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%

Devil Sold His Soul—A Fragile Hope (2007)

Devil Sold His Soul—A Fragile Hope (2007)

Devil Sold His Soul—A Fragile Hope (2007)

Details

Produced by Jonny Renshaw and Devil Sold His Soul. Engineered and mixed by Jonny Renshaw. Recorded at Bandit Studios, Gloucestershire. Mastered by John Dent at Loud Mastering, Taunton.

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Band

  • Ed Gibbs—Vocals
  • Matt Elphick—Guest vocals on “Awaiting the flood” and “The coroner”
  • Jonny Renshaw—Guitars
  • Iain Trotter—Bass
  • Paul Kitney—Samples
  • Dave Robinson—Drums (on album)
  • Alex “Leks” Wood—Drums (listed in sleeve notes)

Tracks

  1. In the absence of light
  2. As the storm unfolds
  3. The starting
  4. Sirens chant
  5. At the end of the tunnel
  6. Between two worlds
  7. Awaiting the flood
  8. Dawn on the first day
  9. The coroner
  10. Hope

Review

I asked my three children, just based on the look of the album cover, “Does this look like it’s going to be a good album?” All three (aged, six, six and four) said “No”. I think they were only partly right. But it’s not the music, once again it’s the vocals I take issue with.

The music is interesting. It has depth, it has dynamics, it has other things that begin with ‘d’. The music is built around the guitars: big chords, big strumming, a nicely overdriven sound. In places the guitars are clean and picked which produces a nicely layered sound. The bass is punchy, the drums sit beneath it all cutting though in all the right places. I love the music: it’s bold and modern.

In places the lyrics are sung; Ed Gibbs has a nice tenor voice. But for the most part everything is SHOUTED. But it’s not the good kind of shouting. This isn’t the gruff vocals of a Mikael Åkerfeldt (Opeth, ex-Bloodbath) or D. Randall Blythe (Lamb of God), it’s the uncontrolled shouting of a worse-for-wear girlfriend bawling at her drunk boyfriend at 1.00 am outside a nightclub.

And that’s where my issues lie with this album. To my ears, I would go as far as saying, the songs are ruined by this style of vocals. And that’s a real shame.

I have to say that I realise that there will be people out there who love this style of vocals. I accept that, and I want to be clear in saying that the vocals aren’t rubbish they are just in a style that is not for me.

That said, I want to hold on to this album. The music is great and where the lyrics aren’t completely shouted from start to finish (like in the final track, “Hope”) I really enjoyed it.

Conclusion

They often say that the devil has all the best tunes. Well, clearly here he’s sold his soul or something. A great pity.

Review score: 65%

Decrepid—Live at the Purple Turtle (2009)

Decrepid—Live at the Purple Turtle (2009)

Decrepid—Live at the Purple Turtle (2009)

Details

Recorded live at the Purple Turtle, London on 24 June 2009. Bonus studio track recorded at Ealing Film Studios, London on 23 May 2009. Engineered by Geriant Newall. Mastering by Owen Crawford at Soundfire Studios, Wales. All songs written by Decrepid.

Band

  • Cris Bassan—Vocals
  • Danny Price—Guitar
  • Steve Brennan—Guitar
  • Marni—Bass
  • Michael Dummett—Drums

Bandcamp

Tracks

  1. Born to die
  2. Sins of Sodom
  3. Avoiding humanity
  4. Devoted to death
  5. Kill or be killed
  6. Bloodlust
  7. Sins of Sodom (bonus studio track)

Review

Another review written late… sorry! I tell you, this going back to work lark is seriously interfering with my metal listening!

As I think I’ve said elsewhere on this blog, I’m generally not overly fond of live albums. Try as they might, they don’t always capture the full live experience: hours of waiting around, the aching feet, watching roadies moving stuff on stage, the smell of stale beer, the sticky floors, the rank lavatories! Oh yeah, and the music…

The production on this album, however, is pretty decent. I mean, it still sounds pretty rough, but at least the instruments are well defined in the mix. The bass guitar is meaty, the drums have a depth to them, the guitars aren’t too dominant or have too much high end, and there’s a clarity in the incomprehensibility of the vocals.

Not only are the lyrics unrecognisable, but Bassan insists on introducing the name of each song in the death growl style that he sings the songs. “The next song is called GROWLGROWLGROWL!”

The album kicks off with four beats on the hi-hat to count in a beefy, almost doom riff at the start of “Born to die”. Before long speeds up and are joined by guttural vocals. I love the bass tone on this song. It’s refreshing to actually hear the bass guitar on a death metal album, as they so often follow so closely the main guitar riff.

As the song grinds to a halt, Bassan utters a self-congratulatory, “Fuckin’ yeah!” before announcing to the crowd, “Alright, we are Decrepid. We are from London. … [Pause] … That’s it really!”

Not the most dynamic of chats with the crowd from a front man, but it does the job.

And that about sums up the rest of the album for me, really. It does the job adequately. There isn’t anything on this album that I disliked particularly. But neither was there anything in particular that stood out for me. It’s all pretty much death-metal-by-numbers, but it’s fun. (Is death metal supposed to be fun? I must look that up sometime.)

I tell you what else is fun: the album title. It’s about as far from death metal as you could hope to get. Think about it, repeat it over and over again: death metal… purple turtle. It’s like mentioning black metal and My Little Pony in the same sentence.

Conclusion

If I was to see Decrepid in concert, as I was standing on the sticky floor, my feet aching, my ears hurting from the volume, I get a sense that I would rather enjoy their set.

The only problem is that I imagine it might be forgotten rather quickly. Like disposable death metal: use once then discard.

Review score: 68%

Kyrbgrinder—Defiance (2007)

Kyrbgrinder—Defiance (2007)

Kyrbgrinder—Defiance (2007)

Details

Track 1 (‘My heart bleeds’) produced by Kyrbgrinder and Richard Spooner. Engineered by Richard Spooner. Recorded at Fast Track Studios, Cambridgeshire, England.

Tracks 2–11 produced by Curtis Lugay and Kyrbgrinder. Engineered by Curtis Lugay. Recorded at Theorem Music Studios, London, England.

Released on Mausoleum Records, 2007.

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Band

  • Johanne James—Lead vocals and drums
  • Ben Glover—Guitars and vocals
  • Dave Lugay—Bass

Tracks

  1. My heart bleeds
  2. Defiance
  3. The guide
  4. What about me
  5. Fall away
  6. Not in my name
  7. Wayside
  8. I wanna kill
  9. Monster
  10. Swallowed my life
  11. Greatest weapon

Review

The name Kyrbgrinder is misleading. It sounds like a gnarly early 90s death metal band from somewhere northern and cold. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Kyrbgrinder are a progressive metal band from London, UK whose sound reminds me of elements of Living Color, Stone Temple Pilots, King’s X, Nirvana, Alice In Chains, Helmet, Sting (yeah, really!), Mordred, and that other band that I kept thinking I should write down before I forgot.

This is another absolute winner this week. After getting over the shock of them not coming from Norway, and not needing to protect my eardrums from an onslaught of angry riffs I’ve loved listening to this album. I may even have unconsciously forgotten to blog about this yesterday just so I could listen to it for another 24 hours.

The album opens with a meaty riff (‘My heart bleeds’) that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Stone Temple Pilots album. Or Freak Kitchen. That’s them! I remember now. The song dances along like a train across a sunny vista. Despite the lyrics, it’s fun.

The title track ‘Defiance’ opens with a Voivod-like discord that builds to another killer riff. Overall the song has a distinctly Living Color feel to it. And that’s not a bad thing. ‘Not in my name’ (track 6) sounds very influenced by Living Color, right down to the spoken elements that litters the early parts of the song.

‘The guide’ (track 3) opens with a Helmet-style riff before sitting back into another Living Color-like groove. Another Helmet-like riff is the one that bores its way through ‘Fall away’ (track 5).

My favourite track is ‘Wayside’ (track 7) which surprisingly has the feel of a Sting track. It’s a really catchy tune that I’ve found myself singing to myself throughout the week.

The rest of the album is interesting and fresh. No two song sounds the same, the album is heavy but not at the expense of melody or musicality. This is a band, a three-piece no less, that have absorbed their influences and made something that is their own. And what they’ve created is quite beautiful. This is an album that I’m going to be playing for a long time to come—an album that I will seek out to listen to, not just let random play discover it from time to time.

Conclusion

I can’t fault this album, to be honest. I’ve listened to it on repeat for most of the week (Last.fm currently reports that I’ve listened to 133 Kyrbgrinder tracks in the last seven days—that’s 12 listens, and doesn’t take into account the times I’ve listened to it in the car or on my phone) and I’ve grown more fond and more familiar with it each listen.

I will definitely be listening out for more Kyrbgrinder in the future. I’m so glad this band is now on my radar. Seriously, check them out.

Review score: 100%

Video

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KhQir3lge8o]

Bonus video

Amazing live performance from Kyrbgrinder.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=35rV7b2xIrQ]

Seven7—Under Eye (2011)

Seven7—Under Eye (2011)

Seven7—Under Eye (2011)

Details

Drums recorded, played, engineered by Pete Riley at Tindrum Studio in December 2010. Bass, guitars and vocals recorded at MGP Studio, Guildford in January and February 2011. Mixed by Nick Kacal in March 2011. Mastered by Rupert Christie in April 2011. Produced by Nicholas Meier. Co-produced by Arran McSporran. Music written by Nicholas Meier; lyrics written by Dave Brown.

Band

  • Dave Brown: Vocals
  • Arran McSporran: Fretless bass
  • Nicolas Meier: Electric and acoustic guitars, oud and baglama
  • Peter Riley: Drums and percussion

Tracks

  1. The Ice Man
  2. Boy drowns girl
  3. Three days
  4. Run
  5. Blood stains
  6. You can have it
  7. Wannabe
  8. Forgive
  9. Under eye

Review

From the moment that the opening riff of this Seven7‘s second full-length album bludgeoned my ears I was immediately hopeful that I’d like this band. I wasn’t disappointed, and on the basis of this fine platter I’m really eager to listen to their first album Try Something Different.

So many of the tracks I could imagine as TV theme tunes — that’s not a great recommendation, is it? What I mean, I think, is that they are solid tunes. There is something anthemic, inspiring and grand about this album. Not bad for a collection of songs mostly about death.

The music is dark but melodic, heavy but accessible, progressive but thrashy, brutal but intricate. It’s like a strange cross between, at times, Pantera or Metallica with Steve Vai and Marty Friedman, particularly on the Japanese-influenced “You can have it”.

And who can argue with a band that lifts the theme from Tchaikovsky’s “The Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairy” and effortlessly turns it into an enormous riff-laden metal epic?

CONCLUSION

From start to finish this is, using the words of novelist Dave Eggers, a heartbreaking work of staggering genius. Every time I’ve listened to this album I’ve finished it with an enormous smile on my face. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant!

This is an album that I am genuinely excited about. It is so very much a welcome addition to my wall of CDs. I urge you to listen to them. The album is on Spotify, check it out.

Review score: 97%

Video