Friday, September 27, 2013

Tantric - 37 Channels

37 Channels
Pavement Entertaniment, Inc.

Despite being a long time follower of Louisville (Kentucky, U.S.) based outfit Tantric, I never quite know what to expect from the band whenever a new album emerges. A lot of that stems from the fact that the band have in recent years gone through some major line-up changes, which has meant that each and every one of their four releases to date have a different sound, which has worked in the band’s favour, and other times for the worse.
So after a lengthy gap of four years since the release of ‘Mind Control’, sole original member Hugo Ferreira (Who is the band’s lead vocalist, and who also plays guitar and bass throughout the album) has once again put together a new album under the Tantric banner in ‘37 Channels’. And as expected, the album represents another evolutionary leap both sound and direction wise in the band’s history of continual change.
Tantric’s fifth album begins with guitar heavy ‘Again’, which is familiar territory for them, and the kind of track that could have easily slotted on the band’s last full-length release (Which is without a doubt one of the band’s heaviest releases to date). But while the song has its interesting moments on the guitar front, the chorus structures let the song down. Sure, Ferreira’s weathered vocals sound in good form, but the choruses don’t really stand out quite as much as they should, which in the end gives the song a forgettable feel, right from the start.
With the opening cut on the album leaving me feeling a bit disappointed, I wasn’t holding out much hope for the rest of the album impressing much. But to my surprise, the follow-up track ‘Blue Room’ is an absolute winner. With a strong drum groove locked down by guest drummer Greg Upchurch (Eleven/Puddle Of Mudd/3 Doors Down), and fusing together Tantric’s trademark mix of acoustic and electric guitars throughout, ‘Blue Room’ is classic Tantric, and quite possibly one of the strongest and memorable tunes Ferreira has offered up in years.
Proving the former track was anything but a one off, the country-tinged/harder edged blues rocker ‘Mosquita’ (The first single lifted from the album) hits hard with plenty of attitude, and features an anthem-like chorus that’s sure to become a fan favourite in no time at all. Guest vocalist Shooter Jennings helps give the song a slightly different sound from what you would otherwise expect from Tantric, and I have to say that it works incredibly well.
‘Loss For Words’ is a surprisingly stripped back song that features some equally gritty vocals from Ferreira that gives the song a very raw sound, while story telling ‘Broken’ and the piano based ballad ‘Fault’ (Which features a guest appearance from Hinder’s Austin Winkler on lead vocals) showcase the softer side of Tantric’s sound on the new album, all the while showcasing the many sides of Ferreira as an artist.
But while the experimental side of the above mentioned tracks works, not everything works. ‘My Turn’, which sees Ferreira duet with Leif Garrett, is fairly unremarkable on the vocal front (The pseudo rapping from Garrett just doesn’t work for me), and the use of programmed percussion to give the song a modern edge just gives the song a truly hollow sound overall. And as for ‘Girl In White’, I can see what Ferreira was aiming for, because in amongst the dirge of the heavy guitars and drumming, there’s an interesting song. But much like the album opener, the choruses don’t stand out as much as hoped, and the heavy handed guitar sound overshadows the songs better attributes.
But ‘37 Channels’ does have its truly inspired moments. ‘Gravity’ is typical Tantric with its easy going acoustic rock sound and sing along chorus, while tracks such as ‘Where Do We Go From Here?’ and ‘Bullet’ (Which again features Winkler on co-lead vocals) are solid rockers that give the album some quality moments. But in terms of personal favourites, both ‘Rise’ and ‘You Got What You Wanted’ are the album’s real stand out cuts. Not surprisingly, both tracks are very reminiscent of the sound the band presented listeners with way back on their self-titled debut back in 2001.
While Tantric has always been the kind of band to change from album to album, there’s no denying that ‘37 Channels’ is Tantric’s most diverse and experimental release to date. Yes, there are still plenty of the traditional Tantric sounding songs on the album, but there are also some creative offerings that sound unlike anything Ferreira has dared venture before under the Tantric banner. And as mentioned earlier, sometimes that’s a good thing, and other times just too far removed from what fans want to hear from the band.
In the end, ‘37 Channels’ took some time to grow on me. And while I don’t feel everything on the album works, the album has enough great songs to win over even the most pessimistic of fans. Myself included.

For more information on Tantric, check out -

© Justin Donnelly

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Watain - The Wild Hunt

The Wild Hunt
His Master’s Noise/Century Media Records/E.M.I. Music Australia

Watain is a name that most fans within the black metal scene are familiar with. Over the course of their fifteen year career to date, the Swedish (Uppsala/Stockholm based) outfit has cultivated quite a following with their uncompromising take on black metal, which has seen the band rise from out of the underground and into the wider mainstream consciousness – which has inadvertently placed the band in a position where they now stand as one of the scene’s true contenders for breaking through to mass success in a major way.
Three years after the release of their highly acclaimed ‘Lawless Darkness’ (Which was released through the Season Of Mist label, and earned the band a Swedish Grammy for ‘Best Hard Rock Act’ in 2011), the three piece outfit (Comprising of vocalist/bassist/guitarist Erik Danielsson, guitarist Pelle Forsberg and drummer Håkan Jonsson) are back with their all-important fifth full-length effort ‘The Wild Hunt’ (Which is also their first release since signed up to Century Media Records).
Unlike Cradle Of Filth and Dimmu Borgir, Watain has managed to rise up within the black metal scene without selling out their ideal and sound, or upsetting the purists and loyal fans that have supported them since they first emerged on the scene. But with the release of ‘The Wild Hunt’, it would appear that all that is set to change. Watain have drawn a line in the sand with their new release, and there’s no doubt that the evolution of the band’s sound and direction on their latest release is sure to divide fans.
The trio begin the album with ‘Night Vision’, which is a surprisingly smooth flowing instrumental piece that starts out in a gentle acoustic manner, before eventually morphing into something far more electrified. But even though the song does get heavier, the band shows restraint and keep the song melodic and even paced enough to hint at the changes the band have made on their latest release.
The follow-up track ‘De Profundis’ is exactly what you would expect from Watain, with the band’s thrash like blackened metal sounding every bit as scathing and venomous as ever. The song is classic blasphemous Watain, with the production sounding more like a step back from the polished sound heard on ‘Lawless Darkness’, but polished enough to allow the dynamics of the band’s music really stand out.
After the unrelenting savagery of the former track, ‘Black Flames March’ sees the band slow things down to touch to deliver an anthem that is in no way diminished in its intensity, but merely in tempo. The solid groove allows the band to hone in on their crushing riffs, while the open and dynamic production sound gives the song a suitably evil vibe throughout, while the two tracks that follow – The album’s first single ‘All That May Bleed’ and ‘The Child Must Die’ – sees the band deliver exactly what is expected of them based on their former releases. But that’s not to say that the songs are in any way a rehash of what the band have done before, as the songs reveal a newfound sense of maturity within the song writing, and a greater use of dynamics over sheer volume and speed.
It’s around the middle of the album where the band delivers ‘They Rode On’. Up until this point, ‘The Wild Hunt’ has delivered pretty much what you would expect from the band. But if there’s one track that’s sure to set the cat amongst the pigeons, it’s this track.
Sounding reminiscent of Metallica’s ‘Nothing Else Matters’, ‘They Rode On’ is a daring venture into ballad territory for the band – complete with clean vocals from Danielsson (With help from guest vocalist Anna Norberg in places), acoustic guitars and some impressive and extensive melodic lead work from Forsberg. This track alone is a significant departure from the usual Watain sound, and is the sole reason why some black metal purist will be up in arms. But after the initial shock dies down, it has to be said that the song works quite well with its sombre and mournful approach.
In stark contrast to the former track, ‘Sleepless Evil’ is a bleak and fairly traditional sounding Watain track, and one that’s sure to please old-school fans.
The title track ‘The Wild Hunt’ is another foray into more experimental territory with its doomier sound and use of clean vocals in places, which brings to the surface some of the Bathory influences. This track sounds huge and epic, and while something a little unexpected, is worthy of a special mention.
My personal favourite on the album is ‘Outlaw’, where the band fuses together tribal rhythms with pure black metal, which makes for a truly interesting sound. The tribal influences may only play a minor part in the song itself (The song is fairly straight forward black metal for the most part), but the brief moments where the two differing sounds meld together, is done exceedingly well.
Towards the tail end of the album, the band have pieced together an impressive instrumental piece entitled ‘Ignem Veni Mittere’ that is both haunting and epic sounding, before finishing up the album with the intense mid-paced blast of the truly grim sounding epic ‘Holocaust Dawn’.
Up until now, Watain have maintained a loyal following within the underground scene with their devotion to maintaining a true blackened metal sound. But with ‘The Wild Hunt’, Watain have made a conscious decision to shake things up and broaden their sound more than ever before. And while the changes evident on ‘The Wild Hunt’ will no doubt draw more towards the band’s cause, it will also bring forth its fair share of casualties.
I’m all for progression, and for the most part, ‘The Wild Hunt’ is I think a right step forward for the band at this stage of their career. ‘The Wild Hunt’ may not stand as the strongest release to date from the band, but it does show some promising possibilities of things to come in the future from Watain, should they continue to explore this newfound broader realm beyond the preconceived confines of ‘true’ black metal.

For more information on Watain, check out -

© Justin Donnelly

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Ghost - Infestissumam

Republic Records/Universal Music Australia

One of the most talked about groups to rise up from out of nowhere in recent years has to be Linköping (Sweden) based outfit Ghost. Led by the living dead cardinal-like figure Papa Emeritus II, and backed by five cloaked and hooded Nameless Ghouls, Ghost certainly caught the attention of many with their mysterious presence. But while some thought the whole anonymity approach by the band was nothing more than a theatrical gimmick, the band did have one ace up their sleeve – a critically acclaimed debut to their name. Despite the hype surrounding the band, and the overwhelming success of their ‘Opus Eponymous’ release from 2010, I was a bit of a latecomer to the band. But needless to say, when I heard Ghost, I was an instant convert.
It’s been three years since the release of ‘Opus Eponymous’, but Ghost (Or Ghost B.C. as they are known by now in the U.S.) has finally completed work on their highly anticipated follow-up release ‘Infestissumam’ (Which is Latin for ‘Most Hostile’). And as expected, the album is sure to generate as much acclaim and damnation as their first album did.
With such a long gap between albums, there’s was always going to be a degree of change on the new Ghost album. And sure enough, there’s a definite change evident on the album’s opening title track ‘Infestissumam’. Starting with the sounds of a huge choir (Performed by St. Trident Tenors Of Tinseltown), ‘Infestissumam’ soon sees the band seamlessly coming in to create what is a stunning introduction to the album. Led by a dominant drum sound, and catchy guitars, ‘Infestissumam’ is an infectious short instrumental intro that provides a perfect introduction to the follow-up track ‘Per Aspera Ad Inferi’. Maintaining the military styled drumming of the former track, ‘Per Aspera Ad Inferi’ showcases the band’s deliberate move towards a more organic ‘70’s sounding hard rock/progressive rock sound, with the guitars placed a little lower in the mix, and the drums and keyboards dominating proceedings. But despite the lack of metal in the band’s sound, the band’s song writing strengths are evident in their clever use of melodies, Papa Emeritus II’s captivating and haunting voice and the over the top Satanic themes that run through the lyrics.
‘Secular Haze’, which was the first single lifted from the album, is an obvious stand out with its creepy spiralled carnival-like keyboards, up-front bass throughout and Papa Emeritus II’s mix of melody and eerie whispered lines, while the swinging and upbeat ‘Jigolo Har Megiddo’ reveals a touch of ‘60’s pop into the band’s sound with its greater keyboard presence.
In terms of fan favourites, ‘Ghuleh / Zombie Queen’ is sure to earn its place in no time at all. This lengthy epic begins with the first half of the track sounding like a sombre and spooky ballad, which sounds reminiscent of Alice Cooper during his missing ‘80’s period. But it’s the second half where the song really takes off, with the guitars taking on a surf-rock tone (Which reminds me of The Ventures), the keyboards are given a bit more depth and the choruses soar. Many may dismiss the ‘Ghuleh’ part of this dual epic, but when combined with its partner piece ‘Zombie Queen’, the pair makes a memorable impart around the middle of the album.
‘Year Zero’, the second single lifted from the album, marks a return of the choir, and a reprisal of sorts of the song writing theme and structures that made up the title track. But while there’s some similarities between the two (Which most comes from the lines chanted by the choir), there’s also a strange industrialised Mortiis vibe (2001’s ‘The Smell The Rain’) that makes its way through the song via the keyboards. It’s a bizarre hybrid that is hard to describe, but works quite well.
‘Body And Blood’ is by far one of the album’s most melodic and laid back rock efforts, despite its horror based lyrical stance, while ‘Idolatrine’ once again veers towards a ‘60’s pop sound with a killer chorus that will have you obliviously humming along to ‘Suffer little children/To come unto me’ in no time at all. The same could be said for the Blue Öyster Cult tinged ‘Depth Of Satan’s Eyes’ too. Although it has to be said, that if there’s a weak track on the album, I’d choose this track. It’s not a bad track as such, but in terms of a memorable chorus, this track doesn’t have quite the same impact as most of the tracks on the album.
Finishing up the album is the powerful ‘Monstrance Clock’, which cleverly disguises sexual innuendo and Satan on the lyrical front, while distracting listeners with its enticing mix of echoing Church-like organ work, enchanting choir and mesmerising choruses.
Some may feel that ‘Infestissumam’ may be a step too far in the wrong direction for Papa Emeritus II and his horde of Nameless Ghouls after ‘Opus Eponymous’. Sure, the production has some flaws, but overall, I believe ‘Infestissumam’ proves that Ghost isn’t merely a one trick pony relying solely on image and word of mouth. ‘Infestissumam’ is so much more than that. It’s an album that’s full of quality song writing, strong melodies and filled to the brim with subliminal evil that lurks just below the surface. And while their classic/progressive rock sound may be a throwback to a bygone era, they manage to make it sound fresh and exciting (Which is no mean feat in my eyes). As far as I’m concerned, Ghost has produced another winner, and quite possibly one of the best releases for 2013.

For more information on Ghost, check out -

© Justin Donnelly

Haken - The Mountain

The Mountain
Inside Out Music/Century Media Records/E.M.I. Music Australia

Although they may not be the biggest name within the progressive rock/metal scene, London based outfit Haken have certainly been hailed by many in the underground scene as the next big thing to emerge from the U.K. purely on the strength of their first two full-length efforts. Obviously others thought so as well, as the band have made the step up the label ladder, with the band moving from independent U.S. based progressive label Sensory Records (Who released both 2010’s ‘Aquarius’ and 2011’s ‘Visions’) to the mighty Inside Out Music for their all-important third full-length effort ‘The Mountain’.
Although I always found Haken to be an interesting act, I can’t say that I was totally over the moon with their first two albums. So with the arrival of ‘The Mountain’, I wasn’t expecting to be completely blown away with what the band had to offer. And while the six piece act (Who comprise of vocalist Ross Jennings, guitarist Charles Griffiths, guitarist/keyboardist Richard ‘Hen’ Henshall, keyboardist/sound designer Diego Tejeida, bassist Tom MacLean and drummer Raymond Hearne) haven’t completely won me over with ‘The Mountain’, I can honestly say that this album is by far the band’s most impressive effort to date.
The album starts with ‘The Path’, which is a relatively short track that’s hinged solely on piano, atmospheric keyboards and Jennings’ emotive vocals. It’s a fairly simple piece, but Jennings’ use of choral back up’s and the theme running through the lyrics are what transforms what appears to be something so simple into something much more.
‘Atlas Stone’, which was the first single from the album, initially had me thinking that I was listening to an IQ album, with Jennings and the band starting out the track very much like Peter Nicholls and his crew would. But the song soon changes direction and the band bring all of their various influences together under the one track, without losing the song’s core identity. Through a series of quirky time changes and splices of direction change, the band inject elements of jazz, metal, classic modern era progressive rock (In the vein of Spock’s Beard) and some offbeat quirkiness (I’m thinking Leprous) into ‘Atlas Stone’. But while the mix of styles and influences sound like a mess on paper, the song is surprisingly strong, and stands out as one of the album’s real highlights.
Next up is ‘Cockroach King’, which is the one track that I struggled to enjoy when I first heard the album. The song is without a doubt one of the album’s strangest, complex and experimental efforts, and for those reasons alone, is one that I can now sometimes listen to, and other times can’t. Jennings’ multi-layered and diverse vocals are a real showcase for his talents here, and the band’s ability to twist and turn in every possible direction throughout on the musical front demonstrates just how versatile, quirky and playful they can be at any given time. But while the song does have its moments, I can’t help but feel that the song tends to overstay its welcome in terms of running time (A touch over eight minutes), and that the scattering of ideas on show aren’t enough to hold my interest.
Perhaps it’s the added metallic aggression on the guitar front, the Leprous sounding delivery of vocals and keyboards or the song’s rather short running time (In light of the bloated running time of the track before it), but either way, ‘In Memoriam’ is definitely a personal favourite on the album.
Another interesting track is ‘Because It’s There’, which takes the melody and sonic template of the opening track and builds upon it with the use of multi-layered choral a cappella vocals, sound manipulation/effects and enhanced stirring melodies. Again, this track is another firm favourite.
The epic twelve minute track ‘Falling Back To Earth’ sees a return to the heavier and more metallic sound Haken showcased a couple of tracks ago – particularly on the first half of the track ‘Rise’. On the second half ‘Fall’, the band taper a lot of the aggression to make way for a more atmospheric sound, which helps give the song a real sense of two halves that flow from one piece to the other. Surprisingly enough, even though it’s the longest track on the album, the song actually stands out as one of the more thought out compositions, which means that it’s truly enjoyable throughout, and avoids the pitfalls that plagued ‘Cockroach King’.
After the brief piano based ‘As Death Embraces’ (Which is not unlike ‘The Path’ in direction and style), the band deliver another stunning epic with ‘Pareidolia’ (Which is the psychological phenomenon of seeing ‘faces on the moon’ or hearing hidden messages when music is played backwards). Technically challenging, complex, melodic and full of emotion on the vocal front, the song is reminiscent of Pain Of Salvation in a lot of ways, and another true highlight on the album.
Finishing up proceedings is the moody, slow building and emotive ‘Somebody’, which sounds like a cross between Steven Wilson, Anathema and Leprous, and which finishes the album in a suitably dramatic fashion.
While ‘The Mountain’ is far from a perfect album, I couldn’t help but feel that on their third release, Haken had finally managed to put together an album that really impressed me in ways that the band hadn’t been able to in the past.
Overall, ‘The Mountain’ is a great release. And if the band can keep the consistency up, I will certainly be looking forward to seeing where the band goes from here on their next full-length release.

For more information on Haken, check out -

© Justin Donnelly

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Boysetsfire - While A Nation Sleeps…

While A Nation Sleeps…
End Hits Records/Bridge Nine Records

When Newark (Delaware, U.S.) outfit Boysetsfire announced their break-up in 2007, I was really disappointed. They had just released ‘The Misery Index: Notes From The Plague Years’ (2006), and I seriously thought the band were on the brink of bigger and better things. But obviously they thought otherwise, and within a year, they all went their separate ways, and the band was no more. While I did keep a tab on some of the projects that came afterwards (Most notably The Casting Out and I Am Heresy), what I really longed for was a return of the real deal – Boysetsfire. Obviously the band thought so too, and after a mere three years after their farewell tour, Boysetsfire announced their return to the scene.
It’s been a couple years since then, and after a couple of line-up changes in the meantime, Boysetsfire (Who now comprise of vocalist/keyboardist Nathan Gray, guitarists/backing vocalists Josh Latshaw and Chad Istvan, bassists Roberts Ehrenbrand and Chris Rakus and drummer Dan Pelic) has finally completed their comeback with the long awaited release of their fifth full-length release ‘While A Nation Sleeps…’. Given the lengthy seven year gap between albums, and my own personal expectations of the album, I initially thought the album was a little underwhelming upon first listen. But I persevered with the album and gave it time, and lo and behold, it grew on me. So much so that you could be forgiven for thinking the band didn’t even split up in the first place. In other words, Boysetsfire haven’t missed a beat in their time away from the scene.
The album begins with brief a sound bite courtesy of Charlie Chaplin (Taken from Chaplin’s final speech from the 1940 film ‘The Dictator’), before they take over with a scathing vengeance on the opening track ‘Until Nothing Remains’. The seething anger from within the band can be felt within this track, with Gray projecting plenty of venom on the vocal front, while the band only add fuel to the raging fire with an equally heavy sound. But while the song is full of rage and aggression, the band’s trademark melodic choruses still exist, and provide the song with a hook that listeners can easily latch on to.
Much like some of the band’s latter day releases, a heavier sounding effort is almost always followed by a far more melodic effort. And it’s that pattern that is repeated here, with ‘Closure’ sounding very much like classic Boysetsfire fare with its catchy melodies and sing-along choruses. I can almost guarantee that this track will no doubt become a live favourite in no time.
‘Heads Will Roll’ sees a return to the scathing hardcore sound of the band’s early days with Gray sounding particularly savage on the vocal front with his take on state of the world, while ‘Phone Call (4am)’ is presented in re-recorded form here after initially being offered as a free download from the band’s website back in 2006 prior to their eventual split. As much as I liked the song back in the day, I prefer this new and updated version – so much so that I consider this track a personal favourite on the album.
In terms of the heavier post-hardcore driven efforts, ‘Everything Went Black’ (Which as originally known as ‘Plague’, and is again another track given away from years ago by the band), the self explanatory ‘Far From Over’, ‘Alter Of God’ and the technically driven and rather modern sounding ‘Wolves Of Babylon’ are some real stand out cuts that will have fans of the band’s older material more than pleased with their return.
On the flip side, the infectious ‘Save Yourself’, the emotional ‘Reason To Believe’ and the driving ‘Let It Bleed’ (A cover of The Casting Out’s track from their self-titled 2010 album) are all highlights, with the epic closer ‘Prey’ (Which is again another cover of Gray’s former outfit The Casting Out) finishing the album on a truly stunning and emotive note.
On a first listen, I wasn’t all that impressed with ‘While A Nation Sleeps…’. But over time, it eventually won me over. While I wouldn’t go as far as to say that this is the band’s finest effort to date, because it does have its flaws. At thirteen tracks, it’s a little bloated, and the consistency tends to waver a little over the course of the whole album because of that. And then there’s the Chaplin samples dotted throughout the album. I can understand what the band was aiming for thematically, but they do get a little annoying and distracting after a while.
But issues aside, ‘While A Nation Sleeps…’ is a great album from Boysetsfire, and overall a more than worthy comeback effort for a band who split well and truly before their time was up. Hopefully the album will help give the band the recognition they so richly deserve, and serves as just the first of many records to come in the future.

For more information on Boysetsfire, check out -

© Justin Donnelly

Witherscape - The Inheritance

The Inheritance
Century Media Records/E.M.I. Music Australia

Swedish vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Dan Swanö is a man who needs little introduction, as his efforts in Nightingale, Bloodbath and Edge Of Sanity says more than enough about the man’s talents. And as for his production work, it goes without saying that his ability to man the console is of such a high level that he’s in constant demand, and universally praised for his efforts as well. So when Swanö’s involved in a new project, there’s always an air of expectation and excitement. And as expected, his new outfit Witherscape doesn’t disappoint one bit.
Comprising of Swanö (Who provides vocals, keyboards and drums) and relative unknown guitarist/bassist Ragnar Widerberg, Witherscape is the product of a newly formed alliance of the two Swedish musicians who have managed to put down an impressive collection of atmospheric laden progressive death metal tunes on their debut effort ‘The Inheritance’.
Conceptually, the album is based around the story of a wealthy resident of Stockholm around the late 1800’s who inherits an estate from a family member who passed away, and the strange events that occur upon further investigation of the said estate (The concept was devised by Swanö, and the lyrics were penned by none other than Novembers Doom vocalist Paul Kuhr), ‘The Inheritance’ may sound like heavy going for some listeners. But the truth of the matter is that song wise, the album actually flows exceedingly well, and the songs themselves are solid and accessible enough to enjoy - either with or without taking in the storyline.
As for the album itself, there’s a lot on offer here for fans, with the opening track ‘Mother Of The Soul’ showcasing the fusion of the heavier, melodic and even atmospheric elements that lie within the band’s diverse song writing style within the scope of a single tune. Starting off in heavy form, the song moves on to reveal a touch of progressive power metal in the vein of Symphony X with its tight knit/heavier style of riffing, only to drop out altogether to allow for some quieter passages that bring to mind aspects of mid-era Opeth. While it all sounds like a messy mash-up of ideas, the duo actually pull it off with considerable ease, and give the composition a genuine sense of flow. As you would expect, Swanö is in impeccable form on the vocal front, while Widerberg truly impresses with talents on the guitar front (Both in terms of riffing and with his extensive solos dotted throughout).
The slower paced ‘Astrid Falls’, which is the first single lifted from the album, is a personal favourite with its infectious melodies, its interjecting heavier passages (Which is given a huge boost with Swanö’s brutal growls) and its overall epic vibe.
Another favourite is ‘Dead For A Day’, which is another hook laden tune that boasts a host of memorable passages on the musical front to match the choruses, and some amazing vocals from Swanö, while ‘Dying For The Sun’ sees the pair bring to the life a bit more of a classic progressive rock sound and influences, with Moog synthesisers (Provided by Joel Selsfors) that would sit comfortably on an album from Arjen Anthony Lucassen (Ayreon/Star One), without diluting their obvious melodic death metal song writing template.
Although great tunes, both ‘To The Calling Of Blood And Dreams’ and ‘Crawling From Validity’ took me several listens to fully appreciate. Maybe it was the lack of obvious choruses, or their straight forward song writing that didn’t resonate with me straight away. It’s hard to say, but either way, they took some getting into.
The same can’t be said for the rest of the album however. ‘The Math Of The Myth’ is a firm favourite with its Symphony X like neo-classic power metal sound, while the depressive slow march of ‘The Wedlock Observation’ is given some extra depth with the addition of guest vocalists Morten Møller Jørgensen (Spectral Mortuary), Eddie Risdal (Ancestral Legacy/Legacy Of Emptiness) and Kuhr at various points of the song to help flesh out the concepts grand finale.
Finishing up the album is the rather short instrumental piano piece ‘The Inheritance’, which is good, but seems a little out of place here at the tail end of the album. But despite its rather forgettable positioning on the album, it doesn’t take away from the fact that overall, ‘The Inheritance’ is one truly impressive release.
If you’re a fan of Swanö’s various musical outfits from the past (In particular Swanö’s solo effort ‘Moontower’ from 1999), then you’ll definitely find plenty to enjoy on Witherscape’s debut.
I can only hope that this album isn’t a mere one off effort, and that Swanö and Widerberg will return again under the Witherscape banner.

For more information on Witherscape, check out -

© Justin Donnelly

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Hell Or Highwater - The Other Side

Hell Or Highwater
The Other Side
US Records

When Californian outfit Hell Or Highwater released their debut full-length album ‘Begin Again’ in 2011, it slipped under the radar of most due to its relative low profile and its independent release.
But thanks to Pavement Entertaniment, Inc., the band’s debut was re-released in expanded form a year later, and the album was given a whole new lease of life with everyone sitting up and taking notice. And justifiably so too, as Hell Or Highwater’s debut was without a doubt one of 2011’s strongest hard rock releases, but criminally overlooked by most because of its limited exposure to the masses.
It’s been two years since the release of ‘Begin Again’, and now the band (Who comprise of Atreyu drummer/vocalist Brandon Saller (Who takes on the front man role within the group), guitarists Matt Pauling (Ex-The Confession) and Neal Tiemann (Midwest Kings/David Cook), bassist Joey Bradford (Thieves And Liars) and drummer Captain Carl) has returned with a new E.P. in the form of ‘The Other Side’. And once again, Hell Or Highwater has released another great winner.
The opening cut ‘Moment Of Clarity’ is a good example of how far the band has progressed within the last couple of years, with the song showcasing a greater sense of flow in the song writing, with the melodies seemingly more in synch with the rest of the band’s output, while on an individual performance point of view, Captain Carl’s drumming and the small pockets of guitar solos add a maturity to the song that wasn’t there a mere two years ago. Style wise, the song isn’t too much of a departure from what was offered on ‘Begin Again’. But then having said that, Hell Or Highwater already had a great sound back then (Classic ‘80’s hard rock, but updated with a modern and heavy edge), so it’s understandable why the band aren’t keen to give up on a formula that works so well for them just yet.
Next up is the title track ‘The Other Side’, which focuses more on the melodic side of the band’s song writing repertoire. While some may cringe at the thought of songs that’s a little easier on the ears, Hell Or Highwater manage to dodge the standard clichés and deliver a song that finds the perfect balance between melodic accessibility and rock. ‘Wrong’ is a heavier cut that brings to mind Avenged Sevenfold to some extent, but stands out enough to stand on its own with its meaty riffs, the band’s clever use of canastas and huge hooks, while the anthem-like ‘Remember The Life And Not The Death’ is sure to have lighters (And mobile phones!) up in the air from a swaying crowd when played live.
Finishing up the E.P. is ‘Drowning In The Waves’, which is the perfect closer with its slow building intro, huge riffs, its equally massive rousing choruses and Saller’s impeccable vocals. The touch of Irish sing-along chanting around the latter half of the track is well done, and is sure to get a great reaction from fans when played live.
Overall, ‘The Other Side’ is another outstanding release from Hell Or Highwater. The only shame is that it’s an E.P., and not a full-length release.
If you managed to get a hold of ‘Begin Again’, and you enjoyed it, then get this. If on the other hand you’re unfamiliar with Hell Or Highwater, but you like hard rock - then seriously, you have to check this out.

For more information on Hell Or Highwater, check out -

© Justin Donnelly

Maschine - Rubidium

Inside Out Music/Century Media Records/E.M.I. Music Australia

Initially forming and touring under the name of Concrete Lake a few years ago before changing their name to Maschine, this relatively new U.K. based progressive rock outfit have attracted quite a bit of attention in their short time together. The interest in the group lies behind the fact that two of the band’s members - vocalist/guitarist Luke Machin and bassist/backing vocalist Daniel Mash – spent time touring and recording with fellow progressive outfit The Tangent, and who have finally put together their own outfit Maschine (Alongside guitarist Elliott Fuller, keyboardist/backing vocalist Georgia Lewis and drummer James Stewart), and delivered their debut full-length effort ‘Rubidium’.
My initial expectation was that given the history of those within the group, that Maschine’s debut would fall musically somewhere close to where The Tangent has been heading on their last couple of albums. But that couldn’t be further from the truth, as the opening track ‘The Fallen’ clearly shows. Clocking in at just beyond the ten minute mark, ‘The Fallen’ is an exercise in technical riffing, constant shifts in musical direction and fusing together melodic pieces and having those shifts in structure reflected with pockets of melody and aggression in equal measure. Sound wise, there’s a touch of The Tangent’s influence, with the song sounding more akin to ‘70’s progressive rock than anything within the progressive metal scene. But while the sound has more in common with the past, there’s no overlooking the metallic aspects of the song’s overall premise, and the way the guitarists deliver the riffs with such technical precision (Excluding the Steve Vai like two minute closing section, which is quite relaxed and atmospheric). I’m not too sure of the aggressive vocals (They aren’t all that convincing), and the dryness of sound on the production side of things, but for the most part, ‘The Fallen’ is a strong opening cut for the album.
The title track ‘Rubidium’ slows things down, and in the process gives the band an almost growl free/stripped back Opeth mixed with Leprous sound, albeit with the same laid back Steve Vai like passages dotted throughout, while ‘Cubixstro’ sees the band incorporate a whole host of influences into the mix - including traces of Latin jazz, ‘70’s progressive rock and dub-reggae. Although interesting and likeable for the most part, the song doesn’t quite flow like the opener, but boasts vocals that are stronger.
‘Invincible’ is by far the most melodic and un-metallic sounding track on the album, and surprisingly enough, the one track where the band seem to have everything lined up on the song writing front. Machin sounds far more comfortable on the vocal front here, which seems to flow through to some of the lead work he showcases here as well. Even when the song does get a little heavier around the latter half, it’s the strength of the song writing that comes through the most, with the technical aspect of the band’s playing ability complimenting the solid base they started on.
‘Venga’, not unlike the former track, again shows the quality of songs the band can come up with when the song writing is good, and also how diverse they can be when they’re willing to shake things up a little more beyond the sound offered up on the album’s first few tracks. Sounding very much like latter day Pain Of Salvation, ‘Venga’ is more classic rock with a progressive edge than progressive metal, and it’s a style that fits the band exceedingly well.
Finishing up the album is the two part ‘Eyes’, which begins with the first part which is another foray into heavier metallic territory mixed with acoustic and atmospheric passages, before concluding with the mostly instrumental second part which seems to traverse along every path, touching upon everything the band are capable of sound wise within the one track. Again, there’s some truly interesting pieces within ‘Eyes’, but as a whole sounds a little too scattered to flow as one complete track that has a start, a middle and an eventual end.
On the strength of ‘Rubidium’, Maschine prove to be a very interesting and promising act. It’s not a bad album, but it’s a little lacking in the song writing department in places, and the rather dry production tends to make the album drag on and sound the same at times.
I’ve certainly heard stronger progressive rock albums this year, but for a debut effort ‘Rubidium’ still has enough moments to warrant progressive rock fans to check it out.

For more information on Maschine, check out -

© Justin Donnelly

Various Artists - Bloodbrothers II – A Compilation Of Recordings By Rock/Metal Bands From Cyprus

Various Artists
Bloodbrothers II – A Compilation Of Recordings By Rock/Metal Bands From Cyprus
Pitch Black Records

Released in 1997, the Cyprian compilation album entitled ‘Bloodbrothers’ was far from a worldwide success story, and it certainly didn’t elevate those included on the album to the mainstream consciousness as an undiscovered gem within the hard rock/metal underground. But what the compilation album did manage to do was promote the growing underground metal scene in Greece, and showcase the largely overlooked talent that was emerging from Cyprus. Fast forwarding some twenty-five years later, and the Cyprian scene has come a long way and is being recognised on a global scale, largely through the efforts of those who helped shape the scene in the first place, along with the help of independent label Pitch Black Records.
In celebration of the original underground classic (And now very hard to find) compilation, and Pitch Black Records’ growing stature as the premier hard rock/metal label in Cyprus, Pitch Black Records has put together a new compilation of up and coming acts and some well known names within the scene under the banner of ‘Bloodbrothers II – A Compilation Of Recordings By Rock/Metal Bands From Cyprus’.
As you would expect, this compilation features a handful of acts that will no doubt be familiar to those who have been keeping up to date with Pitch Black Records’ releases over the last couple of years. Arrayan Path is without a doubt one of Cyprus’ biggest exports in recent years, and not surprisingly kick-starts the album with ‘The Bible Bleeds’ from their recently released ‘IV: Stigmata’. Other noteworthy acts from Pitch Black Records’ vast roster include Lethal Saint (‘Out For The Kill’), R.U.S.T. (‘Metal Child’) and the impressive Blynd (‘Sins To The Cross’).
But what really makes this compilation important is the vast array of unsigned and unknown artists featured here. Armageddon (Who appeared on the original ‘Bloodbrothers’ compilation) deliver a cool progressive power metal sound on the previously unreleased ‘Fallen Angels And Lost Souls’, while Winter’s Verge keep the power metal coming with the epic ‘Semeni’ (From 2012’s ‘Beyond Vengeance’ – which was released on Massacre Records).
Elsewhere, Solitary Sabred (With their rough mix of ‘Redeemer’), Astronomikon (Who feature Arrayan Path vocalist Nicholas Leptos, and who offer up ‘Witch Hunter’), the Southern rock sounding Marianne’s Wish (‘Brainwash’ – which originally appeared on their ‘Add To Wishlist’ release from 2012 through Infinity12 Records), the raucous Infected Syren (With their demo version of ‘Syk’) and the experimental outfit Oneirism (Who offer up a demo version of ‘Render Real’) represent the best the album has to offer.
Clocking in at just a touch under the eighty minute mark, comprising of eighteen tracks and selling for such a low price, I’d be hard pressed to pick a fault with what ‘Bloodbrothers II – A Compilation Of Recordings By Rock/Metal Bands From Cyprus’ offers the listener.
Cyprus still might be behind the rest of the world in terms of delivering a truly world class act, but given how much the scene has progressed in the last five years, and based on the strength of the acts featured on this compilation, one can only conclude that it’s not a question of if, but more when.
Overall, ‘Bloodbrothers II – A Compilation Of Recordings By Rock/Metal Bands From Cyprus’ comes highly recommended for those interested in the Cyprian underground, and those who are looking for something truly independent and delivered by individuals who have a passion for what they do.

For more information on ‘Bloodbrothers II’, check out -

© Justin Donnelly

Saturday, September 7, 2013

James LaBrie - Impermanent Resonance (Limited Edition)

James LaBrie
Impermanent Resonance (Limited Edition)
Inside Out Music/Century Media Records/E.M.I. Music Australia

When you look at James LaBrie’s solo output (Including Mullmuzzler) outside of his main gig singing for Dream Theater, it’s safe to say that his work is still firmly rooted within the progressive rock genre. That was true up until LaBrie released ‘Static Impulse’ in 2010. Obviously keen to reinvent himself, LaBrie took a step outside of his comfort zone and made an album that not only took on a far heavier sound, but also a modern sound that brought out a slightly melodic death metal sound – albeit with strong melodic grooves in the vein of Darkane/Soilwork. While some found the Canadian vocalist’s album a little too left of centre compared to what he released in the past, most found the album was a successful experiment with a completely different sound.
Obviously adopting to the formula that’s worked exceedingly well for Alice Cooper for the last forty years (Find something you like and do it, and then do it once again), LaBrie reunited with the same team he worked with three years ago (Long running guitar/song writing partner Marco Sfogli, ex-Rob Halford bassist Ray Riendeau, song writing partner/keyboardist/backing vocalist Matt Guillory (ex-Dali’s Dilemma/Zero Hour) and Darkane drummer/growling vocalist Peter Wildoer), and returns with his new album ‘Impermanent Resonance’. And essentially, LaBrie’s latest effort is essentially an extension of his last release, with only some minor tweaks made to the formula.
Those familiar with LaBrie’s last solo album will no doubt be familiar with what’s on offer on his latest album, and the opening track ‘Agony’ (Or how it’s named in the booklet – ‘Agony (Earnxaio)’) doesn’t disappoint. Starting out with a fast tempo, and featuring the combined duality of LaBrie and Wildoer on lead vocals, ‘Agony’ is an energetic modern sounding track that has plenty of aggression and melody in equal balance, and showcases how the group gels in giving listeners a touch of everything in the one track.
The follow-up track ‘Undertow’ is another strong track with LaBrie providing the memorable melodic elements alongside Wildoer’s occasional scream, while ‘Slight Of Hand’ boasts some impressive drum work from Wildoer alongside Sfogli’s powerful riffing to create a moody modern rocker that’s a real stand out on the album.
‘Back On The Ground’ is LaBrie’s first foray into ballad-like territory on the album, and while the song is catchy, it’s a little disappointing on the lyrical front with its repetitive lines and melodies. But that’s not to say that all of LaBrie’s attempts at ballads on the album don’t work. On the contrary, ‘Say You’re Still Mine’ is a real gem of a track, and the only track that replaces Wildoer’s screamed efforts with some cleaner backing vocals. The backing vocal effect is something a little different from what as expected, and is only there for the briefest of moments, but it’s an experiment that definitely works well.
Meanwhile, the slower paced ‘Holding On’, ‘Destined To Burn’ and the mid-paced ‘Lost In The Fire’ seems to be missing that something special to lift them above the ordinary. The songs themselves are O.K., but when stacked up against the really strong cuts on the album, they tend to sound a little on the weak side of the song writing scale.
‘I Got You’ gets the album back on track with its huge open production sound, heavy mix guitars and drums, keyboard backing and big choruses, while tracks such as ‘Letting Go’, the groove based ‘Amnesia’ and the heavy blast of the closer ‘I Will Not Break’ (Which is every bit as blasting as the opening track on the album) are the stand out’s on the tail end of the album.
The limited edition of ‘Impermanent Resonance’ comes with an additional two tracks. The first track ‘Unraveling’, which is a little different with its greater use of acoustic guitars and clean backup vocals. Despite its ballad-like premise, the song is one of the stronger efforts, and should have in my opinion replaced one of the above mentioned weaker tracks.
The final bonus track is ‘Why’, which is another high octane rock in the vein of ‘Agony’ and ‘I Will Not Break’. Why this track wasn’t included on the album is a real mystery to me, as this is easily another stand out track.
In a lot of ways, ‘Impermanent Resonance’ is cut from the same cloth as ‘Static Impulse’. Wildoer’s vocals aren’t as prevalent on the album, and guitar solos are limited to just some tracks. But overall, LaBrie’s latest effort is simply a continuation from where he last left listeners some three years ago.
Sure, ‘Impermanent Resonance’ doesn’t see LaBrie breaking any new ground, and I don’t think the album quite matches the brilliance of ‘Static Impulse’. But despite this, ‘Impermanent Resonance’ comes highly recommended for fans of LaBrie’s more recent solo efforts.

For more information on James LaBrie, check out -

© Justin Donnelly

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Hypocrisy - End Of Disclosure

End Of Disclosure
Nuclear Blast Records/Riot! Entertainment

Barring a couple of somewhat experimental releases around the turn of the new millennium, Swedish outfit Hypocrisy has maintained a reputation as one of the leading melodic death metal exports from Sweden for the better part of the last two decades. Following on from their critically acclaimed ‘A Taste Of Extreme Divinity’ release from 2009, and their follow-up live D.V.D. release ‘Hell Over Sofia - 20 Years Of Chaos And Confusion’ in 2011, the legendary outfit (Who comprise of vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Peter Tägtgren, bassist Mikael Hedlund and Immortal drummer Reidar ‘Horgh’ Horghagen) has returned once again with a new studio release in ‘End Of Disclosure’.
With some eleven studio releases to date under their collective belts (Excluding 2008’s ‘Catch 22 V2.0.08’ of course), it’s pretty clear what fans can expect on the band’s twelfth studio outing ‘End Of Disclosure’. Hypocrisy aren’t the kind of band to experiment too much with their well established take on the melodic death metal sound these days, and when you couple that with Tägtgren’s unique production sound, it’s safe to say that ‘End Of Disclosure’ isn’t the kind of album that’s going to offer the listener too many surprises. No, these days it’s more of a case of whether or not a new Hypocrisy album is strong enough to stand alongside their impressive back catalogue. And to be fair, while there’s virtually nothing new being brought to the table on ‘End Of Disclosure’, it is at worst, a solid Hypocrisy album.
The trio open up the album with the title track ‘End Of Disclosure’, which is fairly indicative of the band’s trademark sound these days with its ever-present keyboards, blanketing guitar sound, Tägtgren’s higher end growling shrieks and mid-paced tempo. Although the song itself is a solid enough track, it’s probably not one of the album’s crowning moments, and gets the album off to a fairly mediocre start.
The fast paced blitz of the follow-up track ‘Tales Of Thy Spineless’ is a far more appealing direction for the band, with the song brimming with energy and intensity. It’s also a good example of where the band can slow things down (During the choruses), with weakening the band’s well established death metal roots. The guest appearance of Jonas Kjellgren (Ex-Scar Symmetry/Centinex/Carnal Forge) on lead guitar certainly doesn’t hurt either.
‘The Eye’ is one of the more interesting cuts on the album, with the band adding a slightly thrashier edge to their melodic death metal sound, while the use of spoken word samples and keyboards around the middle of the song gives it an overall epic feel that’s been a key feature of Hypocrisy albums of late. Not surprisingly, it’s one of the album’s standout tracks.
Despite it’s slow build up, ‘United We Fall’ turns out to be another of the album’s truly crushing tracks with its thrashing riffs and its relentless blast beat drumming (But remaining catchy enough to hook the listener in), while ‘When Death Calls’ continues the carnage, albeit with a slightly slower pace and a touch more groove.
While the earlier half of the album had some mid-paced tracks that seemed to miss the mark a little, the same can’t be said for the same style of tracks stacked towards the tail end of the album. ‘Hell Is Where I Stay’, ‘44 Double Zero’ (Which takes its name from the fictional T.V. show ‘The 4400’, which chronicled the experiences of the alleged 4400 people who have had direct contact with alien life) and ‘Soldier Of Fortune’ are all really strong tracks that boast some memorable choruses, tight knit and calculated riffing and thick grooves – all delivered in Hypocrisy’s now trademark melodic death metal manner. It’s just a shame that the tracks are a little lost towards the tail end of the album rather than taking pride of place at the start of the album.
Finishing up the album is ‘The Return’, which is a haunting and intense slower paced tune that returns to the tempo and feel of the opener. Although a good song, the track (Which was penned on the music side of things by former Hypocrisy drummer Lars Szöke) relies heavy on its keyboard contributions, and doesn’t really seem to deviate much on the choruses. In other words, ‘End Of Disclosure’ starts and ends on a weak note, which is a real shame.
Overall, ‘End Of Disclosure’ is a typical Hypocrisy album, and one that fans will no doubt enjoy. I personally don’t feel that the album has the same consistency as some of their more recent efforts, but it does have some really strong tracks around the middle. In the end, it’s another solid album from the veteran act, and one that shows that while there are some issues with inconsistencies, they still have more strengths than weakness to maintain their place within the melodic death metal scene.

For more information on Hypocrisy, check out -

© Justin Donnelly

Monday, September 2, 2013

Orphaned Land - All Is One

Orphaned Land
All Is One
Century Media Records/E.M.I. Music Australia

When Israel based outfit Orphaned Land returned to the music scene in 2004 (The band initially started out as Resurrection in 1991, but changed their name to Orphaned Land in 1992, before folding in 1997), they certainly made an impact – both on a musical and conceptual level. The band’s third full-length effort ‘Mabool - The Story Of The Three Sons Of Seven’ (Released in 2004, and their first for Century Media Records) may have fallen under the progressive rock/metal genre tag, but encompassed almost everything one could think of in terms of the progressive tag’s far reaching influences. In other words, the album was near impossible to pin down to any one particular sound, and it was a sound that worked in the band’s favour. But outside of the music, it was the conceptual theory behind the group’s thinking and lyrical themes that stood out, with the band deciding not to take sides on the endless religious debate that exists throughout the Middle East. Instead, the band took on a neutral role, with the message of peace and unity regardless of religious outlook being the central theme throughout the album.
With the album establishing Orphaned Land on a global scale, expectations were high when it came for the release of their follow-up effort. And while 2010’s ‘The Never Ending Way Of ORwarriOR’ did live up to some follower’s expectations, there were some who felt that the band’s move away from the sound of the former album into a more streamlined and melodic direction left the band sounding like they’d lost a little of their unique identity. I for one wasn’t completely satisfied with ‘The Never Ending Way Of ORwarriOR’, especially given how much I enjoyed ‘Mabool - The Story Of The Three Sons Of Seven’. So when news was announced about the impending release of their fifth full-length effort ‘All Is One’ after a relatively short three years between releases, I was curious to see what the band had to offer – but no getting my hopes up too high. And that was a good thing, because while I think ‘All Is One’ is a much stronger album to their last release, it still falls well short of eclipsing the brilliance of their classic ‘Mabool - The Story Of The Three Sons Of Seven’.
The opening title track ‘All Is One’ is undoubtedly one of the album’s real standout cuts. It’s clear right from the outset that the symphonic influences heard in the past have taken on a much greater role here, which allows the song to take on a grander epic scope than anything the band were able to produce in the past. But underneath the symphony, the band themselves (Lead vocalist Kobi Farhi, new guitarist/backing vocalist Chen Balbus, guitarist Yossi Sassi, bassist Uri Zelcha and drummer Matan Shmuely) have still managed to put together a heavy sounding track that bears some progressive rock influences, but with a decidedly catchier and melodic slant, and with Farhi relying solely on clean vocals. While the changes are in line with the progression the band have been maintaining from one release to the next, it has to be said that ‘All Is One’ is a great song, and the lead guitar work and the use of choir really giving the song it’s defining features.
‘The Simple Man’ may be lacking the progressive rock sound of the band’s past, but is strengthened with its straight forward and direct song writing, effective use of orchestral themes and strong melodies, while ‘Brother’ (The first single lifted from the album) sees the band fuse folk and orchestral elements to perfection to create a stirring ballad with a an equally inspiring message that calls for unity amongst brothers in a time of constant war.
Both ‘Let the Truce Be Known’ and ‘Through Fire And Water’ are solid enough tracks, but lack that something special to really make them stand out as much as the former tracks. The same can’t be said for ‘Fail’, which is a throwback to the band’s past with Farhi complimenting the heavier melodic death metal guitar direction with his growled vocals and spoken word narration. As you would expect, the track is another of the album’s stand out tracks.
After the impressive Middle Eastern/guitar driven instrumental piece ‘Freedom’ is given a run through, the album once again falls into a bit of a lull, with the Hebrew sung ‘Shama’im’ and the Arabic based ‘Ya Benaye’ sounding like radio friendly tunes. Both tracks are O.K., but there’s little going on instrumentally to make them stand out from the ordinary, which is a shame given that Orphaned Land are more than capable to giving the listener something unique more often than not. Granted, the latter is a little guitar driven than the former, but it’s just not enough to just play some heavy guitar over traditional Middle Eastern influenced music to make the listener stand up and take notice.
‘Our Own Messiah’ does lift up the tail end a little with a return to the progressive tendencies within the band’s song writing guiding what could have been a fairly ordinary track into something a bit more interesting, while the closer ‘Children’ manages to finish the album on a higher note – even if the track is essentially a sweeping ballad that hinges primarily on Farhi’s emotive vocals rather than the music making a statement of its own.
Overall, ‘All Is One’ is a likeable album, and the kind of album I enjoyed far more than ‘The Never Ending Way Of ORwarriOR’. But if I were to be honest, I still rate ‘Mabool - The Story Of The Three Sons Of Seven’ as Orphaned Land’s true masterpiece.
‘All Is One’ isn’t so much terrible, but bland at times. Personally, I’d like to see the band shake up their sound a little more over the course of an album, and perhaps inject a little more of their older progressive influences into their song writing. Only time will tell if they do that, but until then, ‘All Is One’ is a welcome return to form for the band, even if it isn’t anywhere near as much as I was would have liked.

For more information on Orphaned Land, check out -

© Justin Donnelly