Tim Bowness – Butterfly Mind – Album Review

Artist: Tim Bowness

Album Title: Butterfly Mind

Label: InsideOut Music

Date of Release: 17 June 2022

Cards on the table, I know nothing of the band No-Man and up until I was presented with the opportunity to listen to this record in advance of its release, I’d never clapped ears on any of Tim Bowness’ previous solo material either. You could say then that I’m a true novice, something that will either work in my favour or against me. What you can guarantee though, is that I come to this review with literally no expectations or prior knowledge, as well as a viewpoint that’s unencumbered by any outside influences. Not for the first time, I’m a blank slate.

It’s probably an unnecessary exercise for many but for those who, like me, are less familiar with the work of Tim Bowness, it is worth mentioning that he is joined by a stellar cast of musicians on ‘Butterfly Mind’. Joining the vocalist and multi-instrumentalist throughout this record are Nick Beggs (bass, chapman stick), Brian Hulse (guitars, keyboards, programming), and drummer Richard Jupp. And then there is a whole host of guests that add their talents to a song or two. The list runs into double figures but most eye catching for me are Big Big Train’s Greg Spawton (bass pedals) and Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson (flute).

My desire to listen to anything and everything this year in particular has paid off numerous times so far, but it can’t always be a successful approach – the law of averages alone will dictate that some of my exploration will result in a dead end, or with an artist failing to ignite the fires within me. Sadly, this is one of them. So why continue with my review? Because I have spent a lot of time listening to ‘Butterfly Mind’ and so I feel I can put together a cogent set of reasons why I don’t personally get hit square in the feels by Tim Bowness’ latest creation, rather than simply dismissing it. It may be that my reasons for failing to connect are the exact reasons why someone else will love it or give it a listen when maybe they otherwise wouldn’t.

After all, an album can be very good and still not be someone’s cup of tea. And ‘Butterfly Mind’ is absolutely a very good album that is full of great material. I’m not deaf to this, and I’d certainly not decry otherwise. But at the end of the day, after careful listening and consideration it’s just not for me. But why?

My normal musical preference is at the heavier end of the spectrum, of that there is no secret. However, I enjoy my fair share of music that’s quieter, more relaxed, or of a different genre entirely. The fact that I adore bands like Big Big Train, Toto, Fleetwood Mac, White Moth Black Butterfly, and any number of gentler prog rock acts go some way to demonstrate this. Therefore, there’s every chance that I’d like this offering from Tim Bowness.

The key factor in my enjoyment of this music is the melodic sensibilities contained within. And that’s the first issue I have personally with ‘Butterfly Mind’. It is a very melodic, warm, and inviting album that sounds a million dollars in terms of the production that envelops the listener like a faithful favourite blanket. But the melodies that feature within the album rarely get me excited or send a tingle down my spine. I nod appreciatively occasionally, but that’s about it.

As a result, I don’t have that emotional connection with the music that others will have. If the melodies don’t resonate strongly with me, I find the listening experience to be a perfunctory one, rather than a truly emotional one. That’s what I find here. It’s a sorrowful sounding album, but without the hooks and melodies to really tug at my heartstrings.

Songs like ‘It’s Easier To Love’ will be massive hits for many, but for me, this track is one that’s a bridge too far. The abundant saxophone is always going to be a problem for me given my prejudices towards the instrument, but regardless, the song is too whimsical, smooth, and bland for my tastes. If it had a killer hook within it, I might think differently, but it doesn’t, and I’m not too displeased when it ends.

The pulsing bass lines within follow up ‘We Feel’ as well as the increased energy injected by some nice guitar tones, embellishments, and sparingly used riffs rouses me a little from my near comatose state. It is one of the more immediate songs on the album, alongside ‘Always The Stranger’, which is a lively and vibrant affair albeit too short and sweet. It features some nice melodic touches that I latch on to, whilst I like the breathy, almost whispered vocals at points.

The vocals of Bowness himself are both a help and a hindrance to my enjoyment. At times, his delivery feels really unique and interesting, whilst at others, I’m less keen on his voice. It’s odd because I’ve rarely had this experience – I either like or dislike a voice outright.

‘Lost Player’ could be an even better track than it is, but it just fails to do anything particularly special or irresistible despite threatening to do so before fizzling out to nothing rather disappointingly. Then there’s ‘Only A Fool’ which is just plain odd, which could be a positive attribute were it not for some of the electronic sounds which I find a little overbearing and jarring. It’s a similar appraisal for ‘Glitter Fades’ which features an electronic beat to accompany the organic drums. It’s here that I find Bowness’ vocals most hard to enjoy, but I fully appreciate that this is me rather than his delivery which will no doubt hit the mark for his loyal fans and fans of this kind of music in particular. And it is a nice song, especially with the onset of some gentle orchestration in the latter stages; it’s just not a composition that I can warm to, as hard as I try.

I really do hope that I have been fair and transparent with this review, and I have given an insight into why I am not as enamoured as many others will be by this record. As I have said many times, almost ad nauseum, ‘Butterfly Mind’ is not a bad album, far from it. Indeed, I wish I liked it more than I do. But I don’t, and that’s a genuine shame because I came to this with genuine interest and an open mind ready to be impressed, to announce to me in glorious technicolour what I’ve been missing over the years. Ultimately, it wasn’t to be, but don’t be put off by my thoughts on this – if you think that this might be something you’ll enjoy, check it out. And if you do, I honestly hope you will have a more positive experience than I’ve had.

The Score of Much Metal: 70%

Check out my other 2022 reviews here:

Denouncement Pyre – Forever Burning

Truent – Through The Vale Of Earthly Torment

Wind Rose – Warfront

Kardashev – Liminal Rite

Artificial Brain -Artificial Brain

Seventh Wonder – The Testament

All Things Fallen – Shadow Way

Def Leppard – Diamond Star Halos

Lord Belial – Rapture

Buried Realm – Buried Realm

Stiriah – …Of Light

Remains Of Destruction – New Dawn

Crematory – Inglorious Darkness

IATT – Magnum Opus

Iris Divine – Mercurial

Decapitated – Cancer Culture

Bekmørk – The Path Nocturnal

Septic Flesh – Modern Primitive

Blut Aus Nord – Disharmonium – Undreamable Abysses

Drift Into Black – Earthtorn

Spheric Universe Experience – Back Home

Outshine – The Awakening

Cosmic Putrefaction – Crepuscular Dirge For The Blessed Ones

Zero Hour – Agenda 21

Scitalis – Doomed Before Time

Morgue Supplier – Inevitability

Visions Of Atlantis – Pirates

Evergrey – A Heartless Portrait (The Orphean Testament)

OU – One

Haunter – Discarnate Ails

Aara – Triade II: Hemera

Pure Reason Revolution – Above Cirrus

Demonical – Mass Destroyer

I Am The Night – While The Gods Are Sleeping

Haunted By Silhouettes – No Man Isle

Delvoid – Swarmlife

LionSoul – A Pledge To Darkness

Watain – The Agony And Ecstasy Of Watain

Dischordia – Triptych

Dragonbreed – Necrohedron

Audrey Horne – Devil’s Bell

Vanum – Legend

Stone Broken – Revelation

Radiant – Written By Life

Skull Fist – Paid In Full

Hurakan – Via Aeturna

Incandescence – Le Coeur De L’Homme

Imminent Sonic Destruction – The Sun Will Always Set

Monuments – In Stasis

Soledad – XIII

Viande – L’abime dévore les âmes

Credic – Vermillion Oceans

Postcards From New Zealand – Burn, Witch, Burn

Darkher – The Buried Storm

Treat – The Endgame

Bjørn Riis – Everything To Everyone

Destruction – Diabolical

Et Moriemur – Tamashii No Yama

Angel Nation – Antares

Wolf – Shadowland

Denali – Denali EP

Centinex – The Pestilence EP

Meshuggah – Immutable

Chapter Of Hate – Bloodsoaked Decadence EP

Ancient Settlers – Our Last Eclipse

Tranzat – Ouh La La

Playgrounded – The Death Of Death

Father Befouled – Crowned In Veneficum

Abbath – Dread Reaver

PreHistoric Animals – The Magical Mystery Machine (Chapter 2)

Kvaen – The Great Below

Michael Romeo – War Of The Worlds, Part 2

Dark Funeral – We Are The Apocalypse

Carmeria – Advenae

Agathodaimon – The Seven

Moonlight Haze – Animus

Hellbore – Panopticon

Konvent – Call Down The Sun

Idol Of Fear – Trespasser

The Midgard Project – The Great Divide

Threads Of Fate – The Cold Embrace Of The Light

Arkaik – Labyrinth Of Hungry Ghosts

New Horizon – Gate Of The Gods

Cailleach Calling – Dreams Of Fragmentation

Tundra – A Darkening Sky

Sylvaine – Nova

Hath – All That Was Promised

Sabaton – The War To End All Wars

Kuolemanlaakso – Kuusumu

Oh Hiroshima – Myriad

Godless Truth – Godless Truth

Shape Of Despair – Return To The Void

Eight Bells – Legacy Of Ruin

Embryonic Devourment – Heresy Of The Highest Order

Serious Black – Vengeance Is Mine

Allegaeon – Damnum

HammerFall – Hammer Of Dawn

Immolation – Acts Of God

Veonity – Elements Of Power

Nightrage – Abyss Rising

Arjen Anthony Lucassen’s Star One – Revel In Time

Pure Wrath – Hymn To The Woeful Hearts

Dagoba – By Night

The Last Of Lucy – Moksha

Arð – Take Up My Bones

Embryonic Autopsy – Prophecies Of The Conjoined

The Devils Of Loudun – Escaping Eternity

Cult Of Luna – The Long Road North

WAIT – The End Of Noise

Abysmal Dawn – Nightmare Frontier

Amorphis – Halo

Nordic Giants – Sybiosis

Persefone – Metanoia

Vorga – Striving Toward Oblivion

Mystic Circle – Mystic Circle

Nasson – Scars

Burned In Effigy – Rex Mortem

Silent Skies – Nectar

Celeste – Assassine(s)

Abyssus – Death Revival

SOM – The Shape Of Everything

Ashes Of Ares – Emperors And Fools

Beriedir – AQVA

Lalu – Paint The Sky

Nocturna – Daughters Of The Night

Battle Beast – Circus Of Doom

Lee McKinney – In The Light Of Knowledge

Descent – Order Of Chaos

Aethereus – Leiden

Toundra – Hex

Ilium – Quantum Evolution Event EP

Power Paladin – With The Magic Of Windfyre Steel

Necrophagous – In Chaos Ascend

Infected Rain – Ecdysis

Wilderun – Epigone

You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here:

2021 reviews

2020 reviews

2019 reviews
2018 reviews
2017 reviews
2016 reviews
2015 reviews

Iris Divine – Mercurial – Album Review

Artist: Iris Divine

Album Title: Mercurial

Label: Layered Reality Productions

Date of Release: 20 May 2022

I’m a little late to the party with this record, but I have my reasons. The album in question is ‘Mercurial’, the third full-length album from Virginia-based US progressive metal band and one of the main reasons I’m lagging behind is because the trio never make it easy for me. I’m in no way suggesting that they should make their music easy for reviewers, but every one of Iris Divine’s records that I have reviewed have been tricky to write. Yet again with ‘Mercurial’, I have had to take some serious time to get my thoughts in order and decide what I really think about this record. But I believe I’m finally there, and happy to commit my opinion to writing.

Comprised of the core trio of Navid Rashid (vocals, guitar, programming), Brian Dobbs (bass), and nw drummer Scott Manley, Iris Divine have chosen to explore the subject of human emotions on ‘Mercurial’, delving into quite deep ideas such as how our emotions may limit our perceptions, or change our individual or collective outlook on life. It’s definitely an album to get you thinking, so if you relish lyrics and subject matter that go beyond the basic, then ‘Mercurial’ immediately puts a tick in the box.

What’s so great about this album, is the way I which the music echoes the intelligence of the subject matter. I can now say this with some confidence having been a little on the fence early on in this listening journey. In my defence, I’ve never been the biggest fan of alternative rock and grunge, so when these genres present a significant element to Iris Divine’s music, it takes a bit of getting used to, and I needed some time to warm to it all. But then, with compositions that are equally as influenced by the likes of Rush and Kings X, alongside a flavour all of their own, it was probably only a matter of time before the prog lover in me started to feel the pull of the music and erase any doubts I had at the outset.

In fact, as I sit here now typing this review, I’m not entirely sure how I didn’t enjoy it as much to begin with. There is so much going on within the music that it feels like it should be longer than 39 minutes; the three musicians certainly like to cover a lot of ground within their compositions as the eight tracks here ably demonstrate.

Perhaps the initial reticence was caused by the first song here, ‘Bitter Bride’, because of them all, it is arguably one of the spikiest and confrontational songs I’ve heard from Iris Divine. Kicking off with a jangly sounding riff, powerful rhythms and soundbites of spoken word, it’s something of an intense opening, verging on a cacophonous wall of competing sounds. When it settles into its true rhythm, it becomes much more of a driving, up-tempo piece that introduces a grower of a melody or two in combination with Rashid’s first vocal lines. That said, the clashing sounds return alongside some caustic vocals at points to keep the listener on their toes, and under no illusion that the trio are angry and in confrontational mood. With time though, the energy of the song, as well as the great musicianship overtake all else to ultimately win me over. It will never be my favourite track on ‘Mercurial’, but it’s a grower that I now enjoy.

It doesn’t help either when the opening moments of follow-up track, ‘Silver Tongued Lie’ feature brass embellishments in the form of what I believe are trumpets, giving the song an immediate ska edge. Urgh. However, all is forgiven when I’m hit first with some muscular riffs, and then with some irresistible hooks and melodies within the song’s stunning chorus. I cannot get enough of it, it’s that good, and it acted as the catalyst to force the necessary repeat plays to get to this point. I owe it a debt of gratitude for sure.

The full force of Iris Divine’s progressive tendencies emerge in spades within ‘Thirteen’, a longer track that uses its time wisely to explore a number of different soundscapes within what feels like a darker, more brooding cloak overall. The funky bass playing, incisive but meaty riffs, and dextrous drumming within the extended mid-song instrumental passages all underline the technical credentials of the musicians, whilst the inclusion of numerous shifts in tempo, and bold keys add depth, drama, and intrigue to the song. It’s another composition that has grown on me to the point that I now really like it, and look forward to when it arrives in the running order.

Two songs that were much more instantaneous appear in the form of ‘Sapphire’ and ‘Death By Consensus’ respectively. The former skips along with a really upbeat swagger that’s infectious, as are the melodies that weave in and out of the track. The vocal effects are interesting too, as are the subtle ethnic melodies in the latter stages, both of which add further ingredients to the mix.

‘Death By Consensus’ is an instrumental track, but it’s full of energy from the very first note, seemingly unwilling to pause for breath. Happily though, this is an instrumental that grabs the attention of the listener pretty swiftly thanks to the electric performances from all three members. There are plenty of complex ideas swirling around, but at it’s heart is a slightly more simplistic melodic hard rock vibe that veers into AOR territory thanks to some delicious, warm melodies that put a smile on my face every time I listen. Of course, there are moments of gratuitous soloing by bass, drums, and guitar alike, as well as the odd foray into discordant jazz territory, but it’s never overdone, and it doesn’t get in the way of the song’s overall vibe.

The alternative rock/metal influences come to the fore with gusto within ‘Negative Seed’, albeit tempered by overt proggy vibes that are liberally sewn throughout the song. However, the angry spoken lyrics and attitude of the track nearly put me off until the bruising, groovy melodies thundered through the speakers in the second half of the song, pulling me round to their way of thinking yet again.

And that’s the story with the entirety of ‘Mercurial’ too, because, despite some early misgivings about the strength of the alternative and grungy elements, I have been won over. And not just a little bit – I’ve been won over comprehensively. There’s clearly a hugely positive chemistry within the band that shines through a lot of the material and, when coupled with the intelligent song writing, there is an awful lot to enjoy on this record. If you were a fan before, you’ll not be disappointed. And if you weren’t a fan previously, but you like high quality progressive music that’s just a little bit different, I urge you to put this high up on your list to check out. I’m not a betting man, but if I was, I’d be laying down good money that Iris Divine will be gathering a glut of new fans with ‘Mercurial’, and rightly so.

The Score of Much Metal: 90%

Check out my other 2022 reviews here:

Decapitated – Cancer Culture

Bekmørk – The Path Nocturnal

Septic Flesh – Modern Primitive

Blut Aus Nord – Disharmonium – Undreamable Abysses

Drift Into Black – Earthtorn

Spheric Universe Experience – Back Home

Outshine – The Awakening

Cosmic Putrefaction – Crepuscular Dirge For The Blessed Ones

Zero Hour – Agenda 21

Scitalis – Doomed Before Time

Morgue Supplier – Inevitability

Visions Of Atlantis – Pirates

Evergrey – A Heartless Portrait (The Orphean Testament)

OU – One

Haunter – Discarnate Ails

Aara – Triade II: Hemera

Pure Reason Revolution – Above Cirrus

Demonical – Mass Destroyer

I Am The Night – While The Gods Are Sleeping

Haunted By Silhouettes – No Man Isle

Delvoid – Swarmlife

LionSoul – A Pledge To Darkness

Watain – The Agony And Ecstasy Of Watain

Dischordia – Triptych

Dragonbreed – Necrohedron

Audrey Horne – Devil’s Bell

Vanum – Legend

Stone Broken – Revelation

Radiant – Written By Life

Skull Fist – Paid In Full

Hurakan – Via Aeturna

Incandescence – Le Coeur De L’Homme

Imminent Sonic Destruction – The Sun Will Always Set

Monuments – In Stasis

Soledad – XIII

Viande – L’abime dévore les âmes

Credic – Vermillion Oceans

Postcards From New Zealand – Burn, Witch, Burn

Darkher – The Buried Storm

Treat – The Endgame

Bjørn Riis – Everything To Everyone

Destruction – Diabolical

Et Moriemur – Tamashii No Yama

Angel Nation – Antares

Wolf – Shadowland

Denali – Denali EP

Centinex – The Pestilence EP

Meshuggah – Immutable

Chapter Of Hate – Bloodsoaked Decadence EP

Ancient Settlers – Our Last Eclipse

Tranzat – Ouh La La

Playgrounded – The Death Of Death

Father Befouled – Crowned In Veneficum

Abbath – Dread Reaver

PreHistoric Animals – The Magical Mystery Machine (Chapter 2)

Kvaen – The Great Below

Michael Romeo – War Of The Worlds, Part 2

Dark Funeral – We Are The Apocalypse

Carmeria – Advenae

Agathodaimon – The Seven

Moonlight Haze – Animus

Hellbore – Panopticon

Konvent – Call Down The Sun

Idol Of Fear – Trespasser

The Midgard Project – The Great Divide

Threads Of Fate – The Cold Embrace Of The Light

Arkaik – Labyrinth Of Hungry Ghosts

New Horizon – Gate Of The Gods

Cailleach Calling – Dreams Of Fragmentation

Tundra – A Darkening Sky

Sylvaine – Nova

Hath – All That Was Promised

Sabaton – The War To End All Wars

Kuolemanlaakso – Kuusumu

Oh Hiroshima – Myriad

Godless Truth – Godless Truth

Shape Of Despair – Return To The Void

Eight Bells – Legacy Of Ruin

Embryonic Devourment – Heresy Of The Highest Order

Serious Black – Vengeance Is Mine

Allegaeon – Damnum

HammerFall – Hammer Of Dawn

Immolation – Acts Of God

Veonity – Elements Of Power

Nightrage – Abyss Rising

Arjen Anthony Lucassen’s Star One – Revel In Time

Pure Wrath – Hymn To The Woeful Hearts

Dagoba – By Night

The Last Of Lucy – Moksha

Arð – Take Up My Bones

Embryonic Autopsy – Prophecies Of The Conjoined

The Devils Of Loudun – Escaping Eternity

Cult Of Luna – The Long Road North

WAIT – The End Of Noise

Abysmal Dawn – Nightmare Frontier

Amorphis – Halo

Nordic Giants – Sybiosis

Persefone – Metanoia

Vorga – Striving Toward Oblivion

Mystic Circle – Mystic Circle

Nasson – Scars

Burned In Effigy – Rex Mortem

Silent Skies – Nectar

Celeste – Assassine(s)

Abyssus – Death Revival

SOM – The Shape Of Everything

Ashes Of Ares – Emperors And Fools

Beriedir – AQVA

Lalu – Paint The Sky

Nocturna – Daughters Of The Night

Battle Beast – Circus Of Doom

Lee McKinney – In The Light Of Knowledge

Descent – Order Of Chaos

Aethereus – Leiden

Toundra – Hex

Ilium – Quantum Evolution Event EP

Power Paladin – With The Magic Of Windfyre Steel

Necrophagous – In Chaos Ascend

Infected Rain – Ecdysis

Wilderun – Epigone

You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here:

2021 reviews

2020 reviews

2019 reviews
2018 reviews
2017 reviews
2016 reviews
2015 reviews

Pure Reason Revolution – Above Cirrus – Album Review

Artist: Pure Reason Revolution

Album Title: Above Cirrus

Label: InsideOut Music

Date of Release: 6 May 2022

The last album by Pure Reason Revolution was the first that I encountered, having missed out on their early career. And, despite not necessarily being the archetypal kind of music that I’d normally gravitate towards, it is fair to say that ‘Eupnea’ made a positive impression upon me. Of it, I wrote:

“And there you have it. Consider me a convert to the Pure Reason Revolution cause. ‘Eupnea’ is an intelligent blend of electronica, progressive rock that is made all the stronger due to some beguiling melodic sensitivity. I like the music more with every listen and I’m now very excited to delve into the band’s past at the earliest opportunity.”

Almost exactly two years later, Pure Reason Revolution have returned with ‘Above Cirrus’ and this time, the core duo of Jon Courtney (guitar, vocals, keys) and Chloe Alper (bass, vocals, keys) have brought with them a new full-time member to extend the band to a trio. I say ‘new’, but the new addition will be a familiar name to long-term fans, as it’s guitarist/vocalist Greg Jong who features as a full member for the first time since the 2005 EP, ‘Cautionary Tales For The Brave’.

Having spent some considerably time digesting ‘Above Cirrus’, it’s almost a cut and paste job from the quote above in many ways. Once again, Pure Reason Revolution have created a record that, on paper, I shouldn’t really take to, too heavily, but they have won me over. And the success of this new album is the combination of fascinating, deep lyrical content, emotion, the variation of styles, powerful melodies, and strong songwriting that means it all comes together in a really enjoyable package. It’s a bit of a grower too, with several songs suddenly, out of nowhere, finding their way into my brain to be hummed or sung when least expected.

Returning to the lyrics for a moment, and once again, the words are inspired by Courtney’s personal thoughts and journeys, with an overall message routed in optimism. ‘Above Cirrus’ isn’t a concept album though, as each song stands on its own, but with a central idea that ‘through the turbulence, we’ll help each other through the darkness.’ I find this to be an appealing central thread, which only serves to add greater strength and poignancy to the music. Even the cover art, which might seem sad on face value, is an extension of the lyrical content, in that the polar bear is suffering, but is adapting, surviving, and in so doing, offers hope.

Moving on to the music itself, and the electronic nature of the Pure Reason Revolution sound is exposed from the very beginning, with a gentle beat sitting beneath a spoken-word sample. From there, a powerful, almost tribal drumbeat kicks in to move the song forward forcefully, before an equally abrasive riff emerges. There’s a strong energy to the song that’s infectious, and even though I’m not totally sold on the heavily effect-laden vocals at points, the mix of layered male and female vocals really shines. It’s a short, sharp track to open the album, but it contains a melodic intent to ensure it’s as memorable as it is striking.

The contrast between the opener and ‘New Kind Of Evil’ is pronounced, as this song begins much more delicately and sedately, with a much greater emphasis on melody from the outset. That said, you can feel the increase in intensity that’s lurking just below the surface, wanting to break loose. The sense of drama that this creates is excellent, as is the central chorus melody which is one of those big earworm affairs. I also love the precise, yet smooth ebb and flow which leads to a bold release just shy of the half-way mark yet recedes just as quickly into calmer waters. The addition of tinkling piano notes is a very welcome addition, nicely juxtaposing the more overt electronic sounds that appear later in the track, as it ends on an authoritative note.

‘Phantoms’, another shorter composition, is arguably my least favourite on the album, but I do like the more pronounced electronics that feature alongside more male/female duetted vocals. It’s then superseded by one of the very best songs on ‘Above Cirrus’, that of ‘Cruel Deliverance’. It’s a slower, more introspective piece, but it contains the most gorgeous of melodies, the one more than any other that I find myself singing in my head at three in the morning, or whilst out with the dog on the park. Ironically, for one with the moniker of ‘The Man Of Much Metal’, this is also the most mainstream sounding, and least ‘heavy’ of all of the seven compositions on the record. But a great melody is a great melody, and it’s this that speaks to me above everything else. Mind you, the mid-song minimalist, cinematic section is inspired too.

At a touch over ten minutes, ‘Scream Sideways’ is the longest single composition, but it uses the time wisely, exploring a myriad of textures and soundscapes, from gentle, ethereal minimalism to driving prog rock, and from bold, experimental electronic vistas to spiky, aggressive post rock walls of sound. Once again though, despite the variations on offer, the song writing is such that the whole thing feels homogenous, tied together by some subtle melodies along the way.

And to close, we have ‘Lucid’ that is a beguiling track, full of great musicianship, from all members of the band, not to mention further memorable melodic intent. Even the brief inclusion of a saxophone barely dulls my enjoyment of the song, a song that once again shows the expertise in building drama and tension through passages of light and shade, of quiet contemplation, and all-out explosions of near-metallic strength.

On balance, as much as I enjoyed ‘Eupnea’, I can only conclude that I find myself enjoying ‘Above Cirrus’ even more. I’m not sure I can put my finger on quite why, but once the dust has settled and I am able to observe things from a distance, I get the feeling that it will ultimately come down to the strength and potency of the melodies. ‘Above Cirrus’ continues where ‘Eupnea’ left off, but also ups the ante and, in so doing, provides forty-five minutes of genuine musical pleasure. I heartily recommend ‘Above Cirrus’ to anyone with a liking for intelligent, melodic, electronic-infused progressive rock.

The Score of Much Metal: 89%

Check out my other 2022 reviews here:

Demonical – Mass Destroyer

I Am The Night – While The Gods Are Sleeping

Haunted By Silhouettes – No Man Isle

Delvoid – Swarmlife

LionSoul – A Pledge To Darkness

Watain – The Agony And Ecstasy Of Watain

Dischordia – Triptych

Dragonbreed – Necrohedron

Audrey Horne – Devil’s Bell

Vanum – Legend

Stone Broken – Revelation

Radiant – Written By Life

Skull Fist – Paid In Full

Hurakan – Via Aeturna

Incandescence – Le Coeur De L’Homme

Imminent Sonic Destruction – The Sun Will Always Set

Monuments – In Stasis

Soledad – XIII

Viande – L’abime dévore les âmes

Credic – Vermillion Oceans

Postcards From New Zealand – Burn, Witch, Burn

Darkher – The Buried Storm

Treat – The Endgame

Bjørn Riis – Everything To Everyone

Destruction – Diabolical

Et Moriemur – Tamashii No Yama

Angel Nation – Antares

Wolf – Shadowland

Denali – Denali EP

Centinex – The Pestilence EP

Meshuggah – Immutable

Chapter Of Hate – Bloodsoaked Decadence EP

Ancient Settlers – Our Last Eclipse

Tranzat – Ouh La La

Playgrounded – The Death Of Death

Father Befouled – Crowned In Veneficum

Abbath – Dread Reaver

PreHistoric Animals – The Magical Mystery Machine (Chapter 2)

Kvaen – The Great Below

Michael Romeo – War Of The Worlds, Part 2

Dark Funeral – We Are The Apocalypse

Carmeria – Advenae

Agathodaimon – The Seven

Moonlight Haze – Animus

Hellbore – Panopticon

Konvent – Call Down The Sun

Idol Of Fear – Trespasser

The Midgard Project – The Great Divide

Threads Of Fate – The Cold Embrace Of The Light

Arkaik – Labyrinth Of Hungry Ghosts

New Horizon – Gate Of The Gods

Cailleach Calling – Dreams Of Fragmentation

Tundra – A Darkening Sky

Sylvaine – Nova

Hath – All That Was Promised

Sabaton – The War To End All Wars

Kuolemanlaakso – Kuusumu

Oh Hiroshima – Myriad

Godless Truth – Godless Truth

Shape Of Despair – Return To The Void

Eight Bells – Legacy Of Ruin

Embryonic Devourment – Heresy Of The Highest Order

Serious Black – Vengeance Is Mine

Allegaeon – Damnum

HammerFall – Hammer Of Dawn

Immolation – Acts Of God

Veonity – Elements Of Power

Nightrage – Abyss Rising

Arjen Anthony Lucassen’s Star One – Revel In Time

Pure Wrath – Hymn To The Woeful Hearts

Dagoba – By Night

The Last Of Lucy – Moksha

Arð – Take Up My Bones

Embryonic Autopsy – Prophecies Of The Conjoined

The Devils Of Loudun – Escaping Eternity

Cult Of Luna – The Long Road North

WAIT – The End Of Noise

Abysmal Dawn – Nightmare Frontier

Amorphis – Halo

Nordic Giants – Sybiosis

Persefone – Metanoia

Vorga – Striving Toward Oblivion

Mystic Circle – Mystic Circle

Nasson – Scars

Burned In Effigy – Rex Mortem

Silent Skies – Nectar

Celeste – Assassine(s)

Abyssus – Death Revival

SOM – The Shape Of Everything

Ashes Of Ares – Emperors And Fools

Beriedir – AQVA

Lalu – Paint The Sky

Nocturna – Daughters Of The Night

Battle Beast – Circus Of Doom

Lee McKinney – In The Light Of Knowledge

Descent – Order Of Chaos

Aethereus – Leiden

Toundra – Hex

Ilium – Quantum Evolution Event EP

Power Paladin – With The Magic Of Windfyre Steel

Necrophagous – In Chaos Ascend

Infected Rain – Ecdysis

Wilderun – Epigone

You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here:

2021 reviews

2020 reviews

2019 reviews
2018 reviews
2017 reviews
2016 reviews
2015 reviews

Delvoid – Swarmlife – Album Review

Artist: Delvoid

Album Title: Swarmlife

Label: Banditt Media

Date of Release: 29 April 2022

Another new name to me, Delvoid are an interesting discovery, and one well worth bringing to your attention with a manofmuchmetal.com review. From the Norwegian capital, Oslo, or just outside, Delvoid have been in existence since 2008, and the quartet define themselves as alternative rock that “consists of noisy sound walls, vulnerable melodies, and mammoth-sized riffs.” They go on to say that they “…chase the same white whale as Tool and Sigur Ros, but add their own flavour of psychedelia and minimalism to the hunt.”

What is unusual is that I can definitely hear the references they make, but more so with Tool than Sigur Ros if I’m honest. The music does have plenty of quiet, subtle moments, but Sigur Ros are not the first name I think of when I’m listening to this record. Apparently, this third album is slightly different from previous efforts in that it dials up the psychedelia and the prog elements in favour of the more orchestral approach used previously and specifically with their last release, 2015’s ‘Serene’.

If I could use one word to describe ‘Swarmlife’ overall, it would have to be ‘frustrating’. Some of this record is sublime, whilst other parts don’t quite hit my sweet spot as forcefully. At nearly an hour in length, but comprised of just six tracks, this is an album where the band take their time to build up tension, allow the music to ebb and flow, and explore different sounds and textures along the way. But, it has to be said that some of the compositions are better than others for my tastes, leading to vast expanses of music that I wouldn’t necessarily skip, but which can have a tendency to drag a little as I await the parts of the record that I really like.

My slight disappointment is felt all the more keenly because ‘Swarmlife’ starts off so well. ‘Techtree’ is a ten-minute opening force of nature that shows what Delvoid are capable of when at their very best. Beginning slowly and tentatively, it takes a while for the song to build, but the tension is palpable, as you know something is awaiting just around the corner – or at least you hope it is. There’s a repetitive nature to the music as it gently increases the intensity, exploding after well after two minutes to reveal a lovely melodic guitar riff courtesy of Erik J. Halbakken and Alex M. Delver. In the blink of an eye, it is gone, replaced by vocals, bass, and drums, but when it returns after a period of excellently created introspection, it makes one hell of an impact; the melody is superb, the emotion equally so, as it tears at the heartstrings and sends shivers down my spine. Progressive this track certainly is, but there are big post-rock influences in the latter stages, where walls of guitar driven sound create a hugely impressive force against which it is hard not to succumb.

I’m less enamoured with the follow-up ‘Urras’, which is altogether less melodic, but much angrier, spikier, and caustic, led by the anguished screams and shouts of vocalist Alex M. Delver. Admittedly, after several spins, the understated catchiness of the music does start to make inroads, whilst the impressive musicianship becomes ever more evident, especially the drumming of Espen Th. Granseth, and the dancing bass of Magnus Andersen. And when Delver delivers his clean, melodious tones, he has an undeniably good voice.

I could cut and paste much of the previous paragraph for ‘Out Of Labour’. At over ten minutes, it covers a lot of ground musically, with much to admire, not least the conviction with which the lyrics are delivered and the top-drawer musicianship. But crucially, I don’t love it because, for me, there is a lack of killer melody within the composition, leading it to be the least effective track on the record as far as I am concerned.

Where Delvoid really shine for me, is when they explore their melodic sensibilities more keenly. ‘Collapsist’ is another lengthy track that ebbs and flows fluently, from heavy, clashing outbursts, to incredibly deft and gentle minimalism. Throughout the song though, the melodies are stronger, better defined, and therefore make a much bigger impression on me. That said, the real magic doesn’t appear until beyond the six-minute mark, when all pretence at heaviness is cast aside and the final three or four minutes are a poignant and stunning exercise in ambience and emotion. Remember those Sigur Ros references? Well, this is where they are heard and felt most strongly, complete with echoed, ethereal vocals that only add to the overall impact.

One of only two tracks under double figures, ‘Third Body’ provides flashes of brilliance within it. The melodies are a slow-burn affair, but in order to take the contrasts between light and shade that little step further than before, the band introduce some judiciously placed growls. It’s something I’d actually like to hear more of from Delvoid in future I must admit, as the growls are properly deep and menacing.

As it turns out, ‘Swarmlife’ is bookended by the best two tracks, with the magnificent ‘The Master’s House’ closing things out. At over thirteen minutes in length, it’s the longest of the six songs, but the delicate opening is gorgeous, and is allowed to take its time to slowly, carefully build, recede, and then unfurl through a wonderfully groovy riff. Not so much an explosion, as a robust increase in power and sonic authority. As is the Delvoid way, the ebb and flow to the song is great, creating some captivating textures along the way. In the second half of the song, some of the most stunning melodies emerge, to end the record on a genuinely warm, entertaining, and serene note, albeit a rather bittersweet one as the track unwinds into ambient territory, and slowly recedes to nothing.  

I feel, in retrospect that maybe the word ‘frustrating’ may have been a touch harsh on Delvoid and ‘Swarmlife’. When you stop and analyse it, there are so many positive attributes to this record, that to deride it based on one and a half songs that don’t hit the mark as strongly as the rest, seems unfair. So instead, what I will say is that ‘Swarmlife’ is a very commendable progressive, alternative rock/metal album that suggests to me that they have a big future ahead of them. More melody, more growls, but more of the same in terms of technicality, contrasts, and emotion next time please gentlemen. Grant me these wishes, and we may be on to a bona-fide album of the year contender.

The Score of Much Metal: 80%

Check out my other 2022 reviews here:

LionSoul – A Pledge To Darkness

Watain – The Agony And Ecstasy Of Watain

Dischordia – Triptych

Dragonbreed – Necrohedron

Audrey Horne – Devil’s Bell

Vanum – Legend

Stone Broken – Revelation

Radiant – Written By Life

Skull Fist – Paid In Full

Hurakan – Via Aeturna

Incandescence – Le Coeur De L’Homme

Imminent Sonic Destruction – The Sun Will Always Set

Monuments – In Stasis

Soledad – XIII

Viande – L’abime dévore les âmes

Credic – Vermillion Oceans

Postcards From New Zealand – Burn, Witch, Burn

Darkher – The Buried Storm

Treat – The Endgame

Bjørn Riis – Everything To Everyone

Destruction – Diabolical

Et Moriemur – Tamashii No Yama

Angel Nation – Antares

Wolf – Shadowland

Denali – Denali EP

Centinex – The Pestilence EP

Meshuggah – Immutable

Chapter Of Hate – Bloodsoaked Decadence EP

Ancient Settlers – Our Last Eclipse

Tranzat – Ouh La La

Playgrounded – The Death Of Death

Father Befouled – Crowned In Veneficum

Abbath – Dread Reaver

PreHistoric Animals – The Magical Mystery Machine (Chapter 2)

Kvaen – The Great Below

Michael Romeo – War Of The Worlds, Part 2

Dark Funeral – We Are The Apocalypse

Carmeria – Advenae

Agathodaimon – The Seven

Moonlight Haze – Animus

Hellbore – Panopticon

Konvent – Call Down The Sun

Idol Of Fear – Trespasser

The Midgard Project – The Great Divide

Threads Of Fate – The Cold Embrace Of The Light

Arkaik – Labyrinth Of Hungry Ghosts

New Horizon – Gate Of The Gods

Cailleach Calling – Dreams Of Fragmentation

Tundra – A Darkening Sky

Sylvaine – Nova

Hath – All That Was Promised

Sabaton – The War To End All Wars

Kuolemanlaakso – Kuusumu

Oh Hiroshima – Myriad

Godless Truth – Godless Truth

Shape Of Despair – Return To The Void

Eight Bells – Legacy Of Ruin

Embryonic Devourment – Heresy Of The Highest Order

Serious Black – Vengeance Is Mine

Allegaeon – Damnum

HammerFall – Hammer Of Dawn

Immolation – Acts Of God

Veonity – Elements Of Power

Nightrage – Abyss Rising

Arjen Anthony Lucassen’s Star One – Revel In Time

Pure Wrath – Hymn To The Woeful Hearts

Dagoba – By Night

The Last Of Lucy – Moksha

Arð – Take Up My Bones

Embryonic Autopsy – Prophecies Of The Conjoined

The Devils Of Loudun – Escaping Eternity

Cult Of Luna – The Long Road North

WAIT – The End Of Noise

Abysmal Dawn – Nightmare Frontier

Amorphis – Halo

Nordic Giants – Sybiosis

Persefone – Metanoia

Vorga – Striving Toward Oblivion

Mystic Circle – Mystic Circle

Nasson – Scars

Burned In Effigy – Rex Mortem

Silent Skies – Nectar

Celeste – Assassine(s)

Abyssus – Death Revival

SOM – The Shape Of Everything

Ashes Of Ares – Emperors And Fools

Beriedir – AQVA

Lalu – Paint The Sky

Nocturna – Daughters Of The Night

Battle Beast – Circus Of Doom

Lee McKinney – In The Light Of Knowledge

Descent – Order Of Chaos

Aethereus – Leiden

Toundra – Hex

Ilium – Quantum Evolution Event EP

Power Paladin – With The Magic Of Windfyre Steel

Necrophagous – In Chaos Ascend

Infected Rain – Ecdysis

Wilderun – Epigone

You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here:

2021 reviews

2020 reviews

2019 reviews
2018 reviews
2017 reviews
2016 reviews
2015 reviews

Album Of The Year 2021 – Number 7

Welcome to Day 24 in my Album Of The Year 2021 Top 30 Countdown. I’m glad that you’re still with me. To those that have followed since the beginning, I thank you all for your support, comments, likes, and general banter over various social media channels. Just seven more days to go, including today’s pick. Where has the time gone? And will I get my Christmas shopping done in time? Just two questions that won’t be answered within today’s post. But if you want to know who has bagged my Number 7 slot, read on.

Before you do though, don’t forget that links to Number 30-8 can be found at the bottom of this post, so if you missed any of my nonsense along the way, you can catch up and enjoy the content via the links below. I’m just so kind to you all, aren’t I?

But on with the show!

Number 7

White Moth Black Butterfly

“The Cost Of Dreaming”

Kscope

Release Date: 28 May 2021

Score Of Much Metal: 95%

It isn’t metal. It isn’t rock. But equally, it is absolutely no surprise to me or many of my regular readers to see this record nestled deep within my top ten albums for 2021.

Featuring the beautiful voices of TesseracT’s Daniel Tompkins and Skyharbour’s Jordan Turner, ‘The Cost Of Dreaming’ is an electric and captivating release that demonstrates that good music is good music, whatever the style or genre.

Taking the blueprint of ‘Atone’, WMBB have expanded their boundaries and their experimentation, a true testament to their self-coined definition of ‘contemporary pop with progressive leanings’. There’s a greater emphasis on electronic beats, dirty bass beats, and lots more, some of which initially had me a little scared and way outside my comfort zone. However, over the months, ‘The Cost Of Dreaming’ has lost none of its spark or magic, and songs like ‘Heavy Heart’, ‘The Dreamer’, and ‘Soma’ just get better and better, sending goosebumps up my arms and shivers down my spine with alarming regularity.

With two young girls who have sadly followed their mum’s musical path more than mine, I’m well aware of the music that features on the mainstream radio stations these days. The fact is though, that if the music was one iota as powerful, genuine, and beautiful as you find on ‘The Cost Of Dreaming’, I’d listen willingly.

No, it isn’t metal, but it’s magnificent, and I’ve fallen head over heels for ‘The Cost Of Dreaming’. Sublime.

What I wrote at the time:

“‘The Cost Of Dreaming’…is adorned by one of the most beautiful album covers of the year, probably longer than that in fact. 

White Moth Black Butterfly is the work of TesseracT’s vocalist Daniel Tompkins alongside his Skyharbor colleagues Jordan Turner (vocals) and guitarist/programmer Keshav Dhar as well as keyboardist/programmer Randy Slaugh and drummer Mac Christensen.

And I’ll be damned if they’ve gone and done it again. In a near mirror image of four years ago with ‘Atone’, my epiphany with ‘The Cost Of Dreaming’ came late the other evening, whilst laying on my bed in the dark. I was tired, frustrated, and generally in quite a low mood caused by several factors. And yet I found myself transported to another place; a place that I fell in love with despite it being rather alien to me if I’m honest.

When the band classify themselves as a ‘contemporary pop project with progressive and experimental music at its heart’, you kind of expect them to play around with new ideas and not rehash previous endeavours. And that’s exactly what happens with ‘The Cost Of Dreaming’.  There are still plenty of rich, cinematic soundscapes, as well as lots of minimalism too. However, you also get a much greater emphasis on electronic sounds and more pronounced ‘mainstream’ pop leanings. 

Ultimately it all works incredibly well. But it is quite different to ‘Atone’, so be prepared.

The songwriting is just so strong, the performances so pin sharp and passionate, the experimentation so daring, that there is no way that you couldn’t fall for its charms. White Moth Black Butterfly are an incredibly special entity and whether it’s soothing and cinematic, or bold, dark, and smothered in electronics, their music just works. But more than that, it hits me in places that very few other artists manage to reach. Genres be damned, I’m a dyed-in-the-wool metalhead and I love ‘The Cost Of Dreaming’. And if you give it a chance, so will you.”

Read the full review here.

The list this year so far…

Number 8

Number 9

Number 10

Number 11

Number 12

Number 13

Number 14

Number 15

Number 16

Number 17

Number 18

Number 19

Number 20

Number 21

Number 22

Number 23

Number 24

Number 25

Number 26

Number 27

Number 28

Number 29

Number 30

‘Honourable Mentions’

Also, if you’ve missed my lists from previous years, you can check them out here:

2020

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

Album Of The Year 2021 – Number 29

It’s day two of my annual Album Of The Year 2021 Top 30 Countdown, otherwise known as “that annoying series that I subject you all to every year”! I’d apologise, but I’m not sorry. I actually really enjoy doing these series as it gives me the justification to indulge myself in the music that made the biggest impact on me throughout the year.

Hopefully as I go through the countdown day-by-day, I will deliver something you agree with, something you missed at the time, or I finally convince you check out something that you may not otherwise have tried.

As always, a quick reminder that numbers 30-16 are only numbered for the purposes of the countdown – they are not listed in any particular order as they deserve a place somewhere on the list.

If you missed my countdowns for previous years or my previous picks this year, links can be found at the bottom of this post, including my ‘honourable mentions’ post that kicked off this year’s list.

And now, here’s my pick for day two…

Number 29

Acolyte

“Entropy”

Blood Blast Music

Release date: 14 May 2021

Score Of Much Metal: 93%

It is always nice to see a new name crop up in my end-of-year ‘best of’ list and so I am really pleased that this one made the final cut. Having never heard of Acolyte before, I was incredibly impressed by this, the Australian quintet’s sophomore full-length release.

At the time of reviewing it, it created a massive headache because I found it so hard to describe. However, as with every double-edged sword, there is a benefit to offset the negative. And that benefit is way more important than a reviewer finding it difficult; in this case, the positive is that Acolyte have put together an album bursting with sophisticated and intriguing music, full of atmosphere and strong dynamics. There’s everything from heavy explosions of sound right through to hushed and gentle minimalist textures.

Loosely, you could refer to ‘Entropy’ as an alternative, progressive rock/metal album, but that’s a rather gross oversimplification. Instead, I urge you to take a listen and make up your own mind – only then will you understand just how good a record Acolyte have produced here.

What I wrote at the time:

“…listening to ‘Entropy’ is no laugh-a-minute’ experience. It’s not a light-hearted romp that provides an instant hit of saccharine enjoyment. But it is a thoroughly engaging and immersive album that puts human emotion, atmosphere, and depth of sound at the heart of the music. It isn’t just the concept and the associated lyrics that ebb and flow, the music does too. 

...texture is an important ingredient of Acolyte full stop, as well as a very clever and masterful blend of old and new, taking modern heavy music ingredients and blending them with more ‘classic’ sounds. Press releases and commentary in the press leading up to this release recommend ‘Entropy’ to the likes of Porcupine Tree, Opeth, Rush, Voyager, and whole host of others besides. But the one band I rarely hear mentioned is Riverside, who I think occasionally loom quite large within the Acolyte sound.

Great performances litter this album, from start to finish. Great songs lurk around every corner. Strong melodic sensibilities are never far away. Passion, authenticity, and belief courses through the material, telling me that Acolyte are a band that are completely and utterly invested in the music that they have created here.”

Read the full review here.

The list this year so far…

Number 30

‘Honourable Mentions’

Also, if you’ve missed my lists from previous years, you can check them out here:

2020

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

Leprous – Aphelion – Album Review

Artist: Leprous

Album Title: Aphelion

Label: Inside Out Music

Date of Release: 27 August 2021

I have reviewed every single studio album of Leprous’ career, since they released ‘Tall Poppy Syndrome’ back in 2009. And I can safely say that none of the reviews have been easy to complete. In fact, I would go so far as to say that reviewing a Leprous album is one of the most challenging things I do under the ‘Man Of Much Metal’ moniker. The thing is, I can’t ever shy away from doing it, because the Norwegians are such a special entity, and their music deserves to be talked about and celebrated.

I struggled to write about the band’s previous release, ‘Pitfalls’ because it was such a personal record for vocalist Einar Solberg, dealing with his struggles with anxiety and depression, something that hit a very raw nerve with me. But it was equally difficult from a musical perspective, to describe exactly what I was hearing and doing it justice with the written word. The same is very true of album number seven, ‘Aphelion’, an album that came together almost by accident, as there was no intention at the outset to record a full-length body of work. But then, has anything for any of us over the past eighteen months been expected, planned, or normal?

Within the accompanying press release Solberg talks about ‘Aphelion’ being more of a collection of songs rather than being anything akin to a concept record. And that’s certainly borne out of my listening over the past few days; ‘Aphelion’ simply follows its own path, exploring soundscapes at will, meandering where the inspiration takes it, or where the musicians’ inspiration leads. And yet, there is a thread that connects much of the music on the album, at least lyrically. And, to coincide with my recent bout of darkness of despair, ‘Aphelion’ takes another look at the issues of anxiety and depression. However, this time, Solberg explores how he has dealt with his issues and sought to overcome them. Right now, I embrace the slightly more positive vibe that emerges in places on this record, even if it is just tentative and fleeting. Mental health is not a linear process, there are ups, downs, peaks and troughs along the way, and ‘Aphelion’ reflects this so eloquently.

From a musical perspective, as I’ve alluded to already, ‘Aphelion’ is a very varied beast, displaying ingredients familiar to long term fans as well as plenty of new ideas as well; we have come to expect a little of the unexpected where Leprous are concerned, and this release is no different. To begin with, I don’t think I’m being mistaken when I detect a greater range of sound across the ten tracks. By this, I mean that there are pronounced peaks of heaviness led in part by the stylish guitar work of six-string duo Tor Oddmund Suhrke and Robin Ognedal, juxtaposed with plateaus of greater calm and quiet serenity, with the latter more at large throughout. In fact, it is becoming more of a stretch than ever to be able to define Leprous as a band with overt metal credentials anymore; they certainly delve into those realms from time to time on ‘Aphelion’, but by-and-large, the output is less metallic overall, much more nuanced and multi-faceted.

Take the opening cut off the record, ‘Running Low’, if you’re looking for a flavour of what to expect on this album. Starting off quietly and delicately, the layers are added carefully, precisely, bringing dynamism to the rather dark-sounding composition, ultimately unravelling to present what is, with repeated listens, a really catchy song upon which Solberg delivers his devastatingly passionate and unique vocals. I particularly love the precise, sharp beats from drummer Baard Kolstad, and the assured bass rumble of Simen Børven. The strings, courtesy of cellist Raphael Weinroth-Browne and violinist Chris Baum add a richness of texture that is then wonderfully juxtaposed with passages of complete minimalism, as well as measured blasts of heaviness. We even get an appearance from a Norwegian brass group by the name of Blåsemafiaen to provide an extra layer that will appeal to some more than others. It’s at once a new and fresh song, whilst being recognisable as no-one else other than Leprous.

The band also experiment ever more heavily with electronic soundscapes, often coupling some bold beats and textures with string-led orchestration. The apparent juxtaposition works really well, as evidenced by ‘Silhouette’ and ‘Have You Ever?’. The former is a more urgent-sounding composition, making great use of strong beats both electronic and organic at the talented hands of Mr Kolstad, whilst the latter uses the electronics differently, to create a dark, brooding atmosphere, accented by the lush strings and sparing use of keys.

‘All The Moments’ is another grower, where I hear some of that aforementioned positivity. It is a composition of strong contrasts, starting with an unexpected slide guitar-infused intro that quickly turns into a minimalist soundscape that then gently builds, only to burst forth with what I can only describe as a euphoric-sounding chorus. I’m not such a fan of the Indie-like jangling guitar sounds that introduce ‘The Silent Revelation’, but the body of the song itself is another genuine grower full of great musicality, stunning textures and variety. And when Solberg sings about being a prisoner of his thoughts, it is a personal experience brought to life powerfully and emotionally through the music. It becomes magnetic and rather irresistible as a result.

In my opinion, the best is saved for last though in the form of the final three songs. First of these is ‘The Shadow Side’, arguably the most immediate of all of the songs on ‘Aphelion’. From spin one, I loved the chosen hook-laden melodies, the rich and resonant string arrangements and that rarest of beasts, a proper guitar solo, full of attitude and swagger.

If ‘The Silent Revelation’ felt honest and raw, wait until you hear ‘On Hold’. The lyrics are painful to listen to because they are so heart breaking, delivered with an honesty that never ceases to amaze me. Here, Solberg talks about the depression and anxiety returning, singing:  

“I am back here once again, in the mist…without signs. Thought I’d fought my way back. Now I’m afraid…Will I ever be the man in control…of his world. Open wounds that never heal, pull me back…”

I can relate 100% to this. But even if I couldn’t, I defy anyone, with or without a similar first-hand experience, to listen without a lump in the throat, without a tear in the eye, without the desire to hold out their arms to Einar and anyone else in need of help and support. And, as the song develops, the intensity builds, ebbing and flowing, almost discordant at brief points near the end, before a gloriously powerful and all-encompassing crescendo completes the emotional rollercoaster of a song.

After the intensity of the song before, it seems perfectly fitting for the final composition, ‘Castaway Angels’ to be a much gentler affair, dominated by the line ‘never look back’. The melodies are graceful, elegant and poignant, led initially by a quiet acoustic guitar. I’m reminded of recent Anathema thanks to the fragility at the outset, and then the way that the song cleverly builds to leave us on a sad, but ultimately positive, hopeful note.

If ‘Aphelion’ is an unexpected by-product of the global CoVid pandemic, then it is difficult to entirely hate the last eighteen months on Planet Earth. With this, their seventh album, the Norwegian quintet by the name of Leprous have delivered yet another incredible slab of modern progressive music. At this juncture, the band stand on their own, peerless, making music quite unlike anyone else. It won’t be to everyone’s taste, but I have given ‘Aphelion’ a great deal of time and attention and I can safely say that it is a near masterpiece, an intelligent album that’s beautiful, honest, and authentic both musically and lyrically.

The Score of Much Metal: 95%

Dessiderium – Aria

Cynic – Ascension Codes

TDW – Fountains

Hypocrisy – Worship

W.E.B. – Colosseum

Navian – Cosmos

NorthTale – Eternal Flame

Obscura – A Valediction

Nightland – The Great Nothing

MØL – Diorama

Be’lakor – Coherence

Hollow – Tower

Doedsvangr – Serpents Ov Old

Athemon – Athemon

Eclipse – Wired

Swallow The Sun – Moonflowers

Dream Theater – A View From The Top Of The World

Nestor – Kids In A Ghost Town

Beast In Black – Dark Connection

Thulcandra – A Dying Wish

Omnium Gatherum – Origin

Insomnium – Argent Moon EP

Kryptan – Kryptan EP

Archspire – Bleed The Future

Awake By Design – Unfaded EP

Cradle Of Filth – Existence Is Futile

Seven Spires – Gods Of Debauchery

Sleep Token – This Place Will Become Your Tomb

Necrofier – Prophecies Of Eternal Darkness

Ex Deo – The Thirteen Years Of Nero

Carcass – Torn Arteries

Aeon Zen – Transversal

Enslaved – Caravans To The Outer Worlds

A Dying Planet – When The Skies Are Grey

Leprous – Aphelion

Night Crowned – Hädanfärd

Brainstorm – Wall Of Skulls

At The Gates – The Nightmare Of Being

Rivers Of Nihil – The Work

Fractal Universe – The Impassable Horizon

Darkthrone – Eternal Hails

Thy Catafalque – Vadak

Terra Odium – Ne Plus Ultra

Hiraes – Solitary

Eye Of Purgatory – The Lighthouse

Crowne – Kings In The North

Desaster – Churches Without Saints

Helloween – Helloween

Fear Factory – Aggression Continuum

Wooden Veins – In Finitude

Plaguestorm – Purifying Fire

Drift Into Black – Patterns Of Light

Alluvial – Sarcoma

White Moth Black Butterfly – The Cost Of Dreaming – Album Review

Silver Lake by Esa Holopainen

Bloodbound – Creatures From The Dark Realm

Nahaya – Vital Alchemy

Frost* – Day And Age

Obsolete Theory – Downfall

Vola – Witness

Acolyte – Entropy

Dordeduh – Har

Subterranean Masquerade – Mountain Fever

Seth – La Morsure Du Christ

The Circle – Metamorphosis

Nordjevel – Fenriir

Vreid – Wild North West

Temtris – Ritual Warfare

Astrakhan – A Slow Ride Towards Death

Akiavel – Vae Victis

Gojira – Fortitude

Hideous Divinity – LV-426

Benthos – II

Evile – Hell Unleashed

Ninkharsag – The Dread March Of Solemn Gods

Bodom After Midnight – Paint The Sky With Blood

Morrigu – In Turbulence

Mother Of All – Age Of The Solipsist

Throne – Pestilent Dawn

Sweet Oblivion (Geoff Tate) – Relentless

Exanimis – Marionnettiste

Dvne – Etemen Ænka

Cannibal Corpse – Violence Unimagined

Arion – Vultures Die Alone

Maestitium – Tale Of The Endless

Wode – Burn In Many Mirrors

Everdawn – Cleopatra

Unflesh – Inhumation

Mourning Dawn – Dead End Euphoria

Wheel – Resident Human

Wythersake – Antiquity

Odd Dimension – The Blue Dawn

Metalite – A Virtual World

Cryptosis – Bionic Swarm

Ghosts Of Atlantis – 3.6.2.4

Memoriam – To The End

Aversed – Impermanent

Secret Sphere – Lifeblood

Enforced – Kill Grid

Liquid Tension Experiment – LTE3

Turbulence – Frontal

Iotunn – Access All Worlds

Warrior Path – The Mad King

Stortregn – Impermanence

Mariana’s Rest – Fata Morgana

Orden Ogan – Final Days

Witherfall – Curse Of Autumn

Plague Weaver – Ascendant Blasphemy

Ephemerald – Between The Glimpses Of Hope

Paranorm – Empyrean

Einherjer – North Star

Epica – Omega

Humanity’s Last Breath – Välde

Simulacrum – Genesis

Forhist – Forhist

Evergrey – Escape Of The Phoenix

Empyrium – Über den Sternen

Moonspell – Hermitage

Infernalizer – The Ugly Truth

Temperance – Melodies Of Green And Blue EP

Malice Divine – Malice Divine

Revulsion – Revulsion

Demon King – The Final Tyranny EP

Dragony – Viribus Unitis

Soen – Imperial

Angelus Apatrida – Angelus Apatrida

Oceana – The Pattern

Therion – Leviathan

Tribulation – Where The Gloom Becomes Sound

Asphyx – Necroceros

W.E.T. – Retransmission

Labyrinth – Welcome To The Absurd Circus

TDW – The Days The Clock Stopped

Need – Norchestrion: A Song For The End

You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here:

2020 reviews

2019 reviews
2018 reviews
2017 reviews
2016 reviews
2015 reviews

Acolyte – Entropy – Album Review

Artist: Acolyte

Album Title: Entropy

Label: Blood Blast Music

Date of Release: 14 May 2021

The stream of high-quality music coming from Australia shows no sign of abating, with the latest export being to pique my interest manifesting itself in the form of Acolyte, a quintet from Melbourne. Formed a number of years ago, the band released their debut album, ‘Shades Of Black’ in 2016 and then went on a live spree, becoming an important figure within the Australian live music scene. 2021 sees them now releasing their sophomore full-length, ‘Entropy’. If it hadn’t been for their recent hook-up with Incendia Music, I may not have come across this new record truth be told, so it’s another feather in the cap to Lulu and her team, spreading the Acolyte message far and wide, in this case, to the sleepy and rural environs of East Anglia in the UK.

There’s an awful lot to take in on ‘Entropy’ too, as ‘progressive’ just doesn’t really cut it without a lot more exploration and subsequent description. Put it this way, I’m glad that I have had the benefit of listening since March, because otherwise I’d have struggled to put something cogent together.

Firstly, ‘Entropy’ is a full-on concept album which, in vocalist Morgan-Leigh Brown’s own words:

Entropy is a fully realised conceptual record exploring the early stages of ‘loss’. Presented like diary entries, the record ebbs and flows through an array of actions, feelings & emotions that are commonly experienced when trying to ground ones self all while carrying the early weight of trauma.

As you can imagine, listening to ‘Entropy’ is no laugh-a-minute’ experience. It’s not a light-hearted romp that provides an instant hit of saccharine enjoyment. But it is a thoroughly engaging and immersive album that puts human emotion, atmosphere, and depth of sound at the heart of the music. It isn’t just the concept and the associated lyrics that ebb and flow, the music does too. At times, we’re treated to something very quiet and minimalist. At others, we’re knocked off our feet by an explosion of sound, be it through muscular riffs from guitarist Brandon Valentine, an Earth-rumbling bassline from Jason Grondman, a commanding drumbeat by Chris Cameron, or indeed a combination of all three. Then there’s the synths and keys of David Van Pelt that are almost ever-present in some guise or another, either as a subtle embellishment, or a bolder injection of sound and texture.

In fact, texture is an important ingredient of Acolyte full stop, as well as a very clever and masterful blend of old and new, taking modern heavy music ingredients and blending them with more ‘classic’ sounds. Press releases and commentary in the press leading up to this release recommend ‘Entropy’ to the likes of Porcupine Tree, Opeth, Rush, Voyager, and whole host of others besides. But the one band I rarely hear mentioned is Riverside, who I think occasionally loom quite large within the Acolyte sound. However, I’ll leave you all to make up your minds, as you listen. The key thing though, is that you do listen, because it’s a crime to not check this band out to some degree or another.

One of the biggest strengths to the Acolyte bow has to be the aforementioned Morgan-Leigh Brown behind the microphone. Her path to the band wasn’t what you’d call conventional, but her involvement with the National Girls Choir from the age of seven, and then her involvement with musical theatre and the theatre scene in general has paid massive dividends. Brown possesses a larger-than-life character perfect for the frontperson role in a rock band but, more importantly, has the voice to match. Happy in both a more subtle role, or belting out the lyrics with attitude and emotion, you cannot fail to be impressed by her technique, ability, and presence across ‘Entropy’.

In terms of the tracks themselves on ‘Entropy’, there are nine in total and, without wishing to sound ‘too Genesis’, they can be split into the long songs and the short songs. Four of the nine weigh in at over nine minutes, with the remaining five songs occupying the one-to-five-minute territory. I like this balance, because it allows the quintet to explore, without boring the listener to tears with 90 minutes of drawn-out material. As it is, ‘Entropy’ sits at just under an hour, but it uses all of the time to their advantage, with rarely a moment wasted.

Given the subject matter, I’d be hard-pressed to recommend anything other than listening to the album as a complete package, from start to finish. When done so, the whole thing feels ‘right’; it has a pleasing flow to it, and to coin the cliché, it does take us on a journey that makes much more sense when followed chronologically and in full. Nevertheless, I do have my stand-out moments that are worthy of comment.

After a minute long intro piece, the title track assaults the ears with style, panache, and quality oozing from every pore. As the lead single, it’s likely you’ll have heard it already, so I won’t go into great detail here. However, what I like about it are the initial synth-drenched driving riffs that give way to a pulsing, rhythm-heavy affair enhanced by subtle melodies and a mesmerising performance from Brown, full of passion whilst executing an impressive vocal range. The smattering of 70s synth sounds are very cleverly injected. But for me, it’s when the song opens up to deliver the sprawling chorus that the song goes from very good to excellent in a heartbeat. Nice leads, dextrous musicianship, extended instrumental passages and a wonderfully smooth flow only add to my overall enjoyment which gets greater with each passing listen.

‘Resentment’ is one of the shorter compositions and it’s very different to the title track. As its title suggests, there’s palpable anger and frustration layered into the song, which is underlined by a greater sense of urgency, prevalent from the opening moments when heavy guitar notes and forthright riffs are blended very deliberately with some very bold 70s-inspired synths. Another killer chorus emerges, although admittedly, it does take longer to seep under the skin than others on the album.

The bass playing really comes to the fore within clarity, as it sets a pulsing, hypnotic heartbeat for the song, another possessed by really irresistible rhythms. The song also features male and female vocals that work well together. Both are clean and softly-delivered, Brown showcasing her more ethereal, delicate style. I love the way that this song builds, not dissimilarly to the likes of Tool, only for it to actually open up at the halfway mark into a heavy, melodic wave of sound that’s entirely satisfying. Tool, take note. The fact that it then spends the remainder of its time gently deconstructing itself, only makes the whole thing more intriguing. This is a really great song.

Equally beguiling is ‘Idiosyncrasy’, the longest song on the album, weighing in at over eleven minutes. The cinematic feel of the song is hard to ignore, as they are genuinely very well done. I also really enjoy the clear Middle Eastern influence that is woven into the song, complete with authentic-sounding percussion and other instrumentation, alongside a sympathetic vocal performance from Morgan-Leigh Brown. The guitar and bass playing within this song is nothing short of brilliant either, as both provide moments of magic, be it via some excellent lead embellishments, or via yet another pulsating, insistent rumble that creates a great foundation upon which those cinematic soundscapes develop. Double-pedal drumming is a nice touch when it arrives, albeit briefly, but I cannot help but again return to the melodic, hook-laden chorus as my overall favourite part of the song. I’m a complete sucker for big melodic riffs drenched in powerful synths, so I’m bound to enjoy these bursts of beauty when confronted by them. Mind you, the progressive riff upon which the track begins to depart is worthy of mention too.

It may not seem like it but given how much there is to discover within this album, I feel like I have been about as succinct as it is possible to be. And yet there is so much more that I haven’t mentioned for fear of boring everyone to tears. Great performances litter this album, from start to finish. Great songs lurk around every corner. Strong melodic sensibilities are never far away. Passion, authenticity, and belief courses through the material, telling me that Acolyte are a band that are completely and utterly invested in the music that they have created here. I have grown more and more fond of ‘Entropy’ with each rewarding and entertaining spin, to the point where I have a hard job removing it from my stereo. Anyone who has even the most cursory interest in intelligent and progressive music needs to hear this record. ‘Entropy’ will not disappoint, I can guarantee you that. Trust me, I know my onions…I think.

The Score of Much Metal: 93%

Dessiderium – Aria

Cynic – Ascension Codes

TDW – Fountains

Hypocrisy – Worship

W.E.B. – Colosseum

Navian – Cosmos

NorthTale – Eternal Flame

Obscura – A Valediction

Nightland – The Great Nothing

MØL – Diorama

Be’lakor – Coherence

Hollow – Tower

Doedsvangr – Serpents Ov Old

Athemon – Athemon

Eclipse – Wired

Swallow The Sun – Moonflowers

Dream Theater – A View From The Top Of The World

Nestor – Kids In A Ghost Town

Beast In Black – Dark Connection

Thulcandra – A Dying Wish

Omnium Gatherum – Origin

Insomnium – Argent Moon EP

Kryptan – Kryptan EP

Archspire – Bleed The Future

Awake By Design – Unfaded EP

Cradle Of Filth – Existence Is Futile

Seven Spires – Gods Of Debauchery

Sleep Token – This Place Will Become Your Tomb

Necrofier – Prophecies Of Eternal Darkness

Ex Deo – The Thirteen Years Of Nero

Carcass – Torn Arteries

Aeon Zen – Transversal

Enslaved – Caravans To The Outer Worlds

A Dying Planet – When The Skies Are Grey

Leprous – Aphelion

Night Crowned – Hädanfärd

Brainstorm – Wall Of Skulls

At The Gates – The Nightmare Of Being

Rivers Of Nihil – The Work

Fractal Universe – The Impassable Horizon

Darkthrone – Eternal Hails

Thy Catafalque – Vadak

Terra Odium – Ne Plus Ultra

Hiraes – Solitary

Eye Of Purgatory – The Lighthouse

Crowne – Kings In The North

Desaster – Churches Without Saints

Helloween – Helloween

Fear Factory – Aggression Continuum

Wooden Veins – In Finitude

Plaguestorm – Purifying Fire

Drift Into Black – Patterns Of Light

Alluvial – Sarcoma

White Moth Black Butterfly – The Cost Of Dreaming – Album Review

Silver Lake by Esa Holopainen

Bloodbound – Creatures From The Dark Realm

Nahaya – Vital Alchemy

Frost* – Day And Age

Obsolete Theory – Downfall

Vola – Witness

Acolyte – Entropy

Dordeduh – Har

Subterranean Masquerade – Mountain Fever

Seth – La Morsure Du Christ

The Circle – Metamorphosis

Nordjevel – Fenriir

Vreid – Wild North West

Temtris – Ritual Warfare

Astrakhan – A Slow Ride Towards Death

Akiavel – Vae Victis

Gojira – Fortitude

Hideous Divinity – LV-426

Benthos – II

Evile – Hell Unleashed

Ninkharsag – The Dread March Of Solemn Gods

Bodom After Midnight – Paint The Sky With Blood

Morrigu – In Turbulence

Mother Of All – Age Of The Solipsist

Throne – Pestilent Dawn

Sweet Oblivion (Geoff Tate) – Relentless

Exanimis – Marionnettiste

Dvne – Etemen Ænka

Cannibal Corpse – Violence Unimagined

Arion – Vultures Die Alone

Maestitium – Tale Of The Endless

Wode – Burn In Many Mirrors

Everdawn – Cleopatra

Unflesh – Inhumation

Mourning Dawn – Dead End Euphoria

Wheel – Resident Human

Wythersake – Antiquity

Odd Dimension – The Blue Dawn

Metalite – A Virtual World

Cryptosis – Bionic Swarm

Ghosts Of Atlantis – 3.6.2.4

Memoriam – To The End

Aversed – Impermanent

Secret Sphere – Lifeblood

Enforced – Kill Grid

Liquid Tension Experiment – LTE3

Turbulence – Frontal

Iotunn – Access All Worlds

Warrior Path – The Mad King

Stortregn – Impermanence

Mariana’s Rest – Fata Morgana

Orden Ogan – Final Days

Witherfall – Curse Of Autumn

Plague Weaver – Ascendant Blasphemy

Ephemerald – Between The Glimpses Of Hope

Paranorm – Empyrean

Einherjer – North Star

Epica – Omega

Humanity’s Last Breath – Välde

Simulacrum – Genesis

Forhist – Forhist

Evergrey – Escape Of The Phoenix

Empyrium – Über den Sternen

Moonspell – Hermitage

Infernalizer – The Ugly Truth

Temperance – Melodies Of Green And Blue EP

Malice Divine – Malice Divine

Revulsion – Revulsion

Demon King – The Final Tyranny EP

Dragony – Viribus Unitis

Soen – Imperial

Angelus Apatrida – Angelus Apatrida

Oceana – The Pattern

Therion – Leviathan

Tribulation – Where The Gloom Becomes Sound

Asphyx – Necroceros

W.E.T. – Retransmission

Labyrinth – Welcome To The Absurd Circus

TDW – The Days The Clock Stopped

Need – Norchestrion: A Song For The End

You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here:

2020 reviews

2019 reviews
2018 reviews
2017 reviews
2016 reviews
2015 reviews

Benthos – II – Album Review

Artist: Benthos

Album Title: II

Label: Eclipse Records

Date of Release: 23 April 2021

I’ve had this record for a couple of months at least and yet I’m late bringing this review to you. And the reason is that I have gone back and forth several times, deciding exactly what I think of this album. There is much to like about it, but for the longest time, I felt that there was something stopping me from fully falling for its charms and I couldn’t work out why. But finally, here we are.

In an effort to procrastinate further, I ought to give you a little background about the band, particularly as it is a debut record that we’re dealing with here. Benthos is an Italian quintet comprised of vocalist Gabriele Landillo, guitarists Gabriele Papagni and Enrico Tripodi, bassist Alberto Fiorani, and drummer Alessandro Tagliani, who have been in existence since 2018, building up a name for themselves in underground circles. Such has been the buzz though, that Eclipse Records have signed them up, with ‘II’ being their first foray into the world of full-length albums. I say that, but at 32 minutes, ‘II’ isn’t the longest of affairs and, with just seven tracks, Benthos have clearly gone for the quality over quantity approach.

And there’s certainly no disputing the talent on offer because these guys have some skill with their instruments. Indeed, each of the seven tracks provides an abundance of different ideas, ranging from quiet, atmospheric soundscapes, right through to moments of naked aggression, led by jagged riffing and growled vocals. And for much of the time, the tempos and rhythms are challenging, delivering a complexity that is impressive, whilst there remains an inherent melody to the material that helps to keep the listener’s attention and avoid alienation. The lyrical concept to ‘II’ is an exploration into competing, opposing forces such as life and death, and finite versus infinite concepts meaning that the strongly contrasting musical juxtapositions fit the concept perfectly.

It’s difficult to pinpoint definitive reference points within the music, but I’m certain this record will appeal to fans of bands as diverse as Between The Buried And Me, Coheed And Cambria, and Haken amongst many others. There’s also a smattering of metalcore elements to be heard but coming from someone that’s not the biggest fan of this genre, I can attest to the fact that these moments don’t detract from the overall experience.

It may sound strange coming from me, but I must admit to preferring the quieter, more melodic aspects of ‘II’ over the heavier, more aggressive bursts. Let’s take the track ‘Debris Essence’ as an example of this sentiment. It starts quietly with Landillo singing delicately over a gorgeous rich bass guitar-led section, where the drums and guitars offer gentle punctuation, an approach that reappears throughout to wonderful effect. However, these sections are punctuated by some abrasive angular guitars, and snarling growls which are full of emotion but don’t resonate as strongly with me. I think some of this is down to the chosen sound of the guitars which, to me are a little harsh and trebly for my liking personally.

By the same token, ‘Back And Forth’ is at it’s most beguiling when the instrumentation is minimised, and Landillo’s really nice clean voice is allowed to shine, creating some of the strongest melodies on the record. Admittedly, I really like the entire song, as the heavier moments are much more engaging, with the guitar riffs offering much more immediacy and sense of groove to compliment rather than juxtapose the quieter parts, meaning it’s a much more homogenous composition overall.

I’m also a sucker for the two-minute instrumental interlude at the midway point in the album. Entitled ‘Facing The Deep’, it presents a minimalist soundscape where atmosphere and calm emotion sit at its core. The guitar notes provide a haunting element that’s both enticing and darkly foreboding in equal measure.

However, I’m overall less keen with ‘Talk To Me, Dragonfly!’, simply because I think it almost verges into ‘too much’ territory. It is a furious jazz-infused song that’s strong on technical prowess, but less enjoyable than other compositions simply because it feels a bit more like an experiment to see what was possible. Think Haken at their most adventurous, but add another level entirely. There are flashes of melody within the intense track, but screams, growls, heavily-effected vocals all converge, as do challenging structures and ideas that encroach into discordant territory. Those who enjoy challenging music will certainly find lots to love about this dextrous piece, but it leaves me a little cold if I’m honest. Just because you can do something, doesn’t always mean that you should.

Elsewhere, the opening to the final track, ‘Dissolving Flowers’ reminds me somewhat of recent Caligula’s Horse thanks to some rich textures and slightly unusual melodies. I like also the slower, more laid back feel to the heavier parts, as well as the introduction of a vaguely Latin-hue to the acoustic segment that ensues. Every bit as technically adept as previous songs on ‘II’, its strength is that it takes a little more time to explore the various ideas, leading to heavier segments that build upon the melodies, creating quite an anthemic, euphoric end to the album.

I have my reservations about ‘II’ as you may have already guessed. However, putting aside these relatively small concerns, there is no way that I could do anything other than congratulate Benthos on an impressive first album. Fans of properly progressive music could do an awful lot worse than check out this new Italian band, especially if you don’t mind the growls. ‘II’ is not the finished and polished article, but it demonstrates that the foundations are in place upon which to build with future releases. I’ll certainly keep my eye on Benthos and you should too.

The Score of Much Metal: 80%

Dessiderium – Aria

Cynic – Ascension Codes

TDW – Fountains

Hypocrisy – Worship

W.E.B. – Colosseum

Navian – Cosmos

NorthTale – Eternal Flame

Obscura – A Valediction

Nightland – The Great Nothing

MØL – Diorama

Be’lakor – Coherence

Hollow – Tower

Doedsvangr – Serpents Ov Old

Athemon – Athemon

Eclipse – Wired

Swallow The Sun – Moonflowers

Dream Theater – A View From The Top Of The World

Nestor – Kids In A Ghost Town

Beast In Black – Dark Connection

Thulcandra – A Dying Wish

Omnium Gatherum – Origin

Insomnium – Argent Moon EP

Kryptan – Kryptan EP

Archspire – Bleed The Future

Awake By Design – Unfaded EP

Cradle Of Filth – Existence Is Futile

Seven Spires – Gods Of Debauchery

Sleep Token – This Place Will Become Your Tomb

Necrofier – Prophecies Of Eternal Darkness

Ex Deo – The Thirteen Years Of Nero

Carcass – Torn Arteries

Aeon Zen – Transversal

Enslaved – Caravans To The Outer Worlds

A Dying Planet – When The Skies Are Grey

Leprous – Aphelion

Night Crowned – Hädanfärd

Brainstorm – Wall Of Skulls

At The Gates – The Nightmare Of Being

Rivers Of Nihil – The Work

Fractal Universe – The Impassable Horizon

Darkthrone – Eternal Hails

Thy Catafalque – Vadak

Terra Odium – Ne Plus Ultra

Hiraes – Solitary

Eye Of Purgatory – The Lighthouse

Crowne – Kings In The North

Desaster – Churches Without Saints

Helloween – Helloween

Fear Factory – Aggression Continuum

Wooden Veins – In Finitude

Plaguestorm – Purifying Fire

Drift Into Black – Patterns Of Light

Alluvial – Sarcoma

White Moth Black Butterfly – The Cost Of Dreaming – Album Review

Silver Lake by Esa Holopainen

Bloodbound – Creatures From The Dark Realm

Nahaya – Vital Alchemy

Frost* – Day And Age

Obsolete Theory – Downfall

Vola – Witness

Acolyte – Entropy

Dordeduh – Har

Subterranean Masquerade – Mountain Fever

Seth – La Morsure Du Christ

The Circle – Metamorphosis

Nordjevel – Fenriir

Vreid – Wild North West

Temtris – Ritual Warfare

Astrakhan – A Slow Ride Towards Death

Akiavel – Vae Victis

Gojira – Fortitude

Hideous Divinity – LV-426

Benthos – II

Evile – Hell Unleashed

Ninkharsag – The Dread March Of Solemn Gods

Bodom After Midnight – Paint The Sky With Blood

Morrigu – In Turbulence

Mother Of All – Age Of The Solipsist

Throne – Pestilent Dawn

Sweet Oblivion (Geoff Tate) – Relentless

Exanimis – Marionnettiste

Dvne – Etemen Ænka

Cannibal Corpse – Violence Unimagined

Arion – Vultures Die Alone

Maestitium – Tale Of The Endless

Wode – Burn In Many Mirrors

Everdawn – Cleopatra

Unflesh – Inhumation

Mourning Dawn – Dead End Euphoria

Wheel – Resident Human

Wythersake – Antiquity

Odd Dimension – The Blue Dawn

Metalite – A Virtual World

Cryptosis – Bionic Swarm

Ghosts Of Atlantis – 3.6.2.4

Memoriam – To The End

Aversed – Impermanent

Secret Sphere – Lifeblood

Enforced – Kill Grid

Liquid Tension Experiment – LTE3

Turbulence – Frontal

Iotunn – Access All Worlds

Warrior Path – The Mad King

Stortregn – Impermanence

Mariana’s Rest – Fata Morgana

Orden Ogan – Final Days

Witherfall – Curse Of Autumn

Plague Weaver – Ascendant Blasphemy

Ephemerald – Between The Glimpses Of Hope

Paranorm – Empyrean

Einherjer – North Star

Epica – Omega

Humanity’s Last Breath – Välde

Simulacrum – Genesis

Forhist – Forhist

Evergrey – Escape Of The Phoenix

Empyrium – Über den Sternen

Moonspell – Hermitage

Infernalizer – The Ugly Truth

Temperance – Melodies Of Green And Blue EP

Malice Divine – Malice Divine

Revulsion – Revulsion

Demon King – The Final Tyranny EP

Dragony – Viribus Unitis

Soen – Imperial

Angelus Apatrida – Angelus Apatrida

Oceana – The Pattern

Therion – Leviathan

Tribulation – Where The Gloom Becomes Sound

Asphyx – Necroceros

W.E.T. – Retransmission

Labyrinth – Welcome To The Absurd Circus

TDW – The Days The Clock Stopped

Need – Norchestrion: A Song For The End

You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here:

2020 reviews

2019 reviews
2018 reviews
2017 reviews
2016 reviews
2015 reviews

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