TDW – The Days The Clock Stopped

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TRACKLISTING:

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

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

Solo’s per song:

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

Choir members:

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

LINKS:

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



Silent Skies – Satellites

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LINKS:


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

Beth’s Top Ten Releases of 2020

Beth’s Top Ten Releases of 2020
By Beth Jones

Well, what a year, eh? We’ve seen some terrible things happening, and we’ve seen some positives. We’ve also seen some things that are just completely weird and crazy. But through all that has happened in the outside world, terrible, bizarre, or otherwise, one thing has stayed steadfast. The quality of music being released.

In fact, if anything, the standard has taken a massive leap up, and I have been privileged and honoured to hear what is, in my opinion, some of the best music ever laid down. It has been an incredibly difficult job to formulate a list of my favourite, but after some wailing and gnashing of teeth, I’ve got my top ten. So here it is, my ‘crème de la crème’ of this historic year.

10. Vega – Grit Your Teeth (June 2020)

After 3 months of working from home, home schooling, and watching the daily briefings, we all very much needed a feel-good album. Enter classic hard rocker’s, Vega, with their sixth studio album. Riff laden and anthem driven, this upbeat album was the perfect antidote to the Groundhog Day we found ourselves in. I mean, who doesn’t need a bit of classic, 80s/AOR inspired rock in their lives, whatever’s happening outside, right?

www.facebook.com/OFFICIALVEGA


9. Helix – Eat, Sleep, Rock (September 2020)

As September dawned, things were starting to look slightly more positive. Mainly because the kids went back to school!! This did however mean that I had to leave Wine O’clock until after the school run! But I didn’t mind so much, because I could listen to “Eat, Sleep, Rock” in the car. My little 7-year-old rocker approved of this greatly, and now knows all the words to the opening track, ‘The Story Of Helix’.

If you’ve never experienced Helix, then you need to. Hi-octane classic rock at its best, with an injection of dry humour, from a band who’ve been kicking it for nearly half a century. If you like AC/DC, Alice Cooper, et al, then you need this album in your life.

www.facebook.com/HelixOfficialPage


8. Tomorrow Is Lost – Therapy (March 2020)

In March, when things were still pretty normal here in the western world, a talented young band from Newcastle, UK, released their debut album, “Therapy”. Their catchy, alt rock/metal sound is masterfully captured on this album. It has thumping beats, memorable riffs, and super vocals a plenty. They’re a combination of Evanescence, Skunk Anansie, and Paramore, and it’s very good. For such a young band, they really display a great deal of musical skill and talent in this album, with well-constructed songs, that gel well, without needing to overstate anything.

www.facebook.com/tomorrowislost


7. White Walls – Grandeur (October 2020)

One thing that this year did give use was the truly splendid European Metal Festival Alliance – a virtual festival, which saw some of Europe’s biggest festivals come together to bring the music to us, in the comfort of our own homes! It was a great weekend, which let me discover even more new music! And one of those discoveries was Romanian progressive metal band, White Walls. They were easily my band of the weekend, so discovering their third album was due for release was very exciting.

They mix progressive rhythms, with hard hitting riffs and vocals, and have been compared to the likes of Opeth and Leprous. The album is inspired by the state of the world, exploring the juxtaposition of the grandeur presented by the shiny and glamourous things in life, vs the realities of life. Very fitting for the time we’re living in, and masterfully approached by the band, too.

www.fb.com/whitewallsofficial


6. Ensiferum – Thalassic (July 2020)

Nothing says summer better than folk inspired melodic death metal, right? And if you want to fill your boots with grand, orchestrated, all conquering, theatrical metal, then there’s no better way that to do that than with Finnish aficionados, Ensiferum. “Thalassic” is a truly stunning album, centred around the theme of the sea (which they have a fair amount of in Finland, to be honest). It’s full of jiggy, bouncing tunes, epic solos, and catchy melodies, and for me, is the liveliest release of the year. I will wager good money with anyone on the fact that you cannot listen to this album without indulging in a bit of headbanging/dad dancing, even if you’re listening to it through headphones, and everyone around you thinks you’ve finally cracked! Let’s face it, Ensiferum never really make a bad album, but this one has to be one of my favourites.

www.facebook.com/Ensiferum


5. Freddy Spera – Temper (April 2020)

Freddy Spera is an Italian/Brazilian musician, who some may know as the hugely expressive bass player from Liverpool based band, Novacrow. He’s also an extremely talented multi-instrumentalist, and music producer. His first solo EP, “Temper” was definitely my easter treat this year. I didn’t know what to expect with it, but it only took me a few bars to make up my mind that it was absolutely stunning. It’s mellow, proggy, and in places, a touch on the 90’s indie/grunge side of things. Vocally, it reminded me of a lot of Devin Townsend’s recent releases, which pleased me a great deal, as Devin is a god amongst men in my eyes! I loved this EP so much that it was actually the first one to make it on to my list for releases of the year.

www.freddyspera.bandcamp.com


4. Kamelot – I Am The Empire: Live From The 013 (August 2020)

Now we’re getting to the business end of proceedings, and this is where deciding on who got the top spot for my releases of the year got a million times tougher. So, here we go with the top four, who are all separated by the smallest of margins.

August saw the release of an epic live album from American Symphonic Metal giants, Kamelot. I’d never really listened to Kamelot before (I know, I’m a fool – you may all point and laugh) but was completely blown away by this release. “I Am The Empire: Live From The 013” is nearly 100 minutes of extravagant, indulgent, perfection. It brought me pure joy, in the shape of stunningly orchestrated compositions, with grand melodies, both new and classic, encompassing intricate harmonies, powerful rhythms, and insatiable instrumentation that fills every beat with drama and beauty. All this is topped off by the spine-tingling vocals of Tommy Karevik. And if that wasn’t enough, there are guest appearances from the likes of Alissa White-Gluz (Arch Enemy), Charlotte Wessels (Delain), Elize Ryd (Amaranthe), Lauren Hart (Once Human) and Sascha Paeth (Avantasia, Epica and more)!

www.facebook.com/kamelotofficial


3. Osyron – Foundations (July 2020)

Canada has a bit of a habit of producing some kick-ass musicians. And Symphonic Metal band, Osyron, are no exception. “Foundations” theme is a view on Canadian history, spanning topics from the country’s colonization, to the mistreatment and recognition of indigenous tribes, and the country’s participation in global warfare. It’s hard-hitting subject matter, tackled superbly, by a very talented band. There was no doubt in my mind when I heard this album that it would make it high up on my top ten of the year.

Musically, it’s symphonic and proggy in all the right places, and if you like bands such as Nightwish, Symphony X, Dream Theater, Kamelot, and Wintersun, you’re going to like this. But the real masterstroke within this release is the lyrics. They’re superb, tackling difficult subject matter with emotional integrity, and displaying real thought and depth, to create something truly awesome.

www.facebook.com/osyron


2. Wilderun – Veil Of Imagination (July 2020)

Disclaimer – this was actually a re-release because they signed to a label. But it was simply too good not to include. Wilderun are a Melodic Death Metal band from Boston, Massachusetts, who chuck more than a hint of prog, folk, and orchestral elements into the mix, in order to create their sound. “Veil Of Imagination”, their third album, took me to places that most music doesn’t reach. It’s got such a musical intelligence about it, that creates something so beautiful it’s difficult to describe.

The dynamic peaks and troughs of this album are on a vast scale, going from full on, in your face, walls of sound, to subtle and tender solitary piano, and lilting vocals, in the blink of an eye. This is less of an album of individual tracks, and more a classical work of art consisting of many movements to make up a full symphony.

I originally listened to this release back in June, to write the review for it, and instantly had it as my album of the year, without question. They even managed to break maths, by scoring 11/10 from me. Simply superb. No other words are necessary.

www.facebook.com/OfficialWilderun/


1. Scardust – Strangers (October 2020)

So, as I said, for a large portion of the year I thought I had my top album pinned down in the shape of Wilderun. But then “Strangers”, the second album from Israeli progressive metal band, Scardust, happened.

This release made the impossible possible, reducing me to tears with its brilliance, and reducing my scoring system to irrelevant nonsense. It is, without question, a complete masterpiece, which my inferior words do not do justice to. It’s punchy riffs, insane vocals, equally insane solos, and orchestration that would have pleased classical renaissance composers, will, for me, remain unrivalled for a very long time. I can’t remember the last time I heard an album so complete, and so perfect. And it’s been added to the very short list of works that really hit me in the feels every time (Mozart’s Requiem, and Queen’s “Made In Heaven” are the other two).  

Music truly is the only universal language. And good music, wherever it sits in terms of genre, is a powerful force for good. And, whatever the future holds, this album will always have a very special place in my heart, because of the way it spoke to me. And, for that reason, it takes my number one spot, by a country mile.

www.facebook.com/ScardustOfficial/


To sum up, in general, this year’s been a crock of shit. But musically, this year has delivered, and then some. And it’s been joyous to have the ability to share my thoughts on this wonderful language with you. To the bands here, and all the others who didn’t make my final cut, thank you, from the bottom of my heart. And to anyone reading this, wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, take care, stay strong, and let the music play.

To read the original reviews, follow these links:

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

Lullaby For A Unicorn – I Can’t Believe They’re Not Better

Lullaby For A Unicorn – I Can’t Believe They’re Not Better
Dates & Raisins Records
Release Date: 04/07/2020
Running Time: 34:09
Review by Beth Jones
6.5/10

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far, away, a unicorn got jiggy with a seagull, and spawned 4 ne’er-do-wells. It taught them the language of the unicorn gull, then threw them out of the nest, to find their own way in the doldrums. The young hoodlums roamed the galaxy for years, serenading the planets with their unique sound, until one day, around 30 million years later, when they could finally be arsed, they decided to put their music on a record. And, ladies and gents, that record is the subject of my musings today!

Here in the Wales, we like life to be lived at a more leisurely pace than our English neighbours. Most parts of the country now have running water, which is pretty damn high tech, let me tell you. Apparently soon, we may also have something called 5G, or at least 4G, however, dial-up does us just fine. With this in mind, it comes as no surprise that Lullaby For A Unicorn call North Wales their home! It will also come as no surprise that the majority of their debut album, “I Can’t Believe They’re Not Better”, is taken up by songs that anyone who has followed them for the last couple of years will have already heard, many times over! But that doesn’t make them any less groovy/unhinged.

For those who haven’t had the pleasure of an evening with the Lullaby boys, then prepare to be medicined! Make sure you bring plenty of rum, leave your serious boots by the door, and put on your tongue in cheek sense of humour hats (and/or unicorn onesies, which ever you feel more conspicuous in)!

‘Alan Raiders’ opens the album (There’s a funny story behind the name of this song – for more details, spam Lullaby on their Facebook page). A classic hit of theirs, which introduces us to the tortured vocals of Justin, Baxter’s sexy bass skills, Dan’s riffage, Gaz’s animal-esque drumming, and some dude shouting ‘Alan, Alan, Alan…Alan’ (could be any of them, probably Gaz, but I prefer the mystique of not knowing). It’s difficult to describe their sound. They don’t really have a genre. Unicorn Thrash is probably the closest I’ll get. Imagine you were a unicorn, having a really bad day, sick of everyone telling you that you’re mythical/not real, and fed up with farting rainbows, then you pick up a guitar and play some Thrash on it, and manage some pretty tasty fingerings (ooh err Mrs), even though you have hooves instead of hands, because YOU’RE MAGIC, SO THERE! That’s Unicorn Thrash.

Anyway, moving on. Track 2, ‘Huffing on the Whiskey Smoke’, starts of quite mellow, with stormy sea sound effects, and pleasant guitar, then kick in to a 90’s inspired, sludgy grunge style, with plenty of overdrive, some double bass kicks, and the eternally pissed off vocals of Justin, with the added injection of alcoholic slurring!

These two tracks essentially set the tone for the rest of the album, sludgy, grungy, slightly doomy, thrash, with a bit of funk popping up every now and again (the opening of ‘Kung-fu Bukkake’ being one fine example). Musically, it couldn’t be further away from polished if it tried, but I would expect nothing less from the boys, really!! However, this lack of finesse, rough around the edges, approach does make it, and them, strangely exciting!

My favourite track has to be ‘WTF’. Not because it’s a stroke of musical genius that’s better than the rest, but because it takes me back to the good old days of the Tivoli Nightclub in Buckley. The Saturday rock nights there were my happy place, back in the late 90’s, and this track is almost an illustration of them. Picture the scene – it’s around 11.30pm, and I’m sitting on the dubiously stained sofas, on the balcony area, drunk as a skunk and stoned out of my tree, trying to make sense of the metal music drifting from downstairs, as it merges with the music from the Indie room upstairs. It was mental torture, but it was great. This track is exactly that!

In fact, that pretty much sums up the album, really. Epically lovable mental torture. It’s not the most technically put together album you’re going to hear, nor is it the most musically adept. But it’s jolly good drunken fun, and they do have a great sound, and an endearing attitude towards both music, and life. One suggestion though, if you’re not drunk, go and get drunk, then come back and listen to it, and I promise you’ll be jumping about like you’ve lost your mind within seconds.

TRACKLISTING:
01.Alan Raiders
02.Huffing On The Whiskey Smoke
03.March Of The Unicorns
04.Rancid Santa
05.Kung-fu Bukkake
06.WTF
07.Lords Of Vice Live at HRH Metal 2020 (Stage Three)
08.Pointing At Seagulls (2018…honestly, not filler at all)

LINE-UP:
Justin – Vocals and Synths
Gaz – (D)rums and Funny Noises
Baxter – Rumbling Bass Noises and Onesies
Dan – Guitar, Stupid Facial Expressions and a Terrible Posture

LINKS:

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

Monolith – Sentience

Monolith – Sentience
Self-Released
Release Date: 13/11/2020
Running Time: 53:10
Review by Beth Jones
7/10

Hands up who likes Progressive/Tech/Djent/Industrial/Electro Metal??!!! Ah good!! Me too! Well I’ve got a little something you might like.

Monolith is a one-man project that’s got all that and more. It’s the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist, and an old friend of mine, Nathan Hughes. And his debut album, “Sentience” has just landed. Formed as a project for his university degree in 2018, Monolith has grown into his ‘passion project’, culminating in this release. It’s a meld of everything, like one big metal caravan filled with whatever the hell you want, ready to set off on a trek to wherever the hell you want, down all the twisty and turny A roads and dirt tracks you can find! Metaphorically speaking!

The album explores a myriad of soundscapes, infusing synth effects with more traditional metal instrumentation. It starts with ‘Sentience I – Awakening’. The opening couple of bars sound like ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’, which I thought was pretty fitting for the direction this album is aiming to take. But it quickly becomes a guitar and drum driven track full of darkness and intrigue, as well as a myriad of complex rhythms and interlocking sections. A great start.

‘Lucid’ is up next. Groove funk central!! It starts off with drums and some pretty nifty bass licks, and then tumbles into groove laden guitar. But don’t get too comfortable, as some crazy synth then drills into your brain followed by a ridiculously complex rhythm section, then some full-on thrash! It’s impossible not to move to, but do NOT try to bang you’re head, as you will either a) get annoyed at yourself for going off beat, or b) look like you’re having some kind of episode.

‘Departure’ takes you on a much floatier and more calming journey to start with. Massive reverb on a solo guitar, with wave sound effects in the background, lead into bass synths, and a Pink Floyd style guitar solo that’s indulgent, but not to the point of it becoming tacky. It’s just peaceful. I likey. ‘Skyline’ comes next. This takes the crazy djent prog madness of the first two tracks, and the mellowness of ‘Departure’, and chucks them both together, purely because it can. It also has synth sax, again, because it can. Although, I’m a bit of an old fuddy duddy when it comes to wind instruments, because I was brought up in a house full of very proficient sax players, and synth versions of them grind my gears. They just sound corny. Sorry.

Anyway, moving on! In the middle of the album, at track 6, ‘The Elusion’ we’re introduced to some more new sounds. An almost 90’s grunge feel, cloaking, but not completely obscuring, the crazy proggy madness that we have been gifted with so far. Given the point in the album, and the track name, I think this is very cleverly thought out bit of placement. Possibly a metaphor for the ‘more socially acceptable’ version of ourselves that a lot of us over here in metal corner have to create in our day to day lives, in order to be accepted within ‘normal’ circles.

The next tracks, starting with ‘The Price Of Reality’, are a much darker journey. Slower than what has gone before, and with more trepidation. ‘The Price Of Reality’ using sludgy doom inspired sections, and ‘Lost’ making use of a minor key, an altogether slower tempo, and synth strings, giving it a stark and overarching feeling of sadness. Being a melancholy soul, this is my favourite track on the album. The musicality in the instrumentation really is superb here, and the progressions and cadences almost send it into the realms of a classical composition.

‘Cmd_Shutd0wn’ sees us heading swiftly back into Electro/Djent, and is hugely Gojira inspired. It’s only a small track, but it’s no less technical. It also marks the beginning of the reverse, which will bring us full circle to the sounds that opened this album. This is more noticeable however in the penultimate track, ‘Transcend’ which draws influence from everything that has already been introduced, and neatly packages it into a little under 4 minutes. ‘Sentience II – The Neon Dreamscape’, closes the album in much the same way, ending with the same synth sounds that we were first met with in the opening bars of the album.

Musically, this album displays the undeniable talents that Nathan has, as both a musician and a composer. It’s also superbly mixed and mastered, given that the sound is huge, but was basically put together in his bedroom. But, there is a fairly large elephant in the room, that I haven’t addressed as yet. This album, in its current form, is purely instrumental, and is crying out for vocals. While every track is masterfully constructed and played, there is a vocal shaped hole in them all, that needs filling to take this album to the next level. Maybe I’m biased as vocals are my thing, but for me, with vocals, this album would be a solid 10.

That said, if you like any of the aforementioned musical styles, you really should check out “Sentience”. With Monolith, and this release, Nathan has taken a really great step onto the metal project ladder.

TRACKLISTING:
01. Sentience I – Awakening
02. Lucid
03. Departure
04. Skyline
05. Overseer
06. The Elusion
07. The Price of Reality
08. Lost
09. Cmd_Shutd0wn
10. Transcend
11. Sentience II – The Neon Dreamscape

LINKS:

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

A Response to Misogyny

A Response to Misogyny (By Association, On The Grounds Of Being Female)
By Beth Jones

If you had “Blatant and Inexcusable Misogyny in Printed Media” on your 2020 Armageddon Bingo Card, then you can now cross it off, as the year that just keeps on giving has done it again! This month’s issue of a fairly well followed print format rock and metal magazine, who shall remain nameless, have firmly cemented that entry into the “Turned The World Off and On Again, It Seems to be Fucked” annual; With their editor using incredible lack of judgement, and outdated views of what is acceptable, clearly clouded by unsatisfied testosterone running wildly though his system.

His two-word article title faux pas has not only managed to degrade, demean, and undermine the integrity of women in music, especially Rock and Metal; It has also incensed me, the least feminist person I know, to write this. Regardless of the content of the article, or indeed the accompanying editorial which ‘championed women in rock and metal’, this act of disregard brings, once again, to the forefront an ‘ism’; an inequality that all women experience. But this is the tip of the iceberg.

For women in many walks of life, being met with surprise and disbelief that they can do something competently, other than cook and clean, is a daily occurrence. And it’s also a regular occurrence for assumptions to be made as to our roles, purely based on the lack of external appendages within our trousers.

In the Rock and Metal world, women are used to being looked at when they turn up with their band, and the assumption being made that they’re a girlfriend of a male band member, rather than an  accomplished musician, and integral part of the band. When performing on stage, women are used to being seen as ‘only there for a bit of eye candy’, and dealing with being groped, manhandled, or commented upon, because of what they choose to wear, or simply the fact that they’re a female in a band. They’re also used to getting plenty of hate regarding their size, hair colour, choice of makeup, etc, etc, ad infinitum. When they start playing or singing, women are also used to being met with surprise that they can actually do it just as well as their male counterparts. And they’re also used to it being pointed out in articles that they are female, or that the band is ‘female fronted’. I will hold my hands up, it’s something I have done on one occasion in the past, because it was ‘the done thing’ and I failed to question it. Rookie error. But why was it, and why is it still, the done thing? What is its benefit? There are only two reasons I can think of – for the benefit of those poor souls who may get confused, and wonder why a prepubescent teenage boy is being exploited in a band full of bigger boys, or so that the Neanderthals can prepare their “fun sock” before they check out the band’s videos on YouTube.

As women, we’re used to all those things, and we’re used to rising above them. But that doesn’t make any of them right, and it doesn’t make any of them grate our gears any less.

Inequality is everywhere. Inground into, and accepted in, every fabric of society. And despite the efforts of activists, and the apologetic agreement, whilst attempting to hide the problem under the carpet, of governments globally, these problems are getting worse. Racial inequality, gender inequality, homophobia, transphobia, and every other inequality or phobia aimed at making someone feel smaller than the perpetrators of hate. And the only way we can stop it is for everyone to just get real. Like any problem, the first step to curing it is admitting that it’s a problem. That has started to gain momentum, but to actually accomplish anything, EVERYONE has to get on the bus.

Pulling it back to our subject matter here, the intrenched, low-level misogyny that women are forced to endure through every step of their lives is not something that women alone can solve either, sadly. As the old saying says, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” It’s going to take every man, and I do mean EVERY MAN, to step up to the plate, and start thinking with their brains. YOU need to make the ones who refuse to see it feel like the outsiders, in the same way that women are made to feel all. The. Time.

So come on chaps, put your big boy pants on and let’s work on making everyone equal, regardless of what’s hanging between their legs, (or whatever driving force is behind every ‘ism’) yeah? Have the courage that so many are forced to employ every day, in order to survive in the global dominant patriarchy. Because no matter how much anyone tries to talk it down or laugh it off, that’s what it is. And we’ve had enough.

And before you ask, I’m not blowing things out of proportion because I’m a feminazi/ hormonal/ menopausal/ too emotional/ a woman*. This is reality.

*Delete as appropriate to indicate which one makes you feel better about your reasons for continued ignorance.

Disclaimer: This article 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.

Ashen Reach – Homecoming

Ashen Reach – Homecoming
Self-Released
Release Date: 16/11/2020
Running Time: 56:17
Review by Beth Jones
8.5/10

Liverpool based Ashen Reach have been a firm favourite with us here at ever metal since discovering them in their previous guise at a Twisted Illusion gig in Manchester. Recently, they’ve had some ups and downs. The dizzy heights of playing to vast audiences in Russia, to the disruption of a line-up change. Considering their young age, they’ve shown a lot of balls to stand up to the challenge, and now they’re a solid 5 piece again, the time has come to unleash their debut album, “Homecoming” into the world of hard rock. This has pleased us a lot here at EMHQ, because they’re a super talented bunch of musicians who have been working their asses off for the last couple of years.

“Homecoming” is an album that explores many current themes, from mental health and domestic abuse, to love and determination. Their unique sound does this in a way that sets each song apart from the next, and explores mood through the dynamics of music.

The album kicks off with ‘Fighting For My Life’ – a riff heavy, chunky, classic hard rock track, which really gets your foot tapping. The powerful vocals of Kyle Martyn Stanley cut through over the top of thumping riffs and drums, and we get treated to a guitar solo towards the end of the song, which is rich and full in terms of tone, making this a great start to the album.

The next two tracks, ‘Epiphany’, and ‘Tear It Down’ follow the same style, providing a very upbeat first ten minutes of the album. Then things take a turn for the heavier with, ‘Heir to The Throne’. It starts with drums and guitar, similar to the sounds we’ve already heard. But this then gets joined by some down-tuned bass and builds into an expansive chorus that wouldn’t be out of place in a symphonic metal band. We also get a middle section with some screams and growls thrown into the mix, at a low enough level to make them not too intrusive, but enough to give this song a distinctly heavier edge. Kyle also has more of a rasp in his vocals throughout this song.

‘Alive Again’ and ‘Prey’ continue with the slightly heavier sound, but also add in some progressive exploration, with more experimental sections. The use of reverb in these adds a haunting and lilting feel to the acoustics. This provides a great contrast between the full on, in your face, and the more stripped back elements. I really like the opening to ‘Prey’ – Kyle’s unusual vocals work really well for the quiet elements, as he has an interesting tone, and is still able to deliver a powerful sound at a softer dynamic. This track builds throughout, to a crescendo of sound towards the end, giving the sense that the ‘prey’ has been trapped.

An element of calm is then thrown into the mix, with a Pink Floyd-esque soundscape in the form of ‘Ether’. Gentle guitar and synth effects float for around a minute and a half, creating a beautiful and peaceful serenity. Like sitting in a summer meadow, watching the pollen and insects float on the warm breeze.

‘Here I Go’, continues this theme, but with the addition of some lovely vocal harmonies. Then it bursts into a full-on progressive rock ballad, complete with cross rhythm sections, epic soloing, and plenty of moments where, in the good old days, any crowd would have been stood with lighters aloft creating a twinkling sea of swaying fire! I think this is one of my favourite tracks on the album actually.

Then we get to the business end of the album. The final three tracks, ‘Hole In The Sky’, ‘Broken Column’, and the title track ‘Homecoming’, really make this album for me. They feel like a bit of a level-up. They’re intricately put together, with interesting rhythms, brilliant vocals and harmonies, and real power. I also feel that the balance of sound in these final tracks has really had attention paid to it. At some points earlier in the album, there are times when I think things are too mid- heavy. The guitar riffs almost take over and obscure the rest of the sound. But here, it’s much easier to pick out individual sounds. These three tracks also have an insatiable groove to them, which really connects you to the sound. I would still like a little more bass and drums in the mix for ‘Broken Columns’ and ‘Homecoming’ though. I think that would have really helped drive the tracks. But then I’m a sucker for bass heavy stuff, so this is, off course, purely my opinion!

All in all, this is a very solid and accomplished debut album, from a very exciting young band, who I believe have a whole ton more to give. And it is well worth investing 56 minutes of your time to listen to it!

TRACKLISTING:
01. Fighting For My Life
02. Epiphany
03. Tear It Down
04. Heir To The Throne
05. Alive Again
06. Prey
07. Ether
08. Here I Go
09. Hole In the Sky
10.Broken Column
11. Homecoming

LINE-UP:
Kyle Martyn Stanley – Vocals
Paddy Cummins – Lead Guitar/ Backing Vocals
Joe O’Sullivan – Rhythm Guitar
Mike McCarroll – Bass/ Backing Vocals
Jess Stanley – Drums

LINKS:


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

Skinflick – The Dead Evolved (Mini Album)

Skinflick – The Dead Evolved (Mini Album)
Self-Released
Release Date: 31/10/2020
Running Time: 32:19
Review by Beth Jones
8/10

‘Tis All Hallows Eve, the night is dark, and ye spirits of olde awake from their immortal slumber to roam free upon the land, searching for their portal to the next realm. The Samhain sacrifices are high, and the symbolic feasting of the darker half begins. Also, some shit hot music gets released! Namely, here, in the shape of a special Halloween release by Bangor’s favourite solo psychotic industrial metal project, Skinflick. To be fair, he’s probably Bangor’s only psychotic industrial metal project, but that doesn’t make him any less important!

This 7-track mini album is a special release, to coincide with Halloween, which charts the end of the world leading to the dead rising. In fairness, that’s a pretty good description of certain areas of our little country, too!

As we have now come to expect with Skinflick (AKA Justin Williams, Lullaby For A Unicorn), this release explores electronic soundscapes, with heavy low-end bass sounds, and dirty, sludgy noises mixed into pulsing drum rhythms, and atmospheric synth sounds. Atop of that discordant mindfuck sits half sung / half whispered vocals, just at the level where you begin to question if the voices your hearing are actually on the recording, or just the ones in your head. Shush now damn you! I’m trying to write a review!!!

All in all, this is a pretty nifty release, put together by Justin in his little cave of madness and depravity, and engineered superbly to capture the atmospheric dread and despair of the apocalypse. If you like anything industrial, or electronica, this is worth a spin. And at 32 minutes, it beats watching a Halloween special of any TV series! I don’t have a favourite track, because I feel it needs to be listened to as one whole piece.

Sleazemeister, as I will now lovingly refer to Justin, has again managed to throw down some thumping drums, fat bass, twinkly synths, and freaky vocals, to create a very competent industrial indulgence. Lovely job Sleazemeister, lovely job. And even if it’s not your cup of tea, chuck it on loud on your stereo, as it will certainly freak out any little terrors who come knocking on your door expecting treats! That’ll teach them to mess with ancient rituals they don’t understand. Mwahahahahahahaaaaa!

Anyway, sleep well my pretties. Don’t have nightmares.

TRACKLISTING:

01.The Sun Shines On The Sinners
02.The Sinkhole Sky
03.The Death Surprise
04.The Dead Rise
05.The Dead Insane
06.The Dead Evolved
07.The Dead Crushed

LINKS:

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

Among Phantoms – Memories/Catastrophes


Among Phantoms – Memories/Catastrophes
DiGiDi
Release Date: 01/10/2020
Running Time: 25:47
Review by Beth Jones
8/10

Do you ever have one of those weeks where, by Tuesday lunchtime, you feel like you’ve climbed Everest on your hands, whilst being repeatedly beaten around the face by an angry Octopus? Well, it’s been that kind of a week! But what better way to unwind than with a bit of shouty Hardcore! And you could do a lot worse than Danish Metallic Hardcore band, Among Phantoms.

From Aarhus in Denmark, and formed in 2016, the band released a self-titled EP in 2018, and were set to release their debut album, “Memories/Catastrophes” earlier this year. But, you know, this year’s just been a bit of a cluster fuck really hasn’t it! However, the album was finally released a few weeks ago, and is the subject of today’s musings from me!

The first thing that struck me about Among Phantom’s sound was the mix of influences going on. It’s got a punk edge, and some really thrash inspired riffs and rhythms, but they also dabble in some off-beat proggy bits, and at times, some 90’s-esque hardcore grunge sounds. It’s pleasing. The one constant throughout though is the tortured screams of Lars Raun Petersen.

The album starts with ‘It Is Us’. Opening with a classic sounding guitar riff, it launches into an off-beat chunky little number fairly quickly, transitions into a bit of thrash in the middle, then drops back into riffs and off beats, then a bit of Rage Against The Machine style rhythms, before meandering off into thrashy prog a bit more! It’s a lot to cram into one 4-minute song, but technically, it’s executed really well.

‘Breath You In’ follows, dropping into a more standard approach to rhythms! Solid thrashy riffage, that you can really bang your head to, and screams that penetrate through everything. The following track, ‘Anticipation’ runs in much the same way, but then they step things up again in ‘Oblivion’. This offers a lot of really great headbanging sections, but none of them keep the same rhythm for long, just to try and screw with your mind! That said, I think this is my favourite track on the album. It’s really dark, and heavy as hell. It also has some funky little samples going on in the middle. It feels exciting, and aggressive; almost primal. One of those song that you just don’t risk putting on in the car for fear of losing your shit and ending up in a hedge!

Track 5, ‘Taking Over’, is more on solid ground, and has a great little call and response section involving the guitars, which is panned nicely between left and right, giving it a really wide feel. Talking about mixing, the band’s guitarist, Mads Trebbein, took care of that, and Andreas Linnemann created the final masters. And a fine job they’ve done too. One of my bugbears is not having the correct balance of sound, but I haven’t found anything with the levels here that particularly irks me!

There’s nothing that’s going to move mountains within this release. However, as a debut, it’s a great solid start for Amongst Phantoms to grow from, and it’s a very enjoyable listen. There’s one thing for sure though. With only 7 tracks, and just shy of 26 minutes long, “Memories/Catastrophes” doesn’t outstay its welcome. If anything, it’s not long enough for my liking! I needed another couple of tracks to irritate the obsessional rhythmic headbanger lurking withing me! For their future releases, I’d like to see the same standard of vigour, but for a longer duration! And if they do that, then I’ll be a very happy bunny!

TRACKLISTING:
01. It Is Us
02. Breathe You In
03. Anticipation
04. Oblivion
05. Taking Over
06. RED
07. Don´t Look Back, Commit!

LINE-UP:
Lars Raun Petersen – Vocals
Rene Holmboe – Drums
Mads Trebbein – Guitar
James Amstutz – Guitar
Anders S. Mikkelsen – Bass

LINKS:

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

Helix – Eat Sleep Rock

Helix – Eat Sleep Rock
Perris Records
Release Date: 04/09/2020
Running Time: 45:34
Review by Beth Jones
10/10

I’ve made the difficult decision today to take a break from progressive metal…Don’t worry, it’s only for the day! Because sometimes Sundays just call for a bit of good, honest, salt of the earth, hard rock, right?! Today’s listening pleasure is sponsored by old-school Canadian hard rockers, Helix, in the shape of their new album, “Eat Sleep Rock”.

This album is a compilation of the bands favourite songs recorded since their departure from Capitol/EMI back in 1990. (Yes, that is 3 decades ago, and yes you are, like me, getting very, very old. Eesh! 30 damn years, where the hell did that go?!) But as an added bonus, alongside some timeless classics, this album also offers two previously unreleased tracks, the title track, and ‘The Story Of Helix’, which opens the album.

And what a way to open an album it is. In a style akin to the ever popular ‘Tribute’ (originally performed by Tenacious D, but subsequently murdered millions of times over in every Karaoke bar globally), this track is an hilarious spoken word piece, set to music, and interspersed with musical fills at just the right points. It summarises the story of the journey that Helix have been on, over nearly half a century, into a neatly packaged 7 and a half minutes! And it’s funny as hell! I did some proper belly laughing at it! I would recommend that anyone who held the 90’s music scene in any level of contempt have a listen to this track. You’ll sympathize with it!

Following the amusing start, Helix get back to business in ‘Eat Sleep Rock’, the album’s title track. It’s just great, solid, hard rock. And that, my friends, really is all you need quite a lot of the time. Think Alice Cooper, Aerosmith, and AC/DC, and you’re on the right tracks. It’s written and performed to be tight and no nonsense, and when you listen to it, it’s completely impossible not to tap your toes and nod your head. And I’ve discovered, when you’re writing, it’s also impossible to stop yourself writing in time to the music, too.

The album continues in this way throughout. Just tune after tune of great hard rock. Superb solos, metronomic drumming, classic rock vocals – clean, but with just enough grit to give them edge, big riffs, and driving bass lines. It’s music for a road trip. Or music to shoot some pool and drink liquor to, and I love it.

I don’t have a favourite track on this album, as the whole thing just puts you in a great mood. There’s no way I could single out one track that does that more than the others. Everything is written, performed, recorded, mixed and mastered to perfection. But this is to be expected, as these guys are all seasoned professionals, and they’ve used some of the cream of the crop to take care of mixing and mastering, too. There isn’t a single thing that I would change, or that has irritated me, about this album, which is rare, because I’m a fussy cow!!

Ok, I’ll level with you. If you’re looking for explorations of new and Avant Garde sounds, you should probably move along. But if you want to be immersed in some proper ROCK, then get stuck into this bad boy, because you won’t be disappointed!

TRACKLISTING:
01. The Story Of Helix (Unreleased)
02. Eat Sleep Rock (Unreleased)
03. Shock City Psycho Rock
04. Wrecking Ball
05. I’m A Live Frankenstein
06. Even Jesus (Wasn’t Loved In His Hometown)
07. Cyber Space Girl
08. When The Bitters Got The Better Of You
09. The Tequila Song
10. (Gene Simmons Says) Rock Is Dead
11. The Devil Is Having A Party Tonight

LINE-UP:
Brian Vollmer – Lead Vocals
Daryl Gray – Bass & Keyboard Programming
Greg “Fritz” Hinz – Drums
Kaleb Duck – Guitar
Chris Julke – Guitar

LINKS:

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