PREVIEW: Death Blooms—Death Blooms EP (2017)

Death Blooms—Death Blooms (2017)

Death Blooms—Death Blooms (2017)

Details

Recorded at Red City Recordings, Manchester by producer and mix engineer David Radahd-Jones, Death Blooms’ self-titled debut EP is released Friday 12 May 2017.

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Band

  • Paul Barrow—Vocals
  • Ad Lucas—Guitar
  • Ben Grimsley—Bass
  • Mel Stewart—Drums

Tracks

  1. Hate:Die
  2. Last ones
  3. I’m dead
  4. Sick

Review

Death Blooms are a new alternative metal band on the UK scene, hailing from Manchester and Liverpool in the north-west of England. This is their debut EP and it’s really rather good.

Death Blooms (band)

Death Blooms (band)

That old adage “always leave them wanting more” is certainly true for this self-released EP (launched on Friday 12 May 2017). By the end of this four track recording I felt quite disappointed that there wasn’t more.

Musically, Death Blooms have a very modern metal sound. Vocalist Paul Barrow offers a gruff hardcore/metalcore vocal that isn’t afraid of softening a little to carve out some beautiful melodies, accompanied by a very competent-sounding band.

The EP opens with an in-your-face, punchy little number with the cheerful title of “Hate:Die” (track 1).  From the very first note, vocals are screaming, guitars are riffing, drums pounding. It’s certainly a bold entrance and one that initially took me a little by surprise and somewhat off-putting.

But that initial explosion, is immediately responded with an almost-whispered response, “then hate, then die, then hate, then die” that reminded in some part of—of all things—”What makes you tick” by Terrorvision. About a minute in, the chorus reveals a melodic core. It’s a classic combination: hard exterior, soft centre.

“Last ones” (track 2) retains the urgency but softens things just a little with a little less brutal opening. The riff is more melodic, as is the chorus (“If the skies should fall, we’ll be the last ones standing”). The band thumps around, throwing in a few interesting twists and turns and some colossal sounding riffs.

“I’m dead” (track 3)—see the video below—returns to the same song structure as the EP opener with the vocals leading from the go, like Hatebreed’s “Straight to your face” does. The song gallops through a solid riff, gruff vocals throughout, until a slightly more melodic middle-eight sung in chorus leads the song to a stomping conclusion.

EP closer “Sick” (track 4) begins with a complex guitar riff that weaves itself through the drums and screaming vocals. By now, Death Blooms have already revealed their hand and so the song structure and song textures are quite predictable: bouncy, shouting vocals broken up with more melodic, multi-voice choruses.

And then it suddenly goes quiet and it feels somewhat unfinished… always leave them wanting more, right? And that’s a good thing.

Conclusion

There is a vitality, a freshness and a sense of urgency about Death Blooms’ music that I really like. It’s exciting to hear such good quality British metal being created and exciting that such music can be released independently and still distributed widely.

While the four songs don’t stray too far from the same hardcore/metalcore/alt-metal formulas, it’s a solid approach and it still sounds fresh and relevant. I’d love to hear a full-length album to hear where else Death Blooms could take their sound, and what else they could achieve.

As it is, I’m perfectly happy with this EP. It’s a great start. I can only wish the band well in the future. Definitely a band to listen out for and look out for—they’ve already been seen live alongside Skindred and Raging Speedhorn.

Review score: 80%

Video

Disclosure

Stampede Press UK contacted me inviting me to preview Death Blooms’ forthcoming EP, which I was delighted about.

I have no connections to either Stampede Press UK or Death Blooms. I’m not being paid to review this. But I did get a free digital copy of the album to review which is pretty cool.

Many thanks to Rob from Stampede Press UK, and to Paul, Ad, Ben and Mel for continuing to create fresh, interesting metal in the UK.

Krysthla—The minor mystery of death (official music video)

UK death metal band Krysthla are preparing for the release of their second album Peace In Our Time (2017) with the release of this video for “The minor mystery of death”, the opening track on the album.

The album is great. It’s out on Friday 7 April 2017.

To support the release they touring the UK throughout April to July. I’m planning on seeing them when they come to Scotland.

Krysthla UK tour dates 2017

  • 17 April—Peterborough, The Met
  • 21 April—Bolton, The Alma
  • 22 April—Warrington, The Brewhouse
  • 28 April—Cardiff, Fuel
  • 05 May—High Wycombe, Phoenix
  • 06 May—Worthing, Bar 42
  • 07 May—Bournemouth, The Anvil
  • 12 May—Inverness, Mad Hatters
  • 13 May—Dundee, Beat Generator
  • 14 May—Edinburgh, Bannermans
  • 26 May—Northampton, King Billy Rock Bar
  • 27 May—London, The Devonshire Arms
  • 28 May—Leicester, Uprising Aftermath @ The Firebug
  • 03 June—Kettering, The Prince
  • 24 June—Norwich, B2
  • 01 July—Milton Keynes, Craufurd Arms
  • 22 July—Gloucester, Amplified Festival

PREVIEW: GraViL—No More Forgiveness (2017)

Gravil—No More Forgiveness (2017)

GraViL—No More Forgiveness (2017)

Details

Produced by Dan Abela (Voices, Sarah Jezebel Deva). Self-released on Friday 5 May 2017.

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Band

  • Grant Stacey—Vocals
  • Tony Dando—Lead and rhythm guitars
  • Charlie Webster—Rhythm guitars
  • Sparx—Bass and backing vocals
  • Perrin—Drums

Tracks

  1. Detonate
  2. Are we alive
  3. I am the blood
  4. Plagues, thieves and murderers *
  5. Locate the traitor
  6. Choke in silence
  7. Fractured, divided
  8. Decommissioned
  9. Forever is a prison
  10.  One eyed king

Review

Until this album dropped into my email inbox, I’d never heard of London melodic death metallers GraViL. But they’ve been around for a few years. Their debut album Thoughts of a Rising Sun landed in 2013, the same year they headlined the Takeover Stage at the Download Festival, and a year before they played at Hammerfest and then supported HellYeah on their UK tour.

That experience shows in this their second full-length album. I’m told that this is a far heavier album than their debut. I can’t comment on the comparison, but it’s certainly a relentless barrage of first class British death metal.

According to Grant Stacey, vocalist and primary lyricist, the album has, woven through it, an underlying theme of loss in 2016: the personal loss of a baby a few years ago, the deaths of close friends, the loss of the EU through Brexit, and the loss of America to Trump.

The album kicks off to a majestic start with “Detonate” (track 1). A pounding wall of guitars and bass, drums kicked and beaten to within an inch of their life, and Stacey’s vocals passionately screamed. There are some lovely, classic metal guitar patterns towards the beginning of this track: guitar one plays a riff, guitar two joins in for the reply. The more I listen to this one track the more I connect with it. “I can’t let you go… can’t let you go!” Stacey screams. This could easily be talking about my experience of 2016, too.

“Are we alive” (track 2) opens with a galloping riff and soaring guitar solo before the lyrics explore the feeling of losing control in the face of change. Again, another theme that resonates with me these past two years. This track has more of a metalcore feel than the opener.

“I am the blood” (track 3) feels like the second part of “Are we alive”. It features a melodic, multi-voice chorus that gives it a bit of a nu-metal feel (but not in a pejorative sense). About two-thirds of the way through it heads for a fairly inevitable solo and middle eight but the predictability doesn’t detract from the excellence of its execution. It’s a welcome and carefully penned hiatus from the onslaught.

“Plagues, thieves and murderers” (track 4) is one of my favourite tracks on the album. In parts it has an almost ethereal feel, a haunting wave played over a deep, pounding beat that stops and starts, and twists its way through the track. Towards the end they do that thing with the recorded voices from a TV show over the top of the music. I like that thing. It’s a steady, stomping track. “Slow burn” indeed.

“Choke in silence” (track 5) ends the first half of the album with a very Lamb of God-style riff that they take and twist into their own shape and run with it. This song features the best solo of the album so far—more solos like this please. Such is the strength of this album that we have another very strong song buried in the middle of the album.

“Locate the traitor” (track 6) sounds like how I imagine an underground train that had to bore its own way through an erupting volcano might sound if it hit a particularly gnarly piece of rock. It has an unusually melodic chorus and a rather more delicate middle eight, but it all works together beautifully.

“Fractured, divided” (track 7) has an almost folk-metal feel in its opening riff. It features guest vocals from Theresa Smith (Metaprism). Grant Stacey: “This is again, a tale of me dealing with loss. It tackles the feeling I had that I was solely to blame for the  baby’s loss and that it was my fault that I couldn’t give my partner the one thing she wanted so much. I felt like my heart and soul was being pulled apart.” It’s a powerfully emotional song, a fine balance between light and dark, between melody and noise. Theresa Smith’s vocals take this song to another level. Beautiful stuff.

“Decommissioned” (track 8) will be GraViL’s first single from the album (see their lyric video below). It’s a terrifically punchy track that talks—screams—about friendship betrayal. As with a few of their songs, I love the tranquil melody that glides effortlessly above the pummelling machine beneath.

“Forever is a prison” (track 9) has a really interesting starting-stopping riff that feels like it’s changing direction or pace every few bars. This gives the song quite an unsettling feeling, which is fitting given that the theme of the lyrics includes domestic abuse. About halfway through the song morphs into a beating, primal bass and drum rhythm, over which sings a melodic guitar solo.  The guitar solos are few and far between on this album, which is a real shame as when they do come they are really great, and add something special to each track.

The first time I listened to the final track “One eyed king” (track 10) I couldn’t believe they kept this track till last. It’s so different to the rest of the album. It’s brilliant! It opens with a grinding bass riff through which weaves a staccato guitar riff that builds and pummels into a full-on guitar-led assault. About a minute in the vocals bounce and build into a full-on rant. Each time I listen to this song I can’t help but smile: this song is perfect.

And then silence.

Conclusion

It’s often in the silence after an album has burned itself out that you really begin to appreciate its greatness. And this is a great album.

This is an album that was written largely online using home recording equipment, and over the phone. The lyrics were written within a week.

People often talk about the “difficult second album”. Well, GraViL have certainly made it sound easy—though, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t. They have poured out and honed their creativity into a solid body of music that feels both raw yet honed.

This is an exciting, fresh album from an up-and-coming British band. I just hope that the disappointments about the state of the music industry that are reflected in track 4 “Plagues, thieves and murderers” doesn’t destroy their passion before it flourishes more.

This is certainly a band to keep an eye and an ear out for. If this album is in any way indicative of the health of British metal just now then we are in a really great place right now. Thank you GraViL, 2017 is looking up already.

Check it out on Friday 5 May 2017.

Review score: 98%

Bonus video

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%