King Leviathan—Paean Heretica (2017)

King Leviathan—Paean Heretica (2017)

King Leviathan—Paean Heretica (2017)

Details

“Two years in the making, it is our darkest and heaviest work to date, encompassing themes of loss, abandonment, blind faith and what comes after death. Our 9 track, 45 minute collection of psalms was recorded and mixed once again by Paul ‘Win’ Winstanley at Brighton Electric, but this time mastered by Alan Douches at West West Side Music and with art crafted by Alex Norman.” Released on Infernum Records, August 2017.

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Band

  • Adam Sedgwick—Vocals and guitar
  • Rob Kuhler—Lead Guitar and backing vocals
  • Sam Forrester—Bass and backing vocals
  • Danny Yates—Drums

Tracks

  1. Primitive baptism
  2. Sanctification
  3. Kingdom
  4. Agony
  5. Doomsayer
  6. Coffin swallower
  7. Harrowing eyes
  8. Like wolves to the throat of the lion
  9. The grand congregation

Review

This is another album that I’ve been sitting on since November but which I’ve been very much enjoying playing over the last few months.

King Leviathan are a blackened thrash metal band from Brighton on the south coast of England. Paean Heretica is their debut album, having previously released a couple of EPs (check out their Bandcamp page for those).

The album is dark and brooding, a fusion of thrash, black metal and doom.

The opening track “Primitive baptism”

“Sanctification” (track 2) hits you in the chest, straight out of the gate, with galloping wall of thrash that relents only a little to carve into you with a simple two-note riff. The song continues its almost progressive route, gruff vocals barking out its message, interrupted occasionally with soaring clean vocals.

“Kingdom” (track 3) is in a similar vein. The production is superb. The distorted guitars are warm, the solos cut through clearly. When the chorus hits it sounds familiar and timeless. About halfway through the song grinds to a sudden halt. Arpeggios and growls. This song has an epic, old school thrash feel to it. But thrash that’s been steeped in black metal for a month.

“Agony” (track 4) opens with a rolling drums and bass riff, overlaid with a moving guitar arpeggio (guitarpeggio?) and then by far my favourite riff on the album. This is one of my highlights of the album. It’s a dark, ponderous song that resonates with my current feelings of agony. “I will give all / I will give everything in atrophy / Be my love in / Be my love in agony”. This song is perfection.

“Doomsayer” (track 5) has that classic, old school thrash double guitar thing going on. One guitar cracking out the chords while the other plays an acidic-sounding picked chord over the top of it. Think Beneath the Remains era Sepultura. The song takes about a minute for the vocals to come in—again a combination of gruff death vocals and clean, like a combination of Opeth’s Mikael Åkerfeldt and ex-Sabbat Ritchie Desmond.

To be honest, by this point in the album “Coffin swallower” (track 6) the first half of the song sounds a bit samey to what has come before. The breakdown around halfway through, though, is a nice departure. It is gentle and fragile. “I am alone in the dark  / swallowed in rags in a burial crib”. And then the most magnificent bass twang breaks that spell and we’re back up to full pace.

“Harrowing eyes” (track 7) is a solid, heavy rocky song with a strong melody. “Reaper is coming… to harvest life […] don’t ever forget, her harrowing eyes”. Something cheerful to get you through the day.

“Like wolves to the throat of the lion” (track 8) has an awesome fast-picking opening to a fabulously interesting and quite progressive song. I could listen to this and “Agony” back to back all day. The riffs are sublime. The guitar solo towards the end is simple but gorgeous. A lot of album have a few good opening tracks and then it’s filler until the end. This album throws in arguably their best song just before the end. Something to aim for or perhaps the whole album has been building to this all along.

“The grand congregation” (track 9) opens with a suitably sinister sounding riff that leads to a pounding riff and soaring guitar solo. It’s a glorious summary of everything that has come before it. It closes with pounding guitars and drums, before descending into a thunderstorm and quietly fading to silence.

Conclusion

This album is a journey. I feel both exhilarated and exhausted at the end of it. It is dark, heavy, and brooding journey through themes of loss, abandonment, slavery and life beyond death.

At this point, I’m really searching hard for things to criticise. Some of the songs, in places, do feel quite samey and while Sedgwick’s clean vocals are a bit too operatic for my liking, that’s a minor criticism: they work, they fit the music and the songs brilliantly.

More of this please. Very much more of this. British metal is very much alive and… well, swallowing coffins, I guess.

Review score: 95%

Video

PREVIEW: From Eden to Exile—Modern Disdain (2017)

From Eden to Exile—Modern Disdain (2017)

From Eden to Exile—Modern Disdain (2017)

Details

Debut album produced by Neil Hudson (Krysthla/Gutworm) at Initiate Audio and Media. Released on Attic Records/PHD. Released Friday 2 June 2017.

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Band

  • Matt Dyne—Vocals
  • Tom Kelland—Guitars
  • Mike Bell—Guitars
  • Joey Jaycock—Bass
  • Liam Turland —Drums

Tracks

  1. Gospel untold
  2. Modern disdain
  3. Volatile
  4. Victim
  5. The dreamer
  6. From Eden to exile
  7. What you’ve done
  8. Sentiment

Review

Having won the Corby finals of Bloodstock’s ‘Metal 2 the Masses’ competition in 2015, Northampton metallers From Eden to Exile appeared that year on the Bloodstock “New Blood” stage. Since then they seem to have gone from strength to strength, having been taken under the wing by Krysthla (and former Gutworm) guitarist and producer Neil Hudson to help produce this storming modern British metal album.

When asked about the experience vocalist Matt Dyne said, “It’s been an extraordinary time. We’ve taken our time and sweated bullets nailing this album to the point where everyone in the band can honestly look each other in the eye and confidently state this is the best of us, right now.”

“Yet there’s much more in the tank”, continued guitarist Tom Kelland, “Working with Neil [Hudson] at Initiate really opened our minds as to the possibilities with our music. The boxes we may have felt confined to in the past have been stripped away and we firmly believe we’ve got something really solid to offer the metal community.”

And it certainly shows.

From Eden to standing in a field

From Eden to standing in a field

I’ve been listening to this album off and on for the last couple of months and it’s really hard to fault. Modern Disdain is a solid album with enough certainly to keep me interested. Musically this album sits somewhere on the border between Lamb of God’s flavour of American groove metal and metalcore.

An almighty battering of the snare drum, barked lyrics, and a riff played at breakneck speed, “Gospel untold” (track 1) kicks off this album, as so many track 1s do. It reminds me very much of something from one of the early Lamb of God albums, until about 1′ 20″ when with a curt chugga-chugga the pace changes slightly and veers off into a more metalcore neighbourhood. I love the guitar solo on this song. It is rich and warm, it sours and adds something melodically beautiful to the soundtrack to the apocalypse that is raging beneath it.

Title track “Modern disdain” (track 2) opens with quite an acid, sour disharmony. Its stop-start metalcore riff morphs into an almost Exodus-style riff but with deep, Chuck Billy (Testament)-style, growling vocal. There are so many influences within this track but as a whole the song doesn’t feel contrived or stolen. Another soaring guitar solo marks the descent towards the track’s end.

“Volatile” (track 3) is another super-fast track that initially has quite a Slayer vibe to it. You can watch the video, below. About 1′ 25″, though, the sound gets stripped back to just a riff, and then gradually builds, steering towards a very shouty-metalcore sound, before returning to its original, galloping behemoth of a riff.

Track 4, “Victim” takes a different approach to what has come before. It has an almost epic, traditional heavy metal opening—think Powerslave-era Iron Maiden. It builds gradually, it has melody, duelling guitars. It then switches step into a metalcore gallop that weaves in and out of a Low-era Testament style riff. Overall, the track holds itself together but it doesn’t quite seem to understand itself. Maybe I’m wrong and I’ll return to this track in a few months with some kind of blinding epiphany, but having lived with it for a couple of months it, unfortunately, feels like one of the weaker songs on the album. I do rather like the start-stop descending riff outro, though.

“The dreamer” (track 5) is built around an old-school thrash style riff or two. It’s the shortest track on the album, but it gets in there, does its job, and gets out again.

Of bands that have songs titles that are the same as their band name, off the top of my head, I can think of only Iron Maiden and Motörhead. And now “From Eden to exile” (track 6). Unfortunately, this isn’t the most iconic track on the album. It doesn’t have the same punch or drive as any of the tracks on the first half of the album—it feels, sadly, like a bit of an album filler.

“What you’ve done” (track 7) picks up the pace, with a handful of galloping riffs that wouldn’t feel too out of place on a Slayer record. About a third of the way through, it drops to a halftime tempo and a Pantera-style arpeggio that in the 90s would undoubtedly have been accompanied by a rich, deep voice spoken over the top of it. Each time I listen to this track I find myself grumbling some made-up metal nonsense libretto over the top of this passage. Back to the main riff, fade to black…

Album closer, “Sentiment” (track 8) is a strong track. It has a bit more urgency and drive than the rest of the second half of this album. It’s also one of the most Lamb of God-sounding tracks on the album, which is perhaps why it’s one of my favourites.

Conclusion

This album is, for me at least, very much a game of two halves. The first four tracks are really strong, and while I’m not a massive fan of metalcore—although I do love thrash and hardcore separately—From Eden to Exile do steer their sound close enough to thrash for me to really appreciate it.

What lets things down for me a bit is the second half of the album. While the songs, for the most part are still strong and interesting, they seem to lose focus a little around tracks six and seven. Thankfully, things are brought back into line with the final track on the album which closes the work nicely.

Overall, though, this is an album that I could quite happily return to again and again. This album is proof that metal isn’t dead yet, that it still relevant, and that British bands still have a lot to give.

From Eden to Exile are definitely a band to keep an eye on in the future, both live and recorded.

Review score: 90%

Bonus video

Disclaimer

Stampede Press UK contacted me a few months back, inviting me to preview From Eden to Exile’s forthcoming debut album.

I have no connections to either Stampede Press UK or From Eden to Exile. I’m not being paid to review this. But I did get a free digital copy of the album to review—which is pretty cool.

Many thanks to Rob from Stampede Press UK, and From Eden to Exile.

Metallica’s ‘Spit Out The Bone’ reimagined as a Slayer song

I realised the other day that I still need to review Metallica’s 2016 album Hardwired… to Self‐Destruct (2016). For me, this was a solid return to form for the Bay Area thrash pioneers after the slightly disappointing Death Magnetic (2008); in may ways [controversial opinion ahead] I actually preferred St Anger (2003).

Until then, check out this version of the album closer “Spit Out The Bone” reimagined as a Reign In Blood (1986)-era Slayer song.

I really want to hear the whole album reimagined in this way, now.

Turrigenous—A Slight Amplification EP (2008)

Turrigenous—A Slight Amplification EP (2008)

Turrigenous—A Slight Amplification EP (2008)

Details

Produced by Chris Fasulo and Greg Giordano. Mastered by Will Quinnell at Sterling Sound.

Encyclopedia Metallum | WebsiteBandcamp | Twitter

Band

  • Greg Giordano—Vocals and guitars
  • John Vullo—Guitars
  • Mike Murray—Bass
  • Mark “The Sorcerer” Dara—Drums

Other musicians

  • (Ch)arles Midwinter—Spoken word on “A slight amplification” (track 1)

Tracks

  1. A slight amplification
  2. Emptiness, darkness, acceptance
  3. War inside

Review

Turrigenous are a progressive thrash band from Long Island, New York: think Annihilator meets Dream Theater. A Slight Amplification is their fourth release, their first EP (18 minutes long) following three full-length albums.

The song writing and arrangements are good, the playing is flawless, and the production is clear.

The title track “A slight amplification” (track 1) opens with a bit of widdliness but soon develops into mature thrash song, with more than a few nods of the hat to Megadeth, not least the spoken part about four minutes in.

“Emptiness, darkness, acceptance” (track 2), the longest of the three tracks on the disc, begins quietly and ponderously. It bubbles and bounces before bursting into life. It stops and starts, it soars and dips. In the words of my son Joshua (7) it is “good”.

The EP closes with “War inside” (track 3) which opens with a very spacious and uncharacteristic ‘chug-chug’ riff. It is the only song of the three that introduces any growling death vocals; this track in particular could have benefited from more of them. The solo about halfway through breaks up the song nicely and takes the listener on a bit of a progressive jaunt, even if it is a bit too formulaic.

Conclusion

All in all, this is decent release. I didn’t end with a burning desire to listen to the rest of their back catalogue, but I would probably listen to this again, and may grow to like it more. It didn’t set my ears on fire, but it didn’t offend them, either.

Review score: 70%

Toxic Holocaust—An Overdose of Death… (2008)

Toxic Holocaust—An Overdose of Death… (2008)

Toxic Holocaust—An Overdose of Death… (2008)

Details

Recorded 11 to 20 May 2008 by Jack Endino at the Soundhouse, Seattle, WA. Released on Relapse Records.

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Band

  • Joel Grind—Vocals, guitar and bass
  • Donny Paycheck—Drums

Tracks

  1. Wild dogs
  2. Nuke the cross
  3. Endless armageddon
  4. Future shock
  5. War game
  6. In the name of science
  7. March from hell
  8. Gravelord
  9. War is hell
  10. The lord of the wasteland
  11. Feedback, blood, and distortion
  12. Death from above
  13. City of a million graves

Review

And the award for metal band logo that looks most like some kind of geometric shape jigsaw goes to… Toxic Holocaust, multi-instrumentalist Joel Grind’s speed/thrash/black metal outfit.

This is one of those albums that when I heard the first song my heart sank a little. Opening track “Wild dogs” isn’t entirely representative of the whole album. It has a bit of a raw, punk feel which contorts about halfway through into a fairly palatable early thrash-style riff.

But the rest of the album improves greatly. It has quite an old school thrash vibe to it, in the same way that Evile does. The more the album progressed the more I really began to get into it… riff after riff, twist after twist, classic 80s-style thrash with modern production.

Conclusion

If anything, in opinion this album could have done with a little editing, fewer tracks perhaps, to deliver a more consistent and focused album. As it is, it’s a pretty decent thrash album.

Review score: 88%

Stampin’ Ground—A New Darkness Upon Us (2003)

Stampin' Ground—A New Darkness upon Us (2003)

Stampin’ Ground—A New Darkness upon Us (2003)

Details

Produced, engineering, mixed and mastered by Andy Sneap. Recorded in the summer of 2003 at Backstage Productions, Derbyshire.

Encyclopaedia Metallum | Facebook

Band

  • Adam Frakes-Sime—Vocals
  • Scott Atkins—Guitar
  • Antony “Mobs” Mowbray—Guitar
  • Ian Glasper—Bass
  • Neil Hutton—Drums

Tracks

  1. A new darkness upon us (intro) (instrumental)
  2. Don’t need a reason to hate
  3. Behind the light
  4. Killer of society
  5. Dead from the neck up
  6. The cage
  7. Bear the scars
  8. Betrayal has a face
  9. Pain is weakness (leaving the body)
  10. Unmarked grave
  11. Ashes to scatter
  12. Mantra of a dying world (outro)

Review

I’m running hugely behind on reviews this autumn and for some reason I really thought  I had already written this review. Probably because I’ve listened to this album more than probably any other album I’ve reviewed during this project. It sat in my car CD player for weeks. Last.fm tells me that I’ve played 90 Stampin’ Ground tracks in the last 90 days; they are my fourth most-played band in the last six months.

This was one of those albums that hit a chord with me on my first play through. Stampin’ Ground from Cheltenham, Gloucestershire here in the UK play fusion of hardcore and thrash. Imagine Exodus, Slayer, Hatebreed and Biohazard forming a supergroup and you more or less have their sound down to a tee.

A New Darkness Upon Us (2003) is the band’s fourth, and to date, last full-length album. According to Encyclopaedia Metallum the band formed in 1995 then took a hiatus from 2006 until 2014 when they reformed. I’d definitely love to hear both their back catalogue and whatever they might release next.

Conclusion

Keeping with my tradition of writing really short reviews for the albums that I love most, I find myself writing the conclusion already.

This is an album I could listen to on repeat for days – and have done. While the album isn’t entirely perfect, I can’t but give it a full 10/10: the flaws just don’t seem important enough to quibble over. I can see me listening to this album for a long time yet.

It is discoveries like this one that makes me love this project and probably is why I am running behind on reviews (it’s currently early October): I just don’t want it to end.

Review score: 100%

Slit—Cronaca Nera (2005)

Slit—Cronaca Nera (2005)

Slit—Cronaca Nera (2005)

Details

Recorded at Temple Studios, Malta in 2004. Mixed and produced by David Vella. Mastered by Dave Chang.

Band

  • Frank Calleja—Vocals
  • Daniel Bezzina—Guitar
  • Joker (Jo Kerr)—Basilisk
  • Gerald—Drums

Tracks

  1. [Untitled]
  2. The devil’s location
  3. 7even demons
  4. Showcase
  5. God shaped hole
  6. Myriad
  7. Stone cold, shine
  8. Paean
  9. Integrity
  10. Magnolia part II
  11. Sinner beyond defile
  12. Shedding

Review

There is a lot to like about this album from Maltese metallers Slit. While Encyclopaedia Metallum lists Slit has “thrash/groove metal” the style of this album puts me more in mind of early industrial death metallers Fear Factory fused with Obituary (also death metal).

The production and mixing on this album is superb. The mids and bass are full but punchy. The riffs are ‘chunky’, the vocals are gruff but not distracting. This is one heavy, HEAVY album that stops and starts which allows the riffs space to breathe. Slit have a great sense of timing.

From start to finish this album captured my attention. This isn’t an album to play as background music, this demands a proper listen.

I’ve noticed over the course of this project that the albums that I like most I write less about, as if I want to keep the details to myself; as though I can’t fully sum up my appreciation in words. I guess that’s what I have here. If you are into modern thrash, mildly industrial death, or metalcore then I urge you to seek this album out.

Conclusion

This is an album that I expect to be listened to for a while to come. Each listen reveals something new, nuances that I hadn’t noticed on the last spin (if indeed you can spin mp3s).

I’m impressed. More like this please.

Review score: 98%