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

Sunday, 28 May 2023

ALBUM REVIEW: Wytch Hazel, "IV: Sacrament"

By: Richard Maw
Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 02/06/2023
Label: Bad Omen Records

“IV: Sacrament” CD//DD//LP track listing:
1. The Fire's Control
2. Angel of Light
3. Time and Doubt
4. Strong Heart
5. Deliver Us
6. A Thousand Years
7. Gold Light
8. Endless Battle
9. Future Is Gold
10. Digging Deeper

The Review:

Wytch Hazel are back to save us from ourselves- and mediocre albums- with this, their fourth full length. Hitherto, the Lancastrian band have been building up quite a head of steam. “Prelude” introduced the band with its Thin Lizzy meets Wishbone Ash meets NWOBHM stylings. “II Sojourn” was a more straightforward rock proposition and then their crowning glory, “III Pentecost” was the best hard rock album of 2020- fairly easily.
While “Pentecost” may have borrowed from Argus in terms of its pastoral elements and the overall Englishness of the vibe and the space of the sound, “Sacrament” is different again. Having moved from The Stationhouse studio in Leeds to pastures new at StudiOwz in Wales, the band have retained their spacious and expansive sound, along with the analogue vibe of the production courtesy of Ed Turner who operates here as something like a band-member-once-removed.
It’s clear that the band’s Christian themes/element is stronger than ever here; fear of hell and the control that asserts is the theme of “The Fire’s Control” and “Angel of Light” is about, well- you know already. There is Hammond Organ in the mix, multi layered guitars and an excellent bass sound.
There are quirks here; the solo of “Time and Doubt” is extremely fiery, even when the vocals and lyrics are maudlin. Main man Colin Hendra clearly put in overtime with this record- he plays drums after the departure of Jack Spencer. His drumming here is perfectly serviceable, but it is missing the flair of Spencer’s fills and the subtleties/style of his approach. Hendra instead supplies a bedrock for the other instruments to build upon, without flash or fuss. It’s competent and direct. I suspect the album could have been lifted by a full-time drummer, but the fact that the band and Colin made it work without one is a minor miracle in itself. The guitars, vocals and other instrumentation is superb. They all sound incredible and are full of life and purpose. The acoustic guitar overdubs, used to expand the sound a la the Stones on their best 70s work, work superbly and the whole sound has the effect of a wall of sound. Majestic.
Hendra has kept the songs tight and focused- no sprawling 20min prog epics- but despite the taut running times the record has a completely epic feel; it’s a truly immersive experience. As the listener is exhorted to stay until the battle is won on “Deliver Us”… well, I believed in the quest and I believed every word that was sung. It’s powerful, affecting and effective.
Across the record, Wytch Hazel have achieved something in hard rock/metal that is very difficult to do: they have made a heavy album that isn’t aggressive. Too much rock and metal these days (and all days) relies on aggressive chest beating as a trope to confirm heavy credentials. Wytch Hazel instead rely on songs, melodies and sound. Not many bands have been able to do that over the years- Led Zeppelin, Thin Lizzy, Queen, Wishbone Ash and if we extend things a bit, Jethro Tull. It’s a fairly small list (you’ll think of others) and places Wytch Hazel in exalted company indeed. Yes, make no mistake, this album IS heavy. It’s heavy in themes and vibe, even if its airy production belies this. It also rocks hard, but without machismo.
As the record reaches its final triumvirate, the guitar riff and sound that opens “Endless Battle” is simply excellent. The band immediately change things up and the verse section is not what you would expect from the opening- again, a little like classic Tull. The guitar work also echoes Iron Maiden a little- the lineage of British rock and metal is clear and Wytch Hazel are claiming their place in it. The reverbed start to “Future is Gold” allows for lovely acoustic sounds and excellent layered vocals from Colin Hendra; it introduces a rather positive outlook missing from previous tracks- but it is still tinged with a little sadness, a little uncertainty, a little wistfulness. As the album’s ballad track, it works well and is expertly placed in the penultimate position.
Naturally, the band close the album with the longest track- the aptly named “Digging Deeper”. The Wishbone Ash influence is present and correct again here, but the band are now just sounding like themselves- as they did on “Pentecost”. Their sound is unique and instantly recognisable. In fact, over the last few years, Wytch Hazel have become one of my favourite bands. They are peerless at what they do in the modern age and this record is, front to back, incredibly strong. It’s heavy, but paradoxically has a lightness of touch to everything within it. It’s dark but uplifting. It’s much like a Cathedral; a towering achievement built from the ground up, reaching towards the heavens above.
If you haven’t heard Wytch Hazel, you must listen. They are the way, the truth and the light.
“IV: Sacrement” is available HERE
Band info: Bandcamp || Facebook

Sunday, 7 May 2023

ALBUM REVIEW: Overkill, "Scorched"

By: Richard Maw

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 14/04/2023
Label: Nuclear Blast

“Scorched” CD//DD//LP track listing:
1. Scorched
2. Goin’ Home
3. The Surgeon
4. Twist of the Wick
5. Wicked Place
6. Won’t be Comin Back
7. Fever
8. Harder They Fall
9. Know Her Name
10. Bag o’ Bones
The Review:  
Well, Overkill return after their longest ever break between albums- “Wings of War” was 2019! It’s only the pandemic that has led to this situation, and I suspect that the band would have put this out in 2021 or 2022 if they had been able to tour it.
First things first: Colin Richardson has produced and mixed this along with Chris Clancy. It sounds incredible. The bass is percussive and aggressive with D.D Verni taking his rightful place in the mix, the drums are crystal clear and have depth along with attack- Jason Bittner is perfect for the band. The guitars are similarly in-your-face and precise. I realise that Bobby G is most fans choice of favourite Overkill guitarist, but I love the Linsk/Tailer axis even more.  On top of all that, of course, is Bobby Blitz Ellsworth’s instantly identifiable shriek.
Of course, if identifiable sounds and elements made for classic albums then the Rolling Stones and Metallica would be on a never ending winning streak of incredible records… Fortunately, this time around Overkill have focused and delivered the songs along with the sounds. With hindsight, I found “Wings of War” a little over-long and a little directionless in parts. The good songs were great, the album tracks were a little more blunt than usual. “The Grinding Wheel” suffered from a mid-album bloat with too many long songs.
“Scorched” delivers only one song over the six-minute mark and it is a welcome approach. Indeed, with the title track being up first and the longest song on offer, the band immediately announce that they are BACK. It’s a cracking and thrashy opener. “While Goin’ Home” may be the most accessible song here, it’s not one of my favourites as I am here for thrash- as I am on every Overkill record. “The Surgeon” delivers handily as does “Twist of the Wick”.
The band have time for a detour or two as well, such as “Wicked Place”- that delivers the Sabbathian lope that the band have perfected over the years (see also “Spiritual Void” and “Come Heavy”). It’s cool that Overkill continue to be OVERKILL at all times. The song writing is sharp and the band is as hungry as ever. Dave Linsk delivers some mighty lead work throughout and for a bunch of guys who are mostly in their 60s, well, it’s incredible that they still sound like this and that they are still making music with this fire and quality.
It's not all flawless; there are a couple of Overkill-by-numbers tracks; “Won’t Be Comin’ Back” is fine, but no better than that and leans a little too hard on melody- it’s an average Overkill album track, redeemed partially by the solo section. The albums most left-field track is “Fever”. It is a slow burning, moody quasi-ballad. This is the type of Overkill song that I have never really cared for and don’t buy the albums for. I didn’t rate “Bitter Pill” on “White Devil Armory”, I don’t like “Shades of Grey” on “I Hear Black...” the list goes on. On the plus side, it has some unexpected percussion, quiet and loud dynamics and isn’t a bad song per se. It’s just not what I want from an Overkill track. I’d probably rather have a throwaway thrasher than a well-crafted moody song like this one. My loss, I suppose.
Fortunately, “Harder They Fall” redeems the band instantly with a straight ahead rager- fast and furious with plenty of machismo as is expected from the title. Simply put, it is this type of song I’m looking for from the band. Not that they owe me anything at all when they are 20 (!) albums deep into their 43-year career. The chugging riff of “Know Her Name” is also welcome and feels like an old friend. Indeed, between this and the (surprisingly funky and groovey) closing “Bag O’ Bones”, the band don’t put a foot wrong and finish the album in fine style.
Overkill began an incredible run of albums with “Ironbound” in 2010. For me, that one remains their peak (of any era) but “Electric Age” was almost as good. “White Devil Armory”, “The Grind Wheel” and “Wings of War” are all good records- with perhaps a tendency for the quality to drop just a little with each album in release date order. “Scorched” reverses that slight downward trend and brings them back up a notch.
Another year, another great Overkill album. Enjoy them while they are still here as sooner or later- much like Motorhead- they simply won’t be around anymore. This is recommended to all fans of the band, all thrash fans and is as fine a starting point as any for anyone who wonders what the band are all about.
“Scorched” is available now

Band info: Bandcamp || Facebook

Thursday, 9 March 2023

ALBUM REVIEW: Memoriam, "Rise To Power"

By: Richard Maw
Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 3/2/2023
Label: Reaper Entertainment

“Rise to Power” CD//DD//LP track listing:
1. Never Forget, Never Again (6 Million Dead)
2. Total War
3. I Am the Enemy
4. The Conflict is Within
5. Annihilation’s Dawn
6. All is Lost
7. Rise to Power
8. This Pain
The Review:

Memoriam return to further cement their status as a British death metal institution. The band’s work rate is very impressive. “For The Fallen” still seems like a recent album for me, but it is now several releases ago- and dropped in 2017!
So, eight tracks all around the five minute or so mark. This is heavy, slow in places, no blasts, plenty of grooves…. Well, you know what to expect really- it’s not Bolt Thrower but it is of the same bloodline. That’s probably the best way I can explain this. What I can say is that it is slower and more melancholy than the first three albums.
There is an almost gothic sensibility to some of the sounds here- “I am The Enemy” being a fine case in point. In fact, I might even go as far as to say that a lot here is perhaps even death doom! A long forgotten genre, hardly mentioned anymore; but loved by many of a certain age. Check out “The Conflict Is Within” for some deathly and doomy splendour.
When the band put the kick pedals to the metal, as they do on “Annihilations Dawn”, it has a great effect. It’s neck snapping stuff, in the vein of, well, you know who. “All Is Lost” is slower but equally heavy with some nice syncopated ride work to complement the off kilter riffing. As the album progresses through the title track, it settles into a pattern- fairly maudlin riffs and leads, melancholy and doomy vibes, combined with the bursts of bullish firepower.
The album delivers one epic in This Pain and it features some acoustic work to start and then kicks off. While this is slower and more doomy than the previous albums, this is still recognisably Memoriam and recognisably of the members’ alma maters. Overall, it’s another solid and battle-hardened record and another credible entry into the band’s canon (cannon?!). Cool artwork, too. If you wanted to check the band out, start here. If you are a long-time follower, you won’t be disappointed. Business as usual, then!

“Rise To Power” is available HERE


Band info: official || facebook

Thursday, 23 February 2023

ALBUM REVIEW: Agalariept, "“Desde el Supremo Reino”

By: Richard Maw
Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 03/01/2023
Label: Independent

“Desde el Supremo Reino” DD track listing:
1. Inframundo
2. Cirugía Macabra
3. Miasis
4. Putrefacto
5. Festín
6. Lobotomía
7. Inútil Fe
8. Averno
9. Desde El Supremo Reino
The Review:

Chile has given the metal world a number of great things; Tom Araya, Anton Reisenegger, Procession… and that’s the tip of the iceberg. Lurking much further underground than the aforementioned are Agalariept.
This is technical death metal, with lots of thrash leanings and melody through the lead work. Nine tracks in total, with impressively concise playing times (generally three to four minutes). This is reliably weighty and also riffy- the blasting sections never get too much and are counterbalanced with thrashier pacing. It’s all in Spanish, so to understand any of the song titles or lyrics you will need to translate it. That hasn’t spoiled my enjoyment of this at all, though.
Agalariept definitely have that Latin flavour that means that genres are crossed with each other a fair bit (kind of like the way earlier Sepultura was thrash, but had death metal in there and even black metal at the very start).The leads are superb, the playing is great and the production really suits this type of music. It’s extreme, of course, but it is also very listenable and easy to bang your head to.
It’s all very consistent and hard to pick stand outs. I liked the pacing of “Putrefacto”, but equally the opener “Inframundo” is just as representative of the band’s vibe. There are no bad tracks, they are all well-paced and don’t outstay their welcome and if you like whatever you hear first… you’ll like the whole thing!
“Lobotomia”, “Averno”… all stellar tracks. Quite simply if you do like your death metal with a South American slant and melting pot of styles, this should be right up your street. Whether Agalariept garner the kind of attention they should on an international level remains to be seen, but at least the internet (and bandcamp in particular) allows people from anywhere in the world to at least have the opportunity to hear their music. The album absolutely rips all the way through, so give this a go and hear for yourself. Superlative South American Savagery!
“Desde el Supremo Reino” is available HERE

Band info: bandcamp || facebook