Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Spires - Spiral Of Ascension

Self Released 2010

1.Equilibrium 2.The Infinite Descent 3.Nightfall 4.Broken Hourglass
5.Symmetry 6.Martyr 7.Spiral Of Ascension 8. A New Prayer (Bonus)

‘Progressive’ is a description which can sit uncomfortably when discussing issues surrounding extreme metal. The boundaries can often be blurred between progressive and extreme metal and often when a band describe themselves as one, they actually sound like the other. However, Manchester’s Spires have managed to encapsulate a mix of progressive metal and extreme metal and blended it into a style which could be described as extreme progressive. ‘Equilibrium’ probably sums this style up best, a melting pot of influences, melody and heaviness colliding brilliantly. Harsh screamed vocals sit comfortably amongst cleanly sung (but with a harsh edge) vocals whilst guitars switch from heavy extreme to acoustic and back again. ‘The Infinite Descent’ tears open in a blaze of black metal inspired riffing, accompanied by the harsh screamed vocals before the more melodic guitar takes over, time signatures vary giving the middle section of this track a very technical feel whilst the cleaner sung vocals add progression whilst remaining extreme (similar in approach to the likes of Akercocke).
‘Nightfall’ is an atmospheric guitar interlude, very classical acoustic guitars soaring over a rain filled and thunderous background, haunting yet compelling. ‘Broken Hourglass’ see’s the melody continued, opening up with pure atmosphere, touches of Opeth on show, maybe even some Dream Theatre. This is where the band loses their extreme edge and the progressive elements are in full flow. However, the band never forgets their extreme metal foundations, with the heavier guitars and screamed harsh vocals being re-introduced, but only selectively. This is a 14 minute monster of a track with the music being the main factor, the vocals definitely taking a back seat here, used sparsely. Seven minutes in and the track takes on a whole new feel, down-tuned heavy guitars bringing the track to an almost standstill, growled vocals drenched in reverb giving an emotionally charged doom sound and a new element to the bands sonic arsenal. Definitely not one for the faint hearted or narrow minded as there’s a lot on offer and a lot of progressive melody. ‘Symmetry’ is another extremely melodic track, acoustic guitars played alongside the main electric guitar which adds a lot to the band’s sound. Sweeping guitar solos add even more melody and atmosphere, again the bands more extreme influence taking a backseat to the bands progressive edge. It can feel very heavy going at times, but the music buffs will lap this up, taking in all the complexities of the bands sound and making sense of it all.
Thankfully ‘Martyr’ sees the re-introduction of the heavier guitars and screamed vocals, the track taking on an Egyptian or Arabic feel, another one of bands influences subtly placed into the track and a nice addition. Melody and cleanly sung vocals again take over proceedings; the harsher and heavier vocals used extremely sparingly which is actually a shame, as they work really well over both the heavier sections and the more progressive elements. It’s not very often the pace rises, but we see it here and when it does, the double kicks get a good workout but as with a lot of the bands heavier elements, it is extremely short lived, the progressive melody and cleanly sung vocals favoured. ‘Spiral of Ascension’ is another 14 minute monster, acoustic guitars and emotionally charged cleanly sung vocals leading the way. You always get that feeling that each song is building up in momentum and about to ‘let rip’ at any moment, which sadly (for this listener at least) never really happens. The band are obviously extremely talented musicians and very good at what they do. Music students into metal will wank over this, listening to every note and analysing it to the ‘enth degree.  The further into this cd you listen, there’s a feeling that the band are moving ever father away from the limited extremity seen in some of the previous tracks and starting to take on a whole metal/rock approach, forward thinking perhaps! Appealing to a whole new breed of music fan whilst retaining some extreme metal elements to keep some of the more broad minded extreme metal fans relatively happy. Atmospheric, progressive and intellectual metal played with pure skill, this can be extremely heavy going at times and is definitely not going to appeal to fans of blast and grind extreme metal, however Spires have a lot to offer and offer it well. Definitely one to chill out to rather than bang your head to!
7.5 Out of 10

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Lazarus Syndrome - Flatline

Self Released 2011

1.Forsaken 2.Devoured By Conflict 3.A Path Less Travelled
4.Blameless Creator

There’s a heavy dose of groove and melody to the band’s sound all wrapped around a melodic death metal framework. Opener 'Forsaken' is a fairly mid-paced generic affair, the extreme edge to the bands approach being in the vocal department. Gruff death metal vocals are mixed with clean sung passages, the contrast in styles working well but never really grabbing your full attention. Not that the vocals are bad, far from it, the differing styles are well arranged but when the clean vocals are used the ‘extreme’ edge to the band is lost and the song seems to sink into a very melodic mire, becoming almost ‘rock’ sounding. It’s quite apparent that LS are trying to tap into the ‘Scar Symmetry’ market, but unfortunately they fall far short from achieving anywhere near that. 'Devoured By Conflict' is very similar in sound, the generic melodic death metal riffing feels very ‘un-threatening’ and the ‘safe option’. There is a more extreme edge to this track, the vocals again structured and arranged well, the downside being that the cleaner vocals begin to take the track over and once again, the bands extremity lost to the more ‘rock’ orientated riffing.
 'A Path Less Travelled' falls further away from any extremity, even the melodic death metal sound seen on the two previous tracks is lost to some very melodic guitar work, clean sung anthemic vocals and ‘nice' drum work. This is as far away from extreme metal as it is possible to be, the track taking on a “Scuzz friendly” American rock ballard feeling. Gruff vocals are introduced at the end of the song, but by then all interest has been lost in a very dull song. Maybe Scuzz is the bands ‘target market’ and they’ve pulled off a master stroke, but from an extreme metal point of view, this falls well short of the mark. 'Blameless Creator' does it’s best to rescue this e.p, a more upbeat melodic death metal start to the song, double kick drums being given a real work out and the death metal vocals really bringing the track to life and adding to the bands limited extremity. This is more like it!! The clean vocals are again used, but used more sparingly to complement the song rather than taking it over. This closing track is all round heavier, everything about it more extreme, more metal. It’s just a real shame the band didn’t emulate this on the previous three tracks because if they had have done, this would have been a cracking cd. Unfortunately the rest of the cd is just too generic, too safe and never really pushes the boundaries of this genre and what the band are trying to achieve. Easy to see what the band are aiming for, but sadly it’s not working to its full potential. Extremely melodic death metal, with hints of rock, something Kerrang might lap up but it’s probably not for the majority of the UKEM community.
6 out of 10

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Somne - Demo 2011

Self Released 2011

1.Suicide Through Contentment...Exist For Extinction
2.Halls Of Melancholy 3.Beyond...

As ‘Suicide Through Contentment…Exist For Extinction” starts the anticipation is utterly chilling such is the atmosphere being instantly created. On offer is absolutely haunting and devastating suicidal lo-fi black metal. Vocalist ‘A’ is obviously a very disturbed and lost soul, his tormented screams crying out in absolute agony, utter despair etched into every single scream. Musically everything is as ‘Necro’ as possible, buzz-saw like guitars carving out some extremely melodic and depressive black metal, surprisingly catchy given the genre Somne place themselves in. The pace remains relatively slow which compliments the concept behind the song. However, the band isn’t afraid to up the pace which gives the song a more contemporary black metal sound with the vocals remaining utterly tortured. ‘Halls Of Melancholy’ begins with extremely melodic acoustic guitars and synths, a world away from the opening track. Bass and drums then join in and add to the melody which is then all complimented by a guitar solo. The devastation then returns dramatically, repetitive lo-fi black metal riffing all played at a fast pace, again very catchy but also horribly suicidal. The vocals are absolutely drenched in echo and reverb and ‘A’ does actually sound like he’s about to die and these are his tortured screams of anguish and regrets from days gone by, crying out in preparation for his inevitable demise. You find yourself being drawn into the horror, the music mesmerising, melodic yet as harsh as you’ll hear from similar bands. For such a long track (10:22) it passes extremely quickly such is the power of the song, time becomes insignificant. ‘Beyond..’ closes this demo and slows things right down, the song taking on a more familiar ‘Suicidal Black Metal’ feel and pace. Again the music remains relatively melodic, every riff being memorable yet unforgiving. As ever, the tortured vocals sound like ‘A’ is begging for help but receiving none. The ending to this track is superb, the guitars remaining at the same pace as the drums up their pace which makes for an extremely good ending to a haunting track and demo. Melody is re-introduced through acoustic guitars and synths as the track ends, the misery drawn to a close. All three tracks are truly compelling and is an absolute must for fans of lo-fi ‘kvlt’ depressive and suicidal black metal that is played with true passion and conviction. Already looking forward to their next release, can’t be recommended highly enough.

9 out of 10

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Consecrated Flesh - Demo 2011

Self Released 2011

1.Bow Down At The Altar Throne 2.Ethnogenesis 3.Meteotsunami
4.From The Dying Earth

As the guitars slowly fade in there is a sense of impending doom starting to fill the speakers, the tension building to fever pitch before an unholy barrage of brutal and melodic Black Metal is unleashed in opener ‘Bow Down At The Altar Throne’. Guitar melodies leading the track through a Scandinavian influenced BM assault. The main and fully obvious influence to the band’s sound being melodic Swedish BM, think Vinterland, Eucharist, The Moaning, Excretion and Sacramentum and you’ll pretty much understand where CF are coming from. Everything you need from this style of music is on show, harsh and scathing screamed BM vocals, drums that mix tempos but generally remain in the mid-paced to faster bracket, blast beats firmly on show and when the pace is slowed the fast double kick drums take over. It’s an absolute beast of a track, at 8m 51 it is very lengthy but there’s a lot on offer, the guitars keeping the whole track very interesting, catchy and brutal. All well-crafted which affirms the bands skill for writing a good tune. ‘Ethnogenesis’ is another lengthy affair, clocking in at 7m 29 and again is a guitar lead song, the melodies and harmonies being at the backbone of the song and creating a really ice cold atmosphere. Acoustic guitars are introduced which add an extremely melodic interlude with the acoustic riff then being carried through into the main body of the song when the harsh guitars kick back in. Very typical of the genre but it does sound extremely original and well structured. This is definitely the bands song writing at its very best and catchiest, especially when the pace is dropped slightly, there’s a real sense of despair on show – very haunting and very captivating.

‘Meteotsunami’ sets itself aside from the three other tracks, mainly due to the song length being only 4:44. There’s also a variation in the sound with spoken and clean sung vocals introduced that ultimately didn’t work and sounded a little uncomfortable and out of place – keep the vocals hateful, it works so much better! ‘From The Dying Earth’ closes the demo and shows CF at their very best, blazing in with a storm of blast beats and and ice cold riffing, tremolo picked riffs really showing off the bands melodic edge. Clean sung vocals are again introduced but when mixed with the BM vocals, changing from one to the other then back again actually works really well. They are however used sparsely which is only right, not over-using them makes them work really well. The sense of despair really begins to build in this closing track. It really feels like all life is about to end and this is the soundtrack to end it all, the atmosphere becoming utterly compelling and addictive. It’s going to be interesting to see where the band go from here because if they can produce more of the same for a debut full length I’m sure it will be extremely well received. Brutally melodic epic BM which is extremely well played and is another highlight in the current UKBM scene and comes well recommended.
8 out of 10

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Sarpanitum - Fidelium

Self Released 2011

1.None Shall They Receive 2.Before The Walls 3.Fidelium 4.Sanctus Incendia

The UK is a currently awash with a lot of very talented musicians right now, more and more bands upping the ante and showcasing extreme metal at its very best. One band in amongst the excitement are Sarpanitum who excell in precisely played brutal blackened death metal. ‘None Shall They Receive’ is as good as you will hear from the genre, blazing forth in an orgy of blast beats and technical yet catchy death metal riffing, guitar solos featuring heavily in this opening track. All played skilfully and managing to retain a sense of melody whilst absolutely killing everything in their path – really impressive! The overall feel to the track is death metal, but by adding a BM influence the band add an extra dimension to their barrage. The pace is unrelenting, blast beats setting an impressive pace and featuring very heavily throughout. The ultra-guttural vocals work extremely well over all of the song, completing both the death metal and black metal riffing excellently. ‘Before The Walls’ is an absolute monster of track, the pace similar to the previous track. Theres a slightly more crazed and technical feel here, dischordant riffs introduced which sound absolutely manic when played at this pace. As with the opener, the drums absolutely lay waste. To end the track there’s a heavy BM influence, a brutally melodic end to one hell of a track.
‘Fidelium’ is something and nothing, a sampled interlude used as a stop gap between tracks. Atmospheric yes, but not really necessary. Another song would have been a much more attractive proposition. ‘Sanctus Incendia’ closes this e.p and to start with sounds very different to the two previous songs, showing a very heavy old school U.S death metal influence (Incantation anyone?). This doesn’t last long however, the technical blast beat laden brutal blackened death metal being the bands strongest element and re-introduced as soon as the song allows. The band is definitely at their best when the pace is super-fast, which is most of the time! Slower, more melodic passages are introduced and do work well and does show a willingness to experiment in their sound to escape becoming one dimensional, which they do to great effect. Obviously accomplished musicians, Sarpanitum are a pleasing highlight in the current UK extreme metal underground scene. Plans are underway for a new release with a new full line up which, if anything like this release, will be one of THE albums to have in 2012. Extreme blackened death metal, precisely played and a shining example of “how it’s done”, this comes highly recommended.
8.5 out of 10

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Sacrilegious Throne - Acts of Apostasy

Self Released 2011

1.Acts Of Apostasy 2.Lying Dormant 3.Spreading The Swarm
4.Creating Eternal Darkness

Two man melodic black metal act Sacrilegious Throne certainly know how to craft well written, well-structured and catchy songs. ‘Acts Of Apostasy’ is all of the afore-mentioned being a mid-paced affair, well written melodic black metal at the backbone of the band’s sound with the emphasis being placed heavily on melody. There’s no all-out pummelling BM barrage here, instead intelligent song writing and a willingness to let the music represent the song rather than the speed is more than apparent. ‘Lying Dormant’ is very similar and shows all the traits seen on the opening track. The band start to take on a very ‘Scandinavian BM’ sound and if any comparisons were needed then try to imagine a slower and melodic Dimmu Borgir, vocalist ‘Awrath’ similar sounding to ‘Shagrath’. The tempo is increased slightly into mid-paced territory and blast beats are introduced but used extremely sparsely to inject some variety into the tempo. ‘Spreading The Swarm’ slows things right down, this track being vocally lead and at the forefront, leading the song in a scathing and hateful manner with the music tending to take a back seat at this point. This track could even be described as a ‘narration’ such is its structure. However, half way through the track things change, a pure BM riff is introduced and the drums blast over it, giving the track a whole new feel. This is however short lived, returning to the slower style seen in the first half of the track.
‘Creating Eternal Darkness’ is a mix of everything seen in the three previous tracks; tempos are mixed to add variety. Riffs are varied, moving from extremely melodic to scathing black metal with the drums accompanying each and every riff brilliantly. As this last track fades out an acoustic outro fades in slowly and is a fitting end to a great e.p. Four tracks are probably about the right amount to have as song lengths tended to be quite lengthy, 6:21 being the longest of the four. For all the highlights, the lack of pace to the tracks becomes a minor negative point, especially to those that like some pace in their music. After listening to four tracks that are all around the five minute mark and above and that are all generally slow to mid-paced It sometimes feels that the songs lack direction and a sense of purpose despite being well written and well played. Faster sections are introduced, but sparsely and when introduced they sound great. Having said that it does set the band aside from the BM norm and is certainly unique to the U.K. Definitely worth your attention
7.5 out of 10

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Corpse Fauna - Gore Gallery

Self Released 2011

1.Two Girls In A Well 2.Earth Ablaze 3.My Pretty Little Torso
4.Gore Gallery 5.View To An Execution

Woah! Press play and what a racket you’re greeted by! Down-tuned, ugly, rotten to the core old school monstrous death metal. ‘Two Girls In A Well’ is an absolute beast of a track, a true carnival of horrors, guitars a gurgling, grinding and putrid barrage, heavy as fuck. No doubt all backed up by a bass straight from the swamp, but it’s impossible to tell, such is the heavy low end rumble. Structurally, the song jumps around all over the place, a very punishing and unforgiving sound which at times could be seen as confusing, losing itself in its own brutality. ‘Earth Ablaze’ blasts out in similar fashion, blast beats introduced from the outset and giving the track a more composed feel than the opener. There appears to be a clearer structure, the riffing simplified somewhat to give the track more clarity under the barrage of old school caveman death metal nastiness. Slower passages are introduced which give the band a new sound and adds variety and breaks up the blasting sections well.
‘My Pretty Little Torso’ changes the momentum completely, opening very melodically and even using acoustic guitars with a spoken sampled passage which actually adds to the horror and throws the listener off balance somewhat. When the main body of the song starts, the melody is retained, albeit through the heavy and nasty sound. Tempos are kept to a minimum and this again allows the track to stand out and not be lost in the carnage that was seen in the opening track. Choppy time changes don’t work too well and add to a sense of chaos, but that might be the object of what the band are trying to achieve. Thankfully this track is well structured, old school brutal death metal, horrid and nasty in its execution. ‘Gore Gallery’ returns us to the carnage seen in the opening track, blast beats blazing along to some absolute rabid riffing. It’s just pure brutality, this is super-fast horror death metal and as brutal as the band have sounded so far. Again tempos chop and change but the track does still manage to keep things together, the slower sections retaining the songs composure. ‘View To An Execution’ is pure old school, tempos and time changes again changed frequently but when the band slow things down, it gets really nasty, the song dragging its rotten corpse along with an air of horror that’s immensely captivating. No sooner has the song started then it has ended in a hail of blast beats and the corpse of this track is returned to the putrid grave from where it first lumbered from. For such an old school, nasty and rotten release there is actually a surprising amount of musical variety on display. Tempos are varied and structures vary from the complex through to the disgustingly simple. Acoustic guitars sit comfortably alongside the bass/buzz heavy death metal riffing, hard to achieve the right balance but CF have managed it perfectly. Its old school, nasty, sexually depraved and perverted death metal which absolutely pummels and is a joy to listen to. This comes well recommended if you want to feel used, abused and dirty after you’ve listened to it – bathe in horror!
7.5 out of 10