Monday, February 28, 2011

Roger Miret And The Disasters - Gotta Get Up Now

Roger Miret And The Disasters
Gotta Get Up Now
People Like You Records/Century Media Records/E.M.I. Music Australia

It’s been a long time between solo releases for Roger Miret and his backing band The Disasters, but five years after the release of ‘My Riot’ (Which was released through Sailor’s Grave Records), he’s back with album number four ‘Gotta Get Up Now’ with a new label People Like You Records. If you’re familiar with Roger Miret And The Disasters’ previous releases, then you’ll no doubt know what to expect with ‘Gotta Get Up Now’. And while all of the band’s releases to date have been of a high quality, it has to be said that with their latest release, Roger Miret And The Disasters (Who comprise of guitarist/vocalists Rhys Kill and Randy Rost, bassist/vocalist Roy Valencia and drummer Pete Sosa) have managed to really outdo themselves, and produce what is easily their strongest effort to date.
The opening track ‘Stand Up And Fight’ is a short, sharp and energetic punk rock anthem that the band seems to bash out with considerable ease. While the song itself isn’t anything revolutionary or different from what you would otherwise expect from past efforts, there is an undeniable energy heard within the track, and it certainly helps to give the song a real edge.
Both ‘The Enemy’ and ‘Faded’ (The first single from the album) are further fast paced anthems that pass by in a blur, while ‘We’re Gonna Find A Way’ (Which is the second single/promotional video clip lifted from the album) slows things down just a touch, with an injection of melody and some extended guitar solos giving the song a bit of a different feel.
The title track ‘Gotta Get Up Now’ is definitely one of the album’s real stand out efforts with its gang vocal backups, catchy riffs and infectious reggae influences, while the hard rocking ‘Outcast Youth’, ‘Tonight’s The Night’, ‘Red White And Blue’ and ‘Road To Nowhere’ are just some of the more notable selections worthy of singling out.
Roger Miret And The Disasters have never been the sort of band to release anything that falls below par, but if the truth be told, ‘Gotta Get Up Now’ is hands down the most consistent, energetic and well rounded album the band have recorded to date.
With ‘Gotta Get Up Now’ out now, and the new Agnostic Front album (‘My Life, My Way’) due to emerge within the next month, Miret is well and truly making sure 2011 is a busy year. And given how inspired his song writing is at the moment, I can’t see fans complaining anytime soon.

For more information on Roger Miret And The Disasters, check out - http://www.thedisasters.com/

© Justin Donnelly

Shroud Of Despondency - Dark Meditations In Monastic Seclusion


Shroud Of Despondency
Dark Meditations In Monastic Seclusion
Independent Release

From the outside looking in, it would appear that Shroud Of Despondency had all but given up, with the Milwaukee (U.S.) based black metal outfit’s last offering being some tracks from 2009 effort ‘Objective:Isolation’. But lo and behold, the group have re-emerged with a new line-up (Now comprising of Owlscry vocalist Michael Jurek, guitarist/founder Rory Heikkila, guitarist Jon Liedtke, Cholernik bassist Tyler Okrzesik and Owlscry drummer Jeremiah Messner) and put together a third full-length effort ‘Dark Meditations In Monastic Seclusion’.
Those familiar with Shroud Of Despondency’s various recorded efforts over the years will be aware that the band have never been the type of act to follow any one particular path in terms of sound and direction within the black metal realm. Instead, the band frees themselves of the preconceived constraints of the genre; taking the listener on a journey that will at times includes elements of the black metal spectrum, rather than simply bludgeon the listener continuously from start to finish. And as expected, ‘Dark Meditations In Monastic Seclusion’ is another varied and experimental release that drifts in and out of the black metal realm.
The acoustic opening number ‘Seeing One Last Ray Of Light’ provides quite an unexpected start to the album, with the song taking on a folk influence around the midway mark alongside some clean vocals. Although the vast majority of the album takes on a dark tone, there’s clearly an up-tempo, yet sombre presence within this song, which gives the listener a misguided sense that the album will flow along the same path as groups such as Opeth and Agalloch.
It soon becomes apparent that Shroud Of Despondency have no intentions of delivering anything predictable, with the band unleashing their full on black metal assault within ‘Homo Homini Lupus’. From the relentless double bass drums, the tight knit riffing and the tortured screams on the vocal front, ‘Homo Homini Lupus’ is a relentless attack from the moment its unfurled, with only the use of choral vocals and the brief clutches of guitar solos providing any real sense of theatrics amongst the blast of primitive blackened metal.
‘Parting Of The Way’ does tread down a similar path to its predecessor, but with a slower pace and a vocal performance that is at best, described as both primal and hoarse sounding. But what’s really surprising about this track is the addition of clean harmonised vocals around the halfway mark, and its gentle progression back to the opening track over the last three minutes. It’s around this mark that the band introduce a spoken word piece over the music in which the person speaking openly talks about his attempt at suicide while suffering with a bi-polar disorder. While the storyline itself isn’t exactly the lightest of subjects, it does have an air of hope to it, while maintaining the album feel of the sombre and dark. Again, it’s put together in a way that’s quite different, and overall sounds well done.
The middle-eastern influenced ‘Sybil’ maintains the soothing and relaxed vibe of the tail end of the last track, but with a wide array of clean vocals to give the song a completely different angle to the former vocal efforts. While some of the clean vocals are pulled off quite well, some of the lower end vocals are a little off the mark, which tends to take away rather than add overall.
‘Sullen Murmur Oppressive Stillness’ sees the band returning to more familiar terrain, with its straight-forward Darkthrone inspired black metal structure and sound, with some minor diversions around the halfway mark ensuring that its eight minute running time feels much shorter than it actually is. The folk/acoustic based ‘Flicker Of The Ardent Light’ is also quite well done, if a little derivative of Agalloch in places, before blasting listeners one last time with the Hellish closing track ‘To Glisten In All The Colors Of Distress’. At eleven minutes long, ‘To Glisten In All The Colors Of Distress’ goes through a host of changes in the directional sense, with elements of doom, choral hymns and atmospheric passages dotted throughout its duration. Again, while the song is quite long, Shroud Of Despondency does manage to keep things interesting.
Overall, ‘Dark Meditations In Monastic Seclusion’ is a strange album, and one that doesn’t comfortably fit into the black metal genre exclusively due to its varied influences, and the band’s constant exploration into sounds outside the black metal realm. But what can be concluded after giving the album a good listen is that Shroud Of Despondency is certainly one of the more interesting acts within the scene.
If you’re after something a little different from within the darker side of the metal spectrum, then Shroud Of Despondency’s ‘Dark Meditations In Monastic Seclusion’ comes highly recommended.

For more information on Shroud Of Despondency, check out - http://www.myspace.com/shroudofdespondency

© Justin Donnelly

Withering Soul - No Closure

Withering Soul
No Closure
Mortal Music/MVD Entertainment Group

For a band that’s been around for the better part of a decade, Withering Soul aren’t what you would call a prolific act, with barely a couple of demos, one full-length release (2004’s ‘Apparitions Of The Surreal’, which was released through Xohol Records) and a cover of Running Wild’s ‘Firebreather’ for 2009’s Running Wild tribute album ‘ReUnation’ released from the band within that time. But after a lengthy period of inactivity, the Chicago (Illinois, U.S.) based outfit have finally signed up with Mortal Music, with the first release from the pair being the long overdue release of the band’s sophomore effort ‘No Closure’.
With seven years between releases, it’s hard to imagine exactly what to expect from Withering Soul’s latest release compared their debut effort. But after giving the album several listens, it’s clear that the four piece act (Comprising of vocalist Mykil, guitarist/keyboardist Krystofer, bassist William Smith and drummer Marek) certainly haven’t remained stationary in terms of sound and direction. Instead, Withering Soul have progressed in leaps and bounds on ‘No Closure’, with a melodic black metal sound that could easily be mistaken as something that could have emerged from the European side of the world metal scene.
Withering Soul gently introduce the album with the atmospheric and haunting keyboard led instrumental piece ‘Night Of The Revenant’, which unlike a lot of synthesizer based introductory tracks, actually succeeds at perfectly setting the tone of the album.
With the opening song gently fading out, the band quickly gets down to business with ‘Phantasmal Chaos Divinity’, which boasts plenty of impressive black metal riffing alongside some suitably heavy keyboard work. On the vocal front, Mykil conjures up some demonic sounding growls, but also manages to keep the song varied with clean vocals as well. Overall, the song can be compared to Cradle Of Filth in places, but perhaps with a little more thought in ensuring that the song retains a sense of flow, variation and dynamics, which is sometimes lost on the long running U.K. act.
‘The Sequitor’ is another strong track that follows along the same lines as the former, with the exception of some additional lead work, while ‘Tides Of The Accursed’ (Which was originally aired at the first single from the album a couple of years ago), ‘Possession Of Deception - Part II’ (A sequel to the closer on the band’s debut) and ‘Sadistic Redress’ take on a bit more of an extreme approach, with Marek’s relentless work behind the kit and Krystofer’s keyboard work really standing out.
Both ‘Lifeless They Lie’ and ‘Manifest Transparency’ (The first promotional video clip from the album) showcase a bit more of a melodic edge within the group’s sound, with the focus on groovier sounding riffing and clean vocal passages guiding the song for the most part, while on ‘Unquiet’, ex-Aesma Daeva/Visions Of Atlantis/Echoterra vocalist Melissa Ferlaak adds a symphonic touch to the band’s melodic black metal sound, which makes the song stand out as is something completely different from the rest of the album.
Finishing things up is the instrumental ‘Requiem Of Sorrow’, which closes the album on a more reflective note.
It’s taken Withering Soul some time to release ‘No Closure’, but it’s been worth the wait. Not everything on the album works quite as well as I had hoped (The clean vocals are a little shaky in places, and ‘Unquiet’ does seem a little out of place on the album stylistically), but in the end, there’s definitely more that works, than not. Overall, ‘No Closure’ is a great album, and one that will surely appeal to those who appreciate quality melodic death metal.

For more information on Withering Soul, check out - http://www.witheringsoul.com/

© Justin Donnelly

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Heart - Night At Sky Church

Heart
Night At Sky Church
Legacy Recordings/Shock Entertainment

Although the years between their studio releases has grown over time, it hasn’t meant that the Seattle based rock outfit Heart have shown any signs of slowing down, with the Wilson sisters (Vocalist Ann Wilson and vocalist/guitarist Nancy Wilson) still maintaining a strong live presence on stages year in/year out; proving the pair still know how to rock. Following hot on the heels of the release of their highly acclaimed thirteenth album ‘Red Velvet Car’ from last year, Heart have put together a new live D.V.D. in the form of ‘Night At Sky Church’, which was filmed last March at Seattle’s Experience Music Project in front of a sold out hometown crowd.
Despite having already released a couple of live D.V.D.’s in the last decade (2003’s ‘Alive In Seattle’ and 2007’s ‘Dreamboat Annie Live’), ‘Night At Sky Church’ showcases a different side to what many have come to expect from Heart, with the band (Who aside from the Wilson sisters include guitarist Craig Bartock, bassist Kristian Attard, keyboard player Debbie Shair and drummer Ben Smith) maintaining a fine balance between their more acoustic influenced direction of their early and latter years, and the more hard rock sound they had in the years in-between.
The concert gets off to an energetic and decidedly heavy rocking start with the classic ‘Barracuda’. Ann Wilson has lost nothing on the vocal front, while Nancy’s prowess on the six strings still sounds as biting as the original recording some three decades ago.
The semi-acoustic reworking of their 1985 hit ‘Never’ easily allows the song to shine as something special early in the set, while tracks such as ‘Love Alive’, ‘Mistral Wind’, ‘What About Love’, The Lovemongers’ ‘Sand’, ‘Alone’ and ‘Crazy On You’ are all given a similar reworking in semi-acoustic form with amazing results.
In the lead up to the release of their new album ‘Red Velvet Car’, the band debuted new tracks such as the heavy and rocking anthem ‘WTF’, ‘Hey You’ (Which features a guest appearance from the album producer Ben Mink on guitar) and the moody and blues sounding ‘Red Velvet Car’. Elsewhere, Alison Krauss shares a bit of the spotlight with her performance alongside the band on the beautiful ‘Safronia s Mark’ (Which is also a new track from ‘Red Velvet Car’), ‘These Dreams’ and a cover of Doc Watson’s ‘Your Long Journey’ (Which Alison Krauss covered with Robert Plant on their ‘Rising Sand’ album from 2007).
Toward the end, Heart bring the show to a close much in the same way they started out, with ‘Straight On’ and ‘Magic Man’ given the full electric treatment.
In terms of bonuses, ‘Night At Sky Church’ doesn’t have much to offer apart from a stunning rendition of ‘Back To Avalon’ and a full-on version of ‘Kick It Out’, both of which I assume didn’t quite fit the feel of the show overall, and therefore were put aside.
Although a little lacking in extras department, ‘Night At Sky Church’ is still an absolute treat for fans, with the concert visually stunning in terms of its editing and overall lighting (The constant changes in lighting from the backdrop really does enhance the show throughout), and captures the very essence of Heart’s powerful performance in front of their enthusiastic hometown crowd. In short – unlike a lot of bands of their era, Heart still have what it takes to put on a killer show.

For more information on Heart, check out - http://www.heart-music.com/

© Justin Donnelly

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Volturyon - Coordinated Mutilation


Volturyon
Coordinated Mutilation
United Guttural Records

Although passing under the radar for most, Volturyon’s debut effort ‘Blood Cure’ (Which was released in 2008 through Obscure Domain Productions) did manage to attract quite a bit a positive press for the Swedish death metal act in their native Europe, with many tipping the band to be one of the scene’s up and coming big names.
Three years on and the band (Comprising of Deals Death vocalist Olle Ekman, ex-Evangeli guitarists Johan Gustafsson and Andreas Olander, ex-Evangeli/Cryonic Temple bassist Stefan Eriksson and In Mourning drummer Christian ‘Crille’ Netzell) have since signed to United Guttural Records, and duly unleashed their long awaited sophomore effort ‘Coordinated Mutilation’.
Without any forewarning (In other words, no pointless introduction piece), Volturyon are quick to get the album off in a totally devastating fashion with the pulverising ‘Bloodsoaked Solution’. Initially starting out with an all out assault of speed and aggression, the song does eventually settle down to reveal a strong sense of groove, without losing any of its original intensity. The Tight rhythm section within the band provides the real strength within their sound and performance, while the shifts in tempo and the technical finesse demonstrated throughout keeps the listener constantly on their toes. Vocally, Ekman sometimes sounds reminiscent of George ‘Corpsegrinder’ Fisher of Cannibal Corpse, and musically the band aren’t necessarily pushing the boundaries of death metal beyond its known parameters, but given how well Volturyon deliver their music, the obvious can be largely overlooked so as to enjoy what’s on offer.
‘Savage Gluttony’ is a definite stand out with its somewhat more melodic and catchy chorus structures and strong sense of groove, while the slower and sparser riffing in ‘Euphoria Through Execution’, the title track ‘Coordinated Mutilation’, the menacing chug of ‘Intense Convulsions’ and the infectious ‘Sadistic Molestation’ show the band’s willingness to give the album plenty of variation from one track to the next.
That’s not to say that it doesn’t have its fair share of bludgeoning efforts, as tracks such as the ‘Eight Corner Of Slaughter’, ‘Ravaged’, ‘Abide Under Eminence’ and ‘Sanguinolency’ more than make up for the punishment dished out through the album.
Although bringing precious little in terms of anything new to the table, Volturyon have still managed to produce a thoroughly enjoyable brand of modern death metal, which is more than evident in their latest release ‘Coordinated Mutilation’.

For more information on Volturyon, check out - http://www.myspace.com/volturyon

© Justin Donnelly

Friday, February 25, 2011

Abysmal Dawn - Leveling The Plane Of Existence


Abysmal Dawn
Leveling The Plane Of Existence
Relapse Records/Riot! Entertainment

On the strength of their first two full-length releases (Namely 2006’s ‘From Ashes’ and 2008’s ‘Programmed To Consume’), Los Angeles (California) based death metal outfit Abysmal Dawn have earned themselves a reputation as a force to be reckoned with within the U.S. extreme metal scene.
Now returning after a three year absence with a revamped line-up (Both vocalist/guitarist Charles Elliot and bassist/backing vocalist Mike Cosio still remain from the last line-up, with Skitzo drummer Scott Fuller joining the fold in 2009), Abysmal Dawn are back with their third effort ‘Leveling The Plane Of Existence’ to once again lay devastation upon the masses with their take on bludgeoning straight-forward death metal.
After a suitably haunting and building introduction to the album (The piano based instrumental ‘The Age Of Ruin’), Abysmal Dawn go straight for the throat with the pummelling ‘Pixilated Ignorance’. The technical edge of the band’s past work is still clearly evident throughout the song, but has been given a little more clarity with Erik Rutan’s exceptional mixing and mastering throughout. There’s also a touch more melody in the choruses than what we’ve come to expect from the band’s past work, while the guest solo from Krisiun’s Moyses Kolesne adds a really class edge to the track.
The mid-paced ‘In Service Of Time’ and ‘Perpetual Dormancy’ (Which is preceded by Fuller’s short percussion driven piece ‘Our Primitive Nature’) are a couple of tracks that stand out as something a little out of the ordinary for the band, with the songs primarily sticking to strong and heavy grooves for most of their duration, while tracks such as ‘Rapture Renowned’, the title track ‘Leveling The Plane Of Existence’ (Both of which boast a guest solo appearance from Heathen/Prototype/Psychosis guitarist Kragen Lum) and ‘Manufactured Humanity’ are very much typical of the Abysmal Dawn sound many will be familiar with.
Towards the tail end of the album, the band channels classic Morbid Angel on the impressive and riff heavy ‘My Own Savior’ (Which definitely stands out as one the album’s stronger tracks), before finishing things off in a decidedly experimental fashion with ‘The Sleeper Awakens’. While the closer doesn’t quite manage to fully capture the brooding/atmospheric tone the band were aiming for, it does at least show their willingness to try their hand at something a little outside their comfort zone (Especially on the vocal front).
Overall, ‘Leveling The Plane Of Existence’ is exactly the sort of album fans will expect from Abysmal Dawn, but with enough new sounds to keep things interesting. And while not all of the band’s steps into new territory work perfectly (The final track comes to mind here), they at least have tried to broaden their sound to keep things fresh. All up, if you’re a fan of Abysmal Dawn, there’s plenty on ‘Leveling The Plane Of Existence’ to keep expectations fulfilled.

For more information on Abysmal Dawn, check out - http://www.myspace.com/abysmaldawn

© Justin Donnelly

Long Distance Calling - Long Distance Calling

Long Distance Calling
Long Distance Calling
Superball Music/Century Media Records/E.M.I. Music Australia

The post-rock scene has well and truly exploded over the last decade, with the scene literally flooded with a host of acts trying to capture a piece of the market. So it really doesn’t comes as any surprise to find that despite having already released a couple of E.P.’s (2006’s ‘DMNSTRTN’ and 2008’s ‘090208’ split with Leech) and two full-length albums (2007’s ‘Satellite Bay’ and 2009’s ‘Avoid The Light’), German (Münster based) outfit Long Distance Calling haven’t yet become a major success. But that’s not through a lack of song writing skill or musical ability, as almost all of their releases have garnished their fair share of critical acclaim. Instead, a lot of the band’s lack of exposure can simply be pinpointed down to the number of acts within the post-rock scene.
Undeterred, the five piece act (Comprising of guitarists David Jordan and Florian Füntmann, bassist Jan Hoffmann, Reimut Van Bonn on electronics and drummer Janosch Rathmer) has returned with their third full-length effort ‘Long Distance Calling’.
Sticking to what they do best, ‘Long Distance Calling’ is once again an album of long instrumental tracks for the most part, with the album’s opener ‘Into The Black Wide Open’ providing an idea of the way in which the band approach their music. Unlike many other post-rock acts, Long Distance Calling writes songs that can actually rely solely on their instrumental framework. The heavy groove that the band locks into provides the backbone of the song, but still manages to allow enough space to go off in tangents, all the while evoking a vast and dark atmosphere that’s altogether calming as it is dark sounding.
The follow up track ‘The Figrin D’an Boogie’ is quite a departure from the opening track with its up-tempo classic rock sound, which certainly makes the song stand out in a major way, while the cascade of thick guitar tones in the heavy ‘Invisible Giants’, the riff driven metallic juggernaut that is ‘Arecibo (Long Distance Calling)’ and the subdued and mellow vibe of ‘Timebends’ only show just how effective the band is at diversifying their sounds from one track to the next.
Of course, not everything the band has committed to tape has been purely instrumental, with past efforts including guest vocalists such as The Haunted’s Peter Dolving and Katatonia’s Jonas Renkse. This time around, the band has managed to rope in Armored Saint/ex-Anthrax vocalist John Bush, who provides the vocals on ‘Middleville’. While the inclusion of vocals does disrupt the flow of the album a little, it has to be said that ‘Middleville’ is a great song, both from Bush’s own performance and on a compositional level from the band. It’s an odd detour to say the least, but a worthy inclusion nonetheless.
Finishing up the album is the epic ‘Beyond The Void’, which is by far the most progressive song on the album, and one that is in some ways an extension of the opener in terms of its slower pace and reliance on minimal ideas.
In some ways, Long Distance Calling reminds me a lot of Karma To Burn. Not so much musically, but more in the way both acts can create songs on an instrumental level, without the aid of vocals. If you can image how that sounds, and place the band somewhere on the same musical landscape as Porcupine Tree, Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Mogwai (But without sounding like any one of these bands entirely), then you’ll have half an idea of just how much Long Distance Calling stand out from the masses.

For more information on Long Distance Calling, check out –

© Justin Donnelly

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Alexis - Birds Of Prey


Alexis
Birds Of Prey
Pitch Black Records

Within the Chilean metal scene, singer/song writer Freddy Alexis is quite a well known name with a career that has spanned more than twenty years, and his involvement in groups such as Panzer, Inquisicion, Witchblade, Ronfive and Bewitched. The latest name to add to his long list of credits is his own solo project Alexis, which was recently signed to Cyprian label Pitch Black Records for his debut full-length effort ‘Birds Of Prey’.
With a studio band line-up in place (Who at the time included The Southern Cross guitarist Julio César Alcaíno, Arnion guitarist Carlos Sanchez, Baco bassist José Tomás Montecinos and drummer Gustavo Echeverría), and Alexis himself calling the shots in terms of sound and direction, it’s not surprising to find that Alexis is very much a vehicle for Alexis himself.
After a brief introductory piece (Which is typically titled simply as ‘Intro’), the album officially gets underway with ‘Shadows’, which is the album’s first single/promotional video clip. As you would expect, Alexis’ sound is clearly rooted within the traditional/power metal realm, with subtle progressive influences heard from time to time. Alexis himself has a strong and likeable vocal presence, and coupled with a strong sense of melody and structure to his vocal lines, easily elevates ‘Shadows’ beyond the stock standard dished out by most who attempt to emulate the same sound.
The slower paced ‘Golden Path’ does see the band demonstrating their ability to stretch their sound beyond the standard power metal sound with considerable success, while ‘Friendly Fire’ follows a similar path, but with a bit more punch in the drum sounds to give a bit more of an up-tempo feel.
But as strong as the album promised to sound throughout, it does have some weaker moments, such as in the plodding and overly long title track ‘Birds Of Prey’ and the Alexis’ attempt to emulate Judas Priest’s Rob Halford on the metallic ‘Metallizer II’.
‘Breaking The Spell’ does help steer the album back on track a little, but the closing sound effect instrumental ‘Forest’ fails to make any great impression, and instead gives a sense that it was simply tacked on to make up time at the end of the album.
The real saving grace of this album’s tail end is the inclusion of three bonus tracks, all of which are Witchblade numbers that have been given the remix and remaster treatment (All have previously appeared on both 2007’s ‘Ignition’ and 2009’s ‘Reborn’).
The acoustic based ‘Without You’ is without a doubt the stronger of the three, and a definite stand out cut on the album overall, while the fast paced ‘The Witchblade’ and the mid-paced ‘Killing Truth’ are further solid cuts in their own right.
Overall, ‘Birds Of Prey’ is a good album, and a good vehicle for Alexis to launch his own solo career. But in places, the album does suffer from inconsistencies in terms of direction and a unified sound, with the final trio of tracks showcasing the weakness within the more recent material. In the end, if traditional/power metal is your thing, then Alexis’ debut effort will no doubt satisfy. Personally, I would have liked to have seen the band stretch out and be a little more adventurous in the song writing department. But as it stands, ‘Birds Of Prey’ is good album, if a little unremarkable.

For more information on Alexis, check out - http://www.birdsofprey.cl/

© Justin Donnelly

The Shadow Theory - Behind The Black Veil

The Shadow Theory
Behind The Black Veil
Inside Out Music/Century Media Records/E.M.I. Music Australia

When former Psychotic Waltz front man Devon Graves decided to put his outfit Deadsoul Tribe’s on indefinite hiatus, it didn’t come as any surprise. After all, the band hadn’t really managed to achieve the kind of success they had envisioned after a lengthy six years together, and after five albums, it was becoming clear that the band weren’t about to radically change their sound and direction with another album following 2007’s rather disappointing ‘A Lullaby For The Devil’. But what is surprising is that it’s taken Graves some four years to finally emerge with something new. But after a lengthy wait and after much speculation from fans in general, Graves has finally unveiled his new outfit The Shadow Theory.
Billed as a progressive supergroup, Graves (Who provides vocals, guitar and flute here) has surrounded himself with some well established names, with guitarist Arne Schuppner (Complex 7), bassist Kristoffer Gildenlöw (Ex-Pain Of Salvation/Dial), Greek keyboardist Demi Scott and drummer Johanne James (Kyrbgrinder/Threshold) makes up The Shadow Theory.
Given the line-up, and the lengthy spell between projects, I was hoping for something special from the band’s debut effort ‘Behind The Black Veil’. But given my disappointment with every new Deadsoul Tribe album, I wasn’t expecting an absolute classic. And after giving the band’s album a good listen, I have to say that ‘Behind The Black Veil’ is pretty much what I expected, with its mix of both the good and the average.
The first thing that hits you about the opening track ‘I Open Up My Eyes’ is just how heavy the band sounds. Deadsoul Tribe had their heavy moments, but nothing quite as thick and guitar driven. Of course, Graves’ flute playing does turn up from time to time to give the song a sense of familiarity, and Graves’ odd vocal arrangements do sound reminiscent of his former work. But as a whole, there’s a darkness and heaviness here that wasn’t evident on any of Graves’ former projects. And I would go as far as to say that it works well.
Fitting in with the mood of the opener, and the conceptual theme that runs throughout the album (About a rock star who, after a binge on drugs, finds himself locked into sequence of nightmares that blur reality and fantasy), ‘The Sound Of Flies’ is another heavier sounding number that pits harsh riffing alongside some atmospheric passages to create an impressive sound, while on ‘Ghostride’, the band reveal a slightly thrashier side to their sound, with Graves matching the intensity of the music with a heavier (And at times creepy) vocal approach throughout.
Given the diverse sounds shown on the opening tracks, ‘Welcome’ comes across as something quite straight-forward and melodic for the most part, which in itself manages to give the song a lasting impression as one of the album’s more memorable efforts, while ‘By The Crossroads’ evokes a dark and heavy tone, which in some ways reminds me of King Diamond, but without the off kilter vocals.
The up-tempo and acoustic based ‘Selebrate’ is a bit of an oddity on the album with its folk/rock vibe, and sounds reminiscent of Jethro Tull, while Graves’ vocal narrative on ‘A Candle In The Gallery’ again sees a return to King Diamond territory, if only with its minimal instrumentation, mix of vocals and focus on the story told within its lyrics.
But as strong as the album appears, it does have its weak points, most notably with ‘Snakeskin’, ‘Sleepwalking’ and ‘The Black Cradle’. Although none of the tracks are necessarily bad, they don’t stand alongside the formerly mentioned tracks in terms of strong choruses and changes within their musical backdrop. At best, they’re all a bit lifeless and plodding. The epic closer ‘A Symphony Of Shadows’ is also a bit of a hit and miss effort, with Graves experimenting with every known sound under the sun in order to create a mini-opera. Again, there’s nothing wrong with that, apart from when it sounds too much like he’s trying too hard, and failing to really make a lasting impression with the final result. It has its moments, but as a whole doesn’t quite manage to make the whole thing sound like one piece of work.
In the end, ‘Behind The Black Veil’ has more than its fair share of strong and memorable songs compared to its list of failures, and given Graves’ past endeavours, that’s a measure of success. All up, as long as you’re not expecting an absolute classic, and you’re a fan of Deadsoul Tribe’s past efforts, you’ll find plenty to enjoy within The Shadow Theory’s debut.

For more information on The Shadow Theory, check out –

© Justin Donnelly

Uncanny - MCMXCI – MCMXCIV


Uncanny
MCMXCI – MCMXCIV
Dark Descent Records

Unless you’re well versed in the history of the Swedish death metal scene, it’s likely that you’ve never heard of Uncanny, much less owned any of their recorded output.
Uncanny wasn’t what you’d call a groundbreaking act in terms of defining the Swedish death metal movement, nor what you would call them an incredibly successful act while they were active (They formed in 1990, and disbanded in 1994). But despite this, the band’s only full-length album ‘Splenium For Nyktophobia’ (Released in 1994 through Unisound Records) is still highly regarded amongst those in the know, and as such is a highly sought after item that has long been out of print.
Perhaps due in part to the success the members enjoyed after the band has long split (Vocalist Jens Törnroos went onto S.G.R. and Interment, guitarist Fredrik Norrman was in Katatonia and October Tide, guitarist Mats Forsell founded the short-lived Fulmination, bassist Christoffer Harborg was a member of S.G.R. and drummer Ken Englund was involved in Centinex, Interment and Dellamorte), and the scarcity of the band’s original recordings, Dark Descent Records has decided to put together a comprehensive double album of all of Uncanny’s recorded efforts together under the name of ‘MCMXCI – MCMXCIV’.
‘MCMXCI – MCMXCIV’ is a lavish package, and one that definitely does justice to Uncanny’s largely unrecognized contribution to the Swedish death metal scene. In other words, this is exactly the sort of release fans of Uncanny, and quality old school death metal could ever possibly want in a re-release.
The first disc of this double set is Uncanny’s only full-length effort ‘Splenium For Nyktophobia’, which has been given a complete remaster, with the album’s thirteen tracks sounding better than ever. You would be hard pressed to say that Uncanny were the most original death metal act to ever emerge from the Swedish scene. But anything the band lacked in innovation, they certainly made up in terms of doing what they did – they did exceeding well. From fast paced blasting efforts such as ‘Elohim’, ‘Tales From The Tomb’, ‘Screaming In Phobia’ and ‘Sprangskitten’, the more groove orientated slabs of death in ‘Brain Access’, ‘Timeless’, ‘Soul Incest’ and ‘The Final Conflict (The Pornoflute Pt. II)’, right through to the experimental ‘Lepra’, the group’s cover of G-Anx’s ‘Enkelbiljetten’ and the orchestral closer ‘Splenium For Nyktophobia’, Uncanny’s debut is nothing short of a great listen from start to end.
The real collector will no doubt be interested in the second disc of this set, which collates the band’s six track demo ‘Transportation To The Uncanny’ from 1991, their five track ‘Nyktalgia’ demo from 1992 and the six tracks that appeared on their split with Ancient Rites in 1993 (Through Warmaster Records).
Although the second disc does feature a fair bit of repetition were you compare the track listing on their debut album, and the recording quality is of a varying quality (Who would have expected otherwise?), the second disc does at least manage to finally house everything the band recorded prior to recording their debut onto the one disc, and all with a remastered sound.
The release of ‘MCMXCI – MCMXCIV’ isn’t about to rewrite the history of the Swedish death metal scene, nor garnish Uncanny success on a worldwide scale. But what this release does, is offer fans of the cult underground act to finally enjoy Uncanny’s music without resorting to paying ridiculous prices (Or downloading) for what amounts to a poorly produced bootleg, and allows ‘Splenium For Nyktophobia’ to be revived from virtual obscurity in all its old school glory.

For more information on Uncanny, check out - http://www.myspace.com/uncanny666

© Justin Donnelly

Monday, February 21, 2011

Mother And Son - Mother And Son

Mother And Son
Mother And Son
Impedance Records/Various Distribution

Looking at the cover of their sophomore self titled full-length effort, it’s hard to picture exactly what sort of music to expect from Wollongong (New South Wales) based duo Mother And Son. But if there is a clue, it’s the cover art’s rather dark and grim depiction of a remote station out in the middle of nowhere. And in a lot of ways, that’s rather befitting of Mother And Son’s sound. Residing somewhere between The Cramps, Link Wray and The White Stripes, Mother And Son (Who are vocalist/guitarist/bassist/organist Bodie Jarman and drummer/percussionist Matman Teudt) have a sound that is part ‘60’s surf rock, part garage rock and part deep south blues.
The opening instrumental piece ‘Mosquito’ is a short scene setting intro that establishes the band’s template in the sound sense, with the huge twanging guitar sounds married perfectly in front of a no-nonsense dirty rocking rhythm section. While their influences are clearly evident throughout the track, there’s something in the song’s delivery and the infectious nature of the music itself that makes the whole thing stand a little left of the obvious centre.
Without so much as a break, the pair launch into the up-tempo and energetic follow up instrumental rocker ‘Dengue Fever’. It isn’t until the third track ‘Dead Yellow Moon’ (Which was originally premiered on the band’s split seven inch single release with The Yard Apes in 2010) that Jarman produces the final piece of the Mother And Son sound, with his vocal presence sounding like a mix of a raspy and howling blues feel mixed with a decidedly rockabilly influence. It’s an odd combination, but one that definitely fits in with the band’s rather strange hybrid sound.
The darker lyrical narrative overtones within ‘The Hanging Tree’ more than match the equally up-tempo feel of the music itself, earning itself the honour of being one of the album’s stronger cuts, while the cool swagger of ‘Creature From The Swamp’, the droning delivery of ‘It Won’t Be Long’ (Which is the album’s official first single), the familiar sounding groove of the instrumental ‘Surfswing’ and ‘Johnny Boy’ are the definite highlights from the remainder of the album.
It’s dead easy to pick out the individual influences heard within Mother And Son’s music, but it’s the way they assemble those obvious influences that make them sound just that much more appealing than you would initially expect after a first listen.
Not everything on Mother And Son’s latest album is killer (One example is the rather lengthy ‘Redcoats’, which well and truly overstays its welcome), but there’s enough here on the duo’s latest album that works a treat, which makes this well worth checking out.

For more information on Mother And Son, check out - http://www.myspace.com/motherandsonmusic

© Justin Donnelly

Intronaut - Valley Of Smoke

Intronaut
Valley Of Smoke
Century Media Records/E.M.I. Music Australia

Los Angeles (California) based outfit Intronaut may not be one of the biggest names within the progressive rock/metal realm, but they’ve certainly earned themselves plenty of high acclaim with their two full-length releases to date (2006’s ‘Void’ and 2008’s ‘Prehistoricisms’). Now returning with their third effort ‘Valley Of Smoke’, the four piece act (Comprising of vocalist/guitarists Sacha Dunable and Dave Timnick, bassist Joe Lester and drummer Danny Walker) have put together one of their most daring and different sounding releases, and one that’s likely to earn the band as much applause from their devoted following, as it will cause some concern.
The opening track ‘Elegy’ (Which also happens to be the first single from the album) is quick to reveal Intronaut’s constantly evolving sound, with the vocal presence throughout the song representing the biggest shift in direction for the band. The growled vocals of the past are still evident in places, but for the most part, Dunable and Timnick stick primarily to a more melodic style on the vocal front, which is something altogether unexpected and something that takes a little getting used to. On the musical front, the band’s trademark thick grooves are still ever present, as too are the complex time changes and subtle shifts in moods and tempos throughout.
The moody and atmospheric ‘Above’ is notable for Walker’s upfront and dominating percussion work and the greater use of melody and harmonised work within the vocals, while ‘Miasma’ combines the aggressive nature of Intronaut’s past, with their newfound vocal approach and sense of melody (Especially toward the latter half where the gentle guitars are complimented by Lester’s heavy bass presence), which effectively makes the song really stand out as one of the album’s stronger and more memorable efforts.
Both ‘Sunderance’ and ‘Past Tense’ are by far the most straight-forward and aggressive sounding numbers on the album, and helps to shake things up as a whole, while ‘Core Relations’ and ‘Below’ are easily the more accessible and catchy efforts put together by the band yet.
Finishing up the album is the lengthy chilled out instrumental title track ‘Valley Of Smoke’, which will no doubt draw a lot of attention with a guest appearance from Tool bassist Justin Chancellor. Although the song is a little excessive in length, there are enough chops and changes to keep things interesting and earn its place alongside the formerly mentioned efforts as another of the album’s stronger sounding experiments.
Intronaut have never been the kind of band to make the same album twice, and ‘Valley Of Smoke’ certainly represents a big shift in direction. While I’m not entirely convinced that ‘Valley Of Smoke’ is as strong as their former efforts, I will admit that Intronaut have well and truly put together a strong album that will definitely earn them some well deserved attention.

For more information on Intronaut, check out - http://www.blogronaut.blogspot.com/

© Justin Donnelly

Monday, February 14, 2011

Abacinate - Genesis

Abacinate
Genesis
Epitomite Productions

Twelve months after the release of their stop-gap E.P. release ‘A Kings Thirst For The Frosty Brew’, New Jersey based deathcore outfit Abacinate are back with their latest full-length release ‘Genesis’.
Having undergone a line-up change since the release of ‘Ruination’ (Ex-Grieving Process vocalist Jason Sica has replaced Ian Neal, and guitarist Dan Higgins has been added to long time members in guitarist Todd Stern, bassist Mat Babulski and drummer Justin Spaeth), ‘Genesis’ does have a slightly different feel to where Abacinate last left off. But having said that, ‘Genesis’ still remains, for the most part, an album that older fans will hail as a step up for the band, and most likely the sort of album that will appeal to those who favour modern deathcore acts over the traditional old school sound.
The opening track ‘Night Of The Desirable Objects’ is a good example of what makes up the Abacinate sound, with the band’s hybrid mix of death metal fused together with some hardcore influences, and some added technical finesse showcased on the timing front blended in and around each other throughout the song’s duration. Newcomer Sica puts in a full throttle guttural growl throughout, which gives the band plenty of aggression out front, while the band’s reliance on strong groove in places at least keeps the band away from falling into the cliché of most deathcore acts – the over reliance on breakdowns.
The follow up track ‘Disturbing Remedies For A Desperate Disease’ is a solid enough number with its faster paced passages and some well executed melodic lead work, but is letdown a little with its somewhat groovier moments. ‘Purveyors Of Scum’ on the other hand didn’t really need the brief rap spot.
The thrashing ‘Necroplunger’, ‘The Bundy Curse’ and the equally crushing ‘The Natural Disasters’ are definite stand outs, while the two part ‘Laughing In The Dark’ showcases the band’s ability to craft a fine instrumental piece that maintains its interest throughout its nine minute running time without the aid of vocals.
Despite some flaws in the song writing, and the untimely passing away of Sica prior to its release (He was a member of the group for a year before passing away in September 2010), ‘Genesis’ is definitely Abacinate’s finest release to date, and one that will certainly find an audience amongst modern day deathcore listeners.

For more information on Abacinate, check out - http://www.abacinate.net/

© Justin Donnelly

Architects - The Here And Now

Architects
The Here And Now
Century Media Records/E.M.I. Music Australia

Brighton (England, U.K.) metalcore act Architects have never been a band afraid to take chances and try their hand at something new. After all, the group’s last three full-length releases (2006’s ‘Nightmares’, 2007’s ‘Ruin’ and 2009’s ‘Hollow Crown’) have all shown just how much the band have changed in direction and sound. And while fans have been less than enthused by the group’s constant shift in sound, there’s been more than enough singing the band’s praises to keep the band from completely disappearing into obscurity.
Now returning with their fourth full-length effort ‘The Here And Now’, the five piece act (Comprising of vocalist Sam Carter, guitarists Tom Searle and Tim Hillier-Brook, bassist Alex Dean and drummer Dan Searle) have once again undertaken a transformation. But unlike past changes, Architects’ sound on ‘The Here And Now’ is definitely one of the most daring shifts in direction the band have taken yet, and one that will certainly divide their fan base between fans and those who once were.
The first single ‘Day In, Day Out’ may reintroduce Architects in a heavy fashion, but it’s also quite restrained to what fans may have expected from the band given their past history. Producer Steve Evetts may have given the band a very upfront and powerful sound, but it’s the band’s song writing that has been stripped back from the somewhat chaotic sound of old, instead opting for a more calculated approach in the way the riffs are used. The other significant change that’s really noticeable is the greater presence of Carter’s clean vocals alongside his growled efforts. Overall, ‘Day In, Day Out’ is a solid opener, and one that effectively manages to highlight the melodic aspects of the band’s song writing that was always there underneath their chaotic delivery of the past.
‘Learn To Live’ (The second single from the album) and ‘Red Eyes’ follow a similar line to their predecessor, but with the melodic aspects of the choruses and the heavier extremities pushed to the fore, while the fast paced ‘Delete, Rewind’ and ‘The Blues’ are a little more in line with the band’s past, albeit with a lot more clean vocals and not as dense sounding.
There’s an undeniable punk rock influence heard within ‘BTN’ that’s quite interesting and unexpected, while ‘An Open Letter To Myself’ and ‘Heartburn’ are totally different from anything the band has done before, with the pair drifting towards ballad territory, but delivered in the mould of post-hardcore/rock territory. Both are noteworthy tracks, with the latter the stronger of the two.
Finishing up the album is the speeding ‘Stay Young Forever’ (Which features a guest vocal appearance from Comeback Kid front man Andrew Neufeld) and the scathing closer ‘Year In Year Out/Up And Away’ (Which features Greg Puciato of The Dillinger Escape Plan on guest lead vocals).
To be honest, ‘The Here And Now’ sounds like a natural progression from what the band put forth on ‘Hollow Crown’. But as strong as ‘The Here And Now’ is, I can’t help but feel that the band may have pushed things a little too far too soon, and in the process lost some of the edge that was a key part of their old sound.
In the end, it’ll be fans that will pass the final judgement, but for me, ‘The Here And Now’ is a solid album, if a little familiar and predictable sounding at times.

For more information on Architects, check out - http://www.myspace.com/architectsuk

© Justin Donnelly

Pictures Of Pain - The Reckoning

Pictures Of Pain
The Reckoning
Pitch Black Records

If there’s one important element about a particular band’s album that will win me over more often than not, it would have to be their willingness to step outside the tried and true formula of most, and make an attempt at achieving something that is unique and fresh sounding. Having said that, not everyone who tries such a move is always that successful, and a perfect example of this is Norwegian act Pictures Of Pain and their debut album ‘The Reckoning’.
Founded as far back as 2004, there’s no denying that the five-piece act (Comprising of vocalist Hans Helge Iversen, lead guitarist Rune Fredriksen (Who’s also a member of Viking inspired black metal outfit Thundra), rhythm guitarist Arne Marton Tangjerd, bassist Roy Østrem and drummer Frode Gundersen) well and truly know their way around their instruments. A great example of this can be found on the opening track ‘Betrayal’, which combines elements of melodic black metal, progressive thrash and subtle traces of traditional old school metal (There’s an unmistakable Iron Maiden influence in some of the quieter moments within the song). Aside from the diversity of sounds heard in the music, vocalist Iversen has an impressive range too, with clean singing, growled efforts and high end screams only adding a greater depth of diversity to proceedings. All up, ‘Betrayal’ is one hell of an opening track to the album, and one that isn’t all that easy to pigeonhole in the genre sense.
‘Far Beyond’ is no less impressive despite not having the same number of genres thrown into its six minute running length, while the blackened thrash of ‘Deviator’ and the technical execution heard throughout ‘Final State’ are fine examples of where the band shift seamlessly from one sound to the next, without losing the listener in the process.
Unfortunately, not everything works on the album. In their attempt to cover so much ground, some songs simply don’t flow as well as others, and therefore come across as trying too hard to do too much, and failing in the process. That’s not to say that the band fall short of ideas, because within songs such as ‘Eternal Rage’, the slower paced ‘Sign Of Times’ and ‘Years Of Disgrace’, there’s some seriously great moments. But from a song writing point of view, the songs just fall short of the mark as a whole.
Aside from the eight tracks that make up the album, the band have also included demo versions of ‘From The Ashes’ and ‘Guardian Of Tears’, both of which come from ‘Demo 2006’ and ‘Demo 2005’ respectively. Although hardly essential, they do at least show how far the band has come in their song writing since their initial recordings.
Pictures Of Pain’s debut may not be an all out winner, but it sure does boast some pretty impressive moments. And if the band manages to keep their progression moving forward, I have no doubt their follow up release will be something far more rewarding.

For more information on Pictures Of Pain, check out - http://www.picturesofpain.com/

© Justin Donnelly

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Eternal - Under A New Sun

The Eternal
Under A New Sun
Sombre Light Music/Green Distribution

Following on from their highly successful ‘Kartika’ album from 2008, and having survived the rigours of their world tour that followed soon after its release (Which was documented on last year’s D.V.D. ‘Kartika World Tour 2009’), Melbourne (Victoria, Australia) based outfit The Eternal are back with their eagerly anticipated fourth full-length effort ‘Under A New Sun’.
As expected, ‘Under A New Sun’ sees The Eternal (Comprising of vocalist/guitarist Mark Kelson, bassist Dave Langlands, Finnish keyboardist Maria Ilmoniemi and drummer Marty O’Shea) once again taking their sound into new territory, with co-producer Jeff Martin (Ex-The Tea Party/The Armada) helping the band to broaden the sound that was previously only hinted at on ‘Kartika’.
The opening track ‘Control’ is quick to announce something new from the band, with the song’s heavier and darker vibe on vocal front marking a real departure in sound from what you would normally expect from the band. But despite this, the song itself does retain enough elements of The Eternal’s old sound to stay within the region of familiarity, which helps give the album a solid starting point.
The title track ‘Under A New Sun’, which is the first single/promotional video clip lifted from the album, sees the band fully embracing the classic rock sound of their former album and taking it to a whole realm. Martin’s influences on the track are undeniable in terms of the production sounds and in Kelson’s vocals (He sounds unmistakably like Martin for the most part), but the lush multi-layered backing vocals and the middle-eastern sounding keyboards/Mellotron help give the song enough character to stand out on its own.
The slower paced ‘Delirium & Desire’ is perhaps a little more traditional sounding from The Eternal, with the subtle choir effects and the sweeping guitar solo giving the song a slightly different feel, while ‘Nothing Remains Without Us’ seems to shift between a sound that is part The Tea Party (On the verses) and the band themselves (On the choruses), resulting in a song that is good, if a little confused at the same time. ‘Eclipse’ on the other hand is a dark and aggressive tune, and one that could easily slot alongside the opener as one reminiscent of The Eternal’s work of the past.
Of course, The Eternal couldn’t have Martin produce the new album without having him make a guest appearance somewhere. And the song where Martin’s biggest contribution can be heard is on ‘The Sleeper’. The semi-acoustic ballad-like tune is exactly the sort of song you would expect from a collaboration between The Eternal and Martin, and therefore stands out on the album, even if Kelson’s vocals are a little overshadowed by Martin’s deep and booming vocal presence for the most part.
Despite its simplicity and general sparseness of sound, ‘A Thousand Shades Of You’ is a definite highlight from the latter half of the album, while the straightforward rock drive of ‘Collapse’ is an absolute stunner, and sure to become a clear favourite in the set list in time to come.
The slower paced ‘Despondency’ is fairly traditional territory for The Eternal, and could have easily found itself a place on the band’s first couple of releases without sticking out too much, while ‘Cast In Stone’ (Which first appeared in remix form on the ‘Under A New Sun’ single) is another classic rock effort, with the addition of sweeping keyboards, huge choral backing vocals and subtle middle eastern efforts giving the song a huge epic vibe throughout.
But if there’s one song that really stands out as a personal favourite, it’s the closer ‘Departure’. It’s here that Kelson really indulges more in his atmospheric progressive influences, with his guitar work in particular revealing an unmistakable David Gilmour (Pink Floyd) influence. ‘Departure’ is something completely different to anything the band has ever produced before, and I can only hope that it’s something they will embellish upon sometime in the future. All up, it’s a stunning closing effort.
What was only hinted at on ‘Kartika’, The Eternal have mastered on ‘Under A New Sun’. The band’s latest effort is by far their most diverse and varied sounding release to date, and while Martin’s influence does tend to dominate in places, there’s no mistaking that ‘Under A New Sun’ is The Eternal’s most accomplished piece of work yet.

For more information on The Eternal, check out - http://www.the-eternal.com/

© Justin Donnelly

Times Of Grace - The Hymn Of A Broken Man

Times Of Grace
The Hymn Of A Broken Man
Roadrunner Records/Warner Music Australia

Initially founded back in 2007 out of an extensive period of downtime on Killswitch Engage guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz behalf due to emergency back surgery, ‘The Hymn Of A Broken Man’ is the debut outing from Times Of Grace, which is the combined collaboration of Dutkiewicz and former Killswitch Engage vocalist Jesse Leach.
Having last recorded together as far back as 2002 on Killswitch Engage’s critically acclaimed second full-length effort ‘Alive Or Just Breathing’, fans understandably have some high expectations of Times Of Grace. And by the evidence presented on their debut offering, it’s clear that the pair have well and truly exceeded in delivering on their promise of something more than just a sequel or carbon copy of ‘Alive Or Just Breathing’.
The first single lifted from the album ‘Strength In Numbers’ (Which was also the first promotional video clip filmed for the album) is an explosive opening number for the album, and one that shows the pair’s song writing strengths. With a military-like drum-like introduction and spoken word speech from Leech, ‘Strength In Numbers’ transforms into an all out punishing number with some heavy handed riffing from Dutkiewicz, with Leech providing some truly memorable melody structures. In short, this song is both hard hitting and catchy, and overall something fans will devour.
‘Fight For Life’ represents a slight change of pace with the pair opting for a slower, darker and more menacing vibe, but all the while retaining the all important strong vocal melodies in the choruses, while on tracks such as ‘Willing’, the anthem-like ‘Live In Love’ and ‘Where The Spirit Leads Me’, Leech amply shows just how far his vocals and melodies have come since his days with Killswitch Engage and Seemless.
‘Until The End Of Days’ is quite an experimental piece in terms of both sound and direction, with the song showcasing the atmospheric side of the pair’s sound spectrum and the opposite extreme with its harsh guitar tones and screamed vocals, while the metallic drive of the title track ‘Hymn Of A Broken Man’ (Which is preceded by the short instrumental piece ‘In The Arms Of Mercy’) maintains the heavier vibe of the former track.
On the latter half of the album, ‘Hope Remains’, ‘Fall From Grace’ and ‘Worlds Apart’ fall pretty much in line with what the first half the album offered up, but its on the dark and heavy ‘The End Of Eternity’ and the stunning acoustic based ‘The Forgotten One’ that really stand out as the pair’s truly defining collaborative efforts.
Given those involved, many will have already pigeonholed Times Of Grace as a melodic metalcore outfit; with a sound that doesn’t stray too far from what Killswitch Engage have graced fans with in the past. In a lot of ways, they would be right in saying that too. But in saying that, it really does Times Of Grace a disservice, and sells ‘The Hymn Of A Broken Man’ short. There’s so much more to this than that. This is melodic hardcore, but delivered in a way that thinks outside the box, and with a lot more heart and emotion than what you would otherwise expect.

For more information on Times Of Grace, check out - http://www.timesofgraceband.com/

© Justin Donnelly

Titans Eve - The Divine Equal


Titans Eve
The Divine Equal
Independent Release

Formed in 2008, Titans Eve are a young group of newcomers to the Canadian metal scene, who have to date managed to produce an E.P. (2009’s ‘Into The Fire’), and also share the stage along with the likes of Exodus, Holy Grail, Lazarus A.D., Finntroll, and Moonsorrow in their short time together.
Now taking things to the next level, Titans Eve (Who comprise of lead vocalist/guitarist Brian Gamblin, guitarist/vocalist Kyle Gamblin, bassist/backing vocalist Jesse Hord and drummer Casey Ory) have put together their debut full-length effort ‘The Divine Equal’.
Thematically based on John Milton’s epic poem ‘Paradise Lost’ and ‘The Book Of Genesis’ (The first book of the Hebrew Bible and the Old Testament), and boasting an old school thrash metal sound that doesn’t conform to modern influences, Titans Eve promised a lot with ‘The Divine Equal’. And while the cover artwork that adorns their debut full-length effort is far from all that enticing, it has to be said that for the most part, Titans Eve have managed to deliver on their promise.
After a short opening instrumental piece (‘Mourning Star (Intro)’), Titans Eve get straight into their thrash groove with the powerful opening number ‘Judgment’. Fast paced, melodic and steeped in strong N.W.O.B.H.M. influences (The strong groove and solos brings to mind Iron Maiden mixed with Judas Priest), ‘Judgement’ is definitely one of the album’s stronger tracks, and a prime example of Titans Eve’s ability to thrash out, without mimicking the sound that a lot of modern so-called new thrash acts call the old school approach to their music.
The harder edged ‘Becoming The Demon’ is another stand out track with Brian Gamblin’s vocals finding the perfect balance between catchiness and aggression on the vocal front, while the groove heavy ‘Tides Of Doom’, the mid-paced ‘Nightfall’ (Which is preceded by the short acoustic instrumental piece ‘Dusk’) and ‘Searching For Nothing’ are further highlights on the album.
‘The Divine Equal’ isn’t what you would call a truly outstanding release, as the album is a little letdown by a few songs that don’t quite have the same level of strong song writing as some of the stand out tracks. But for a debut, Titans Eve have certainly put together an impressive effort in ‘The Divine Equal’, and one that will no doubt establish the band as one to keep an eye out for in time to come.

For more information on Titans Eve, check out - http://www.myspace.com/titanseveofficial

© Justin Donnelly

Friday, February 11, 2011

Deicide - To Hell With God

Deicide
To Hell With God
Century Media Records/E.M.I. Music Australia

Although initially scheduled for release midway through 2010, its taken some time for long running Tampa (Florida, U.S.) based death metal act Deicide to get around to unveiling their follow up to 2008’s ‘Till Death Do Us Part’. But after lengthy delays and setbacks, Deicide have finally returned with ‘To Hell With God’, which is their tenth full-length studio release, and their first for Century Media Records after splitting with their former label Earache Records in early 2010.
Working once again with the same line-up that has produced the band’s last couple of releases (Including vocalist/bassist Glen Benton, lead/rhythm guitarists Jack Owen and Ralph Santolla (Who’s also a current member of Obituary) and drummer/additional guitarist Steve Asheim), ‘To Hell With God’ is exactly the sort of album you would come to expect of Deicide.
But that’s not to say that ‘To Hell With God’ is a carbon copy of what Deicide has already achieved on their former releases ‘The Stench Of Redemption’ (2006) and ‘Till Death Do Us Part’. On the opening title track ‘To Hell With God’, Deicide have obviously made some attempts to step up the technical aspect of their performance, which demonstrates their ability to deviate from the familiar bludgeoning death metal sound of their past, without compromising one bit, on their brutal sound. Benton’s vocals also seem to sound a little more inspired than some of their more recent efforts, with the demonic guttural growl boasting a little more venom than usual (All the while remaining articulate on the lyric front). But what really stands out is the production. Mark Lewis (Who has previously worked with The Black Dahlia Murder and Chimaira) has really given the band a crisp and clear sound, which more than compliments the entire group, without losing any of the crushing impact of the band as a whole. It’s a whole new sound for Deicide, but one that definitely works in their favour.
‘Save Your’ is another stand out favourite with its speedy delivery, Asheim’s thundering drum interjections throughout the song and the classy touch of the melodic guitar leads, while the sheer blitz of ‘Witness Of Death’, ‘Servant Of The Enemy’ and ‘Hang In Agony Until You’re Dead’ are masterfully balanced against tracks such as ‘Conviction’, the slightly progressive influenced ‘Empowered By Blasphemy’, the slower paced ‘Into The Darkness You Go’ and the superb closing anthem ‘How Can You Call Yourself A God’.
‘To Hell With God’ isn’t a monumental change from what you would normally expect of Deicide (Especially in terms of the overall theme of Benton’s lyrics), but it does have enough surprises to keep things interesting for long time fans. And besides that, what really makes this album stand out is that given Deicide’s track record over the last twenty years, it’s evident that ‘To Hell With God’ is by far one of the band’s strongest efforts in a long time. And that’s worthy enough of some well earned praise.

For more information on Deicide, check out - http://www.deicide.com/

© Justin Donnelly