Category Archives: Ambient

Tuesday The Sky – Drift – Album Review

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Artist: Tuesday The Sky

Album Title: Drift

Label: InsideOut Music

Release date: 30 June 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Score of Much Metal: 9.25

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

2015 reviews
2016 reviews

Anthriel – Transcendence
Decapitated – Anticult
Cosmograf – The Hay-Man Dreams
Orden Ogan – Gunmen
Iced Earth – Incorruptible
Anathema – The Optimist
Solstafir – Berdreyminn
Dream Evil – Six
Avatarium – Hurricanes And Halos
Ayreon – The Source
Until Rain – Inure
MindMaze – Resolve
God Dethroned – The World Ablaze
Bjorn Riis – Forever Comes To An End
Voyager – Ghost Mile
Big Big Train – Grimspound
Lonely Robot – The Big Dream
Firespawn – The Reprobate
Ancient Ascendant
Pyramaze – Contingent
Shores Of Null – Black Drapes For Tomorrow
Asira – Efference
Hologram Earth – Black Cell Program
Damnations Day – A World Awakens
Memoriam – For The Fallen
Pallbearer – Heartless
Sleepmakeswaves – Made of Breath Only
Ghost Ship Octavius – Ghost Ship Octavius
Vangough – Warpaint
Telepathy – Tempest
Obituary – Obituary
Fen – Winter
Havok – Conformicide
Wolfheart – Tyhjyys
Svart Crown – Abreaction
Nova Collective – The Further Side
Immolation – Atonement
The Mute Gods – Tardigrades Will Inherit The Earth
Ex Deo – The Immortal Wars
Pyogenesis – A Kingdom To Disappear
My Soliloquy – Engines of Gravity
Nailed To Obscurity – King Delusion
Helion Prime – Helion Prime
Battle Beast – Bringer Of Pain
Persefone – Aathma
Soen – Lykaia
Exquirla – Para Quienes Aun Viven
Odd Logic – Effigy
Mors Principium Est – Embers Of A Dying World
Firewind – Immortals
Slyde – Back Again EP
Sepultura – Machine Messiah
Deserted Fear – Dead Shores Rising
Kreator – Gods Of Violence
Borealis – World of Silence MMXVII
Pain of Salvation – In The Passing Light of Day

Half-way through 2017 – the best so far – Part 3

Welcome to the third and final part of my round-up, looking at the best albums to have been released during the first half of 2017. It is an eclectic list overall, where there’s room for extreme metal and progressive rock alike. But for someone who has wide-ranging tastes with a rock and metal framework, this is exactly what I expected and it is great to see that 2017 has, so far, delivered the goods across a decent breadth of genres.

If you have missed the previous two installments of this series, click the following links:

Half-way through 2017 – the best so far – Part 1
Half-way through 2017 – the best so far – Part 2

deserted_fear_-_dead_shores_rising_cover_2016Deserted Fear
Dead Shores Rising

Just thinking about this album puts a smile on my face. It is pure, unadulterated and undiluted old-school death metal and it seriously kicks ass. But, whilst the compositions themselves reek of days gone by, the production is bang up-to-date. This might put off some purists but for me, it just makes the entire listening experience all the more impactful and powerful. If you listen to this but fail to bang your head or grin like a loon, the chances are that you are either not a metal fan, or you’re dead.

“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.”

“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?”

Read the full review here.

SOM412-Solstafir-1500X1500px-300dpi-RGBSólstafir
Berdreyminn

Having been blown away by their previous album, ‘Otta’, I was desperate for Sólstafir to repeat the trick with their latest record, ‘Berdreyminn’. It was always going to be tough given the strong connection that I have with ‘Otta’, but I have to say that Sólstafir have not disappointed. I can say that with even more conviction now that I have had a chance to hear the material in the live setting where it came alive more strongly and made even more sense. Packed with atmosphere and emotion, it beautifully conveys the bleaker recesses of human feeling, whilst painting glorious vistas in the mind of their striking homeland, Iceland.

“And what Sólstafir have succeeded in doing so eloquently with ‘Otta’ and now this new record, ‘Berdreyminn’, is give voice to the natural splendour of their native land, as depicted in the evocative cover art work courtesy of Adam Burke. Fragile and brittle melodies alongside quiet and calm soundscapes give rise to introspective thought and an appreciation of the beauty of their homeland. But juxtaposed with this are sections of grittier, heavier and more powerful swells and eddies of sound that serve as a timely reminder that the beauty can be deceptive, ready to ensnare those unprepared for the harsher, more unforgiving realities of the oft bleak and barren land.”

“…how can one fault music that has such heart, such life and such majesty? More importantly for me though, ‘Berdreyminn’ serves to merely strengthen my deep love and affinity with Sólstafir’s homeland. And for that I am forever thankful.”

Read the full review here.

Final ArtworkAsira
Efference

Over the years, I have become a big fan of the movement known as ‘blackgaze’, the genre that seeks to blend the extremity of black metal with the melodic intensity and beauty of shoegaze. When I thought of blackgaze in the past, I’d immediately call to mind the likes of Alcest or Amesoeurs. But now, in 2017, I can confidently add the name Asira to the list. For a debut outing, ‘Efference’ is a stunning body of work that delights at every glorious twist and turn.

“…the skill of Asira has meant that the final product sounds so effortless and so simple. The warm ambient and atmospheric sections sooth and embrace you, whilst the melodies catch your ear almost immediately. And then, even when these passages are replaced by the naked aggression of cold and icy black metal, sometime abruptly, the juxtaposition doesn’t feel forced or clunky in any way. The compositions are ambitious and grand in scope, but they also feel homogenous and eloquent.”

“On the basis of ‘Efference’, I can only predict big things for Asira. If their debut album can be so ambitious, cohesive and assured, what on earth will their second, third and fourth albums sound like. We can only wait and see. However, for now, content yourself with the fact that there’s a new band in existence that has so much potential and simply immerse yourself in ‘Efference’. As blackgaze goes, this is one of the best I’ve heard in a long, long time.”

Read the full review here.

16729381_10155037235405439_4788700761726639376_nLonely Robot
The Big Dream

In my eyes, John Mitchell can do no wrong. Whatever band he is involved with, be it Arena, It Bites of Frost*, the results are always fantastic. And then, when he stretches his musical wings and goes it alone, the results are equally as compelling. ‘The Big Dream’ is John Mitchell’s sophomore outing under the moniker of Lonely Robot, where he is responsible for everything aside from the drums. In keeping with the debut, it is an album of lush and hugely cinematically-tinged progressive rock full of depth and musical eloquence.

“…ultimately, I am blown away by this album, regardless of the meaningful threads that clearly run through it.”

“I am a big fan of the Lonely Robot debut, ‘Please Come Home’. But if anything, I think ‘The Big Dream’ is even better…I just feel that the music itself is just that little bit stronger. It is definitely more consistent, simply because there isn’t a wasted moment, a weaker track or a let-up in the quality on offer. It takes its time to work its magic though, so if you feel uneasy or underwhelmed after a first spin, listen again. And then again, several times more. The payoff is well worth it.”

Read the full review here.

nova-collective-the-further-sideNova Collective
The Further Side

Normally, I vehemently dislike instrumental music, particularly when the music is technical fusion. However, like all rules, there is an exception and the exception to this self-imposed rule goes by the name of Nova Collective. Featuring an all-star cast, spearheaded by Haken’s Richard Henshall and Dan Briggs from Between The Buried And Me, there was no way that the output would be poor. But what I wasn’t expecting was to actually become engaged with the music and absorbed by it. Unlike many other records in this loose genre, the music is more than background noise; instead the compositions are well crafted and intelligent whilst also remaining memorable.

“I like this album. I really like this album. Naturally as you might expect from a quartet who fuse prog with jazz, classical and other world music, the complexity is very high across the board as is the technical prowess and the individual dexterity of each member, demonstrating beyond doubt that they are in complete control of every note.”

“For the first time in ages, possibly forever, I am listening to an instrumental progressive jazz fusion album and I am not bored to the very core of my soul. Instead, I want to press play and listen to it all over again. Maybe I am maturing and with that, so are my musical tastes? Quite possibly. However, I think it has more to do with the fact that Nova Collective have actually written music that is intelligent and challenging but that is also vibrant, melodic and engaging. Bravo, Nova Collective, bravo.”

Read the full review here.

Asira – Efference – Album Review

Final Artwork

Artist: Asira

Album Title: Efference

Label: Independent Release

Date Of Release: 7 April 2017

As little as a week ago, I had never heard of the band Asira. I did not know that they were a new band. I didn’t know that they hailed from Reading on these very shores in the UK. I didn’t know that they were a quintet comprised of vocalist Jack Reynolds, guitarists Martin Williams and Ethan Bishop, bassist Chris Kendell and drummer Sam Greenland. I didn’t know that on 7th April they were to release their debut full-length album entitled ‘Efference’. And, most crucially of all, I didn’t know that the music on this debut album would be so beautiful.

I know all of these things now and my life is much the richer for it.

The musical output of Asira is undeniably quite complex. It is complex in the fact that it draws upon a number of styles and influences across the eight tracks that comprise ‘Efference’. In essence, it is a thorough and fascinating multi-layered and multi-faceted exploration of the subgenre loosely termed as ‘blackgaze’, where savagery and uncompromising black metal sounds are blended with the subtle and evocative beauty of ambient and shoegaze music.

And yet, the skill of Asira has meant that the final product sounds so effortless and so simple. The warm ambient and atmospheric sections sooth and embrace you, whilst the melodies catch your ear almost immediately. And then, even when these passages are replaced by the naked aggression of cold and icy black metal, sometime abruptly, the juxtaposition doesn’t feel forced or clunky in any way. The compositions are ambitious and grand in scope, but they also feel homogenous and eloquent.

I have no qualms in admitting that I am a huge fan of this kind of music and Asira are yet another strong and exciting example of why this is. I regard the likes of Alcest and Les Discrets as the genre leaders and whilst the differences between them are marked, I have no problems in referencing all three in the same breath. I am much less of a fan of Opeth and Steven Wilson and yet even when there are nods in these directions, as evidenced within the short piece entitled ‘Of Dawn’, I’m not left disappointed or underwhelmed. Yes, ‘Efference’ is that good.

Scott Chalmers photography

Scott Chalmers Photography

The opening to the album, ‘Sanguine’ contains some of the most moving sounds this side of modern-day Anathema. It begins with a very simple ambient melody before exploding in a blaze of euphoric warmth and beauty. The sombre tinkling of the ivories as the all-too-brief composition closes is simply gorgeous. It is already at this point that I am hooked and realise that I’m almost certainly about to listen to something special.

And then, with no warning, in comes ‘Crucible Of Light’ with full-on black metal malevolence and spite. Blast beats and fast-picked riffing bombard the senses from the outset but even at this point, melody and sophistication is never far away. In come the blackened screams to add to the intensity but just as quickly, they are replaced by a soothing clean croon and all of a sudden the uncompromising black metal assault is replaced by something more ethereal and majestic, full of melody and atmosphere. A groovy mid-section takes over with a vaguely progressive feel to it before the track reverts back to black metal brutality and then ends with a reprise of the central melody to glorious effect.

There is a much calmer, more introspective opening to the title track , as if to allow the listener to take stock of what went before. The melodies are once again poignant and arresting, capturing my full attention. The blend of clean guitars, synths and almost angelic vocals is inspired. The pace is then lifted although clean, jangling guitars remain at the heart of the bittersweet-sounding composition. After another section of decadent ambience, I’m pulled from my reverie by a fabulous lead guitar solo, whilst it is only the final minute or so that touches on anything remotely connected to extreme metal.

The nods to Opeth are again evident within the opening stages to ‘This Hollow Affliction’ but the show-stopper for me is the expressive and soulful lead guitar work that enters the fray wonderfully. It is one of the longest tracks on ‘Efference’ but its double-figure length is used to good effect, offering plenty of variety along the way. It’s one of the worst clichés in metal journalism but it really does take the listener on a journey through emotional highs and lows. What jumps out at me is the much more pronounced Riverside –esque lead guitar work that rears its head at various points as well as the sublime serenity and remarkable depth of the piece at around the 7:30 mark. It is soon replaced by bludgeoning black metal but the melody and the angelic vocals remain as a thread to the very end.

‘Phosphorous’ delivers more of a punchy and harsh battery of classic symphonic black metal underpinned by a softer shoegaze element to smooth the rough edges, whereas ‘Whispers Of The Moon’, as its name suggests, it a completely different beast, sprawling across seven minutes in languid fashion, offering more melodic bliss within the context of an ambient-meets-progressive rock framework. It slowly builds to a resounding finale that is full of energy, vitality and beauty.

In what feels like the blink of an eye, ‘The Mortal Tide’ arrives to see ‘Efference’ out and, in keeping with the rest of the album, it does so in style. In fact, if anything, there’s more of a prog metal feel to the overall composition as well as the guitars on this track. But fear not as this is never at the expense of the ubiquitous atmospheres, ambience and more extreme elements that Asira execute so well. The vocal melodies that enter around the half-way mark are stunning, only adding to the impact of another brilliantly devised and executed composition.

On the basis of ‘Efference’, I can only predict big things for Asira. If their debut album can be so ambitious, cohesive and assured, what on earth will their second, third and fourth albums sound like. We can only wait and see. However, for now, content yourself with the fact that there’s a new band in existence that has so much potential and simply immerse yourself in ‘Efference’. As blackgaze goes, this is one of the best I’ve heard in a long, long time.

The Score Of Much Metal: 9

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

2015 reviews
2016 reviews

Hologram Earth – Black Cell Program
Damnations Day – A World Awakens
Memoriam – For The Fallen
Pallbearer – Heartless
Sleepmakeswaves – Made of Breath Only
Ghost Ship Octavius – Ghost Ship Octavius
Vangough – Warpaint
Telepathy – Tempest
Obituary – Obituary
Fen – Winter
Havok – Conformicide
Wolfheart – Tyhjyys
Svart Crown – Abreaction
Nova Collective – The Further Side
Immolation – Atonement
The Mute Gods – Tardigrades Will Inherit The Earth
Ex Deo – The Immortal Wars
Pyogenesis – A Kingdom To Disappear
My Soliloquy – Engines of Gravity
Nailed To Obscurity – King Delusion
Helion Prime – Helion Prime
Battle Beast – Bringer Of Pain
Persefone – Aathma
Soen – Lykaia
Exquirla – Para Quienes Aun Viven
Odd Logic – Effigy
Mors Principium Est – Embers Of A Dying World
Firewind – Immortals
Slyde – Back Again EP
Sepultura – Machine Messiah
Deserted Fear – Dead Shores Rising
Kreator – Gods Of Violence
Borealis – World of Silence MMXVII
Pain of Salvation – In The Passing Light of Day

BlogOfMuchMetal – Metal News – 23 March 2017

As you can see from the title of this post, I’ve gone through a bit of a re-branding with these regular news reports. They will still focus on news about albums in the pipeline, so keep expecting updates on new releases, big album announcements, new tracks, studio reports etc.

However, I wanted something a bit more snappy as a title and also something that wasn’t so restrictive as there may be times when I need to write about something that doesn’t involve a new album.

If you’ve not checked out any of the previous posts in this series, entitled ‘Anticipated music in 2017 – an update…’, they can be found via the links at the bottom of this page.

Lonely Robot – The Big Dream
Release date: 28 April 2017

16729381_10155037235405439_4788700761726639376_nI brought you news a week or two back about a new album from Lonely Robot, the brainchild of John Mitchell of It Bites, Arena and Frost* fame. Well, I can now bring you a new track from the forthcoming sophomore release ‘The Big Dream’.

As you might expect, Mitchell’s recognisable guitar playing and vocals are all over this energetic and dynamic progressive rock track that features plenty of melodic hooks to get you coming back for repeated listens. From what can be gleaned from ‘Everglow’, there is unlikely to be a massive sea-change from the debut but that’s a good thing in my opinion. This sounds big, bold and continues with those grand cinematic overtones.

This is just the kind of song to get me extremely excited for the upcoming album.

Lost In Thought – TBC
Release date: TBC

This has got to be one of my most highly anticipated albums of 2017 right here, the sophomore release from the re-formed and rejuvenated UK progressive metal band, Lost In thought. Their debut, ‘Opus Arise’ was a cracking body of progressive metal and is a more than solid foundation upon which to build.

Over the past few weeks and months, the band have been releasing snippets of the recording process and everything I have heard from these suggests that the anticipation for a long-overdue follow-up has not been misplaced. It remains to be seen exactly how the all-new line-up will fare and how new vocalist Deane Lazenby fits in having recently replaced Nate Loosemore behind the mic but that’s all part of the excitement for me.

And whilst we wait for more, here is a selection of recent updates to get you salivating at the prospect of what threatens to be another quality progressive metal album during 2017.

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CyHra – TBC
Release date: TBC

Now this is some news that came out of nowhere and was broken to the world by my old mate and died-in-the-wool metalhead Carl Begai of BWBK. I have been a fan of Amaranthe since the very beginning and I’ve enjoyed each album they have released, even when the music has veered dangerously close to cheesy pop territory. Vocalist Jake E. is one of the reasons for my enjoyment as he has a great voice. So when he left the band, I was very disappointed.

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Similarly, I have also been a fan of In Flames for nearly 20 years. Admitedly, I much prefer their earlier output to the more latter-day incarnation, with guitarist Jesper Stromblad playing an integral part in that with his distinctive playing and input into the song writing.

Therefore, news of these two artists coming together in a brand new project get me very intrigued and a little bit excited. The new band, CyHra, which also features Peter Iwers (ex-In Flames) and Alex Landerburg (Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody), will have fans of old In Flames salivating for obvious reasons, although the band have distanced themselves from being an old In Flames clone right at the outset. Regardless though of what they actually sound like, the debut album will attract a great deal of attention and I’m very excited to hear the finished article.

Ghost Bath – Starmourner
Release date: 21 April 2017

1000x1000Ghost Bath were a new find for me last year. Until that point, I’d never checked out the American quintet. To be honest, I’d barely even heard their name before. But then the band suddenly found themselves on the books of Nuclear Blast and the whole world seemingly took more notice, including me.

In my review of ‘Moonlover’, I described Ghost Bath as appealing to those ‘with a penchant for music that juxtaposes dark and depressing black metal with elegant and soaring shoegaze-like melodies. Call it ‘blackgaze’ if you will’, later concluding that the album delivered ‘a sophisticated blend of aggression, beauty and raw emotion.’

And now, here we have a brand new track from the forthcoming studio album, ‘Ambrosial’ to tide us over until the record is released. Early impressions from me are mixed, but I’ll give it time and judge the material in the context of the entire album. Here’s the track – see what you think…

Novembers Doom – Hamartia
Release date: 14 April 2017

16194898_10154785044620926_4893612019868184461_nNovembers Doom are one of those bands that I think I should really like but end up passing by. I always try to like the American dark/doomsters and I have a couple of their albums in my collection. But I’ve never been much of a fan.

Album number ten is on the horizon and once again, I’m dutifully checking out their new material in the hope that it will finally click with me. And you know what? I really like this track entitled ‘Zephyr’; it is dark and depressive, but it has a really rich tone and an understated melodic chorus that gets under the skin quite quickly. If the new album offers this standard throughout, it might finally be the album that I’ve been waiting for from Novembers Doom.

Previous updates:

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