Tag Archives: Voyager

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

The Blog of Much Metal is nothing if not predictable. But, what it lacks in spontaneity, it makes up for with quality writing, brilliant wit, incisive articles and a bucket load of irony and modesty.

As a result, I return with my usual mid-year round-up of the best music that has been released between January and June 2017. As with last year, I remain a one-man show and so I have not listened to everything that has been released in this period. I have a family and a career to fit in as well. However, I have listened to more albums than ever before (or at least that’s how it feels), so I am content that very little of any note has slipped the net. And if it has slipped the net, I still have six months to put things right. Of course, if I have missed anything out, I shall leave it to you, my dear, loyal reader, to tell me.

Everything in this round-up has consequently been reviewed on this blog already, so I don’t intend on going in to great depth with each pick here. Instead, I’ll provide a few up-to-date thoughts, a quote from the full review and then a link to that review should you wish to check it out. Wherever possible, I will also provide a link to a different track to the one posted with the review. Well, I have to try to give you some value for money, don’t I?

And so, in no particular order, I give you:

VOYAGER-GHOST_MILE-coverHIVoyager
Ghost Mile

If you were to tell me that there is a band out there creating a bigger buzz in the metal world right now, then I might consider calling you a liar. For a band that had been toiling away for a number of years, gathering a small but select band of cult followers, things have now taken off massively. But then it’s hardly surprising given the quality of the music that they are now creating. Unique, assured and intense, Voyager are the whole package and ‘Ghost Mile’ demonstrates this 100%, no question.

“Voyager today is an even more tightly honed entity. More focused and more self-assured than ever before. That rising stock I mentioned a moment ago? Expect it to go through the roof upon the release of this record, mark my words.”

“In my opinion, Voyager sound like no-one else. They have worked hard over the years to craft their sound and perfect their own vision, to the point where comparisons are impossible and, in any case, are utterly pointless. Their output blends progressive metal, prog and pop-like melodies with a quirky and often atmospheric sheen. Put simply, the music sounds like…Voyager.”

“The only problem with ‘Ghost Mile’ is that it is a stealer of time, a thief of moments. I listen to this record and immediately feel compelled to listen again. Before I know it, huge chunks of my life have disappeared. However, at this precise moment, I don’t care. All I know is that ‘Ghost Mile’ is a very special record from an equally special band and…damn it, I need to listen to it again.”

Read the full review here.

pain_of_salvation_-_2017_coverPain Of Salvation
In The Passing Light of Day

Do you know that feeling when a band you’ve almost given up on delivers a killer album? Well, that’s the feeling I got from Pain of Salvation with ‘In The Passing Light of Day’ way back at the beginning of the year. It seems like forever since I first heard it and given the amount of music around at the moment, it is testament to its quality that I still find myself gravitating towards it. More than that, it still has the ability to send chills down my spine and bring a tear to my eye at times.

“What also works well is the way in which the music sounds fresh and vital but also isn’t afraid to borrow from the band’s past either. As well as the ‘Road Salt’ echoes, there are passages where I also hear elements of the ‘One Hour By The Concrete Lake’, ‘Remedy Lane’ and ‘Be’…”

“2017 may have only just begun but Pain of Salvation have laid down the marker for all others to reach. After a few releases that didn’t move me, ‘In The Passing Light of Day’ has redressed the balance and then some. If this is what intelligent and emotional progressive metal sounds like in 2017, I don’t want the year to ever end.”

Read the full review here.

coverPersefone
Aathma

I’m still wondering just where this album came from – it is definitely the surprise of the year for me so far. I was never the biggest fan of Persefone but the Andorrans well and truly did a number on me with their latest effort, the incredible ‘Aathma’. It is progressive, technical death metal, the likes of which I have rarely heard, especially to this level. It is like the sextet took everything to a whole new level, from the collective songwriting to the individual performances. And it all sounds so rich and cohesive, with enough accessibility to keep me coming back for more.

“I absolutely love music when it offers a challenge and isn’t afraid to go in directions that it wants, rather than what convention dictates it should do. I don’t mind saying that Persefone have produced an absolute masterpiece with ‘Aathma’ – it is the work of six supremely talented musicians at the top of their game. Short of a miracle, I cannot see any other extreme progressive metal albums topping this during 2017 or beyond. Spectacular.”

Read the full review here.

KSCOPE351-COVER-20cm-1024x1024Anathema
The Optimist

If ever there was an album release that raised my expectation levels to completely new heights, it was this one. The last two, ‘Distant Satellites’ and ‘Weather Systems’ are musical perfection, so I hoped upon hope for a third killer record. After a difficult start, where disappointment initially reigned supreme, I have grown to love ‘The Optimist’. In keeping with previous Anathema albums, it is a deep and emotional rollercoaster of a ride through some dark landscapes that only reveal their beauty with time, effort and an open mind.

“Put simply, Anathema are a band that speaks to me. They are a band that seem to know instinctively how to press my buttons and touch me whatever my mood. From euphoric and uplifting, to fragile and poignant, they cover the gamut of emotions, leaving me exhilarated one minute and sombre the next, frequently with tears as my constant and ubiquitous silent companion.”

“‘The Optimist’ is yet another shift in Anathema’s own personal evolution. Whilst the core ingredients of atmosphere, emotional depth and lyrical eloquence are present and correct here, the output framed loosely by alternative/prog rock, has a much darker feel to it in general. There is also a more pronounced use of loops, electronic sounds and percussion that were hinted at within the title track on ‘Distant Satellites’.”

“Once again, Anathema have delivered an album that is more to me than just a collection of beautifully and lovingly-crafted songs. It is an album that lives and breathes. It has a vibrancy, an intense raw honesty and a human depth that many strive to deliver but that very few succeed in achieving.”

Read the full review here.

15826722_1705409859485158_999859890853457012_nPallbearer
Heartless

It takes a lot for doom metal to feature in any top lists with me because in general, doom is not one of my natural, favourite genres. However, I had not reckoned on the new album from Pallbearer. This is doom metal but it is so much more besides. ‘Heartless’ is a near-perfect blend of styles and sounds, making it transcend genres to a certain extent. Instead, when I listen to ‘Heartless’, I find myself being thoroughly absorbed in some of the most exciting, engaging and mature music I have heard for some time.

“…having since had the opportunity to listen to this album at length, I am going to stick my neck out and say that right here, right now, ‘Heartless’ is the best doom metal record that I have ever heard. Yes it incorporates a number of different influences to create a rich tapestry of sounds, textures and moods. However, at its core, ‘Heartless’ is pure doom metal, born and bred.”

“The injection of more overt progressive tendencies alongside some sumptuous melodies and assured, ambitious song writing means that with ‘Heartless’, Pallbearer have created what I think might very well be my favourite doom metal album ever. Meaningless hyperbole this is not, because ‘Heartless’ delivers in every facet. This is a doom metal masterpiece and my life is richer for hearing it.”

Read the full review here.

Voyager – Ghost Mile – Album Review

VOYAGER-GHOST_MILE-coverHI

Artist: Voyager

Album Title: Ghost Mile

Label: IAV Records

Date Of Release: 12 May 2017

In the three years since the release of Voyager’s last album, ‘V’, much has changed in my life. I am no longer writing for Powerplay magazine, I’ve moved house and I now have a second daughter on which to dote. Not to mention double my stress levels and further eat into my spare time. Not that I’d have it any other way of course.

But in the world of Voyager, things have been surprisingly stable and quiet. For a band that has experienced more than their fair share of line-up changes over the years since their inception around 1999, the clientele has happily remained the same from ‘V’ to the current day.

As a result, Voyager 2017 consists of vocalist Daniel Estrin, guitarists Simone Dow and Scott Kay, bassist Alex Canion and drummer Ashley Doodkorte. A more talented and hungry group of musicians you’ll struggle to find and it shows too. This is a tight unit, a formidable machine.

The stock of the quintet who hails from the most remote city in the world has risen unbelievably over the last few years. They have gone from a band very much in the underground to one of the current darlings of the metal world. Some of this has to do with their live shows. I have yet to witness one but I have it on good authority that they are incredible, drawing the highest of praise and comments like ‘the best live performance I’ve ever seen’.

However, the other enormous factor in the rapid rise of the affable five from Perth, Western Australia is the music itself. Quite simply, Voyager is a band that keeps getting better and better. I joined the cause around the release of their fourth album, ‘The Meaning Of I’ in 2011, becoming smitten with their brand of quirky melodic progressive metal. I delved into their back catalogue and then salivated all over ‘V’, such was its brilliance.

To quote my review for Powerplay Magazine, “Immediate, catchy and satisfyingly heavy, ‘V’ is a brilliantly-written album, deserving of your undivided attention.”

And now finally and joyously, album number six is upon us. Entitled ‘Ghost Mile’, you very quickly realise that this is yet another impressive body of work from the good ship Voyager. Instead of the 13-track affair that ‘V’ was, ‘Ghost Mile’ consists of a mere ten tracks and a running time of 45 minutes. But worry not, because listeners have not been short-changed by this, not one iota.

What this represents in fact is that Voyager today is an even more tightly honed entity. More focussed and more self-assured than ever before. That rising stock I mentioned a moment ago? Expect it to go through the roof upon the release of this record, mark my words.

Firstly, in a very similar vein to ‘V’, ‘Ghost Mile’ is impeccably produced. Mastered by Matthew Templeman and mixed by Simon Struthers, it sounds slick, polished and smooth. The music is provided a great depth and clarity which is vital given the subtle nuances at play within Voyager’s sound. But being a metal band, Voyager like to crack out the heavy occasionally and when they do, there’s plenty of muscle to back up the aggression, losing nothing in the mix.

There are definitely ingredients of many different bands within the Voyager sound, many influences. But the final result is just so unique that these reference points are rendered redundant. In my opinion, Voyager sound like no-one else. They have worked hard over the years to craft their sound and perfect their own vision, to the point where comparisons are impossible and, in any case, are utterly pointless. Their output blends progressive metal, prog and pop-like melodies with a quirky and often atmospheric sheen. Put simply, the music sounds like…Voyager.

Each musician within the band brings something interesting and vital to the overall sound. Guitarists Simone Dow and Scott Kay are exemplary riff machines with an almost telepathic understanding. I love the tones of the guitars as well as the inventiveness of the riffs and chord structures. They work perfectly in tandem with a behemoth of a rhythm section comprised of the expressive and flamboyant bassist Alex Cannion alongside drummer Ashley Doodkorte who is metronomic in his accuracy, laying down a thunderous yet varied and cleverly nuanced heartbeat. And then there’s Daniel Estrin. I cannot get enough of this guy’s vocals – they are quirky and off-beat at times which adds to the uniqueness of Voyager’s output. But more than that, he is such a powerful, melodious and emotive vocalist. He also brings his skills with the ivories by creating the synth and key textures that layer the album, bringing with it that aforementioned atmosphere, a sense of drama and yet more originality.

voyager band

On to the songs themselves and ‘Ghost Mile’ opens up with ‘Ascension’. It is a track you’re likely to have already heard given that it was the first track released to an expectant fan base. When I first heard it, I had my reservations as it didn’t immediately seem to deliver a killer melodic hook or a chorus to grab my attention. However, I was wrong. It encapsulates just about everything that is so brilliant about Voyager.

Beginning with a gorgeously serene guitar and synth intro that subsequently welcomes in a simple, pounding drum beat, it builds a sense of tension which is released once the intriguing progressive-sounding riff kicks in. When the heavy guitars fall away, in come Estrin’s vocals which create the melodies as well as some really wonderful bass playing. Accompanied by layers of synths, there is genuine warmth to the music and it feels like it is seeping into my bones and my soul. And then, all of a sudden, some brief growls usher in something altogether heavier. An almost post-metal wall of groovy sound greets us, before things revert back, only for the song to close on a lurching, progressive/tech metal riff. I can’t help but grin already.

The grin then gets even bigger as the monstrous one-two of ‘Misery Is Only Company’ and ‘Lifeline’ take over. The former starts off in quirky, progressive fashion before delivering one of the strongest hook-laden choruses of Voyager’s career. Juxtaposed with some punchy, fast-paced music in the verses, this is a great blend of melodic and progressive metal par excellence.

‘Lifeline’ then reintroduces what becomes a bit of a trend on ‘Ghost Mile’, namely an ambient, atmospheric, almost electronic-sounding opening. The overtly progressive, twisting and turning track then builds expertly with stop/start riffing entering before being gradually joined by striking drumming and then Estrin’s trade mark melodic vocals. But the best is saved until the chorus. I adore what Dow and Kay do here but I’m at a loss to explain it more eloquently; the guitar notes send shivers down my spine, as if speaking directly to something primitive inside of me.

‘The Fragile Serene’ caresses the soul initially before stomping all over it with a more ponderously-paced riff. The track eventually quickens but, by taking the foot off the pedal, it cleverly introduces another strong and dynamic facet to the album. The synths are integral to this more wistful and dreamy-sounding composition, as are the more subtle melodies that permeate the consciousness with repeated listening.
It might only be a little over two minutes in length but ‘To The Riverside’ makes a huge impact. It is a composition that paints huge, stunning vistas in the mind’s eye. It is at once both soothing and surprisingly emotional. The tinkling keys, layers of synths and the pensive voice of Estrin all combine to stunning effect, only enhanced latterly by some simple additions from the rest of the band.

By contrast, the title track changes things up once again by offering a dramatic and intense listening experience right from the off. It is one of the most progressive tracks on the record by virtue of the fact that it never sits still. The melody remains but the tone is darker, more dystopian, accented by some bold sounds and samples and ultimately communicated via a deviation into extreme metal territory. Ferocious blast beats, fast-picked riffing and suffocating intensity all feature prominently in the latter stages as Voyager channel their inner anger with superb and eyebrow-raising results.

Not content with just one cut of extremity, ‘Disconnected’ also packs a real punch, along with more dark, foreboding atmosphere whilst the short, sharp and unashamedly modern pop-inspired ‘What A Wonderful Day’ also features a brief smattering of growled vocals for good measure.

‘This Gentle Earth’ is a beautiful track, predominantly a piano and vocal composition. It has bittersweet overtones as the melodies feel quite up-beat whereas the lyrics talk about having ‘never felt so alien’. The poignancy really makes me think, something that I heartily approve of.

All too swiftly, ‘Ghost Mile’ comes to a close with ‘As The City Takes The Night’. However, it says its goodbyes in the best possible fashion. Funky bass lines, more cracking riffs, layers of synths and another vocal masterclass all ensure that this melodic progressive composition is a more than fitting finale for such an amazing album. The chorus is once again a thing of understated and subtle beauty, wonderfully topped off by the more ethereal vocals that almost blend into the music. And when the album closes, it stays in my mind for quite some time.

The only problem with ‘Ghost Mile’ is that it is a stealer of time, a thief of moments. I listen to this record and immediately feel compelled to listen again. Before I know it, huge chunks of my life have disappeared. However, at this precise moment, I don’t care. All I know is that ‘Ghost Mile’ is a very special record from an equally special band and…damn it, I need to listen to it again.

The Score Of Much Metal: 9.9

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

2015 reviews
2016 reviews

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

Anticipated music in 2017 – an update – 11 March 2017

It is becoming something of a trend now that  almost immediately after I post one of these updates, one of the mentioned bands will release something new, either a new song or more detailed information about their upcoming release. On the one hand, it is quite funny. But on the other, it means that I’m left tearing out what little hair I have left.

It also means that there is justification for writing another update, so that’s what I shall keep doing. Today’s update is briefer than normal but is also one of the most important to date in my opinion.

If you’ve missed any of my previous updates, they can be accessed via the links at the bottom of this post.

Voyager – Ghost Mile
Release date: 12 May 2017

Here is the biggest culprit this time around for releasing something just after I mention them in an update. But it’s Voyager, so I immediately forgive them and bring you the latest news that I have regarding the modern melodic progressive metal band with pop/synth leanings.

According to the band themselves, the release date for ‘Ghost Mile’ is 12th May 2017 and, having now reached their pledge target, they have released the first track off the new album. Here it is in all its glory and I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s a bit of a monster.

Anathema – TBC
Release date: TBC

This is arguably the biggest news that could come out in 2017 – a new album from Anathema. The Liverpudlian band are one of my all-time favourite artists and after many of the big hitters in my world released albums in 2016, Anathema are set to return this year with brand new material. I have this on very good authority, so trust me on this.

Anathema are one of those bands that seem to effortlessly create beautiful and poignant music. I have lost count of the amount of times I have shed tears whilst listening to this band and frankly, long may that continue.

I will admit to having a few nerves leading up to this new album because I have such high hopes for Anathema and I pray that the new album delivers in the same way that the last two or three certainly have. if you recall, the title track from ‘Distant Satellites’ was noteworthy because of the increased use of electronica – I’m wondering whether this might be an area of greater exploration this time around? Whilst I do love that track, I have to admit that I hope it isn’t a future trend, because I love Anathema most when the music is more organic, beautiful and lyrically intense.

As I said, I have it on very good authority that the album will see the light of day sooner rather than later, so hopefully we won’t have to wait much longer to find out.

Moonspell – 1755
Release date: November 2017

K1600_1755I’ve had a soft spot for Moonspell ever since I heard the awesome ‘Irreligious’ back when I was a teenager. However, as far as I was concerned, it took until 2015 and the release of ‘Extinct’ for the Portugese Gothic metallers to hit somewhere near to the heights reached some 20 years ago.

My love for the band has now been well and truly rejuvenated and so when I heard that a new album was due in the near future, I was excited. Having now read a little more about it, I remain excited but also highly intrigued.

Entitled ‘1755’ it will centre on the Great Lisbon Earthquake of that year and, as the press release states, “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.”

What’s more, it will be heavier than ‘Extinct’ and will be sung entirely in Portuguese. The image attached may or may not be the cover artwork, but it gives us a bit more of an idea of what we might expect in November. My appetite has been whetted, how about yours?

Teramaze – TBC
Release date: TBC

I reviewed the most recent album from Australian melodic progressive metal band Teramaze on this very blog and I was rather taken by it I must admit.

As a result, I have been buoyed by news that new material is being worked on at the moment. I have no firm answers as to whether a new record would be released in 2017 but I will keep my fingers crossed. In the meantime, the band have released a snippet of the new music they are writing which I thought I’d share with you.

The noises coming early from the band’s camp suggest that they are really happy with the way the music is shaping up, which is always nice to hear. And, if this demo material is anything to go by, the satisfaction of the Teramaze guys is pretty understandable.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fteramaze%2Fvideos%2F10154932448435281%2F&show_text=0&width=560

Previous updates:

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

My most anticipated releases of 2017 – Part 1

Welcome to another annual tradition on the Blog of Much Metal, a small series where I take a look at the albums that I am most looking forward to during the coming year. Some of these releases are already confirmed, some I have even heard (with reviews coming soon) and some are just my own fantasies in hope rather than expectation that they might see the light of day in the coming 12 months. Some you might even recognise from previous series’ as I have been wrong about their impending release – in which case, you’ll get the idea about how excited I am about hearing them.

So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the first five releases (in no particular order) that I’m excited about:

Pain of Salvation – In The Passing Light Of Day
Release date: 13 January 2017

pain_of_salvation_-_2017_coverThis is one of the releases that I know for sure will be released in 2017. In fact, the date is set for 13th January 2017 and I have already had the opportunity to hear it.

Pain of Salvation have always been an important band for me, ever since I started discovering progressive music around the turn of the millennium. Albums like ‘Remedy Lane’ and ‘The Perfect Element: Pt.1’ are firm favourites within my collection. However, over recent years, the output has been patchy and as far removed from their early heavy roots as it could possibly be. Nevertheless, some of the content was very nicely written and performed, albeit not to my personal taste.

And then, just as I was about to lose all hope of a heavier Pain of Salvation record, along comes news of ‘In The Passing Light of Day’, an album which is lauded to see a return to heavier climes. I have heard it and believe me, the hype is real. I cannot wait to complete my review and then hold the finished article in my hands.

My Soliloquy – Engines Of Gravity
Release date: TBC

15095691_1306793379351630_731123106189415054_nThe brainchild of Threshold guitarist Pete Morten, My Soliloquy arrived with a bang in 2013 with their debut ‘The Interpreter’. It was a classy progressive metal record, full of intricacies and complexity but never at the expense of the songs themselves. Strong melodies and excellent song-writing combined to create a highly commendable and thoroughly enjoyable debut.

The follow-up, entitled ‘Engines Of Gravity’ has been a long time coming. Indeed, it should have been released in 2016 but due to some difficulties, it has been put back to 2017. However, I am sure that the record will be worth the wait and I’m convinced that it will deliver something even more mature and refined now that the band have found their feet even more since the debut.

Vanishing Point – TBC
Release date: TBC

Ah Vanishing Point. My favourite melodic, symphonic, progressive metal band, the creators of ‘Tangled In Dream’, one of my desert island discs and in the top 5 of all time without any doubt. After a slightly sticky patch for one reason or another, the Australian metallers returned in 2014 with ‘Distant Is The Sun’, an album that pushed their 2000 classic right to the wire in all respects.

The band have been sneaky with their studio updates, not releasing too much for us to get our teeth into, but just enough to fire our enthusiasm. I’d expect nothing else from the cheeky guitarist Chris Porcianko and co. though if I’m honest. The net result is that I am chomping at the bit to hear the latest instalment from these guys, a band that are blessed with one of my very favourite singers in Silvio Massaro.

Darkane – TBC
Release date: TBC

I feel like I mention Darkane every single year in this series. Their last record was ‘The Sinister Supremacy’, released back in 2013 but since then, we’ve only had a live album to enjoy. Now, three or four years isn’t so bad I suppose but this is such a great band, I’m now desperate for some new material.

If you’re after a band that can combine melodic death metal, thrash and a healthy dose of prog-laced technicality, then Darkane are the no-brainer choice. Savage, brutal, majestic and subtly melodic, the Swedish extreme metallers have delivered quality music time and time again over their six album career.

Voyager – TBC
Release date: TBC

Another Australian band in this list, I can’t tell you how psyched I am to hear a new album from Voyager. I am a little late to the party having only really taken to the melodic, progressive metallers with the release of ‘The Meaning of I’ in 2011. However, I have since made up for it and they are frequent visitors to my stereo and rightly so. This band is a class act.

I am ashamed to admit that I am yet to see these guys on stage, given how amazing their live shows are rumoured to be. But I dearly hope to make up for that in 2017; it is one of my biggest aims for the year.

Their previous album ‘V’ was a classic, full of killer tunes delivered with style and panache. In fact, I can go weeks without listening to it but I will suddenly get one of the hooks or choruses pop up in my head and like the very best earworms, I am compelled to listen in order to release it from my brain. ‘V’ was beautifully produced, gloriously executed and so damn addictive…I can’t believe that the new album will be any different, especially how the band seem to be at their most inspired of late and on a hugely deserved upward trajectory.

An interview with Brutai – ‘we just go out and play the metal music that we love’

Credit: Will Ireland Photography

Credit: Will Ireland Photography

Over the past few months, my social media feeds have been almost on fire with the name of one band more than any other: Brutai. The culprit is Miss Lulu Davis, the one-girl whirlwind who is Incendia Music Management. I made the mistake of making her virtual acquaintance and the rest is history. Seriously though, I don’t mind at all because without this, I’d not have heard about Brutai, certainly not until it was too late. As it is, what I’ve heard has piqued my interest to the point that when the opportunity to sit and have a chat with the quintet presented itself, I couldn’t say no.

And so, in the less than salubrious surroundings of an upstairs dressing room at the Camden Barfly (full gig review), I found myself perched against some disused piece of electrical equipment, readying my first question for the guys. As a starter for ten, I suggest that Brutai come across as a blend of Voyager meets Soilwork, meets metalcore, meets pop and tentatively ask whether they agree.

“I like that”, responds Felix Lawrie, vocalist and guitarist with the London-based outfit, in a very friendly, good-humoured manner. “Our music is pretty hard to pigeonhole and I’ve heard so many different genres thrown our way. We just go out and play the metal music that we love and we love all types of metal music. So some songs might be a bit heavier and others will be completely the opposite. We call ourselves ‘metal’ but if you want to pigeon hole us, you can call us whatever you like…as long as the word metal is in there somewhere.”

I find that last vehement comment very interesting particularly when you learn that the background of several of the band is so heavily intertwined with the world of pop, quite impressively as it happens. I invite the chaps to fill in the blanks and Felix instantly obliges.

‘My family is in the pop industry’, he casually states, smiling warmly. ‘My dad is a songwriter and he has written songs for Tina Turner and Lionel Ritchie, so you can’t get any more pop than that. My auntie is the singer Lulu, so it’s hard not to have been around pop music from a young age. I was taken to Take That concerts at the age of four – it wasn’t my fault”, he remonstrates playfully with his bandmates amidst snorts of laughter, “I was four!’

brutai band on stage

“It’s a small world”, interjects keyboardist Alex Lorimer, smiling and pointing in Felix’s direction animatedly, “because my dad played the trumpet on stage with his aunt about 25 years ago and then we end up playing together in a metal band.”

The inevitable question about the origins of their love of metal looms large and I succumb.

“It was a natural progression”, Felix replies matter-of-factly. “I used to be into rap music – Dr Dre and Eminem mainly. Eminem got me into Limp Bizkit, Limp Bizkit introduced me to Korn and Korn led me to Metallica. I was introduced to the guitar at a young age but when I first heard Metallica, I was like ‘OK, I’m going to learn every single Metallica song known to man and play every day’. That’s how it started with metal for me anyway.”

Alex then offers his thoughts on the subject.

“If you end up playing metal, you have to understand music. People who don’t, just think of it as noise. If you are brought up in a musical background, even if it’s not your cup of tea, you can appreciate it. We all came from different musical backgrounds, playing different instruments…like the clarinet”.

That last comment is delivered with a certain amount of quiet reluctance which means that I already think I know the answer Prior to seeking clarification of the culprit.

“Me, can’t you tell?”, quips Alex with a rueful smile, before turning back to the original question once the laughter from around the room dies down finally. “But everyone understood it, got it and it brought us all together.”

“We really can’t complain”, offers Felix when I ask him whether he is pleased with the progress of Brutai to date, particularly in light of the fact that a debut album is yet to be released. “Because 10,000 views (for the song ‘Deep’ – see below) in a couple of months is more than we ever expected”.

After a quick prompt, Felix goes on to explain his reasoning for the comparative success.

“I think it’s more of an accessible song, it’s catchy and so I think it reaches out to more than just metal fans. People will come up to me who don’t like metal and tell me that they really like my tune. It has that kind of longevity and catchiness and our manager”, he emphasises, looking in Lulu’s direction pointedly, “getting us on the playlist on Scuzz TV probably helped as well. It’s just being spread around really well.”

Naturally the topic of conversation turns towards the debut album. At this point in time, there’s no news about a release date and I make a failed attempt to get some kind of exclusive.

“I really can’t say”, Felix shrugs to my gentle prodding. “It’s all finished and it sounds great. We’re thrilled with how it sounds. Our hard work has ended now, so it is the turn of our manager to ship it around to see if we can get any support from any labels. We’ll see how that goes but after that, we’ll be more decisive about when it is going to get released. So it is a bit up in the air at the moment and will be for the next month or so.”

Sensing that I’m a beaten man on this topic, I change tack and ask Brutai to explain a little more about the writing process. This time it’s Alex who leads the reply.

“All the tracks on the album generally have very different identities. If you knew us as musicians, you’d be able to tell who wrote this or that part. We all have our own sounds and we pull them all together. Everyone comes up with ideas or song structures and then we take those basic ideas and develop the songs together from there. And then myself and Felix will do the vocals. Everyone has their own signature sounds and these all come through in the songs.”

Felix nods his agreement.

“It all starts off as an idea from the three of us, me, Henry (Ryan – guitars) or Alex. And then, as a band (rounded out by drummer Mathieu Bauer and bassist Christian Sturgess) we piece everything together and turn them into a song. Personally, I am a really big fan of structures and the way in which songs piece together. I like general straight-forward structures but also stuff that’s a bit more out there but which still makes sense. That’s the key for me. But I’m also a big fan of the riff.”

brutai 1

“If it goes too far”, offers Henry for the first time, “then we will rein it in and make it a bit more straight-forward but if one song has elements of technical metal we will try to give it a big hook or a chorus. So there are a lot of different elements and sounds on the album.”

Dare I use the dreaded ‘prog’ word? My reticence was, as it turns out, unnecessary as Felix agrees to a certain extent.

“I definitely don’t mind us being called progressive because I think we’re a little bit progressive in the way that we write music. Not necessarily the style of music that we play but in the way that we think.”

I’m keen for Brutai to make themselves sound as intriguing and irresistible as possible to those music fans out there that have yet to give them a try. Or worse, to convince those music fans who have not even heard the name Brutai. I therefore invite the gents to come up with their most snappy description of their music in ten words or less. The answer is a slow and laboured one but involves the entire band. Eventually, as the unofficial spokesman, Felix ventures “Groove, riffs, hooks, a bit of dirt and atmosphere” before Henry offers some kind of clarification as to why they found it so difficult to reach an answer.

“I find our music really musical. It sounds silly to call music musical but there are some albums and some bands where everything sounds the same. If you listen to two songs off the album you know exactly who it is. We try to keep things different with more variety I think.”

One word that I personally feel is missing in that summary is ‘fun’. The minute I raise this, it is leapt upon by Felix.

“You can’t take yourselves too seriously and fun is what we’re all about too. The lyrics might be serious and the music might sound dreary and gloomy but a lot of the time it sounds fun and we try to have fun on stage. For me, metal music has always been fun and it always makes me smile.”

As a final question, I ask Brutai whether they, as a band, have any longer term ambitions or goals for the band. The answer is rather predictable but it demonstrates that the band have wise heads on their shoulders.

“You’ve got to just take things a step at a time”, replies Felix. “Our main goal from the get go when we started doing this seriously about three years ago was to create an album that we are all proud of. It took us a good year to write and then about nine months to record because we all did it sporadically. We did it ourselves, we all have jobs and we didn’t want to be rushed. We finally got there so if it all ended tomorrow I’d be very happy. Of course I hope it doesn’t end yet and we’ve got high hopes for Brutai, but you never know what might happen.”

And with that, the sound of the first band on the bill rumbles through the floorboards signalling that it’s time for us all to head downstairs to witness a little live music.

Interested to hear more? Then check out video for ‘Deep’ below or head to the Brutai Bandcamp page right here: https://brutai.bandcamp.com/album/brutai

Most Anticipated Metal Releases of 2016 – Part 3

Welcome to Part 3 of my most anticipated album releases of 2016. Missed Parts 1 and 2? Click the links below and find out why I’m thinking that 2016 could be one of the strongest years for rock and metal for a long time:

Most Anticipated Metal Releases of 2016 – Part 1
Most Anticipated Metal Releases of 2016 – Part 2

If these weren’t enough, today I bring you another 10 potential releases, in no particular order, all of which are highly exciting for me.

Redemption – The Art Of Loss

This US-based band is one of the very best within the progressive metal subgenre. Adventurous song writing, clinical execution and innate understanding of the role that melody has to play in such music. Add to this the ability to pen beautifully poignant and raw lyrics and you’re on to a real winner. Redemption are one of those bands that can seemingly do no wrong, with each and every album offering high quality progressive metal. Of course it helps that they are blessed with a singer in the form of Fates Warning’s Ray Alder, but it’s the overall song writing and vision of guitarist Nick van Dyk that helps take Redemption to a whole new level of excellence. The new album, entitled ‘The Art Of Loss’, is scheduled for a March 2016 release. I can’t wait!

Vanishing Point – Title ‘TBC’

I make no secret of my love for Vanishing Point. Ever since I heard the superlative ‘Tangled In Dream’ back in 2000, I have been smitten. To me, it was the perfect melodic progressive metal album, full of memorable songs both beautiful and sophisticated. Subsequent albums fell slightly short but in 2014, with ‘Distant Is The Sun’, the Australians well and truly rediscovered their mojo. Melody, intelligence and a satisfying amount of heavy metal crunch, it pressed all my buttons and remains an album that I return to on a frequent basis. Again, as with other picks in this post, there’s no official confirmation of a new album in 2016 but I have a feeling we’ll see new material. Bring it on, I say.

Voyager – Title ‘TBC’

Australian metallers Voyager have been around for a while but their rise in recent years has been rather meteoric in metal terms. Beginning in 2011 with ‘The Meaning Of I’ and then well and truly cemented with the astonishingly good ‘V’ in 2014, the world had no choice but to sit up and take notice of this rather unique band. Blending progressive metal with melodic rock, pop and an understated dash of modern electronic music, the result is ultra catchy and totally addictive. It of course helps that Voyager are a close-knit group with excellent musicians in every department topped off by the superlative Daniel Estrin behind the microphone. If the recently-released new single ‘Misery Is Only Company’ is anything to go by, a new album in 2016 threatens to very special indeed.

Cynthesis – Title ‘TBC’

Seemingly everything that the Tipton brothers touch turns to gold and Cynthesis is no different. We’ve already seen two albums under the Cynthesis moniker and when I spoke with Jasun Tipton during 2015, he confirmed that the third Cynthesis album was written, thus completing a dystopian trilogy in the process. Cynthesis is the most atmospheric, melodic and sensitive of all of the bands that feature the Tipton brothers and I absolutely adore the atmosphere and the lashings of gorgeous melodies that are a feature of both ‘DeEvolution’ and ‘ReEvolution’ respectively. Given the preposterously brilliant technical prowess of the musicians involved, I expect nothing short of a sonic treat when finally the third Cynthesis instalment sees the light of day.

Long Distance Calling – Trips

Beginning life as an instrumental band, German post-rockers Long Distance Calling took the decision with ‘The Flood Inside’ to introduce a vocalist. The results as far as I was concerned were superb, turning a hitherto unloved band into an act that now sits front and centre in my affections. Atmospheric, multi-layered, intelligent and somewhat enigmatic, the compositions are not always easy to grasp to begin with. However, with repeated listens, the music bears its fruit and snares the listener without them even realising what’s going on. With a brand new vocalist, it remains to be seen what a new Long Distance Calling album will sound like. Mind you, if it anything like the last, the late April release ‘Trips’ will be a sure-fire winner with me.

Big Big Train – Folklore

In recent years, I have become a sucker for the more relaxed sounds of classic progressive rock. One of the biggest and best finds for me has unquestionably been Big Big Train. The music borrows a little from the likes of early Genesis and is English pastoral progressive rock at its finest. As far as I’m concerned, Big Big Train are the undisputed genre leaders thanks to a willingness to experiment within and outside the confines of the progressive rock sphere, all the while creating music that is utterly compelling. From cheeky upbeat numbers right through to sprawling epic affairs via plenty of emotionally-charged compositions full of beautiful melodies and wonderfully imagined sonic vistas. Following on from the highly acclaimed ‘English Electric’ double-header, get ready in 2016 for ‘Folklore’.

Anathema – Title ‘TBC’

Ok, so this is a bit of a long shot. I’ve heard nothing from the Anathema camp to suggest that there is definitely a new album on the horizon for 2016. However, such is my love for this band, I live in hope, especially given the fact that the last studio album saw the light of day in 2014. Anathema are one of those bands that transcends genres to the point that talk about whether they are prog, post-rock, alternative rock or whatever is meaningless. Anathema write music that is emotionally charged, honest, poignant and utterly beautiful. I have lost count of the number of times that the brothers Cavanagh and Co. have brought me to tears via their music such is the elegance and raw honesty that is baked right into every Anathema composition. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: forget the Beatles, Anathema are the best band to emerge from Liverpool, end of story.

Treat – Title ‘TBC’

If there’s one melodic hard rock album I’m really looking forward to in 2016, it’s the new studio album from Treat. In 2010, the Swedes released ‘Coup de Grace’ and it blew me away. Melodicrock.com gave it a full 100% review and it isn’t hard to see why. Huge hooks, massive choruses, driving tempos and enough oomph to satisfy those looking for a little bite to their melodic rock, I fell in love with it almost immediately. ‘Coup de Grace’ remains on heavy rotation on my stereo and I never get bored of it. I therefore have high hopes for the new record, due out sometime in 2016.

Bal Sagoth – Title ‘TBC’

Ah Bal Sagoth. That most intriguing and entertaining of extreme metal bands. I discovered this UK-based band very early on in my exploration of music that pushed the boundaries and they’ve been an important part of my collection ever since. Led by the enigmatic Byron, they fuse the fury and aggression of black metal with fantasy lyrics and more synth-led bombastic symphonics than you’d think possible in music of this kind. One glance at album titles such as ‘Starfire Burning Upon The Ice-Veiled Throne Of Ultima thule’ and you get the idea. This is overblown, pompous extreme metal but it works brilliantly. The band have gone very quiet since signing for Nuclear Blast and releasing ‘The Cthonic Chronicles’ banck in 2006. However, I remain ever hopeful that after a wait of the best part of a decade, we get another record. Please Byron, sir, please?

Iced Earth – The Judas Goat

A perennial favourite, Iced Earth are surely due another album in 2016, although nothing has yet been confirmed beyond the usual rumours that are circulating. It was a shame that vocalist Matt Barlow has left the fold but in Stu Block (ex-Into Eternity), Iced Earth have found the perfect replacement. His range and natural ability behind the mic is the idea accompaniment to the classic/thrash/power metal for which guitarist and founder Jon Schaffer is famous. After a couple of hit and miss albums in recent times, Iced Earth returned to form in blistering style with 2014’s ‘Plagues Of Babylon’, meaning that the excitement for its follow-up, tentatively titled ‘The Judas Goat’ is even more feverish than before amongst the legions of loyal Iced Earth fans, myself included.