Tag Archives: thrash metal

BlogOfMuchMetal – Metal News – 24 July 2017

Well, while I’m on a roll, I may as well continue. And while so many bands are also on a roll of late it seems, I owe it to them to keep the news flowing.

If you’ve missed any of my other posts in this series, links to all of them can be found at the bottom of this post.

Jag Panzer release their first song off their new album.

c09ce1fccd75b68f298157c7f5ffc169Jag Panzer – The Deviant Chord
Release date: 29 September 2017
Label: SPV

Jag Panzer and I have never had the smoothest of relationships. I bought ‘Thane To the Throne’ many years ago when it was released but didn’t warm to it, so sold it soon after. Having gone back and listened to it again a few years later, I realise that I made a rather big mistake. They are obviously a band that requires time in order to acquire the taste.

This must still be true to this day because, on a first listen, I was not blown away by ‘Far Beyond All Fear’, the first song to be released off ‘The Deviant Chord’, the tenth album from the US power metal stalwarts. Subsequent spins have been increasingly positive to a point where I’m really rather liking it. The melodies are subtle, the riffing is satisfyingly chunky and there are plenty of solos. In fact, that galloping rhythm is very reminiscent of Iron Maiden. So what’s not to like, then? It bodes well for the entire album when it is released at the end of September.

The Haunted release another song of their highly-anticipated new album…

19399139_10154703997157503_7451569900000520260_nThe Haunted – Strength In Numbers
Release date: 25 August 2017
Label: Century Media Records

The more I hear of this new album from The Haunted, the more excited I get. After the uncompromising and brutal blitz of the well-named ‘Brute Force’, the Swedes have released their second track ‘Spark’ which is a different beast altogether. You still get the harsh vocals and the big, bruising thrash-like riffs. But this time, the song contains more variety, more subtlety and arguably a more sophisticated vibe all-round.

And you know what? I dig this song a lot. It shows that The Haunted are growing and maturing all the time, with the confidence and ability to experiment just a little bit. I love the bass intro andthat quiet mid-song interlude – it is brief but the melody is continued for a time once things get heavier which is a nice touch, as is the more soulful lead guitar solo. There are hints within it to previous work but it still sounds fresh, interesting and has me very intrigued as to the overall sound of ‘Strength In Numbers’.

Confirmed release date and a non-finalised tracklist for ‘1755’ by Moonspell.

19943052_1371175159604409_8323465143835788802_oMoonspell – 1755
Release date: 3 November 2017
Label: Napalm Records

I seem to have been aware of a new album from Portuguese metallers Moonspell for ages. In fact, as early as March, I was gearing up for it.  As I confirmed back then, the record will be entitled ‘1755’ it will centre on the Great Lisbon Earthquake of that year. And, according to the press release, “the band has developed a lyrical concept that looks into the death and rebirth of Lisbon and how the disaster changed Religion, Politics and Philosophy in the whole of Europe.”

We were also told that it would be heavier than ‘Extinct’ and will be sung entirely in Portuguese. It might not be 100% confirmed yet but the track list would bear this out. And that is possibly the most intriguing thing about ‘1755’ – I generally love albums where the lyrics are not in English because there’s a greater authenticity with them and what they are singing about.

Momentum increases on the new Vanishing Point album, coming in early 2018…

Vanishing Point – TBC
Release date: 2018
Label: AFM Records

I have it from the horse’s mouth that the new Vanishing Point album will see the light of day in 2018. During a chat with guitarist and songwriter Chris Porcianko, he confirmed that whilst a date isn’t cast in stone yet, the new record was progressing well. However, it had to be delayed until early 2018 for various reasons. As soon as I hear news of a definite date, I will bring it to you.

Despite the 2018 date, I couldn’t help but bring you an update right now. Why? Because not only are Vanishing Point one of my favourite bands ever, updates from the melodic prog metal masters themselves suggest that the new music could be more in the vein of their 2000 magnum opus, ‘Tangled In Dream’. A top 5 all-time album, this is news that threatens a grown man’s bladder control.

To quote Porcianko directly, he actually said of the new record: So far the new Vanishing Point album is a mix of Prog, metal , melodic metal , hard rock and AOR…There’s a little bit of something in it for everyone…Fans of Distant is The Sun and Tangled In Dream will like it I think.’ No wonder I’m bursting with excitement! So here’s some solo action for us all to enjoy.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fchris.porcianko%2Fvideos%2F1653026798044753%2F&show_text=0&width=222

Orphaned Land confirm new album in early 2018…

Orphaned Land – Unsung Prophets and Dead Messiahs
Release date: 26 January 2018
Label: Century Media Records

In a similar vein to Vanishing Point above, I felt compelled to comment about this confirmed release, even if it is destined to see the light of day in 2018. Israeli band Orphaned Land are a special outfit; not only do they create superb melodic progressive metal, but they have managed the seemingly impossible: brought fans of all faiths and backgrounds together in a collective love of music.

It has been quite a while since the quintet last gave their fan base some new music; five years in fact. And given how superb their last record, ‘All Is One’, I am climbing the walls waiting for this new album.

With no new snippets of music to bring you, instead, allow me to remind you just how good their last album was.

Previous updates:

22 July 2017
28 March 2017
23 March 2017
11 March 2017
5th March 2017
26th February 2017
13th February 2017
3rd February 2017
30th January 2017
21st January 2017

Iced Earth – Incorruptible – Album Review

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Artist: Iced Earth

Album Title: Incorruptible

Label: Century Media Records

Date Of Release: 16 June 2017

The phrase ‘only time will tell’ features a lot in music reviews, certainly in mine. Over the years, I’ve had to listen to hundreds of albums and put pen to paper in double-quick time to submit my thoughts in time for the deadline. All too frequently, I have to make a snap decision about whether I like something and sometimes I’ll add in the caveat ‘only time will tell’ to buy myself a little breathing space regarding a record’s long term status and whether it’s a classic or the band’s best. Sometimes, I get my reviews right and sometimes I get them wrong.

When it comes to Iced Earth, I have to hold my hands up and admit to getting it very wrong. I’m a long term fan of the Indiana metal band, discovering them in the late 90s via ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’. This is the album lauded by many as the band’s best and I certainly hold it in high regard. However, with interest piqued, I delved into the back catalogue and I also enjoy the vast majority of their earlier material, favouring ‘Night of the Stormrider’ if my life depended on it. In terms of the post- ‘Something…’ era, I lapped up ‘Horror Show’ and ‘The Glorious Burden’, both of which are fabulous records. Their unique blend of classic metal, power metal and thrash has proved to be a potent formula amongst their ever-growing army of fans, myself included.

More recent output, beginning with 2007’s ‘Framing Armageddon: Something Wicked Part 1’ and ending in 2014 with ‘Plagues of Babylon’ garnered very positive reviews from me in the pages of Powerplay Magazine. However, as time has told, I don’t return to them as frequently as I thought that I would. If I want a fix of Iced Earth, I’ll tend to go for something older. In fact, as I type, I’m hard-pressed to remember very much from any of these more recent albums.

Many will point to the instability of the line-up and, in particular, the frequent changes of the vocalist. However, I think that’s unfair. Matt Barlow will remain a fan favourite since he stood front and centre over some of the best material of the band’s career. That’s unavoidable. However, Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens did an excellent job on a couple of records including the aforementioned ‘The Glorious Burden’ and then, after a brief return for Barlow with ‘The Crucible of Man: Something Wicked Part 2’, Iced Earth have since 2011, turned to ex-Into Eternity vocalist Stu Block to deliver their diatribes. And make no mistake; he does a very good job, sounding very similar to both Barlow and Owens when delivering in the lower and higher registers respectively.

The revolving door syndrome that has affected almost every other position within the band is not entirely to blame either, although it can’t have been the most conducive atmosphere in which to create high quality music. Neither can Schaffer’s ongoing medical problems which fortunately have never drastically curtailed his endeavours. At the end of the day, this is Jon Schafer’s band; he founded Iced Earth and he remains the central creative force, creating most the material and having a say in just about everything else.

With that said, all of the albums between 2007 and 2014 have some very good material on them and I’m in no way saying that they are bad. It is just that they haven’t stood the test of time with me.

This time around however, with no deadlines or time constraints, I could listen in more detail and form a much firmer opinion over the material. And the material in question is the ten songs that feature on ‘Incorruptible’, the twelfth album in the Iced Earth discography.

The accompanying press release sees the ever-confident and bullish Shafer referring to this album as one of their strongest and whilst I approached this hyperbole with caution, I now must agree with him. Having allowed this album to burrow deeper into my brain than many others, I feel much more confident in delivering a very positive review of ‘Incorruptible’. I shall go so far as to stick my neck out and venture that this record is the best material to emanate from the Iced Earth camp since ‘The Glorious Burden’, possibly even longer. Indeed, alongside vocalist Stu Block, in-out drummer Brent Smedley, bassist Luke Appleton and new lead guitarist Jake Dreyer, Schaffer has clearly hit a rich vein of form with ‘Incorruptible’.

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What I like about this album so much is that it manages to blend powerful riffs and heavy music with plenty of melody and strong choruses to make the music truly memorable and rather addictive. Add in to the mix a sense of theatrics, drama and storytelling for which Iced Earth have become known and synonymous and suddenly things start to stack up in the right way.

Given the dark album cover complete with the ubiquitous Set Abominae character, I was expecting something more along the lines of ‘The Dark Saga’ with this record. But what I actually get is more of a ‘Something Wicked…’ vibe, where just about every track delivers something that makes me bang my head, smile or reach for the repeat button. There will no doubt be some who suggest that Iced Earth are cynically trying to recapture the magic of ‘Something Wicked…’ but I humbly disagree. Of course there are some similarities but on ‘Incorruptible’, I hear some of that magic that has imbued all classic Iced Earth material, whatever the era, whoever the clientele.

Kicking off with a dark and theatrical, almost cinematic intro, ‘Great Heathen Army’ offers fans of this band a thoroughly rousing and raucous opening salvo. Block screams and croons with gusto, the rhythm section pounds away and those trademark fast-picked rhythm guitars of Schafer create some tasty riffs. The chorus is a bit of a grower too, blossoming into a full-blown anthem after a few spins.

One of the most ear-catching aspects of Iced Earth on this record though, is the lead guitar work of newbie Jake Dreyer. His lead breaks litter the opener but they have a genuinely melodic edge to them, transforming the solos into something more nuanced than just a gratuitous shred-fest. To further illustrate this point, just check out the fabulous ballad-esque ‘Raven Wing’, complete with lush acoustic guitars. It is here that Dreyer indulges in some lead work that is full of depth, subtlety and bluesy soul, as well as the necessary all-out shred. It doesn’t do any harm that the entire song itself is a well-crafted monster, but it is the lead work alongside the changes in pace and heaviness that leaves the greatest impression.

The variety of the music is also a definite strength of ‘Incorruptible’ too. This is not a one-dimensional album and it benefits greatly as a direct result. You get the mid-tempo stompers like ‘Black Flag’ which in itself is a muscular metal track laced with plenty of melody. And there are the more sombre and brooding compositions like ‘The Veil’ which arguably features my favourite chorus on the record, one that I find myself humming at the most unexpected of times, unable to dislodge it from my head.

Then there’s the short, sharp and intense thrash blitzkrieg of ‘Seven Headed Whore’ with its intro riff that’s instantly reminiscent of Slayer in their prime followed by the potent combination of machine-gun drumming and matching riffs. In contrast, ‘Brothers’ is imbued with a satisfying groove that’s infectious as hell.

‘Ghost Dance (Awaken The Ancestors)’ is an instrumental but far from being a snooze-fest, it is actually one of the most intriguing tracks on the record. I find the tribal vocals fascinating and a really nice touch whilst I’m genuinely taken by the pronounced, powerhouse drumming that is a firm feature of the track.

And ‘Incorruptible’ ends in fitting Iced Earth style with a slightly longer track, ‘Clear The Way (December 13th, 1862)’. At just shy of ten minutes, it isn’t the longest epic that Schaffer has ever penned but it does still pack a punch. Complete with occasional Celtic overtones, a certain amount of quiet homage to Iron Maiden and the sounds of war, it tells a story within the Battle of Fredericksburg to great effect. It’s a glorious romp and the perfect way to end such a glorious album.

Mind you, I’m struggling to pick out any of the songs on ‘Incorruptible’ that demonstrate a lessening of the quality as I genuinely like them all. In that respect, this has to be the most consistent record from Iced Earth for a significant number of years. In fact, as I alluded to earlier, this is without doubt their best release since ‘The Glorious Burden’ and it pushes the likes of ‘Horror Show’ and ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’ as one of their best ever releases. In short, ‘Incorruptible’ is unmistakeably the sound of Iced Earth firing on all cylinders and I love it.

The Score Of Much Metal: 9.25

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

2015 reviews
2016 reviews

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

Ancient Ascendant – Raise The Torch – Album Review

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Artist: Ancient Ascendant

Album Title: Raise The Torch

Label: Spinefarm Records / Candlelight Records

Date Of Release: 21 April 2017

When the legendary Dan Swanö is quoted as saying that Ancient Ascendant are ‘one of the best brutal bands to come out of Britain, well, ever’, I don’t really have any choice but to investigate further. Who am I to ignore a ringing endorsement like this from such an important name within extreme metal circles?

To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure that I’ve have given this album a go if it hadn’t been for Swanö’s interjection, so I have yet another reason to be indebted musically to the legendary Swede.

‘Raise The Torch’ is the third album from the UK extreme metallers and the first to cross my path. And the first thing that strikes me is just how different this sounds. It is no exaggeration to describe the output of Ancient Ascendant as a blend of death metal, black metal, classic metal, hard rock, thrash metal and prog. There’s even a faint echo of a few other things in the melting pot too. The way I’m describing this, you must be thinking ‘oh, that sounds like it could be messy’.

And you’re right, the result could sound messy, disjointed and lacking cohesion. And yet it doesn’t. This is a rip-roaring album that works pretty much from start to finish, where the enjoyment levels are cranked up to the max, accentuated by a strong production courtesy of Ritual Sound and Swanö himself (Unisound).  I’ve become pretty hooked on this record if I’m honest.

The black and death metal genres, by their very nature are usually associated with the darker side of life but whilst these elements play a big part in the Ancient Ascendant sound, the music here frequently comes across as being quite upbeat and infectious. Yes, there are sections that are extreme and intense and in no way can ‘Raise The Torch’ be considered ‘happy’. However, the venom is tempered all the while by huge grooves, large slabs of melody, interesting song structures or simply an almost intangible vibrancy that permeates the album.

The juxtaposition of various, competing ideas in turn then creates something of a progressive vibe. Whether this was by accident or design, it matters not because to my mind, the end result is all that matters. Each of the nine compositions has a strong identity at its core but within that, Ancient Ascendant afford themselves the space to experiment. And this experimentation, although not overdone, makes the listening experience exciting and rather exhilarating. I’m struggling to think of another band currently on the scene who has anything significant in common with Ancient Ascendant, something that can only be positive.

Haste Malaise Photography

Credit: Haste Malaise Photography

On to the music itself in more detail and ‘Raising The Torch’ kicks things off with an atmospheric instrumental that is elegant and refined. It has a sinister edge that’s pure black metal intro fodder but it is also quite beautiful and cinematic in scope.

After one minute and 31 seconds, ‘Our Way’ enters the fray to kick things off properly. It starts with a frosty guitar line, very old school black/death in tone before exploding thanks to some frenetic drumming from Dave Moulding and faster-paced riffing from guitarists Alex Butler and Nariman Poushin. At this point, vocalist Alex Butler delivers a deep, guttural death growl which shakes the earth. The pace slackens slightly to be replaced by a groovy and melodic riff that has burrowed right under my skin. The fact that it is overlaid by a much higher-pitched, raspy and thoroughly caustic black metal scream, only enhances its overall impact. There’s a nice moment of respite where the bass of Alan Webb comes through nicely in the mix before the track gallops to a close via some expressive and exuberant lead guitar work. Dare I begin to call this ‘nasty, feel good music’?

‘Scaling The Gods’ comes out of the traps like a scolded rat, full of energy and intent. Again, whilst it has extreme metal tendencies, there’s a playful edge to much of it, particularly when the guitars go all classic hard rock on us in the mid-section, complete with hand-clapping if my ears aren’t deceiving me.

The doom metal references loom large within ‘Unearth’ as the pace is slowed slightly, fed by twisted, vaguely discordant riffs before being replaced by a truckload of groove interspersed with moments of black metal malevolence or extreme death metal brutality.

For me, ‘Foreign Skies’ is the absolute high point within this excellent record. It begins in very chilled fashion, delivering delicate atmospheric melodies with gorgeous clean guitars and some stunning bass work. The heaviness comes in out of nowhere like a slap in the face. The guitars chug with menace one minute and then inject black metal voracity the next whilst the vocals are venomous either in black or death mode. However, the music retains its melodic edge wonderfully, occasionally reverting to the quieter intro melody to create variety and keep the listener fully engaged. The groove-laden chug at the mid-point is marvellous as is the ensuing riff which is equally groovy but more expansive and brimming with cheekiness. This is the kind of music that’ll have you grinning like a loon, trust me.

‘Grasping The Torch’ is thoroughly infectious thanks to yet more solid and commanding riffing. Out of nowhere the heaviness departs to be replaced by an all-too-brief jazz-tinged progressive interlude that calls to mind the likes of Opeth. However, just as quickly, this is eclipsed by one of the most thunderous sections anywhere on the record as the song powers to a conclusion. Naturally, as is the Ancient Ascendant way, the conclusion is reached via a few ubiquitous twists and turns fuelled by a large helping of daring do in the process.

If ‘The Great Curve’ doesn’t get you banging your head from the outset then the conclusion must be that you’re deaf, whilst it is left to ‘To The Cold’ to see ‘Raise The Torch’ to its conclusion, which it does with the kind of panache and uniqueness that is a hallmark of this album. Frequent shifts in tempo and a demonstrable classic heavy metal vibe supplement the more extreme elements. And the outro delivers a wonderfully dramatic and epic-sounding conclusion, just as it should.

To conclude, ‘Raise The Torch’ is a fabulous record. The music is hugely engaging and memorable but what I like most about it is that these guys clearly enjoyed making this music, they are assured and accomplished in what they are doing and it shows. Nothing is off limits for Ancient Ascendant and ‘Raising The Torch’ is all the stronger for it. What a record!

The Score Of Much Metal: 9

In the absence of a new track to bring you, check out ‘Driven By The Dark’, from the EP ‘Into The Dark’:

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

2015 reviews
2016 reviews

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

Ghost Ship Octavius – Ghost Ship Octavius – Album Review

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Artist: Ghost Ship Octavius

Album Title: Ghost Ship Octavius

Label: Independent Release

Date Of Release: 2015

What I’m about to say might shock you. There are some of you who might even vehemently disagree. But it is true, I can assure you.

I am human and I am fallible.

I know this for sure because I have dropped the proverbial ball from a great height. As you can see from the heading above, this self-titled album by Ghost Ship Octavius was released in 2015. Two years ago! Many of you will already be well aware of its existence and may even have it nestled within your collections. But I missed it. As I feverishly tried to cover as many releases as I could, this record passed me by. And by that, I mean that it really passed me by. I had to be gently nudged by a reader to even learn of its existence and to check it out.

And by heavens I’m glad of the prodding because this album is right up my street and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed listening to it over the past few weeks.

For those poor, unfortunate souls like me who are in need of a bit of background, Ghost Ship Octavius was formed in 2012 and this impressive record is their debut. Mind you, the quality of this album is hardly a surprise given the clientele involved. As a huge fan of Nevermore, my attention was initially drawn to the fact that the beast that is Van Williams sits behind the kit. Conducting a little further research has led me to understand that God Forbid guitarist Matthew Wicklund is also involved, as is Dagna Silesia who has worked with another member of the Nevermore alumni, Warrel Dane, on his solo material alongside Wicklund .Completing the line-up is vocalist Adon Fanion, a relative unknown but as it transpires, the owner of one hell of a set of pipes.

On paper then, the prospect of this band is very exciting. The reality is equally so. No damp squibs present, no deflated expectations. ‘Ghost Ship Octavius’ is a melodic progressive metal monster that’s not afraid to dip its toe into the realms of other metal subgenres.

Before I dissect a few of the tracks in more detail, there are a few more general aspects to this album that need to be mentioned. First, there are the performances of each member of the band which, as you might expect are highly professional throughout. But, intrinsically linked to this is the song writing. Well-executed instrumentalism only goes so far and will ultimately fail if it is not used to create strong compositions. Ghost Ship Octavius do not have this problem, as the music is incredibly well-conceived.

Being a melodic metal band, you’d expect there to be plenty of big choruses and hooks to pull you in. There are. Just about every one of the eleven tracks on this record provides some satisfying and addictive ear candy, be it overt or more subtly-placed.

Being a band with progressive leanings as well, you’d also expect the songs to have a fair amount of variety to them and for the music to offer something a little bit different. They do. There is more than enough virtuosity and technicality from each corner of Ghost Ship Octavius to supplement the melodies and the more immediate aspects of the music. Furthermore, there are several eyebrow-raising moments where the band goes all-out to intrigue and test the listener, something I really enjoy and fully welcome.

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If that wasn’t enough, there’s also a more intangible aspect to ‘Ghost Ship Octavius’ that has an effect on me, and that’s the vibe of the record. Melodic and progressive it certainly is but it is also extremely heavy and quite dark. As befits a moniker like Ghost Ship Octavius, there’s a slightly menacing and brooding underbelly to the album that I find compelling and refreshing for a melodic metal band. The lyrics, the atmospheres, the vocal delivery and a million other minute ingredients lend the music on this debut a morose and haunting aspect. I love it.

Throw in a robust production that also allows sufficient clarity and space for everything to be heard, even Silesia’s impressive bass work, and it becomes evident pretty quickly that we’re on to a real winner here. Everything about Ghost Ship Octavius screams quality, focus and purpose. It only serves to heighten my embarrassment for missing out on this album when it was released.

The album opens with ‘Saturn and Skies’. It isn’t a long track but it immediately throws down the Ghost Ship Octavius gauntlet. It has a vague Nevermore feel to it in the riff department, but this is a theatrical, dynamic and ambitious composition that has its own strong identity, changing tack frequently within its relatively short existence. Fanion’s vocals immediately come to the fore, displaying a huge range but also impressing thanks to his ability to convey emotion with genuine power and conviction.

‘Alive’ has a sinister edge to it, driven by the monstrously powerful rhythm section of Williams and Silesia. Wicklund indulges in several wailing solos but they are as melodic and emotive as they are dextrous and technical, meaning that they genuinely add to the song. A mix of all-out blastbeat-led power and quiet, contemplative sections, complete with string and piano embellishments adds to the sense of drama and theatrical grandiosity that permeates the entirety of this record.

The stomping opening of ‘Silence’ is delivered with pin-sharp accuracy, ultimately giving way to one of the best choruses on the album. After about the third spin, the melodies get right under my skin and they don’t let go. Its strength lies, I think, in the fact that it is so powerful yet is also quite subtle, with Fanion showing restraint in his delivery, allowing his voice to be at one with the music rather than overpower it.

If the preceding few paragraphs have whetted your appetite, allow me to then introduce you to ‘In Dreams’. Buried within the middle of the album, it was the first Ghost Ship Octavius track I heard and was the one that made me realise the enormity of my mistake. Having listened to it several more times, I have to declare it to be one of the very best melodic metal tracks that I have ever heard. Everything about it is just about perfect. The riffs, in keeping with the entirety of the album, are fantastically muscular, the solos are exuberant, the bass is glorious, the drumming is thunderous and the vocals are superb. Then there’s the chorus, which is completely killer; hook-laden and hugely powerful, it slays.

It’s on this track that Fanion also produces arguably his best performance, full of anger and frustration during the chorus but something more measured, thoughtful and sorrowful in the quieter passages. I can neither confirm nor deny that I might have got a bit carried away when listening to this song on my headphones whilst walking the dog in my neighbourhood. But hell, music is meant to move you right?

Elsewhere, the introduction to ‘Pendulum’ is a thing of real beauty if you’re a sucker for the sound of a wailing guitar solo. It also ups the ante in terms of the band’s use of symphonic embellishments and is a wonderfully grandiose piece of music as a result, particularly in the more melodic mid-section onwards where there’s the sense of a group of musicians cutting loose a little bit. ‘Bloodcaster’ on the other hand, is one of the songs where the aforementioned eyebrows are raised thanks to its overtly quirky and borderline avant-garde nature juxtaposed by some of the most extreme music to be heard anywhere on the record.

‘Epitaph’ is a shorter blast of exuberant heavy metal underpinned by an insidious melody whilst ‘Burn Away’ has more of a power metal feel to it. Immediately melodic and up-tempo from the get-go, it then settles into more of a ballad-like composition. Fanion offers his most sensitive performance within yet another strong chorus, accented by a delicious piano that weaves itself nicely into the song.

I could go on because truth be told, ‘Ghost Ship Octavius’ doesn’t contain any filler material at all. This is a brilliant example of how wonderful melodic metal with a progressive edge can sound when done properly with care and skill, not to mention a clear vision and clarity of purpose from every member of the band. Become familiar with the name of Ghost Ship Octavius because if this is how good they sound on their debut album, just imagine what they might produce in the future. The mind boggles but I can’t wait.

The Score Of Much Metal: 9.25

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

2015 reviews
2016 reviews

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

Obituary – Obituary – Album Review

12 Jacket (3mm Spine) [GDOB-30H3-007}

Artist: Obituary

Album Title: Obituary

Label: Relapse Records

Release date: 17 March 2017

My love affair with Obituary dates back to the mid-nineties and their ‘World Demise’ album. It was a discovery, on cassette, at a time when I was getting more and more into extreme forms of music. I’d started out with the likes of Def Leppard and Guns ‘N’ Roses, moved on to Metallica and Iron Maiden, then discovered Slayer and Cradle of Filth. From there, my tastes went in all kinds of directions and Obituary were one of the bands that was randomly hit by my manic teenage scattergun approach.

I can still remember hearing tracks like ‘Final Thoughts’ and ‘Don’t Care’ for the first time, drinking in the brutality, the groove, the extreme sounds and those gurning, guttural vocals that sounded like nothing I’d ever heard of before. Ever since, Obituary have remained a firm fixture in my collection and I retain a soft spot for the Floridian death machine. There have been a few highs and lows along the way, including a six-year disbanding between 1997 and 2003 but no-one can question the ability and the integrity of one of the most steadfast bands in the entire death metal genre.

Fast forward to 2017 and we’re presented with Obituary’s tenth album, the self-titled ‘Obituary’. Normally bands will release a self-titled album as a debut or at a point in their career where they feel that they are unleashing their best material. In the case of Obituary, there’s no doubt that it is very much the latter. Laying my cards on the table at the outset, I’d have to consider ‘Obituary’ to be one of the best records of their career, pushing the brilliant ‘Slowly We Rot’ and even my fond personal favourite ‘World Demise’ close in my estimations.

Obituary in 2017 is comprised of the ever-present Tardy brothers, vocalist John and drummer Donald alongside rhythm guitarist Trevor Peres, lead guitarist Kenny Andrews and bassist Terry Butler. I don’t think the guys would mind me saying that they are no longer spring chickens but this has had literally no adverse effect on their output. If anything, the quintet are even more fierce and aggressive in their advancing middle age, certainly if this album is anything to go by.

‘Obituary’ features ten tracks and a running time of around 33 minutes, meaning that it is not going to require the greatest outlay in terms of time. However, it uses the time wisely, delivering a monstrous death metal assault from start to finish, leaving you battered, bruised and with a sore neck. Quite literally, my head does not stop banging for the entirety of this record and as far as I’m concerned, that’s a very good thing indeed.

By and large, long term fans of the Floridian quintet will not be surprised by the output of ‘Obituary’ as the bulk of the material follows a familiar blueprint. The instantly recognisable vocals of John Tardy are present throughout, sounding as wonderfully disgusting and ferocious as ever. And then there’s that trade mark muscular yet raw and dirty guitar tone which smothers the material, giving it that superbly rotten and depraved sound, as if the music has been pulled kicking and screaming from the gutter.

 

Ester Segarra

Photo credit: Ester Segarra

 

What might raise an eyebrow or two is the consistent quality of ‘Obituary’, something that has arguably been lacking at times within the more recent discography. Not only that, but ‘Obituary’ reasserts that hunger, desire and sheer brutality for which Obituary is known and loved. Personally-speaking I really like the mixture of faster-paced material and the slower, more groove-oriented compositions; this blend creates a sense of variety which can often be lacking on records of this nature.

The album opens up with a real statement of intent via the intense up-tempo one-two of ‘Brave’ and ‘Sentence Day’. Both miserably fail to hit the three-minute mark but they both pack a serious punch. ‘Brave’ has more of a loose, thrashy feel to it as it motors along at a fair lick whilst ‘Sentence Day’ is liberally seasoned with blistering solos and lead breaks galore courtesy of Kenny Andrews. It is a frenetic but hugely enjoyable beginning to the album.

The pace is then slowed courtesy of ‘Lesson In Vengeance’ which creates that churning groove which makes Obituary such a pleasure to listen to. Unless my ears deceive me, there’s an almost imperceptible 70s vibe to the central riff that won’t go unnoticed by the faithful I’m sure.

After a swift opening, ‘End It Now’ settles into one of the most satisfyingly groovy tracks on the record, making it without doubt one of my favourites. Tardy’s voice descends even lower into the sewers on top of a killer mid-tempo stomping riff, backed up by a solid, no-frills rhythm section which becomes more intense as the song draws to a gigantic close. This has to be one of my all-time favourite Obituary tracks, particularly when the swirling, dextrous lead guitar solo appears out of nowhere to add a touch of finesse.

The wailing guitars that punctuate more groovy death metal brilliance within ‘Kneel Before Me’ are a masterstroke, as is the menacing, rumbling bass of Terry Butler that underpins the ferocity that plays out around it. ‘It Lives’ by contrast churns and bulldozes the listener whilst almost delivering something approximating a melody within the infectious groove.

It sounds daft I know, but if there is such a thing in the Obituary vocabulary, ‘Betrayed’ has an almost fun, playful vibe to it as it skips along at a decent tempo, dominated by a simple-sounding but effective central riff. ‘Turned To Stone’ then reverts to something more akin to old school Obituary dominated by a slow, ponderous and heavy-as-hell riff that slithers ominously and gets your head really nodding whether or not you want it to.

‘Obituary’ is then closed out by the duo of ‘Straight to Hell’ and ‘Ten Thousand Ways To Die’ and it’s a fittingly high quality end to the album. The former begins at a high tempo before slowing right down into near doom territory in the mid-section as the guitar riffs wade through concrete whilst John Tardy apparently gargles it. ‘Ten Thousand Ways To Die’ kicks off with an ear catching, almost tribal-sounding drum performance from Donald Tardy but it is the lead guitar work in the closing stages that ultimately steals the show, rounding things out with one last decadent hurrah.

And there you have it. Proof if ever proof was needed that one of the biggest names in death metal is well and truly back on form with an album that delivers just about everything that you could possibly want from them. On this form, Obituary are irresistible.

The Score of Much Metal: 9.0

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

2015 reviews
2016 reviews

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