Oceans Of Slumber – Starlight And Ash

Starlight And Ash Album Cover Art

Oceans Of Slumber – Starlight And Ash
Century Media Records
Release Date: 22/07/22
Running Time: 48:28
Review by Dark Juan
6/10

Hello, my fiends. It is I, Dark Juan, and I am discovering the delights of Aldi’s Dr. Pepper analogue. It is called Professor Peppy and for some reason this has amused the fuck out of me and I giggle every time I look at the bottle. I am a man of simple pleasures and even simpler humour. In fact, Mrs Dark Juan would claim (with some justification) that I am just simple. She’s probably right.

As this rock spins around the sun, covered in a load of humans who account for only the most infinitesimal percentage of the mass of the universe, yet who consider themselves so important that the universe should bend over and reveal its secrets to us, I find myself ruminating on the nature of humanity. A race capable of squandering so much potential by allowing themselves to be governed by the people who are most unsuited to power – those being the ones who clamour to wield it. Why do we trust our lives to psychopaths and hypocrites? Why do we, the people, not rise up against these oppressors and forge a different path for ourselves? I, Dark Juan, did not consent to be governed by anyone. Indeed, I’d be much more comfortable if I were governing myself. My mate Tony and I will have the UK sorted out in five minutes flat, when we tear down the system and build a new one based on Yorkshire common sense and not on rich folk protecting their own. Come the revolution you’ll find me leading from the front. Something has to change.

 Flat caps will be compulsory on a Sunday.

Speaking of revolution, I am listening to Houston, Texas based Oceans Of Slumber. If you are a long time studier of my peculiar compositions, you’ll no doubt recall that I reviewed “The Banished Heart”, being the last long playing release by the band I have heard, way back when in 2018, and properly raved about it, the sheer intelligence of the music and the absolute ASSET that the voice of Cammie Beverly is. Her soulful delivery runs the full gauntlet from softly charming and seductive to venom-spitting fury and she was a part of a modern progressive metal masterpiece at that time. Shall we see if Oceans Of Slumber have another one on their hands?

First of all, I note with trepidation that the blurb states that “Starlight And Ash” marks a new sound for the band (“You are all witnesses to the birth of Spinal Tap Mark II. Hope you enjoy our new direction…”) with a decided pivot towards Southern Gothic music. Now, I don’t know whether you metalheads have actually heard any Southern Gothic music, but it is best described as country music written by even more depressed musicians than normal practitioners of country. They are more at risk of mental health difficulties than blues musicians and Amy Winehouse combined. It is slow and gloomy and all about peoples’ dead dogs, lovers, the Appalachian Mountains and how beautiful they are even though Emmie-Lou fell off one of them and her head exploded like an overripe melon, but by god the scarlet on the white was gorgeous to behold. Basically it sounds like Willie Nelson discovered depressive black metal and the Sisters Of Mercy at the same time and then stuck a wailing violin and a twangy bastard banjo over the top of it and dug up the corpse of Rover to weep over whilst drinking whiskey and rye.

I’m not sure I like it. All the right ingredients are there – lush songwriting, a crystal clear production that renders everything more glacial and pure than an Antarctic winter, staggering musicianship and the emotional and ardent singing, but I can’t help it. It feels somehow contrived. ‘Just A Day’ amply demonstrates this – an absolutely jaw-dropping song, but one much superior to much of the album because it is more concentrated on being heavy than clever. And the cover of The Animals’ seminal ‘House Of The Rising Sun’ is fucking awful. If Cammie had sung an acapella version, it would have been goosebump-inducingly wonderful, but slinging a mournful cello over finger-picked acoustic guitar and possibly the most disinterested-sounding keyboardist ever does not constitute an acceptable version of a bona fide classic. 

I think I have identified the problem. I think this album has been too long in the making. It’s been overthought and overwrought. The band are trying too hard. There are flashing moments of brilliance, but it is not a very cohesive thing. ‘The Shipbuilder’s Son’ is a perfect case in point – satisfyingly chuggy guitars give way to mournful, affecting quiet passages and then to soaring, slow crunching, but there’s too much stopping and starting and too much reliance on Cammie Beverly’s undeniable vocal supremacy to carry the composition through, and this is a recurring problem throughout the album. It’s too self-indulgent. And it’s not because I don’t understand progressive music either. I have a 14-cd box set of Van Der Graaf fucking Generator on my review list…

It’s a crying shame because the opening track, ‘The Waters Rising’ is simply brilliant, effortlessly melding Cammie’s warm, intimate delivery with an electronically enhanced drumbeat and soulful backing vocals, and an interesting lyric, and a slowly building sense of purpose, especially when the band hit the gas and crash into the heavy fucking metal, however briefly. 

Wow. I’m so disappointed I want to go and kill someone’s beloved pet or child in a bizarrely misplaced act of vengeance because I wanted to love this record so much, and I just don’t. It is slow and maudlin and not what I remember Oceans Of Slumber to be. When they start playing metal, it is absolutely staggering in its intelligence and complexity, but the metal moments are too few and far between and there’s too much focus on noodling – ‘Hearts Of Stone’ is a brilliant metal song but it is followed by ‘The Lighthouse’ which is not a good metal song. It is not a metal song at all. The styles the band are trying to merge are too divergent. I intensely dislike the little slide guitar lick on it, but as Cammie sings her heart out, she’s capable enough to turn the ugliest sow’s ear into a glorious silk purse and she lifts it beyond poor, to acceptable.

In conclusion, then. A record that tries too hard to meld music made by depressed shotgun owners who would massacre their way around surrounding farms if they didn’t have instruments, with heavy metal. It doesn’t really gel and the Southern Gothic elements jar uncomfortably against the heavier stuff. When it’s good it is simply sublime but there are not enough great moments on the record. The main saving grace is the singing of Cammie Beverly, which is always exemplary. Southern Gothic music should be of an earthy, home grown quality that speaks of isolation and pain, yet this album suffers from having too clean a production that robs the songs of any emotion or pathos.

The Patented Dark Juan Blood Splat Rating System is astounded that it has actually reached the dizzying heights of competence in review writing for several minutes now, but remains disappointed in Oceans Of Slumber and awards them 6/10 for a real bum note in their otherwise enviable canon.

TRACKLISTING:
01. The Waters Rising
02. Hearts Of Stone
03. The Lighthouse
04. Red Forest Roads
05. The Hanging Tree
06. Salvation
07. Star Altar
08. The Spring of 21
09. Just A Day
10. House Of The Rising Sun
11. The Shipbuilder’s Son

LINE-UP:
Dobber Beverly – Drums, piano 
Cammie Beverly – Lead vocals 
Mat V. Aleman – Keyboards 
Semir Ozerkan – Bass, backing vocals 
Jessie Santos – Guitars 
Alexander Lucian – Guitars, backing vocals 

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Dark Juan and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Witchery – Nightside

Nightside Album Cover Art

Witchery – Nightside
Century Media Records
Release Date: 22/07/22
Running Time: 35:47 
Review by Rick Eaglestone
7/10

Masters of infernal metal since the 90’s, Sweden’s Witchery are poised to release their most undeadly ambitious album to date; “Nightside”.

The band waste no time in attempting to raise the dead with opening track ‘Witching Hour’, which is a non-stop rollercoaster of furious beats and solo’s – great start to the album and an early contender for my highlight track. But then the intro to ‘Don’t Burn the Witch’ hits, and this my fellow metal fan has to be my highlight track!! It has the aura of Satyricon’s ‘Fuel for Hatred’ about it too, which is an added bonus.

The album continues to flow with ‘Storm of the Unborn’ and interludial ‘Er Steht in Flammen’ before the unholy trinity of ‘Popecrusher’ ‘Left Hand March’ & instrumental ‘Under the Altar’ take hold of the middle section. The first two tracks of this trinity are heavy, but they in no way compare to the sheer ferocity that is ‘Churchburner’! I am honestly taken aback just how fast and heavy it is in parts – more of this please.

‘Crucifix and Candle’ has the best start to a track of the entire album, and when most of the lyrical content is effectively The Lord’s Prayer, you can’t help but appreciate just how wonderfully blasphemous it is! Also, it has a wonderful solo towards the end, and if that wasn’t enough, the band casually unleash ‘A Forest of Burning Coffins’ which is maybe even heavier than ‘Churchburner’.

The album concludes with the ominous and foreboding title track ‘Nightside’, which for me personally finishes this album off in just the right way.

Heavy metal witchcraft at its finest.

‘Popecrusher’ Official Video

TRACKLISTING:
01. Witching Hour
02. Don’t Burn the Witch
03. Storm of the Unborn
04. Er steht in Flammen
05. Popecrusher
06. Left Hand March
07. Under the Altar
08. Churchburner
09. Crucifix and Candle
10. A Forest of Burning Coffins
11. Nightside

LINE-UP:
Angus Norder – Vocals 
Jensen – Rhythm Guitars
Rickard Rimfält – Rhythm and Solo Guitars
Victor Brandt – Bass Guitar
Chris Barkensjö – Drums 

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Rick Eaglestone and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Vomit Forth – Seething Malevolence

Seething Malevolence Album Cover Art

Vomit Forth – Seething Malevolence
Century Media Records
Release Date: 08/07/22
Running Time: 29:01
Review by Rick Eaglestone
8/10

Vomit Forth aren’t a band I’m familiar with, but that was immediately slapped out of me with the short ‘Untitled’ intro – there’s something about Synths right now that I just can’t seem to get enough of. This was different though, as there was something dark and twisted about it which seeps into the bludgeoning ‘Eucharist Intact’. I’ve been well and truly initiated.

Hands down ‘Pain Tolerance’ has to be my highlight track. It’s full of OSDM elements, but has a snarling quality that just invades my eardrums. This is followed immediately by the absolutely unrelenting ‘Tortured Sacrament’, which make me feel how I did when I discovered Cannibal Corpse in the 90’s. It’s a strange feeling, the warmth of nostalgia with the cold crushing heaviness, but that’s what I’m left with here.

At this point of listening to my review, my wife walks in and pulls a face like someone has run over a kitten. If the track in question ‘Unrecognizable’ was a vehicle, it would be a monster truck – poor fictional kitty, also, this track has a phenomenal guitar solo and title track ‘Seething Malevolence’ has live crowd favourite written all over it. 

This album is unapologetic in its delivery ‘Severely Wounded’ briefly gives the impression that maybe, just maybe, things may mellow the band, though they may well have other plans to continue to engulf the listener with really skull pounding Death Metal, but just sprinkle in these subtle elements throughout. It’s incredibly well blended, with tracks like ‘Carnivorous Incantation’ & synth laden instrumental ‘I Feel Nothing’ feeling like throwbacks, but with a firm boot pressed into the future.

“Seething Malevolence” concludes with ‘Predatory Saviour’, which has some great basslines and final track ‘Pious Killing Floor’ showing all the mercy of a Vipco vaults of horror movie! 

Vocalist Kane Gelaznik wanted to change how people look at Death Metal and collectively Vomit Forth may just have succeeded. 

‘Carnivorous Incantations’ Official Video

TRACKLISTING:
01. Untitled
02. Eucharist Intact
03. Pain Tolerance
04. Tortured Sacrament
05. Unrecognizable 
06. Seething Malevolence
07. Severely Wounded
08. Carnivorous Incantation
09. I Feel Nothing
10. Predatory Saviour
11. Pious Killing Floor

LINE-UP:
Nick Herrmann – Drums
Ricky Brayall – Guitar
Tyler Bidwell – Bass
Kane Gelaznik – Vocals

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Rick Eaglestone and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Monuments – In Stasis

Monuments – In Stasis
Century Media Records
Release Date: 15/04/2022
Running Time: 50:00
Review by Rory Bentley 
7/10

Alright kids it’s time for my first Tech-Metal review for the website, strap in and get that bottom guitar string ready because shit’s about to get djenty!

Monuments have carved out a solid place in the modern Metal scene alongside the likes of Tesseract and Periphery without quite breaking through to those levels of success. Nonetheless they have their avid group of followers and it’s easy to see why on the basis of the first few cuts on “In Stasis”. They have the dizzying riff work one would expect, a slick incorporation of electronics and some impressive soaring vocals contrasted with the obligatory shouty bits. It’s all performed with stellar musicianship and a big shiny production job and generally ticks all the boxes of the genre but therein lies the problem for me.

As someone with a pretty casual relationship with this genre, I tend to look for something that deviates a little from the beaten path to hook me in. I love the way that Tesseract have streamlined their progressive sound to something more direct and punchy without shedding the polyrhythms and complexity of their older work, but perhaps this balancing act is beyond most band’s capabilities or desires. Which is probably why I’m presented here with an album that loses a little of its impact largely due to a gruelling 50 minute runtime

Don’t get me wrong there is a lot to enjoy on here, Periphery frontman Spencer Sotelo lends his commanding voice to album highlight ‘Arch Essence’ to great effect in a song that shows a songwriting finesse that isn’t always present throughout the album. Elsewhere ‘Somnus’ provides a groovy off-kilter riff that is as catchy as it is abrasive, as it underpins rhythmic screams that have an almost hip hop feel to them. Add these tracks alongside ‘False Providence’ and its satisfying bass slapping and stirring symphonic outro and it’s clear to see that the band do possess a proficiency for balancing chaos with composition, I just wish it was more present throughout the runtime.

My main gripe with the flow of the album is that the first half of it stays in the same lane for too long, offering up ideas I’ve heard too many times before. While the likes of ‘No One Will Teach You’ and ‘Lavos’ are technically impressive in their proclivity to send the kitchen sink soaring through the air while switching on a dime to high-register saccharine vocals, I found myself worn down a lot earlier than I’d like. Some songs like ‘Cardinal Red’ veer too far into riff soup territory to really find their feet and the transition between abrasive chaos and conventional pop hooks is jarring in a way that doesn’t compliment either end of the spectrum. The fact that I’ve heard a lot of these ideas executed before by the band’s peers and to greater success means I’m sometimes caught between disoriented bemusement and ambivalent familiarity. It’s crazy but it’s a crazy that I’ve seen before.

Thankfully by the time the slick vocal runs on ‘Makeshift Harmony’ and the more disciplined songwriting of The Cimmerian’ close things out and the band venture further up the fretboard, I have a much more positive view of the album as a whole. In fact I believe that with a little resequencing and more judicious editing there is a really solid album in here.

As it stands this was an overall enjoyable listen that showed flashes of more widespread appeal but perhaps fails to deviate from the genre’s formula enough to truly satisfy anyone but the Djent faithful. I’m interested to see if they can break beyond these boundaries next time because there’s plenty of evidence on ‘In Stasis’ that they have the tools.

‘Makeshift Harmony’ Official Video

TRACKLISTING:
01. No One Will Teach You
02. Lavos
03. Cardinal Red
04. Opiate
05. Collapse
06. Arch Essence
07. Somnus
08. False Providence
09. Makeshift Harmony
10. The Cimmerian 

LINE-UP:
John Browne – guitars
Adam Swan – bass 
Mike Malyan – drums, samples
Andy Cizek

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Rory Bentley and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Ignite- Ignite

Ignite Album Cover Art

Ignite- Ignite
Century Media Records
Release Date: 25/03/22
Running Time: 31:00
Review by Rory Bentley
8/10

I tell you what mates, it feels good to be back on home soil and talking about some Hardcore again, this time we’re talking about Orange County veterans Ignite and their new self- titled effort. Ignite have long stood out from the crowd with their ultra-melodic but no less intense approach to Hardcore, bolstered by the powerful, crystal clear tenor of original vocalist Zoltán Téglás, but now they find themselves seven albums in surrounded by bands that have liberally ‘borrowed’ from them and with a new singer in the form of Eli Santana. Do we need a new Ignite album in 2022? My answer is yes we need bands like Ignite more than ever.

At a brisk 31 minutes “Ignite” is brimming with aggression, passion and gigantic singalong hooks that tackle social injustice headfirst. Eli Santana immediately stamps his authority all over the album as ‘Anti Complicity Anthem’ comes screeching through the speakers, possessing a robust high register croon that effortlessly takes the baton from his predecessor.

After ‘The River’ brings some Gothic melancholy to the table and ‘This Day’ snaps your head back with furious pace and boisterous gang vocals, things really start cooking. ‘On the Ropes’ channels lurching bass and jangling chords into an eruption of kinetic Bad Religion harmonies that are catchy as they are intense while ‘The Butcher In Me’ is an outstanding songwriting showcase that has all the hallmarks of a hit single while never losing its menacing Hardcore edge. If you miss the old Rise Against sound then Ignite has got you covered here in a big way.

‘Call Off The Dogs’ provides the biggest hook of the album with the fist pumping chant of “Deny your programming” and a bouncing Nu-metal riff that really catches fire in the screamed breakdown section. From here on out it’s a straight dash to the finish line with every song hitting the mark until the brooding closer ‘Let the Beggars Beg’ seduces you with melancholic strumming that builds into hulking AFI style riffs that masterfully build into yet another huge chorus.

While I can’t honestly say that Ignite are doing anything new here, it has been a long time since they sounded this vicious, focused and full of spite and even longer since they’ve produced something this consistent. There are no dips in quality or momentum over these 10 tracks and enough variety to avoid fatigue setting in. This is music that deals with ugly reality and isn’t afraid to slug you in the face with it, but it sweetens the deal with an abundance of melody.

With AFI going full goth a long time ago, Bad Religion mellowing with age and Rise Against going the stadium route you could do a lot worse than turning to Ignite for scabrous punk with a hint of California sunshine. This one’s getting bumped loud and proud in my garden this summer!

‘The Butcher In Me’ Official Video

TRACKLISTING:
01. Anti-Complicity Anthem
02. The River
03. This Day
04. On The Ropes
05. The Butcher In Me
06. Call Off the Dogs
07. The House is Burning
08. Enemy
09. State of Wisconsin
10. Let The Beggars Beg

LINE-UP:
Kevin Kilkenny– guitar
Nik Hill– guitar
Brett Rasmussen– bass
Craig Anderson– drums
Eli Santana– vocals

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Rory Bentley and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Venom Prison – Erebos

Erebos Album Cover Art

Venom Prison – Erebos
Century Media Records
Release Date: 04/02/2022
Running Time: 48:59
Review by Rory Bentley
10/10

Venom Prison have held a special place in my heart since my skin was peeled from my oversized head in 2015 by their frankly vile debut “Animus”. Their blend of traditional Death Metal twinned with the nastier end of Hardcore (without being Deathcore), combined with a lyrical approach that focused on real life horror over pantomime gore was an instant hit with me. 2019’s “Samsara” somehow managed to raise the ferocity levels and harrowing subject matter as demonstrated in the devastating ‘Uterine Industrialisation’ (which is about forced surrogacy, kids!). Point being, Venom Prison are, for my money, one of the best Death Metal bands in the world right now, both on record and live.

As great as they are at smashing your skull into powder though, there was a creeping sense on 2020’s stopgap release ‘Primeval’ (a re-recording of their first two EP’s with two new tracks added on), that the Welsh / Russian quintet had a little more in their locker than they were letting on. Possibly they were curbing their more experimental instincts in favour of dealing out the putrid Death Metal assault that they do better than pretty much everyone else. After all, it’s understandable that a band would want to play to their strength, experiments are a dangerous path to walk for many extreme bands; Suicide Silence and Morbid Angel arguably never recovered from their adventures away from their core sound.

When you’re an up and coming band in this incredibly fragile industry sometimes one false move can be incredibly costly, so I totally get the inclination to stay ‘on brand’,  but speaking purely as a music fan I crave progression and stylistic twists from my favourite bands. “Erebos” definitely makes no bones about sticking its neck on the line to do something different, but do these risks pay off?

As you can see by the score at the top of the page that was an utterly redundant question. Rarely have I seen a band make such a huge sonic departure and absolutely nail literally everything they were shooting for! From the cinematic intro track ‘Born From Chaos’, with its ominous gang chants of the album title it is evident that we are going to be getting a different Venom Prison, but in no way is one prepared for how different version 2.0 really is.

As scalding anthem ‘Judges Of The Underworld’ looms into view with its ferocious breakdowns, stomping slam riffs and seething attack on the criminal justice system we get Larissa Stupar introducing actual melodic singing, with the refrain of “Guilty As Charged” both crooned and roared like Burton C. Bell except, y’know… good! It doesn’t hurt that it has a crushing breakdown that could incapacitate a woolly mammoth as well.

Up next ‘Nemesis’ slugs you with a rousing Hardcore style vocal hook that wouldn’t feel out of place on a Slipknot album, appropriately the main riff has a real Nu-Metal bounce to it, though it never loses the grimy ferocity of Death Metal. There are also some eerie samples droning beneath the surface that add an extra wrinkle to the Venom Prison sound, already I’m invested in the band’s new direction – but there’s so much more to come.

‘Comfort Of Complicity’ is next with a very welcome nod to the hyper-speed aggression of previous albums, but yet again we get another curveball when it segues into the best Arch Enemy song you’ve heard for years. Guitarists Ash Gray and Ben Thomas erupt into the kind of regal melodic leads that would have Michael Amott and Jeff Loomis applauding as Larissa screams another anthemic hook over the top. My mind is already blown but nothing can prepare me for what follows.

‘Pain of Oizys’ begins with delicate piano and trip hop beats that owe more to Portishead than Pig Destroyer before we get an unrecognisable Larissa hauntingly crooning the most personal, fragile lyrics of her career. It’s genuinely gorgeous and moving, and when the rousing death metal chorus thunders in it hits so much harder. This is Venom Prison showing off now!

Although this is as extreme as the album gets in terms of sonic departure, there are still new ideas and revelatory moments on every song that follows. The wonderfully titled ‘Golden Apples of Hesperides’ features lilting eastern melodies as the backdrop to an allegorical attack on the evils of social media while ‘Veil of Night’ tugs at the heartstrings with a triumphant Melodeath rumination on grief.

By the time we get to cinematic closer and bitter riposte to capital punishment ‘Technologies of Death’ there can be no doubt that this is one of the metal releases of the year. I cannot overstate how floored and delighted I am by this incredible leap into the unknown that Venom Prison have taken. 

This is why I don’t give high scores to well-executed re-treads by veteran bands, or solid efforts from newcomers. “Erebos” is unequivocal proof that metal can be forward-thinking, innovative and utterly thrilling without having to compromise its abrasive integrity. Venom Prison are now unquestionably one of the best Metal bands in the world and this album is absolutely essential listening.

‘Pain Of Oizys’ Official Video

TRACKLISTING:
01. Born From Chaos
02. Judges Of The Underworld
03. Nemesis 
04. Comfort of Complicity
05. Pain of Oizys
06. Golden Apples of Hesperides
07. Castigated In Steel and Concrete
08. Gorgon Sisters
09. Veil Of Night
10. Technologies Of Death

LINEUP:
Larissa Stupar – Vocals 
Ash Gray – Guitar 
Ben Thomas – Guitar
Mike Jeffries – Bass
Joe Bills – Drums

LINKS:

Venom Prison Promo Pic

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Rory Bentley and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Mass Worship – Portal Tombs

Portal Tombs Album Cover Art

Mass Worship – Portal Tombs
Century Media Records
Release Date: 04/02/22
Running Time: 38:30
Review by Rick Eaglestone
6.5/10

Stockholm’s Mass Worship have unleashed their second full length assault Portal Tombs. Opening track ‘Specular Void’ is an early indication of their destructive intent which spills over into the title track ‘Portal Tombs’, which not only has an accompanying video but also features a guest vocal appearance from Napalm Death’s Barney Greenway.

‘Revel in Fear’ is an apocalyptic amalgamation of heart thumping drums and vocal changes, it also has a great solo so it should come as no surprise that this was my highlight track of the album. Unfortunately, everything I enjoyed in the previous track I just couldn’t gel with on ‘Orcus Mouth’. This track has such a great cinematic video that just doesn’t translate for me on its own but the slow ominous build up to next track ‘Unholy Mass’ has me immediately back in, as does ‘Dunes of Bone’.

I’m really enjoying the slower build up tracks of the album and ‘Scorched Earth’ not only has this, but brings back the more primal sound that the band manages to embed within this release. It’s like the next track ‘Empyrean Halls’ is reading this, as it takes everything from the previous tracks and adds some added background tones that are really enjoyable.

The album ends with the largely instrumental 7 and a half minute ‘Deliverance’ and whilst musically it’s great, the length of track feels a little out of sync with the rest of the album as it could’ve easily been halved and still been enjoyable. 

MASS WORSHIP states, “We as humans are approaching a state where we don’t believe in anything, and we can’t seem to envision any alternatives. Our elected leaders are merely there to sustain a seemingly perpetual status quo, and to grab whatever opportunity they can to shift our focus away from what’s important. What happens behind the scenes is a slow and steady collapse of our financial, political, ecological, spiritual, and cultural world. We’re all perfectly aware of where we are heading, but we can’t seem to envision any alternative — it’s far too late, and far too terrifying to try to stop what has been started. ‘Portal Tombs’ symbolises that Death is the only true way forward. MASS WORSHIP is an attempt at putting the current state of humanity’s affairs and suppressed emotional state into music and words. We want to capture the fears, the pain, the uncertainty, and the total disbelief in the future of mankind. As we spiral towards an abyss of our own making, MASS WORSHIP is the soundtrack that will resonate loudest of all.”

‘Portal Tombs’ Official Video

TRACKLISTING:
01. Specular Void
02. Portal Tombs
03. Revel in Fear
04. Orcus Mouth
05. Unholy Mass
06. Dunes of Bone
07. Scorched Earth
08. Empyrean Halls
09. Deliverance 

LINE-UP:
Gustav Eriksson – guitar 
Dadde Stark – bass
Claes Nordin -vocals
Fred Forsberg – drums

LINKS:

Mass Worship Promo Pic

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Rick Eaglestone and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Voivod – Synchro Anarchy

Synchro Anarchy Album Cover Art

Voivod – Synchro Anarchy
Century Media Records
Release Date: 11/02/22
Running Time: 47:00
Reviewed by Paul Hutchings
8/10

They’ve got a history of over 40 years, 14 previous studio albums and have a deserved reputation as innovative Progressive Thrash musicians whose style has never been static. Linked as part of the Canadian ‘big 4’ alongside Annihilator, Sacrifice and Razor, I still struggle as to why Voivod have never really floated my boat. I’ve never really gelled although I am fully aware and appreciative of their status and quality. Taking this album to review therefore pushed me into uncomfortable and risky territory; the risk of upsetting the legions of the band’s devoted fan base as well as approaching a band with such a history with only limited knowledge of their rich and illustrious past. So, the caveat to start with is that I’m taking this without much in the way of past baggage and presenting a review based in the main on the strength of ‘Synchro Anarchy’ and not the band’s entire catalogue. 

It’s helpful to drop back an album or two so I did some due diligence and caught up with 2018’s ‘The Wake’, which I actually enjoyed more than I thought I would. With the same line-up appearing on ‘Synchro Anarchy’, apparently for the first time since 2009’s ‘Infini’ there is at least a consistency within the band. Not that they need it. Few bands are as highly regarded by those that “know”. Ostensibly, like both Rush and Devin Townsend, both Canadian (obviously), you either ‘get’ Voivod or you don’t. So, I’m going to buck the trend and say that whilst ‘Synchro Anarchy’ is certainly an enjoyable and listenable album, I’m neither disappearing into raptures nor screaming in anguish for it to be turned off. 

Fans will be familiar with the first three tracks on the album, Voivod having released them as singles in advance of the full album release. The album opens with the twisted contortions of ‘Paranormalium,’ a dynamic and crushingly heavy track that links the concluding guitar melody on ‘Sonic Mycelium’, the final song on ‘The Wake’. The band are clear that they wanted to connect both releases, “as 2 parallel worlds can connect through distorted space-time, black holes, vibrations, spirituality or anything else.” The melody returns several times during the track, whilst the vibrant and chugging bass lines propel the song forward. The angular, complicated time signatures and jagged riffing combined with Snake’s distinctive vocal delivery make it a dynamic album opener. 

It’s a similar pattern on the title track that follows. It pulses and winds its way along, curling in and out, carving a sonic soundscape which is intricately delivered. And whilst Voivod aren’t afraid to use the same patterns, there is enough variation to create distinct and individually carved records. ‘Planet Eaters’ has an underlying groove which provides it with a unique feel, thanks to the seismic, irregular riff and pointed design.

If you want to listen to a track that builds both tension and tempo then focus on ‘Mind Clocks’ which ramps up both as the six minutes plus progresses. By the end, it’s at hyper speed in pace before shaving a little off the speed. It’s intricate, complex, and clever, with the interplay between the musicians behind Snake’s distinctive vocals impressive.

Whilst Voivod’s style and patterns are distinctive, they are still able to mix it up. The groove and semi-Thrash of ‘Sleeve Off’ with its industrial pounding contrasts with much on the album. The Sabbath riff that starts ‘Holographic Thinking’ gives way to a lighter yet still heavy track which weaves its spell, jinking and diving along. And throughout there is no doubt why the band are so revered. The musicianship is exemplary, the tracks beautifully constructed – no bolting together anything here. The final song is no different, ‘Memory Failure’ being a fabulous fusion of sounds, rhythms, and sonic elements. 

‘Synchro Anarchy’ will make the top ten lists for many this year. Voivod remain as unique and individual as they have ever been. It’s an album I could listen to repeatedly without a problem. And that is as high praise as I can give it. They may not fully float my boat but I’m no longer sinking. Maybe it is time to give that back catalogue another go after all.

TRACKLISTING:
01. Paranormalium
02. Synchro Anarchy
03. Planet Eaters
04. Mind Clock
05. Sleeves Off
06. Holographic Thinking
07. The World Today
08. Quest For Nothing
09. Memory Failure

LINE-UP:
Denis ‘Snake’ Belanger – Vocals
Daniel ‘Chewy’ Mongrain – Guitar
Dominic ‘Rocky’ Laroche – Bass
Michel ‘Away’ Langevin – Drums

LINKS:

Voivod Promo Pic - Photo Credit: Catherine Deslauriers
Photo Credit: Catherine Deslauriers

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Paul Hutchings and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Napalm Death – Resentment Is Always Seismic- A Final Throw Of Throes

Resentment Is Always Seismic - A Final Throw Of Throes Album Cover Art

Napalm Death – Resentment Is Always Seismic – A Final Throw Of Throes
Century Media Records
Release Date: 11/02/2022
Running Time: 29:00
Review by Rory Bentley
8/10

Crafting a great album is a monumental undertaking for any artist regardless of their virtuosity, legendary status or previous successes. There are multiple hurdles that need to be jumped in order to produce a masterpiece that combines innovation with cohesion, to push boundaries while maintaining a structural integrity that allows the work to be consumed as a fully formed journey. 

The content is of course the most important aspect of a great piece of work, however to push an album from an excellent effort to a classic often comes down to what gets left on the cutting room floor. Sometimes, as the old adage goes, you must ‘kill your darlings’ to avoid bloat and listener fatigue.

I’m a big proponent of brutal self-editing to achieve the most impact from a project, and one of my most common bugbears is an album being too long, regardless of the quality of songs contained within. The more tragic aspect of this necessity is that great music has to fall by the wayside in service of a more palatable body of work. Some songs may have been axed because they disrupt the flow of an album but that doesn’t mean they’re not outstanding in their own right, which is where the mini album / EP comes in to save the day and stop these hidden gems from dying in obscurity. Converge, Cult of Luna and Code Orange (that’s three ticks if you’re playing Bentley Bingo at home) have all released various companion pieces consisting of offcuts from the fruitful sessions that formed their respective recent masterworks- and I’m very much here for it!

Napalm Death’s last record, 2020’s “Throes Of Joy In The Jaws of Defeatism”, was a lean, efficient beast that threw a lot of new tricks into their sound while still retaining the savagery of old; it was bloody fantastic and just the right length for everything to still draw blood right the way to the final track. But they clearly had more gas in the tank and a glut of material left over, which leads us to “Resentment Is Always Seismic – A Final Throw Of Throes”.

Far from being a tedious odd and sods package (still haven’t forgiven Mastodon for “Medium Rarities”) this mini-album sees the grindcore legends leaning further into the Killing Joke and Swans influences explored on “Throes…” on tracks like ‘Amoral’ and devastating closer ‘A Belly Full of Salt and Spleen’, while throwing in some fun covers.

Those that are concerned that Barney and the boys are leaving their brutal side on the back burner will be pleased to know that ‘Narcissus’ and ‘By Proxy’ will fully satisfy their bloodlust. The former features crushing doom chords, a frantic d-beat section and scathing blast beats combined with a positively apoplectic Barney Greenway bellowing with righteous indignation. The latter features Shane Embury on lead vocals, screeching like a horrible little troglodyte as he tag teams with Barney over a backdrop of one of the most filthy and distinctive bass tones in all of metal.

The atmospheric Swans-influenced terror the band have perfected over recent releases makes its presence felt on the demonic swathes of droning distortion and choral chants of ‘Resentment Always Simmers’, where a kinetic chorus riff sucks everything back into razor focus just at the point the song pushes to breaking point. Meanwhile the title track unleashes a nightmarish funeral dirge without providing the sweet release of a nice familiar face-punching riff.

These journeys into new territory could sound awkward were it not for the band’s compositional discipline and Barney’s newly adopted commanding baritone clean vocals, which recall Killing Joke’s Jaz Coleman in full apocalyptic preacher mode, as demonstrated in the grandiose outro of ‘Man Bites Dogged’.

The breakneck cover of Bad Brain’s ‘Don’t Need It’ sounds exactly as you’d imagine it to, meanwhile the band’s take on Slab!’s ‘People Pie’ is an intriguing curio. Listening to Barney go full cyber-goth over industrial beats while doing a semi-rap in the most Birmingham accent imaginable is genuinely bizarre, but I have to say I don’t dislike it! Plus Shane’s bass is gleefully obnoxious here, strings buzzing and slapping to the song’s decadent groove.

Although I can’t honestly say this bite-sized treat of a mini album is as essential as their towering full length efforts of the last decade, it is something I can heartily recommend to devotees of these legendary masters of aural assault. With Napalm Death taking longer between albums to build new worlds of apocalyptic majesty, “Resentment…” is the perfect way to tide rabid fans like myself over until the next full length turns up and takes 99% of extreme bands to school all over again.

Napalm Death are still just as savage, just as fearless and just as brilliant as they were when they turned music on its head with “Scum” over three decades ago. They’re still the apex predators and long may they continue.

‘Narcissus’ Official Audio

TRACKLISTING:
01. Narcissus
02. Resentment Always Simmers
03. By Proxy
04. People Pie (cover version)
05. Man Bites Dogged
06. Slaver Through A Repeat Performance 
07. Don’t Need it (cover version)
08. Resentment is Always Seismic (Dark Sky Burial Dirge)

LINE-UP:
Barney Greenway – Lead vocals 
Shane Embury- Bass / backing vocals
Danny Herrera – Drums

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Rory Bentley and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.