Chovu – What Sorcery Is This? EP

What Sorcery Is This? Album Cover Art

Chovu – What Sorcery Is This? EP
Obsydian Media
Release Date: 10/12/22
Running Time: 16:53
Review by Laura Barnes
8/10

Ahhh, January. A truly underrated month. Routines are settled back into, pints are miraculously cheaper, and most importantly, there is significantly less pressure to go out and socialise. What can I say? I’m a big fan of normality, and the end of the Yuletide festivities gives me some much-needed time to catch up on all of last month’s music that I missed, for example Chovu’s first EP, “What Sorcery Is This?”

Chovu were the first band in residence to record an EP at Obsydian Media and A4’s Kivulini Studios in Ngong, Kenya. A big responsibility, but one that Chovu have pulled off with style. Inspired by Kenyan folklore and African mysticism, Chovu have forged themselves a unique and eclectic sound that draws from all the shades of the extreme metal spectrum, with a slight tilt towards Black Metal and Doom Metal. The raw production style of “What Sorcery Is This?” gives the EP a distinct underground feel – this is the sound of five people making the sort of music that they want to hear, the sound of pure self-expression. Needless to say: I had a fucking blast. 

After a drum and vocals focused intro that really paints a vivid scene, Chovu kick off the EP in earnest with ‘Into Dust’. The slow, funeral march-like guitars and bass give the track a doom-and-dread laden feel and the snare provides the song with its ever-shifting heartbeat, but it’s the vocals that really grab my attention. There’s a raspy cadence to Lord Rot’s vocals which really tap into the despair at the heart of the song. It is also common for bands at this stage in their life to focus so much on the harshness of the vocals that the lyrics get lost along the way, but Chovu manage to avoid this completely; the story of the song is just as important as its presentation. This is especially clear on ‘Mwikali’, which is built around spoken word elements and Alice In Chains style riffage. After this, it’s onto ‘Vermillion Diner’, slow, scorching track with a killer snare and a combination of harsh and clean vocals that gives the song a strong sense of push and pull. The version of the album that I was sent also included a bonus track entitled ‘Empire Of Graves’ from “Uchawi”, a split album that Chovu have released with The Witch. I’m might glad this song was included as a bonus, because I fucking love it. The vocals reach a new level of demonic, and when I say demonic, I’m talking old school devils with tall horns and sharp teeth. And the drums! The unholy crash of the cymbals! Beautifully messy and magnificent, ‘Empire Of Graves’ was unlike anything I’ve ever heard before, and believe me, I’ve heard some crazy shit during my time working at a music venue.

With “What Sorcery Is This?” Chovu have proven that the extreme metal underground is alive and kicking. This is a daring first EP, and I enjoyed it immensely. I can’t wait to see what they do next!

TRACKLISTING

01. Into Dust
02. Kithitu Walk
03. Mwikali
04. Vermillion Diner
05.  Empire of Graves

LINE-UP
Lord Rot – Vocals
Lord Trieste – Lead Guitar, Vocals
Lord Cyberlock – Rhythm Guitar
Lord Komora – Bass
Lord Griplodocus – Drums

LINKS

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Laura Barnes 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.

Katatonia – Sky Void Of Stars

Sky Void Of Stars Album Cover Art

Katatonia – Sky Void Of Stars
Napalm Records
Release Date: 20/01/23
Running Time: 50:34
Review by Laura Barnes
9/10

Katatonia are a fascinating band. They are perhaps one of the few bands within Metal that have successfully transitioned their sound into a softer, more accessible style without alienating their original fanbase. This would seem like a nigh impossible feat, but after a single listen of their latest album, “Sky Void Of Stars” it becomes clear how Katatonia have amassed such a dedicated and loyal fanbase. Modern day Katatonia has a softer sound, certainly, but do not mistake softer for simplistic. Katatonia’s music is just as complex and fun as it was back in 1996. 

“A Sky Void Of Stars” explodes into life with chugging guitars and moody vocals courtesy of frontman Jonas Renske. ‘Austerity’ is our thunderous welcome into Katatonia’s new album, and the track reminds us of what they do best: choruses. The chorus on this song is phenomenal: anthemic, dark, and glittery. The track also features a guitar solo with a nice classic Metal touch. Already, it is clear that “Sky Void Of Stars” sees Katatonia at the top of their game. They start as they mean to go on: absolutely killing it. 

Soon after ‘Austerity’, there is ‘Birds’, a song many long-term Katatonia fans will find particularly striking. ‘Birds’ sounds like it could have been taken straight from “The Great Cold Distance”. It is perhaps the liveliest track from the album and has a beautiful, soaring riff that gives me a warm sense of nostalgia. Following this, Katatonia hit the breaks in order to tell a tale of dark romance on ‘Drab Moon’. Steeped in atmosphere, this track is full of unexpected twists and turns. It truly is a mark of great song writing for a band to be able to divert quite significantly from traditional formulas without things feeling unnatural or forced – ‘Drab Moons’ creative use of autotune on this track would normally stick out like a sore thumb on the hands of a lesser band, but in Katatonia’s capable hands this technique is subtlety and successfully integrated, enhancing an already powerful track. 

Normally, the middle of the album is where my attention begins to dwindle (you COULD argue that this is because of, like, these darn kids and their darn phones and their darn lack of attention spans, but really, I think it has more to do with that fact that it’s much easier to hide the filler in middle), but “Sky Void Of Stars” manages to keep the momentum going. ‘Impermanence’ has some fantastic vocals and melodies reminiscent of System of a Down, and although ‘Sclera’ does seem to meander a little more than I would have liked, I did get a kick out of the lyrics – ‘You fit spikes around my mind’ is a metaphor that I really wish that I had written (and also makes me imagine Pinhead / The Priest from Hellraiser headbanging along to this song, which should arguably be the goal of every metal song). ‘Atrium’ sets things firmly back – it has the same fist-pumping, throat-destroying energy as ‘Birds’, and will no doubt be a future favourite at live shows. 

Another quick note about this album: it’s consistent. Not just in terms of quality, but also in mood and tone. As suggested by the title, “Sky Void Of Stars” is packed with celestial imagery. There’s also a bittersweet element of nostalgia running through this album: whether it be ‘city lights from 1998’ or memories of hotel rooms in Marriot, New York, there is a persistent theme of the past haunting the present. I’ve said it a million times before, but I really do love albums like this, albums that were clearly written in a specific headspace, or a specific time in a band’s life. It’s the kind of album that, if I listened to it twenty years in the future, would instantly transport me back to this period of my life. 

I can say with confidence that Katatonia are one of the most influential bands out there, both for me on a personal level and within the wider Metal scene. “Sky Void Of Stars” is a phenomenal contribution to their already enduring legacy. 

TRACKLISTING:
01. Austerity
02. Colossal Shade
03. Opaline
04. Birds
05. Drab Moon
06. Author
07. Impermanence
08. Sclera
09. Atrium
10. No Beacon To Illuminate
11. Absconder

LINE-UP:
Jonas Renske – Vocals
Anders Nyström – Guitars
Roger Öjersson – Guitars
Niklas Sandin – Bass
Daniel Moilanen – Drums

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Laura Barnes 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.

Rioghan – Different Kinds Of Losses

Different Kinds Of Losses Album Cover Art

Rioghan – Different Kinds Of Losses
Inverse Records
Release Date: 09/12/22
Running Time: 49:10
Review by Laura Barnes 
9/10

It is to my shame that I hadn’t heard of Rioghan prior to her appearing in Ever Metal’s inbox. Finnish songwriter and poet Rioghan Darcy fuses Gothic Rock, Folk, and Alternative Metal in a way that is right up my street. The sound she achieves through this fusion is one that is contemporary and progressive, deserving of a place beside similar genre fusing pros such as Cellar Darling, Sylvaine and Euphrosyne. 

“Different Kinds Of Losses” opens with teardrop-like keyboards, and Rioghan making a quiet yet decisive declaration: “I am rain / creeping on your window”. The verse continues in this vein, gradually introducing guitars before exploding into a heavy, stormy, Katatonia-like chorus followed by a bluesy guitar solo. You never get a second chance to make a first impression, but lucky for Rioghan, she doesn’t need one. ‘Sight’ is a strong song that works as a sneak-peak trailer for the reset of “Different Kinds Of Losses”. If you liked that, then the introspective and atmospheric journey that Rioghan is about to take you on is one you’ll be grateful for. 

For the most part, Rioghan’s touch is a gentle one. Even with the heavy instrumentals on tracks like ‘Breath’ and ‘Bruises’, her expertly controlled vocals provide a compelling contrast. As a result, the album achieves a certain psychological quality, creating the impression of an ordinary human being grappling with emotions far larger and wilder than anything they’ve ever felt before. This aspect of the album especially shines through on ‘Innocence’, a stellar song about enacting justice on your own terms, for your own sake. It’s an extremely powerful song that will undoubtedly resonate with people who are struggling in the aftermath of hurt. ‘Home’ is another album highlight – the moody verses build up beautifully towards an almost poppy chorus that you can easily belt out with your ist in the air. If “Different Kinds Of Losses” was a live show, ‘Home’ is the song they’d sing for the encore.

All in all, Rioghan is a difficult artist to categorise. The doominess of bands like Oceans of Slumber fuses with the electronic elements of Banshee, yet the music still remains catchy and accessible. The genreless sound of “Different Kinds Of Losses” means that this album will reach and touch audiences from all sectors of the music world. A very exciting debut! 

TRACKLISTING:
01. Sight
02. Promises
03. Breath
04. Home
05. Bruises
06. Time
07. Innocence
08. Reflection
09. Lights
10. Summer

LINE-UP:
Rioghan Darcy – Vocals
Teemu Liekkala – Guitars, Bass, Keys
Valtteri Revonkorpi – Drums 
Marko Hautamäki – Cello
Tony Kaikkonen – Harmonica

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Laura Barnes 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.

Highlord – Freakin’ Out Of Hell

Freakin' Out Of Hell Album Cover Art

Highlord – Freakin’ Out Of Hell
Rockshots Records
Release Date: 09/12/22
Run Time: 51:00
Review by Laura Barnes
9/10

Do you like Power Metal? Like, Power Metal with a capital ‘P’? Power Metal that makes you feel like an armour-clad knight with a sword larger than a small child? Cuz if you do, then you’re gonna have to accept a late entry into your ‘Best Albums of 2022’ list. Highord’s “Freakin’ Out Of Hell” is a no-filler, start to finish banger. It burns white-hot with passion and glory. To put it in one, Power-Metal-esque word, “Freakin’ Out Of Hell” is a triumph.

Highlord make what you might consider to be a traditional kind of power metal. Entirely free of gimmicks and jam-packed with solos, Highlord are far more Manowar than Gloryhammer. Their song writing is sophisticated, anthemic, and filled with surprises. In “Freakin Out Of Hell”, Highlord strike a perfect balance between showing off their technical prowess (see the off-kilter riffage of ‘The Devil’s Doorbell’ and the eclectic structural approach to ‘Off The Beaten Path’) and writing songs with emotional depth and story (see the thoughtful expressions of loss on ‘Hollow Space’ – which also surprised me with a brilliant acoustic guitar solo). Instrumentally, “Freakin’ Out Of Hell” is about as badass as badass gets, with chord progressions and soaring riffs that could be ripped straight from an anime boss battle; Highlord’s heart can be heard beating in Marco Malacarne’s guitar strings. That said, Andrea Marchisio’s vocals are the icing on top of the epic metal cake. They add so much character and storytelling to Highlord’s songs that really take their music to the next level. On my favourite track, ‘Sweet Unknown’, Marchisio offers an inspiring performance as he sings about self-doubt. His sincere performance means that these unique lyrics pack an even greater punch, particularly the chorus: ‘So many years I’ve spent with a sense of impending / Disaster in my life / Those years have gone forever / Yet the disaster never came / Time to dive into the sweet unknown’. This simple yet honest reflection of anxiety is the sort of insight that is hard to come by in Power Metal, but it works. 

Title track ‘Freakin’ Out Of Hell’ is another song that packs an emotive punch. With a doom-laden, downbeat verses, a soaring chorus, subtle usage of synths, and themes of determination and blurry lines of morality, Highlord showcase all of Power Metal’s potential. Later on, ‘Off The Beaten Path’ and ‘If You Say Yes’ include brief symphonic elements that adds a diversity of sound to the album, without drifting into gimmicky territory. These tracks, and the album as a whole, present Highlord as a band that are both confident in their abilities and wise enough to know when to reign it in and when to pull out all the stops. With an output like this, it’s no surprise that Highlord have been going strong for over 20 years!

TRACKLISTING:
01. Prelude To Hell
02. Soul Sucker
03. Freakin’ Out Of Hell
04. Sweet Unknown
05. Off The Beaten Path
06. Hollow Space
07. If You Say Yes
08. Eyes Open Wide
09. The Devil’s Doorbell
10. Fallen From Grace
11. One Eyed Jack

LINE-UP:
Andrea Marchisio – Vocals
Marco Malacarne – Guitars
Luca ‘T-1000’ Pellegrino – Drums
Massimiliano Flak – Bass
Davide Cristofoli – Keyboards

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Laura Barnes 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.

Laura’s Top 10 Albums Of 2022

Laura’s Top 10 Albums Of 2022
By Laura Barnes

2022 is almost over! This is my first year writing for Ever Metal and I’ve gotta say, it’s been a great one. I’ve met so many lovely people and listened to so much interesting music, which means that narrowing down my favourite releases to a mere ten has proven difficult. As assessing each album objectively has proven to be difficult, I am ranking these albums solely based on how much I, personally, enjoyed them. Before we begin, I have a few honourable mentions. Blackbraid, Suffer In Silence, Backxwash, White Ward, Sigh, Lamentations and Euphrosyne have all released cracking albums this year, and you should absolutely check out their music if you have time. Now, onto the list!

10 –  Banshee – Fairy Metal

First up we have the experimental artist Banshee, with her second album “Fairy Metal”. For those who don’t know of Banshee, I can promise you that her music is like nothing you will have ever heard before. Imagine Trap mixed with Black Metal. Imagine Ashnikko doing a collab with Septicflesh. With “Fairy Metal”, Banshee has carved herself a brutal niche and is using her platform to take a stand against rape culture and provide an emotional outlet for abuse survivors. The album also features a guest appearance from horrorcore rapper and producer Backxwash, another fantastic experimental artist (you should also check out her new album, “His Happiness Shall Come First Even Though We Are Suffering”). I’m so glad that gatekeepers are a dying breed in the metal scene nowadays – the breaking down of boundaries means that we get more weird and wonderful stuff like this. 

https://open.spotify.com/artist/0DG7J8Q9Alnt65HJv6owzf

9 – The Halo Effect – Days Of The Lost

“Days Of The Lost” is a masterclass in Melodeath. It has absolutely beautiful melodic riffs, harsh yet accessible vocals, and choruses you can belt your heart out to. This may be The Halo Effect’s first album, but make no mistake, these are experienced musicians who are absolute masters of their craft and – Aw, hell. I can’t keep this up. I wanted to get through this whole segment without mentioning The Band That Shan’t Be Named, but I just can’t. This is old school In Flames. The Halo Effect is made up entirely of ex-In Flames members. I like this album because it sounds like In Flames. Are you happy now?

https://thehaloeffectse.bandcamp.com/album/shadowminds-ihsahn-remix

8 – Oceans of Slumber – Starlight And Ash

After their brilliant and doomy self-titled album back in 2020, it would have been easy for Oceans of Slumber to simply rinse and repeat. That, however, is not their style. Oceans of Slumber are one of my favourite bands ever, and one of my favourite things about them is their determination to make every album different. “Starlight And Ash” is Oceans of Slumber’s most radical departure yet, as they venture into the world of Southern Gothic. Of course, they still include their trademark choruses (see ‘Waters Rising’), but the real focus of this album is atmosphere. Which is, incidentally, what Oceans Of Slumber are best at. The result is a thoughtful album that can be listened to again and again on dark and stormy nights.

https://oceansofslumber.bandcamp.com/album/oceans-of-slumber

7 – Night Of The Vampire – Eternal Night

Is this technically an EP? Yes. Does that matter? No. The truth is, in just three tracks Night Of The Vampire achieves more than a lot of bands do in an entire album. Combining Synthwave with Black Metal is a GENIUS idea and I’m honestly shocked that I’ve never encountered anything like this before. The result makes you feel like the Final Girl in an 80s slasher movie – stylish and deadly. 

https://nightofthevampire.bandcamp.com/album/eternal-night

6 – Parius – The Signal Heard Throughout Space

My stance on Death Metal has always been this: make it fun. If I feel like being depressed, then I’ll listen to Black Metal, thank you very much. For me, Death Metal is about pushing the limits of musical extremity, and Progressive Death Metallers Parius do this to a tee on “The Signal Heard Throughout Space”. Here’s the thing: this is a goddamn Space Opera. A Death Metal Space Opera! There is quite literally nothing more fun than that. Steeped in melodrama and unafraid to do the unexpected, this is without a doubt one of 2022’s most memorable releases. 

https://parius.bandcamp.com/album/the-signal-heard-throughout-space

5 – Sonja – Loud Arriver

A loud arriver indeed! This is the debut album of Pennsylvanian Gothic rockers Sonja, and it’s a killer. Vocalist Melissa Moore tears her way through eight gloom-tinged goth club floorfillers. “Loud Arriver” has a large emotional scope –  from the compelling defiance of ‘Wanting Me Dead’ to the unashamed desire of ‘Fuck, Then Die’ to the haunting mystique of ‘Daughter of the Morning Star’ – that makes for a fascinating musical journey. There is also a certain timelessness to this album that makes me feel as though I could put this album in a time machine and send it to the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2030s, and 2040s, and each generation would find something different to enjoy. If this is what Sonja’s arrival sounds like, then I’m awfully excited for the rest of their stay. 

https://sonjaband.bandcamp.com/album/loud-arriver

4 – Battle Beast – Circus Of Doom

Sometimes, things are popular because they are very, very good. Battle Beast are a perfect example of this. Over their 17-year career, they have consistently delivered top-tier Power Metal hits, and “Circus Of Doom” is one of their best efforts yet. If all the inmates of Arkham Asylum escaped and set up a travelling fairground together, it would sound a little like this. Brash, catchy, and so theatrical that it borders on silly, it’s impossible to listen to this album without having fun. Of course, most power metal is fun, but there is something distinctly heartfelt and authentic about Battle Beast that separates them from the pack. Hell, go listen to ‘Eye Of The Storm’ and tell me you don’t have goosebumps!

https://open.spotify.com/artist/7k5jeohQCF20a8foBD9ize

3 – Sarayasign – Throne of Gold 

I already sang this album’s praises when it was released back in June, so I’ll try and keep this short and sweet. “Throne of Gold” is the debut concept album from Swedish Melodic Hard Rock band Sarayasign, and it is as catchy as it is cinematic. Despite this being their first album, Sarayasign have a strong sense of identity that shines through on every track, and before you know it you will be engrossed in the fantasy world of Saraya. It’s a beautiful cocktail of the classic, guitar-based sounds of bands like Dio and Uriah Heep mixed with the ambitious Progressive Rock of Dream Theater, Coheed and Cambria. What’s not to like!

https://open.spotify.com/artist/7ySTF2Ji2fHEv9KJkeXcrP

2 – Venom Prison – Erebos

I don’t think I really need to explain this one. They’re fucking Venom Prison! “Erebos” is an absolute tornado of sound and fury, a beast with gnashing claws and knife-tip fangs, yet there’s also a profound level of depth to Venom Prison’s music. This album uses all its might to fight against injustice, taking direct aim at the prison and immigration systems. While Venom Prison aren’t strictly a Death / Hardcore band anymore (“Erebos” certainly has some strong Metalcore elements), Venom Prison are the perfect embodiment of Hardcore values: they’re fierce, they’re fast, and they have something to say. 

https://venomprison.bandcamp.com/

1- Ghost – Impera

If you haven’t heard this album yet, then where the hell have you been? Ghost’s “Impera” is an absolute classic, and it hasn’t even been out a whole year yet! It is without a doubt Ghost’s most beautiful album to date. Tracks like ‘Call Me Little Sunshine’, ‘Darkness At The Heart Of My Love’, and ‘Respite On The Battlefield’ are filled with so much heart and passion that it’s impossible to listen to them without feeling some sort of way. This is an album that wants you to sing along with every word and listen to every note. It seems fitting that “Impera” is the album that saw Cardinal Copia be transformed into the new Papa Emeritus; this album shines with the promise of a glorious future. 

https://ghost.bandcamp.com/album/mary-on-a-cross-slowed-reverb-hi-res

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Laura Barnes 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.

Celestial Season – Mysterium II

Mysterium II Album Cover Art

Celestial Season – Mysterium II
Burning World Records
Release Date: 02/12/22
Running Time: 40:29
Review by Laura Barnes
8/10

What does introspection sound like? What does reflection sound like? If that heavy feeling in your stomach had a voice, how would it speak? For me, I think it would sound like Celestial Season. 

Formed in 1991 and then re-forming in 2011 with a (basically) identical line-up, Celestial Season are one of Doom Metal’s hardest working bands. “Mysterium II” is their second release of 2022, so like the cynic I am, I set my expectations low. How could one band release two albums in one year? Such a work output boggles the mind and confounds the soul! And so I confess: I thought “Mysterium II” would just be the songs that weren’t good enough to make it onto “Mysterium I”. 

What a fool I was!

“Mysterium II” is a fascinating album, and a brave one, too. Although Celestial Season deliver a sound that falls firmly into the Doom / Stoner Metal category, “Mysterium II” is jam-packed with risks and innovation. As a consequence, it may be that this album isn’t for everyone. And that’s okay! Personally, I would rather listen to an album that innovates and offends over a generic, people pleasing one. “Mysterium II” demonstrates innovation that is worth the risk. Take ‘April Darkness’, for example. This song is built on the back of a single, slow, blistering guitar riff that repeats throughout almost the entirety of the song. In the hands of a lesser band, such repetition would become tiresome but Celestial Season pulls it off beautifully. Gradually, they introduce more and more powerful elements – such as Jiska Ter Bals’ violins and Jason Köhnen’s drums – that create an atmospheric and sexy cacophony of sound. 

Also worthy of note here are Stefan Ruiters’ vocals. Not quite singing, not quite growls, and not quite whispers, Ruiters’ vocals are subtle and versatile. In the majority of bands, the instrumentals work to support and uplift the vocals; here, the vocals work alongside the instruments in order to build a layered soundscape, rather than a traditional song. This approach works particularly well on penultimate track, ‘The Sun The Moon And The Truth’, a piece of music that reaches a profound level of depression without being overwhelming. Of course, there are times when Celestial Season’s bleak atmosphere becomes a bit too bleak – ‘The Divine Duty Of Servants’ perhaps overstays its welcome a little bit, despite being a really cool concept. However, the explosive ‘Tomorrow Mourning’ and beautiful instrumental track ‘Our Nocturnal Love’ help to set things back on track.

All in all, this is a great and unique Doom/Stoner album. If you’re a fan of bands like Oceans of Slumber, Woods of Ypres, Swallow The Sun and Deathwhite, then “Mysterium II” will be right up your alley. 

TRACKLISTING:
01. The Divine Duty Of Servants
02. Tomorrow Mourning
03. Our Nocturnal Love
04. In April Darkness
05. The Sun The Moon And The Truth
06. Pictures of Endless Beauty Copper Street

LINE-UP:
Stefan Ruiters – Vocals
Olly Smit – Guitars
Pim van Zanen – Guitars
Lucas van Slegtenhorst – Bass
Jiska Ter Bals – Violin
Elianne Anemaat – Cello
Jason Köhnen – Drums

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Laura Barnes 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.

Cobra Cult – Don’t Kill The Dark

Don’t Kill The Dark Album Cover Art

Cobra Cult – Don’t Kill The Dark
GMR Music
Release Date: 09/12/22
Running Time: 30:00
Review by Laura Barnes
7.5/10

Before beginning this review in earnest, let’s talk about Hard Rock for a second. Hard rock is late night driving, windows down, street lights bright. Hard rock is singing till your throat hurts after a hard day’s work. Hard Rock is pure, fist-pumping freedom.

Cobra Cult are a four-piece Hard Rock band from Stockholm, Sweden, and this is the feeling they strive to invoke with their sophomore album, “Don’t Kill The Dark”. For the most part, they succeed. The 1970s and 1980s Rock and Punk sounds that inspire Cobra Cult are the lifeblood of this album. This clear love and respect for their influences ensures that Cobra Cult have a strong grasp of who they are very early on in their career. They are confident in their sound, and as a result “Don’t Kill The Dark” is an album you can headbang along to from start to finish. If you’re a fan of bands like Grim Reaper, Diamond Head, Girlschool or Saxon, then “Don’t Kill The Dark” is the album you should put on your Christmas list this year.

Cobra Cult waste absolutely no time as they kick off the album with some killer Iron Maiden-style riffage on opening track ‘Late Night Adventure’, a super fun song that grabs the listener’s attention  before leading them into the much more intense, much more personal follow-up track, ‘The Beast’. This song is one of the best on the album, with an anthemic chorus that makes you want to unleash your own inner beast. Cobra Cult later reach their peak during ‘Don’t Kill The Dark’, and it is easy to see why the band decided to name their album after this track. ‘Don’t Kill The Dark’ contains within it everything that is good about classic metal. It begins with a doomy, atmospheric guitarwork before exploding into a dark and ferocious party. As a bonus, this song contains one of the most quintessential rock lyrics I have ever heard, such as ‘Don’t kill the dark / You need the dark to see the light’. Another highlight includes ‘Her Majesty’, which closes out the album, and Cobra Cult go out exactly how they came in: with immense fucking riffage. 

With Cobra Cult, what you see is what you get: they want to rock hard, and rock hard they do. Their music is uncomplicated and unpretentious, and was just the auditory palette cleanser I needed after spending my week listening to a significant amount of prog. In short, if you feel like lounging out back with a Budweiser and a cig, “Don’t Kill The Dark’ will make for the perfect soundtrack. 

TRACKLISTING:
01. Late Night Adventure
02. The Beast
03. A Price To Pay
04. Stand Your Ground
05. The Colour Green
06. Don’t Kill The Dark
07. Forever Faster
08. Do Or Die
09. What We Know
10. Her Majesty

LINE-UP:
Johanna Lindhult – Vocals, Guitar
Anders Martinsgård – Guitar
Thomas Jonsson – Bass, Backing vocals
Carl Johan ”Sillen” Sillén – Drums

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Laura Barnes 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.

Euphrosyne – Keres

Keres Album Cover Art

Euphrosyne – Keres
Self-Released
Release Date: 25/11/22
Running Time: 29:38
Review by Laura Barnes
9/10

Praise be to the malevolent gods, for we have been blessed with more Black Metal! Today’s offering is Black Metal from all the way from sunny Athens, delivered to us by the eclectic Euphrosyne. Euphrosyne are architects of what is now called ‘Post-Black Metal’: Black Metal that boldly breaks the sacred laws forged in Norway back in the nineties. With clean vocals, brass instruments, and a high production quality, Euphrosyne are pioneering an exciting and accessible form of Black Metal. 

Euphrosyne are all about atmosphere. Album intro ‘Black Opal’ makes this clear from the get-go, guiding us towards the album’s heart with a saxophone-led instrumental piece that conveys an eerie sort of beauty. Don’t be fooled, however – Euphrosyne aren’t here to coddle you. The wall of noise that hits you the second that intro ends is an immense one, thick and foreboding. From the get-go, their artistic vision is clear: take the best of Black Metal’s sheer intensity and raw emotional power and combine it with melodies that allow you to make sense of the confusion, find meaning in the chaos. ‘When My Fears Conquered All’ is a perfect example of this. The verses are a whirlwind of guttural vocals and echoing guitars, while the clean vocals of the chorus are clear and hooky enough to make you press that replay button. 

Interestingly, the melodic parts of Euphrosyne remind me of a very different band: Skunk Anansie. Indeed, Efi Eva’s passionate vocals are slightly reminiscent of Skin’s, but the comparison goes deeper than that. Much like Skin, Efi Eva has an ability to take complex emotions and sing about them with striking authenticity. Her lyrics are both articulate and haunting – when she sang out ‘I was drowning as a child / Inside my mother’s belly’ I stopped what I was doing and became deeply fascinated with the narrative of the song. In a genre that often expresses the unspeakable, Euphrosyne’s eloquence gives them a distinct identity. 

Also worthy of note here are the brass instruments played throughout “Keres”. The White Ward influence is clear, but not overwhelming. Where White Ward’s saxophone inclusion gives their music a distinct noir feel, Euphrosyne take a more bluesy approach, particularly on ‘Within The Ages’. On this track, it isn’t just the brass that provides the blues influence, but the guitars, too. It is clear that Euphrosyne aren’t just throwing random instrumentals at the wall and seeing what sticks. There is a clear thoughtfulness to their approach that makes “Keres” a unique and cohesive album. For this reason, you should really listen to this album. Don’t listen to it on shuffle. Don’t have it on in the background while you play the new God of War game (although that would be a pretty dope experience, I have to admit). If you allow yourself to truly get lost into the music, then you will see this album for what it is: an outstanding debut from outstanding musicians. 

TRACKLISTING:
01. Black Opal
02. Pale Days
03. When My Fears Conquered All
04. Sister of Violence
05. Sunbringer
06. Within the Ages
07. Keres

LINE-UP:
Efi Eva – Vocals
George Gazis – Bass
Kostas Mamalis – Drums
Alex Despotidis – Guitars

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Laura Barnes 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.

Lamentations – Passion of Depression

Passion of Depression Album Cover Art

Lamentations – Passion of Depression
Willowtip Records
Release Date: 11/11/22
Running Time: 57:07
Review by Laura Barnes
10/10

I remember the first time I listened to Death’s ‘Voice Of The Soul’.

It was an unforgettable experience, one that showed me just how much Metal could achieve – just how much music could achieve. In just under four minutes, Death had managed to write a song that unleashed the full spectrum of human emotion and then lulled it gently back to sleep again. Such was Chuck Schuldiner’s musicality that he didn’t even need lyrics – the guitars sang for themselves, and their song was melodious and tragic and beautiful. Music that contains this type of raw emotional power is a rare find – the only other artists that I believe have come close to achieving this sound are Panopticon and Woods of Ypres. And now, Lamentations. 

This album is nothing short of phenomenal. Hell, it’s hard to even pick out the best tracks, because 1) each and every one is outstanding and 2) this is an album designed to be listened to as an album. This isn’t the kind of music that you can just put on in the background while you tidy the bathroom. This is music for you to get lost in. With “Passion of Depression”, Lamentations have transcended the boundaries of Death Metal as they incorporate classical, folky, and melodic elements that blend seamlessly together, creating a mighty soundscape that is impossible to pull away from. To describe their sound in more practical terms, imagine the cinematic song writing of Dream Theater and combine it with the accessible heaviness of bands like Whitechapel and Carnifex. It is a simple premise, but a genius one.

The album opens with an absolutely stunning melodic riff that wouldn’t feel out of place on a Power Metal album. This riff leads us into our opening track ‘Prodigal’, a track where both blistering growls and clean vocals pave the way towards a surprisingly gentle conclusion. It flows perfectly into the following song, ‘Anew’, a slightly darker track that still manages to retain the melodic sensibilities of the first. Lamentations’ ability to weave songs together seamlessly is a crucial component of this album and is one of its greatest strengths. ‘Ire’ sees Lamentations reach their heaviest point in a track that places crushing guitars and machine-gun fire style drumming at its forefront. Danny ‘Jungle’ Jacob’s vocals also deserve a shout out here, too. His performance bursts with menace and hellfire, making for a performance worthy of a gothic horror villain. 

After an emotional rollercoaster of labyrinthine proportions, Lamentations close the album with ‘Nurture’, a 14-minute epic best heard with headphones on and rain in the sky. There are so many layers in this track that it is impossible to digest every aspect of it within one listen. In fact, you could probably listen to it six times and focus on a different instrument each listen – the soaring keyboards, the ever-moving drums, the doom-laden bass – and still be surprised each time you listen. I’m not normally the biggest fan of ‘fade-out’ endings, but for “Passion of Depression”, it feels perfectly natural, like waving goodbye to a UFO as it slowly disappears into the sky. 

I’m not even sure if there’s anything else I can say that can appropriately express just how wonderful this album is. All I can do is beg you to listen and hear it for yourself. “Passion of Depression” is bewildering, dazzling, and beautiful, and Lamentations should be proud of what they have achieved here. 

TRACKLISTING:
01. Prodigal
02. Anew
03. Shiver
04. Sombre
05. Ire
06. Obeisance
07. Nurture

LINE-UP:
Danny ‘Jungle’ Jacob – Vocals, Guitar, Flute
Chris Stropoli – Drums, Vocals
Michael ‘Prophet’ Moore – Guitar, Vocals
Jose Figueroa – Bass

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Laura Barnes 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.

Whiteabbey – Volume Two

Volume Two Album Cover Art

Whiteabbey – Volume Two
Self-Released
Release Date: 04/11/22
Running Time: 35:38
Review by Laura Barnes
7/10

Metal is a vast, vast thing. The idea that Cannibal Corpse, Nightwish and Limp Bizkit each belong to the same musical family is a bonkers one. There are, of course, some people who are opposed to such bonkersosity (see: The Metal Archives ‘Rules’ page), but I personally believe that the Metalverse is better for it. The constant smashing and mix-mashing of boundaries and genres means that Metal is constantly evolving. You could spend your whole life listening to the genre and still, lying on your deathbed at the ripe old age of 102, load up Bandcamp and discover something new. 

This is a very long-winded way of informing you that Whiteabbey’s “Volume Two” contains something I never in a million years thought I would hear: a Power Metal version of Take That’s ‘Rule The World’. This proves to be a bloody good time (as long as you don’t take yourself, or the song, too seriously), but also tells you everything you need to know about Whiteabbey. This is Power Metal at its most poppy and cheesy. This is Power Metal that your Gran would like. 

I don’t mean that as an insult. The last couple of months, I’ve been wading through seas of Black Metal and Prog, so when I listened to this album, I was struck by how accessible it was. This is an album of catchy earworms, an album you can sing along with after just one listen. Clocking out at just 35 minutes, “Volume Two” is full of tightly structured songs that charge forward with confidence. It doesn’t particularly reinvent the wheel, but it’s perfect for fans of bands like Sonata Arctica and Battle Beast. 

Album opener ‘Swan’ begins the album with an enjoyable but fairly standard Melodic Metal song featuring instrumentals that are reminiscent of Nightwish in their “Once” era. It is quickly overshadowed by its more anthemic successor, ‘Guardian’. This is an absolute fist-pumper of a track, with a passionately sung chorus, an incredibly impressive guitar solo, and a piano riff that makes me feel like I’m battling the Final Boss in a JRPG.

Of course, an album like “Volume Two” wouldn’t be complete without a power ballad. ‘Wish’ sees Whiteabbey take a somewhat stripped back approach to this time-honoured tradition. The usual electric guitar riffs are traded in for acoustic melodies that help to foreground the story of the song, a kind of back-and-forth evaluation of a failed relationship. Although it is a comparatively slower song, the back-and-forth style vocals give the song an energetic feel that will keep you engaged throughout, and the lyrics have enough specificity to make the song feel like a real conversation between two ex-lovers.

Other highlights include ‘Wicked’, a very chuggy and dramatic song that has major Battle Beast vibes, and ‘Shadows’, a magnificently malevolent earworm. Despite Whiteabbey having a slightly gentler sound compared to most Power Metal bands, ‘Shadows’ demonstrates that Whiteabbey are both willing and capable of pulling out all the stops when necessary. And then, of course, we come full circle with their very unique version of ‘Rule The World’.

As talented musicians, there is certainly room for Whiteabbey to take larger risks in future albums. Having short, tightly structured songs makes for an enjoyable listen, but it would be exciting to see them occasionally throw the formula out the window and show off their creativity – I am sure that they are more than capable. That said, I do hope we continue to see more from Whiteabbey. “Volume Two” takes a surprisingly gentle approach to power metal that I have scarcely encountered amongst newer bands, and it would be interesting to hear more. 

TRACKLISTING:
01. Swan
02. Guardian
03. Angels
04. Wish
05. Shadows
06. Wicked
07. Heaven
08. You
09. Rule The World

LINE-UP:
Tamara Bouwhuis – Vocals
Stevie McLaughlin – Vocals, Lead Guitar
Steve Moore – Guitars, Bass

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Laura Barnes 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.