Voices – London (Review)

VoicesThis is the second album from UK group Voices. They play Progressive Blackened Death Metal.

Featuring former members of Akercocke, this is an album full of promise from the start as Akercocke were one of the best and most individual bands that the UK had to offer.

As soon as the dark acoustic opener Suicide Note starts I’m instantly hit with the feeling that Akercocke gave me in their more restrained moments. Then Music for the Recently Bereaved blasts out of the speakers and I feel warm and fuzzy inside and out.

If voices aren’t the heirs to Akercocke then I don’t know who is. They’re definitely their own entity but they channel the same primordial power and majesty that Akercocke did so well.

Blasting Death Metal, scathing Black Metal, Progressive Metal, Avant-Garde and everything in between make up these tracks. Progressive Blackened Death Metal is as good a term as any, but it seems so small. Voices are just bigger than that and have a whole lot more on offer than that mouthful of a genre tag implies.

The songs here are varied and full of interesting ideas and avenues for exploration. The band essentially just do what they want and I’m incredibly glad of this as it has resulted in a top quality album full of modern Extreme Metal that stands alone.

Growls, screams, cleans; the band do it all with style. It’s like Akercocke, Arcturus, Opeth and Emperor were crushed up together, digested and vomited up as a slick, professional, fully formed Extreme Metal machine. It’s classy and in a class of its own.

I love it when bands do their own thing and inject their art with personality and character. It’s even better when they do this with obvious talent and a passionate hunger. London is all of these things and more.

This is ambitious and hugely impressive. For a snapshot of everything that Extreme Metal should be these days then London is flawless.

In fact that’s all I need to say really; London is flawless.

 

Vyre – The Initial Frontier Pt. 2 (Review)

VyreVyre are from Germany and this is their second album. They play Black Metal.

Vyre’s take on Black Metal is one that includes Post-Black Metal and Avant-Garde influences. This results in an album that has plenty of texture and lots of content to offer the prospective listener.

The compositions on this album could almost certainly qualify as artistic Metal, with the ambition and scope of the songs to match.

Imagine the epic soundscapes of Emperor mixed with the occult stylings of Rotting Christ, a Progressive/Avant-Garde influence from Arcturus and the venomous bite of Satyricon…Vyre have produced a top quality Black Metal release that matches up to these lofty comparisons.

These tracks are hugely impressive, with lots of ideas and character included in the songs. Prime, Grade A Black Metal riffs and melodies are enhanced by atmospheric synths and sounds whilst a dark rasp edges out from the abyss. Disembodied cleans occasionally ring out and majestic leads fill the ether with molten Metal.

I love the obvious amount of work that has gone into crafting these songs. There is literally so much to enjoy here. Every time you listen to it you’ll notice something new. It’s heady stuff.

These tracks have been forged to near-perfection by a very talented band. This is Black Metal that’s been effectively coloured and influenced by Progressive and Avant-Garde Metal without losing any of its inherent darkness or attack.

I had never heard of Vyre before this but I’m so glad that I have now. I strongly recommend you get this album. Listen to it over and over again and let the darkness of the void seep into your brain.

Astrakhan – A Tapestry of Scabs and Skin (Review)

AstrakhanAstrakhan are from Canada and play Progressive Metal. This is their latest EP.

This is powerful music with plenty of dynamics and personality.

Think Progressive Metal with a modern edge; kind of in the vein of what Mastodon do but without really sounding like them too much. Couple this with elements of bands as diverse as Alice in Chains, High on Fire and Metallica…

Hard Rock mixes with a Sludge feel and strong clean vocals dominate everything. Stoner simplicity and technical complexity merge together. They are at once cohesive and divisive; multiple influences congeal into a coherent whole and result in four very impressive songs.

The sheer force of charisma generated by the singer is draw-dropping. To further muddy the waters of genre-definition, he sometimes sounds like he could easily front an Avant-Garde band like Arcturus or Manes with ease.

The distortion feels alive and the riffs have a vitality to them. Each of the songs flexes its musical muscles and exudes feelings that are both epic and emotive.

Their music is textured and rich with riffs that propel the songs onward with real passion and vigour.

Top quality. If they can translate their obvious talent into a full length album they’ll be on to a real winner.

Manes – Be All End All (Review)

ManesManes are from Norway and this is their fourth album.

Following on from their last release Teeth, Toes and Other Trinkets, which was an anthology, this is the first new Manes album in seven years.

Manes play a beguiling blend of artistic Rock, Darkwave Trip Hop, Avant Garde and 80’s-style Pop. It’s subtle, charming, disarming and insidious.

These songs have a laid back quality to them that’s almost detached from the actual music; as if something has been created by the music that hovers just out of view yet its effects can be felt by a lasting aura of deceptive comfort and false familiarity. This lends the songs a certain flavour of the otherworldly and the different.

There is a low-key catchiness to the tracks as well. Again, it’s a subtle affair, as even though the songs obviously contain hooks the first time you listen to them, it takes multiple listens for them to fully work their magic. Such is the nature of all great albums that have true longevity and depth.

There is so much to experience here. Manes create across a vast canvas using a rich palette of colours. There’s a lot that’s easily missed on first glance and only after taking it in for a good amount of time can you really appreciate what they have done here.

The singer’s captivating vocals are on strong form and the bleak-yet-uplifting-yet-not melodies that he uses complement the instruments perfectly adding layers of emotion to already emotive and layered songs.

This is music for dark nights and even darker activities. This is music that drips with soul and is ethereal in nature.

Fans of bands such as Arcturus, Ulver, Lethe, Dødheimsgard, Green Carnation, In The Woods…, etc. will lap this up, and with good reason.

It’s time to enter the world of Manes.

Orbseven – .ismos. (Review)

OrbsevenOrbseven is a solo project from the US and this is the third album of Experimental Black Metal that the project has unleashed.

This is a combination of electric Black Metal, sleek Post-Black Metal and ambient/avant-garde darkness. It’s an interesting combination and the resulting album is an exploration of state-of-the-art Blackness and atmospheric expression.

Darkened sounds and interesting effects enhance the tracks in a way that’s subtle enough to not steal any thunder from the main driving force of the guitars but has enough impact to be noticeable.

The songs are propelled by Blackened melodies and experimental sound structures, but there’s also enough Post-Black Metal wanderings to allow the room for shades of both light and dark. They’re well written, have great dynamics and are potent affairs.

.ismos. fosters an atmosphere that’s vaguely mechanistic but overtly malevolent and mysterious. Everything about this album from the music itself to the album cover deals in these mysteries and although there are no answers forthcoming the search for them is what’s important.

The vocals are a curious and varied affair. Multiple styles collide as spoken/distorted words, barely audible pseudo-ethereal sounds and subtle cleans all appear at various times during the tracks.

If you think along the lines of Dødheimsgard, Aborym, Red Harvest and Arcturus then you’ll have a good idea of the basic building blocks of the Orbseven sound. There’s even a couple of riffs here and there that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Mastodon album.

Orbseven is a creative and novel approach to what Black Metal should sound like in 2014. Taking the basic Black Metal template and building/distorting it is common enough, but the always interesting thing is where the band ends up once they have done this. In the case of Orbseven we end up with Experimental/Post-Black Metal that rolls smoothly out of the speakers.

A great effort – show your support.

Sons of Crom – Riddle of Steel (Review)

Sons of CromSons of Crom are from Sweden and this is their début album. They play epic Viking-influenced Heavy/Black/Folk Metal.

This is thundering music with an interesting sound; it’s somewhere between Old-School and New and gives the band an interesting sheen.

We’ve heard this style before, of course, but this is a veritable exemplar of the sub-genre as it’s done exceedingly well.

Taking elements of bands such as Enslaved, Arcturus and, notably, Bathory, this is an impressive distillation of the quintessence of those bands, birthed anew in the form of Riddle of Steel.

The music and vocals are epic beyond all reason and you just can’t help but get carried away by the obvious passion and enthusiasm here. It’s hard to credit that this is a début album really as the level of maturity displayed on these songs is staggering. Each track is fully realised and boasts more features than many bands manage in a full album.

Epic melodies abound and the guitars really do draw out every last tiny bit of emotion possible from the instrument. This is Metal through and through in the best possible way. It’s Bathory updated for 2014 whilst remaining faithful and true to the original.

The vocals are varied and accomplished; they span everything from darker, rougher shouts, to higher screams, to a mid-ground semi-clean, to choral overlays. The delivery is masterful.

The music is richly textured and almost suffers from stimulation overload at points as there’s a lot going on and it’s all so damned grandiose!

This will likely be snapped up eagerly by fans of the Bathory/epic Viking Metal scene who are still hungry for all things of this nature. Unless you think Bathory are the be-all and end-all of this style then you should find more than enough to feast on here.

Turn it on, turn it up and get swept away in the huge nature of the band.

(Sample is from their Conqueror EP which is a taster of two tracks from the album)

Abbey ov Thelema – Liber DCLXVI (Review)

Abbey ov ThelemaAbbey ov Thelema are from Slovakia and this is their second album.

They play experimental, avant garde Black Metal. Highly orchestrated and complex, this is ambitious and bold as only the best Black Metal can be. Although saying that, Black Metal may be the underpinning starting point but it’s mutated and morphed far from it’s original format.

The tracks can be both chaotic and coherent; energetic and subdued; eclectic and considered. Sometimes it sounds as if The Dillinger Escape Plan had been consumed by Ebony Lake with Arcturus and Dødheimsgard overseeing proceedings.

There is clearly a lot of high class musicianship at play here, with everything arranged to exacting standards to create a whirling maelstrom of conflicting soundscapes that approach like furious waves and lash at the listener, never letting them rest or prepare for what comes next; the moment one onslaught of musical might crashes by the next tsunami of sound is about to hit.

It’s not all about the, (barely), controlled chaos of course, they also have calmer moments. These lulls act like buffers between the oncoming storms that they irregularly unleash.

This is not a band that will appeal to lovers of standard song structures and musical rules, but people who are looking for something a bit more adventurous should definitely check this out.

Ultimately this is a very hard album to describe as mere words don’t adequately do it justice. Abbey ov Thelema create a sort of demented majesty that really needs to be heard to fully appreciate what they’re about.

So strap yourself in, don the safety goggles, brace yourself and play at top volume.

Code – Augur Nox (Review)

CodeCode are from the UK and they specialise in Progressive Avant-Garde Black Metal that’s a triumph of both style and substance.

A good musical starting point of reference would be bands such as Arcturus, Dødheimsgard and Enslaved, as well as aspects of Opeth or Borknagar. This is only a starting point however, as Code definitely have their own sound as well as masses of talent and songwriting skills.

Gleaming, obsidian riffs crash against each other in a sea of percussive paranoia and nightmare orchestration. It’s as if someone has been having fantastical dreams about a dark future and they have sprung fully-shaped into life in the form of this album.

The vocals criss-cross all over the complex music and create the impression of power, synergy and importance. Very impressive and brilliantly realised.

There is so much colour and depth to these songs that most bands sound one-dimensional by comparison. Multi-layered vocals take centre-point while the music is no slouch either, effortlessly conjuring up the impressions and feelings that these songsmiths wish you to experience as you travel with them on this wild journey.

This truly is an exceptional and individual release; the kind of album that keeps Metal alive and kicking; stops it from becoming stale and stagnant.

Favourite Track: Garden Chancery. Vocal harmonies to die for. But really I could pick almost any song – Augur Nox is that strong.

This is for all fans of Metal, or just for those with heavier Progressive proclivities. If there’s only one album you get in the near future then make sure it’s this.