Averted – Silenced EP

Silenced EP Cover

Averted – Silenced EP
Wormholedeath
Release Date: 18/12/2020
Running Time: 25:19
Review by Steven Hooke
7/10

It feels weird and a little dirty to describe anybody’s sound “old school djent” given the youthful tenure of the progressive metalcore-adjacent genre, following its primary explosion in popularity in 2009. I mean, it can only just about go and watch Wonder Woman 1984 in cinemas (if we were allowed outside that is).

But “old school” or “first-wave” djent seems the most fitting descriptor for this Southampton four-piece. These early days of the controversial movement saw bands perform in two very distinct ways: widdle around on guitar like they’re doing their Grade 8 exam with the occasional Meshuggah-laced power chord thrown in there to show they’re part of the scene, and swapping out the aggro parts of modern metalcore with ‘obZen’ by Meshuggah.

On their debut release, Averted have done the latter, offering a sprightly modern metalcore affair with Jamie Stevens’ tree trunk-thick guitar tone to bounce along the rhythm, that explodes into wild, spindly licks that eventually give way to the double-barrelled vocals of Syhem Angel. An underrated trope of the genre – and something producer Jack Stephens has nailed – is that a release’s mix allows drummers and bassists (the unsung heroes of metal rhythm sections) to have their talents heard to great extent as well, as drummer Merlin Parr meets every syncopated chug at the pass, and Logan Ashed does as good a job accentuating the low-end tones of the band’s sound, as he does echoing any tangible scale adventure Jamie takes, as heard best on ‘Vaecordia’.

Something I found took a little while to come around to (whilst categorically not saying they are bad at all) were the vocals of frontwoman Syhem. Her harshes are more than sound and up to the task, delivering a range not too dissimilar to Otep Shamaya, albeit with less rasp and more guttural body. In her cleans though, it almost feels like at times, she’s singing outside the ranges of this style of metalcore, having such a rich, unusual sound to her voice, oftentimes feeling more at home on a power metal record. Using ‘Sacrifice’ as an example, the instrumentation in the verses is short and punchy, whilst the vocals feel like they’re trying to use a more flowing kind of delivery, but somewhere there’s been a compromise and the vocals are trying to hit a word-per-beat ratio. Compare that to a song like ‘Absolution’, where sharp, heavy riffs build to a swell for Syhem’s vocals in a way that feels way more natural and it’s a no contest. Considering all parts of the EP were recorded in individual home studios, meaning the collaborative process would have been a different beast entirely, and as a group, they’re barely a year old, this can all easily be remedied in the post-apocalyptic future of inter-person engagements. Also, as a side note, the power clean vocals on the chorus of the title track are sinfully good. Take a bow.

Overall Averted haven’t rewritten the rules for djent or ushered in a new era of techy metalcore, everything on “Silenced” has been done before, but it’s a testament to them that at no point did it feel repetitive or boring. Again, considering each part of the EP was recorded in separate remote locations and doesn’t sound horrendously dysfunctional shows that they have promise as a unit. Getting a better hold of the song flow that is mutually beneficial to the music and vocals will improve with time and the delicate experiments with synths and keyboards, show that they’re already looking to expand their sound, and thus it may be a matter of time before the dedicated tech metalcore crowd starts taking notice.

TRACKLISTING:
01. The Plea
02. Silenced
03. Vaecordia
04. The Curse
05. Sacrifice
06. Absolution

LINE-UP:
Syhem Angel – Lead Vocals
Jamie Stevens – Guitars
Logan Ashed – Bass
Merlin Parr – Drums

LINKS:

Averted

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

Steven’s Top Ten Releases Of 2020

Steven’s Top Ten Releases Of 2020
By Steven Hooke

Hi Everyone,

Here are Steven’s top ten releases of 2020. As you’ll see this is a hugely eclectic selection that, regular readers, might struggle to fully embrace…but music is always a wonderful journey, regardless of genre. Putting this together has certainly opened my eyes to a couple of artists who I may not have, otherwise, bothered with!

Rick


10. Caspian – On Circles (January 2020)

www.facebook.com/CaspianTheBand

‘Circles On Circles’ (Visualiser)


9. Gold Key – Panic Machine (May 2020)

www.facebook.com/GOLDKEYMUSIC

‘Sweet Darkness’ (Official Video)


8. Joji – Nectar (September 2020)

www.facebook.com/jojikansai

‘Your Man’ (Official Video)


7. Trivium – What the Dead Men Say (April 2020)

www.facebook.com/Trivium

‘Catastrophist’ (Official Video)


6. Palm Reader – Sleepless (October 2020)

www.facebook.com/wearepalmreader

‘Willow’ (Official Video)


5. Anaal Nathrakh – Endarkenment (October 2020)

www.facebook.com/Anaalnathrakhofficial

‘Endarkenment’ (Official Video)


4. Creeper – Sex, Death & The Infinite Void (July 2020)

www.facebook.com/creepercult

‘Cyanide’ (Official Video)


3. Phoxjaw – Royal Swan (July 2020)

www.facebook.com/phoxjawofficial

‘Half House’ (Official Video)


2. Spanish Love Songs – Brave Faces Everyone (February 2020)

www.facebook.com/SpanishLoveSongs

‘Beachfront Property’ (Official Video)


1. Code Orange – Underneath (March 2020)

www.facebook.com/codeorangetoth

‘Swallowing The Rabbit Hole’

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

Swarmageddon – Inhuman

Swarmageddon – Inhuman
Self-Released
Release Date: 03/10/2020
Running Time: 35:31
Review by Steven Hooke
8/10

Hailing from a picturesque corner of France, Swarmageddon was pulled into life by frontwoman and vocal juggernaut Marion Volle, whose Angela Gossow-meets-Charlotte Wessels vocals lead the charge in this gothic metal-tinged melodic death metal affair. With an intro track seemingly written to beat the living piss out of the listener, “Inhuman”is an all-too increasingly rare foray in melodeath, evolving the genre to be more 70% riffs and 30% fika.

Tipples of piano and swells of orchestral arrangements add volume to the mountain of riffs on display, used to add a sense of doom and mystery to first proper track ‘Of A Billion Screams’ and ranging itself to being power metal’s punky younger sibling on parts of ‘The Fall’. The War of the Worlds-ian pulses at the start of ‘Brave New World’ further the album’s influences as well as its cyberpunk narrative, before you settle into ‘Blood Stained Origami’ – lead single, album highlight and overall absolute banger. Tempo changes, brutality without being ridiculous, melody without being soft, and interjections of clean vocals without feeling forced, it is a titan of a song and sure to go down as one of Swarmageddon’s live staples (when we’re allowed live music again).

Also coming through the whole ensemble are some weighty riffs and more than ample amounts of chug from Guillaume Schappacher and Morgan Koch, who marry classic Gothenburg metal tropes with at times, tech death and black metal. ‘Blood Stained Origami’ again being a gluttony of ideas and thunderous guitar work. As all this is taking place, those waves of orchestration and symphony ripped straight from a gothic opera bolster the darkened realm that Swarmageddon have created, similar to the stylings of Cradle of Filth who are the masters of using said techniques to create some of the heaviest parts of their sound.

One final shoutout needs to be made for drummer Thibaud Szadel who is a force to be reckoned with on “Inhuman”. Sometimes feeling he’s playing to his own agenda, Szadel is an absolute brute on the kit and often feels like he’s in control of the song, above the vocals or guitars, thanks to some prime production work. Making full use of the range of extreme metal to create an expansive and dangerous musical output, and optimising my own personal favourite styling in heavy music in acknowledging melodic moments does not mean turning into a pop rock band (I’m looking at you metalcore/most melodeath bands formed after 2010). Just look at the choruses to ‘Death Traps’ or ‘Reanimation’, or even the cleanly-sung final quarter of ‘Blood Stained Origami’, soaring melodies but a high measure of the heaviness is still there thanks to the performance of Szadel.

For an album operating in two musical realms that have come under a lot of flack in recent years, Swarmageddon do an incredible job at delivering more quality and technique than most stalwarts of the genres have in the last 10 years, all in their debut. Sure enough symphonic extreme metal is not a new concept and Swarmageddon aren’t writing new musical history, but so few in the last few years have *got it* in the same way this group has. Whilst there’s an argument for the album’s length – take away the intro/outro tracks and it comes in at around 30 minutes across 6 songs – in which case beefing up the run time must be consistent with their ideas and their willingness to borrow from other genres. Otherwise, it is a success in beautiful brutality for Swarmageddon on their debut, an absolute gem in the underbelly of heavy music.

TRACKLISTING:
01. Silence
02. Of a Billion Screams [ft. Trivette (Antropofago)]
03. Death Traps
04. Brave New World
05. Blood Stained Origami
06. The Fall
07. Reanimation
08. Die and Retry

LINE-UP:
Marion Volle – Vocals
Guillaume Schappacher – Guitars
Morgan Koch – Guitars
Ludovic Boiteux – Bass
Thibaud Szadel – Drums

LINKS:


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

Junior Bruce – Pray For Death

Junior Bruce – Pray For Death
Sludgelord Records
Release Date: 30/10/2020
Running Time: 40:13
Review by Steven Hooke
7/10

Those of a spiritual nature may feel that the forces are conspiring against Junior Bruce. The Floridian five-piece has already overcome the passing of their founding drummer shortly after the release of their debut album; in 2015, their guitarist had to depart the band following a horrific motorcycle accident; and much in the same way as the bulk of the music industry, the coronavirus pandemic struck early this year and put a hard stop in their plans.

But in spite of it all, the rifflords commeth, and Junior Bruce delivers a high energy wave of sludge, heralding the guises of High on Fire and “Remission”-era Mastodon. It’s an explosive start with ‘The Sleeper Awakens’, spearheaded by a pummelling drum performance from Jeff McAlear seemingly wanting to reprise every position on a high school drumline.

From there, “Pray For Death” enters a staggeringly good one-two of ‘Terror Mounts (Wretched Thing)’ into ‘7,000,000 Years (Ancient Astronaut)’. ‘Terror Mounts’ opens with up-tempo bounce, reminiscent of Priestess before an octave change and a warcry courtesy of Scott Angelacos, sends the song into a Motörhead-esque punk-meets-metal rush of adrenaline that is gagging for a live audience. The track spends most of its second half at a more calculated, yet dangerous pace, bringing forth those Mastodon vibes once again, capped off by Angelacos, whose death metal-adjacent tomes add an extra layer of ire to proceedings.

Into ‘7,000,000 Years’ and the floating guitar works from Brett Walker and Christopher Hayden almost feels likes they’re performing above the song completely. A shoegazy vibe that gives an extra lift to Junior Bruce’s repertoire.

There’s something for fans on both sides of the sludge metal coin on “Pray For Death”. In the fast-paced, punkier market, ‘The Mirror’ fully embraces its gnarly punk origins, as does Cancer Bats-like closer ‘Unspeakable Horror’ and ‘Anti-God’ – which is an absolute belter by the way – is all too coy in its flirts with death and thrash metal. For those about the groove and wanting their riffs to sound like they’ve come from Swamp Thing’s arse, ‘The Basement’ has all sorts of Crowbar feels and ‘One-Nine-Nine-Nine’ bathes itself in those shoegaze influences from earlier.

As a listening experience, this album has got you covered. From gurning you face with a slow head-bop, to full-on windmills and mosh pitting your flatmate out the kitchen window, Junior Bruce comes at you with force, in an affluent well of ideas and creativity. Although not quite as immediate on the first couple of listens, once you get there, it becomes an exciting time of discovering what they’ve snuck in next.

TRACKLISTING:
01. The Sleeper Awakens
02. Terror Mounts (Wretched Thing)
03. 7,000,000 Years (Ancient Astronaut)
04. The Basement
05. Anti-God
06. One-Nine-Nine-Nine
07. The Mirror
08. Unspeakable Horror

LINE-UP:
Scott Angelacos – Vocals
Brett Walker – Guitars
Christopher Hayden – Guitars
Thomas Crowther – Bass
Jeff McAlear – Drums

LINKS:

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

Concede – Indoctrinate

Concede – Indoctrinate
Petrichor Records
Release Date: 23/06/2020
Running Time: 22:44
Review by Steven Hooke
7/10

After a succession of EP’s and splits under the Concede moniker, multi-instrumentalist and project leader Jay Huxtable enlists the talents of End It All frontman Peter Emms for the debut album from the Australian powerviolence troop.

The terms “laid-back” and “relaxed” need not apply here.

“Indoctrinate” is a viperous, angry vortex of punishing pace, bleak nihilism, and a multitude of riffs that would make Scott Hull proud. The album doesn’t even bother with a dedicated intro track of static noise or a spooky man telling you you’re gonna die or something, it’s just a bit of feedback and boom, you’re in. Strap in for nearly 23 minutes of getting your head kicked in.

The album rarely – if ever – allows you time to catch your breath, bounding from one bite-sized burst of intensity to another, with only one song out of the 15 breaking two minutes. In those little blasts though, the one thing that can be consistently identified is the quality of the guitar work on show. Many a grind/powerviolence group come and go and sacrifice creativity and ideas in the name of speed, resulting in a drab mess that’s only exciting for the first two minutes. Cheaper than getting married I suppose…

But dem riffs bound their way through the tortured screams and sodomised snare to add a little depth to the proceedings. First major highlight on the album ‘Through The Teeth’ seems to have taken inspiration from Napalm Death’s ‘Time Waits For No Slave’ whilst ‘Misgiven’ has a definite air of Nails about it, and ‘Bottom Feeder’ doesn’t immediately sound like any particular grind/powerviolence royalty, but it does slap real fucking hard.

On the musical side of things, “Indoctrinate” does hold itself up pretty well. The guitars as mentioned go hard, Emms sounds wickedly marvellous in his delivery and the overall production handles itself pretty damn well. There’s never a moment when a particular layer sounds washed out or too overzealous.

But the biggest thing holding Concede back in these early stages is that they’re already pigeon-holing themselves. That constant barrage of sound with no deferring to a slower pace, experimental idea or even a different drum beat makes the album drag at times even with its short run time. Every song even starts the same with a squeal of feedback.

Taking Nail’s 2016 album “You Will Never Be One Of Us” as an example, on track one, the focus is more on the groove and the vocal hook, track two is the frenetic blast, three is an almost portmanteau of the previous tracks, four is back to the intense blast beast and then five almost becomes a metal song with how much it leans on that riff. With “Indoctrinate”, the only step outside the comfort zone comes right at the very end with final track ‘One With The Earth’, a five minute plus track that is basically Dream Theater compared to the rest of the album. But, with the diversity in the song – slower, groovier pace, and multiple, more elaborate riffs – shows that Concede have the mettle to pull something more substantial off and incorporate it more into future releases.

23 minutes of Concede is as cathartic a release as they come. While some will like the zero-reprieve approach to “Indoctrinate”, others will want that brief pause to dust themselves off and pick up their teeth. But the performances from Emms’ vocals and Huxtable’s guitar and production are not to be sniffed, nor too his lyrical writings. A nice, plump serving of white-hot anger, nihilism and anti-government if you don’t mind.

But Hell, even the bleep test has a rest period.

TRACKLISTING:
01. Indoctrinate
02. Through The Teeth
03. Brainwash
04. Burn In Your Own Hell
05. You Ruin Me
06. Proselytize
07. Misgiven
08. No Certainty
09. Influence
10. Baited
11. Deliver
12. Bottom Feeder
13. Conditioned
14. Plagued
15. One With The Earth

LINE-UP:
Peter Emms – Lead Vocals
Jay Huxtable – All Instruments, Additional Vocals

LINKS:

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

Autocatalytica – Powerclashing Maximalism

Autocatalytica – Powerclashing Maximalism
Self-Released
Release Date: 16/10/20
Running Time: 37:30
Review by Steven Hooke
6/10

Progressive music in 2020 is a funny old thing. New music typically falls into one of two camps; the wild and frenetic mathcore side which consists of seeing how many notes you can play in a two and a half minute period before your fingertips catch fire, and the classically trained/musical theory side where you show off how many musical scales you know and most conversations people have end with “what do you mean you don’t know who Alex Lifeson is?” Inevitably, you’re going to get artists who try to emulate both, as is the case with New York-via-Boston four-piece Autocatalytica.

Having begun life as a musical outlet for guitarist and frontman Eric Thorfinnson, Autocatalytica soon formed into a more traditional band structure, albeit with an ever-changing cast of characters with up to 15 musicians contributing to the band over the years. The rather chaotic nature of the band’s origins (combined with the apparent and alarming thought processes of Thorfinnson) is reflected onto its sound, a heavily jazz-inspired progressive racket that stretches into the extreme levels of a Meshuggah or Between the Buried and Me and reaches all the way to the other end of the spectrum, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Steven Wilson or Cloudkicker.

As a result, it becomes such a bastard of a time trying to gauge the overall quality of an album like this because of the polar opposites trying to work together. “Powerclashing Maximalism” opens with ‘Borndun’, a crushing opening track that sounds like Meshuggah fronted by Avatar’s Johannes Eckerström playing the hits of Protest the Hero. And much of the first half of the album remains of this ilk, it is consistent in its inconsistency, utilising an avant-garde approach to song structure that keeps you on edge for what madness they conjure up next.

When you hit track four ‘Cheggo’ though, that’s when the avant-garde side of Autocatalytica really kicks in. An instrumental barrage of classic prog rock, guitar effects, some brass instruments, and maybe even a cheeky bit of organ in there for good measure. It is impressive for sure, but it edges too far into the world of “I’m a Grade 8 in guitar”, especially coming so soon after the extreme metal influences seen earlier in the album.

‘Dukka Dukka’ does better at finding that middle ground that “Powerclashing Maximalism” seems to be searching for, drawing comparisons to BTBAM’s “Automata I & II” albums from 2018, where the two sides of prog are used to build towards each other instead of fighting for attention. But then the final third of the album breaks down once again, losing a lot of the momentum re-established by ‘Dukka Dukka’. ‘Bananas Have Potassium’ (great title by the way) is equal parts classical music used for an end credits sequence of a game, street busker and cat walking on a piano; ‘Crawboi’ is a half-decent attempt at recreating “Ki”-era Devin Townsend Project (complete with their own Ché Aimee Dorval-equivalent); and ‘Graveo’ is the kind of idyllic music that’s usually played over a babbling brook or something.

“Powerclashing Maximalism” feels like what would happen if you tried to compress Opeth’s entire back catalogue into one album. For some, it’s a wet dream. For others, it’s an acute bout of vertigo. Multiple times during this write-up alone, the grade for this album has changed from a 6 to a 7 even to a 5 just because of how much is going on. Dedicated prog folk and those with more affiliation for jazz will view this album much differently, but for the filthy casuals, the pacing is a little jarring, good ideas and healthy inspirations are there but mismanaged, and there’s a distinct lack of killer hooks to really latch on to. Good songs like ‘Borndun’, ‘Trash Serum’ and ‘Dukka Dukka’ are worth sticking around for though.

TRACKLISTING:
01. Borndun
02. Zippler
03. Trash Serum
04. Cheggo
05. Dukka Dukka
06. Bananas Have Potassium
07. Crawboi
08. Graveo

LINE-UP:
Eric Thorfinnson – Lead Vocals, Guitars
Erik Sorensen – Guitars
William Purcell – Bass
Emmett Ceglia – Drums

LINKS:

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

Havukruunu – Uinuos Syömein Sota

Havukruunu – Uinuos Syömein Sota
Naturmacht Productions/Rain Without End Records
Release Date: 14/8/2020
Running Time: 46:33
Review by Steven Hooke
8/10

Hailing from the cold, dark reaches of rural Finland, Havukruunu return, with their eagerly anticipated third album of Pagan Black Metal, “Uinuos Syömein Sota – Eng. “Languish, Thou War Of My Heart”.

Formed back in 2005 under the name ‘Talvikuu’, Havukruunu have built up a highly lauded reputation amongst their peers with a soul-melting blend of Black Metal, Viking Metal and Folk. But to truly get a sound idea of what this album is really like, it can’t be explained any better than the opening title track. A blood-pumping call-and-response warcry, followed by the ballistic barrage of drums from Kostajainen, and with one last skull-rattling blast, the song begins proper with dynamic black metal tremolo picking under a sea of blast beats and cymbal crashes.

However, the deeper into the song and indeed the album you go, it quickly becomes apparent why this mysterious Finnish four-piece is held in such a high regard. An all-male choir invokes the energy of being out in the wilderness, preparing for the siege as you give yourself to the land, all the while, a definite thread of traditional heavy metal winds its way throughout the guitars, adding hypnotic melody in this world of desolation and darkness. Frontman Stefan more than plays his part in the overall delivery of the sound, pairing his blackened roar with a powerful and commanding clean vocal that reverberates its way across tracks.

One of the stranger influences heard throughout “Uinuos Syömein Sota” is a bastardised apparition of power metal. Arguably black metal’s polar opposite in the world of heavy metal and all its sub-genres, it is a perfect storm of grouped folk vocals and 80’s metal riffs with the crunch of modern-day production that leads to the faintest whiff of the battle-hardened genre. The mid-section of ‘Kunne varjot saa’ owes just as much to Judas Priest and early Helloween as it does Shining (SWE) and Immortal, and that style continues into the likes of ‘Vähiin päivät käy’ and ‘Tähti-yö ja hevoiset’.

But it is the use of those deep, commanding, diaphragm-tormenting chimes of the vocal choir that really sets Havukruunu apart from their contemporaries. Nothing fills the air with the scent of burning sage quite like the battle cries pitching odes to the Old Gods with beautiful poetic lyrics such as “…Hän puhuu sanoin pimeyden, hän kutsuu uneen iäiseen; Tuuli uinuu saa hiljainen ilma tyyni lasin kaltainen; Kuu kuollut katseensa alas luo…” (“…He speaks with words of darkness, he calls to sleep an age; The wind asleep gets a quiet air like a calm glass; The moon dead gazes down to Him…”).

“Uinuos Syömein Sota” is a multi-staged experience. Being drawn in by the majesty and grandiosity of the opening lines of the album, slowly being able to explore the performative layers and the worlds being built, along with creatively broad songwriting that refuses to be generic, paint-by-numbers, black metal. This album stands as much chance of being the soundtrack to the end of days as it does being the war song to take the land back.

TRACKLISTING:
01. Uinuos syömein sota
02. Kunnes varjot saa
03. Ja viimein on yö
04. Pohjolan tytär
05. Kuin öinen meri
06. Jumalten hämär
07. Vähiin päivät käy
08. Tähti-yö ja hevoiset

LINE-UP:
Stefan – Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards
Henkka – Guitars
Sinisalo – Bass
Kostajainen – Drums, Percussion

LINKS:

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

Anaal Nathrakh – Endarkenment

Anaal Nathrakh – Endarkenment
Metal Blade Records
Release Date: 02/10/20
Running Time: 41:04
Review by Steven Hooke
9/10

There may not be a band that completely and totally summarises the state of planet Earth in 2020 quite like Brummie extreme metal titans Anaal Nathrakh. There’s been plenty of punk albums this year that rag on US and UK politics, social commentaries and global injustices, and there exists a near-limitless supply of blood-curdling grindcore, black metal, death metal, etc. albums to really amplify the feelings of internal frustration, Mick Kenney and Dave Hunt though bring together both sides of the turgid, decaying coin and leave you constantly coming back for more.

And it’s been pretty much the case since their inception over 20 years ago. Although Anaal Nathrakh have offered a rare glimpse into their lyrics for the latest album, they have traditionally remained reserved and protective of them, with tr00 necro experts piecing together unofficial lyric sheets, depicting the inner-monologue of Hunt’s mind as he lambasts religion, modern society and political leaders all in the name of a false freedom. The title track – which both opens the album and was used as the lead single prior to the album’s release – shows no shred of backing down, admonishing people for their callous mindset of “I side with whomever gives me a better reward” instead of looking at the bigger picture of how any particular declaration, political or otherwise, helps a broader audience.

It’s a real, organic response to the world. Hunt even states “personally, I feel more cynical, more bitter, with a greater sense that the world is fucked, and is continually re-fucked by people who have no idea what they are doing.” It’s all stuff that’s happening today too, ‘Punish Them’ acts as a short but scathing commentary to the situation involving a British woman in Malaysia being sentenced to death for allegedly smuggling drugs into the country (reportedly against her will). As barbaric as it seems to condemn someone to death for a crime even in 2020, the infamous comment sections of newspaper pages showing people to have no compassion or empathy when dealing with a person’s life. ‘Singularity’ deals with the human race’s innate ability to destroy itself, and that we’re losing our own identities to artificial intelligence, social media culture, all the while allowing a small room full of people dictate the behaviour of entire countries just to please a small fraction.

As previously stated, it’s not just lyrically where A.N. excel at bringing forth clouds of despondency; always expanding the realms and limitations of black metal to create images of horror in their sound, “Endarkenment” continues the trend of “let’s make something really bastard heavy, add a melodic bit that people can sing along to, but sing in a King Diamond-falsetto and sound like a ravenous harpy”.

Again, the title track is an early example of this as well as a prime example of Mick Kenney’s ability to tell a story through music and structure. Pitched as the complete antithesis of ‘enlightenment’, the high-pitched shrill vocal echoes Hunt’s clean delivery of “endarkenment”, the encroaching evil in an already chaotic and unstable environment. ‘The Age of Starlight Ends’ is another great example of this, with the pitch of the chord progressions steadily increasing, only to drop on the bellow of the chorus.

The deeper into the album you go, the more experiences you are sure to find. ‘Thus, Always, To Tyrants’ is a song that sounds like it’s collapsing in on itself, with some exceptional guitar work from Kenney for good measure, ‘Libidinous (A Pig With Cocks In Its Eyes)’ and ‘Create Art, Though The World May Perish’ sound plucked from an alternative universe where Niklas Kvarforth pursued a career in power metal and ‘Beyond Words’ is dissonant noise that make Author & Punisher blush.

“Endarkenment” is a triumphant onslaught of aggression. An ever-elaborate world of discordance and melody, knee-jerk reactions and patience, fear and, well, more fear. But if nothing else, it is a testament to a band 20+ years and 11 albums in that can remain concise and relevant to the world around them, but to also maintain such a profound level of quality in their delivery.

Anaal. Fucking. Nathrakh.

TRACKLISTING:
01. Endarkenment
02. Thus, Always, To Tyrants
03. The Age Of Starlight Ends
04. Libidinous (A Pig With Cocks In Its Eyes)
05. Beyond Words
06. Feeding The Death Machine
07. Create Art, Though The World May Perish
08. Singularity
09. Punish Them
10. Requiem

LINE-UP:
V.I.T.R.I.O.L. – Vocals
Mick Kenney – All instruments

LINKS:

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

Unleash the Archers – Abyss

Unleash the Archers – Abyss
Napalm Records
Release Date: 21/08/20
Running Time: 55:56
Review by Steven Hooke
8/10

Look deep inside yourself and you’ll know, no matter how much you try to deny it and pretend you’re better than it, you bloody love some power metal. Whether it’s the searing melodies, ludicrous bombasticities, or you just have a thing for loin cloths, power metal is the delicious camembert accoutrement to your otherwise super, well-metal normality.

Sadly, it is not a genre that has aged well. Relying way too much on the attributes that made it such a success in the 80’s and 90’s, modern power metal flag-bearers either rehash the ideas of their predecessors, carry an outrageous gimmick, or are literal carbon copies of themselves (looking at you here Helloween and Rhapsody of Fire / Turilli/Leone Rhapsody). It is then refreshing to see the rise of an ambitious, hard-working troupe such as Unleash the Archers grinding their way to album five, being driven by their own unwavering vision of modern power metal.

The Vancouver band formed in 2007 operating on the heavier end of the power metal spectrum, blending the genre with lashings of melodic death metal. In the years since, Unleash the Archers have found their sweet spot in style, keeping the harsh melodeath growled vocals in reserve, but keeping the pace and riffs, and allowing frontwoman Brittney Slayes to prosper as a vocalist. Unlike her contemporaries, Slayes does not possess the high-pitched wails of Power Quest or Kiske-fronted Helloween, she does have the gravelly tones of Rage and she does not sound like a knock-off Tarja Turunen.

Brittney Slayes sounds like Brittney fucking Slayes.

In a sea of some of the most impressive vocalists in all of heavy metal, Slayes is able to stand out from the pack with her immense range and pure power in her delivery. She sounds like a confident performer throughout the album, and when she is backed by those fleeting growls of guitarists Andrew Kingsley and Grant Truesdell, it only seems to amalgamate together to create a hugely dramatic soundscape, and add some much-missed bite back into power metal.

“Abyss” opens with the immensely powerful and mood-setting ‘Waking Dream’, and whilst it does get you in the right mindset for the album, it then takes nearly a minute and a half for the album to get going proper, with the intro partially overlapping into the title-track. Intro tracks may be all the rage these days, but nearly 5 minutes of table-setting before the banquet makes for a slightly unnerving feeling about Abyss’ pacing.

The album did not take too long to redeem itself. The song ‘Abyss’ slowly turns into a strong outing for all involved, with Slayes’ vocal flexes underlined by Scott Buchanon’s brutal drum patterns and guitar work that feels somewhere between ravaging the streets of Gothenburg and lashings of glitter. The follow-up ‘Through Stars’ is the album’s first truly great song, opting to change out the pace of the opening sequence, with a bounty of beautiful melodies, alongside riffs and vocal harmonies blending together so effortlessly to create a shimmering masterwork of a song.

This collaboration between harmony and aggression is what really sets Unleash the Archers apart, feeling so comfortable on either side of the coin and not needing to go all the way into an orchestral-acoustic ballad to invoke melody and emotion from the listener. Equally, while there are windows into their melodic death metal past, the album never reaches overt levels of aggression. The growls on tracks like ‘Return to Me’, ‘The Wind That Shapes The Land’ and ‘Afterlife’ never feel like they’re outstaying their welcome, and on the whole add to the album’s narrative.

That is not to say “Abyss” doesn’t come without its experimental moments. Penultimate song ‘Carry The Flame’, a self-contained duet between Slayes and Kingsley, could easily out-class most pop rock acts filling up the charts today. Summery riffs leading into a classic power metal chorus, as the two singers trade-off their stoic voices; on paper it sounds like a nightmare but darn it all if it doesn’t come out sounding like an absolute bop. It’s a similar story with the song ‘Legacy’. Probably the closest thing the album has to a ballad, it’s an emotional and searing piece of music that is sometimes interjected with a barrage of blast beats and guitar widdling wankery. Again, sounds like an absolute fustercluck when analysed, but it somehow comes out sounding absolutely sensational.

For the long-term power metal fans who have been desperate for a refreshing new look to the genre, Unleash the Archers’ new album needs to be part of your essential listening. Whilst the pacing does take some getting used to, it doesn’t just copy what was good from years gone by, it identifies what made those things good in the first place and turns it into ideas that work for today, finished off with a Herculean production job by that man again Andrew Kingsley.

Assemble your chainmail and battle axes lads, we reconvene at dawn.

TRACKLISTING:
01. Waking Dream
02. Abyss
03. Through Stars
04. Legacy
05. Return To Me
06. Soulbound
07. Faster Than Light
08. The Wind That Shapes The Land
09. Carry The Flame
10. Afterlife (ft. Francesco Ferrini of Fleshgod Apocalypse)

LINE-UP:
Brittney Slayes – Lead Vocals
Andrew Kingsley – Guitars, Synthesizer, Vocals
Grant Truesdell – Guitars, Vocals
Scott Buchanan – Drums
Benjamin Arscott – Bass (session)

LINKS:

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

Eskimo Callboy – MMXX EP

Eskimo Callboy – MMXX EP
Century Media Records
Release Date: 11/09/20
Running Time: 20:40
Review by Steven Hooke
7/10

Way back in the day, German Electronicore outfit Eskimo Callboy broke ground with viral hit ‘Is Anyone Up?’, a catchy yet horrendously gaudy tome about an early 2010’s revenge porn website that apparently had it in for the metalcore community. It garnered the band moderate success and attention for a style of music that was at an all-time high in popularity. Ultimately though, it was the Asking Alexandria’s, Attack Attack!’s and Enter Shikari’s of the scene that broke through into commercial success with the Germans seemingly fizzling away as a modern one-hit wonder.

However, as it turns out, the group has been persevering in mainland Europe with the backing of a dedicated Electronicore community and are fit to re-debut as Eskimo Callboy 2.0.

Armed with new co-vocalist Nico Sallach, Eskimo Callboy caught everyone’s attention with the unbelievably infectious ‘Hypa Hypa’ earlier in the year. In one fell swoop, the band managed to address nearly every complaint thrown at the Electronicore genre over the past decade –  from over-saturation of auto-tune, bland riffs and an over-reliance on the electronic aspect – and produce a well-written, well-mixed, earworm belter that is as much indebted to The Devil Wears Prada as it is to Scooter.

The bar for the rest of the EP then, has been set. And to start with, it holds up pretty darn well.

‘Hate/Love’ brings familiarities of Asking Alexandria on their “From Death To Destiny” run with a strong hard rock vibe strung throughout the metalcore and a chorus fit for Reading/Leeds as much as it is for Download. The ludicrously named ‘MC Thunder II (Dancing Like a Ninja)’ damn-near reaches the same ridiculous levels of ‘Hypa Hypa’ with the electronics comfortably and properly supporting the slew of power chord riffs as Nico and resident screamer Kevin Ratajczak lose their collective minds, before returning to the world of europop-rock for the chorus.

There is a definite drop in the quality post-‘MC Thunder II’ though. Initial thoughts of ‘Monsieur Moustache’ were that it sounds like a B-side to Enter Shikari’s debut album, which makes sense when you realise that it is in fact a rerecording of one of Eskimo Callboy’s first songs released, dating back to 2010. The lyrics have been updated to make it *slightly* less problematic but the post-hardcore/screamo with a Fisher-Price keyboard yeeted at it mix has not aged well at all. It’s the same story again for ‘Dramaqueen’, another “classic” rehashed with the new line-up and ender ‘Prism’ which features the finger finagling prowess of German percussive acoustic guitarist Tobias Rauscher, is a full acoustic reconstruction of a track from their 2019 album “Rehab”. Weirdly enough, out of everything on the EP, this acoustic ballad is the most jarring thing you’ll hear. After over 15 minutes of dance-party metalcore spanning a decade, to then suddenly jump to sombre, moody balladry is like running track for a triathlon only to find the swimming section will be in a pool of hummus.

MMXX is nothing if not a fun affair. Trying to feel like a nightclub and a rock show at the same time is no easy task, and to pull it off as well as the first half of the EP has, should earn Eskimo Callboy all the acclaim they deserve, particularly when you consider the current music climate. Lyrically, they still won’t exactly be challenging Tool anytime soon. The broken English charm that endeared them to so many in the early days is still there, but so is the “woo! Sex!” mentality from the glory days of neon and black shirts and hair sprayed fringes.

If you can withstand the lyrical choices being made, and you want something to fill the void Falling in Reverse left behind when Ronnie decided to be a super serious and broody Rockstar man, then this new era of Eskimo Callboy could very well be the ones for you.

TRACKLISTING:
01. Hypa Hypa
02. Hate/Love
03. MC Thunder II (Dancing Like a Ninja)
04. Monsieur Moustache
05. Dramaqueen
06. Prism [ft. Tobias Rauscher]

LINE-UP:
Kevin Ratajczak – Unclean Vocals, Keyboards, Programming
Nico Sallach – Clean and Unclean Vocals
Daniel Haniß – Lead Guitar
Pascal Schillo – Rhythm Guitar, Backing Vocals
Daniel Klossek – Bass Guitar, Backing Vocals
David-Karl Friedrich – Drums

LINKS:

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