Thursday, 17 May 2018

ALBUM REVIEW: Barst, "The Endeavour"

By: Victor Van Ommen

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 18/05/2018
Label: Consouling Sounds

‘The Endeavour” CD//DD//LP track listing:

1. The Endeavour

The Review:

Boy! Barst has done it again. On their 2016 outing, “Western Lands,” Barst yielded stunning results when they combined post metal aggression with claustrophobic psychedelia. This Friday, Barst is going to hit the scene with a new offering, “The Endeavour.” In doing so, this Belgian band is taking their sound to unexplored territories.

The Endeavour” is presented as one, 42 minute song. Whether “The Endeavour” actually is one, single song is up for debate. I’d go so far as to say the album is three of four movements, all tied together by way of smooth transitions. But presentation counts for a lot, and if Barst wants us to take this album in as one song, then that’s what we’ll do. Either way, the band implores the listener to give the music full and undivided attention.

As far as genre is concerned, “The Endeavour” is hard to pin down. There’s definitely a dark element to the music, and it’s heavy in its own way. Is it metal? Yeah. Industrial? Check. Psychedelic? No doubt. Heavy doom? Uh-huh. And those are just a few of the genres that Barst brings to the table.

Throughout, the guitars are laden with a variety of distortion effects. None of the guitars are ever overpowering, but they sure do set the mood. So there’s still a subtlety in the music that holds the band back from diving head first into mindless riffing. “The Endeavour” continues its foray into the unknown by introducing programmed percussion and other electronics, giving way to a rather palpable industrial influence. Sometimes an Ufomammut tint springs to mind and at other times the music gets psychedelic enough to wonder if it’s still Barst that we’re listening to.

Then there’s the emotional palette that Barst paints from. It’s probably even more varied than the musical palette. Barst spends these 42 minutes intently dipping their proverbial paintbrush in the darkest of blacks as well as the brightest of colors. The resulting painting is one that grabs attention of both its somber tone as well as its shades of hope and elation.

Despite the sprawling nature of the music on “The Endeavour,” the album is still a very concise listen. Barst’s plan of attack is based on a clear vision, so much so that every note and chord and melody played is as intentional as the last. Barst’s vision is so sound that they don’t get caught up in themselves, but instead are able to translate what was in their mind to a recorded format without coming across as self-indulgent.

“The Endeavour” is available digitally, on CD and LP here

Band info: facebook

ALBUM REVIEW: Skinless, ‘Savagery’

By: Daniel Jackson

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 11/05/2018
Label: Relapse Records

On “Savagery” Skinless are very clearly still Skinless, they’re just a better and more imaginative version of what they’ve always been  and in the process they’ve come up with an album that stands up to their legacy albums and then some.

‘Savagery’ CD//DD//LP track listing:

1. Savagery
2. Siege Engine
3. Skull Session
4. Reversal of Fortune
5. Exacting Revenge
6. Medieval
7. Line of Dissent
8. Cruel Blade of the Guillotine
9. The Hordes

Bonus Track:

10. High Rate Extinction (Crowbar Cover)

The Review:

You generally know what you’re getting into when a new Skinless album finds its way to the masses. It’s going to be brutal, ugly death metal, just as they’ve done for more than 20 years now. But it’s also true that even the most diehard death metal devotees are likely to feel a need to toy with their own formula eventually. To a reserved degree; that’s the case on Skinless’ new album ‘Savagery’. The changes the band have undergone with this album are not the sort of abrupt sharp turns in direction of bands like Katatonia or Ulver or even Carcass. Instead, Skinless have gone with a more subtle tact to freshening things up.

One such change, which is obvious from the get-go is that the band has opted for a much warmer, dirtier production this time around. In the past, Skinless has tended to go with a more “brutal death metal standard” production approach, where everything sounds sharp, crisp, to the point of feeling clinical. On ‘Savagery’, a lot of that sharpness is replaced by a grimier guitar tone, and by going with a much more natural, roomy sound over all. The production works exceedingly well at setting this album apart from the rest of the band’s discography without even looking at their compositional choices.

The songs themselves feel different than anything the band have done too. There’s less of a focus on speed. You’ll still find plenty of intricate, hacking riffs, if that’s your thing, but you’ll also find a greater variety to what you’re hearing than Skinless have ever offered. “Siege Engine” tries its hand at bigger, catchier riffs to great success, which should make the track a live staple. Balancing those larger riffs with some blast n’ trem keeps the song from feeling too self-awarely anthemic, but the song’s a self-contained riff machine in either case.

Meanwhile songs like “Exacting Revenge” and “Medieval” have something of a moodier disposition, where the riffs have an almost sludgy texture to them, the pace sometimes slowed to a near crawl. With that in mind, “Medieval” might be the best song on the album. It’s absolutely rotten with ugly harmonizing and apocalyptic chord work. It harkens back to some of the slower moments on Suffocation’s ‘Pierced From Within’, but tackles that sound in a very different way, and the slower breakdowns in the songs second half are absolutely crushing.

It’s not that Skinless have reinvented their own wheel on ‘Savagery’, so much as that they’ve just found new ways to work within their established sound. They’re very clearly still Skinless, they’re just a better and more imaginative version of what they’ve always been. It’s a hard thing, trying to compete with nostalgia and legacy, but Skinless has come up with an album that stands up to their legacy albums and then some. No mean feat for a band twenty years on from their full length debut.

“Savagery” is available digitally, on CD and LP here

Band info: Facebook || bandcamp

ALBUM REVIEW: Varathron, "Patriarchs of Evil"

By: Conor O’Dea

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 27/04/2018
Label: Agonia Records

This is an album that gets better on every listen - there are depths here to appreciate, and it is a joyous triumph of an opus. 

“Patriarchs of Evil” CD//DD//LP track listing:

1. Tenebrous
2. Into the Absurd
3. Luciferian Mystical Awakening
4. Saturnian Sect
5. Remnants of the Dark Testament
6. Hellwitch (Witches Gathering)
7. Orgasmic Nightmares of the Arch Desecrator
8. Ouroboros Dweller (The Dweller of Barathrum)

The Review:

There Charon stands, who rules the dreary coast –
A sordid god: down from his hairy chin
A length of beard descends, uncombed, unclean;
His eyes, like hollow furnaces on fire;
A girdle, foul with grease, binds his obscene attire 

In the pantheon of Greek metal gods, Stefan Necroabyssious must be one of the most obvious avatars of the infamous ferryman of the dead, son of Erebos and Nyx. He has, since founding Varathron in 1988, carried many souls across Hadean waters and into the depths of the Underworld itself. “His Majesty at the Swamp” (1993), a paean to the Acheronian mire, is unanimously (and rightfully) hailed as a classic of Hellenic black metal. From this point, Varathron continued a nearly unabated trajectory of epic black metal excellence, with “Stygian Forces of Scorn” being, perhaps, the zenith of the first part of that journey. “Untrodden Corridors of Hades”, an album which opens with an umbral and intense musical adaptation of Eliphas Levi's Kabalistic Invocation of Solomon, marked, for me, a subtle but important transition of their sound; it is actually darker and more ominous in many ways than earlier albums - murky, threatening, malevolent and agonistic. The other side of those untrodden corridors brings us to the triumphant, utterly majestic new album, “Patriarchs of Evil”

I am not sure how Varathron have managed to do it, but the Homeric, definingly Hellenic sound of the earlier albums has been successfully darkened by whatever mephitic wanderings were undertaken in “Untrodden Corridors..”. The tense, shadowy and unnerving sound which I see as transitional is brought back into seamless alignment with the epic tone and timbre of His Majesty, Walpurgisnacht and Stygian Forces. Opening track “Tenebrous” scores this passage unerringly - the introduction that feels like a celebration of apotheosis, a sublimation from apostle and acolyte of evil into the position of patriarch.

One of the most affecting and beguiling aspects of this album is how it feels like an
amazing rock album, in the most superlative sense. From the aggressiveness of “Into the Absurd” to the much more classic black metal sound of “Luciferian Mystical Awakening” and “Orgasmic Nightmare of the Arch Desecrator”, from the blazing “Saturnian Sect” to the haunting “Remnants of the Dark Testament” and the soaring “Hellwitch”, there is a cosmogonic sweep to “Patriarchs of Evil” which clearly demonstrates masters of their craft at the height of their powers. 

So place an obolos in the mouth of the dead. Take the journey again with this most proficient and dreaded of ferrymen. It will become rapidly clear why Varathron are indisputably Patriarchs of Evil. This is an album that gets better on every listen - there are depths here to appreciate, and it is a joyous triumph of an opus. 

But sail upon the wind of lamentation, my friends, and about your head row with your hands' rapid stroke in conveyance of the dead, that stroke which always causes the sacred slack-sailed, black-clothed ship of Kharon to pass over Akheron to the unseen land here Apollon does not walk, the sunless land that receives all men. 

“Patriarchs of Evil” is available here

Band info: facebook

Tuesday, 15 May 2018


By: Mark Ambrose

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 27/04/2018
Label: Pelagic Records


Whatever discomfort mounts when you listen to “Deads” there’s always a filthy, churning riff or shouted chorus to tug you back towards the joy of top notch music that will probably be blasting through your speakers for the next decade


“Deads” CD//DD//LP track listing

1. Despots
2. Parallels
3. Armada
4. Civilizations
5. Appeaser
6. Deplete
7. Structures
8. Deads
The Review:
It was over a decade ago that I first listened to Deadguy’s “Fixation on a Coworker” – one of the most apt distillations of workday despair I’d ever encountered.  Nihilistic, acidic, indignant at the situation everyone grinding their lives away in corporate America, the sole full-length was already a decade old.  Yet with the 2008 financial crisis on the horizon, my time at college done, and my life consumed by a middling, frustrating job, it felt like it could have been created mere weeks before for an audience of one.   Listening now is both a nostalgic, infuriating experience, because it seems just as prescient over two decades from its inauspicious debut.  If anything, the only marker of “Fixation on a Coworker” that makes it the odd product of the pre-impeachment Clinton 90s is the personal, rather than global, politics of its running obsessions.  Yet no band had as succinctly captured capitalism-gone-haywire nightmares as Deadguy… at least until LLNN’s “Deads”.

A cinematic, ambient introduction sets up an auditory sucker punch from track 1, “Despots”.  Vocalist/guitarist Christian Bonnensen snarls invective like a bedraggled street prophet: “Walk through life with a single purpose. Shirt collar tightens like a fucking noose.  True purpose lies in never punching out.”  For those who have checked work e-mail during a midnight piss, or a vacation, or major life crisis, the words feel equally sympathetic and accusatory.  The rhythm combo of Rasmus Furbo’s monolithic bass and Rasmus G. Serjensen’s drum work convey hardcore ferocity and metal technicality.  On tracks like “Parallels”, there’s a really interesting dynamic between Bonnensen’s guitar and Ketel G. Sejersen’s synth work – it’s hard to tell where one begins and the other ends.  It’s obvious when Sejersen goes off on an interlude (“Civilizations”) or incorporates sampling into “Armada,” but the heavily processed tones of Bonnensen’s guitar make it sound like a dual synth line, while the distortions on the synth push the instrument to its heavy extremes.

On perhaps my favorite track, “Appeaser”, LLNN wrests free of my Deadguy comparison by imbuing their personal politics with global dread.  The apocalyptic scream of “Skies fall and the fire cleanses in its wake / Run amok / The world is yours to take,” is chilling in ways both sublime and terrifying.  The slow ramping up of dread, the tightening of musical tension, makes “Appeaser” a truly devastating masterpiece.  And for all the cinematic, intellectual, or political subtlety on display, the closer “Deads” reiterates the simple power this four-piece can wield with a quiet/loud dynamic and pummeling guitar riffs.  Whatever discomfort mounts when I listen to “Deads” – capitalist existential dread, political despair, the fear that humanity is teasing out its final days destroying the planet – there’s always a filthy, churning riff or shouted chorus to tug me back towards the joy of top notch music that, like “Fixation on a Coworker”, will probably be blasting through my speakers in a decade… barring any catastrophes to match LLNN’s lyrical horrors.

“Deads” is available here

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

Sunday, 13 May 2018

ALBUM REVIEW: Amorphis, "Queen of Time"

By: Nathan Harrison

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 18/05/2018
Label: Nuclear Blast

it is a near perfect melding of death metal, folk, prog, hard rock, orchestral and choral music and a number of other elements which mean that no song stands still for long yet every fleeting, tiny moment of each one has impact

“Queen of Time” CD//DD//LP track listing:

1. The Bee (5:30)
2. Message In The Amber (6:44)
3. Daughter Of Hate (6:20)
4. The Golden Elk (6:22)
5. Wrong Direction (5:09)
6. Heart Of The Giant (6:32)
7. We Accursed (4:59)
8. Grain Of Sand (4:44)
9. Amongst Stars (4:50)
10. Pyres On The Coast (6:19)

The Review:

From their death metal beginnings 25 years ago, Amorphis have slowly progressed further and further towards a more melodic sound, which culminated in their quite frankly stunning 2015 release “Under the Red Cloud”. That album was centred around an entirely epic feel, catchy guitar riffs and choruses that couldn’t help but elicit huge singalongs on the tour that followed. With their latest album, “Queen of Time”, this approach has been altered slightly. All of the above is intact, but it has been added into a much richer, more complex mix with a heavier focus on synths and, for the first time in the band’s history, the use of a choir and orchestra. Needless to say, all of this combined leads to an engaging and varied record which reveals more and more secrets with every listen, as any good progressive release should.

Opening the album in style is ‘The Bee’, which immediately signals the band’s desire to do something a little different to “Under the Red Cloud” – whereas the latter opened with a haunting piano refrain, this newest effort begins with heavy synths which slam into an even heavier riff. Throughout the track the synths and guitars constantly intertwine as vocalist Tomi Joutsen veers sharply from powerful, deep death growls which could tear the head off a bear, to tender mournful clean lines which show off his rich, clear tone which, cutting across even the most thunderous moments throughout the album.

‘Message in the Amber’ deftly introduces sounds that wouldn’t be out of place on a Jethro Tull song, with a folky, thoroughly 70s English prog riff standing out wonderfully. ‘Daughter of Hate’ takes things in a darker but still mind-bending direction, with black metal screams and dissonant guitars somehow working exceptionally well in the same track as a saxophone solo and a spoken word section courtesy of the grizzled sounding Pekka Kainulainen, the band’s long time lyricist. His work here, as with most Amorphis releases, is based around the Finnish national epic poem, “The Kalavela”. For a non-Finnish listener, this does make some of the lyrics a tad obscure, but this does not distract from the sheer beauty and other-worldliness of the imagery which does not require context to be appreciated.

The next two tracks, ‘The Golden Elk’ and ‘Wrong Direction’ dial up the melody, the former pacey and catchy, the latter an emotional and accessible centre-piece to the album which hints at a more poppy approach that Amorphis could easily and convincingly take in future (the visually stunning video for this song is also certainly worth a watch). ‘Heart of the Giant’, with its distinctly oriental main riff, demonstrates how expertly the band have used the orchestra and choir on this record – they are used sparingly and subtly throughout so that songs like this where they are brought to the fore have a lot more impact. ‘We Accursed’ makes use of soaring strings as the backing to its thundering chorus and that unmistakable 70s prog sound makes a welcome return towards the middle of the track. ‘Grain of Sand’ offers more of the fantastically effective oriental sound, combined with a soaring chorus, where Joutsen’s powerful, melodic cleans duel with his equally impressive growls before leading into a pummelling outro where the solid riffing of Esa Holopainen locks in with the powerhouse drumming of Jan Rechberger to create a compulsory head banging moment.

A very special guest crops up on ‘Amongst Stars’ in the form of Anneke Van Giersbergen of The Gathering, The Gentle Storm and Devin Townsend Project. A more perfect contrast to Joutsen’s vocals could not have been chosen – the fact that her strange, ethereal tones have not graced an Amorphis record before now seems rather an oversight. ‘Pyres on the Coast’ is an impressive closer, a brooding atmosphere permeating the entire track despite its ever-changing heaviness and speed.

It is this last song that neatly sums up what Amorphis have done with this record and how it relates to their entire career to date – it is a near perfect melding of death metal, folk, prog, hard rock, orchestral and choral music and a number of other elements which mean that no song stands still for long yet every fleeting, tiny moment of each one has impact, is meaningful and shows just how talented a band Amorphis are to bring so many diverse sounds into a cohesive and highly enjoyable whole.

“Queen of Time” is available here

Band info: facebook

Friday, 11 May 2018

ALBUM REVIEW: Bong, "Thought and Existence"

By: John Reppion

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 02/05/2018
Label: Ritual Productions

This is IMAX for the ears - rolling sound-waves as far as the third-eye can see - never boring, never repetitive, an ever evolving  journey through a riffed rift in time and space

“"Thought and Existence" CD//DD//LP track listing:

1). The Golden Fields
2). "Tlön Uqbar Orbis Tertius"

The Review:

"Thought and Existence" is something like the forty-fourth release from Newcastle's Bong and is officially their eighth full length studio record, which isn't bad going for a band that's been around for thirteen years. Trippy, heavy, hypnotic, psychedelic, euphoric, spacey, massive, awe inspiring, mythic... all good words which could be, and have been, used to describe Bong’s previous output (most recently 2015's epic "We Are, We Were, and We Will Have Been"), and all of which work equally well for this latest offering. I will probably use most of them again below.

"Thought and Existence" is thirty-six and a half minutes long and consists of two tracks: 
"The Golden Fields" opens with spacey gong-bath ambience and one of vocalist/bassist Dave Terry's spoken, sermon-like, poetic intros. Mike Vest's guitar drones swell, and swell, and swell and then Mike Smith's massive drums kick in. This is IMAX for the ears - rolling sound-waves as far as the third-eye can see - never boring, never repetitive, an ever evolving  journey through a riffed rift in time and space.  Smith's drums on "Tlön Uqbar Orbis Tertius" let us know that this is more of an overtly psych chapter; a second, more mesmerised, movement. Changes are subtle and unhurried, yet deeply effecting. Looping layers of drone which gradually grow in size and potency until your brain and body are vibrating at exactly the same fizzy-boned frequency. 

Bong are a band who can make a cover of Pink Floyd's "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun" last half an hour and still be something that is an absolute pleasure to hear. 

"Thought and Existence" is a journey through sound, a genuine trip into and through the other-world the band conjures so expertly and effortlessly. Caution: Do Not Operate Heavy Machinery While Listening to Bong. Listening to "Thought and Existence" May Cause Out of Body Experience. Keep Out of Reach of Children.

“Thought and Existence” is available HERE

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

TRACK PREMIERE: 70'S inspired Norwegian rockers Friendship debut "Ain't No Shame"

Friendship is a groovy power trio from Oslo in Norway where the drummer has lead vocals. The band was formed in 2010 and consists today of Fredrik Skalstad on drums and vocals, Sander Eriksen Nordahl on guitar and Martin Morland on bass. The musicians in Friendship have all ample experience from numerous releases and tours with other projects. This results in a tight, groovy and dynamic music performance you want to experience.

Friendship’s music is based on rock, with influences from psychedelic and soul music from the late 60s, early 70s. Friendship is a live band, letting the energy of the moment inspire jams on stage. In these moments, the audience get a real feel on the level of craftsmanship in the band.

Friendship released its debut in 2011, a limited orange hand numbered 7" single and their first full length in 2014. Now they have recorded and mixed their upcoming full length album at Studio Paradiso with Christian Engfelt (Big Bang, Cato Salsa Experience). The album, "Ain't No Shame" will be released ON 25/5/2018 May 2018 on the German label Kozmik Artifactz.  Today we’re streaming their third single entitled "Ain't No Shame" taken from the album of the same name and you can check it out below. Preorders are available HERE

Band info: Facebook