Anticipated music in 2017 -An Update – 21 Jan

Since I wrote my series looking at some of my most anticipated album releases of 2016, there have been some updates. I’ve never really done this kind of thing before, so let me know if you like it or find it useful. My plan is that if it is welcome, I could continue these bulk update posts throughout the year. I’ve shied away from re-posting individual press updates as there are plenty of sites that do this and I like my updates to involve a little effort on my part rather than simple regurgitation.

Over to you…what do you think?

Soen – Lykaia

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First up, here’s a new song from prog band Soen, from their upcoming album ‘Lykaia’ due for release on 3rd February. Soen are a band that I really like but completely forgot to mention in my ‘most anticipated of 2017’series, sorry. I’m a sucker for Marcus Jidell’s guitar playing in particular, as well as the more organic sound that they employ, so I’m really looking forward to hearing some new material from this vastly underrated band.

 

Ayreon

In the last couple of days, Arjen Anthony Lucassen has revealed the title and artwork of his new Ayreon album. Entitled ‘The Source’, I’m sure you’ll agree that the cover is very cool, not to mention quite dark and sinister, suggesting an album full of music with a similar tone. If that’s the case, it is bound to be a hit with me. Mind you, I’m not sure that there is an Ayreon record that has been released to date that I haven’t liked!

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Iced Earth

On 15th January, Jon Schaffer went live and provided an update on the world of the American metallers. Essentially, the upshot is that the studio that Jon had built is now complete and the pre-production for the album appears to be all but done. What this means is that the various members of Iced Earth will be heading to the studio over the next month or so to record their parts.

And then, just yesterday, we had an update from the studio where drummer Brent Smedley has arrived to lay down his material for the new album. So, whilst there’s yet to be a final release date, things are progressing nicely for a mid-late 2017 release.

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Lost In Thought

A few days ago, a new video was posted by UK prog metallers Lost In Thought. It isn’t very long, but it gives a little insight into the musical direction of the new album and proves that the finished article can’t be a million miles away. I’m liking this riff – it is getting me very interested in hearing the final product that’s for sure.

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Cynthesis/Jasun Tipton

Whilst keeping my eyes open for news on the new Cynthesis album, I had cause to make contact with Jasun. The guy is seriously one of the nicest guys on the planet and his response gave me cause to be extremely happy. Not only is a new Cynthesis on the horizon, there is other music in the pipeline from Mr Tipton. I quote:

“Plenty of music on the horizon actually. A Dying Planet is almost tracked. Cynthesis 3 is in focus again. Plus if I can make Zero Hour – DeEvolution come to life that would be great!”

With regard to the latter, it appears that the material for a new album from Zero Hour was recorded back in 2002-03. There are problems in finding out what programme the files are in given that it is 15 years ago, but this is being worked on as I type. The band is now officially defunct due to the fact that Troy Tipton can’t play the bass guitar any more. However, the music exists and hope is not lost for it to see the light of day eventually. If, like me, you love Jasun’s guitar playing, all this is superb news.

Anathema

In my previous series, I listed Anathema in hope as much as expectation but felt it was a calculated risk based on their normal release cycle of late. There is still no definitive word on a new album in 2017, but the omens are good based on a recent post by the band on social media. The picture is below and I invite you to draw your own conclusions. Personally, I am buoyed by this latest inferred development and will keep my eyes open for more concrete news very soon.

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Seventh Wonder

According to a post on social media, Seventh Wonder are hard at work in the studio at the moment, working on a long overdue follow-up to ‘The Great Escape’. It is too early to say for sure when the new album will be released but at least we now have definitive confirmation that a new record will see the light of day before too long. Finally!

Vanishing Point

Whilst the band pages have been quiet of late, guitarist and all-round top bloke Chris Porcianko posted an update on 17th January to say that vocalist Silvio and he had met up for another pre-production vocal. No samples sadly, but in Chris’ own words: ‘he’s killing it!!’ In addition, he goes on to say: ‘Totally loving the new shit, it’s sounding really, really great…’

Anyone else’s excitement levels just go up a notch? I think we’re guaranteed a new album in 2017 now.

Firewind – Immortals – Album Review

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Artist: Firewind

Album Title: Immortals

Label: Century Media Records

Date Of Release: 20 January 2017

I really struggled in the beginning with ‘Immortals’, the eighth album from Greek melodic power metal band Firewind. They are a band with whom I am familiar and have had something of an on-off relationship over the years. Helmed by the extraordinary guitar talents of Gus G who, since 2009 has been the lead guitarist for the Prince of Darkness Ozzy Osbourne, you are not left wanting in the six-string department where Firewind are concerned, that’s for sure. Gus G can shred with the very best, delivering powerful riffs and flamboyant, lightning fast lead breaks on demand.

However, a guitar virtuoso alone does not make a great album full of interesting and accomplished material. It also takes talented song writers to create and a whole band to perform. And, in my early days of listening to ‘Immortals’, the former is where I feared the album may be flawed.

Comprised of Gus G alongside bassist Petros Christo, keyboardist Bob Katsionis and drummer Jo Nunez as well as brand new vocalist Henning Basse, ‘Immortals’ is chock full of individual talent and the performances are all very strong, suggesting that the chemistry and understanding within the quintet is at a high level.

However, my struggles with ‘Immortals’ initially came in the song writing department. It had nothing to do with the lyrical themes which, as it turns out, bring a concept to life. According to Gus himself, their first ever concept tells the ambitious story of ‘the Battles of Thermopylae and Salamis in 480 BC during the second Persian invasion of Greece’.

Lyrics aside though, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the music was a little bit too safe, predictable and paint-by-numbers. Not that I mind that per se, but if that’s the route you’re going to take, I want to be beaten over the head with music that gets my juices flowing, where the choruses are catchy as hell and where the whole thing just exudes quality. I didn’t get that with ‘Immortals’ and so I left it to one side for a day or two.

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These feelings remained as I returned to ‘Immortals’ and I was in danger of giving up until the mid-section of the album arrived. The trio of ‘Live And Die By The Sword’, ‘Wars Of Ages’ and ‘Lady of 1000 Sorrows’ suddenly clicked, pulling me out of my reverie and metaphorically slapping me around the face.

‘Live And Die By The Sword’ is a melodic metal track of quite huge proportions, delivering everything from a quiet intro to a rousing, punch-the-air battle-cry that will sound immense in the live arena, I have no doubt. The melodies lend the song an air of the truly epic, not to mention being catchy and anthemic as all hell.

‘War of Ages’ follows and maintains the quality via an up-tempo, blast-beat heavy rollicking melodic metal approach that’s topped off by a tremendous chorus that digs in deep and doesn’t let go. And then ‘Lady Of 1000 Sorrows’ changes the pace yet again. It is much slower, more ballad-like in construction with a moody and powerful melodic hard rock vibe. The chorus once again contains some killer hooks but it is the vocal performance of Basse which catches my ear most of all. His delivery is massively strong, full of gravelly soul and demonstrates his impressive range perfectly, not to mention his ability to convey emotion, not just go for all-out power.

My love for these three tracks then led me to listen more to the remainder of the album because I began to think I’d been a little too dismissive of Firewind’s latest effort. And you know what? I had. I still maintain that this middle section of the album is the strongest but I now appreciate much more of the material that surrounds it.

Like the ridiculously pompous ‘Ode To Leonidas’ for example, that begins with a strangely compelling monologue that seems fitting for a concept disc before launching into a bouncy, up-tempo number with yet another great chorus and a sprawling lead guitar solo from the maestro Gus G himself that then segues smoothly into a keyboard solo from Katsionis.

In fact, the keys are an unsung hero throughout ‘Immortal’, adding atmosphere and melody without getting in the way. Take the opener for example, which is reminiscent of the likes of Stratovarius and even the likes of Thunderstone thanks to a vaguely neo-classical feel that’s enhanced by the flamboyant keys that more than play their part.

However, being the band of Gus G, it is hardly surprising as I alluded to at the beginning of the review that the guitar work steals the show. Of course solos feature in every composition and it would be hard to find fault with them, such is the technique and touch that Gus G demonstrates whilst shredding at the speed of light. But with a closer listen, the riffs are equally impressive, whether they are faster-paced as with the Symphony X-ish ‘We Defy’ or of the sleazier hard rock influenced variety as witnessed within ‘Back On The Throne’.

So after a sticky start, I have come round to the charms of ‘Immortals’. As it turns out, the charms are many and they have eventually beaten me over the head, got my juices flowing and he whole thing does exude quality. It just took time to realise it. I’d even go so far as to say that ‘Immortals’ is the best and the most vital that Firewind have ever sounded, laying down a marker for all other melodic power metal to follow during 2017.

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

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

Slyde – Back Again – EP Review

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Artist: Slyde

Album Title: Back Again EP

Label: Independent

Date Of Release: 17 February 2017

I don’t often review EPs, because I’m not generally a fan. I much prefer full-length albums because they offer much more value for money and give the listener a much better insight into the band and their musical vision. However, I do also accept that EPs offer new and up-and-coming artists the opportunity to showcase their art without the cost and other challenges that a full record can entail.

And occasionally, I will be faced with an EP that simply cannot be ignored. That was the case here, with ‘Back Again’, the latest output from Canadian prog rockers Slyde.

Slyde are a four-piece, comprised of guitarist/vocalist Nathan Da Silva, keyboardist Sarah Westbrook, bassist Alberto Campuzano and drummer Brendan Soares. Previously to this, I’d never heard of the name Slyde but when I read the press release that suggested they might appeal to fans of Haken, Coheed and Cambria and even compatriots Rush, I was both slightly sceptical and intrigued. But I needn’t have been sceptical because by and large, the comparisons are well-placed. Given their modest history, Slyde have a long way to go to sit alongside these illustrious names for sure. But you can certainly hear the similarities in style and execution even at this early stage in Slyde’s development.

In true prog style, ‘Back Again’ is a concept, albeit a modest one spread across just four compositions. It apparently tackles the subject of ‘environmentalism and the wider world with a sci-fi twist’. Well why not hey?

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For me though, it is the music itself which makes the biggest impression. From a first spin, I knew that Slyde showed real promise. But more than that, being just their third EP, I have been very impressed with their maturity, both in terms of their song writing and with their execution. ‘Back Again’ is a breath of fresh air as all four songs bounce along with spirit and confidence, not to mention a great blend of strong hooks, succinctness and technical ability which is evident but not rammed down our throats. Everything just sounds right, if that makes sense.

If I had to pick a favourite track, it’d be the opener, ‘Fading’. Right from the off, the keys of Sarah Westbrook are prominent, as are the very pleasant lead vocals of Nathan Da Silva. The track bounds along at a nice pace led by the rhythm section of bassist Alberto Campuzano and drummer Brendan Soares, whilst the guitar work is both punchy and subtly intricate. But the melodies, particularly within the upbeat chorus are just a delight and extremely addictive.

Having said that, all four tracks offer something of real merit. ‘Join The Parade’ is dominated by some lush synths and an impressive bass performance. I also like the funky almost jazzy vibe that it exudes at certain points. ‘Divide’ kicks off with a slightly darker, more confrontational vibe but again the melodies are strong as are the keys that create a more epic, cinematic feel whilst closing the song out with a gorgeous piano outro.

The title track closes the EP and does so with real style. It is the longest song here and it is also the most expansive in terms of the sounds and textures that are explored, from quiet and simple to big, bold and multi-layered. There’s also a sense of positivity and euphoria that I glean from within the generally sombre and honest lyrics not to mention compelling guitar and keyboard solos

Ultimately, the best compliment I can pay Slyde is the fact that I wanted to hear more, much more. I want ‘Back Again’ to be a full-length album and I hope that this will be a reality in the not-too-distant future.

The Score Of Much Metal: 8

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

2015 reviews
2016 reviews

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

Sepultura – Machine Messiah – Album Review

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Artist: Sepultura

Album Title: Machine Messiah

Label: Nuclear Blast

Date of Release: 13 January 2017

I remember the days of being a fan of Sepultura just like it was 20 years ago. That’s because it was 20 years ago when last I would have referred to myself as anything approaching a fan of the Brazilian thrash metal band. And yet ‘Chaos AD’, ‘Arise’ and ‘Roots’ remain very important albums in my personal collection, dating back to a time when my obsession with heavy metal was still relatively new and fresh.

Since then, I don’t believe I have listened to any of the quartet’s releases, other than at a passing, cursory level. The reasons for this are quite simple. First of all, there was all that to-do with the Cavalera brothers. I mean, if I wanted to indulge in a soap opera, the TV is full of options. Flippancy aside, it meant that, for me, much of the magic started to disappear once the brothers’ relationship started to go down the pan. And with the magic, along went the quality of music as well. It’s hardly surprising but suddenly I just felt that the albums lost direction, lost heart and to these ears, were just mediocre, the sound of a band going through the motions.

So why have I chosen 2016 to return to Sepultura and pen a review of their new album, their fourteenth, entitled ‘Machine Messiah’? Again the answer is simple – it was recommended to me by someone whose opinion I value and trust. And when they used the words ‘prog’ in their reasoning, I felt I had to check it out.

I am genuinely glad I took the advice but on the whole, my opinion has not changed an awful lot if I’m entirely honest. ‘Machine Messiah’ is ok, but not much more than that as far as I’m concerned.

Sepultura 2016 is comprised of guitarist Andreas Kisser, vocalist Derrick Green, bassist Paulo Jr. and drummer Eloy Casagrande, with Kisser taking a lead role in the band he joined back in 1987. Together they have crafted an album that threatens much but actually delivers something that falls a little shy of its promise.

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When I think of Sepultura, I must admit that I’m not thinking of a band that is overly sophisticated. They have some cool riffs, a strong attitude and they can groove with the best of them. But their output is not always littered with variation. From what little I’ve heard during the past 20 years, Kisser has tried to mix things up a touch in terms of a more progressive sheen but a prog band they are not. And neither should they have to be. That said, ‘Machine Messiah’ is most striking in terms of the variety that it offers within the ten songs on the record. This is certainly the most adventurous that I have ever heard Sepultura and kudos to the band for doing this.

The problem is though that the positives are undermined too easily by the negatives. The opening title track is a near six-minute composition that begins quietly before exploding with a slow, doom-esque riff and subtle vocals from Green. ‘Is this really Sepultura?’ I ask myself as I listen. The pace gently increases and the melodic aspect is actually quite strong, before the foot is once again taken off the pedal. It takes until the half-way point for Green’s more recognisable gruff delivery to make an appearance atop a dirty, groovy riff as the intensity grows, along with it a sense of anticipation and surprise on my part. I like this.

Unfortunately, this excitement is short-lived as ‘I Am The Enemy’ reverts to type with a frenetic two-minute punk-infused thrash workout. It’s alright but it doesn’t inspire me as much as the preceding track.

Those tribal and Latin influences for which Sepultura are known show up in several of the compositions alongside something altogether more Middle Eastern in tone. ‘Phantom Self’ is an example, with its ethnic melodies that flit in and around huge but largely average riffs. I’m not a fan of the guitar tones or the clumsy-sounding chorus either.

The opening organic drumming of ‘Alethea’ is rather nice, although the remainder of the track fails to live up to the extended intro in my opinion. ‘Iceberg Dances’ however, is a rather entertaining instrumental that toys with some interesting guitar effects and has a playful and experimental vibe to it, not to mention a very nice classical guitar section that raises an eyebrow in appreciation.

‘Sworn Oath’ is also an interesting composition. It begins with the sounds of a thunderstorm accompanied by a heavy, slow beat and a menacing lead guitar line. The riffs here are full of groove and the filmic, Middle Eastern flavour comes through in what is arguably the most satisfying and ambitious track on the record.

But again it is a momentary blip as the standard fare of attitude-laden thrash metal returns elsewhere. And in tracks like ‘Resistant Parasites’, I can’t be the only one who can hear the similarities between Green and Machine Head’s Robb Flynn, right down to the vocal effects that are employed, can I?

Sadly, I must report that Sepultura still remain a bit of a miss with me. ‘Machine Messiah’ has its moments where I am genuinely impressed but the overriding feeling I get from it is a band that aren’t entirely sure about their approach or what exactly they are trying to achieve. As a result, it is a bit of an unfocused and frustrating listen. I don’t love it but I don’t hate it either. And at least it made me listen to a Sepultura album again, so it can’t be all bad, can it?

The Score Of Much Metal: 7

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

2015 reviews
2016 reviews

Deserted Fear – Dead Shores Rising
Kreator – Gods Of Violence
Borealis – World of Silence MMXVII
Pain of Salvation – In The Passing Light of Day

Deserted Fear – Dead Shores Rising – Album Review

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Artist: Deserted Fear

Album Title: Dead Shores Rising

Label: Century Media Records

Date of Release: 2017

My ambition to try to listen to more bands than ever in 2017 is off to a flyer with yet another new discovery that ticks plenty of boxes. The band in question is Deserted Fear, a German old school death metal trio comprised of guitarist/vocalist Manuel Glatter, guitarist Fabian Hildebrandt and drummer Simon Mengs. I say old school because the music on this, their third album ‘Dead Shores Rising’ is full of that groove and understated melody that typified much of the output from around 20 years ago.

What makes ‘Dead Shores Rising’ more interesting for me but will divide opinion amongst death metal aficionados the world over, is the choice of production. Sure there are still some raw edges to be heard and enjoyed, such as the harsh, guttural and raspy vocals from Glatter or the overall tone of the rumbling guitars that sound like the aural equivalent of wading through treacle. However, thanks to some mixing and mastering magic by Dan Swanö, there is an undeniably modern sheen to the music.

From the thoroughly brilliant and rousing opening intro that sounds like it could have been culled from a Jerry Bruckheimer blockbuster, you’re under no illusion that time and effort has been taken on the production, a theme that continues at the midway mark with the minute-long pause for breath ‘Interlude’. And then, throughout the remaining nine album tracks and two bonus cuts, one of which contains a guest vocal appearance from At The Gates’ Tomas Lindberg (‘The Path Of Sorrow’) you can hear the general polish that has been applied to soften a few of the rougher edges. The aforementioned guitars are just a little too monstrous and rich, the drums are just a little too crisp and the mix is just a little too clear and balanced for this to be a bona fide old school death metal album from back in the day.

I’ll probably take a lot of flack for this but I actually have no problem with this kind of groovy mid-tempo death metal having a clearer, stronger production. As with black metal, there are some within death metal circles who will like the rawer production as it conveys, in their eyes, more authenticity. I do agree but at the same time, if the music is good, I want to be able to hear it. I certainly don’t subscribe to the ‘recorded in a shoebox with a machine powered by the tears of squirrels’ approach to production, that’s for sure. As a result, ‘Dead Shores Rising’ sounds very nice to my ears indeed. But more importantly, the vibe and intensity remains intact.

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Musically-speaking, I am equally satisfied with the end result. I remember the days when I heard Entombed for the first time or Obituary, Dismember or even At The Gates. To a greater or lesser extent, these are all good reference points for the output of Deserted Fear and I get the same kind of overall feelings listening to ‘Dead Shores Rising’ as I did when I first listened to the aforementioned. The power, the brutality, the malevolence, the clandestine melodies, and the more overt hooks – it is all there and it is thoroughly absorbing. This is the kind of no-frills, headbanging, groove-laden death metal with a hint or two of melodeath that I really enjoy listening to. This stuff makes me smile, I just can’t help it. Or to save face, perhaps it just makes me grin wickedly.

From the opening moments of ‘The Fall of Leaden Skies’ to the final notes of ‘The Path Of Sorrow’, the riffs, courtesy of Hildebrandt and Glatter are the king of Deserted Fear’s world. They bludgeon, they groove, they scythe and they relentlessly pummel for nigh on 45 minutes, but they do it with no small amount of style and panache. Admittedly there is a paucity of variation on ‘Dead Shores Rising’ but why would you want the music to be markedly different from song to song when the quality of what they offer is so high in the first place? There are times where you want to be entertained without having to think too hard. And, without denigrating the musicians involved or their collective talents and efforts, this is the perfect extreme metal record for just that purpose.

And whilst the guitar riffs dominate, they are more than ably assisted by the other instruments, including the drumming from Simon Mengs, which lays down a meaty foundation upon which the relentless six string action can take place. In addition to the riffs, I like the fact that there are lead guitar lines that introduce some measure of melody and that there are just enough lead solos to keep things interesting, helping to quench my personal thirst for such things, without derailing the impact of the tracks too much.

But it is the compositions themselves that transform what is an already strong blueprint into something rather brilliant. Nothing is extraneous, nothing is unnecessary. Each composition is a tight, well drilled and excellently executed slice of extreme heavy metal. Aside from one track, ‘Carry On’, no track extends much beyond four minutes, meaning that the material is a well-honed beast that wastes no time in making its mark on the listener.

In many ways, given the strength of the entire album, it would be unfair to pick out specific highlights. But I can’t let this review pass without mentioning a couple of my personal favourites.

‘The Fall Of Leaden Skies’ is a killer composition, setting the album on its way masterfully. After a flamboyant drum intro, the blend of fast-paced and groovy riffs atop an almost perpetual blastbeat makes an instant impression, culminating in a chorus that is almost catchy.

‘Open Their Gates’ on the other hand contains hints of early Obituary primarily in the monumentally heavy and groovy mid-tempo sections and via Glatter’s more contorted and convulsive vocal delivery.

And then there’s my personal favourite, the masterful ‘Face Our Destiny’, which cuts loose a little more. It therefore features more in the way of lead guitar histrionics, stronger more pronounced melodies within the chorus and an epic-sounding 45-second outro complete with wailing lead guitar.

I have absolutely fallen for the immense charms of Deserted Fear and this, their third full-length studio album. ‘Dead Shores Rising’ is a totally compelling album that has completely renewed and reinvigorated my love for death metal. It is bold, it is savage and it kicks some serious butt. What more could you possibly want?

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

Kreator – Gods Of Violence
Borealis – World of Silence MMXVII
Pain of Salvation – In The Passing Light of Day

Kreator – Gods of Violence – Album Review

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Artist: Kreator

Album Title: Gods of Violence

Label: Nuclear Blast

Date Of Release: 27 January 2017

Occasionally, just occasionally, I can be a prize idiot. Like the time I sliced the tip of my finger off by choosing a knife for a job that would have been perfect for a pair of scissors. Or the time I reversed my car into another car that was stationary right beside me. In broad daylight. There are plenty of other examples but perhaps the biggest one that I can think of right now is my decision, albeit unconsciously, to never really get to grips with German thrash metal band Kreator.

Kreator have been around for practically forever and yet aside from a cursory dabble here and there, I’ve never spent any significant time with the band. Formed in Essen in 1982, ‘Gods of Violence’ represents the fourteenth studio album of the band’s career and it has taken until now for the penny to finally drop.

I mean, I always knew that they were highly regarded and I knew from the ‘Live Kreation’ album that I have squirrelled away in my collection that they could be melodic as well as aggressive and powerful. But still, I never really found the time or the desire to investigate further. Perhaps it was my general malaise towards thrash metal that was the reason or the fact that my musical journey continually pulled me in different directions. Or it could have been the fact that I was put off by criticism levelled at the band during the 90s for veering away from their archetypal sound in pursuit of a more industrial approach of which I’m not a fan per se. Whatever the reason though, I’m delighted to say that I have finally seen the error of my ways.

Back to the present day then and all I can say is: ‘Gods of Violence’ – oh yes, oh yes indeed. Given my general apathy towards thrash metal, it has to be something quite special to get my juices flowing. And that’s exactly what Messrs Miland ‘Mille’ Petrozza (vocals/guitar), Jürgen ‘Ventor’ Reil (drums), Christian ‘Speesy’ Giesler (bass) and Sami Yli-Sirniö (guitars) have delivered with this impressive new record.

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Photo: Robert Eikelpoth

I liked ‘Gods of Violence’ on a first spin. I liked it more on the second spin. And now, a week or two into my listening experience, I am loving it and I can’t stop playing it. I love the guitar tones that deliver the sharp, incisive riffs; they sound rich and full, offering the kind of primeval tone that I fell in love with all those years ago and made me realise that forevermore I’d be a slave to heavy metal.

The rhythm section is a genuine powerhouse too. From more groovy, stomping rhythms to all-out speed, Giesler and Reil lay down the impressively strong foundations, sucking you in for frequent head-banging sessions at the same time.

And then, as with all good thrash metal, the vocals are properly venomous. Petrozza is an angry man and this comes across in his snarling, spiteful diatribes. Inspired by recent world events, in particular the recent Paris terror attacks, Petrozza takes this opportunity to look at the effect of religion in the world and the way in which it can be used as a catalyst for many of the world’s ills. It isn’t a concept album per se, but the themes explored have a definite thread running through them and help to contextualise the confrontational album title and the dark, malevolent album art.

To give but one example of the lyrics in action, I’d have to go with ‘Totalitarian Terror’. The title gives a good clue of the content, but the line ‘we’re not afraid to live, we’re not afraid to die; we are the antidote, to the radicalised’ is a bold and unabashed cry of defiance against terrorists of all denominations.

On to the music itself and, according to the accompanying press release, Kreator received a bit of help and guidance from the chaps in Fleshgod Apocalypse to make the album sound more cinematic and symphonic in places. The assistance has worked, with the results immediately obvious within the opening instrumental introduction, ‘Apocalypticon’. I’m not normally a fan of these brief intros but here, it’s a minute well-spent, setting a theatrically grandiose yet dark tone.

The orchestration makes a return within a few songs throughout the album, but it never gets in the way of the core sound; it is a welcome embellishment that adds another layer to the music without ever diluting the power or the intensity.

Instead, to prove the point, the first song proper, ‘World War Now’, is a four-and-a-half-minute distillation of what Kreator and ‘Gods of Violence’ is all about. It wastes no time in getting started with an up-tempo beat and fast, incisive riffing. The barely-controlled fury of the chorus then takes things up a notch as it sounds tumultuous and full of aggression. And then it all gives way to a section that is pure melody and irresistible groove, culminating in a return to faster climes, an exuberant guitar solo and a blast-beat dominated repeat of the furious chorus.

The pace is slowed somewhat for ‘Satan Is Real’, a track that still offers blast beats and some great bass work but is much more of a stomper, a groove-laden anthem that will no doubt be a live favourite thanks to its fist-pumping, infectious chorus.

The aforementioned ‘Totalitarian Terror’ is a perfect favourite as it blends some of the fastest, most abrasive thrash metal aggression with a hook-laden sing-along battle cry chorus that has really got under my skin. The track also features a groovy mid-section breakdown and killer guitar solo, meaning that it should sate even the most demanding of metal thirsts.

The title track begins with an early Metallica-esque acoustic guitar intro, sprinkled with Middle Eastern flavour before reaffirming their thrash credentials within this hectic, no nonsense track that also begins to introduce a slight ‘New Wave of British Heavy Metal’ feel by virtue of the more melodious lead guitar lines.

The NWOBHM ingredient is yet more pronounced within both ‘Army Of Storms’ and closer ‘Death Becomes My Light’. I absolutely love the chorus of giant proportions within ‘Army Of Storms’ which transforms the song into an exhilarating aural experience. And then, just after the half-way point, in come the guitar harmonies and galloping bass that recall classic era Iron Maiden at their best.

In contrast, ‘Death Becomes My Light’ is a slightly longer, more sprawling number that sees Kreator toying with a slightly different approach. Cleaner singing takes the early spotlight atop a quiet intro before a properly galloping rhythm takes over. The chorus is strong and I simply can’t get enough of the Kreator recipe of offering big hooks and melodies atop a thunderous blast beat. It just works and it works brilliantly. Easily the most accessible and melodic track on ‘Gods of Violence’, there is even time for a more bluesy, soulful guitar solo and epic-sounding outro, ensuring that it sees the record out in real style.

I’m not entirely sure that there are any weak tracks on this record. From start to finish, I am kept engaged and delighted by what I hear. And as rich as it might sound coming from me given my previous history with Kreator, but if you don’t find ‘Gods of Violence’ to your liking in some shape or form, it might be time to question whether you actually like heavy metal at all. I’m off to explore an extensive back catalogue right now.

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

Borealis – World of Silence MMXVII
Pain of Salvation – In The Passing Light of Day

My most anticipated releases of 2017 – Part 6

Welcome to what I confidently predict will be the final part in this ever-expanding series where I look at those albums which will, should or might be released during 2017. I’ve already offered 25 releases that I’d be delighted to hear but the music keeps on coming to prove that heavy music is very much alive and well.

If you’ve missed the previous instalments of this series, here are the links:

My most anticipated releases of 2017 – Part 1
My most anticipated releases of 2017 – Part 2
My most anticipated releases of 2017 – Part 3
My most anticipated releases of 2017 – Part 4
My most anticipated releases of 2017 – Part 5

And now onto the main event…

Caligula’s Horse – TBC
Release date: TBC

This is a band that completely blew me away with their incredible album ‘Bloom’ a couple of years ago. It was a sensational slab of modern progressive metal with one foot firmly embedded in the classic era of prog. It was just amazing.

Needless to say that I can’t wait for a new album from the talented Australians. The bad news is that a 2017 follow-up has yet to be confirmed. The good news is that they have already road-tested new material and have received a huge response. The fact that the material in question is a 16 minute epic only helps to heighten my excitement further. I genuinely cannot wait for this album to come to fruition.

Distorted Harmony – TBC
Release date: TBC

Whilst we are on the subject of being blown away by music, you can add Distorted Harmony to the list. Their ‘Chain Reaction’ album that was released in 2014 was light years ahead of their previous offerings. Gone were the clear Dream Theater comparisons and in came a much more exciting, urgent, magical style of progressive metal. Genuinely heavy and genuinely progressive, it was also extremely subtle and immensely beautiful. Strong melodies, groove, light and shade; this album was a true journey and one that I found myself wanting to take on a frighteningly frequent basis. I still do if truth be told. It goes without saying therefore that I literally can’t wait for a follow-up. Will it arrive in 2017? Well, it isn’t official yet but new material has been written. Fingers crossed…

My Dying Bride – TBC
Release date: TBC

A reason to be gloomy for those, like me, who enjoy such things would definitely be a new My Dying Bride album in 2017. In the latter stages of 2016, the band confirmed that they would concentrate on writing for a new album, although a ballpark release date wasn’t mentioned. So it might be 2017 or, equally likely, 2018. Being a firm favourite with me though, I couldn’t let the opportunity pass by without mentioning one of the finest purveyors or solemn and miserable doom metal on the planet. Watch this space…

Immortal – TBC
Release date: TBC

I can confirm that a new album from Immortal will definitely be released in 2017, at least that’s the case according to the band on their official website. I’ve never been the biggest fan of Immortal but there’s no denying that over the years they have produced some suitably grim and powerful music to counteract their preposterously over-the-top image.

It will be even more interesting this time around because it will be the first album since the departure of Abbath, he of the million memes. Now that Immortal is just Demonaz and Horgh, I am sure that I won’t be the only one who is intrigued to find out how Immortal 2017 sounds. Recording is due to take place very soon in the Abyss Studio with Peter Tagtgren, so we won’t have too much longer to wait to find out.

Shadow Gallery – TBC
Release date: TBC

What I wouldn’t give for a new Shadow Gallery record. This progressive metal band is one of my all-time favourite bands and everything they have released has the word ‘masterful’ rightly attached to it. Never the most prolific of bands in the first place, the death of lead vocalist Mike Baker and the recent personal tribulations of Gary Wehrkamp mean that they have slowed their output ever further. This is the most unlikely release in the entire series, but I live in eternal hope.

Pagan’s Mind – TBC
Release date: TBC

According to a post from the band themselves on New Years Eve, new music from Norwegian melodic prog metal band Pagan’s Mind is a possibility for 2017. I quote: ‘We know we have said this a million times already but we genuinely hope to have new music for you in 2017, but please know we can’t give any guarantees’. It is non-committal but it is a step in the right direction and means that we could hear some new music from one of the best exponents of melodic progressive-tinged heavy metal. I’ve loved everything from ‘Celestial Entrance’ and whilst they have toned down their progressive edge over the years, their music remains of the very highest quality.

Pallbearer – Heartless
Release date: 24 March 2017

I wasn’t going to mention this band in this list to begin with. I really did enjoy their previous album ‘Foundations of Burden’, which was a big surprise to me given that I’m not the greatest doom fan. However, whilst undertaking my research for this series, I came upon a quote about the upcoming album, suggesting it ‘weaves together the spacious exploratory elements of classic prog, the raw anthemics of 90’s alt-rock, and stretches of black-lit proto-metal’. Well blimey, I wasn’t necessarily expecting a description like this and I consider my interest to be thoroughly piqued.

It may be a huge let-down or it might, more likely, be a huge success that sees the Pallbearer name become ever more successful. Either way, I’m up for hearing a slice of this.