Wednesday, 31 December 2014

2014 Highlights - Top 10 Releases

As 2014 draws to a close, we're taking a look back at our favourite releases (THAT WE HAVE REVIEWED). Label work with UKEM Records and HELL'S HAMMER DISTRIBUTION has meant that we've not had alot of time to review every release, hence there are quite alot of titles missing from our list, we will get to them next year hopefully! This top 10 are in no particular order, but we will highlight the 'ALBUM OF 2014" that we do feel was the strongest album that we reviewed. 

Congnizanze - Inquisition
"Musically there’s a touch of Atheist, and again Cynic, to their sound. However, the brutal and guttural death metal vocals really set them aside from such bands. Four tracks of technical and brutal death metal; this is a highly impressive introduction to the band. The standard these guys have set is very high and it would be fair to say you’d be hard pushed to find a brutal death metal band in the UK playing to such a standard. Comes very highly recommended."

Arrogant Destruktor - Hate Legions Ride
"As mentioned earlier, there is simplicity to the band’s sound which is actually their strength and gives each song its catchiness and appeal. Old school influenced black metal, played from the (blackened) heart with no fuss or complication, ‘Hate Legions Ride’ is something truly unique in the UK black metal underground and this demo stands the band in good stead to hopefully move onto bigger and better things, should they decide that’s what they want - comes very highly recommended".

Merciless Terror - Vile Extinction
"Whilst it lacks somewhat for variety, we all know that bands like Merciless Terror don’t play to be varied and whimsical, they play to destroy and tracks like “Hateful Abomination” and the crushingly heavy “Process of Eradication” do just that. From start to finish this album is dominant, plain and simple"

Foetal Juice - Big Trouble In Little Vagina
"Foetal Juice are one of those bands that really appeal and fans of death metal, punk or grind will all find something to enjoy in the five tracks on offer, although I feel the death metallers will be the ones to really lap this up! If Foetal Juice reined back the punk/grind elements and concentrated slightly more on the brutal death metal, then they would certainly be an extremely potent force to be reckoned with. That said, this is a massively enjoyable e.p. which shows off the bands talents brilliantly, death metal with a sense of humour is hard to pull off, but these four lads from Bury do it very well. Now, lets see a full length please! Comes well recommended".

Seprevation - Consumed
"Song writing too is of a high level despite the majority of the music on offer being fast, hard and chaotic! Catchier tracks such as “Sarcophagal Chamber” (Sarcofago will be so proud) keep the album fresh and lively even into its middle stages and on the whole the album is of a superb quality throughout and never wavers in its aim for filthy, old school brutality".

Sleipnir - Oats Sworn In Mead And Blood
"It’s only every so often that an album of such brilliance really takes you to another level when listening to it, but that’s exactly what happens with ‘Oaths Sworn In Blood And Mead’. It quite literally draws you in and takes you on a journey you probably weren’t expecting. Sleipnir really have created an album a cut above the rest, certainly in terms of UK releases, if not the genre as a whole. Massive in both terms of length and atmosphere, it’s another fine example of UK extreme metal at the top of its game and this release comes as highly recommended as possible and is a cd you must own if you’re a fan of Viking Metal -  to not own it is an absolute travesty!

Morlich - Tempest
"Morlich has created an extremely effective black metal e.p full of harsh atmospheres and emotions which really does grab your attention from the outset. Many an hour has obviously been spent in the practice room as the whole release is extremely well played, sounding tight, fresh and extremely professional. If you haven’t heard this band before, they really are worth checking out. The band is currently looking for a label to release this on and their wait shouldn’t be too long based on what is heard here! Keyboard heavy atmospheric black metal with a real uniqueness, ‘Tempest’ comes very highly recommended".

Dystopian Wrath - Dystopian Wrath
For a debut release, Dystopian Wrath are setting the standard very high indeed, such is the brilliance that this e,p oozes throughout each and every song. The musicianship, arrangements and compositions are flawless, as is the production (bar a slightly ‘clicky’ drum sound, but that’s a minor niggle) which helps to create the morbid, monstrous and pain etched atmospheres. Another prime example of a young UK band at the very top of their game, showing the rest “how it’s done” through their brand of elite black/death metal. If you haven’t checked these guys out, then it’s about time you did as this release comes very highly recommended".

Bloodshot Dawn - Demons
"It’s very difficult to find fault with anything on this album. Bloodshot Dawn have really spent time getting to grips with making excellent music. They are a good example of ‘practice makes perfect’. In short, this is an absolute must for fans of Melodic Death Metal".

Eastern Front - Descent Into Genocide
"Eastern Front have taken all these individual ingredients and mixed them perfectly into an ice cold barrage of devastatingly effective black metal. For me, this is the best album of 2014 to surface from UK underground scene so far, such is it’s brilliance, originality and effectiveness to really punish throughout. It’s an absolute 'must have' and there aren’t too many bands going to be able to top this at all".

Some absolutely storming releases and its been hard picking the top ten as we have had to leave out some other amazing releases, especially from FED TO THE BOARS, THE KING IS BLIND, DE PROFUNDIS, ORANGE GOBLIN.
A great year for extreme metal in the UK, here's hoping that 2014 will be even better, there are some great releases on the horizon.

(that we have reviewed)
Quite an easy decision in the end, the quality shown on this album was amazing, and a huge improvement on their debut offering, so we give it to:
Well deserved indeed!!!
Finally, a huge thanks to everyone that has supported UKEM through its 4 years of existence, the support is hugely appreciated. Onwards and upwards!!

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Bloodshot Dawn - Demons

Self Released 2014

1.Smoke And Mirrors 2.Consequence Complex 3.United 4.Inadequacy
5.Black Hole Infinity 6.Human Void 7.The Image Faded 8.Demons

Bloodshot Dawn are a Melodic/Technical Death Metal band, and as it stands, it would be easy for them to be swallowed by the tide of other bands in this genre. Thankfully they have a lot to offer. This is their second full length album (released 26-10-2014) which sees them going from strength to strength. First is the excellent production, from the opening song ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ you get a tight and exciting range of sounds. The guitar playing is excellent; complex yet with very catchy melodies. The drumming is tight with a good range of styles featuring blast beats and high energy playing its hard not to get excited over such great playing. The bass tones are smooth and the vocals are the icing on the cake. Nothing is left to chance, everything is well thought out. 
There is very little filler to speak of over the 42 minutes and 8 songs, every song is played at a high tempo, but, not too fast, not too slow. There is a real sense of urgency in their work. With a limited use of keyboards, there is very little dead space on each song (if any at all) and you really do get a lot of music for your money.The longest song, ‘The Image Faded’ contains guest guitar solos from Teemu Mäntysaari (Wintersun), Per Nilsson (Scar Symmetry) , Andy James and Chris Amott (Armgeddon, Ex-Arch Enemy) is a total shred guitar fest! Fans of any of these guitarists will instantly recognise their unique playing styles. ‘Demons’ also boasts some very eye-catching artwork by Pär Olofsson. It’s very difficult to find fault with anything on this album. Bloodshot Dawn have really spent time getting to grips with making excellent music. They are a good example of ‘practice makes perfect’. In short, this is an absolute must for fans of Melodic Death Metal. 

Huw Morgan - 10 Out of 10

Band Page: Here

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Consecration - Ephemerality

UKEM Records 2014

1. In Decayed Embrace 2. Buried Alive 3 .Echoes Of The Dead 4. The Visitant
5. The Summoning Of Sufferance 6. Purity Through Pain 
7.Inviting The Impure 8.Thy Requiem Lament

'Ephemerality’ is the first full length album by UK Doom/Death band Consecration 
(released 15-12-2014). Previous works included a demo, EP and DVD. The first thing you notice when playing this album is the length of the songs. Most are well over 5 minutes, with a few over 10 minutes. The total running length is just over an hour for this 8 track epic. The gloomy artwork from Daniel Bollans (vocalist for Consecration) sets the tone for the music. From the moment you start playing the album, you’ll need a good beer and a comfy chair. This is one heavy ride. A lot of Doom/Death bands have a very distinctive sound. Consecration have an early 90’s Death Metal sound mixing the early 2000’s Doom tone. Their music can summed up in a few words, scathing, filthy, and thick. Don’t be fooled by these musical tags, there are moments that will lift to expose a fragile, however, equally heavy side. Most songs are slow with the odd fast section thrown in. Clean guitar passages only make the heavy parts heavier. 
This is a true roller coaster of brutal music. The production is clean and natural enough for each instrument to speak clearly. There is also enough dirt to blend the mix together. The drums, bass and twin guitar are paramount to the overall sound of this release; the vocals are the icing on the cake. Don’t expect anything other than a brutal, guttural and old sounding experience. This album is an absolute grower. The more you play it, the more you notice; every song stands on its own. The opener, ‘In Decayed Embrace’ has all the signature elements of the heaviness this band can muster while, ‘The Visitant’ shows the diversity they can achieve with clean, heavy and eerie guitar tones. For Consecration, this is going to be a very difficult album to beat for future releases. 

Review by Huw: 8 Out Of 10

Band Page: Here
Buy It: Here

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Exquisite Ending - The Rite Of Misanthropism Psalms: I to IV

Hibernacular Records 2015

1.Psalm I: The Invocation Of The Abhorrent Void
2. Psalm II: The Mass Congregation Of Detestable Despair
3. Psalm III: Ostracism Of Tormenting Morality
4. Psalm IV: In This Quietus, We Perish As One Vessel

This is the first part of a conceptual series of recordings (released 15.01.15) exploring a set of beliefs created by the UK based band. Each of the four songs on this EP is listed as a ‘psalm’ with a total running time of about twenty minutes. This is the follow up to two previous releases; a full length album and a split with another UK band, Written in Torment. So, what does it sound like? Exquisite Ending have a good grasp of song arrangement. They follow a traditional sounding Black Metal format. All the expected elements are present; tortured vocals, razor sharp guitars, frantic bass lines and chaotic drums. They are also not afraid to experiment with spoken intros, samples, melodic passages and changing tempos. It is very difficult to place them into any one genre. They have sounds reminiscent of Dark Funeral (early production), Xasthur (ambience), Shining (arrangements) and arguably Mayhem (Wolf’s Lair Abyss guitar/drum tones). 
There is an overall feeling of despair throughout the music however, as this is quite bombastic sounding, you never quite dip into total depression. It’s more like you’re being taken along on a musical journey. As with all good Black Metal releases, this has the ultimate key element - vision. It takes you to a place no other music can, an escape from reality, an insight into someone else’s creation. As this is the first instalment of the series, you get a feeling that there is much more to come and if this is anything to go by, the rest of the series will be well worth getting hold of. 

9 Out Of 10

Band Page:Here

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

December Featured Band - Eastern Front

Having recently released their Second album, Descent Into Genocide, UKEM thought a long overdue chat was in order with war obsessed black metal band EASTERN FRONT!

Let’s take it right back to the beginning, how did you guys first meet and decide to form the band?
HOLOCAUST: Back in 2006 I was playing in an Old School Death Metal band that was going relatively well but I was writing a lot of Black Metal riffs that I felt more passionate about so decided to end my old band, start fresh and form Eastern Front. I had been friends with Krieg for about 3 years and he was looking to play in a Black Metal band too after previously managing other bands and being part of a record label so we arranged a meet up and started to jam some ideas with our first vocalist, Mike Taylor. I had been friends with Mike for about 6 years and often discussed creating a band together. He was in a similar position to me and was playing in a Death Metal band but wanting to perform in a band that was primarily Black Metal. Our musical tastes were very similar, Drudkh and Hate Forest being joint favourites of ours, plus all of us having a love for Doom and Death Metal helped us connect easily to begin with. It took a few months to form a full band with Mike leaving due to work/family commitments and switching drummers in a short space of time before our first proper demo recording but we still pushed ahead and played our first live show at the end of 2007.

It’s no secret that we have had many changes in the line-up throughout the years, leaving me as the only original member. However, what most people don’t seem to realise is for the past 5 ½ years the main core of the band (Nagant/Holocaust/Destroyer) has been the same. Blitz joined us at the end of 2012 and since then we have been a solid line-up.

Obviously the band name and lyrical themes are based are war, was it a conscious decision to take that route? Did you guys already have an interest in warfare etc or was it just a natural progression?
DESTROYER: Black metal as a genre is normally synonymous with the darker sides of religion, Satanism and nihilism, none of these subjects being of particular interest to us within the realms of musical expression. The Eastern Front period of WWII was by far more horrific and brutal than any (in our opinion) mythical subject matter and thus way more engaging. We are essentially an extreme black metal band and what is more extreme than the true realities of a world war? 
HOLOCAUST: Yes, we have always had an interest in warfare and wanted to ensure the lyrics were something we had a real interest in. We write about horrific events we feel are often overlooked or forgotten about and we hope that our lyrics will encourage others to learn more about the history of war. As the years tick by humanity seems to take for granted the real sacrifices made for the freedom we have today, even though it’s all still very recent history. Eastern Front is our way of honouring the fallen and that’s why we have been involved in raising money for charities like Help for Heroes and The Poppy Appeal.

Signing to Candlelight is a massive achievement, how did the deal come about?
 HOLOCAUST: Our first interaction with Candlelight Records was at the end of 2008 when we played a show in London with Averse Sefira who were touring their album “Advent Parallax”, which was released by Candlelight. Impressed with our live show and the fact we had just toured around Europe with Lord Belial and Graveworm they told us to contact them as soon as we had an album together. Once we had the album recorded we sent them two songs from it and they responded by offering us a record deal.
DESTROYER: Also, Candlelight were aware of us from winning 'Best Unsigned Band of 2007' on The Metal Underground and our involvement in the FILM4 movie 'Faint Heart'. Now two albums deep with Candlelight we wouldn't want to be anywhere else, when you're on the same label roster as EMPEROR and Eastern Front favourite’s KRIEG it's certainly a good place to remain. 

Your debut album ‘Blood On Snow’ was very well received, how do you feel the recording and release went and is there anything you would have done differently?
 HOLOCAUST: It’s easy to think back now on how certain things could’ve been done differently but the main thing I would change if I could go back then would be to have more time at Sonic Train Studios in Sweden, which is where the main bulk of the album was recorded. I would use the extra time there to work on the guitar tones some more and build a bigger sound like we have done on our latest album. Also, being there during the mixing stages would’ve saved me and Anders (Producer) many months of interacting via the Internet, sending different mixes and tweaks back and forth to each other. That being said it was a great experience for me and I am still very proud of the album.
DESTROYER: I have to agree, think we're all still very proud of that record, but with 'Descent' the process was so much more fluid and natural which afforded us the time to experiment with sounds and textures, hence the increased depth of feel and tone . Before we started tracking the album we were fortunate enough to be endorsed by EVH amplification so this certainly helped when searching for 'the sound' of the record, by combining their superb gear with a few 'secret' elements. 

Can you give us an insight into some of the topics dealt with on ‘Blood On Snow’
NAGANT: There were a myriad of topics that were dealt with on the ‘Blood On Snow’ album; some of the songs focus on individual battles such as ‘The Battle of Smolensk’ whereas others deal with weaponry (‘Stalinorgel’) or individual accounts and perspectives. The song ‘Motherland’ deals with a Russian soldier’s experiences fighting and his thoughts on the horrors he faces and the atrocities of seeing family struck down almost as a counterpoint the title track was inspired by the book ‘Blood Red Snow’ this book details a Wehrmacht machine gunner’s memoirs of what he faced on the Eastern Front, this contributed to the lyrical idea of ‘Blood On Snow’. 

You’re an active live band, for anyone who hasn’t seen you on stage, what can we expect from a live performance? 
DESTROYER: WARFARE, plain and simple. We use smoke/lights/banners and props to turn the stage into our battle ground. We all feel in the band that a 'show' is more important than a gig. It would be easier logistically for us to perform in T shirt and jeans every night but we choose to wear bespoke military stage outfits that encompass all relevant elements to achieve our 'War-Torn' appearance and depending on venue size we also bring full size wooden gallows wrapped in real barbwire to add to the overall feel. That's sometimes an issue as certain venues won't allow smoke due to ventilation issues, in fact not only was our album launch show at the Black Heart effected by this but due to the lack of proper ventilation the temperatures reached 50 degrees by the time we played in full battle gear, the cost of this was myself collapsing due to heat stroke directly after the last note of the set rang out BUT that's the whole point of doing our subject matter justice, in my opinion one must suffer for ones art if it is to be honest and have any true passion. THAT is indeed something you can expect from an EASTERN FRONT show.

How do you find the support from the UK underground? There seems to be apathy (especially on social media) towards the underground, especially aimed towards gigs and venues.
NAGANT: It’s difficult to agree or disagree with that; we are all involved in the UK underground scene and I have been very impressed with promoters, especially over the last few years getting some incredible bands over here who wouldn’t have been able to come say 5 years ago. Just over the last two years I have been amazed that Bethlehem, Evoken, Forgotten Tomb, Mgla, Svartidaudi, Sigh etc have all been able to come over and receive great support. However on the other hand I do find the UK underground scene does suffer from apathy towards itself. Fans are more likely to go out and watch bands who are international than home-grown bands. This is also seen in terms of what gigs are going on, more and more you find bands touring on their own with just local support instead of whole tour packages.  

You have just released a brand new album, ‘Descent Into Genocide’. How do you feel things have improved and progressed from the previous album.
NAGANT: Personally I think the album is a much more mature effort compared to ‘Blood On Snow’, the songs are more technical and structurally stronger, as a whole the album flows better and strikes as a more unique piece of music. Also having a complete machine of a drummer in the form of Blitz has definitely had an energetic impact on us and the songs. From a lyrical and vocal perspective there is much more vitriol and spite in the performance and a huge effort was placed on making the lyrics as engaging as possible by Destroyer and myself. We wanted this album to be much darker and horrific than the debut and as such pushed to find more fitting topics that haunted us and had an impact on our psyche. I imagine the other members can contribute towards their thoughts on the album too…

HOLOCAUST: The music has naturally progressed from the previous album as I had begun writing some of the songs on ‘Descent Into Genocide’ before ‘Blood On Snow’ was released. However, due to spending more time in developing the songs and experimenting with different ideas it allowed each track to grow and become stronger. Re-writing some of the drum parts with Blitz was also a huge positive for the album and being able to build our sound in the studio with much more ease definitely helped make this album sound bigger and heavier than before.

The cover art for the new album is very different from the first album, what was the thinking behind the new art?
DESTROYER: It's very difficult to encapsulate the entire concept of an album in just one image but that was certainly something we wanted to attempt. From the off we wanted to keep it simple and striking while have a depth and if you look closely you can see many elements of the subject matter in the image layers. The main triangular image is in fact the factory stamp from Izhevsk where the Nagant rifle was produced during the period. It's such a simple image but so relevant to this record that I redrew and inverted it in line the title, as if to suggest if you were facing a rifle you would see it that way, also an arrow pointing downwards implies descent so it was the perfect choice. The textures constructed for the art were from scratch and (hopefully) represent the colours that would have been apparent, fire/cordite/fuel/oil all leave there mark and from the image research I undertook prior to starting the design process in earnest grey scale was the way to go and I personally am really proud of the results.

What plans do you have for promoting the new album – gigs? Tours? 
HOLOCAUST: There is a lot going on behind the scenes at the moment but these are the live appearances confirmed thus far: 

23/01/15 – Radius - Peterborough (Headline show)
13/02/15 – Rat Infestation Festival – Bristol (Headline Show)
14/02/15 – The Garage – London (Main support to Tsjuder) 
18/09/15 – Warhorns Festival – Selby (w/ Skyclad, Finsterforst , Solstice, Saor etc)

Finally, now that you have a few albums under your (bullet) belts, what plans are there for the future?
DESTROYER: As of Remembrance day this year (November 11th 2014) we released 'Descent Into Genocide' on a hugely limited edition double vinyl format. The release is already selling well which is great as for each sale we are donating £1 to The Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal. With 2014 being the centenary year of WWI we wanted to do our part to somehow commemorate this important event and decided that following the success of the box set edition (where we gave 10% of profit to Help For Heroes) and how well the new album was received by fans and press alike; we would release 'Descent' on double vinyl ourselves in partnership with Mordgrimm Records. That’s another thing that is so great about this release, because it is as DIY as we could make it while maintaining the quality our Troops expect from us, plus with only 100 hand numbered copies of each version available it will soon become a rarity that punters can be proud of. In line with this release we'll be filming a new video during December though that's as much as we can say at the moment and we're already powering ahead with the writing and pre-production for album 3. That's something we feel very strongly about, with the four years it took to release 'Descent', largely due to personal issues and line-up changes that now we have a strong and ultimately the definitive EASTERN FRONT line up we want to capitalise on the strength and fire within the band at the moment. It's so much easier and more satisfying to create when every member in the band is on their game and we're not having to wait for people to catch up or having to compromise to accommodate their skill set.

Candlelight Records 2014

1.Retribution Sky 2.The Hanging Of Faith 3.Blitzfreeze 4.Katyn Forest
5.Descent Into Genocide 6.Die Reise In Den Tod Pt.1
7.Ghouls Of Leningrad 8.In Memory Of The Fallen

Four years in the making and war obsessed black metal troupe Eastern Front have returned with their sophomore album ‘Descent Into Genocide’ and what a return it is, the long years waiting for this effort are well worth it. The moment opening track ‘Retribution Sky’ blasts open it is more than evident that the band has improved massively from their debut. There’s a real maturity to their sound now. It comes across as though they have found a sound that really captures what they are trying to get over to the listener through the music and lyrics and are delivering it with pure conviction. The ‘ice cold’ atmospheres are still there, Nagant’s vocal delivery especially vitriolic, rasping and snarling with anger, hatred and a desperate sorrow at times – the perfect accompaniment to the atmospheric black metal barrage that the remaining three members (Holocaust – Guitars, Destroyer – Bass and Blitz – Drums) offer up. Listening to the album, it almost feels like the band had discovered the art of holding back and allowing the haunting atmospheres and slower, morbid paces to rally the troops to battle, rather than relying on speed. Not to say that they have forgotten how to blast, far from it in fact, because when they blast, they really do blast and sound as dangerous and threatening as ever, if not more now! With over 51 minutes of music spread over only 8 tracks, the majority of the songs are lengthy, just over 9 minutes being the longest but this utterly irrelevant as when listening to the album, you do find yourself being dragged into the black metal onslaught and time is of little significance when music is this good. Ironically the longest track ‘Descent Into Genocide’ is the stand out track on the entire album, devastatingly effective black metal that really keeps the listener fully engaged throughout. Key to the bands success on this latest outing is definitely their diversity, moving from harsh and speed driven black metal assaults through to slower, morbid and more doom laden passages with great ease and you add in the acoustic passages, the ‘marching drum’ themed ‘Die Reise In Den Tod Pt.1’ and the haunting spoken passages and it’s all just delivered so effectively.  Eastern Front have taken all these individual ingredients and mixed them perfectly into an ice cold barrage of devastatingly effective black metal. For me, this is the best album of 2014 to surface from UK underground scene so far, such is it’s brilliance, originality and effectiveness to really punish throughout. It’s an absolute 'must have' and there aren’t too many bands going to be able to top this at all.

9.5 Out Of 10

Band Page: Here

Buy The CD: Here
Buy The Vinyl: Here