Iron Kingdom – Gates of Eternity (Review)

Iron KingdomCanadian Heavy/Power Metal with plenty of ambition and ideas.

A useful starting point would be Iron Maiden/Iced Earth with more Power Metal-style vocals. Epic melody, memorable riffing and considered song-structure are all contained in these songs, as well as plenty of solos and atmosphere.

These guys really do know how to play their Metal! The band are very adept at their trade, whether it is during more atmospheric, classical moments, or going full-on Metal with duelling guitars and galloping drums. Either way they are very confident, talented musicians, and this comes across in the songs.

The singer belts out the tunes as would be expected of the Power Metal style, with the vocals soaring above the music with a high degree of gusto.  The vocals, and the music in general, are well-recorded and sound very organic. The drums and bass in particular have a very warm, live sound that is a pleasure to listen to.

Favourite track? It has to be the penultimate song; the 15-minute epic Egypt (The End Is Near). A triumph.

Like a satisfying Metal meal in a commercial-Metal famine, if you long for traditional Heavy Metal with some tasty Power Metal thrown in – then this is a nine-course meal that is bound to hit the spot.

Merciless Terror – Vile Extinction (Review)

Merciless TerrorHailing from the UK – Merciless Terror play Thrash-heavy Death Metal and it’s a joy to listen to; they don’t make them like this very often any more!

This album has a real late 90’s/early 00’s feel to it that fills me with a sense of nostalgia; at the same time however this is a modern take on it as the sound and energy is distinctly 2013 and exists purely to demolish the listener with its brawny bludgeoning.

An old-school vibe with a modern production, (reminiscent of Malevolent Creation as a reference point), this absolutely crushes everything in its path. Plenty of speed and brutality, but with a matching grasp of dynamics and the need for songs and hooks; this harks back to an era when brutality was not the be all and end all of this genre.

With many stomping riffs to be had and a general feeling of strength-through-guitar-power everything seems in place to worship the riff, fast or slow. And why not?

Vocals are not standard cookie-monster style, more a shouted-bark. This works well and also has a nice amount of variety, incorporating screams and some almost Black Metal-ish shouting at times.

Do yourself a favour and check out Merciless Terror as soon as you can.

Non Opus Dei/Morowe – Dziwki Dei (Review)

Non Opus Dei/MoroweA Black Metal split between two Polish bands; Non Opus Dei and Morowe.

Non Opus Dei are up first, with three tracks of unconventional Black Metal. First track Dziwki Dei almost comes across as a Black Metal Meshuggah, if you can imagine such a thing. Think less Djent though, and more just…unusual. It works. The next track continues its off-kilter approach to Black Metal, with some interesting guitar rhythms and drum patterns.  The final song assaults the speakers and completes the trilogy of songs that although definitely non-traditional, still fit comfortably within the Black Metal fold. Enjoyable.

Next are Morowe who also contribute three tracks. They are a different beast and start proceedings off gently, only to thunder in with a Katatonia-esque riff that gets things moving quite nicely. Vocals are deeper and darker than those of Non Opus Dei and saturate the music with a feeling of terror, further heightened by some claustrophobic guitar-work conjured by the band. The second song starts with slightly cleaner vocals and interesting drum-work. Subtle keyboard highlights help progress the song to great effect, moving into grandiose and epic territory, without ever sounding safe or hopeful. Some well-considered guitars help seal in the sense of unease, and then suddenly are joined by a psychedelic 70’s guitar moment that initially appears quite jarringly, but after a couple of seconds reveals itself to be a stroke of genius and just sounds great. And then on into Post-Metal territory before wrapping up. The final track Czyj to Glos is much shorter than the other two and has a jazzy feel. These three songs are both ambitious and successful. A mark of great things to come.

A strong release showcasing the talents of both bands at creating some nicely non-standard Black Metal. Get it if you can.

Harm – Cadaver Christi (Review)

HarmGermany’s Harm play old-school Death Metal, with chainsaw guitars and an uncompromising attitude.

There is some excellent, malevolent riffing on this album and the sense of 90’s Death Metal is strong. A time when constant blast and hyper-technicality were not important, and instead you have songs, riffs and brutal Metal. In fact if I had been told that this was a lost gem from the 90’s recorded at Sunlight Studio I could believe it.

Strength and persistence are key attributes to Harm; the old adage about slow and steady winning the race…well not slow perhaps but they certainly know how to settle into a malevolent groove and make the most of it. All of this is wrapped up in a strong sound that lets you hear every instrument individually and lets everything breathe nicely.

This may be an album steeped in Death Metal’s past, but it’s a past I’m quite comfortable visiting, and Harm are the perfect, brutish guides.

Also; the vocalist sounds like he’s trying to kill himself by vomiting up his insides. What more can you say? Nice work!

Sanity’s Rage – You Are What You Swallow (Review)

Sanity's RageImagine, if you will; Anthrax and Kreator jamming together to create an unholy Thrash-tastic side project. Sanity’s Rage are that theoretical band.

Hailing from Belgium this is an absolute stormer of an album. Tight playing, and galloping, exciting riffs mean there is never a dull moment. A strong production accentuates the dynamic songwriting of each track and there is real bite to these songs. This is no nostalgia-fest. Rather than looking back to the past they drag it fully into the present and it’s like the Thrash heyday is alive and well and centred on Belgium.

Each song on here is focused, mature, and full of more chops, riffs and solos than most bands manage in an album. And it’s relentless. No pseudo-ballads here; just pure, unadulterated Thrash metal.

Pummelling. Pounding. Shredding. Shred-fest. I could go on, but you get the idea. Like a breath of fresh air this album fills you up with all of the goodness of Thrash Metal, before ripping your face off with speed and precision steel.

Xothist – Xothist (Review)

XothistXothis play the kind of Black Metal that separates the true Black Metal affectionados from the wannabes. There is nothing even remotely pretty or commercial here.

Two tracks of wicked Black Metal full of spite and mystery, each song 20:47 in length. The songs are long but not dull, and have several shades of light and dark that Xothist move through like a hidden predator.

This is a very underground, lo-fi recording with fuzzy emotive guitars and drums buried under so much rawness that they are like a pulse; sometimes unnoticeable but always vital.

The vocals are of the really high-pitched, scratchy, almost-static variety that I enjoy so much. Sometimes it can be hard to ascertain where the vocals stop and the guitars start, and vice versa. All of which just adds to the the experience.

This release travels from ambience to blasting and all points in between. If you are a true fan of Black Metal then this should be right up your foggy street.

Colosso – Abrasive Peace (Review)

ColossoThe music is state-of-the-art bleeding-edge Extreme Metal, but the vocals are pure Death Metal; powerful and going straight for the throat. Colosso combine the best parts of bands like Behemoth and Nile, add a sprinkling of cyber-Metal akin to Fear Factory at their heaviest, and cap it off with focused brutality.

The songs tear themselves out of the speakers with razor sharp claws and venomous fangs ready to slay everyone in sight. This is music not to be messed with. The album boasts a thoroughly modern production and sound, and all of the benefits that 21st century technology can offer. In fact this is a perfectly judged combination of technological and traditional Metal – rather than swamping the metal with bleeps and break-beats to create some hybrid that is neither techno nor Metal, here the cyber-Metal influences serve to merely accentuate the relevant parts of the songs, while the very Metal guitars, drums and vocals take centre stage.

Eight tracks of thundering Metal later and the album is done. Oh, apart from the obligatory throwaway techno-Metal remix track of course, which does somewhat dilute the essence of the main album by being a rather poor closure after the last track proper has faded away. Nonetheless, this is a minor quibble in what is otherwise an exemplary album and a perfect example of what modern Extreme/Death Metal should sound like in 2013.

As a side-note there is also an instrumental version of this album out there named Peaceful Abrasiveness. That should tell you a lot about the quality of the music here and its ability to stand alone. And with the vocals added…well, that just makes it even better.

Cellador – Honor Forth (Review)

CelladorCellador play very lively and speedy Power Metal. The songs are chirpy, upbeat and have good composition. Their version of Power Metal is the hybridised Speed Metal version, with even the odd blastbeat appearing. This may bring up visions of Dragonforce, and although it’s undeniably the same genre they are not overly similar.

Plenty of musical chops and guitar heroics are displayed but an ear for a good tune and good song structure is not forgotten either. Vocals are passionate and well-done, not falling into the trap of being overly theatrical, (which there is nothing inherently wrong with as such, but it takes exceptional skill to pull off correctly to my mind).

Cellador are a very talented band, and very proficient at what they do. Both guitar and keyboard solos are incorporated into this EP increasing its enjoyability by being nicely embedded in the songs rather than sounding out of place.

Overall I liked this release and look forward to what the future holds for the band.