Hippie Death Cult – Circle Of Days

Circle Of Days Album Cover Art

Hippie Death Cult – Circle Of Days
Heavy Psych Sounds
Release Date: 21/05/2021
Running Time: 37:15
Review by Dark Juan
10/10

Hello, dear children of the night, who, like me, are probably vastly overheated and cranky, as summer stubbornly persists over northern England, and doesn’t appear to be going away after a couple of days like it normally does, to be replaced by the iron grey skies and stair rods of driving rain that we are used to, and at the moment would frankly welcome. I have a tan! I haven’t had a fucking tan since 1996 and now my beautiful alabaster skin has a definite brown tinge to it and my goff credentials are utterly ruined forever. No more can I mock goths in hot weather, knowing that secretly I am one (for the record I am currently seated in the lounge at Dark Juan Terrace, clad in black Vans, black denim cut off shorts and black St. Pauli totenkopf t-shirt) of the pale revenants of the night. Instead, I have a “healthy glow” and I want no part of it!

I am instead consoling myself with gallons of iced cider and the latest offering to the altar of Ever-Metal.com from the excellently named Hippie Death Cult of Portland, Oregon. That is in the United States of America, if your geography is as poor as some of the young gentlemen in my charge at my other job. One of them pointed at India the other day and was absolutely convinced it was France and wouldn’t be told otherwise until I showed him the Channel fucking Tunnel and that it came out at Calais and not fucking Chennai.

In other news, briefly, Field Marshal and our Great Leader Rick “Don’t Try Sucking Up To Me, It Won’t Get You Anywhere, You Shocking Tart” Tilley fielded some enquiries about just what it is Mrs. Dark Juan creates while I write this nonsense. I sent him a picture of her latest creation and now he is traumatized (completely and utterly – Rick). However, Anabelle from Cradle Of Filth seems quite taken by it so as far as I’m concerned, it’s all gravy. Mrs. Dark Juan is now currently making fingers(!) while listening to some form of baroque ghost story. Her psyche is absolutely shot to fuck with a constant diet of horror films, M.R. James stories and the darkest imagination for creations I have ever known…

Oh yeah, music review…

Hippie Death Cult – Oregonian, as I believe I have already said. I’m sorry. I’m a bit hungover after the wicked strength lager I drank last night. HDC are really a quite interesting band who have taken the sounds and expansiveness of progressive music and melded them to a combination of the grittiness of classic rock sensibilities and the fuzz overdrive of doom and stoner. The result is rather extraordinary, being fuzzy and slow enough to please the doomsters, yet offering some absolutely incredible riffing and pounding heavy metal to entertain the mainstream crowd, and also having a lovely touch of exploratory madness to lift the music from the mundane or the repetitive. In short, It’s fair to say it’s fucking brilliant and I am a massive fan after this, their sophomore effort.

The sound is extremely cohesive, the mix solid and the production clear and legible, even if the snare drum is lacking some punch. The bass is clearly and cleanly heard and the guitar snarls and roars with a real classic rock sound. As an experiment, I bought some proper old 70’s cans from my mate Tony and played this record back-to-back through them, to compare them to the headphones I normally use. Hippie Death Cult sound absolutely fucking huge through the older phones and merely competent (production wise, this is) through the newer ones. Therefore, I am junking the newer ones immediately.

The opening song on the record is called ‘Red Meat Tricks’ and sets a tone that just begs you to listen more, melding classic rock vibes with progressive elements and some glorious coruscating riffs and solos including a scale in the middle eight that just made me wet my pants with sex wee excitement. Guitar and bass are both used as lead instruments and this offers even more interest on a song that beguiles as well as slays. The second song is entitled ‘Hornet Party’ and the chord medley at the start of the tune immediately just says ‘Seasons In The Abyss’ and Slayer to me, before blasting into the ionosphere with some speedily concussive metal, being sinuously wrapped around by that chord medley. The song as a whole reminds this metal loving idiot of a mix of Slayer and ‘Hooker With A Penis’ era Tool, and let’s be honest that’s a fucking great thing – Tool and Slayer are two of the greatest exponents of their art there are.

Track three, ‘Walk Within’, is where we diverge from the more metal elements of the music and has piano and clean, fingerpicked guitar and a dreamy, ethereal vocal line with a much more proggy sound – it kind of reminds me of a less folky Blood Ceremony throughout the song, until it ends with a huge, dissonant crash and into the fourth cut of the album – ‘Circle Of Days’’ which opens with a  superfuzzy doom riff before morphing gently into a supremely technical and complex prog metal song, but with rather more earthiness and soul than most prog and technical metal – there’s gorgeous harmonies, intertwining vocal lines, guitar that alternately wounds and bewitches, yet it maintains a relaxed and smooth groove than you can lean into and special mention must be made of vocalist Ben Jackson. The boy has a fucking amazing set of pipes on him. Equally happy performing a wail worthy of the Ozzmeister himself, to a gravelly low pitched (but still clean) sound, to a more than passable Dave Wyndorf analogue, Ben proves his versatility on every single song and is a fine, fine rock singer. The last tune on the record is called ‘Eye In The Sky’ and is by far the most psychedelic offering on here, with soft wah on the chiming, shining guitars, until four minutes in when the song takes a massive left turn and delivers a metal riff of such shining splendor (imagine Jerry Cantrell at his heaviest in Alice In Chains and make it more metal) I can’t help but fall to my knees and give thanks to the gods of meal for giving me this to listen to. And the solo. Oh, my FUCKING GOD THE SOLO!!!!!!

Yeah, it’s fair to say I am a bit of a fan and Hippie Death Cult (and others like them) are EXACTLY the reason why I trawl the underground for music – under here is where the ultraclassic live. This is where you find the most egregious talents and the greatest music. With rare exceptions, I find the underground bands more astonishing than the mainstream ones. There is NOTHING like Hippie Death Cult in the mainstream and that is to the mainstream’s detriment, because this is sheer inventiveness and music made for the sake of performance. Hippie Death Cult are truer to the soul and idea of metal than Metallica and their ilk will ever be. This record is heavy as fuck, rich, organic, chock full of feeling and absolutely fucking amazing.

The Patented Dark Juan Blood Splat Rating System has listened to this record three times back-to-back already and shows no sign of slowing down because it’s just so fantastic. 10 out of fucking 10 without a question. Buy this. Now. Don’t argue. Just buy it.

Red Meat Tricks’ (Official Video)

TRACKLISTING:
01. Red Meat Tricks
02. Hornet Party
03. Walk Within
04. Circle of Days
05. Eye In The Sky

LINE-UP:
Ryan Moore – Drums
Eddie Brnabic – Guitar
Ben Jackson – Vocals/Keys
Laura Phillips – Bass/Vocals

LINKS:

Hippie Death Cult 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.

Midgar – Unity

Unity Album Cover Art

Midgar – Unity
Year Of The Rat Records
Release Date: 18/06/2021
Running Time: 50:52
Review by Beth Jones
10/10

This year has been 7 months of hell so far here at EMHQ. It’s almost as if it saw 2020, and uttered the eternal phrase “Bitch, hold my drink”! But, as always, the one constant for me is music, and the biggest observation of the music on offer this year is just how bloody outstanding it is. Picking my top ten albums of the year is going to be ridiculously difficult – I already have 14 on my list!

Today’s subject has added another name to that list. Midgar are a London based band, whose sound is a grand mix of Progressive Metal, Symphonic Rock/Metal, and Cinematic Rock, driven by piano and strings, with sweeping melodies and vocals. At the helm is main man Andy Wilson-Taylor, and this new album, “Unity” has been his lockdown project, which he wrote, recorded, produced, mixed and mastered at his own studio. And what a project and album he has turned out! Please excuse me while I wax lyrical about it

There are so many facets to the sound of Midgar. At the forefront, as mentioned, are dramatic piano melodies and sweeping strings. But dig deeper and you’ll find elements of Modern Metal and Djent, along with symphonic hooks, progressive rhythms, and use of the double harmonic ‘Arabian’ scale, to add to the drama. There are influences from all corners of music as well. Vocally, and emotively, this album reminds me a lot of Muse, but there are a couple of points where it takes on a more ‘pop’ feel, and conversely, some points which are straight out of Symphonic Black metal and Nu-Metal territory. By day, Andy composes for TV and Film, and that ‘classical soundtrack’ element is the driving force behind the sound.

Now, as many of you know, I’m a sucker for a ballad, and there are some absolute joys on this album, whether it be full tracks, or interludes, with one standing head and shoulders above the rest. More on that later.

The album opens with a short prelude, of piano and strings, with classical orchestration, including dramatic timpani rolls, followed by ‘Ascension’, which starts out in ballad fashion, but rises and grows into a massive Cinematic Rock track. Then, after 3 more crunchy and punchy songs, we get the first proper ballad, ‘Isle Of Glass’. A beautifully gentle piece, it holds some deep and melancholy undertones within its lyrics, that leave you wondering if it’s a love song, or a mournful view of imminent loss.

This dark undertone, lyrically, is seen throughout the album, whether it’s loss, pain, or disaffection. It’s very, very clever because, even though a lot of the songs are in minor keys, their beauty somehow disguises the melancholy which lies beneath.

In contrast to a lot of the album, ‘Nemesis’ brings forth apocalyptic rage. It starts with some huge punchy Blackened Thrash riffs, with screamed vocals, and twists and turns throughout. It does have piano and string sections, but heavy guitars are in the driving seat here. Superb track.

The penultimate, and title track, ‘Unity’, is another laid back, ballad, driven by strings, which lilts along, and brings down the frenetic movement of parts of the album, but builds towards the album finale. And it’s this final track that really puts the icing on this mighty fine cake of an album. ‘Go, Carefully’, for me, is quite possibly one of the most refined and beautiful ballads I have ever heard. It’s a track that speaks of endings, and it really got me in the feels.

I spent a large part of one evening this week, after a particularly terrible day, listening to it on repeat and just sobbing. It’s that emotive. It’s that beautiful. It’s stripped back – just piano, strings, and Andy’s faultless vocals. It’s breathtaking, and an absolute masterclass in how to write a ballad. From the crescendos and diminuendos to slight rallentando at the end of phrases, and perfect pauses creating fleeting moments of silence. Lyrically, it is so beautifully melancholic that it grabbed hold of my soul. This piece alone left me speechless and is now firmly on my list of all time favorite emotive ballads. An absolute genius way to close an album.

Wow. Just…wow. That’s really all I have to say to sum up. I’m blown away by this album. It really has something for everyone in it, and from a musical perspective, displays not only supreme talent and skill, but also a level of passion and depth that is rare.

‘Go, Carefully’ (Official Audio)

TRACKLISTING:
01. Prelude
02. Ascension
03. We Don’t Make The Rules
04. Disciple
05. Sunburn
06. Isle Of Glass
07. Ira Vehementi
08. Nemesis
09. Erebus
10. We Found The Darkness In The Sun
11. Paradise
12. Unity
13. Go, Carefully

LINKS:

Midgar Promo Pic

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.

Fred Lee & The Restless – Sleepwalking In Daylight

Sleepwalking In Daylight Album Cover Art

Fred Lee & The Restless – Sleepwalking In Daylight
The Sign
Release Date: 11/06/2021
Running Time: 28:48
Review by Beth Jones
8/10

Fred Lee, AKA Fredrik Lindkvist, is best known for his role as frontman of Swedish Punk/Hardcore band Totalt Jävla Mörker, so you would expect some pretty hard-hitting sounds to be popping out of him for his debut solo album, “Sleepwalking In Daylight”. But you’d be very wrong. This album is a jaunt into the world of Folk Rock. And a rather nice one it is too.

Formed in 2019, Fred Lee & The Restless explore the more laid back and from the heart musical expression that at some point comes to us all. I would describe it as music for the world-weary soul. It has a soothing and relatable presence, with lyrical honesty, and melodic catchiness to boot.

I do love a bit of Folk Rock. I was in a folk band for some years and enjoyed the fusion of folk sounds from instruments like the fiddle, mandolin, and banjo, combining with rock guitars and steady rhythmic percussion, alongside vaguely gravelly and ever so slightly off-key vocals. This is what makes the sound so recognizably ‘Folk’. The unpolished nature makes it so much more human.

This album reminds me a lot of The Levellers, whose music formed a large part of my ‘go to’ collection in the late 90’s. The melancholic dystopian view of the world explored through happy melodies is something I’ve always found quite fascinating. The lilting sounds of gypsy-style violin and delicate plinks of the banjo take your mind wandering to a faraway place, sitting on a log in the summer heat, reminiscing of days passed, friends departed, and old memories. A great example of this is the acoustic driven ‘New Sweden’.

There’s nothing overstated about this album either. Whether it is more upbeat, full band numbers, such as ‘I’ve Tried’, or ‘Devil’s Chokehold’, or more laid-back acoustic songs like ‘You Were Anyone, But Not Anywhere…’ and ‘Letter To A Friend’, everything is stripped back and downplayed. This is also another vital key to Folk music. It can be played acoustically and have the same impact as it does plugged up with a full band.

All in all, this is a very pleasing listen. It’s nothing fancy, it does exactly what it says on the tin. But sometimes, that really is all you need. If you’re world-weary, or just want something chilled out to listen to, then you could do a lot worse than this unassuming little album. It’s definitely one I’ll be revisiting often.

‘Devil’s Chokehold’ (Audio)

TRACKLISTING:
01. Who Do You Want To Be?
02. I’ve Tried
03. The Weight On My Shoulders
04. You Were Anyone, But Not Anywhere…
05. New Sweden
06. Devil’s Chokehold
07. Capitalist Market
08. Juliet
09. These Times Are So Fucking Dark
10. Letter To A Friend

LINE-UP:
Fredrick Lindkvist – Songwriting, Instrumentals, Vocals
Emma Sjödin – Guest Vocals
Lars Kyösti (Sekunderna, Sista Brytet) – Guitar
Håkan Olsson – Guitar
Erik Gunnarsson (Epidemics, Dream Warriors, Bottenhavet) – Drums
Johan Philipsson (Royal Downfall) – Bass
Joakim Lindquist (Den Stora Flykten, Popterror) – Keyboards
Hanna Kangassalo (Horseface) – Violin

LINKS:

Fred Lee & The Restless Promo Pic

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.

Epoch Of Chirality – Nucleosynthesis

Nucleosynthesis Album Cover Art

Epoch Of Chirality – Nucleosynthesis
Self-Released
Release Date: 23/07/2021
Running Time: 48:48
Review by Dark Juan
10/10

Good afternoon from the hallowed lands of West Yorkshire, where pendulous skies abound, the moors brood and beguile you in their sparse and barren splendour, and where the Smellhounds are currently emitting scents that could conceivably be used for ethnic cleansing in some less salubrious regimes. Mrs. Dark Juan is currently sat across from me in the lounge, creating yet another warped objet d’art dragged from the blackest pits of her imagination whilst giggling her little head off at Joe Lycett telling stories about how he had to come downstairs while living with his parents when experiencing some tumescence after a saucy dream about Idris Elba. This scenario was indeed chortlesome.

Oh, how I laughed as I wondered what it would be like to have an erotic dream instead of the blood-soaked horrors that pass for my dreamworld. Especially as I woke this morning from dreaming of having slaughtered my way through an entire company of Russian Spetsnaz using nothing but my teeth and a combat knife. Their combat wrestling training didn’t count for anything much considering how easy it was to tear their arms off and beat them to death with the wet ends…

Such violent imagery reminds me of the slew of action movies that thrilled young Dark Juan in the Eighties – Commando, The Terminator, Predator, Cobra and the like as well as all the video nasties like Anthropophagous Beast and Cannibal Holocaust. These all shared one thing, and that was an epic soundtrack. Which, and this for once is a fucking bang tidy segue, leads us on to the music of Epoch Of Chirality, being a one-man musical project emanating from the somewhat fevered imagination of Mr. Richard How of the South-West of jolly old England.

This is EOC’s second release, after Richard’s debut EP which was entitled “Dawn Of Chirality” in 2020. As a quick aside, Chirality is a property of asymmetry important in several branches of science. The word chirality is derived from the Greek χειρ (kheir), “hand,” a familiar chiral object. Basically, it means a non-superimposable mirror image of an object. Now we have that bit of Wikipedia bothering out of the way, I can begin to describe “Nucleosynthesis”, this being the process that creates new atomic nuclei from pre-existing nucleons (protons and neutrons) and nuclei. Which is a rather fitting way to describe a second musical release then, “Dawn Of Chirality” being analogous to the Big Bang, and “Nucleosynthesis” being the creation of the Universe. Or at least Epoch Of Chirality’s universe, which operates in a kind of dark light, neon dripping Blade Runner-esque dystopian galaxy of electronic soundscapes merged with the cutting fury of heavy metal.

As regular readers of my terrible ramblings will know, I have a real soft spot for synthwave (be it Outrun, or Vapourwave (I REFUSE TO USE THE RUBBISH AMERICAN SPELLING!) or whatever) and two of my absolute favourites from this style of music are Master Boot Record (an Italian madman who identifies himself as an IBM 486 Central Processing Unit. Remember them? Oh, and he has an unhealthy obsession with ASCII) and Gunship (British, absolutely brilliant and now can be forgiven for their travesty of a former band, Fightstar, mainly because they have brought Tim fucking Capello back to the attention of a rapt audience, thankfully without the purple spandex). Both of which are big fucking boots to try and fill. Epoch Of Chirality leans more toward the cinematic soundscapes of MBR and also doesn’t employ any vocals, letting the music try to hold your interest all by itself, rather than following the electro-pop stylings and emotionally fraught singing of the worthy British combo.

Thankfully, EOC manages to stand proud with the music and is fresh and original sounding. Every song brings a different flavour and mood, ‘Maiden Voyage’ being particularly schizophrenic with 80’s tinkly bonk Bontempi keyboards meeting martial drumming, eastern sounding flurries on keys transforming into glockenspiel runs and then trumpets and gothic piano taking over with the occasional stab of electric guitar until it switches gear and tempo and turns into a rampaging metal beast. Album opener ‘Dawn Of Chirality’ beguiles with waves of soft, foamy keyboards building slowly into pure, full on metal riffing with coruscating waves of electronic sound beneath it as the drums build into a percussive, machine gun wall of sound and the oh so 80’s keyboard rises magnificently over it all and I’m just waiting for Airwolf to rise out of its secret volcano hangar dramatically through the caldera and shoot down shitloads of bad guys. ‘The Abyssal Fleet’ is pure cinema in musical form, being an Imperial march full of bombast, and easily conjuring the image of a grim and mighty fleet of battle-scarred starships slipping their moorings and travelling towards a warzone where the hellish power of their particle beam weapons and explosive gravitic lances will level the surface of an enemy planet in short and terrible order. ‘Undercity Rising’ has my imagination running riot with images of muties emerging from under Mega-City One with murder and mayhem on their minds, and only a thin line of Judges to meet them.

Every tune on the album evinces a feeling of big-screen theatrics from the age of neon-tinged dystopian nightmares. ‘Labyrinth’ could easily be the soundtrack to an epic car chase through a darkened, mirror universe Miami, scattering the shattered bodies of unwary pedestrians in the wake of speeding vehicles exchanging gunfire and grenades, while our muscle bound hero escapes all attempts on his life with witty one-liners and an assault rifle that miraculously never runs out of ammunition. Apart from the middle eight which makes it sound like you’re going to enter some kind of dark tunnel or dread fortress before the song returns to speed and chunky fucking riffing and the full-on car chase aesthetic. The last tune, ‘Paradox’, brings back memories of the more esoteric moments of Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark in the intro and is so bright, shiny and Tron-like it made me weep tears of joy for a childhood lost to Satan worship, extremely perverse sexual encounters and absinthe, before turning into the most metal song on the album. There is also a magnificent guitar solo that also made me become highly excited and spasmodically jerk around the lounge and has raised the ire of at least two Smellhounds and Mrs. Dark Juan. It is a most fitting climax to an album that is utterly perfect for hitting a motorway at 3am with 200 miles to cover. You too can experience the feeling that you are fleeing hordes of heavily armed bastards in shiny black Jaguars on your work trip to Basingstoke simply by popping Epoch Of Chirality in the CD player and letting your imagination run riot.

LEGAL DISCLAIMER: Epoch Of Chirality and Ever-Metal will not accept any legal liability for the fact you’ll probably hit 130 mph on the M1 in your Vauxhall Corsa just outside of Luton and will have to explain to Hertfordshire Police that the music made you do it, and that there isn’t in fact a horde of heavily armed bastards racing after you in shiny black Jaguars intent on letting your brains escape through your nose via the medium of 9mm Parabellum bullets.

On that happy note, if you like Master Boot Record, Carpenter Brut, Pertubator, Gunship and the like, you’ll probably adore this. I do. If you are more a trve metal kvlt person, you’ll hate it because it has more influences than guitar, bass, drums, drugs, misogyny and alcoholism and it will fry your little brain. For everyone else, I officially declare this record fucking brilliant. You should give it a bash.

The Patented Dark Juan Blood Splat Rating System awards the full 10/10 to Epoch Of Chirality and loves the magical, 80’s arcade aesthetic of it all so is off to Arcade Club in Bury in short order to go and destroy hordes of filthy alien enemies on R-Type II to a soundtrack of Epoch Of Chirality resounding through my headphones.

‘Labyrinth’ (Official Video)

TRACKLISTING:
01. Dawn Of Chirality
02. Undercity Rising
03. Caravan To The Midnight Mountain
04. Boreal
05. Pyramid Cybergod
06. Maiden Voyage
07. The Abyssal Fleet
08. Labyrinth
09. Paradox

LINE-UP:
Richard How – Multi-instrumentalist uber-talented BASTARD!!!
(Especially because I can’t even fucking play the guitar properly, let alone anything else…)

LINKS:

Album Advert

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.

Hardline – Heart, Mind And Soul

Heart, Mind And Soul Album Cover Art

Hardline – Heart, Mind And Soul
Frontiers Music srl
Release Date: 09/07/2021
Running Time: 49:40
Review by Simon Black
9/10

Hardline have been at this game a while. Launching in L.A. with a juicy major label deal, no doubt, facilitated by Bad English/Journey guitarist Neal Schon’s presence in the project just before Grunge wiped out the whole scene. Actually, Schon quitting is what took the major’s out of the picture as they promptly ditched anything with a Melodic Hard Rock sound like a hot brick, but Hardline hung in through that period and their anthemic ‘Hot Cherie’ still managed a palpable global hit over the long term even though it was a slow burner on release. After flogging the dead horse uphill for too long, like many in the late 90’s they took an extended hiatus until the world was ready for them again and to be fair have been producing strong and consistent albums since stabilising with what’s become known as ’The Italian Line Up’ properly in 2011. Definitely one of Frontiers relaunch success stories, this line-up is now on its fourth album under that label’s wings and frankly I can’t see it slowing down.

Musically Hardline have stuck to their guns and if you’ve missed the intervening years then this album is a great opportunity to renew the acquaintance. Johnny Gioeli’s voice sounds exactly like it always did and his emphatic and charismatic delivery stands him out as one of the strongest contenders in the sub-genre. You always know you’ve got a cracker on your hands when after two listens you are struggling to find your stand out tracks. Now sometimes that’s a very negative problem, but the song consistency is so tip top here that it’s difficult to pick a winner easily. If I have to, I’m going to go with ‘Like That’, as it’s the closest to an anthemic floor-filler of the ‘Hot Cherie’ variety. Starting gently with a well-paced back beat, this song delivers one of the catchiest chorus lines I’ve heard in a while – the sort of chorus that has a memorable melody line and then goes up a level halfway through it’s catchy, memorable and a master class in how to write a Hard Rock hit.

Song wise ‘Heart, Mind And Soul’ is mainly mid-tempo rockers, but being Melodic Hard Rock/AOR there are the three obligatory power ballads, of which album closer ‘We Belong’, with its slow, careful acoustic build up feels of this moment, as well as the period that birthed this band. Given that Producer, keyboardist and bass player Alessandro Del Vecchio is a rather busy chap, since he’s playing the same backbone roles for a vast swathe of Frontiers roster (at least two of which I have reviewed in the last month or so alone), he manages to pull a blinding job when it comes to the song-writing here. Perhaps it’s that he’s been involved with this project a while, but I get the sense that the Hardline sound is a comfortable one to step into. Either way this album is Hardline on fire and achieves what everyone trying to emulate them can only hope for.

TRACKLISTING:
01. Fuel To The Fire
02. Surrender
03. If I Could I Would
04. Like That
05. Heavenly
06. Waiting For Your Fall
07. The Curse
08. Heartless
09. Searching For Grace
10. ‘80s Moment
11. We Belong

LINE-UP:
Johnny Gioeli – Lead Vocals
Alessandro Del Vecchio – Keyboards, Backing Vocals
Mario Percudani – Guitars
Anna Portalupi – Bass
Marco Di Salvia – Drums

LINKS:

Hardline 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.

Lacuna Coil – Live From The Apocalypse

Live From The Apocalypse Album Cover Art

Lacuna Coil – Live From The Apocalypse
Century Media Records
Release Date: 25/06/2021
Running Time: 60:03
Review by Simon Black
7/10

Livestreams have been both a lifeline and a curse for bands in these dark times. Whether you like them or not, I fervently believe that they may be something that stays with us when this pandemic lark finally becomes a memory. Because let’s face it, it’s not economically viable to play touring gigs that just showcase your new album in its entirety. Even among your die-hard fan base, that’s likely to be a niche thing, promoters will be wary of the unknown quantity if it’s not already a chart success, and although it’s something you might want to do a couple of decades after the event to celebrate your greatest album hit’s multi-decade anniversary for example, a quick look at most band’s touring schedules, when they do, reveal that normally only a smaller number of shows will get clocked up for these. Even the likes of Metallica have only included these sorts of full run-throughs as bonus disk material on their more expansive special editions in the past (although it doesn’t matter how many ways you package “St. Anger”, it’s still “St. Anger”).

But then when you can’t tour, the live stream format gives you the opportunity to do something that you couldn’t normally consider and given that the production costs are so much lower and the fact that the world is desperate for anything live right now, then a full album showcase is suddenly a viable proposition both now, and potentially moving forward. This album was recorded in September in the band’s home city of Milan in an empty club, and like many livestreams has taken full advantage of the fact that much of the uncertainty of a genuine live performance has been ironed out (since they are not truly live), particularly with regard to the sound mix, which is very close to that of 2019’s Black Anima album, the release getting the full run through treatment here. The almost laughable irony is that the very subject matter of that dark and apocalyptic studio album has been playing out in real life, hence the ‘Apocalypse’ sub-tag. If you are a fan with only the standard version then this might be a big jump, as not only does it have the five extra tracks only available on the bonus track version, but there’s also ‘Bad Things’ to boot.

The tracks aren’t played in the same order as the studio versions, but otherwise are a pretty accurate rendition of that sound and period. Performances are blisteringly tight though, but almost no stage banter and interaction made it to the recording, so it does feel quite sterile and flat – not helped that any live recording never sounds the same without a roaring crowd for the band to feed off of. The other challenge I have is that this album in particular, with the exception of the closing piano accompanied solo vocal ballad ‘Save Me’, has songs that all hit the same pitch and tone and after about five Gothic Metal heart-renders, things start to get a little repetitive. But then this is not a release aimed at winning new fans so much as pleasing the old ones, who are going to love it. It’s moody, emotional and tight as a gnat’s bum hole in terms of playing, but just lacking the spark that this format struggles with – and that comes from us.

‘Veneficium’ (Live From The Apocalypse)

TRACKLISTING:
01. Anima Nera
02. Sword Of Anger
03. Save Me
04. Now Or Never
05. Reckless
06. Through The Flames
07. Apocalypse
08. Black Feathers
09. Under The Surface
10. The End Is All I Can See
11. Veneficium
12. Black Dried Up Heart
13. Bad Things
14. Layers Of Time
15. Black Anima
16. Save Me (Apocalypse Version)

LINE-UP:
Cristina Scabbia – Vocals
Andrea Ferro – Vocals
Marco “Maki” Coti-Zelati – Guitars , Bass, Keyboards & Synths
Diego “DD” Cavallotti – Guitars
Richard Meiz – Drums

LINKS:

Lacuna Coil Promo Pic (Photo Credit - Cunene)
Photo Credit – Cunene

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.

Innasanatorium – Odyssey Of The Mind

Odyssey Of The Mind Album Cover Art

Innasanatorium – Odyssey Of The Mind
Self-Released
Release Date: 10/07/2021
Running Time: 54:02
Review by Simon Black
9/10

Hailing from Perth, Innasanatorium (great name by the way) are a Progressive Thrash influenced Modern Metal outfit unleashing their debut on the world. Thematically conceptual rather than a story-driven concept album in itself, the record deals heavily with issues of mental health both positive and negative, as well as the usual political ire beloved of all things Thrash.

For a self-produced record the sound and production are rich, deep and lavish. So many debuts have great tracks that are lost in unprofessional recording techniques and penny-pinching, but not so this one. It’s beautifully captured, and brings those well-crafted and technically proficient tracks to the fore. The modern metal flavour brought by having a fairly broad range of singers (three no less, one of who is the band’s manager) gives their sound the kind of luxuriance that bands normally take a few albums to get into their stride with, by which time they are normally starting to scrape the bottom of the song catalogue. In this case you have the cream of their repertoire, but with the kind of production normally only found when a major label is throwing everything at a new signing.

And let’s not leave the song-writing and arrangements out of this. Again this has the feel of an album that has been properly pre-produced professionally, with the arrangements tightened and honed to precision. The technical proficiency in the Prog side of things is fairly formidable too, and does not stop the flow of the songs to the ear, which is why I think this has been pre-produced so well. It’s a different feel from what you get when that tightness has had its birth in songs which have had a few years of live playing to hone down the unnecessary elements. Each and every song on here is well-crafted and flows, and before you know it fifty-five minutes has passed in a blur of beautifully melodic yet brutal riffage interlaced with effortlessly fluid solos in a sauce of heaviness and moodiness that is quite distinctive and fresh.

This record manages to pull the trick off of being both melodically enticing in the instrumental department, whilst brutal and dark in the rhythmic structures and tones. Add to this a really well-balanced use of a scale of vocals from extreme (but intelligible) to the clean and high with many stops in between and you have one of the strongest unsigned debut’s I’ve heard in a while, and a band that has found their clear and distinctive sound early.

‘Show Me Your Scars’ (Official Video)

TRACKLISTING:
01. Intro
02. Show Me Your Scars
03. The Decline (Odyssey Of The Mind Part 1)
04. Night Terrors
05. Shifting Shadows
06. The Despair (Odyssey Of The Mind Part 2)
07. Innasanatorium
08. Science In The House Of God
09. The Desire (Odyssey Of The Mind Part 3)
10. Accelerated Oblivion
11. Outro

LINE-UP:
Adam Bomb McDonald – Vocals
Ryan Pearce – Guitars & Backing Vocals
Rapid Man – Guitars
Metal C (Tim) – Bass
Justin Sanity (Kelvin) – Backing Vocals

LINKS:

Innasanatorium 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.

Redshark – Evil Realm (Expanded Edition)

Evil Realm (Expanded Edition) Album Cover Art

Redshark – Evil Realm (Expanded Edition)
Iron Oxide Records
Release Date: 04/06/2021
Running Time: 45:05
Review by Simon Black
6/10

Originally released as a five-track EP back in 2019 and presumably because COVID is still making life difficult for everyone in Barcelona, this release sees the record expanded into a full length version by splicing together this EP and its predecessor 2016’s “Rain Of Destruction” EP – with the ‘Destroy What Destroys You’ single thrown in for good measure. So this is very much a single disk summary of their back catalogue and evolution to date and not cutting any new territory. That said if, like me, you are new to the band then it’s as good a place to start as any.

That single ‘Destroy What Destroys You’ is full of 80’s infused Thrash and is the only song on here to have an original and re-recorded version. It’s also a very succinct summary of what the band are like at their best now, as it’s dripping with energy and youthful enthusiasm. The older material is more NWOBHM than Speed, but works well as vocally it’s got a very different delivery. That said, I love the energy, brashness and fury of the more recent tracks, which show a band really getting a grip with what their core sound is about.

It’s all very fast and furious and definitely more classic early Thrash/NWOBHM/Speed Metal hybridisation in style, suffering from the hangover left by punk, with a cheesy cover straight out of that period, although I have to say I love the repeated use of the band’s red shark mascot on all their branding. Most of the songs fly by in three minutes, but when they do take their time on slower and longer material, it works pretty well too, giving vocalist Pau Correas time to expand his style and show his range.

The downside of the splicing the back catalogue together is that despite label owner and Producer Bart Gabriel doing his best to remaster this, I suspect the original source material was too limited to do much with. If you don’t have the original studio masters then this can be problematic, but sometimes, even when you do, really basic recordings don’t give even the best engineer much to work with, so consequently the recording quality jumps around all over the place. It’s not clear if this is home or studio captured originally – maybe a combination of both, but either way the sound quality doesn’t do the material enough justice. Now, I know many 80’s trailblazers managed quite well with piss-poor resources back in the day, but in reality in a crowded 21st Century marketplace where recording technology is available to anyone with a half decent computer it seems a real let down. Bizarrely, the older the material  the better the recording quality is, even though the songs are not as strong, as those earliest songs have a much fatter sound.

These boys have got what it takes in terms of tunes and delivery, but desperately need to put these old recordings to bed and start afresh. If these tracks had been given the chance of a fresh studio recording session, then this would have been a very different end product, although I appreciate that COVID may not have made that an option. When they do, they may just be unstoppable…

‘Burn Your Flag’ (Official Visualiser)

TRACKLISTING:
01. Destroy What Destroys You
02. Sentenced To Kill
03. Burn Your Flag
04. The Beginning Of Storm
05. Stronger Than Ever
06. Destroy What Destroys You (remix)
07. Lost In The Streets
08. Lights Of Darkness
09. Witch
10. Fight The Rules Of Power
11. On The Edge Of War
12. Lights Of Darkness

LINE-UP:
Pau Correas – Vocals
Philip Graves – Guitars
Javier Bono – Guitars
Chris Carrest – Bass
Mark Striker – Drums

LINKS:

Redshark 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.

Alchemia – Inception

Inception Album Cover Art

Alchemia – Inception
Wormholedeath
Release Date: 30/04/2021
Running Time: 39:28
Review By Mark Pritchard
9/10

For the last 2-3 weeks, the UK has been having an unexpected heatwave, which has made focusing a problem! We weren’t built for heat here! But, while I’ve been trapped in the depths of sweating and moaning about the weather (as is the custom for us Brits, regardless of the weather) I’ve been listening to “Inception”, the newest album by Brazilian Horror Metal band Alchemia. And that has helped me to come back to normality a bit. Well as close to normality as I can get! However, as is the way with the British climate, I’m now sitting here writing this review on the first rainy day in around 3 weeks (bloody weather)! So, if you would, please allow me to take a little of your time to tell you about the band as well as their newest album.

Alchemia was founded back in 2018 in the Brazilian city of São Paulo. “Inception” is actually the band’s debut album, and even though they have essences of Heavy, Black and Death metal in their sound, they combine those elements into something different and unique. There are obvious influences from Heavy, Black and Death Metal, but running alongside are also influences from film scores and classical orchestration. The amount of work they have put in to make this debut become a reality is obvious, and I think the future looks bright for the band.

When your mental state is as changeable as the weather, it’s great to be able to be totally absorbed by music. “Inception” is definitely one of those albums that grabs hold of you and reels you in. Some might think that, with the genre influences mentioned, it might not be the best thing to listen to when you’re in a bad place. But, in fact, “Inception” gave me a sense of there being a light at the end of the tunnel to bring me out of my rut, and that is exactly what has happened. It has intensity which hits you like a freight train, amazing vocals and is great to bang your head to. If you’ve read any of my reviews before, you’ll know I like a good headbang! Recently I have had to use a hairband when headbanging, so my hair doesn’t poke my eyes. Luckily, I was prepared, with my hairband at the ready!

The title track of the album is my pick for the stand out song. It’s intriguing. It starts with the sounds of a music box having the key turned, and closes with the music box slowing down. In between this, we’re hit with intense instrumentals and strong lyrics.

This album is a great example of what can be done with some excellent musicianship, and a bit of vision. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed listening to it, and would recommend everybody check it out.

‘Grind’ (Official Video)

TRACKLISTING:
01. Grind
02. Save Us
03. Inception
04. Haunting You
05. Ashes
06. If Nothing Is Sacred
07. Sacrifice
08. Mind Prison
09. Nightmares
10. Secret Call

LINE-UP:
Victor Hugo Piiroja – Vocals, Synths, Guitars
Rodrigo Maciel – Guitars
Felipe FIFAS – Bass
Wally D’Alessandro – Keyboard
Alex Cristopher – Drums

LINKS:

Alchemia Promo Pic

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Mark Pritchard 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.

Moon Coven – Slumber Wood

Slumber Wood Album Cover Art

Moon Coven – Slumber Wood
Ripple Music
Released Date: 07/05/2021
Running Time: 41:53
Review by Dark Juan
8/10

Hey up, chaps and chapesses and people of all other genders. It is I, Dark Juan, and I am back after a brief sojourn into the darkest recesses of my sewer-like mind and you are all going to spend the next ten minutes being bored out of your tiny little minds as I follow the usual well-worn path of tortured metaphors, exuberant frothing, rage, talking about my dogs as if any of you actually cared and some wholly made-up shit about me and mine. Probably. Anyhow, you have actually taken the time to read this and for that I thank you. There’s apparently some of you out there who like reading this absolute drivel I spew out on a semi-regular basis. Weirdos…

So, here we are, ensconced comfortably in Dark Juan Terrace, with the Dread Lord Igor Egbert Bryan Clown-Shoe Cleavage-Hoover doing his usual guard dog duties of shouting at EVERY SINGLE FUCKING PASSER-BY that goes past the house and trying to get me to fight with him (Igor is a French Bulldog of some 11 kilos in weight and is about as useful as a guard dog as a kettle made out of chocolate apart from the shouting and a serious case of small man syndrome, but fucking LOVES a good rumble with me) while the other two smellhounds snooze their afternoon away and Mrs. Dark Juan chortles quietly to herself while she creates some other mentally disturbing doll, or shapeshifting hare, or some other mad shit she finds cute but everyone else is justifiably scared of, and I listen to my sadly neglected review list. Today’s offering is from Swedish psychedelic doom merchants Moon Coven, a four-piece from Stockholm. For some reason I had to REALLY fight the urge to write Croydon, and I have no idea why this was a) funny as fuck to me, and b) why the urge was so powerful.

I am normally suspicious of a band describing themselves as psychedelic doom, as this normally means long drawn-out jams of a single riff for twenty minutes with lashings of fuzz and phaser wah and little in the way of actual music until the last fifteen seconds of the tune where everyone suddenly emerges from their weed-induced haze and clatters everything in sight before declaring it a wrap and proceeding to get even more baked. Thankfully, Moon Coven appear to have avoided that trap and seem to be rather more with it. Opening track ‘Further’ starts us off with a repeating riff that really doesn’t break any new stoner/doomy ground yet is still pretty fucking laid back and cool, but it is the voice of David Leban that is worthy of note. Not for this gentleman is the guttural roar or the relaxed drawl of, say, Master Charger or Thunder Horse, respectively. No, Dave (hereby yet again proving my theory that no matter where in the world a popular beat combo comes from, there has always been a Dave in a band. Even Japanese ones) comes from the school of Ozzy-esque impassioned wailing and emotive clean singing. This is to the band’s benefit because an acid-fuelled gritty growl would not work with the chilled grooves.

‘Eye Of The Night’ is probably the standout track on the record, with oodles of groove and a very cool twin guitar middle eight and the soaring voice of Dave bringing it all together in a satisfyingly complete whole. Fuck me, that sounds rude. I bet when Admiral Of The Fleet General Sir Richard “Run Out Of Things To Say Have You, You Northern Twatmonkey, So You’re Relying On Smut? Get Your Nose Back To The Grindstone Otherwise I Shall Send An Attack Beth And I’ll Only Need One” Tilley reads this there will be tea spurted everywhere from his nostrils and if there isn’t I’m going to be sorely disappointed (There was – Rick!!!). Nevertheless, let us discount my amusement at the thought of our Great Leader fountaining hot beverages from both nostrils and return to what I’m actually SUPPOSED to be doing… ‘A Tower Of Silence’ is a slow drawn-out groove, with slightly less distortion on the guitars and a more bass-led sound that borders on shoegaze with a deceptively simple riff that is slowly built on to form a complex, sinuous song that beguiles rather than bludgeons – this sense of light and dark is what sets Moon Coven apart from most of their contemporaries, who do have a tendency to just stick to the same stoner blueprint. ‘…Silence’ builds in an unhurried fashion and the phased psychedelic solo is a joy to hear, even in the shitty cans I’m wearing and leads into ‘Bahgsu Nag’ which conforms much more to the doom and stoner blueprint, with superfuzz guitar and a languid, relaxed central riff, until we hit the middle eight and then there is a dreamy, creamy, Eastern influenced part which is just gorgeous before the band crash heavily back into the central riff.

The production of the record is actually very good, considering it has a rather bass heavy sound. The cymbals have clarity and cut cleanly through the soupy, heavy guitar and bass combo and this record has an exceedingly rare thing – a snare drum sound I actually like. Snare drums normally sound like Lars Ulrich hitting upturned soup tureens (I’ll never not hate “St. Anger”) or are so far forward in the mix they rattle your fillings. The snare is perfectly placed in the mix and for this I am profoundly grateful. My only complaint is that the bass drum is almost inaudible because of the treacly thickness of the bass guitar. The fuzz appears to have run away with Moon Coven somewhat, but these are minor gripes from a shitty ex-musician who’s only really jealous, actually.

In conclusion – this is a damned fine psychedelic doom metal record, with Sabbathian vibes, mountainous riffs and a fine singer. However, it doesn’t bring anything new to what is becoming an oversaturated genre, and this is why it has dropped marks. The musicianship and songwriting are top fucking drawer though and for a long road trip on a hot summer night you could do a lot fucking worse. The Patented Dark Juan Blood Splat Rating System (Det patenterade värderingssystemet Dark Juan blodstänk – that last word is crying out for a trad metal band to nick it) awards Moon Coven a very acceptable 8/10. A splendid effort, gentlemen.

‘Further’ (Official Video)

TRACKLISTING:
01. Further
02. Ceremony
03. Gibekli Tepe (Potbelly Hill)
04. Eye Of The Night
05. A Tower Of Silence
06. Bahgsu Nag
07. Seagull
08. My Melting Mind

LINE-UP:
Fredrik Dahlqvist – Drums
Axel Ganhammar – Guitars
Justin Boyesen – Guitars
David Leban – Vocals, Guitars

LINKS:

Moon Coven 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.