Vehement—Ashes (2017)

Vehement—Ashes (2017)

Vehement—Ashes (2017)

Details

Vehement are an extreme metal / black metal band from East Sussex on the south coast of England. Ashes released in October of last year is their second full length album. Recorded by Dave Archer at Tidal Force Studio. Released on 6 October 2017.

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Band

  • Xysor—Vocals and guitars
  • Wraith—Guitars and backing vocals
  • Ohtar—Bass and backing vocals
  • Andras—Drums

Tracks

  1. Far below us (6′ 29″)
  2. Ashes (7′ 16″)
  3. Carapace (2′ 27″)
  4. Thematic (8′ 23″)
  5. Burden’s root (6′ 54″)
  6. The turn of the passage (9′ 37″)
  7. Tidal verse (10′ 38″)

Review

Far below us” (track 1) opens the album with the gentle sound of what appears to be the wind blowing through a pop-shield and a crackling fire. Then comes the sudden barrage of metal. It’s a fairly typical black metal song: thrashing guitars, pneumatic drill drums and growling vocals. It contains a few nice melodic moments and guitar flourishes before changing pace about two-thirds of its way in which really lifts the song from what could have been a rather pedestrian black metal romp into something with character and dynamics.

Ashes” (track 2) flows straight out of the previous track with a strummed clean guitar pattern. The guitar tone reminds me of early, Paul Di’anno-era Iron Maiden. It doesn’t last long, though as a galloping mid-paced wall of sound drives itself through the first half of the song. It’s one of my favourite moments of the album—listening to the drums beat out the rhythm while the guitars swirl around and pull in new elements. The remainder of the song ebbs and flows until a sorrowful guitar solo leads the song to a rather unexpected and gentle conclusion.

Another seamless transition. “Carapace” (track 3) is a rather delicate and beautiful finger-picked song that provides a

Thematic” (track 4) returns us to the main programme with a thundering, slowed down wall of guitars and drums. The main riff is a very simple five note pattern that’s not too far from the spaceship theme from Close Encounters of the Third Kind! In what is evidently becoming Vehement’s MO, the song changes direction halfway through. Cookie Monster vocals scream over a mid-paced chord pattern and arpeggio that takes the song back to its roots.

Burden’s root” (track 5) opens with a jangling clean guitar. It has something of early Opeth about it. This leads to a descending chord pattern and then a fairly standard death/black metal stomp through some chord changes and hollered vocals. But there is something wonderful about it. It twists and turns, changes direction here and there, Xysor’s operatic vocals are majestic and the guitar solo is haunting. What could have been a fairly dry and unimaginative black metal song now has colour and interest.

The two longest tracks on the album are left to the end, the 9 minutes 37 seconds song “The turn of the passage” (track 6) and “Tidal verse” (track 7) which clocks in at 10 minutes 38 seconds. “The turn of the passage” has a nice drum section about two-thirds of the way through when the song slows down and the guitars belt out power chords. “Tidal verse” nails its colours to the mast straight away with its fast-paced, buzzing opening riff. But like many songs before it, about halfway through, the song grinds to a halt and mutates into slow, reverb-heavy guitar chimes over rumbling toms.

Conclusion

This is an album that somewhat took me by surprise. I’ve listened to too many dull, black-metal-by-numbers albums over the years, and my fear was that this would be another. I’ve said more than once in reviews that all I really ask beyond basic musical competence is something interesting. Give me a reason to listen again and again. Give me hooks to listen out for. Give me twists and changes of direction that make me sit up and take notice.

There isn’t anything particularly revolutionary about this album—Vehement play authentic, straight-up black metal but they do it well and with enough variation and ideas thrown into each song to keep me coming back.

Review score: 80%

Disclaimer

I kindly received this album to review from The Origin Agency press team an artist management, consultancy and booking agency based in Brighton UK. I didn’t get paid for this review but I do get to the keep the album (thank you!). I am not linked to either Vehement or The Origin Agency.

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Metallica play Celtic Frost

When I first started to properly get into metal back in 1986 there were four bands on my radar: Metallica, Slayer, Voivod and Celtic Frost.

Yesterday (11 April) Rob and Kirk from Metallica paid tribute to late Celtic Frost bassist Martin Eric Ain during their concert in Geneva, Switzerland by playing “Procreation of the Wicked” from Celtic Frost’s debut album Morbid Tales (1984).

Screech Bats—Wish You Were Her (2018) EP

Screech Bats—Wish You Were Her (2018) EP

Screech Bats—Wish You Were Her (2018) EP

Details

Recorded in a Blackpool rehearsal room by James Routh of Sonic Boom Six. Cover art by Esme Baker (vocalists, tattooist and owner of Boileroom Tatoo in Guildford, Surrey). Released on 30 March 2018.

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Band

  • Esme Baker—Vocals
  • Kit Reeve—Guitar
  • Rio Hellyer—Bass
  • Lexi Clark—Drums

Tracks

  1. Blood in my hair
  2. Get better
  3. Every good thing
  4. Just like you
  5. That valentine song

Review

Friday 30 March saw the release of this fabulously titled second EP from London four-piece punk band Screech Bats: Wish You Were Her. It sounds rather fabulous too.

According to vocalist Esme Baker, the EP is “about women who have, for entirely different reasons, had a profound impact on my life, but are no longer in it. Most of the lyrics are drawn from real experiences and on the whole we want to make dark, often ‘taboo’ topics, approachable with a positive message.”

Four women standing in front of a wall of comics

Screech Bats (Photo by Tom Le Bon)

Blood in my hair” (track 1) kicks off the EP with an abrupt and surprisingly metal bang! Four bars of staccato  chords and a ticking hi-hat give way suddenly to a pulsing, melodic punk song. The song has a simple stripped back and warm sound. Baker’s alto vocals are clear, pushing a little to distortion at times and to good effect; I could listen to her voice for hours.

Get better” (track 2) rides on a memorable riff that gets stuck in your head, while the lyrics tell a story in that most perfect of punk traditions and a fabulous singalong chorus “Since you’ve been gone I’ve been down so low / Ohhhhh / Are you better than this? / Since you’ve been gone I don’t know who I am / I’ll be better!” And yet it can’t really get any better than this—this is a perfect pop punk song. It has melody, it has energy, it has emotion.

Every good thing” (track 3) is built on a cyclical Husker Dü/Bob Mould-style arpeggio that repeatedly builds and resolves, creating expectation and tension before morphing into a start-and-stop coda. It’s such a good song. I should feel guilty, but I’m not.

Just like you” (track 4) opens with a double-stop bass riff that is soon joined by a jangly guitar and double bass. Baker’s vocals are so smooth as she sings “Hello honey how your face has changed | You used to be so pretty…” The off-beat rhythm changes about halfway through and you can’t but bounce along to the song. And then… it twists again towards a sudden ending.

“My lover hates me and I don’t mind,” Baker laments at the start of “That valentine song” (track 5). It’s a relatively straightforward and simple song to bring the EP to a close. Just as it looks like it’s not going anywhere Kit Reeve launches into a majestic and rather beautiful guitar solo. It completely lifts the song and transforms it into something quite gorgeous. My only complaint: the metal-tastic chugging that leads the song out could have lasted a lot longer than three seconds!

Conclusion

This is a gorgeous EP. Five perfectly crafted pop-punk songs that balance melody with raw energy. Esme Baker has a gorgeous voice and writes fabulously dark and real lyrics that address issues of mental health and recovery, death, grief, one night stands, ageing, settling down and learning how and when to end a relationship. This is a band that sounds fresh and relevant.

Review score: 95%

# meToo

In the promo material that accompanied this release I was saddened to read the following:

As an act devoid of male members, Screech Bats openly recount many instances of their gender standing front and centre stage: “It’s awful – we are not a ‘girl band’ just because none of us have penises. We have been heckled, we’ve been asked “whose girlfriends we are?”, we’ve been groped whilst trying to load in amps and at one particular show, when our bassist was moving her gear, someone shouted “the stripper’s arrived”. In our opinion, the whole industry needs to stop seeing gender as a genre – we need to see a shift towards just listening to the music, not having to consider what it is we have between our legs.”

I quite agree. Gender isn’t a genre. Listen to the music, judge the band on the music not on their chromosomes—and if you don’t like it then don’t listen to it, and if you do then tell others about them.

It saddens me to hear about how many people have been sexually harassed or sexually assaulted. Please look out for one another—help keep those around you safe, and more importantly, treat everyone you meet with the respect you would want them to offer you. We’re all in this life thing together. I just hope we can get better at that. Speaking of getting better…

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Disclaimer

I kindly received this EP to review from Inception Press, an artist-friendly, UK-based, independent, alternative music publicity and management agency. I didn’t get paid for this review but I do get to the keep the EP. I am not linked to either Screech Bats or Inception Press.

King Leviathan—Paean Heretica (2017)

King Leviathan—Paean Heretica (2017)

King Leviathan—Paean Heretica (2017)

Details

“Two years in the making, it is our darkest and heaviest work to date, encompassing themes of loss, abandonment, blind faith and what comes after death. Our 9 track, 45 minute collection of psalms was recorded and mixed once again by Paul ‘Win’ Winstanley at Brighton Electric, but this time mastered by Alan Douches at West West Side Music and with art crafted by Alex Norman.” Released on Infernum Records, August 2017.

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Band

  • Adam Sedgwick—Vocals and guitar
  • Rob Kuhler—Lead Guitar and backing vocals
  • Sam Forrester—Bass and backing vocals
  • Danny Yates—Drums

Tracks

  1. Primitive baptism
  2. Sanctification
  3. Kingdom
  4. Agony
  5. Doomsayer
  6. Coffin swallower
  7. Harrowing eyes
  8. Like wolves to the throat of the lion
  9. The grand congregation

Review

This is another album that I’ve been sitting on since November but which I’ve been very much enjoying playing over the last few months.

King Leviathan are a blackened thrash metal band from Brighton on the south coast of England. Paean Heretica is their debut album, having previously released a couple of EPs (check out their Bandcamp page for those).

The album is dark and brooding, a fusion of thrash, black metal and doom.

The opening track “Primitive baptism”

“Sanctification” (track 2) hits you in the chest, straight out of the gate, with galloping wall of thrash that relents only a little to carve into you with a simple two-note riff. The song continues its almost progressive route, gruff vocals barking out its message, interrupted occasionally with soaring clean vocals.

“Kingdom” (track 3) is in a similar vein. The production is superb. The distorted guitars are warm, the solos cut through clearly. When the chorus hits it sounds familiar and timeless. About halfway through the song grinds to a sudden halt. Arpeggios and growls. This song has an epic, old school thrash feel to it. But thrash that’s been steeped in black metal for a month.

“Agony” (track 4) opens with a rolling drums and bass riff, overlaid with a moving guitar arpeggio (guitarpeggio?) and then by far my favourite riff on the album. This is one of my highlights of the album. It’s a dark, ponderous song that resonates with my current feelings of agony. “I will give all / I will give everything in atrophy / Be my love in / Be my love in agony”. This song is perfection.

“Doomsayer” (track 5) has that classic, old school thrash double guitar thing going on. One guitar cracking out the chords while the other plays an acidic-sounding picked chord over the top of it. Think Beneath the Remains era Sepultura. The song takes about a minute for the vocals to come in—again a combination of gruff death vocals and clean, like a combination of Opeth’s Mikael Åkerfeldt and ex-Sabbat Ritchie Desmond.

To be honest, by this point in the album “Coffin swallower” (track 6) the first half of the song sounds a bit samey to what has come before. The breakdown around halfway through, though, is a nice departure. It is gentle and fragile. “I am alone in the dark  / swallowed in rags in a burial crib”. And then the most magnificent bass twang breaks that spell and we’re back up to full pace.

“Harrowing eyes” (track 7) is a solid, heavy rocky song with a strong melody. “Reaper is coming… to harvest life […] don’t ever forget, her harrowing eyes”. Something cheerful to get you through the day.

“Like wolves to the throat of the lion” (track 8) has an awesome fast-picking opening to a fabulously interesting and quite progressive song. I could listen to this and “Agony” back to back all day. The riffs are sublime. The guitar solo towards the end is simple but gorgeous. A lot of album have a few good opening tracks and then it’s filler until the end. This album throws in arguably their best song just before the end. Something to aim for or perhaps the whole album has been building to this all along.

“The grand congregation” (track 9) opens with a suitably sinister sounding riff that leads to a pounding riff and soaring guitar solo. It’s a glorious summary of everything that has come before it. It closes with pounding guitars and drums, before descending into a thunderstorm and quietly fading to silence.

Conclusion

This album is a journey. I feel both exhilarated and exhausted at the end of it. It is dark, heavy, and brooding journey through themes of loss, abandonment, slavery and life beyond death.

At this point, I’m really searching hard for things to criticise. Some of the songs, in places, do feel quite samey and while Sedgwick’s clean vocals are a bit too operatic for my liking, that’s a minor criticism: they work, they fit the music and the songs brilliantly.

More of this please. Very much more of this. British metal is very much alive and… well, swallowing coffins, I guess.

Review score: 95%

Video

Goya—Kathmandu EP (2017)

Goya—Kathmandu (2017)

Goya—Kathmandu (2017)

Details

Written and performed by Goya. Recorded at Tremolo Recording Studio, Staffordshire, England, UK. Mixed by Dan Rowley and Goya. Mastered by Sam Taylor. Artwork by Sam Taylor. Released 8 December 2017.

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Band

  • Jason Kester—Guitar
  • Sam Taylor—Bass
  • Mark Connolly—Drums

Tracks

  1. Collider (4:02)
  2. Venenatus (13:05)
  3. Ashoka (7:39)
  4. Kathmandu (7:35)

Review

I’ve been sitting on a number of releases for the last few months while the craziness of my personal life gently explodes around me. In a moment of relative calm I decided to take a listen to this EP, released by Goya a couple of months ago.

Flippin’ ‘eck it’s good! So good, in fact, that I’ve listened to it at least eight times in the last few weeks.

Goya are a three-piece instrumental group from Stoke-on-Trent in the Midlands (England, UK) and Kathmandu is their first EP. It’s what guitarist Jase Kester describes as the band’s “initial musical statement”. And what a statement! Not least that the whole EP was recorded live, with all three musicians interacting with one another in the same room. There is no substitute for such chemistry.

goya-portrait

Photograph: Marie Korner Photography

“We’ve tried to take all the things that we love about rock—the riffs, rhythms and sounds, the building blocks and devices—strip away some things that we feel have become clichés of the genre, in an attempt to create ‘absolute music’,” he said in an interview.

The idea of absolute music—or abstract music—developed at the end of the the 18th century. It’s the idea that music is not explicitly about anything, and that “instrumental music transcends other arts and languages to become the discourse of a ‘higher realm'”. It was the belief that music could be more emotionally powerful and stimulating without words.

Collider” (track 1) is built around two riffs that seem to call and answer one another. It’s a bouncy, upbeat song that you can’t but nod along to. It’s a simple post-rock track that kicks things off nicely but it doesn’t give too much away of what is to come.

Venenatus” (track 2) which is Latin for venomous is a 13-minute epic. It may not be poisonous but it’s definitely infectious. The track opens with a delicate guitar piece that playfully rises and falls like a children’s piano piece. Then about a minute in (see the video below) it changes direction completely into a crushingly heavy, doom-laden riff that slices its way through the next few minutes before returning to its delicate roots.

The track seemingly has a life of its own. From its fragile, pseudo-classical intro, through the Sabbath-like darkness, the stark bass and drums-only section, to a decidedly up-tempo movement, a section of feedback, and an acoustic outro that was entirely improvised during the recording session. It’s a prog-lover’s dream.

Ashoka” (track 3) is built around a simple three-note riff that evolves and revolves around a bass heartbeat. The track has both a sense of urgency and mournfulness. Around six and a half minutes in, the music gradually slows and dissolves into distortion and white noise.

The final and title track “Kathmandu” (track 4) brings the EP to a beautiful conclusion. It begins in a quiet, contemplative way; it sounds how I imagine it would be to hear the sun rising in the morning. A few minutes in a bass line drives the song through a few twists and turns until the rather distinctive outro in 6/4 time.

Conclusion

This is a really beautifully crafted EP. It has something for everyone: fragile and delicate guitar, thundering bass lines, crushing doom-filled riffs. This is absolute music—bring your own meaning—and it is absolutely gorgeous. The music speaks to me regardless of my mood: at times invigorating, at times mournful.

In places it reminds me of early Amplifier (a very good thing), and Shutter (a former prog/post rock style band from Inverness); but it always sounds vibrant and… well, without trying to be too pretentious, human. There is an honesty about this music that somehow makes it feel like it’s been the soundtrack to my life that I’ve not heard until now.

If this is Goya’s “initial musical statement”, I am all ears for whatever comes next.

Review score: 98%

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