PREVIEW: Klogr—Keystone (2017)

Klogr—Keystone (2017)

Klogr—Keystone (2017)

About

KLOGR release their third studio album ‘Keystone’ (mixed by Grammy winning producer David Bottrill (Stone Sour, Muse, Rush, Tool and more) on Friday 6 October 2017 via Zeta Factory (distributed in the UK/Europe by PHD).

The artwork is a piece of a painting by renowned Italian artist, Andrea Saltini.

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Band

  • Gabriele “Rusty” Rustichelli—Vocals/Guitar
  • Pietro Quilichini “PQ”—Guitar/Backing Vocals
  • Roberto Galli—Bass
  • Maicol Morgotti—Drums

Tracks

  1. Sleeping through the seasons
  2. Prison of light
  3. Technocracy
  4. The echoes of sin
  5. Pride before the fall
  6. Something’s in the air
  7. Drag you back
  8. Sirens’ song
  9. Dark tides
  10. Silent witness
  11. Enigmatic smile
  12. The wall of illusion

Review

Keystone is the third album from Italian-American band Klogr (pronounced Kay-logger). A band that I’d never heard of until now, but isn’t that the joy of this project.

Musically, the band sits somewhere between alternative rock and alternative metal. The album is very nicely produced and mixed. It has a warm, full sound that suits the melodic arrangements. The guitars are heavy without sounding harsh.

When you listen to album for the first few listens, if you’re anything like me then you’ll try to reach for comparisons. The album reminds me in part of Stone Sour fused with Freak Kitchen with a little Seven7 thrown in for good measure.

The album opens with what sounds like the start of the Star Trek theme tune, but accompanied by a children’s plinky piano. (“Sleeping through the seasons”, track 1) Then the guitars introduce a chug-chug-chug-chug riff. It’s catchy and melodic.

And so the album continues. “Prison of light” (track 2) features a nice ascending riff; “Technocracy” (track 3) is a fast-paced track with a twisting-turning riff; “The echoes of sin” (track 4) has a Dream Theater vibe to it; “Pride before the fall” (track 5) sounds a bit like a slowed-down “Technocracy”.

For me, the stand-out track is “Something’s in the air” (track 6). It’s a mid-paced, chugging rock track with a beautifully heavy, slide-y riff. I could listen to it all day. It’s heavy, it’s melodic, it’s interesting and varied. Brilliant stuff!

Klogr lurking in the shadows

Klogr lurking in the shadows

“Drag you back” (track 7) is built around a fluttering riff; “Sirens’ song” (track 8) is a short track that sounds like it was recorded underwater, and leads beautifully into “Dark tides” (track 9) which has an ’80s metal ballad feel to it.

“Silent witness” (track 10) opens with a bass riff that gives way to a complex guitar riff, that changes directions. Every. Few seconds. “Enigmatic smile” probably has the most metal riff on the album but gives way to a melodic rock track.

The album plays out to “The wall of illusion” which probably encompasses everything that Klogr have thrown at us so far in this album.

And then it ends.

Quite abruptly.

Conclusion

To be honest, there is little to criticize the album for. Some of the songs do begin to sound a little bit same-y as you progress through the album, but that would only really become a problem if the songs weren’t great. And these are really good songs. There is more than a little prog influence contained in the tracks on this album, and that is also a good thing. The songs have dynamics, and a shape, that each tell a musical story.

I really like this album. I can see myself returning to it again and again.

What more could you ask for from a piece of music?

Review score: 85%

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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%

Sonata Arctica—Ecliptica (1999)

Sonata Arctica—Ecliptica (2008)

Sonata Arctica—Ecliptica (2008)

Details

Recorded at Tico Tico Studio, by Ahti Kortelainen. Mixed by Mikko Karmila at Finnvox Studios and mastered by Mika Jussila at Finnvox Studios. This is the 2008 remastered edition.

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Band

  • Tony Kakko—Vocals and keyboards
  • Jani Liimatainen—Guitars
  • Janne Kivilahti—Bass
  • Tommy Portimo—Drums
  • Raisa Aine—Flute on “Letter to Dana”

Tracks

  1. Blank file
  2. My land
  3. 8th commandment
  4. Replica
  5. Kingdom for a heart
  6. Fullmoon
  7. Letter to Dana
  8. Unopened
  9. Picturing the past
  10. Destruction preventer
  11. Mary-Lou
  12. Letter to Dana (returned to sender)

Review

Sonata Arctica are a Finnish power metal band, from Kemi near the southern border with Sweden. This was their debut album; they have since released a further eight full-length albums including the 15th anniversary edition of Ecliptica in 2014.

This is very much a power metal album in the family of Helloween. It is boppy, it is poppy, it’s melodic with shredding guitar solos, and plentiful and fast chord changes, and soaring, high tenor vocals.

There is a youthful innocence and excitement about this album which gives it a certain charm.

For some reason the song “Letter to Dana” (which was apparently named after the X-Files character Dana Scully) feels like the centre-piece of the album, not least because the final track has a reworked version of the song which curiously omits the first two verses. “Dana, my darling, I’m writing to you / Cause your father passed away, it was a beautiful day / And I don’t want to bother You anymore / I used to hope you’d come back / But not anymore Dana.” It is a bittersweet tale of a lost love.

The album closes with “Mary-Lou” a strong rocker of a song, and the “returned to sender” version of “Letter to Dana”.

Conclusion

Did I mention that it reminds me of Helloween? It does. A lot. But without the silliness.

It will be interesting to see if I choose to listen to this album again. I rather like it but I don’t really listen to much Helloween these days, wheeling it out every now and then to relive wasted days in the prefect’s common room at high school!

Review score: 85%

Relentless / Ruin—Relentless / Ruin (2008)

Relentless / Ruin—Relentless / Ruin (2008)

Relentless / Ruin—Relentless / Ruin (2008) FRONT

Relentless / Ruin—Relentless / Ruin (2008)

Relentless / Ruin—Relentless / Ruin (2008) BACK

Details

Released on Relapse Records, 2008.

Ruin

Tracks 1–3 recorded in December 2006. Vocals, bass and drums recorded in Coldworker Studios by Anders Jakobson, Einar Magnusson and Tobhias Ljung. Guitars recorded at Studio Ülgnor by Johan Berglund, Daniel Schröder and Anders Bertilsson. Mixed and mastered at Unisound by Dan Swanö.

Tracks 4–6 recorded in December 2005. Vocals, bass and drums recorded in Kuml by Emil and Ruin. Guitars recorded at Studio Ülgnor by Johan Berglund, Daniel Schröder and Anders Bertilsson. Mixed and mastered at Unisound by Dan Swanö.

Encyclopaedia Metallum

Relentless

Tracks 7–9 recorded and mixed at Abyss between 23 and 24 July 2005 by Tommy Tagtgren and Relentless. Track 10 recorded and mixed at Musikhuset, Lindesberg 23 to 24 April 2005 by Rikard Löfgren and Relentless. Mastered at Unisound by Dan Swanö.

Encyclopaedia Metallum

Bands

Ruin

  • Einar Magnusson—Vocals and bass
  • Daniel Schröder—Guitar
  • Anders Bertilsson—Guitar
  • Tobhias Ljung—Drums

Relentless

  • Mattias Andersson—Vocals and guitar
  • Oskar Pålsson—Bass
  • Pär Svensson—Drums

Tracks

  1. Ruin—Welcome to insanity
  2. Ruin—The black angel
  3. Ruin—Tainted soul
  4. Ruin—Ruin the world
  5. Ruin—Insomnia
  6. Ruin—Falling down
  7. Relentless—This is where I burn them
  8. Relentless—Perish in blasphemy
  9. Relentless—Incarcerated
  10. Relentless—The suicidal dilemma

Review

A split album from two Swedish death metal outfits, Ruin and Relentless, with a 60/40 split in favour of the former in terms of quantity of material.

While Ruin have more of a European death metal vibe there is more than a touch of the Florida sound in there too, most notably echoes of Death and Obituary.

Ruin’s tracks are pretty solid, and hit the brutal level right from the start. “Welcome to insanity” (track 1) doesn’t begin particularly well, straight into the jangling-bags-of-cutlery pattern. But it soon shakes things up a bit and redeems itself by the end of its short 1′ 41″ duration.

The remaining five songs are better. The production is great, especially for what I believe are demos, with a tight, punchy but rich sound. “Tainted soul” (track 3) is fast paced and interesting with a haunting guitar solo about 2/3 of the way through, reminiscent of Obituary. “Insomnia” (track 5) has a very Leprosy-era Death feel to it. I love the bass sound in this song. And through this song and the next (“Falling down”) there are some fabulous rhythms. The dual guitars playing off one another is the latter song, too, is fun.

On my first few listens through I preferred the four remaining Relentless tracks. Having listened to this album a good few times now I think I’ve grown to appreciate the Ruin tracks equally.

I’ve read elsewhere that others hear a more US-thrash and death metal sound in Relentless, which is perhaps why I took to those more quickly. The production has a good bassy rasp to it. The vocals are also more ‘cookie monster’, deeper and more growling than Ruin, more akin to Opeth.

“This is where I burn them” has a very signature death metal riff to start off with. It then bludgeons itself neatly through the next 2′ 50″ with all the suitable twists and turns, thumps and bumps. And growling all the way.

“Perish in blasphemy” (track 8) opens with a pounding bass and drums riff. To be fair, if your death metal song starts off like that I’m not overly fussed what happens next. You’ve already won me over.

“Incarcerated” (track 9) is a nicely understated, medium-paced death metal song with a wicked riff about half way through that chugs along in a most pleasing manner.

Conclusion

This is one of those albums that does make me think that perhaps I ought to just spend a little more time with each disc before reviewing them. Because I started out not overly fond of Relentless (a word, incidentally, that I have used frequently to describe my experience of looking after infant twin boys) and now it’s one of my favourite albums of 2016.

Of course, on the other hand I could just be experiencing the album-equivalent of Stockholm syndrome. Which would be rather fitting for a Swedish death metal band.

Review score: 85%

 

Raise the Dead—Hymns of War (2005)

Raise the Dead—Hymns of War (2005)

Raise the Dead—Hymns of War (2005)

Details

Mixed, mastered and brutalized by Stu McKan and Jamie Graham. Recorded at Studio 6, Wooton Bassett, England. Released on Thirty Days of Night Records in 2005.

Band

  • Dean of the Dead—Vocals
  • Jamie Graham—Guitars and backing vocals
  • Khaled Lowe—Guitars and backing vocals
  • Chris Varnham—Bass
  • Chris Claydove—Drums

Tracks

  1. Prelude to war
  2. Zone of magical immunity
  3. Warcraft
  4. The curse of years
  5. Sea of dead souls
  6. Cloak of mist

Review

It feels like an age since I’ve mentioned CD packaging, so let’s start there. The front cover, as you can see from above, features a very beige-dominant mediaeval battle scene; assuming that the crusaders fought armies of skeletons. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was more than a little Tolkien influence here with his armies of the dead from The Lord of the Rings.

What I really like, though is the booklet which has the feel of a stylised Book of Kells, like an illuminated manuscript from the Middle Ages. The first five pages contain song lyrics, resplendent in a thankfully-readable Old English style typeface; the last page lists thanks.

Hymns of War in a mediaeval style

Hymns of War in a mediaeval style

Of course, the booklet looks more like a ye olde gospel than a hymn book but we’ll let that one pass. It does look fab and it’s nice to see the band putting in some thought about the packaging. It’s just a shame that (and this is obviously entirely subjective) the art quality in the cover doesn’t match that of the booklet. It would have been great to have the two tie-in much more than they do.

Anyway, it’s the music we’re really interested in.

Raise the Dead were a thrash / death / metalcore band from London/Peterborough between 2004 and 2006. They released only two records in their three years: a three-track demo, Famous Last Words, in September 2004 and this six track EP in December 2005. The only common track was “Warcraft”.

The album opens with an atmospheric track (“Prelude to war”) of monastic chant interrupted from time to time by peals of thunder and a continuously ringing bell. When the chanting ends, footsteps lead to a single note, more thunder and the gentle growl of who knows what monster.

“Zone of magical immunity” (track 2) is a fast paced death metal song. The guitars have a pleasing overdriven tone, double-kick drums underpin the rhythm and Dean of the Dead’s guttural vocals sound terrifically meaty—it’s not just uncontrolled screaming. There are certainly enough dynamics within the song to hold interest. It almost has a progressive metal feel to it.

“Warcraft” (track 3) offers more of the same, the whole song built around a very death metal lead guitar riff. Towards the end the track slows right down into an almost sludge metal-style riff. Curiously track 4, “The curse of years”, follows exactly the same recipe right down to the sludge style stomp towards the close.

“Sea of dead souls” (track 5) opens with a very Annihilator-style arpeggio riff that reappears throughout the song. Thankfully this song closes differently with a very Slayer-like screaming and diving solo: fast and tight right to the end.

The closing song, “Cloak of mist” (track 6) is perhaps the most death metal song on the EP, both musically and lyrically. It’s a study in hatred. “Hate is a strong word / but I feel it for you / I should have buried you in a ditch / the day you were born”.

“Cloak of mist” is probably the strongest song on the album and I can’t help wondering if it indicates the direction that Raise the Dead would have taken had they not split nearly ten years ago. Perhaps we’ll never know.

Conclusion

All in all, this was a pretty solid debut EP from a UK extreme metal band. I really can’t help feel anything but admiration for the band and the recording. It’s by no means perfect but it is pretty darn good none-the-less. They certainly showed promise. Wherever you are now guys, I raise a glass to you—I can’t quite manage raising the dead.

Review score: 85%

BONUS: Siderian—Cancel Your Future EP (2015)

Siderian—Cancel Your Future EP (2015)

Siderian—Cancel Your Future EP (2015)

Details

Siderian are Northamptonshire-based metal band formed in March 2015. Recorded, mixed and mastered by Neil Hudson at Initiate Audio and Media in July 2015. Released 18 September 2015.

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Band

Siderian

Siderian

  • Dave Pope—Vocals
  • Kyle Ainsworth—Guitar
  • Piotr Lukasik—Bass
  • Mike Wilson—Drums

Tracks

  1. (The) small house
  2. Reduced aisle
  3. Hell of a week
  4. Limb efficiency

Review

This EP was kindly sent to me for review back in September but as things were personally going south for me around that time this has sat in my email inbox until now. Which is a real shame because this is a pretty great EP from a new British metalcore band hailing from Northamptonshire, England.

The EP comprises four tracks recorded in July 2015 with Neil Hudson (Krysthla, ex-Gutworm) and to be honest it did take me a few listens to get into it, as I don’t really listen to much metalcore, but I’m really glad I put in the time. This is a very impressive EP.

“(The) small house” (track 1) kicks the EP off in quite an understated but none-the-less rather majestic way, taking about a minute to get going. Dave Pope sings in a typical gruff metalcore style somewhere between a growl and a scream.

“Reduced aisle” (track 2) opens with a single guitar riff, that is soon mirrored by bass as the kick drum keeps the beat. The song has a mid-pace stomp, slows right down to a ponderous guitar riff in the middle before building again to blast its way home.

“Hell of a week” (track 3) begins with a very punk-sounding chord progression hammered out on guitar. Bass and drums bounce along beneath it. This is one of the more melodic songs on the EP, probably the most catchiest.

“Limb efficiency” (track 4) has a driving groove that I imagine sounds killer live. I particularly like the dynamics of the song as it speeds up and slows down throughout, and I love the bass guitar sound which unpins the song and doesn’t get lost in the mix.

Conclusion

All in all a pretty solid debut performance from Siderian. It’s great to hear new British bands with such energy and drive and talent. More of this please…

Review score: 85%

Not Above Evil—The Transcendental Signified (2011)

Not Above Evil—The Transcendental Signified (2011)

Not Above Evil—The Transcendental Signified (2011)

Details

All music written, performed and produced by Not Above Evil. Engineered, mixed and mastered by Daniel Mucs. Released on independent label (self-release?) in September 2011.

Band

  • Sideeq Mohammed—Vocals, bass
  • David Gwynn—Guitar
  • Damien Levette—Guitar
  • Daniel Mucs—Drums

Tracks

  1. Crossroads
  2. Legion
  3. Capture the dawn
  4. Against the tides
  5. Nexus
  6. Death and transformation
  7. As the curtain falls
  8. The duel

Review

I’m glad I generally take two or three listens of an album before I review them, because it really took until my third or four listen through to really begin to appreciate the quality of this sophomore full-length release from Manchester melodic death metal band Not Above Evil.

The album clocks in at an old school 44 minutes 10 seconds—short enough to fit on a single side of a TDK D90 cassette! It doesn’t overstay its welcome, and if anything leaves you wanting more.

While there is nothing particularly inspiring or genre-changing about the album it is a solid album with some pretty decent musicianship, production and song writing.

Vocals are gruff and growly but they have some depth and don’t get in the way. The guitars have a melodic bite to them, the bass guitar sits back nicely in the mix and the drums cut through nicely.

It’s great to see such quality from an independent British release.

Conclusion

This is definitely a keeper for me. It took a few listens for it to finally grab my attention but I was rather preoccupied with other bits and pieces during my first few listens.

This is an album that I would seek out to listen to, not just not-skip-over if it came on random play. Good work Manchester metallers!

Review score: 85%