PREVIEW: Haema—Insurrection EP (2017)

Haema—Insurrection EP (2017)

Haema—Insurrection EP (2017)

About

Debut EP recorded at Initiate Audio & Media by Neil Hudson (Krysthla/Gutworm).

Originally due for release in July 2017, but on 7 August Haema announced on their Facebook page that they have signed to Slipstick Records for the physical and digital worldwide distribution of this their debut EP.; see Slipstick Records for more details.

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Band

  • Jordon Calderwood—Vocals
  • Andrzej Jakubiuk—Guitar
  • Scott Stephenson—Bass
  • David Flitt—Drums

Tracks

  1. Eden
  2. Free Man
  3. Insurrection
  4. Thirte3n
  5. Two Minds

Review

So the email arrives and asks me if I’d be kind enough to review Haema’s forthcoming EP Insurrection. Sure! I’m always up for listening to new music. And then I listened to the preview. BLOODY HELL! THIS IS BRILLIANT!

Haema, a four-piece from Northamptonshire, UK, describe themselves as an experimental, industrialised, groove metal band. But that really doesn’t do them justice. Think: Rage Against the Machine meets Senser meets Circle of Dust meets Clawfinger. But heavier. Okay, let’s throw in some Fear Factory. Brilliant!

The EP opens with Eden (track 1). “What is the point of your existence?” a man asks. “To feel […] without love, without anger, without sorrow, breath is just a clock ticking.” A woman’s voice speaks above a soundscape. Then the riff kicks in. It’s tight and heavy. Jordon Calderwood’s vocals fluctuate between a Zack de la Rocha-style rap/rant and a metalcore-style bark. The song is both in your face and ponderous. There is space, plenty of space, plenty of depth and width to this song. It stops and starts and never ceases to be interesting.

Free man (track 2) rides a bouncy riff right from the get-go that morphs into a rap. “Now you can see / I’m not a puppet on a string / You know, I’m a free man…” The song is aggressive and melodic. It has an urgency and integrity that makes me believe without a shadow of a doubt that he is free.

The title track Insurrection (track 3) opens with the sound of an alarm—if Depeche Mode were in the alarm sound design business. Then a more traditional metal-style riff bursts in. It chugs along, steadily. And every time my head bounces in time to the beat. The vocals in this song remind me at times of early Mordred. There is a fragility about it, which is echoed in the guitar solo about three-quarters of the way through.

Damn! I could listen to this EP all day.

Thirte3n (track 4) is probably the most in-your-face metal track on the EP. It has a repetitive, blast-beat riff that sounds like someone is drilling through granite. The verses have this machine-gun burst riff. It’s interesting and gives the song movement. Then over the top of the carnage there is the most fragile and subtle of light melodies, like a butterfly floating across a battlefield.

The final track Two minds (track 5) is slower, more ponderous: a call and reply style riff that gives way to another RATM-style riff. It starts and. Stops. As it. Twists and turns. Following the. Rhythm of the. Vocals.

Conclusion

Haema EP coming soon

From my first play through of this extraordinary EP I’ve loved this collection of music. Sure people are going to make immediate comparisons to Rage Against The Machine and Senser, as I have done.  But that doesn’t detract from the quality of the playing, or the songwriting, or the production. Listen to the first two albums from Slayer—they wanted to be Mercyful Fate and King Diamond; Metallica played their first few years of gigs passing off Diamond Head and Budgie songs as their own until they found their own voice.

Given the chance Haema will also find their own distinct voice. But as a starting point, this is nearly perfect. I haven’t felt this excited by a not-entirely-metal release in a long time. I had the same burst of adrenaline and excitement listening to this as I did listening to Senser’s Stacked Up album in 1994. This album makes me smile and nod my head along to it for all the right reasons.

More like this please.

Review score: 100%

Bonus video

Disclaimer

In mid-June, Scott Stephenson (Haema’s bassist) contacted me inviting me to preview this EP.

I have no connections to Haema or any related companies or individuals; although I am a big fan of producer Neil Hudson’s previous work. I’m not being paid to review this.

Many thanks to Scott and the rest of Haema.

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Stampin’ Ground—A New Darkness Upon Us (2003)

Stampin' Ground—A New Darkness upon Us (2003)

Stampin’ Ground—A New Darkness upon Us (2003)

Details

Produced, engineering, mixed and mastered by Andy Sneap. Recorded in the summer of 2003 at Backstage Productions, Derbyshire.

Encyclopaedia Metallum | Facebook

Band

  • Adam Frakes-Sime—Vocals
  • Scott Atkins—Guitar
  • Antony “Mobs” Mowbray—Guitar
  • Ian Glasper—Bass
  • Neil Hutton—Drums

Tracks

  1. A new darkness upon us (intro) (instrumental)
  2. Don’t need a reason to hate
  3. Behind the light
  4. Killer of society
  5. Dead from the neck up
  6. The cage
  7. Bear the scars
  8. Betrayal has a face
  9. Pain is weakness (leaving the body)
  10. Unmarked grave
  11. Ashes to scatter
  12. Mantra of a dying world (outro)

Review

I’m running hugely behind on reviews this autumn and for some reason I really thought  I had already written this review. Probably because I’ve listened to this album more than probably any other album I’ve reviewed during this project. It sat in my car CD player for weeks. Last.fm tells me that I’ve played 90 Stampin’ Ground tracks in the last 90 days; they are my fourth most-played band in the last six months.

This was one of those albums that hit a chord with me on my first play through. Stampin’ Ground from Cheltenham, Gloucestershire here in the UK play fusion of hardcore and thrash. Imagine Exodus, Slayer, Hatebreed and Biohazard forming a supergroup and you more or less have their sound down to a tee.

A New Darkness Upon Us (2003) is the band’s fourth, and to date, last full-length album. According to Encyclopaedia Metallum the band formed in 1995 then took a hiatus from 2006 until 2014 when they reformed. I’d definitely love to hear both their back catalogue and whatever they might release next.

Conclusion

Keeping with my tradition of writing really short reviews for the albums that I love most, I find myself writing the conclusion already.

This is an album I could listen to on repeat for days – and have done. While the album isn’t entirely perfect, I can’t but give it a full 10/10: the flaws just don’t seem important enough to quibble over. I can see me listening to this album for a long time yet.

It is discoveries like this one that makes me love this project and probably is why I am running behind on reviews (it’s currently early October): I just don’t want it to end.

Review score: 100%

Small—No Power Without Control EP (2006)

Small—No Power Without Control EP (2006)

Small—No Power Without Control EP (2006)

Details

Produced by SMALL. Engineered and mixed by Francis Caste. Mastered by Allan Douches at West West Side Studio, New York City.

Encyclopedia Metallum

Band

  • Tersim Backle—Vocals
  • Wanted—Guitars
  • Psychiatric Ward—Bass
  • Unknown—Drums

Tracks

  1. Forlorn
  2. Few drops
  3. Stray highway
  4. Wild child
  5. Influence(s)
  6. Entwined mind

Review

It’s funny how an album cover can influence your expectations of what it might sound like. This cover is white, simple, sparse with what looks like a few droplets of water on the front, and now with added fractals on the back cover. I wasn’t expecting much from the EP, to be honest.

No power without control, the only release from French metallers Small, is very much in the ballpark of Philip H Anselmo-fronted groove metal bands Pantera and Superjoint (formerly Superjoint Ritual) and I daresay is a little more consistent than the latter. Guitars and drums are tight, the bass skips along distinctively behind, and Tersim Backle’s vocals are voiced gruffly but there is depth and character to them. It all comes together very nicely.

The EP opens powerfully (and, I guess, if the title is to be believed, then also controllably) with “Forlorn” (track 1) that features a bouncing, tick-tocking riff that recurs throughout the song. The riff morphs and adapts throughout the track adding interest and variety. It’s an impressive opening.

“Few drops” (track 2) kicks off with bass and drums before a flurry of ranting vocals powers the song forward. Behind it the guitars start and stop creating space. Things slow down for a very latter-day Pantera-style riff. This is good stuff.

“Stray highway” (track 3) opens with white noise, and a slightly distorted, picked six-note riff. The song doesn’t have the same strong hooks as the first two, and is quite progressive in its rambling journey but it’s still a good track.

“Wild child” (track 4) features an interesting bendy riff that gives way to a ‘machine-gun’ riff that then morphs into a kind of metal-ska bouncing riff that powers you through the song.

“Influence(s)” (track 5) dances about for a bit with a call and answer-style riff. Then power. Barking vocals. And a twisting and turning riff that goes in stops and starts.

The final song, “Entwined mind” (track 6) has perhaps the most melodic vocals of any of the tracks on this EP, and again uses a very bouncy, almost ska-style riff that slows down and digs in every now and then into a ticking riff.

Conclusion

I’m impressed. This is one of those releases that I wish that I’d discovered months ago, simply so that I could choose to listen to it more.

It is undoubtedly influenced by Pantera and Superjoint but it is certainly not the poorer for that. In the absence of any new releases from either this is a welcome addition to my collection.

Review score: 98%

Slit—Cronaca Nera (2005)

Slit—Cronaca Nera (2005)

Slit—Cronaca Nera (2005)

Details

Recorded at Temple Studios, Malta in 2004. Mixed and produced by David Vella. Mastered by Dave Chang.

Band

  • Frank Calleja—Vocals
  • Daniel Bezzina—Guitar
  • Joker (Jo Kerr)—Basilisk
  • Gerald—Drums

Tracks

  1. [Untitled]
  2. The devil’s location
  3. 7even demons
  4. Showcase
  5. God shaped hole
  6. Myriad
  7. Stone cold, shine
  8. Paean
  9. Integrity
  10. Magnolia part II
  11. Sinner beyond defile
  12. Shedding

Review

There is a lot to like about this album from Maltese metallers Slit. While Encyclopaedia Metallum lists Slit has “thrash/groove metal” the style of this album puts me more in mind of early industrial death metallers Fear Factory fused with Obituary (also death metal).

The production and mixing on this album is superb. The mids and bass are full but punchy. The riffs are ‘chunky’, the vocals are gruff but not distracting. This is one heavy, HEAVY album that stops and starts which allows the riffs space to breathe. Slit have a great sense of timing.

From start to finish this album captured my attention. This isn’t an album to play as background music, this demands a proper listen.

I’ve noticed over the course of this project that the albums that I like most I write less about, as if I want to keep the details to myself; as though I can’t fully sum up my appreciation in words. I guess that’s what I have here. If you are into modern thrash, mildly industrial death, or metalcore then I urge you to seek this album out.

Conclusion

This is an album that I expect to be listened to for a while to come. Each listen reveals something new, nuances that I hadn’t noticed on the last spin (if indeed you can spin mp3s).

I’m impressed. More like this please.

Review score: 98%

Endorphins—Where Evil Lies (2006)

Endorphins—Where Evil Lies (2006)

Endorphins—Where Evil Lies (2006)

Details

Recorded at Chemical Sound Studios in Toronto, Canada in July 2005. Produced by Ian Blurton. Engineered by Rudy Rempel and James Heiderbrecht with Dean Marino. Edited by Chuck Carvalho. Mixed by Church Carvalho and Michael Amaral.

Released on Urgent Music Records, 2006.

http://www.metal-archives.com/bands/Endorphins/6649

Band

  • Michael Amaral—Vocals and guitar
  • Mike Antunes—Guitar
  • Rob Amaral—Bass
  • Patrick Santos—Drums

Tracks

  1. Flux
  2. Welcome to my Hell
  3. And God sent suffering
  4. Diagram
  5. Haunting them
  6. 26 hours
  7. The rise and fall of Lord Hades
  8. Ex
  9. Taste of blood
  10. Living in the shadows

Review

Endorphins was a thrash/groove metal band from Toronto, Canada who split up in 2008, thirteen years after being formed, with one EP and this their first and last full-length album under their metal-studded belts.

You know they say you should never judge a book by its cover? I’m going to be honest and say that I judged this album by its and didn’t expect to like it. I’m not usually so critical about covers but I really didn’t like this one: the colours, the image, the font, even the band name. (I keep thinking it has something to do with dolphins.) Did I get out of bed the wrong side this morning?!

Biologically, endorphins (endogenous morphines) are brain chemicals known as neurotransmitters that are released during stress and pain to reduce our perception of pain and create feelings of euphoria; they act in a similar way to opiates such as morphine and codeine (which metabolises as morphine in the body).

So… which is it to be: pain or euphoria?

Well, as a gentle smack in the face to my design snobbery, it’s really not bad at all. I was pleasantly surprised. The production is solid, the four-piece are well balanced in the mix, the guitars have a full, meaty crunch with plenty of bass dialled in. The vocalist Michael Amaral has a throaty scream, but it’s controlled (like Lamb of God’s D. Randall Blythe) is it’s not just indiscriminate shouting.

Very often when I listen to a band I’ll think, “Oh, this is Godflesh meets Entombed with a sprinkling of Death” or something similar, to give me a ballpark of where it fits in the wide world of rock n’ roll. I’ve struggled to be so specific with this album. It definitely has elements of old school thrash (as well as new old-school thrash outfits like Evile) but with nu-metal and punk elements thrown in for good measure.

The open tracks “Flux” and “Welcome to my Hell” are fast-paced, get-your-blood pumping songs that really make an impact. The latter even features female vocals (courtesy of Jennifer McInnis) which brings an almost ethereal, European dynamic to it.

I’m really impressed with the songwriting on this album. The riffs are different enough to keep things interesting, and the songs are short enough to keep my attention. It’s such a shame that Endorphins split. I’d really like to have heard where this progressed to: the difficult second album.

Just over half way through the pace changes and “26 hours” (track 6) opens with what sounds like an FM radio, before a rolling clean riff and drum pattern fades in and we’re treated to something more atmospheric, more experimental. It’s more rock than metal but I really like it. It reminds me of Inverness, instrumental prog band Shutter meets Pantera’s cover of “Planet caravan”.

Interlude over. Back to the face-ripping metal. The album plays out pretty much as it began: interesting riffs, foot-to-the-floor thrashing.

Except that—and this is my first major criticism of this album—”26 hours” has a profound impact on the album. It changes the pace and feel. It’s like being gently lulled into a state of relaxation only to have a bucket of ice-cold water poured onto you as you lounge on the sofa! If anything, “26 hours” is an album closer.

Placing that track at 6/10 makes this album feel too long. And it’s not: it’s only 12 seconds shy of 45 minutes. It would even fit on one side of a C90 cassette, that’s how old school it is!

I had a similar experience with Mastodon—The Hunter (2011) when I argued that track 3 “Blasteroid” was in the wrong place. It’s funny how your perception of how balanced an album is can be thrown by even just one track.

Conclusion

I’m sorry Endorphins split, they certainly showed spirit, courage and promise. I guess that 13 years was maybe long enough for them to keep plugging away with ‘only’ an EP and a LP to show for it. But then, you never know what their goals and ambitions were.

Whatever the truth, their legacy is a solid metal album (with a rather dodgy cover).

Review score: 70%

Soulfly—3 (2002)

Soulfly—3 (2002)

Soulfly—3 (2002)

Details

Produced by Max Cavalera; Engineered by Otto D’Agnolo; Mixed by Terry Date. “Soulfly III” and “Zumbi” mixed by Max Cavalera and Ott D’Agnolo. Recorded at Chaton Studios, Phoenix, AZ. Second engineer Jamison Weddle. Mixed at the Record Plant, Hollywood, CA. and Chaton Studios.

Band

  • Max Cavalera—Vocals, 4 strings, kermibau, soul, sitar
  • Marcelo Dias—Bass, backing vocals, effects, percussion
  • Mikey Doling—Guitars, percussion
  • Roy Mayarga—Drums, percussion

Tracks

  1. Downstroy
  2. Seek ‘n’ strike
  3. Enter faith
  4. One
  5. L.O.T.M.
  6. Brasil
  7. Tree of pain
  8. One nation
  9. 9-11-01
  10. Call to arms
  11. Four elements
  12. Soulfly III
  13. Sangue de bairro
  14. Zumbi
  15. I will refuse (bonus track)
  16. Under the sun (bonus track)
  17. Eye for an eye (Live at Ozzfest 2000) (bonus track)
  18. Pain (Live at Ozzfest 2000) (bonus track)

Review

When I started this project I sorted out the CDs that I’d received and identified any doubles: CDs that I already owned. Thankfully there were very few; maybe only five. This was one of them.

Probably like many of my generation I first encountered Max Cavalera with Sepultura‘s Beneath the Remains (1989) on Tommy Vance‘s legendary BBC Radio 1 Friday Rock Show. I followed them through the 90s until Max split from the band in 1997 and formed Soulfly. I was disappointed but pragmatic. I’ve seen both bands live since and I actually enjoyed the Sepultura performance more, if I’m honest.

It’s been an interesting week getting familiar with this album again, Soulfly’s third. Top tip: if you are ever in any doubt as to which album you are listening to, chronologically-speaking, just look for the number after the self-titled track on the album. This one, track 12: Soulfly III.

There are some Soulfly albums that I absolutely love, and have found to be quite spiritual experiences listening to. Primitive (2000) is a favourite of mine, and I’m rather fond of Prophecy (2004). This album is quite a mixed bag for me. There are elements that remind me of Sepultura tracks of the Chaos AD (1993) or Roots (1996) era. Other elements offer glimpses of Cavalera’s Nailbomb collaboration with Fudge Tunnel’s Alex Newport. And then there are the reggae/rasta-influenced beats, and halfway through a detour into nu-metal. Excuse me while I shudder for a moment.

The album blasts into life with a solid thrashing “Downstroy”. Is that even a word?!

Next up proof that Metallica got there first with the slickest “Seek and destroy” leaving everyone in their wake to find less comfortable ways to say the same thing. Nuclear Assault claimed “Search and seizure”. Here Cavalera and friends offer “Seek ‘n’ strike”.

Track three, “Enter faith” is another blinding romp.

Next, “One”, builds slowly into a rather melodic, Korn-esque nu-metal anthem, which is better than many offerings in that genre. But would be better elsewhere.

Never fear, the track with the abbreviated title is here. This is a bit of a metal tradition. Think Testament’s C.O.T.L.O.D. (Curse of the legions of death), or Flotsam & Jetsam’s P.A.A.B. (?) and U.L.S.W. (Ugly lying stinking wench). Soulfly this evening offer L.O.T.M.: Last of the Mohicans.

“Brasil” is a typical, Soufly south American-influenced tune, refreshingly with Portuguese lyrics rather than English.

And then things take a bit of a turn with “Tree of pain” which begins with a tripped-out exercise with a female vocalist but morphs into an ugly thrash-fest at 2′ 23″, before returning to the psychedelic musings about seven minutes in. It doesn’t really work for me.

Track nine always takes me a little by surprise: a one minute silence in memory of those who died in the 9-11 attacks on the US.

“Soufly III” is, as ever, an acoustic exploration. I really must create a compilation album of all the “Soulfly n” tracks.

This album came with four bonus tracks, a Pailhead cover, a Black Sabbath cover, and two live tracks. I’m not a huge fan of live tracks posing as bonus tracks, they have to offer something pretty darned special if I am going to get excited. Sadly these don’t.

Conclusion

This is a really solid album. For the most part. There are a few moments where Cavalera takes the songs into strange territories which results in an album which lacks a certain internal congruence or consistency.

But why not, they’re his songs. Why not explore and push the boundaries. For me it doesn’t spoil the album but it doesn’t sit in my mind as amongst their best. In parts it feels as though Cavalera’s looking for inspiration, and relying on Soulfly-by-numbers or reaching back into his back catalogue to help him out.

That said, it’s still a better album than many I’ve listened to.

Review score: 89%

Video

Full album on YouTube.