Drops of Heart – Stargazers

Drops of Heart – Stargazers
Self-Released
Release Date: 22/07/20
Running Time: 59:21
Review by Steven Hooke
7/10

On paper, Russian outfit Drops of Heart seems to exist almost in spite of itself. Formed in 2008, the band continued for a little over two years before instability ravaged the band, forcing their demise. A few years later, vocalist Denis Fakhrislamov and the multi-faceted Vadim Nizamov breathed new life into the band, before finally self-releasing their debut album in 2014. In the years since, DoH have begun broadening their melodic death metal scope, incorporating electronica, metalcore, and even tinges of black metal, all in the lead up to their sophomore release, “Stargazers”.

“Stargazers”appears to live in a similar bubble to In Flames’ transitional period during the 2000’s, with the blending of dyed-in-the-wool Gothenburg melodeath and the more American and experimental alt metal scene. Thankfully though, Drops of Heart have opted for much more modern influences, immediately apparent in opener ‘Echoes’ which starts off with mood-setting harmonics, before erupting into an onslaught from drummer Artem Gabbasov. There are the first examples of the eerie electronic tinges added for an atmospheric edge to the album, as well as the choruses drenched in melody to blur that line between melodic death metal and modern metalcore.

‘Frost Grip’ is the first of the album’s guest appearances with The Unguided and former Sonic Syndicate frontman Richard Sjunnesson adding a more vicious kind of scream in the song’s pre-choruses before Soilwork’s Björn Strid enters the fray on ‘Starlight’, giving the already powerful song an added kick up the arse for good measure.

The album largely stays in its comfortable bubble of fast-paced, riff-heavy melodeath with added electronic flairs in an attempt to call it their own. This would otherwise be fine were it a 30-40 minute long affair, but clocking in just shy of an hour (exceeding an hour should you find the version with the ‘Starlight’ bonus track) makes this a bit of a slog towards the end in one sitting. Songs like ‘Escapist’, ‘Lull’, and the title track do their best to slow the pace down and incorporate more rock and groove elements, along with album highlight ‘Discoverers’ at the opposite end – with its twinkling tremolo lead riff, black metal tempo and atmosphere – but ultimately, “Stargazers” does bang a very familiar drum for far too long.

The ideas are there for the troupe to enhance their sound and offer something a little bit different to a genre that is experiencing something of a resurgence over the last few years with praised releases from Sylosis, Bleed From Within (both of whom etching further away from their deathcore roots) and The Black Dahlia Murder. DoH can offer an underground alternative alongside the likes of Torchia and Aphyxion as well as bring some much-deserved notoriety to a burgeoning Russian alternative scene, consisting of Supruga, Somn, WLVS and many more.

TRACKLISTING:
01. Echoes
02. Frost Grip
03. Knot
04. Escapist
05. Lull
06. Starlight
07. Modern Madness
08. Coffin
09. Exodus
10. Death Lover
11. Discoverers
12. Stargazers

LINE-UP:
Denis Fakhrislamov – Vocals
Vadim Nizamov – Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards, Bass
Pavel Klimov – Guitars
Artem Gabbasov – 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.

Phobetor – When Life Falls Silent

Phobetor – When Life Falls Silent
Black Jasper Records
Release Date: 17/07/2020
Running Time: 40:10
Review by Steven Hooke
6/10

For as long as time has been a follow-able construct in the eyes of man, there has been a constant battle between generations. From music to money, business, politics, how to properly cut the grass and everything in between, the old guard stands firm in their belief in that back in their day, peace and tranquility roamed the land, whilst the new kids on the block offered up new ideas and alternatives. Following into this extremely prolonged metaphor is London-based trio Phobetor and their seeming attempts to blend the duelling generations together through the medium of death metal. A genre definitely not drenched in creative misalignment.

The debut album features vocalist Debora Conserva and guitarist Mitch Revy, flanked by new drummer Marc Dyos from the symphonic power metal band Pythia. Together, the trio forge their own path into the world of death metal, combining the songwriting tropes of today with delivery and presence of classic DM. The modern-day elements unsurprisingly hold up pretty well, Revy’s guitar work and the constant churning of riff after riff after riff is amongst the highlights of the album, with particular mentions going to ‘Blind Widow’ and ‘Bury My Name’, and their respective incorporations of groove metal and the Gothenburg metal scene in at the highest tier. However, these riffs are difficult to spot in the first few listens due to the old school death metal durge-sounding production style.

Now, far be it for me – a self-confessed production snob – to criticize the production of a debut death metal album. But this goes beyond me wanting every album to sound as crisp as a Devin Townsend-directed Pringles advert. There is a strong argument that a strong debut is trapped behind questionable production choices. It takes decent headphones and a little concentration to truly hear the ideas Revy has conjured up, and they simply just don’t crunch in the way they’re meant to.

The album, as a whole, is drenched in modern creative ideas. From the dark orchestral opening of ‘Merging Infinity’, to Conserva’s albeit rare dabbles with clean vocals, Dyos’ more progressive rolls and fills, and the frequent tempo changes, it’s all so far removed from the old school days of “play fast, be heavy”.

Whether it was a stylistic decision, a financial wall, or if Conserva and Revy had a particular idea for the album before the introduction and experience of Dyos (as well as session bassist Richard Hunter from Maelstrom) came into play, remains to be seen. But something that they definitely should be holding on to for the follow-up is the range of their frontwoman. Conserva combines the low-end, bassy gruff of Angela Gossow, with the strong, unwavering screams of Dani Filth, resulting in a dynamic warcry performance that greatly succeeds, in spite of the noted turn-offs. Focus on any of her screams throughout the album and they are pristine, razor-sharp, and often the most commanding part of a song.

While we have been spoiled over the past few years with near-perfect debuts (Conjurer, Fvneral Fvkk, Møl) it’s often missed that it’s possibly the hardest album to get right, being the starting block for a band’s image and their presence in their respective musical community. Will “When Life Falls Silentset the death metal world on fire? In its current state, my guess would be no. But, that is not to say there’s nothing here. Individual components of this outfit are there itching to break out, but some serious consistency needs to be established to really define what kind of band Phobetor wants to be.

TRACKLISTING:
01. Merging Infinity
02. A Toxic Lie
03. Whispers of Dissonance
04. Blind Widow
05. Psychopathy
06. Bury My Name
07. Harmony of Solitude
08. Dysmorphia
09. When Life Falls Silent

LINE-UP:
Debora Conserva – Vocals
Mitch Revy – Guitar
Marc Dyos – Drums
Richard Hunter – 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.

Volcanova – Radical Waves

Volcanova – Radical Waves
The Sign Records
Release Date: 21/08/2020
Running Time: 44:55
Review by Steven Hooke
8/10

Ahh, stoner rock. The music of choice for horticulturists worldwide, the genre exploded out of the Palm Springs region of California back in the 90’s, adding haze and psychedelia on top of grooving blues, hard rock and even punk. It was the laid-back, chilled alternative to its neighbour to the North in Seattle’s grunge scene and championed by the likes of Kyuss, Fu Manchu, Sleep and East Coast brothers Monster Magnet. The genre has been explored and improved upon in the 20+ years since its initial breakthrough and now the latest band to step up to the mantle is three-piece Volcanova, hailing from the sunnier climes of *checks notes* Reykjavík in Iceland. Hmm.

Indeed the ashened fjords of Iceland have conjured up a trio who deliver a galvanising concoction of fuzzy, blues-heavy riffs, a jam rock atmosphere from the school of Clutch, and vocal melodies that borrow just has much from the likes of Corrosion of Conformity and Graveyard as they do with Queen and Chris Cornell. The album opens with the suitably titled ‘Welcome’, an instrumental track that shows off the slowed down, doomier side of Volcanova, before moving on to the more up-tempo, head-banging rhythm of ‘Where’s The Time?’. It is this version of the band’s sound that best describes the album, guitars plucked from latter-day Mastodon rousing away riffs that could get any room to come alive, backed by more cowbell than the entirety of Dusty Rhodes’ WWF/E career.

Further into the album, and it feels like this is where the true extent of Queens of the Stone Age-isms come into play, combining stoner fuzziness and guitar work with catchy alt rock songwriting, with ‘I’m Off’ and ‘Sushi Sam’ feeling like B-sides to 2002’s “Songs For The Deaf”. For a peak into where it could fit in with modern day contemporaries, tracks like ‘Mountain’ and the closer ‘Lights’ operate in a mid-tempo riff-storm that optimises every second of a song with brilliant transitional riffs or drum rolls, much in the same way as UK occultists Puppy.

For those truly about the groove, the tempo slows right down for ‘Stoneman’ and ‘M.O.O.D.’ but both hit just that little bit different. ‘Stoneman’ is the psychedelic doom number that makes your head bop, the drinks feel that much cooler, and the day just ease by, whereas ‘M.O.O.D.’ is more about psyching you up to bare-knuckle fist fight a tree and win.

Undoubtedly a highlight of “Radical Waves” is the three-part harmonies the lads employ. As Samúel boulders on a vibe not too dissimilar from Mike Dean-fronted CoC, Þorsteinn Árnason and Dagur Atlason back him in styles that befits each song perfectly, whether it’s a classic gang vocal backing for the existential dread of ‘Where’s The Time?’ or the conversely party vibes of ‘I’m Off’, or the previously-mentioned Queen-inspired melodies on ‘Super Duper Van’, the gravitas the vocals create at times is incredible.

The album is rounded off with a top-of-the-line production job. So easy is it to get these stoner rock albums, with all the best riffs and vocal hooks you can think of, and have them ruined by overindulging in the *aesthetic*, reducing an album to a hazy, my-first-Encore-amp blur. This is not the case for Volcanova though, as there is a perfect working harmony between the musicians and the producer that allows the riffs to slap, the bass to roll, and the cowbell to cowbell, whilst still retaining the feel of the desert heat, the background noise of a rattlesnake, and the local herbological harvest. Or whatever the Icelandic equivalent to all those things are.

“Radical Waves” then goes down as a brilliant start for the young band. Definitely in the argument for best debut rock album of 2020, may the years treat Volcanova well and allow them to knock out belters like this for years to come.

TRACKLISTING:
01. Welcome
02. Where’s the Time?
03. Super Duper Van
04. I’m Off
05. Stoneman
06. Sushi Sam
07. Mountain
08. M.O.O.D.
09. Got Game
10. Lights

LINE-UP:
Samúel Ásgeirsson – Lead Vocals, Guitar
Þorsteinn Árnason – Bass, Vocals
Dagur Atlason – Drums, Vocals.

LINKS:
www.facebook.com/volcanova/
www.instagram.com/volcanovaofficial/
www.volcanova.bandcamp.com/
www.open.spotify.com/artist/5PxsSQ4uYOq6svb417ravK

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.

Bleed From Within – Fracture

Bleed From Within – Fracture
Century Media Records
Release Date: 29/05/2020
Running Time: 42:10
Review by Steven Hooke
8/10

It’s mad to think we almost lost Bleed From Within to nothing more than sheer ignorance once upon a time. Frontman Scott Kennedy had the audacity to have a fringe in the early 2010s, at the height of modern metalcore’s popularity, and the scourge of “that’s not metal!” music fans tried their damnedest to ignore and dismiss the Scottish outfit before listening to a single note. However, what they weren’t counting on was the absolute thunderbastard of BFW’s third studio album “Uprising”, an extension of their deathcore sound, now featuring melodies rooted in Sweden’s melodic death metal scene that firmly separated them from any Horizon or Alexandria-based contemporaries.

Following a brief hiatus and a change in the guitar guard, BFW returned for their fourth album in 2018. “Era” was the confirmation, should anyone have needed it, that the lads could still go, settling further into the melodeath direction of “Uprising” with an ample selection of riffs and grooves, whilst also using the opportunity to dabble with cleaner vocals, with FNG Steven Jones largely backing some of Kennedy’s lighter screams, causing the kind of vocal layering that sounds like the vocal choir of Hell’s Fifth Circle.

“Fracture” sees Bleed From Within’s musical evolution continue into heights few could predicted, even when taking into consideration the trajectory of their last few albums. It’s not just about taking more influence from melodic death metal or the step-forward in the use of Jones’ clean vocals, every aspect of the band’s sound now feels sharpened, the performances of everyone involved is of the highest tier and Bleed From Within now look like a band of limitless ascendancy.

Opener ‘The End Of All We Know’ puts the tone of the album firmly into place. No floaty intro track, no spoken-word world builder, it is a succession of neck-snapping riffs backed by the stomp of Ali Richardson’s beats that tell the listener that COVID isn’t the only thing about to fuck your world up. The track is also the first time we hear the trade-offs between Kennedy and Jones. Any clean vocal style would typically bring fear and terror to the troo metal purist (anyone remember Suicide Silence?), but Jones’ tone and delivery only seek to add to the diversity of the band’s sound, allowing for moments of genuine melodic brutality, that we’ll see in its fullest on tracks like ‘Ascend’ and the title track.

While the first half of the album establishes what this album is, the second half is a whirlpool of white-hot energy and power that should define exactly just who the fuck Bleed From Within are.

‘Night Crossing’ sees Scott prove that he’s no slouch in the clean vocal department, belting out a rattling thrash chorus betwixt a series of leering grooves and a cameo appearance from everyone’s heavy metal best friend Matt Heafy. It is a pretty much a half-and-half split in the album’s latter half between vocal superiority and being torn asunder by resident riff machine Goonzi which occurs somewhere in ‘Ascend’. Backed by the rhythm section of Richardson and Davie Provan, Goonzi – who has already been on top form for the duration of the album – finds that extra little something, laying waste to ‘Ascend’ to almost comical levels, before employing a stomp on ‘Utopia’ that would make Meshuggah sweat, before finishing off on a groove from the school of Deftones’ ‘Swerve City’ for closer ‘A Depth That No One Dares’.

You would be forgiven for being caught off-guard by “Fracture”. Even if you had been following the band since their first note nearly 15 years ago, the step-up here is reserved for metal’s elite. In the year of our lord 2020, we’ve had high profile metal releases from the likes of Trivium, Sylosis, The Black Dahlia Murder, an influx of the next generation from Loathe and Irist, for Bleed From Within to standout in the way that they have speaks volumes for the band they have become and the potential for what may come next.

TRACKLISTING:
01. The End of All We Know
02. Pathfinder
03. Into Nothing
04. Fall Away
05. Fracture
06. Night Crossing [ft. Matt Heafy (Trivium)]
07. For All to See
08. Ascend
09. Utopia
10. A Depth That No One Dares

LINE-UP:
Scott Kennedy – Lead Vocals
Craig “Goonzi” Gowans – Lead Guitar
Steven Jones – Rhythm Guitar, Clean Vocals
Davie Provan – Bass
Ali Richardson – Drums, Percussion

LINKS:
www.bleedfromwithin.com/
www.facebook.com/bleedfromwithinband/
www.instagram.com/bleedfromwithin/
www.twitter.com/BleedFromWithin
www.open.spotify.com/artist/5ZvwJikDgdP1PFU4PkAPVG
www.youtube.com/user/BleedFromWithin

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.