Areis – Areis

Areis Album Cover Art

Areis – Areis
Wormholedeath
Release Date: 10/09/2021
Running Time: 39:12
Review by Steven Hooke
7/10

The region of Occitania in Southwestern Europe that acts almost as a centre point to the Venn diagram of France, Spain, Monaco, and Italy, drawing in cultures, dialects and history from a multitude of sources. Hailing from today’s geography lesson is Areis, a four-piece from the French Occitanie region who – much like their homeland – pull in inspirations from a variety of styles, creating a mood board of punk, post-hardcore, sludge and black metal.

On this, their debut self-titled album, Areis offer a fluid amalgamation of genres that share a kinship with the likes of Giver, Pariso and Morokh. A duality of low-end grooves and higher-end melodies dominate the album, traversing the realms of blackened hardcore (‘Born Again’, ‘Le Pain Maudit’, ‘Of Gold And Blood’), melodic hardcore (‘Eternal Curse’, ‘The Wanderer’, ‘Recall’) and post-rock (‘Under The Sun’, ‘Vacillate’). The album’s wonderful production job allows both layers to be heard crisply, revealing a strong library of riffs from axemen Paul Gonzalvez and Pablo Malbec, and bringing forth an extraordinary wall of sound on the final third of the release, with a rich, full climax in ‘Recall’ through to ‘Vacillate’.

Another dual-attack on “Areis” is the tandem vocals of Gonzalvez and bassist/vocalist Michaël Jarrié. A similar attack as their instrumentals, the pair trade low growls and a gritty, hardcore bark to add an extra layer of assault to their sound. Both vocal styles share the limelight in fair and naturally-feeling transitions that do not take away from the momentum a song has built, and even add to the energy of a song when layered, creating a vicious gang-vocal-esque effect, heard from the off on opener ‘A Wretched Vow’.

It’s a fair outing for the quartet on their debut. What could’ve been a muddied sound is in fact a new worthwhile entry into the modern hardcore spectrum, with dynamic vocal and tonal pairings, a cracking production job, and a bounty of jaw-clenching riffs. But while there are a lot of interesting ideas and arrangements, it’s hard to think that Areis have lent on this potential creativity enough. Looking at bands such as Respire, Svalbard and Birds in Row – 3 bands who also craft a sound made from hardcore, black metal, and aggression-tinged melodies, albeit in a much different way to Areis – they push the boundaries of their already-very loose parameters, and experiment from the first note to the last. In Areis, the furthest they leave the core sound of the debut is ‘You Are The Best At Your Worst’, which ironically feels like it takes more away from the broader sound, stepping closer to a more straight-forward groove metal sound when there are so many different avenues at their disposal.

The good news from this is the aforementioned bands are all at least two albums in with a plethora of EP’s and comps surrounding them. The fact that Areis can sniff at their heels, and draw comparisons to Giver, et al. paints the Occitans in a strong and hopeful light for the future, and a group to put stock into now.

‘Under The Sun (Official Video)

TRACKLISTING:
01. A Wretched Vow
02. Born Again
03. The Wanderer
04. Of Gold And Blood
05. Eternal Curse
06. You Are The Best At Your Worst
07. Escur
08. Le Pain Maudit
09. Recall
10. Under The Sun
11. Vacillate

LINE-UP:
Paul Gonzalvez – Vocals, Guitars
Michaël Jarrié – Vocals, Bass
Pablo Malbec – Guitar
Antoine Dineur – Drums

LINKS:

Areis Promo Pic

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.

Ylva de Lune – I

I Cover

Ylva de Lune – I
Self-Released
Release Date: 30/06/2021
Running Time: 41:47
Review by Steven Hooke
7/10

Not content with simply watching the world pass by in the midst of the pandemic, German vocalist Ylva de Lune embarked on a creative outlet in the form of this namesake post-black metal project and its debut album “I”. Partnering with a multi-instrumentalist known simply as Alpha, Ylva de Lune combines the unabashed heaviness of black metal with ethereal soundscapes and searing vocals, more befitting a Wiccan ceremony.

The combination between the two musical sounds can be considered to be somewhat estranged. Being almost split right down the middle, the rapid-fire drums and low-end guitars tend to take up the mantle of being the “heavy” of the album, whilst a second layer of guitar and Ylva’s serene vocals act as the world building and scene setting. While at times the separation can feel a little too vast, it often results in surges of euphoria, as “I” conspires with the imagery used for the album and Ylva herself to create its own vision of post-black metal, away from the traditional corpse paint and spikes of black metal, and away from the existential mire of modern blackgaze, to a forest of European tribalism and paganism.

Often these moments are accompanied by the project breaking away from the mould of standard blackgaze. On opener and closer ‘By The Sea’ and ‘Crown Of Shadows’ respectively, it’s the spoken word portions that feel like they echo through you, the inclusion of a more defined guitar lick throughout the second-half of ‘Les Ombres du Monde’, the added groove to ‘The Purpose Of Light’, these moments give the band and the album more character and contribute more to the act’s final identity.

Ylva de Lune weirdly occupies a similar space to that of post-something metal collective Sleep Token in that they produce a sound that is so easy to fall into and vibe to. Even with the bursts of a heavier sound spread throughout both band’s output, it’s a sound that you can be present for and enjoy, as much as you can sit back and relax to.

For an opening gambit in a scene that is heavily saturated with artists right now, “I” may have found a little niche for itself. Ylva’s vocals are a refreshing component of the genre and are already an integral part of the band’s sound. A few more risks and a more adept synergy between the musical low-ends and the high-ends, and the pair could really be onto something special.

TRACKLISTING:
01. By The Sea
02. Grå Ulv
03. Les Ombres du Monde
04. 11:55
05. The Purpose Of Light
06. Crown Of Shadows

LINE-UP:
Ylva de Lune – Vocals
Alpha – Guitars, Bass, Drum Programming

LINKS:

Ylva de Lune Promo Pic

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.

Sun Of The Suns – TIIT

TIIT Album Cover Art

Sun Of The Suns – TIIT
Scarlet Records
Release Date: 20/08/2021
Running Time: 46:31
Review by Steven Hooke
8/10

Something of a supergroup in their native scene, Sun of the Suns are an Italian deathcore troupe featuring former and current members of Nightland, The Modern Age Slavery and Carnality, among others. Armed with a session rhythm section featuring Simone Mularoni of DGM and Empyrios fame on bass (who has left the seat warm for incoming permanent bassist Filippo Scrima) and Fleshgod Apocalypse’s Francesco Paoli on drums, the group have appeared almost from out of nowhere, with relatively zero fanfare, to deliver an absolutely blistering debut.

Intro track ‘I, Demiurge pt.1’ brings with it a false sense of security and almost trepidation upon first listen. A short and delicate electro-symphonic piece which sounds like Jordan Fish has snuck in with his latest copy of FL Studios, its immediate sequel and proper album starter explodes into existence, bringing with it a huge-sounding barrage of drums backed with a serene backdrop which is levelled perfectly here, as well as throughout the course of the album, rarely – if ever – over-saturating the end product and taking away from the brutality of the record as a whole. Then, the aftershock kicks in, and along comes a furious deluge of death metal riffage, and the band getting their money’s worth out of Paoli, who leaves no drum head or crash cymbal un-twatted.

There is a wonderful juxtaposition between the duelling guitars of Righetti and Cioffi and the basslines of Mularoni. While all involved are heavier than a sumo performing a shiatsu, the riffs have a crispness about them, a clean delivery in their destructive presence, whilst the tone of the bass guitar is the album’s dark horse, the twisted sibling – the Hugo Simpson if you will. The clearest appearance of this is in ‘The Golden Cage’ where the putrid cadence of Mularoni’s bass almost serves as an homage to deathcore’s lineage of straightforward 90’s death metal, whilst the rest of the album remains firmly in the modern age, whilst its presence in ‘Hacking The Sterile System’ adds the ever-important gurn-face to the listening experience.

It’s not just in his basslines where Mularoni acts as a hidden gem to ‘TIIT’, the production on the album is astounding. The guitars, the bass tone, the duality of them together, the use of synths, all the levelling on the album is of the highest order. The technicality and soundscapes are working in tandem and not against each other, something that debut albums of similar ilk (and sometimes albums 2 and 3 and beyond) struggle to do (see Winds of Plague, Into Infernus and Walking Dead On Broadway).

Sun Of The Suns are a very intriguing group. A sci-fi-intense, deathcore barrage of extremity and world-building that appeared out of nowhere, they clearly have lofty ambitions for themselves and are putting their best foot forward to reach them. Whilst what they’re doing isn’t exactly new, they’re executing it at such a high standard, which is particularly astonishing when you realise this is their debut release. Their potential could result in a new powerhouse of the genre when considering the sci-fi-inspired lyrics, production levels, instrumental abilities, and general songwriting abilities (not least their step into more grandiose terrains with 7 minute-closer ‘I, Emperor Of Nothingness’).

‘TIIT’ (Official Video)

TRACKLISTING:
01. I, Demiurge Pt.1
02. I, Demiurge Pt.2
03. The Golden Cage
04. TIIT
05. Obsolescence Corrupted
06. To Decay To Revive
07. Flesh State
08. Hacking The Sterile System
09. Of Hybridization And Decline
10. I, Emperor Of Nothingness

LINE-UP:
Luca Dave Scarlatti – Vocals
Marco Righetti – Guitars
Ludovico Cioffi – Guitars
Simone Mularoni – Bass (Session)
Francesco Paoli – Drums (Session)

LINKS:

Sun Of The Suns Promo Pic

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.

EDEN – The First Circle

The First Circle Album Cover Art

EDEN – The First Circle
Brucia Records
Release Date: 30/07/2021
Running Time: 29:37
Review by Steven Hooke
6/10

It’s hard to define EDEN as a ‘band’ in the traditional sense as what limited information there is available regarding the group, suggest that it is an ever-changing revolving door of artists coming in, trashing up a kitchen (no, really, have a look at the line-up and the “instruments” they use), and calling it a day. The end result is “The First Circle”, debut album from the noise peddlers, that boasts a more ethereal hue at its core.

The first half of the album is relatively subdued in the grand scheme of things, starting with ‘Gehenna’ and its three-way dance between a cleaner, almost shoegaze-y riff, its dark, black metal cousin, and the near white noise generated by the drum crashes. The true discomforting noise from this song, as well as the rest of the songs on the album ends up coming from the vocals, but more on them in a bit. ‘Gehenna’ feels more like a melodic black metal song to properly open the album, the brighter guitar riff hanging over the ensemble is in a style that seems inspired by Oranssi Pazuzu’s less-frantically, maddening moments.

As “The First Circle” continues, the scale of noise and resistance to the listener increases. The title track starts chiming in extra noises and layering in the background in an attempt to disjoint the sound established so far, before ‘Your Void Is Mine’ really pushes that ethos to arguably its fullest potential in the main body of the album, at times drawing comparisons to “Irony Is A Dead Scene” era The Dillinger Escape Plan, Type O Negative, and “Blackjazz” era Shining, all played whilst someone is blending up a slushie of ice and iron ingots right next to you.

Surprisingly, in an album striving to achieve “noise” music status, one of the most structured and thought-out parts of the album’s sound are those vocals. Whilst the mystery vocalist will gurgle and shriek with apparent wild abandon of musical structural norms, the timings of the vocals coming and particularly how they’re used at any given moment often feels like they add more noise aspects throughout the album (particularly the first half) in a conscious way, something that you don’t necessarily want to feel on an album that prides itself on being made from free improvisation and experimentation, bragging, “all songs are completely improvised and recorded in one take”. The snarl of the vocals does provoke a sinister feeling akin to that of the 90’s black metal scene, but their timing is just a little bit too precise for how EDEN are trying to sell the album.

But then there are the brief moments, the short passages in ‘Your Void Is Mine’ and the album bookends ‘The End Of The Beginning’ and ‘The Beginning Of The End’, where the majority of the music dies down and it sounds like we’re getting true, off-the-cuff free improvisational music of someone discovering a piano for the first time, someone else fiddling with snare wires, another trying to learn the riff of ‘Nasty’ by The Prodigy and their guitar isn’t plugged in properly, all serving as the backdrop for the vocalist’s audition for ASMR content creation. Mouth ticks, deep breathing, gurgling, what sounds like someone chewing a toffee penny with their mouth open, the last few years of Tik Tok, Twitch and YouTube have shown that there is a huge market for this kind of stuff, but if you’re like me (and God help you if you are) and you reside on the more misophonia end of the spectrum, this will grate on you tremendously. And I’ll concede, there’s an argument that noise music is explicitly meant to be challenging and connoisseurs of the style may gravitate towards that, but personally, it wasn’t an “unpleasant but in a good way experience” at all, just profoundly unpleasant.

At the end of the day, it’s hard to really put a true marker on a record like “The First Circle”. It’s apparently designed from the ground up to be confrontational, yet still possesses moments of melody and conscious songwriting to appeal to casuals – ‘Gehenna’ is genuinely a good song and a great way to ease yourself into the album if you are less-versed in the style, and ‘Your Void Is Mine’ would be a serious contender for song of the album, were it not for the section of foley from 1997 film Volcano.

Taking personal biases away from the genre for a second, and EDEN do seem to be awkwardly stuck between two points. Again, the way “The First Circle” has been advertised and spoken about is that it is highly-experimental, completely improvised, with a litany a musicians adding their own stamp to the overall sound, immediately drawing comparisons to the likes of MERZBOW, Zweizz and early Swans, which the band themselves consider an inspiration. However, with the drawing in of black metal, shoegaze, doom, slowly (and perhaps accidentally) building in more structure and flow to the album, it feels like it should be more towards noise rock contemporaries in the shape of Daughters, The Black Black or Unsane, yet this doesn’t feel quite right either. They’re too structured and dare I say “sensible” to be amongst the tr00 noise merchants, yet too abrasive and discordant to be lumped in with the more refined noise rock crop. They exist in a limbo alongside Oranssi Pazuzu, Lingua Ignota and Imperial Triumphant; great company to be around but hefty standards to meet.

If they continue down the blackened ASMR route though, I am intrigued at the prospect of potential collaborations with Amouranth, Gibi ASMR, matefedez, and ASMR Darling on album #2.

‘Gehenna’ (Official Video)

TRACKLISTING:
01. The End Of The Beginning
02. Gehenna
03. Swallow Your Tongue
04. The First Circle
05. Your Void is Mine
06. The Beginning Of The End

LINE-UP:
EDEN is a collective of multiple musicians creating music with vocals, bass, guitars, percussions (smashed plates, toy drums, jars, pieces of wood), prepared piano (altered with bolts and screws), distorted violin, noise sample, bowed guitar, ukulele.

LINKS:

Eden Promo Pic

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

healthyliving – until/below EP

until-below Single-EP Cover

healthyliving – until/below EP
Self-Released
Release Date: 25/06/2021
Running Time: 07:34
Review by Steven Hooke
8/10

It’s staggering how many post-rock, shoegaze, gloom-adjacent bands have broken through over the past few years. Maybe it’s got something to do with economic and near-societal collapse, the waves of finding out our childhood heroes are nonces and wrong uns, a globally-mishandled pandemic, or a sharp decline in human compassion in lieu of greed and selfishness. But who knows? I just review music on the internet.

Today’s offering of void-core comes in the form of cross-Europe trio healthyliving with their debut release consisting of two songs ‘until’ and ‘below’. The band consists of Madrid-born singer Amaya López-C, who also operates an experimental folk/jazz project called Maud The Moth, plucker of strings Scott McLean from Scotland who also performs with post-rock-turned-drone metal act Falloch and German stoner rock outfit Lasse Reinstroem, and Stefan Pötzsch, a German session drummer who has also worked with Lasse Reinstroem, as well as Luc Stargazer and Boozoo Bajou. The band have offered a little taste of their musical output as they work towards their debut album, currently expected sometime in 2022.

‘until’ feels like the stronger of the two tracks, a deep, bass-heavy shoegaze stomper with tinges of psychedelia and stoner rock. López-C’s voice floats over its depressing surroundings in a similar vibe to Oathbreaker’s Caro Tanghe during the quiet moments of ‘Needles In Your Skin’ and ‘Stay Here/Accroche-Moi’, creating an ethereal hold on the listener, with subtle discordancy broken up by proper gurn-face choruses.

‘below’ is a more subdued track, a gentle, rolling guitar line once again swimming along the current of those hypnotising vocals. This almost, idyllic setting created in the first half of the song makes the droning guitars of the second half feel all the more terrifying. A sudden progression of musical anxiety as a muddy guitar sound evolves into softly-backed vocals in a style similar to Myrkur’s folk outings, estranged harmonics, and a cold, imposing drum beat.

healthyliving are certainly worth your attention. Shoegaze that knows how to be heavy without treading on drone and doom’s toes, and tell a bigger story with a minimalist output. Stefan and Scott deserve full credit for such, with McLean worthy of another mention owing to his production handling of Amaya’s vocals. A soft and delicate delivery is turned into anguish and uncertainty, which could prove to have some amazing potential. BBC Introducing and Roadburn certainly seem to think so.

‘until’ (Official Video)

TRACKLISTING:
01. until
02. below

LINE-UP:
Amaya López-C – Vocals
Scott McLean – Guitars, Bass
Stefan Pötzsch – Drums

LINKS:

healthyliving Promo Pic

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.

Eternal Struggle – Year Of The Gun

Year Of The Gun Album Cover Art

Eternal Struggle – Year Of The Gun
Upstate Records
Release Date: 04/06/2021
Running Time: 37:32
Review by Steven Hooke
7/10

Punk rock and political discourse are without question, the high school sweethearts of musical genres. No matter what wistfully nostalgic memory you conjure in your saudade-tinged stupor, you always see THAT couple, arm-in-arm, skipping through the corridors, later to be seen necking off behind the I.T. block. The likes of the Sex Pistols, Dead Kennedys, Crass, Rise Against, Against Me! all dabbled or continue to do so with the relatively familiar US and UK politics of their time, but international politics continue to carry a level of shock factor for our unassuming ears.

Enter Eternal Struggle, the hardcore punk quartet who are taking aim at the political powers of their origin nation, Israel, choosing to refer to themselves as “a band from Israel” instead of “an Israeli band” to truly emphasize their disassociation with the decisions, views and general representation of their homeland government.

The politics of Israel have made major headlines over the past few months as (in the most watered down version of events) fighting intensified over land ownership between Israel and Palestine, but Eternal Struggle have arguably seen the bigger picture in that neither side is a winner, and that both sides are being played by the powers that be. There are several rallying cries on the band’s debut album “Year Of The Gun” for people to stand together and against the political leaders of the world, with the band themselves commenting on the track ‘On Broken Backs’ – “[e]nough of manipulation, ignorance. We’ve had enough pain and abuse. We won’t let them shape us or divide us. That’s what they want. We have a voice against them.”

From top to bottom, “Year Of The Gun” is a furious commentary on where the world is right now and how it got to this point. ‘Point One”#’ decries – “…my dreams, built on blood…” – while “Modern Slave” is an all-too-familiar (and very close to home) vitriol on the ‘working pay check to pay check’ lifestyle that so many people are forced into these days, as minimum wage increases at a crawl whilst taxes and housing skyrockets. ‘Indoctrination’ delves into an issue more localised to the band, in Israel’s selling and propaganda of its National Service, framing it as a matter of national pride and patriotism, inevitably ignoring all the challenging experiences young people may face during their time.

The fervor of frontman Ori Frank – with the exception of the remixed version of the title track by Atari Teenage Riot’s Alec Empire which closes out the album – is backed by a stomping metal-twinned hardcore sound, oding back to the NYHC scene of the 90’s. That metal/hardcore radar ticks between the two sides in such a natural way, as tracks like ‘As Heroes Fade’, ‘To My Enemies’ and ‘Pride Kills’ really lean into a riff-driven sound, whilst ‘Point One’, ‘Propaganda’ and ‘Indoctrination’ push a more intense metallic hardcore rhythm, with both sides benefitting from some excellent drum work from Ori Koren. Sonic comparisons to the likes of Biohazard and Madball seem inevitable and perhaps not by accident, as Eternal Struggle worked with former long-time Madball guitarist Brian ‘Mitts’ Daniels as a producer, whose wealth of knowledge no doubt aided the band in their musical direction and creativity.

And they remain pretty dedicated to this direction. “Year Of The Gun” is 12 songs (+ 1 intro track and 1 digital hardcore remix) of solid hardcore intensity, rarely divulging from its familiar surroundings. There’s no tragic misfire just as much as there’s no truly standout moment from the core of the album, with the Alec Empire remix likely to split opinion amongst hardcore’s ultras. And if you do fall into said category, you’ll find Eternal Struggle a more than worthwhile experience, and worthy of a hearty spin-kick.

TRACKLISTING:
01. Manifesto
02. Point One
03. Year Of The Gun
04. As Heroes Fade
05. Indoctrination
06. On Broken Backs
07. Dependence
08. To My Enemies
09. Releechious
10. Modern Slave
11. Pride Kills
12. Propaganda
13. Last Path
14. Y.O.T.G. (Alex Empire Remix)

LINE-UP:
Ori Frank – Vocals
Omer Meir – Guitars
Guilad Piñevsky – Bass
Ori Koren – Drums

LINKS:

Eternal Struggle Promo Pic

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.

Fox Medicine – Blue Bubblegum

Blue Bubblegum Album Cover Art

Fox Medicine – Blue Bubblegum
Self-Released
Release Date: 21/05/2021
Running Time: 36:17
Review by Steven Hooke
8/10

Curious duo Fox Medicine proudly plant their flag in the musical landscape with the label of “bubblegum doom”, an unlikely pairing of vocalist Neezy Dynamite Hubba-Bubba-sweet voice with psychedelic doom metal.

A cutesy voice backdropped by heavy riffs is not an uncommon phenomenon in rock and metal these days, with the likes of Issues, Rina Sawayama, Poppy and Babymetal irritating (mostly male) metal elitists the world over, but none have used an “outsider” voice quite in the same vein as Fox Medicine.

“Blue Bubblegum” is without question a doom metal record, one that invokes a brighter sound compared to previous outing “Procedures Mystiques”, and the tone, range, inflections, and effects of Neezy’s vocals add such a hypnotic psychosis to the album that betters what most of their contemporaries can do with a full line-up doused in reverb. The bouncing delivery on the chorus of opener ‘Billy The Beetle’ almost creates a dissociative effect due to the jaunty nature of her vocals battling the hazy riffs in the mix. The frenetic chorus of ‘Bunny Boy’ does more to affect one’s concept of up and down more than any spicy tongue sticker could manage, and ‘Bubblegum Witch’ almost cruelly calls to spirituality and paranoia for a “you done fucked with the wrong boho witch” experience.

Fox Medicine and indeed “Blue Bubblegum” are not one-person shows of course. Drummer and percussionist Vanny Keeps is just as adept at bringing that doom haze to proceedings in his own unique little way, whilst also keeping it proper-metal when required. His work on ‘Pain Dance’, ‘Kittens’ and the previously-mentioned ‘Bubblegum Witch’ does what all good doom drummers should do, bring an imposing stomp to the track that rumbles the core of the listener. But his work on ‘Kiss The Cactus’, ‘Billy The Beetle’ and ‘Mermaid Club’ where at times, it feels like the beat of the drums follow their own rhythm, adds to the disconnect and miasma of the record, pulling the listener in two directions. There’s even a tasteful bit of experimentation in the closing moments of the album with ‘Kiss The Cactus’ opening with a cheeky bit of cowbell and ‘Queen Moon’ adding a layer of glockenspiel-esque twinkle that could really sweeten the overall Fox Medicine sound further.

“Blue Bubblegum” has “Roadburn highlight” written all over it. Psychedelic warfare of hypnotic vocals, dynamic drums, a strong riff game that peaks into both punk and prog at times, all combined with the ear-catching siren of Neezy. A wonderfully warming album that explores an interesting niche but still doesn’t tread into caricature-territory.

‘Billy The Beetle’ (Official Video)

TRACKLISTING:
01. Billy The Beetle
02. Mermaid Club
03. Bubblegum Witch
04. Kittens
05. Pain Dance
06. Bunny Boy
07. Kiss The Cactus
08. Queen Moon

LINE-UP:
Neezy Dynamite – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Bass, Keyboards.
Vanny Keeps – 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.

NO:IR – Are We Really Alive? EP

Are We Really Alive EP Cover Art

NO:IR – Are We Really Alive? EP
Self-Released
Release Date: 18/06/2021
Running Time: 22:19
Review by Steven Hooke
7/10

We live in blessed times when we can look at a fresh-faced nu metal act like NO:IR and use the term “throwback”. The bastard child of groove metal, alt rock and hip hop simultaneously defined a generation, whilst aggravating another at the turn of the millennium as frosted tips, JNCO jeans, and Juggalo-adjacent face paint dominated the charts, both in the underground and in the mainstream.

There had been a steady revival in the early 2010’s with the likes of Emmure, Of Mice & Men, Cane Hill and Suicide Silence incorporating more nu metal into their sound, yet they would always shy away from the “nu metal” label, due to how “un-cool” it was still perceived. But then, Sheffield goliaths Bring Me the Horizon released “That’s The Spirit”, and 90’s kids rejoiced in now seeing nu metal in the main again, with Code Orange, Stray From the Path, Poppy and Vein among those making it officially “cool” again, allowing for a nu generation to break through.

Enter NO:IR, a Bristol-based five-piece who have cannonballed straight into the re-emerging scene with a steady stream of singles dating back to 2019. Combining nu metal with even more hip hop, some sprinklings of emo, and its old friend rap metal, NO:IR do indeed offer a throwback sound to the likes of Linkin Park, Incubus, Papa Roach and even some forgotten gems from the failed UK nu metal revival attempt in TRC and The One Hundred. In their attempts, they are able to bring back all the best parts of the soundtrack to my school runs, but also, several parts that brought down the genre in the first place.

Let’s start with the positives, this EP is crammed with excellent choruses. Harkening back to the likes of Linkin Park’s “Meteora”, vocalist Evvi Davies possesses the envy-inducing vocal prowess to hit powerful, yet melodic vocal melodies, whilst retaining the slightest of rasps that keeps the passages grounded in its rock/metal surroundings. ‘Phantom’ and ‘I Need U (Like I Need A Hole In My Head)’ are both notable examples of this and they do it in their own unique way. To go back to the “Meteora” example, ‘Phantom’ has an ‘Easier To Run’ feel, longer, more drawn-out notes to allow for a more dramatic and emotional performance, whilst ‘I Need U (Like I Need A Hole In My Head)’ has a more ‘Hit The Floor’ feel, with more energy and a higher intensity to shake up the listener (shoutout to drummer George Farley especially for his role in that).

The guitar work at times is also really special. When Sonny Gazzard and Alex Roberts delve into the heavy end of the spectrum – seen particularly in ‘Spineless’ – they do pull out some sharp riffs á la Twelve Foot Ninja, and then follow up nicely with the more melodic-but still crunchy chorus riffs spoken about previously in ‘Phantom’, probably the best written song on the release.

The band as a whole do a pretty decent job in writing a nu metal ballad in ‘Hollow’. Incorporating more dark pop and hip hop elements, that leads a steady progression into another brilliant chorus, the song is a far-cry from the standard fair of the song style set all those years ago (*cuts to ‘Nam flashbacks of ‘It’s Been A While’ by Staind*).

On the other side of the coin, NO:IR are almost too committed to bringing back the past as several of nu metal’s worst tropes can be seen and heard on “Are We Really Alive?”. ‘Demons’ opens with a near-monologue rap from Davies that lacks a natural flow and vocal stability to allow it to stand on its own. This is in fact made worse, when in the verses, he is able to nail a much more naturally-flowing-sounding rap that almost provides its own beat when isolated from the instrumentation. It’s frustrating hearing an idea like that to add a different dynamic to a release, used on perhaps the worst choice of lyric on the song.

This is also a nu-metal EP with barely a passing glimmer at a loud and proud bass guitar. Now this may come under the ‘modernisation’ of the genre, but outside a floaty bassline on ‘Phantom’, Jake Gazzard doesn’t really have the right kind of impact on a release of this ilk. There are some moments of pure metal stomp on the likes of ‘Hollow’, ‘Spineless’, ‘Phantom’, and even the ending breakdown of ‘I Need U (Like I Need a Hole in My Head)’, but no real satisfying *durnk* from a nu metal bass guitar.

And again, with this being a nu metal EP, it would be so easy to go two-footed on the lyrics (David Draiman should be arrested for his sins against the English language) but that is part of the fun of the genre. It’s often bloody bonkers. That being said, there’s a song called ‘I Need U (Like I Need A Hole In My Head)”. Just, no. To all of it.

Overall, at their first full attempt, NO:IR haven’t done a bad job at all, despite the criticisms. There’s plenty of ideas and techniques that they should lean on in the future, such as guitar work, general songwriting of the heavier parts, and genuinely creative ideas (but maybe just aimed in a different direction). They’ve got the chance to right some wrongs from their forefathers as a cross-generational, modernised nostalgia act going forward if they want to be. They’re still young, as is the revival they’re a part of.

Or they can continue what they’re doing and succeed in spite of me. More power to them.

TRACKLISTING:
01. If This Is Living…
02. Demons
03. Spineless
04. Phantom
05. I Need U (Like I Need A Hole In My Head)
06. Hollow

LINE-UP:
Evvi Davies – Vocals
Sonny Gazzard – Guitar
Alex Roberts – Guitar
Jake Gazzard – Bass
George Farley – Drums

LINKS:

NO-IR Promo Pic

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.

All Wasted – Burn With Me

Burn With Me Album Cover Art

All Wasted – Burn With Me
Wormholedeath
Release Date: 04/06/2021
Running Time: 46:16
Review by Steven Hooke
8/10

With members rooted in Sweden’s ever-fruitful underground music scene, All Wasted are a punk-laced death metal group whose sole intention seems to be “have a bloody good time”. The five-piece possesses a sound definitely inspired by UK legends Motörhead, as they throw down a cavalcade of riffs with the melodies of classic rock & roll.

Whilst their intentions are pure and the heroes are of the highest order, “Burn With Me” does actually take a little while to really get into a solid groove. Openers ‘Passion Of Crime’ and ‘Behind Broken Glass’ do have their moments in the sun, the latter – the faster of the two – has an incredible energy to it to really psyche you up for what’s about to come, with the formidable tandem of vocalist Patrik Johansson and backing vocalist/guitarist Emil Sjöstrand making the vocal portions of the album an absolute treat. Johansson alone sits on such a fantastic middle ground of hardcore and death metal that makes you want to run round your front room and get all sweaty.

And maybe it’s just a personal taste thing of whilst those songs may be “good”, they’re not quite “great”, or maybe they were just eclipsed by the cataclysmic units of follow-up couplet ‘Towards The End’ and ‘Sense Of Weakness’. Any time I put this album on, these were the songs that made me stop and say “phwoar!” before making unflattering gurning faces. ‘Towards The End’ opens with a steady barrage of riffs, quite fittingly sitting somewhere between The Offspring’s ‘The Kids Aren’t Alright’ and In Flames’ ‘Bullet Ride’, as we gallop towards the monstrous chorus that has a touch of latter-day Children of Bodom/Bodom After Midnight (minus the keys).

They are then able to top themselves almost immediately with ‘Sense Of Weakness’ and largely, it’s because of all the same reasons why it’s predecessor was so good as well. Grooving riffs, a stunning vocal performance, and that chorus! The addition of a simple vocal harmony to give it some depth and theatre, and some top of the line drum work from H-Can, who is also simplifying his role, but in a way that still gives the song enough punch to make sure the energy levels don’t drop off completely.

From there, the album does keep a fairly high level throughout, and while it may largely do one thing, it does that one thing exceptionally well. ‘Dawn Will Rise No More’ does tap into more melodeath territory with searing melodies over the chorus, the title-track goes into a Cancer Bats-esque hardcore epiphany, and ‘Rotten To The Core’ and ‘This Means War’ do God’s work in keeping the energy levels and the quality up to the final note.

In regard to issues with the release, outside of the slow start, there’s not really much to complain about. As I said previously, “Burn With Me” largely does one thing, and does it well, so it’s not an album that you can dissect and say, “that hammer-on in track 6 didn’t work for me”. This ain’t exactly your dad’s 70’s prog that he won’t stop going on about. Arguably, because it stays in this realm throughout its entire duration, the sound does drag a little after a while, and it’s not even that long of an album, clocking in at just over 46 minutes. Compare that to some of the bigger punk/metal releases of the past few years, Capra’s debut went for 32 minutes, Svalbard’s post-metal-tinged “When I Die, Will I Get Better?” clocks in at 38 mins, Entombed A.D.’s “Bowels Of Earth” raged for 36 mins, even Napalm Death in their new age experimentations on “Throes Of Joy…” had a runtime of 42 mins. In a live setting, I imagine it’d be a non-factor, but whilst vibing around the house? It’s like sharing a flat with the Ultimate Warrior.

All Wasted’s debut album is tonnes of fun. I love a chorus that packs melodies into the aural energy of getting punched in the head, and this has that by the bucket full. The fun and energy of punk rock with the power and aggression of death metal will always be a winning combination in my mind!

‘Fading Out Of Line (Official Video)

TRACKLISTING:
01. Passion Of Crime
02. Behind Broken Glass
03. Towards The End
04. Sense Of Weakness
05. The Rise
06. Burn With Me
07. I Am The Pain
08. Fading Out Of Line
09. Dawn Will Rise No More
10. Out Of This Grave
11. Rotten To The Core
12. Time To Burn
13. This Means War

LINE-UP:
Patrik Johansson – Vocals
Emil Sjöstrand – Guitars, Backing Vocals
Eric Rydén – Guitars
Jimmy Malmenlid – Bass
H-Can – 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.

Exanimis – Marionnettiste

Marionnettiste Album Cover Art

Exanimis – Marionnettiste
Klonosphere Records
Release Date: 05/03/2021
Running Time: 65:39
Review by Steven Hooke
7/10

With origins rooted in French contemporary music training centre, the Music Academy International, Exanimis is a symphonic death metal collective seeking to combine the energy and aggression of death metal, with the flair and pomp of a full orchestra.

The worlds of symphonic metal and extreme metal combining is not exactly a foreign concept, in fact just the term “symphonic death metal” should bring to the forefront the likes of Fleshgod Apocalypse and Septicflesh, but something that seems to be a struggle for newer bands of the genre is creating that perfect balance of metal and orchestra. Often the emphasis goes into the metal side of things, with the “symphony” sounding like a cheap riff on setting Synth_05 on a Casio keyboard (looking at you early 2010’s deathcore), but Exanimis have knocked that part of their sound out of the park on the first attempt. The orchestration on the French outfit’s debut is exquisite, steadily building drama, peaking and spiking to make a song feel more dangerous, subtle world-building arrangements to back narrations and interludes, all the while never once letting the metal fall too far back in the mix.

Album standout ‘Throne Of Thorns’ perfectly encapsulates all of this. Adding wonderful accents to the introductory drum rolls, the flairs of brass throughout, the forte explosions in the chorus, the vocal harmonising , which may in fact be the best part of the song that becomes a bit of a detriment to the album. Vocalist Alexandre Dervieux largely operates in one dynamic throughout the album which would be perfectly fine were this an out-and-out death metal album, but since this album is so indebted to a symphonic arrangement, it feels like it needs more vocal variety (excluding the spoken word parts). It’s a dynamic that helped Fleshgod Apocalypse standout so much in their breakthrough, that clash of styles between Rossi and Paoli (and previously Rossi and Riccardi). The one dynamic approach isn’t completely impossible, Septicflesh vocalist Spiros Antoniou utilises a low, guttural grumble in the same vein as Dervieux, by there are lighter elements to broaden and counterbalance the Septicflesh sound, such as stringed instrument pirouettes and vocal choirs, both executed tremendously on “Marionnettiste”, thanks to collaborations with Maxime Poirot and Lorine Pauget, respectively.

“Marionnettiste” does venture into stage musical territory from time-to-time which may divide opinion, particularly in the two latter-half epics, ‘Cogs, Gears & Clockworks’ and ‘Cathedral’. The steampunk apocalypse ‘Cogs…’ utilises a music hall-esque three-bar beat to give it that stage show feel, which in turns fits nicely thematically, as the lyrics count-down to existential doomsday. ‘Cathedral’ is an absolute meal of a song, clocking in at over 16 minutes and tells a fantastical tale, stretching across several acts and peaking into the worlds of power metal and progressive metal. Both tracks boast impressive orchestral arrangements, but do suffer from the same ailments that plague the album as a whole, with the metal elements trailing behind the symphonic elements in creativity. The riffs, similarly to the vocals, largely operate in a very small range, inevitably becoming a little samey, and generally lost in the grandiosity in the accompanying symphonies. Even the drum work (contributed by Fractal Universe drummer Clément Denys) keeps up and matches the energy of the orchestral ensemble, and does so marvellously.

Overall, this is a great attempt of a herculean ask from the young musicians. It almost feels like they threw so much attention into getting the symphony parts right, that they overlooked the core metal components instead (which is usually the opposite of what happens). Should Exanimis pour more of that creativity, that they very clearly have, into the death metal portion of their sound, then we’ll be onto something truly special. They already possess a better mix than a lot of other newer faces to the symphonic extreme metal world, and the look and aesthetic of the band will translate so well to a live setting. Surely there must be some room left at HellFest right?

Cogs, Gears & Clockworks (Official Video)

TRACKLISTING:
01. Prélude du Songe Avant le Cauchemar
02. The Wrathful Beast
03. Throne Of Thorns
04. Stampede Of The 10000
05. Entracte du Sommeil Pendant le Cauchemar
06. Cogs, Gears & Clockworks
07. The Slow Flow Of The Spume On The Shore
08. Cathedral
09. Épilogue du Songe Après le Cauchemar

LINE-UP:
Alexandre Dervieux – Vocals, Guitars
Julien Marzano – Guitars
Julien Prost – Bass

LINKS:

Exanimis Promo Pic

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.