Bonus: Not Above Evil—Always Darkest Before (2016)

Not Above Evil—Always Darkest Before (2016)

Not Above Evil—Always Darkest Before (2016)

Details

Written by Not Above Evil with Damien Levette (tracks 4, 5 and 9). Mixed and mastered by Daniel Mucs. Drum recording at Big City Jacks Studio. Engineered by Martin Corral.

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Band

  • Sideeq Mohammed—Vocals and bass
  • David Gwynn—Guitar and vocals
  • Daniel Mucs—Percussion

Tracks

  1. When the day comes
  2. Adrenaline
  3. Unleashed
  4. Fibre and sinew
  5. Elevation of the form
  6. The close
  7. Doors and desolation
  8. Compression
  9. Turning over
  10. And the skies return

Review

About a year ago I reviewed Not Above Evil’s second album  The Transcendental Signified (2011). I was impressed

“This is definitely a keeper for me. […] 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! ” (85%)

I kind of got that right. Three-piece melodic death metal outfit Not Above Evil hail from both Manchester, UK and Stockholm, Sweden.

In October, drummer Daniel Mucs messaged me on Twitter asking if I’d like to hear the new album. A few weeks later a CD metaphorically dropped through my letterbox. (It actually arrived at reception and I picked it up from my in-tray.)

Thanks to the madness that is wardennial work in a university hall of residence, the CD has been sitting on my desk teasing me for the last six weeks or so. What was I thinking?! I should have stuck it on straight away, because it’s brilliant!

“When the day comes” (track 1) begins quietly . I forget this every time and end up turning up the volume and getting a fright when the drums kick in about 20 seconds in. After that it’s a stately plod to the end. There is a slightly ‘doom’ feel to the song as it trundles along at around 76 bpm, but that gives it weight and it’s by far the heaviest thing that I’ve listened to all day.

“Adrenaline” (track 2) speeds things up a bit, with a straight forward, barked vocal and thundering tempo. The song breaks down about half way before building from a terrific riff that you can’t help but bang your head to.

“Unleashed” (track 3) has a horror feel from the start. Like the souls of a thousand death metal vocalists are trying to communicate something. This track lasts until about three-quarters of the way through before shaking things up a little. Then it’s back to the original riffs until it’s over the finishing line.

“Fibre and sinew” (track 4) begins with a delicate and harmonised guitar lick that sounds very old school Testament – someone has been listening to their copy of The New Order (1988) – before punishing the listener with another slice of modern, hi-gain over-driven death metal.

“Elevation of the form” (track 5) sees Mucs pounding about every drum on his kit as the song builds up to a no-holds-barred rich-sounding riff. It’s by far one of my favourite tracks on the album and they kept it for half-way through.

After such a huge song, it seems quite natural that the next track, “The close”, should be short, instrumental and contemplative. There is no indication on the sleeve notes, however, who the keyboardists/pianist is.

“Doors and desolation” (track 7) resets the proceedings to the to the original programme and we’re back into a fairly standard death metal offering.

Then just as you suspect the album may just see itself out with a few album fillers, the stop-start magnificence of “Compression” (track 8) begins. It has a slower, looser feel, but like the opening track it’s really heavy. It’s definitely one of my favourite tracks on the album.

“Turning over” (track 9) opens with a tremendous bouncing riff and drums that could summon an army of the dead. Not Above Evil demonstrate  yet again that they are not a one-trick pony when it comes to song writing. They introduce new elements and riff after riff that twists the song in different directions. It does follow a bit of a pattern though with the song quietening in the middle, heading off on an interesting meander before returning to a pounding riff.

Finally, “And the skies return” (track 10) closes out the album in style. Like the opening track this has a feeling of grandeur, but it soon steps aside to let out the churning, maniac of a riff that it has clearly been trying to control. Towards the end of the song, the guitars slow down and wail, and the song walks over the finishing line at a steady pace. Like that scene of the soldiers entering the sports arena towards the end of Black Hawk Down (2001).

Conclusion

Not Above Evil certainly seem to be finding their voice but it is in the slower, more progressive numbers like “When the day comes”, “Elevation of the form”, “Compression” and “Turning over” that I feel they have most to say. The song writing is layered and complex and, essentially, very interesting. More like this please.

If you are into heavy music, definitely check out Not Above Evil. Definitely another keeper for me.

Review score: 90%

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Sayyadina—The Great Northern Revisited (2010)

Sayyadina—The Great Northern Revisited (2010)

Sayyadina—The Great Northern Revisited (2010)

Details

Tracks 1 to 8 recorded at Mart’s House, Tumba on 24 February 2001; engineered by Mart Hallgren. Tracks 9 to 17 recorded at Studio Sunlight, Stockholm from 2 to 8 September 2001; engineered by Tomas Skogsberg. Tracks 19 to 30 recorded at Studio Sunlight, Stockholm from 16 to 19 February 2002; engineered by Tomas Skogsberg. Mastered by Scott Hull. Released on Relapse Records.

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Band

  • Jon Lindqvist—Guitars and vocals
  • Andreas Eriksson—Bass and vocals
  • Ove Wiksten—Drums and vocals

Tracks

  1. Nothing
  2. Prozac generation
  3. The revenge
  4. The awakening
  5. Their control
  6. Min onda bän
  7. Instrumental
  8. Instrumental
  9. Someday I will kill
  10. Sort them out
  11. From ashes
  12. När fag faller
  13. Black rose
  14. Mid livet som insats
  15. Swallow
  16. All this fear
  17. Downfall
  18. Civilized control
  19. Retaliation
  20. Civilization
  21. Automation
  22. Compulsion
  23. Stagnation
  24. Confrontation
  25. Outrage
  26. Oppression
  27. Future digits
  28. Razor discipline
  29. Solitude
  30. Last days make the least

Review

I’m quite sure what it says about my personality that I find this kind of music unusually relaxing. Perhaps it’s simply that genres like grindcore contain a lot of white noise: “a consistent noise that comes out evenly across all hearable frequencies” (Source: Popular science).

Sayyadina (which means “friend of God” in Chakobsa, a fictional language used by the Fremen people of the Dune universe) are a grindcore band from Sweden, and are rather oddly not featured at all on Metal Archives.

This collection gathers together six individual releases, (a combination of individual and split 7″ EPs, LPs and CDs) as well as a handful of unreleased tracks. The sleeve notes documents the releases, offering insights and anecdotes about the recording sessions.

The music, rather inevitably, is brutal. A wall of guitar and bass, thrashing and changing direction on a whim; drums and cymbals that sound like a bag of jangling cutlery; vocals that are grunted and screamed. I shouldn’t like it, but it works.

The songs are short, between 12 seconds and 2′ 29″. And there are a lot of them.

Any discussion about grindcore would be incomplete without at least a passing reference to the godfathers of grindcore, Napalm Death. So that was it.

Conclusion

These is little to criticise about this release. It has just about everything you would want from a grindcore album. If you’re into early Napalm Death and haven’t checked these guys out then I urge you to do so now; listent to it on their Bandcamp page.

Review score: 95%

Runemagick—Voyage to Desolation / Dawn of the End (2008)

Runemagick—Voyage to Desolation / Dawn of the End (2008)

Runemagick—Voyage to Desolation / Dawn of the End (2008)

Details

Recorded at Magick Sound Studio / Los Angered Recording 2006. Mixed and mastered by Ricklas Rudolfsson and Emma Rudolfsson at Los Angered Recording 2007.

Additional recordings for this release made at Magick Sound Studio 2007.

Website | Bandcamp | Facebook

Band

  • Ricklas Rudolfsson—Vocals and guitar
  • Emma Rudolfsson—Bass guitar
  • Daniel Moilanen—Drums

Tracks

  1. Preludium—enter the circle
  2. Voyage to desolation
  3. Chthonic temple smoke
  4. Retaliation
  5. Volcano throne
  6. Incantation 444
  7. Magus of fire
  8. Dawn of the end

Review

I’ve been trying to play catch-up on my reviews this week, setting myself an ambitious target of four or five releases to review (I’m actually writing this in late April). And then I got to this album and like the music everything slowed down.

Three-piece Runemagick hail from Surte, Sweden (a town of nearly 6,000 residents about 15km north of Gothenburg. Their style is mid-tempo doom-inspired death metal; think Hellhammer, early Celtic Frost or Bathory. Their music is funereal and atmospheric, plodding and crushing, dreary and murky. But it ain’t half good!

That was the problem. When I find an album that I really enjoy listening to, I end up playing it again and again. And the albums queued up behind it get neglected for a bit.

The album opens with an atmospheric track (“Preludium—enter the circle”) featuring sparse drums, a bell and chanting. It leads into “Voyage of desolation”, which has a doomy Candlemass feel.

The rest of the album follows in the same vein: thick doom riffs, heavily carving their way through the songs. There is atmosphere, there is gravitas, there is space. Ricklas Rudlofsson’s vocals have a baritone gruffness like Tom G Warrior (Hellhammer Celtic Frost/Triptykon).

Conclusion

This album conjures images of dark Scandinavian winters. This could be the soundtrack to the apocalypse (had Slayer not got there first).

I’ve been really impressed with this album. This is definitely going to be grouped amongst my favourites from this project.

Review score: 100%

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%

 

Marduk—World Funeral (2003) box set

Marduk—World Funeral (2003)

Marduk—World Funeral (2003)

Details

Box set contains World Funeral (2003), Hearse (single) (2002), World Funeral at Party-San 2003 DVD, and photographic print.

Both CDs recorded and mixed at the Abyss Studio, September and November 2002. Produced by Marduk. Mixed and engineered by Peter Tägtgren. Released on Regain Records.

DVD recorded at Party-San open air metal festival 2003.

Band

  • Legion—Vocals
  • Morgan Steinmeter Håkansson—Guitar
  • B:War—Bass
  • Emil Dragutinovic—Drums

Tracks

World Funeral

  1. With Satan and victorious weapons
  2. Bleached bones
  3. Cloven hoof
  4. World funeral
  5. To the death’s head true
  6. Castrum doloris
  7. Hearse
  8. Night of the long knives
  9. Bloodletting
  10. Blessed unholy
  11. Blackcrowned

Hease

  1. Hearse
  2. Phantasm

DVD

  1. Jesus Christ… sodomized
  2. Hearse
  3. Slay the Nazarene
  4. Wolves
  5. Azrael
  6. On darkened wings
  7. World funeral
  8. Obedience
  9. Bleached bones
  10. Baptism by fire
  11. Materialized in stone
  12. Christraping black metal
  13. The black?
  14. With Satan and victorious weapons
  15. Still fucking dead
  16. Fistfucking god’s planet

Review

I reached for the next disc for this project and pulled from the bottom shelf of my CD bookcase a box. The spine of the box has some kind of pink and black background pattern behind the text; I’m sure it must have faded in the sunlight, but it’s rather out of place beside the front cover which features a crest bearing an eagle clutching a snake on a black background. It feels a little derivative of the Slayer eagle.

Inside the box: one World Funeral (2002) CD, one Hearse (2002) CD single, one World Funeral at Party-San 2003 live DVD, and one CD-size photograph  print of two handsome gentlemen resplendent in white corpse make-up pointing shotguns directly at the viewer. Friendly!

I watched the DVD first. In VLC media player the DVD opened with an all-green screen with a darker green rectangle near the bottom, on the right. It turns out this was the menu and I needed to click the darker green ‘button’ to start.

The concert opens with a funereal dirge. Lead singer Legion standing centre stage, arm in the air. The music finishes, Legion yells something blasphemous and off they trot at a galloping pace. Legion barks lyrics into the microphone while gesticulating, ‘windmilling’ his fine, flowing locks and walking in a Robert Trujillo crab-like way across the stage. Yeah…

The music was pretty one dimensional too. I’m not a believer that simply playing something fast and noisily equals heavy. It’s more abrasive than brutal. I think it’s fair to say that this performance didn’t win me over. The bassist’s t-shirt reading “Kill the Christians” did also strike me as a tad un-inclusive and potentially a little off-putting to anyone of faith who may be interested in getting into a little Swedish death metal.

The album is a little better. Certainly the production is clearer, as you would expect from a studio album.

On the whole I much preferred their slower tracks, “Bleached bones” (track 2) and “To the death’s head true” (track 5) were decent enough; particularly the former. “Bleached bones” is a crushing track, the opening riff grinding its way through the first thirty seconds. It has a majestic and dignified feel. By far it’s the stand out track of the whole package, not least the album.

“Castrum doloris” (track 6) leans towards melodic death metal, and “Bloodletting” (track 9) has a bit of a fun bounce to it.

“Blackcrowned” (track 11) begins with a distant, beating drum. An organ plays a funereal dirge until it dies out and the drums take us to the close. It’s a fine ending to a rather disappointing package.

The CD single doesn’t offer terribly much more. “Hearse” appears to be not much more than the album version. The ‘b-side’ is a cover of the Possessed track “Phantasm”, which ironically is probably the second best track in this box set.

Conclusion

I was hoping for must more from such a small collection. I’m sure there are many black metal fans who will love this. And if you want this copy please just say, I’d happily post it to you. But for me there just wasn’t enough.

I can overlook the blasphemous song titles in the name of freedom of speech. But I wonder how much of this was genuinely about exploring ideas through art and expressing personal beliefs and how much was intended to taunt and create controversy. I’m not convinced that a song like “Jesus Christ… sodomized” is offering terribly much to either art or theology. Disappointing.

Review score: 10%

 

 

 

Hypocrisy—Virus (2005)

Hypocrisy—Virus (2005)

Hypocrisy—Virus (2005)

Details

Recorded at Abyss Studio from November to December 2004. Produced and mixed by Peter Tägtgren. Engineered by Hypocrisy. Mastered in Cuttingroom by Björn Engelmann. Released on Nuclear Blast Records, 5 September 2005.

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Band

  • Peter Tägtgren—Vocals and guitars
  • Andreas Holma—Guitars
  • Mikael Hedlund—Bass
  • Horgh—Drums

Tracks

  1. XVI
  2. War-path
  3. Scrutinized
  4. Fearless
  5. Craving for Another Killing
  6. Let the knife do the talking
  7. A thousand lies
  8. Incised before I’ve ceased
  9. Blooddrenched
  10. Compulsive psychosis
  11. Living to die

Review

After last week’s lacklustre and terribly late review, I didn’t have much time left to listen to this week’s album. Which is a real shame as it’s a good ‘un. Apart from the artwork which I don’t really get. It has a crazy aliens-meets-insects-meets-venus-fly-trap vibe that to be honest kind of freaks me out; I’m not really one for horror films… or insects. So I turned the inlay card inside out and on we go…

I’m surprised that I’ve never heard of Hypocrisy before. Formed as a side project (originally called Seditious) of guitarist/vocalist Peter Tägtgren in the late 80s while he lived in the US, seemingly he was influenced heavily by the American death metal scene before returning to Sweden the following decade. Virus is the band’s tenth full-length release.

In many ways this album reminds me of Lamb of God: hard hitting, twisting-turning riffs, gruff vocals, with melodies woven throughout .I’m sure there are better analogies but that’s the one that comes to mind immediately.

The album opens with “XVI”: 16 seconds of ambience. It’s an almost obligatory way to open an extreme metal album these days, it would appear, as often I comment. But then we’re nose-first in the speed and noise. “War-path” followed by “Scrutinized” which features a fabulous, perhaps even fun, guitar solo from Gary Holt (Exodus/Slayer). “Fearless” slows the tempo a little and takes us in the direction of Solar Soul era Samael (2007). “Craving for another killing” takes the tempo back up. I do like the chugging riff that carries the song through—it’s simple but gets the heart going. Which is ironic for a song about death.

“Let the knife do the talking” brings the tempo down a little again with a slightly discordant and uncomfortable riff: think Slayer—”Seasons in the Abyss”. It’s a song that could have gone nowhere and become repetitive, but around two-thirds of the way through they mix things up a little, catch a new riff and take things a little faster. It’s moments like this that sets this album apart from many others: that ability to keep things interesting and unpredictable.

A few other notable tracks: “Blooddrenched” (track 9) has such a terrific throaty growl. It’s maybe the most brutal track on the album. “Living to die” is slow, melodic with spoken lyrics and actual singing.

This edition of the album (limited edition on Nuclear Blast) closes out with a bonus track “Watch out” which features a very bass-heavy, doomy riff. It’s so different to the rest of the album that it does make me suspect that it’s a cover but so far I’ve not been able to find any information about it.

But it doesn’t end there. This release also bundled a 12 track (54 minutes) live DVD, recorded on “08.04.2004”, which could have been April or August depending on your perspective. It’s a decent enough recording allowing you to experience the energy of the gig without the sweaty, ear-bleeding, mosh-pit swirling discomfort and all with a clearer view of the stage! The band, as you might expect, are dressed in black, leather trousers or cargo pants, feet up on monitors (Steve Harris style) long hair headbanging in sync, red, yellow and orange light show with bonus strobe.

Conclusion

All in all, a pretty good album. My only criticism really is the mastering. It’s really, really quiet compared with almost every other CD in my collection. Other than that… I’ll definitely be returning. Which makes me wonder: are Hypocrisy fans referred to as hypocrites?

Review score: 92%

Diabolical Masquerade—The Phantom Lodge (1997)

Diabolical Masquerade—The Phantom Lodge (1996)

Diabolical Masquerade—The Phantom Lodge (1997)

Details

Produced by Dam Swanö with Blackheim. Captured with digital devices at Unisound Studio, September 1996. Mixed and engineered by Dam Swanö. Mastered at Cutting Room by Peter In De Betou. All music, lyrics and concepts written between 1995-1996. Released on Adipocere Records, 1997; re-released on Peaceville Records, 2007.

The band split in September 2004.

Website | MySpace

Band

  • Blackheim—Vocals; electric and acoustic guitars; bass; keyboards/FX; drum programming

Guest musicians

  • Sean C Bates—Drums and percussion
  • Ingmar Döhn—Bass on track #5
  • Marie Gaard Engberg—Flute on tracks #5 and #6
  • Roger Öberg—Vocals on track #1
  • Tina Sahlstedt—Flute on tracks #5 and #6
  • Dan Swanö—Additional programming and “heavy metal” vocals on track #7

Tracks

  1. Astray within the Coffinwood Mill
  2. The puzzling constellation of a deathrune
  3. Ravenclaw
  4. The walk of the hunchbacked
  5. Cloaked by the moonshine mist
  6. Across the open vault and away… (instrumental)
  7. Hater
  8. The blazing demondome of murmurs and secrecy
  9. Upon the salty wall of the broody gargoyle

Review

Another week, another Diabolical Masquerade album to review; and there’s another one coming up next week. I’m stuck in some kind of black metal Groundhog Day.

I have to admit that I got rather distracted this week, partly by work and a couple of web development projects I’m working on at home, but mostly—in terms of listening—by the new Steven Wilson album, Hand. Cannot. Erase, that was released on Monday. So this has been a largely in-car listening review.

I really liked last week’s album Ravendusk In My Heart so I was hoping for something similarly good, even if this was the difficult second album.

In many ways this is more of the same but unlike their debut I didn’t quite connect with this album. I know there is often a tension between fans wanting more of the same and bands wanting to develop, I can’t quite work out on which side of that argument this album lies. Perhaps it would take a few more listens before I fully appreciated it.

A few tracks stand out, though. “Ravenclaw” (track 3) has a kind of plodding mediaeval feel which is quite out of keeping with the rest of the album, but that does make it memorable.

“Across the open vault and away” (track 6) is quite a beautiful, acoustic instrumental. Why is it that metal bands can write such beautifully sweet melodies in a way that is absent from almost every other genre? (I’m not complaining.)

“Hater” (track 7) has a very old school thrash feel, with vocals that wander from King Diamond to Jeff Waters (Annihilator).

The final track “Upon the salty wall of the broody gargoyle” opens with a riff that could easily be early Celtic Frost, even the vocals are very Tom G Warrior—including a few ‘death grunts’. It’s quite brilliant.

Conclusion

Even though I didn’t get to spend as much time with the album as I would have liked, even just listening through it just now as I wrote this it still made me smile. Again, this is definitely a keeper. I look forward to listening to this and its older sibling back-to-back.

Review score: 80%