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%

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%

Steroid Freak Pussy—Conquer and Divide (2008)

Steroid Freak Pussy—Conquer and Divide (2008)

Steroid Freak Pussy—Conquer and Divide (2008)

Details

Recorded at the Old Chapel by Gavin Johnson. Mixed and mastered at V-Edition Studios by Gavin Johnson. Produced by Gavin Johnson and Steroid Freak Pussy.

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Band

  • Tommy Shan—Vocals
  • Lee Coates—Guitars and backing vocals
  • Lizard—Guitars and backing vocals
  • Craig Dougan—Bass and backing vocals
  • Tony “MEatball” Batley—Drums, percussion and backing vocals

Additional musicians

  • Anneka Latta—Vocals on “Nitroglycerine” (track 3)
  • Mr Pete Shaw—Vocals on “Suicide nation” (track 4)
  • Sweeney Todd—Vocals on “Shut your mouth” (track 6)

Tracks

  1. Pussy blowout
  2. Fire your guns
  3. Nitroglycerine
  4. Suicide nation
  5. Wrong side of right
  6. Shut your mouth

Review

With the chorus of the opening song “Pussy blowout” (track 1) including the line “Everybody wants a little bit of pussy / Everybody needs a little bit of pussy” it’s quite clear  — as if the band’s name itself wasn’t enough of a clue — that UK sleaze rockers Steroid Freak Pussy are going down the in-your-face sexual imagery path of the likes of WASP, Faster Pussycat and Mötley Crüe.

It’s not really my thing really, either the lyrics or the music. That said, there is a bit of a Warrior Soul sound lurking in there somewhere but the cheap lyrics put it off for me, to be honest.

“Fire your guns” (track 2) is an energetic rocker that would probably sound great blasted loudly on the motorway. It’s probably my favourite track on the EP, but that’s not really saying much, to be honest.

“Nitroglycerine” (track 3) is built around a start-stop riff that is planted firmly in the sleaze rock genre, and features Anneka Latta’s vocals on the chorus (or pre-chorus).

“Suicide nation” (track 4) has a punk vibe and chugs along cheerily but there isn’t much to it. “Wrong side of right” (track 5) reminds me a little of early Motörhead in its attitude but it doesn’t have enough of a riff to interest me. It’s sleaze-by-numbers,

“Shut your mouth” (track 6) opens promisingly with a chugging riff and pounding drums. Alongside “Fire your guns” this is probably one of the strongest songs on the disc, but despite the strong intro it fails to deliver much during the verses,

Conclusion

This album wasn’t really for me. I was never really into glam or sleaze metal. This has a very 80s LA feel to it, in attitude if not entirely musical content. They weren’t so close to Warrior Soul (a band that I’ve seen live and would rank among my favourites) to redeem them for me. Thankfully the overly sexualized lyrics didn’t extend far beyond the opening track but by then they’d done their damage.

Review score: 45%

Stampin’ Ground—A New Darkness Upon Us (2003)

Stampin' Ground—A New Darkness upon Us (2003)

Stampin’ Ground—A New Darkness upon Us (2003)

Details

Produced, engineering, mixed and mastered by Andy Sneap. Recorded in the summer of 2003 at Backstage Productions, Derbyshire.

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Band

  • Adam Frakes-Sime—Vocals
  • Scott Atkins—Guitar
  • Antony “Mobs” Mowbray—Guitar
  • Ian Glasper—Bass
  • Neil Hutton—Drums

Tracks

  1. A new darkness upon us (intro) (instrumental)
  2. Don’t need a reason to hate
  3. Behind the light
  4. Killer of society
  5. Dead from the neck up
  6. The cage
  7. Bear the scars
  8. Betrayal has a face
  9. Pain is weakness (leaving the body)
  10. Unmarked grave
  11. Ashes to scatter
  12. Mantra of a dying world (outro)

Review

I’m running hugely behind on reviews this autumn and for some reason I really thought  I had already written this review. Probably because I’ve listened to this album more than probably any other album I’ve reviewed during this project. It sat in my car CD player for weeks. Last.fm tells me that I’ve played 90 Stampin’ Ground tracks in the last 90 days; they are my fourth most-played band in the last six months.

This was one of those albums that hit a chord with me on my first play through. Stampin’ Ground from Cheltenham, Gloucestershire here in the UK play fusion of hardcore and thrash. Imagine Exodus, Slayer, Hatebreed and Biohazard forming a supergroup and you more or less have their sound down to a tee.

A New Darkness Upon Us (2003) is the band’s fourth, and to date, last full-length album. According to Encyclopaedia Metallum the band formed in 1995 then took a hiatus from 2006 until 2014 when they reformed. I’d definitely love to hear both their back catalogue and whatever they might release next.

Conclusion

Keeping with my tradition of writing really short reviews for the albums that I love most, I find myself writing the conclusion already.

This is an album I could listen to on repeat for days – and have done. While the album isn’t entirely perfect, I can’t but give it a full 10/10: the flaws just don’t seem important enough to quibble over. I can see me listening to this album for a long time yet.

It is discoveries like this one that makes me love this project and probably is why I am running behind on reviews (it’s currently early October): I just don’t want it to end.

Review score: 100%

Residual Effect—In a World Where Pain is God (2006)

Residual Effect—In a World Where Pain is God (2006)

Residual Effect—In a World Where Pain is God (2006)

Details

Recorded at Void Studios, Dublin. Engineered and mixed by Mark Galvin and Residual Effect. Mastered by Marty Robison at Ferox Studios. All tracks written, arranged and performed by Residual Effect.

Band

  • Michael Higgins—Vocals
  • William Caulfield—Guitars
  • Andrew McCallistar—Guitars
  • Anthony McKee—Bass
  • Antony Weston—Drums

Tracks

  1. Second face
  2. Porcelain idol
  3. Morbid theme
  4. IV
  5. Withered
  6. Stronger again
  7. Pivotal

Review

Having loved their three track demo I felt a certain degree of anticipation and expectation when I fired up this album.

While I’m not entirely in agreement with the theological statement presented in the album title, _In a world where pain is god_ adequately continues the good work where the three track demo left off.

Unfortunately, I didn’t quite live up to the quality of the songwriting on the demo.

“IV” (track 4) is a nylon-strung guitar solo which takes me back to the classic days of thrash where every respectable heavy band nestled a classical-inspired track somewhere on their album: Exodus did it, Sepultura did it, even Metallica did it on the black album.

“Withered” (track 5) kicks off with a head-splitting guitar riff that saws right through you while remaining guitar, bass and drums piledrives that riff into your head, for good measure.

Flippin’ ‘eck! This should have been the album opener. Don’t hide this stuff in the middle order. This is is gold. Put it on display. Flaunt it! This is the kind of music the demo promised me there would be more of. I’d happily allow you your “Second face” and “Porcelain idol” further down the album. But give me this first.

The same goes for “Stronger again” (track 6) and to a lesser extent “Pivotal” (track 7).

Conclusion

The problem with this album, in my opinion is three fold: the songwriting isn’t quite as good (that’s okay, it happens); the vocals drift a little too often into just outright shouting, which at times feels lazy; and the songs are simply in the wrong order on the album.

But those are pedantic niggles on what is otherwise a very impressive debut album British (and for the real pendants: Northern Irish) album.

Review score: 75%

Residual Effect—3 Track Promo Demo (2005)

Residual Effect—3 Track Promo Demo (2005)

Residual Effect—3 Track Promo Demo (2005)

Details

No details on inlay card. Independent release.

Band

No details available.

Tracks

  1. Less than this
  2. Slit wrist
  3. Living through mime

Review

You couldn’t really hope for a better intro to this three track demo from Belfast (Northern Ireland) based melodic death metallers, Residual Effect.

When “Living through mime” introduces the demo it does so like a brick to the face. The musicianship is excellent, the riff is heavy and dark, and the the bass tone in particular is very pleasing. (I’m not sure I could write a more British thing in a metal review!)

“Less than this” (track 2) proves that this wasn’t just a freak accident. Another heavy riff that begins like a tank being started, before trundling off down the road to crush everything in its wake. (Do tanks have wakes?)

“Slit wrist” (track 3) hits the ground running with a relentless, bouncing riff. Gutteral vocals are barked. Guitars that sound like chainsaws buzz through the song, as te drum kit is pounded to within an inch of its life. The initial, very repetitive riff is broken up nearly two minutes in with a slight change of direction. To be honest, I didn’t think this song was going to cut it but these cunning deathsters brought it round in the end.

Conclusion

This is one of the most promising and exciting demos that I’ve listened to in a long time. To be honest, it’s significantly better than an awful lot of albums by signed bands that I’ve had to listen to.

To date Residual Effect have only put out this 2005 demo plus one full length album, the following year. Thankfully that album is scheduled for next week. Expectations are running high. Don’t disappoint me team Ireland!

Review score: 90%

Rekuiem—Time Will Tell (2006)

Rekuiem—Time Will Tell (2006)

Rekuiem—Time Will Tell (2006)

Details

Recorded at Outta Space Studio, Birmingham, England and Dragon’s Lair Studio, California. Mixed in Madhat Studio, Wolverhampton, England. Produced and engineered by Steve Slater and Karl Wilcox. Mixed by Mark Stewart with Steve Slater and Karl Wilcox. Released on Majestic Rock Records, 2006.

Encyclopaedia Metallum | Website (WARNING: auto-plays track!?)

Band

  • Paul Parry—Vocals
  • Steve Slater—Guitars (and keyboards on “Nightmare”)
  • Brian Tatler (Diamond Head)—Guitar solo on “Werewolf”
  • Gordon Denny—Bass
  • Karl Wilcox—Drums

Tracks

  1. Nightmare
  2. Wildfire
  3. Sinners
  4. Time will tell
  5. Werewolf
  6. Paranoid (Black Sabbath cover)
  7. Black death
  8. In your keeping
  9. Angel of sin
  10. Sacrificial wanderer

Review

First off, I’m just going to ignore the dodgy spelling of ‘requiem’—we’ll just agree to let that one go. They were originally spelt correctly, when the band formed in 1979 until they split in 1984.

Time Will Tell is the band’s first full length album and I’ll be honest I wasn’t entirely hopeful when I stuck it in my CD player. But, you know what, it’s not bad at all. I mean, it’s not brilliant, it’s not exactly original, but it’s not bad.

I was a bit dubious when I read on Encyclopaedia Metallum that they were categorised as ‘heavy metal’. That seemed a bit generic to me. But nope! That’s exactly what they are. There are discernible elements of a lot of classic metal bands in this album: Iron Maiden, Dio, Black Sabbath, Rainbow, Deep Purple, Diamond Head (of course), and even Swedish doomsters Candlemass.

The album opens with an organ, that actually put me in mind that this might end up sounding like a Morbid Angel album. But soon the keyboard pads out a strings chord and the guitars crunch in. It’s classic NWOBHM-style metal.

“Wildfire” (track 2) is another slow starter that builds into a Dio-style track.

“Sinners” (track 3) has yet another slow beginning, not really getting going until about 45 seconds. And then it’s more or less a pastiche on Rainbow’s “Stargazer”, at least for the verses. So much so that I found myself unconsciously singing along using the Rainbow lyrics: “High noon, oh I’d sell my soul for water / Nine years worth of breakin’ my back / There’s no sun in the shadow of the wizard / See how he glides, why he’s lighter than air.”

The title track “Time will tell” (track 4) reminds me of the ballads of 80s Christian rock band Triumph.

“Werewolf” (track 5) is probably the best track on the album. It unsurprisingly has a very Diamond Head feel to it, with Brian Tatler guesting on it.

Track six is a cover of Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” where the band have totally made it their own. Gone is the heavy-hitting simplicity in favour of something that sounds like it’s taken from Iron Maiden’s Somewhere In Time (1986) sessions. I appreciate what they’ve done but it doesn’t really do it for me.

“Black death” (track 7) has a very doom feel that initially reminded me of Candlemass’s Nightfall (1987) album before it morphs into something a lot more mid-era Sabbath.

There are a couple of fairly generic heavy metal stompers before the album closes with “Sacrificial warrior” (track 10) that begins as a ballad before throwing off that cloak and revealing itself as a Helloween-style power ballad.

Conclusion

It’s a decent album this. The musicianship is solid, the production is well balanced, the songwriting is well… classic. There’s just not enough that’s new or innovative. The album rests very much on the laurels of a lot of other bands.

If I was in need of something distinctly NWOBHM and didn’t have any Dio, Rainbow or Deep Purple to hand then I’d certainly put it on. If it came on again through random play then I’d certainly not switch it off. Whether I’d go seek it out or not is another question. I’m not entirely sure I would. If they were playing live locally then I’d probably go see them: I think they could be fun.

Sadly, though, that’s really not enough to recommend them very strongly.

Review score: 65%