Category Archives: Reviews

Enceladus

Review: Enceladus – Arrival

Prog/Power metallers from Texas, Enceladus, have been around for a few years, and they have recently returned with their second album “Arrival.” Why the hell didn’t I know about them earlier? Now, thanks to the PR wire, I got a promo copy of the album which is a real t(h)reat.

The style that Enceladus plays is pretty standard, comparing somewhat with more traditionalist 80s metal throwbacks, yet they manage to sound different and fresh when compared with a lot of the other bands that attempt to play in this particular style.

Soikkam’s vocals are gravely and rough, standing at the very center of the counter-tenor wails of Rob Halford and the husky baritone of Blaze Bailey. During the choruses of such catchy anthems as “Distant Land” and “Blueprint” the vocal work almost punches past the rest of the arrangement. While he doesn’t soar into the higher stratosphere too often in the manner that most in the genre do, he more than compensates with sheer power.

Enceladus - Arrival

Although the voice alone gives this album a heavy yet melodic edge, the entire arrangement pounds the sonic threshold of the listener into submission. Whether its faster songs like or down tempo stomping machines, there is a consistent picture of a mighty fist slamming itself down on a stone table and commanding your undivided attention. Balancing out the simple yet aggressive riffs and backing instruments are flashy leads of guitarist Geo Roessler.

“Arrival” is a powerful statement from a band that is hungry to show what their abilities are, and according to this they have much more to offer. Grab this record, you’ll not regret.

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Second To Sun

Review: Second To Sun – The Black

Well, this is quite impressive. “The Black” is the second album from post/black metallers Second To Sun and it’s a stunning piece of work filled with lush soundscapes and bleak moods, but also darkness.

Second to Sun - The Black“The Black” is an ambitious piece, with lots of intricate ideas and approaches woven into the music, and it’s a very rewarding listen as a result. It seems like on every listen, there’s another little element that you pick up on because there’s so many layers to Second To Sun’s sound. It’s just so atmospheric and well-constructed, and it really draws you in as it progresses.

A good element of the album is that there’s certain  groove riffs and ideas that span over the entire length of the album, really helping the piece to worm its way into your head, and there’s just so many good songs to contend with.

All in all, “The Black” is a pretty solid release. Second To Sun have really made it count with this album, and it is memorable for all the right reasons.

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Remark

Review: Remark – Keep Running

There’s really no reason to fault Moscow alt rockers Remark for wanting to ride the flannel-clad ‘90s bandwagon. It’s certainly a nostalgic commodity as of late, sure, but the five-piece execute those thick layers of guitar with the least conceit or egotism. Instead of marring their production with slight shoegaze elements, they keep their crisp arrangements muted and poised, letting the songs surge and sway with a more reflective and thoughtful tone.

Keep Running

Remark don’t really rage, either — two author tracks on the band’s new EP “Keep Running,” ‘Comeback’ and ‘Purple Haze’ come close to disrupting the album’s overall mud-tempo chug, while singer Yanas airs his grievances with a tuneful voice instead of falling into any aggro dramatics. But it never happens — “Keep Running” sternly approaches its dreary mood with just a dash of atmospheric distortion, letting its sepia-toned gloom flourish with a controlled tension. It’s grunge for a new generation, though you get a sense these guys would see that as a compliment.

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DID

Review: DID – Dissociative Identity Disorder

Here is an excellent album from the debutants on the progressive rock scene: a French group DID put out their debut full-length release entitled “Dissociative Identity Disorder” in November last year, a concept record which in the band’s own words tells “the story of a man.” DID, in its core, operates as a quartet featuring Regis Bravi on drums, Didier Thery on bass, Patric Jobard on acoustic and electric guitars, and Christophe Houssin on keyboards. They are joined by a number of guest vocalists who helped them to tell the story. These include Michael Sadler of Saga, Marco Glühmann of Sylvan, Oliver Philipps of Everon, Alan Szukics of Opium Baby, and Maggy Luyten (Ayreon, Nightmare).

Dissociative Identity Disorder

Allow me to truly begin by stating that many instrumental sections on “Dissociative Identity Disorder” are dazzling and intriguing and that the instrumental portion of the album is incredibly well-arranged. Talented solos and arrangements from the band members are easily the album’s highlights with tracks like “The Sun” and “Lock Up” presenting themselves as easy standouts.

The performances here are exceptional, both instrumentally and vocally, and sound natural despite the host of guests at band’s disposal. Diehard prog fans will relish the back-to-back synth solos.

With “Dissociative Identity Disorder,” DID has put attention on themselves as a group to look forward to within the progressive rock scene. While not necessarily groundbreaking, it’s exceptionally refined given how big its ambitions are, and it boasts some impressive production values. If nothing else, DID offer a work that balances instrumental and vocal performances more equally than on some of the releases of the similar orientation. It also manages to have just the right amount of camp and compelling drama, making it perhaps the most intriguing prog releases of 2018.

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FG

Review: Forest God – Back to the Forest

Forest God is a relatively new project coming from Aalborg in Denmark who recently release a new EP entitled Back to the Forest. The project is led by composer Peter Kiel Jørgensen, who is joined by a number of guest musicians throughout the record.

Back to the Forest requires careful listening in order to be fully appreciated. It is definitely not the kind of stuff you can put on as a soundtrack for other activities – complex music, full of twists and turns, yet not unnecessarily complicated, or weird for weirdness’ sake. In fact, the music has a beautiful, natural flow, a clarity and melodic quality. Even though guitars make up a prominent part of the sound, they never get to the point of overwhelming the other instruments. As in most experimental music, however, the foundation of  the EP’s sound lies in the rhythm section, especially in the jaw-dropping drumming patterns provided by Martin Haumann (Myrkur).

Head-spinningly complex without being cold and sterile as other efforts in a similar vein, Back to the Forest can easily be listed as one of the top releases of 2018. In fact, the sterling musicianship, coupled with an admirable sense of restraint, focuses on creating cohesive, highly listenable tracks rather than pointless displays of technical skill.

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Lautreamont

Review: Lautreamont – Silence of the Deceased

Russian trio Lautreamont were brought to life to assault the senses, striking the listener continuously with discordant walls of pandemonium and persecution. “Evil” causes this immediate impact with extremely huge basslines and hypnotizing strident guitars before breaking. The instruments almost decline, slipping away delicately into descent before launching an avalanche of dissonant guitars and a frenzied attack of blast beats, signalling a chaotic finish. If there was ever an assertion of what Lautreamont are about this first track is surely that.

Silence of the Deceased

“Father” may be a more brutal and destructive track. Moments shatter into an uneasy state whilst others fall into a decay where its nothingness consumes your very being. Lautreamont have showcased an adept mastery of the sickening malady that this genre elicits, packing on layer upon layer of abhorrence, neurosis, and absolute cruelty as is further explored in tracks such as the title song. The unendurable pressure of its soundscapes is at times unfathomable. A song-by-song dissection is of no use, as each song displayed here pursues the same code of sweeping disarray, assembled to be music that demands to be swallowed as a whole.

Whilst not the most severe in spatial terms the drumming by Vladimir Fomenko on “Silence of the Deceased” is near perfect. Lautreamont play smartly, often settling on for ear-shattering cannonade of noise rather than counting on the blast beat to strike desolation.

The sound of “Silence of the Deceased” simply destroys; the mix is completed with as much intricacy as can be absorbed. Lautreamont can take you into contemplation and then let you down in your own decay in just a few seconds. This is intelligent metal.

“Silence of the Deceased” is out on May 7th; pre-order it here.

Nafrat

Review: Nafrat – Abnegation

Technical death metal perfection. That’s pretty much all that need be said about Nafrat’s brilliant new release “Abnegation.” From the moment that you lay eyes on the terrific album art until the final notes of album closer “The Axis of Perdition” leave you jaw agape, this album takes you on a journey through ethereal beauty and Earth-shaking brutality.

The musicianship is astounding and inventive. Even in the moments of calm in the eye of this storm, Nafrat never let you forget that this record is HEAVY in nearly every conceivable sense of the word. Stream below the full album while you’re reading through the review.

Nafrat - Abnegation

Nafrat is a Singapore-based band and “Abnegation” is their second full-length offering. Their previous releases, “Invoking the Masses” EP (2005) and “Through Imminent Visions” (2008), were nothing short of a masterful display of technical death metal musicianship. “Abnegation” ups the ante to dizzying heights. This record edges other death metal releases from 2018 due to it’s sheer inventiveness. Furthermore, I believe that it has actually accomplished the task of ranking right up there with the best overall metal album of the year.

This is where I usually list the highlights of the record. In this case, the entire record is the highlight. DO NOT miss this album if you are a fan of technical death metal and insanely great musicianship.

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Devildom

Review: Devildom – Curse of Flesh

Founded in 2012 and initially intended to indulge the band members’ love for emotional black metal, post-metal and depressive rock, Ukrainian act Devildom has since become its own monster. Releasing their debut album “Curse of Flesh” in January, they look set to take things up another level with their absorbing, genre-straddling release.

“Curse of Flesh” examines the eternal cycle of life and death by way of chugging riffs, tender interludes, atmospheric soundscapes and an impressive array of vocal deliveries.

Curse of Flesh

Atmosphere on “Curse of Flesh” is built meticulously and carefully in each of its eight tracks, with amazing attention to detail. You get pulled along on the crest of this dark and emotional wave as the songs build and fall. It really is very clever and an intense and brilliant listening experience.

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WoT

Review: War of Thrones – Conflict in Creation

Shades of Judas Priest, Iron Maiden with their self-titled debut LP, and Helloween are abound on this album, which is a throwback to the ’80s Metal that started it all. War of Thrones started some six years ago, and features heavy metal veterans Wade Black on vocals, Rick Renstrom on guitar, Rich Marks on bass, and Jason Marks on drums. Their debut album Conflict in Creation does a perfect job in enveloping that one-of-a-kind feeling that one can only get from the true Heavy Metal of old days. While the influences (of which there are many) are certainly audible within the structures of each and every track, War of Thrones manage to keep their listeners engaged throughout the record by doing what they do right.

Conflict in Creation

Conflict in Creation is rich in its falsetto rebel yells and guitar-driven anthems. In fact, the album is primarily guitar-heavy — a route rarely taken in the world of Metal today. This is a big part of what gives it success in its attempts to recapture the sound that existed exclusively in the early to mid-80s, when Heavy Metal was truly coming into its own as a genre.

From track one (“Ascending”) we get a clear picture of exactly where War of Thrones is planning on taking us: the very bowels of the bleak and dark universe where Heavy Metal saw its birth. Guitars switching tirelessly between rhythm and lead excerpts, 1980s style vocals, driving percussion, and those deep, rolling bass lines that define Heavy Metal. The lyrics are perfectly dark, and that mood is reflected in the music with little effort. The second song on the record, “Creation”, kicks up the pace with its relentless drumming and angst-ridden picking, reminding those of us who are older of those long lost days of yore where our school books were adorned with brown paper bag covers that were literally covered in the names and logos of our favourite bands and slogans oh, so long ago.

Conflict in Creation delivers this emotion throughout its entirety without fail, evoking images of long hair drenched in Aqua Net hairspray, black leather chokers, and all the things that helped shape Heavy Metal as both an image and a sound. As the album winds down with its final track, “Descending”, I am confronted by the one and only gripe I could possibly have with this record — wishing that it were just a bit longer. Regardless of its length, however, I do realize that this wonderful recording from War of Thrones is an essential when it comes to those feel-good albums that have that special something that takes one back to their own youth, giving that carefree feeling back to them that is all too often forgotten and ignored in the dull regularity that is our adulthood.

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