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

Ancient Settlers – Our Last Eclipse – Album Review

Artist: Ancient Settlers

Album Title: Our Last Eclipse      

Label: Crusader Records (Golden Robot Global Entertainment)

Date of Release: 1 April 2022

When I was presented with this promo, my first thought when I saw the band name and the artwork was that I’d be taken down a misty, murky path of folk tinged black metal, dark metal, or something relatively Earthy and gloomy at the very least. What I wasn’t expecting was to be thrust neck deep into modern melodic death metal instead. I always like to be surprised, so the initial shock was short lived and I ploughed on regardless, as I do have a soft spot for great melodic death metal.

Formed in 2020, Ancient Settlers is comprised of a multi-national cast, covering the US, Finland, Venezuela, Spain, and Portugal. A sextet, they are formed of Carlos Chiesa-Estomba (guitars), Herman Riera (drums), René González (keyboards/synths), Emmy Reyes (guitars), Antony Hämäläinen (vocals), and Miguel Herrera (bass). I’m not familiar with the band Haboryn, but if you are, you’ll recognise several of these names. Vocalist Hämäläinen has a list of bands to his name, including Crystal Tears, Meridian Dawn, and arguably most famously also had a stint in Nightrage. I think I’m also right in thinking that he may have featured at one time for Amaranthe in their live line-up. Regardless, it’s clear that these guys have some pedigree.

Unfortunately, this debut album, ‘Our Last Eclipse’ is not as good as I hoped it would be if I’m being honest. And there are a few reasons for this. Firstly, I find the material on the album as rather generic and not especially original; I’ve heard music like this many, many times, and despite several runs through, I generally remain a touch underwhelmed by the music. There are some nice catchy melodies at play within some of the choruses and wider compositions, but nothing really stands out to me and clobbers me around the head as I feel this kind of music should do. And the shouty vocals within ‘Memories’ are not my thing at all, and are entirely unnecessary for my taste.

More on the tracks themselves shortly, but the biggest problem with this record is with the production. I fully appreciate that Ancient Settlers came together in a world turned upside-down by the global pandemic which will have made certain tasks a lot more difficult. But ‘Our Last Eclipse’ sounds muddy, indistinct, and worst of all, the vocals are way too far back in the mix. I can’t be the only one to notice this, surely? Maybe I am, maybe it’s my ears. But shouldn’t it be the drums that are situated at the back of the studio, or in a different room, not the vocalist? It’s the impression I get when I listen to this album. In fairness, I get more used to it as the record develops, but it threatens to completely ruin the first impression listeners will get when they hear this band for the first time via opening track, ‘Into The Depths I Ride’.

That said, on a more positive note, I get a bit of a Johan Liiva vibe from vocalist Antony Hämäläinen, although that could be partly down to the production – it’s hard to tell. And that’s a real shame as far as I am concerned.

I want to be more positive however, because there are some strong elements that feature on ‘Our Last Crusade’, including the title track itself. A slower more mid-tempo affair, it is alive with melody and is one of the more memorable songs that I hear here. In fact, I find that Ancient Settlers are actually at their best when they take their foot off the gas and inject more melody. The guys know how to pen a nice melody that’s for sure, and it is this element of their song writing that should be most highly lauded. The faster-paced riffs however, do tend to sound a little samey, although that’s a general gripe I have across the genre with melodeath that’s more metalcore tinged. This is highlighted within ‘Library Of Tears’, another positive composition even if it’s a little long at nearly seven minutes. I like the increased use of synths to add depth, but again, the production could have made them a little more prominent as they can tend to disappear in the mix. When the press release references 80s synthwave as an element of the band’s sound, the lack of clarity with the keys is another misstep unfortunately.

As many of you know, I hate writing reviews that are overly negative because I am generally someone that wants to see the positives in things. Hopefully I have created the balance here between being positive and also honest with my negative comments. There is certainly something there within this band that leads me to believe that a follow-up album could be a lot stronger and more powerful. To do that, Ancient Settlers need a better production across the board, and an injection of something within the music that creates more in the way of their own unique identity. This is easier said than done I know, but if the band can do that, I could see the name Ancient Settlers being spoken a lot more widely in metal circles in years to come.

The Score of Much Metal: 65%

Check out my other 2022 reviews here:

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

Follow The Cipher – Follow The Cipher – Album Review

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Artist: Follow The Cipher

Album Title: Follow The Cipher

Label: Nuclear Blast

Date Of Release: 11 May 2018

Sweden’s Follow The Cipher are a new band on the heavy metal block, with this self-titled record their debut offering. And yet, despite only being in existence for a few short years, here’s a band about which I could already write a thousand words before even discussing this album itself.

Hailing from the Swedish city of Falun, they share their hometown with the likes of Sabaton and Twilight Force to name just two. And those Sabaton links are important because Follow The Cipher brainchild Ken Kängström is a firm friend of the tank-obsessed band. In fact, Kängström co-wrote and co-produced various Sabaton songs alongside Joakim Brodén. One of the most notable collaborations occurred with the song ‘Carolus Rex’, a track that fittingly has been covered here to close out ‘Follow The Cipher’.

Alongside guitarist Kängström, in Follow The Cipher you’ll also find vocalist Linda Toni Grahn, drummer Karl Löfgren, guitarist Viktor Carlsson and bassist Jonas Asplind. And together, they create a striking sound, one that is grounded within the loose confines of power metal, but which extends far beyond in many respects. It is, at once, a very familiar sound and also intriguingly original.

In the accompanying ‘War And Peace’-sized press release, the names of Sabaton, In Flames and Nightwish are mentioned when trying to describe the follow The Cipher sonic output. To a certain extent, I’d agree. The riffs and no-nonsense power metal attitude is certainly out of the Sabaton school of music, whilst it is difficult to argue with the cinematic similarities with Nightwish. I can also hear In Flames at times, although we’re most definitely referring to their latter-day output. On top of all this, I’d also throw in a healthy dose of Amaranthe for good measure, as well as a few djent-y influences here and there.

And it is because of all this that I find myself a little confused by Follow The Cipher. I’m left wondering whether the quintet actually know what they want to achieve and what their identity genuinely is. Are they an out-an-out power metal band? Are they a modern metal band? Are they something else entirely? Does it even matter?

I say this because, for all of the confusion, I can’t help but get caught up in much of the music on this surprisingly good debut.

The opening song sets Follow The Cipher off in great fashion. Entitled ‘Enter The Cipher’, it is a brisk-paced power metal composition that features chunky riffs, lashings of keys, a pounding rhythm-heavy verse and a giant chorus that makes an immediate impact. Equally as impactful is lead vocalist Grahn who possesses real attitude. I can’t profess to love her voice as it is a little trebly for my personal tastes but she can certainly belt it out with passion and conviction. The solo, of which there are a few on this release, is nicely urgent and dextrous.

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Now normally, I can say that the opening song on an album helps to set the tone for what is to follow. Not here though, because follow-up ‘Valkyria’ takes us in a different direction. Opening with prominent modern electronic sounds which dominate large sections of the song, it is a much more modern-sounding affair. And then, once the clean male vocals and growls shared between Kängström, Carlsson and Asplind join Grahn’s even higher-pitched delivery, I’m struck by the Amaranthe similarities. The song is undeniably catchy as hell and thoroughly enjoyable but it makes me wonder quite what’s next.

The answer, via ‘My Soldier’ is a more cinematic affair, with more modern electronics as well as lush, multi-layered orchestration. It is ballad-like in nature, but even so, the guitars are almost djent in their tone and delivery. The chorus is another winner however; it is a sprawling, majestic beast that compliments the grandiose trappings of the song.

‘Winterfall’ is another cut from a similar mould, although it fails to hit the same heights as its direct predecessor. Nevertheless, it has a definite charm, with melody at its core. The same could also be said for the equally pleasant mid-tempo and cinematic ‘Titan’s Call’ as the mid-section of the album threatens to lose a little of the early impetus that was created.

However, in steps the groovy, anthemic monster of ‘The Rising’. More modern electronic sounds float above the chugging riffs and forceful rhythms below, but Grahm gives one of her best performances here, with impossibly high notes hit within an infectious chorus full of feeling. The stadium-friendly male vocals that are injected just add to the overall power of the song, meaning it’ll be a live favourite for sure.

‘A Mind’s Escape’ tweaks the approach of the band once again. The bass of Asplind really comes to the fore within this particular track, a song that has a more ‘progressive’ vibe to it, in terms of the variety on offer. The metalcore ingredients are slightly at odds with a soothing, saccharine chorus and the pronounced symphonic overtones. But strangely, it works, thanks to the total commitment of the band.

Not happy with the variety offered to date, ‘Play With Fire’ then dials the dark cinematics up another notch, creating another new atmosphere, whilst stomper ‘I Revive’ features a NWOBHM-meets-thrash riff and which owes a lot to the aforementioned Sabaton. ‘Starlight’ then hits us over the head with more djent-y muscularity and more pronounced male vocals before Follow The Cipher’s grandiose interpretation of ‘Carolus Rex’ closes things out excellently.

So how do I sum up this debut effort from Follow The Cipher? I think the best way is to say that it shows massive amounts of promise and I’m left in no doubt that the future is very bright for these five Swedes. There are some great songs on ‘Follow The Cipher’ and some very ambitious, laudable ideas. When they nail it, they really nail it. I just hope that between now and album number two, the band get to grips with their sound and make the next record a slightly more succinct affair, with a slightly clearer identity.

The Score Of Much Metal: 8

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

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

Purest of Pain – Solipsis – Album Review

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Artist: Purest of Pain

Album Title: Solipsis

Label: Independent Release

Date Of Release: 1 March 2018

This album caught my attention for two reasons. Firstly, as you all know, I have a huge soft spot for melodic death metal. And whilst I’ll often take the PR material with a pinch of salt, I have to admit that the ‘for fans of At The Gates, Arch Enemy, Children of Bodom, Soilwork, Suicide Silence’ statement made me look twice. Secondly, Purest of Pain features both guitarist Merel Bechtold and drummer Joey de Boer from Delain. Now historically, I’ve not been the biggest fan of the Dutch outfit to put it mildly. However, their headline show a couple of years ago with Evergrey in tow really won me over in spite of myself. As such, I felt it only fair to check out Merel and Joey’s foray into melodeath.

Unfortunately, however, this might be the shortest and most dejected review that I have ever written on this blog. The reason being that apart from Arch Enemy and maybe Suicide Silence at a push, I don’t hear any of the other protagonists in this debut album ‘Solipsis’. More than that, I am struggling to think of too many positives that I can throw the band’s way, from a personal standpoint.

To these ears, there’s precious little material that I would happily refer to as melodic death metal on show at all. There are some melodic passages that nudge my attention as well as a few riffs here and there. But ‘Solipsis’ is much more of a modern metal record with plenty of monotonous chugging and djent-inflused metalcore-isms . That’s fine of course, but the final product just isn’t that good as far as I’m concerned. It all sounds too contrived and uninspired if I’m honest. I can’t hear a spark or anything that indicates that Purest of Pain are doing anything other than going through the motions.

I know that this sounds harsh and long-time readers will know that I absolutely hate being negative towards musicians that have put a lot of effort into a recording. The purpose of my website is to promote music, not slag it off, so I tend to steer clear of albums that I dislike so I can spend time on the ones that I actually like. I feel even worse when I know that this album was independently released and funded through a six-year touring regime. But on this occasion, I felt I had to make an exception because I hate being misled and I don’t want others to be misled either.

So, whilst the musicianship is very good, you can forget At The Gates and forget the notion that Purest of Pain might give you a healthy alternative to the likes of Dark Tranquillity, Omnium Gatherum or Soilwork. And forget most of the ‘Groove, ambience, tone, melody’ strapline too. I suppose mid-tempo monotony could be considered to be groove in certain circles. But as for ‘ambience’, please don’t get me started. Instead, imagine if you will, a band that takes the least positive bits of Arch Enemy, Machine Head and In Flames and blends them all together along with some metalcore influences and a splash of djent. You now have ‘Solipsis’.

The worst culprit on this record is the vocals, especially when you get that clean but slightly whiny, faux-aggressive semi-spoken word nonsense that was rife in the nu-metal movement and which Machine Head’s Robb Flynn seems intent on keeping alive of late – check out ‘Crown of Worms’ if you don’t believe me. It just makes my toes curl, especially when this is a feature in at least three of the opening five songs.

And in a nutshell, that’s about all you need to know. I have given this record a fair crack of the whip – understanding the important of not dismissing a record on the first, second or even the third listen, I sat through repeated spins even when I really didn’t want to. I could dissect the ‘Solipsis’ in more detail but as far as I’m concerned, there’s not much point in singling out individual tracks because the odd decent melody here or riff there is not going to save a record like this in my opinion. Too much damage is done throughout the record to even consider that the better moments might save the day. Oh, ok, well ‘Terra Nil’ features a nice melody and a cool lead guitar solo, whilst ‘Tidebreaker’ is a decent track.

I fully appreciate that I could well be in the minority here and there might be those of you out there who really like this record and are seething at me for my opinion. However, I’m just being honest and calling it as I find it – I won’t be listening to ‘Solipsis’ again. Nevertheless, I invite you all to take a listen for yourselves and decide whether Purest of Pain is the car crash that I think it might be, or the best thing since sliced bread.

The Score Of Much Metal: 4

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

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

Dyscarnate – With All Their Might – Album Review

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Artist: Dyscarnate

Album Title: With All Their Might

Label: Unique Leader Records

Date of Release: 15 September 2017

Generally speaking, I’d class myself as a metalhead with a penchant for more intricate and complex compositions as well as having a love of melody and a weakness for guitar solos and over-the-top flamboyance. I’m also someone who typically shies away from the hardcore genre because I’m not a fan of the more ‘shouty’ and deliberately confrontational and/or political stance that many of these bands display.

So then, why am I so beguiled by the new Dyscarnate record, ‘With All Their Might’, given that it features no guitar solos, next to nothing in terms of prog-like complexity and is straight-up brutal death metal that flirts with elements of hardcore? I could scratch my head for ages and pretend to mull over the answer. Or, I could be honest immediately and shout the following from the rooftops:

It’s because ‘With All Their Might’ is heavy, uncompromising, brutal and groovy as all hell.

And, despite my comments in the opening paragraph, I am also a metalhead that, on occasion, cannot resist something that is more straightforward, concise and which gets my bald head nodding more vigorously that Kerry King on steroids. Enter Dyscarnate.

For those unfamiliar with the name, Dyscarnate are a Shropshire, UK-based trio that were founded in 2004 and to date, have released two full-length albums, an EP and a demo. Comprised of guitarist/vocalist Tom Whitty, bassist/vocalist Al Llewellyn and drummer Matt Unsworth, they have made a positive impact in the metal underground, culminating in some very positive reviews both of their recorded output and their live shows, most notably from Metal Hammer’s Dom Lawson.

It’s not hard to understand why either, because these west country boys make one hell of a racket that cannot be ignored. And, once heard, has to be listened to again and again because it is so damn groovy, so wonderfully infectious and so gloriously heavy. At times, I simply cannot believe that such a full and bold sound can come from just three musicians.

The first I heard of this record was ‘Iron Strengthens Iron’, which aired recently as the first ‘single’ for ‘With All Their Might’. And it’s safe to say that it was verging on love at first listen. The grooves are colossal, the intensity is evident right from the off and it is relentless in the way that it steamrollers everything in its path. This has got to be one of the standout extreme metal songs of the year.

The thing is, Dyscarnate don’t stop there. In fact, ‘Iron…’ acts as a very good marker for the quality that is consistent through the remaining seven songs. So much so that before I know it, the album is at an end and I’m left breathless but wanting more. Like a committed masochist, I have spent the better part of 40 minutes being beaten with a sledgehammer, yet I still want more. The old adage states that a good artist should always leave the crowd wanting more, and that’s what Dyscarnate have achieved here with aplomb.

The opening duo of ‘Of Mice And Mountains’ and ‘This Is Fire!’ are something to behold, they really are. ‘Of Mice And Mountains’ offers bucket loads of groove, writhing monstrous riffs, razor-sharp drumming and spiteful gruff vocals delivered by both Whitty and Llewellyn. This dual vocal approach is certainly an added string to the bow for Dyscarnate because although both spew forth their diatribes in extreme fashion, their pitch and tone is discernibly different, meaning that you get a deeper growl and a slightly higher rasp working expertly in tandem.

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If the groove in the opener was pronounced, ‘This Is Fire!’ takes things to the next level. I find it utterly impossible not to nod my head or walk without matching my pace and gait to the infectious tempo of this behemoth of a song. The monotone segment in the latter stages is inspired as is the rousing outro that could go on even longer if it really wanted.

After the aforementioned ‘Iron Strenthens Iron’ comes ‘Traitors In The Palace’ and, if anything, the pace is slowed even further into undoubted doom metal territory. Make no mistake that this is still brutal and savage death metal but the doom vibe, accentuated by the casual tolling of a bell, is very much at the forefront of the track. The pace increases marginally at first and then more markedly in the closing stages thanks to some brighter staccato-like riffs and a greater urgency in the drumming.

‘To End All Flesh Before Me’ mixes a swirling barrage of killer riffs with blastbeats and a chorus that veers dangerously close to ‘catchy’ territory, not that this is a bad thing at all as far as I’m concerned. ‘Backbreaker’ meanwhile, should be re-named ‘neck breaker’ such is its undiluted power and groove.

A thrash-like riff acts as the introduction to ‘All The Devils Are Here’ before normal service is resumed and we’re pummelled into quivering submission by the bombardment of brutal intensity, albeit with a little more in terms of variation here and there. I love the fact that the bass is so audible in the mix and whilst it is an important ingredient throughout, it really makes its presence known within this track.

‘Nothing Seems Right’ brings this slab of almighty brutality to a close, complete with dark atmosphere and more melody than at any point in the previous seven songs. It has a little longer to develop at nearly eight minutes, but the dramatic and foreboding intro is stunning as are the simple melodies that are embedded into the initial slow, lumbering riff that makes further welcome appearances as the composition develops.

In keeping with the tone and output of this record, I shall keep my conclusion simple and to-the-point. ‘With All Their Might’ is a brutal behemoth of a record, making it easily one of the best and most satisfying death metal albums of 2017.

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

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

Album of the Year 2016 – Number 15

I can’t quite believe that I am already half-way through my ‘Album of the Year 2016’ top 30 countdown. It doesn’t seem like five minutes ago that I was contemplating starting out of this annual journey and yet, here we are. 15 albums down, 15 to go.

I hope you have enjoyed the posts in this series up to now – if you are new to this series however, or if you’ve shamefully missed any of my posts, you can find links at the bottom of this post.

And with that, here’s the next album in my list:

Number 15
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Brutai
Born
Transcend Music

 

 

“Sitting her now, I am firmly of the opinion that if I wanted to listen to a more modern style of heavy metal, Brutai are the band and ‘Born’ is my chosen weapon. A few weeks ago, I might have chosen Textures but today, it is Brutai. Yup, ‘Born’ is that good.

‘Born’ is incisive, sharp and clinical, full of strong riffs, muscular rhythms as well as moments of extreme yet measured brutality. At the same time however, Brutai demonstrate a well-honed sense of melody and overt pop sympathies, allowing their compositions to bludgeon one moment and then soar majestically the next. I have to frequently remind myself that this is Brutai’s debut full-length, because it is just so adept, so commanding and so self-assured. It might be late in the day, but ‘Born’ is deservedly one of my albums of the year. The only problem? How on Earth do they top it?”

Read the full review here

Photo credit: Will Ireland Photography
Photo credit: Will Ireland Photography

Make no mistake about it, the only reason why this album is not within the top 10 for 2016 is because it was only released less than a month ago. As such, I’ve not had it in my life as long as all of the other contenders and I’ve not been allowed to let it mature and develop over time. But that is it, no other reason.

As debuts go, this is arguably one of the strongest I’ve heard, alongside the likes of Earthside from last year. It has blown me away and, judging by the comments I’ve received and heard from other quarters, I’m not the only one. I don’t think I’ve seen a negative review anywhere about ‘Born’. That, in itself, says a lot.

Personally, I absolutely love the blend of heaviness, aggression and melody that Brutai delivers. From pop-like accessibility to all-out thunderous metal, from modern to classic and from the simple to the technical it is the combination of all of these facets that helps Brutai be the massively exciting proposition that they are. Sometimes I can be critical of bands who try to be all things to all people. However, where Brutai are concerned, they have pulled it off, seemingly effortlessly, leaving others to scratch their heads and wonder why they couldn’t do it.

‘Born’ is magnificent, hopefully just the first step in a long and fruitful career.

In case you’ve missed any of the other posts in the 2016 series, here they are for you to explore and enjoy:

Album of the Year 2016 – Number 16
Album of the Year 2016 – number 17
Album of the Year 2016 – number 18
Album of the Year 2016 – Number 19
Album of the Year 2016 – number 20
Album of the Year 2016 – number 21
Album of the Year 2016 – number 22
Album of the Year 2016 – number 23
Album of the Year 2016 – number 24
Album of the Year 2016 – number 25
Album of the Year 2016 – number 26
Album of the Year 2016 – number 27
Album of the Year 2016 – number 28
Album of the Year 2016 – Number 29
Album of the Year 2016 – Number 30

And from previous years:

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

Album of the Year 2016 – Number 30

Hello and welcome to my annual musical extravaganza that’s my countdown of the year’s best album releases from across the rock and metal spectrum. As usual, you’ll find just about everything in this list, from black to death metal, from prog rock to extreme prog metal and plenty in between. I am a fan of heavy music in most of its guises and that, I hope, will be reflected in this list.

In keeping with last year, I have decided to keep the ‘top 30’ format, just bescause I quite enjoy writing these posts and because 2016 was an insanely great year for rock and metal music. The quality has been unbelievable at times and hopefully this is something that can be underlined by the albums that made it on my list as well as those that have just missed out.

However, this year, I will do things slightly differently. This is the first year where I have reviewed albums exclusively on my blog. As such, everything in this list will have been reviewed by me at some point in the year on the Blog of Much Metal. Therefore, I shall keep these posts quite short, adding a brief commentary about my thoughts on the album some days, weeks or months on from their release. In addition, I will quote a passage from the review, with links to the full article and, where possible, will include different sample tracks, possibly different photos too – we’ll see how I get on with that.

As always, I love the banter that this series initiates – please keep it coming. I know that there will be some releases that don’t feature that you think should and vice versa. Let me know what you think as we go along & hopefully get some debate going in the process.

There are also links to the previous series from 2012-2015 at the bottom of this post, so if you’re new to these and you’re intrigued by my choices from other years, feel free to check them out.

Ok, on that note, let’s get down to it. From this point on, there’s no going back…

Number 30

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Amaranthe
Maximalism
Spinefarm Records

 

“…above all, when all is said and done, who doesn’t like a good dose of feel-good, memorable music that perhaps doesn’t require a huge amount of effort to enjoy? Sometimes, we’ve all got to rock out, yes? Sometimes, we all need to hear something that you can sing in the shower, yes? Well, in that case, there’s no one better than Amaranthe.

Once again, the sextet has delivered an excellent album that will almost certainly hit all the right notes in the live arena. ‘Maximalism’ demonstrates yet again that Amaranthe are consummate professionals at writing and performing music that is succinct, powerful and infectious as hell. Amaranthe are no longer a guilty pleasure; they’re simply a pleasure.”

Read the full review here

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After a few initial misgivings, I really grew to like this polished and pristine slab of modern melodic metal from Amaranthe. As the quotes above indicate, ‘Maximalism’ is big on excess, be it in the form of huge choruses, over-the-top vocals or the massive mainstream pop influences.

I accept that Amaranthe is a love or hate band but I’m a lover – the whole thing is so damn catchy that it is almost impossible not to get swept up in it. So why is it not higher in my top 30? Good question.

The answer, quite simply and honestly, is that it is a victim of an impossibly strong year where I have been inundated with superb music left, right and centre. Another year, ‘Maximalism’ may have found itself within my top 20 or higher. But as it is, as excellent as it is, it only just sneaks into the list. But don’t let that put you off – ‘Maximalism’ is a great record, deserving of your attention.

And from previous years:

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

A Sense Of Gravity – Atrament – Album Review

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Artist: A Sense Of Gravity

Album Title: Atrament

Label: Independent Release

Date Of Release: 18 November 2016

An album like ‘Atrament’ from Seattle metallers A Sense Of Gravity is almost certain to raise a few eyebrows and catch significant attention. Prior to this review, I’d never heard of A Sense of Gravity but on the strength of ‘Atrament’, they are well and truly on my radar. More than that, they have given me cause to reassess my opinion of the whole tech/djent genre.

Going back a step, A Sense Of Gravity are, as they state on their social media pages, ‘six polite, well-educated gentlemen that make metal’. They formed in 2011 and have since been dedicated to playing ear-catching extreme metal. Their ranks are made up of vocalist C.J. Jenkins, guitarist/programmer Brendon Williams, guitarist Morgan Wick, keyboardist/guitarist Brandon Morris, drummer Pete Breene and bassist Chance Unterseher.

And, whilst I can’t attest to their politeness yet, I can certainly believe that they are well educated if their music is anything to go by. This isn’t simple paint-by-numbers stuff, I can tell you.

And on that note, with the background information dealt with, I can now get back to what I’m chomping on the bit to write about: the music on ‘Atrament’, the sextet’s sophomore independent release.

I’ve been growing a little tired and jaded of late with the whole tech metal, djent genre. There are plenty of good exponents of this kind of music and plenty of good albums have been released during 2016 by some of the biggest hitters, from Meshuggah, to Textures. However, it is a type of music that has to be done very well in order for me to take it to my heart.

With A Sense Of Gravity, they have used the tech/djent style of music as their core framework sound and then built upon it expertly, adding plenty of other styles, sounds and textures to it to create something very exciting indeed. Not just exciting – thoroughly enjoyable and immersive too.

There is an overt cinematic influence at work on these ambitious Americans, as demonstrated most eloquently on the opening track, ‘Drowning In The Ink’ for example. It is a piece of music that could easily be part of a film score, such is the tangible drama within it. The tension is increased as the composition builds, accented by C J Jenkins’ more-than-solid clean vocals.

But it’s not just symphonic, cinematic content that’s added. Also included is a very sophisticated progressive element, post rock, a touch of ambient and lots of subtle little inflections that become more evident the more I listen, be they nods towards the realm of death metal, jazz or metalcore. Polyrhythms feature, as do impressive sections of melody and plenty of mind-bending solo instrumental flamboyance.

‘Reclusive Peace’ takes over and, from the off, it is a roiling, tumultuous composition that is bold, expertly technical and grandly melodic and epic in scope. I hear faint echoes of Haken in the surprisingly deep and emotive repeated chorus whilst the instrumentation, not to mention the tightness of the band is impressive to say the least.

‘Echo Chasers’ is more down the line tech/djent meets death route which demonstrates tremendous instrumental abilities, from the bursts of warp speed drumming from Pete Breene, to the blistering riffs of Williams, Wick and Morris, not to mention bold synth work and a plethora of vocal styles, from a caustic rasp, to a more guttural death growl via more clean, melodious singing. In fact, it is the vocal delivery which is one of the strengths of the A Sense Of Gravity. C J Jenkins is hugely adept behind the microphone, acting like a vocal chameleon, effortlessly moving from one delivery to another as the compositions demand.

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‘The Divide’ features some of the best death vocals this side of Omnium Gatherum, but begins in a very different manner. The quieter intro is more classic prog metal in sound and approach but it remains dense, atmospheric and almost claustrophobic in tone. In fact, the entire track is one of the most diverse cuts on the album, flowing organically from one idea to another with aplomb. Slow, monolithic riffs give way to bursts of faster paced material, shifting between heavy and softer passages seemingly at will.

Mind you, this modus operandi could be thrown at many of the songs on this album. No single song is easy to define as the whole thing is a multi-layered, multi-faceted beast. ‘Artificially Ever After’ is a cracking song that’s all-out aggression one minute and then soothing , atmospheric and highly melodic the next. The keys of Brandon Morris are all over ‘Revenant’ as it juxtaposes a bludgeoning riffs and complex beats with moments of soothing clarity.

‘Guise Of Complacency’ briefly features some classic NWOBMH wails but they fit perfectly into the much more modern and dystopian-sounding soundscape that surrounds them. In fact, this is one of the most challenging and daunting tracks on the album, liberally channelling their inner Meshuggah one minute and then trading supersonic guitar and keyboard solos the next in some hedonistic display of dexterity and prowess. And yet it comes together and works.

By contrast, ‘Shadow Lines’ is one of the most immediate tracks on ‘Atrament’. It begins quietly where the guitars and piano shine, alongside a very self-assured and subtle vocal performance from Jenkins. It builds in intensity as it develops and, in the process, offers some of the strongest melodic refrains anywhere on the album.

I really enjoy the nonchalant swagger within ‘The Projectionist’ which also features some of my favourite bass playing on the album courtesy of Chance Unterseher. And the classical guitar intro to ‘I, Recreant’ is a thing of beauty, particularly when coupled with such a cool beat and given the way the song builds from such modest foundations to explode with barely contained bursts of epic and highly memorable melody. This has to be my current favourite track on the entire record.

Oh and the near nine-minute closer ‘Manic Void’ is too huge and epic for words. It is a grandiose conclusion to the album and offers A Sense Of Gravity one final opportunity to batter the listener with an intense composition that features just about every positive aspect of the band’s sound in one hell of a rousing finale.

I feel churlish mentioning anything negative at this point. However, to maintain a level of honesty, I must. Therefore, if I have any gripes with A Sense Of Gravity’s latest release, it is that the album feels just a little too long, particularly given the intensity and complexity on offer. At around the 70 minute mark, I get the feeling that the record might have been better served being a little more succinct. It’s a sad indictment on the human race but at a time when attention spans are decreasing at an alarming rate, I fear that ‘Atrament’ might be too much for some, thereby putting them off.

Everything else about A Sense Of Gravity and ‘Atrament’ however, is very positive and as such, it has genuinely grabbed my attention. I’m really surprised that a band as good as A Sense of Gravity isn’t signed to a decent metal label. However, if this level of quality is maintained and their creativity is not stifled, it surely cannot be too long before the situation changes. If you’re a fan of ambitious and challenging modern extreme heavy metal, the progressive sounds of A Sense Of Gravity come with the highest of recommendations from me, the latest convert to the cause.

The Score Of Much Metal: 8.5

If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others via my reviews pages or by clicking the links right here:

Devilment – Devilment II: The Mephisto Waltzes
Maschine – Naturalis
Brutai – Born
False Coda – Secrets and Sins
Pretty Maids – Kingmaker
In Flames – Battles
The Neal Morse Band – The Similitude Of A Dream
Memoreve – Insignia
Enbound – The Blackened Heart
Blind Ego – Liquid
Dark Tranquillity – Atoma
Hammerfall – Built To Last
Testament – Brotherhood Of The Snake
Crippled Black Phoenix – Bronze
Riverside – Eye Of The Soundscape
Hanging Garden – Hereafter
Theocracy – Ghost Ship
Arkona – Lunaris
Oddland – Origin
Sonata Arctica – The Ninth Hour
Edensong – Years In The Garden of Years
Meshuggah – The Violent Sleep Of Reason
Alcest – Kodama
Opeth – Sorceress
Negura Bunget – ZI
Epica – The Holographic Principle
Amaranthe – Maximalism
Eye Of Solitude – Cenotaph
Seven Impale – Contrapasso
DGM – The Passage
Pressure Points – False Lights
In The Woods – Pure
Devin Townsend – Transcendence
The Pineapple Thief – Your Wilderness
Evergrey – The Storm Within
Dream The Electric Sleep – Beneath The Dark Wide Sky
Periphery – ‘Periphery III: Select Difficulty’
Karmakanic – Dot
Novena – Secondary Genesis
Witherscape – The Northern Sanctuary
Eric Gillette – The Great Unknown
Tilt – Hinterland
Cosmograf – The Unreasonable Silence
Fates Warning – Theories Of Flight
Wolverine – Machina Viva
Be’lakor – Vessels
Lacuna Coil – Delirium
Big Big Train – Folklore
Airbag – Disconnected
Katatonia – The Fall Of Hearts
Frost* – Falling Satellites
Glorior Belli – Sundown (The Flock That Welcomes)
Habu – Infinite
Grand Magus ‘Sword Songs’
Messenger – Threnodies
Svoid – Storming Voices Of Inner Devotion
Fallujah – Dreamless
In Mourning – Afterglow
Haken – Affinity
Long Distance Calling – Trips
October Tide – Winged Waltz
Odd Logic – Penny For Your Thoughts
Iron Mountain – Unum
Knifeworld – Bottled Out Of Eden
Novembre – Ursa
Beholder – Reflections
Neverworld – Dreamsnatcher
Universal Mind Project – The Jaguar Priest
Thunderstone – Apocalypse Again
InnerWish – Innerwish
Mob Rules – Tales From Beyond
Ghost Bath – Moonlover
Spiritual Beggars – Sunrise To Sundown
Oceans Of Slumber – Winter
Rikard Zander – I Can Do Without Love
Redemption – The Art Of Loss
Headspace – All That You Fear Is Gone
Chris Quirarte – Mending Broken Bridges
Sunburst – Fragments Of Creation
Inglorious – Inglorious
Omnium Gatherum – Grey Heavens
Structural Disorder – Distance
Votum – Ktonik
Fleshgod Apocalypse – King
Rikard Sjoblom – The Unbendable Sleep
Textures – Phenotype
Serenity – Codex Atlanticus
Borknagar – Winter Thrice
The Mute Gods – Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me
Brainstorm – Scary Creatures
Arcade Messiah – II
Phantasma – The Deviant Hearts
Rendezvous Point – Solar Storm
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld II
Antimatter – The Judas Table
Bauda – Sporelights
Waken Eyes – Exodus
Earthside – A Dream In Static
Caligula’s Horse – Bloom
Teramaze – Her Halo
Amorphis – Under The Red Cloud
Spock’s Beard – The Oblivion Particle
Agent Fresco – Destrier
Cattle Decapitation – The Anthropocene Extinction
Between The Buried And Me – Coma Ecliptic
Cradle Of Filth – Hammer Of The Witches
Disarmonia Mundi – Cold Inferno
District 97 – In Vaults
Progoctopus – Transcendence
Big Big Train – Wassail
NightMare World – In The Fullness Of Time
Helloween – My God-Given Right
Triaxis – Zero Hour
Isurus – Logocharya
Arcturus – Arcturian
Kamelot – Haven
Native Construct – Quiet World
Sigh – Graveward
Pantommind – Searching For Eternity
Subterranean Masquerade – The Great Bazaar
Klone – Here Comes The Sun
The Gentle Storm – The Diary
Melechesh – Enki
Enslaved – In Times
Keep Of Kalessin – Epistemology
Lonely Robot – Please Come Home
The Neal Morse Band – The Grand Experiment
Zero Stroke – As The Colours Seep
AudioPlastik – In The Head Of A Maniac
Revolution Saints – Revolution Saints
Mors Principium Est – Dawn of The 5th Era
Arcade Messiah – Arcade Messiah
Triosphere – The Heart Of The Matter
Neonfly – Strangers In Paradise
Knight Area – Hyperdrive
Haken – Restoration
James LaBrie – Impermanent Resonance
Mercenary – Through Our Darkest Days
A.C.T. – Circus Pandemonium
Xerath – III
Big Big Train – English Electric (Part 1)
Thought Chamber – Psykerion
Marcus Jidell – Pictures From A Time Traveller
H.E.A.T – Tearing Down The Walls
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld

Brutai – Born – Album Review

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Artist: Brutai

Album Title: Born

Label: Transcend Music

Date Of Release: 25 November 2016

After what seems like an interminable wait for me, I am finally listening to the debut album from London-based metallers Brutai. I have been following the fledgling career of this quintet for quite some time, was impressed by the self-titled EP that they released back in 2013 and was even more impressed with the band when I saw them on stage in London earlier in 2016. Not only were they thoroughly nice blokes, they slayed in the live arena, more than ably holding their own on an impressive bill that included Earthside, Voices From The Fusilage and Toska.

The hype leading up to this release has been big, heightened by my own sense of impatient excitement. Now normally, when my expectations are so high, I’m left feeling disappointed. But not so here, not even a little bit. Brutai have delivered the goods in spades, offering us the album that I and many others dared to hope for.

Brutai are comprised of guitarist/vocalist Felix Lawrie, guitarist Henry Ryan, keyboardist/vocalist Alex Lorimer, bassist Christian Sturgess and drummer Mathieu Bauer. And whilst they are all wonderfully adept at playing their chosen instruments, they come together brilliantly, creating a finished article that is arguably even bigger and stronger than the sum of its component parts. I have listened to ‘Born’ over and over again and have deliberately delayed committing my review to paper for as long as possible so that I could offer as thorough a critique as possible. Believe me, Brutai deserve nothing less.

Sitting her now, I am firmly of the opinion that if I wanted to listen to a more modern style of heavy metal, Brutai are the band and ‘Born’ is my chosen weapon. A few weeks ago, I might have chosen Textures but today, it is Brutai. Yup, ‘Born’ is that good.

When I first heard Brutai’s earlier output, I immediately described them in my own mind as a blend of Voyager meets Soilwork, meets metalcore, meets pop. I put this to the band during an interview back in April and the response from the five was not unfavourable. By and large, I think this off-the-cuff description stands up to a certain amount of scrutiny, although I’d also add in there a splash of djent, tech and prog metal for good measure. Truth be told though, Brutai’s sound is one that’s difficult to pigeonhole and I really like that about them. When so many acts are searching in vain for a unique selling point, Brutai sound fresh, invigorating and just a little different from everything else around them.

Given that it is the lead single from ‘Born’ and as such will be the song with which most people reading this will be familiar, let’s deal with ‘Deep’ first. Taken on its own in isolation, it is both a little misleading and absolutely indicative of Brutai’s music. On the one hand, it is without question the most immediate track on the album, the catchiest, in-your-face and the most mainstream-pop friendly. From the opening vocal, to the bold electronic sounds via the hugely infectious chorus, it packs a real punch. But then, dig a little deeper and those big down-tuned riffs are present, as are cleverly subtle moments of complexity in terms of some of the off-kilter rhythms and shifts in focus, not to mention the metalcore breakdown and the imposing atmospherics brought to life by the layers of synths from Lorimer. To therefore dismiss this song as merely a radio friendly romp is to do it a great disservice.

Taking a step back however, and the album begins with ‘Relapse’ which kicks off in moody, almost cinematic fashion before a heavy no nonsense riff takes over, albeit retaining the dark and oppressive atmospheres that are prevalent from the beginning. Caustic vocals take an early lead before being replaced by a clean delivery that actually sends shivers down my spine. The melodic elements are bold but strangely subtle at the same time, playing an important role without overshadowing or dominating the song.

Photo credit: Will Ireland Photography
Photo credit: Will Ireland Photography

‘Of Ashes’ is ushered in on a hugely groovy riff with tech metal overtones, whilst the synths build surreptitiously, coming to the fore as the riffs change tack. Lawrie’s clean vocals are bang on in terms of delivery, something that I could say throughout without fail. The drumming of Bauer is striking in its precision and dexterity, as is the bass playing from Sturgess and the lead guitar work that makes an appearance as the track moves inexorably towards its conclusion.

I really like the opening lead guitar melodies on ‘Lucidity’ and the way in which the clean and gruff vocals vie for supremacy, leading to a cleanly-delivered, insanely hook-laden chorus. To me, this represents Brutai at their most progressive as the song never seems to remain in one place for any real length of time. In places, it is also one of the most technically adept and aggressive cuts to be heard on ‘Born’, underlining their individual prowess and their undeniable metal credentials along the way.

The serene and dreamy intro to ‘Valediction’ complete with poignant lead guitar embellishment, is utterly beautiful, but then so is the whole track if I’m honest. The key word is then ‘groove’ as the stop-start riff joins the party early on in proceedings. That said, the overall tone is more low-key and less abrasive as Brutai experiment with something altogether more subtle and nuanced to devastating effect.

‘Never Change’ is a beautiful anthem with a stunning chorus and heartfelt vocals that communicate so much. It is perhaps my favourite song on the entire album, as the performance from Lawrie, coupled with the chorus melody speaks to me and has a power that has to be heard to be believed. You can hear the heartache in the vocals and it’s the kind of song where you tilt your head back and sing along to the heavens regardless of where you are or indeed if you can sing.

I can personally hear a little of the aforementioned Soilwork within ‘Dear Emily’, primarily in the barked gruff vocals. The magic of this song can be heard in the juxtaposition between the quieter, more reflective moments and the sections of harsher djent/tech metal bombardment complete with intriguing rhythms that baffle my musically illiterate brain. The layers of vocals make for a rousing conclusion, once again reiterating just how impressive this aspect is on this record.

‘Over Now’ requires yet more superlatives. The Voyager-isms are at their most obvious as the composition strikes a near-perfect balance between enormous melodies, all-encompassing atmospheres from Lorimer and pin-sharp technical instrumentation in terms of the Bauer/Sturgess rhythmic machine and both Ryan’s and Lawrie’s more flamboyant six string work. The vocals are yet again spectacular, a soothing counterpoint to the controlled tumult below.

‘Visitors’ once again brings the more progressive tendencies to the fore, challenging the listener with an ultra-modern, edgy and spiky composition that takes its time to get under your skin. And then it’s up to ‘The Border’ to close out this most impressive of albums. It is the longest track on ‘Born’ and it serves up a final seven-minute smorgasbord of everything that Brutai do well throughout the album. The chorus is a sprawling delight, as is the metronomic riffing and the closing vocal performance that fittingly, is the last thing you hear. But more than all that, the whole thing is delivered perfectly, thereby enhancing the song’s epic nature and, in so doing, leaves an impression as large as its grooves in the process.

To conclude, ‘Born’ is incisive, sharp and clinical, full of strong riffs, muscular rhythms as well as moments of extreme yet measured brutality. At the same time however, Brutai demonstrate a well-honed sense of melody and overt pop sympathies, allowing their compositions to bludgeon one moment and then soar majestically the next. I have to frequently remind myself that this is Brutai’s debut full-length, because it is just so adept, so commanding and so self-assured. It might be late in the day, but ‘Born’ is deservedly one of my albums of the year. The only problem? How on Earth do they top it?

The Score Of Much Metal: 9.25

If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others via my reviews pages or by clicking the links right here:

False Coda – Secrets and Sins
Pretty Maids – Kingmaker
In Flames – Battles
The Neal Morse Band – The Similitude Of A Dream
Memoreve – Insignia
Enbound – The Blackened Heart
Blind Ego – Liquid
Dark Tranquillity – Atoma
Hammerfall – Built To Last
Testament – Brotherhood Of The Snake
Crippled Black Phoenix – Bronze
Riverside – Eye Of The Soundscape
Hanging Garden – Hereafter
Theocracy – Ghost Ship
Arkona – Lunaris
Oddland – Origin
Sonata Arctica – The Ninth Hour
Edensong – Years In The Garden of Years
Meshuggah – The Violent Sleep Of Reason
Alcest – Kodama
Opeth – Sorceress
Negura Bunget – ZI
Epica – The Holographic Principle
Amaranthe – Maximalism
Eye Of Solitude – Cenotaph
Seven Impale – Contrapasso
DGM – The Passage
Pressure Points – False Lights
In The Woods – Pure
Devin Townsend – Transcendence
The Pineapple Thief – Your Wilderness
Evergrey – The Storm Within
Dream The Electric Sleep – Beneath The Dark Wide Sky
Periphery – ‘Periphery III: Select Difficulty’
Karmakanic – Dot
Novena – Secondary Genesis
Witherscape – The Northern Sanctuary
Eric Gillette – The Great Unknown
Tilt – Hinterland
Cosmograf – The Unreasonable Silence
Fates Warning – Theories Of Flight
Wolverine – Machina Viva
Be’lakor – Vessels
Lacuna Coil – Delirium
Big Big Train – Folklore
Airbag – Disconnected
Katatonia – The Fall Of Hearts
Frost* – Falling Satellites
Glorior Belli – Sundown (The Flock That Welcomes)
Habu – Infinite
Grand Magus ‘Sword Songs’
Messenger – Threnodies
Svoid – Storming Voices Of Inner Devotion
Fallujah – Dreamless
In Mourning – Afterglow
Haken – Affinity
Long Distance Calling – Trips
October Tide – Winged Waltz
Odd Logic – Penny For Your Thoughts
Iron Mountain – Unum
Knifeworld – Bottled Out Of Eden
Novembre – Ursa
Beholder – Reflections
Neverworld – Dreamsnatcher
Universal Mind Project – The Jaguar Priest
Thunderstone – Apocalypse Again
InnerWish – Innerwish
Mob Rules – Tales From Beyond
Ghost Bath – Moonlover
Spiritual Beggars – Sunrise To Sundown
Oceans Of Slumber – Winter
Rikard Zander – I Can Do Without Love
Redemption – The Art Of Loss
Headspace – All That You Fear Is Gone
Chris Quirarte – Mending Broken Bridges
Sunburst – Fragments Of Creation
Inglorious – Inglorious
Omnium Gatherum – Grey Heavens
Structural Disorder – Distance
Votum – Ktonik
Fleshgod Apocalypse – King
Rikard Sjoblom – The Unbendable Sleep
Textures – Phenotype
Serenity – Codex Atlanticus
Borknagar – Winter Thrice
The Mute Gods – Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me
Brainstorm – Scary Creatures
Arcade Messiah – II
Phantasma – The Deviant Hearts
Rendezvous Point – Solar Storm
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld II
Antimatter – The Judas Table
Bauda – Sporelights
Waken Eyes – Exodus
Earthside – A Dream In Static
Caligula’s Horse – Bloom
Teramaze – Her Halo
Amorphis – Under The Red Cloud
Spock’s Beard – The Oblivion Particle
Agent Fresco – Destrier
Cattle Decapitation – The Anthropocene Extinction
Between The Buried And Me – Coma Ecliptic
Cradle Of Filth – Hammer Of The Witches
Disarmonia Mundi – Cold Inferno
District 97 – In Vaults
Progoctopus – Transcendence
Big Big Train – Wassail
NightMare World – In The Fullness Of Time
Helloween – My God-Given Right
Triaxis – Zero Hour
Isurus – Logocharya
Arcturus – Arcturian
Kamelot – Haven
Native Construct – Quiet World
Sigh – Graveward
Pantommind – Searching For Eternity
Subterranean Masquerade – The Great Bazaar
Klone – Here Comes The Sun
The Gentle Storm – The Diary
Melechesh – Enki
Enslaved – In Times
Keep Of Kalessin – Epistemology
Lonely Robot – Please Come Home
The Neal Morse Band – The Grand Experiment
Zero Stroke – As The Colours Seep
AudioPlastik – In The Head Of A Maniac
Revolution Saints – Revolution Saints
Mors Principium Est – Dawn of The 5th Era
Arcade Messiah – Arcade Messiah
Triosphere – The Heart Of The Matter
Neonfly – Strangers In Paradise
Knight Area – Hyperdrive
Haken – Restoration
James LaBrie – Impermanent Resonance
Mercenary – Through Our Darkest Days
A.C.T. – Circus Pandemonium
Xerath – III
Big Big Train – English Electric (Part 1)
Thought Chamber – Psykerion
Marcus Jidell – Pictures From A Time Traveller
H.E.A.T – Tearing Down The Walls
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld

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