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Wednesday, 29 October 2014

A View From The Back Of The Room: Haken

Haken, Leprous, Maschine & others - Bristol Prog Invasion, The Fleece Bristol

This was supposed to be a three band tour comprising three of the brightest young things in progressive rock and metal. The Bristol date on this tour turned this into an all day event showcasing a few more young bands to partisan fans. As we arrived we had missed the prog black metal of Reign Of Perdition, but we came in just in time for Wales own Akb'al.


The psychedelic, shamanistic prog of Akb'al is always well received by us here at the musipedia and the band put in a consistently strong live showing. Their percussive, driving fusion of world rhythms, heavy rock and mind melding psych always gets head nodding and brains altering. The guitars of Thoby and Rob worked in unison with Floydian leads on top of Tool-like rhythm playing much of which comes from the technical bass playing of Michael and the percussion of Mic. The bands sound was not the best I've ever heard which could have been the venue (something that would rear it's ugly head later). With songs like Equilibrium Akb'al have a big future ahead of them and were definitely one of the stand outs on this bill. 8/10


Bristol based Alatyr are a female fronted metal band with progressive influences, they combine thrash and black metal riffage from their two guitarists and bassist, blast beats galore from their drummer and a mix of female and growled vocals. Think bands of Epica and ReVamp's ilk, the problem with Alatyr is that they are a little bit samey, the riffs were all similar making all of the songs the same. Yes musicianship was good but Alatyr on the whole were boring and the vocals of Steph Kiddle were not really to my taste. On the whole Alatyr just didn't inspire me, sorry guys. 4/10


I was really looking forward to seeing Brighton's Maschine as I like their mix of intensely progressive rock, with a three distinct vocals harmonizing together. Unfortunately as they ascended to the stage there seemed to be a lot of problems with the sound and the instruments in general, this lasted for most of the set meaning that the band were only able to play two (admittedly long) songs, frontman/guitarist/bandleader Luke Machin did seemed a little miffed at the whole situation but the band managed two excellent songs one being the excellent Rubidium which is the title track of their album that bodes well and I look forward to seeing a full set in the future. 7/10


Leprous have seen their profile explode in the last few years especially since their latest album Coal hit the shelves. In fact these Norwegians are possibly one of the best truly progressive bands around at the moment with a multitude of elements to their sound making genre classification very difficult. For all the Pain Of Salvation (a band they share a lot with), they also have Opeth, some black metal leanings and even some King Crimson thrown in. The band are not only their own seperate entity but they also make up Ihshan's band meaning that they have a huge amount of live experience, which shows through in every aspect of the bands show. The the heavy rifftastic guitars of Tor Oddmund Suhrke and Øystein Landsverk are the driving force of the band with the rhythm section of Martin Skrebergene's bass and Baard Kolstad's drums anchoring the heaviness and melancholy of the Coal era songs of which made up the majority of the setlist, but the instrumentation also made the earlier songs sparkle with their more upbeat melodic progressiveness. The key to Leprous' sound are the keys and unique vocals of Einar Solberg who shouts, screams, croons and generally acts like ring leader while abusing his keyboard to provide that extra edge to Leprous' musicality. The band seemed very receptive of the warm applause they received from the large crowd. With their phenomenal musicianship, infectious energy and cinematic light show Leprous are a band to catch, no matter what your taste you will find something in this band. 9/10


The main event came around, British progressive rockers Haken are rapidly becoming THE band in progressive music, their talent is beyond words with influences from all of the prog greats combining them altogether with a modern freshness. Haken are now on their third album and their recorded output seems to be getting stronger and stronger with The Mountain being both their most recent and their finest. And as The Path Unbeaten intro moved into piano driven Atlas Stone kicking off the set proper. It's the atmospheric nature of their music that makes Haken so good as they manage to combine hard rock, modenr metal and old school ethereal prog together to create some unique music. Ray Hearne's percussion and drums are excellent with jazz influences interspersed with primal power, new boy Conner Green is the rhythmic bottom end allowing the guitars of Charlie Griffiths and Richard Henshall to really show off their talents playing with some intense, intricate riffs and solos that duel with Diego Tejeida's keyboards, his keys are also bolstered by the Hen's additional keys. Tejeida also draws the eye with his madcap antics as he fights for attention with vocalist Ross Jennings who has an amazing voice that is at it's best on the crazy Cockroach King which shows off his range to the full. After Atlas Stone came the heavier tones of In Memoriam which sounds a lot like Mr Wilson and co, then a new song in the shape of Darkest Light, into the Middle Eastern Pareidoila and the finally the two epic tracks in the shape of Crystallised and Visions end the set with a blistering display of musicanship and virtuosity both songs together provided nearly 40 minutes of music and sent the prog fans home with a euphoric happiness. Haken keep on getting better and better and on this tour and this show especially they get one step closer to that stratosphere. 9/10

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Reviews: Amaranthe, Allen/Lande, Virgil & The Accelerators

Amaranthe: Massive Addictive (Spinefarm)

Swedes Amarathne are now on their third album and this comes just over a year after their second, in that time front woman Elize Ryd has become the go to female voice for such acts as Kamelot and Timo Tolkki on his Avalon project. Also in the interim they have lost their harsh vocalist Andreas "Andy" Solveström who has been replaced by Henrik Englund who is also in Scarpoint. Most bands try to expand their sound on their third album, however Amaranthe are not one of those bands they have just continued the formula from their first two albums. So yet again we have another album of heavy metal mixed with pulsing electronic pop, this is at it's best on first single Drop Dead Cynical which is as saccharine as a honey covered cotton candy. The title track is heavy weight with an electronic backing but it is driven by a big guitar riff from mainman Olof Mörck, the following track Digital World also shows off the skills of new boy Englund and he is good having more of black metal delivery than his predecessor but he works excellently with both Ryd and Jake E Berg who provides the clean vocals. Digital World also has a huge drop in the middle making it prime club fodder, expect this as the next single, the adrenaline rush subsides on ballad True and Over And Done on which Berg really gives his all. Again Englund is the driving force behind Danger Zone. So Amaranthe's third album has all the sounds of their first 2 albeit with a slightly different vocal, still if you liked the first 2 albums, then you will know what to expect and will love this album, however if you didn't there is nothing here to change your mind. 7/10

Allen/Lande: The Great Divide (Frontiers)

Symphony X singer Russell Allen and Masterplan vocalist Jorn Lande have been steadily releasing albums since 2005 with one coming every couple of years, when you have two amazing singers like Allen and Lande you need supreme talent backing it, on the last three albums The Battle, The Revenge, The Showdown it was Primal Fear guitarist Magnus Karlsson doing all the writing and most of the instrumentation, on this fourth album it is man who doesn't shy away from a collaborative project; ex-Stratovarius man Timo Tolkki who provides all the guitars (electric and bass) and also handles production. As usual his musical compositions are great with sweet riffs and solos bolstered by his crystal clear production and aided by Jami Huovinen on drums. The romantic hard rock of Come & Dream With Me starts things off, Down From The Mountain is faster track that is prime power metal on which Lande and Allen do their best Rob Halford while Huovinen keeps the pace rapid. From then on it's your normal power metal fodder with symphonic backing. Still even with the talent of the vocalists this is all a bit generic and gets very similar very quickly, still if you've got the others get this one, if not I would keep your money for some of the other better releases out at the moment. 5/10

Virgil & The Accelerators: Army Of Three (Mystic Records)

Virgil McMahon formed his power trio with his brother Gabriel on drums and Jack Alexander Timmis on bass in 2009, their first Radium album was full of hard hitting blues rock with elements of funk, soul and even jazz, McMahon has been hailed as spoken about in the same breath as Clapton or Hendrix and has been decorated with numerous awards such as European guitarist of the year. So what about his second album well the Hendrix vibe is at full effect on Take Me Higher which features some playing that would be at home on Electric Ladyland, Are You ExperiencedAxis: Bold As Love with Gabriel giving his best Mitch Mitchell and Timmis providing the funk of Noel Redding or Billy Cox. McMahon's superb playing is bolstered by his sonorous voice that betrays his age and adds to the band's classic power trio vibe. Blow To The Head rocks hard with it's "Hey Hey Hey" chant along final part. The blues runs through this album, everything is anchored by it the phrasing and feel the construction of the songs but where the magic lays in this album is how far they play with the genre moving away and adding others to create some great sounding rock music. All Night Long is a perfect example of this with it's punky riff and psychedelic middle section driven by Timmis bass. Love Aggression has an almost 80's feel to it with the lush backing synths, it moves into another rocker Give It Up which has the hip shaking groove and parping mouth harp of Aerosmith or The Cult. Through The Night is another big ballad with a hell of a solo in it, the heavyweight Stand Up is driven by lots of cowbell. Virgil & The Accelerators released a hell of a debut album but they have followed up in excellent style on this second album which is more mature, more considered work on which all three of these men give supreme performances, the spirit of Cream, The Experience, Taste and even SRV looms large on this record and because of that they have created an excellent second slice of pure British rock. 9/10  

Thursday, 23 October 2014

World Of Metal 20: Dreadnox, Viathyn, The Black Stymphalian

Dreadnox: The Hero Inside (Die Hard Records)

Dreadnox are a Brazilian metal band that have a sound based in the modern metal style with influence drawn from power and traditional metal Final Siege starts off with gunfire and sirens beckoning you into a world of rebellion, the band kick things off in style with crunchy metallic riffing, dual harmony's and powerful vocals from Fabio Schneider who has a vocal not to dissimilar to his countryman Andre Matos, as well as evoking 'Ripper' Owens and even Bruce Dickinson in parts. As I've said the band play muscular classic metal on which Felipe Curi blasts the drums like a machine gunner moving between smashing rhythms, killer fills and double kick blast beats. Dead Montana brings a bass gallop that has been perfected by 'Arry in Maiden, see finale My Judgement Day. Finally we have the guitars of Kiko Dillert brings the riffs, harmonising on top of the excellent rhythm section. Dreadnox are not all about the traditional of metal or Maiden etc through they add thrashier elements from Metallica and Megadeth see Manic Depressive and Nomophobia both of which have the thrash element, they also bring some progressive power metal on Dreamcatcher which sounds a lot like Angra and shows off Schneider's awesome vocals. So Dreadnox are not your normal classic metal band they add many elements to their sound which sets them apart from their contemporaries, they are both melodic and heavy and in true classic metal tradition they have an instrumental in the shape of DX which has some solos and riffs that would make Megadave blush. Brazil has always been the spritual heart of the heavy metal scene, they really care about metal there and Dreadnox are a testament to this with a melting pot of influences all brought together to create a great album full of strong metal songs from a band well worth checking out!! 8/10

Viathyn: Cynosure (Independent)

Canada is becoming somewhat of a breeding ground for intelligent modern progressive metal with bands such as Borealis bringing a new scope on the works of Shadow Gallery, Fates Warning and of course Dream Theater. Viathyn are now on their second record with Cynosure being an "exploration into the chaos and the beauty of the natural (and unnatural) world, with themes of discord, affliction, disillusion, enlightenment, and grandeur, as seen through the eyes of nine storytellers" so far so prog, it is this lofty ambition/concept that is met with some seriously amazing musicanship from the Canadians, with the drums of Dave Crnkovic coming thick and fast part metal/part jazz driving everything along, the bass of Alex Kot is technical and is the base (no pun intended) layer of the rhythm, the solos and leads are handled by Jacob Wright who wrings every bit of emotion out of his instrument while also showing the skill of the virtuosos associated with the genre, he is aided by the rhythm playing of Tomislav Crnkovic who also provides the powerful vocals. The band are equally at home with speed as they are with the slower songs like Time Will Take Us All which is all about the atmosphere, as they are with more rampaging romps like Shadows In Our Wake and the rollicking of Three Sheets To The Wind which has to be classed as progressive Pirate metal. As is the norm with prog metal the songs are all over five minutes but they never outstay their welcome, most are metallic, progressive songs with touches of power metal thrown in meaning that they hold your attention, as this is a concept album based on 9 points of view they all have different feel to them meaning that the album flows well with exercises in light and shade throughout. As I have said their seems to be a glut of excellent progressive metal bands coming from Canada at the moment and Viathyn is just another addition to this country's list of high calibre bands. 9/10   

The Black Stymphalian: Khaos Sigma (Self Released)

"This is a bit tasty!" that was my first remark upon hearing this the second EP from Darlington UK based The Black Stymphalian. The 'band' is made up of Jaymez Stephenson who handles all the stringed instruments providing both the guitars and the bass as well as keys etc he is joined by the blitzkreig drums of Lyle Cooper and vocalists Greg Fender and Ian Gillings, who are both from the Robb Flynn/Randy Blythe school of growls and screams. As Chaoskampf erupts from the stereo we are battered by superfast drumming and the amazing riffage of Stephenson who channels the modern thrash of Machine Head even incorporating the more recent progressive elements on tracks like Rules Of Engagement which also draws influence from American's Trivium (especially their Shougun faze). This EP is a bit special, 5 awesome tracks that show of the frankly stunning playing and songwriting of Stephenson who is a one man band in the truest sense, he has brought the dual riffs of modern American metal, merged it with searing solos, a progressive edge, crystal clear production and recruited some top notch musicians to aide him. With some great tracks like March Of A Blackened Christ, Martyr No More and the excellent closing shot of The Awakening this is an EP of top notch metal, could we have a full length soon please? 8/10 

The View From Back Of The Room: Blackberry Smoke (Review By Paul)

Blackberry Smoke: The Institute, Birmingham

Another trip to England’s second capital within a week for another quite brilliant evening.

After a smooth journey we arrived at the venue with three hours before Atlanta’s good ‘ole boys Blackberry Smoke took to the stage. An interesting hostelry a short walk away caught our eye and proved to be a real treat. The Old Crown Inn reputed to be Birmingham’s oldest pub dating back to the 1300s looked warm and inviting. Serving some lovely draft ales and possibly the best burger I've ever had in a pub, we spent a happy couple of hours pre-gig. If you come this way make sure you check it out.

The Institute is a strange venue and the Google reviews are quite damning. Having spent a few hours in the smaller Library venue last week, this event was at least being held in the main hall. It turned out to be decent enough, and having squeezed our way through the crush at the rear of the hall we actually ended up with ample room and decent sight lines for once. Of course, the idiot magnet that I possess worked like a charm and once again a total tit ended up very close to us. Absolutely blasted, he became something of a distraction with his flailing arms, poorly timed jumping and general crashing around inviting the potential of a large slap from the less than amused lady behind him. Luckily his mates saw sense and moved him to the middle where he was less irritating. TWAT!!

Just after nine, Blackberry Smoke made their way onto the stage amidst a quite epic amount of incense burning. This was inspired as the whole evening was scented with the pleasant aroma of this rather than the usual farty, beerery stench which we have come to associate with gigs (and no, the burger hadn't taken effect at this time!). The band wasted little time, powering through their highly crafted Southern country rock anthems; Like I Am from Little Piece Of Dixie was followed by Testify from their first album Bad Luck Ain't No Crime. Clad in denim and sporting the most incredible chops ever seen, the Smoke were on fire and their playing was exceptional. Lead vocalist and guitarist Charlie Starr has a quite incredible stage presence, understated and yet imposing at the same time. His solos were excellent and he quickly demonstrated what a fine talent he is; he also has the best sideburns North of Billy Gibbons I've ever see.

A collection of tunes from their 2012 release The Whippoorwill followed; Lucky Seven and the sing-a-longs of Pretty Little Lie and Six Ways To Sunday had the buoyant crowd mouthing every word (and who wouldn't want to hear their baby “speaking in tongues” after a good roggering?). Unfortunately a rather unsavoury incident then occurred at the front as one of the audience was violently assaulted by another member of the crowd. As the perpetrator fled there was an air of confusion on stage, mainly as bassist and all round smoothie Richard Turner had witnessed the event directly in front of him. Charlie Starr checked that all was good and then wise-cracked about it being like back home on a Saturday night before ironically launching into Good One Coming On! Not for the poor bloke with his nose all over his face though. As the injured party was led out by ShowSec and St John’s Ambulance, the pace picked up and the track extended into a showcase of quality guitar work from Starr and Paul Jackson combined with the fat Hammond sounds from Brendon Still on the keys. A snippet of Midnight Rider from the Allman Brothers was also included and received a very warm reception before the pace slowed with a couple of bluesy numbers which culminated with the title track from their last album.

The set was perfectly paced, with ample opportunity for the band to make everything look absolutely painless and totally effortless. That is surely the mark of an excellent band, top quality on every level with absolutely ease. Up In Smoke got the crowd moving again before a departure from the usual subject matter with Ain't Got the Blues. We then got a rare treat with two booze flavoured tracks, both from their 2008 EP New Honky Tonk Bootlegs. First up the lovely Lesson In A Bottle, followed by Son Of The Bourbon, this had the diehards singing along. Penultimate tune One Horse Town maintained the audience participation levels before the band closed the evening with Ain't Much Left Of Me. A short pause as the traditional breather was taken before a final duo of Leave A Scar and Freedom Song rounded off a quite brilliant evening of top quality music. Blackberry Smoke has the confidence and ability to be headlining much bigger venues than this is years to come. Absolutely Top Drawer. 10/10

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Reviews: Evil Scarecrow, Audrey Horne, Messenger (Reviews By Paul)

Evil Scarecrow – Galactic Hunt (Deadbox Records)

The scarecrew’s third full release has been a bloody long time coming. Forged out of a massively successful pledge music campaign and capitalising the momentum deservedly achieved from their constant gigging, not to mention two fucking incredible BOA appearances, Galactic Hunt is certainly packed full of new goodies from Dr Hell and his cohorts. Opener Rise is a full on heavy metal rocker, whilst Space Dementia, all homage to Red Dwarf races along, ringmaster Monty Blitzfist’s drumming powerful and combining with the guitars of Dr Hell and Brother Pain. However, throughout the album it is the subtle synths of Princess Luxury which have been enhanced in the excellent production, adding a soothing and essential layer to many of the songs. Of course, if you've seen Evil Scarecrow live, the opening few tracks will be familiar already. Space Dementia is greeted like an old friend whilst Crabulon has been around so long it seems scandalous that it is only now committed to record. Evil Scarecrow make no bones about their parody element; their lyrics are ridiculous yet right. However the band can really play and Galactic Hunt certainly justifies their right to THAT Saturday morning slot at BOA. Flight Of The Dragons, one of 12 tracks, certainly provides a demonstration of their musical prowess, building atmospherically from an Arthurian setting into a full on heads down metal attack, harmonies in full use, before the pace slows and showcases Pain’s guitar work. In fact there is little for me to criticise on Galactic Hunt except for … and this is a minor issue, the vocal delivery. Dr Hell’s voice is really suited to the live arena and although it fits the band perfectly, on record it can become a little difficult to live with after the first few tracks. Having said that, this is a really decent release, we'll worth the wait and the pledge. The opportunity to see them convert these songs in the live arena should be taken with both claws; Hammerfest can't come quickly enough. 7/10

Audrey Horne – Pure Heavy (Napalm)

Regular readers of this illustrious blog may recall that I waxed lyrical over Audrey Horne’s 2013 release Youngblood. Indeed, if memory serves, it made my top 10 of last year [They did- Matt]. It was with delight that I discovered that Pure Heavy had been released, albeit below my radar. So what is it about Audrey Horne that makes them so damn fine? Well, a listen to Pure Heavy should answer that very easily. Excellent musicianship, beautifully crafted heavy rock songs with no hidden agenda and of course the brilliant voice of Toschie. I won't provide a history as this has been done before, save to say that in my opinion Norway has produced nothing finer. Highlights on this album? Opener Wolf In My Heart rocks comprehensively, whilst Out Of The City is pure AOR filth. The whole album just reeks of classic rock, influences of many rock giants evident including Van Halen and one of my all-time favourite bands Thin Lizzy but all what the Audrey Horne stamp. Harmonies adding to the the sing-a-long choruses (Tales From The Crypt is a prime example), hooks galore and an overall great feel. Unfortunately Audrey Horne are rarely on the UK shores although I had the massive fortune of seeing them live at Sonisphere a couple of years ago (and at the same time introduced the legendary Brett Perry to Jagermeister but that’s another story) but they are really worth catching if you get the chance. Into The Wild, possibly my favourite track on the album, demonstrates the excellent guitar work of Arve Isdal (Enslaved) and Thomas Toftenharg (Sahg) and really is the essence of the band. Powerful rhythms and swirling guitars topped off with great hooks and vocals. Pure Heavy continues the excellent work laid down in Audrey Horne and Youngblood. Another great release in a year of quite exceptional music. 9/10

Messenger – Illusory Blues (Code 7-Svart)

Messenger first appeared on my radar when I was fortunate enough to see them support Casualties of Cool at the Union Chapel in September. Even in their short set their complex delicate compositions pricked my interest and the subsequent purchase of their first long player left me with the feeling that I'd uncovered a bit of a gem. Formed in London in 2012 the core of the band consists of Khaled Lowe, Barnaby Maddick and Jamie Gomez Arellano. This album sits very comfortably in the KScope stable, alongside the likes of Anathema, The Pineapple Thief, Lunatic Soul and Blackfield.  Combining the best elements of the progressive movement with folk, rock and even Jazz, the album is delicately crafted and beautifully constructed. The Return starts with harmonies and an instrumental opening that quickly develops in an acoustic epic complete with flute action! The track slowly meanders to a dramatic and thunderous conclusion, rolling drums and chords a plenty. Piscean Tide is awash with folk, violin and acoustic guitar providing a folksy opening which progresses into another quite delightful track, mellow and relaxing with the violin enhancing the rhythm. The vocals are pristine throughout, warming melodies and soaring harmonies combining to quite stunning effect. Dear Departure captures the huge Pink Floyd influence that surges through the whole of Illusory Blues, no bad thing. Atmospheric sound effects provide another layer to the compositions. The combined vocals are of the highest quality, rich and powerful yet measured and composed. The Perpetual Glow Of A Setting Sun contains oriental influences along with the. Swirling keys and effects synonymous with bands like Hawkwind. Somniloquist sweeps you on a journey which ebbs and flows, intricate time changes and some quite heavy riffs in the middle section, contrasting perfectly with he overall calming vibe which flows through the album. String sections and keyboards are used to great effect, adding a number of complex layers to the tracks. The Eastern feel continues with final track Let The Light In, Led Zeppelin influences fusing into a fitting climax. This album requires some dedication, each listen allowing you to discover more and more of the delicious elements which are almost hidden within each song. A quite enchanting album. 9/10

Reviews: The Datsuns, Antemasque, Immortal Guardian

The Datsuns: Deep Sleep (Hellsquad Records)

The Datsuns have been peddling their high quality fuzzy garage rock since 2002 and their sixth record is yet another trippy, reverbed, fuzzed up slice of down and dirty rock. The album kicks off with Caught In The Silver which is driven by frontman Rudolf de Borst's rumbling low end and Phil Somervell and Christian Livingstone's distorted guitars, Bad Taste is a radio rocker that comes straight out of the QOTSA playbook, Claw Machine has a shuffle that the Hellacopters would love. The band merge classic hard rock, noisy garage rock That's What You Get, punk rock on Shaky Mirrors, all combined with huge slabs of psychedelia especially on 500 Eyes which has a 60's Jefferson Airplane vibe that with a gorgeous slide solo in the middle. For a band that have been around so long you can really hear the years of touring and recording have paid off as this album is slick and flawless in it's execution. The guitars sear, the bass rumbles, the drums tumble and they all come together brilliantly. As the album rounds off with the trippy title track, you've been taken on a journey into The Datsuns little world rock and roll that encompasses elements of 60's psych, the blues rock of The Black Keys and lashings of professionalism. A great album with broad appeal. 7/10

Antemasque: S/T (Nadie Sound)

So after the explosion of The Mars Volta. Thw two main men Omar Rodríguez-López and Cedric Bixler-Zavala had somewhat of a falling out leading many to believe that neither The Mars Volta or indeed At The Drive In would ever return and they in part are right as even though the two have buried the hatchet they have returned with a new band and a sound that seems to be an amalgamtion of their two bands as well as drawing from all of their other projects. Unlike The Mars Volta, Antemasque are a more straight up prospect as the songs like 4AM and I Got No Remorse are based more around driving punk rock mixed with Rodríguez-López's extremely talented guitar playing, so think progressive punk rock/hard rock and you wouldn't be far off. In fact as this album progresses it becomes clear that this is what The Mars Volta had been aiming for on their two final(?) albums. I've already mentioned about Rodríguez-López's excellent of kilter, noodling, jazz guitar which set this album out like an upbeat, progressive The Smiths see In The Lurch. Bixler-Zavala's vocals are also very good he keeps his caterwauling to a minimum on this project preferring to concentrate on his normal mid range meaning that he is a lot more listenable for those that found his vocals in The Mars Volta to be a little overbearing. Former TMV and Killer Be Killed drummer Dave Elitch provides the crazy percussion sometimes sounding like he is playing a completely separate song, think Stewart Copeland, the funk bottom comes from funk bass pioneer Flea (who notably contributed trumpet to TMV). Everything gets a little Zeppelin on Drown All Your Witches before making everything gets dark and fuzzy and in the finale heavy on Providence. I'll be honest I've always been a fan of The Mars Volta but they have always been a little too out there for many, Antemasque is the bridge between the gap, it's proggy enough for TMV fans but also mainstream friendly enough for fans of At The Drive In, RHCP's and accessible rock music. 8/10   

Immortal Guardian: Revolution Part 1 (Independent)

American extreme power metal band Immortal Guardian first came to my attention with their first EP Super Metal. I thought it was a hell of an album with the kind of speed metal riffs that wouldn't seem out of place on a Symphony X, Dragonforce or indeed any Japanese metal album. However the album was lacking vocally, that was until it was re-relased with their then new, now current vocalist Carlos Zema who has a hell of voice in the style of Russell Allen, gritty, powerful but also stratospheric. Revolution Part 1 is the precursor EP for their debut full length album and yet again it features some insane musicanship from these madmen the rhythm section of Thad Stevens bass and Cody Gilland's drums are insane with Steven's gallop having more horsepower than a Mazerati and Gilland's blast beating putting some black metal drummers to shame. To add the melodies and riffs we look to Gabriel Guardian who contributes guitars and keyboards (most of the time simultaneously) and Jyro Alejo who shreds like Malmsteen at lightspeed. Over these five tracks we have the two opening tracks the power metal rampage of Beyond The Skies, the heavier darker tone of Walk Alone before the middle of the album delivers one it's finest tracks, the excellent Immortal which features Roy Z who has contributed to both Rob Halford's and Bruce Dickinson's solo projects and also produces this EP, this track is phenomenal featuring lots of light and shade, a progressive nature and shit loads of guitar solos from the Guardian boys and Mr Z himself. Before we are treated to a huge ballad on Between Fire And Ice which has huge backing vocals and slows everything down fleshing out IG's sound a bit more before the finale of Victory Shore ends the album in true IG style. If this is an indication of what the album will sound like then it's guaranteed to be a real treat for metal fans!! 8/10


Monday, 20 October 2014

Reviews: Decapitated, Cannibal Corpse, Black Moth (Reviews By Paul)

Decapitated: Blood Mantra (Nuclear Blast)

When it comes to technical metal you immediately think of Meshuggah, giants in the world of polyrhythmic time changes. Add the word death to the technical metal and there is no finer artist than Polish quartet Decapitated. Following on from 2011’s excellent Carnival Is For Ever, Blood Mantra elevates an already high bar into orbit. Crammed full of intricate and subtle time changes, this is a work of the highest quality. From the aggression of opener Exiled In Flesh to the atmospheric Blindness, the whole album just oozes brilliance. Blast beat drumming combined with powerhouse riffs which stick in the memory entwine with the stunning soloing from the main heartbeat of the band, Waclaw ‘Vogg’ Kieltyka. Dripping with hooks and no little dose of groove, Blood Mantra provides vocalist Rafal Piotrowski with the perfect platform to demonstrate his prowess and his growling delivery fits the bill completely. Each of the tracks are crafted brilliantly with the supporting rhythm section of bassist Pawel Pasek and new recruit Michael Lysejko on drums ensuring that the heaviness remains ever present. Just as an example, album closer Moth Defect contains an absolute blitzkrieg of powerhouse drumming. Blood Mantra is without doubt a masterclass for the genre of technical death metal. This album will definitely feature in my end of year top 10. A stunning piece of work from a band now firmly established in the top percentile. Roll on 12 December and their supporting role to Behemoth. Nergal and co had better watch out. His countrymen might well blow them off the stage. 10/10

Cannibal Corpse: A Skeletal Domain (Metal Blade)

The blueprint for death metal over the past 26 years has been crafted and delivered by New York’s gore masters. With A Skeletal Domain, their 13th release, Cannibal Corpse continue to demonstrate why they are the absolute masters in their field. Granted, if you don’t like death metal, this album won’t change your view one iota; however, if you happen to like a bit of extremely fast aggressive violent bloody death metal, this album will tick your boxes. 2012's Torture was a decent release and maintained the momentum that Cannibal Corpse have built over the years. Yet whilst the subject matter remains very much par for the course, (Sadistic Embodiment or Ice Pick Lobotomy anyone?) this album is a real improvement with some excellent writing and playing. The band are tighter on this album that a bull dog clip on your nut sack; blast beat drums hammer away from start to finish, crashing down with tsunami force; riffs drop from the sky at intense speed, solos peel off at an alarming rate and as always George ‘Corpsegrinder’ Fischer’s vocal delivery remains the ultimate pinnacle of death metal frontmen. Take Kill Or Become, nothing says death metal more than Corpsegrinder growling “If you want to live you have to kill or become”; and the catchy refrain of “Fire Up the Chainsaw”. This album won’t change the world but what it does do is cement the position of Cannibal Corpse as the ultimate Death Metal outfit. No band from this genre has sold more records than them and they remain the true ideal for thousands of pretenders to their crown. Top quality death metal at its finest. Now, where was that chainsaw again? 8/10

Black Moth: Condemned To Hope (New Heavy Sounds)

Leeds outfit Black Moth’s second full release is a glorious mixture of doom, gothic, indie and hard rock. In fact, it's difficult to actually put a label on them. Opener Tumbleweave displays the doom influences of Sleep and Sabbath, stomping riffs and dark atmospheric lyrics cascade around you. Set Yourself Alight has the brashness and aggression of Iggy And The Stooges with elements of many of the guitar based indie bands; think of Sonic Youth or the Breeders for example. However, what provides Black Moth with an edge over many of their contemporaries is the haunting vocal delivery of Harriet Bevan. Sticking to a doom laden delivery, Bevan’s vocal suites the dark and witty lyrics: “your eyes say rock n roll but your lips say pepperoni” (Tumbleweave). Condemned To Hope displays pleasing variations in style, memorable hooks and catchy choruses, laced with the introspection of Siouxsie and the Banshees amongst others. The biggest problem facing Black Moth may the difficulty in categorising them and trying to gain the exposure they deserve. Are they metal, are they indie, goth or as I would suggest a magnificent hybrid of all genres. Having seen them live at Temples Festival earlier this year I know they can deliver live and I'm looking forward to another viewing at Damnation in November. 8/10