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.

Encyclopedia Metallum

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%

Seasick—Bestie Mensch (1998)

Seasick—Bestie Mensch (1998)

Seasick—Bestie Mensch (1998)

Details

Produced by Tom Tom and Seasick. Tracks 1 to 10 recorded at Exit Section Zweinbrücken from 23 to 27 May 1998; mixed from 16 to 18 July 1998.

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Band

  • Chain—Vocals
  • Mingo—Guitar
  • N.O.—Bass
  • Nussi—Drums

Tracks

  1. Was ist ein Menschenleben wert
  2. Macht
  3. Mutter Hure
  4. Only Agression
  5. Bis das Blut gefriert
  6. Endstation Hass
  7. Erst geboren schon verloren!
  8. Meins!
  9. Human madness
  10. Nazi bastard
  11. Perfection (bonus track)
  12. Born for chaos (bonus track)
  13. Children of paradise (bonus track)
  14. Track 14 (bonus track)

Review

There is a curious thing going on with this album: like your average Rammstein album, the lyrics are almost completely in German. But the packaging is almost entirely in English!? Anyway…

This album has a very old school thrash feel to it, right down to the lo-fi, raw-sounding early Sepultura-style production (think Schizophrenia). As such, the album sounds better a) played loud, and b) played on something with a half-decent graphic equalizer.

If you’re looking to improve your German, there are plenty of spoken parts scattered throughout this release, which gives it a bit of a European, indie film feel in places.

Tracks 1 to 10 belong to the Bestie Mensch album (which you can still hear for free on Bandcamp). The remaining four tracks are bonuses. Only tracks 11 to 13 were listed on the CD sleeve notes and appear to be their demo promo from 1995.

Conclusion

There is nothing particularly innovative to be found on this album. It sounds for the most part like rather generic old school thrash played on a cassette of a cassette of a cassette.

But as such it does rather have a bit of old school charm about it. It is raw, it is passionate… it’s human. And I really cannot criticise it for that. In a world that tries to be too polished and squeaky and clinically professional I really admire the honesty and earthiness of this release.

Incidentally, Bestie Mensch is German for The Human Beast.

Review score: 75%

Raging Speedhorn—Live and Demos (2004)

Raging Speedhorn—Live and Demos (2004)

Raging Speedhorn—Live and Demos (2004)

Details

Double-CD package: CD one is live, CD two is demos. All live tracks were recorded from the desk at various locations by a combination of Dave Lamb (The Garage) and Dave Stokes (Ozzfest and the University of Manchester); additional crowd recordings were taken by John Nixon.

All demo tracks were recorded at Premier Studios, Corby between 1999 and 2001. All were either produced and engineered by Iain Wetherall or Co-produced by Iain Wetherall and Raging Speedhorn.

Band

  • John Loughlin—Vocals
  • Bloody KevVocals
  • Tony Loughlin—Guitar
  • Gareth Smith—Guitar
  • Jay Thompson—Guitar
  • Dave Thompson—Bass
  • Darren Smith—Bass
  • Gordon Morison—Drums

Tracks

CD1 : Live

  1. Crowd Noise [Live At Manchester University 27 October 2002]
  2. Knives And Faces [Live At The Garage, 16 August 2000]
  3. Chronic Youth [Live At Ozzfest, 26 May 2001]
  4. Redweed [Live At Ozzfest, 26 May 2001]
  5. High Whore [Live At Manchester University, 27 October 2002]
  6. Mandan [Live At The Garage, 16 August 2000]
  7. Dungeon Whippet [Live At The Garage, 16 August 2000]
  8. Scrapin’ The Resin [Live At The Garage, 16 August 2000]
  9. The Gush [Live At Ozzfest, 26 May 2001]
  10. Superscud [Live At The Garage, 16 August 2000]
  11. Ride With The Devil [Live At The Garage, 16 August 2000]
  12. Random Acts Of Violence [Live At The Garage, 16 August 2000]

CD2: Demos

  1. Redweed
  2. Mandan
  3. Slow Process
  4. Hit Single / Thumper
  5. High Whore
  6. Knives And Faces
  7. Down
  8. Random Acts Of Violence
  9. Death Row Dogs
  10. Spitting Blood
  11. Necrophiliac Glue Sniffer
  12. Superscud

Review

Live side

What is rather nice about the live CD from UK sludgecore metallers Raging Speedhorn, is the consistency of recording from the sound-desk. This could easily be a recording of one single concert, rather than pieced together from three different gigs across three different years.

What I have really enjoyed about this disc is that it contains only songs that I’ve never heard before, having earlier this year reviewed Before The Sea Was Built (2007).

Raging Speedhorn seem to have a good live sound, a good rapport with the crowd (to the point that they have to repeatedly tell the crowd to keep off the stage), and a great energy. You get the sense that this is a good band to watch.

The music is suitably sludgy, a bit shouty but solid. Definitely something I would willingly return to.

Demos side

And now for many of these songs again (plus a handful more) but in demo form…

Many band demos sound very rough, recorded on whatever the modern equivalent of a Tascam 4-track portastudio is, but these tracks are well balanced and could very well be released without too many people not realising that they’re not the finished articles… or have I been listening to too much 1980s hardcore today?

The songs have energy and drive. Even tracks like “Hit Single/Thumper” (track 4) which didn’t grab me immediately have a fun hook that had me smiling and bobbing my head by two minutes’ in. Good stuff.

I rather enjoyed “Down” (track 7) which opens with something not too far removed from Metallica’s “The Thing That Cannot Be” but transitions into a very sludgy groove that crawls beneath a barked vocal. As does “Death row dogs” (track 9)… in fact, come to think of it, that description doesn’t really narrow down any of the songs. This is a resounding sludgecore-fest!

Conclusion

Live albums can often be hit or miss affairs; albums of songs demos even more so. But this release really nails it in both camps.

The live songs have drive and an energy that I’m sure give you a  good sense of what Speedhorn’s concerts are like. All good stuff, good stuff.

Finally, if you’re curious to see the cover before it was given a negative treatment, here you go:

What the original photo looked like

What the original photo looked like

Review score: 75%

Lamort—A cold godless machine (2011)

Lamort—A cold godless machine (2011)

Lamort—A cold godless machine (2011)

Details

Recorded between December 2010 and March 2011. Engineered by David Mays. Head on a stick recordings. Produced by David Mays and Lamort. Mastered by Martin Pullin of Eden Sound, Melbourne.

Encyclopaedia Metallum

Band

  • Alex Williams—Vocals
  • David Mays—Guitar
  • Chris McManus—Bass and backing vocals
  • Reuben Stone—Keyboards and synth
  • Matt Cleary—Drums

Tracks

  1. Cold. Godless.
  2. Mother of sin
  3. Secular conviction
  4. Lord of flies

Review

[Trying to play review catch-up again, so I’ll try to keep this short but sweet.]

I first listened to this four track EP from Lamort in the car. It didn’t really do it justice but I did the gist of things.

My first impression was this: it sounded like how I would imagine it would be if someone was trying to listen to a symphonic orchestra in the concert hall on the other side of a building site. While being attacked by zombies.

Lamort (from the French for ‘death’) is a symphonic black metal band from Australia. Home those other influential hard rock and metal bands such as AC/DC… and erm… that lot.

Transferring operations to my PC and things begin to sound much better than my car stereo had suggested. It’s melodic. It’s symphonic. it’s dramatic. It’s not too bad, to be honest.

Track three had me laughing in my car the other day. At about 4′ 56″ into the song Williams sings, what I first heard as, “I reach out for my shopping knife!”

“What?!” I exclaimed. “What is a shopping knife?” I imagined that the markets round his way are either far more violent than I am am used to, or far more pick your own.

“Yeah, mate! The beef’s all there, just cut off the size of slab you need. You’ll find a kni… oh! I see you’ve brought your own.”

Turns out he was singing “sharpened knife”. That makes more sense.

Despite the almost pantomine (albeit a dark, east end of London, Victorian-era Jack the Ripper-style pantomime) lyrics I rather enjoyed the drama of the final track “Lord of Flies”. It’s nothing like the novel; not as I remember it.

Conclusion

It’s symphonic black metal. It does exactly what it says on the black altar of sacrifice. And it does it was dramatic aplomb.

Despite the poor introduction, I’ve warmed to this cold godless machine. Good effort!

Review score: 75%

Arch Enemy—Wages of Sin (2001)

Arch Enemy—Wages of Sin (2001)

Arch Enemy—Wages of Sin (2001)

Details

Recorded at Studio Fredman, Gothenburg, Sweden, in December 2000. Produced by Fredrik Nordstrom and Michael Amott. Mixed by Andy Sneap and mastered at Backstage Studios, Ripley, England, in January 2001.

There were huge problems with the release of the album in the American and European markets. The release date is for the Japanese version by Toy Factory and that version only had one CD with the first eleven tracks and no video. That is the version we have here. The two CD version for Europe and the Americas wasn’t released until 18 March 2002.

Band

  • Angela Gossow—Vocals
  • Christopher Amott—Guitars
  • Michael Amott—Guitars
  • Sharlee D’Angelo—Bass
  • Daniel Erlandsson—Drums

Tracks

  1. Enemy within
  2. Burning angel
  3. Heart of darkness
  4. Ravenous
  5. Savage messiah
  6. Dead bury their dead
  7. Web of lies
  8. The first deadly sin
  9. Behind the smile
  10. Snow bound
  11. Shadows and dust

Review

Arch Enemy are one of those bands that most people just assume I’m already into, and they often express surprise when I tell them that other than four tracks ripped from magazine-cover CDs I have never really listened to them. And they would be right, of course. I too have often felt that I should listen to them, but like many things in life it comes down to priorities and I have chosen to spend my money elsewhere. It turns out, though, that I may have had my priorities in all the right places.

Wages of Sin is Arch Enemy’s fourth studio album, and their first with (then new, now former) vocalist Angelo Gossow. And that’s where my main issues lie, to be honest. It’s not that she’s a female vocalist—there are plenty of female vocalists that I like. I would be saying the same if the vocalist had been male: I just don’t enjoy the vocal performance on this record.

The music is great: it’s heavy, it’s melodic, there are some amazing hooks and dynamics. And then this brutal vocal track bores through the middle of it all. In places it’s like an incessantly barking dog or a gurgling sink. And it’s not that I don’t appreciate growling death metal-style vocals. I love Opeth and Lamb of God, for example. But the vocals on this recording are so monotonous. It is such a wasted opportunity to add something amazing to this amazingly powerful music. As I listened to this album I could hear the vocal melodies that got away: something powerful, something bombastic, something that fuses the clean with the gruff. This album calls for a mixture of Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden) meets John Bush (Armored Saint/ex-Anthrax) meets Michael Åkerfeldt (Opeth/Bloodbath/Storm Corrosion).

So… I don’t like the vocals. We’ve established that. On to the music.

The opening track “Enemy within” has a staccato-ed start but builds nicely. “Burning angel” has the feel of “Hanger 18” by Megadeth. “Heart of Darkness” is a solid song, with enough twists and turns to make it interesting. “Ravenous” has fleeting moments of Helloween and some crazy Whammy pedal-inspired widdles. “Savage Messiah” opens with an Alice in Chains-inspired groove picked out on a clean guitar. “Dead bury their dead” has a Kreator vibe to it.  “The first deadly sin” has an old-school thrash-tastic opening and one where to be fair Gossow’s vocals work a treat where she is able at last to find a way to change the pitch of her gruntings. “Behind the smile” has a brilliant stop-start riff that probably makes it my favourite track on the album. “Snow bound” is a short instrumental acoustic track with a rather predictable melancholic solo over the top; but it is still rather pretty and a welcome change from the onslaught. “Shadows and dust” reminds me something else but I can’t quite put my finger on it—it’s been bugging me all week, please put me out of my misery and tell me in the comments. “Lament of a mortal soul” closes the album with a solid track that chugs us along nicely to the terminal.

Conclusion

Despite my grumblings about the vocals, this is a pretty solid album that gets better the further into the recording you get, and the more familiar you become with the songs. Rather than putting me off, it has rather made me want to check out their later recordings to see how Gossow’s vocals have matured. It should score more, but there you have it.

[UPDATE: Erm… it turns out that I have listened to then before. In fact, I reviewed them on this here blog only a few weeks ago. And I gave it 90%. Oops!]

Review score: 75%

Video

This is a live version of “The first deadly sin”, showing just how much better Gossow’s vocals were towards the end of her career with the band.

Audiopain—The Switch to Turn Off Mankind (2007)

Audiopain—The Switch to Turn Off Mankind (2007)

Audiopain—The Switch to Turn Off Mankind (2007)

Details

Recorded in Fias Co Prod Studios, May–July Year 21 by Audiopain. Mastered by Tom Flaske Kvalsvoll at Strype Audio. Cover art and layout by Espen Geitsund. Released on Vendlus Records 2007.

Audiopain on Encyclopaedia Metallum

Band

  • Plenum—Bass
  • Christian Holm—Drums
  • Sverre Dæhli—Guitars and vocals

Tracks

  1. Hellbound
  2. The switch to turn off mankind
  3. Holy toxic
  4. Termination fields
  5. Alliance
  6. Cobra dance

Review

Before I say anything else about this album, I have to say one thing: this CD has one of the most unreadable inlay booklets I’ve ever had to decypher! My study isn’t the brightest of rooms in the winter so when I flicked open the booklet I was surprised to see what essentially looked like six blank, black pages. It wasn’t until I angled the booklet towards my monitors that I saw there was something printed onto it in an ink so dark that, unless I’m very much mistaken, only guide-dogs will be able to read it.

So, on to the music. Audiopain are a modern, old school thrash band hailing from Oslo in a Norway. And I’m not kidding when I say ‘old school thrash’. This short (26 minutes 49 seconds) album reminds me of that burst of energy that was the emergence of thrash back in the early- to mid-80s: that fusion of the heaviness of metal and the brashness and energy of punk. There are elements of early Slayer in here, as well as other thrash stalwarts: Anthrax, Exodus, Kreator, Metallica, Sabbat, and Voivod.

I read one review which described this album as “the ultimate tranquillizer”, a watered down collection of “unintelligent riffs, annoying vocals, and nasty production”. Personally, I think that reviewer completely missed the charm of this album: it perfectly recreates that early thrash sound. This album doesn’t have the warm depth of a modern Andy Sneap-produced album, this has the scooped-mid of Kill ’em All (1983) or Show No Mercy (1983).

Opener ‘Hellbound’ is a blend of Slayer meets Metallica. The opening riff is like something from Reign in Blood (1986) fused with Kill ’em All (1983). Vocals are barked early Voivod-like.

The title track “The switch to turn off mankind” opens with a simple thrashing riff, more in keeping with Hell Awaits (1985). A couple of minutes in the pace slows down with an South of Heaven (1988) style riff.

Track three, “Holy toxic” is more of the same, to be honest. A few times I’ve played this album and I’ve not noticed that the previous track had ended and new one begun.

“Termination fields” has that classic metal dual-guitar intro: a simple riff that is emphasised on the fourth bar by drums and guitar: CHUG-chug CHUG-chug! This Judas Priest meets Metallica. It morphs into an Megadeth-meets-Exodus-like riff. And then more Voivod- or even Exodus-like vocals. It’s by far the best song on this short album.

“Alliance” brings out more Megadeth-style riffs, the influence of which spills over a little into the album closer “Cobra dance”. It’s another song that trundles along at one pace for a few minutes before slowing to a grind. Drums and Cliff Burton-style overdriven bass carve out a groove before Show No Mercy-style guitars weave a melody through it to the song’s conclusion.

Conclusion

This is an album of influences. In places more than a nod of the head to the titans and founders of thrash, but it doesn’t feel contrived and it all somehow works. This sounds like an album that comes from the heart where the band’s love of thrash just somehow spills out of them. Sure some of the riffs could be more interesting or more original but there’s a passion that is evident, almost tangible about the playing on this album. And that’s what I quite like about it, really.

This is a keeper for me. Not so much Audiopain as Audiopleasure.

Review score: 75%

Video

Raging Speedhorn—Before The Sea Was Built (2007)

Raging Speedhorn—Before The Sea Was Built (2007)

Raging Speedhorn—Before The Sea Was Built (2007)

Details

Recorded at Foel Studio, Llanfair Caereinon, North Wales during two weeks in April 2007. Mastered by Russ Russell at Loud as Feck Studios a few days later. Engineered and edited by Charlie Dorman. Assisted by Chris Fielding. Produced and mixed by Larry Hibbitt.

Released on 7 September 2007 on SPV Records.

Tracks

  1. Everything changes
  2. Before the sea was built
  3. Dignity stripper
  4. Mishima
  5. Last comet from nothingness
  6. Born to twist the knife
  7. Who will guard the guards?
  8. Too drunk to give a fuck
  9. Sound of waves
  10. Jump ship

Review

My two-and-a-half year old twin boys Reuben and Joshua were sitting on my desk last week when Reuben picked up a CD case. “What’s that?” he asked.

“It’s a CD,” I replied.

“What’s a CD?” asked his twin brother.

“It’s got music on it,” I explained.

“What music?” Reuben enquired.

“It’s by a band called Raging Speedhorn.”

“I LOVE Raging Speedhorn,” exclaimed Reuben.

“Me too,” chimed Joshua

Reuben again, “Raging Speedhorn is my favourite. Is it your favourite too?”

“Erm… no,” I began, “In fact, I’ve not listened to it yet. I need to listen to it and then review it for my 195 metal CDs blog.”

Obviously feeling that he’d not got his point across emphatically enough, Joshua repeated, “I like Raging Speedhorn.”

“Good,” I said,”I’ll bear that in mind when I’m reviewing it.”

An astute pair, I’d say. Having listened to them for the best part of two weeks now, I think I can confidently say “I like Raging Speedhorn” too.

The album builds quietly and steadily. Opening track “Everything Changes” kicks off with a really pretty strummed chord progression. Guitar, bass and drums until about 90 seconds in the guitars die away and then… drums, drums, and the vocals kick in.

It wasn’t until I’d listened to the track a couple of times that I looked up Wikipedia to find more about Raging Speedhorn. I had one question: how many vocalists do they have?!

And sure enough: two. That explains the almost conversational feel to some of their tracks. Like question and answer; preces and response.

It’s so good to hear such quality British metal, and from a band that doesn’t feel that it needs to restrict itself to a conventional four or five piece set-up. It’s odd because since I was eight years old I’ve sung in choirs. Small church choirs, larger regional choirs, and for eight years the National Youth Choir of Great Britain which numbered at times up to 140 singers. Odd then that I should consider it unusual that this band has more than one!

A shame that they are no more, however, having split in 2008.

I thought that the vocals would annoy me as I’m not really into that hardcore-inspired ‘shouting’ style of vocals. But somehow with the quality of this music and with two vocalists it just works. I could listen to it all day.

Conclusion

For me the stand-out tracks are the opener “Everything Changes” and track #7 “Who will guard the guards” which slows things down a bit and has a wonderful, twisting guitar riff.

Review score: 75%

Bonus

“Who will guard the guards” live at Glasgow Barfly 18 December 2006.