Monday, 16 January 2023

ALBUM REVIEW: Obituary, "Dying of Everything"

By: Richard Maw

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 13/01/2023
Label: Relapse Records
 


“Dying of Everything” CD//CS//DD/LP track listing:
 
1). Barely Alive
2. The Wrong Time
3). Without a Conscience
4). War
5). Dying of Everything
6). My Will To Survive
7). By The Dawn
8). Weaponize The Hate
9). Torn Apart
10). Be Warned
 
The Review:
 
Obituary- Florida’s death metal merchants par excellence are back. If the last self-titled album was a rather anthemic collection of death metal, “Dying of Everything” is perhaps a little murkier and a little darker. I rated the previous album very highly- not least because it seemed energised and turbo charged in a way that, say, “Inked In Blood”, was not. The core of the band remains intact- Donald and John Tardy alongside the perennial axeman Trevor Peres. Most recent joining member, Ken Andrews, is firmly embedded here on guitar and pops up in the writing credits while the formidable low end of Death alumni Terry Butler fills out the line-up.
 
Obituary are a unique proposition within death metal. No one else sounds like them. They mix death, doom, mid tempo grooves and the inimitable vocals of John Tardy into a swampy concoction that is immensely heavy, occasionally catchy, sometimes fast but never hyper speed.
 
As is the band’s way, “Barely Alive” opens things here; it’s a characteristically speedy start with Don firing on all cylinders and the band sounding fired up. The production is massive- serious low end and large drum sizes coalescing to make a thunderous racket.
 
From there, the band runs through an admirable gamut of styles. “The Wrong Time” is catchy and grooves in the mid tempo range. “Without Conscience” is prime Obituary while “War” slows things down and echoes 1994’s “World Demise” with its pacing and main riff hammered home ad nauseum. Obituary’s appeal lies in their ability to come up with surprisingly straightforward and catchy songs; often repetitive but never boring- they are masters of their fairly minimalist craft.
 
Ever since “Slowly We Rot”, the band have trodden a different path to their peers. When other bands were getting faster and faster, Obituary slowed down even more. While classic records like “Cause of Death” yielded live staples like “Chopped In Half” and The End Complete” offered up a particularly bleak and downtuned vision of the world, the band later records are just as compelling. “Frozen In Time” rules. “Xecutioner’s Return” was monstrously weighty, “Darkest Day” was prime Obituary, their self titled work was believed by many to be as defining as “SWR” and so on. The band have never really put a foot wrong- other than splitting up a couple of times… but even then the comeback records have been worth the wait.
 
The one thing that quality has bread is a difficulty to differentiate between albums and eras beyond the first. Much like Motorhead and Overkill- or even Cannibal Corpse closer to home, Obituary have never really made a bad album, but they remain defined to some fans by their earliest work. They have their own slot, their own groove and sound and remain one of a kind.
 
As “Dying of Everything” progresses, the band continue to do what they do best- simple riffing, massive drums, insane vocals… it’s all here. If you have listened to Obituary in the past and not been convinced or won over, it’s unlikely that this record will change that. If you have liked any of the band’s albums, you’ll like this one.
 
Whether you are here for the slow-paced crushing songs like “My Will To Live” or the slightly more sprightly “By The Dawn”, your tastes will be catered for. My only wish is that the band would put the pedal to the metal a bit more often. I like when Obituary speeds up and thrashes out. You are always guaranteed a fast opener, but it would be nice if the band exceeded the speed limit more often.
That said, you cannot argue with the double bass drum grooves of “Weaponize The Hate”, the swagger of the title track or any of the lead work on offer here. It’s prime Obituary- and very heavy indeed. The record concludes with “Torn Apart” and “Be Warned”- rounding out 45 minutes- or thereabouts- of Floridian death metal that is simultaneously familiar and brand new.
 
So where does this sit in the pantheon of Obituary records- now stretching back to the 80s(!). Hmm. I think that “Dying of Everything” is probably going to settle as a mid-table/high mid-table showing. It’s not as instant as the self-titled record and not as vicious as “Frozen In Time” but the songs are good throughout and it’s reliably heavy, murky, dark and with all expected Obituary-isms operating in the upper gears. If you like the band, it’s essential listening. If you have never heard Obituary (?!?) then you can pick this album and get the idea. There are few bands at the very top table of the death metal genre, Obituary reserved their place well over thirty years ago and remain there to this day. No mean feat.
 
“Dying of Everything” is available HERE 

Band info: bandcamp || facebook


Saturday, 14 January 2023

ALBUM REVIEW: Iron Void, "IV"

By: Richard Maw
 
Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 27/01/2023
Label: Shadow Kingdom Records


 
“IV” CS//CD//DD//LP track listing:
 
1). Call of the Void
2). Grave Dance
3). Living on The Earth
4). Pandora’s Box
5). Blind Dead
6). She
7). Lords of This Wasteland
8). Slave One
9). Last Rites
 
The Review:

The UK’s finest exponents of trad doom return with this- their fourth (!) album. Since the last record, “Excalibur”, there has been a change of personnel- with yours truly bowing out due to family commitments and the eminently capable Scott Naylor joining the band. Sealey and Steve Wilson are still in place, so the dual vocal attack remains along with that rumbling bass and intricate solo guitar work fans of the band are familiar with.
 
This time around, there are no overarching concepts, no knights, no swords- but there are some recurring themes. The atmosphere setting guitar intro of “Call Of The Void” sets things up for a chilling doom experience, rooted often at street level rather than high fantasy.
 
The excellent “Grave Dance” is the first song proper and it is a belter. The lolloping triplet time feel coalesces into a highly critical barb against… well, I’ll let you have a listen and make up your mind about what the conspiracy of silence and lust for power while another wave comes is! Whatever your views on civil liberties, the last couple of years and/or the powers that be, this is a superb track. Wilson’s vocals and riffing are excellent. Iron Void are BACK.
 
From there, the record retains a street level and real-world approach for the most part. Sealey takes the lead vocals for the catchy and groovesome “Pandora’s Box”. The beefy mix courtesy of Chris Fielding allows these straightforward compositions to shine; it’s a great sound and that Skyhammer/Foal Studios sound is hugely weighty. The drums in particular sound massive. Good variety from Naylor on the kit and nice phrasing through the transitional fills. As a track, it wouldn’t be out of place on an Orange Goblin album- something of a throwback to some of the material on “Doomsday” in some ways.
 
Things get heavier with “Blind Dead” as the band sow down to a crawl. It’s the kind of occult/arcane track that the band do so well- souls, rituals, blasphemy… Templars! It’s all here. Fantastic. I can see this one being a live favourite with its slick changes in the middle and strong refrain. Also: bass wah!
The band have gone for a good variety and breadth of material on this album- it’s by no means one paced and features some excellent dynamics on “She”, along with a surprisingly catchy hook. The track is kind of a distant cousin of “The Devil’s Daughter” and is a really welcome change of vibe. Naturally, the cleaner guitars don’t last forever and there is some serious weight in the middle with some enjoyable guitar work before the original approach returns.
 
As the record progresses through “Lords of the Wasteland”, many doom fans may have this as a possible doom album of the year contender. It’s riffy, varied, well put together in all aspects and doesn’t outstay its welcome. In terms of trad doom, the old guard are going or gone- Pentagram? Saint Vitus? Trouble? They are now, for the most part, bands of the past. Cathedral are gone. Count Raven are still around, but Iron Void are possibly successors to all the bands listed. They’ve got a unique and identifiable sound, well written songs and well produced records. The crown is there for them, surely.
 
“Slave One” is another album highlight- again, thematically it’s in keeping with other musings on the album- despite utilising a kind of science fiction motif… or is it science fact?! It is viciously delivered, certainly.  It’ll get heads banging and its cautionary tale of robot death for you and I feels, at the least, prescient and plausible. It’s Sealey’s best vocal performance on the record, I think- with real venom and spite in the delivery.
 
The record concludes with “Last Rites”- a romp through the doom graveyard of quiet and loud dynamics and with that the band is over and out.  Overall, “IV” is the record the band needed to make: straightforward but varied, heavy but with lighter elements here and there. This is excellent doom metal and stands shoulder to shoulder with the band’s other albums. Support the underground, support real bands and support real doom metal. Buy this album!

“IV” is available HERE 

Band info: bandcamp || facebook


Thursday, 5 January 2023

REVIEW: Funeral Thirst, "Galvanized in Blood" [EP]

By: Richard Maw
 
Album Type: EP
Date Released: 20/12/2022
Label: Independent



“Galvanised In Blood” DD track listing:
 
1). Turned to Dust
2). Hanged
3). Galvanized in Blood
4). Woodland Sacrifice
 
The Review:

A nasty little four track EP- a throwback to the days when death metal didn’t rely on computers and technology. This US four-piece outfit certainly knows how to make death metal great again; gargling vocals, raw sounding drums and plenty of fills on the high toms combined with grinding riffage and time changes aplenty.
 
“Turned to Dust” shows the band operating at full power- rolling tank riffs, blasts, low and high vocals… it’s all here. The band inject some chilling (not the relaxing kind) atmosphere on “Hanged” and it’s onwards. The title track and “Woodland Sacrifice” round this out. This is almost like a demo from the early 90s in some ways; rough and ready with the right amount of grit to indicate that these guys really mean it.
 
If you are an old school death metal fan who is a little disillusioned with the modern production sheen of many albums, then this is resolutely for you. Band lynchpin Chris Hannan has done a great job with the mix and mastering (death metal is supposed to sound like this!) and the band as a whole have brought great material and performances to the table. Recommended.
 
“Galvanized in Blood” is available HERE

Band info: bandcamp

Wednesday, 4 January 2023

ALBUM REVIEW: Dvvell, "Quiescent"

By: Richard Maw
 
Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 03/06/2022
Label: Transylvanian Recordings



 
“Quiescent” CS//DD track listing:
 
1). Mother
2). Father
3). Son
4). Daughter
 
The Review:

Four tracks. Many minutes. Funeral doom/sludge with synths. Santa Cruz, California?! There must be something very bleak about living in Ca. The crime rate? The threat of earthquake? The relentless good weather?! Certainly, this music is as bleak as it gets. This is thick as tar and just as dark.
 
The four tracks here comprise of “Mother”, “Father”, “Son” and “Daughter”. It is far from a happy family, though. The soundscapes are nightmarish, slow and low. The vocals, when they appear, are shrieked and rasped- the sound of despair. Only one track is much below fifteen minutes, so with a running times north of eighteen minutes for the opener, you know you are in this for the long haul.
 
Of course, there are no hooks or ‘songs’ here per se. This is just a horrible journey through an underground tunnel with minimal to no light. It is as down-tuned as Conan, but that’s where the comparison would end. Dvvell are very much their own thing.
 
If you like your doom with sludge, synths and truly epic playing times, then this is undoubtedly for you. It’s hard to know what else to say here; it’s dark, troubling and relentlessly bleak. If that sounds like something you might enjoy- that word used very loosely, then you are already a fan of this band even if you haven’t heard them as this is very, very good.
 
“Quiescent” is available HERE 

Band info: bandcamp || instagram

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