Cove—A Conscious Motion EP (2018)

Cove—A Conscious Motion EP (2018)

Cove—A Conscious Motion EP (2018)

Details

Self-released sophomore EP.  Recorded at Hidden Track Studios. Produced by Oz Craggs. Released on 23 March 2018.

Facebook | Instagram | Spotify | Twitter | Website | YouTube

Band

  • Ben Shorten—Vocals
  • Pete Woolven—Guitar
  • Charlie Smith—Bass
  • Jack Bowdery—Drums

Tracks

  1. Coincide: Collide
  2. Solis
  3. All I Believe
  4. Host
  5. Reflect: Resolve

Review

I have this strange relationship with metalcore. At its heart it’s a fusion of extreme metal and hardcore punk: two genres that I love. But I still struggle to wholeheartedly embrace metalcore. I know it’s because of the brash, uncontrolled and shout-y vocals—like a small dog yapping over a kick-ass punk metal band. Give me a Michael Åkerfeldt (Opeth) death metal growl any day, or a Randy Blythe (Lamb of God) bark. But there is just something about the rah-rah-rah-rah nature of the typical metalcore singer that just grates with me.  That said, if you look back at the metalcore albums I’ve reviewed on 195 Metal CDs you’ll see that they have averaged 74%, so there must be something there that I like.

Cove—as you will have no doubt guessed by now—are a British metalcore band who hale from Kent, the garden of England: home of the iconic white cliffs of Dover; the seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury (the leader of the Church of England); and the country through which the rail track to the channel tunnel ploughs itself.

According to guitarist Pete Woolven, Cove set out to write a personal and cathartic EP that was uniquely Cove that didn’t sound like any other heavy band at present. “We wrote A Conscious Motion with a view to writing an EP of songs for ourselves that  were cathartic and personal. It deals with the struggles of members within the band, dealing with losing everything that you once lived for, to watching a part of someone else you love fade away.”

Coincide: Collide (track 1)

The EP begins relatively gently with the opening rim-shots of “Coincide: Collide” (track 1) building with a single-note bass, joined shortly after with a full-on, full-sweep, punk-style guitar riff. New singer Ben Shorten’s vocals are initially melodic until the band hits full stride in the chorus and Shorten reveals his obligatory metalcore holler. As songs go it has pace and dynamics, but predictably I find the uncontrolled shouting to be its weakest point—the harmonious accompanying vocal melodies redeem the song a little providing new layers and interest.

Solis (track 2)

Solis” (track 2) hits the ground spitting out the lyrics, “This is the beginning of this story / It started from an end / After broken choices / It’s time to amend”. It’s shouted. Most of the song is shouted. And I know that’s the metalcore way—I’ve already said that—but… anyway, the music is great: start-stop riffs that pulse like a sinister heartbeat. The production is clear and well balanced.

All I Believe (track 3)

All I Believe” (track 3) has a very gentle and delicate feel to begin with until it suddenly bursts with energy. This is probably my favourite song on the EP. It has a really nice dynamic, it builds and falls, and has a nice contrast of dark and light moments. There is a passion behind the lyrics, and some lovely instrumental moments: chugging bass guitar, flurries of distorted guitar breaking up otherwise regular-paced riffs. And Shorten’s shouting vocals are pitched, like shouted singing, which makes such a difference and takes the song to new levels.

The shortest track on the EP by far is the 1′ 29″ instrumental “Host” (track 4). It opens with a recording of what sounds like a NASA conversation between Houston and a space craft; it’s reminiscent a little of Celtic Frost’s “One in their pride” from Into the Pandemonium (1987). The music is gentle, pulsing and atmospheric. It’s a pity the track isn’t longer, I could listen to music like this all day.

EP closer “Reflect: Resolve” (track 5) ups the pace again. It leans heavily on a catchy, bouncing riff that morphs a little towards the end of the track as it slows down and simplifies. This is a well composed song that beautifully showcases many aspects of Cove’s musicianship and song-writing skills: it has a little bit of everything for everyone without diluting who they are.

Conclusion

Whether Cove achieved their goal of writing something that doesn’t sound like anything else out there at the moment, I’m not sure. But they have certainly penned an EP that has integrity and personality. I like the dynamics present in most of the songs, and appreciate that vocalist Ben Shorten does go a little off-piste with the usual metalcore shout-fest which positively takes the songs to new levels.

Personally, I preferred the final three tracks but if that’s any indication of the quality of music we should expect to hear from Cove in the future then British metal fans definitely have something good to look forward to.

Review score: 80%

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 Cove or Inception Press.

Advertisements

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.

Bandcamp | Facebook

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.

Spheric Universe Experience—Anima (2007)

Spheric Universe Experience—Anima (2007)

Spheric Universe Experience—Anima (2007)

Details

Recorded and mixed by Charles Massabo. Mastered by Tommy Hansen at Jailhouse Studios, Denmark. Drums and bass recorded at Coxinhell Studio, St-Aygulf, France (June to July 2006). Guitars, keyboards and vocals recorded at Kallaghan Studio, Vence, France (July to August 2006). Produced by Spheric Universe Experience.

Encyclopedia Metallum | Facebook | Website

Band

  • Franck Garcia—Vocals
  • Vince Benaim—Guitars
  • John Drai—Bass
  • Fred Colombo—Keyboards and English voice on “Being” (track 2) and “The inner quest” (track 3)
  • Ranko Muller—Drums

Additional musicians

  • Ludovic Phiriet-Arcaleni—Italian voice on “Neptune’s revenge” (track 4)
  • Carmen López—Spanish voice on “World of madness” (track 6)
  • Yo Ishikawa—Japanese male voice on “Heal my pain” (track 8)
  • Aurélia Borg—Japanese female voice on “Heal my pain” (track 8)

Tracks

  1. Sceptic
  2. Being
  3. The inner quest
  4. Neptune’s revenge
  5. Stormy dome (instrumental)
  6. World of madness
  7. End of trauma
  8. Heal my pain
  9. Questions
  10. The key
  11. Black materia

Review

Anima is the second (of currently four) full-length album from French prog metallers Spheric Universe Experience (SUE).

Theirs is a very Dream Theater-influenced flavour of progressive metal, complete with soaring vocals, complex time signatures, retro keyboard flourishes, and John Petrucci-style guitar chops. Other than Franck Garcia’s vocals which are quite noticably not those of James LaBrie, on first listen you could easily be mistaken that you are listening to DT.

Curiously, this is one of the few French bands that I’ve heard who sing in English rather than French.

I’ve listened to this album a number of times now and I can’t really fault it: the songwriting is great, the songs are complex and beautifully performed, the production if first class. But… it just sounds so derivative. To my ear, there is little that makes Spheric Universe Experience stand out as much more than French Dream Theater Experience.

Conclusion

If you are a Dream Theater fan then there is a very good chance you will enjoy this album. I can’t help think that this could be something more. But as it is, it is still something rather good.

Review score: 80%

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%

Joyless—Wild signs of the end times (2009)

Joyless—Wild signs of the end times (2009)

Joyless—Wild signs of the end times (2009)

Details

This CD contains the first recordings with Joyless, “more or less the metal years of the band, where Forgotten Woods turned into Joyless and Joyless turned from one thing into something else.”

Tracks 1–4 and 7 are taken from Unlimited Hate (1996); tracks 5, 6, and 8 are taken from the Blue in the Face EP (1999); track 9 is not listed in the booklet or on the cover.

Band

  • Thomas Torkelsen — Vocals
  • Reinhardt Toresen — Vocals
  • Olav Berland — Guitars, drums, backing vocals
  • Nylon — Guitars and harmonica
  • Rune Vedaa — Bass

Tracks

  1. (untitled)
  2. Your crystal fragments
  3. Blå melankoli
  4. Inherent emptiness
  5. Room of velvet splendour
  6. Swansmile
  7. (Don’t need) religion (Motörhead cover)
  8. Room of velvet splendour pt. 2
  9. Trilobite

Review

This album was not what I expected. And sometimes that turns out to be a good thing.

Encyclopaedia Metallum categorises Norwegian metallers Joyless as “Black Metal (early), Depressive Rock (later)”. But — at the risk of upsetting Mikael Åkerfeldt who lamented earlier this month that “the metal scene was so conservative” — this doesn’t sound like any black metal album that I’ve ever heard.

Wild signs of the endtimes is a compilation album comprising five tracks from their first album (which  itself contains some songs from Olav, Rune and Thomas’s days as Forgotten Woods), three from their Blue in the face EP (1999), and a surprise track that isn’t listed on the cover.

The opening track “[untitled]’ is a delicate, piano-led instrumental with a vibrato keyboard solo that carries the melody. It reminds me of the kind of music that accompanied 1970s public safety films. It is beautiful and oddly eerie all at once.

“Your crystal fragments” (track 2) has a very lo-fi sound that’s not too far from Pulp or other Britpop-era bands. It has a kind of modern-retro feel.

“Blå melankoli” (track 3) has a more typically metal tempo even if the guitars are not particularly overdriven.

“Inherent emptiness” (track 4) is very bass-heavy, and a world apart from the tracks before it: shouted vocals, and a melody that trundles along in the depths.

The following two tracks, “Room of velvet splendour” and “Swansmile” return to the retro/indie/Britpop sound. The latter is perhaps a little more catchy and features Nylon on harmonica.

Then it’s hair down again, gently nodding while staring at the floor, metalesque riff with a lot of bass in the mix: “(Don’t need) religion”.

“Room of velvet splendour, part 2” sounds like it could be incidental music for the original Italian Job film.

And then the mystery track, “Trilobite” (track 9) keeps the vibe firmly in the sixties with lo-fi guitars and vocals that sounds distorted but in the arty-rather-than-metal way.

Conclusion

All in all, I was surprised by this album. It’s not what I would class as black metal by any stretch of the imagination. But I rather liked it. There’s an honesty to it, and it was really rather fun in places. I could happily listen to this for some years to come.

Review score: 80%

The Howling Wind—Into the Cryosphere (2010)

The Howling Wind—Into the Cryosphere (2010)

The Howling Wind—Into the Cryosphere (2010)

Details

Recorded and mastered at the Thousand Caves by Colin Marston, February 2010, Queens, NY.

Band

  • Ryan Lipynsky—Vocals, Guitars, Bass
  • Tim Call—Drums

Tracks

  1. The seething wrath of a frigid soul
  2. Teeth of frost
  3. Obscured pyramid
  4. Ice cracking in the abyss
  5. Will is the only fire under an avalanche
  6. Impossible eternity
  7. A dead galaxy mirrored…

Review

Another week where I’m running hideously late. At 5 pm on Friday I start a three weeks’ vacation and in my wisdom I’ve packed too much into this week to compensate for 21 days of blissful rest. Anyway, enough with the excuses… and I’ll keep this short: it’s a school night.

The Howling Wind‘s album disappointingly doesn’t start with the sound of an actual howling wind. More a kind of traffic sound in an echo-y tunnel.

I’m sure I read somewhere that this was a black metal band. If that is so then they are surprisingly doomy. It reminds me quite a lot of early Paradise Lost. It has those big, fat, slow riffs. The songs chug away with a rather bass-heavy production which makes it difficult to listen to in the car but decent enough on my PC speakers.

There are some albums in this project, I’m sure I’ve said this before, that I find difficult to listen to—I have to force myself. This wasn’t one of them. I must have listened to this quite a few times over the last few weeks. I imagine I’ll listen to it again and not just on random play, it’s the kind of album I might go to look for.

Conclusion

A hastily written review that doesn’t do the album justice. Thankfully the music stands on its own merits.

Review score: 80%

 

Half Makeshift—Omen (2008)

Half Makeshift—Omen (2008)

Half Makeshift—Omen (2008)

Details

All instrumentalisation, recording, mixing and artwork by Nathan Michael. Mastered by James Plotkin. Thank you Nicholas, Chris, James, Marc, Adam, Jess and Earth. Released on Profound Lore Records, 2008.

Band

  • Nathan Michael—Everything

Tracks

  1. Omen I (15′ 27″)
  2. Omen II (12′ 12″)
  3. Omen III (11′ 01″)
  4. Omen IV (12′ 11″)

Review

This is a curious album. It is only four tracks long, but it still lasts over 50 minutes. The album packaging is quite surreal. It looks like a collage, drawing together retro images from, I guess, the 1950s or 1960s, alongside photographs and illustrations of human anatomy, and chess diagrams. And then there is next to no text on the packaging—nothing to do with the album, anyway. Anything that I’ve gleaned about the album or composer I’ve had to find elsewhere.

I tried to listen to the album at first in the car, but I couldn’t hear much above the rumble from the road.

Omen appears to be one piece of music, separated into four parts, sitting somewhere on the experimental / ambient / drone spectrum.

I’ve been searching for a word to sum it up, and I can’t get far beyond “devastating”. There’s a deep melancholia to the music, as it densely flows from one cinematic soundscape to the next. At times I felt as though I was drifting aimlessly on an ocean, beneath a heavy grey sky. It’s definitely not a piece of music to put on to cheer yourself up to.

And yet… having listened to it once and having come out the other end feeling utterly miserable, I just went back and started it again. And again. And I’m now on my fourth listen today. There is something mysteriously human about it; there is something about it that makes it oddly soothing and comforting while paradoxically making you also feel on edge. It’s like sitting down in your comfy fleece trackies and jumper, clutching a mug of hot chocolate to watch The Blair Witch Project.

The music itself is a mixture of guitar (clean and distorted), bass, drums, keyboards/piano, and various sounds, frequencies, waves and bursts of static. Passages are played backwards, and throughout there is a deep drone. Some passages flow, others like those in “Omen III” lurch adding to the jarring. It is simple but uneasy.

Conclusion

Half Makeshift appears to have been the project of Nathan Michael, who stopped recording music convinced that the world would end on 21 May 2011 (the birthday of Great King Rat, for any Queen fans out there; and the birthday of my grannie and her twin sister, for any members of my family out there). Omen then was his last recording: a requiem for the human race. If I’d known than before I might have kept this as the final album to review.

Like much modern choral music, this is a love-it or hate-it kind of album. I’m veering towards the love-it end of that particular spectrum, but I guess I’d need to be in the mood to listen to it. It’s just that mood will likely be depressed.

Review score: 80%