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Music Review: Draven, Susperia, Rhino, Stemm, and Seance

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Its nice to think this piece is going up on the shiny new blogcritics.org. This is the site I have had the pleasure to write reviews for since its inception and I am pleased to see it continue on its successful road. I want to thank Eric for giving me the space for this weekly (ish) column on the best in heavy music.

Draven: Eden

Named after a character in “the Crow” and featuring identical twin brothers you might expect a few things from this band. And no, they don’t sound like a heavy Proclaimers or are they a bunch of mournful Goths with pasty faces and forlorn expressions. In fact, it’s just a bunch of guys doing a decent job at cranking out some proper metal.

In the PR there are hints of southern-rock and cowboy bar-brawl, neither of which of I hear here. Once you stop worrying about what people are suggesting the band to be and just listen, you will find this quite a good release. There is no rapping, no screamo vocals, just straight-ahead heavy rock that Britain does so well when they really try.

The twins are from Surrey and come from a musical family, it shows. There is a sense of timing, pace, and musicality that many bands lack on their debut.

The fact that Kevin Shirley (Iron Maiden, Metalllica, Aerosmith et al.) produced the CD lends credence to their talents. It’s all good on this release but the title track is certainly a highlight. Oh, and it’s a concept album based on Milton’s Paradise Lost. Don’t let that scare you away, as the tracks stand up together and on their own. (Something that fails so many rock and metal “concept” albums.)

Rarely will you hear such a solid debut from a new band. This is certainly one to seek out when it’s released at the end of next month.

Rhino: Dead Throne Monarch

This bunch of Spanish nutters play metal that is as heavy as their namesake. This is not for the faint-hearted and the band deliver it with lots of meaning and force. This is heavy in the stoner sense, but instead of down-turned sludge. it’s far more thrashy than you might expect. There is a clear sense of combining grunge and modern metal with traditional thrash metal styling.

They have honed their chops on the European festival scene. They have managed to get quite a bit of notice from the extreme/heavy metal masses and publications alike. This, their first major label release, shows off Rhino’s talents to those who might not have known them before or seen them live as of yet. It’s a solid effort that shows a band that has the talent and clearly wants to be considered alongside the big boys of metal.

The band successfully fuse their different influences into something that, while it has recognizable elements, never strays into the realm of copycat. In fact they have successfully created a maelstrom that might attract fans. This is a solid release that should get them to the next level.

Stemm: Blood Scent

Well first off you have to know that the band is responsible for the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s theme song. This might have raised the band’s profile just a bit as the UFC is ever growing in its popularity for those who like their entertainment as brutal as it can be. Their music has even made it into the games that have been an offshoot from the league on the PS3 and X-Box.

So what is their music like? Well its not terribly hard to see what the UFC find in this lot. It’s aggressive as hell while retaining some sense of the melodic, if only just. The music rather reminds me of Pantera at times, as well some other just on the edge of melodic, heavy metal bands. Needless to say their relationship with UFC guarantees them a certain amount of built in publicity and exposure. The metalcore vocals grate and are not for everyone.

In the case of this band its much of a decent band that has had some damn good fortune. Its good, but not earth shattering. There is enough on here to keep any metal-head happy for the duration. They claim this is their “Vulgar Display of Power,” which I think might be over-stating a bit. The band shows great promise and could have a truly great album in them. Not sure if this one quite fits the bill.

Séance: Awakening the Gods

It’s a re-awakening for this long dead band, that is for sure. Having broken up in 1998 after successfully heavily influencing the technical death scene in Scandinavia, they are back with an album that seemingly comes along and picks up where they left off. Even if you are not a fan of death metal, you can easily appreciate the quality of the tracks on here.

The band clearly enjoy breaking their onslaught up with mellow patches and some riffing which would make any power metaller proud. Just listen to a track like “Wasted” to see elements of what make this band so good. It’s sometimes hard to discern the quality from the alright in the death metal genre. The sheer force of the music can hide up a myriad of ills. This lot go out of their way to make sure you know they know their gig and mean to do it well.

There is melodic, thrash, power metal and straight-head death in the mix and the cacophony it makes is really quite impressive. If you always wondered what people were going on about when they mentioned this band, this new release will clearly sort you out. In a sea of rather dull death metal, it’s good to see guys who do something quite interesting come back and show them all up.

Susperia: Attitude

More quality melodic death metal, this time from Norway, and on the purveyors of quality, the Candlelight label. Formed in 2000 this lot features members who have seen time, done studio work with, or even are currently in some of the crème de la crème of melodic death metal including Dimmu Borgir, Old Man’s Child, and even the mighty Satyricon. Its not necessarily a super-group, but it certainly has elements of that considering the collective experience.

If you are into your melodic death metal, than this release will be right up you ally. It has all the elements that make the genre so much more interesting than the normal death/black metal miserable dirge. The tunes are, in a way, catchy at times and certainly make you sit up and listen. The musicianship is high and focused. In short they know what their fans and those of the genre want and deliver it.

Tracks like “Another Turn” really shine through and give the band an element that might appeal to those who aren’t completely into their death. Just because they are death metal does not mean that they can’t make tracks that are catchy and have that hook that covers a good song. The band do what they do very well and are worth a listen. Forget the tags and seek this out if you like good metal.

That is all for this week. It’s quite a heavy bunch, but that is sometimes what we end up with. Speaking of heavy, have you heard the riff in the country song “She’s Country”? If it weren’t for the fiddles in the back-ground you could imagine certain heavy rock bands producing something like it. Jason Aldean…closet heavy rocker? Lets just say it “cranks” well.

Stay safe, stay rockin’ (whatever yer musical poison) and check out your local music scene.

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About Marty Dodge