Powerwolf – Lupus Dei (Re-Issue)

Lupus Dei (Re-Issue) Album Cover Art

Powerwolf – Lupus Dei (Re-Issue)
Metal Blade Records
Release Date: 11/11/22
Running Time: 01:05:34
Review by Simon Black
8/10

I’m still incredulous that I came so late to the Powerwolf party, and even more pissed that I missed their performance at Bloodstock a few years ago, as with the bigger walleted Download now likely to swallow them moving forwards their meteoric rise from obscure to top-drawer in this country is now complete. It’s a problem for Power Metal acts in the UK, as they frequently don’t put the groundwork in early that they do on mainland Europe, and consequently remain a niche act before scenarios like the above see them play catch up and overshoot pretty damn fast. Well good luck to them, they deserve it as they’re a hard-working act that delivers a consistent level of quality. 

As I said, I discovered them only relatively recently and unlike many long running acts whose best work is often to be found in their early years, Powerwolf seems to get better and better with every album. You know whenever a fresh album arrives precisely what you are going to get. The band have always had a turn for catchy song-writing and the re-release of “Lupus Dei” illustrates this, but the skill and polish of this ability just kept honing upwards since their inception. 

Most acts demonstrate both their own and the audience’s love for a particular album by quite how much of a record’s material survives into the live set year on year. The usual formula as bands get on is to blast out 3-5 songs from whatever the current release is at the start of a show, with the rest of the set made up of much older material that presage the inevitable Greatest Hits album at some point, but Powerwolf consistently do the complete opposite of this. In fact, a quick skim across their live albums listings indicates that only the title track from this release has ever made it onto any of their many live albums. That’s as much to do with the fact they seem to get better as songwriters on every album cycle as it is about the fact that they are forward looking. I suspect a huge contribution to this is the fact that with the exception of the drum stool, this is the same line-up that formed in Saarbrücken in 2003.

The album itself is interesting. 

Being mainly more familiar with material in the last ten years and generally being of a mind to air a live recording when I do so of my own free will, the early albums of the band remain a bit of a closed book to me. Two things immediately strike me as I crank this one up. Firstly, this is absolutely arrangement-wise the same act, with the same catchy song-writing and knack for ear-worm arrangements and phrasing as evident as they are today, and thematically this is consistent, so lots of catholic-styled religious imagery (although if there’s any actual religion in there it is the worship of the Church of Metal), corpse paint, werewolves and vampires… with the songs usually being about corpse painted Metal warriors hunting down vampires and werewolves…

That said, they sounded somewhat different in 2007. For a start Attilla Dorn is singing in a completely different register from the one I am more accustomed to. As a student of classical opera, he’s always demonstrated that style in his performance, but nowadays he’s more of a mix of alto and baritone (with occasional lofty peaks when scaling a crescendo at the end of the bridge or final verse), but this album is more tenor and alto in pitch. In addition, the distinctive cathedral organ sound from Falk Maria Schlegel is less dominant. In later albums that synth voice is used rigidly throughout and remains as unchanging as a Hammond organ in an early 70’s Hard Rock album, but here it’s only used sporadically amongst lots of other key sounds and way, way further back in the mix, as opposed to taking equal weighting with the guitars as it does today.

The third fact is not so immediately obvious. This is a concept album (i.e., with one specific story across its duration, rather than individual songs riffing around a consistent theme) and one told from the point of view of the werewolf, rather than the usual narrator choice of the band members’ stage identities (specifically Thiess of Kaltenbrunn from 17th century Livonia who self-identified as a werewolf, potentially forcing a update of the gender identification spectrum to LGBTQ+W). And that’s probably the main reason why this material does not appear live much – it really does not fit into the overall staging and narrative style the band have now. This is a bit of a shame really, as having dug a little further into their back catalog, it’s clear that musically this is far more the casting of the mould that leads us all the way to 2021’s fantastic “The Call of the Wild”. Although the stylism remains unchanged throughout, this is the start of the bolder, stagier incarnation of the band who by this point had grown enough in popularity to be able to headline and deliver the theatrical performances and set pieces we love them for today, and that feels like it’s cross fertilised back into the writing as they pushed themselves beyond their relatively low key origins.

In short it feels like the point where they really take off musically, and from this point they run with it. I can’t fault any of the tracks on here individually, although to be honest the concept would have passed me by had I not dug a little deeper in my research. It’s the template for the future, but as I said before, it’s hard to award higher marks, because the song-writing just continues to creak up a notch album by album from this point forward. Clearly, we are going to need a bigger scale soon…

‘Saturday Satan’ Official Video

TRACKLISTING:
01. Lupus Daemonis (Intro)
02. We Take It from the Living
03. Prayer in the Dark
04. Saturday Satan
05. In Blood We Trust
06. Behind the Leathermask
07. Vampires Don’t Die
08. When the Moon Shines Red
09. Mother Mary Is a Bird of Prey
10. Tiger of Sabrod
11. Lupus Dei
12. Lupus Daemonis (Intro) [Demo Version)
13. We Take It from the Living (Demo Version)
14. Saturday Satan (Demo Version)
15. Behind the Leathermask (Demo Version)
16.Tiger of Sabrod (Demo Version)

LINE-UP:
Attila Dorn – Vocals
Matthew Greywolf – Lead And Rhythm Guitar
Charles Greywolf – Bass, Rhythm Guitar
Stéfane Funèbre – Drums, Percussion
Falk Maria Schlegel – Organ, Keyboards

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Simon Black 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.

Defleshed – Grind Over Matter

Grind Over Matter Album Cover Art

Defleshed – Grind Over Matter
Metal Blade Records
Release Date: 28/10/2022
Running Time – 34:00
Review by Richard Oliver
8/10

Some albums you listen to and you can immediately see the circle pits swirling in your head and heads and masses of hair being thrown around without care or caution. Grind Over Matter is one such album and it also heralds the welcome return of Swedish Death-Thrashing bastards Defleshed after an absence of seventeen years.

Grind Over Matter sees the power trio of Gustaf Jorde (vocals and bass), Hell Y. Hansen (guitars) and Matte Modin (drums) reunite for a long awaited sixth album of Death Metal filth. Originally intended only to be a few songs for a vinyl box set, the band hit inspiration and just kept going. The end result is eleven songs of Thrash driven Death Metal which is very no frills in its attitude and delivery but just exactly the sort of audial bitch slap that the band delivers so well. It is impossible not to bang your head furiously with a maniacal grin when you get delicious nuggets of filth such as ‘Heavy Haul’, ‘Staring Blind’ and the title track. It is very much an Old School Death Metal style with nods to Grindcore at times in the delivery and definitely a huge Thrash influence, especially in the riffing style. The songs have plenty of groove as well as being relentlessly furious which comes to the fore in the absolute carnage of ‘Blastbeast’. This is an album that barely pauses for breath with only ‘Behind Dead Eyes’ slowing the pace a tad, but retains all of the intensity that the rest of the album holds.

Defleshed have always been a band sat in the underground with some of their prior releases seen as cult classics. It appears the seventeen-year break has worked wonders for the band as “Grind Over Matter” is a fantastic album. With their own lives and obligations outside of the band, Defleshed will only remain a part-time thing for the trio and there are currently no plans for the band to tour but it is damn good to have these guys back and judging from the songs on “Grind Over Matter”, Defleshed are pleased to be back as well.

‘Grind Over Matter’ Official Video

TRACKLISTING:
01. Bent Out Of Shape
02. Grind Over Matter
03. One Grave To Fit Them All
04. Heavy Haul
05. Dear Devil
06. Staring Blind
07. Blood Well Spent
08. Unburdened By Genius
09. Behind Dead Eyes
10. Blastbeast
11. Last Nail In The Coffin

LINE-UP:
Gustaf Jorde – Vocals, Bass
Hell Y. Hansen – Guitars
Matte Modin – Drums

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Richard Oliver 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.

Goatwhore – Angels Hung from the Arches of Heaven

Angels Hung from the Arches of Heaven Album Cover Art

Goatwhore – Angels Hung from the Arches of Heaven
Metal Blade Records
Release Date: 07/10/22
Running Time: 47:00 
Review by Paul Hutchings
9/10

I wonder if Sammy Pierre Duet thought that 25 years after their formation, that New Orleans Blackened Death Metallers Goatwhore would be releasing their eighth studio album and that it would challenge other releases as their best piece of work. Of course, purists will argue all day about the order in which to rank the Goatwhore catalogue, and I’m certainly not cult enough to engage in such debate. It’s undeniable though that “Angels Hung from the Arches of Heaven” stands amongst the best releases of 2022, especially in extreme circles. 

Goatwhore have always blended Thrash, Black, Death and Sludge in a heady cocktail of extremity. They have also brought a relentless aural assault on each of their albums. It’s no different here. 47 minutes of intensity, ferocious riffage and the gargled roars of vocalist Louis Ben Falgoust II, who describes the record as “very raw, but clarity is shaped within the chaos”. 

The intro ‘Invocation 3’ leads to the blistering ‘Born of Satan’s Flesh’, which drips with demonic malevolence, but this is no devil worshipping session. The album’s lyrical themes touch on “the basis of human despondency, overwhelming emotion and thought”.  The songs stand on their own but hang together as an album well. The title track is huge, a brooding beast, sonically challenging and emotionally haunting. 

There is a pleasing variety of styles throughout the album. Whilst Goatwhore are not going to depart from their signature sound in any great way, there’s certainly wider influences at work here, with dips into more traditional Metal territory on occasion. ‘Death From Above’ is loosely based on the ‘Nachthexen’, or Night Witches, a group of female Soviet aviators in a bomber division deployed in 1942, a period during which women were in fact barred from combat. It’s worth dipping into the history books to read more about Major Marina Raskova and the 588th Night Bomber Regiment. The song certainly grasps the story and brings it home with a pulsing groove that drives the track forward. 

Alongside Falgoust II’s vocals, there’s also the recording debut of Robert Coleman on bass. He’s been with the band in various guises since 2014 but replaces James Harvey here and links in with drummer Zack Simmons to murderous effect, the engine room providing a concrete platform for founder member Sammy Pierre Duet to slice through with some visceral lead work. 

Two other songs are worthy of mention although there is nothing poor here. The sheer blast of ‘Nihil’, a short, blistering thrasher and the final song, ‘And I Was Delivered From The Wound Of Perdition’, which at six-minutes long is the lengthiest piece on the album. It builds slowly, with choral voices before a crushing riff eases into place and an agonising roar breaks through. The sludgy tempo slowing increases, blending with backing keys. It’s a smouldering brute that brings the album to a majestic and epic conclusion. 

With Jarrett Pritchard (Exhumed, 1349) once more doing excellent work on his return to the producer’s chair, Goatwhore have once more demonstrated their unrelenting approach works best. You’ll be hard pressed to find a better album all year. 

‘Death From Above’ Official Video

TRACKLISTING:
01. Invocation 3
02. Born of Satan’s Flesh
03. The Bestowal of Abomination
04. Angels Hung from the Arches of Heaven 
05. Death from Above
06. Ruinous Liturgy 
07. Victory Is the Lightning of Destruction 
08. Voracious Blood Fixation
09. The Devil’s Warlords 
10. Weight of A Soulless Heart 
11. Nihil 
12. And I Was Delivered from The Wound Of Perdition 

LINE-UP:
Louis B. Falgoust II – Vocals
Sammy Duet: Guitars – Vocals
Zack Simmons – Drums
Robert “TA” Coleman – Bass

LINKS:

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.

Trial – Feed the Fire

Feed the Fire Album Cover Art

Trial – Feed the Fire
Metal Blade Records
Release Date: 02/09/22
Running Time: 46:00 
Review by Paul Hutchings
7/10

I was less than enamoured by Trial’s 2017 album “Motherless.” Linus Johansson’s vocals were the main sticking point. Nails down the blackboard was my comment in a review on another site. Well, the Swedes are back for their latest album which incorporates all the usual elements – twin guitar work, galloping rhythms that sees them move towards a more Power Metal avenue, and a new vocalist in Arthur W. Andersson. 

The result is a vastly improved slab of Metal that switches between traditional styles and Modern Power Metal. The songs are much more up-tempo than the previous release, with an urgency that may not have been apparent before. 

A traditional style intro leads to the first full song, ‘Sulphery’, a four-and-a-half-minute gallop which sets out the style for the entire album. Trial don’t mess around; they get their heads down and blast out the riffs. Underpinning it all is a melodic feel which provides a distinctive sound, enhanced by a decent production. Recorded at Welfare Sounds in Gothenburg, with Per Stålberg, Kalle Lilja and Olle Björk as engineers and producers, the sound allows the music to be expressive, lively, and interesting. 

Over forty-six minutes, Trial bring solid Heavy Metal alive with some classic flourishes. A guest appearance by At the Gates Tomas Lindberg, thanks to his friendship with Stålberg brings a different vibe to the central pillar of the album, ‘Snare of the Fowler,’ which flips between Thrash and Speed Metal, Andersson giving a stellar delivery as well. 

“Feed the Fire” is a thoroughly enjoyable album. Tracks are varied but retain a standard blueprint which works well. The grand finale, ‘The Crystal Sea’ towers above all other songs. A nine-minute plus epic, it brings a level of grandiosity to the album and whilst ambitious, it works well alongside the other tracks. 

It’s ten years since Trial released their debut album. “Feed the Fire” might just be the album to move them up the table and challenging for honours. It’s certainly worthy of a listen if you like your Metal with heavy riffs, clean, soaring vocals and a decent level of crafting on each song.

‘Sulphery’ Official Video

 
TRACKLISTING:
01. Tria Prima
02. Sulphery
03. Thrice Great Path
04. In The Highest
05. Snare Of The Fowler
06. Feed The Fire
07. The Faustus Hood
08. Quadrivium
09. The Crystal Sea
  
LINE-UP:
Arthur W. Andersson – Vocals
Alexander Ellström – Guitars
Andreas Johnsson – Guitars
Andréas Olsson – Bass
Martin Svensson – Drums

LINKS:

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.

Amon Amarth- The Great Heathen Army

The Great Heathen Army Album Cover Art

Amon Amarth – The Great Heathen Army
Metal Blade Records
Release Date: 05/08/2022
Running Time: 43:00
Review by Rory Bentley 
8/10

Contrary to the opinion of dorks on Twitter, Amon Amarth don’t do bad albums. There might be less essential additions to their catalogue when compared to classics like “Twilight of the Thunder God” and early acts of savagery like “The Crusher”,  but they’re all united by a distinctive signature stomp and Johan Hegg’s uniquely catchy death growl. From their beginnings as a bruising Melodeath berzerker squad to the arena-filling force of Heavy Metal anthems of today, they’ve maintained a high watermark throughout their mead-drenched, battle-scarred career.

On 11th studio album “The Great Heathen Army”, Johan and the boys have made a concerted effort to pivot away slightly from the Trad Metal singalongs and strip things back to their Death Metal roots. Although this doesn’t tell the full story and there’s a few curveballs along the way, at least relatively speaking.

‘Get In the Ring’ certainly lives up to the raw Death Metal billing, with sludgy riffs turning bone to powder like Mjölnir being brought down with venomous might. Johan eschews the band’s more myth-centric lyricism for a more general level of threatening menace to people that like to flap their gums but can’t back it up when it’s time to throw hands. Although I have since discovered there is some historical context to the song, it is eclipsed by pure machismo, very much to its benefit! As those who have read my Corpsegrinder review will know, I’m very fond of burly men making death threats over a soundscape designed to concuss a Blue Whale.

The title track is next and, again, wastes no time charging into battle, anchored by an unsettling chromatic lead line as it tells the tale of England being ravaged by a gigantic Nordic army hellbent on vengeance and the desire to conquer. Frankly I’d welcome this fate all over again, ‘Blood Eagles for Boris’ has a nice ring to it. Politics aside though, this one looks like a setlist mainstay of the future.

So far so Melodeath. Until we get to ‘Heidrun’, which is absolutely bonkers. The jaunty NWOBHM melodies of the previous two albums return, we get a real deep-cut from Norse mythology and a guest vocal from a goat. In no way am I taking artistic licence here- I very much mean an actual fucking goat! It turns out Heidrun is a lovely nanny who sits on the roof of Valhalla gnawing at the magical leaves and secreeting the finest mead to be vociferously guzzled by parched warriors. From which orifice I remain unsure, but it’s quite the subject matter. By the time the call and response mantra of “Who’s the G.O.A.T.? Who’s the G.O.A.T.? Heidrun! Heidrun!” hit the speakers, all bets were off. This is one of the stupidest fucking songs I’ve ever heard. But I also snuck it onto the playlist at my wedding. Because I love it. 

Things get back to more familiar footing with the serviceable slab of Death ‘Oden Owns You All,’ and the ode to PMA and getting shit done that is ‘Find A Way or Make One’, which feels like Hatebreed by way of Manowar in its subject and delivery. H2O for people that wear woad. ‘Dawn of Norsemen’ brings up the rear in this up-tempo trilogy before we get another curveball, this time minus farmyard animals but still featuring a G.O.A.T. of sorts.

Good old Biff Byford comes steaming in for the appropriately monikered ‘Saxons and Vikings’ which brings to life the tale of the two warring armies in spectacular fashion. Biff’s shrill Trad Metal wail contrasts perfectly with Johan’s guttural bellow as the two of them embark on an absurd duet that works way better than it has any right to. This is 2022’s ‘You Don’t Bring Me Flowers’ except everybody’s Neil Diamond and Neil’s gone mad and decapitated Barbara Streisand with an axe!

As the ‘Marth are wont to do, things close up with a more epic, dynamic track bolstered by acoustic guitars and a somber reflection on the travails of a warrior reaching the end, in the form of ‘The Serpent’s Trail’. It’s a trick they’ve done before, but there’s a comforting familiarity to the record’s conclusion that shows the band know their strengths and there is a vigour to the performance that belies the fact that this is a band approaching their third decade.

With a savage delivery, razor-sharp production job by Andy Sneap and a decent fistful of future setlist favourites, it’s hard to see most of the Jomsviking faithful walking away from this one disappointed. The band have a distinctive sound like no one else and they know the right times to vary up their core template of burly Melodeath. My head is giving this one an 8 but in terms of my own enjoyment it’s a straight 10! Skål!

‘Get In The Ring’ Official Video

TRACKLISTING:
01. Get In the Ring
02. The Great Heathen Army
03. Heidrun
04. Oden Owns You All
05. Find a Way or Make One
06. Dawn of Norsemen
07. Saxons and Vikings
08. Skagul Rides with Me
09. The Serpent’s Trail

LINE-UP:
Johan Hegg – Vocals
Olavi Mikkonen – Guitar
Johan Söderberg – Guitar
Ted Lundström – Bass
Jocke Wallgren – 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.

Killswitch Engage – Live at the Palladium

Live At The Palladium Album Cover Art

Killswitch Engage – Live at the Palladium
Metal Blade Records
Release Date: 03/06/2022
Running Time: 71:00
Review by Rory Bentley
8/10

Taken from their two livestream specials from earlier this year, “Live at the Palladium” sees Massachusetts Metalcore legends KIllswitch Engage take to the stage in a very different environment from their usual sweat-soaked singathons, where a baying crowd roar back every syllable. This new lockdown necessity has affected each artist differently and some have suited the format better than others, but it’s hard to see playing in front of a film crew as anything but a disadvantage for Killswitch, who thrive on creating a party environment and whipping up a crowd in a way that few other bands are capable of. I’m getting this negative out of the way because it’s nobody’s fault and there’s still more than enough across these two sets to please any hardcore KIllswitch fan, of which I am most certainly one of.

The decision to play their latest album “Atonement” and their self-titled debut in full gives everything a unique big-event feel that makes the experience worthwhile and allows deeper cuts to come to the fore. It’s a bold move by a band whose bread and butter is peeling out back to back anthems that have become staples within Metal, but it’s a gamble that really pays off and stops this being just another live album. I’ll never tire of “My Last Serenade” and “Rose of Sharon” but this band has so many hidden gems and lesser played classics that it’s a shame that they don’t always get the same shine as the tried and tested hits.

My earliest thought when spinning this for the first time was that we all did “Atonement” dirty when it came out in 2020. Despite being better received than the somewhat patchy predecessor “Incarnate”, the response was lukewarm at the time with a lot of criticism that the band had settled into their groove and it was ‘just another Killswitch album’. While this is not entirely inaccurate, I would posit this question- how many of their peers are capable of this level of songwriting on such a consistent basis? When “Unleashed” roars out the traps it feels like the kind of song most bands could only dream of opening their set with. To then follow it up with future set staple “The Signal Fire” is just plain rude, even without the towering baritone of former singer Howard Jones on guest vocals the song is pure serotonin distilled into a world class chorus and razor sharp riff work. 

The heart wrenching “I Am Broken Too” is somehow delivered with more passion and power than on the album and offers a touching statement of solidarity to those suffering from mental health issues. Jesse Leach really pours everything into this performance, reaching out through the sterile prism of the empty stage and straight into the gut. Which is nothing less than one would expect from one of the great frontmen of our time. In fact this whole set shows how much he has grown as a singer and lyricist. There was a time when his raw emotion often came at the expense of his technical ability, and while this was a trade off I never had a problem accepting, his transformation into a master of his instrument is a wonderful thing to bear witness to. Where once he strained and his pitch wavered, his soulful tenor soars above the frenetic guitar work of his bandmates to create some truly spine tingling moments, as demonstrated on ‘As Sure as The Sun Will Rise’ where he hits you right in the feels and dovetails beautifully with Adam D’s fantastic counter vocals and butter-smooth harmonies.

It sort of goes without saying that the band are inhumanly tight and that famous guitar tone is loud and proud throughout, benefiting from a stellar mixing job that gives clarity without ever sacrificing the filthy chugging crunch that propels every song into an infinite circle pit.  Justin Foley hits with weight and precision on the kit and Mike D is ever reliable holding down the low-end grooves. Just another day at the office for these guys.

As much as I enjoyed the first set, the grimy Hardcore kid in me was salivating at the prospect of that first album getting a run through and good lord was I not dissappointed! To hear the squealing harmonics and Melodeath riffs of ‘In The Unblind’ is always a treat and it’s great to hear that despite becoming Mr Slick on the clean vocals, Jesse still sounds absolutely feral on the old material. ‘Irreversal’ should be played at every Killswitch show forever despite the fact that I may die horribly when they kick into the final beatdown, and ‘Temple from Within’ into ‘Vide Infra’ is about as good as hardcore one-twos get! Yes I said hardcore, stop folding your tatooed arms and recognise that they’ve got riffs that Earth Crisis wish they could write!

The icing on the cake comes from the inspired idea to close with ‘Just Barely Breathing’ from “Alive of Just Breathing”, which is one of my favourite songs by any band ever and it’s blasted out so aggressively you’d think the band’s instruments owe them money!

“Live at the Palladium” is one of those rare live albums that is actually worth having in your collection. It paints the new album in a different and more favourable light while reminding everyone that underneath the festival-crushing singalong band lies a group of rabid hardcore kids that haven’t lost touch with their underground roots and can still fucking GO!

‘Temple From Within’ Live at the Palladium

TRACKLISTING:
01. Unleashed
02. The Signal Fire
03. Us Against The World
04. The Crownless King
05. I Am Broken Too
06. As Sure As The Sun Will Rise
07. Know Your Enemy
08. Take Control
09. Ravenous
10. I Can’t Be the Only One
11. Bite the Hand That Feeds
12. Temple from Within
13. Vide Infra
14. Irreversal
15. Rusted Embrace
16. Prelude
17. Soilborn
18. Numb Sickened Eyes
19. In the Unblind
20. Just Barely Breathing

LINE-UP:
Adam Dutkiewicz – Lead guitar
Joel Stroetzel – Rhythm guitar
Mike D’Antonio – Bass
Justin Foley – Drums
Jesse Leach – 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.

DVNE – Cycles of Asphodel EP

Cycles of Asphodel EP Cover Art

DVNE – Cycles of Asphodel EP
Metal Blade Records
Release Date: 20/05/2022
Running Time: 25:26
Review by Rory Bentley
9/10

Fresh off of last year’s wonderful sophomore release “Etemen Ænka”, Scottish Prog Metal firebrands DVNE have decided to reward us with a special live recording of their Bandcamp livestream in the form of this fantastic little EP. Good things often come in small packages (no innuendos please) and it certainly proves to be the case here.

I’ve seen many superb bands struggle to fully realise dense, complex and dynamic material in the live arena. Sometimes that’s down to the logistical nightmare of rearranging grandiose studio compositions into something that aligns with limitations of a core band that don’t have the budget to tour with the album’s guest musicians. Other times it’s down to the venue’s battered old PA system and clueless sound technician. Fortunately the band have opted to hire two highly capable collaborators to immortalise these songs on record the way they intended.

The world class musical chops of Lissa Robertson on vocals and violin and Evelyn May Hedges on keys ensure that the core band is given that extra sonic boost that allows these four sprawling tracks to be delivered in all of their cinematic glory. Lissa’s ethereal melismatic vocals conjure up the exotic and wild atmosphere of the recent “Dune” movie, the original novel of which the band derives its name from and the additional keys and ambience of Evelyn create an immersive listening experience as they glide gracefully over the labyrinthine guitar work and thundering rhythms.

Original album highlight, the frankly mind blowing “Omega Severer” in particular sounds positively colossal as winding arpeggios give way to the king of planet-smashing riffs that Cult of Luna have been crushing my skull with for years. Make sure you mark that reference on Bentley Bingo, there’s a converge reference coming up soon so dabbers at the ready!

I should also say that the core band is absolutely on fire here and in no danger of being overshadowed by their guests of honour. The vocals are delivered with both the primal bellow and emotional expression required and the musicianship and tightness of the band over these dynamic compositions bares all the hallmarks of a unit that has been forged in the fires of relentless gigging. Dynamic, head-spinning songs like “Asphodel” are unbelievably difficult to pull off in a live setting, particularly the delicate Post-Rock sections, but if anything these live versions surpass their studio counterparts.

I was already giddy with excitement for the band’s next full length, but after hearing this exquisite little set the wait feels unbearable. Do yourself a favour and spend 26 minutes in the company of one of the UK’s best new bands. In fact I’ve posted the whole show in the link below for all my Fremen Fam! (Dune reference guys, nerds are cool now, deal with it.)

‘Cycles Of Asphodel’ Live Video

TRACKLISTING:
01. Weighing of the Heart (Live)
02. Omega Severer (Live)
03. Asphodel (Live)
04. Satuya (Live)

LINE-UP:
Victor Vicart: guitar, vocals, keys
Dudley Tait: drums
Daniel Barter: guitar, vocals
Allan Paterson: bass
Lissa Robertson: violin, vocals
Evelyn May Hedges: keys

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.

Master Boot Record – Personal Computer

Personal Computer Album Cover Art

Master Boot Record – Personal Computer
Metal Blade Records
Release Date: 13.05.22
Running Time: 63:01
Review by Dark Juan
647,332,196,003/10

Good afternoon, dear friends. It is with considerable sadness that I start this review having heard of the untimely and tragic death of Trevor Strnad, a gentleman of the first order. I had the pleasure of interviewing him for Ever-Metal.com during one of the many lockdowns over Skype, and found him to be a gregarious, charming and funny man, and understanding and amused at an ersatz metal hack bungling his first big ticket interview as well as him being a walking encyclopedia of metal. This is a sad loss, and Dark Juan’s thoughts go out to the rest of The Black Dahlia Murder and of course Trevor’s family and friends in their time of loss and grief.

May Trevor Strnad rest forever in peace and power.

This leads on to another point before I actually start telling you about the genius that is Master Boot Record – Yet another man has been lost to suicide. Dark Juan is also going through a difficult time and suffers from dark thoughts frequently, thankfully I’ve been able to turn to certain people in my life (and for this I thank them all profusely and without restraint – they know who they are) to help drain the black away. 

IT’S OK TO TALK.

I IMPLORE you, struggling gentlemen who read my barely literate shite, to go and seek help from Andy’s Man Club or Samaritans or whoever the fuck you need to, to obtain help and counselling before it gets too much to cope with. It is NOT weak to share your burden. You are NOT less of a man if you realise you can’t cope and reach out for support. I don’t want to have to know that any of my acquaintances and friends have joined Trevor Strnad and Chester Bennington and Chris Cornell and  Kurt Cobain. I would much rather have you all fucking get help. I need it sometimes and I am one of the most resilient motherfuckers you will ever come across. Today, however, a long dirtnap would be amazing but you (and I) have to keep fighting because that long dirtnap, you aren’t coming back from that. Suicide is a permanent (and horribly painful for your family, significant others and friends) method of dealing with a temporary situation. TALK, MEN, TALK…

Enough seriousness. Let us instead discuss a musical project that has brought me considerable joy ever since my friend Metal Carl (yes, that is his nickname and it is a running joke around the area of West Yorkshire where I live that Metal Carl is more metal than ACTUAL physical metal) sent me a link to the song “IRQ 0 SYSTEM CLOCK” and told me that I might like it.

How right he was. He has given me a whole new obsession with this Italian electronic auteur (being as Master Boot Record is a project from a 486DX-33MHz-64MB computer, processing avant-garde chiptune, synthesized heavy metal & classical symphonic music. It is also shockingly productive, this being the 8th MBR album proper as well as its work with Keygen Church) and its colossal, expansive instrumental soundscapes. Master Boot Record derives some of its pleasure for me from the fact that it is the work of an Italian man called Victor Love who has spent years making out he is an IBM 486 processor. I love daft shit.

Now, the blurb states that I shouldn’t call Master Boot Record’s music synthwave, and that it should be in fact described as electronic metal. I actually have some sympathy with that description, but fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me. Unless you’re a devastatingly attractive woman ordering me into her boudoir while waving a packet of dex at me. Then it’s a case of fuck you, I’m doing what I’m told… but I digress – Master Boot Record plays a style of music that encompasses Outrun synthwave as part of its alternative silicon based DNA before being fused cybernetically with the heaviest and chunkiest of metal. The resulting musical behemoth is A) terrifying to behold and B) fucking brilliant.

If you have ever read William Gibson’s Sprawl books, or Burning Chrome, or Mona Lisa Overdrive, I humbly submit that Master Boot Record is the soundtrack to his fevered tales of the Net and its denizens. The music sends my imagination into turbocharged high gear – I picture Chiba-boosted assassins with scalpels underneath their fingernails battling vat-grown zaibatsu samurai armed with monofilament wire that can cut two-inch-thick steel in the rainy, slippery, gomi-filled back alleys of a neon-lit geodesic nightmare, fighting over the capture of a strung-out mnemonic courier chain-smoking Yeheyuan filters who has just offloaded the data packet he was carrying in his wetwired brain to a drug addicted, cybernetically enhanced and armoured dolphin who’s fighting his own infowar with his Lo-Tek allies against the zaibatsus. I close my eyes and see people with grey lenses surgically implanted into their faces to cover up the Hong-Kong made cybernetic eyes they see through, and rain slick black leather and PVC hiding boosted musculatures and micro-pistons replacing tendons in the hand of a colossal Russian bouncer, whose jacket falls open just enough for you to see the well-used shok-stik and tape-wrapped grip of a rusty, knock-off Vietnamese made Tokarev pistol in a shoulder holster outside the bar from which heat, dry ice and the sound of Master Boot Record emanates…

Master Boot Record is not necessarily just about future shock though. There are some absolutely delightful neo-classical moments on “Personal Computer”, especially the intro to “80486”, where Love gleefully creates beautiful pieces of music and then records them using sounds that would have just been considered acceptable on a ZX Spectrum – essentially taking classical influences and turning them into 8-bit chiptune renditions of themselves. However, it’s not as banal as it sounds, trust me. Equally, you can’t discount the sheer heaviness of Master Boot Record, even though purists and gatekeepers will be spilling bitter tears of trad-metal loving horror all over their authentic 1980s W.A.S.P. t shirts. MBR’s music takes the sheer scale and grandiosity of trve (sic) heavy metal, and adds it to the uncompromising, unstoppable qualities of machinery and the endless possibilities for sonic fury that electronics offer the seriously unhinged, and the result is something that is so supermassively greater than the sum of its’ component parts it can form its own event horizon. The music has a cinematic quality reminiscent of 80s action flicks where hundreds of nondescript bad guys are blown away by a musclebound leading man for the cause of freedom/ America/ rescuing daughters and sons/ wives/ favourite second cousins/ pets (I’m looking at you, John Wick. I wholly approve), yet said musclebound leading man seems to be able to survive being blown up/ nearly drowned/ STILL USE HIS FUCKING ARM AFTER BEING SHOT THROUGH THE SHOULDER (this ALWAYS pisses me off) and otherwise shrug off anything that might floor a less perfect specimen whilst cracking the sort of one-liners that only dads should have permission to use (my favourite ever being, “Are you a Virginia farm boy? Here’s a couple of achers” mere milliseconds before booting some poor evil lackey right in the gentleman vegetables). In short, although there is a strong techno-historical (by that I mean that MBR’s music could easily be the theme tune to any number of SF or 80s fantasy TV shows – Stuff like Airwolf, Street Hawk, Knight Rider, Automan, that kind of thing) quality to Master Boot Record’s music, it is also tremendously futuristic and forward-looking, hinting at a future where electronics supercede traditional instruments and change the face of the planet, “80486SX” being a perfect example of how this could happen, being as it is heavier than a regiment of plutonium panty-clad Soviet hammer throwers named Olga, yet brightly-lit and forward looking and inventive and almost…. Utopian in outlook and scope, as it charts endless sunny vistas of progress and promise in front of it. “80686” ends the record with a bastardised electronic harpsichord playing the kind of chamber baroque that makes goths weep with what equates to joy for goths (probably crushing sadness and clove cigarettes and absinthe whilst having a candlelit Xmal Deutschland marathon, or if you’re a boy, all of the above whilst wistfully lusting after Sisters-era Patricia Morrison) before crashing into the heaviness like an endless parade of heavily armed and augmented cyborg automatons marching in lockstep right past your foxhole, and then taking a hard left turn into the kind of soloing that would not look out of place on a Rhapsody Of Fire record (but done on keyboards) and returning to the vastness of intergalactic starscapes and glissandos and epic coruscations of music swirling through a continuum all of its own creation… Fuck me, I love Master Boot Record so much it hurts!

So, there are nearly thirteen hundred words on just why men should talk more and why Master Boot Record are absolutely fucking magnificent. You don’t need to read any more. Go listen, instead. And fucking talk to someone, chaps. Dark Juan is sick of losing good people to the black dog and requests and requires that you are not next, please and thank you.

The Patented Dark Juan Blood Splat Rating System (Il sistema brevettato di valutazione degli schizzi di sangue di Dark Juan) was going to award Master Boot Record a full 10/10, but has decided that it is going to make an absolute mockery of the Ever-Metal.com scoring system and actually score “Personal Computer” 647,332,196,003/10. Just for the lulz.

Heh.

TRACKLISTING:
01. 8086
02. 80186
03. 80286
04. 80386
05. 80386SX
06. 80486
07. 80486DX
08. 80486SX
09. 80586
10. 80686 (No. These song titles are not me joking. They do actually correlate to the IBM 86-series PCs I learned to do stuff on in college in order of release and processor speed…)

LINE-UP:
Victor Love. He does absolutely fucking everything and I hate him for it. I can’t even play the guitar properly.

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.

Satan – Earth Infernal 

Earth Infernal Album Cover Art

Satan – Earth Infernal 
Metal Blade Records
Release Date: 01/04/2022
Running Time: 48:00
Review by Rory Bentley
8.5/10

If there’s one thing that makes my eyes roll back into my skull like The Undertaker, it’s disingenuous claims that certain older Heavy Metal bands have never sounded better. I know art is all subjective, but there comes a point where a reviewer is either toeing a publication’s line so as not to upset a big band, or they have lost all critical faculty and shouldn’t be reviewing art. The most obvious example being the maddening hyperbole surrounding every post-reformation Iron Maiden release and live show. “Senjutsu” had some great moments on it but if I have to make my own version of the album on Apple Music, because half of its 90-minute runtime is gash, then they clearly have sounded better.

This brings me to another band that was kicking around the NWOBHM scene when Steve Harris and the boys started out, Newcastle rockers Satan. The reason I bring up Maiden for comparison is that unlike the globe conquering Londoners, there’s a strong case for Satan sounding better than they ever have, and “Earth Infernal” adds further weight to this claim. Traditional Heavy Metal is undergoing something of a revival these days, whether it’s Visigoth’s blue collar stripped back approach or the likes of Spirit Adrift and Khemmis adding a pummelling Doom tone to the classic style. This surge of more denim and leather-minded bands has provided the perfect backdrop for Satan to finally get their flowers, as more fans are opening their minds to the more melodic pre-Thrash era of Metal’s history.

The first thing that struck me about “Earth Infernal” was the beautiful, warm analogue production. There are no click tracks, overdubs are minimal and the drums sound like they’re being played in your living room. A lot of bands from this scene go out of their way to create a Lo-Fi production job, believing they are adding an authenticity to a genre that is programmed and polished within an inch of its life, but few are able to pull it off with such clarity and precision.  This approach suits Satan down to the ground, bringing continuity between their old and new work without feeling like they’re just taking a retro approach because it’s trendy on Bandcamp. In fact this whole aesthetic would fall flat were it not for the lively, excellent performances captured here, with the band electing to leave the odd bum-note in here and there if the overall take has the right feel. When ‘Poison Elegy’ builds towards its finale, for example, there is a refreshing looseness as the band takes a few seconds to lock into the optimum temp to take the song home.

Of course, great musicianship and sound engineering can only take a band so far and Satan’s real trump card comes in the form of some immaculate songcraft. These 10 tracks display a confidence and elegance that comes with experience, seamlessly weaving between sections and knowing just the right amount of time to ride a riff or groove. ‘Burning Portrait’ perhaps best exemplifies this, as it builds tension with ascending riffs, tasteful leads and a spidery arpeggio that gradually gathers steam before thundering along at a pace that belies the band’s years. In between all this is a powerful melodic chorus that provides the perfect foil to the chaos of the verses. You don’t just rock up to your first band practice and peel out something this thrilling and fully realised.

Throughout the record the band are acutely aware of where their strengths lie, those strengths being tasteful lead lines, catchy mid-paced riffs and strong melodic vocals that never tip too far into theatricality. They accomplish this with very little distortion but a whole lot of attitude with songs like ‘Twelve Infernal Lords’ being played with more vim and vigour than most Thrash bands. The band even accomplish a compelling instrumental track in ‘Mercury’s Shadow’ where a graceful acoustic intro gives way to a huge swaggering 70’s Judas Priest riff, before leading to some classic duelling leads. I would love to see the band utilise more acoustic passages elsewhere as I really appreciated the macabre vibe they bring here.

As the ambitious closer “Earth We Bequeath” puts a bow on things by bringing in surreal jazzy keys to go along with triumphant riffs and some piercing falsetto vocals, I couldn’t help but tip my hat to Satan. There are bands that are going out of their way to sound like this that just come off as pastiche compared to the passion and craftsmanship on show here. In so many other walks of life people get better at what they do the longer they do it, but Heavy Metal bands often seem to have a sell by date after the twenty year mark. How refreshing, then that here we have a band that bucks that trend and have seemingly reached their final form in their later years. Hail Satan! Sorry I couldn’t resist.

‘Burning Portrait’ Official Video

TRACKLISTING:
01. Ascendancy
02. Burning Portrait
03. Twelve Infernal Lords
04. Mercury’s Shadow
05. A Sorrow Unspent
06. Luciferic
07. From Second Sight
08. Poison Elegy
09. The Blood Ran Deep
10. Earth We Bequeath

LINE-UP:
Brian Ross – Vocals
Russ Tippins – Guitars
Steve Ramsey – Guitars
Graeme English – Bass
Sean Taylor – Drums

LINKS:

Satan Promo Pic

Midnight – Let There Be Witchery

Let There Be Witchery Album Cover Art

Midnight – Let There Be Witchery
Metal Blade Records  
Release Date: 04/03/2022
Running Time: 34:50

Review by Rory Bentley
8/10

I’ve ruffled plenty of feathers during my time writing about music / generally being an obnoxious dickhead over the years. I can’t help myself, I was born a horrible little rotter with a big gob and it’s peeved plenty of people, but if I think something is derivative or painfully average and people are drooling over it I have to say my piece, and I usually phrase it like an absolute bell end. Just ask my new friends in Veonity. To illustrate what I mean, I think the last two Exodus albums are inessential cack with no songs, I’m never going to listen to the new Saxon album and I couldn’t give two shits about 99% of Thrash revival bands that everyone raves about. It’s predictable, boring and doing nothing to move things forward. SO WHY THE FUCK DO I LOVE MIDNIGHT SO MUCH??!!

Honestly mates, I’m not sure I can accurately answer that with anything more eloquent than they fucking rip! Sometimes the execution is more important than the idea and nobody executes evil, thrashed up proto-Black Metal with as much joy and shit kicking charm as Midnight. They sound like the band I want Venom to be. Don’t get me wrong – I respect Venom and their importance to the evolution of heavy music, but they can’t play their instruments and the records sound like shit. Midnight brings the cartoonish horror fun of The Misfits, throws in some NWOBHM riffing, filters it  through some Black Metal scuzz and chucks it back in your face with the grizzled swagger of Motörhead. The resulting mutant sonic ooze is something that even a snobbish hack weasel like me can’t resist.

‘Telepathic Nightmare’ has me tapping my foot and mean-mugging straight out the gate with mastermind Jamie ‘Athenar’ Walters barking ghoulish chants over disorienting Voivod style riffs. ‘Frothing Foulness’ sounds like Lemmy and the boys fronted by somebody suffering from severe tourettes and ‘In Sinful Secrecy’ sounds like a group of swamp monsters decided to form a Hair Metal band. Three songs in and I can’t get enough of this filth.

By the time the Garage Punk sleaze of ‘Nocturnal Molestation’ oozes out of the speakers I give zero fucks about the lack of innovation here, I just want to chug a beer and drop kick the can into my neighbour’s garden  while my better half screams at me to turn this racket down! You see the clever thing Midnight does is act as a sort of 80’s Metal magpie, shrewdly curating the choicest licks and gnarliest riffs from classic bands and blending them into a satisfying cocktail that makes every record feel like a greatest hits album of a forgotten Thrash legend. By casting the net deceptively wide into the annals of classic Metal, Athenar is able to season his core template of Speed Metal filth with spicy samples of satanic-panic staples so every song has a distinct feel even if it’s not deviating wildly from the core sound.

‘More Torment’ has a lurching Danzig groove that breaks up the more savage moments of ‘Let There Be Witchery’, while ‘Let There Be Sodomy’ has an evil sounding tremolo intro and the kind of chorus I wouldn’t allow my nieces to listen to. This is an album bursting with moments that will make you punch the air and grin like an idiot and those moments will be stuck in your head whether you want them there or not!

Like a kebab after leaving the pub too late, I don’t need a new Midnight record, but if you give me the option I will run through a brick wall to gobble one up. I’m shouting ‘Villainy Wretched Villainy at my cat now and I couldn’t be happier, so what are you waiting for? Give in to another helping of grimy, tongue-in-cheek, life-affirming speed metal written by one bloke with a bag on his head! You won’t hear a more fun 35 minutes all year.

TRACKLISTING:
01. Telepathic Nightmare
02. Frothing Foulness
03. In Sinful Secrecy
04. Nocturnal Molestation
05. More Torment
06. Let There Be Sodomy
07. Devil Virgin
08. Snake Obsession
09. Villainy Wretched Villainy
10. Szex Witchery

LINE-UP:
Athenar- Vocals, Guitar, Bass, 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.