Misty Grey – Chapter II

Misty Grey Chapter II cover art

Misty Grey – Chapter II
Interstellar Smoke Records
Release Date: 20 November 2020
Running Time: 37:51
Review by Alun Jones
9/10

Can you think of a more apt genre than doom metal for the times we live in? It’s crazy out there. From a global pandemic, civil unrest, ecological destruction and lunatics on the most powerful seats in the world, the 21st century becomes more and more apocalyptic day by day. Party music doesn’t seem right. On the other hand, the retro stylings of bands like Misty Grey hark back to cosier times of the seventies and eighties when we just had nuclear destruction – and yet more lunatics in power – to contend with.

Misty Grey is not the name of a US mattress actress (don’t bother Googling it, just in case), they are in fact a four-piece doom metal band from Spain. They deal in extremely authentic, good old fashioned heavy rock in the Black Sabbath/Pentagram/Saint Vitus vein. We’re in thundering, enormo riff territory, and by ‘eck it’s good stuff.

Originally receiving a CD release back in 2018, “Chapter II” is now available on vinyl from Interstellar Smoke Records. And a very welcome re-release it is, as “Chapter II” could well have been lost in an Atlantean cataclysm of some type, which would be shameful.

Deceptively pretty Spanish guitar opens the album with a laid-back space-jazz feel, before ‘Spellbound’ erupts with Juan’s raw, grinding guitar. The chugging riff is illustrative of what to expect from this album; it’s Iommi worship all the way (and bless Misty Grey for it).

If that first track is the first Sabbath album, ‘Strangers On A Train’ is a missing Masters of Reality cut. It rolls and grooves along, powered by Robin’s bass and Javi’s drums. On the other hand, ‘Rebecca’ is more like The Obsessed or Saint Vitus, there’s a rough, organic, yet aggressive feel to it.

The musicianship is great, the production has atmosphere and pays homage in a credible, affectionate manner to the band’s influences – without becoming a parody. The vocals of Beatriz Castillo really help define an individual sound for Misty Grey, she is both tender and terrifying in equal, devastating measure.

I apologise to the band for my crass comparisons to the old masters. But hey, I don’t listen to this type of music for radical innovation. The last thing anyone wants to hear is some kind of nu-doom, with samplers and turntables. Keep it slow, keep it weird, keep it trippy – but most of all, keep it riffy. Heavy, repetitive and riffy. Misty Grey do just that on “Chapter II” and it’s all kinds of awesome.

TRACKLISTING:
01. Spellbound
02. Strangers on a Train
03. Psycho Vox
04. Rebecca
05. Frenzy
06. The Wrong Man
07. Among the Dead

LINE-UP:
Juan – Guitar
Javi – Drums
Robin – Bass
Beatriz Castillo – Vocals

LINKS:

Check out our EMQ’s interview with Misty Grey

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Alun Jones and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Intruder – Re-issues


Intruder – Re-issues
A Higher Form of Killing/Escape From Pain EP/Psycho Sava
Lusitanian Records
Release Date: 27/11/2020
Running Time: 46:42/29:24/54:17
Review by Simon Black
7/10
5/10
8/10

So, back in the day when Thrash had emerged from the underground and the Big Four were now filling arenas, there was a second wave of bands that never got anything like the same kind of exposure shortly before the scene collapsed under the waves of change. Hailing from Nashville, Tennessee (“It’s a Music City Jim, but not as we know it”) Intruder were very much of this second wave, with a debut Speed Metal album that no-one heard, shortly followed by these three releases once they were signed to Metal Blade, that were released over a three-year period. Although they toured extensively in the continental USA, Canada and Mexico they were completely unknown over here in Europe until bands like Morbid Angel started namedropping them in interviews. But by then in 1992 though, they had been dropped from Metal Blade, although tensions within the band at the time meant they may well have folded anyway. Either way, apart from a couple of brief reformations in the intervening decades, that was your lot.

Cut to 2019, and the band have apparently reformed and were a thing again, although clearly Covid got in the way, but more tragically guitarist Greg Messick also passed away in September of last year. So, with nothing new on the horizon, those Metal Blade releases have found a new home and the opportunity for the rest of the world to see what all the fuss was about.

“A Higher Form Of Killing” was their first full Thrash influenced piece, although there’s enough of a carry-over of the Speed Metal sound (particularly in the largely cleaner vocal approach) that I can see this band attracting both Thrashers and the more traditionally inclined audience back in the day. Think of a much more rough and ready sounding Randy Rampage-era Annihilator, with a snort of Nuclear Assault for good measure and baked in an oven with Flotsam & Jetsam for forty-eight minutes. Musically though this album is definitely without the classically trained virtuosity of a Jeff Waters, but that said there is no shortage of technical skill in the band (although some of that classical sound comes on later releases), with some blisteringly fast time changes and clever switches in style mid-song. Overall, I am taken back to my youth by the energy, naivety and two raised fingers in the general direction of L.A. that this whole movement was about. The only negative here is that the mix does not seem to have been given much of a remaster, and the quality of the production is definitely of the day.

The “Escape From Pain” EPat the time wasn’t giving the fans much that was new. A Chicago cover to open with, one new track that gives the release its title and three old favourites from their (at the time) scarce first album – the band were the first to admit that at the time it was done so they could have an excuse to tour. What it does benefit from is a much better recording sound that still retains the energy, but actually gives you a chance to hear what vocalist Jimmy Hamilton was capable of (he’s almost lost in the mix on ‘Higher Form’). The ‘25 or 6 to 4’cover probably seemed like a good idea at the time, but seems something of an oddity thirty years later. The title track however is positively epic, and with a running time of nearly nine minutes is something of a novelty for a genre that prided itself on Speed of delivery. It’s complex, clever and technically brilliant, but sound wise suffers from the absence of budget or engineering expertise in the studio, and there’s more of this approach to come on the next release. The remaining tracks are pure speed metal, and give an insight into their pre-Thrash Speed Metal direction, but frankly the song writing of the later material shows much more maturity, but again, it seems that little could be done to remaster for the age we live in.

By the time we get to “Psycho Savant”we are clearly listening to a band that took a long time to find their own sound, which is possibly not surprising in a state dominated by its contribution to Country music. Although it lacks the naïve charm of “A Higher Form Of Killing”, it’s got the richest sound of the three and distils all the skills they’ve developed along the way into an album that holds the attention despite the average run time of its songs being in the seven-minute bracket. The musicianship is many orders of magnitude improved and despite the flood of complex time changes, this baby just flows. It also balances the two forces of Speed and Thrash Metal, not to mention a healthy portion of emerging Power Metal and it would really have been interesting to see where this would have taken them in the years to come had they continued through the wilderness years that Grunge and Nu-Metal wrought on the scene. There’s also a lyrical maturity in here that feels ahead of its time, most noticeably on ‘Geri’s Lament’, which tackled the disturbing subject of the appalling treatment of older folks in care homes, with righteous anger at those that pocketed the money of those for whom they were supposed to be caring for.

Either way, this is a fascinating insight into an act that deserved far more attention than they got at the time and who hopefully are not gone for good.

TRACKLISTINGS:
A Higher Form Of Killing (1989)
01. Time Of Trouble
02. The Martyr
03. Genetic Genocide
04. Second Chance
05. (I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone
06. Killing Winds
07. The Sentence Is Death
08. Agents Of The Dark (M.I.B.)
09. Antipathy
10. Mr. Death

Escape From Pain EP (1990)
01. 25 or 6 to 4 (Chicago Cover)
02. Escape From Pain
03. Cold-Blooded Killer
04. Kiss Of Death
05. T.M. (You Paid The Price)

Psycho Savant (1991)
01. Face Of Hate
02. Geri’s Lament (When)
03. The Enemy Within
04. It’s A Good Life
05. Invisible
06. Traitor To The Living
07. Final Word
08. N.G.R.I.

LINE-UP:
Jimmy Hamilton – Vocals
Arthur Vinett – Guitar
Greg Messick – Guitar
Todd Nelson – Bass
John Pieroni – Drums

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Simon Black and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Ward XVI – Unplugged And Sedated EP

Ward XVI – Unplugged And Sedated EP
Self-Released
Release Date: 24/11/2020
Running Time: 23:45
Review by Simon Black
9/10

So, the thing is, this record wasn’t supposed to happen. Many acts have had to take all that 2020 had to give without the benefit of lubrication (which many may not survive), but it’s a double kicker when you are a self-produced act on the verge of something special and desperately need to get out on the road to spread the word. Judging by the fact that in the intervening time since last year’s quite sublime “Metamorphosis” album, Ward XVI have managed to get that album on a whole bunch of Top 10 articles as the year burned out (including my own), not to mention cropping up on a couple of top track listings too. This all seems to tell me that I am worrying needlessly – and quite right to, as I firmly believe that this bunch have the potential to go the distance. They’ve come a long way since their Bloodstock New Blood performance and have used that platform for exactly what it is intended to be – a springboard to better things. They’ve taken the ball, run with and it and are in the process of kicking it out of the park, whatever the world throws at them.

The band’s Facebook page had been debuting snippets of this on the run up to Christmas, and this EP finally landed before the year ended. At twenty-three minutes run time, it is short and sweet – consisting of five acoustic versions of previously released songs (four from “Metamorphosis” and one from 2017’s “The Art Of Manipulation”). It’s a release born of necessity, with lone acoustic guitar work from Dr Von Stottenstein and the most hauntingly beautiful vocal performance from Psychoberrie. What it also does is expose brilliantly the deeply rich and powerful song-writing that sits at the heart of this band, and it takes a moment for me to acknowledge that yes, this is the same Shock-Rock Metal band that I’ve been raving about for the last few months. The only negatives I can throw in the direction of this release (and I really am scraping the bottom of the barrel in even bothering) is that it is so short, as you really are left wanting more.

It’s 2021 and we’re all inmates now…

TRACKLISTING:
01. The Cradle Song
02. Burn The Witch
03. Daisy Chains
04. Shadows
05. Ward XVI

LINE-UP:
Psychoberrie – Vocals and Lyrics
Dr Von Stottenstein – Guitar

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Simon Black and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Pandemmy – Subversive Need

Pandemmy – Subversive Need
Self-Released
Release Date: 06/03/2020
Running Time: 35:37
Review by Victor Augusto
9.5/10

Being part of what people call the Heavy Metal scene may seem like just being a member of a band or a reviewer in any magazine, as if they are all independent and not connected. No, we are all working in synchronism to make a huge machine (music) reach around the globe. The best part of this machine is the many incredible bands I have met so far. Not only that, but also all the friends that I made after one review. Here it was the same. My friend Raphael Olmos from Kamala introduced me to Pedro Valença (guitars) and I discovered one more good and professional band. Once again, the good music has connected people from different places and I was lucky to receive this incredible work to review, so let us start our journey about the Brazilian Death/Thrash Metal band Pandemmy.

The band has a good maturity after several releases over the last decade. On a first audition, you will be sure of good Death Metal played brutally, but after listening carefully; you will realize that their music contains more than just one genre. It is a perfect match of Death Metal and Thrash Metal. Maybe in its essence, Death Metal comes first, but the versatility and all the tempo changes throughout are amazing. Overall, we have a dark atmosphere, sometimes even a small Black or Doom influence, which is a good soundtrack of the albums subject. The lyrics are about human beings lack of morality that we all have to face in our daily lives. Pandemmy decided to be a bit more specific and stick the finger in the scars that are old problems in Brazil and other new issues that we are suffering in this country.

Straight away, the first song shows it. ‘Deforestation’ is perfect Death Metal with a strong and doomy cadence, showing the power of the guitar work on riffs with a dramatic atmosphere and the sound of a burning forest. It is inspired by an old problem of the Amazônia forest devastation in Brazil. We have been facing this problem for decades, but just this year it was brought to worldwide attention. ‘Webchaos’ is about the war of information that occurs on the internet, mainly when a nation suffers with distorted information by the news, sometimes just to create panic or to hide a more critical problem. ‘Neo Hate’ and ‘Xenophobia’ go the same way. Each track has an important message about and against all the chaos we live in.

Musically, there is a strong work on intense atmosphere. Pandemmy bring a sad vibe with the reality they mention, but they also bring a kind of hope with certain melodies. Melodies that come after all the destruction are uplifting and make you feel strong to stand up and fight. Brazilians will probably feel and understand better what the band exposes with small details, such as the short Maracatu percussion section (local music typical of the northeast, where the band live) at the end of ‘Xenophobia’. Why? Because people from the northeast suffer with a kind of Xenophobia inside Brazil. Moreover, this short percussion sounds like the last breath of hope for a people who have been struggling with poverty for so long, and who now despair after being forgotten by politics.

I love how Pandemmy mix many genres in their music. There is the amazing guitar work of Guilherme Silva and Pedro Valença. Good riffs and the solos are very catchy, not so exacerbated in speed or aggressiveness, but can hear a good balance of melody and heaviness. Marcelo Santa Fé has the hard job to follow them and his bass is not hidden. The drums of Vitor Alves are the soul of everything. What a killer and unrelenting work. He uses cadences that come from dancing percussion through to furious blast beats. In addition, the Thrash Metal beats are all incredible. You won’t get tired of this album mainly because of the creativity of different tempos used.

This album is not a conceptual album like a history divided into chapters, but it could easily be considered one. It sounds like a paradox to what I have just said, but if you stop to analyze the world we are living in today, you can see that it is pure chaos, but with hidden traps to slaughter you slowly. New and different traps that we’ve been facing for a long time. Considering the way that Pandemmy expose everything could be seen as chapters of this book of hate.

“Subversive Need” has many important chapters, with a killer soundtrack behind, to bring consciousness to all people who live in society. It is rich musically and lyrically and you don’t need to put the chapters in a correct or particular order. If you hear any song, no matter the sequence, you will feel what Pandemmy is showing you through their music. Is it a complex album? Absolutely! However, it is also very easy to digest and to enjoy. Amazing work!

TRACKLISTING:
01. Deforestation
02. Neohate
03. Free Mumia (A Panther In The Cage)
04. Webchaos
05. Xenophobia
06. I Choose My Blood
07. Terror Paranoia
08. The Illusion of Suffering
09. Charlottesville

LINE-UP:
Guilherme Silva – Vocals/Guitars
Pedro Valença – Guitars
Marcelo Santa Fé – Bass
Vitor Alves – Drums

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Victor Augusto and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

AnthenorA – Mirrors And Screens

AnthenorA – Mirrors And Screens
Punishment18 Records
Release Date: 27/11/20
Running Time: 57:27
Review by Simon Black
6/10

We’ve not heard much from this Italian five piece for a while, with a decade passing since 2010’s “The Ghosts Of Iwo Jima”. For a band that originally started life as an Iron Maiden tribute act it will come as no surprise to those of you that have not yet come across them that this is straight up NWOBHM influenced Metal (but with a modern twist in places). And quite right too – discovering the greats after all is the reason how old hacks like me got into this game in the first place.

That said, this is also a refreshing and crisp sounding album, with some nice down and dirty bass and rhythm guitar sounds playing alongside some much more crisp and technically proficient drum and lead guitar work. The opening ‘Intro’ starts with some almost progressive acoustic guitar work before opening up in the full-on Metal tradition, but again there are more than 80’s Trad metal influences in here and I find motes of the more early 90’s deep heavy sound in that rhythm section’s mix that for some reason almost made me think of flannel shirts.

’30th’is a great example of this – again the down and dirty rhythm work is thrown in with technically Modern metal sounding drums, and classic 80’s melodic licks in a bizarre 20th Century Metal pot pourri. It shouldn’t work, but it does and this song is a great example of the melting pot going on here. Vocally Gigi Bonansea’s voice pitches it just right, with a sonorous, low and rich rock’n’roll timbre and more Di’Anno era Maiden in tone. ‘Bully Lover’ takes a more balladic tone, starting with a single acoustic guitar and vocals, before gently adding the instruments and power back. It shows Bonansea’s range, and I find myself wishing they had a few more moments like this as it dives into a melodic solo that would have had 20,000 zippo lighters going back in the day when carrying one didn’t get you ejected from an arena. This flows into ‘Low Hero’, which is a bullish straight-ahead rocker, with some nifty time changes and progressive licks, although I can’t help feeling that it’s very reminiscent of early 90’s Maiden.

Variety is the watch word with this album, however the challenge is that this comes alongside the absence of consistency and I’m left unsure of what direction these guys were actually heading in, as the influences come to bear a bit too blatantly from time to time. The other challenge I have with this record, is that after a very promising start it runs out of steam half way through and I can’t help feeling that this would have made a much more successful forty minutes or so rather than the full hour. That said, the album finale ‘War & Peace’ is worth holding out for, as it’s one of the tightest tracks on the record in terms of song writing and playing the full hand of the stylistic tricks and changes that work when this album is firing on all cylinders.

To be honest this feels like a competent warm up after a long break, rather than the end destination and a band that need to focus a little more on what their unique selling point for this decade is, and tighten the material to fit the belt. However, definitely a band to watch and I get the feeling that their experience would deliver the goods in a live environment.

TRACKLISTING:
01. Intro
02. Tiresias
03. Alive
04. 30th
05. Digital Feelings
06. Funny Fricky Killer
07. Bully Lover
08. Low Hero
09. No Easy Way Out
10. Like
11. Peter Pan
12. No…So What!?!
13. War & Peace

LINE-UP:
Luigi “Gigi” Bonansea – Vocals
Stefano “Pooma” Pomero – Guitars
Samuele “Peyo” Peirano – Bass
Gabriele “Gabri” Bruni – Guitars
Fabio “Smaro” Smareglia – Drums

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Simon Black and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Argorok – Usurpator

Argorok – Usurpator
Self-Released
Release date: 20/11/2020
Running Time: 48:02
Review by Dark Juan
8/10

Hello, minions. I no longer know what day it is. The days just merge into one long constant grind interrupted only by the joyous inky blackness of sleep. I’m completely sober (there is an unopened bottle of whiskey sitting in the kitchen, which is fucking unheard of at my gaff) and I am just seated upon my couch, staring into the ineffable darkness and contemplating a life well wasted. Not because I have been disporting myself in a genial and self-destructive fashion as is my wont of a Yuletide, but more because I’m fucking shattered from work. Two consecutive 96-hour work weeks, followed by an upcoming third and the running around that normally happens around the False God’s illegitimate son’s birthday have wiped me out, hence the reason why I have not been quite so productive and cheerful as I usually am, for which I can only profusely apologise, not least to our esteemed Editor, Metal Monarch and all-round good egg Richard “You Had Better Write Something Soon Or I’ll Tear Your Nipples Off” Tilley…(The bloody cheek – Rick)

Note: Mrs Dark Juan just asked who I was writing about and looked confused when I said Argorok. She said Aga-Rock? Do they sing about large country homes and equally large stoves? I will take care of her later…

In other news, 2020 has been a bit of a motherfucker hasn’t it? Can’t wait to see the back of the twat, to be honest, but it has been a vintage year for underground metal. I’ve not been this excited about the music for a long time and it just seems to be getting better and better. May 2021 see the back of this unprecedented pandemic (it will happen sooner if you all JUST FOLLOW THE FUCKING RULES FOR A BIT) and we can actually go out and have gigs again.

So, having dragged the ancient and recalcitrant magic electronic box of tricks from the dank cupboard of its semi-retirement, I am listening to the stylings of a new German beat combo named Argorok. The estimable Rick added this to my review list because he thought I might enjoy it, as I am somewhat of a fan of Neue Deutsche Härte and the German language, being as Argorok’s style can best be described as the result of a filthy, perverse drunken liaison between death metal and Neue Deutsche Härte, having been egged on to do so by folk metal and industrial. Then power metal stopped for a quick look before shuffling off home, disgusted but also desperate for a frenzied wank. So it is an eclectic mix of styles – obviously there is a large element of Neue Deutsche Härte, with the mid paced marching tempo – immediately I am reminded of Eisbrecher, Rammstein and Megaherz with the industrial perfection of the riffing and with the frequently staccato keyboards stabbing through the heavily produced guitar sound, but they differ from those three NDH luminaries by veering off piste into the black runs of power and folk metal – the middle eight of ‘Königin der Asche’ being a notable and very groovy demonstration of this. The keyboards are of note because they frequently add a second line of melody and gorgeousness beneath crushing heaviness – more often than not there are lovely little piano melodies hiding in darkened corners and the keys also act as a second rhythm instrument in concert with the guitar – a fine example of this is on ‘Kalter Stein’. ‘Katharsis’ is also interesting as it contains a short sitar passage. Yes, a fucking sitar!

The vocal is also interesting to your erstwhile correspondent, as it is a full-blooded death metal roar in the classic style, but utilising the German language. Now, those of you that frequently follow the bollocks I write, and appear to keep getting away with against all the odds, will note that I am something of a fan of the German language, regarding the guttural nature of it as a perfect fit to the industrial base of Neue Deutsche Härte. I am pleased to report that it sounds absolutely fucking uncompromisingly murderous when you hear a death metal vocal sung in German – vocalist Boa has a set of lungs and a throat seemingly constructed from angle iron, gorse bush thorns and sulphuric acid which only enhances the experience for he is a fine vocalist, capable of singing cleanly with a gravelly deliver y or full-on bowel shaking churn. Bassist and programmer Bill also has a very appealing death scream which underpins the main vocal nicely…

So, we are being unremittingly positive here, aren’t we? We can’t possibly have that for too long and there are some faults that need rectifying – The sequenced drumming sounds far too artificial and soulless on the metal passages, although it is a bonus for interesting patterns on the more outlandish parts of the record, for example ‘Meister Der Lügen’ which appears to take the form of a nursery rhyme before going to some very dark places indeed. And there are times when the guitar overwhelms everything else. There are also other times when the Neue Deutsche Härte overpowers the more interesting parts of the music. That’s a shame because Argorok have a LOT of potential to be even better than they are already. Don’t get me wrong – I love this band because I love industrial, NDH and interesting influences and German vocals but they could be even BETTER if they dialled back the metal and went to more experimental places. The Machinist and Fractal Generator have a lot to answer for regarding this as they have totally blown away all opposition as far as experimenting with the death metal sound goes – Argorok aren’t quite at that level yet, but the potential is there, because “Usurpator” is entertaining as fuck and if you love Rammstein, OOMPH!, Megaherz et al, you’ll be pretty pleased with Argorok.

To quickly summarise, I like this band a lot, but it’s a pretty raw product. With some work it could be truly ground-breaking.

Meine Herren von Argorok, ich liebe Ihre Band und Ihre Musik.

The Patented Dark Juan Blood Splat Rating System (Das Patentierte Dark Juan Blutspritzer-Bewertungssystem – I’m not apologising, I fucking love doing that in different languages) awards Argorok 8/10 for a flawed but still most worthy album, and one that will be in fairly constant rotation in the Mighty Gothikpanzer (which has split an intercooler pipe somewhere. The bastard.)

Tracklist (With helpful and probably hilariously inaccurate translations):
01. Aus Der Tiefe (From The Depths)
02. Protector (Do I really have to translate this for an English audience?)
03. Odyssee (Fairly self-explanatory as well.)
04. Refugium (This ain’t even German so I’m not playing)
05. Königin der Asche (Queen Of Ashes)
06. Kalter Stein (Cold Stone)
07. Hinter Der Maske (Behind The Mask)
08. Katharsis (Erm, yeah. You can work that out for yourselves too)
09. Meister Der Lügen (Master Of Lies)
10. Tag Des Zorns (Day Of Anger)

LINE-UP:
Boa – Vocals
Andy – Guitar
Bill – Bass, programming, backing vocals

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of ‘Dark Juan’ and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

TDW – The Days The Clock Stopped

TDW – The Days The Clock Stopped
Layered Reality Productions
Release Date: Digital: 4/12/2020 – Physical: 15/01/2021
Running Time: 81:07
Review by Beth Jones
10/10

Professional music performance has always been, on the face of it, a glamorous and grand work of theatre, stage-managed to conceal the chinks in the armour, the cracks in the greasepaint, and the flaws and fears in the body and soul of the performer. And we accept that. We take what we see under the stage lights as reality, forgetting that, behind that performance, is a person. Flesh and blood like the rest of us. As susceptible and scared as we are. Few, though, have the courage to admit that, especially if that flaw is a hidden condition, which may not be obvious to others, on first glance. This is a subject that a lot of us at Ever Metal hold close to our hearts.

Why am I telling you this? Why have I gone into some deep and meaningful spiel so early on in a review? Because this review is about an artist who has laid bare his own biography of illness, in the shape of an album, and a glorious album it is too.

Tom de Wit, better known as TDW, is a multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter, producer, film maker, and all-round interesting chap, from Amersfoort in The Netherlands. His music as TDW, and with the band Dreamwalkers Inc, is essentially really great progressive metal. This new TDW concept album, “The Days The Clock Stopped”, explores the mental and physical battle he had with himself, and medical science, in his late teens, upon being diagnosed with a physical condition that nearly took his life. In a change from his normal path, rather than exploring deeply emotive stories through characters, he drew on his own experience to create this work, which makes it personal, and thus, very, very real.

The album starts with ‘Crashscape’, an instrumental piece which begins as a soundscape of whispered thoughts, a heartbeat, and melancholic piano and single violin. It quickly descends into a pacey and tortured overture, driven by percussion and discordant strings. Is this the point of diagnosis, and the tumultuous emotions that that brings? I think probably so, given the next track ‘Clockstop – Insight X’ explores the first moments after diagnosis, and the fears that brings. The opening line ‘…and all the things I knew are now long gone…’ tells a story in itself.

There’s an interesting pulse that runs through this album. Be it a heartbeat sound effect, a drum rhythm, or an underlying sound effect of medical machinery, it displays many things. Foremost, and most obviously, life. But also, monotony, fear, anger, frustration. And I feel this is explored in track 3 ‘Code Of Conduct’. We hear a distant spoken word uttering ‘…now, can you in your own words describe why you’re here?’ Those of you who have seen many medical professionals will be collectively eye rolling at these words, and the utter frustration of telling another professional your story, and preparing to be looked at with those condescending eyes, and spoken to like your physical condition has somehow removed our power of logical and intelligent thinking.

These frustrations, fears, and physical and mental pain continue to play out through the album, but in such a beautiful and powerful way that it is absolutely impossible not to be drawn in by it, and walk every step of it.

Track 4, ‘Clockstop – Insight 2’, holds another brilliant lyric which speaks so much truth – ‘I can’t remember when this began’. And ‘I can’t remember the life that I had’. A few simple words summing up a feeling perfectly. Another superb track.

Track 5, ‘Sleepless Angels’, begins with a solitary piano, soon joined by synth rhythms, again with hints to medical mechanics. It’s in a major key, too, which is a change to most of the album so far. It’s quite tranquil, possibly a lucid dream, with some lovely vocal harmonies, but always with the revisited pulse. It builds in the middle into an epic and surprisingly uplifting melodic aria, with an incredible guitar solo. It comes back down at the end to a solitary piano, and a heart monitor sound effect, which leads us into ‘The Pulse’, a piece that is starkly contrasted to the dreamlike reality of the previous track. Staccato and a minor key control this piece, and the terror is reaffirmed. Tortured vocals, heavy guitar, and thumping percussion soon take over to raise the fear levels, but if you listen carefully, you can still hear the metronomic sounds of the operating theatre monitors.

It’s so hard not to give you a blow by blow of this entire album. But I’ll reign myself in here, for the sake of your sanity, and mine! The album pretty much continues in this brilliant vein throughout. Musically, Tom has a superb voice – tender but crystal clear, with a rich and powerful tone. The guitar work, along with the bass, and vocal harmonies, are intricate and rhythmic, and the percussion is impressive throughout, commanding many cross rhythms, and speed, with ease. For me, the sound of TDW here is Dream Theater at their best, crossed with Devin Townsend, and then some extra twiddles. I don’t have a favourite track. It’s impossible to separate them.

This album, for me, has everything. For a start off, it’s supreme orchestral prog – already a winner. But it’s dark, deep, and meaningful, and musically it is superbly arranged, produced, and played by extremely talented musicians. It’s less of an album of individual tracks, more movements of a complete work, so listening to it in its entirety is a must, as it tells such a story. I absolutely love it, and I have not got a bad word to say about it. I just wish I’d heard it before I wrote my top ten releases of the year review, because it would have been right up there (maybe I can cheat and put it in 2021’s review of the year, as the physical copy isn’t out until January…damn, did I say that out loud?!). Stunning album. And, if you buy the physical copy, you’ll also get a DVD documentary about the making of the album and Tom’s back story that inspired it. I’ll shut up now. Buy it…

TRACKLISTING:

01. Crashscape (instrumental)
02. Clockstop – Insight X
03. Code Of Conduct
04. Clockstop – Insight 2
05. Sleepless Angels
06. The Pulse
07. Clockstop – Insight 3
08. Death And Her Brother Greg
09. No Can Do
10. Clockstop – Insight 4
11. Epilogue – A String Of Repeats
12. All We Could Do (CD Only Bonus Track)

LINE-UP:
Tom de Wit – Lead Vocals, Rhythm & Lead Guitars, Synths, Orchestrations
Rich Gray – Bass Guitar, Backing Vocals (Aeon Zen, Annihilator)
Fabio Alessandrini – Drums (Annihilator)
Remco Woutersen – Cello solo parts

Solo’s per song:

#4 – Marco Sfogli (Solo artist, James LaBrie, PFM & Icefish)
#5 – Daniel Magdič (Prehistoric Animals, Ex-Pain of Salvation)
#6 – Koen Romeijn (Detonation, Heidevolk)
#8 – Chris Zoupa (Teramaze)
#9 – Andi Kravljaca (Bioplan)
#9 – Matthew op ‘t Einde (IDEK.)
#9 – Luca Di Genarro (Soul Secret)
#10 – Norbert Veenbrink (Dreamwalkers Inc)
#11 – Lennert Kemper (Dreamwalkers Inc)

Choir members:

Laura ten Hoedt, Cailyn Erlandsson, Nicole de Ruiter, Iris van ’t Veer, Rikke Linssen, Stan Eimers, Ron Brouwer, Rich Hinks. Abraham Sarache

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Beth Jones and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.



Arrayan Path – The Marble Gates To Apeiron

Arrayan Path – The Marble Gates To Apeiron
Pitch Black Records
Release Date: 27/11/2020
Running Time: 48:07
Review by Simon Black
7/10

Now being of part-Cypriot extraction myself, I was quite surprised to hear that there were any metal bands at all in Cyprus, let alone Power Metal ones, so I have approached this with a certain amount of interest. I’ve often felt that a lot of the mainland Hellenic Metal acts I have come across recently still held a sort of 80’s naïve charm, with a recording sound that often didn’t quite ‘get’ what Metal is about – in part I suspect for the same reason their NWOBHM predecessors did – studios and engineers who simply had no experience with it. Given that they have seven releases under their belt already this is not a problem for Arrayan Path, who absolutely get that the Power Genre works best with a willingness to embrace every technical and recording trick in the book in the quest for a rich, full and epic sound, which this record masterfully achieves.

Another mercy is the decision to avoid the dreaded concept album format beloved of so many of their peers, which to be honest really has run its course. Instead, we have a slightly darker and more Melodic Metal tinged piece, which although thematically conceptual, does not involve trying to wrap your head around a complex story in order to fathom the point of it. Equally enjoyable are the unexpected technical twists and sleights of hand that the album throws out – from some downright Progressive pauses, time changes and chord twists, to the epic interplay that would not sound out of place on a Symphonic Metal album. Then there’s those moments when Nicholas Leptos lets rip from his normally gentle and soothing vocal tones to an outright shredding scream that could take the wallpaper off the ceiling (assuming the roof was still in place to hold it after the pounding it has just had at the hands of the rhythm section).

This album is also something of a slow burner. On first listen it didn’t really grab me, but after a couple of spins the technical interplay and subtlety becomes clearer, and I’m left with a feeling that this is a band with a lot more to offer. I may be late to the Arrayan party, but I’m glad I got there in time for the strong stuff.

TRACKLISTING:
01. The Marble Gates To Apeiron
02. Metamorphosis
03. Virus
04. The Mourning Ghost
05. To Live Another Day
06. The Mask Of Sanity
07. The Cardinal Order
08. A Silent Masquerade
09. Black Sails (The Nemean Ode)

LINE-UP:
Nicholas Leptos – Vocals
Socrates Leptos – Guitars
Christoforos Gavriel – Guitars
Miguel Trapezaris – Bass

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Simon Black and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Silent Skies – Satellites

Silent Skies – Satellites
AFM Records
Release Date: 11/12/2020
Running Time: 55:42
Review by Beth Jones
9/10

2020…What a weird old year. And as it draws to a close you can’t help but look back with melancholy reflection upon the events of the last 12 months. Well, I can’t anyway. And “Satellites”, the new album from Silent Skies, provides a very fitting soundtrack to accompany my thoughts.

Silent Skies is a collaboration between Tom Englund, the dynamic front man of Swedish progressive band, Evergrey, and Vikram Shankar, a classically trained pianist, who grew up drawing heavy influence from Evergrey. Their journey together started when Tom saw Vikram’s piano interpretation of Evergrey’s ‘Distance’, on YouTube, and was intrigued by the musicality he displayed. They met up, and the rest, as they say, is history.

The album is centred around Tom Englund’s powerful, but tender vocals, alongside Vikram’s stunningly cinematic piano compositions, although it does have other instrumentation in some tracks. For me, there is nothing more tranquil than stripped back vocals and piano. Maybe I’m biased, being a vocalist and pianist, but the tones of piano and voice hold a deep innocence that just can’t be replicated any other way. It’s the type of sound that makes you hold your breath for fear of disturbing the players.

The album opens with ‘Horizons’. Starting with a piano introduction, the lamenting tune is joined by Tom Englund’s vocals, singing a simple melody, designed to compliment the piano line, rather than overpower it. I think this may be double layered, to give it a more 3-dimensional sound. The pair continue as the track builds, and gentle strings, and an African sounding drumbeat, are introduced in the background.

Track 2, ‘Endless’ begins much more vocal driven, with the piano sitting as an accompaniment. This changes however, to a cinematic instrumental section in the middle, complete with harmonized ‘aaaaah’s, and then develops an 80’s soft rock ballad feel, before returning to the lamenting piano we hear at the beginning of the album.

These two tracks pretty much set the tone for the album. It’s beautifully understated throughout, but also stark, as the instrumentation leaves nowhere for the players to hide. This makes it a very honest and open work, which pleases me a lot. There’s no need for fancy new-fangled ideas. Just some serious musicality from both Englund and Shankar.

Along with nine original compositions, we also get treated to a hugely different arrangement of the Eurythmics’ 80s classic, ‘Here Comes The Rain Again’. The original is truly an iconic song, but this arrangement takes it to a whole new world.

Following that is, my favourite track on the album, ‘Walls’. It Shows off both Tom’s vocal skills, and Vikram’s delicate piano, beautifully, and it grows and swells throughout, with the addition of a lamenting Cello, and violin, and some seriously thunderous bowed double bass notes, that really reach into your soul. It comes full circle to finish, with all other sounds ebbing away, to leave just solitary piano notes and Tom’s vocals.

If you’re a fan of classical cinematic music, Tom Englund’s voice, or indeed just need an accompaniment to melancholic reflections, then I can thoroughly recommend this album.

TRACKLISTING:
01. Horizons (Extended Version)
02. Endless
03. Dreams
04. Us
05. Solitude
06. Oceans
07. Here Comes The Rain Again
08. Walls
09. Distance
10. 1999

LINE-UP:
Tom Englund – Vocals
Vikram Shankar – Piano

LINKS:


Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Beth Jones and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

The Last Reign – Evolution

The Last Reign – Evolution
Self-Released
Release Date: 18/09/2020
Running Time: 54:25
Review by Victor Augusto
8.5/10

Here it is! 2021! And finally, we can leave the last insane year behind. As always, I use this time to stop for a while and think about everything that’s happened throughout the year, not only in my personal life, but also in all my work on reviews and interviews. Probably you will hear me saying that I need to improve in many areas, because I will never feel like I am doing it properly! Even though I’ve revised a few plans, there are still some simple things that I wish to stay the same. One of them is the desire to be surprised with something exciting in an album, that I find on the first listen, when writing a review. However, when I first got this album, I didn’t find it ‘different’ to start with, and I have to confess that it took some weeks until I finally got that ‘surprise’, and I will explain why. So, here we go!

First, when I talk about not be impressed straight away, it is nothing related to the quality of the band. That is unquestionable. And I loved their music right from the first song. Focusing on the album as a whole, “Evolution” has the sound of the best kind of Swedish Melodic Death Metal, which appeared during the nineties. I could hear a mix of the dark atmosphere from bands like Dark Tranquility, for example. When it comes to the arrangements, this album reminded me a bit of Entombed, and another Swedish influence that I could feel was At The Gates and The Crown, in regard to the aggressiveness and punch, over all the sonority. With these incredible bands that I’ve mentioned, you’ll probably already have an idea how great this album is.

The instrumental intro on ‘Genesis’ is very dense with the sound growing until it explodes into the song ‘Evolution Of A Dying Race’ that is pretty brutal. Actually, the entire album is extremely aggressive, mainly because of the work of the drummer, Vince Mayer. This guy is a relentless machine! He plays fast the entire album. When the rest of the band seems to slow down, he increases his parts. An example of this is in ‘The Hourglass’, where he keeps destroying his drum kit while the rest of the band slows!

The guitar sound in this album is another highlight. Brian Platter does an amazing job with the wall of heaviness, and he fits in interesting melodies, and short solos, to give a new perspective to the music.

Adam Svensson does a good job on vocals with his interpretation, although there are not so many variations in his voice, but it does fit pretty well in the band’s idea of sonority. The only negative point (maybe not so positive) is the bass of Joe Maggio being a little hidden among the dense heaviness of the band. Considering he plays very well, and the band has just one guitar, I wish it could be loud, and have more independent parts, like I heard in a few parts of ‘Ironclad Torment’. It could offer a good dynamic, different from the guitar lines, and maybe the atmosphere that the band creates asks for this kind of sound. However, that is just a matter of taste and it is still an amazing work by Mr. Maggio.

Now let’s get to what really surprised me. The Last Reign is an American band. Yes, this simple detail shocked me. Most American Death Metal bands I’ve heard are extremely brutal. I guess the fact I am a huge fan of the great scene that came from Tampa in the early nineties made me relate Death with those bands, but I could feel this kind of brutality pretty sublimely in The Last Reign’s music. They really brought all the elements from the mentioned melodic Death Metal, but there are a few aggressive lines diluted over it, and that is what I think is cool, the mix of two very different worlds in the same album. Sometimes they even add a versatility from Thrash Metal, as you can hear on the drums during ‘Terminal Threshold’, and I think versatility is the best word to define Vince’s work in this album.

Another detail that pleased me is how all the songs are very well worked. There is not a single weak song. There is no song composed just to complete the album. All tracks are amazing, and you will have fun until the last song ‘Architects of Genocide’ which is an absolute killer! By the way, if you start listening to this album from the last track, going back to the first song, you will have fun in the same way. All these details, together with amazing production, is what makes “Evolution” an incredible album, and I hope it surprises you as much as it surprised me.

TRACKLISTING:
01. Genesis
02. Evolution Of A Dying Race
03. Annihilation Of The Ancients
04. Ironclad Torment
05. The Hourglass
06. Fallen Dark
07. No Horizon
08. Terminal Threshold
09. The Storm
10. Devoid
11. Luminosity
12. Architects Of Genocide

LINE-UP:
Adam Svensson – Vocals
Brian Platter – Guitars
Joe Maggio – Bass
Vince Mayer – Drums

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Victor Augusto and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.