Metal · Reviews

Review: Ensiferum – One Man Army

My review of One Man Army, written for Rock’n’Reel Reviews.

OneManArmy

A lot of metal’s appeal has always been the sense of escapism it provides. It’s the fantasy, encouraged by musicians through their dramatic and elaborate concepts, that sometimes has as much to do with alluring listeners as the music itself.

Perhaps that’s why so many enjoy folk metal. Because even if the music is sub-par, hordes of fans lap it up for the mythical references, the dramatics, advocacy for alcohol and tongue-in-cheek approach.

Finland’s Ensiferum are a shining example to rise from the genre, with a fourteen year run proving their talent. Album six, One Man Army, is the epitome of how heavy metal and folk instrumentals can be unified to great effect.

Guitarist and primary songwriter Markus Toivonen and his bandmates have done a great job on this one. The versatility and colour within the music speaks for itself; every track possessing its own memorable melodies, story and emotional delivery.

The more obviously inspired folk, multi-instrumental songs are dispersed throughout the album and performed as usual by keyboardist Emmi Silvennoinen. Intro ‘March of War’ is the first example, before the listener is hurled into ‘Axe of Judgement’, a stark, speedy contrast to enter battle with.

Later tracks like ‘Heathen Horde’, ‘Cry for the Earth Bounds’ and ‘Two of Spades’ are worth picking out for the their uniqueness and startling contrast in comparison to each other. There’s definitely a lot to experience throughout the album. Who knows, maybe even the cynics will allow themselves to be taken in by it.

Personal Score: 4/5

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Metal · Reviews

Review: In Flames – Siren Charms

About once a year, give or take, I fall in love with In Flames all over again and listen to their back-catalogue continuously. Here’s my review of their latest release.

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If fans of In Flames are to stand any chance of enjoying Siren Charms, they’d better embrace change and accept the band’s ongoing evolution into milder realms. Perspective is key when assessing this release. Alone, the Swedes’ eleventh creation is a decent piece of work, but frankly it’s an utter disappointment in light of their past and a painful reminder that their firey, melo-death metal foundation has been truly extinguished.

Whilst remnants of the band’s core sound are present, through their ability to engage the listener with signature atmospheric highs and lows, on the whole the latest offering feels frustratingly tame. A softer, slower musical approach runs throughout and demonstrates a permanent trajectory into rock, even borderline pop at times. Siren Charms is incredibly easy on the ears.

The title-track captures this shift in style and energy perfectly. Anders Friden’s soft, emotive singing voice draws the listener in with a feeling of heartfelt authenticity, as though he’s revealing true secrets and builds up to a soulful, crashing chorus. The following track ‘When the World Explodes’ is one of the heavier picks and compliments its predecessor. Growls return to the fold and a rhythmic metalcore style dominates. Guest vocalist Emilia Feldt also lends her delicate vocals to wrap up the album’s mid-section; the most interesting, mysterious and indeed charming.

Nevertheless, there are far too many songs here that are mediocre. Thrills are scarce, unfortunately. And knowing what wondrous sound and invention In Flames are actually capable of means that this reality is a little hard to bear. The album does possess a certain subtle character, however. One can only hope that it’ll introduce new listeners to the versatile beauty of this acclaimed band.

Personal Score: 3/5

Metal · Reviews

Review: Iron Reagan – Tyranny Of Will

Another review written for Rock’n’Reel Reviews.

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It was only last year that punk-thrashers Iron Reagan impressed everyone with their début full length Worse Than Dead. Now they’re back with a second album that’s bursting with energy and just as ballsy. Tyranny Of Will continues exactly where the Richmond ragers left off and may well be more abrasive than their first export.

Like the first, it has a youthful feel; like a band making awesome, aggressive music because they damn well want to. The twenty-four tracks encourage you to let off steam through the rhythmic aggression and catharsis of hardcore punk, while frontman Tony Foresta, clearly indulging in his love of the genre, injects his humorous personality into the band’s sound and approach. Fans of Municipal Waste are bound to adore the ferocity of this record and their beloved vocalist and bassist’s (Landphil Hall is on guitar) more rough’n’ready project.

If anything, the thrash component has been amplified slightly on this one. Songs like ‘Eyeball Gore’ and ‘Nameless’ pack the speed and tenacity of old-school icons. ‘I Won’t Go’ has a particularly Slayer feel to it. As electrifying as these full velocity moments feel though, it makes for a fuller, more interesting listen when broken up with punchy beats and basic, satisfying riffs. Songs like ‘Close To Toast’ and ‘In Greed We Trust’ possess infectious, fist-pumping grooves.

The fivesome’s follow-up effort is fast, frenzied and a hell of a lot of fun. Dive in head first to this one.

Personal Score: 4/5

Metal · Reviews

Review: Suicide Silence – You Can’t Stop Me

Another review written for Rock’n’Reel Reviews.

SuicideSilence

Deathcore, as a sub-genre, has somewhat of a bad reputation within the broader metal community. And whilst there are many bands within the scene where criticism is justified due to brutish simplicity, uninspired song-writing and a lot of style over substance, there are shining anomalies.

As major players in establishing deathcore’s popularity circa 2007, the name Suicide Silence is unfortunately met with casual dismissal or even unabashed, unjustified hate. Yet as the band’s third full-length proves, this is wholly undeserved.

You Can’t Stop Me is a powerful output from a five-piece who show us exactly how meaty, metalcore fused rhythms can be sliced and diced with the blasting speed, down-tuning and the vital injection of nastiness that death metal offers. The title track captures this recipe perfectly and has one belter of a chorus. What’s more is that apparently previous vocalist, the late Mitch Lucker, apparently had been working on the lyrics to this song before his tragic death. If you only listen to one track from the album, make it this one.

New vocalist Eddie Hermida has laid down some impressive work here. Switching between gutsy, death metal growls and harrowing shrieks, the duo vocal effect makes for a deeper impact, as opposed to a harsh wall of sound and I actually prefer Hermida’s emotive style. George ‘Corpsegrinder’ Fisher of Cannibal Corpse and Greg Puciato of Dillinger also lend their talent and aggression to this record, so be sure to listen out on ‘Control’ and ‘Monster Within’.

As my first proper exposure to the band, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this. Clearly Suicide Silence can’t be stopped. The album is full of strong songs and it’s impressive to see the band moving forward.

Personal Score: 4/5

Metal · Reviews

Review: Space Chaser – Watch The Skies

Another review written for Rock’n’Reel Reviews.

Space Chaser have boldly gone where many men have gone before, by tackling the ever-popular thrash scene. Heralded as being a staple of their tight-knit metal community in Berlin, one can assume that they’re hoping to make as good an impression on the rest of the world.

Their début Watch The Skies is another contemporary attempt at re-creating the noise and mayhem of a decade once past. In that respect alone it does a great job at capturing that beer-drenched energy. If you’re imagining a harsh sounding, Teutonic metal throwback however, think again. This is definitely American influenced and the quintet celebrates alien invasions, hazardous waste themed, cartoon-like thrash. They sound like they’re having a great time too. The tracks are fast, frantic and shred-tastic, led by an old-school, wailing vocal style. Fans of Municipal Waste and Gama Bomb should back this.

It’s no innovation (an almost impossible task these days) but holding out through these ten snappy tracks is a definite joy-ride. The band should be as welcome into the modern circuit as their international peers.

Personal Score: 3/5

Metal · Reviews

Review: Noble Beast – Noble Beast

Another review written for Rock’n’Reel Reviews. This time of Noble Beast’s début album.

Storming into the picture with this truly epic, self-titled debut, Minnesota’s Noble Beast are the latest addition to the power metal scene. This triumphant culmination of melodic European and American power metal warrants attention from confirmed fans of the genre as well as new listeners. As a power metal novice, this is what I imagine the decent stuff to sound like: fast, enthralling and valiant!

‘Iron-clad Angels’ kicks things off brilliantly, with its charging pace and memorable chorus boomed out by Sir Robert’s deep and powerful voice. The thrash component is instantly prominent too. The listener is sent tearing forward through a relentless sequence of hooks, soaring harmonies and choruses that evoke visions of heroic battles and mythical gods.

A little clichéd? Yes. This is an acquired taste and whilst we can all enjoy the drama on occasion, for many I believe it will soon become tedious. Unless you love this kind of thing, of course! Just a handful of songs would suffice (and go down especially well at a summer festival.) ‘Behold the Face of Your Enemy’ and ‘On Wings of Steel’ are my suggestions. Noble Beast requires some versatility in style or subject if they’re to reach a wider audience long-term.

Personal Score: 3/5

Metal · Reviews

Review: Savage Messiah – The Fateful Dark

My four-star review, written for Rock’n’Reel Reviews.

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Could this be the album that launches Savage Messiah into stardom? The Fateful Dark certainly has the great songs, awesome shredding and irresistible hooks to do so. It’s an exciting release – one these London metallers must be very proud of.

There’s a quality across this creation that’s so alluring and professional sounding, one could easily envision the band absolutely dominating large venues in the near future. The ten songs are packed with memorable riffs, (I’ve had ‘Iconocaust’ and ‘Hellblazer’ earworms for days now,) captivating melodies and topped by a souring vocal style from frontman Dave Silver. His abilities add a rather epic dimension to a fierce musical backdrop that’s full of passion.

The title-track is one of the slower paced, sing-songs on this thrashy opus; another opportunity for Silver’s vocals to shine, especially at the song’s climatic chorus… Not to everyone’s taste, but so what? ‘The Fateful Dark’ is a soulful and instantly likeable listen.

With this offering, Savage Messiah will win the hearts of curious listeners who are yet to be converted into fans.

Personal Score: 4/5

Metal · Reviews

Review: Behemoth – The Satanist

Behemoth’s new album is my favourite release of 2014, so far. Below is the introduction to my review of The Satanist for Rock’n’Reel Reviews…

TheSatanist

The Satanist has been one of the most anticipated releases of the year. Fans of the mighty Behemoth have been waiting for the triumphant return of Nergal and his band since the frontman’s battle with Leukaemia began in 2010. After his incredible recovery, their tenth release has been a long time coming. Yet, remarkably, The Satanist has finally reached us and, what’s more, may be the band’s most impressive work.

Personal Score: 4/5

Metal · Reviews

Live Review: Kvelertak at Talking Heads

A venue anything less than packed, bustling and inebriated on the first night of Kvelertak’s European tour would have been unsettling. Their blossoming success over recent years has brought about sold out shows and continued praise from fans and critics alike. And as expected, the interior of Southampton’s Talking Heads possessed the healthy buzz of anticipation by the time Norway’s six-piece made their entrance.

Lashing into their set with all the energy and attitude one could hope for,  the crowd were treated to a selection of songs from Meir – the band’s upcoming release and eagerly sought after second album. The new material was scattered amongst the likes of ‘Fossegrim’, ‘Offernat’ and other songs from the sublime début which brought about an explosion of popularity in 2010.

If anything can illustrate this hard rocking, musical orgy about to roll through the next city, imagine buckets of sweat flying off band members, a crowd-surfing front-man and an audience clambering on-stage during the encore. Those lucky enough to be seeing Kvelertak on this tour can expect a night to remember.

Metal · Reviews

Live Review: Evile at The Cellar

Those who arrived at The Cellar early on Monday evening will have reaped the benefits as support band Bloodworks, a young foursome from Gosport, laid down a shockingly heavy opening of work; packing a deathly punch reminiscent of the genre’s greats and audibly entwined with contemporary influences, like Devildriver and Lamb Of God. The band’s obvious knowledge of no-frills metal past and present made for an impressive spectacle in light of their age. Be sure to catch Bloodworks locally before the upcoming EP catapults the band to new heights.

Sweden’s Wolf may be poles apart from the forerunner’s fresh blend of brutality with their entertaining take on old school British heavy metal, yet they bridged the gap between openers and headliner energetically and with much crowd engagement during their final date on this UK tour.

Evile should arguably be packing venues to the max at this point in the band’s career, however the presence at The Cellar left a lot to be desired. Energy levels and crowd movement seemed to be flagging throughout, especially in comparison to the frenzy at Southampton’s Talking Heads almost exactly a year ago after the success of Five Serpent’s Teeth.

This time Huddersfield’s most popular thrashers mixed up their usual set to include rare bangers and unheard live performances prior to this tour, such as ‘Origin Of Oblivion’. For this fan, failure to witness other punters bouncing off the walls in excitement and appreciation came as a disappointment. Nevertheless, the reception was welcoming and the quartet’s decision to retain fan favourites into the setlist was apparently a wise move – going some way to injecting the rightly deserved commotion into the crowd.