Saturday 24 February 2024

ALBUM REVIEW: The Obsessed, "Gilded Sorrow"

By: Richard Maw

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 16th February 2024
Label: Ripple Music  

“Gilded Sorrow” CD//DD//LP track listing:
1.Daughter of an Echo
2.It's Not OK 
3.Realize a Dream
4.Gilded Sorrow
5.Stoned Back to the Bomb Age 
6.Wellspring - Dark Sunshine
8.Yen Sleep
9.Lucky Free Nice Machine
The Review:
The first album in well over half a decade, the first as a new four piece- Dave Sherman sadly departed this mortal coil in 2022- so we are in somewhat untested waters here. Well, to an extent; as Wino is The Obsessed in the same way that Lemmy was Motorhead.
He is in fine voice- it’s fully intact and not ravaged by age or touring. He sounds great. In fact, the whole album sounds great- a big beefy sounding thing with real drums and real playing. Musically, you know what to expect here: traditional doom metal and doom rock. This is the street level doom of Maryland, not the more epic variety bandied about by Candlemass or similar.
In that regard, The Obsessed are closer to their stateside cousins Pentagram and closer family members like Saint Vitus. It’s a style of doom I particularly like, and one I find endlessly entertaining. The opening one-two of “Daughter of an Echo” and “It’s Not Ok” set the stall out; grooves & riffs, Wino pissed off and switched on. The record is a little more cohesive than “Sacred” was- it hangs together nicely.
I mentioned rock as well as metal earlier. I say that as there is a distinctly classic rock vibe to the songs here, kind of like how there was with Place of Skulls and Victor Griffin’s best material. You could imagine Thin Lizzy laying down some of these riffs, or even Nazareth. It has that kind of timeless quality to it. Whether it be the mellow title track that creeps and teases out of the speakers or the more traditional doom of Stoned Back to the Bomb Age, this is very convincingly played and presented.
It’s not all absolute gold; a couple of song intros are a little drawn out for my liking and the record has some songs that are clearly stronger than others. But, for every “Wellspring” there is a “Jailene” and Wino’s story telling is on point throughout. The record is perfectly paced and curated at nine tracks- and closing statement “Lucky Free Nice Machine” is a minute lone instrumental. There is no need for any more than that and each track offers something different. Eight tracks was often the magic number back in the halcyon days of the 70s and so it proves today.
Overall, then, you get another quality album from The Obsessed, full of fire and venom as well as some pleasingly hazy vibes at times as well. Where this will sit in the band’s discography, I am not quite sure as repeated listens will bring big rewards, I think. For fans of Wino, this is essential and for fans of ‘doom’ that doesn’t have any songs, have a listen to this and enjoy some actual songwriting for a change. A still magnificent beast, refusing to toe the party line. Business as usual, then.
“Gilded Sorrow” is available HERE 

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

Monday 12 February 2024

ALBUM REVIEW: Blaze Bayley, "Circle of Stone"

 By: Richard Maw
Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 23rd February 2024
Label: Blaze Bayley Recordings

“Circle of Stone” CD//DD//LP track listing:
1. Mind Reader
2. Tears in Rain
3. Rage
4. The Year Beyond This Year
5. Ghost in the Bottle
6. Broken Man
7. The Call of the Ancestors
8. Circle of Stone
9. Absence
10. A Day of Reckoning
11. The Path of the Righteous Man
12. Until We Meet Again
The Review:

Blaze returns with another fiery and anthemic album of heavy metal. Blaze has been on a roll for the best part of a decade now. Since harnessing the considerable talents of British metal heroes Absolva- now further bolstered by Luke Appleton joining the team to work alongside his brother- Blaze has been on a musical winning streak. He managed three albums in three years with the “Infinite Entanglement” Trilogy, followed that up with a superb collection of songs in War Within Me”, plus a couple of live albums and DVDs.
Blaze and band are exceptionally hard working- the pandemic was a cruel period as it left them kicking their heels while they couldn’t tour. Significantly, Blaze suffered a near fatal heart attack in 2023, so the fact he is still at all here is a blessing. The fact that the quality of his records is still very high is a real gift to the fans. After coming close to death, Blaze could be forgiven for dialling things down, going acoustic, reducing touring or even just retiring.
However, a short run of UK dates last year were a triumph- the voice, the energy and the life force were still there. That life force runs right the way through this record. “Circle of Stone” is a life affirming winner, that’s for sure.
Things start confidently with “Mind Reader”, “Tears of Rain” references Blade Runner and is even better. “Rage” is a darker proposition and finds Blaze delivering a superb vocal performance. It delivers a Welsh folk tale, via heavy metal. Excellent. As usual with Blaze’s recent records, the pacing and sequencing is great; each track is different from the last and has its own personality- but it doesn’t sound disjointed.
On the contrary, Chris Appleton has done a good production and mix job here, allowing the album a distinct sound and character. Sonically, it sounds much better to my ears than “War Within Me”. I’m unclear as to whether a pro studio was used or if this was a home production, but it doesn’t matter as it sounds great. The drum sound is significantly improved and the instruments are nicely blended with Blaze’s voice front and centre.
According to the man himself, the first six songs here represent tales of resilience, fighting against the odds and so forth. It’s prime Blaze stuff and expertly delivered. As the band blast through “The Year Beyond This Year” and “Ghost in the Bottle” the record flies high. It comes back to earth with “The Broken Man”, which is more introspective and a slow burning emotive listen. Any listener might think this was written in the wake of Blaze’s health problems, but in fact this entire album was recorded before his dance with death.
The latter six tracks here represent six connected tracks that tell a story of connection to the past and redemption. “The Call of the Ancestors” kicks side two off in grandiose (mostly) instrumental style; bagpipes, guitar, ethereal vocals…. It sets the scene for the mighty title track. It’s majestic, it recalls “The Clansman” and is a killer. “Absence” is a straight up rocker, with killer riffage and guitar work in general.
From there, it’s three tracks remaining. Numerous moods and approaches are covered; the melancholy and murderous tale told in “A Day Of Reckoning” gives way to hopefulness, while “The Path of the Righteous” engages the turbo charger for a convincing metal romp. “Until We Meet Again” caps the album off with acoustic atmospherics and a haunting guest vocal from Tammy Rae-Bois, who duets stirringly with Blaze. It’s a folk-y and hopeful conclusion to an album with hidden depths and themes.
To summarise, “Circle of Stone” continues the high-quality music that Blaze has been putting out since 2016 and offers some different aspects to his writing and sound. It’s a triumph, it’s a tour de force and I’m so glad he is still here.
“Circle of Stone” is available HERE

Band info: official || facebook

Monday 8 January 2024

ALBUM REVIEW: Cruciamentum, “Obsidian Refractions”

By: Richard Maw
Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 24/11/2023
Label: Profound Lore Records

“Obsidian Refractions” track listing:
1. Charnel Passages
2. Abhorrence Evangelium
3. Necropolis Of Obsidian Mirrors
4. Scorn Manifestation
5. Interminable Rebirth Of Abomination
6. Drowned
The Review:
British death metal? Well, there are some great examples out there; Bolt Thrower, CarcassCruciamentum?! Yes, them too- even if they have US and UK blood. While we are a few years on from “Charnel Passages”, this sophomore full length picks up where that nasty slab of malevolence left off. Indeed, “Obsidian Refractions” opens with a song called “Charnel Passages” which is creepy and packed with riffs, blasts and double bass drum carnage.
This type of death metal is nothing like the other two mentioned British dead legends. Cruciamentum are dark and complex with an arcane and sinister atmosphere pervading their compositions. It’s not hooky or necessarily song based- it’s atmospheric and evil but not ‘br00tal’ in the way of USDM like Cannibal or Morbid Angel, or Cryptopsy etc.
The six songs on offer here offer up epic soundscapes, during which growled vocals tell tales of suffering and woe. It’s bleak stuff and made bleaker by some black metal type riff progressions here and there. “Abhorrence Evangelium” is more of the same style; lots of tempo changes, some dynamics, a solo of atonal delights and it’s all wrapped up in a very solid production job. “Necropolis of Obsidian Mirrors” is the best title on the album and it’s this kind of fantasy horror that lends itself to death metal so well.
In fact, the whole album is the aural equivalent of a nightmarish landscape, filled with horror both seen and unseen. It’s unsettling and violent. With the second half of the album opening with “Scorn Manifestation” at quite a thrashy gallop, the band manages to engage the listener straight away (on every song) and the blasting verses alternated with slower passages. “Interminable Rebirth of Abomination” starts slower and uses reverb drenched riffage to excellent effect.
As you might expect from the short tracklist, the songs are lengthy; the band stretches to over ten minutes on closer “Drowned” (not an Entombed cover!) with only “Abhorrence…” clocking under five minutes. Epic and sprawling is the order of the day, then, which is perfect for the band’s expansive sound. Drowned mixes sinister atmospherics- imagine Dragged Into Sunlight crossed with Dissection and something American, maybe that’s close-ish to the vibe here. Overall, it’s six dense compositions of thorn filled death metal, played expertly. If you are a death metal fan, this is simply a must hear.
Come and get lost in the labyrinthine nightmare that is “Obsidian Refractions”; you won’t escape these charnel passages unscathed.
“Obsidian Refractions” is available HERE 

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

ALBUM REVIEW: Green Lung, "This Heathen Land"

 By: Richard Maw
Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 03/11/2023
Label: Nuclear Blast

“This Heathen Land” CD//DD//LP track listing:
1. Prologue
2. The Forest Church
3. Mountain Throne
4. Maxine
5. One for Sorrow
6. Song of the Stones
7. The Ancient Ways
8. Hunters in the Sky
9. Oceans of Time
The Review:
Green Lung are the best ‘new’ band in the UK today. This is their third album and takes in folklore, esoteric and occult albion (Britain) and so on. “Woodland Rites” was rough and ready with the artwork, the vibe and the songs in place. “Black Harvest” was nothing short of a modern classic; beefed up production, better arrangements and songs with vibe and artwork intact.
“This Heathen Land” is more developed and varied than the previous albums. It has the muscle of Nuclear Blast behind it- once again, the artwork is stellar (kind of a Wild Hunt pastiche), the production is superb and the songs, well….
A spoken word prologue sets the scene for a journey into a hidden, pagan, Britain. The first track proper, “The Forest Church”, should have you invested. If it doesn’t, please give the rest of the record a chance. The track takes in epic soloing, doom like pacing and some dynamic tempo shifts- plus a more prominent role for the keys. Having as they do the line-up of classic Deep Purple or Jethro Tull, it makes sense to make use of the keys to a larger extent.
The grooving tempo of “Mountain Throne” makes for an excellent and headbanging track, while advance track “Maxine (Witch Queen)” is just brilliant. Catchy, clever and full of hooks and ideas. Essentially, this is for fans of folk horror, films like The Wicker Man, Straw Dogs, Witchfinder General, A Field In England, The Devil Rides Out etc. It’s got that hard-to-define aspect that makes it somehow otherworldly- much like compatriots Pagan Altar.
The doom vibes are back for “One For Sorrow”- it’s slow and creepy, with a dose of melancholia woven into the grim portents. Reference points abound in terms of the band’s sound. This is not doom, per se, but the spectre of Sabbath looms. However, classic 70’s rock like Heep, Jethro Tull and Purple is also present- as is, in particular, Queen. Backing vocals, varied instrumentation, varied styles, well orchestrated guitar parts and hooky vocals. Yep, Brian et. al. would approve.
The band has expanded their sound- not just by the use of keyboards, either. “Song of the Stones” mixes folkloric ghost story telling with acoustic instrumentation and is much further from Sabbath and much closer to Tull at their ’77 peak or even Led Zeppelin at their most arcane. It’s fantastic and transportive. Crucially, this is also music played by younger people; these aren’t a load of middle aged old hands trying their luck at occult rock. It feels organic and authentic.
The UK, even the world, needs younger rock bands who are not yet into their 40s to keep the genre alive and thriving. Sabbath are done. Priest and Maiden are in various stages of their twilight, other large bands are now just embarrassing corporations or the core of the bands are dead and buried. Elsewhere on the album, Green Lung delve into the distant past and fictional horror with strong success. The band keep the vibe on point with a forty two minute playing time. It’s all here; Ley Lines, barrows, stone circles, paganism, sorrow, despair and hope.
Modern day Britain is becoming increasingly out of touch with its past (the good and interesting parts of it in particular) in favour of a culture of individualism, consumerism and distrust. Bands like Green Lung and albums like This Heathen Land” place the listener firmly in a different time and a better place. While some of the material here may be a little more stately (“Ancient Ways”) and grand, there are also the headbanging thrills of “Hunters In The Sky”, so the album comes off as balanced and considered in its track list.
The record closes with a take on the vampire myth- “Oceans of Time”- referencing memorable dialogue from the early 90s film with Gary Oldman in the lead role. Again, it’s clever and effective and hugely enjoyable, with some Type O style production and arrangements. Green Lung haven’t put a foot wrong with this record and it may well be the one that puts them over the top from underground prospects to legitimate headliners. They deserve it, as having witnessed the band live at Desertfest I can confirm that they have that indefinable extra factor; charisma, mystery, x-factor- call it what you will. In short, this band is unique and this album is excellent. Treasure them both.
“This Heathen Land” is available HERE