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metal music reviews (new releases)

DECLINE OF THE I Escape

Album · 2018 · Black Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Kev Rowland
Decline Of The I is a French post-black metal band. Their third studio album, ‘Escape’, is the final part of a concept trilogy inspired by French surgeon and philosopher Henri Laborit, whose works included brain studies. The lyrics and their hidden message play an important factor in the band's music, which has its roots in black metal, but although it always contains the atmosphere and emotion one expects from that genre, it is also bringing in influences not normally expected including electronic and industrial as well as orchestral elements. The band is led by a multi-instrumentalist, A, who has played in bands such as Vorkreist, Merrimack, Neo Inferno 262, Malhkebre and Diapsiquir. Decline Of The I is his personal approach on dark music and his spectrum of roles in the band ranges from vocalist, to guitarist, bassist, keyboard player and programmer. A is accompanied by musicians of Merrimack, Anus Mundi, Temple of Baal, Eibon and Drowning fame, all of whom are identified by a single letter.

The band commented: "After a heavy and neurasthenic first chapter, and an epileptic, dirty and violent second one, here's the last part of the Decline of the I’s trilogy: Escape. It’s now time to leave, to avoid this perpetual aggression of the outside world. All the other reactions leaded to a dead end. Running away is the only possible move for the subject to preserve its entity. There are many forms of escape: madness, suicide, technology, spirituality. This third album explores all of them. Musically, it’s the synthesis of all the previews works; it's contemplative and slow but also very fast, dark and brutal".

This is album that needs to be played repeatedly, as on first hearing there is a jarring nature as it doesn’t easily fit within the normal boundaries, and it is only be giving it the attention it deserves that one realises that there is something out of the ordinary going on here. Strange treated voices, black metal guitars, loops and weird sounds create something that sits on a knife edge, bringing together harmony and discord in a way that is both uncomfortable and compelling. This is not an easy thing to listen to, yet it is something which ultimately rewards those who are willing to make the effort. Sometimes music needs to be pulling at the leash, knocking down the doors, and this does that repeatedly. If black metal was being performed by the inmates of an asylum then this is how it would sound.

DE PROFUNDIS The Blinding Light of Faith

Album · 2018 · Technical Death Metal
Cover art 4.83 | 2 ratings
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Kev Rowland
Over the course of the last decade De Profundis have built themselves an enviable reputation for delivering music of staggering power and breathtaking skill, both in the studio and on the stage. Although many think of them as a technical death metal band, I actually believe that they would be better stated to be extreme prog metal as they continue to transcend any particular genre, using one form as a base and then going wherever they wish. Earlier this year they released their fifth full-length album, ‘The Blinding Light of Faith’, through Transcending Obscurity Records and they have now signed a deal with Lusitanian Music to release the album as a limited vinyl edition. This allows the listener to study in detail the intricate, nightmarish album artwork created by Alex Tartsus (Sinister, Depravity etc.) while the band’s new logo, also stands out far more than in would in the smaller CD version.

The band have been known to be influenced by doom in the past, and it does point its nose in at different points during the album, but what makes this such a delight is the sheer refusal to conform to any particular pre-conceived ideas. There are times when this is out and out technical death, others when it is almost power metal in its approach, but it is consistently bending and melding, creating something which is always powerful and dynamic, but twisting into different directions so that no-one can work out where and how it is going to end. I find the production really interesting as well, as in many ways it exaggerates the melodic power of the music, with a bass line that is often found to be wandering along creating a sub-melody without the level of attack that one may expect from this form of music.

Incredibly detailed and layered, this is an incredibly complex album which listeners will gain more from each and every time it is played. It is hard to imagine an more imaginative death metal album being released by anyone this year.

CAST THE STONE Empyrean Atrophy

EP · 2018 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Kev Rowland
Cast The Stone is Mark Kloeppel (Misery Index, Scour with Phil Anselmo), Derek Engemann (ex-Cattle Decapitation, Scour), Jesse Schobel (Legend, ex-Scour) and vocalist Andrew Huskey. First formations of the band began in 2002, long before its protagonists departed for their better known metal-scene mainstays, and as a trio they released their debut album as long ago as 2005 (when Kloeppel also acted as lead singer). So although they may seem to be something of a supergroup in some ways, this is an example of a band getting back together some years after the members have had success elsewhere. This is a six-song 27-minute-long EP

In many ways, this is an album which has far more in common with the Swedish death metal than Florida, which is somewhat surprising given that they hail from Missouri. An obvious influence is Opeth, especially on the delicate acoustic “Standing In The Shadows”, which site nicely towards the middle of the album to provide a break and contrast to what is happening in the other five songs. Guitarist Mark Kloeppel commented, "The band's sound is a testament to an enduring spirit that’s driven us to return to our most organic influences, merge them together, incorporate disparate elements, and forge our own sound. Each person has a distinct sound unto themselves, so it's really cool how smooth and cohesive this stuff comes across. You can immediately hear how different this is from the other things we've been involved in, yet it's still very true to our individual styles. Our bassist Derek progressively weaves my guitars and Jesse's uber-creative drumming style together in a way that only he can. This is all crowned off by Andy Huskey's crazy death metal vocals which are... well, just listen".

Dan Swanö (Katatonia, Merciless, Edge Of Sanity) has undertaken his normal flawless job on production, and the result is an EP which fans of the genre would do well to investigate. It has taken them 13 years to come up with this, let’s hope it isn’t so long until a full album.

CLUTCH Book Of Bad Decision

Album · 2018 · Stoner Rock
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Kingcrimsonprog
Clutch at this point can unarguably be seen as something of an ‘old reliable’ at this point. It can be argued that the band just do not release bad albums these days and pretty much if you’ve liked any of the band’s recent albums, you are probably going to like this one.

That being said, they aren’t too repetitive and they do evolve over time and each album has its own identity and each cluster of albums has a certain flavour.

The last two albums; Earth Rocker and Psychic Warfare have been two of the bands hardest, most streamlined, direct albums to date and this time the band seem aware that this may not have been what fans of the older albums like Elephant Riders and the self-titled wanted, so this time around instead of battering you over the head with the hardest songs straight away, they open up with some more laid back Stoner Rock song. Its a bit more armchair than thrill-ride for the first three tracks, for those of you who were missing the band being more hazy. Combined with the less polished, looser production style (that hi-hat sound and muddier guitar tone has something in common with their Jam Room album to my ears).

That’s not to say it is a full return to the old days; its more of a balancing act between that, the recent material and also pushing new ground. There are a few tunes on here which retain the breakneck rocking and clear focus of Earthrocker; ‘Weird Times,’ ‘Paper & Strife’ and the Tony Iommi wetdream of ‘A Good Fire’ keep things direct and punchy.

In terms of newer ideas, ‘In Walks Barbarella’ sounds exactly like its most memorable lyric ”weaponised funk” – it is full of full on 1970s Starskey & Hutch sounding funk overtones.

Lyrically, the record is just as fun and interesting as ever, with some brilliant lines, such as in the pre-released ‘How To Shake Hands’ where Neil tells us that when he becomes president, ”First thing I’m gonna do is go for a ride on a UFO, put Jimmi Hendrix on the $20 bill and Bill Hicks on a 5-note,” as well as ‘Hot Bottom Feeder’ which is basically a recipe and when the Neighbours in ‘Paper & Strife’ are reportedly ”clearly raging communists.”

The last few albums have had man-of-the-match awards for drummer JP Gaster and Frontman Neil Fallon, but the real hero of this album is guitarist Tim Sult, who seems to on a mission to display as wide a range of styles of guitar solo as possible. There’s so many different vibes to his leads and solos on the record, from melodic to flashy to effects-laiden and everything in between.

Because Clutch are so consistent, it is really just a matter of personal taste which albums are your favourites. This album is no disappointment. For my tastes, its somewhere in the middle, better than for example Jam Room but not quite as transcendent as say, the last two albums, or the fan favourites like Blast Tyrant, but fairly close and absolutely worth checking out. There are many songs on here I really can’t wait to see live and wouldn’t ever want to make a Clutch playlist or compilation without ever again. If you aren’t sure if the album is for you, check out ‘Ghoul Wrangler’ – the music, production, eccentricity and lyrics should give you a good idea what you are in for.

NOZOMU WAKAI'S DESTINIA Metal Souls

Album · 2018 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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Kev Rowland
Japanese guitar hero Nozomu Wakai has already released two albums under the project name Nozomu Wakai’s Destinia, but having seen a performance by Lords Of Black, featuring vocalist Ronnie Romero, he was so impressed that he immediately offered him the gig as singer with his band. With Romero (Rainbow, Lords Of Black, CoreLeoni) on board, Wakai decided to source some more name musicians to complete the line-up and brought in Marco Mendoza (The Dead Daisies, Thin Lizzy) and Tommy Aldridge (Black Oak Arkansas, Pat Travers Band, Gary Moore, Ozzy Osbourne, Yngwie Malmsteen, Whitesnake, Thin Lizzy and so many, many more). Having a rhythm section who know each other incredibly well, having played in multiple bands together, allows Wakai to let rip knowing that he has the foundation underneath him and Romero at the front providing great vocals.

This is a classic rock album, Rainbow for a metallic new generation, symphonic power metal which is melodic and full of power. Aldridge is still a powerhouse, nearly 50 years since his debut on the scene (he is 68 years old, I hope I’m half as active when I get to his age), and provides plenty of finesse and fills while Mendoza keeps it locked down. Wakai sees himself as a metal god, of that there is no doubt (just look at previous album covers and his photos on his website), but he has the chops to back it up. Also, he keeps himself under control and restraint, so while he can shred with the best of them he stays far more melodic than others. This really is about the songs, and not as total an egofest I expected it to be, and it really does feel like a band as opposed to a project. Given how busy the rest of the guys are in other bands, I do wonder if they are going to be able to get out there and tour with this line-up, but if they could build on what they have already then the next album should be incredible, as this is stunning as it is. Undoubtedly one of the finest albums to come out of Frontiers in 2018, this is powerful, over the top, and a blast from start to finish. Essential.

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MOTÖRHEAD Rock 'n' Roll

Album · 1987 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 3.81 | 20 ratings
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UMUR
"Rock 'n' Roll" is the 8th full-length studio album by UK hard/heavy rock act Motörhead. The album was released through GWR Records September 1987. It´s the follow up to "Orgasmatron", which was released in August 1986. Motörhead experienced a commercial comeback with "Orgasmatron" and used the momentum to release "Rock 'n' Roll" only about a year after the release of it´s predecessor. "Rock 'n' Roll" wasn´t as successful in Europe as "Orgasmatron", but it helped gain Motörhead popularity in the USA. There´s been one lineup change since "Orgasmatron (1986)", as Phil "Philthy Animal" Taylor is back behind the drumkit replacing Pete Gill.

To my ears the short time between "Orgasmatron (1986)" and "Rock 'n' Roll" is audible and I´d go as far as to call them sibling albums. Both in terms of production values and songwriting style. Stylistically this is Motörhead as we know them. Blues based rock´n´roll with the volume turned up high, and Lemmy Kilmister´s distorted bass and sandpaper voice in front.

"Rock 'n' Roll" features some great tracks, and some more standard quality ones too. That´s pretty much business as usual for Motörhead though, who have seldom produced albums with only "hits". Highlights on "Rock 'n' Roll" include the title track, the catchy "Eat the Rich", "The Wolf", "Dogs", and especially "Stone Deaf in the U.S.A.", which is an absolutely killer track. The short guest appearance by Michael Palin in which he performs a weird Monty Python type monologue is pretty damn amusing too, and a little extra spice to the album.

Upon conclusion "Rock 'n' Roll" is another well played, relatively well produced and well written Motörhead album, but to my ears it´s not among their best. It´s still a good quality release though and a 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

XENTRIX Shattered Existence

Album · 1989 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.12 | 4 ratings
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UMUR
"Shattered Existence" is the debut full-length studio album by UK, Preston based thrash metal act Xentrix. The album was released through Roadracer Records in September 1989. Xentrix were formed under the Sweet Vengeance monicker in 1985, but changed their name to Xentrix in 1988. They recorded four albums before disbanding in 1997.

The music on "Shattered Existence" is US influenced thrash metal. While Xentrix don´t sound exactly like them, Metallica is a huge influence. The riffing style, the rhythms, and especially the use of multi-harmony guitar parts, lead the listener´s thoughts in that direction. Chris Astley doesn´t have a very distinct sounding or especially powerful voice, but his delivery still suits the music relatively well. The band are generally very well playing, and it´s obvious we´re dealing with skilled musicians.

The material on the 9 track, 43:25 minutes long album could have been a bit more catchy and memorable, but that´s not a major issue, and "Shattered Existence" is still a great thrash metal release while it plays. The sound production deserves a mention too, as it´s a poweful and meaty production, which suits the music perfectly. It´s probably one of the best sounding thrash metal productions I´ve heard from the 80s.

"Shattered Existence" is upon conclusion a good quality debut album by Xentrix, and at this point, certainly one of the better thrash metal relases to come out of Britain. These guys are tight playing professionals, the album is well produced, and the material reasonable interesting. It´s of course in the latter department, that Xentrix falls a bit short. They simply don´t have enough identity in their songwriting, and their tracks aren´t instantly catchy enough either. As written above it´s not a huge issue, when "Shattered Existence" is as enjoyable as it is when it plays, but it´s not necessarily an album that is memorable in the long run. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is still deserved though.

THE QUIET ROOM Reconceive

Album · 2000 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.31 | 4 ratings
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UMUR
"Reconceive" is the 2nd full-length studio album by US, Denver, Colorado based progressive metal act The Quiet Room. The album was released through Metal Blade Records in April 2000. The band was founded in 1992 and released two full-length studio albums before they disbanded in 2002. Since the release of "Introspect (1998)" there have been quite a few lineup changes as lead vocalist Chadd Castor has been replaced by Pete Jewell, bassist Josh Luebbers is replaced by Rob Munshower, and drummer Mike Rice is replaced by Graeme Wood. The remaining members from the lineup who recorded the debut are George Glasco (guitars), Jason Boudreau (guitars), and Jeff Janeozko (keyboards). So that´s 50% of the members who have been replaced since the last album.

The lineup changes have resulted in quite a different sound to the rather traditional progressive metal sound of "Introspect (1998)", and it´s especially due to the vocal style of Pete Jewell. The instrumental part of the music is a combination of traditional keyboard laden 90s progressive metal combined with harder edged riffs and rhythms (delivered with relatively complex tempo- and time signature changes). There´s an occassional tribal/alternative vibe about the music (listen to "Choke on Me" for an example of this), but it´s just an element of the overall sound. As mentioned it´s in the vocal department, that "Reconceive" stands out the most though. Jewell is quite the versatile singer and can do both clean and more gruff vocals. He predominantly performs the latter though, which makes "Reconceive" quite a different sounding progressive metal release. He doesn´t growl or do anything too extreme, but he has a raw shouting delivery, which is quite atypical for a progressive metal release.

The musicianship is generally on a high level, and the album is also relatively well produced (the guitar tone could have been more pleasant and the guitars could also have packed a bit more punch), so "Reconceive" is overall a pretty good quality album. I´m not sure the most conservative progressive metal listener will find this in his/her taste, but if you enjoy your progressive metal with a groove laden and alternative element, this might be the thing for you. Personally I find "Reconceive" an interesting yet not perfect release, and a 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

DEVIL ELECTRIC Devil Electric

Album · 2017 · Traditional Doom Metal
Cover art 3.97 | 8 ratings
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Warthur
Devil Electric's debut album finds the Australian unit offering up yet another entry in the pantheon of doomy occult rock outfits. You know the sort - witchy lady on vocals, riffs borrowed from Sabbath and Led Zep, bigger dose of Satanism than the original 1970s bands they're riffing on ever actually indulged in themselves.

It's a short affair at only 36 minutes, but thankfully I think we've moved beyond that phase when people felt they'd been cheated unless an album filled the entire length of a CD (or at least broke the 1 hour mark); I'd always rather hear half an hour of an artist's best stuff than an hour padded out with filler. That said, I'm not wholly sold on Devil Electric. Maybe it's because they regularly lean closer to Zep than Sabbath in their riffage, and I never quite embraced Zeppelin to the same extent that others have, or maybe it's just because I've heard a lot of stuff like this and it takes a bit more than the basic occult doom formula to impress me these days, but I found my mind wandering well before the 36 minutes were up - and that's a bad sign.

DEMON The Unexpected Guest

Album · 1982 · NWoBHM
Cover art 4.70 | 6 ratings
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RuneWalsh2112
"The Unexpected Guest" was the album that took Demon from one of the many bands of their time and transformed them to masters of their craft. This album is easily one of the best Heavy Metal albums that, to me, ranks among great masterpieces from heavyweights like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and Saxon.

The album is a loose concept album about a seance that goes horribly wrong. "Don't Break the Circle" kicks things off on a fabulous note, featuring some of the best performances by both Dave Hill and Mal Spooner. Things continue on a strong note with "The Spell" and "Total Possession" both in terms of music and concept. "Sign of a Madman" is another great tune that has been a live favorite that the band features in their repertoire even to this day. It also has the first prominent underlying sounds of keyboards, which foreshadows the things to come for Demon.

"Victim of Fortune" and "Have We Been Here Before?" are the two more straightforward tracks that remind me more of the style from the band's debut album but with a lot more maturity, especially in the guitar work from Mal Spooner. The latter is easily the most commercial track off this album and it did made me cringe when I heard it for the first time. Many spins later and I actually enjoy it a whole lot more. The song does continue the story line but with a slightly cheerier sound.

"Strange Institution" returns the album to a serious note and sounds to me like an improved version of "Father of Time" from their debut album. "The Grand Illusion" and "Beyond the Gates" are two strong Heavy Metal compositions that would have easily been highlights on any other NWoBHM record of the time, but they kind of get lost among all the other gems here.

"Deliver Us From Evil" closes the album on another highlight and features a reprise of "Don't Break the Circle" theme. This is a perfect ending to the concept and thus completes the circle. I highly recommend "The Unexpected Guest" to all fans of Heavy Metal as this is as good as it will get. Note that this was just a beginning for Demon as the band went from one career highlight to the next.

***** star songs: Don't Break the Circle (4:43) The Spell (3:41) Sign of a Madman (4:31) Strange Institution (4:47) Deliver Us From Evil (4:41)

**** star songs: Total Possession (3:51) Victim of Fortune (4:41) Have We Been Here Before? (4:42) The Grand Illusion (3:44) Beyond the Gates (4:19)

*** star songs: Intro: An Observation (1:24) Outro (0:41)

DEMON Night of the Demon

Album · 1981 · NWoBHM
Cover art 4.00 | 7 ratings
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RuneWalsh2112
I'm relatively new to Demon even though I've heard of them for a few years. I gave their third album, The Plague, a spin a few months ago and was completely blown away by the experience. Since then, I've gone through all of their 80's and 90's output and have to say that they are easily my favorite Heavy Metal band! I don't take these words lightly and it did take some to convince myself that it was time to dethrone Judas Priest.

So what is it about Demon that makes them stand out among so many other great Heavy Metal bands that came out of the NWoBHM movement? To me it's the great versatility that has made their career as engaging as it is. No two albums are the same but all feature a piece of the puzzle that is Demon.

Their 1981 debut record "Night of the Demon" is a pretty straightforward Heavy Metal record and the sound of the band is not completely developed. Luckily there is enough great material here to make it worth a while. Starting with their classic tune "Night of the Demon" and following it with my personal favorite "Into the Nightmare". After the strong intro, the album goes into artsy territory with "Father of Time" which starts with the lyric 'In the beginning he gave us the word'. That opening can sometimes make me chuckle as it sounds like something straight from the Spinal Tap movie. The rest of the track is actually a lot more enjoyable once you get into the whole concept.

The rest of the album is a bit too simplistic to my ears even though I do enjoy tracks like "Decisions", "Liar" and "Fool to Play the Hard Way". The closing number "One Helluva Night" isn't as impressive as the version that's featured on their 1990 live recording with the same name but it does give you the urge to give the record another spin as soon as it has ended.

The only weak track here is "Big Love" with it's very basic structure and bluesy sound. Just skip it and move straight to "Ride the Wind" for a track that could have easily come from one of the early Saxon releases.

As a whole, "Night of the Demon" is a competent debut album but it very rarely gives you the glimpses of the things to come for Demon. I'd say that it's not as strong as "The Unexpected Guest" or "Taking the World by Storm" in the songwriting but does offer enough great tracks to make it enjoyable to fans of Heavy Metal music.

***** star songs: Night of the Demon (3:17) Into the Nightmare (3:57)

**** star songs: Father of Time (4:20) Decisions (3:40) Liar (3:14) Ride the Wind (2:48) Fool to Play the Hard Way (4:01) One Helluva Night (4:00)

*** star songs: Full Moon (1:35) Big Love (4:15)

LYKATHEA AFLAME Elvenefris

Album · 2000 · Technical Death Metal
Cover art 3.78 | 11 ratings
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siLLy puPPy
LYKATHEA AFLAME is, or was actually, one of those many artsy tech death bands that seems to cause derision in the metal community. On the one hand you have the metal purists who find any tinkering with the metal basics of brutal, distorted essentials that separate the genre from the greater rock universe will taint the defining musical “aesthetics” and wish to install a eugenics program to keep metal from “breeding” with other musical genres. And then you have those who love the idea of a brutal tech death band that has the gall to follow in the shoes of avant-gardists like Mr Bungle by adding completely opposing musical moods and styles to the frenetic bantering of the head banging bombast which LYKATHEA AFLAME does in abundance. And of course, you have many who fall somewhere in between.

This band came from the Czech Republic and released this one well known, well loved as well as well hated album after they morphed from their previous incarnation as Appalling Spawn. While in A.S. they had already begun the process of expanding their horizons beyond the Cryptosy meets Nile death metal paradigm, on their sole LYKATHEA AFLAME release ELVENEFRIS, they really let the dog off the leash and like a randy slut at a frat party, mixes company with more styles of music than a brothel sees when a navy ship docks in Bangkok. The result is a blissful journey for the aforementioned artistic types and a wellspring of irritation for the purists who cannot comprehend the massive effort that went into this one.

ELVENEFRIS is a long beast to say the least, so it requires a major commitment to sit through this one but for any open minded tech death metalheads out there, this is on the essential listening list as it randomly drifts at hyperactive speed through a plethora of genres that meet and greet the brutal Cryptosy inspired blastbeat drumming, Nile inspired compositional drive (think Egyptian themes and thundering epic heavy metal melodies that intertwine with the chaotic death metal riffs) and a seemingly random chaotic romp through the tech death universe. What sets LYKATHEA AFLAME apart from almost every other extreme metal band of the day was that they were equally at home with long drifting ebbs and flows that delved in post-metal, classic 80s heavy metal and even metalcore, Pagan black folk metal and of course progressively infused compositional efforsts.

While bantering death growls and orotund pyroclastic aggression is the norm, LYKATHEA AFLAME provide tender moments of melodic folky sections with clean and “properly” sung vocals as well as pacifying new age passages, the longest which ends this sprawling repertoire of just over 72 minutes. It’s fair to say that ELVENEFRIS started a trend in the extreme metal world that allowed bands like Between The Buried And Me, Augury, Unexpect and others to radically expand the parameters of what was acceptable within the confines of a death metal listening experience. As with any form of extreme music ranging from punk and industrial to metal, there are those who staunchly resist such artistic liberties and others who wholeheartedly embrace it. Personally i straddle both lines of thought. I love the pure unadulterated styles of death metal but when done right, an artsy mind-blowing mix of genres is exactly what scratches that itch.

It occurred to me that the type of musical delivery that artists like LYKATHEA AFLAME offer comes from a form of musical thought. As a musician i have found my own inner soundtrack operates much like the music presented on ELVENEFRIS, that being a seemingly random parade of riffing variations decorated with various dynamic and tempo shifts that seem to drift in and out of whatever background music of the moment happens to be. Think of this sort of thought process as having a continuous spectrum of counterpoints churning in our heads where metal, post-rock, circus clown music or whatever just sort of emerges as the dominate format at any given moment. It’s sort of like a pipeline to that invisible world where creativity comes from and while that is usually the first step for an artist in crafting their works, LYKATHEA AFLAME seemed to find it adequate to utilize these random inspirations into a freeform explosive callithump.

This is very much tantamount to what some musical savants can conjure up as they can effortlessly transcribe a Mozart piece to sound like a Dixieland jazz number on the spot. So too does this occur for a select few musical minds who seem to think in music, however very few artists record their music in this astroplane sort of style. Virtuosos like Steve Vai have had tracks that utilize this process as well as other avant-garde metal artists like Maudlin Of The Well, but in the grimy pits of the extreme death metal world, this sort of thing doesn’t emerge too often since death metal by its very nature is more of a hellish beast that is firmly based on a set of unspoken rules. LYKATHEA AFLAME was paramount in taking this underground musical world into the ethereal dream state and channel the results into what would emerge as ELVENEFRIS.

Many consider ELVENEFRIS to be a masterpiece while others a complete piece of trash. Having the same sort of musical loves of never-ending musical variations and genre bending, i have to say that i fall in the camp of loving this album however at the same time, my inner critic emerges to also agree that this is by far an imperfect album. Firstly, it’s way too long and some of the meandering in certain sections, especially the lengthy post-rock and ambient parts can be way too long and little editing would’ve made this much stronger. Both post-rock and ambient can be fine in their own realms but the contrast here seems awkward and not planned out as how to integrate it into the overall mood swings of the album. As many others have stated, the ubiquitous snare drum bombast provides a rather generic percussive drive throughout the album’s run. More percussive variation would’ve gone a long way.

If only the other elements of the music were as diverse as the need for an incessant tempo change and addition of changing subdued elements ELVENEFRIST could’ve been a much better album. LYKATHEA AFLAME should have developed into a true artistic powerhouse had they recorded another album or two but even taken as is, ELVENEFRIS is a powerfully unique technical death metal experience that more often than not delivers the goods of a true extreme avant-garde maelstrom of metal madness. On the plus side, the album balances melody with dissonance quite successfully and never relies on any trick or trinket within the metal passages for too long. While not perfect in my mind, LYKATHEA AFLAME, like many bands that have emerged from Eastern Europe delivered a strong album that offered a completely new way to experience the perpetually expanding world of the death metal universe and despite the incessant complaints of the wimpy non-metal parts, this is a brutal death metal beast of an album to be reckoned with.

TEN Albion

Album · 2014 · Hard Rock
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Kev Rowland
2014 saw the band back with their eleventh studio album, and in the two years since ‘Heresy and Creed’ there had been some changes in the guitarists, with Dan Mitchell leaving due to health problems related to his wrist and arm, being replaced by Dann Rosingana and Steve Grocott (yes, the band now had three guitarists). One might think with an over exuberance of six stringers that the band would turn into a heavier direction, but that is never likely happen all the time that Gary is at the helm and here is an album that is the direct sequel to what had gone previously.

Ten do have a formula, but there again so do many other bands – one knows exactly what one is going to get when buying an album by Ten, and they deliver time and again. Gary is a superb singer, but what makes Ten such a great band is the combination of all the musicians coming together as a complete unit. There are some great guitar licks, some wonderful elements added by the keyboards, times when the bass is up the front, and the drums are driving it all along, and it is all of this combined with the vocals that make them such a force to be reckoned with.

Back in the Nineties I was very involved with the melodic rock underground, albeit not nearly as much as I was with prog, but these days have lost touch (doesn’t help that I am now on the other side of the world as well). Consequently I don’t know what the buzz is around Ten at present, but to my ears they are still one of the very finest exponents of melodic hard rock around, and long may it stay that way. The songs are strong, the music really does rock, it is always melodic and full of hooks, the production is spot on, and the vocals are harmonious and powerful without ever being turned into parodies of the genre. It has taken me some years to rediscover Ten, and my musical world is all the better for it. www.tenofficial.com

TEN Heresy And Creed

Album · 2012 · Hard Rock
Cover art 4.00 | 2 ratings
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Kev Rowland
Back in the Nineties, one of the bands that were a real find for me were Ten, with their distinctive singer Gary Hughes. Alongside guitarist Vinny Burns they crafted one wonderful bombastic hard rock album after another, with Gary taking time out to record two wonderful solo albums (‘The Once and Future King’). But, for one reason or another I lost touch with the band and what they were doing. Fast forward a few years and one night when I was noodling around the web I came across an album by Darrel Treece-Birch, which I really enjoyed, and a review later we were in touch with each other.

This led me to discovering that Darrel was also keyboard player for Ten, having joined them in time for this 2012 album, so of course it only seemed right and proper to give it a listen and see what I thought. Having checked the personnel I could see that there had been quite a few changes, which isn’t surprising given the time which had elapsed, but as soon as I put it on I was immediately taken back in time, as Ten are still performing to the same incredibly high levels they always have. There is a strong foundation from the bass and drums which allows the twin guitars of Dan Mitchell and John Halliwell to pitch against, while Darrel either sits quietly in the background, providing the lead, or nuances as the music demands, and then there is Gary. Right from the very first time I heard his voice, some 20 plus years ago, I knew that here was a star, and he still is. For some reason he always makes me think of David Coverdale, even though vocally he doesn’t have a great deal in common, it is more the depth and breadth of his vocals. He can go up the octave when the time is right, but his vocals rely more on emotion and solidity.

Combine that with strong material and one couldn’t wish for much more – the production is superb, the artwork is great, with the only real thing wrong being that this is the sort of material that should have come out in the Seventies when polished rock like this would have rewarded the band with a retirement fund. As it is, released some 16 years after the debut, Ten are showing no sign whatsoever of slowing down. And is there any other group that does a power ballad quite like them? Piano, poignant guitars, multi-tracked vocals, great stuff.

PAIN Coming Home

Album · 2016 · Industrial Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Kev Rowland
Coming Home’ is the most recent album from Peter Tägtgren (Hypocrisy), their eighth, released in 2016. Tägtgren started Pain as a side project to bring together his interests of industrial and techno into metal, and in the studio provides all the music and vocals himself, with the rest of the guys being the live band. I have been playing this album quite a lot recently, as with this album he has also been bringing in some symphonic elements, and although there are times when he is influenced by Rammstein there are plenty of others when it could be Dimmu Borgir or even Nightwish. It is the sort of metal album I can imagine getting plenty of flak from reviewers as there are quite a few numbers that one could imagine being played on a rock radio station as they are quite commercial. That it made it into the Top 30 in four different European countries doesn’t surprise me at all.

The album starts with a country and western pastiche, with is worrying on a couple of fronts: namely it’s country and western and the production seems to be missing all of the bottom end. But then the guitars really kick in and “Designed To Piss You Off” lives up to its name. There is something about this album that makes it incredibly listenable to, right from the off, which is probably why I have been playing it so much in the car recently. It is perfect travelling music, bashing the steering wheel and singing along with the music blasting very loudly indeed. Funnily enough I don’t have many passengers. This is industrial metal for those who feel that Rammstein are just too Germanic, who enjoy the odd symphonic influence but don’t want it to always be there or be over the top, and enjoy strong bottom end nu-metal vibes with English lyrics. Now that they have finished touring this one, they are promising album number nine in the future. Something to look forward to.

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