Dying Fetus: Wrong One To Fuck With (Relapse Records)
Wrong One To Fuck With, the eighth studio release from Maryland Death Metal giants Dying Fetus is a belter. Crushingly heavy from start to finish, dripping with meaty hooks, huge changes in structure and some of the most astonishing blast beats. It rarely drops the intensity, from opener Fixated On Devastation to closing beast Induce Terror. It regularly comes at you at 100mph but there are slower passages, the huge grind for the opening section of Reveling In The Abyss, for example, before ramping up the tempo once more.
John Gallagher’s brutal death vocals remain as visceral as ever, with his chainsaw guitar work savage and aggressive. It’s frighteningly technical as well, the complex riffing and heavy breakdowns surging through the whole release like an out of control electricity feeding monster from a nasty B movie. Trey Williams drumming is just blistering, the speed astounding; try and maintain his pace on Fallacy. With a solid line-up that is now in its 10th year, there is little sign of the band slowing down anytime soon. The Fetus is far from dead. Damnation Festival cannot come soon enough. 9/10
The Thirteenth Sun: Stardust (Aural Music)
A little behind on this one which was released in May but believe me, this is worth the wait. Stardust is the debut release from the Romanian outfit. It is an impressive first offering. Fifty minutes of progressive metal, twisting through pathways of light and dark, intensity levels shifting at will. This is the result of those Mastodon/Opeth US tours we are always reading about. Opener Universus contains everything, huge riff and delicate tempo changes. It’s only on repeated listens that you really get involved in this release, the deliciously layered songs demanding more and more attention. Pathways provides the first obvious Opeth influences, with atmospheric variations and the arrival of Marius Muntean’s velvet keyboards providing calming tranquillity before the trip accelerates rapidly.
The addition of some progressive death metal elements reminiscent of Opeth’s Ghost Reveries era pomp. Planes Of Creation is at times a little too close but overall it really works. Barna Radu doesn’t overcook the death metal growls, pleasing to most as his clean vocals are a joy. Stardust is easy to listen to though, progressive without over complicating things, playing to the band’s obvious strengths. Centre piece is the nine minute The Universe Is Burning, which rages hard, dips calmly into a Floyd-like plateau before spiralling wildly towards its conclusion. At times, this album is breath taking. With elements of Devin Townsend along with Rush also in the mix, it’s one of the releases that should be heard at all costs this year. 9/10
Fellwarden: Oathbrearer (Eisenwald Tonschmiede)
Three months ago the epic Winter by Fen received a 10/10 for its breathtaking mastery. Fellwarden is a side project of The Watcher, billed as an epic black metal project inspired by the rugged landscape of Northern England. It is just that. As you progress through the release, you are transported to lonely moors, towering mountain ranges, hidden lakes and proud forests. Ethereal and visceral in equal parts, cascading infernos are followed by tranquillity. Album opener Guardian Unbound, at eight minutes long provides black metal lovers with sufficient to get their teeth into whilst the slower paced but by no means slower in either passion or tempo Sun Of Ending conjure haunting images of windswept countryside, twisted trees and lonesome crows.
There is beauty in this release, with A Cairn Keeper’s Lament allowing an acoustic guitar to take centre stage as the track meanders beautifully. Alongside Winterfylleth, Fen and now Fellwarden continue to produce stunning black metal that requires attention, concentration and the enjoyment of great constructed music. I said that Winter was essential listening. Well, if you enjoyed that, Oathbreaker will readily massage those same buttons. Quite magical. 10/10