I apologize to you readers that there was no column last week. Despite my best efforts, I was unable to write one while on holiday in Malta. However the downtime did give me ample time to listen to loads of CDs. I even gave the new Metallica a few more spins and I have not changed my views.
The Reflection: When Shadows Fall
I have been rather stuck with this lot being unable to find anything on the web about them. Nonetheless, the music says quite a bit about the band and was well worth a listen. One thing that seems to obsess this lot is the sea. With two songs and an instrumental about it. The best of these tracks is “Ghost Ship” which has all the menace you’d expect while retaining the virtuosity needed in power metal.
You could call this sea metal and you not be far off. The band attempt to evoke the epic nature of the sea in all they do. The desolate nature of being at sea floods out of your speakers. Now, no one would clam this CD is anything ground-breaking, save for maybe creating a new genre, but it is a rather good listen. The title track is a stomper of a track that makes you sit up and take notice.
I would have to say this band peddle a brand of power metal/prog that is a cut about the bog standard. This is worth seeking out if you are a fan of the genre. There is quite a bit going on there if you are willing to stick around and pay attention.
Suspyre: When Time Fades
Now this was a pleasant surprise of a disc. I had never heard of this lot but they do a wonderful line in jazz-heavy power prog. There is nothing samey about any of these tracks, especially the 10 minute standout track “Siren” and yes it works. This song, cut down for radio, could be a great hit for this lot. The piano backing of the track is quite beautiful and impressive.
This is not what you would expect from a New Jersey band; not a tinge of Bruce Springsteen here. They have more in common with the more accessible Dream Theater with a nice dose of Testament. They are not clones of either band, infusing a sense of their own originality throughout. Now, as you would expect from this sort of band, the tracks aren’t short for the most part. There are all the things you would expect from prog metal but done rather well.
What most amused me was the fact that I was expecting something a bit more gothy and moody than this collection. It was a pleasant surprise to say the least. I have to say this is a damn good band and a cracking release.
Hoodoo Scoundrels: Witch Song EP
Daft name to be sure, but a fun band just the same. There are one of the few bands I have heard of with a modern pop-rock sound that is familiar but not boring as hell. They clearly are not trying to sound like anyone else and have a creative mind of their own. The fact they do radio friendly, power-pop is only a nice by-product not the be all and end all.
The title track is quite good fun with a wee hint of a similar themed song by Ulrich faves Diamond Head. This collection of four tracks is so much better than almost all that constitutes mainstream rock, especially in the UK. They are accessible but still have some balls to their music, something so lacking these days. This is quite a pleasant EP of 3 minute power pop rock. One would hope this lot have a good future ahead of them.
They have a fan in the form of Brian Eno who got them to change their name to their current one. Just try and listen to “Shame on You” and not smile.
Another EP, this time of a quite different ilk. This lot hail from the unlikely death metal birth place of the city-state of Singapore, not a place known for its encouragement of alternative lifestyles. This lot produce a death/black metal hybrid with a strong hint of thrash. Its brutal, angry, and never lets up. This EP pummels you so hard that you would think you had just listened to a full length.
Nothing cheery on here and they are still gunning for the meddling Christian. Seething metallic hordes of heathens rampaging across a Christian landscape is the theme there. The band may have had lots of members since its inception in the early 90s but what they produce has never changed or faltered. Brutal metal from start to finish.
The 80s veteran German thrashers are back with a cranking new album that does not even have one wee tinge of modern metal stylings. This is head down thrash that would probably put a smile on the face of Dave Mustaine of Megadeth, like “Urge”. It's shredding thrash that has all the right elements of brutality, pace, and ability. The album celebrate 25 years of the band and shows no sign of their slowing down. This is a full frontal retort to all the new wave of thrash upstarts from guys who were there from the beginning.
This release is thrash through and through and while it might not be as challenging or clever as say the latest release from the likes of Testament, it does have its place in metal. There just some times when a good bit of plain and simple trash fits the bill. And these guys do it well without a doubt. It has all the anger, angst, and aggressiveness you expect from a good thrash effort.
This lot, as have several bands in the last year, prove that there is life in the ole’ dogs yet. Just because you have been around a long time does not mean you have run out of ideas.
Netherbird: The Ghost Collector
This marks the band first full album only having released EPs up until this point. As you might imagine from the name of the band, they peddle gothic melodic death metal with oodles of misery and angst. “Adrift on a Sea of Misery” with its movie soundtrack intro perfectly sums of the mood of this lot. The band opt for two core members and sessions musicians depending on what is needed.
This cleverer than your average death or goth metal fare. Because of the nature of the band they try to pull out all the stops to get the right sound for the band. Added elements of symphonic death metal drift in whether its choir like backing vocals to counter the death metal rumblings or the use of keyboards to evoke epic moods. This is not an album full of whining but something a bit more clever than that.
A strong sense of melody combines with the death metal elements to produce something that is worth listening to if you give the album some time. All is not all it seems at first listen and this is well with the time investment. Who says you can be clever and miserable?
Withered: Folie Circulaire
Not to be confused with the now-defunct Icelandic Withered, this lot of Americans are a bunch of miserable sods. Like the above album this is a collection of misery, angst and sorrow tinged with a healthy dose of anger. There however is not one bit of subtlety to be had on this release preferring the in your face attitude to soundscapes. This bunch of are pissed off and not afraid to tell you as loud as they can.
Sludge metal that is for sure, with vocals that are barely audible and seem almost as an afterthought. Tracks like "Drawn Black Drapes” speak to the depth of the misery here. You don’t actually need to hear the lyrics to get the gist of this music, its plain by the mere playing of the band. This is a wall of heavy sound that is at hard times to penetrate which is surely the whole point of the name sludge.
If you enjoy the deep black muck of others abject misery then this band is definitely for you. Clearly a case of a band that could be described as “music to slit your wrists by” and I am sure they would take it as a compliment.
Ehnahre: The Man Closing Up
This is a full length release that has fifteen tracks on it and the longest is almost fifteen minutes long. Described by some as experimental doom, it's easy to see why. They band can’t even be arsed to give their songs names to delineate between them. Not that its really necessary, as with most experimental stuff the entire album sounds like one long collection of people faffng around in the studio trying to be as almighty heavy as they possible can. The band have a huge collection of contributing to musicians to produce this hellish turgid collection.
There is a thin line between being really clever and out there and producing utter pointless meandering rubbish. This stuff is so hard to get into that it's hard to say one way or the other. You will probably not get it with multiple listens. This is the type of think you put on when everyone is hammered at your house and you are trying to get rid of the hangers on.
I can’t honestly tell you if its genius or gut-rot. Considering the pile of review CDs I don’t have the bloody time either. This is a case of caveat emptor or how bloody brave are you with your listening choices?
Spinal Cord: Stigmata for Life
Some more Polish death metal, originally released in 2004. This is what we have come to expect from the more angry Poles. It will shock no one to hear that there is a member of veteran Polish black metallers in their midst. Unlike the above release there is nothing on here that is over the five minute mark. They are short pop-length tracks that smack you upside the head and leave before you have fully recovered. Pummelling, drumming, and bass keep it coming all the way through.
Not the most technical of stuff there is little subtlety going on here but you don’t really expect their to be. No doubt this release is to warm every one up for their first “worldwide” release that is the works it’s a good intro to another decent Polish death metal outfit. Its good to listen to non-symphonic death metal for a change just to remind you where it all came from. There is technical noodling here but it never gets in the way or distracts. Just enough to let you know they can actually play but not enough to get tedious.
A bit death metal heavy this week, for sure. Have a good safe week and make sure you see a live gig if you can.