Brilliant is not enough to describe the third outing from Belgium’s 23 Acez. From the first ripping atmospherics of “Re:” to the eerie closing moments of “Freefall,” the energies of Embracing the Madness will grasp you and not let go. As with their first two albums, 2011’s Crossroads and 2015’s Redemption Waves, 23 Acez has again chosen to take the concept album route.
Dark and heavy, every note, chord and vocal intonation are well planned and executed, with unforgettable results.
Although singer’s unique sound alternates between rasp and crystal clear, his delivery on every track is passionate beyond doubt. Tom Tas provides outstanding guitar work. Rhythm section of Mundez (bass) and Louis van der Linden (drums) provide an often complex backdrop, which fits perfectly. Rarely does a disc come around that is as powerful as this.
Embracing the Madness is easily an early treat in these introductory months of 2018. How well will it fare — let’s find out. The album is available from iTunes.
It’s not every day that one hears a modern day metal band produce an album that truly challenges the stereotypical sound that may be expected from contemporary metal acts. Enter Vikrit — Ranchi in Jharkand, India based metal heads who recently dropped out their debut EP. I’ve spent the last four days immersed in the experience that is The King in Exile and I can’t seem to stop listening to this incredibly versatile and talented group of musicians and this gem they’ve produced.
Being active since 2010, Vikrit’s sound is a uniquely balanced mixture of Progressive Metal, Ambient, Metalcore, Djent, yet the seamless integration with which the band has brought these together is a testament to their musicianship and skill.
So let’s get down to brass tax – this EP is not for the faint hearted. Tracks like the opening Age of Despair and Drowning in my Sins, fire on all cylinders; blisteringly hard hitting drumming coupled with flawlessly executed guitar riffs and bass lines to match not to mention the quintessential growl that has mosh pits swirling in unison. It’s what comes next that makes Vikrit’s sound theirs and theirs alone.
The album holds additional treasures such as Time Machine and The Dark Crusader, both of which have a relatively greater degree of Progressive Metal evident in their composition.
I can go on for hours about this release but the bottom line is that Vikrit have absolutely nailed on The King in Exile with their song writing, virtuosity and execution. Do yourself a favour and get the EP.
Death metal is an unwavering staple in the heavy metal world. It’s punishing and unforgiving. Sweden’s Kharva, with their recently released demo, are here to carry the death metal flag well into the future for the genre. Their brand of metal is raw, fast and razor sharp. I hear influences ranging from Bolt Thrower to Death.
“Present Tense” opens up the demo in grand fashion. Jacob Forsberg’s vocals are guttural and straight from the depths of hell. The song is mid-tempo at first, then breaks into a galloping death feast. “Markedness” has a Bay Area thrash feel to it, like early Exodus. The mid-section slows a bit and delivers the massive riff of the song. “Unstable Genius” picks the pace right back up to a frenzied gallop. It’s death metal proper and reminds me of Obituary. The title track keeps the same frenzied pace, and drummer Charlie Agne really exhibits his chops here. He’s a crushing drummer, no matter the tempo! “Cheers Jeff” injects a bit more depth with some melodic guitars in the beginning, and then the beatings begin.
Kharva have a killer death metal demo with this one. It rings of the old school of the genre. It’s up to them now to hit the studio again and deliver on an official release.
Czech melodic hardcore ensemble Anthems set out to pack lots of energy in their 2017’s album, “Consciousness”. The record blurs the lines between the old school and the new, with some truly cinematic melodies and some deep, explosive guitar walls. After the short instrumental intro, the introductory guitar riff “Empty Thoughts” is clean and drenched in reverb, reminding me of post-rock. The contrast between the vocals and the music reminds me of bands such as The Chariot or Underoath, while, the song later explodes with dense, heavy and powerful grooves.
One of the most striking aspects of this record is definitely the complex arrangement and the way it merges with some emotionally introspective lyrics, blurring the lines between genres as diverse as melodic hardcore, post-rock and metalcore. I am really impressed with the overall production quality and by the earnest performance of these talented lads.
Stream the album below, download it from Bandcamp and follow Anthems on Facebook.
With a shockingly tight performance and a handful of evil anthems, Ecuadorians Arutam 666 managed to craft a death metal beast with their debut EP titled Arutam.
The riffs on Arutam are actually memorable, with insane blastbeat drums and an uncanny sense of timing guiding the songs as they charge through one by one. “The End of the Beginning” may be one of the best death metal songs written in 2018 (though I wish the production is thicker and bigger), taking all of these elements to their natural extreme and crafting an ugly epic. “Arutam” is a speed-happy chunk of blasphemy that borders on black metal, while “Lost on the Other Side, Part I” is another gem that survives on the creative riffing.
Arutam 666 crafted one truly great EP in the death metal genre; it’s time to come up with a full-length.
Though it may seem rather reductionist to liken a band to the influences that spawned the realization of their sound, it’s nonetheless a useful tool for painting something as obtuse as words over the immaterial substance we call music. After all, everything accomplished in the world of music up to this point has been driven by the desire to blend influence with new ideas. Sometimes these individual influences are obfuscated through divergent aesthetics, but more often than not an artist’s inspiration is rather apparent if we understand the history of their sonic genetics. In the case of Choral Hearse, that influence is clear as day: a fresh mix of abstracted, Chelsea Wolfe-sque songwriting swathed with the dense, claustrophobic soundscapes that pertain to this discordant brand of doom metal. Choral Hearse may be wearing their influences on their proverbial sleeves here, but it feels almost sinful to reduce them to such skeletal stylistic comparisons; Choral Hearse deserves far more credit than that. After all, it’s one thing to borrow influence and in turn admirably pay homage to predecessors, but to create something that genuinely lives up to its inspirations in terms of quality and innovation is another thing entirely.
“Mire Exhumed” is a deep album. It’s deep in the scope of its ambition, and it’s deep in the sheer amount of subtle richness that becomes revealed through numerous dedicated listens. What may initially appear as a relentless, angular exercise in needless technicality soon becomes a rich and naturally flowing tapestry of sound, rife with nuanced, puzzle-like builds that fall into cathartic and thought provoking releases of intricate groove. The brilliance really lies in the subtle dynamics here, with the interplay between instruments serving as the essential breeding ground for this album’s real “wow” moments. As a result, “Mire Exhumed” rewards attentiveness and — save for the few spacious grooves — repels casual absorption.
Choral Hearse really are masters (actually mistresses) of their discipline, especially for such a young band. The instrumentation borders on savant, but regardless of each members’ experience on their individual tools, to see a band play so tightly together on a debut album is truly impressive. This quality is only bolstered by the fine tuned production. The drums are roomy and organic, offering a graciously varied foundation for the rest of the band to work with. On top of these rhythms, the guitars glisten with a bright richness, leaving plenty of room for the taught bass to flex its brazen grit. Overall, the palette of sound here is overflowing with naturally dynamic textures channeled through chromatic songwriting that never reduces itself to theatrical nonsense.
Turbid as it may be, “Mire Exhumed” moves with a clear intent from start to finish. As the album progresses, the songs become more climactic in shape and atmosphere as the more splendid moments of melodic catharsis become increasingly developed.
“Mire Exhumed” is a fully-realized, devilishly-detailed album whose rich intricacies and nuanced genius will forever cement it as a timeless work of forward thinking doom metal. Fans of the progressive and deviant side of the genre shouldn’t have any trouble holding this album in the high esteem of the style’s most lauded releases. Indeed, “Mire Exhumed” is a brilliantly mature release overflowing with cerebral complexity executed to full potential. With their debut album, Choral Hearse have offered us a breathtaking, fully-realized album whose rich intricacies will keep you coming back for more long after think you’ve become acquainted with the depth of its knowledge.
“Mire Exhumed” is out on April 16; pre-order it on Bandcamp.
I have to admit it: I have a thing for vintage psychedelic / progressive type of rock, and that’s why I found a debut album from German rockers Welcome Inside the Brain quite an enjoyable experience (read my review here).
Singer Frank Mühlenberg was very kind to answer questions about his musical upbringing, forming the band, influences, the album, and more.
Let’s start from your early music beginnings. How did your musical career begin? When did you start playing? Which groups have been your favorites as a young man? Please tell us something more about your early life.
I started my first band in the age of 16. I listened to really noisy kind of music in this time and so I started with an extreme sound: not as a singer, but as a shouter. With 18 I became open minded for new music and started a cool Polka-Ska-Punk project called „Gegen Windmühlen kämpfen“ („Fighting against windmills“) with some friends. At this time I discovered older bands like The Doors, King Crimson and so on and felt in love with the sound of hammond organs.
How did you go about forming Welcome Inside the Brain? Who was the most influential when the band started its musical journey?
Our Ska-Punk band split up after some cool years, because we lived in different towns after finishing school. But our guitar player Georg, who was also a member of this older band, and me founded a group to celebrate the sound of J. Hendrix, J. Cocker and other hippy stuff. Here you can find the roots of our current band.
The members changed over the years and we started to create our own sound with own songs and three years ago we changed the name of the band to „Welcome Inside The Brain.“ I think the most important thing in this band is the very diffrent background of the members. Everybody listens to a very wide range of different music. We don’t think in genres. Sun Ra, John Coltrane, 70s African music, Led Zepplin, Zappa, Anna von Hausswolff… There is an endless list of stuff we listen to…
In the beginning, did you have some “fixed” tempo in composing songs or everything was a product of jamming, improvising?
We work a lot with improvisations, but this can just be a springboard for a song. When we got an idea, we fix it and work it out in detail. But there are also songs with open parts, nobody knows what will happen.
How would you describe Welcome Inside the Brain’s music on your own?
I think it’s really important for us that no song sounds like an other. Every song can be seen as a journey to discover new possibilities. But you can say that this band works a lot with dynamics to create an exploding point. Structures become more and more intensive
and you’ll find suprisingly twists and turns. The band is looking for a maximum of energy, but I think you need an interesting way to reach the climax.
Your debut album, Celebrate the Depression, is a follow-up to the 2015 self-titled EP release. Have you felt any pressure while working on Celebrate the Depression because of that?
The EP was like a demo to find a label. We felt never pressure in any way. We always take the time we need to create something. The EP was an important step to the album and two of the three songs of the EP are also a part of the record.
How important the “progressive rock” tag is for the structure of your songs?
We don’t think in stereotypes like progressive or jazz or pop. The energy of a song is important for us. In retrospective you can say, „Celebrate The Depression“ is a Psychedelic-Prog album, but there is no category working as a stencil. To make music means to leave all boundaries behind you…
How do you see the German progressive rock scene today?
Mhm, I have to say, I don’t really know. I know a small scene of real fanatics. Cool guys, organizing really strange concerts, but mostly with French bands. I know a lot of bands, that work with elements you can find in classical progressive rock, but I think Germany is a
rough place for doing this kind of music.
Do you guys consider yourselves a part of any specific cultural movement, however peripheral?
I would say no. We are not part of scene like Gothics, Rockabillies or Metal guys. But I think we see a big worldwide clash of two different cultural movements. Everybody sees all the endless global problems we have. And I think there is a specific movement that locates the reason of this problems in people and tries to segregate them. They got a lot of power they use against other people or groups. On the other hand there’s a movement that locats problems in specific structures of organizing society. Of course we are a part of the second movement and the album „Celebrate The Depression“ refers to contradictions in human being permanently.
Are you also involved in any other projects or bands beside Welcome Inside the Brain?
I’m the only one of the band, who has no other band projects. But I organize a lot of concerts in the town I live. Here it’s also a wide range of concerts. Bands of Jazz, Soul, Afrobeat or Psychedelic music play at my events.
The other guys of Welcome Inside The Brain also have Jazz-, Reggae-, Soul- and Fusion- projects. So there’s a lot of different input…
So, what comes next for Welcome Inside the Brain?
We spend the last week in a lonely cabin full of equipment and wrote songs for the next album. It will sound very different from the first one. And we will play as much concerts as possible in the next months…
I have to admit, I’ve sat on this review a while. A good while, in fact. The review copy of “Ghettoblaster” dropped into my inbox about two months ago and I thought that I’d have plenty of time to listen, absorb and ruminate. Followed, of course, by a succinct summing up in a review.
In reality, life is often not that easy. It would seem that The Mercy Stone strive to approximate that rather well.
I could trot out the well used “this band is not known for trying to be accessible” line, and for certain, it wouldn’t be wrong. But I’m also not sure that it does them justice. This is carefully honed mayhem. Split succinctly into nine neat servings, each different in flavour and texture. Each with purpose. Some with distinct menace.
Once I had listened to the album the first time, it became rapidly apparent that I had absolutely nothing to compare it against. This did not help with timely delivery of reviews… The fact that this is a debut album by this 12-piece ensemble did not help at all. There’s no foundation for me to build a narrative on.
It’s not that there’s no structure to their music, it just doesn’t often fit within the confines of what we would term as normal, in terms of either time signature, or song structure. Especially song structure. The songs evolve and take different directions, staying within a broad theme, but unafraid to look outside and take a stroll round the grounds once in awhile.
The title track starts this journey with dense, multi-layered string section, almost immediately smothering you with rich, honeyed, sinister analogue emanations. Cut through with focused rhythm section, wailing to the sky in gentle anguish.
Following this is “Triptide.” It starts off following a relatively simple rhythm, accompanied by some relaxed, but fairly sinister guitar / saxophone interplay.
“First Light” continues to explore these strange and broken aural landscapes with stuttering drums and pulsing abstract guitar lines. Running violin lines providing the substructure for the abundant poly-rhythms and key-straddling twists and turns.
“Megalodon” takes on an immediately more crystalline tack. The instruments morphed, thinned into an altogether more bright and brittle sound. The track pulsing and flowing as if in tune with the gravitational waves of the planet it emanates from. While excursions from normality are definitely present here, the way has been smoothed over significantly; weird juxtapositions made to seem commonplace. Easing you into a different mindset and making you ready for the bare fragility of closing “Lazer.” The final, subtle, delicate taste of a feast well finished.
This is not an album for the faint of heart. This is not an album for those that do not want their preconceptions of how music should sound significantly challenged. In places, this is not a comfortable, easy or even pleasant listen.
That is exactly how it is intended.
The Mercy Stone clearly want to challenge us to listen, to accept and embrace their differences. This is their normality, their experience. This is a brief glimpse into their stories from a world that while essentially alien to us, is nevertheless full of intrigue.
The way Welcome Inside The Brain play their music is simply unparalleled in today’s prog. Imagine the twiddly instrumental bits of Haken‘s music, crank up the daftness by a factor of ten and forget about conventional things like verses or choruses. Welcome Inside The Brain live to make intricate, dense and thoroughly complex progressive rock. Pigeonholing this band into a genre proves difficult as words like jazz fusion, zeuhl, Canterbury and certainly eclectic could all describe this band. This is prog with everything including the kitchen sink thrown in. Utterly unpredictable yet thoroughly compelling stuff.
And Celebrate the Depression is the band’s debut album. It presents the listener with a full spectrum of sound, with styles from jazz to psychedelia being tapped into, all darkly twisted into a tasty progressive feast.
When played from start to finish, the first set of tracks seem to flash by, but they certainly make their mark. The lengthy self-titled piece seems to inform the listener with all of its intricacies. And this seems just to multiply in the coming songs.
The medium length tracks all take rather different routes: “Snails on Speed / Buddha in a Bottle”resembling something close to a song; “Welcome Inside the Brain” demonstrating the more typical instrumental pyrotechnics; the slightly longer “Ugly Beauty” and “Revolution” balancing the band’s technical side with their ability to create melody. Oddly, the first two sets don’t even take up half of the album. By the time we reach the scarily technical and experimental closing piece “Tears of the Past,” Celebrate the Depression finally feels like a fully-fledged prog rock album. Nine minutes in length, this is a tour de force of progressive excellence, featuring the whole band on top form in an intense extended instrumental with a fantastic climax.
Welcome Inside The Brain are leagues ahead of their contemporaries, both in technical ability and style. The level of effort that is required to write and perform such music is simply astronomical and for that they must be applauded. More importantly though, this is a band that fully realises what true prog fans want to hear and never skimp on the delivery. Their only weakness is that they can sometimes be too complex for their own good, although this is one of the most forgivable errors a progressive rock band can make. Let’s just hope we will not wait for too long for the next one.
This Polish duo fuse heavy metal with raw hardcore punk and occasionally thrash, and they do it with deliciously seductive genius. This debut full-length is just over 48 minutes long but it’s intense, unpretentiously creative and relentlessly rhythmic.
Zombie Strippers from Hell have synthesised their style to perfection, riddled with excellent melodies, fuzzy guitar lines, deep groove and hooky riffs. Dracula is immense with an ominous build-up and tumbling old-school death metal. Hellraiser is classically heavy metal and Trapped Under Ice encapsulates all that this band do best with grizzly guitars and gigantic riffs. Meanwhile, Lovesong dials up the melodic metal and hardcore vocals with an enticing singalong. Closing Hatchet is the real masterpiece, though. It’s fast, dense, heavy, criminally hook-laden, and utterly captivating.
Zombie Strippers from Hell are carving out a hybrid genre all of their own.