Imminent Sonic Destruction – The Sun Will Always Set – Album Review

Artist: Imminent Sonic Destruction

Album Title: The Sun Will Always Set

Label: Independent Release

Date of Release: 15 April 2022

With a name like Imminent Sonic Destruction, you might well expect an intense listening experience, the kind that will blow your ears apart with a ferocity that’s calculated and brutal. To some extent, that’s what you get with this band. However, this only tells half the story as those already familiar with the band will know. Because, whilst there is a great deal of heaviness and brutality within their sound, there’s also an incredible amount of variety too, with echoes or more of many different genres and subgenres of music evident, from progressive metal to djent, and from pastoral prog rock, to groove metal. There’s even room for a bit of classical and, dare I suggest it, a little lighter pop too.

I’m surprised as I listen to ‘The Sun Will Always Set’ the third album of the band’s career, that I’ve not crossed swords with them before. I put it down to circumstance rather than an unwillingness to check them out; every time I’ve had them in mind, something has conspired to prevent a decent listen and therefore a review. Now is the time though, and I have thrown myself eagerly into ‘The Sun Will Always Set’, to find out more.

Formed in Detroit, Michigan in 2011, Imminent Sonic Destruction are about as far removed from their hometown’s most famous export, Motown, as it’s possible to get. Mind you, with such a varied music palette, a brief blast of Motown might not have been that big a surprise to be honest. Ok, so I’m being a little flippant, but I’m being honest when I say that this music is varied. Unusually, the band has remained intact since the beginning, meaning that the 2022 line-up is identical to when they released their debut, ‘Recurring Themes’ back in 2012. As such, you’ll find Bryan Paxton on bass/vocals, Pat DeLeon on the drums, Scott Thompson handling guitars, vocals, piano, and midi pedals, Pete Hopersberger on the keyboards, synths and vocals, with Tony Piccoli on lead vocals and guitar.

This kind of stability has clearly aided the American outfit too, because what I hear on ‘The Sun Will Always Set’ is impressive. I’ll admit that there are a couple of the tracks here that I’m less keen on, but overall, there’s not a great deal to complain about. I’d heard rumblings in the past about the quality of the vocals in places on previous outings, but on that score, things must have improved because again, this isn’t an area that causes me any serious problems. Ok, the clean vocals occasionally struggle when pushed to the limit, but with the variety of the delivery, from clean to growling, to screams, it means that the focus isn’t on one style alone.

I’m pleasantly surprised from the off, thanks to ‘Arise’, the opening track. It starts with a delicate piano and clean female vocals, gently, serenely becoming more cinematic as it develops. The melodies, the strings, and the layers of vocals add depth and gravitas to the piece, meaning that instead of being a throw-way intro, it’s a beautiful beginning.

Within moments though, ‘The Core’ obliterates this gentle introduction with some massively heavy guitar notes and powerful, urgent drumming. The vocals that emerge initially are clean, but then we get a bass bomb and in come the nasty growls that seem more in keeping with the brutal, djenty, metalcore-ish soundscape. The bludgeoning is pretty intense, but there is complexity, as well as differing textures to keep things interesting including a pretty cool lead guitar solo. Despite all this, it’s one of the least impressive tracks on the album in my opinion.

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I’m much more a fan of ‘Fledgling’, which feels far more varied and dextrous. From the tinkling of keys to the stop-start djent riffs at the outset, not to mention the more cinematic tones underneath, it presses my buttons much more firmly. And the melodies are much more pronounced, created by some cool lead guitar licks, to a catchy chorus with clean vocals and expansive sound. The track goes off in different directions willingly, with some brilliant technical complexity in the instrumentation, but that big chorus keeps returning, keeping things nicely in check when things threaten to get out of hand.

As good as ‘Fledgling’ undoubtedly is, ‘Nightshade’ has to be my favourite track as I write this review.  At over twelve minutes, it’s a bit of a monster, but it’s a brilliant monster. The intro is full-on drama and intensity, with a cool groove materialising, accented by pinched harmonics for which I can be a bit of sucker. I love the bass rumble within this song too, gratified that the very decent production (Nick Hagen, guitarist of fellow US metal band Intransient) gives room for each of the instruments to breathe and be heard. The chorus melody is marvellous, so catchy, and the introduction of acoustic guitars is a very welcome touch. Elsewhere, the band explore overtly Pantera-like grooves, flamboyant musicianship including keyboard and guitar solos, and plenty in between, making it one of the most fun and interesting compositions on the aklbum.

The aforementioned pop-like sensibilities surface within the rather surprising ‘Solitude’, a much gentler track that strangely reminds me a little of Shadow Gallery at points, as well as more recent Devin Townsend. The synths offer a deep resonance, whilst electronic beats supplement those of drummer Pat DeLeon. And the melodies are light, breezy, and oddly soothing. Things do get heavier in the second half, but don’t overrun the melodic intent of this great song.

‘Source’ is another track that I’m slightly less keen on, despite it being a perfectly decent track in it’s own right, but the closing title track ends ‘The Sun Will Always Set’ on a suitably high note. The opening clean guitar notes fill me with joy, as does the ensuing nine-minute passage of music, complete with rich, warm sounds, almost rock-meets-ambient in tone. It demonstrates, once again, that Imminent Sonic Destruction understand dynamics and as heavy as they get, can more than hold their own when things get lighter. The song is a glorious effort, complete with rousing melodies, layers of vocals, and a closing ambient section that could make a grown man cry.

When you add into the equation guest appearances from some notable musicians, including cellist Raphael Weinroth-Browne, guitarist Tony Asta (Battlecross), vocalist Lady Luna (Lady Luna And The Devil), and Dragged Beneath’s vocalist Kevin Wroebel, you begin to realise just how good this band are, and how highly thought-of they are in certain musical circles. And the great thing is, that ‘The Sun Will Always Set’ justifies the high regard in which they are held. Imminent Sonic Destruction have put together a superb record here, one that deserves to see them rise higher and command even more success in the coming years. If you’re a fan of progressive music, then there is definitely something on ‘The Sun Will Always Set’ that is guaranteed to get your pulse racing. Highly recommended.

The Score of Much Metal: 89%

Check out my other 2022 reviews here:

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

Monuments – In Stasis – Album Review

Artist: Monuments

Album Title: In Stasis

Label: Century Media Records

Date of Release: 15 April 2022

My general aversion to full-on djent over the past decade or two has meant that UK-based metal band Monuments have never been high on my list of bands I’ve wanted to keep up with. I have listened to their previous material more out of a sense of obligation than desire, simply because I feel that I need to listen to everything labelled ‘progressive’. It may cover a multitude of styles, but ‘prog’, loosely, is one of my favourite genres of music. But where Monuments, and others of their ilk are concerned, theirs is a style that has always been too overtly modern and djenty for my tastes. Not only that, but I’ve always heard a little too much of the dreaded ‘metalcore’ where Monuments are concerned in the past.

As with other styles of music over the last year or so though, I have seen a thawing of my djent opinions in particular, and so it felt like a no-brainer to give this latest effort from Monuments a go. Not only that, but ‘In Stasis’ is the first album to be released with new vocalist Andy Cizek, who has replaced Chris Barretto behind the mic. And with long time guitarist Olly Steele recently leaving, to reduce Monuments to a four-piece, my interest was piqued enough to see how Monuments would fare in 2022 with this, their fourth full-length release.

Given all of these changes of late, the album is somewhat ironically named. However, as the band are keen to explain, the title was born out of the fact that “the album became centered (sic) around the concept of being in stasis, stuck in the middle of a power struggle with oneself.”

Not being massively knowledgeable on the last three records in their discography, I will leave it to others to play the ‘compare and contrast’ game. What I will say at this juncture though, is that ‘In Stasis’ has surprised me a little. The core sound, dominated by those chugging djent riffs in clever time signatures remains very much intact, as does the injection of melody and the juxtaposition of harsh and clean vocals. But I wasn’t expecting ‘In Stasis’ to be this enjoyable and, dare I say it, this varied. There is plenty of material on this fifty-minute album that got me smiling or raising an eyebrow in appreciation. I like it when that happens.

‘No One Will Teach You’ starts things off on ‘In Stasis’ and if I was to listen to this track in isolation, I’d think that very little has changed from what I’d heard from Monuments before. It’s full-on djent attack, with those familiar chunky riffs and powerhouse rhythm section, with vocals that flit from spiteful growls, to a higher-register clean delivery. I’m still not sold on the more metalcore ingredient that’s the shouted/spoken approach whilst I have to really be in the mood for the kinds of breakdowns that this music generally brings with it. But in spite of this, it’s an interesting song that I don’t dislike anywhere near as much as I thought, probably because of the nice complexity that sits within the spiky, muscular heaviness.

Credit: Joeseth Carter

It’s with the introduction of the second track, ‘Lavos’, that my attention is more fully grabbed. It starts off at a furious pace, naked aggression held in check by excellent musicianship all round. Within moments, everything drops away though to leave Cizak to sing alone with only the barest hint of a soundscape behind him, subtly cinematic, and with a dark vibe. And then, when the chorus hits, the vocalist lets rip, leaving a path of destruction in his wake; the sheer variation in Cizak’s delivery is exceptionally impressive, but so is the song overall, as it brings in melody, variety, and a thoroughly engrossing sound. If the entirety of ‘In Stasis’ followed suit, I’d be waxing even more lyrical than I am now.

That said, there are other compositions amongst the ten that really hit the mark as far as I am concerned and show a band that’s willing and able to try new things along the way. On that score, I’d pick out ‘Cardinal Red’, ‘Collapse’, ‘The Cimmerian’ as definite album highlights.

The former, ‘Cardinal Red’ features arguably the strongest of all of the melodies on ‘In Stasis’. The opening sequence sees a seesaw between naked aggression and more reserved passages that hint at the melody to come. And when the chorus descends, it’s truly beautiful. The subtle electronics that sit beneath the guitars, bass, drums, and vocals comes out to play more eloquently with the benefit of headphones, and it’s a nice touch, adding texture and a hint more of modernity. I’m also a fan of the chosen riffs, as they cut with precision throughout, whilst drummer Mike Malyan underlines his talents very eloquently too.

‘Collapse’ is a monstrous song that may return somewhat to type, but there’s no denying the power and the catchiness of the song’s chorus. It’s one of the more overt metalcore-infused tracks here, but once you hear the chorus, you’ll not be able to get the hooks out of your mind.

And then there’s ‘The Cimmerian’. At over eight minutes, it’s the longest on the record, but it is well worth its length as it explores so much within that time. I love the opening guitar lick and the intensity that hits from there. But even more striking is the way in which we’re taken on a journey through quieter, more minimalist soundscapes where the smoothness of Cizak’s voice really impresses me. It means that the heavier sections make more of an impact, but it laces the song with a really nice melodic aspect which is present throughout, creating an anthemic feel. The acoustic guitars are a lovely touch, as is the delicate cinematic outro to see out the album in its entirety.

If I’m being completely honest, then I must admit that ‘In Stasis’ hasn’t won me over 100%, and I’m unlikely to fervently sing the band’s praises throughout 2022. However, it is an enormous step in the right direction as far as I’m concerned. This is the sound of a band expanding their blueprint and doing it in a way that will no doubt please existing fans and bring new admirers to their cause. There is no denying the fact that Monuments are a very talented and focused outfit, capable of making a really great noise, and I will definitely keep them on my radar in future.

The Score of Much Metal: 82%

Check out my other 2022 reviews here:

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

Soledad – XIII – Album Review

Artist: Soledad

Album Title: XIII

Label: Independent Release

Date of Release: 15 April 2022

I’m so excited about bringing this review to you, for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is a new discovery for me, and those are always exciting. Secondly, this new discovery came from a friend and fellow music journalist, demonstrating that we always try to work together and support each other for the benefit of the music and the bands/artists themselves. Thirdly, this is a self-produced record, deliberately so, in order for the band to stay as independent as possible. I like everything about this, so I couldn’t wait to record my thoughts in this review and get the word out there.

The band in question go by the name of Soledad, and depending on how you look at it, this is either their debut or their sophomore release. Soledad, you see, was born in 2016 by Lola Damblant-Soler and the first recording, ‘Catharsis’ was a solo affair. This record, entitled ‘XIII’, is the first for Soledad as a band in the traditional sense. Joining Lola are a trio of musicians that include guitarists Matthieu Colas and Theo Pinte, and drummer Julien Giet. Lola herself continues to contribute vocals, guitars, and keys, as well as being the primary songwriter for Soledad.

The description that they offer of themselves is sure to get many of you salivating from the outset, as they proudly reference bands like Haken, Leprous, Neal Morse, and Muse in the process. The words ‘pop’ and ‘romantic music’ make an appearance to create an intriguing and exciting prospect. What’s even better, though, is that the music does live up to the hype. In fact, whilst there is merit in the description above, I’d also add A.C.T. in there too, as well as mentioning genres like ‘West End Musical’, ‘classical’, and ‘djent’. It’s a heady concoction and as we all know, throwing a million things into the melting pot does not always work. In the case of Soledad though, the majority of the music works, meaning that ‘XIII’ is a very impressive creation indeed.

What it also means is that it’s a typically difficult album to review in a succinct fashion because of the sheer amount of variety at play. In which case, strap yourselves in and get ready for what’s to come.

The record begins with ‘Hanging Over Me’, a track that has a very A.C.T. art rock feel to it. It starts with piano and vocals, the former delicate but rich, and the voice smooth and almost hushed, whispered. The melody is beautiful, and things only get better with the introduction of drums, bass and guitar, taking the composition into all kinds of directions, from pop, to prog rock, to West End Musical. But at it’s heart is a wonderful energy, so stirring, and elegant. It also has a slightly bittersweet feel to it, with a sense of overriding positivity pushing through despite the album’s dissection of themes of doubt and uncertainty.

After this rousing intro piece, I wasn’t quite ready for ‘Hex’ and its incredibly muscular djent-like riffs, reminiscent of more recent Haken. There are a few harsh vocals in the background too, for added aggression, before guest vocalist Suzie Lou makes a bold appearance. I love the overt progressive nature of the riffing and the complex structures, as well as the way the heaviness recedes on a sixpence to be replaced by sounds of nature accompanied by much more minimal sounds. As the track develops, there are so many layers to uncover, so many ideas going on, but it sounds absolutely spot on, and not overdone or contrived in any way.

The opening harsh mechanical sounds that usher in ‘Migraine’ are entirely in keeping with the song’s title, as are the punishing, thumping drums that mete out a simple but effective early beat. This song features the talents of Hassan Hajdi, and it is the sudden shift into melodic territory that captures my full attention. The juxtaposition between uncomfortable sounds and embellishments, and all-out serene melody, accented by layers of vocals, is inspired, justifying it’s place as one of my favourites on the album. The meandering lead guitar solo is another great touch, showing dexterity and feel to sit alongside some chunky, heavy riffs.

From there, we are led to ‘Fading Sight’ which has a much more whimsical feel to it, with plucked strings creating the opening delicate sounds alongside Lola’s soft voice. The final minute or so features a heavier soundtrack, but the opening melody continues unhindered by the weight of strong riffs – if anything, it is only enhanced and firmly supported by them.

By contrast, ‘Shelter I’, featuring guitarist Jeremy Bares, has a much more modern feel to it, coupled with a lush classical-infused slow waltz tempo. Strong but reserved djenty riffing plays an important part, bringing those Haken references to the fore. The incongruous slide guitar sounds from Bares actually work in a strange way as this composition highlights the greater art-rock drama and theatrics that are very much a part of the Soledad sound.

Having only described five of the eleven tracks thus far, I feel I need to change tack to prevent you all falling into a coma. However, it’s so difficult to do so because there’s still so much to discuss. ‘Shelter II’ is another favourite, with bucket loads of over-the-top pomposity and strong performances from all corners of the band. To me, this is the sound of the lovechild created by an illicit rendezvous between early Haken, A.C.T., and even Queen at their most outrageous. The central chorus melody is an utter delight and bathes the entire song in its warm glow.

The title track sounds like I’m walking past a nightclub in the early hours, with the electronic beats just about audible through the tightly closed doors. But then we’re whisked away on a metallic carpet, across aural soundscapes that are really rather diverse and ambitious. I can certainly hear the Leprous vibes, but again, there’s so much going on that it’s hard to pinpoint just one reference. By the time you become familiar with the path upon which you’re treading, Soledad take you elsewhere. None more unexpected than the all-out classical interlude at the heart of this song, that makes you feel like you’ve stumbled into a performance of ‘Swan Lake’ and then back to the prog metal via a Disney soundtrack. I love it, and you’ll be hard-pressed not to, I guarantee it, as the commitment to their art is so palpable at this point.

One of the most arresting and heart-breaking melodies appears within the stunning ‘The Spell’. Again, piano and vocals take the lead here, embellished lovingly by strings until the heaviness descends in the latter stages to add extra gravitas to that opening melody that so captivates me. ‘Remedy’ continues the excellence, with more effortless skill and powerful songwriting, before the album’s longest track arrives in the form of ‘Remembrance’. As you might expect, it dances all over the place with delight, taking us from dark and foreboding, to light and playful in the blink of an eye. Again, the chuggy riffs and muscular rhythms are well-placed and underline just how properly heavy Soledad can be when the mood fully takes them. But such is Lola’s voice that everything is laced with a smooth, effortless visage. And the sheer power and beauty of the final three or so minutes is utterly spellbinding, the way it ebbs and flows, building the tension, only to release just as I hoped it would with a flurry of dexterity, particularly the drums.

‘XIII’ is a 58-minute record and yet it really doesn’t feel like it’s that long. Before you know it, you’re listening to the concluding track, ‘Amnesia’, a song that cleverly reintroduces melodies and ideas heard at earlier points on the album. But here, the melodies feel even more expansive and emotive, pulling many of the album’s strands together neatly in the process. And that final guitar solo is nothing but sheer musical nectar. I’m so glad I was introduced to Soledad, because the French quartet have impressed me immensely with their ambitious, bold, eclectic, and slightly eccentric musical vision. I really hope that this review has whetted your appetite, because if not, I’ll be gutted. Not only because I’ll have clearly lost my touch as a reviewer, but also because it might mean that a truly marvellous record will have slipped past you. Please don’t let that happen – listen to ‘XIII’ and, I hope, prepare to be entertained and captivated like I have been. This is easily one of the best progressive records of 2022 so far.

The Score of Much Metal: 95%

Check out my other 2022 reviews here:

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

Meshuggah – Immutable – Album Review

Artist: Meshuggah

Album Title: Immutable

Label: Atomic Fire Records

Date of Release: 1 April 2022

Immutable. An adjective meaning “unchanging over time or unable to be changed.”

In many ways, the title of this album is perfect. Over the past three decades, Meshuggah have consistently and stubbornly stood at the pinnacle of extreme progressive metal. The term ‘djent’ and the bands that plunder this genre were born largely thanks to the Swedish behemoth, a band that has consistently created music that’s both incredibly technical and challenging, earning the tag of ‘pioneers’ and rightly so.  Refusing to compromise, and refusing to recover old ground, ‘Immutable’ is a great title.

Looking at it another way, though, to play devil’s advocate, the title could also be argued to be misplaced here. For ‘Immutable’ offers, somewhat paradoxically, yet more change and new elements to the Meshuggah sound. The very fact that Meshuggah never stand still just proves that they are not immutable. We could argue over the title for hours – as someone with a law degree, and who deals with deciphering legislation on a daily basis, this would see me in my natural element. However, to do so would be to miss the point of this review and bore everyone to tears. Instead, allow me to say that this might be my new favourite Meshuggah album.

This is, I grant you, a big claim, given the music that the quintet have created over the years. But I stand by this statement. On one hand, it isn’t that much of a surprise because I’ve never given myself over fully to Meshuggah. I’ve often found that as extreme, heavy, and technical that their output has been, it has sometimes lacked sufficient melody and immediacy for my personal tastes. I don’t question the ability of the musicians for one second because to do so would be folly of the greatest proportions; these five musicians are some of the most talented within the world of heavy music, able to do things that my poor brain simply cannot begin to fathom. But albums like ‘Catch 33’ and ‘Chaosphere’ were just relentless in terms of complexity and aggression, and just left me a little bit cold. I admire them, but I cannot lie and say that they are albums I gravitate to with any great regularity.

I enjoyed ‘The Violent Sleep Of Reason’, their last album, released a full six years ago. But I like ‘Immutable’ even more. And the key to my enjoyment is that, by the admission of Meshuggah themselves, ‘Immutable’ is more melodic and definitely more dynamic than most of what’s gone before. This revelation will not find favour with everyone, as music taste is entirely subjective. But for me, a more melodic and varied Meshuggah is very welcome news indeed.

I do have a ‘but’ though, and that ‘but’ is that ‘Immutable’ is too long. I’ve said it many times before, but generally, albums that extend beyond the hour mark are too long. ‘Immutable’ is comprised of thirteen separate tracks that come together to form a monolithic 69 minutes of music. It feels a little miserly of me to say, after a long six-year wait, that a band as good as Meshuggah have presented us with too much music. But I’m nothing if not consistent and, when you consider how intense their music is, the length of this record will likely test all but the most masochistic of metalheads.

Bear in mind too, that words like ‘melodic’ and ‘dynamic’ have different meanings depending upon the surrounding context. ‘Immutable’ is not melodic in the same way as a power metal record might be, so it is still an intense aural battering, of that there is absolutely no doubt. And when that battering lasts for well over four thousand seconds, that’s one hell of a beating in anyone’s language.

Let’s leave this small critique at the door though and move onto the music itself, because therein lies the real magic. Firstly, as with most of their studio releases, the production on ‘Immutable’ is fantastic.

The first immediately noticeable difference on this album is with the use of clean, whispered vocals from Jens Kidman around which the unmistakeable complex polyrhythmic riffs and beats thunder through the speakers, albeit a little less aggressively than they have in the past. The dark undercurrent is marvellous and cloaks the track in a menacing, unsettling atmosphere. Only towards the end do we hear the archetypal growls from Kidman, although he reverts to the whispers at the death.

The riffing from Mårten Hagström and Fredrik Thordendal within ‘The Abysmal Eye’ are much more in keeping with the more ‘standard’ Meshuggah sound if such a thing truly exists, as does Kidman’s deep, rasping vocal delivery. But for me, it is Tomas Haake that steals the show, producing an incredible beat the likes of which few could possibly emulate or even envision in the first place. Alongside Haake, the bass of unsung hero Dick Lövgren rumbles superbly, creating the most solid of skeletons upon which all else sits. It’s as you were for ‘Light The Shortening Fuse’, the other advance single with which most of us are already acutely familiar. As Someone who struggles with a simple four-four time signature, the smooth, effortless, occasionally almost unnoticeable changes just blow my tiny mind and I sit and shake my head in forlorn appreciation.

There are so many great moments within ‘Immutable’ that it’s hard to pick just a few in order to maintain the pretence of brevity. However, I have to mention the fantastic lurching, almost tribal sounding chug of ‘Ligature Marks’. I love the lead guitar notes that soar above the heavy riffing, injecting melody of a strange, haunting, almost dissonant style; it’s certainly an intense and ear-catching moment on the record.

The melodic intro to ‘They Move Below’, a monster of a song that spans nearly ten minutes, is utterly delightful and allows a period of calm and beauty to emerge just when it’s needed. It is a delicate, beautiful couple of minutes, but the calm is shattered in a heartbeat, only to be replaced by something equally beguiling, albeit of a much more aggressive and nasty disposition. The djent aspects of the Meshuggah sound loom large through the muted guitar notes that weave yet another mind-bending sonic tapestry. It is songs like this that ensure that ‘Immutable’ justify the accolade of being my personal favourite Meshuggah album – with this level of songwriting prowess, how could it not be?

But we’re not done, as ‘Kaleidoscope’ plays around with a more modern djent sound, whilst lacing it with their own inimitable complex magic, including some insane guitar leads that defy logic, at least to me anyway. But the biggest eyebrow raise comes in the form of ‘Black Cathedral’. The first time I heard it, I had to check the promo download to ensure that I was still listening to Meshuggah. It may only be two minutes long and an instrumental to boot, but it makes an impression. With fuzzy, fast-picked staccato riffing, it’s undeniably a black metal -inspired composition. And as such, it’s dark, foreboding, and downright evil. I wasn’t expecting this, and I suspect neither are you.

Add in some very demonstrable death metal nuances within ‘I Am That Thirst’, a hypnotic groove within ‘The Faultless’ and the all-out balls-to-the-wall speedy aggression at the outset of ‘’Armies Of The Preposterous’, and you hopefully get the idea just how varied and dynamic this record truly is, and why I like it more than any other Meshuggah record in their now nine-deep discography. It may be a little too long but that’s literally the only gripe I have. In every other way, it’s Meshuggah. But more than that, it’s Meshuggah at their glorious best. And that means that with ‘Immutable’, we’re in the presence of heavy metal greatness.

The Score of Much Metal: 93%

Check out my other 2022 reviews here:

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

WAIT – The End Of Noise – Album Review

Artist: WAIT

Album Title: The End Of Noise

Label: The Artisan Era

Date of Release:  11 February 2022

An acronym for ‘We Are In Transit’, WAIT is an interesting find and one I thought I should bring to everyone’s attention. WAIT is currently a trio and if you like metal, there’s a decent chance that you will have come across a couple of the musicians involved in the band. Charlie Eron and Max Phelps formed WAIT in 2016, the latter a guitarist and vocalist who has been involved with the likes of Cynic, Exist, and Defeated Sanity during his career. The duo were later joined by bassist Alex Weber who can cite Exist, Svengahli, Jeff Loomis, and Sabbath Assembly on his resume.

‘The End Of Noise’ is the debut full-length album following the release of an EP in 2019 entitled ‘We Are In Transit’. It features seven tracks over a run-time of somewhere in the region of 50 minutes. You’ll not be surprised to learn then, that the music on ‘The End Of Noise’ finds itself within the progressive metal realm.

Whilst I think it’s fair to say that this album hasn’t completely blown me away, there is enough about it to recommend you take a listen for yourselves to make up your own mind. I certainly find plenty of elements that I like, starting with the heaviness of the music. This isn’t light, airy-fairy prog, this has strong riffs delivered with precision, veering into djent territory quite often. There are periods of calm and quieter soundscapes, but the foundation of WAIT’s music is essentially technical and heavy.

The press release does not mention the drums except to say that they were handled on the EP by Anup Sastry. Whoever (or whatever) is responsible, they sound punchy and very competent, if a little unremarkable at times. The same cannot be said for the bass of Weber, as the instrument is all over this record, one minute dancing, the next rumbling with power to add further gravitas to the guitar riffs.

The opening track took a while to work on me because the lead guitar melody is very prominent within what is almost entirely an instrumental workout. The guitar riffs are a stop-start chugging djent-like affair and the lead guitar melody noodles over the top for large periods, occasionally sounding ever so slightly discordant or flat. I entirely suspect that this is deliberate and actually, after a while, it gets under your skin. It’s certainly memorable. In the final few moments, clean vocals enter, a delicate addition to the churning riffs beneath, and an inescapable similarity to Cynic springs to my mind. Of course, there is a big difference, but the echoes are there to be heard.

‘Earths Last Orbit’ is quite possibly my favourite track on the album. The vocals are again clean and they carry a definite melodic presence, making the song one of the more immediate on ‘The End Of Noise’. Even though the technicality remains, the song demonstrates a slightly more organic feel, with the word ‘grunge’ popping into my head at times. Gruff barked vocals come into play at the halfway mark and they fit the music well, as the drums pound and the riffs chug and churn nicely. If I was to be a little critical, I’d venture to suggest that the track doesn’t necessarily warrant its run-time of over seven minutes, but that aside, it’s a cool song.

That last criticism is also relevant to other songs on ‘The End Of Noise’ too. I find my mind wandering as the music tends to wander without direction on a few occasions whilst not really delivering a killer blow. The technicality is present, whilst the ideas and ability are in place too. However, the songwriting is just a bit bland at times, with a lack of variety on display. And crucially, a lack of melody is probably my biggest disappointment overall. With a little less chug, and a bit more melody, this could have been an even bigger hit with me.

Nevertheless, tracks like ‘Reverie’ have some great moments within them, especially the more pronounced synths and vocal delivery that combine to remind me again of Cynic amongst others. There’s an otherworldly feel to the track that I rather like, as well as latching on to some of the complex riffs that seem to make a greater impact. And the drumming feels more exuberant too, another positive aspect.

The album ends with a near nine-minute closer in the form of ‘Until The Road Is Closed’. And actually, after repeated listens, it becomes a strong final note upon which to finish the album. It is arguably the most varied track, with interesting semi-gruff vocals adding a dark, sinister edge to compliment quieter passages that are equally dark. But, as the song develops, so does a greater sense of melody, and it is this that gently recedes into nothing, signalling the completion of ‘The End Of Noise’.

There’s definitely enough on this debut to entertain me and there’s definitely enough here to suggest rather strongly that there is yet more to come from this trio. ‘The End Of Noise’ is a commendable, occasionally excellent, debut release that I’m certain will find favour with many of you. And I shall, without doubt, keep my eyes and ears open for more music from WAIT in the future. Let’s just hope that the wait (sorry) isn’t too long.

The Score of Much Metal: 78%

Check out my other 2022 reviews here:

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 22

Welcome to Day 9 of my ‘Album of The Year 2021 Top 30 Countdown’. I can’t quite believe that I’m this far through already, it doesn’t seem possible if I’m honest. Maybe it’s because I’m having fun? Surely not!

As I write this series, I’m reminded of what a positive year it has been for new music. Bands might be suffering to keep going and tours have been cancelled left, right, and centre. But the musicians never cease to amaze me, creating fantastic new music whatever hurdles are put in front of them. It’s why my Christmas list to Santa Claus is 100% music-related – we need to support our favourite bands, otherwise we might lose them.

As always, I want to remind newbies to my website that links to the previous posts in this series, as well as links to the entire lists of previous years can be found at the bottom of this post. You might like my choices, you might hate them – but hopefully, regardless, you’ll enjoy reading them. Surely better this, than just a quick one-off list with no explanation or context behind the decisions? Or maybe not!

On that note, I’ll leave you explore my latest pick for 2021:

Number 22

Vola

“Witness”

Mascot Records

Release Date: 21 May 2021

Score Of Much Metal: 93%

Another day, another familiar name to my end of year ‘best of’ series. This time, it’s Danish metal band Vola that find themselves nestled nicely within the top 30. However, like others, they find themselves just a little lower in the list this year than maybe I, and others, would have expected. Let me explain why, if I can.

‘Applause Of A Distant Crowd’ came a little out of nowhere for me and knocked me sideways. I love it when that happens because the experience can be rather magical. The problem is that any follow-up has a difficult task to reproduce the magic, and that’s partly where ‘Witness’ suffered – I went in to the album with massively high expectations and whilst they were largely met, a little of that previous magic failed to materialise.

I know this might sound harsh, but I’m just being honest as you expect of me.

Additionally, there are the moments of greater experimentation on ‘Witness’ that must be congratulated, but which only left me feeling disorientated and a little disappointed – ‘Black Claws’ remains a tough listen for example, as I still can’t get to grips with the hip hop/rap element.

Taking everything into account though, ‘Witness’ still offers a great deal of enjoyment and had it been my entry point into the band instead of ‘Applause…’, I’m certain that it would have ended up higher in the list. Nevertheless, ‘Witness’ is quality and is fully deserving of a place on my list this year because when they nail it, they really nail it.

What I wrote at the time:

“…the first thing to hit me when I listened to ‘Witness’, was the increased djent influences. The big chugging riffs of that genre were definitely present throughout ‘Applause…’ but unless I’m mistaken, they are even more prevalent here. 

The vocals on ‘Witness’ are another area where it feels like Vola have opened up somewhat since ‘Applause…’, happy – eager even – to experiment with new ideas in this area. 

A word at this point needs to be made of the production. If their instrumental and songwriting talents weren’t enough, ‘Witness’ has been self-produced, with only the mix and mastering handled by a third party, namely Jacob Hansen. And the final result sounds incredible. Muscular, clear, nuanced, textured, it really does the music full justice.

Witness’ is a heavier album, where the boundaries have been pushed just that little bit more in terms of the different ideas given voice within the album…At the end of the day, I love the riffing, I love the melodies, I love the rich layers, and I have taken many of the songs to my heart. If, like me, you enjoy heavy music with a progressive bent, but with strong, immediate, and irresistible melodies, then ‘Witness’ will be a massive hit with you. But then I guess you already knew that, didn’t you?

Read the full review here.

The list this year so far…

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

Vola – Witness – Album Review

Artist: Vola

Album Title: Witness

Label: Mascot Records

Date of Release: 21 May 2021

To me, ‘Applause Of A Distant Crowd’ was one of the best albums released during 2018, securing the number 11 spot in that year’s ‘Album of the Year’ list. With hindsight, it ought to have been even higher, as it just gets better the more I listen to it. At the time, I concluded my review by stating that ‘Applause…’ created “…some of the most challenging and original yet beautifully elegant and sophisticated music that I have heard all year. All I want to do when the album finishes is listen to it all over again.”

Naturally, I was chomping at the bit to get my ears around Vola’s (or should that be VOLA’s?) eagerly awaited successor, and I know from my social media timelines that I’m not the only one. And here I am, finally, able to give voice to my thoughts on ‘Witness’, the fourth album of the Danes’ career to date. According to the band themselves, the lyrical content on ‘Witness’ deals with the subject of failed relationships, but relationships on a societal level, namely between the leaders and the followers, or to put it another way, politicians and the general populace. It’s therefore not the happiest of records overall.

However, rather than the lyrical content, the first thing to hit me when I listened to ‘Witness’, was the increased djent influences. The big chugging riffs of that genre were definitely present throughout ‘Applause…’ but unless I’m mistaken, they are even more prevalent here. Almost immediately, as ‘Straight Lines’ kicks in, we’re struck with a powerful djent-like riff, a churning, mesmeric riff, enhanced by a clever drum beat and gurgling, commanding bass line. The rhythm doesn’t sound like a standard 4-4 structure either, giving it a progressive, slightly off-kilter feel. The initial heaviness subsides but the riffs and rhythms continue, albeit bathed in synths to provide a thick atmosphere. Asger Mygind delivers his mellifluous and slightly effect-laden vocals and then, after a moment of quieter contemplation, in marches the first of many ridiculously catchy, pop-infused choruses to my utter delight. The juxtaposition between heaviness and unashamed hooky melodies is perfectly balanced, sating both the metalhead in me as well as the fan of a catchy melody.

The opener isn’t the only track to explore the blending of progressive metal and heavy djent with accessible, mainstream choruses, either. It’s a tactic used throughout much of ‘Witness’. Indeed, the second track on the record, ‘Head Mounted Sideways’ continues the theme. Mygind’s guitars are heavy and downtuned delivering killer riffs in the process, the drumming of Adam Janzi is sharp and interesting, whilst Nicolai Mogensen’s bass continues to compliment the riffs in a powerfully deep and resonant fashion. This time though, we hear a completely different vocal performance from Mygind, much more heavily effect-laden, sounding almost like a digitised robot. It works well with the more pronounced keys within the song, as sci-fi influences loom large. But yet again, the song opens to provide a beautiful chorus, not massively dissimilar to the likes of Voyager unless my ears deceive me. Mygind’s ‘normal’ voice returns later in the song, and overall, there feels like there’s a greater use of light and shade within the song, certainly more than the opening number.

The vocals on ‘Witness’ are another area where it feels like Vola have opened up somewhat since ‘Applause…’, happy – eager even – to experiment with new ideas in this area. This observation leads inevitably to the one song on the record that has caused me the greatest amount of difficulty, ‘These Black Claws’. Allow me to explain…

The song opens in a manner that I wasn’t expecting. The song features electronic/hip hop duo Shahmen and their influence is clear from the outset thanks to electronic-sounding beats and a weird electronic-led ‘spooky’ melody. In comes a heavy riff, arguably one of the heaviest on the album, to pull things back towards a more ‘business as usual’ framework. However, it falls away and back come the odd electronics for the verse, overlaid with Mygind’s voice. Weirdly, it sounds like he has a heavy cold as he sings, but I may just be hearing things. The chorus, when it hits almost out of nowhere is both powerful and stunning, catchy as hell, a personal favourite on ‘Witness’. But just when I start to relax, the second verse is delivered by Bliss of Shahmen and the song is ruined in my opinion. I don’t like hip hop, I don’t like rap, and I really don’t want to hear it within a Vola record. Many of you will be shouting at me, saying I’m closed-minded, and not open enough to new ideas. You might well be right, but this is just me and I have to be honest. Despite repeated listens and great effort on my part, I genuinely don’t like it and I feel it wasn’t necessary despite the overt hip hop influences elsewhere within the song. It’s a crying shame because the chorus is a thing of majestic beauty. I applaud the quartet for trying something different, but personally-speaking, I feel like they went too far here.

Leaving ‘These Black Claws’ aside however, there remain plenty of other amazing songs within the nine that comprise ‘Witness’.

Probably my favourite has to be ’24 Light-Years’. It is a quieter, more introspective song, without all of the heavy djent muscle. It could even be considered to be something of a ballad, albeit not your run-of-the-mill saccharine affair. Throughout, I love the drumming because it provides a properly intriguing and interesting beat, demonstrating Janzi’s talents behind the kit. The track is heavily layered with atmospheric synths and the guitars, whilst present, take a backseat for large portions of the song, until the final third when they emerge with modest aplomb. Admittedly, there are moments that fly close to the miserable drivel of Coldplay et al, but such is the skill of Vola, that they sidestep any such mediocrity and just create a delightful, beautifully melodic, and rather poignant piece of music.

The other ballad on ‘Witness’ is entitled ‘Freak’ and it’s another really beautiful, smooth song, led by acoustic guitars but with all of the Vola ingredients you have come to expect by now. It might not have quite the same impact upon me as ’24 Light-Years’ but it’s still a great addition to the album as a whole.

Elsewhere, ‘Napalm’ is an almost perfect symbiosis between layers of guitars from Mygind (yes, there is only one guitarist within Vola) and even more layers of rich, textured synths. Further elegant melodies litter the song, particularly in the choruses, whilst the drums and bass keep things interesting with beats and rhythms detached from the norm. Then there’s ‘Future Bird’ which, whilst maintaining the general modus operandi, contains echoes of latter day Katatonia. I say this for two reasons. Firstly, the inclusion of some simple piano notes and secondly, the melodic yet slightly unusual chorus that contains a greater progressive element than other choruses on the record. Together, the atmospheres feel just that little bit more dystopian and reminiscent of their Swedish counterparts. Needless to say, it’s a superb song; smooth, heavy, and beautiful, full of emotion.

A word at this point needs to be made of the production. If their instrumental and songwriting talents weren’t enough, ‘Witness’ has been self-produced, with only the mix and mastering handled by a third party, namely Jacob Hansen. And the final result sounds incredible. Muscular, clear, nuanced, textured, it really does the music full justice.

Before I heard a note of ‘Witness’, I knew I would like it. The question was how much and, would I like it even more than ‘Applause…’? Having listened countless times to this album, I have reached the conclusion that I might just like ‘Applause…’ slightly more, but it’s a close-run thing. But why choose? Just play the albums back-to-back. ‘Witness’ is a heavier album, where the boundaries have been pushed just that little bit more in terms of the different ideas given voice within the album. These experiments have both worked (’24 Light-Years’ and ‘Straight Lines’) and fallen a little flat (‘These Black Claws’), but credit where it’s due, kudos to the band for giving things a go. At the end of the day, I love the riffing, I love the melodies, I love the rich layers, and I have taken many of the songs to my heart. If, like me, you enjoy heavy music with a progressive bent, but with strong, immediate, and irresistible melodies, then ‘Witness’ will be a massive hit with you. But then I guess you already knew that, didn’t you?

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

Album of the Year 2018 – Number 10

Welcome to the latest instalment of my Album of the Year 2018 top 30 countdown. We’ve reached the top 10! Finally we’re at the business end of this epic undertaking and the final ten records are genuinely the very best that 2018 has had to offer, at least from my perspective.

Over the year, I have reviewed well over 100 releases in some detail. However, when you add together all of the material that I have listened to, that number could easily be doubled or even tripled. And even then, I’ve probably missed a few releases that would have been worthy of my attention. But rest assured that the next ten, including today’s pick are the crème de la crème.

As always, if you’ve missed any of my previous posts, head down to the bottom of this post to check out the links for numbers 30-11.

But now, on with the show…

Number 10:

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Distorted Harmony
‘A Way Out’
Independent
Score of Much Metal: 9.75

Israeli modern prog band Distorted Harmony wowed me a few years ago with a sophomore effort that saw an almost complete reinvention from their classic Dream Theater-inspired debut offering. ‘Chain Reaction’ was a brilliant disc and when this third release popped unexpectedly through my letterbox, I was both delighted and intrigued.

My intrigue stemmed from the fact that Yoav Efron had previously told me in an interview that he was bored of progressive metal. So I wasn’t sure what to expect with their new album. Would it go off on a complete tangent, or follow the path of its predecessor. The answer is somewhere between the two, although the chosen path is much closer to the preceding material than I perhaps was expecting.

There is a noticeable increase in the electronic elements on ‘A Way Out’, but the end result remains firmly rooted in the modern progressive genre. It didn’t hit me immediately out of the blocks but I gave the record time to sink in. And when it did sink in, the realisation dawned on me that ‘A Way Out’ is an incredible album, full of raw power, subtle complexity and a modernity that makes it entirely relevant in 2018. The djent influences loom large, but not at the expense of all else, as demonstrated by the frequent changes in pace and intensity to allow the electronic elements time to shine.

But, for me, the best thing about Distorted Harmony is their ability to deliver some sumptuous melodies be they embedded deep within the core of a song or via a bold, all-encompassing chorus. And it is these choruses that have pushed ‘A Way Out’ into my final top ten, deservedly so.

To quote my review of 18 July 2018:

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“…At it’s heart, ‘A Way Out’ is still a very modern-sounding record that borrows from the djent and tech metal stables whilst blending this heaviness with a subtle complexity borne out of a love of jazz, progressive rock. Indeed, there is a strong case to be put forward to suggest that this is the heaviest that Distorted Harmony have ever sounded. Nevertheless, the ability to create memorable compositions thanks to their innate and sophisticated understanding of rich melodies remains intact too.

The primary difference with ‘A Way Out’ however, is the immediately noticeable and demonstrable increase in the amount of electronic sounds that litter the vast majority of the compositions here. Not willing to die wondering, Efron and co. have dived in at the deep end and so some often quite sonically arresting electronic-based soundscapes weave themselves intricately within the songs, adding a further depth and originality to an already uniquely identifiable sound.

As with all good progressive-based music, the compositions take a little time to work their way into the affections. But, speaking as someone who has spent the last couple of weeks almost solidly listening to ‘A Way Out’, I can only conclude that once the songs take hold, they only get stronger as the insidious hooks and clever melodies dig in deep and refuse to let go.

The other important facet of ‘A Way Out’ is the production, which is absolutely superb. Music of this depth and complexity needs to be presented properly and here, everything is just right. You get the power and the clarity as well as the necessary space and separation to allow all of the elements within the music to shine through and make both an individual and a collective impact.

To be honest, whichever way you look at it or listen to it, ‘A Way Out’ is a near flawless collection of top drawer modern technical progressive metal that also has heart, subtlety and a magnetic beauty that keeps me coming back time and again.”

Read the full review here.

If you missed the previous posts in my 2018 list, click here:

Album of the Year 2018 – Number 11
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 12
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 13
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 14
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 15
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 16
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 17
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 18
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 19
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 20
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 21
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 22
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 23
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 24
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 25
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 26
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 27
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 28
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 29
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 30

If you missed my ‘best EPs and compilations of 2018, you can read that here:

Album of the Year 2018 – EPs and Compilations

And here’s a reminder of my countdown series from previous years:

Album of the Year 2017
Album of the Year 2016
Album of the Year 2015
Album of the Year 2014
Album of the Year 2013
Album of the Year 2012

Album of the Year 2018 – Number 27

Welcome to day four of my Album of the Year 2018 top 30 countdown. How can it be day four already? It only feels like I started this yesterday. You might feel differently, but as far as I am concerned, I’m in the zone and I’m already starting to get caught up in this series.

One of the best things about this process is that I get an excuse to go back and re-listen to all of the best albums this year has had to offer, rediscovering what it was that I loved so much first time around. Or, in many cases, justifying why I have had a particular disc on constant rotation, getting in the way of my other reviewing responsibilities. For there are several records in this list that have got in the way of my day-to-day obligations, finding their way onto my stereo when I should be dissecting something else for review purposes. But that’s music for you!

If you’ve missed the previous picks in this series so far, click the following links:

Album of the Year 2018 – Number 28
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 29
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 30

And with my shameless advertising out of the way, here’s my next choice:

Number 27:

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A Dying Planet
‘Facing The Incurable’
CynNormal Lab Recordings
Score of Much Metal: 9

We all have our favourite musicians; those that stop us in our tracks whatever we are doing, forcing us to listen. Often, these musicians will give us the shivers too, stirring emotions within us that are strong and powerful. For me, one of those musicians is guitarist/songwriter Jasun Tipton, he of Zero Hour and Cynthesis fame.

And that’s a good part of the reason why ‘Facing the Incurable’ finds its way into my top 30 for 2018. With time and thought, I must be honest and say that it isn’t the finished article and it might not topple recent Tipton-related releases, such as the debut Abnormal Thought Patterns disc or the latest Cynthesis. However, given the upheaval behind the scenes, the result is incredibly strong and credit to these musicians.

If you are unaware, Jasun’s twin brother Troy had to give up playing the bass guitar due to illness. The guitar/bass combination has always been such a huge factor in previous releases, but on this record, Troy stepped up to the plate in terms of songwriting and vocal duties. The album is used as something of a cathartic process and so it is a dark, emotional and thought-provoking listen which is tough-going in places. There are rough edges too, but I can only see good things coming from A Dying Planet in the years to come. Plus, Jasun’s beautifully eloquent guitar-playing is all over this disc.

To quote my review of 15th August 2018:

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“Stylistically, A Dying Planet sits somewhere within the sphere of Cynthesis and Abnormal Thought Patterns, with brief echoes of Zero Hour, whilst maintaining an original edge. What you get is a blend of djent-esque heavy riffing and complexity, with atmospheric, often ambient minimalism, where melody and emotion come to the fore. It’s a potent mix for sure and one which has really had an effect on me.

I’ve made mention in previous reviews of my love of Jasun Tipton’s guitar playing and here, with the personal slant to the material, his beautiful phrasing, sharp delivery and melodic sensibilities makes a bigger impact arguably than ever before. Channelling his inner Gilmore, when his soulful and poetic solos emerge from the minimalist synth-led introspection, they sing an evocative lament, the perfect counterpoint to Troy’s heartfelt words.

Once again, the Tipton brothers have delivered the goods. It may be a whole new ball game these days but such is their talent and ability with music, they have made it work. Troy demonstrates here that his voice has the potential to be every bit as strong as his bass playing was, certainly as emotionally charged, whilst his song writing and grasp of a strong melody is certainly present and correct. That said, I think that there is definitely more to come from A Dying Planet, or whatever project these telepathic twins put their name to.”

Read the full review here.

If you missed the previous posts in my 2018 list, click here:

Album of the Year 2018 – Number 28
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 29
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 30

If you missed my ‘best EPs and compilations of 2018, you can read that here:

Album of the Year 2018 – EPs and Compilations

And here’s a reminder of my countdown series from previous years:

Album of the Year 2017
Album of the Year 2016
Album of the Year 2015
Album of the Year 2014
Album of the Year 2013
Album of the Year 2012

Vola – Applause Of A Distant Crowd – Album Review

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Artist: Vola

Album Title: Applause Of A Distant Crowd

Label: Mascot Label Group

Date of Release: 12 October 2018

This review is being brought to you via the phrases, ‘whoops’, ‘I dropped the ball’ and ‘nobody’s perfect’ via the school of ‘better late than never’. Yes, I’ve done it again and nearly let another record slip by that I should have been all over weeks before its release. But hey ho, its another one I’ll chalk up to experience and humbly request the band and my loyal readers to forgive me.

Vola are a quartet hailing from Copenhagen, Denmark and they caused quite a stir with their debut full-length, ‘Inmazes’ in 2015. For some reason, I never really paid that much attention to the release and I can’t remember why or come up with any excuses. Describing their music on their own website as “a mix of 70’s style progressive rock, electronica, industrial and metal, topped off with clear, beautiful vocal lines”, I can’t quite fathom why Vola have not made a bigger impact upon me as this kind of thing appeals to my ever-increasingly open mind. I can only put it down to being swamped by music as a one-man endeavour.

So not only am I late to the party with this sophomore release, I’m late to Vola full stop. But, when more trusted voices in prog circles begged me to take another listen to this band, I ignored the fact that I was going to miss the release date deadline and decided to take a leaf out of the cover artwork and jump right in.

But unlike the cover image of ‘Applause Of A Distant Crowd’ illustrates, I have not serenely and effortlessly found myself floating in a pool of crystal blue waters. Nope. Instead, I have fallen somewhat ungracefully head over heels, the myriad charms of this disc causing me to utter breathlessly on several occasions, ‘I love this music’. I am smitten and here’s why.

Firstly, the four musicians, Asger Mygind (vocals/guitar), Martin Werner (keys), Nicolai Mogensen (bass) and newcomer Adam Janzi (drums) demonstrate how to work perfectly in unison, all pulling in the same direction to bring their musical vision to life. No one member steals the spotlight unless the song demands it and there feels like there is an almost telepathic understanding between the quartet.

It helps of course that the song writing on this record is of the highest order, an issue that becomes very clear when you realise that the output here could have been a disjointed and ugly mess, where seemingly disparate ideas are forced together unwillingly in the pursuit of originality. Instead, ‘Applause Of A Distant Crowd’ flows beautifully, serenely and effortlessly both within individual songs and across the ten tracks collectively. When you consider the fact that, like the description above alludes to, Vola attempt to fuse complicated or atypical rhythms with big grooves, even bigger melodies, electronica, pop and atmospheric post-rock ambience, this feat is not to be sniffed at. In fact, it should be lauded.

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What this all means is that when I listen to ‘Applause Of A Distant Crowd’, I am transported to another place; a place that is calm, relaxed and exceedingly warm, rich and beautiful. At times, Vola are incredibly heavy thanks to the injection of some crushing djent-like riffs, bruising beats and a gurgling and rumbling bass. Just take ‘Whaler’ as the perfect example, which has all the subtlety of a tank to begin with, steadily and inexorably crushing all in its path. And yet, as the track develops, quiet moments of quiet introspection are injected, and there’s even room for a glorious melodic chorus that briefly changes the tone from ominous to seductive and irresistible in the blink of an eye.

The thing is, everywhere you turn on this record, you’re greeted with something that charms, intrigues, challenges or simply makes you feel instantly better about life. That’s a rare trait and one that I don’t attribute lightly.

Opener ‘We Are Thin Air’ sets the tone excellently, thanks to its blend of heavy, off-kilter and syncopated rhythms, soothing light-as-a-feather melodies and impossibly rich and immersive synths. It shouldn’t work, but in the hands of four talented musicians, it just does.

And 700 words in and I haven’t even mentioned the vocals of guitarist Asger Mygind yet. And the reason is that he just suits the music so perfectly that he is almost overlooked. But to do so would be a travesty because he has a wonderful delivery, full of deftness and intelligence. And yet, he is able to inject something more powerful when the need arises whilst maintaining his honest and passionate approach.

The acoustic guitars and bold synth lead melody open up the delightful ‘Ghosts’, a deceptively complex composition that revels in its hidden technicality

‘Smartfriend’ is a chugging monster that introduces something approaching rap-like fast-spoken lyrics in the verses whilst first bludgeoning us with clever and exceedingly powerful djent riffs, and then releases into a majestic and soaring chorus.

Words fail me when it comes to ‘Alien Shivers’. It begins in bold fashion thanks to an electronic beat and then explodes into a great syncopated rhythm, complete with more heavy down-tuned riffs. They give way to be replaced by more electronics and Mygind’s soft tones before the most exquisite and life-enriching of chorus envelopes us in a warm and satisfying glow, raising the hairs on the back of my neck at the same time. Candidate for song of the year?

In contrast, ‘Vertigo’ is dominated by Mygard’s captivating voice as he sings his lament over the kind of synth tones that remind me of the likes of Sigur Ros and their ambient friends. At the halfway point, a lone guitar joins alongside the poignant tinkling of a piano and after a pause, the vocals return, although this time they are multi-layered and enthralling.

The walls of sound within ‘Still’ are arresting, as is its overall depth, whilst the title track is another special song that builds to a thrilling and hugely melodic conclusion, as uplifting as anything on this record.

I’ll say it again – I cannot believe that it has taken me so long to fall for the charms of Vola, for they are a special band that have managed to produce on ‘Applause Of A Distant Crowd’, some of the most challenging and original yet beautifully elegant and sophisticated music that I have heard all year. All I want to do when the album finishes is listen to it all over again.

The Score of Much Metal: 9.75

If you’ve enjoyed this review, you can check out my others from 2018 and from previous years right here:

2017 reviews
2016 reviews
2015 reviews

Lost In Thought – Renascence
Into Eternity – The Sirens
Fifth Angel – The Third Secret
Ashes of my Memory – Raptures /// Disillusions EP
Anathema – Internal Landscapes
Samskaras – Lithification
Seventh Dimension – The Corrupted Lullaby
Hate Eternal – Upon Desolate Sands
Witherfall – A Prelude To Sorrow
Northward – Northward
Seventh Wonder – Tiara
Warrel Dane – Shadow Work
Haken – Vector
Beyond Creation – Algorythm
Ultha – The Inextricable Wandering
Amaranthe – Helix
Ghost Ship Octavius – Delirium
Decembre Noir – Autumn Kings
The Odious Construct – Shrine of the Obscene
Fauna Timbre – Altering Echoes
The Moor – Jupiter’s Immigrants
Revocation – The Outer Ones
Riverside – Wasteland
Ethernity – The Human Race Extinction
Dynazty – Firesign
Deicide – Overtures of Blasphemy
Brainstorm – Midnight Ghost
Krisiun – Scourge of the Enthroned
Kingcrow – The Persistence
Cast The Stone – Empyrean Atrophy
Omnium Gatherum – The Burning Cold
Helion Prime – Terror of the Cybernetic Space Monster
Madder Mortem – Marrow
A Dying Planet – Facing The Incurable
Árstíðir – Nivalis
Mob Rules – Beast Reborn
The Spirit – Sounds From The Vortex
Aethereus – Absentia
Unanimated – Annihilation
Manticora – To Kill To Live To Kill
Rivers of Nihil – Where Owls Know My Name
Halcyon Way – Bloody But Unbowed
Michael Romeo – War Of The Worlds, Part 1
Redemption – Long Night’s Journey Into Day
Distorted Harmony – A Way Out
Tomorrow’s Eve – Mirror of Creation III – Project Ikaros
Atrocity – Okkult II
Lux Terminus – The Courage To Be
Kataklysm – Meditations
Marduk – Viktoria
Midas Fall – Evaporate
The Sea Within – The Sea Within
Haken – L-1VE
Follow The Cipher – Follow The Cipher
Spock’s Beard – Noise Floor
Ihsahn – Amr
The Fierce And The Dead – The Euphoric
Millennial Reign – The Great Divide
Subsignal – La Muerta
At The Gates – To Drink From The Night Itself
Dimmu Borgir – Eonian
Hekz – Invicta
Widow’s Peak – Graceless EP
Ivar Bjørnson and Einar Selvik – Hugsjá
Frequency Drift – Letters to Maro
Æpoch – Awakening Inception
Crematory – Oblivion
Wallachia – Monumental Heresy
Skeletal Remains – Devouring Mortality
MØL – Jord
Aesthesys – Achromata
Kamelot – The Shadow Theory
Barren Earth – A Complex of Cages
Memoriam – The Silent Vigil
Kino – Radio Voltaire
Borealis – The Offering
W.E.T. – Earthrage
Auri – Auri
Purest of Pain – Solipsis
Susperia – The Lyricist
Structural Disorder – …And The Cage Crumbles In the Final Scene
Necrophobic – Mark of the Necrogram
Divine Realm – Nordicity
Oceans of Slumber – The Banished Heart
Poem – Unique
Gleb Kolyadin – Gleb Kolyadin
Apathy Noir – Black Soil
Deathwhite – For A Black Tomorrow
Conjurer – Mire
Jukub Zytecki – Feather Bed/Ladder Head
Lione/Conti – Lione/Conti
Usurpress – Interregnum
Kælling – Lacuna
Vinide – Reveal
Armored Dawn – Barbarians In Black
Long Distance Calling – Boundless
In Vain – Currents
Harakiri For The Sky – Arson
Orphaned Land – Unsung Prophets And Dead Messiahs
Tribulation – Down Below
Machine Head – Catharsis
Bjorn Riis – Coming Home EP
Twilight’s Embrace – Penance EP
Bloodshot Dawn – Reanimation
Rise of Avernus – Eigengrau
Arch Echo – Arch Echo
Asenblut – Legenden
Bleeding Gods – Dodekathlon
Watain – Trident Wolf Eclipse

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