Tuesday 29 June 2021

ALBUM REVIEW: Boss Keloid, "Family The Smiling Thrush"

By: Peter Morsellino
Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 04/06/2021
Label: Ripple Music

“Family The Smiling Thrush” CD//DD//LP track listing:
1. Orang of Noyn
2. Gentle Clovis
3. Hats the Mandrill
4. Smiling Thrush
5. Cecil Succulent
6. Grendle
7. Flatt Controller
The Review:
With a swirling tempest of psychedelia, Boss Keloid return with “Family the Smiling Thrush”.  Crafting a sonic experience that is difficult to define, Boss Keloid provides the listener with something to think about, but not without providing the solid grooves that they have come to be known for over the years. 
There is no simple way to describe the music of Boss Keloid to the uninitiated.  There are elements of psychedelia intermingled with a strong progressive rock influence, backed by a heavy stoner metal groove, but the sound encompasses so much more than that.  There is something completely intangible that helps Boss Keloid stand out amongst their peers, and that something is displayed in full force on “Family the Smiling Thrush”.
Songwriting is the star of the show throughout the album, with arrangements weaving intricate webs through the listener’s mind.  Meticulously crafted structures rise and fall with a hard soft dynamic that gives “Family the Smiling Thrush” its mysterious sound.  At times, I was briefly reminded of Tool or Mastodon, yet these comparisons fail to even breach the surface of what Boss Keloid is presenting, and in truth do the band’s music a disservice. 
What comes across through the speakers here is something entirely unique.  A melding of genres as vast as the sound it creates.  Truly something that is greater than the sum of its parts.  “Family the Smiling Thrush” is very much something that needs to be heard to be fully appreciated.  Expect thoughtful passages exemplified by heavy grooves with a thick, hazy atmosphere of the unknown.  Give this one a listen.
“Family The Smiling Thrush” is available HERE 

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

ALBUM REVIEW: Bossk, "Migration"

By: Richard Maw
Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 18/06/2021
Label: Deathwish Inc

“Migration” CD//CS//DD//LP track listing:
1). White Stork
2). Menhir (feat. Johannes Persson)
3). Iter
4). HTV-3 (feat. Josh Mckeown)
5). Kibo
6). Lira
7). Unberth
The Review:
Bossk hail from Ashford, Kent and are seemingly named after a Star Wars character? I have heard the band name, but not their music. I've been to Ashford once and didn't great vibe from the place, so on that basis it seems perfectly plausible that a great band could come from there. Well, Bossk are that band.
I suppose I could describe this as post-metal- but with some sludge elements, some ambience and a pretty abstract approach to the songs in general. Opener “White Stork” has a lot more in common with Massive Attack than it does with Metallica, that is for certain- so forget endless riffs and catchy hooks or other stylistic metal tropes. “Menhir” brings the metallic sounds and riffs with some twists and turns into groove and atmospheric territory to boot- but this is not recognisable as metal, per se.
On that basis, the first two tracks give an interesting idea as to how the album may proceed. It covers a lot of ground and for reference points, I must reference the only bands who I have really heard who are in roughly the same part of the Venn Diagram; Neurosis, Cult of Luna... The Ocean, perhaps? I'm out of my depth here, having spent the last few days listening to Blind Guardian (and not enjoying it much, I have to add)- but this unpredictable and challenging listen is just what I needed.
There are more ambient sounds scattered through the record (“Kibo”, for instance), more mountainous heaviness (“HTV-3”) and in the final two tracks, “Unberth” and “Lira” there are more expansive track lengths to allow the band to flex all aspects of their sound. They each sound like they could soundtrack a film set in a dystopian future.
As is always the case with albums of this breadth, I suspect he hidden depths will only be revealed by repeated listens.  This is not an accessible metal record – or even an accessible post metal one.  It combines the esoteric nature of a band like Om with the expanses that the aforementioned bands excel at.  It is engaging, ambitious and unpredictable – even confounding – and I would recommend fans of any of the aforementioned reference point bands to give it a try.
“Migration” is available HERE

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

Wednesday 23 June 2021

ALBUM REVIEW: Fear Factory, "Aggression Continuum"

By: Richard Maw
Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 18/06/2021
Label: Nuclear Blast

“Aggression Continuum” CD//DD//LP track listing:
1.  Recode
2.  Disruptor
3.  Aggression Continuum
4.  Purity
5.  Fuel Injected Suicide Machine
6.  Collapse
7.  Manufactured Hope
8.  Cognitive Dissonance
9.  Monolith
10.  End Of Line
The Review:
Back in the dark days of 1995, Fear Factory truly sounded like the future. “Demanufacture” was a monster of an album which featured a then-ground breaking mixture of harsh and clean vocals, pro-tools production and computer processed sounds, industrial tinges and some truly memorable songs. Cazares, Bell, Hererra and Olde-Wolbers seemed like it might be them who usurped Metallica with their science fiction, weaponised, mechanised version of heavy metal... except, things didn't work out like that.
The band followed up “Demanufacture” with very pale imitation albums, lost their place at the vanguard of metal via the rise of nu metal, line-up changes and the plain old bitter pill of missed opportunities. The tension and fractures within the band are well known so “Aggression Continuum” sees Burton C Bell appearing on the album and delivering a very good performance, but no longer a member of the band for the album's release. Completed by the very capable rhythm section of Tony Campos (bass) and Mike Heller (drums), this record HAD to be good.
The good news, though, is that the record is very good! The last FF album, “Genexus”, was also good and saw me regain interest in the band back in 2015 (is it that long?!). “Mechanize”, half a decade prior, was serviceable and of course lifted up a level by Gene Hoglan's involvement. The band have thus put out a couple of good albums over the last decade. I haven't heard “The Industrialist”- and I'm sure the band would understand my stance against human beings being replaced my (drum) machines. They still plough their futuristic furrow and bring to mind Robocop, 2000AD, Terminator and Terminator 2 with most tracks.
So, “Aggression Continuum” picks up where “Genexus” and, indeed, “Demanufacture” left off. It is pummelling (“Recode”), it's machine like. It has synths. It has solos (“Monolith” has a great one), it is inhumanly precise and has all the best hallmarks of what makes Fear Factory unique and a top tier metal band.
If you want aggression, there is plenty of it- “End of Line” is a relentless finisher and jam packed with the types of production quirks you expect from the band. “Fuel Injected Suicide Machine” sounds exactly like it could have been on “Demanufacture” and sit proudly with the likes of “H-K (Hunter Killer)”, albeit with a melodic chorus that echoes synth wave as much as metal. In fact, the synth wave genre or even sound-tracks (Carpenter et. al.) looms large here. Fear Factory have managed to conjure up the same bleak, robotic atmosphere and it is an aural delight.
Fear Factory have been writing about a dystopian future in which the population is tightly controlled and humanity is threatened by technology for decades now. It is sublime timing that this album should see the light of day when these things are happening more blatantly than ever before, and it seems that the band have captured the zeitgeist once again. Where they go from here is anyone's guess. Bell has gone, apparently never to return. It is a shame and a lamentable bookend to his time with the band- he IS the voice of Fear Factory and he and Cazares made some incredible music together.
“Aggression Continuum” is available HERE 

Band info: Official

Tuesday 22 June 2021

ALBUM REVIEW: Chestcrush, "Vdelygmia"

By: Peter Morsellino
Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 14/07/2021
Label: Independent

“Vdelygmia” CS//CD//DD track listing:
1). The Ingester
2). Different Shepherd Same Sheep
3). Grudge
4). Theocracyst
5). Burden
6). Let Them Crawl
7). Skullcrush
8). Vothrodoxia
9). Vaptizetai O Doulos
The Review:
With their first full length album, “Vdelygmia”, Edinburgh’s Chestcrush set out to stake a claim to the throne of the Blackened Death Metal world.  Meaning abomination, filth, or repulsion, “Vdelygmia” is the perfect title to describe what it is the listener is about to hear. 
Chestcrush come out the gate strong.  A very creepy ambient introductory track gives way to the bludgeoning punishment of proper opener, “Different Shepherd, Same Sheep”.  This track provides a solid thesis for the album, acting as an overture towards what is to come.  We are presented with an incredibly heavy sound, combining elements of Death Metal with Black Metal and Grindcore.  Tempos shift from a sludgy grind to passages of blistering speed with ease.  A strong sense of dread is present throughout each track, creating an unsettling atmosphere that pairs perfectly with the darkness of Chestcrush’s lyrical themes. 
Other stand out tracks include “Theocracyst”, with its slowly picked introduction lulling listeners to a false sense of security before beating them over the skull with the pounding rhythms that the young band will certainly become known for.  “Let Them Crawl” is a positively evil sounding track, that I am sure could summon the devil himself with its swirling dynamics and crushing grooves. 
Chestcrush presents its own unique brand of Death Metal to listeners at the breakneck speeds that are to be expected from the genre, but that is not that the sound is without heart.  Each track brings together a range of emotion, preventing the songs from falling into the cold trappings of soulless blast beats and guitar soloing.  Each note is presented with purpose here, creating a musical experience that will last long after the first listen.
“Vdelygmia” is not an album for the faint of heart.  This falls securely into the range of music that can peel the paint off of walls.  It can crush skulls (and chests, I suppose,) and lay waste to the surroundings of your sound system.  But if pounding rhythms and searing leads are what you are looking for, then you will not want to sleep on Chestcrush.  Give it a listen.
“Vdelygmia” is available HERE

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

Wednesday 9 June 2021

ALBUM REVIEW: Flesh of the Stars, "Mirror / Vessels"

By: Peter Morsellino
Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 05/03/2021
Label: Independent

“Mirror / Vessels” DD track listing:
1). Mirror
2). Mirror (Electronic Realization)
3). Vessels (Single Realization)
4). Vessels
The Review:
Crafting a sound all their own, Flesh of the Stars excite on their newest release “Mirror/Vessels”. A unique blend of styles come crashing together to create something fresh.  Idiosyncratic in its powerful dynamics, Flesh of the Stars takes listeners on a journey with this release, inviting us into the darkened depths of the human psyche to take a good look at ourselves.
Emotionally stripped bear, “Mirror/Vessels” is a rollercoaster of a release. From soaring highs with gorgeous ethereal melodies to crushing lows or crunching chords, Flesh of the Stars crafts a sound that is designed to transport listeners to a different place. Hypnotic rhythms carry you off into the albums narrative and put you into the opportune headspace to bear witness to the emotional web that is being weaved. Eclectic musical arrangements feature prominently alongside an authoritative hard/soft dynamic that creates a cinematic feel to the music.
I have to take a moment to offer specific praise to the guitar work of the album. The tone is incredible and sits perfectly inside the mix, never overpowering the arrangements, but taking center stage when need be. Emotionally poignant lead work is a standout of the release for me, with moments of “Vessels” quite literally taking my breath away with their beauty. Honestly, bravo.
This is not a release that we can expect to gain universal adoration. Fans of heavier music may shy away from the ambience that flows throughout the tracks, yet it would be difficult to claim the album was lighthearted in any way.  The true heart of the album lies within its multilayered intensity; Its emotional weight; Its varied instrumentation. It's a release that demands the listener's full attention, and from the perspective of this reviewer, that attention is absolutely well deserved.

“Mirror / Vessels” is available HERE

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

REVIEW: Kråkslott, "The Witchhammer" [EP]

By: Peter Morsellino
Album Type: EP
Date Released: 27/02/2021
Label: Independent

“The Witchhammer” DD track listing:
1). Ritual of Lies
2). The Witchhammer
The Review:
In a hailstorm of Sabbath inspired riffs, Kråkslott unleash hell on “The Witchhammer”. Soothing in its chaos, this quick release encapsulates a bygone era of the doom genre while modifying the formula with modern flairs.
The release kicks off with the ever morphing “Ritual of Lies”. A track rich with variety as ever there was one, “Ritual…” kicks off with a slow procession of riffs and pained cries before blasting off into chaotic solos and hard rocking energy and lulling us back to the original somber tones to close things off. The eclectic styles presented here make quick work of the tracks near eight minute time span.
The title track is up next to finish things off. “The Witchhammer” keeps a more consistent pace for most of its run time, with a sludgy riff fest dominating the early parts and the track dissolving into a downtempo solo of the blues persuasion. This track really sets a mood for the listener and as such connects a bit deeper on an emotional level.
The Sabbath influences are hard to ignore on this release and may end up being a deciding factor for some listeners. Its classic vibes might prove to be a bit derivative to modern fans of the genre, while endearing to purists. Personally, I think the songs presented here are a wonderful mix of vintage blues inspired doom with the chaotic lilt of modern sludge.
While the entire release clocks in at only just under twenty minutes, being spread between just two tracks provides a more epic feel. The longer run times of the tracks should not be a deterrent, as the songs move at a quick pace and are varied enough to maintain the listener's attention throughout.  Definitely a must listen for any fan of the doom genre.
“The Witchhammer” is available HERE

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

ALBUM REVIEW: Dirt Church, "Self Titled LP"

By: Peter Morsellino
Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 05/02/2021
Label: Independent

“Self Titled LP” DD track listing:
1). Cicada
2). Psalm 4
3). Husk
4). Days From Land
5). Sirens
6). Less Dead
7). Zephyr King
8). Teeth
9). Hours
The Review:
Three years after Dirt Church made their claim for sonic supremacy with the release of their 2018 demo, their long awaited Self Titled debut has been unleashed upon the world. A filthy amalgamation of low tuned sludge riffs and pounding hardcore fury, Dirt Church assails listeners with a brutal, yet toe tappingly catchy release that will be sure to please the most discerning of metal heads.
Conceived in the bowels of New York's rust belt, Albany's Dirt Church spawns a sound that while uniquely their own, encapsulates the region perfectly. Its dirty, its angry and it's not going to take any shit.  Atmospheric melodies swirl around their music like a fog pouring in, only just obscuring the massacre hidden within. 
Violent riffing gives way to mournful, dirge like passages throughout the release as Dirt Church press their rage on display, with a hard/soft dynamic often taking center stage. Vocals morph from pained cries and frenzied howls to feverish spoken word pieces,  adding extra dimensions to the album's storytelling. Despite this, the album is full of ear catching melodies, with songs like “Sirens” clinging to your brain and all but demanding repeated listening.
The mix of the album must be noted, as the sound remains crisp and clear despite the chaos contained within. Instrumentation shares real estate perfectly, with no particular sounds battling for space. Vocals maintain a prominent place in the cacophony yet never at the expense of the big picture.
Dirt Church presents listeners with a much needed sound with their debut full length. We're all sad, we're all angry. Dirt Church remains empathetic to this fact while granting an escape. It's good time sludge. You can hum it to yourself long after the album reaches its end.  Give this one a listen. I think you'll like it.
“Self Titled” is available HERE

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

Tuesday 8 June 2021

REVIEW: Cirith Ungol, "Half Past Human" [EP]

By: Richard Maw
Album Type: EP
Date Released: 28/05/2021
Label: Metal Blade Records

“Half Past Human” CD//DD//LP track listing:
1). Route 666
2). Shelob’s Lair
3). Brutish Manchild
4). Half Past Human
The Review:

Cirith Ungol's comeback was surely the comeback of the decade; it is no mean feat to revive a band decades after their dissolution AND make an album as convincing as “Forever Black”. Cirith Ungol managed it and are now back with this EP. Four Tracks of trad/doom/hard rock idiosyncrasy. Cirith Ungol have never been the easiest band to like or 'get' and this surely continues here. The themes are fantastical. The vocals are an acquired taste, the bass is bobbling in sound and high in the mix- just like on their debut, “Frost and Fire”. All of that said, this rocks. It's great.

Cirith Ungol are a cult band for a reason- they sound like no one else. They meld genres and sounds like no other band. They fall into a similar bracket to Manilla Road or Pagan Altar: you love them or you are just puzzled.

It is crucial to note that these are not exactly 'new' songs. Instead they are revived from the band's dim and distant past. We assume that they were thus written decades ago; certainly, none have been officially released before. This alone makes for a real fan's treat. Of the four tracks here, you get hard rocking proto-metal on “Route 666” and “Brutish Manchild”, The fantasy element (specifically Tolkien) is fulfilled on “Shelob's Lair”- with a great middle section riff and solo. The biggest treat here is saved for last, though. “Half Past Human” is close to seven and a half minutes in length and is a wonderful track. It is evocative of dynamic and maudlin early Judas Priest moments. Thematically it deals with a dystopian glimpse of the future, science fiction and technology providing ample inspiration.

Overall, then, this is four more new-old songs from Cirith Ungol, all of which sit well with anything else in their discography. For true fans, it’s a must. For casual listeners, this is a perfect introduction to the band, with all their eccentricities on display. It's magnificent, obviously.

“Half Past Human” is available HERE 

Band info: bandcamp || facebook