Null Cell – Eternally Ill

Eternally Ill Cover Art

Null Cell – Eternally Ill
Machine Man Records
Release Date: 08/12/2020
Running Time: 33:02
Review by Dark Juan
9/10

Hello. This is Dark Juan and I exhort thee to listen to my Gospel. There is no God, there is only the Dread Lord Satan and you are all going to be consigned to an endless fiery hell unless you seek His redemption through service to the Dark Master via the means of preaching his twisted faith. Then, and only then will you get to attend the Lounge Bar in Hell where the One That Walks Backwards has kindly assembled the greatest band there has ever been – comprising Robert Johnson and Randy Rhoads on guitar, Keith Moon on drums, John Entwistle on bass and the incomparable Ronnie James Dio on vocals with backups from Amy Winehouse and Layne Staley. Now, I don’t know about you, but I’d fucking sell my testicles to see that line up playing…

None of which has, as usual, a damned thing to do with what I am actually doing, which is being wired on French blend coffee, and slowly suffocating to death under a wall of canine flesh, composed of Air Chief Marshal Sir Zeusington Zeus KCVG, VC, MM, DFC and bar, Croix De Guerre and the Dread Lord Igor Egbert Bryan Clown-Shoe Cleavage-Hoover, where they have decided that I am warmer than the frigid environs of West Yorkshire and I don’t actually need to breathe. Thereby, in their mad doggy heads I fulfil two requirements for their survival – warmth until I expire from the gentle releases of poison gas (mainly Igor) and then I will be a viable supplementary food source after my untimely death. Mrs Dark Juan is currently laughing at my lack of comfort and cheerfully inviting me to try and do her fucking job when she is under a pile of silly dogs. But she’s an artist and doesn’t need a comfortably situated computer to write nonsense on.

Again, I digress. It’s the caffeine. I can’t type fast enough to get the thoughts out of my head. You are actually reading this babble so you can be informed about the latest platter of splatter I am listening to, being Null Cell’s “Eternally Ill” album, released last December through Machine Man Records. Null Cell is a one-person project encompassing the sounds of metal, industrial and EBM (Electronic Body Music, if you don’t already know, fact fans) composed of the very annoyingly talented Isabella Chains of Omaha, Nebraska. Now, listening to this music, it makes me think that Omaha, Nebraska (never been there, I’m British and the furthest I ever got was Iceland. Wonderful place and lifelong friends made) is an arctically cold, industrialised wasteland in the arse end of America, filled with slaughterhouses and meat-packing plants and endless production lines, manned by grey skinned, emaciated drones carrying out endless robotic tasks until they drop and are replaced by equally grey faced and clearly defeated humans. Yep, industrial music speaks to me in a manner which a lot of music doesn’t, and as far as I am concerned, it is the musical accompaniment to the machine apocalypse which is going to kill us all…

The album opens with ‘The Rabbit Hole’ which is a distorted and percussive assault on your senses, somewhat akin to being attacked with an automatic and rapidly firing 40mm grenade launcher – mercifully short but goosebump inducing before there is a short pause and then the first track proper kicks in, ‘Texas Chainsaw’ which blends slamming industrial beats with super distorted, chopped up blues rock guitar and screaming, slowly building into an impenetrable wall of sound with heavy as fuck industrial keyboards until the fade. Think ZZ Top being anally violated by Terminators playing Suicide Commando albums. I shall leave you with that mental image. You’re welcome.

Null Cell have successfully gained my attention.

Now, I know I am writing for a primarily metal audience here, but I have to recommend Null Cell to your attention too. Electronic music can be just as heavy as metal and this is not so much an album as an atmosphere with musical additions. Null Cell’s sound on this release could best be described as Skinny Puppy’s pure electronic industrial output combined with Ministry around their “Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste” era output, where the guitars and the more metal elements began to creep through. Add this to “Pretty Hate Machine” and “The Downward Spiral” Nine Inch Nails beeps and squelches and you have a rough idea of what this record sounds like. It is rather more electronic industrial than metal, however, relying more on stabbing, shiny keyboards than slashing guitars and dementedly howling vocals. Isabella employs a harsh, almost spoken word style of vocal, which comes across almost like a particularly demented preacher exhorting his flock to follow the right path lest they all perish in storms of fire and brimstone. This level of controlled aggression makes for something rather scarier than some long-haired Herbert hitting notes that cause bats to crash into trees on a regular basis and is somewhat reminiscent of Nivek Ogre in delivery. In fact, the more I listen to Null Cell, the more I find myself comparing “Eternally Ill” to Skinny Puppy’s “Too Dark Park”, “VIVIsectVI” and “Rabies”. This, you will be utterly unsurprised to note, is a Very Good Thing. Especially if you like late 80s electronic industrial music. Track three, ‘Thrashing Creature’ is a particularly virulent song, mixing elements of the sounds of Belgian industrialist pioneers Front 242 and Cabaret Voltaire with the muscular guitar driven industrial metal of Die Krupps. It’s fair to say I haven’t heard a single person’s musical project this virulent since I first heard Unter Null’s “The Failure Epiphany”.

And here we have the usual quandary we face whenever Dark Juan goes screamingly off-piste with his choices from the ever-metal.com review list. I am reviewing this record for a heavy metal website and what I am listening to, although it is very extreme music, isn’t really heavy metal, and I am faced with the question of whether I should score it entirely on the merit of the music, which is fucking kick ass killer industrial EBM with plenty to interest the passing metaller if they can get past the fact it is predominantly electronic music, or whether I mark it down for not being metal. The thing is, this album shares the sheer power that metal has and the same sense of not belonging to the mainstream and being alternative. My views on alternative cultures sticking together are well known to you all.

A decision has been made by The Patented Dark Juan Blood Splat Rating System because frankly it got fucking bored of listening to the writer gibbering to himself and awards Null Cell a thoroughly flagellant 9/10 for an album of music suitable to flog your submissive to vigorously and at some length. An album for the more adventurous fan of extreme music.

TRACKLISTING:
01. The Rabbit Hole
02. Texas Chainsaw
03. Thrashing Creature
04. Wonderland
05. Dead Skin
06. The Ceremony
07. Hardware
08. Cruel
09. Missing Moments
10. Boiling Point

LINE-UP:

Isabella Chains – Fucking everything on this record including the production, mate. Multi-talented people get right on my tits because I can’t even do writing right! Bet Isabella is spectacularly good looking as well just to REALLY rub it in. No head like an amusingly shaped ice cube for Isabella, I bet…

LINKS:

Null Cell Promo Pic

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.

Labÿrinth – Welcome To The Absurd Circus

Welcome To The Absurd Circus Album Cover Art

Labÿrinth – Welcome To The Absurd Circus
Frontiers Music srl
Release Date: 22/01/2021
Running time: 60:17
Review by Chris Galea
8.5/10

Progressive Rock tends to be a strong part of the genetic identity of Italian bands in general and around the turn of the millennium Labÿrinth infused that approach with a Power Metal where the keyboards, guitars and the rhythm section are equally emphasised. Over the course of several albums the band tweaked with that formula to varying degrees but in their new album “Welcome To The Absurd Circus”, my impression is that Labÿrinth have gone stylistically close to “Return To Heaven Denied”, the band’s 1998 magnum opus.

There are several qualities that make “Welcome To The Absurd Circus” a Power Prog Metal gem. One of the first things to impress me, however, is the superlative quality of the sound, courtesy of Frontiers mainstay Simone Mularoni. But then, as the album hits its stride, other factors become apparent…

…the lead vocals, for example. After having fronted Labÿrinth for most of the band’s existence, Roberto Tiranti’s singing is still in solid form. Guitarists Olaf Thorsen and Andrea Cantarelli imbue the album with strong melodies, melancholic swoops and moments of sheer virtuosism. ‘Finally Free’ is a good place to find most of that.

Completing the line-up are keyboardist Oleg Smirnov (Death SS, Eldritch…now on his 3rd Labÿrinth album), Nik Mazzucconi on bass (who also plays with Joe Lynn Turner’s band Sunstorm) and newly recruited drummer Mat Peruzzi (who replaced John Macaluso just before Labyrinth started working on this album).

From songs such as ‘Live Today’ – driven by some furious double-bass drumming, to ‘A Reason to Survive’ – a power ballad which I really liked, “Welcome to the Absurd Circus” is a solid album. ‘Den of Snakes’ wouldn’t sound too inappropriate on an Iron Maiden album. ‘The Unexpected’ strikes me as a song that would fit snugly in live scenarios…once the ongoing pandemic loosens its grip on society.

Negative points? Well, I felt that the cover of Ultravox’ song ‘Dancing With Tears In My Eyes’, while not badly done, was pointless. And if I were pushed further, I’d say I wasn’t excessively enthusiastic about the songwriting of ‘Sleepwalker’ and ‘One More Last Chance’, although the latter contains some great guitar solos.

But perhaps I’m being finicky because in truth I really enjoyed listening to this album very much. In fact, while some Labyrinth albums needed time to grow on me, “Welcome To The Absurd Circus” is one that I fell for immediately…from the very first spin. In fact, I dare say that no self-respecting Power Metal fan should be without this album.

‘The Absurd Circus’ (Official Video):

TRACKLISTING:
01. The Absurd Circus
02. Live Today
03. One More Last Chance
04. As Long As It Lasts
05. Den Of Snakes
06. Word’s Minefield
07. The Unexpected
08. Dancing With Tears In My Eyes
09. Sleepwalker
10. A Reason To Survive
11. Finally Free

LINE-UP:
Roberto Tiranti – Vocals
Olaf Thorsen – Guitars
Andrea Cantarelli – Guitars
Oleg Smirnoff – Keyboards
Nik Mazzucconi – Bass
Mattia Peruzzi – Drums

LINKS:

Labÿrinth Promo Pic

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Chris Galea 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.

Winterage – The Inheritance Of Beauty

The Inheritance Of Beauty Album Cover Art

Winterage – The Inheritance Of Beauty
Scarlet Records
Release Date: 15/01/2021
Running Time: 61:00
Review by Simon Black
8/10

Symphonic Metal is a challenging and complex beast. The simplest definition of it is ‘Metal meets Classical’, but as always this is just the tip of the iceberg in the sea of definition – a troubling sea to sail at the best of times. Is a five- or six-piece band, creating a semi-classical sound on their own, the purist definition of the sub-genre (as say Nightwish are)? What if someone who is more firmly categorised as Metal or Hard Rock decides to play with an orchestra like Paradise Lost, Metallica, Kiss, Deep Purple and countless others have done over the years? Personally, I exclude the latter, as in these instances these are artists playing their regular material in a different arrangement as a one-off activity, usually for the purposes of a specific live gig or tour. The former at least is music written for this format, and so has happily been my guiding principle of definition over the years. The danger of course with defining anything is that sooner or later some cheeky swine comes along and breaks all the rules by throwing all the boundaries into one melting pot, as Winterage have done here.

The core of this Italian band is a five-piece bunch of musicians, although unusually a full-time violin player is part of this core team, along with all the other folk tropes. This particular recording however has also gone crazy ape bonkers with a twenty strong choir and twenty-six-piece orchestra as well – not to mention a Uillean Pipe player and all-round whistle blower (blame Nightwish, they started this one-upmanship when they hired Troy Donockley). Not bad going when you are only on your second album, although given that it’s taken them six years between albums something spectacular was definitely due. Spectacular feels like too small a word…

Like many Italian contributors to the genre, some of the well-trodden path of the likes of Rhapsody et al is visible, but I would argue this is more about the operatic tradition of the country than the influence of these other bands specifically. Either way, this is musically quite as epic, astounding and musically effective a record as you could hope to lay your hands on – which given where Nightwish have taken things with their most recent release is no small feat. Where this works so well is the way the folk instrumental sentiments are joined at the hip with the Classical (almost at the expense of the Metal instrumentation, which feels like a part of the orchestra, rather than one being an add-on to the other. This is also a case of folk instruments playing classical forms and some of the frenetic violin work on tracks like ‘Chain of Heaven’ is little short of outstanding. This of a violinist who can shred like John Pettruci and you will just begin to imagine what Gabriele Boschi has achieved here. He’s been a busy chap, as he also wrote all the orchestrations for the album to boot.

Vocally this is quite frankly dizzying. The challenge with having so many vocal contributors involved is it’s sometime hard to tell where vocalist Daniele Barbarossa ends and the rest of the choir begins, although with every vocal style from soprano to Metal Growl represented, the net effect is like the Metal Opera delivery of the original Avantasia album – only with bursts of operatic Italian. It’s going to be a bitch to play live too. Nothing sums up the achievement of this album more than the epic finale ‘The Amazing Toymaker’, which takes every musical extreme this album has thrown to date back at you in a whopping seventeen-minute epic of staggering proportions, which lyrically may be the maddest thing I have ever heard, and does sound like someone has also been listening to Avatar’s “Black Waltz” album recently as well…

The challenge this album has is that whilst musically and vocally dizzying, it sometimes lacks the immediacy of the more commercially orientated acts. Avantasia may not be for everyone, but Tobias Sammet knows how to leverage the fan base of his array of contributors and achieve the ‘everyman’ broad appeal, no matter how avant garde he gets, whereas as a relative newcomer and no likelihood of being able to bring the full musical ensemble on tour Winterage, have a much bigger uphill struggle on their hands. Everyman is an important word and to appeal to a wider audience you need a song to reach into more commercial territory and this album does not have one. Completely bonkers, but an incredible piece of work, nonetheless.

TRACKLISTING:
01. Ouverture
02. The Inheritance Of Beauty
03. The Wisdom Of Us
04. Of Heroes And Wonders
05. The Mutineers
06. Orpheus And Eurydice
07. Chain Of Heaven
08. La Morte di Venere
09. Oblivion Day
10. The Amazing Toymaker

LINE-UP:
Daniele Barbarossa – Vocals
Gabriele Boschi – Violin
Gianmarco Bambini – Guitars
Matteo Serlenga – Bass
Luca Ghiglione – Drums

LINKS:

Winterage Promo Pic

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.

The Hawkins – Live In The Woods EP

Live In The Woods Cover Art

The Hawkins – Live In The Woods EP
The Sign Records
Release Date: 29/01/2021
Running Time: 26:57
Review by Steven Hooke
8/10

The Hawkins are a Swedish four-piece rock band that have mastered an apparently difficult art of looking at past influences – most notably Queen – and learning from and adapting their style, instead of half-arsedly copy and pasting into a dreck, rip-off AOR band. Their sophomore album “Silence Is A Bomb” came out in September 2020 and was a super fun, hard rock album that took those core principles of early Queen such as crunchy, toe-tapping rock with sprinklings of glam and merged that with modern alt rock, garage rock and blues.

The album is littered with house party rock anthems thanks to a crisp guitar tone, and vocal hooks from frontman Johannes Carlsson, with songs like ‘Roomer’, ‘Cut Moon Bleeds’ and ‘Libertine’ being the stand-out performers. The band’s itchy feet and a willingness to do literally anything at the moment to replace live music (a feeling I feel is shared amongst all music fans across the globe) led them to a two-part, live recording experience, split between performances in the Swedish forests and inside Brasstacks Brewing, who brewed the band’s liquid refreshment: the Olsson Lager, in what might be the single most Swedish sentence I’ve ever written.

The seven-track live EP begins with the in-the-wilderness part which sounds remarkable given the environment, and is a collection of all of the best songs from the album. The opener ‘Hilow’ is a perfect road trip song, heart-warming in its delivery as it details the ups and down of a relationship; think The Hives covering Foo Fighters. It’s a steady start to the “show” that breaks into the swaggering ‘Stranger In The Next Room’ that sound studio-tight which might be the best testament of a band given modern audio trickery and tomfoolery.

They then change the game almost entirely, turning ‘Black Gold’ into a bluesy garage punk bop, having previously been an up-tempo folk-rock ditty on the album. It remains a foot-stomping, enjoyable track, providing you can get past the repeated line of “…I’m wishing for Cancer to come…” which hits about as hard as finding out what ‘Pumped Up Kicks’ by Foster the People is really about. The band then finish their woodland sessions with undeniable rager and one of their strongest tracks, ‘Libertine’.

We then join The Hawkins in their brewery sessions which somehow does feel more “live”, probably due to the acoustics of being surrounded by actual walls. ‘Roomer’ acts as the first proper song on “Silence Is A Bomb” and is sure enough a decent, energy-builder to really get the album going. In this live setting though, it becomes apparent that it is going to be such a great song for crowd interaction, not just from its easy-going feeling or Johannes’ unwaveringly good vocal hooks, bolstered even further by backing vocals of Martin, Mikael and Albin, but the post-solo break of rhythmic clapping that will sound like a barrage of firecrackers when put in front of people. It’s a similar story with ‘Cut Moon Bleeds’, in the studio, it sounds like such an important song for the band throughout their career, but in this pseudo-live scenario, it sounds like the song that will be a staple of theirs that people clamour for 10, 20, 30 years down the line.

We round off back at the forest sessions, where the band retreated to a nearby barn for ‘Fisherman Blues’. Just as expected, it absolutely slams in a live setting, with the accompanying female vocals adding extra gravitas as the song explodes following the most appropriate of lines: “…wait until the hook comes back up; ripping you apart…”. A herculean chorus with another fantastic vocal performance that will send shivers down your spine as you neck a Scandinavian IPA and fist-pump your hand through the ceiling.

The Hawkins are an effortlessly enjoyable band making the most out of a crummy situation. What this live EP has proven (along with a whole bunch of videos from the sessions if you’re really conspiracy theorist about them) is that not only are they just organically great-sounding musicians, with barely a difference between their studio and live sound, but they’ve shown the level of live chops they possess that will send crowds nuclear with excitement. They were already trying to tour the UK before COVID struck so as soon as BoJo pulls his finger out, shall we try for round two lads? Snälla?

TRACKLISTING:
01. Hilow (Live In The Woods)
02. Stranger In The Next Room (Live In The Woods)
03. Black Gold (Live In The Woods)
04. Libertine (Live In The Woods)
05. Roomer (Live At Brasstacks Brewing)
06. Cut Moon Bleeds (Live At Brasstacks Brewing)
07. Fisherman Blues (Live In A Barn)

LINE-UP:
Johannes Carlsson – Lead Vocals, Guitars
Mikael Thunborg – Guitars, Backing Vocals
Martin Larsson – Bass, Backing Vocals
Albin Grill – Drums, Backing Vocals

LINKS:

The Hawkins Live Promo Pic

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Steven Hooke 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.

Immortal Guardian – Psychosomatic

Psychosomatic Cover Art

Immortal Guardian – Psychosomatic
M-Theory Audio
Release Date: 12/02/2021
Running Time: 52:06
Review by Simon Black
8/10

The sophomore album from this Power / Prog quartet is a very interesting beast. So many acts have been impacted by lockdown, but writing and producing an album when your singer is in Brazil, your guitarist / keyboardist is in Las Vegas, your bassist in Texas and you are still running in a new drummer who is up in Canada is no mean feat. …And just to make sure we get the point, there is a single available now all about it, called surprisingly ‘Lockdown’! Let’s think about the process behind creating that for a moment. Prog in particular is all about the ability of the instrumentalist to riff off of each other, to take that improvisation, capture it and structure it in a repeatable way whilst still sounding fresh each and every time it is played. “Psychosomatic” does this with considerable finesse.

Perhaps the most considerable musical Prog feat in here are Gabriel Guardian’s twin roles on guitar and keyboards. I wasn’t not sure how this would work in reality live, as last time I checked in order to shred your audience a new asshole with a guitar on stage, you needed to use both hands. A quick check on Youtube proved that this is in fact exactly what he is doing and it is little short of incredible to watch. Given that the interplay between keyboards and guitar is about continuous use of harmonies  he mostly has to switch between the two, but most of these songs are pretty darn fast and that’s no mean feat to pull off onstage (particularly for the frenetic and quite sublime ‘Goodbye To Farewells’, where the kind of musical interplay you might expect from the likes of Dream Theater is on display). …And shred he does, and pretty damned well to boot, with tracks like ‘Phobia’ that would give the great Joe Satch a run for his money. I’m also going to call out Carlos Zema’s vocals, as the range this guy has on him is quite impressive. When clean, the notes are long, high and loud, there’s gutsy rough’n’ready, a bit of screaming and the odd death grunt in the mix, often scaling between these within the same song and somehow not sounding out of place.

What is refreshing about the Power Metal aspects of this album is that it does not fall into the bear trap of clichés that many European peers do of death by historical or mythically themed concept albums and a highly predictable song structure. Although there is a theme in here, as the band apparently completely scrapped the album they had already started writing in favour of this collection of songs about their experiences in the pandemic. That takes confidence and guts. However, each of the songs on here stands well on its own merits and whilst clearly having a house band sound, does this without sounding repetitive or formulaic. Each song has a clear and distinct song writing structure to it, new techniques, structures and effects creep in with each song but at the same time it’s clearly one album. I am tempted to adopt the moniker ‘Super Metal’ bestowed upon them by their fans just this once as they really are in a class of their own.

This may be their second professional release, but these guys were apparently quite prolific before being signed and the musicianship on here is absolutely top notch. Like most Prog artists they know how a good sound can be achieved technically, although apart from a few solo moments the keyboards do stand a bit further back in the mix, largely generating atmosphere rather than carrying the melody. It still is worth noting that as well as writing remotely, the band members all learned how to record remotely (no mean feat when they all have different digital workstations), producing a project that then gets sent to a Producer to mix down. It certainly does not sound like they were learning on this job. So, do yourself a favour and give this a spin, because it really is a magnificent achievement.

TRACKLISTING:
01. Psychosomatic
02. Read Between The Lines
03. Lockdown
04. Phobia
05. Clocks
06. Self-Isolation
07. Goodbye To Farewells
08. Candlelight
09. Find A Reason
10. New Day Rising

LINE-UP:
Gabriel Guardian – Guitars/Keyboards
Carlos Zema – Vocals
Justin Piedimonte – Drums
Joshua Lopez – Bass

LINKS:

Immortal Guardian Promo Pic

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.

Sacred Reich – Re-issues

Sacred Reich – Re-issues
Ignorance/Surf Nicaragua/The American Way

Sacred Reich – Re-issues
Ignorance/Surf Nicaragua/The American Way
Metal Blade Records
Release Date: 12/02/2021
Running Time: 42:33/26:03/56:00
Review by Simon Black
9/10
10/10
8/10

Sacred Reich are one of those influential second wave Thrash bands who for some reason never become as huge as their initial direction of travel indicated and were buried by the 1990’s. After a twenty-three year gap, 2019 saw the release of the aptly titled ‘The Awakening’ and pretty darn good to hear from them again after all this time it was too. Not to let a little thing like a total stoppage of all things live get in the way of their revival plans, Metal Blade have decided to re-release those seminal first three releases from the late 80’s for a wider audience so people can see what all the fuss was about. I don’t think I ever caught these guys live first time round, but I certainly still have vinyl from back in the day and the chance to hear these beauties cleaned up and remastered for this decade was not one I was going to turn down the opportunity to share my thoughts on with you lovely people.

“Ignorance” is where this all really started as their first full album back in 1987, and is probably just as politically relevant in this post-Trump world as it was when it was originally released. Just to hammer the point home, vocalist Phil Rind recently made it quite clear that supporters of the orange one are not welcome. I don’t think anything summarises this band better than the blistering anger of the title track, the absolute art of blistering shredding that is ‘Rest In Peace’ and the slab-like heaviness of album opener ‘Death Squad’, the first few bars of which probably best define 2nd Wave Thrash for me in those opening two minutes of ruthless technical efficiency. It was brilliant then, and it’s still brilliant and relevant now.

“Surf Nicaragua” from that tongue in cheek whistle of descending bomb madness introduction the title track of this EP, was actually the first song I ever heard from these guys way back when. With its thrash pastiche of the Surfaris ‘Wipe Out’ this is pure late 80’s Thrash irreverence with a loaded political back bite at its best. Anthrax gave us the Bermuda shorts, these guys gave us a song to wear them to. It was a guaranteed mosh pit raiser when I used to DJ and it sounds just as fun then as now and suddenly I feel 18 again. To be fair this EP was all about this song, rather than the covers and live fillers that follow, and it did a huge amount to raise their profile at the time, even if it did convince most people that these guys were from Florida or California instead of Phoenix, Arizona, but then that sort of misdirection is rather the whole point of what they are about politically. It’s worth buying for this track alone, and the remaster cleans it up beautifully whilst losing none of the freshness that made it work so well in 1988.

“The American Way” is politically far more forward and clear in its intent. It’s also a more mature and in many ways richer release than its two predecessors. At the time I was less impressed with its measured delivery, but thirty years later I can appreciate that it was ahead of its time in many ways – although it’s still nowhere near as infectiously catchy as “Ignorance” or balls out (hanging slightly out of the trouser leg of the Bermuda shorts) as “Surf Nicaragua”. The Information Age has come and gone since this was released, and the oft-ridiculed PMRC (the subject of the classic ‘Who’s To Blame’) may be political history now, but the underlying trend of conservatism that these liberal Thrashers loathe makes this just as relevant in the Disinformation Age.

This does not feel like a cash-in situation as more of a pertinent reminder that the more things change, the more they stay the same. These albums strike me as just as relevant and enjoyable as they were originally and it’s been an absolute treat to revisit them again. You know what to do…

TRACKLISTINGS:
Ignorance (1987)
01. Death Squad
02. Victim Of Demise
03. Layed To Rest
04. Ignorance
05. No Believers
06. Violent Solutions
07. Rest In Peace
08. Sacred Reich
09. Administrative Decisions
10. Ignorance (Metal Massacre VIII)

Surf Nicaragua (1988)
01. Surf Nicaragua
02. One Nation
03. War Pigs
04. Draining You Of Life
05. Ignorance (Live)
06. Death Squad (Live)

The American Way (1990)
01. Love…Hate
02. The American Way
03. The Way It Is
04. Crimes Against Humanity
05. State Of Emergency
06. Who’s To Blame
07. I Don’t Know
08. 31 Flavors

LINE-UP:
Phil Rind – Bass/Vocals
Wiley Arnett – Lead Guitar
Jason Rainey – Rhythm Guitar
Greg Hall – Drums

LINKS:

Sacred Reich Re-issues

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.

Kyros – Four Of Fear EP

Four Of Fear EP Cover Art

Kyros – Four Of Fear EP
White Star Records
Release Date: 27/11/2020
Running Time: 24:33
Review by Steven Hooke
8/10

Not content with releasing one of 2020’s most expansive and anticipated albums in June, London quartet Kyros surprise released this EP in November with only a two-month writing period, owing their newly-found free time to the plethora of COVID-19-related tour cancellations. Frontman Adam Warne went on to say that the band had achieved a streamlined online workflow that resulted in “Four Of Fear” as well as their new band project: ‘Celexa Streams: Isolation Gigs’, a series of lockdown gigs that saw socially distanced collaborations with members of Haken, Frost* and Ihlo.

With this intensely creative response to our new lockdown world, you would be forgiven for thinking any music made in this streamlined tunnel may sound rushed or a little scrambled, but “Four Of Fear” is nothing of the sort. An unimaginably visionary and warmly complex collection of music, the songs on this EP are all written in isolated creative vacuums, resulting in four tracks all sounding completely different, but owing to the songwriting expertise of the band, all sound like natural bedfellows next to each other.

Opener ‘Ace’s Middle’ begins with a War of the Worlds-esque imposing synth riff and tune, interspersed with smatterings of drum and synth duality. As the song progresses, and the synthline takes over the bass, guitars and even vocal melodies, the fluctuations and bastardisation of that tune create music of genre-ignorant structure that echo prog’s keyboard-heavy precursors of Yes, Genesis and Emerson, Lake & Palmer.

From the 60’s and 70s’, we then move into the 80’s for the back-combed synthpop joy of ‘Fear Of Fear’. Arguably the most “normal” song of the release, and the song the band most liken to the 2020 album “Celexa Dreams”, the track is a bass-heavy electro armada complete with short drum blasts and a synthline on the chorus that sounds like the doorbell at your nan’s house.

‘ResetRewind’ completes the stepping stones of seminal decade genres by skipping the 90’s and going straight for 2000’s dubstep, mixed with just the subtlest whiff of new wave. Building on an experiment they employed on their 2016 sophomore album “Vox Humana”, ‘ResetRewind’ doesn’t feel too far away from Alex Clare’s wub-wub days, but a brilliant collective effort from bassist Peter Episcopo and drummer Robin Johnson do not let the song whist too far away from their proggy realm.

Lastly ‘Stop Motion’, the song that actually kicked off the songwriting process of “Celexa Dreams”, is a much more tempered, focused affair. A dramatic, emotional drop reflects the heavy nature of the song lyrics, dealing with some painful themes about suicide and depression, yet it is this drop and subsequent section thereafter that circles back into a War of the Worlds-ian sci-fi climate as Warne’s keyboards and Joey Frevola’s guitars battle it out for song supremacy.

This is an absolutely fantastic release. From only four songs, so many styles and experiments are on display, never once faltering and never feeling like a caricature. A Devin Townsend-like approach to a wall of sound-style production, allows for so many layers of musical storytelling to come through, partnering Adam Warne’s genre-bending voice exquisitely. If this is Kyros’ version of going stir-crazy in lockdown then shut down the planet and hook it straight into my veins (not actually because I’ve forgotten what grass looks like and want to go outside but you get what I mean, it’s proper good like).

TRACKLISTING:
01. Ace’s Middle
02. Fear of Fear
03. ResetRewind
04. Stop Motion

LINE-UP:
Adam Warne – Lead Vocals, Keyboards
Joey Frevola – Guitar
Peter Episcopo – Bass
Robin Johnson – Drums

LINKS:

Kyros Promo Pic (Credit: Jake Owens Photography)
Jake Owens Photography

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Steven Hooke 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.

Amon Sethis – Part 0. The Queen With Golden Hair

Part 0. The Queen With Golden Hair Cover Art

Amon Sethis – Part 0. The Queen With Golden Hair
Self-Released
Release Date: 12/12/2020
Running Time: 78:00
Review by Simon Black
6/10

This is the third album from Grenoble-based Progressive Power Metal quintet Amon Sethis, who once again deliver a concept album with a story taken from somewhere between the Sixth and Seventh Dynasties of Ancient Egypt and covering the life of Egypt’s first female Pharaoh. It’s all a bit vague factually, because the historical record is exceedingly patchy in this politically unstable period to put it mildly and so there’s plenty of scope for artistic interpretation, which is a positive boon for any band. What I am less sure about is whether the world really needs three conceptual albums from the same band with such a narrow historical focus (and with presumably more to come). I have not heard any of the other albums in the series (for which this seems to be a prequel based on the numbering), but I am guessing the Egyptian maqamat tonal form and iqa’at rhythmic mode are a constant throughout their work (that’s the distinctive Egyptian / Middle Eastern sound so abused by Hollywood for those that care). Power Metal concept albums are no stranger to this form and trope (to the point of cliché), but to take that structure into multiple albums without sounding staid takes a lot of work and in this instance throughout a full-length album without sounding the slightest bit tired or clichéd – well that’s quite an achievement.

Musically this is top notch stuff, with an incredibly tight instrumental team displaying no shortage of skill and virtuosity, overlaid by vocalist Julien Tournaud’s clear and crisp vocal delivery (although he’s not afraid to mix it up with some full on growling to keep the delivery flexible). There’s also some great female vocal parts in the mix that add to that epic ensemble effect. In fact, “epic” is probably the key word here and not just from that full on, almost Symphonic feel this album has running through its core, like a stick of Egyptian rock and wonderfully emphasised through a really rich production and sound engineering delivery.

At seventy-eight minutes of run time, brevity is not a factor in the mix here and is the big challenge that I have with this record, which is that much of this material is so very similar in tone and sound. This makes it a bit samey and repetitive, a situation that could have been avoided by trimming the material down to a punchier fifty minutes or so which would have prevented that feeling of repetition and made for a much tighter and more emphatic delivery. I find myself very torn on this review from being impressed with the musicianship and overall sound and being frustrated at the rambling nature of the material. I can’t help feeling that this is a band that you need to enjoy live, where they have to focus on winning an audience over with the tunes rather than getting pulled into a long rambling story. Nevertheless, musically this was very enjoyable, but desperately in need of some judicious editing.

TRACKLISTING:
01. The Legacy From The Past
02. Nitocris The Queen With Golden Hair
03. My Sister, My Love, My Pharaoh
04. The Conspiracy
05. The Secret Letter
06. The Rise Of Aoutef’s Army
07. Lost In The West
08. Desert Storm
09. Osiris God Of The Dead
10. Mask Of Wrath
11. By The Torture
12. Eternal Love
13. The Blood Red Temple
14. From Dust To The Stars

LINE-UP:
Julien Tournoud – Lead And Backing Vocals
Olivier Billoint – Lead And Rhythm Guitars
Eliott Tordo – Keyboards
Thierry Ventura – Bass
Thierry Delvaux – Drums

LINKS:

Amon Sethis Promo Pic

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 said party. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Cult Burial – Cult Burial

Cult Burial Cover Art

Cult Burial – Cult Burial
Self-Released
Release Date: 06/11/2020
Running Time: 43:53
Review by Steven Hooke
8/10

I’ve been pondering an intro for the debut Cult Burial album for the last 30 minutes now, including multiple rewrites and restructurings, but I’ve settled on taking inspiration from the London three-piece and getting straight into it in the same vein as opener ‘Dethroner’, which explodes in, complete with a guttural war scream, pounding blast beats, and just a general feeling of apocalyptic disaster. For a complete experience, read that first paragraph again, only now imagine a West Country bumpkin screaming at you as you read. Similar vibes.

Cult Burial’s sound can best be described as an amalgam of death, doom and black metal, one of the few times an umbrella term like “extreme metal” can be used generously due to the nature of how the band effortlessly meander from one end of their sound to another. As mentioned, ‘Dethroner’ is an impactful opener that delves into the world of blackened death metal as Simon Langford’s leering tremolo picking sets as the backdrop to César Moreira’s grotesque vocal delivery. For the chorus-y parts, the multi-layered growls give those sections so much more weight and impact in what is shaping up early to be an absolute corker of an album.

As you progress through the album, there is rarely a time where it lets up. Again, the effortless transitions from slow, riff-heavy doom metal into raging old school death metal into shrilling black metal is astounding. It is in the death/doom moments when Simon can show off his chops as a guitarist, etching in Pantera-esque riffs during walking stomps to add texture to songs like ‘Moribund’, ‘Chaos’ and ‘Forever’, or discordant high-range licks in the likes of ‘Abyss’ and ‘Kill’ to add to the enjoyable uncomfortability as well as a bit of NWOBHM flair.

In this venn diagram that the band have cultivated for themselves, where common genre overlaps of death/doom and blackened death are already spoken for, even a blackened doom hybrid can be found, as the dirged stomps are often met by the classic high-pitched tremolo of black metal, add to that the lingering, high-end delays and bends that act as air raid sirens to the warzone riffs below.

Cult Burial’s debut self-titled album is a thunderous opening gambit for the trio, a scintillatingly evil display of crushing extreme metal that makes such great use of classic tropes and bending them to fit a modern songwriting structure. Never settling to just have one identity, being dark and depraved whilst still sounding sharp and crisp, it’s an insanely hot start for the lads.

TRACKLISTING:
01.Dethroner
02. Moribund
03. Chaos
04. Abyss
05. Plague
06. Kill
07. End
08. Forever
09. Sorrow

LINE-UP:
César Moreira – Lead Vocals
Simon Langford – Guitars, Drums
Rick – Bass

LINKS:

Cult Burial Promo Pic

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

Dayglo Mourning – Dead Star

Dead Star Album Art

Dayglo Mourning – Dead Star
Black Doomba Records
Release Date: 12/02/2021
Running Time: 35:07
Review by Alun Jones
9/10

It was late afternoon when I woke. Sunlight was pouring through the blinds like cheap bourbon into a cracked glass, and my mouth was as healthy as a well-worn shoe. Still aching, I reached for a half-finished bottle of warm beer to contemplate the previous nights events. How had I ended up in this mess again?

The culprit was there before me: all innocent now, but I knew the power that lurked inside. A new album by a band called Dayglo Mourning was to blame. I had spent the night lost in a haze of booze and infernal doom metal, my reverie spiralling out of control by the minute.

“Dead Star”, this work was called. An ode to sludgy riffs, apocalyptic drums and earth-shaking riffs in the traditional, old school style. Right up my strasse, then.

Dayglo Mourning are three barbarian bruisers from Atlanta, Georgia: Joe Mills (guitar and vocals), Jerimy McNeil (bass, vocals) and Ray Miner (drums). Together they have created a huge, monolithic prayer to the riff, with a hint of space rock and some fine bluesy flourishes for good measure.

Songs such as the title track and ‘Faithful Demise’ also offer up a warm groove, whilst ‘The Offering’ has more of a blues feel. ‘Bloodghast’ and ‘Witches Ladder’ feature a more direct, pummelling attack, and ‘Ashwhore’ features some spooky, satanic choir work to up the occult ante before ushering in another hefty riff.

Thundering vocals; a great, thick guitar tone and powerful rhythm section teamwork are enhanced with a fine production that’s crisp and clear, yet doesn’t sacrifice the traditional feel.

It’s hard to find fault with “Dead Star”. Maybe the only thing is that it’s a little too short? But then, doom is perfect for vinyl, and 35 minutes is all anyone should need.

The album even features a fantastically lurid cover, featuring some foxy space princesses in what looks like a 1970’s Marvel comic. It was this image that had woken me from my stupor; the bright supernatural glow piercing my eyelids as they cracked open. Cheers, Dayglo Mourning – fancy another pint?

Witch’s Ladder (Official Video)

TRACKLISTING:
01. Dead Star
02. The Offering
03. Bloodghast
04. Faithful Demise
05. Ashwhore
06. Witch’s Ladder

LINKS:

Dayglo Mourning Promo Pic

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 said party. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.