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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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

Traces—Reflections of a Forlorn Sun EP (2009)

Traces—Reflections of a Forlorn Sun (2009)

Traces—Reflections of a Forlorn Sun (2009)

Details

Mixed and mastered by Josh Middleton at Shredroom Studios and James Scrivener at Theale Studios. Released on Siege of Amida Records.

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Band

  • Phil Wilson—Vocals
  • Dave James—Guitars (lead)
  • Dan—Bass
  • James Scrivener—Keyboards
  • Sam Greenland—Drums

Tracks

  1. To engulf all creed
  2. In the wake of what has perished
  3. Wreathed in flame
  4. The last cycle of light (instrumental)
  5. Reflections of a forlorn sun

Review

Despite enjoying a fair amount of classical music and, well actual symphonies, it came as a bit of a surprise to discover a few years back that I’m not overly keen on symphonic black metal. Black metal: yes, mostly. Symphonic just gets a bit pretentiously over-dramatic for my liking.

But this is really not bad, from homegrown UK metallers Traces, who later changed their name to Saturnian before splitting in 2014.

The EP is quite progressive in places and stops and starts with James Scrivener’s symphonic keyboards weaving silk-like aural tapestries between the blast-beats and surgically-precise guitars. Track 3, “Wreathed in flame”, is probably my favourite track but then it’s probably also the closest to a fairly pure black metal track on the disc.

“The last cycle of light” (track 4) is a very short and gentle piece that acts as a prelude to the title track “Reflections of a forlorn sun”. The vocals are gutteral and bounce from riff to riff until it morphs into a rather sweet melodic passage with something akin to recitative, lyrics spoken in time to the music.

Conclusion

As Traces’ only offering this is a pretty strong one, and that they were a British band is absolutely to be celebrated. I liked the vocals, I liked the guitars and drums, I really liked many of the black metal elements… but no matter how good they may have been, they still didn’t win me over to the symphonic wing of black metal. Sorry, guys!

Review score: 75%

Toxic Holocaust—An Overdose of Death… (2008)

Toxic Holocaust—An Overdose of Death… (2008)

Toxic Holocaust—An Overdose of Death… (2008)

Details

Recorded 11 to 20 May 2008 by Jack Endino at the Soundhouse, Seattle, WA. Released on Relapse Records.

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Band

  • Joel Grind—Vocals, guitar and bass
  • Donny Paycheck—Drums

Tracks

  1. Wild dogs
  2. Nuke the cross
  3. Endless armageddon
  4. Future shock
  5. War game
  6. In the name of science
  7. March from hell
  8. Gravelord
  9. War is hell
  10. The lord of the wasteland
  11. Feedback, blood, and distortion
  12. Death from above
  13. City of a million graves

Review

And the award for metal band logo that looks most like some kind of geometric shape jigsaw goes to… Toxic Holocaust, multi-instrumentalist Joel Grind’s speed/thrash/black metal outfit.

This is one of those albums that when I heard the first song my heart sank a little. Opening track “Wild dogs” isn’t entirely representative of the whole album. It has a bit of a raw, punk feel which contorts about halfway through into a fairly palatable early thrash-style riff.

But the rest of the album improves greatly. It has quite an old school thrash vibe to it, in the same way that Evile does. The more the album progressed the more I really began to get into it… riff after riff, twist after twist, classic 80s-style thrash with modern production.

Conclusion

If anything, in opinion this album could have done with a little editing, fewer tracks perhaps, to deliver a more consistent and focused album. As it is, it’s a pretty decent thrash album.

Review score: 88%

Tangorodrim—Justus Ex Fide Vivit (2007)

Tangorodrim—Justus Ex Fide Vivit (2007)

Tangorodrim—Justus Ex Fide Vivit (2007)

Details

Band

  • Heller Larenuf—Vocals, guitars and bass (riffs end vocals)
  • Terno Graderz—Drums (volcano grind)

Tracks

  1. When heirs of the horned shamelessly attack
  2. No light
  3. Cold flame of death
  4. The wolves are also coming…
  5. Justus ex fide vivit (Latin for “The just shall live by faith”)
  6. Without eyes and anything above

Review

This is the fourth full-length album from Russian-Israeli black metal band Tangorodrim. If readers of Tolkien are curiously wondering why the name looks so familiar, the name Tangorodrim (or Thangorodrim) is indeed taken from the Middle Earth world of JRR Tolkien; it means “Mountains of Oppression”. According to The Lord of the Rings wiki:

As Morgoth finished rebuilding Angband, the slag and debris created by his vast tunnelings was plied into three huge volcanoes, collectively known as Thangorodrim. He hastened then to rebuild his forces, breeding innumerable orcs and other fell beasts.

The album, sadly, doesn’t live up to the Tolkien heritage. It is more-or-less black metal by numbers: a treble-heavy mix of transistor-quality distortion played over a bag of jangling cutlery, and sneered over by a Tom G Warrior-wannabe.

Which isn’t a bad comparison. The six track EP reminds me very much of Hellhammer. But while that Tom Gabriel Warrior/Martin Ain early collaboration forged new trenches into the battlefield of heavy metal and embodied a determination, enthusiasm and naivety I don’t sense the same thing here. That path has already been forged. This is not much more than pastiche.

That said, the EP does improve the deeper into it you delve.

Conclusion

If you like your metal served black and with a Hellhammer flavour then I can thoroughly recommend it. However, if Hellhammer and early Celtic Frost are your thing then I recommend you stick with the originals. This is the metal equivalent of buying a fake Rolex from a Singaporean market stall.

Review score: 49%

Transcending Bizarre?—The Serpent’s Manifolds (2008)

Transcending Bizarre?—The Serpent’s Manifolds (2008)

Transcending Bizarre?—The Serpent’s Manifolds (2008)

Details

Co-produced by Transcending Bizarre? Guitars and bass recorded at Alright Studio. Vocals, violins and flute recorded at Underground Sound Studio. Mixed and mastered at Underground Sound Studio, Thessaloniki, Greece.

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Band

  • Kotzak—Vocals
  • Haris—Guitars and drum programming
  • Dim—Guitars and bass
  • S.A. Akis (RIP 2010)—Drum programming and samples

Tracks

  1. Dat rosa mel apibus (intro)
  2. Irreversible
  3. Cosmic zero equation
  4. The serpent’s manifolds
  5. Dimension hell
  6. Cell
  7. Writhing coils of construction
  8. The music of the spheres
  9. The navelless one
  10. Infinite

Review

Transcending Bizarre? are, according to the metal archives, an avant-garde/post-black metal band from Greece. When I think of avant-garde metal, I think of the likes of Voivod, Celtic Frost, Diabolical Masquerade, Opera IX, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum. This is less avant garde and more like how symphonic black metal ought to sound.

“Cell” (track 6), for instance, is perfect symphonic metal, reminiscent of when Metallica performed with the San Francisco Philharmonic for their S&M album. This doesn’t sound like disposable keyboard-padding to fill the gaps of a blast-beat frenzy, this is a metal band collaborating with an orchestra and choir together creating a soundscape that is magnificent in its ambition.

But it’s good! It’s powerfully good.

The highlight of the album for me, besides “Cell”, is “The music of the spheres” (track 8) which captures the same mad genius that has infected Devin Townsend in recent years. It is heavy, it is epic, and in places is utterly bonkers. I love it.

The album closes with “Infinite” (track 10), which contrary to the title lasts 9′ 14″ – the longest track on the album. It opens with something akin to one of those lullaby albums where metal songs are interpreted in the style of cot mobiles, before morphing into a full, symphonic black metal explosion of riffs and phrases. Then about three minutes in it quietens to an orchestral, pastoral soundscape and builds again, morphing and twisting with emotional guitar solos, until about two-thirds of the way through the track the ‘anger’ and metal return. And then part way through a riff pattern it ends.

Conclusion

From the cover alone, I wasn’t expecting much from this album. But boy! did it surprise me. This is how symphonic metal should sound. In places it follows the traditional symphonic metal patterns, but for the most part it goes off-piste and takes us on a dangerous and exciting exploration of what else is possible when you mix such different genres of music.

While this isn’t, for me, as clinically beautiful an album as say Diabolical Masquerade—Death’s Design: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (2007), it’s still a highly impressive album,

Review score: 97%