Sunday 22 August 2021

ALBUM REVIEW: At The Gates, "The Nightmare of Being”

By: Richard Maw
Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 02/07/2021
Label: Century Media Records

“The Nightmare of Being” CD//DD//LP track listing:
1. Spectre Of Extinction
2. The Paradox
3. The Nightmare Of Being
4. Garden Of Cyrus
5. Touched By The White Hands Of Death
6. The Fall Into Time
7. Cult Of Salvation
8. The Abstract Enthroned
9. Cosmic Pessimism
10. Eternal Winter Of Reason
The Review:
At The Gates are now on the third record of the second act- or permanent comeback, if you will. I’ll be honest and state that although I was initially pleased that the band returned and enjoyed “At War With Reality” seven years ago... I haven't returned to it since. Witnessing the band live didn't really change my perspective on the band; they were good, tight, professional and all that but the band and the material seemed to lack something.
It is a damning indictment that I have not even heard “To Drink From The Night Itself”. Well, regardless of my misgivings about the band's last seven years, they are still here and they are still forging forward. I would also like to clarify that I rate “Slaughter of the Soul” as one of the best metal albums ever- not just death metal; all metal. It was and is an incredible album- made by young men in a very different time. The songs, the hooks, the production- it all coalesced into a superb record. A classic, in fact.
“The Nightmare of Being”, then, occupies an odd space. It is the third second-act album, so no resting on comeback goodwill is to be had. The good news is, it's different, progressive in places. The song writing is tight and focused, a 45min playing time indicates that would be the case. The loss of Anders Bjorler has left his twin Jonas remaining to do the heavy lifting with the song writing- not so much of a problem, as it turns out.
I loved The Haunted's albums with Marco Aro on vocals- that straightforward thrash, close to death metal, even- suited me well at the time, but it was by no means ATG pt 2 and the Bjorlers were not the main or only songwriters. “The Nightmare of Being” is not close to that band- this is philosophical in theme, gloomy in outlook and surprisingly textured. There is saxophone on “Garden of Cyrus”, there is piano elsewhere. There is even a string quartet- bizarre, but true. When Ihsahn incorporated such elements in his solo work it was a huge surprise, and to be fair it is a pretty big surprise here, all these years later.
Make no mistake, though, this is a death metal album at its core- from the acoustic intro to the weight elsewhere on opener “Spectre of Extinction”, to the thrashy “The Paradox” it is metal. Yes, there are of course echoes of “SotS” in the changes and tempos, but Tompa's voice has dropped down a little and is a more measured bark these days. There are moodier moments throughout the record- it's sombre and dark and the instrumental passages shimmer and ripple like a muddy pool under the moonlight.
At ten tracks, the length and pace is right and the sound is great. How to rate this, then? It's tough as there is nothing wrong with any of this- it is pretty bold of a band like At The Gates who could easily just rest on their 1995 laurels forever to be making fairly experimental records. As such, this is the better of the two comeback albums I have heard- by far. It's totally solid, none of the extra elements feel forced and the songs are good. This is, for me, a solid seven out of ten type album- so not flawed genius and some filler and not bubbling under what was expected either. It's just... good.
Whether any of this is what you want from At The Gates, only you can decide. I applaud the band for spreading their wings and this is exactly the record they need to make at this stage, I think. A surprise, in a good way.
“The Nightmare of Being” is available now 

Band info: facebook || Official

Tuesday 10 August 2021

ALBUM REVIEW: Stonekind, "Spirit of the Void"

By: Peter Morsellino

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 11/06/2021
Label: Salem Stone Records

“Spirit of the Void” DD track listing:
1. Ashes, Pt. 1 
2. Ashes, Pt. 2 
3. Spirit of the void 
4. Nowhere's home 
5. Untethered
6. Swamp stomp 
7. Dust 
8. Behold the stone 
9. Nomadic
The Review: 
Mixing a heavy progressive rock sound with a distinct stoner rock groove, North Carolina’s Stonekind offer up a uniquely haunting sound that must be heard to be fully appreciated. With a fuzzed-out desert rock base to work from, “Spirit of the Void” mixes genres into a finely balanced witches brew that is sure to delight anyone in search of a new sonic experience.  
Stonekind’s emotive sound stems straight from the heart, and that comes across fully on the album’s finished product. You can tell at first glance that the musicians involved threw themselves wholly into this project. Songs are masterfully crafted into full spectrum musical experiences that will take listeners on a journey. I can’t stress enough how much heart is presented in each bit of this album. It feels special and it invites the listener to become a part of it.       
Songs like “Swamp Stomp” showcase the band’s heavy grooves while offering up high doses of psychedelia for listeners to revel in. Grooves are infectiously catchy and easy to get into. This is an album that you can dance to all night long. Best experienced, in my opinion, in one solid listen, the musical experience that Stonekind  
offers up is simply extraordinary. It’s a sound that you can completely lose yourself in.         
I would recommend this one to anyone who might be suffering a bit of a lull in their musical enjoyment. This is exactly the type of thing that will get listeners out of the deepest of ruts. A varied mash of genres coming together to create something new and wonderful. Give it a listen. You will not regret it.       
“Spirit of the Void” is available HERE 

Band info: Facebook || Bandcamp || Instagram