Immolation – Atonement – Album Review

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Artist: Immolation

Album Title: Atonement

Label: Nuclear Blast

Date Of Release: 24 February 2017

I feel a little bit of a fraud writing a review of this record because, despite the New York death metal juggernaut being widely regarded as one of the very pioneers of the death metal genre, I’ve never been the biggest fan of Immolation. Or, to be more accurate, I’ve never really had the opportunity to become much of a fan. My musical journey has taken me down the death metal path many times but I have always seemed to skirt Immolation amongst others for some reason. It’s usually a lack of time if I’m honest. Writing upwards of 10-12 reviews a month for a print publication meant that I wasn’t given an awful lot of time for much else. And aside from a few staple favourites, I didn’t get a lot of choice over who I reviewed either.

Now that I am in charge of my own destiny and am writing my own blog, I suddenly feel like I have a lot more freedom. I can review what I like, when I like and it is like a breath of fresh air. I can start to right the wrongs of the past and fill in a few of the gaps that have remained in my knowledge base.

So when the opportunity arose to be able to listen to the new Immolation album I didn’t have to think twice.

I naturally had to do my research before attempting this review and I was shocked to discover that Immolation have been in existence for nearly 30 years, releasing nine albums in that time with ‘Atonement’ being their tenth. At the heart of the band is bassist and vocalist Ross Dolan alongside guitarist Robert Vigna. They have been ever-present since the beginning and in 2017, they are joined by drummer Steve Shalaty and guitarist Alex Bouks. As I have finally discovered, these guys make quite a noise together.

I can’t compare and contrast ‘Atonement’ with previous releases but what I can say is that it is a very impressive slab of uncompromising death metal indeed. The Americans take absolutely no prisoners on this record, pummelling the listener with eleven almighty cuts of extreme brutality over a 44-minute period.

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Those staple ingredients of aggressive and brutal death metal are all present and correct, meaning that there are blast beats aplenty to set the fast-paced and intense foundations. Scything and punishing riffs abound, often veering into sections of meaty and insanely weighty groove. Pinched harmonics show their face and solos are effectively placed to add further ingredients to the cauldron. And then on top of all this sits a palpable atmosphere of evil and darkness that is the perfect foil for the underlying cacophony, further enhanced by Ross Dolan’s hateful guttural vocal performance.

What I really do like about ‘Atonement’, apart from the fact that the album feels so honed and incisive, is the way in which the songs begin to burrow their way into your brain with repeated listens. At the outset, it can be difficult to hear beyond the incessant driving force of the music as it bulldozers everything in its malevolent path. However, the experience of the Vigna/Dolan partnership means that there a number of subtleties hidden within the tracks to only reveal themselves to those that give their creation the attention it deserves. Get to this stage though and there is a surprising amount of melody to be discovered, meaning that there’s a definite longevity to the music beyond what I initially thought would be the case.

Personal favourites include ‘Fostering The Divide’ thanks to its behemoth of a groovy riff as the track develops and ‘Rise The Heretics’ for its clever blend of pummelling speed and understated melody, not to mention the intriguing inclusion of a lone clean-toned jangly guitar for good measure. The churning and sludgy ‘Thrown To The Fire’ has a touch of Morbid Angel about it and gets my head nodding every time whilst ‘The Distorting Light’ is a killer opening that dovetails some of the fastest material on the record with yet more fat, addictive groove. And then there’s ‘Epiphany’ which closes the entire album out in marvellous fashion, containing enough by way of both melody and contrasting ideas to make it feel like the most grandiose track on ‘Atonement’.

I have finally found a missing piece in my death metal armoury and it feels good. It is much the sweeter experience because ‘Atonement’ has proven to me what a great band Immolation truly are and why so many hold the American quartet in such high regard. These stalwarts clearly have plenty of gas left in the tank and have lost none of their extremity as ‘Atonement’ more than ably demonstrates.

The Score Of Much Metal: 8.0

If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others from previous years and for 2017 right here:

2015 reviews
2016 reviews

The Mute Gods – Tardigrades Will Inherit The Earth
Ex Deo – The Immortal Wars
Pyogenesis – A Kingdom To Disappear
My Soliloquy – Engines of Gravity
Nailed To Obscurity – King Delusion
Helion Prime – Helion Prime
Battle Beast – Bringer Of Pain
Persefone – Aathma
Soen – Lykaia
Exquirla – Para Quienes Aun Viven
Odd Logic – Effigy
Mors Principium Est – Embers Of A Dying World
Firewind – Immortals
Slyde – Back Again EP
Sepultura – Machine Messiah
Deserted Fear – Dead Shores Rising
Kreator – Gods Of Violence
Borealis – World of Silence MMXVII
Pain of Salvation – In The Passing Light of Day

The Mute Gods – Tardigrades Will Inherit The Earth – Album Review

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Artist: The Mute Gods

Album Title: Tardigrades Will Inherit The Earth

Label: InsideOut Music

Date Of Release: 24 February 2017

The debut album from The Mute Gods, ‘Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me’ was an album that tore me in two. On that record, there were some very good songs and a few that I wasn’t so keen on. I still listen to the likes of ‘Nightschool For Idiots’ and ‘Father Daughter’ but I don’t think I’ll ever be a fan of ‘Your Dark Ideas’ and ‘Swimming Horses’ if I’m honest.

Nevertheless, given that The Mute Gods is essentially a trio comprised of Nick Beggs (Steven Wilson, Steve Hackett, Kajagoogoo), Roger King (Steve Hackett) and Marco Minnemann (Joe Satriani, Aristocrats), I felt compelled to give their sophomore release, ‘Tardigrades Will Inherit The Earth’ a try. Despite their wealth of experience, I put the hit and miss affair of the debut down to the fact that the trio were still finding their feet and exact direction. I’m not saying that the musicianship was ever in question, because it wasn’t. Instead, it was just more down to personal taste and that some songs didn’t hit the mark with me.

It may have also had something to do with the fact that the debut featured a plethora of guest musicians including drummers Nick D’Virgilio (Spock’s Beard, Tears for Fears) and Gary O’Toole (Steve Hackett, China Crisis, Kylie Minogue), keyboardist Adam Holzman (Miles Davis, Steven Wilson), and multi-instrumentalist Rob Reed (Magenta). With the best will in the world, this can sometimes muddy the creative waters and lead to a ‘too many cooks…’ scenario.

This is clearly something that Nick Beggs and Co. have taken on board. As such, ‘Tardigrades Will Inherit The Earth’ is very much a three-man affair, with only Lula Beggs and Lauren Rogers providing backing vocals here and there.

As with any album that bears the name of Nick Beggs, ‘Tardigrades Will Inherit The Earth’ has a powerful message to give. In this instance, the record takes a look at the self-destructive tendencies of humankind. It’s a laudable and extremely topical message and will find favour with many who listen no doubt.

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Photo credit: Hajo Muller

But enough of the background, let me address what most of you are interested in: the music. On that score, ‘Tardigrades Will Inherit The Earth’ does not tear me in two like the debut album. Unfortunately, I have to report that I really don’t like this album very much at all.

In terms of musical direction, ‘Tardigrades Will Inherit The Earth’ travels a largely similar path to the debut in that it provides listeners with a dose of progressive rock that veers towards neo-prog on several occasions. And of course, it goes without saying that there are plenty of pop influences to be heard throughout.

Once again, I have to point out that my negativity is not directed at the musicianship, for this album features some very accomplished performances and is intelligently put together. Instead, my negativity is directed the songs themselves and an almost complete lack of music that makes me want to take a repeated listen.

Now, I am not a reviewer who will ever write about an album after a solitary listen. That’s not fair and it isn’t professional. I therefore nearly didn’t write the review because I simply couldn’t bring myself to listen to it a second or a third time. And then I realised that maybe I had missed something on the first spin, so I forced myself to listen again. Sadly, despite the occasional bright moment here and there, my first impression was largely confirmed. For good measure, I tried a couple more times including a play via some headphones.

I simply have to conclude that this record is simply not for me. Aside from the more overtly pop-centric and quirky title track, or the closing number ‘Stranger Than Fiction’, there are virtually no hooks or melodies that speak to me and every time I listen, I’m left feeling thoroughly disappointed. I wanted to like this record, but I can’t.

‘We Can’t Carry On’ has its moments but I don’t like the majority of the vocals, which grate on me and the same could be said at a push for ‘Animal Army’, which very nearly delivers but I can’t get on with the more bouncy pop-infused sections. ‘The Dumbing of The Stupid’ features deliberate discordance in the latter stages which just irritates me whilst ‘The Singing Fish of Batticaloa’ has a running time of over eight minutes but doesn’t deliver anywhere enough in that time; instead it meanders slowly to a close without ever offering anything remarkable.

I thought long and hard about whether or not to write this review as I hate writing negative reviews. Generally, I leave that to other publications. In the end though, having reviewed the debut, I felt it only fair to offer my thoughts on the follow-up. What I would ask though is that you listen to the music, including the track below and draw your own conclusions. There are bound to be many opinions that differ from mine and I’d hate people to miss out on something just because I dislike it. The score reflects that prowess of the musicians involved, but very little else I’m afraid.

The Score Of Much Metal: 6

If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others from previous years and for 2017 right here:

2015 reviews
2016 reviews

Ex Deo – The Immortal Wars
Pyogenesis – A Kingdom To Disappear
My Soliloquy – Engines of Gravity
Nailed To Obscurity – King Delusion
Helion Prime – Helion Prime
Battle Beast – Bringer Of Pain
Persefone – Aathma
Soen – Lykaia
Exquirla – Para Quienes Aun Viven
Odd Logic – Effigy
Mors Principium Est – Embers Of A Dying World
Firewind – Immortals
Slyde – Back Again EP
Sepultura – Machine Messiah
Deserted Fear – Dead Shores Rising
Kreator – Gods Of Violence
Borealis – World of Silence MMXVII
Pain of Salvation – In The Passing Light of Day

Ex Deo – The Immortal Wars – Album Review

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Artist: Ex Deo

Album Title: The Immortal Wars

Label: Napalm Records

Date Of Release: 17 February 2017

One of my favourite subjects at school was history and, to this day, it remains a genuine interest of mine. Whether it is modern or Medieval, it has the power to fascinate me. So, when you couple an historical concept with heavy metal music, you’re already ahead of the curve as far as I’m concerned.

Mind you, both the concept and the music have to be well-written and executed; otherwise it’s just a string of meaningless words on top of boring music. But on that score, Ex Deo have nothing to fear as all aspects of their armoury are taken from the very top drawer. But then, given that Ex Deo is essentially the ‘side project’ of Maurizio Iacono and his chums in Kataklysm, that’s hardly a surprising discovery. It’s even less so if you were fortunate enough to hear the stonking debut from Ex Deo, ‘I, Caligvla’. If anything though, ‘The Immortal Wars’ is even better in just about every department.

Ex Deo was created by Maurizio Iacono, a Canadian with Italian heritage, to be the vehicle by which he could explore the history of the Roman Empire. He has been joined on this musical excursion by his Kataklysm colleagues Stephane Barbe (lead guitar), Jean-Francois Dagenais (rhythm guitar) and Oli Beaudoin (drums) as well as bassist Dano Apekian.

And personally, I can think of no better style of music to bring the history of the Roman Empire to life. Many look upon this period in history as a time of sophistication, relative modernity and enlightenment. Much of that is true but it was also a brutal, barbaric era, full of war, bloodshed and political devilment.

And it is this brutal side of the Roman Empire that Ex Deo favour. Indeed, as the dark and graphic front cover artwork for ‘The Immortal Wars’ suggests, this sophomore album tells the story of Hannibal, a military commander from Carthage at the time of the Second Punic War. He famously led an army, including war elephants, into Italy but despite winning many victories, he ultimately failed to march on Rome itself and after being forced back to Carthage, was soundly beaten at the Battle of Zama.

With this in mind, the uncompromising brutality, meticulous and incisive instrumentalism and overt symphonic grandiosity of Ex Deo fits this particular story perfectly.

Focusing on that final point about symphonic grandiosity, ‘The Immortal Wars’ is utterly brilliant in this regard. Each and every one of the eight tracks blends the brutal death metal that Ex Deo creates so well with huge, bombastic symphonic tapestries. The album is as much an epic film score as it is an extreme metal record but somehow neither element is diluted or compromised by the other. This is the perfect symbiosis of the two and so it all comes together in a cohesive, homogenous whole that is entirely believable and utterly compelling.

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In fact, just about every facet of this record is fascinating and worthy of mention. But it is the overall feel of the music which I believe is the most impressive. ‘The Immortal Wars’ is not a long album. Spanning a mere 38 minutes, it doesn’t stick around for that long. And yet, as the final notes ring out, I’m left feeling battered, bruised and exhausted. There is so much going on within the eight tracks that it is draining but in a thoroughly welcome manner. There are no half measures, no corners cut; this is full-on, 100% brutal music that is also intelligent and occasionally rather beautiful.

The album begins with ‘The Rise Of Hannibal’ and in true film score style, there’s a deliberately slow opening to create tension before the music literally explodes. Huge symphonic arrangements duel with heavy riffs, whilst a bruising, pin-sharp rhythm section is embellished by those familiar gruff growls from Iacono. And then, woven into the already dense sonic tapestry, are the sounds of bloody battles and spoken word sections which add to that filmic feel. But what comes through after a couple of listens are the rich yet understated melodies that create more of a sense of the epic.

‘Hispania (Siege of Saguntum)’ follows and there is literally no let-up in the aural tumult. Faster-paced and more frenetic, it nevertheless follows in the footsteps of its predecessor and continues the story in vibrant fashion. Yet more sounds of battle infiltrate the composition which again offers listeners something subtly melodic, although it takes a few spins to thoroughly appreciate the beauty that lurks beneath the aggressive surface.

Next up is ‘Crossing Of The Alps’ which immediately delivers an epic melody before it descends into appreciably more confrontational territory. The drumming from Oli Beaudoin really makes its mark here as the blast beats and fills defy my limited comprehension. This track also introduces a wonderful lead guitar solo at the midway point but as I have alluded to before, it is the culmination of every element, rather than an individual performance, that makes the song so powerful and all-encompassing.

‘Suavetaurilia’ is an intermission that is pure symphonic film score territory. It allows a brief respite from the full-on aggression but even so, it is laced with the intensity and drama that Ex Deo have mastered in their own inimitable fashion.

After the near two-minute breather, in comes ‘Cato Major: Carthago Delenda Est’ and almost immediately it becomes a personal favourite. The extreme brutality is mixed with more overt melodies that convey a sense of the epic but also ooze sophistication and create an oasis of elegance within the punishing soundscape. I adore the symphonics that help to deliver such a majestic piece of music; they underline the brilliance of the songwriting and add to the composition’s magic.

A similar effect is created within ‘Ad Victoriam (The Battle Of Zama)’. The spoken word pieces from Iacono convey the anger and the anguish of the central characters expertly, but it is the way in which the track opens up later in the piece that I adore most. The savagery gives way to reveal an utterly gorgeous melodic section that stands as a stark counterpoint to what is overall one of the darker and more unrelenting compositions on the record.

‘The Spoils of War’ is more of a straight-forward, no-nonsense slab of symphonic death metal that flies by at a ferocious speed but makes its mark as it does so. That leaves ‘The Roman’ to close out ‘The Immortal Wars’ and it does so excellently. It begins in quiet, measured fashion but it doesn’t take long before more crushing riffs enter the fray, accented by choral vocals. The fluctuations in tempo increase the drama of the composition whilst lending it a vaguely progressive sheen in the process.

As I said before, I’m left battered and bruised at the conclusion of this record. There is just so much going on that it is difficult to take it all in at times. However, if you do ‘The Immortal Wars’ and Ex Deo the courtesy of listening with your full undivided attention, you cannot fail to be impressed. The word ‘symphonic’ gets used far too much in the world of heavy metal, but Ex Deo deserve that tag; more so, ‘The Immortal Wars’ proves that they should be considered to be one of the very best exponents of extreme symphonic metal out there today. I’m struggling to think of anyone else who does this kind of thing any better to be honest. The bottom line is that ‘The Immortal Wars’ is a masterpiece and deserves all the accolades that are coming its way. Superb.

The Score Of Much Metal: 9.25

If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others from previous years and for 2017 right here:

2015 reviews
2016 reviews

Pyogenesis – A Kingdom To Disappear
My Soliloquy – Engines of Gravity
Nailed To Obscurity – King Delusion
Helion Prime – Helion Prime
Battle Beast – Bringer Of Pain
Persefone – Aathma
Soen – Lykaia
Exquirla – Para Quienes Aun Viven
Odd Logic – Effigy
Mors Principium Est – Embers Of A Dying World
Firewind – Immortals
Slyde – Back Again EP
Sepultura – Machine Messiah
Deserted Fear – Dead Shores Rising
Kreator – Gods Of Violence
Borealis – World of Silence MMXVII
Pain of Salvation – In The Passing Light of Day

Pyogenesis – A Kingdom To Disappear – Album Review

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Artist: Pyogenesis

Album Title: A Kingdom To Disappear

Label: AFM Records

Date Of Release: 24 February 2017

German metal band Pyogenesis have been around since the beginning of the 90s and, despite a prolonged hiatus between 2002 and 2015, have released seven albums in that time. The return of the Stuttgart-based quartet in 2015 with ‘A Century In The Curse Of Time’ was nectar to the ears of long-term fans and now, two years later, Flo V. Schwarz (guitars, vocals), Gizz Butt (guitars, backing vocals), Malte Brauer (bass, backing vocals) and Jan Räthje (drums) return to deliver album number eight, ‘A Kingdom To Disappear’.

And yet, despite this lengthy history, I had never checked out Pyogenesis prior to reviewing this record. Pyogenesis were a black hole in my knowledge and as far as I could remember, I’d not even listened to a single song. I had no idea what to expect and wasn’t even considering a review.

So what changed? I was scrolling through my social media timelines and I heard a few positive comments about this record. Most notably, a fellow blogger who I admire was very effusive with praise over this record and so I felt I had to investigate further. I tracked down a couple of songs on the ‘net and whilst it wasn’t instant love at first listen, there was something going on that intrigued me. To be honest, I think much of what attracted me was the epic and quirky nature of the videos that accompanied the music; it seemed to me that the band were 100% into the music and were living it. Videos can be deceptive, but on this occasion, I believed the vision that the band were creating and went along for the ride.

It has turned out to be a ride that I have really enjoyed too and it leaves me thoroughly entertained but also a little confounded as to why they never attracted my attention earlier. If ‘A Kingdom To Disappear’ is an accurate example of the music that Pyogenesis have been creating all these years, I can’t understand why they never previously hit my radar.

On paper, the blend of extreme metal, hard rock, Gothic overtones and huge, epic melodies sounds like it should be right up my street. And so it has proved because this is a cracking album, an increasingly addictive listen that is over insanely quickly. ‘A Kingdom To Disappear’ spans nine tracks and a total of around 46 minutes but such is the level of entertainment, it feels like it is much shorter than that. This is clearly a good thing.

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Setting the album up, is the short opener ‘Sleep Is Good’ which introduces a key ingredient to the Pyogenesis sound, namely multiple vocalists. Atop a rousing, stomping melody sits a multi-layered vocal hook that is instantly glorious.

Out of this brief opening salvo comes ‘Every Man For Himself And God Against All’ and it delivers an immediate aural kicking. It begins in all-out brutal death metal territory complete with deep, guttural vocals before opening up into one of the most glorious, anthemic and sing-along choruses on the record. It was quirky to begin with when I watched the video, but I have grown to love it. The rhythm section delivers a powerful platform , the guitars create swathes of huge sound and the clean vocals of Schwarz ooze passion and emotion.

‘I Have Seen My Soul’ by contrast begins with a keyboard and atmosphere-drenched slow pounding riff that’s pure modern Evergrey territory, an element that remains throughout the song despite the more hard rock-inspired chorus that cuts through the cloying misery that permeates this huge song brilliantly. And in spite of the subject matter, you’ll be singing this track for weeks, guaranteed. It’s an obscure reference point, but if you’ve ever heard the likes of Mechanical Poet, you’ll recognise the chosen guitar tones from Pyogenesis, something that takes a little getting used to but works very nicely to compliment the band’s full-on approach.

Frankly though, the killer hooks and melodies are all over this album like a rash. ‘It’s Too Late (A Kingdom To Disappear)’ features more layered vocals from almost every corner of the band to create something very memorable,

‘New Helvetia’ gives listeners something a little different in that it is an acoustic guitar-led ballad of sorts. It is the perfect vehicle to demonstrate the band’s more delicate side as well as the not-inconsiderable talents of guitarists Schwarz and Gizz Butt. And speaking of different, there’s also ‘That’s When Everyone Gets Hurt’, which is a much more atmospheric number that brings those more Gothic elements to the fore whilst blending them with a hint of the 80s, electronic darkwave and even a smattering of post-metal. And yet, such is the strength of the melodies, I really enjoy listening to it.

And then, before you can seemingly blink, we’re treated to the most epic of all the songs on this great record, ‘Everlasting Pain’. And what a finale this is. It lasts for over thirteen minutes but it deserves this length. At its core, this is quite a straightforward composition, dominated by yet another monster of a melody that gets right under my skin. And yet despite this, it rather contradictorily contains plenty of light and shade and has a very slightly progressive feel to it, as it twists and turns through peaks and troughs of emotion. You can feel this vein of emotion all through the song, whether it is within the heavier sections and faux gruff vocals or via the quieter acoustic guitars and soft, fragile voice of Schwarz. And the closing three or so minutes are utterly brilliant, as the intensity builds to finally overflow in a flamboyant release, led by wailing guitars, pleading vocals and one last reprise of the central melody and chorus.

A mere 26 years after forming, I have finally checked Pyogenesis out and I am one very impressed reviewer. I can’t say for sure whether long-term fans will like it because I simply have no frame of reference. Personally-speaking, I have fallen for the charms of the German outfit and I can guarantee that on the strength of ‘A Kingdom To Disappear’, my next review of Pyogenesis will come with a more extensive knowledge of their entire back catalogue.

The Score Of Much Metal: 8.75

If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others from previous years and for 2017 right here:

2015 reviews
2016 reviews

My Soliloquy – Engines of Gravity
Nailed To Obscurity – King Delusion
Helion Prime – Helion Prime
Battle Beast – Bringer Of Pain
Persefone – Aathma
Soen – Lykaia
Exquirla – Para Quienes Aun Viven
Odd Logic – Effigy
Mors Principium Est – Embers Of A Dying World
Firewind – Immortals
Slyde – Back Again EP
Sepultura – Machine Messiah
Deserted Fear – Dead Shores Rising
Kreator – Gods Of Violence
Borealis – World of Silence MMXVII
Pain of Salvation – In The Passing Light of Day

My Soliloquy – Engines of Gravity – Album Review

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Artist: My Soliloquy

Album Title: Engines Of Gravity

Label: Artic Records

Release date: Spring 2017

In 2012, Pete Morten, guitarist with one of my favourite progressive metal bands of all time, released a debut album under his own steam. The Threshold man called his band My Soliloquy and ‘The Interpreter’ was the title of that full-length debut. And I was very impressed. But, when I say ‘band’ that might be a little misleading. You see, Pete is a hideously talented chap and so he handled all instruments on ‘The Interpreter’ himself, except for the drums for which he drafted in Damon Roots.

Fast forward nearly five years and we’re on the cusp of the release of the sophomore album from My Soliloquy, ‘Engines Of Gravity’. I’m delighted because quite often, these side projects have a habit of being one-off endeavours. Not here though, as Pete Morten is clearly enthused and motivated enough to release a new album, despite the effort that it must take to create such a thing almost single-handedly.

Again, as with the debut, it is the same modus operandi on ‘Engines Of Gravity’ in that, drums aside, Pete has handled everything himself, from the song writing to the production, even the artwork which is hugely impressive. Again, Damon Roots is his chosen sidekick in the rhythm department, meaning that there is a nice consistency at play here.

Naturally, ever since I knew that a new album was in the offing, I have been looking forward to hearing it. However, I was also worried because I fervently hoped that the material would live up to my self-created hype. And, with Pete being such a genuinely lovely guy, I desperately wanted to like this record even more. I can’t be dishonest but I hate hurting artists feelings too – that’s not what the Blog of Much Metal is all about.

But you know what? Having lived with ‘Engines of Gravity’ for a week or two, I needn’t have been so nervous. ‘Engines Of Gravity’ is, if anything, a step up for Pete, both in terms of song writing and his performances. The melodic, atmospheric and rather epic-sounding brand of progressive metal with a gritty, almost sci-fi edge on offer here demonstrates an increasing maturity and underlines what a talented chap Pete is, not to mention that he is a safe pair of hands. Don’t you just hate people like this?

If I have anything approaching a small quibble with ‘Engines Of Gravity’, it is where the production is concerned. I fully appreciate the budgetary constraints under which Pete Morten will have found himself here and generally, he has done a very good job. All of the instruments come through in the mix and there is plenty of clarity. However, I can’t help but quietly wish that the rhythm guitar tones were even more powerful, particularly given the fact that this is Pete’s primary instrument. Just occasionally, they deserve a little more oomph. But to contextualise this, it is a very minor issue with an otherwise superb release.

Having got that out of the way, let’s focus on the strengths of ‘Engines of Gravity’ because there are several. Firstly there’s the tone and the feel of the album which I believe needs to be addressed separately. This is a multi-layered and multi-faceted album that explores many different tones and textures throughout its length. The nine compositions each have their own identity but cleverly, fit into the overall aural tapestry, one that is filled with richness and not a little amount of thought-provoking material both musically and lyrically.

‘Engines of Gravity’ begins in immensely strong fashion with ‘In Bed With The Enemy’, a dramatic track that begins with strange electronic sounds that build in intensity and give way to bold bass work and a sharp riff overlaid with lashings of synths and more virtuosic lead guitar embellishments. The chorus is a soaring, melodic affair and there’s a deeply sombre spoken word section sampled above a more minimalist soundscape which tackles to some extent the issue of global capitalism with sobering results. Right at the outset then, you’re left in no doubt that Pete Morten is not shy of confronting big issues with his music, a trend that continues throughout the record.

To underline this, ‘Fire In The Blood’ takes over and is a much shorter, punchier affair that fundamentally deals with human sexuality and the way that sex is often misused. The music itself calls to mind Pete’s work with Threshold, thanks to the overall song structure and wonderfully chunky riffing.

In classic prog style, the next two songs, ‘A Modern Lexicon’ and ‘Lamentation’ form a suite that extends beyond the ten-minute mark but does so with style and panache. I adore the repetitive single-note guitar and synth combo that slowly gives way to more flamboyant led guitar work but which is a recurring theme within ‘…Lexicon’. The use of light and shade as well as differing tempos is nicely done, injecting more drama to the music. And during the quieter passages, the bass is allowed to take the limelight, accented by solid drumming from Roots. The keys are an ever present too, creating plenty of atmosphere in the process. ‘Lamentation’ is a much shorter, more straightforward piece that, to my mind, summons the spirit of Pink Floyd.

‘The Progenitor’ has a much darker, foreboding, almost sinister edge to it. Pete’s keys suggest something more suspenseful and filmic over which he song journeys with purpose and purposeful intent.

Possibly my favourite track on ‘Engines Of Gravity’ hits in the form of ‘A Kind Of Fury’. As the title suggests, it begins in heavy, urgent fashion before opening up slightly to increase the impact of the synths within a beautiful chorus melody. Here, I’m firmly of the opinion that Pete offers some of his best vocals on the entire record. Deeply resonant one moment and then soaring towards the high notes the next, Morten shows his impressive range and proves that his voice has further improved since the debut.

A very intriguing and almost creepy spoken-word sample ushers in ‘Darkness Is Gathering’. It is of an older female American reciting what must be religious text but in the context of this song with its subtle intensity and unsettling sounds, it has a more profound impact than it otherwise might have. The layered melodic vocals are stunning within a composition that threatens to explode but instead smoulders until it climaxes in strong but well-controlled fashion. It is more powerful because of this and the whole thing burrows insidiously into my skin.

Talking of profound impacts, it leads me perfectly into the utterly exquisite ‘Confluence’. A piano and vocal led ballad of sorts, the melodies make it feel sad but the lyrics betray something a little more positive with close listening. The vocal melodies are sublime and the lyrics of ‘Keep your heart clear, keep your conscience near…keep your head when all appears lost, it’s not hopeless…’ really strike a chord with me. I don’t mind admitting that my eyes have moistened on occasion as I’ve listened to this song.

‘Engines Of Gravity’ bids farewell via ‘The Emptying of Meaning’ one of three songs to break the eight-minute barrier. The pounding drums make quite an opening statement before the ante is upped through more strong, simple riffs and wailing lead guitars. My Soliloquy are not going to shrink quietly into the night as this is one of the most dramatic and commanding tracks on offer, full of heaviness via double-pedal drumming, slick riffs, yet more layers of lush synths and a genuinely progressive sheen to boot, accentuated by a complete change of pace around the midway point which I really like.

I hadn’t intended on writing a blow-by-blow account of ‘Engines Of Gravity’ but if it is good enough and deserves it, why not? I wasn’t blown away on a first listen; more accurately, my love of this album has grown gently over time. As a result, I feel that it has made more of a lasting impression on me and I find myself humming certain melodies or phrases when I least expect it. Cutting to the chase, I heartily recommend My Soliloquy and ‘Engines of Gravity’ to anyone who appreciates well-crafted and intelligent progressive metal. It’s that simple.

The Score Of Much Metal: 9.25

If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others from previous years and for 2017 right here:

2015 reviews
2016 reviews

Battle Beast – Bringer Of Pain
Persefone – Aathma
Soen – Lykaia
Exquirla – Para Quienes Aun Viven
Odd Logic – Effigy
Mors Principium Est – Embers Of A Dying World
Firewind – Immortals
Slyde – Back Again EP
Sepultura – Machine Messiah
Deserted Fear – Dead Shores Rising
Kreator – Gods Of Violence
Borealis – World of Silence MMXVII
Pain of Salvation – In The Passing Light of Day

Nailed To Obscurity – King Delusion – Album Review

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Artist: Nailed To Obscurity

Album Title: King Delusion

Label: Apostasy Records

Date Of Release: 3 February 2017

Melodic death/doom metal is a niche genre that has always found favour with me. I love the blend of extremity combined with dark, bleak atmospheres and melancholic beauty; it is the perfect blend for people like me. So I had to review the new album, ‘King Delusion’ from German quintet Nailed To Obscurity, their third in a career that has now spanned over a decade.

Despite my general love of this genre, I am the first to admit that the scene has become saturated by a sea of bands that have sought to hang onto the coat tails of those that spawned this style in the first place. It therefore becomes ever harder to effectively sort the wheat from the chaff and occasionally, I will make a faux pas. Most evident on the strength of ‘King Delusion’, is not having given Nailed To Obscurity a fair crack of the whip over the years. I really enjoyed ‘Opaque’ when it was released four years ago but never explored much further.

The German quintet, comprised of vocalist Raimund Ennenga, guitarists Jan Ole Lamberti and Volker Dieken, bassist Carsten Schorn and drummer Jann Hillrichs do not reinvent the melodic death/doom wheel. Nevertheless, ‘King Delusion’ is a thoroughly engaging eight-track record that takes its cue from very early Katatonia, Daylight Dies and even a soupcon of Insomnium. Loving all of these bands as I do, it is hardly surprising that I like the resultant output of Nailed To Obscurity. Loosely following the blueprint of a forerunner though is not a guaranteed route to success. I have lost count of the number of bands I have heard that have failed dreadfully at doing just this. Nailed To Obscurity however, are not one of these. Their influences are clear to hear but what they do, they do very well. They inject their music with plenty of quality and a smattering of originality to make their offering well worth listening to.

That originality comes through via an injection of post-metal to keep things more current and interesting. This element is most obvious within ‘Apnoea’, a two-minute instrumental interlude of sorts. It is dark, depraved and foreboding, but also hauntingly melancholy and ever so slightly beautiful. It might even be my favourite two minutes on the record, as those guitars create a wonderfully potent noise.

Nailed to Obscurity

Photo credit: Kerstin Bruemmer

There’s even a brief detour into more instantly accessible Gothic territory courtesy of the gorgeously rich and inviting ‘Deadening’.

But that said, the bulk of ‘King Delusion’ has its roots firmly planted in the melodic death/doom scene and it is where this band truly belongs. The opening notes are borderline discordant and jangling, before the meatiness of the death riffs join the fray, bulldozing all in its meandering path. As the track gets into full swing, those melodic lead guitar lines are unleashed that more than hint at early Katatonia, but rather than baulk at them, I embrace them because they are so well placed and well executed.

Having listened to this record a fair few times now, I find it hard to identify a weak track anywhere. Each of the compositions offers something to tempt me into a repeated listen, be it a grim atmosphere, a seductive lead guitar line or Ennenga’s deep and guttural voice that counterpoints the brittle melodies and which only occasionally breaks into clean territory.

I have to conclude however, that the second half is the stronger in my opinion, dominated as it is by the undeniable centrepiece, the 12-minute epic ‘Uncage My Sanity’. To use that overused cliché, it takes the listener on a journey that twists and turns (or more accurately slithers) through aural highs and lows and juxtaposing ideas that come together surprisingly cohesively. The standout section for me is around the half-way mark where the heaviness completely drops away in favour of a deeply atmospheric, minimalist soundscape that builds to dramatic effect whilst keeping the melodiousness intact.

Either side of this is ‘Memento’ and ‘Devoid’, both of which are killer tracks which share a similar, slightly more upbeat structure. Dare I say it, they are both undeniably catchy, pulling me in from the first listen. They both just get better with repeated listens too.

‘Memento’ is ushered in by minimalist post-rock sounds before a delightful lead guitar line takes precedence and around which, the track is built. It is full-on goosebump territory as the full power of the entire band kicks in to devastating effect. The tone of the track shifts as it develops, including a segment that is reminiscent of mid-era Dark Tranquillity via the sampled sounds. But central to the piece is the vibrant bass of xx and the way in which the majority of the song skips along at an infectious pace.

‘Devoid’ on the other hand is heavy but has the air of a much softer song somehow. The melodies are bittersweet and in addition to the rumbling riff and striking lead guitar dual combo that typifies Nailed To Obscurity, there’s a brief foray into something much quieter and soulful buried in the centre of the song. And that’s all without mentioning the anthemic closing passage which is just a miserable joy.

Thanks to ‘King Delusion’, Nailed To Obscurity should no longer resemble their moniker and remain obscure and on the fringes. It might not be the most unique-sounding album but when it is delivered in such an assured and professional way, who cares? I thoroughly enjoy listening to ‘King Delusion’ and have no hesitation in saying that Nailed To Obscurity have put down an early marker in 2017 for all other bands of a melodic death/doom persuasion.

The Score Of Much Metal: 8.5

If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others from previous years and for 2017 right here:

2015 reviews
2016 reviews

Helion Prime – Helion Prime
Battle Beast – Bringer Of Pain
Persefone – Aathma
Soen – Lykaia
Exquirla – Para Quienes Aun Viven
Odd Logic – Effigy
Mors Principium Est – Embers Of A Dying World
Firewind – Immortals
Slyde – Back Again EP
Sepultura – Machine Messiah
Deserted Fear – Dead Shores Rising
Kreator – Gods Of Violence
Borealis – World of Silence MMXVII
Pain of Salvation – In The Passing Light of Day