Everdawn – Cleopatra

Cleopatra Album Cover Art

Everdawn – Cleopatra
Sensory Records
Release Date: 05/02/2021
Running Time: 48:05
Review by Simon Black
9/10

Symphonic Metal has been all over my deck these last few weeks – literally half a dozen Symphonic / Progressive releases with their lengthy complex story arcs and need for that little more attention to detail on the reviewing have crossed my desk since Christmas. With time on their hands and less possibility for live interactions, it seems like there’s a veritable glut of releases in the genre, with many bands going to the extremes of possibility in an attempt to stretch themselves in these crazy conditions we find ourselves in. This is no bad thing and feels like a minor reboot of the early 70’s Prog movement that started making music be all about albums rather than singles, because let’s face it you have no choice but to listen to the whole thing when reviewing a concept record. The problem with so many of these records is that they can drag on somewhat, especially when they are self-released and there is no label or management pressure on the band to tighten things up. Sometimes this is a chore (especially when you’ve been sent record two or three of an extended story arc and have to go back and understand what went before), sometimes an enjoyable challenge and sometimes, as here, an absolute delight.

New Jersey’s Everdawn are technically a new act, although in reality a rebranding of Midnight Eternal, although the musical core of that act retains in place but with the addition of Gavrilenko on vocals and Symphony X’s Mike LePond on bass. It’s a concept piece (of course) but that actually doesn’t matter. This record opens with a punch straight into the first full track ‘Ghost Shadow Requiem’ without the obligatory introductory track. And what a start – with its complex but catchy instrumentals, this is hook laden and well written music. Vocally the operatic Alina Gavrilenko has exactly the same vocal wow factor that you expect from the top end of the genre. The danger with so many of the bands ploughing this furrow is they get distracted by their own technical brilliance and forget that this music has to be engaging and just plain rock. The top tier acts in the genre, like Nightwish never forget this, and I am glad Everdawn don’t need schooling on this fact either. That’s why the concept is not so key – each and every track stands well on its own and avoids being an overlong epic, and the concept is just an extra layer of interest to unpick.

Think Delain, but with a clear galloping pace and rockin’ rhythm that you expect from the input that LePond brings (and who can blame him when the gap between album cycle on Symphony X is so long). Musically there is an absolute tightness on delivery, although the keyboard and guitar work does not rely on sparring interplay as much as other similar acts, although this does matter as it retains a tight focus on achieving good all-round song-writing rigour through ten of the eleven tracks on here. They can deliver that interplay when needed though, as the purely instrumental ‘Toledo 712 A.D.’ proves, so it’s more a case of focusing on delivering well-crafted songs than showing off. Either way this is a rich sounding act that sounds confident, technically brilliant but still with enough of an ear to the ground to keep the song writing accessible for those who might not normally gravitate in this direction. More please.

TRACKLISTING:
01. Ghost Shadow Requiem
02. Stranded In Bangalore
03. Cleopatra
04. Your Majesty Sadness
05. Infinity Divine
06. Pariah’s Revenge
07. Lucid Dream
08. Heart Of A Lion
09. Toledo 712 A.D.
10. Rider Of The Storm
11. The Last Eden

LINE-UP:
Alina Gavrilenko – Lead Vocals
Richard Fischer – Guitars, Vocals
Mike LePond – Bass
Dan Prestup – Drums
Boris Zaks – Keyboards

LINKS:

Everdawn 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 Spectre Beneath – The New Identity Of Sidney Stone

The New Identity Of Sidney Stone Cover Art

The Spectre Beneath – The New Identity Of Sidney Stone
Self-Released
Release Date: 27/11/2020
Running Time: 60:01
Review by Simon Black
10/10

The best part of this (unpaid) job is days like this. When you listen to an album from a new band you have never heard of that absolutely ticks most of your boxes. This is actually the sophomore release for Cheshire-based The Spectre Beneath and, like 2019’s “The Downfall Of Judith King”, is a conceptual piece with a fairly dark story of criminality, shallow graves and resurrection – because in this game you just gotta love the Prog / Power concepts…

Importantly though, this is fundamentally where this album feels different. So many of the cookie-cutter variety of Progressive and Power genres (particularly those from mainland Europe) really overdo the concepts, to the point where they are clichéd and intrusive. These oft-repetitive albums go through endless contortions to fit the format and only really work if you are prepared to listen to the whole thing and embrace its underlying minutia…or more likely, you just let it go completely over your head and move on to something else. When concepts work, they don’t intrude, they are a bonus – the exemplar of which is probably Queensrÿche’s “Operation: Mindcrime”. Yes, it’s a very cleverly crafted concept album, which like the layers of an onion unpeel one at a time giving you a little more on each and every listen, yes there are musical refrains and themes that build and echo throughout but most of all the concept is a bonus, as each of the songs works on their own. This is what I see happening on “The New Identity Of Sidney Stone” and as a test I put the album on shuffle to see if I still felt as strongly about it. That would be a resounding yes.

The reason for this is some absolutely top notch song-writing and arrangements built around the two pillars of L. Lockser’s enigmatic vocals and Pete Worrall’s blistering guitar and bass work (presumably live the ‘additional’ guitar work of Vini Assis becomes a bit more fundamental). The guitar is an absolute core of the effectiveness of this band’s sound. It’s got a much dirtier guitar effect sound than is normal for Power or Progressive acts and added to this the relentless pace of the riffage which owes more to the gruelling effect you get from someone like Slayer, along with a bit of repetitive old Iron Maiden harmonisation instead of endless solos and you get close to the sense of unease this approach instils. It also works an absolute treat especially when you have a sticksman like Consta Taylor who can keep up the pace and positively delivers the master class schooling on blast beat delivery. Perhaps the most disconcerting part of this is the ambiguous Lockser’s vocals. I get the strong sense that she is not from a Metal background, as the style and phrasing owe more to Soul than the Rock end of the spectrum, although she can definitely belt it out when needed.

Fundamentally this feels like a very new and interesting band and although I can see obvious genre paths to bands like Nevermore, the sound of The Spectre Beneath is uniquely their own. The eclectic mix that makes this happen is why this is such an original and refreshing act to listen to.

‘Clockwork Heart’ (Lyric Video)

TRACKLISTING:
01. Clockwork Heart
02. Voice In The Static
03. Broken
04. Have You Waited For The World To Change?
05. 20 Shillings A Town
06. The Last Light In The House
07. The Criminal
08. The Funeral
09. The Premature Burial
10. The Phone Call
11. The Exhumation

LINE-UP:
L Lockser – Vocals
Pete Worrall – Guitar/Bass
Consta Taylor – Drums
Vini Assis – Additional Lead Guitar
Martin Worrall – Piano/Keyboards
Katy Lennon – Additional Vocals

LINKS:

The Spectre Beneath 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.

Ablaze My Sorrow – Among Ashes And Monoliths

Among Ashes And Monoliths Cover Art

Ablaze My Sorrow – Among Ashes And Monoliths
Black Lion Records
Release Date: 12/02/2021
Running Time: 44:27
Review by Emma Torkington
8/10

Ablaze My Sorrow are no strangers to the death metal scene by any means! Starting in 1993 they made a huge impact right away. During the intervening years, the band has changed, but their heart has stayed the same. Now back with their fifth album, can it reach new heights for this Swedish band?

Jumping right in with the first track ‘My Sorrow’, new vocalist Jonas Udd has a great raspy voice perfectly suited for the backing of kick ass drums and guitars. I know I am only one song in, but I am liking what I am hearing here. The title track is next and it does not disappoint, kicking in with a 19 second heavy solo then a deep growl start. Personally, I love it when a song has that type of build- up. Having said that, the way the song moves from that growl into a mosh pit worthy track, means I can see this being played and going down well at festivals (when they are allowed again) and bringing in the crowds. We are onto track 3 ‘Black Waters’ and this has a totally different feel to what you have heard so far! A melodic song and deep, guttural vocals were a total shock to me but a welcome surprise. ‘Grit’ is up next…and it is gritty! This fast-paced song takes you to a whole other place and you cannot help but air guitar along to it! It’s 3 minutes and 39 seconds of heavy drums, guitars and bass…what more could you ask for? ‘Her Cold Embrace’ is next and the over a minute-long intro makes you sway to the melody of the instruments. When the vocals kick in, though, it takes on a totally different feel and guest vocalist Jonna Enckell’s voice complements Udd’s perfectly.

We are now nearly half way through, what appears to be a wonderful album and ‘At The Graves Of Giants kicks you with a bang, the fast-paced and gut punching drums do not disappear for a second! ‘Dark Chasms’ is another absolute mosh pit favourite. For me this has everything I need from a death metal song…deep vocals, shredding guitars, intense bass lines and thundering drums. This is my favourite track on “Among Ashes And Monoliths”! Onto the home stretch now and ‘The Cavernous Deep’ is something I wasn’t expecting but a very pleasant change. The intro is totally different in style with an electronic feel. There is also a slight change in tempo, but I was nodding along happily to it. Now it’s the turn of ‘Nonextence’ and wow…what an entrance. As soon as I hit play, ‘BOOM’!! Now, this is never a bad thing in my book. In fact, when it happens, I always crank up that volume and make sure my neighbours can hear it! Track 10 ‘March Of The Eldritch Spawn’ is a beautifully played near two minutes of pure instrumental music, that feels like the sort of thing you would hear in a film/play, just before the hard-hitting ending commences, and it acts as an introduction to the penultimate track ‘The Day I Die’. This song, in particular, reminds me of In Flames earlier work and I am completely hooked. ‘Frihet Framför Feghet’ is the final song of this incredible album and acts as an epic finale!

If you love everything that Swedish melodic death metal has to offer then go and buy this album! Even if you are not a huge fan of death metal, I still strongly recommend giving this a listen. I am not the biggest death metal fan in the world, but this gave me everything I needed. I was dancing, headbanging and most importantly…playing air guitar like the over 30’s do best!

‘My Sorrow (Lyric Video)

TRACKLISTING:
01. My Sorrow
02. Among Ashes And Monoliths
03. Black Waters
04. Grit
05. Her Cold Embrace
06. At The Graves Of Giants
07. Dark Chasms
08. The Cavernous Deep
09. Nonextence
10. March Of The Eldritch Spawn
11. The Day I Die
12. Frihet Framför Feghet

LINE-UP:
Jonas Udd – Vocals
Magnus Karlsson – Guitars
Dennie Lindén – Guitars
Anders Brorsson – Bass
Alex Kribensten – Drums

LINKS:

Ablaze My Sorrow Promo Pic

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Emma Torkington 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.

Anneke Van Giersbergen – The Darkest Skies Are The Brightest

The Darkest Skies Are The Brightest Cover Art

Anneke Van Giersbergen – The Darkest Skies Are The Brightest
Inside Out Music
Release Date: 26/02/2021
Running Time: 41:51
Review by Dark Juan
9/10

Alright, me old muck spreaders? It is I, your Northern overlord, Dark Juan, here once again to regale you with tales of derring-do and heroism on the field of battle. Not about me, you understand. If there were ever a time I was required to serve in the Armed Forces of the United Kingdom I’d head straight for the RAF’s recruitment office. You see, the RAF are sensible. Unlike the Army, the RAF sends the officers out to fight their war while all the lower ranks stay home and drink cocktails and occasionally tinker with something expensive and probably explosive. Let’s be honest, you wouldn’t want old One-Tooth Joe from the Black Bull pub on the corner operating a computer based killing machine worth £100million at supersonic speeds on the frontier of a hostile state. That’s what Wing Commander the Right Honourable Algernon Charles St. John Cholmondeley- Featherstonehaugh is for. One-Tooth Joe can be better employed putting oil in the trucks at the base where the good WingCo will be landing after dropping a thousand pounds of laser-guided explosive death on some miscreants somewhere in the Middle East…

None of which has anything at all to do with what I am supposed to be doing, which is listening to the latest record from the absolutely wonderful Anneke Van Giersbergen. Yes, the estimable and superb vocalist of The Gathering, VUUR, The Devin Townsend Project and many other records has returned with a selection of new music. A warning – if you are expecting the face of Anneke that is the metal queen version, you are going to be gravely disappointed with this album as this is a record that proves the versatility and uniqueness of Anneke Van Giersbergen as an artist in her own right, untrammelled and unconstrained by genre or style. Indeed, the actual music on this record is incredibly sparse, most of the time just some simple percussion, some strings and an acoustic guitar, and the clear and bell like tones of Anneke’s unique voice, sometimes multitracked into some sublime harmonies.

The album is based around the fact that there was a period in Anneke’s life and marriage that involved profound upheaval and heartbreak and this album is her catharsis. To that end, the lyrical content is woundingly personal and honest when discussing feelings and the sense of loss and suffering that she had been experiencing at that time, and the internal discussions she was having with herself. The title itself suggests that in order to get to the sunlit uplands of life you have to go through the black times to appreciate the light. Which, to be fair, during these current times of pestilence and lockdown rules, is a timely reminder that suffering now will bring reward in the future and that you must remain focused on attaining normality again.

Musically, the album reminds me in many places of Kate Bush and Cyndi Lauper – not because of the voice (because Anneke is quite unlike any vocalist ever) but because of the sheer disinterest in fitting in with any standard or genre. ‘Hurricane’ is the most Bush like of the songs on here, with choppy, unpredictable harmonies and vocals and a strange sounding acoustic riff. It is musically intrepid even with the simple instrumentation and multitracked harmonies and cheerfully stomps all over any notion of fitting in. Talking of stomping, ‘Survive’ does just that, percussion building into an almost war dance while Anneke builds from a soft, lilting vocal into a powerful contralto shout and drive for the survival of her relationship. This is the theme of the whole record – Raw emotion and agonising honesty over music which is just a vehicle for what Anneke wants to say to her husband. It is not a record that was ever planned to be released, in my opinion, but it is a public affirmation of love and a desire to make everything right again and to never stop fighting for her marriage. In that regard, it is one of the heaviest records of all time because of the naked heartbreak and pain on display, but it is by no means a heavy metal record. Not even a little bit.

If anything, it is the aural equivalent of Kintsugi – The Japanese art of repairing broken things with precious metals, because the value and the beauty of the repaired thing and the continued love and appreciation of it only increases. This album is musical Kintsugi and that is its sole purpose. Taking that as a basis for my critique, then, Anneke Van Giersbergen has repaired her relationship and shot it through with veins of silver and gold and made something stronger than ever before and musically has welded those precious metals into the open wounds of suffering she was displaying and sealed them closed with profundity and honesty and gold and silver and made herself transcendental. Therefore, this record is a colossal success on that front.

But, because I am a hard headed and black hearted bastard, I have to remember that I write for a heavy metal website and this ranks among the least musically heavy records I have ever heard. However, one of my scoring criteria is that the music has to be interesting, and Anneke van Giersbergen delivers interest in spades. The lyrical content couldn’t be any heavier if it tried (I’m not talking about dragons and fucking demons and succubi here, I’m talking about the themes of loneliness and suffering and love dying and there being desolation all around you – that shit is heavy as FUCK and if you disagree you’re frankly wrong, mate) and although the music is gentle and sweet, it still holds you in some form of rapture. The sheer beauty and versatility of Van Giersbergen’s voice is amply displayed and flits from soft, almost inarticulate (the kind of sounds an upset child might use to comfort themselves) crooning through to full powered, vibrato fuelled rebellion, and her delivery is never less than utterly flawless. This is not a record to listen to. This is a record to feel, and frankly Dark Juan is fucking disgusted with himself for actually having been affected by this album and discovering that he hasn’t actually purged all human emotion from his twisted black soul. Although that could be because I have adored Anneke Van Giersbergen’s voice since The Gathering released ”Mandylion” in 1995.

I’m extremely conflicted. This album is a work of emotional subtlety and exemplary songwriting prowess and musicianship and deserves a huge score because it is a tumultuous rollercoaster of emotion and pain and redemption, but it is not a heavy metal record. Fuck it, I’ve decided…

The Patented Dark Juan Blood Splat Rating System awards Anneke Van Giersbergen 9/10 for a record that doesn’t just tug on the heartstrings, it rips them out and beats you to death with the wet ends. Moving, affecting and utterly captivating, this record is worth the expense simply for the cathartic effect it provides when you want heavy emotion but not heavy sounds. However, I have deducted a mark because it isn’t a heavy metal record and I write for Ever-METAL.com. This should not be taken as a demerit, it’s just that Anneke’s album ain’t a metal one although it is heavy as fuck.

Agape (Lyric Video)

TRACKLISTING:
01. Agape
02. Hurricane
03. My Promise
04. I Saw A Car
05. The Soul Knows
06. The End
07. Keep It Simple
08. Lo And Behold
09. Losing You
10. Survive
11. Love You Like I Love You

LINKS:

Anneke Van Giersbergen 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.

Moonscape – Entity, Chapter II: Echoes From A Cognitive Dystopia

Entity, Chapter II: Echoes From A Cognitive Dystopia Album Art

Moonscape – Entity, Chapter II: Echoes From A Cognitive Dystopia
Self-Released
Release Date: 23/11/2020
Running Time: 37:28
Review by Victor Augusto
8/10

Here I am to review the amazing Norwegian band, Moonscape, for the second time. Back in 2017, I was lucky to review the first part of this saga, called simply “Entity”, and I have both a good memory about it, and a regret. Regret, because that album really deserved a better explanation, but I was so young as a reviewer, and immature, that it was impossible at that time. The good memory is of all the amazing people, connected to the band, that I became friends with, including Mr. Håvard Lunde, the one-man-band, and the mind behind the Moonscape concept and music. He is responsible for the composition and this time, he has surpassed himself, working out how he could connect all the guest musicians, to make this album sound as it does. Let me try to free myself from regret and explain why this material is so amazing.

The “Entity” concept (in both parts) is something like Rick Wakeman’s “Journey To The Centre Of The Earth”. Part one was like one song, divided into chapters. This album goes the same way, but we have four songs that have a logical sequence and don’t sound like only one track. In both cases, I used Rick Wakeman’s work as a reference, in terms of the album structure. Is it Progressive Rock/Metal music? Hell yes! Nevertheless, it has a specific sonority, very well balanced between what we know about progressive Heavy Metal bands. I feel that Håvard didn’t want to be stuck in one simple genre, because there are even a few Death Metal parts on this record, like the blast beat and guttural voice that open ‘The Ails To Withstand’.

There is incredible detail here. Quickly, use the scroll down bar to read the MANY guest musicians on this album, and you’ll understand what I mean. Have you read it? Good! Now, come back here and join me with my thoughts. Could you imagine yourself putting together so many contributors, to create good songs, as Håvard has done? It is the most impressive aspect for me. The way that all the guest musicians fit together, to create a good sequence in the songs is amazing! Just the work of all the singers is a hard job because each of them interprets one character in this history.

The concept, for what I could understand, is about someone who tries to flee from this world and hide himself deep inside his own mind, but his terrors and demons can still find him. All the characters (Shadowself, Demon, The Dreamer, Angel, Father and The Erratic) are different states of his mind, that create an inner conflict. But, maybe, they are all real people around the person who’s trying to flee away from this life. No matter what it represents, it is astonishing how all the singers create a different interpretation of each character, exploring angelical or tenor vocals, right to guttural voices. Again, the hard work to put all of it together is what caught my attention the most.

Musically, there’s everything from varied Heavy Metal styles, in good balance. There are various speeds, with loud bass and heavy guitars. Moonscape even use saxophone, violin and piano. Of course, the guitar and keyboard solos are the strongest elements along the tracks, but the other instruments help add different atmospheres, as the chapters are evolving in each track, alongside the new tensions and events from this saga.

At the end of the last song ‘In the Mourning Hours’, there are a few seconds of the intro of the first song from the previous album “Entity” (what we could call Pt1). Håvard also put in the sound of a heartbeat and that made me curious to understand what it means. Is this a sign of a rebirth? Is it the beginning of the same cycle, that will repeat over again? I don’t know, but this mystery will make the listener think about it and hear the album with more attention.

As with most albums from one-man bands, I just feel that the record could have had a little bit more attention paid to the production. However, if you consider that we have more than ten musicians, from all parts of the world, recording their parts alone, I’m certain that Håvard is a wizard and did some kind of magic to put it together! It is the kind of album that makes people think about their lives. I feel that Moonscape was never a band that wanted to record an easy-to-understand album. Moreover, this is the magical side of what Moonscape is. I hope you enjoy this journey through “Entity, Chapter II: Echoes From A Cognitive Dystopia” as much as I did.

TRACKLISTING:
01. A Prelude To Grief
02. Illusion Or Reality?
03. The Ails To Withstand
04. In The Mourning Hours

LINE-UP:
Håvard Lunde – Vocals, Bass, Lead/Rhythm/Acoustic Guitars, Percussion and Programming

GUEST MUSICIANS:
Pauli Souka (Coldbound) – Lead Vocals as ‘Shadowself’
Runar Steen Hansen (Firefight) – Lead Vocals as ‘Demon’
Drake Chrisdensen (Ruins of Elysium) – Lead and Backing Vocals as ‘The Dreamer’
David Åkesson (Qantice) – Lead Vocals as ‘The Erratic’
Marcela Villarroel – Lead Vocals as ‘Angel’
Andreas Jonsson (ex-Spiral Architect) – Lead Guitars
Cezar Popescu (Days of Confusion) – Lead Guitars
Bret Barnes (Independent) – Saxophone
Linus Abrahamson (Guthrie Govan, Andromeda etc.) – Lead Guitars
Aaron Minich (Nekrogoblikon) – Keyboards
Eirik Dischler (Shamblemaths) – Organ
Alexandra Laya (Qantice)- Violin
David Russell (Independent) – Piano
Leviathan (Ex-Unspoken, Kvesta, Abyss Below) – Lead Guitars
Rafael Agostino (Armored Dawn) – Keyboards
John Kiernan – Lead Guitars
Mark Anthony K. (Projekt Gemineye/The Dark Monarchy) – Lead Guitars
Diego Palma (LordDivine) – Keyboards

LINKS:

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

Son Of Boar – Son Of Boar

Son Of Boar Album Cover Art

Son Of Boar – Son Of Boar
Stoned Rocka Recordings
Release Date: 02/04/2021
Running Time: 31:10
Review by Alun Jones
9/10

Well, here we are then. The debut album from Bradford based sonic butchers, Son of Boar. And yes, I am quite excited about this release. There are long lost civilisations existing in the South American jungle that, despite having no contact with the outside world, are aware that your pal, Platinum Al, has been desperate to hear this cacophonous compendium for some time.

So, is it any good? Well yeah, obviously. But just what kind of good I shall reveal.

There are five tracks on this eponymous release, across which Son of Boar attempt to cover as much ground as possible. Yes, this is Stoner Doom – it is heavy, it has groove, it has a windswept musical vista that is both fierce and welcoming.

I’ve already reviewed first track, ‘Stoned Wail’, when it was released as a single a while ago. This mix is punchier though, and still satisfying regardless of any familiarity. The calm wash of ocean waves accompanies a benign introduction; until, just over two minutes in, the full electric muscle of the band is released. SOB hit their groove and plough relentlessly on, whilst vocalist Luke roars about some sweet girl called Mary. I don’t know who Mary is, but she seems like a nice, compassionate lady.

The slow sludge of song number one is contrasted by ‘All In Your Head’, where SOB pick up the pace and gallop home with a Kyuss covering Maiden flourish. Great rhythm work from Gaz (bass) and Luke D (drums). ‘Satanic Panic’ then devolves brilliantly into the sort of the Corrosion of Conformity style Sabbath worship that enthralled James Hetfield. Powerful, even graceful, but remorseless.

‘Snakes And Daggers’ reminds me of Motorhead played too slow (33rpm not 45, for the fossils out there). Here the pace varies, with a great, almost psychedelic melodic swash emerging like a surprise visit from a long-lost drinking buddy. Then your old pal gets stinking drunk and kicks off in the taxi rank, and you’re desperately clutching your kebab in puzzlement. What?

You should listen to ‘Cities Of The Deadeyed Priestess’ just because it’s a genius song title. It also has some bizarro samples that I need to investigate. Musically, this is another brutal head crusher: meat and potatoes riffs and fine melodic hues courtesy of guitarists Lyndon and Adam.

And there you have it: five songs, one debut album. A fine band; they’re awesome live, have the best t-shirt designs I’ve seen in donkeys and are creating a real sense of cult-like, underground authenticity that is addictive. If I could afford to buy a copy of this album for everyone reading this review, I would. Even that weirdo at the back.

And Son of Boar have only just begun their journey…

TRACKLISTING:
01. Stoned Wail
02. All In Your Head
03. Satanic Panic
04. Snakes And Daggers
05. Cities Of The Deadeyed Priestess

LINE-UP
Luke Oliver – Vocals
Adam Waddell – Guitar
Lyndon Birchall – Guitar
Gaz Bates – Bass
Luke Doran – Drums

LINKS:

Son Of Boar 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 both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Phantom Elite – Titanium

Phantom Elite Titanium Album Cover Art

Phantom Elite – Titanium
Frontiers Music srl
Release Date: 22/01/2021
Running Time: 48:00
Review by Simon Black
9/10

This seems to be the month for this kind of music. Maybe it’s because Rick knows he can throw this stuff in my direction and I will take it on, but it really does seem that Symphonic Prog is taking over my feed. I shouldn’t complain – it doesn’t seem so long ago that I was casting around struggling to find recommendations in this field. When they are of the calibre of Phantom Elite, this is a nice problem to have…

“Titanium” is the sophomore album from this Progressive / Power Metal quartet, whose singer Marina La Torraca I was vaguely aware being one of the live Avantasia wall of vocalists. Sound-wise this is also dripping with Modern metal heaviness to go with the liberal lashings of Prog, Symphonic and Power and blast beats aplenty. Technically they are actually a five piece, as After Forever guitarist Sander Gommans is a song-writing contributor to this record, as well as taking the Producer’s chair. There is something to be said for having a key writing partner delivering the sound mix – it effectively allows the same creative influence to book end the whole end product, which ensures a tightly focussed end result aligned to the original vision (which is why so many bands naturally progress to getting involved in this area as they gain in experience).

As for the record, what we have are ten and a bit tightly crafted and sound-sculptured Modern Prog Metal tracks, whose technical delivery is faultlessly tight. There’s a rich fat sound in here, over which La Torraca’s vocals have absolutely every chance to soar, even though they keep her balanced in the mix. So often these kind of records push the cleaner female vocals too much to the front of the mix, with the instrumentals disappearing to the background, but not so here – the net effect being that she is an equal partner in the soundscape to the formidable musicians. I am going to particularly call out Koen Stam’s keyboard work interlaced with Max van Esch’s guitar, which has the kind of harmonic interplay of the calibre of the partnership Petrucci and Rudess share in Dream Theater. Yup, that good. La Torraca’s vocal prowess is considerable. Many female-fronted Symphonic bands have a tendency to strike the same tone throughout, but she has much more of a range on her and consequently we have a real variety within the sound of this record. Having fellow Avantasian Amanda Somerville on hand for a couple of tracks to boot is just the icing on the cake.

The result is an album that sounds fresh, technically blistering and really damn relevant.

‘Glass Crown’ (Official Video)

TRACKLISTING:
01. Conjure Rains
02. The Race
03. Diamonds And Dark
04. Worst Part Of Me
05. Glass Crown
06. Titanium
07. Bravado
08. Silver Lining
09. Haven
10. Deliverance
11. Eyes Wide Open

LINE-UP:
Marina La Torraca – Vocals
Max van Esch – Guitars/Bass
Koen Stam – Keyboards
Joeri Warmerdam – Drums

LINKS:

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

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.