BlogOfMuchMetal – metal news – 22 July 2017

Hello and welcome to the latest post in this series after a bit of a hiatus, where I bring you the latest confirmed news within the world of rock and heavy metal. This series does not require the use of a crystal ball, which can sometimes malfunction with embarrassing results. No, this is a series that works on facts, on the news that I know to be true and which I bring you because I found it exciting and I’m therefore sure that you will find it exciting too.

Today’s post focuses on some of the new songs that have been revealed ahead of the full album release later in the year.

And if you’ve missed any of my previous posts in this series, links can be found at the bottom of this post.

legendsoftheshiresThreshold – Legends of the Shires
Release date: 8 September 2017
Label: Nuclear Blast

Well, if you’re going to release a new song and an accompanying video, it might as well be a ten-minute monster mightn’t it? Especially if you are prog as all hell eh? So that’s what Threshold have done. Not content to compose a double album for the very first time, the UK progressive metal band have also announced a change of singer, ditching Damian Wilson in favour of a return to Glynn Morgan. And now they have released the first track off ‘Legends of the Shires’, the monumental ‘Lost In Translation’. If, like me, you are a massive Threshold fan, it’s a great time to be alive.

I’ve only listened to this song about 17 times, so I’m in no way able to dissect it quite yet. For that, you’ll have to wait until my full review later in the year. However, for now, all I can say is ‘wow’. Morgan sounds really good on this track, giving the music a whole new dimension. The prog elements are really pronounced which I like, particularly in terms of the changes in tempo, tone and with the bold keyboard sounds in places. But that chorus. Those melodies. Boy, oh boy is this one hell of an anthem. Just take a listen and tell me that you disagree. On the strength of this track, I have such massively high hopes for the full album, it’s ridiculous.

19990364_1676025859077305_924654058634164650_nSubterranean Masquerade – Vagabond
Release date: 1 September 2017
Label: ViciSolum Productions

In typical Man of Much Metal style, about five minutes after I publish a blog post, one of the bands featured releases the first track off their new album. The culprits this time are Subterranean Masquerade, with ‘Nomad’, taken from their upcoming release, ‘Vagabond’.

In keeping with their last record that I thoroughly enjoyed, it will take some time to get fully to grips with the music that this band creates. However, a couple of listens in and the signs are extremely positive. I hear echoes of Amorphis in parts of this track but despite this, the final result is definitely unique. Complex and ambitious yet catchy and unexpectedly immediate with a smooth and rich sheen, Subterranean Masquerade may just have hit upon a winning formula, one that may pull me deeper under their spell. I can’t wait to hear more and bring you my considered thoughts nearer to the release of ‘Vagabond’.

18892998_10154663048738806_2247176504358416942_nParadise Lost – Medusa
Release date: 1 September 2017
Label: Nuclear Blast

UK veterans Paradise Lost have to be one of my all-time favourite bands. Beginning my love affair nearly two decades ago with ‘Draconian Times’, I have never looked back…well, except for delving back into the Yorkshire gloomsters back catalogue of course. In so doing, I discovered the monumenatal ‘Shades of God’, a huge game-changer for me. I may not have liked the more ‘Goth’ or ‘pop-infused’ era, but of late, their albums have been tremendous, really harking back to their earlier halcyon days.

Cue ‘Medusa’, which is apparently inspired by another foray into the historic vaults. And, if this new track, ‘The Longest Winter’ is representative of the vibe and direction of the new record, we’re in for one heck of a heavy and doomy affair. Activate sarcasm mode: Oh no, how horrible.

19420708_1698781136823429_4102190633439104941_nArch Enemy – Will To Power
Release date: 8 September 2017
Label: Century Media Records

Long term followers of my blog will be sick of hearing my thoughts on Arch Emeny. Whilst their stock has risen over the past decade or so, my liking for the band has nose-dived and I make no bones about the fact that ‘xxx’ is their last chance as far as I’m concerned. I’m sure Michael Amott is quaking in his boots at the thought of losing a slightly overweight and balding Englishman from his ever-expanding fanbase but I’ll be genuinely disappointed if I have to call it a day with a band that was so important to me at the time they released the majestic ‘Stigmata’.

So now we have ‘The World Is Yours’, the first track to be aired from the new album ‘Will To Power’…and it feels like Arch Enemy might have returned from the brink. There are still things that I don’t like so much, but in general, this feels like a proper song, something more akin to the music that the band can write when they put their mind to it. It goes without saying that the drumming and the guitar work is utterly insane and of the very highest order – the inclusion of Jeff Loomis is a BIG deal as far as I’m concerned. But more importantly, there is more to this song than just instrumental noodling and histrionics just for the sake of it. On the strength of this song, I’m feeling more hopeful than I was fearing…

Previous updates:

28 March 2017
23 March 2017
11 March 2017
5th March 2017
26th February 2017
13th February 2017
3rd February 2017
30th January 2017
21st January 2017

Witherfall – Nocturnes And Requiems – Album Review

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Artist: Witherfall

Album Title: Nocturnes and Requiems

Label: Independent Release

Date of release: 10 February 2017

I’m going to start this review in a blunt manner: I am enjoying the hell out of this album. With that in mind, allow me to elaborate in a style more familiar to those who follow this site.

‘Nocturnes And Requiems’ is the debut album from Witherfall, a band comprised of four extremely talented musicians in their own right, namely guitarist Jake Dreyer, vocalist Joseph Michael, bassist Anthony Crawford and drummer Adam Sagan. Dreyer will be a familiar name to many as an ex-member of White Wizzard and current lead axeman for Iced Earth. Michael is also ex-White Wizzard stock whilst Sagan plied his trade with the likes of Circle II Circle and a personal favourite of mine, Into Eternity.

‘Nocturnes and Requiems’ was apparently recorded in 2014 but has taken until 2017 to be released. Tragically, in the interim, drummer Sagan has passed away having bravely battled with a form of blood cancer. The release could be viewed then as something of a tribute to a fallen comrade and what a fitting tribute it is to a talented sticksman. But more than simply being a tribute, ‘Nocturnes And Requiems’ is an excellent heavy metal album in its own right, regardless of the circumstances surrounding its release.

If you have a weakness for superlative musicianship, you’ll lap this record up, particularly if that weakness focuses on the six-string instrument. If you are also a fan of progressive metal, then this record might just have you jumping for joy.

That said, there isn’t much within Witherfall’s approach that screams originality but somehow that doesn’t matter to me here. In fact, if anything, I’d argue that there is a heavy indebtedness to the likes of Symphony X, Nevermore and many others within the six full tracks and two shorter interludes that comprise ‘Nocturnes And Requiems’. Speaking personally, as a fan of both of the aforementioned, this is no a bad thing.

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Whilst every member of the band has skills, it is inevitable that the stand-out member of Witherfall for most of us is going to be guitarist Jake Dreyer. It is no wonder that Iced Earth snaffled him up because the guy is utterly immense. In fact, dare I suggest that he might be just a little under-utilised with Iced Earth? It may seem like overenthusiastic hyperbole but there is a strong case for putting Dreyer into the same league as the likes of Jeff Loomis or Michael Romeo, albeit he has his own style.

Given the neoclassical bent to some of the material, the parallels to Romeo are clearer, as is firmly demonstrated by the lightning fast playing which introduces the rather epic ‘End Of Time’ which is actually split into three parts. The intensity and technicality of the opening solo, followed by the flamboyance of the ensuing riff is enough to make me grin from ear to ear. If that wasn’t enough, the acoustic work that is incorporated into the track is sublime, adding plenty of darker tones to the track, enhanced by the emotive delivery of Joseph Michael.

Naturally, for a song that spans the better part of ten minutes, there are plenty of different sections that I could mention, including several of the extended guitar solos or the brief classical guitar segments that are beautifully delivered. But as good as all these parts are, the icing on the cake is the chorus that introduces a strong melody and a sense of the grandiose that is catchy enough to pull me in for repeated listens and proves that Witherfall are more than just clever instrumentalists; they are accomplished songwriters too.

Indeed, the songwriting prowess can be heard littered throughout the record. The Nevermore-tinged aggression of opener ‘Portrait’ is a huge winner thanks to the powerful riffs, driving rhythms, dark tones and strangely addictive introspective chorus of sorts not to mention its overt classic prog metal sheen. It contains a little bit of just about everything I want in my metal these days if I’m honest.

Then there’s the equally compelling follow-up in the shape of ‘What We Are Dying For’. It begins in frenetic style with a melodeath-style riff before descending into modern Symphony X territory, all the while keeping the foot to the floor in terms of pace and tempo. Sagan’s drumming is a key factor to the success of this composition, along with clever changes of pace that bring the track more into line with the doom genre. The solo guitar work atop the repetitive rhythm guitar notes is superb as is the bass playing of Anthony Crawford. I love the diversity of the song which, in true clichéd style, genuinely takes the listener on a journey. The Spanish-influenced classical guitar playing has to be, above all else, my favourite part though – it has to be heard to be believed, such is its blend of technicality and rich warmth.

I’ve yet to really mention vocalist Joseph Michael but when discussing yet another epic track, ‘Sacrifice’, his name comes top of the list. With a range that allows the guy to sing softly with emotion, snarl with naked aggression, soar with melodious intent or burst his lungs with the kind of high-pitched wails that the likes of Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens or Rob Halford would be proud of, Michael has it all. And he demonstrates this impressive repertoire on ‘Sacrifice’ which is as bold and ambitious as his vocals. If I’m being hyper-critical, this track lacks a killer hook or melody to ensnare the unwary listener. However, it makes up for this with the sheer variety, drama and myriad of tones and textures on offer, meaning that it still holds your attention throughout.

So there you have it. An album that I knew nothing about until a copy was thrust upon me has ended up making a huge impression upon me. It remains to be seen what the future holds for the remaining three members of Witherfall but I sincerely hope that ‘Nocturnes And Requiems’ is not a one-off because it is just too damn good and newly-converted fans (myself included), simply need more of this kind of music in our lives. To deny us this would be a huge travesty.

The Score of Much Metal: 9

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

2015 reviews
2016 reviews

Tuesday The Sky – Drift
Anthriel – Transcendence
Decapitated – Anticult
Cosmograf – The Hay-Man Dreams
Orden Ogan – Gunmen
Iced Earth – Incorruptible
Anathema – The Optimist
Solstafir – Berdreyminn
Dream Evil – Six
Avatarium – Hurricanes And Halos
Ayreon – The Source
Until Rain – Inure
MindMaze – Resolve
God Dethroned – The World Ablaze
Bjorn Riis – Forever Comes To An End
Voyager – Ghost Mile
Big Big Train – Grimspound
Lonely Robot – The Big Dream
Firespawn – The Reprobate
Ancient Ascendant
Pyramaze – Contingent
Shores Of Null – Black Drapes For Tomorrow
Asira – Efference
Hologram Earth – Black Cell Program
Damnations Day – A World Awakens
Memoriam – For The Fallen
Pallbearer – Heartless
Sleepmakeswaves – Made of Breath Only
Ghost Ship Octavius – Ghost Ship Octavius
Vangough – Warpaint
Telepathy – Tempest
Obituary – Obituary
Fen – Winter
Havok – Conformicide
Wolfheart – Tyhjyys
Svart Crown – Abreaction
Nova Collective – The Further Side
Immolation – Atonement
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

Essential rock & metal releases still to come in 2017 – Part 3

Welcome to my third instalment of this series, where I dust off my crystal ball – or just trawl the internet obsessively – to bring you the pick of the releases that are still to come in the rock and metal world during the second half of 2017.

If you missed the previous two posts in this series, they can be accessed here:
Essential rock & metal releases still to come in 2017 – Part 1
Essential rock & metal releases still to come in 2017 – Part 2

And now on to the main event…

Subsignal
TBC (‘La Muerta’)
Release date: TBC

Their Facebook page promised that fans would be treated to a new album in 2017 and so far, Subsignal appear to be sticking to their promise. There is no confirmed information regarding a release date but, according to their official social media feeds, production is in progress. The guitars are currently being tracked and the drum recordings are all finished. No final announcement regarding an album title has been forthcoming either, although there is a strong suggestion that it might be called ‘La Muerta’.

Rising from the ashes of Sieges Even, Subsignal are the more immediate, slightly less progressive replacement. And what a replacement they are. Beautiful melodies, deep and thoughtful lyrics, and technically adept compositions all play an important part in the rich aural tapestry that these talented Germans deliver. With a consistency that is frightening, I’m expecting big things from this record as and when it is released.

18766020_10155371710959287_3595486704059865356_nNothing More
The Stories We Tell Ourselves
Release date: 15 September 2017

For some reason, it feels like a very long time that I have been patiently waiting for a new album from Nothing More. But finally, after featuring them in just about every round-up for the last couple of years in hope more than expectation, I can bring confirmed news. The American band are not normally my kind of thing but their blend of modern rock with djent and pop rock is almost impossible to ignore. The music on their previous, self-titled record, was infectious in the extreme, delivering chorus after chorus full of huge hooks and strong melodies. I was obsessed with this album for weeks.

The new album will be released on 15th September 2017. Entitled ‘The Stories We Tell Ourselves’, I know that this is going to be a big record based on the cuts that they have released so far. Will it beat their last one? Who knows, but I will certainly have fun finding out when the time comes. And you can bet your life that I’ll bring you my thoughts on it as soon as humanly possible.

19106036_10158716292755386_2949343652863781873_nSepticflesh
Codex Omega
Release date: 1 September 2017

I’m a relative newcomer to Greek extreme metal band Septicflesh, only cutting my teeth with them via their 2008 album, ‘Communion’. I’m amazed that the Athens-based death metal band managed to elude me for so long as well, given that their brand of dark, symphonic death metal with an ear for well-placed groove and melody is right up my street. And the fact that a new album is on the horizon nearly passed me by too, but thankfully I found out just in the nick of time.

With Septicflesh, you get the full-on extreme metal experience with ferocious riffing, brutal rhythms and all of the grandiose pomp and ceremony that you could ask for. Mind you, the brutal and uncompromising artwork that accompanies the new record should leave you in no doubt that this is not easy listening for the feint hearted. Just take a listen to the track below, entitled ‘3rd Testament’, to prove the point and to get a firm idea as to what to expect when ‘Codex Omega’ hits the shelves via Season of Mist on 1st September. One spin of this and my expectations just went through the roof.

20046566_1265671230229159_6290285644420623914_nAnubis Gate
Covered In Black
Release date: 1 September 2017

It feels like Anubis Gate have been around forever but in actual fact, the Danes have only been in existence since 2001. In that time, they have released six studio albums, all of which have been of a consistently high standard. It means that every time the quartet announces a new album, those who enjoy their music on the melodic and progressive end of the spectrum will take notice. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything massively negative about Anubis Gate either, which again speaks volumes of their ability to create high quality material.

Unsurprisingly, given the dark and moody cover artwork alongside the album title, ‘Covered In Black’ is billed as the darkest material of the bands’ career. This sounds intriguing and I can’t wait to find out if this will be the album that tops my personal favourite, ‘Andromeda Unchained’. Naturally, I will feed back as soon as possible.

nocturnalritesphoenixalbumNocturnal Rites
Phoenix
Release date: 29 September 2017

Despite the fear in some corners that Nocturnal Rites might be no more, the melodic metal band have finally officially announced that a new album is on the way. Back in 2013, founding member Fredrik Mannberg went on record with Bravewords.com to confirm that new material was being worked on. But another four years of near silence will have got the nerves jangling a little amongst the faithful. It is now an entire decade since they released ‘The 8th Sin’ but at last, their patient fan base has been rewarded in the way that they would have hoped.

Somewhat fittingly, Nocturnal Rites’ ninth release is entitled ‘Phoenix’ and will see the light of day on 29th September via AFM Records. Whilst I wouldn’t refer to myself as a dyed-in-the-wool diehard, I really like their output and so I am eager as anyone to hear what impact the intervening ten years has had on Nocturnal Rites. On the basis of this track, could the wait have been fully worth it?…

Tuesday The Sky – Drift – Album Review

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Artist: Tuesday The Sky

Album Title: Drift

Label: InsideOut Music

Release date: 30 June 2017

You’ll already be aware of my general feelings towards instrumental albums as I’ve made no secret of it on this blog. I’m not the biggest fan as a rule, because I tend to find them a little one-dimensional and just a bit dull to be perfectly honest. There are exceptions to every rule of course, the most significant being the magnificent ‘A Dream In Static’ from Earthside which rightfully finished top of my 2015 Album of the Year list.

And now, the latest album to buck the trend is ‘Drift’, the debut release from the slightly absurdly-monikered Tuesday The Sky. I hesitate to refer to Tuesday The Sky as a band because this is more accurately a project, at least it is at this stage anyway. What happens over the long term of course remains to be seen. Involved with this project is none other than Jim Matheos, guitarist and song writer with the iconic progressive metal band Fates Warning. Joining him in this venture is Lloyd Hanney, drummer with God Is An Astronaut. If that isn’t enough to pique your interest, then let me add the names of Kevin Moore (ex-Dream Theater) who provides his keyboard skills to two tracks and Anna-Lynne Williams (Trespassers William) who provides non-lyrical vocals on two songs.

The overall output of Tuesday The Sky could best be described as ambient instrumental rock; indeed that’s how they are billed in most corners of the internet. It is an accurate description but it also fails, in my opinion, to do the music full justice. Having had the privilege of sharing many a precious hour in the company of ‘Drift’, it is patently obvious that this record is far more involved, nuanced and brilliantly constructed than this generic description suggests.

‘Drift’ is comprised of ten individual tracks that all stand on their own merits but which are at their most powerful when listened to as a whole. At times the music is barely audible, a gentle minimalist ambience at best. At other times, it explodes with real force and is surprisingly heavy. But the heaviness is in no way angry or confrontational; instead, it is like the outpouring of pent up emotions, the bursting of a dam. In the case of the perfectly-named ‘It Comes In Waves’, the heaviness has a demonstrably euphoric feeling to it, as the floodgates are opened and the strong, vibrant guitars crash around the quieter elements in a way that conveys so much human emotion, albeit positive, almost life-affirming.

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The melodies throughout ‘Drift’ are consistently excellent, forcing me to question how this material was created with such apparent nonchalance by Matheos in the downtime between the release of ‘Theories of Flight’ and the ensuing touring cycle. It is no secret how talented Matheos is as a musician and song writer but the music of Tuesday the Sky shows a whole new side to him and he comes out of it with bucket loads of integrity and my increased admiration.

‘Dyatlov Pass’ is one of the most striking compositions on the entire record for a number of reasons. The first half is pure ambient territory but with vaguely unsettling overtones due to the use of some strange dystopian sound effects. It has a cinematic vibe which then gives way to a pounding rhythm and arguably the heaviest riffs found anywhere on the album. The guitar tone delivers a real crunch and serious bite in what is quite a stark juxtaposition with what is on offer elsewhere.

And, even though I initially thought my download had been corrupted in light of the deliberately tremulous and static-plagued fragile opening guitar melody, opening track ‘Today The Sky’ has to be my current favourite. I love the crispness of the drumming, the vibrancy of the guitar tones and the way in which the atmospheric ambience rises and falls, building in intensity, delivering beautiful melodies and culminating in a glorious crescendo of sound that sends a shiver down my spine.

The aforementioned vocals of Williams are also a masterstroke. Her heart-rending ethereal approach bathes the sumptuous ‘Vortex Street’ in a warm embrace that is impossible to not take to your heart. In fact, I am struggling to think of a composition outside of Anathema with such depth of feeling and emotion. But crucially, the vocals are not overused; it could have been a temptation to employ Williams on every track but then their impact would have been diminished. As it is, when they surface, they are a delight.

The final tick in the box for ‘Drift’ is the variety on offer. There are common themes and threads that run through each song but they all have their own identities, be it the more robust post-rock/metal leanings of ‘Kite’ or the filmic nature of ‘Roger Gordo’, complete with its dense atmospherics and multitude of spoken word samples.

I know that I have published this review well after its release. However, I make no apologies for this. There are some records that require a little extra attention, a little more time and this is one of those. I feel like I understand it a lot more now, but more importantly, my admiration has grown into a genuine fondness for what has become a go-to record when I wish to be emotionally nourished and surrounded by music that has something subtle yet powerful to say. There will be no other instrumental album released in 2017 that will get close to topping this, I guarantee it.

The Score of Much Metal: 9.25

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

2015 reviews
2016 reviews

Anthriel – Transcendence
Decapitated – Anticult
Cosmograf – The Hay-Man Dreams
Orden Ogan – Gunmen
Iced Earth – Incorruptible
Anathema – The Optimist
Solstafir – Berdreyminn
Dream Evil – Six
Avatarium – Hurricanes And Halos
Ayreon – The Source
Until Rain – Inure
MindMaze – Resolve
God Dethroned – The World Ablaze
Bjorn Riis – Forever Comes To An End
Voyager – Ghost Mile
Big Big Train – Grimspound
Lonely Robot – The Big Dream
Firespawn – The Reprobate
Ancient Ascendant
Pyramaze – Contingent
Shores Of Null – Black Drapes For Tomorrow
Asira – Efference
Hologram Earth – Black Cell Program
Damnations Day – A World Awakens
Memoriam – For The Fallen
Pallbearer – Heartless
Sleepmakeswaves – Made of Breath Only
Ghost Ship Octavius – Ghost Ship Octavius
Vangough – Warpaint
Telepathy – Tempest
Obituary – Obituary
Fen – Winter
Havok – Conformicide
Wolfheart – Tyhjyys
Svart Crown – Abreaction
Nova Collective – The Further Side
Immolation – Atonement
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

Anthriel – Transcendence – Album Review

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Artist: Anthriel

Album Title: Transcendence

Label: Lion Music

Date Of Release: 15 June 2017

I don’t think I have ever been bullied so relentlessly by a reader in the quest for me to publish a review. But I’m nothing if not willing to please my loyal followers, so here I am with some considered thoughts about ‘Transcendence’, the sophomore album from Anthriel.

Having not been aware of the debut album, ‘The Pathway’, I come at this follow-up without the baggage of expectation and without the need to compare the two. If you’re looking for a review that specifically does this, I’m afraid you’ll need to go elsewhere. From what I can glean from various sources that I tend to trust, this record might be in a heavier and darker vein to its predecessor. Indeed this is borne out by the band on the accompanying press release, as they admit exactly that.

Well, for the Man of Much Metal, darker and heavier is almost always a good thing and so it has proved here. The reason for the delay in penning this review is because, drowning under a host of new releases, I disregarded it to begin with. Then I heard a few comments about it and, resulting from the aforementioned bullying, I was browbeaten into finding a track online to listen to. Well blow me down with a feather, I rather liked it, so here I am now with my considered review.

It has been a lengthy wait for new material, some seven years. In the intervening time, the Finns have suffered problems with their rehearsal studio and then the almost inevitable line-up issues, losing both their drummer and bassist. It means now that Anthriel is comprised of Simo Silvan (lead vocals & backing vocals), Timo Niemistö (guitars & backing vocals), Antti Hakulinen (keyboards), Antti Horttana (bass & backing vocals) and Henrikki Markkula (drums).

It’s not all bad news though, because to me, this sounds like a very strong unit playing together to create a rather glorious racket. Naturally the band suggests that this is their strongest incarnation to date but that is definitely backed up by the end result. The inter-album turmoil has also led to the inspiration for the lyrical concept which follows on from the debut but is more about the time in a person’s life where there is almost no hope at all.

I’m not going to sit here and say that ‘Transcendence’ reinvents any wheels. However, what it does do, is provide a hugely enjoyable and immersive listen that gets better and better with each spin. This is bombastic and occasionally over-the-top progressive power metal but unlike other bands who proclaim to play a similar style of music, this is a really excellent blend of all of these elements.

Firstly, it is most definitely heavy enough to be accurately referred to as metal. It also has the symphonics and sprawling qualities of power metal and finally, it is definitely progressive thanks to an abundance of chops, tempo changes and intricate compositions. Two of the tracks extend beyond ten minutes, with the album closer falling just shy of the 20-minute mark. ‘Transcendence’ is also a lush and layered album where, on repeated listens, new intricacies and depth comes through.

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In terms of reference points, there is more than a hint of mid-era Symphony X about some of the Anthriel output. But equally, I hear smatterings of Dream Theater, the pomp of Edguy or compatriots Sonata Arctica at their most epic and numerous other influences including a smattering of Shadow Gallery and Seventh Wonder. The opening cinematic and symphonic instrumental also has a touch of ‘Chariots of Fire’ about it thanks to the prominent keys.

I sometimes wish that bands dispensed of these instrumental intros, particularly where the entire album only consists of eight tracks. However, it is difficult to be too churlish about ‘The Calling’ as it fits the feel of ‘Transcendence’ nicely, even if it isn’t the most essential and memorable piece of music in and of itself. Get that out of the way and from there on, the remaining seven tracks that break the hour mark, rightfully rack up the positives.

‘Under Burning Skies’ is a high-octane opener that bounds along at a great pace. I love the riffs that feature as well as the pinched harmonics that dominate the opening few bars of the first major riff. The two newbies Horttana and Markkula immediately make their mark, creating a strong rhythmic spine at the centre of the track. The synths of Hakulinen bathe the song throughout and the quiet mid-section is a great touch, injecting loads of introspective atmosphere, entirely fitting with the dark tones and a great juxtaposition with the heaviness and in-your-face drama that sandwiches it. The icing on the cake is the vocal performance of Simo Silvan, who impresses me with his rich, commanding and melodious tones. This is where many bands of this ilk fall down, but not Anthriel.

The 11-minute ‘Oath Of Darkness’ is even better in my opinion. This is ‘proper’ full-on, no holes barred classic-style progressive metal with a plethora of twists and turns, from dark and brooding atmospheres to triumphant euphoria led by lead guitar solos and rousing keys. Starting with a Mike Oldfield-esque melody, it then lurches forward, building in intensity whilst experimenting with many keyboard-soaked aural textures along its journey. The angry, quasi-gruff vocals add to the aggression but then in come some great melodies to transform the song into something quite excellent, deceptively catchy and thoroughly satisfying.

Tinkling piano, choppy riffs and strong melodies dominate the excellent, slightly more balladic ‘Siren’s Song’, alongside duelling keyboard and guitar solos for which I’ll admit to having a soft spot occasionally. ‘Painted Shadows’ and the angrier follow-up ‘Rhapsody Of Fire’ both revisit those Symphony X influences thanks to strong riffs, layers of key, flamboyant guitar work and plenty of neo-classical affectations, particularly within the former.

‘My Morning Star’ in contrast blasts forth with the kind of symphonic bombast that Nightwish would be proud of, before reining things in to create something altogether more slow-burning and poignant whilst retaining much of the heaviness and catchiness witnessed elsewhere on this record.

It falls to ‘Fallen Souls’ to complete the album. At 19 minutes long, it is the very definition of ‘epic’ but crucially for a track so long, the time most certainly does not drag. There’s simply too much going on for my mind to wander, beginning with an enormously dramatic and cinematic introduction. Extended instrumental passages, tempo changes, virtuosic instrumentalism and symphonic bombast come together in a surprisingly cohesive manner to make this final act a memorable one, with a tiny Haken hint in places. If I’m being picky, I’d have liked a few more memorable melodies within it, similar to those earlier on the album but otherwise it’s a very powerful closing piece of music.

I must admit that I have been left more impressed with ‘Transcendence’ than I thought I would be at the beginning. This is so good in fact, that it might muscle its way into my end-of-year top 30 at this rate. Vibrant, complex, nuanced…this is progressive power metal of a very high standard indeed.

The Score Of Much Metal: 9.0

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

2015 reviews
2016 reviews

Decapitated – Anticult
Cosmograf – The Hay-Man Dreams
Orden Ogan – Gunmen
Iced Earth – Incorruptible
Anathema – The Optimist
Solstafir – Berdreyminn
Dream Evil – Six
Avatarium – Hurricanes And Halos
Ayreon – The Source
Until Rain – Inure
MindMaze – Resolve
God Dethroned – The World Ablaze
Bjorn Riis – Forever Comes To An End
Voyager – Ghost Mile
Big Big Train – Grimspound
Lonely Robot – The Big Dream
Firespawn – The Reprobate
Ancient Ascendant
Pyramaze – Contingent
Shores Of Null – Black Drapes For Tomorrow
Asira – Efference
Hologram Earth – Black Cell Program
Damnations Day – A World Awakens
Memoriam – For The Fallen
Pallbearer – Heartless
Sleepmakeswaves – Made of Breath Only
Ghost Ship Octavius – Ghost Ship Octavius
Vangough – Warpaint
Telepathy – Tempest
Obituary – Obituary
Fen – Winter
Havok – Conformicide
Wolfheart – Tyhjyys
Svart Crown – Abreaction
Nova Collective – The Further Side
Immolation – Atonement
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

Decapitated – Anticult – Album Review

Decapitated - Anticult - Artwork

Artist: Decapitated

Album Title: Anticult

Label: Nuclear Blast Records

Date of Release: 7 July 2017

My relationship with Polish death metal band Decapitated could be best described as casual. I was struck in the early days by two things: the band’s youth and their proficiency. The proficiency was mind blowing, savage and suddenly, to many, here was a band which helped to breathe new life into the death metal scene.

And yet, since their inception in 1996, I have only really dabbled in and out of their offerings. I admired the talent and I own a few of their albums but I’d not refer to myself as a hardcore fan. In many ways, I think that this had something to do with the overt technicality which threatened to make their albums sound just a little too polished and perfect. Nevertheless, their name carries enough of a cache to force me to take notice when a new album arrives.

‘Anticult’ is the seventh album from Decapitated, which may seem a relatively low number for a career that has now spanned more than two decades. Mind you, given the disaster that befell the band in 2007, we should be grateful that Decapitated still exist. Indeed, in the months and years following the vehicle accident that sadly claimed the life of drummer Witold ‘Vitek’ Kiełtyka, one of two founding members and the brother of guitarist Wacław ‘Vogg’ Kiełtyka, the band took a well-understood hiatus.

It can often sound trite, but positive shoots can grow out of adversity. And if there is any proof in the truth of this platitude, it is here. ‘Anticult’ can quite possibly claim the accolade of being the best album of their career. This is an album that does everything that is required of death metal and does it fantastically well. It sounds vital and fresh, it sounds full of anger, full of hunger and it is brutal as hell. And, most importantly for a band that has historically sat within the more technical end of the death metal spectrum, it is razor-sharp and incisive.

Decapitated 2017 is comprised of vocalist Rafał Piotrowski, guitarist Wacław ‘Vogg’ Kiełtyka, bassist Hubert Wiecek and drummer Michal Lysejko. And whilst ‘Anticult’ retains some of the overt technical prowess, the likes of which we have become accustomed to over the years I can’t help but think as I listen to this record that the technicality has been dialled down a little from the early days. It might be my brain playing tricks on me, but I found myself being surprised initially by the looser and freer delivery that I hear on ‘Anticult’. It is something that is bound to divide their fanbase. Those that love the precision might be concerned and even upset by ‘Anticult’. But those who are slightly more open-minded and embrace a touch of change, might just feel similarly to me about this record. It is a monster.

Decapitated band

The most positive thing that I can say about this album is the fact that I have found myself somewhat addicted to it. This happens with other genres of metal, but for me, it’s a rarity where death metal is concerned. With ‘Anticult’, I have listened to it with a frequency that initially surprised me but over the past week, I realised it’s because it is a damn fine record, with plenty to entertain and delight.

The songs themselves are utterly immense; they are certainly some of the most immediate and accessible of the band’s career. However, this does not mean that they have lost any of their aggression. There is groove upon groove to be heard, clever atmospheric interludes, uncomfortably dissonant soundscapes and a welcome injection of progressive ideas that has been built on from 2014’s ‘Blood Mantra’. And that’s not to mention the veritable cornucopia of little subtle embellishments that litter the eight tracks, many of which go under the radar for the first few spins.

Case in point – track one, ‘Impulse’. Opening with some unsettling quiet and brooding melodies, it soon explodes into a blitzkrieg of intensity overlaid by some mournful lead guitar melodies before settling into explosive riff after explosive riff. The rhythm section, it almost goes without saying, is tighter than a duck’s behind and so are the transitions within a song that lasts six minutes but which packs an album’s worth of ideas into it almost seemlessly. The grooves, the drama, the sense of violence, it all comes gushing forth in a well-measured torrent but in a way that makes perfect sense, thus creating one hell of an opening statement.

The rest of the album follows suit with a further seven expertly crafted tracks that have an unmistakeable vibrancy to them. They live and breathe in a manner that I don’t think I’ve ever heard from Decapitated before, whilst still sounding distinctive enough to know you’re listening to Decapitated…or at least to one of the best death metal units out there on the scene today. To pick out personal favourites feels a little unfair given the unbelievably high standard here throughout. Nevertheless, ‘Kill The Cult’ is probably has the biggest grooves and the cockiest swagger to it, whilst I love the drum solo intro to ‘Anger Line’ as well as the ensuing three-and-a-half-minutes of high tempo devastation. I also have to mention the stomping excellence of ‘Earth Scar’ with its extended guitar solos and where the vocals of Piotrowski call to mind Darkane, another firm favourite of mine.

But all-in-all, there is nothing less than brilliance to be heard throughout this highly impressive album. You tend to know when you are listening to something a little bit special and that is most definitely the case here with Decapitated and ‘Anticult’. If this doesn’t end up being the best pure death metal album of 2017, I will be thoroughly shocked.

The Score of Much Metal: 9.5

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

2015 reviews
2016 reviews

Cosmograf – The Hay-Man Dreams
Orden Ogan – Gunmen
Iced Earth – Incorruptible
Anathema – The Optimist
Solstafir – Berdreyminn
Dream Evil – Six
Avatarium – Hurricanes And Halos
Ayreon – The Source
Until Rain – Inure
MindMaze – Resolve
God Dethroned – The World Ablaze
Bjorn Riis – Forever Comes To An End
Voyager – Ghost Mile
Big Big Train – Grimspound
Lonely Robot – The Big Dream
Firespawn – The Reprobate
Ancient Ascendant
Pyramaze – Contingent
Shores Of Null – Black Drapes For Tomorrow
Asira – Efference
Hologram Earth – Black Cell Program
Damnations Day – A World Awakens
Memoriam – For The Fallen
Pallbearer – Heartless
Sleepmakeswaves – Made of Breath Only
Ghost Ship Octavius – Ghost Ship Octavius
Vangough – Warpaint
Telepathy – Tempest
Obituary – Obituary
Fen – Winter
Havok – Conformicide
Wolfheart – Tyhjyys
Svart Crown – Abreaction
Nova Collective – The Further Side
Immolation – Atonement
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