. ‘Death in the Eyes of Dawn’ is a brooding slab of death metal intensity that also brings in some nice acoustic guitar as an outro. As effective as the first track but in a different way, it’s clear from this early stage that the album is going to veer off in all sorts of directions without ever being predictable. Which is good because ‘Veilburner’ shifts the mood again, being more upbeat and bringing in some of that traditional Scandinavian metal flavour. Ending with some almost symphonic guitar work the song bleeds over into the more brutal ‘Roots of the Mountain’, which begins with more traditional black metal blast-beating before settling down into a mellower, prog metal verse and then exploding again with traditional extreme metal dynamics. A seething cauldron of different moods, ‘Root of the Mountain’ is probably the standout track on here. Only four tracks in and the album has been going for over thirty pretty intense minutes, but it doesn’t slack off for its second half. Tracks like the demented ‘Storm of Memories’ push forward the traditional black metal element of their sound with added force but for some serious experimentation then the near-twelve minutes of closing track ‘Forsaken’ takes some beating. Needless to say, if you’re after an album of three or four minute hit singles then this isn’t it. Overall, this album is something of a monster. It has all the makings of a modern classic and is certainly an album that will be spoken about for quite a while – or until their next one pushes things even further. But until then this slick, modern, progressive metal album with a blackened heart is as vital and exciting as metal gets. Chris Ward
Abrahma – Through the Dusty Paths of Our Lives (Small Stone)
Formerly known as Alcohsonic, French quartet Abrahma’s first album under their new name is something of an expansive trip into
desert/stoner rock grooves that seems a little incongruous given that the band are from the neon-lit metropolis of Paris. But no matter, as their sound is (nearly) as authentic as any of the bands that have slithered their way out from the murky backwoods of the southern US. Roughedged vocals, thick sludgy riffs and trembling bass-lines battle for space in the sonic assault that emerges from tracks like ‘Piste Inconnue 5’, seven-minutes of almost funky drum patterns over a chugging, doom riff that climaxes in a Hawkind-esque barrage of noise effects and guitar squeals. The harder hitting ‘Vodun Pt. 1: Samedi's Awakening’ rolls along on a thunderous stomp that immediately brings to mind a heavier Queens of the Stone Age or Clutch as a reference point. ‘Vodun Pt 2: I, Zombie’ is a furious rock n’ roller that is perfect for driving along Route 66 in a fast car with the
roof down, whilst ‘Vodun PT 3: Final Asagwe’ continues the road-movie vibe with a greasy swagger. Not too sure what the titles refer to, but the trio of ‘Vodun…’ tracks act as something of an EP of their own within the context of the album, being a little bit harder and faster than the rest. Keeping up the excitement levels for most of its expansive running time, Through the Dusty Paths of Our Lives is an enjoyable listen that will appeal to fans of the aforementioned Clutch, QOTSA, Monster Magnet (MM guitarist Ed Mundell puts in an appearance on ‘Big Black Cloud’), Kyuss or even Orange Goblin. It is a little long, especially for music of this nature, but overall if you like big-ass grooves and some down n’ dirty riffing then this’ll be right up your street – or should that be Rue? Chris Ward
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Black Light Burns - The Moment You Realise You’re Going to Fall (Rocket Science)
cent of NIN’s The Day The Whole World Went Away Black Light Burns’ second release is a thor oughly unexpected pleasure and open-minded musos willing to forgive Wes Borland his past indiscretions will find time spent digging into TMYRYGTF richly rewarded. Jodi Mullen
Eagle Twin – The Feather Tipped The Serpent’s Scale (Southern Lord)
As I write this, news has just broken that Fred Durst has called time on Limp Bizkit once more. For many music fans, Wes Borland’s output, whatever form it takes, will always be forever tainted by his association with his erstwhile bandmate and the spectre of nu-metal. Those who discount Borland’s guitar work for these resasons are doing themselves a grave disservice, because The Moment You Realise You’re Going to Fall (referred to as TMYRYGTF hereafter) by his long-time side project Black Light Burns is an off-kilter delight. TMYRYGTF is best described as a hybrid of Nine Inch Nails-style industrial rock and the sheer mind-bending insanity of Mike Patton’s Mister Bungle. Songwriting is incredibly varied and full of bizarre hooks, abrupt changes in rhythm and frankly bizarre lyrics. The record has a dirty, organic feel owing to Borland’s generous use of fuzz and effects on tracks like How To Look Naked and the Girl in Black. There’s an enormous amount of diversity here, with no two songs sounding particularly alike and the former Limp Bizkit guitarist given carte blanche to let lose his wild imagination. One real surprise is Borland’s impressive turn on lead vocals. Just as he’s not the most technical guitarist around, Wes can’t compete with other singers for range or power, but his vocals lines show an unanticipated degree of versatility and sit well within each song. Borland’s voice shows eerie similarities to that of Trent Reznor, both in tone and breathless delivery – compare tracks like Tiger By The Tail to NIN’s Year Zero. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery but this vocal style makes perfect sense in the content of the album. There’s not a great deal to fault TMYRYGTF on but at fifteen tracks long, it feels as if the ideas have been stretched a little thin come the final third. Longer songs like Bakelite are meandering and aimless and take some of the shine off the record, which would certainly benefit from being trimmed down. Still, TMYRYYGTF goes out with a bang thanks to the title track, which comes right at the close and is strongly reminis-
Mythology is a powerful force, its influence being felt through millennia and even finding its way into the 21st century. One need only look at the numerous Scandinavian metal bands that use their national mythologies as a creative wellspring to feed their work. Even in today’s technology obsessed world, the old stories still hold a powerful fascination, and have a way of edging into our consciousness. In his famous work, “The Golden Bough”, anthropologist Sir James Frazer examined the mythology and symbolism shared by many religions, and which still influence language and thought right up to the present day. This cross fertilisation of ideas and beliefs and their incorporation into modern thinking – whether it be religion, art or music – provides new perspectives on old ways of looking at ourselves. Eagle Twin’s new album, “The Feather Tipped The Serpent’s Scale” does precisely that, following on as it does from the last album, “The Unkindness Of Crows”. The concept behind the album is that the crows from the previous album have battled with the sun; and burned, were returned to earth as blackened snakes. During the album’s exploration of the symbolism and mythology of the creature, the ancestral snake is once again transformed from lowly beginnings back into a bird. Eagle Twin are clearly a band with a roving interest in many different forms of expression and ideas – mythology, religion and poetry (a big influence on “The Unkindness Of Crows” was, apparently, “Crow” by Ted Hughes) – and display an enquiring intellect that underpins the music.
For a two piece (Gentry Densley on guitar and vocals, Tyler Smith on drums) they produce a big sound. It’s a sludgy, doom metal sound with guitars tuned down and an emphasis very much on heavy. Densley has a very neat vocal trick, as he is able to perform a kind of Tuvan throat singing, the effect of which is an incantation-like sound that sits well with the instrumentation; it’s almost a detuning of the human voice. This lower register puts one in mind of religious singing which brings yet another element to this already rich, doom mix. Densley, who was previously in Iceburn and also Ascend (with Greg Anderson of Sun O)))) is tuned low enough to supply the bass sound too. I won’t pretend to understand quite how he pulls it off, but I do know an expansive, full sound when I hear it, particularly when it is so much more than a duo really have a right to produce. The music is typically of a slow tempo and anything that deviates from this really stands out and catches the ear – while the mix is dense, it is never impenetrable, but often requires effort to really appreciate it fully. The album is kicked off by “Ballad Of Job Cain Part I” and “...Part II” in suitably slow, detuned fashion. The songs have multiple parts, each coloured with details like the Sabbath-like riffing in “...Part I”, slower and slightly faster sections, becoming seriously sludgy in “...Part II”. This is also the song in which the throat singing really kicks off, an amazing sound that makes the vocals the perfect complement to the detuned instruments. Densley’s vocals touch various points of what might be considered the extreme range, always appropriate to the song and the overall mix. What’s also noticeable is the way that the band will use the music to echo the lyrical subject matter and build the drama. In “Horn Snake Horn”, for example, the snake is metamorphosing as he sheds his skin, and as the change happens, the music is building up to a climax of sound. “Epilogue: The Crow’s Theology” uses the guitar to create a drone (and similarly the throat singing of the vocals) before becoming a real solid groove; finally the listener is left with only the drums as they play out the last moments of the song, and indeed the album. The whole experience of “The Feather Tipped The Serpent’s Scale” is one of heaviness, atmosphere, thoughtful lyrical matter and – at times – an almost religious feel to the music. The seven songs are recognisably doom, but doom with a difference and an overarching album concept to boot. Eagle Twin have assembled many elements which are allowed to coalesce into a very satisfying, thought-provoking album. Ian Girle
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Deathspell Omega - Drought (Season of Mist)
What does anybody know of French black metal outfit Deathspell Omega, other than they produce amazing music? The Answer: nothing more than that. The band started in 1998 and has never performed live. I know of one band, Darkthrone, who don’t perform live and they are pretty “successful”, if one can call it that, but even they had 1 or 2 live performances. Nobody has ever seen the members of the band nor does anyone know their real names. However, I do know that they recently released a new EP titled “Drought” which is a bit different if you’re familiar with their earlier stuff. The kicks-off with a track titled “Salowe Vision” which is an instrumental track. This does set the mood for the rest of the EP in a certain way it is very slow, yet eerie and dark, which sets the atmosphere beautifully. The riffs in the instrumental has very “buzz saw” feel to it, which tends to ring for a while. Guitars and drums combine beautifully and let’s you slip into a trance. This is but a prologue of what is to come. The second track is titled “Fiery Serpents” which goes full tilt form the get go. Interesting observation in relation to the guitars, which has a post-rock/crust feel to it. The track is filled with energy and intensity. Drumming is diverse and not the typical blast beats, as is tradition when it comes to black metal in general. The vocal work has a bit of screech to it, which adds to the atmosphere. There is a lot more melody to this track and I personally find it superb. The track is very fast, very intense and also ends abruptly. “Scorpions and Drought” has the same type of feel to it in terms of the vocals, intensity as well as the energy with which the instru-
Disaffected -Rebirth (Massacre Records)
Sometimes an album comes along that even though you’re really want to like it, you just don't. Usually this happens to me when a band I like makes a great album and then follows it up with something mediocre. However, the same thing happened to me with this album, "Rebirth" by Portugal's Disaffected. Why did I want to like it? The musicianship is good, the music can be catchy at times and hey, lately I've been liking a lot of Portuguese music. So, what's the problem with the album? Well,to put it simply there's just too much going on. While the band is billed as "pro
ments are played. Drum rolls are very similar to the previous track. One thing that amazes me is the controlled intensity and how they manage to compress and control for such 3-minute bursts is astounding. Again, the atmosphere is very eerie, bleak and apocalyptic which is rather enthralling to say the least. Again, very short, but brutally intense. The Track Titled “Sand” starts off rather moderately in contrast to the previous two tracks and has a very doom feel to it as the pace is way down. No intensity what so ever, just a groovy, doom/sludge vibe which is great in terms of variety of the EP overall. However, this being said, the track is probably one of the shortest on the EP and serves merely as an intermission of the ferocity and intensity experienced so far. The onslaught continues with a track titled “Abrasive Swirling Murk” which drops the listener straight back into that intensity. But, this time there is a bit of a twist to it. It has an amazing breakdown, as you are plunged into a slightly more mid-tempo trans and then it goes down another notch. We’re back at the doom/sludge, groovy tempo with a black metal edge, which suits the atmosphere and adds that additional eeriness to it. This tempo is maintained to the end and notably, the vocals style changes ever so slightly tempo wise to accommodate the doom and sludge like tempo. Overall the track has excellent tempo change and variation, absolutely outstanding. Finally, The EP is ended with a slow, doom/sludge tempo track titled “The Crackled Book of Life”. The intro still echoing with remnants of the previous track before breaking into a section where the drums and the bass guitar take over. As this progresses you can hear the guitar slowly reappearing from a distance, which is sublime. The EP ends off, as it started with an amazing eerie, caliginous instrumental. If you like your black metal with a bit of atmosphere, then definitely check out Deathspell Omega’s Drought EP, you won’t be disappointed! Berneau van der Merve
gressive death metal" the band seems to mix too many styles into songs that are just too damn long. For example in the opening track are all sorts of weird spacey type songs that I personally didn't feel fit the music while some sort of weird thrash vibe is going on. Similar stuff happens throughout the album with tempos picking up and slowing down at random. Now, don't get me wrong. I like music with variety and yes, I do like long songs. The problem here is that I don't personally hear a song structure, just a bunch of tempo changes and impressive playing. This is the problem that I have with a lot of prog music: The fact that the music is out to impress other musicians rather than interest and entertain non-musicians as well. As a result, I can say that while Rebirth is a well-played album, it isn't interesting for those who aren't musicians and as a result should be avoided by them. Curtis Dewar
Father Befouled - Revulsion of Serpahic Grace (Dark Descent Records) Call me crazy but I've never been too big on Father Befouled and can't figure out why they
seem to get so much love in the underground. I meant they are a decent band, but no way have I ever thought that they deserved the hype that they seem to get. Their last album "Morbid Destitution of Covenant” was decent but not great, personally I never really heard much that really stood out for me. But, after reading so many positive reviews I always wondered if perhaps I just didn't get it and in fact, Father Befouled was a great band. After hearing "Revulsion of Serpahic Grace" I now know, that no Father Befouled are not a great band (at least not yet) but in fact are an OK band that wouldn't be bad to crank up occasionally. The problem that I have with the band and their albums is that the songs sound really same-ish to me and I honestly have a hard time trying to remember what the differences between the songs are. In other words there just really is no variety or oomph to the music and as a result I just feel like I'm listening to the same song over and over again. Granted, the song isn't a bad song, but it's the same song nonetheless. Not incredibly bad, but nothing I would recommend either. Call me crazy but just not that interesting. Curtis Dewar
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Essenz – Mundus Numen (Svart Records)
Hellyeah – Band Of Brothers (eOne Music)
Hexvessel - No Holier Temple (Svart Records)
It’s pretty obvious where Germany’s Essenz are coming from with their second full length Mundus Numen. It’s a shame then, that the band don’t quite live up to the promises of a dark and doomy black metal journey into self-reflection and occulation. It all starts out well enough; afilthy little riff introduces “Extinguish Shapes – Innermediate” and the pretentious-as-hell title bodes well for a trip into the deepest introspection – yet Mundus Numen is pretty darn boring. The chord progressions never seem to lead anywhere and you’re constantly leftwanting, no, needing, more from this band. There’s the occasional slice of melody and a lyrical concept that pricks up the ears, or a lovely momentary drum blast, but it’s just not enough to hold the attention right through until the end – which arrives fifty minutes later to great appreciation. The blackened doom-style is always interesting – taking the harshness of black metal and mixing it with the deep sorrow often found in doom is often a heartbreaking voyage into the realm of madness and whilst Essenz manage to bring those two together, the pieces don’t always fit. The slow processional beginning of “Extricate Spirits – Amor” gives way to a dastardly swagger and gruff vocals, but the bizarrely misused female vocal line that sits in the spaces – vox that by all accounts is just a lady shouting in German, sounding pissed off –does nothing for the atmosphere this band want to create. All the spiel about being occult and ritualistic falls a little flat when the music is this bloody dull; riffs never quite their peak and the sudden break into an all out black metal attack leads only to confusion and not the maelstrom of sound Essenz are trying to assemble. All in all, Mundus Numen is a decent addition to a young bands output, but you can’t help but feel this band are trying to do too much with their music too soon. Sorry Essenz, but you aren’t this writers cup of tea. Cheryl Carter
It is fair to say that Hellyeah has always tried to steer away from sounding like the bands their respective members have been in. They may not always succeed in creating a distinctive sound, but they are still able to bring everything together into a thoroughly pleasing brew. They are been a band that has divided listeners in the past, but it is hard to imagine that anyone would have a hard time finding their third album, Band Of Brothers, a full-on explosion of metal at its very best. With Band Of Brothers, Hellyeah has twisted around to embrace their musical roots. Band of Brothers is a realization and return to a familiar sound, and dispenses with attempts to create something wholly different. It is their best album by far, a primal and crushing album to rile up the senses and passions. As it rampages through the ear, one can sense the band enjoying themselves more than ever before. It is like they have released their true selves and revel in the experience. The album is soaked in the best elements of Mudvayne, Pantera, Nothingface, Damageplan and more. It is simply a powerhouse of creative energy brought with good diversity. From the opening storm of ‘War In Me’, the album boils over with energy and aggression. The track pummels the ear with riffs and rhythms like artillery shots, whilst Chad Gray screams and growls as only he can. It is a sense-obliterating onslaught backed up just as mightily by the title track and ‘Rage/Burn’. Both songs wonderfully intimidate and bruise the ear as the ever-impressive skills of Vinnie Paul make for a menacing conductor to the more melodic playing style of Greg Tribbett and Tom Maxwell , whilst the bass of Bob Zilla prowls with a predatory hunger. There are no complaints at all towards Band Of Brothers, a name which ideally sums up the band and its creative drive. This is the true Hellyeah and the arguably unleashing of its real self for the first time.
Finland’s Hexvessel tread a beautiful path through folk, psychedelia and a serene love for nature and its power. English-born Mathew McNerney – here appearing as Captain Kvohst – once upon a time playedwith the legendary <code> and Dødheimsgard, and moved to Finland in 2009 thus beginning the tale of Hexvessel.No Holier Temple is the group’s second full-length offering, with an EP (Vainolainen) appearing earlier this year, and marks a step forward from their debut Dawnbearer. The atmosphere is one of pure wonder at the strength of the natural world and the ways in which nature interacts with people in a more spiritual sense. Hexvessel weave a heady and intoxicating dance around the forest that you’re immediatelytransported to during listening, and a deep and true attachment to the music begins. Ritualistic elements creep into the words of Kvohst and his merry band of musicians keep the energy flowing through touches of dissonant structure. Off-kilter rhythms and wispy additional vocals from Marja Konttinen creep and flitter through the slightness of tracks such as 'Heaven and Earth Magic' and the sorrow-filled 'A Letter in Birch Bark', whilst 'His Portal Tomb' revels in a mystical and 1970s occult aura that echoes some of thetraditional doom bands of the day. 'Are You Coniferous' strikes as being one of the more bombastic movements on the album, yet it still holds moments of tranquillity and an innate peace ebbs throughout No Holier Temple – the cover art evoking a closeness with the woodlands and nature. The divinely bonkers 'Your Head is Reeling' comes across a bit Death in June at the beginning, which of course is a good thing – DiJ being the precursor to many modern neo-folk bands - and the track is a cover of an Ultimate Spinach song (check 'em out, mad). After this inauspicious start the track soon segues into something a little more electronic than anything heard previously and Hexvessel show they’re a lot more than a quiet and acoustic ballad-like band. Lovely. Cheryl Carter
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Grave - Endless Procession Of Souls (Century Media) Nothing like a good death metal album, and 2012 has seen a few from the likes of Master and new comers Dyscarnate, who both released outstanding albums earlier this year. Finally, the time has come for one of the masters of the genre to release a new album titled “Endless Procession Of Souls”; release dates are 27th of August in Europe and 28th of August in the United. “Endless Possessions of Souls” will be the band’s 10th full-length release following up on their 2010 release titled “Burial Ground”. The band formed in 1988 and has since been pretty solid in terms of maintaining the same sound, theme and brutality when it comes to a more “old school” style of death metal, despite line-up changes. It’s a classic death metal band with an approach that is not over complicated, not over technical, just slow, straight up death metal, no compromise! Something you can bang your head too. The first track is titled “Dystopia”, which is but an intro, starts off very sluggishly with almost doom feel to it, with the single guitar just doing a simple riff over and over before you are plunged into the first full length track titled ” Amongst Marble And The Dead”. Just by listening to it you can identify that signature sound of Grave. The pace is mid-tempo and the down tuned guitars, with the second guitar complimenting the sound, this is classic Grave. Riffs are simple yet heavy and very eerie in terms of atmosphere. The vocal work of “Ola Lindgren” is iconic as it rumbles like something out of the abyss. It slows down to an almost grounding halt as slowly builds again with drums upping the tempo. The solo is fantastic, not over done and not too short either, just perfect. It ends off with the guitar and bass ringing in your ears, which really does set it up for the rest of the album. “Winds of Chains” is another track that caught my attention. The track starts off with a very caliginous, eerie intro consisting of howling wind that shakes dangling chains, which sends chills down your spine. It then slowly builds before the tempo is kicked up a little with assistance from the drums and continues with some power slides across the fretboard to keep it interesting, it stops rather abruptly before the guitars kick in at a quickened pace and incantations are recited. The track breaks into a bit of a groove you can really get into. This is ideal circle pit material. Again, the signature guitar riffs are very prominent and classic Grave. The solo, this time is a bit slower, as it rings to add to the atmosphere. Guitars and drums combining to create that typical Scandinavian death metal rhythm that we as fans love. The track is probably one of my favourites off the album. So many good tracks off this album, but “Plague of Nations” is another track that really stood out. Starts off with a hellish roar that will melt your face off. The tempo is right up there and the pace is a lot quicker than most of its predecessors. In all the songs, especially this one, a bigger collection of classic death metal riffs does not exist in modern death metal. This track has it all, folks. It has a nice variety of riffs with ranging tempo from face-rip to corpses being mauled in a mincer. The solo itself is quick and technical, but again, not overdone, and it really does add to the track, rather than disorientating the listener. It ends off with a simple outro that really does add that final kick to the gut. Over all, this album is right up there and definitely would challenge for my death metal album of the year. It has it all! Good variety, brutality, atmosphere. Classic Grave album, with nothing over done, nothing over complicated. Simple straight up death metal that will rip your face off and grind your bones into a white powder. Finally, this is the kind of album you hear for the first time when you’ve never listen to a certain genre of music and think to yourself “I’ll have another helping of that if you don’t mind”. Grave – Endless Possession of Souls is the type of album that creates die-hard fans of the death metal sub-genre. So, if you’re into bands like Bolt Thrower, Entombed, Dismember and the like, definitely pick up this album. Masterpiece! Berneau van der Merwe
Jess And The Ancient Ones- Jess And The Ancient Ones (Svart Records) There’s a reason why I’d never heard the slightly convoluted name of Jess And The Ancient Ones before and that’s because this is the first recorded output for the Finnish occult rock band. Interestingly, the band has not been named after either of the founding members, namely the amusingly-monikered Thomas Corpse and Thomas Fiend. Rather, that honour has been reserved for their talented vocalist, Jess. It’s not difficult to under
stand why either as it’s Jess’ performance that makes all the difference here. Jess And The Ancient Ones are a septet and as such, are afforded the luxury of three full-time guitarists. And it’s not just this quirk that they share with East London’s finest, as there is definitely a hint of Iron Maiden to be heard within the seven compositions here, most notably within the riffing of the album’s longest piece, “Sulphur Giants”. Don’t be fooled though, because there are plenty of other influences that help to shape this record. There is a definite classic 70s rock feel to the production and via many of the chosen guitar tones, whilst the Hammond organ makes the occasional appearance here and there. Much of the material relies heavily on melody with some of the choruses being lifted straight out of the world of pop. And when two of the tracks clock in at over 12 minutes apiece, it is difficult to avoid veering now and then into prog rock territory. The jazzy country rock of “The .
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Devil (in G minor)” was a big surprise though. As I alluded to earlier, it is the vocals that I believe set this album slightly apart from the average and humdrum of this genre. It would have been all too easy to have employed a male singer to be the figurehead of the band but instead, they have gone with Jess who has the ability to marry a brazen bravado and a bit of attitude with a more fragile, vulnerable quality when the compositions require it. I’m not suggesting that Jess gets it right every time as there are occasions when her performance, like in the opener “Prayer For Death And Fire”, verges on being overshadowed by the instrumental tumult surrounding her. But I do think she has a certain special something and I like the fact that she and the band have tried something different and attacked it from the very get-go. I have lived with this album for a couple of weeks now and for some reason, I have yet to fully warm to it. It is good in places, excellent in others but not consistent enough overall to win my heart. Nevertheless, I suspect that I will return to “Jess And The Ancient Ones” from time to time in the coming months and, crucially, will keep an interested eye on what comes next. Matt Spall
Just Like Vinyl - Black Mass (Superball Music)
While the self-titled debut from Just Like Vinyl was a mix of styles and sounds, Black Mass has chosen a clear direction and sticks with it. With half of its roots in The Fall of Troy (the other half from The Filthy None in the form of Jake Carden) there will of course be fans of vocalist and guitarist Thomas Erak who are looking for more of his old stuff and although the sound has changed, there's no letting up on his inventiveness. The pace of Erak's guitar has slowed and is
more melodic, but don't be alarmed; there are no ballads on this record. It's at once progressive and narrow in focus, with solid riffs and melodyalternating constantly, throwing out great chaotic prog-metal explorations, yet never approaching that inward-looking and disparate journey you'd find in more grandiose progressive music. They can elaborate more, but they choose not to.Supporting the guitar that just keeps throwing out one amazing phrase after another are the polyrhythmic drums of Jay Beaman. So mesmerising is the guitar that you don't immediately appreciate just how big apart the drums play in creating the impact of those riffs and the contrast between them. And that's before you take in the interaction of Carden's guitar and the bass of Henry Batts. These songs do a lotin the three to four minutes they run, but never feel hurried.Now lets get to the vocals, which are both my least favourite and favourite element of the record. When Erak is screeching, screaming and shouting his way through his mockery of the Catholic church, I'mthere. The rest of the time there's not enough depth or strength in his voice, and there's just not enough melody to compliment the music. To me a voice needs to be unique and recognisable, but I can't helpthinking of all the pop-punk bands like Blink 182, which is a shame because there's a lot I really love about most of the songs.So will listeners consider Black Mass safe or risky? Confident or desperate? A weak version of Fall of Troy? Time will tell, but despite casting a wide net it doesn't have the feel of a record trying to bring two warring factions together to sit down and calmly sort out their differences. It's almost as if they are saying; “so you've heard what we are capable of, you've seen how far out the boundaries we can reach are, now this is our sound.” Well, for this record anyway, because these guys are not going to settle down and grow old playing reframed versions of this record, and I think you can expect plenty ofexperimentation to come. Just Like Vinyl do a good job on this record of setting themselves apart from many others in most ways. I just wish they were further from West Coast pop-punk. Gilbert Potts
Kontinuum- Earth Blood Magik (Candlelight Records) The desolate volcanic landscapes of Iceland are bleak and unforgiving while at the same time possessing a natural beauty that’s quite unlike anything else on Earth. While it may be a stretch of the imagination to suggest
that Icelandic experimental metallers Kontinuum lend voice directly to the rocky vistas of their homeland, there’s nevertheless a certain element of truth in that. The doom-laden, atmospheric sound of their debut full-length album Earth Blood Magik combines leaden brutality with a surprising fragility and an impressive ear for melody and composition. Opening song Endgame could almost be a post-metal track such is its focus on emergent structures and tranche upon tranche of ambient texture. It’s only really the sparse vocals and enhanced technicality that suggest there’s a lot more to Earth Blood Magik than first meets the eye. But really, it’s all but impossible to slap a convenient label on Kontinuum’s sound. Steinrunninn Skógur, an unlikely single at over nine minutes long, is equal parts Agalloch, Cult of Luna and Katatonia and there are ever-present, though by no means unwelcome, similarities to fellow Icelanders Solstafir. Earth Blood Magik’s mainstay is building enormous walls of hypnotic, sinister atmosphere, with the latter sections of Moonshine occasionally verging into blackgaze territory, as does the creepy penultimate track Red. Lightbearer, meanwhile, adds crushing sludgy riffs to the densely layered ambience to create a work of claustrophobic near-genius that’s perhaps the album’s finest moment. For a record that fuses so many sonic influences into the space of nine tracks, Earth Blood Magik is altogether less progressive than anticipated. That’s not entirely a criticism. Rather, it reworks and recombines ideas that we’ve heard elsewhere in, if not new and unexpected ways, then at least ones that are immensely satisfying and retain a certain freshness and originality. If Solstafir put Iceland on the map as far as metal is concerned, then Kontinuum’s debut album shows that the country has much more to offer aficionados of challenging, eclectic music. Jodi Mullen
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Monuments – Gnosis (Century Media)
Within the first few minutes of hearing the opening track on Gnosis, 'Admit Defeat', the listener is left with no doubt that this debut album from Monuments contains some truly progressive, yet brutally sincere metal. Formed by guitarist John Browne from the remnants of one of the original purveyors of technical metal, Fellsilent, Monuments have trod a long and arduous path to get to this release. With the album by-and-large written in 2011, the band lacked a vocalist able to deal with the content and delivery of the songs. Browne himself had temporarily left the UK to tour the US with the band Periphery. On returning from touring and enlisting the help of Olly Steele, Adam Swan and Mike Malyan, vocal duties were enlisted to Matt Rose, singing at the time with UK drum and bass outfit, The Qemists. With a background in jazz and funk, Rose brings a disparate number of influences to the table to help infuse Monuments with a soulful, yet no less brutal vocal style. There was a time in the history of metal that “djent” appeared to be suffering from over–exposure and a run of bands that were intent on producing music to a formula. Not so with Monuments. The second track 'Degenerate' features the trademark jarring angular riffs and precision percussion, but is overlaid with atmospheric guitar drones and glorious guitar runs that leave the listener hungry for more. 'Doxa' rides on a battery of pounding percussion, over which fierce vocals spit out the message. 'The Uncollective' features scything guitar riffs, whilst 'Blue Sky Thinking' pummels the listener with heart-stopping stops and starts interspersed with cleaner, more melodic passages. These passages help formulate these tracks into something more special than the average attempt at reproducing djent as an approach to playing. The relentless attack on the senses is relaxed, slightly, on '97% Static', which features a gentler, more melancholy ending that abruptly brings the listener back into the real world of precision chaos that is 'Empty Vessels Make the Most Noise'. Each track, right
up to the final 'Denial' seems to display its own individual characteristics, making the overall experience, including the cover art, both attractive and rewarding. The production throughout the album is clean and fresh, which complements the technical sterility. The drums and bass appear more prominently, and give the songs a rhythmic, almost tribal feel. It could be argued that there are album releases of “progressive metal” that feature individual songs that can outstay their welcome, and feature passages that bring nothing to the finished product. That argument could not be levelled at Gnosis, as there is no apparent filler during its 40-odd-minute duration. The ability of Rose to hold the vocals together in a variety of styles, from growling to melodic, is surely a verification of his abilities. The tile Gnosis refers to the common Greek noun meaning knowledge, and can be specifically interpreted as the spiritual knowledge gained through experience and understanding. There is certainly a sense of “think for yourself” about Gnosis, and an album that sounds this fine, which also conveys a valuable message, should not be ignored. John Toolan
Natron - Grindermeister (Southern Brigade)
Italy's Natron is a band that is completely new to me. When digging around for a bit of info on the band prior to doing this review, I was shocked to learn that the band has been around for long enough that "Grindermeister" has been released in celebration of the band's 20 year career. Now, I gotta say that although Natron isn't exactly unique, they do what they do extremely well: Thrashy, catchy death metal ala Vader that will get your neck snapping and head banging in no time. With a title like "Grindermeister" it wouldn't shock me if you thought you were going to be getting 1 and a half minute bursts of chaos filed songs like Napalm Death or A.C. However, although the songs are chaotic, heavy and fast, this isn’t no grind album. Nope, this is death metal played the old fashioned way: Catchy and to
the point. Again, not incredibly original but oh so deliciously sweet after a hard day's work. Check the album out as it's a solid romp through old-school death/thrash. Curtis Dewar
Ne Obliviscaris – Portal Of I (Code 666)
Ne Obliviscaris. A phrase of dual meaning, in Latin it simply means 'Lest We Forget' but used here it is the name of a fierce and unique musical entity from Melbourne, Australia, the irony being that this is anything but forgettable, the proof lies within their unforgettable debut album 'Portal of I' Within the first couple of minutes of this album, it becomes clear that there is something a little bit special about Ne Obliviscaris. To brand them a metal band would do them and the music they have created a huge disservice, and would be wildly inaccurate as there is a lot more to them than meets the eye, and in this case the ear. Opening track Tapestry of the Starless Abstract is an eleven plus minute epic that contains the unrivaled mixture of harsh vocals, melodic singing, brutal drumming, and enchanting violin sections which would not be out of place in a classical concerto. This is what makes this band so damn hard to categorise. Throughout the record Xenoyr’s growling vocals hit you square in the face while Tim Charles’s heartbreaking string melodies and clean vocals calm you and tell you everything is going to be okay, before the drums kick in and blow your mind with the utter speed and ferociousness in their delivery. It would be impossible to describe this album track by track and give it the credit it deserves. There is so much variation and depth to what these Aussie boys are doing, and what is clear from the off is they are all a master of their craft and no track could be classed as a weak link in this masterpiece of an album. Overall the band appears to be a unique blend of Black and Progressive metal but it is clear they take influences from much further afield. This is most notable in the folk like Forget Not and in And Plague Flowers
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Nachtmystium - Silencing Machine (Century Media)
After ceaseless hours of work, I have determined the print-version of my orgasm sounds something like "Hunnnnnhhhrrrrrrgghaaa". It's an ungodly, unpleasant sound when you write it out (and I suppose it is when you hear it too, apologies to past and future partners for the ordeal of hearing me climax. You all sounded lovely). I wanted a close approximation however, because I've heard the new Nachtmystium album, Silencing Machine, and I wanted you to know how I felt about it. There are rumblings most-foul from TRVE-KVLTISTS who have taken issue with the evolution of Nachtmystium's sound, namely that it doesn't sound like black metal ought to sound, and it hasn't sounded like that for years. Nachtmystium have done the best they can against naysayers by distancing themselves from the black metal label, but if it sounds like a horrific, Satanic roar made by disaffected, hateful folks, what the fuck else are you going to call it? But I digress and grow concerned about making enemies of KVLTISTS. Silencing Machine is an utterly intense, remarkably varied album. Topping their efforts on Addicts: Black Meddle, Part II, the band has assembled an incredible roster of songs that make for a pleasurable and spiritually exhausting listen. Nachtmystium pushes the psychedelic potential of black metal to its utmost extreme, at times sounding something like Electric Wizard if Jus Oborn borrowed his themes from the Necronomicon rather than Hammer Films and bong-hits. The album lets you know what you're in for right away, as black metal feedback mingles with electronic effects before launching into the relentless riffing and pounding of 'Dawn Over The Ruins of Jerusalem'. One of my favorite things about Nachtmystium's production on Silencing Machine is the way Blake Judd's vox seem to erupt from the fuzz and wall-of-sound the rest of the band conjures up. It's as if he's screaming and howling from the dark pit Nachtmystium's music creates. Metal, no? Silencing Machine has a great mix of styles and textures, and my only real criticism is that occasionally songs run a little long. 'Bor-
the Kaleidoscope which has a tango-esque intro and Spanish feel throughout. Despite the variation, it is a record which flows beautifully across its 10 tracks, and is created as a coherent piece of music which will have you hooked from start till finish. I truly believe it is time to start believing the hype that is beginning to form around Ne Obliviscaris. They are the perfect combination of metal, classical, and everything in-between. This could even be the album that convinces the more naive and strait-laced music listener, that metal releases can hold emotional resonance, as well as being well thought out lovingly crafted musical works, that don’t always deserve to be labelled ‘a screaming noise’. Ladies and gentlemen, it's time to open your minds and let Ne Obliviscaris in. Chantelle Higgins
rowed Hope and Broken Dreams' is easily the bounciest black metal(ish) song I've ever heard. Musically, it sounds like Springsteen or Michael Stipe slapped on corpse paint and wrote a song about feeling fucked up (another one). 'I Wait In Hell' is pure black metal math rock, with shifting time-changes and a decidedly amelodic sound. 'Give Me The Grave' is an old-school rock song in every sense of the word, from its bluesy bass line and riffs, sing-along chorus and killer guitar solo, just like Randy Rhoades used to make (seriously, it sounds just like the solo on Crazy Train, except more evil). The only constant is Blake Judd's thoroughly excellent roar. The album's centrepiece, an 8+ minute dirge entitled 'The Lepers of Destitution' (how's that for black-fucking-metal?!), is an utterly fucked up journey from one horrible feeling to another. The first breakdown in the song occurs at roughly 3:20, and includes the intonations of a Vincent Price-sounding character and some distant wailing and moaning. It's completely unsettling in a wonderfully metal way, and for my money, makes 'The Lepers of Destitution' the album's star track. Okay, so Silencing Machine's variety serves to illustrate that black metal Nachtmystium are not. That's fine by me. What they definitely ARE is a talented band with a broad range of influences, and an uncanny ability to combine these disparate influences into a fascinating and rewarding listen. Treating your ears to Silencing Machine is one of the nicest things you can do for yourself. I hope your orgasm sounds better than mine. Chris Wright
Over Your Threshold – Facticity (Metal Blade)
Straight out the Chuck Schuldiner school of death metal-excellence comes Over Your Threshold. These Bavarians are active in the tech/progressive death metal field. They’re in the same league as Obscura, The Faceless,
Gorguts and to a lesser extent, Pestilence. Let’s see if “Facticity”, their debut album, holds any water. Technical metal is a precarious sub-genre, because the line between a killer record and an overly pretentious trainwreck is very thin indeed. The Over Your Threshold lads understand this all too well. They've found a fine balance between technical prowess, melody and solid songwriting. This is very much in the vein of “Individual Thought Patterns” by Death and “Focus” by Cynic. Tracks like “Cortical Blindness”, “Obscure Mind Stasis” and “Desolation Now” are great examples of their songwriting influences and sound. Another great asset in the band’s arsenal are the innovative and tasteful bass lines. It gives “Facticity” a nice jazz/fusion feel. The band isn’t afraid to experiment with acoustic guitar parts (“Obscure Mind Stasis”) and Latin percussion (“Self Exhibition”) either.
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I really appreciate those little genre transgressions. It adds a lot of color and texture to the album. The production values of “Facticity” are skillfully handled by V.Santura (Triptykon, Pestilence). He gave the album a modern and in-your-face sound. “Facticity” by Over Your Threshold is a very mature and consistent debut album. These guys clearly know how to hold their instruments and write some memorable songs. If they work a little bit more on finding their own distinctive voice, I’m sure these Bavarians will have a bright future ahead of them. The potential is certainly there! Raymond Westland
Primate - Draw Back A Stump (Relapse)
What do you get if you cross the grindcore pedigree of Kevin Sharp (Brutal Truth), the hardcore verve of Mike Brennan, Dave Whitworth and Shayne Huff (The Despised/Otophobia), and the prog-metal precision ofBill Kelliher (Mastodon)? Well, you get Primate and their debut "Draw Back A Stump", a delightful seventeen and a half minutes of brash aggro underpinned with a wealth of superb melodic guitar work that adds some colour to the proceedings. Kevin's vocals are as angry as ever, but with an added warmth and occasional slower delivery that isn't so apparent in much of his other work. The guitars are solid and threatening but there are the changes of pace and mood you'd expect from Kelliher and the collision of styles actually gels rather well. Huff's drumming is classic hardcore pounding throughout and reminds you that this is no heavy metal supergroup. These fellas aren't fucking around and this album is not hoping to sell off the back of their combined reputations. Thisabsolutely powers home on every single track and stands on its own two feet as a brutal and purposeful record. Highlights include the punk charge of "Global Division" which gives way to some nice twin lead work later on, the pounding "March Of The Curmudgeon", and the cheeky grind blast of "Get The Fuck Off My Lawn". A fresh approach to hardcore with a wealth of talent and ideas crammed into the ten songs on offer, has to be album of the month for me. Dewie
Samothrace - Reverence to Stone (20 Buck Spin)
Doom. Everywhere you look, you can feel it. Assuming I roll out of bed before 11 a.m., I feel it most over my morning coffee. Looking over the paper, you can see doom everywhere. Perhaps this Apocalypse: 2012 nonsense has finally tainted the rational parts of my brain, but between the latest outbreak of cannibalism in the United States, another collection of body parts found yet another lovely little Toronto park, not to mention civil war in Syria and the spectre of a Mitt Romney presidency, it's starting to look like things are going to start getting weird for humanity. At least until the Mayan calendar god awakens and starts fucking up the status quo. Or whatever is supposed to happen. Doom is also in our music in a big way. 2012 has been a great year for doom metal. Game-changing brilliance like Pallbearer's Sorrow and Extinction, as well as choice cuts from Candlemass and the latest doom-laced EP from Deathspell Omega suggest that there's something in the air in 2012, and whatever it might mean for the human race (I predict an orgy of bath salts-induced cannibalism and right-wing rhetoric), it's a fucking godsend for heavy metal. Emerging from this impenetrable void of Mayan-induced apocalypse-vibe is the latest album from Samothrace. This sweet, but by no means short little record from the Seattlebased doom quartet is called Reverence to Stone. Despite a painfully short track-list, Reverence to Stone is a fine and worthy followup to 2008's Life's Trade, an album that presently holds the record for most-plays on my iTunes, after Sleep's discography (an embarrassingly high number that I dare not repeat here). Reverence to Stone is a quick jaunt through despair and doom. Featuring only two tracks (clocking in at 15 and 20 minutes, respectively), it's a seemingly short jaunt, but one full of elegant and sprawling riffage, anguished vocals and a band so tight, light cannot escape them. 'When We Emerged' begins Reverence with a slow and haunting
introduction, a low-bass-rumbling and gingerly plucked guitar that wouldn't be out of place on the latest post-rock masterpiece from a band like Godspeed You! Black Emperor, before lurching downward into that sustained 'DUNNNNNNNNN' that lets you know you're listening to a doom metal album. Texture of sound is what makes a band like Samothrace such a pleasure to listen to (see: Jucifer's live-show for more textured brilliance). There's a roar in every bar of 'When We Emerged'. The gorgeous ascending riffs and epic solos reverberate in your membranes while Brian Spinks' carefully placed vocals shriek and growl about life and death and all that heady shit that makes doom metal such a pleasure to enjoy. When 'When We Emerged' finally collapses under its own weight in a blitz of feedback and reverb, you'll miss it. So, when Reverence to Stone's second track, 'A Horse of Our Own', throws you back onto the doom-horse without warning, you're barely ready for it. Wasting no time on the post-rock stylings of the previous song, 'A Horse of Our Own' is all sustained notes and doom-y growls. Here the roar of Samothrace is punctuated early-on by several short but fantastic solos before pulling you back down into the reverie of quiet, Godspeed-esque guitar. 'A Horse of Our Own' uses the sharp, sudden rumble of the drum to shake up the quiet moments. Each drum hit sounds like the thundering footsteps of a charging Tyrannosaur, and builds slowly before the music explodes again. To describe this stuff in words does a disservice to the sheer feel of the album. Samothrace are masters of manipulating the listener into trying to anticipate their next move, and while that move is occasionally predictable (as this kind of lengthysong doom can be...nine times out of ten the next part of the song is 'DUNNNNNNNNNN') it's always rewarding and never anything less than enjoyable. Reverence to Stone is a wonderful sophomore release. It delivers exactly what you listen to a band like Samothrace for, while offering a level of songwriting that is more focused and interesting. The production on Reverence sounds a bit lighter, as though the band weren't trying to cram as much weight as possible into every.single.note., and that's a really smart move on their part. Rather than suffocating the listener, these songs allow you to go along for the ride, rising and falling as the song does. Beautiful, classic work from one of doom's finest purveyors of doom. Chris Wright
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Sarah Jezebel Deva – Malediction (Listenable)
Probably best known as providing the female vocals for Cradle of Filth, Sarah Jezebel Deva’s third release under her own name is something of a whirlwind mixture of symphonic metal dynamics with extreme metal aesthetics that does more in its short running time than most full albums by bands who try to do similar things (like the band whose name rhymes with Fightfish). It may only have three tracks but what tracks they are. All three are chock-full of hookladen melodies and pummelling rhythms that complement each other like they should do when done properly. ‘Lies Define Us’ has Soilwork’s Bjorn Strid providing clean vocal harmonies and is probably the lesser of the three tracks, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad at all. ‘When it Catches Up With You’ features one of the most gorgeous vocal lines of recent memory, with Sarah’s voice sounding richer and fuller than it ever did with Cradle of Filth. Backed up by some wonderfully choppy guitar riffs and scorching double-bass drums, the song flits from an almost orchestral arrangement to pop-ish chorus without even trying and is probably the most satisfying and purely Sarah Jezebel Deva song here. But most metal die-hards will probably get most excited about ‘This is My Curse’, because Ms. Deva gets to trade vocals with Dani Filth. The most brutal track here, it’s obviously going to draw comparisons to Dani’s band but luckily his spewed vocals don’t overshadow Deva’s, instead underpinning the brutal drumming and black metal riffing until the expected spoken word parts appear. Available as a download only, Malediction is an all-too-brief example of Sarah Jezebel Deva’s vocal talents that is hopefully a taster of more great things to come on the next fulllength album. Chris Ward
Scott Kelly And The Road Home – The Forgiven Ghost In Me (My Proud Mountain)
Some singers sound like they’ve developed a style that people expect; it’s part of a calculated performance that ticks whatever boxes their particular genre demands. It doesn’t sound altogether natural and one is left with the distinct feeling that truth and emotion have been pushed aside in favour of commercial considerations. But not Scott Kelly: here is a man delivering the vocals he chooses; honestly, and with a sense of real purpose. His delivery is deep, focused and heartfelt; whether it works for the listener or not is almost a side issue; what he does is what – for him and for the song – is right. As a relative newcomer to his work (and particularly his solo work) I was initially unsure when I started “The Forgiven Ghost In Me”, greeted as I apparently was by a stripped back, almost old fashioned sound: “A Spirit Redeemed To The Sun” features acoustic guitars, some keyboards, simple chord progressions and Kelly’s deep and immediately striking voice. The song title suggested something warm, light even; but the reality is somewhat darker. It’s a no compromise approach, everything at its most basic, naked and vulnerable. And despite that, Scott Kelly And The Road Home sound supremely confident in their delivery; Kelly himself has been around long enough to make music in this way (no bells and whistles, no clever studio tricks, no multi-piece backing band, just three musicians) and let it stand or fall on its own merits. The musical world here is quite dark, introspective and focused in on itself. There are some recognisable nods towards Kelly’s main band, Neurosis, in the slow guitar, purposely repeated themes and, of course, the vocal delivery. It’s a kind of stoner folk, but a painfully honest and upfront version. Whether he is a passionate, deep man, or someone who is genuinely troubled by demons whose exorcism requires their public examination, it’s difficult to say; maybe he’s all of those things. Certainly a read of his blog reveals an intelligent, eloquent person unafraid to confront his own raw human-
ity, honest in his admission of feeling. It’s not just this deep thought and expanse of feeling that he brings to the album: as a member of the aforementioned Neurosis, as well as Tribes Of Neurot, Blood And Time, Shrinebuilder, and guest on no less than four Mastodon albums, he’s a musician of extensive experience, most particularly of complex, experimental music; which makes the naked simplicity of “The Forgiven Ghost In Me” all the more striking. Each song is a slow burn of acoustic guitar, sometimes picked as in the title track, at other times used as a drone beneath the vocals, as in “Within It Blood”. The songs won’t deliver a feel good shot to your mood, but that really isn’t their purpose; this is music as more than simply entertainment: this is music as exploration and maybe even catharsis. Given my initial misgivings, by the end of the album I had warmed to the album’s thoughtful introspection, and grown to respect its delivery, free from frills but full of emotion. For music that appears relatively simple it carries with it a profound atmosphere, like a complete ecosystem, less impenetrable than it might appear and full of its own, peculiar life. As the album progresses from the mellow with an edge sound of “In The Waking Hours” through the simple, repeated riff of “We Let The Hell Come” to the closer “We Burn Through The Night” (also the title of Scott Kelly’s blog) Scott Kelly And The Road Home deliver an experience which – although slow and at times dark – leaves the listener feeling like they’ve been on a journey whose course has made them stronger for the experience, satisfied and becalmed. I started this journey a little unsure and ended it as a confirmed fan; and that’s a recommendation by anyone’s standards. Ian Girle
Shadows Fall – Fire From The Sky (Razor & Tie Records)
Shadows Fall was one of those bands that was a part of the so-called NWOAHM-movement, together with the likes of Chimaira, Killswitch Engage, God Forbid and a couple of others. At the time I was pretty impressed
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iwith their third album, “The Art Of Balance”, although I lost interest in the genre as a whole soon after. Shadows Fall is still very much alive and kicking. “Fire From The Sky”, their seventh studio offering, is living proof of that.. Classic heavy metal has always been an important ingredient within the Shadows Fall sound, but they aren’t afraid to dabble with death metal, thrash metal and hard rock either. This makes “Fire From The Sky” a very rich album, both in texture and heritage. The band’s biggest asset is their seamless ability to write memorable songs with catchy hooks and choruses to die for. Tracks like “Divide And Conquer”, “Weight Of The World” and “Save Your Soul” are shining examples in that regard. “Fire From The Sky” isn’t particularly innovative or cutting-edge, nor does it have to be. Drummer Jason Bittner and lead guitarist Jonathan Donais adopt a tasteful and elegant playing style, one that keeps everything fresh and exciting. Another factor in what makes the album interesting is the sheer hunger and tenacity the bad displays. There aren’t many bands around who manage to achieve this level of energy and excitement so late in their career. “Blind Faith”, “Lost Within” and “The Waste Land” are other great examples why “Fire From The Sky” is such an impressive scorcher. Killswitch Engage’s Adam Dutkiewitcz took care of the production chores. He gave “Fire From The Sky” a modern, yet not too polished sound. This really underscores the overall aggression and ferocity of the album. “Fire In The Sky” doesn’t rewrite the metal rule book, but it’s a very impressive and memorable record nonetheless. It can easily holds its own against the latest output by Chimaira and God Forbid and it underscores Shadows Fall's leading position within the field of contemporary metal. Great album! Raymond Westland
Seremonia - Seremonia (Svart Records) The much vaunted New Wave Of Finnish Heavy Metal has been picking up speed of late. Like any journo-tagged genre it is awash with some mediocre and derivative bands, but the forerunners are clearly producing something special. One of the musicians featuring prominently is Ilkka Vekka of Steel Mammoth and Haare fame. The former is good old fashioned metal with a retro feel and the latter is his one-man ambient electro project, but both showcase his talent for soundscapes and tapping into the primal feel of 70's music. His latest project is Seremonia and whilst his writing talents feature prominently, his distinctive artwork also graces the cover (fans
Periphery – II: This Time It’s Personal (Century Media)
Periphery is pretty much the ultimate metal band for people who are suffering from ADHD and short attention spans. Hell, this band is the musical equivalent good ol’ pinball. The first Periphery album is still a good example of hyperkinetic guitar wizardry, so let’s what Misha Mansoor and his musical chums have in store on their second and latest effort... On Periphery II – This Time It’s Personal Mansoor and Co went for a more leaner and structured approach. The songwriting is tighter, the song themselves have a higher level of diversity and the various elements that make the Periphery sound are better integrated. The band’s three (!) guitarists, namely Misha Mansoor, Mark Holcomb and Jake Bowen deliver one deadly polyrhythmic guitar riff after the other. There’s also plenty of splendid lead guitar work to be of his stuff should check out his Death Psychedialia magazine http://www.crucialblast.net/ilkkavekka_deathpsych.html. First and foremost this is a very Sabbath-influenced record with a wealth of riffs that reek of Butler and Iommi, but it is carried off with aplomb. It is by no means a simple doom record that wholly owes its creation to the Brummie godfathers, but they are clearly the underlying blueprint for much of it. The guitar is wonderfully fuzzed up and organic and the drums unashamedly splash and crash with a huge amount of uninhibited cymbal bleed that suggests this is an analog recording. It boldly leers and surges with that same confident and chaotic swagger of early Sabbath, but also calls to mind early Deep Purple, early Floyd and the vastly underrated Vanilla Fudge. What gives it a truly unique edge however is the vocal prowess of Noora Federley. Singing entirely in Finnish and employing a number of different vocal techniques, she adds a genuinely eerie presence to the entire affair. Although she has a full and soulful voice that swarms all over the more full-on rocking
found on this album. Other new elements are nifty little symphonic parts and live drums, giving “II: This Time It’s Personal” a slightly more human feel. Fourteen tracks on a single album seems a bit excessive and in Periphery’s case it certainly is. The endless maelstrom of tempo changes, dazzling guitar solos and polyrhythmic riffs do tend to blur a little towards the end. This is quite a shame, because Mansoor and his boys are some of the most competent musicians in metal today. Perhaps something that can be addressed on the next album. Singer Spencer Sotelo is the proverbial glue that holds the all the musical savagery together. I find his growls to be more menacing than his clean vocals, but then again I’ve never been a huge fan of high pitched emocore-styled vocals. It does give the album a slight The Mars Volta feel. Guitarist Misha Mansoor is equally at home behind the mixing console, because he gave “II: This Time It’s Personal” a flawless and modern production. The direct sound supports all the various elements on this album in a very adequate fashion. Compared to the first Periphery album “II: This Time It’s Personal” is quite an improvement in terms of overall consistency and songwritership. However, if Mansoor and Co really want to make a classic record, they’d better cut out some of the excess fat and streamline things even more. Raymond Westland passages, she also employs a spectacular wail in many places that sits a semi-tone away from the melody line of the guitar. This slightly off-kilter vibe brings to mind Attila Csihar's work with Sunno))) and Mayhem, not that they sound alike but they similarly conjure a feeling of unease through an almost ritualistic chanting that hovers above the psychedelic groove of the rhythm section. The only small gripe here is that you do sometimes get the feeling you've heard some of the riffs before. Innocent coincidence can happen, but knowing Vekka's pedigree and musical tastes it would be a surprise if he hadn't heard the tracks that are called to mind during my first listen to Seremonia's debut. "Uhrijuhla" winks "Nativity In Black", "Rock 'n Rollin Maailma" doffs its cap to Iron Butterfly's "In a Gadda Da Vida", "Aamuruskon Kaupunki" smells heavily of a track by Budgie that I can't for thelife of me remember the name of, and "Kosminen Ruumisvaunu" is dressed up in Ritchie Blackmore's flares and whispering "Fireball" as you headbang along. But then again...there may be many rock/metal fans out there who don't know all
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those songs and indeed they are not direct copies of those riffs so I am perhaps being too harsh. Overall, this is an intriguing album that sets itself apart from the mass of doomy retro rock that is coming out of Europe at the moment. An act that is sure to be even better live than on record, this is for my money one of the more compelling albums to come out of the NWOFHM and I can attest to the fact that repeated spins reward the listener by revealing new twists and flourishes each time. Dewie
Seth – Les Blessures de L’Ame (Season of Mist)
On first hearing the opening track on Seth’s “Les Blessures de L’Ame” “La Quintessence du Mal”, what strikes the listener is the raw production values combined with the ferocity of the buzzing guitar, symphonic percussion and snarling vocal. The overall effect from the outset is of an epic tale of mysticism and the supernatural. On reading the associated literature, this may not be so far from the truth, as the whole concept of the album is created around that most romantic contemporary saga of vampirism. On closer inspection however, what becomes apparent is that this album is actually a re-release of a 1998 original. With this in mind, what now strikes the attentive listener is how modern sounding this release could be argued to be. The compositions are tense, and display many varied textures within each passage. Whether or not the customer has had their fill of melodic vampire metal, or not, “Les Blessures de L’Ame” is unquestionably worth further consideration. It would be difficult to analyse each track individually, but the overall impression these give to the listener is one of being seduced by the towering melodies and drifting swells of guitar and keyboard. The music washes over the individual and smothers them in a blanket of tenderness tainted with only the merest hint of
obscurity. The occasional peppering of gentle acoustic guitar and piano, on “Le Cercle de la Renaissance” for example, further lulls the unwary traveller into a sense of sanctuary and wellbeing. To describe this music thus leaves the reader wondering as to whether these pieces could follow that well trodden path of over-blown pomposity and grandiose melodrama. This may be one way to interpret “Les Blessures de L’Ame”, or it may be a gothic gateway to indulge the listener’s dark fantasies. Tracks such as “...A la Memoire de nos Frere” indicate the contrast apparent, with fierce riffs going hand in black-lacedgloved hand with fragile melody. The instrumental “Dans les Yeux du Serpent...” helps to draw together the luscious symphonic element to many of the tracks and leave them laid bare for analysis and extravagance. Formed in the French city of Bordeaux in 1995, Seth have evolved over the years with a number of releases, “The Excellence”, “Divine X” and “Era Decay”, displaying a constant ability to combine sinister atmospheres with the most brutal compositions. The band experienced a hiatus between 2005 and 2011, but returned to business in 2012 with live performance co-headlining with Bethlehem. Remastered by Stephane Buriez of the French band Loudblast, and featuring two bonus tracks not on the original release “Les Sevices de la Peste”, which appears to be a rough demo mix and “Corpus et Anima”, a ferocious aural mauling, it may appear cynical to dissect the reasons as to why this album has been released again in 2012, but whatever the reasons may be, it is an opportunity for anyone new to the genre or unfamiliar with the work of Seth, to acquaint themselves with material which could be argued to have deserved more attention on its initial release. John Toolan
Nowadays France has a very rich and diverse metal scene with Blut Aus Nord, Gojira, Hacride, Deathspell Omega and Alcest being some of its more interesting exports. Spheric Universe Experience is a French progressive metal outfit with a rather unique sound. Let’s take a closer look to “The New Eve”, their third and latest album. The band deserves a lot of credit for not sounding like an uninspired Dream Theater clone. Nor are they’re trying to emulate the typical prog sounds from the 70s, which seems to be the latest trend within progressive rock and metal circles. “The New Eve” has a rather futuristic edge to it, thanks to the abundant use of electronic and industrial effects. “Shut Up” and the title track come across as Filter or Nine Inch Nails with a progressive twist. “Escape” and “Never Heal” continue very much in the same vein as the aforementioned songs. Especially the latter track features some very tasteful guitar and keyboard playing. Things get really sappy with “Angel”, which comes across as second rate power ballad by The Scorpions. Vocalist Frank Garcia comes fairly close to Klaus Meine. Whether that’s a good or a bad thing, I’ll leave that up to the readers to decide. “The Day I Died” and “My Heart On The Cross” sounds rather pedestrian, although Spheric Universe Experience redeem themselves with the feisty “In This Place” and “Self Abuse”. The New Eve by Spheric Universe Experience is quite an enjoyable album, but it’s not without its flaws. If you’re looking for something a little different within the progressive rock and metal genre this may be a good record to start with. Raymond Westland
Sophicide - Perdition Of The Sublime (Willowtip Records)
Spheric Universe Experience - The New Eve (Nightmare Records)
The German metal scene is mostly known for delivering copious amount of often ludicrous power and heavy metal.
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However, our Teutonic friends have some excellent bands within the world of extreme metal. Secrets Of The Moon, Obscura, Fleshcrawl, Kreator and Destruction can easily hold their own against the best bands within their respective fields. Enter Sophicide, a tech death band and their latest album, entitled “Perdition Of The Sublime”. Let’s take a closer look. Sophicide revolves around the artistic and musical talents of one Adam Laszlo. I’ve never heard of the guy before, but he certainly knows how to hold his guitar. He takes his cues from bands like The Faceless, Necrophagist and Obscura, which means death metal with a definitive technical edge. Laszlo isn’t reinventing the proverbial wheel on “Perdition Of The Sublime”, but he sure makes it rip on “The Art Of Atrocity”, “Within Darkness” and “Freedom Of The Mind”. He also has a keen understanding of how diversity and melody can be used to strengthen the overall song material. The Suffocation and Cannibal Corpse fanboys will probably disagree with this, but using acoustic guitar parts doesn't dilute the aggression or 'metal-ness' of a song. On the contrary, it’s adds a lot of extra spice to ‘Perdition Of The Sublime”. It makes songs like “Lafayette’s Deception” and “Blood For Honour” thumb even harder. I’ve got to admit that Perdition Of The Sublime by Sophicide isn’t the most original release within the technical death metal field. However, the album bursts of creativity and potential. If Adam Laszlo and Sophicide manages to find his own voice, I’m sure we have the next Obscura and Necrophagist on our hands! Raymond Westland
Rabbits - Bites Bites (Good to Die Records)
Cute, fluffy and hopping. These Rabbits sure as hell aren’t that, but when Good to Die Records releases their 2012 album “Bites Rites” next month, you’re bound to desire one just the same. This power trio of Portland, Oregon blood has been releasing vinylonly, 2-way splits and cassettes since 2005,
not to mention CDRs of live recordings, reserving the right to remain irrefutably punk in nature. Sounding like a sludge-y version of Pissed Jeans' coked-up narratives and Karpstyle instrumentals, they bridge a gap between metal, noise rock and hardcore in their own kooky fashion. 'We and Zoo' plays nicely on the caged, animalistic nature of the whole zoo ideal as a mirror of society and its dog-eat-dog outlook. Driving and catchy, this is one of the album's gems. After all, who doesn’t want to drink gin and eat ice cream? 'Fight Right' keeps up the tempo, putting up a fight as Joshua Hughes (Booze) and Seth Montfort’s guitars battle and vocals collide. “Lame in Vain” was a tad too mocking for my taste. Intentionally structured like a crass children’s song, the outer lyrics that surround the chorus are quite clever and feed off the albums theme, now examining the superficiality of the populous. Drummer Kevin Garrison shows that he can hit it hard in 'Move Her Body', where the band picks things up a notch for about 55 seconds. “It’s hard to eat and have your cake,” they yell, breaking down the chaos. 'Meth Valley 99' churns you out of that, slowly, along a winding mountain roadway. Slugging along like an Indian track coddled by the reverberation in their warped vocal detail, its coalescence creates beautifully echoing, psychedelic harmonies. '2_35' was instantaneously my favorite track on the album. Making me swing my hair and sway my hips, the guitars just sang to me, flowing in and out through the noise and drum beats like and old school rock track that’s been dressed up for the decade. Picking up the pace again with 'Suck It or Blow' the band continues to impress, then throwing you a curve ball with their instrumental 'On Mars II', an ambient structure of spacious notes and bells. It may have almost been preferable if this were the outro, seeing as how it brings you down from all the previous chaos. The last track however, 'What's Going On' throws you back in it. Whether you’re talking or moshing when you should have been listening, Bites Rites is not just a cut and dry tale. They’re trying to tell you something, so listen up and read between the lines. Rabbits make more than just noise; they’re here to develop and multiply, making sweet music together. Christine Hager
The Amenta – Chokehold (Listenable) Bringing together the bleak nihilism of industrial with the intense metallic smash-in-theface of death metal, Australian noise-mongers The Amenta play a of dense
wall-of-noise that immediately brings to mind classic Godflesh, Soul of a New Machine-era Fear Factory and early Pitchshifter, so that should give you an idea of where they’re coming from. This EP – consisting of the title track, a cover, two live tracks and a remix – just about covers all bases with regards to content and actually has a whiff of 90s nostalgia along with the sonics – shame it’s a digital EP and not a vinyl or CD pressing. ‘Chokehold’ splutters and crashes along with a bass that sounds like it was strung with telegraph cables and growled vocals that seem strangely low in the mix. As a song it’s pretty bland but then again this is a stop-gap release. Their cover of Godflesh’s ‘Christbait Rising’ is more rousing by comparison – if rousing is the right word. Not significantly different from the original, it does sound more pumped up than that version and is probably the best song on here. The two live tracks showcase the rawer side of the band, sounding less mechanical and more organic in the live setting, which is so often the case with bands that have that electronic edge in the studio, whilst the remix of ‘V01D’ offers a similar brand of heaviness as the title track but with a few added bleeps and pulses for good measure. As a stop-gap release Chokehold does exactly what you would expect it to do by giving you a snippet of each side of the band and their output. If you’re already a fan then you’ll probably appreciate it more than somebody coming to the band fresh , but it’s doubtful as to whether there’s enough here to make you want to investigate further. Chris Ward
The Chant – A Healing Place (Lifeforce) Modern music is not afraid to wear its influences on its sleeve; there is an increasing confidence to take one or several genres and combine them to create something that is both new and quite familiar. Prog rock did exactly that during the 1970s as bands assembled rock, folk, jazz and world music in a process that was not so much musical
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plundering as musical collage. And with the resurgence of that progressive approach, modern bands such as The Chant are comfortably utilising the process once again. Helsinki-based The Chant have constructed an album that echoes the soundscapes of bands like Anathema, the dark, gothic tones of Paradise Lost and Depeche Mode, while still maintaining very much their own sound. But just to be clear, the songs here are not derivative, rather the influences form strands within the music. It’s dense and claustrophobic, at times dark, brooding and melancholic, engaging with the listener’s emotions in ways that are sometimes overpowering, at other times stark; a plaintive performance that can be one moment calming and cathartic, while at others a paean-like cry of feeling. It can be emotionally bleak but it’s also musically rich, each musician filling the space allotted to them and then some. The eight songs have a uniform, unified feel about them; the atmospheric template is used throughout, ensuring no shocks or anything that might seem out of place. The listener is struck by the wave-like dynamics employed here, as quiet and loud passages ebb and flow in a sonic tide. It’s all midpaced or slow tempos and this suits the style and intent of the music: somehow fast and furious would undermine the impact. So how does this all translate into the songs themselves? Well, let’s pick a few out for closer examination. “Riverbed” uses the quiet/loud method and has a hint of Depeche Mode about it. Unhurried in its pace and with a mellow, acoustic mid-section providing a contrast to some of the heavier passages to be found within the song (and indeed the rest of the album), this kind of music shares with post rock a form of instrumentation that provides a wash of sound, like a water colour palette from which emerges the shapes and colours of the melody. “The Black Corner” is bass driven in a way that puts one in mind of The Cure, while its structure is again one where quieter passages give way to louder ones. Vocals are layered over increasingly complex musical arrangements, and use harmonies to add emphasis and yet more colours to an already
acked piece. The other band which – rather surprisingly – springs to mind here is Tears For Fears, demonstrating just how much variation of influence The Chant are prepared to display. “Distant Drums” is a heavier song on which the drums dominate (they are really not so distant), their insistent rumble propelling the whole piece, while both piano and guitar take it in turns to carry the melody. Taken in its entirety, “A Healing Place” is something of a mood piece; that is, it will suit some situations better than others. Its dense, melancholic nature captures specific emotions very well. It’s unlikely to be first choice to get a party going, nor will it be what’s required if you are updating your power list for the gym. But it will talk to you of those places to which your emotions sometimes travel – usually unbidden –in a controlled and benign environment, allowing you to experience them to cathartic effect. It is a fine, atmospheric album for when the mood takes you. Ian Girle
Of Sanity'), but the bulk of the material is more progressive in nature ('Autotheist Movement I to III', 'Accelerated Evolution'). This makes “Autotheism” a far more interesting and engaging listen than their two previous albums. 'Ten Billion Years' and 'In Solitude' are two other musical highlights on this record. I have a distinct feeling that "Autotheism" could be the breakthrough album for The Faceless. It’s heavy enough to keep the extreme metal fans happy and it contains enough prog-curveballs to entice the Devin Townsend, Between The Buried And Me and Textures crowds. As for me, I’m hooked! Raymond Westland
The Gathering - Disclosure (Suburban)
The Faceless – Autotheism (Sumerian)
The Faceless is a technical death metal band hailing from Enico, California. They caused quite a stir with their "Akeldama" and "Planetary Duality" albums, on which they really pushed the boundaries of technical death metal. After a couple of member changes, The Faceless are back with their third and arguably most ambitious effort to date. Autotheism is quite a departure from the neck-breaking technical frolics which characterized their last album. This time, the emphasis is squarely on the progressive element of their music and on solid songwriting. I’d say a little more Devin Townsend, Cynic and Between The Buried And Me, than Death, Meshuggah and Atheist. This is a smart move, because on this record The Faceless are really coming on their own. There’s still plenty of high speed arpeggios on this album ('The Eidolon Reality', 'Hymn
Over the past two decades, Holland's The Gathering have gradually morphed from a lugubrious doom metal act into this synthrock band that sounds way too expansive and accessible to be called metal. They’re part of a caste of artists whose roots lie in metal music, but throughout the years branched out into calmer styles, a small list that includes names like Anathema and Ulver for instance. Not every record they make is a masterpiece, that’s true, but they always delivered diligent, worthwhile music, which is the same that can be said about their latest effort. “Disclosure” is another consistent work from The Gathering, the second featuring new vocalist Silje Wergeland, whose voice sounds more fragile and tender than Anneke van Giersbergen. That’s not a criticism, in fact, Silje’s more earthy and wounded tone complements rather nicely the introspective nature of the new songs. The atmosphere of “Disclosure” is thoroughly melancholy, it’s overwhelming and electronically driven recalling the ethereal and planetarium vibe of “How to Measure a Planet”. That tone is captured rather nicely on the opening song “Paper Waves”, which is built around the
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tender voice of Silje and subtle synth melodies that flutter and soothes the listener into a relaxing and dream-like mood. It's a carefully crafted and wholly enveloping atmosphere that characterizes most of the album’s songs, where the warm and beautiful voice of Silje weave gracefully above layers of trippy electronic sounds and gentle guitar melodies. “Meltdown” however, takes an unexpected turn even for The Gathering standards, adding some trippy almost danceable beats that suggests something along the lines of Massive Attack and Sneaker Pimps. While “Disclosure” might be a tad downbeat and experimental for most of you, it’s still a proud example of The Gathering’s diverse and enchanting songcraft and a perfect companion for one those lonely nights, when you’re too melancholic for something louder and angrier. David Alexandre
Threshold – March of Progress (Nuclear Blast)
The album’s opening track Ashes gets us off to a promising start, catchy guitar riffs, strong vocals... an anthem in the making. Unfortunately nothing much changes after this and the tracks begin to roll into one. An exception to this comes in the form of That’s Why We Came which offers us a welcome break with its more ballad like feel and an interesting mixture of both acoustic and electric sounds. However on an album which is stretched out to be over an hour long, this one track is not enough to save it from its indistinctive sound. The closing track The Rubicon did catch my attention to begin with by starting off with an epic blast of keyboard and guitars, but at over ten minutes long there is not enough variation in the track to stop me from slipping back off into a day dream. Like I said though, it’s not a bad album, I was just expecting more from a band who are now spanning into their third decade of releases. It makes great background music, but if you were hoping for an album to slap you in the face and make damn sure you knew Threshold had returned... you might be in for a disappointment. Chantelle Higgins
Vintersorg - Orkan (Napalm Records)
The wait is finally over.... after five years of silence since the release of Dead Reckoning, an album which proved to be a powerful offering, the mighty Threshold have returned with their ninth studio album, March of Progress. Excited? I was. Such a long break teamed with the success of the previous record and the return of vocalist Damian Wilson, this release offered such promise. Is this excitement justified? Unfortunately... and it hurts a little to say this... perhaps not. There is nothing wrong with the album per se.... it still offers the band’s own unique mix of heavy and progressive metal, which together create the majestic sound we have become so accustomed to. However, I can’t help but feel something is missing. The majority of the tracks stick to the same midtempo sound and although Wilson’s vocals hit all the right notes, he gives the tracks the feel of a comfy old slipper rather than the leather cladded kick in the face I was hoping for.
Elemental fury is a fitting motif for a new Vintersorg release. Just as 2011’s Jordpuls found its muse in the earth, the band’s latest record Orkan takes its influence from the primal power of wind and storm. Orkan translates from Swedish to English as “Hurricane”, an apt title for a complex and often overwhelming album that’s liable to pitch from beguiling calm to turbulent savagery in a heartbeat. Vintersorg’s black and folk metal roots remain but Orkan is one of their most progressive records yet, while also displaying a profound melodic sensibility. Which isn’t to say that there are deliberate concessions to accessibility; Vintersorg remain a challenging
and uncompromising listen. Opening track Istid sets the tone for the album, balancing tortured tremolo-picked riffs against captivating leads, thick swathes of keyboards and soaring choruses. Ur Stjärnstoft Är Vi Komna is simply a masterclass in progressive songwriting. Its delicate piano melody is rapidly torn apart by a wall of howling guitars only to re-emerge in final refrain as the centrepiece of a counterpoint arrangement four or five tracks deep. Polarnatten takes relatively stripped-down black metal riffing and augments it with prodigious volumes of vocal and keyboard textures, together with yet another epic chorus in one of the album’s finest moments. Though Orkan, coming only 15 months after the release of Jordpuls, shares a good deal of genetic material with its predecessor, they’re very much two different records. Where Jordpuls rarely paused for breath, Orkan is contemplative, allowing the band to explore and develop harmonic arrangements to their fullest. The quiet-loud/stop-start dynamic remains but seems less abrupt and arbitrary than before. Tempo changes are deliberate and purposeful and, as is the case with title track, usually point to further progression in the development of a song’s underlying sonic motif. Andreas “Vintersorg” Hedlund’s transcendent vocal performance lifts the new album from the realms of mere excellence to true greatness. The sheer range, versatility and power of Hedlund’s voice marks him out as one of the finest metal vocalists alive today and he has never sounded better than on Orkan. Rarely has a title fitted an album so well as Orkan. It’s a devastating musical hurricane whose raw power is only made the more apparent by the brief quiet moments interspersed amongst all the sound and fury. Put simply, Orkan is a monumental achievement and one of the finest records you’ll hear in 2012. Jodi Mullen
Waylander - Kindred Spirits (Listenable) From their early demos onwards, Irish metalers Waylander were by many announced as being one of the forefathers of the Pagan/Folk/Celtic Metal scene. Their subsequent albums cemented that view and drew only the strongest acclaim. The band stood centre stage of the genre and new album Kindred Spirits on Listenable Records reinforces their position. It has to be said the Armagh sextet does not attempt to push their boundaries or those of the genre with Kindred Spirits but simply offers music of immense craft drawn from their potent well of creativity. This makes for an album which excites and satisfies but does.
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not incite or ignite any fires towards it. The album opens on a big towering high with ‘Echoes of the Sidhe’ and ‘Lámh Dearg’. The first a track looking at enduring beliefs in old Gods and the higher plains of existence things is a charging and greedy flurry of forceful and taunting riffs, combative rhythms, and melodic enterprise. There is nothing truly new involved just a song of impressive craft and thrilling elements such as the whistle melodics and air scorching heavy metal guitar asides. The following ‘Lámh Dearg’ is a harder and more intense beast to devour keenly. A song dealing with conflict in Northern Ireland it is a provocatively edged riot with cute melodies to balance the aggressive sounds and scathing growls of vocals and thunderous riffs. Further tracks like the concussive ‘Twin Fires of Beltíne’, the stormy ‘Of Fear and Fury’, and the raging ‘A Path Well Trodden’, all thrill without firing up any lasting impressions in thought and heart making for a slight downturn in the album. Their company is rewarding and satisfying but without anything markedly different fails to deeply excite. The final two songs though return the album to a lofty high. ‘Erdath’ is easily the best song on the album and the one time arguably the band push beyond their existing boundaries. The song is a resourceful melodic weave and corruptive maelstrom of intensity, a ravaging intrigue of unpredictable and venomous melodic invention brought within a swarming aggressive spite. The enterprising weave of the title track brings things to a close, its blend of powerful energies and melodic enchantment a strong and pleasurable yet expected climax. It sums up the album as a whole, impressively presented and skilfully created but unsurprising and lacking a new bite and danger for the genre. Pete RingMaster
War//Plague - On A Darker Dawn (Profane Existence)
There is no hiding place before the fury andintent of a band like War//Plague and an album such as On A Darker Dawn. The Minneapolis punks return with their tanks fully
loaded with bile and vitriolic insight, their debut album an assault of outrage and spite brought through an incendiary storm of socio/political rage and torrential aggression which ignites the atmosphere through a blend of crust, heavy metal, and thrash. Top and tailed by a cloud of disease spawning flies the album is themed by decay, the rotting of our world though the plague that is human beings. The flies are us as we destroy and ravage what is loaned to us, civilisation spreading the destruction and sucking up the life of all. War//Plague offers no hidden meanings or cryptic commentary, they go to the crux of their opinion and thoughts to share with relish from the album sleeve to the sounds. The ferocity starts with first full track ‘Corpse In My Mouth’ which follows ‘The Passage’ an intro which gently leans and whispers towards the oncoming torrent of punk and metal ferocity. The song is bone splitting aggression and crushing rhythms brought by drummer Chad Papa and bassist Sammy Totep which spears powerfully the air ripping riffage of guitarists Andy Lefton and Andy Lutz and their tight contagious nasty grooves. The song and album is not all about beating their recipient into consciousness, though it is 80% of the intent and continues to unrelentingly until the closing pestilence of outro track ‘The Codetta’, but also deals in veins of imaginative invention. Through the likes of the destructive grooved ‘Crusher’, the rabid ‘Pack Of 1,000 Wolves’, and the thrilling melodic haven that is ‘A Day Mournful And Overcast’ in particular, War//Plague find a new brutality to their attack whilst lining the tracks with these provocative creative elements and ideas for a constantly intriguing and rewarding experience. The vocals of Lutz throughout are as abrasive and incisive as the sounds riling the senses around him and though his delivery never truly varies it is a perfect fit to the swarming concussive depths the senses are dragged into. On A Darker Dawn is a mighty and striking release. It does not explore brand new avenues but brings music which is honest and formidable. War//Plague do not take prisoners but satisfy strongly as you fall before them. Pete RingMaster
Zatokrev - The Bat, The Wheel And A Long Road To Nowhere (Candlelight Records) Reviewer: Jodi MullenSwitzerland has always produced bands not afraid to tear up metal conventions and strike out on their own into strange and unexplored lands. Like trailblazers Hellhammer, Celtic Frost and arch-experimentalists Samael, Zatokrev maintain the fine Swiss tradition of genrebending with The Bat, The Wheel And A Long Road To Nowhere (try saying that ten times fast – let’s call it TBTWAALRTN from here on). Their second release builds on the doom/black metal foundations of their self-titled debut and adds sludge and drone elements, albeit with mixed success. The influence of Neurosis and Eyehategod cast a long shadow over TBTWAALRTN, with brooding leaden riffs, walls of tortured feedback, and unexpected melodic interjections forming the bedrock of the album. Opener Goddamn Lights very much sets the tone, kicking off nine-plus minutes of staticdrenched, ever-evolving riffing, with Federyk Rotter’s throat-ripping screams presiding over the gloom. A handful of tracks fall closer to the doom/black metal sound of the debut record, with Medium and The Bat invoking everything from Darkthrone’s A Blaze In The Northern Sky to Forgotten Tomb’s early body of work. The more experimental material is definitely the more engaging and the sludgier tracks tend to be more dynamic and aurally engaging. TBTWAALRTN is often guilty of becoming lost amidst all the swirling feedback and songs occasionally degenerate into unstructured noisefests that spend rather a lot of time going nowhere, in an unintentional nod to the album’s title. While self-indulgence comes with the territory when listening to doom or sludge, there doesn’t seem to be any real purpose to many of the extended drone sections here and the good ideas in the longer songs, like Medium, can feel diluted by the sheer volume of sonic padding. Writing longform material is all well and good but when the main thread of the song becomes buried and the listener’s attention begins to wander, it’s probably time to reel it back in. All that said, Zatokrev’s The Bat, The Wheel And A Long Road To Nowhere is an intriguing listen and one that has enough arresting moments to make it worth enduring the more aimless passages. Even oversights at the editorial stage can’t take away too much from its crushing heaviness and brutal intensity; this is an unrelenting 75 minute assault on the ears that leaves the senses reeling and offers a glimpse of potential greatness to come from these Swiss sludgemeisters. Jodi Mullen
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