Krysthla—The minor mystery of death (official music video)

UK death metal band Krysthla are preparing for the release of their second album Peace In Our Time (2017) with the release of this video for “The minor mystery of death”, the opening track on the album.

The album is great. It’s out on Friday 7 April 2017.

To support the release they touring the UK throughout April to July. I’m planning on seeing them when they come to Scotland.

Krysthla UK tour dates 2017

  • 17 April—Peterborough, The Met
  • 21 April—Bolton, The Alma
  • 22 April—Warrington, The Brewhouse
  • 28 April—Cardiff, Fuel
  • 05 May—High Wycombe, Phoenix
  • 06 May—Worthing, Bar 42
  • 07 May—Bournemouth, The Anvil
  • 12 May—Inverness, Mad Hatters
  • 13 May—Dundee, Beat Generator
  • 14 May—Edinburgh, Bannermans
  • 26 May—Northampton, King Billy Rock Bar
  • 27 May—London, The Devonshire Arms
  • 28 May—Leicester, Uprising Aftermath @ The Firebug
  • 03 June—Kettering, The Prince
  • 24 June—Norwich, B2
  • 01 July—Milton Keynes, Craufurd Arms
  • 22 July—Gloucester, Amplified Festival
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PREVIEW: GraViL—No More Forgiveness (2017)

Gravil—No More Forgiveness (2017)

GraViL—No More Forgiveness (2017)

Details

Produced by Dan Abela (Voices, Sarah Jezebel Deva). Self-released on Friday 5 May 2017.

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Band

  • Grant Stacey—Vocals
  • Tony Dando—Lead and rhythm guitars
  • Charlie Webster—Rhythm guitars
  • Sparx—Bass and backing vocals
  • Perrin—Drums

Tracks

  1. Detonate
  2. Are we alive
  3. I am the blood
  4. Plagues, thieves and murderers *
  5. Locate the traitor
  6. Choke in silence
  7. Fractured, divided
  8. Decommissioned
  9. Forever is a prison
  10.  One eyed king

Review

Until this album dropped into my email inbox, I’d never heard of London melodic death metallers GraViL. But they’ve been around for a few years. Their debut album Thoughts of a Rising Sun landed in 2013, the same year they headlined the Takeover Stage at the Download Festival, and a year before they played at Hammerfest and then supported HellYeah on their UK tour.

That experience shows in this their second full-length album. I’m told that this is a far heavier album than their debut. I can’t comment on the comparison, but it’s certainly a relentless barrage of first class British death metal.

According to Grant Stacey, vocalist and primary lyricist, the album has, woven through it, an underlying theme of loss in 2016: the personal loss of a baby a few years ago, the deaths of close friends, the loss of the EU through Brexit, and the loss of America to Trump.

The album kicks off to a majestic start with “Detonate” (track 1). A pounding wall of guitars and bass, drums kicked and beaten to within an inch of their life, and Stacey’s vocals passionately screamed. There are some lovely, classic metal guitar patterns towards the beginning of this track: guitar one plays a riff, guitar two joins in for the reply. The more I listen to this one track the more I connect with it. “I can’t let you go… can’t let you go!” Stacey screams. This could easily be talking about my experience of 2016, too.

“Are we alive” (track 2) opens with a galloping riff and soaring guitar solo before the lyrics explore the feeling of losing control in the face of change. Again, another theme that resonates with me these past two years. This track has more of a metalcore feel than the opener.

“I am the blood” (track 3) feels like the second part of “Are we alive”. It features a melodic, multi-voice chorus that gives it a bit of a nu-metal feel (but not in a pejorative sense). About two-thirds of the way through it heads for a fairly inevitable solo and middle eight but the predictability doesn’t detract from the excellence of its execution. It’s a welcome and carefully penned hiatus from the onslaught.

“Plagues, thieves and murderers” (track 4) is one of my favourite tracks on the album. In parts it has an almost ethereal feel, a haunting wave played over a deep, pounding beat that stops and starts, and twists its way through the track. Towards the end they do that thing with the recorded voices from a TV show over the top of the music. I like that thing. It’s a steady, stomping track. “Slow burn” indeed.

“Choke in silence” (track 5) ends the first half of the album with a very Lamb of God-style riff that they take and twist into their own shape and run with it. This song features the best solo of the album so far—more solos like this please. Such is the strength of this album that we have another very strong song buried in the middle of the album.

“Locate the traitor” (track 6) sounds like how I imagine an underground train that had to bore its own way through an erupting volcano might sound if it hit a particularly gnarly piece of rock. It has an unusually melodic chorus and a rather more delicate middle eight, but it all works together beautifully.

“Fractured, divided” (track 7) has an almost folk-metal feel in its opening riff. It features guest vocals from Theresa Smith (Metaprism). Grant Stacey: “This is again, a tale of me dealing with loss. It tackles the feeling I had that I was solely to blame for the  baby’s loss and that it was my fault that I couldn’t give my partner the one thing she wanted so much. I felt like my heart and soul was being pulled apart.” It’s a powerfully emotional song, a fine balance between light and dark, between melody and noise. Theresa Smith’s vocals take this song to another level. Beautiful stuff.

“Decommissioned” (track 8) will be GraViL’s first single from the album (see their lyric video below). It’s a terrifically punchy track that talks—screams—about friendship betrayal. As with a few of their songs, I love the tranquil melody that glides effortlessly above the pummelling machine beneath.

“Forever is a prison” (track 9) has a really interesting starting-stopping riff that feels like it’s changing direction or pace every few bars. This gives the song quite an unsettling feeling, which is fitting given that the theme of the lyrics includes domestic abuse. About halfway through the song morphs into a beating, primal bass and drum rhythm, over which sings a melodic guitar solo.  The guitar solos are few and far between on this album, which is a real shame as when they do come they are really great, and add something special to each track.

The first time I listened to the final track “One eyed king” (track 10) I couldn’t believe they kept this track till last. It’s so different to the rest of the album. It’s brilliant! It opens with a grinding bass riff through which weaves a staccato guitar riff that builds and pummels into a full-on guitar-led assault. About a minute in the vocals bounce and build into a full-on rant. Each time I listen to this song I can’t help but smile: this song is perfect.

And then silence.

Conclusion

It’s often in the silence after an album has burned itself out that you really begin to appreciate its greatness. And this is a great album.

This is an album that was written largely online using home recording equipment, and over the phone. The lyrics were written within a week.

People often talk about the “difficult second album”. Well, GraViL have certainly made it sound easy—though, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t. They have poured out and honed their creativity into a solid body of music that feels both raw yet honed.

This is an exciting, fresh album from an up-and-coming British band. I just hope that the disappointments about the state of the music industry that are reflected in track 4 “Plagues, thieves and murderers” doesn’t destroy their passion before it flourishes more.

This is certainly a band to keep an eye and an ear out for. If this album is in any way indicative of the health of British metal just now then we are in a really great place right now. Thank you GraViL, 2017 is looking up already.

Check it out on Friday 5 May 2017.

Review score: 98%

Bonus video

Bonus: Virvum—Illuminance (2016)

Virvum—Illuminance (2016)

Virvum—Illuminance (2016)

Details

Mixed and mastered by C. Brandes at Iguana Studios. Drums recorded at S. Egli and Hardbeat Studios. Vocals recorded at R. Beier and Ashburn Productions. Released on 16 September 2016 as an independent release on Bandcamp.

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Band

  • Vocals—Bryan Berger
  • Guitars—Nic Gruhn
  • Guitars—Toby Koelman
  • Bass—Arran McSporran (session musician)
  • Drums—Diego Morenzoni

Tracks

  1. The cypher supreme
  2. Earthwork
  3. Illuminance
  4. Ad rigorem
  5. Tentacles of the sun
  6. Elemental shift
  7. I: A new journey awaits
  8. II: A final warming shine: ascension and trespassing

Review

Illuminance is the debut album from Swiss progressive death metal band Virvum, who hail from Zurich and it’s really rather good.

The album opens with instrumental The cypher supreme (track 1) which initially doesn’t seem to promise anything new. It begins with an intricate, chopping riff but then opens up into a harmonised passage that reminded me of something from early 90s Steve Vai or latter-day Devin Townsend. The instruments dance around one another, they swoop and vie for attention. The track ends with a chugging, proper old school death metal riff that wouldn’t seem out of place on an Obituary album.

Earthwork (track 2) introduces us to Berger’s vocals, which are – as you might expect – deep, and gruff, so-called ‘Cookie Monster’ vocals. But in places they are double-tracked with a more metalcore, shouty vocal. The song showcases their progressive leanings with avant garde solos, and a song structure that twists and turns. Curiously, it stops suddenly around four minutes in and plays out as an ambient introduction to the title track Illuminance (track 3).

Tentacles of the sun (track 5) is one of my favourite tracks on the album. It beings at breakneck speed and promises to be a fairly standard death metal track, with an interesting preces and response-style vocal. But around a minute in to the 4:54 song, things slow down. A fabulous bass run weaves around clean arpeggios, until even that slows to a trickle, before exploding to a luscious chord sequence. It sounds like how dawn should sound every morning.

The album closes with a pair of songs, I: A new journey awaits (track 7) and II: A final warming shine: ascension and trespassing (track 8). The new journey begins instrumentally. It is peaceful and regal, it is grand and pompous.

(Oddly, MusicBee reports that the song is 3:10 but it ends at 1:42 then leaps to 3:10 before moving to the next song.)

The final track is more of the same but draws on elements from track 7. Around three minutes in things slow down again, for what is quite a recognisable pattern. And then the build… Around 7 minutes in the song takes another meandering twist which plays itself out, but for a brief thematic return to the death metal vocals and thrashing of earlier.

Conclusion

I’ve listened to this album quite a bit over the last few months. So I’ve come to appreciate it rather well. While it’s not my favourite album of the year, it is rather good. It has a few really beautiful moments suspended in an opus of fairly stock progressive death metal. But it’s those beautiful moments that transform this album from being just another death metal album.

It’s hard when listening to the album that this is just Virvum’s debut offering. This is a band, I suspect, who are still finding their voice. I’m excited to see where they go next, because as a start this is a fabulous place from which to begin.

Review score: 85%

Toxic Bonkers—Seeds of Cruelty (2004)

Toxic Bonkers—Seeds of Cruelty (2004)

Toxic Bonkers—Seeds of Cruelty (2004)

Details

Recorded at P J-Reda Studio in April 2003. Mastered at Kutno in February 2004.

Encyclopedia Metallum | Facebook | Bandcamp

Band

  • Qboot—Vocals
  • Mumin—Guitars
  • Sme—Guitars
  • Grela—Bass and vocals
  • Klimer—Drums

Tracks

  1. Seeds of cruelty
  2. Homeless
  3. TV god
  4. Wrong way direction
  5. Weep
  6. Poisoned
  7. Can you see
  8. Free world
  9. Liars
  10. Don’t be afraid
  11. Vision

Review

Seeds of Cruelty represents album number three of five for Polish death/grindcore  metallers Toxic Bonkers and it is quite tremendous.

They sound like a perfect fusion of Florida’s Entombed with Brummie grindcore pioneers Napalm Death, certainly from the turn of the millennium.

The production on the album is a little poor, it’s very quiet which I particularly noticed while switching between Obituary, Napalm Death and Toxic Bonkers albums to compare them. The better supported artists certainly enjoy a clearer sound. But it’s nothing that turning up the volume doesn’t fix!

But the playing is fabulous. Not a note out of place. The bass and drums are tight, the guitars produce a wall of sound, which Qboot yells over.

The whole album weighs in at just a little over half an hour and it certainly doesn’t outstay its welcome. I would quite happily have listened to an album twice its length.

Conclusion

While I’m not overly fond of the band name, or the album cover, the music is fabulous and that, after all, is what it’s all about. If you like your grindcore to have a socio-political and anti-nazi slant, then I thoroughly recommend Toxic Bonkers.

Other than the production, I really can’t fault this album. It’s going up there with my favourites from this project.

Review score: 100%

BONUS Ocean of Grief—Fortress of my Dark Self EP (2016)

Ocean of Grief—Fortress of my Dark Self (2016)

Ocean of Grief—Fortress of my Dark Self (2016)

Details

Release 12 February 2016 on GS Productions (Russian).

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Band

  • Charalabos Oikonomopoulos—Vocals
  • Filippos Koliopanos—Guitars
  • Dimitra Zarkadoula—Guitars
  • Giannis Koskinas—Bass
  • Aris Nikoleris—Keyboards
  • Thomas Motsios—Drums

 

Tracks

  1. Spiritual fortress
  2. House of misery
  3. Futile regrets
  4. Drowned in nostalgia
  5. The birth of chaos

Review

Back in May I received a kind email from Phil Koliopanos inviting me to review his band, Ocean of Grief’s new EP Fortress of my Dark Self. Here’s the review, a couple of months later. Sorry about that.

Melodic doom/death metal band Ocean of Grief were formed in Athens, Greece in late 2014 drawing inspiration mostly from Saturnus and Slumber. This is their first official release.

My immediate response after listening to the album on Soundcloud was to email their guitarist saying simply “Wow! This is great! Loving is so far.”

Overall the EP reminds me very much of early Gothic-era Paradise Lost. And that, for me, is a good thing. A very good thing.

The EP opens with “Spiritual fortress” (track 1).  A grand organ sound introduces the song, over which the guitars weave a lamentful melody. Gutteral, deep, growling vocals carve their way through the music. It is a doomy, gothic, lamentation.

“House of misery” (track 2) begins with a descending guitar arpeggio that builds to another beautiful and simple guitar melody. “Futile regrets” (track 3) is an up-beat and rocky number that employs another simple melodic guitar line that carries the song. About halfway through the band drops out for a guitar-only middle eight that introduces a new tick-tocking riff.

“Drowned in nostalgia” (track 4) opens slowly and gently. It’s the eeriest, most haunting track on the EP. Which is built on later as the vocals descend to a whisper.

The EP closes with “The birth of chaos” (track 5), another upbeat (for doom!) track

Conclusion

If I was looking for some criticism, I might say that there is not much variety in the EP. One song almost blends into the next. But on a release of this quality I can’t fault it on that. The songs are solid, tight and hold enough interest and individual character that it simply reminds the listener that these songs are part of a coherent collection by the same band—part of the family. Albeit a dark and lamentful family that sings tales of death and doom.

All in all, a brilliant first release that took me back to everything that I loved about Gothic (Paradise Lost) but to which Ocean of Grief added their own character and other influences.

More like this please.

Review score: 95%

Second Shadow—Line Up (Execution Style) (2005)

Second Shadow—Line Up (Execution Style) (2005)

Second Shadow—Line Up (Execution Style) (2005)

Details

Recorded by Hans Eidsgard at Jailhouse Studios, Vennesla, Norway in June 2005. Mixed by Hans Eidsgard and Second Shadow. Produced by Second Shadow.

Band

  • Jon Vassbø—Vocals
  • Preben Mosfjell—Guitars
  • Ramses Argento—Bass guitar
  • Stig Reinhardtsen—Drums

Tracks

  1. Torture
  2. Line up (execution style)
  3. Murder v2.0
  4. Third floor malevolence
  5. Hands of murder
  6. Mind devoured

Review

This six track EP from Norway’s Second Shadow represents their only official release, other than a three track demo in 2004. Unlike many bands their EP doesn’t rework or try to improve any of the tracks on the demo.

Their sound reminds me very much of the Florida death metal scene from the mid- to late-90s. Think: Morbid Angel, Death, and especially Obituary. There is a meatiness to the guitar tone, the bass guitar lurks just beneath the guitars, drums and cymbals rattle alongside, and Vassbø growls away in the foreground.

Like many death metal albums I’ve listened to this is quite formulaic. There’s not much that is new. They don’t seem to bring anything particularly unique on the genre. It’s solid, listenable, but probably quite disposable death metal.

Conclusion

Despite sounding a bit like Obituary-wannabes I rather enjoyed this short slab of Norwegian death metal. If it came on, I certainly wouldn’t switch it off.

One thing about this album to note, however, is that it really does sound much better played loudly. The way metal is supposed to be listened to, right?

Review score: 70%

Scythian—Suffering to the Conquered demo (2007)

Scythian—Suffering to the Conquered demo (2007)

Scythian—Suffering to the Conquered demo (2007)

Details

Recorded and mixed by S. Vrath at Pulse and NLE Studios between7 December 2006 and 7 May 2007.

Encyclopaedia Metallum | Bandcamp

Band

  • S. Vrath—Vocals and bass guitar
  • A. Satyruss—Guitars
  • J. C. Volgard—Drums and backing vocals

Tracks

  1. Astral assassins
  2. Shattered idols
  3. Pray to war
  4. Spires to ashes
  5. Suffering the conquered
  6. Holocaust (Bathory cover)

Review

England isn’t particularly renowned for its death metal bands. Scythian appear to have come to put a stop to all of that. And to be fair, given that this is only their demo (they have since been signed to a label) they did a pretty decent job of it.

On Encyclopaedia Metallum this release received two reviews, both gave it 100%. What did I think about it, well, a little history first, I think.

The Scythians were a nomadic tribe of Iranian Eurasians who dominated the central European steppes (from modern Czech Republic in the west to central China and south Siberia in the east) from around the 9th to the first centuries BC. They were amongst the earliest peoples to master mounted warfare.

As a demo this is an impressive release. The production is great, it doesn’t sound too tinny (which is my biggest criticism about many a metal album), there is a depth to the sound and enough bass to get a sense of how powerful they might sound live.

“Astral assassins” (track 1) opens with an eerie soundscape for 50 seconds before launching into a fabulous double-kick-drum-led riff. However, no sooner had I uttered the words “Oh… I like that” out loud, the band hit the Tasmanian Devil button and they upped the pace and went all-out thrash-style mental on the track. They bring the pace back to that opening riff about three and a half minutes in, and that’s where I think they are best and the heaviest. I like fast, thrashy music. But in those few moments they sound heavier and nastier than almost anything I’ve ever heard.

“Shattered idols” (track 2). Ah, good! They’ve been listening. It opens with a doom-like riff that chugs away at the bottom end, and then… no! They’ve done it again. Someone has flicked the switch from 33 to 45 rpm. For the majority of the song, however, they play around riff that grinds away like some kind of underground drill boring through granite.

And so the rest of the demo goes with Scythian morphing from thrashing moments of breakneck speed to ponderously heavy moments of doom-laden riff upon bouncing doom-laden riff. The music sounds like a fusion of death, thrash, black and doom metal. And for the most part it really works.

The final track is a cover of black metal Bathory‘s “Holocaust” (from their Blood Fire Death album, 1988). It has an authentic early thrash/black metal production to it, which is nice, with the bass levels rolled back a bit.

Conclusion

Overall, I enjoyed this. It doesn’t quite the spot for me but there are some brilliant moments that genuinely made me smile when I heard them for the first time. I’d certainly be interested to check out their newer material on Bandcamp.

Review score: 80%