Wednesday 28 December 2022

LIVE REVIEW: Sellsword supported by The Mighty Wraith and Iron Void @ The Fulford Arms, York, Saturday December 10th 2022

 By: Richard Maw

The Review:

York on a Saturday night in December, during the World Cup… will there be a crowd?! The answer, thankfully was: YES.

The Fulford Arms is a live venue- it’s not really a pub with a stage- it is a venue with a bar. This kind of venue is the lifeblood of the music scene, and they must be kept alive. It was immensely gratifying to see it packed out. Rammed. Standing Room only. Full from front to back.

Now, with Sellsword hailing from York and Iron Void being from Wakefield, a crowd of some kind would be expected, but to see 150 metalheads crammed into a Northern local venue show on a weekend at a time that England were playing in a World Cup quarter final was a throwback to the halcyon days of live metal. It warmed my heart of steel.

Iron Void opened things up and played some older classics like “The Devil’s Daughter” alongside some superb new material from their forthcoming “IV” album- out in January on Shadow Kingdom Records. “The Tolling Bell” was a vampiric number of impressive weight. Having once played in the band, I was glad to hear “Lancelot of The Lake” played with such aplomb- and moved that it was dedicated my way. The band sounded really cohesive and the vocals of Sealey and Steve Wilson sounded great over the PA. The technicality of Scott Naylor behind the kit is a welcome expansion of the band’s sound and the setlist was well paced with enough gallop to win over the crowd and enough weight to satisfy any doom diehards.

The crowd at The Fulford Arms were there for faster paced trad and power metal, so for a doom band to go over as well as Iron Void did was a triumph. By the end of the set hands and horns were raised on high. Iron Void are often unsung heroes of the doom scene in the UK. That must change.

The Mighty Wraith were up next in a kind of special guest slot that saw the style of metal move closer to the headliners. The boys from the West Midlands- the heartland of metal- did not disappoint. If you’ve not heard them, the band are traditional metal powerhouse with wailing vocals, thrashing drums and razor-sharp guitar work. If you think Maiden crossed with Priest with a hefty dose of US power metal grit then you’d be on the money. In charismatic frontman Matt Gore, the band have something special. He really brought the street level grit of a prime Paul Di-Anno and the theatrics of a Rob Halford to the crowd.

The band’s second album “Elegies” has been out for three months now and the material displayed from it sat really well with the crowd. As a measure of the confidence the band displayed, they threw in a great cover of “Bark At The Moon” and closed with a very unexpected run through of “The Number of The Beast”. The fact that neither of these tracks outshone their own work is testament to the band’s quality. There is simply nothing here not to like; great band and frontman. If you haven’t seen them, watch out for them. Big things ahead.

Sellsword play power metal in a more European style- that is to say it is symphonic power metal. It’s fun, sing along and technically challenging stuff- it requires total confidence and belief to pull off in a live context. Fortunately, I found the band even better live than on record- the softer textures of their albums were stripped away to reveal metal forged in the hottest of furnaces and un-tempered by synths.

Sellsword took the stage just after 9.30pm with a portentous intro tape and a look of steely confidence. New frontman Nathan Harrison (of excellent doom band The Human Condition) has been installed only for a couple of gigs prior and with this being a hometown show for the band, the stakes were high.

Fortunately, Harrison was up to the considerable challenge. From the moment he took the sword shaped mic stand (!) he got the crowd on his side. The whole band was tight- incredibly tight. The muscular bass playing of Tom Keeley laid a concrete foundation for the fleetfooted rhythms of drummer Tom Warner. Meanwhile, the dual lead guitar team of Stephenson and Keeley matches any out there; Denner/Sherman? Tipton/Downing? Mustaine and whoever it is this week? Yep, these boys are right up there with them. They were astonishingly deft in delivery and performance- way above the quality I have ever witnessed in a small venue type show before. Astounding.

The band laid waste to the venue with energetic opener “Blackened Sky (pt 1)” and then continued doing exactly the same with “Sagaborne” and the band’s eponymous signature song. Harrison’s vocals were never less than masterful and he hit the notes imperiously- with some real Halford/Ripper style screams added into the mix. Points must also be added for the wearing of a Jugulator t-shirt.

Sellsword really pulled out all the stops with the setlist, rolling out second album title track “Unto The Breach” along with “Pendragon” and “Inquisitor”. The heavy hits (mace blows?!) never stopped coming. The encore brought something special- former band members Stuart Perry and Jacek Mazur took the stage and Perry and Harrison duetted on “Merchants of Menace” with Mazur bringing added guitar pyrotechnics which flayed and pounded the audience’s flesh until the tank was emptied. Bring on album number three, lads.

The hour and a half show was superb throughout and the crowd loved it. Heads were banged, ale was quaffed, victory was delivered and the whole experience was preferable to when original long haired troublemaking Vikings descended upon York over 1000 years ago- excitement and adrenaline without the violence and death. This was the best small show I’ve been to in years and every band brought something unique and impressive to the table. Heavy metal is alive and well. With bands like these around, it will be in good health for years to come. 

ALBUM REVIEW: Candlemass, "Sweet Evil Sun"

By: Richard Maw
Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 18/11/2022
Label: Napalm Records

“Sweet Evil Sun” CD//DD//LP track listing:
1. Wizard Of The Vortex
2. Sweet Evil Sun
3. Angel Battle
4. Black Butterfly
5. When Death Sighs
6. Scandinavian Gods
7. Devil Voodoo
8. Crucified
9. Goddess
10. A Cup Of Coffin (outro)
The Review:
Swedish doom legends Candlemass return with- depending how you look at it- yet another album or an exciting new album!
There are no Iommi guest spots this time, but original vocalist Johan Lanqvist is still there and with material written for him in mind, this is lined up to be a more cohesive and convincing album than “The Door To Doom”. Now, it goes without saying that Candlemass are one of THE seminal doom bands- usually mentioned along with Saint Vitus, Trouble, Cathedral and so on- that legacy, though is a blessing and a curse.
When a band makes a record as seminal and legendary as “Epicus Doomicus Metallicus”, it’s hard to follow it. Fortunately, for many Candlemass fans records like “Ancient Dreams” or “Nightfall” are even better. It would be hard to find fans who pick their latter-day output above the debut and the Marcolin classics, but there must be some out there.
For me, I enjoy most of their records. I thought the aforementioned “The Door To Doom” was a good album- catchy, solid, well produced and overall a quality return to form. “Sweet Evil Sun”, for me, continues that trajectory. “Wizard of the Vortex” is a suitably riffy opener and the BIG song of the album- the title track- follows with big choruses, pagan references and big riffs. Is it groundbreaking? Does it match up to EDM? Does it need Iommi soloing away? The answer is… no; to all of those things. However, this is good stuff.
Sure, it sounds like Candlemass. Yes, it’s doom metal. As the likes of “Angel Battle” and “Black Butterfly” rolled by, I found myself enjoying the record for exactly what it is: one of the classic doom bands still doing what they do best. Good songs. Good epic sounding riffs. And, honestly, it’s great that they are still around, let alone actually producing cohesive bodies of work like this.
The band still plough the Sabbath furrow like few others- it has that Nordic darkness along with the Iommi-esque menace. The writing uses good and tested methods; faster riffs for the middle sections, dramatic vocal shifts when required, female backing vocals (“When Death Sighs”), solid production and a dark and ethereal atmosphere throughout.
Overall, it’s probably best not to compare this to the early records- or even to attempt it. A lot of time has passed since then, a lifetime really. The band just cannot be the same. I’m just happy that there is still a Candlemass and they still make records I enjoy. Yes, I’m not that keen on “Scandinavian Gods”, or the intro to “Devil Voodoo” but that’s ok. The fact is that most of the stuff here I DO like and I’ve liked it more each time I’ve listened to it.
This is another solid entry into the canon of Candlemass. If you like/d the band, you might well like this. The band won’t reinvent the wheel again, but at this stage I don’t want or expect them to. Epic Doom metal, as it should be.
“Sweet Evil Sun” is available now 

Band info: facebook

Monday 19 December 2022

ALBUM REVIEW: Azaab, "Summoning The Cataclysm"

By: Richard Maw
Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 15/04/2022
Label: Maxima Music Pro |
Satanath Records

“Summoning The Cataclysm” CS//CD//DD track listing:
1. Pandemonium Twilight
2. Carbon Plague
3. A Hollow Pact
4. Preachers of Hate
5. When Worlds Collide
6. The Infernal Citadel
7. Trophies of Flesh
8. The Empty Throne (Decapitated cover)
9. B.L.O.O.D.B.O.R.N
The Review:

Death metal and Pakistan may not seem to be immediately obvious bed fellows, but the more you think about it… the more it makes sense.
Azaab set the scene with an atmospheric intro that is melodic and foreboding. From there, you get vocals reminiscent of Glen Benton’s lower register, technical drumming courtesy of Indonesian Adhytia Perkasa and a real spread of death metal influences and approaches.
“Carbon Plague” blasts effectively, “A Hollow Pact” is a gnarled beast and the band show their slower chops with the doomy and deathly “Preachers of Hate”. There’s plenty of melody here, along with half stepping riffage the likes of which Morbid Angel applied in their slower moments- see “When Worlds Collide” for proof. Lovely lead guitar work here, too. The band have some great grooves and riffs up their sleeves and while the feel may be fairly old school, the sound is polished and ultra-modern- a killer combination.
“The Infernal Citadel” has a wonderfully evocative fantasy type title and the band run through some impressive chops while creating a great DM atmosphere. This could equally be applied to “Trophies of Flesh” which runs a wide range of death metal sounds- dreamy atmospherics, feral blasting and so on. It’s great stuff.
The band throw in “The Empty Throne” by deathly Poles Decapitated to give a hint of what they are aiming for overall and it is a solid track- well executed. “B.L.O.O.D.B.O.R.N.” finishes off this nine track feast of unearthly delights in style. This is a good death metal record which is thoroughly convincing throughout. Recommended for any fans of the genre.
“Summoning The Cataclysm” is available HERE 

Band info: Bandcamp || Facebook || Instagram || YouTube

Thursday 8 December 2022

ALBUM PREMIERE: Maharaja, "Aviarium"


Formed in late 2013 in the Gem City, Maharaja are a sludge steamroller ready to lay waste to everything in their path. Their sound is undeniably heavy and visceral; theirs is a sound you can feel; it jars your bones and shakes you to your core.  Maharaja's truth lies within their bottomless heft, groove, and subject matter. While the seeds were planted with their 2014 demo and 2017 debut album, Kali Yuga, the band have completely blossomed on new album “Aviarium,” which you can stream in all it ungodly glory below.  Official release date is tomorrow, 09/12/2022 via Seeing Red Records

PREORDER Vinyl / Digital or via