Wednesday 22 November 2023

TRACK PREMIERE: "Laughing Song" by GULA

The Netherlands based psychedelic doom/metal group GULA are releasing their new album “Birds of the Apocalypse” on December 15, 2023. “Laughing Song” is the first single off of it, offering a glimpse of what's to be expected from the full-length but without giving away too much right away.

The slowly brooding monolith of a song takes its time to grow and evolve, while advancing on fuzzed out feverish sonic fields that invoke various palpable feels during its seven minute duration. The song encapsulates the atmosphere of the entire album perfectly, as the potent and organic production underlines the hazy musical delivery, guaranteed to hit home with anyone even remotely interested in these particular styles. The final nail to the coffin, atop the well-executed instrumental department, would be the aerial vocals that float along the firm pulse to introduce loads of depth and emotion into the mix. While GULA can be seen as a relatively new band perhaps, they for certain know their craft in and out, “Laughing Song” being the perfect example of just that.

Wednesday 8 November 2023

ALBUM REVIEW: Sylosis, "A Sign of Things to Come"

 By: Richard Maw
Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 08/09/2023
Label: Nuclear Blast

“A Sign Of Things To Come” track listing:
1. Deadwood
2. A Sign Of Things To Come
3. Pariahs
4. Poison For The Lost
5. Descent
6. Absent
7. Eye For An Eye
8. Judas
9. Thorns
10. A Godless Throne
The Review:

Sylosis follow up 2020’s excellent “Cycle of Suffering” with this; have the British metal icons forged forward effectively? I first listened to the band back in 2015 with “A Dormant Heart”; an album I still hold in very high regard. I felt at the time- and still do- that Sylosis had cracked a very difficult code. They are a modern sounding band with a forward-thinking sound that won’t alienate old-schoolers (such as myself).
The band, for those that don’t know, combine thrash, death/melo-death, metalcore, groove metal and more traditional metal into a very effective alloy fit for almost any type of metalhead. It pleases me that they have (and have always had) the weighty backing of Nuclear Blast, but it pains me to consider that if, IF ONLY, the band were American then they might well be on a much higher level than they are. The Reading, Berkshire, UK, crew are instead at a level above underground and cult- but not at the large theatre/arena level they deserve.
UK metal- and metal in general- needs bands that look forward as well as back and Sylosis fit that bill. As such, then, you’ll hear synths and layers of sound across the title track, along with hardcore infused vocals, clean singing and huge riffs. The playing and performances are on point right out of the gate; “Deadwood” is a very effective opener, distilling what the band do well into four and half minutes.
The album continues at a very high watermark; “Pariahs” is heavy as hell, grooves massively, and hits all the right spots for a pit to go insane to. The record sounds incredible; massive and thick, precise and streamlined. Once again, the band combine handily the best bits of Machine Head, Lamb of God, Pantera, Fear Factory and so on into their own sound.
Stand outs? I’d probably pick “Poison For The Lost” as a real high point; it thrashes extremely convincingly with real malice and spite injected into the vocals and playing. This is metal as it should be; fast, furious and laser-honed.
Incredibly, the band are six albums in here. The level of experience and confidence shows throughout. The band don’t put a foot wrong in terms of song writing, production or performance. Band main-man Josh Middleton has been at this for over two decades now and he is a master of his craft. The band even ring the changes with the track “Absent”; a kind of synth-scape ballad that gives way to a more metallic section. It’s cinematic and daring, showing what the band can do when they spread their wings. More typical service is resumed with “Eye For An Eye” as the band puts the pedal and metal to the, er, metal once again- but not forgetting their sense of melody throughout the song.
As noted on previous records, things are focused and lean throughout; ten songs only, nothing too bloated and most clocking the 3.5-4.5min playing time. The riffs of “Judas” have a kind of ‘doom but sped up’ feel and the dark vibe that it gives off is great. Naturally, speed also kills on this one. Great track.
“As Thorns” and then the epic closer “A Godless Throne” bring this excellent record to an end, I can’t help but ponder the state of the metal genre in 2023. The arena filling likes of Maiden and Metallica may be on the way out, but with bands like Sylosis around, the genre is not going away. The fact is, to many metallers younger than me THIS IS the sound of metal. Not Priest, Maiden, Sabbath et al, but instead bands like Sylosis who have cherry picked the best aspects of various metal sub genres and then come full circle to be defined as, simply, METAL. Yep, Sylosis are a METAL band- and they are the best modern metal band in the UK. Easily.  
“A Sign of Things to Come” is available HERE

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

ALBUM REVIEW: Cannibal Corpse, "Chaos Horrific"

By: Richard Maw
Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 22/09/2023
Label: Metal Blade Records

“Chaos Horrific” track listing:
1 Overlords Of Violence
2 Frenzied Feeding
3 Summoned For Sacrifice
4 Blood Blind
5 Vengeful Invasion
6 Chaos Horrific 
7 Fracture and Refracture
8 Pitchfork Impalement
9 Pestilential Rictus
10 Drain You Empty
The Review:

The most reliable of all the death metal institutions, Cannibal Corpse, are back- not that they went away- with their sixteenth (!) studio record. Thirty three years in, this represents a very impressive work ethic indeed. It’s all the more remarkable for the fact that, much like thrash veterans Overkill, there are no bad Cannibal Corpse records.
While there are no bad records, I wouldn’t deny that some are better or more significant than others. For instance, The four Chris Barnes helmed early records are often held up as classics, but I have always preferred the Corpsegrinder years; “The Bleeding” IS a classic, but so is “Torture”, or “A Skeletal Domain”, or “Red Before Black” and so on; it’s just that “The Bleeding” has that zeitgeist-right-place-right-time vibe/nostalgia. “Violence Unimagined” from a couple of years back was one of the best- possibly THE best CC records of any era. Was it as significant as “Tomb of the Mutilated” or “The Bleeding”? Probably not. Was it better? I think so,
Fortunately, the band are very much switched on here. “Chaos Horrific” picks up where “Violence Unimagined” left off. It’s brutal, chaotic, horrific, aggressive and crushingly good. “Overlords of Violence” is a fresh and frenetic opener; busy bass and full tilt aggression in place.  “Frenzied Feeding” manages to keep the vibe and quality going before an album stand out: “Summoned For Sacrifice”- which combines crushing slow tempos, breakneck pace, memorable hooks and incredible vocals. Erik Rutan is firmly assimilated into the band’s sound now; his lead work is exceptional throughout, and he works really well with Rob Barratt. The rhythm section remains pretty much peerless, while George Corpsegrinder Fisher reminds us all why he viewed as the best DM vocalist on the planet by many.
I really like the varied tempos on this record “Blood Blind” might be slow by CC standards, but this is as heavy as they come. The band avoid the “Gallery of Suicide” trap (having too many tracks on one record) and instead have offered up ten tracks of three and a half to four and a half minutes each, Perfect, really, as a little of this goes a LONG way.
There is complex riffage on “Vengeful Invasion” and just unrelenting brutality abounds. At the half way mark this is a candidate for one of the best CC records. The material is strong, the sound and production is superb, the playing incredibly tight. From there, there is no dip in quality or energy. The title track thrashes very convincingly with lots of changes used effectively.
I’m not as keen on “Fracture and Refracture”- for reasons I don’t really even understand, but “Pitchfork Impalement”, “Pestilential Rictus” and “Drain You Empty” all impale and disembowel the listener extremely effectively; they are all memorable, frenzied and ferocious in their approach.
Cannibal Corpse have brought their A-game here; no wasted tracks, no wasted riffs, beats or solos. Everything counts; there are nifty changes, some really technical playing, incredible vocals and an overall sense that the band are utilising every year of their experience to create a death metal tour de force. Death metal simply doesn’t get any better than this. Imperious. 

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

Wednesday 25 October 2023

ALBUM REVIEW: Godthrymm, "Distortions"

By: Richard Maw
Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 18/08/2023
Label: Profound Lore

“Distortions” track listing:
1. As Titans
2. Devils
3. Echoes
4. Obsess and Regress
5. Unseen, Unheard
6. Follow Me
7. Pictures Remain
The Review:
Yorkshire doom metal is a specific genre very close to my heart and here we have some of the finest practitioners of the genre doing what they do best. If you like the idea of epic doom metal, evocative of grim windswept landscapes and endless rain, then Godthrymm are also for you.
This is epic in scale and scope; everything over six minutes in length, with two of the tracks stretching to 11 mins plus. The band comprise ex-members of, deep breath, Vallenfyre, My Dying Bride, Anathema and Solstice. So, doom metal royalty? Pretty much.
Led by Hamish Glencross on guitars and vocals, the band sound incredible- massive and with plenty of dynamics via the use of keyboards from Catherine Glencross (who adds ethereal vocals to proceedings in places) and a rock-solid rhythm section courtesy of Bob Crolla and Shaun Taylor-Steels.
This is doom in the traditional sense of the word; emotive clean vocals, occasionally pummelling drums, huge riffs and a generally sad and melancholic feel all add up to a very atmospheric listen. The suitably massive “As Titans” opens up proceedings with a big statement of intent while “Devils” equals the opener for dark vibes.
There is variety here. “Unseen, Unheard” features a fast section of riffage and each song features a lot of oppressive weight and some lighter textures as well. The production is excellent; clear and huge with echoey vocals set at the top of the mix within their own space. There is no title track, but the epic penultimate track “Follow Me” perhaps serves as a mission statement for the record- it features most facets of the release in one sprawling epic. The band close with “Pictures Remain” which leaves a bitter-sweet melancholy for the listener to ruminate upon.
As an aural reference point, all the bands mentioned above and- of course- Paradise Lost fit the bill. It’s hard to convey just how much I enjoyed this on first listen; it’s massive, majestic, ethereal, earthy and every bit as atmospheric and epic as it should be. A must listen/must buy for fans of the genre.
“Distortions” is available HERE 
Band info: bandcamp || facebook

Sunday 30 July 2023

ALBUM REVIEW: Creeping Death, "Boundless Domain"

By: Richard Maw

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 16/06/2023
Label: MNRK Heavy

“Boundless Domain” CD//DD//LP track listing:
1) Boundless Domain
2) Intestinal Wrap
3) Vitrified Earth
4) The Parthian Shot
5) Creators Turned Into Prey
6) Cursed
7) Remnants of the Old Gods
8) Looming
9) The Common Breed
The Review:
Here we go! Death metal from Texas with strong thrash and groove elements. Straight away, I knew this was going to be good. Interestingly, Adam D of Killswitch Engage produces (insufferable stage performances aside, he is a superb musician) and Corpsegrinder even turns up for a cameo on the second track- “Intestinal Wrap”.
The album starts with a slow burn title track and from there ratchets up the death, the thrash, the groove and the intensity. The album has enough variation and push and pull to draw the listener in. this isn’t just mindless blast beats and growls, the songs feel thought out and solid with speed used as necessary and good variety in the riffs.
The solos also rip impressively, so along with a watertight production this represents the full packages as far as death metal goes. Pinch harmonics infiltrate the riffs here and there- a nice nod to death metal of a 90s vintage- while the rolling tank stylings of “Vitrified Earth” show that the band can do different paces nicely as well.
It is to the band’s credit that there is no fat to be trimmed here at all. As I’ve often said, a little death metal goes a long way- so at 36 minutes, this record is spot on in terms of what it offers up. Nine tracks is plenty and the days of bands trying to fill an hour- or a whole CD, Satan help us- have long gone, it seems.
Certainly, the quality here is kept up throughout and the band run through their repertoire very confidently as the album progresses. The sound is unified, even if “The Parthian Shot” is very different from, say, “Cursed”.
In a genre where uniqueness is rare, hopefully this second full length will set Creeping Death apart from the many, many brutal outfits out there. The fact is that the best and biggest DM bands all have a USP; a uniquely identifiable aspect to their sound/style/presentation- which marks them out and causes other bands to try to emulate them.
Pleasingly, Creeping Death don’t sound like Cannibal Corpse, or Obituary, or Deicide, or Morbid Angel, or Cryptopsy, or Autopsy etc. etc. They sound like their own band, with various genres mixed into the death metal drama.
Hopefully, “Boundless Domain” will see the band lifted out of the death metal milieu and into their own space. On the strength of this record, they richly deserve a better level of recognition and reward. They’ve made a very good record. Listen and find out for yourself.
“Boundless Domain” is available HERE

Band info: bandcamp

Wednesday 12 July 2023

ALBUM REVIEW: Jag Panzer, “The Hallowed”

By: Richard Maw
Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 23/06/2023
Label: Atomic Fire

“The Hallowed” CD//DD//LP track listing:
1. Bound As One
2. Prey!
3. Ties That Bind
4. Stronger Than You Know
5. Onward We Toil
6. Edge Of A Knife
7. Dark Descent
8. Weather The Storm
9. Renewed Flame
10. Last Rites

The Review:

Jag Panzer are an American powerhouse of power metal… but also of trad metal… and even thrash elements. In fact, it’s not so easy to label the band as ‘this’ or ‘that’ as they are their own entity. The band got a great start in 1984 with the classic “Ample Destruction”, but then effectively went on  hiatus for a decade. If 2Ample Destruction” had been unbridled youthful aggression, then later albums were much more sophisticated, varied and subtle.
In fact, it must be noted that when I refer to ‘power’ metal, this US variant (USPM) is very, VERY different from its European cousin; it’s leaner, meaner and much weightier. This time around, Jag Panzer have gone with a full concept record. They aren’t strangers to this, having told the story of Macbeth back in 2000 with a “Thane to The Throne”, but all the same, 23 years separates the releases, so this is a welcome return.
However, this time around the band have looked to a post-apocalyptic future rather than a literary past. The record tells the story of a group of intrepid survivors, battling the landscape, hunger and predatory beasts as they seek survival and redemption. It’s startlingly well put together. The story, concept, spoken word interludes and most importantly the songs are fully realised and presented with utter conviction.
One thing that really jumps out at here- from the first beat- is the production. Yes, the legendary Jim Morris mixing the record helps, but the main point of note is that this sounds like a metal band, recorded in the studio- but not relying on technology and computers. The drums sound, well, REAL… like a proper drum kit played in a proper studio by a proper drummer. Rikard Stjernquist, take a bow- ably complimented by John Tetley’s convincing bass. The rest of the band turn in equally vital performances, brimming with fire and life. Harry ‘The Tyrant’ Conklin’s voice is one of the best in the genre and his vocals here are soaring, operatic, pitch perfect and full of grit and conviction in equal measure.
While Chris Broderick played on the deliciously dark “Casting the Stones” albums before exiting for Megadeth, his presence is not missed here (nor on the EXCELLENT “The Scourge of Light” back in 2011). Ken Rodarte does a superb job with some real guitar pyrotechnics, while band lynchpin Mark Briody delivers riff after riff.
As for the songs themselves, as a concept album it is hard to pick stand outs as they all depend on each other for the story. That said, “Stronger Than You Know” is superb, “Prey!”Dark Descent” and “Onward We Toil” all offer something different from each other and all showcase the best aspects of the band and album. I think that every track here is better than anything on 2017’s “The Deviant Chord”- which was still a more than decent album!
This is an excellent and entertaining metal album; it’s uniformly strong, packed with personality and fiery playing and will please fans of such bands as Iron Maiden, Manilla Road, Iced Earth, Cage, Judas Priest, Helloween, Dio, Dio-era Sabbath etc. It’s grand, gritty and extremely self-assured. A masterclass in real and unique power metal.
“The Hallowed” is available HERE 

Band info: Facebook

ALBUM REVIEW: Vomitory, “All Heads Are Gonna Roll”

By: Richard Maw
Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 26/05/2023
Label: Metal Blade Records

“All Heads Are Gonna Roll” CD//DD//LP track listing:
1. All Heads Are Gonna Roll
2. Decrowned
3. Ode to the Meat Saw
4. The Deepest Tomb
5. Piece by Stinking Piece
6. Raped, Strangled, Sodomized, Dead
7. Dead Man Stalking
8. Disciples of the Damned
9. Dead World
10. Beg for Death
The Review:

Vomitory return after over a decade… but the Swedes haven’t lost any of their rabid aggression or deathly destructive power. This is death metal from the old school- but better than the new school. And better than most of the active old school as well!
The album sounds thick and meaty. The performances are very aggressive and fully committed. The moment the title track races out of the gate, it’s clear that this is a true nitrous injected deathride of monumental proportions. There is no backward step from there; “Decrowned” is fantastically aggressive and wild.
The band may have been putting out records since the 90s, but this goes to show that they’ve lost none of their potency or power. “Ode to the Meat Saw” shows another side to the band- just as nasty, but at a slower pace. Rolling bass drums and some guitar riffing reminiscent of Bolt Thrower in places.
At ten tracks, this is an old school blast of traditional deathly values and spite. Any fans of Dismember, Entombed, Paganizer- even Asphyx and most other Euro/UK DM acts you would name will find everything they like here; it’s got the style and feel of an old school rager but with a crushing modern production and mix. No bad tracks and some great song titles (“Dead Man Stalking”) make for a fetid mixture of true death metal.
Overall, this is for all fans of death metal and should be compulsory listening for all fans of the genre in 2023; you won’t hear better this year.
“All Heads Are Gonna Roll” is available HERE

Band info: Bandcamp || Facebook