Tuesday 26 January 2021

ALBUM REVIEW: Eximperitus, "Šahrartu"

By: Richard Maw

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 29/01/2021
Label: Willowtip Records

Šahrartu” CD//DD//LP track listing:

1. Šahrartu
2. Utpāda
3. Tahâdu
4. Anhûtu
5. Inqirad
6. Riqûtu

The Review:

Minsk, Belarus can't be an easy place to reside- so Eximperitus (abbreviated from Eximperituserqethhzebibšiptugakkathšulweliarzaxułum) have clearly decided to do the only thing that any outsider would do: form a death metal band and release dark and original music. The themes here are actually middle eastern- not rooted in Russian or European folklore at all.

There are further surprises in store, namely the pacing. This is not like US tech-death. It's surprisingly slow and deliberate with a rather downbeat vibe to the riffing and even a black metal feel to some of the melodies. The riffing is pretty deathly- just slower than you might expect- and the drums of course take on blast beats as well as doom pacing.

If that sounds intriguing to you, I definitely recommend checking this one out. At six tracks of varying length (3.5 mins to over 10 mins) the album isn't an exercise in endurance either. As usual with the death metal genre, a little can go a long way. If you want speed try “Tahâdu” for size, if you want that lumbering death/doom feel then try the opening title track or mix all three with “Anhûtu”.

There are some great passages of music here and the record itself is pretty unusual; yes, Nile or Melechesh could be lazy comparisons- even if they are valid, thematically speaking- but this stands on its own convincingly. If you enjoy any of the bands mentioned and/or if you fancy trying some different death metal, then this is one for your listening pleasure.  Give Exemperitus a try. 

Šahrartu” is available HERE 

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

Thursday 21 January 2021

REVIEW: Gatecreeper, "An Unexpected Reality" [EP]

By: Josh McIntyre


Album Type: EP

Date Released: 15/01/2021

Label: Closed Casket Activites 


“An Unexpected Reality” DD/LP track listing:


1). Starved

2). Sick of Being Sober

3). Rusted Gold

4). Imposter Syndrome

5). Amputation

6). Depraved Not Deprived

7). Superspreader

8). Emptiness


The Review:



This new EP from Gatecreeper shows them both at their grindiest and doomiest. Inspired by Black Flag’s My War” album the first seven tracks show them at an almost deathgrind pace and fury. It’s in your face and it’s raw. It’s riff city. I’ve caught the band live three or four times, each time being a blast, and this just sounds like the soundtrack to pitting when shows eventually come back.


However, the majority of the EP’s length is actually contained within the final eleven minute song. The listener is circle pitting for awhile and suddenly these droning guitars come in as if someone slammed on the brakes. There’s even a sorrowful lead part, typical for traditional doom metal. The song evolves quite nicely through its various sections, from chugging guitars, a short clean section, some double kick, and some great lead lines.


Overall this EP is a wonderful, headbang-worthy experiment in dynamic taste and songwriting experiments from the Arizona death metallers. They show that they’re more than capable of writing both brutal grinders and longer, more emotionally impactful dirges. This adds a bit more flavor to the band that I already consider to be one of the better ones out there making straight-forward, riffy, and simply ‘fun’ death metal.


“An Unexpected Reality” is available HERE

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

Tuesday 19 January 2021

ALBUM REVIEW: Asphyx, "Necroceros"

By: Richard Maw


Album Type: Full Length

Date Released: 22/01/2021

Label: Century Media Records 

“Necroceros” CD//DD//LP track listing:


1. The Sole Cure is Death
2. Molten Black Earth
3. Mount Skull
4. Knights Templar Stand
5. Three Years of Famine
6. Botox Implosion
7. In Blazing Oceans
8. The Nameless Elite
9. Yield or Die
10. Necroceros


The Review:


Asphyx are back with this, another feral stab of doom-death. Van Drunen's wail is intact and as rough and ready as ever. The production is as gnarly as you might expect from these Dutch death masters. Asphyx have had a pretty solid career with a death metal classic as their debut (The Rack”) and then “Deathhammer” being a real late period highlight. Their last outing, Incoming Death was good and punk infused, but this is the band back to their best.


The songs are pretty urgent and the band sounds focused and vicious; the riffs are stellar, the slower passages invoke Bolt Thrower at their doomiest and the whole effect is one that is really rather majestic. If you want to sample the wares here, just go for the opener, “The Sole Cure Is Death”. It's Asphys, through and through- as are the remaining nine tracks here. As usual, there are plenty of those aforementioned slower passages and, again as usual, the band don't break type by doing any silly blasting passages or trying to go for a more American sound or any such folly.


I've always been very fond of Asphyx because of their idiosyncratic sound; I view them as a kind of Euro-Obituary in that they stand out and stand apart from the others. “Mount Skull”, for instance, starts slow but gets up to thrash pacing with some nasty lead work and truly neck snapping riffage before... dropping back down again. There are plenty of post-five minute songs here, as well as a smattering of more urgent tracks but it's the listener who win as each song has its own characters and the band, thankfully, have gone for a finely crafted album approach rather than front loading with the most immediate songs and then just tailing off (naming no other death metal bands, of course....).


The subject matter, well, it's death metal. Not entirely, though. You get a song about the Knights Templar here, a little dark sci fi fantasy there- it's varied enough for a band at this stage in their career for sure. The sound, incidentally, is superb. Probably the band's best production yet in terms of clarity and ferocity. The whole band sounds like a well oiled machine (obviously a tank- what else?!) and whether it be the straightforward deathly joy of “Botox Implosion” or the more measured “Three Years of Famine”, they are never less than deadly in their delivery.


Of course, fifty minutes of this level of heaviness is a lot to take in but the record is varied and brings a fair amount of light and shade (or shades of black, maybe) that makes the album work as a whole. There is no way you could say that “The Nameless Elite”, say, is the same as “Yield or Die”. Asphyx have always been quirky and this record is no different.


The title track is epic in length and scope, allowing the beastly bass tone to be heard clearly at the start. Just like that, the record is over. The title, subject matter and delivery are all very appropriate for the current times we find ourselves stumbling through. It is hard to say where “Necroceros” will sit in their overall discography rankings, but I'm confident it will be right up there. It is certainly better than “Death... The Brutal Way” and “Incoming Death”. “Deathhammer” is a personal favourite of mine... but this has all the elements that you could possibly want from the band and has the production, vitality and songs to challenge anything they have put out. Truly, Asphyx are the band for these times.


“Necroceros” is available HERE


Band info: facebook

Thursday 14 January 2021

REVIEW: Thou & Emma Ruth Rundle, "The Helm of Sorrow"

By: Josh McIntyre

Album Type: EP

Date Released: 15/01/2021

Label: Sacred Bones Records


“The Helm of Sorrow” DD//LP track listing:

1). Orphan Limbs

2). Crone Dance

3), Recurrence

4). Hollywood


The Review: 

Thou is really, really good at being a (heavy) alt rock band. This EP, sibling to the full length (“May Our Chambers Be Full”) that came out a few months ago, also shares with it a spirit of the early 90s grunge era. The fusion of Thou’s and Rundle’s thick guitars, dynamic songwriting, extremely tasteful drumming, both clean and growled vocals, and a focus on hooks makes for a sonic ride that I cannot get enough of.

The truth is that this does sound like the leftovers, or b-sides, of the full length project. The truth is also that these tracks are still of high quality. B-sides of one of 2020’s best records still make for a phenomenal EP. Maybe the first song takes awhile to build up, my only real complaint, but then the huge, disgusting guitars come in like a runaway truck ramming into concrete. Our next tracks are just so damn excellent. They drift perfectly from section to section with a display of dynamic taste, versatility, energy, soul, and guitar riffs that Kim Thayil probably wishes he had written. Finally, we conclude with a well executed cover of The Cranberries’Hollywood” where Rundle’s vocals are a highlight. As different as her style is from Dolores’ (RIP) she did a fantastic job and the cover is a brilliant tribute.

Overall, like the full length before it, these musicians combined their efforts and tastes into a phenomenal project of 90s flavored sludgy alt metal. It feeds right into my love of artists like Deftones, Alice in Chains, Melvins, Neurosis, and the like. The songwriting is so catchy and full of flavor that I think anyone who can withstand screamed vocals will appreciate this sound (your dad will definitely say he likes the song “but why do they have to scream?”). I really, really hope that we will see more collaboration albums and EPs in the future. 

“The Helm of Sorrow” is available HERE

Monday 4 January 2021

ALBUM REVIEW: Accept, "Too Mean To Die"

By: Richard Maw

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 15/01/2021
Label: Nuclear Blast

“Too Mean To Die” CD//DD//LP track listing:

1. Zombie Apocalypse
2. Too Mean To Die
3. Overnight Sensation
4. No Ones Master
5. The Undertaker
6. Sucks To Be You
7. Symphony Of Pain
8. The Best Is Yet To Come
9. How Do We Sleep
10. Not My Problem
11. Samson And Delilah

The Review:

Accept are back in 2020 with another polished album of stainless steel. Wolf Hoffman is now the sole original member, but is very ably assisted by Mark Tornillo- now well established as the band's modern era front man, but not by Peter Baltes on bass as he has departed the band for, presumably, retirement.

Baltes was a consistent figure for the band and a big part of their live show, but the band here are great. The info sheet does not feature the names of the band members nor production and engineering credits, sadly.

It certainly sounds like an Andy Sneap production as the opener “Zombie Apocalypse” roars out from the starting gate. This sounds like... modern day Accept. That headbanging tempo and those agile riffs are in place and carry the opener admirably- as they do the title track. It's pleasing that the band have gone for the throat here. If “Blind Rage” promised much metal mayhem with its title but actually delivered a rather measured hard rock/metal album, then this one delivers on the promise made by the title. It's closer to “The Rise of Chaos” or “Stalingrad” in style and approach.

From there, the album delivers what fans will want from the band; AC/DC style hard rock, melodic but up tempo trad metal and the harder tracks that fans such as I crave- in the style of the two openers here. It's artfully crafted, with the flow of tracks maintaining a nice dynamic. The songs are memorable and hooky with plenty of Accept trademarks in there as well- the backing vocals and strong riffs are ever present. If advance single “The Undertaker” was a little too hard rock or Spinal Tap for you, don't worry- there are nine other tracks that are nothing like it here. I like that track, though, and enjoy the dark hard rock style.

While there may be nothing here as dark or aggressive as some of the material on “Restless and Wild”, the band know what they do well: big metal songs with catchy choruses and superlative guitar playing. Whether it be the chugging of “Sucks To Be You” or the overtly metallic “Symphony of Pain”, this is prime Accept material. As I've stated in the past, I love Tornillo as the front man; his voice is excellent yet again here. I truly think that the band have now as many great albums in the Tornillo era as they did with the iconic Udo. That takes nothing away from “Breaker”, “Restless and Wild”, “Balls to The Wall” and “Metal Heart”- they are all classics- but other albums left a little to be desired. Even “Objection Overruled” was a little flawed and front loaded.

As is the case with Accept records of the modern era, there is a ballad- “The Best Is Yet To Come” fills that niche here. It's a good one, not overdone (I seem to be in a minority with my dislike of “Shadow Soldiers” on “Stalingrad”) and it acts as a good 'circuit break' from the more vicious material on offer here. It's a hopeful and rather charming track.

The album features eleven tracks total. It throws a couple of curveballs out too... The aforementioned ballad is one and the instrumental closer “Samson and Delilah” is another. I really enjoyed hearing that to finish the album off. It's a welcome move- not that there is anything wrong with “How Do We Sleep”, which is a rather introspective track, or the pedal to the metal “Not My Problem”- which I almost expected to be the last track when I heard it! It's nice to hear the band trying something different and offering up a moody coda to this muscular album.

Where this record will sit in the pantheon of Accept classics is not entirely clear after only a handful of listens. Of the latter day records, I rate “Stalingrad” at the top with “Blood of Nations” just below. “Rise of Chaos” comes next for me and then “Blind Rage” (which IS a quality album, just too restrained for my tastes). Based on the qualities and styles of those albums, I see “Too Mean To Die” sitting at least in the middle of that pack.  It may be the case that it does nothing new, but so what? It sounds committed and vital with plenty of enthusiasm. With Accept having now been around for over forty years and there won't be too many more records, so this is as welcome and familiar as an old friend. It's exactly what I want from the band- an album as tough and polished as steel with a sharp edge.

“Too Mean to Die” is available HERE

Band info: facebook

Friday 1 January 2021

ALBUM REVIEW: Botanist, "Photosynthesis"

By: Josh McIntyre


Album Type: Full Length

Date Released: 30/10/2020

Label: The Flenser


“Photosynthesis” track listing:


1). Light

2). Water

3). Chrorophyll

4). Dehydration

5). Bacteria

6). Stroma

7). Palisade

8). Oxygen


The Review:


A degree of antihumanism, both philosophically and literally, has flown through the veins of black metal since its founding. As the shock-value aspects (ie anti-Christendom, actual murder) withered away over time due to oversaturation, more bands sought to position their interests beyond the anthropocentrism of certain reactionary artists and more aligned with environmentalist romanticism. This has been especially true within the American/Cascadian scene. References to landscapes and preservation grow in prominence over more traditional and human ideas such as mythology.


Botanist lies at the end of this polarity. All remnants of human experience are removed in favor of our chlorophyll-filled friends. Biosphere over anthrosphere. As silly as this may appear on paper it makes sense as a reaction to black metal culture, taking the ideas from bands like Wolves in the Throne Room to their radical end points. We all know the rumor about Ulver recording in a forest. Well, Botanist is the forest. And of course ideology is meaningless without praxis. Botanist’s push beyond black metal (while staying within the subgenre’s core elements) features the replacement of guitars with hammered dulcimers, a stringed instrument that is struck with mallets. Again, this may sound silly at first mention but it creates a feeling of melodicism and atmosphere not too distant from other experimentalist extreme metal artists such those already mentioned. This is achieved while also giving the project a unique quality.


“Photosynthesis” is the culmination of Botanist’s journey after a decade. While Botanist has sought to become-plant it has also been slowly becoming-Botanist through a series of releases, usually through Flenser, one of the prime exporters of challenging and experimental artists today. Botanist has made a name for itself as such a project but past outputs, while generally great, have differed in both musical quality and production value. “Photosynthesis”is the first time tracks bring me pure pleasantness without the occasional distraction of “wow this is really weird.” This album achieves Botanist at a high point, a coalescence of uniqueness and togetherness within the post-black metal world. Botanist is still weird, yes, but it no longer sounds as if that has been a goal in itself.


It is really amazing how great the often-piano-like dirges of hammer dulcimers flow over the more familiar sounds of aggressive drums and distorted bass. The singing vocals carry weight and sensitivity, like a mysterious choir heard underneath the canopy during a nightly hike, while the shrill screaming is more like a forceful declaration of both a desire and a right to life. It is the language and refrain of the vegetation around you, the human outsider, simply existing because it can.


We are brought beyond civilization, beyond human. We explore that which is often cast aside by our anthropocentric attitudes, especially in Western culture. There is more to life than 46 chromosomes and skin. To better understand ourselves we must occasionally cast aside our humanity.  Botanist holds its hands out to invite us to higher thinking, to connectivity with that which we have segregated ourselves from.


“Photosynthesis” is available HERE

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

ALBUM REVIEW: The Wildhearts, "30 Year Itch"

By: Richard Maw


Album Type: Live Album

Date Released: 04/12/2020

Label: Round Records


“30 Year Itch” CD//DD//LP track listing:

1). Dislocated
2). Everlong
3). Suckerpunch
4). Anthem
5). Diagnosis
6). TV Tan
7). The Jackson Whites
8). Let Em Go
9). Vanilla Radio
10). Urge
11). Mazel Tov Cocktail
12). Sick Of Drugs
13). Someone Who Won’t Let Me Go
14). The Revolution Will Be Televised
15). Caffeine Bomb
16). Love U Til I Don’t
17). I Wanna Go Where The People Go

The Review:

This double live album celebrates The Wildhearts' 30 year existence in some style. Culled from their 2019 tours, it is an extensive document of a band that really does have... songs. Great songs. Catchy, riffy, endlessly playable songs.


For even a casual fan there is so much to enjoy here. Of course, there are a fair few of the big hits from over two decades ago- “Caffeine Bomb” is here, “I wanna Go Where The People Go” closes the record- as well as mid period gems such as “The Revolution Will Be Televised” and later material from “Rennaissance Men” and so on.


The Wildhearts are a band I have seen a fair few times over the years; at their own shows, supporting Motorhead, at festivals, at swanky London venues and in a couple of smaller venues, too. They are a band I hold in the highest regard, much like Brit noise monsters Raging Speedhorn, they ventured to parts of Northern England where other bands didn't. I saw them in 1997 at The Cleethorpes Winter Gardens (supported by Doncaster's finest Groop Dogdrill). It was an incredible gig. Everyone I knew went, as this was an EVENT. There were hardly any bands that bothered coming to Grimsby/Cleethorpes but Ginger and the boys did and it was nothing short of incendiary.


I recall turning up at the venue and seeing Ginger at the stage door at the back. Tall, tattooed, lean and the first man I had ever seen in real life wearing leather trousers- that alone marked him in my mind as some kind of alien being, beamed down to Humberside with a guitar and probably a load of drugs. They were so good, so life affirming... the very essence of rock and roll. The gig has stayed with me ever since. Ginger was great onstage, a natural frontman and raconteur. I remember him praising Groop Dogdrill and wryly remarking: “Keep playing like that and you'll be headlining this place one day....” Ha and indeed ha.


That life force is still undimmed. The band and its members have had their ups and downs over the years; suicide attempts, addiction, loss of limb(!), they've been through it all and survived. Ginger is, in my view, one of the best songwriters to have come out of the UK in the last thirty years and his oevre is on full display here across these sprawling 17 tracks. The sound is big and brash- the brief given to the producer was “Loud guitars and loud crowd.” That accurately sums up what you get here- along with insanely beefy drums from Ritch Battersby.


Simply put, there is nothing wasted here, no weak tracks and nothing less than the finest rock and roll band from England since Motorhead. It's a superb live record and one that reminded me just what a force to be reckoned with The Wildhearts are and how many great songs they've written over the years. Yes, I'm biased and forever fated to look favourably on the band- nostalgia will do that to you. But, as a not so dissimilar band once said; teenage dreams are hard to beat. It's true: rock and roll of the finest vintage that reaps souls AND saves lives.


“30 Year Itch” is available HERE

Band info: facebook