Week 115 (June 23, 2014)

Alright, I’m doing something that I should have done a very, very, very long time ago. If you haven’t already noticed by now, we’re just now getting into the March releases; which means that we’re three fucking months behind. So in order to remedy this, I have decided to split up the releases into two separate sections of five. The first five records will consist of new, or soon to be released albums (of which you’ll really want to get your hands on) followed by the original lineup of month old records that some of you may still really want to check out. I think it’s a win-win situation either way and you at least get a snippet of what to expect from yet to be released albums.

Akrotheism - Behold The Son Of Plagues

Akrotheism – Behold The Son Of Plagues (2014 Spotlight Album) – Akrotheism is a Greek black metal act formed in 2012 who from the very start of Behold The Son Of Plagues give me a rather common, yet intriguing form of black metal. At least at first, anyway. After a brief and chant-laden intro (Sepsis Ex Nihilo 1:43), fiery riffs, pungent drum blasts and scathing screams envelop from my speakers. It’s not anything I haven’t heard before, but it’s certainly being done right, especially when those lead melodies come into play on opener “Antimatter As I 5:45.” Clearly, this is a powerful track and there’s no denying it. Then we get more familiar tremolo riffs on “Hanged In The Shaft Of The Abyss 6:42” which certainly delivers another frightening and ferocious effort, but the album really doesn’t manage to supremely capture my attention until its fourth and title piece (7:31). Here the band takes a different approach, one that involves a little bit of industrial and atmospheric flavor, later combining that with the heavier approach unleashed earlier, bringing forth another well-executed Greek effort. Just like Rotting Christ and SepticFlesh (as a side note, Fotis Bernando mixed and mastered the band’s first recorded track “Generation Of Vipers”), these Grecians prove that no one does metal quite like them. And we don’t want that to change. Post black riffs appear on “Subhumans Anabaptism 5:20”, though the band manages to still keep the track heady enough to be noticed. Even the Satyricon style gets played with a little on “Flagellum Made Catharsis 6:44” as it also continues the use of post black riffing and the same amount of spite. “Salt Of Grace 7:16” clearly takes from the band’s influences in fellow Grecians SepticFlesh, as you can hear the orchestration right from the very start, keeping your ears open for a brief hint of morose atmosphere (dare I say doom?) right near the end of the track. And this folks, is why I give a damn. If you were to hand me five random black metal albums that I’ve never heard before and these guys were one of those bands, there is a 90% that I would pick this record over the others. And that’s because I like when bands really break out of the style that holds most bands captive. Rest assured that these gentlemen still create black metal that has sections which still seem as inspired by Norwegian scene as any other, but it’s the extra touches that Akrotheism add to this disc, than make it work listening to. Now there’s no real need to continue blabbering, other than to wax poetic about the band’s Ved Buens Ende cover of “To Swarm The Deserted Away 2:28” which once again shows how out of the box these guys want to be, and very well might be on their next album. After all, Behold The Son Of Plagues is only their debut record and from this point, I only imagine things to get less restrained as more experimentation comes into play. Now I’m not saying that these guys will turn into Aenaon, but there are a lot of ideas here that will serve to separate them from their peers. Yet once again, Greece has given us yet another great and formidable black metal act worth giving more than two shits about, and I’m really, really thankful. Definitely go check this album out. If you ever got the urge to ask me, “Hey, what are some good black metal bands?” on social media, then Akrotheism’s Behold The Son Of Plagues would most certainly be one of them. It comes out on July 11th, so keep your eyes peeled and pre-order it from Odium records today!

(10Tracks, 55:00)

9/10

SepticFlesh - Titan

SepticFlesh – Titan (2014) – At long last, the next chapter in the Grecian saga of SepticFlesh has been completed and is now ready for your ears. But is it worth it? Anyone who listened to the band’s last record, The Great Mass can tell you the answer to that. But in my professional opinion, I’m not quite sure if Titan is quite as titanic as the band’s previous album, or even Communion. “War In Heaven 5:54” begins the disc with much of the same orchestral laden precision as seen on the previous release, creating a grandiose structure worthy of a Greek epic. There’s a nifty drum section in the middle of the piece that shows Fotis Bernando heavily at the helm of the kit, with Spiros’ vocals as rough and rigid as they’ve always been. Wagner would be pleased with the attention to detail that has gone into melding the orchestration along with the metallic elements of the piece, as it ends out with the theatrics of a Grecian opera. Then came “Burn 3:21” and as much as I love the bashing efforts coming from that kit, I really do feel that Christos’ clean vocals ruin this whole thing. Quite simply, this is one of the worst songs that I’ve ever heard from the band. I don’t think I’d ever want to listen to it again and I expected much more than this. Next however, comes “Order Of Dracul 3:41” which we originally heard first as a single, and on Titan I’ll admit that it feels like it belongs. If nothing else, it’s definitely a palette cleanser for the hiccup that came before it. Finally, we get a powerful choice cut in “Prototype 5:49” which offers up arguably the strongest performance that you’re going to find on the disc. Here the band sound as good as they did on The Great Mass, with exceptional utilization of the children’s choir. This is actually Communion level grandeur, to be honest. “Dogma 4:11” comes blazing in next, as it ushers in a few post black metal riffs with Christos hitting some great clean lines towards the second section of the track. It seems to be more or less self-contained, much in the vein of “Anubis” which though I’ve always loved, I thought was very short. “Prometheus 6:49” comes in right after, marking itself as the longest track on the release as it offers much of the same approach, yet offers more bombast in the use of choir. It almost reminds me of Therion in this aspect, but a bit more vicious. There’s a light moment in the piece where more orchestration is utilized, including the addition of more vocal sections from the children’s choir. The title track (4:03) itself then appears, starting out in a very unconventional post-black metal style as it goes into joyous choirs and orchestration that drives right back into Fotis’ pounding drums and some droning lead melodies. I don’t really understand why the band felt the need to reach so close to the almost djent sound on this record, but I do hear a slight Meshuggah vibe coming into the mix in areas. “Confessions Of A Serial Killer 5:01” finally comes into place at number eight, bringing some well needed variety to the album. It almost takes a turn into the realms of avant-garde music, but keeps away from the theatrics in favor of a traditional, chilling death metal approach. Perhaps this is the route SpeticFlesh could go with their next release (after the new Necromantia record comes out of course, of which I am in high expectation of). “Ground Zero 4:02” welcomes another less theatric style, bringing us more of the great death metal these guys used to do back in the days of Communion and Sumerian Daemons. It’s good to hear the band organic again at any rate. The clean vocals that Christos uses here are quite powerful, but used quite sparingly. The album finishes up with “The First Immortal 4:05” which actually sees the orchestration and choir bringing the piece to vibrancy. This is definitely their finale and hopefully the last time that we’ll hear so much orchestration in their records for a while.

The main problem with Titan is that it seems to want to elaborate further on The Great Mass, when no elaboration was really needed. Of these, only four tracks on the record really stick out to me as “Prototype” and “Prometheus” see the best efforts with the use of orchestration while “Confessions Of A Serial Killer” and “Ground Zero” see the best efforts in the use of good old death metal (with slight experimentation.) The album doesn’t sound very cohesive either and at times it feels like the band is confused. Perhaps it’s time to explore industrial landscapes again, or just bring the sound back to its death metal nature. Whatever the case, this feels like “orchestral death metal album 3” instead of something really new and fresh. There’s good ideas here and there, but I’d rather listen to either of the two records that came before it. Perhaps Titan is a bit too arrogant for its own good as the record itself seems to stumble and Atlas certainly seems to shrug.

Highlights: Prototype, Prometheus, Confessions Of A Serial Killer, Ground Zero (10 Tracks, 46:00)

7/10

Tombs - Savage Gold

Tombs – Savage Gold (2014) – Americanblack metallers Tombs are back and this time with a more experimental sound in Savage Gold. But by experimental, I really mean post-black. “Thanatos 4:25” starts the album out well enough, with the drumming a real key to the ferocity of the record and the vocal shouts being imperative to that force. Perhaps they went a little too far into post-black territory, with only the drums helping to keep things in the realm of traditional black metal. “Portraits 6:50” thankfully employs ever-faithful tremolo riffs and double-bass blasts, while the frontman’s vocals almost take a complete turn from the realms of black metal. It lumbers on a little though, I’ll admit. “Seance 5:29” offers the same black metal drum structures and damn near the same style of tremolos as well. If it ain’t broke, I guess… In any case, the music does eventually change to the point where it once again explores post-black metal replete with some quite memorable vocal lines. You’ve got to hand it to them for the couple of thick bashes at the end of the track though. “Echoes 7:56” is the longest track here, almost approaching the eight minute length. As you might expect, this one is more in the vein of post-black than anything else, yet there is a use of clean vocals. Well, they’re nothing melodious, but they’re not scowls, screams or growls. Atmosphere is instead heavily explored throughout the track. And if you thought that was a bit much, “Deathtripper 6:44” will really take you by surprise. This track seems to be one of the album’s most unblack moments, as it mainly consists of noise atmosphere and an almost industrial approach to vocals. It’s not my thing, but maybe fans of Godflesh would seem something in it. The track gets heavier towards the end, but I don’t think it was really necessary and kills the vibe. If you’re going to do a noise atmosphere, you shouldn’t just attach a black metal section to the end of it. It’s just tacky. The rest of the disc continues to bash you over the head with frosty goodness as usual, but then “Severed Lives 4:42” comes back in with that same Godflesh style attribute which sees a bit more gloom and atmosphere than one might expect. Scowls and growls have been replaced by angered whispers, and the drums take a slow monotone approach, while the riff structures seem to magically drift off into fuzz. Tombs is definitely changing and it’s still unclear as to what. Then when “Spiral 6:17” comes in, we hear more of this slightly clean vocal approach at the end. It’ll rip you over the head with black metal throughout most of its playing time, but then there’s that change into atmosphere right at the end. I have a feeling that the next Tombs record will sound more like that T.O.M.B. record I’ve been anticipating, where the black metal is still evident, but stands in the back to all sorts of industrial, atmospheric and electronic effects. I wouldn’t even be surprised if the scowl vocal went away completely. Savage Gold seems like a tipping point for Tombs, as they sail off to unknown territory. Who knows what kind of transformation these men will have undergone after their trip back from that great ocean of change…

(10Tracks, 57:00)

7/10

Emperor - In The Nightside Eclipse

Emperor – In The Nightside Eclipse (Remastered 2014 2 CD) – Perhaps one of black metal’s greatest recordings of all time has been at last remastered, much to the dismay of all the elite kvltists out there. “How dare you touch MY record!” I can hear them shriek, waving around goblets full of blood as they frown and cry with blood specked teardrops rolling down their corpse painted faces. But it’s not 1996 anymore, it’s 2014 and things have changed exponentially since this thing was recorded. Ihsahn himself even seems to have classed up a little, taking a shine to fancy cars and finely tailored suits. Not black metal anymore? Well, people change with time. Nothing is truly constant in the universe. Now as for this record, which was originally inspired by folklore and fantasy like Lord Of The Rings; there’s a certain mystical soundscape attributed here which inspired just about every single symphonic black metal release that came after. There are of course exceptions, but even those who were already playing symphonic black metal eventually took influence from this veritable masterpiece. And yet, it may astound you that I’m not at all pleased with the quality of this remastered edition. First of all, the mixing was not done properly I feel and Ihsahn’s vocals are far too loud in the mix. Everything in the background was made much louder and though it sounds more vibrant; it just doesn’t feel like a black metal album anymore. It just doesn’t have the same substance and atmosphere. This record sounds like it might have if it had been recorded today, and I look back and question… while we can really do this with technology, should we?

Now this isn’t an argument for kvlt black metal or anything like that, it’s about preservation of the original atmosphere which pervaded the record. Musically, I like how it sounds; but Ihsahn’s vocals just don’t sound as potent here as they did in the original. That original mix is also included with the album and the difference is like night and day. But I’m sure that many of you already have the original and some probably even have the recording committed to memory. If someone were to hand you this newly remastered and incredibly polished version of the album, you might be reluctant or even confused by it. Trust me, I was looking forward to this for quite a while. But after hearing the death of atmosphere caused by the mastering, I quickly lost interest. I managed to listen to the entire piece, but only because I could hear the original once again, backed with some new material in the form of pre-production rehearsals. And while those really weren’t so great, the original album that came before them was. On the remaster however, you get “The Ancient Queen 3:41”, “Witches Sabbath 5:55” and “Lord Of the Storms 1:57” as bonus tracks, which actually sound like the handled the remastering process a bit better, with their foggy natured spirit intact. There’s just something about the heat and fuzz of those old recordings that appeals to me, and I just can’t put it into words. It feels like it could have come from another time period, like a black magick ritual during the dark ages. I will say that these three wonderful pieces are a great bonus to have and I’ve enjoyed each of them just as much as the original version of In The Nightside Eclipse. With older music, some things could admittedly go for a remaster, but others really need to be left alone. I don’t really think we should go ahead and start remastering all the old black and death metal records again and I think that even the creators of those records agree. But if you felt that the old record didn’t sound good enough, then this remaster is here for you. I’d personally recommend the original, or grabbing this for the alternative 1993 mix and bonus tracks.

(2discs, 24Tracks, 2Hours)

6/10

Monobrow - Big Sky Black Horse

Monobrow – Big Sky, Black Horse (2014) – Monobrow are back at it again with another wonderful instrumental doom and stoner rock record, which I can affirm to you is certainly the case as I found myself jamming heavily to it. These guys prove that if you’re going to make song after song of jam-outs, then you really don’t need a vocalist to illustrate those pieces. They kinda speak for themselves. Just like you’ll hear on “Cicada 6:20” which starts out with folk inspired melodies that roll right into thick CRUNCH, as the track lightens down a bit to allow for atmosphere and powerful leads, ending with a downright thunderstorm. After I’ve had a moment to catch my breath, I am then reminded why it is that I like these guys so much. Next comes “These Mountains Don’t Want Us Here 8:26” as it overflows with CRUNCH, letting on to allow a few more repetitions that eventually flow with melody, as the song continues to take us down a truly mountainous path up until it’s very end, where it lightens. “Ancient Arctic Wanderer 8:16” keeps the atmosphere flowing, as still evermore CRUNCH sites between a few airy moments, wherein a solo breaks the mold completely. Then it all just simmers down a bit. You never really know where these songs are going to go, making this album a musical journey in the truest sense. The next few songs are a bit shorter than normal, as “Old Man Mouthbreather 4:47” and “The Surveillance 4:20” barely hit the five minute mark. But rest assured that these two tracks are just as potent as their longer counterparts, with the former embarking on a veritable ride through the cosmos and the latter resorting back to the band’s old stomping grounds of doom CRUNCH. “Hamartia 1:20” comes in as a welcome acoustic piece, heavily inspired by folk. It’s bright, cheery and dynamic, making a grand entrance for the album’s massive title track (11:43). As this horse comes stomping in, it arrives with the heat and fire of Sabbath magically intact as well as the introductory sound of amps revving up for the thick, yet melodic doom dirges that saturate this piece. There’s a little jazzy section that almost smells of funk, but that soon booms into ferociously heavy and memorable doom, layered over with incredibly potent guitar solos which ends the piece out on sheer amazement, and calm atmosphere. It’s like the sound of a horse running through the vast reaches of space. Finally, “Immortal Dwarf 4:29” comes in to end the whole thing with another thick mound of doom and more highly concentrated solo efforts. The bottom line here is that Monobrow have succeeded once again with Big Sky, Black Horse and it embodies a magnificent journey that you’ll want to play again and again and again… Just like the band’s previous release. I think that bands like Monobrow prove that you don’t need all the flash, flair and flavour of the week ideas to make a good record, you’ve just got to put some real soul into it. And that’s what’s been done here. It’s a record that crushes and knows when to chill at the same time. Perfect for driving around town while stoned, right? You be the judge. Go grab it at the band’s Bandcamp page!

(8Tracks, 49:00)

9/10

Mordbrand - Imago

Mordbrand – Imago (2014) – There’s really no wrong way to do traditional death metal, except when you don’t do traditional death metal. But that’s not these guys, because they’ve done traditional death metal with some interesting bells and whistles, such as you’ll find with the chanting section in crushing opener “Revelate 5:23” Riffs crunch as thick demonic shouts echo from the steaming and bloody abyss, complete with a total change in song structure as all the wonders of classic death metal are truly explored within. As such, one might also expect a solo (though minute) as the vocal chorus (ala Bloodbath, Grave) is the most important feature here. Death metal with ripping choruses is always a good decision. The album’s next cut, “Join Them In Thralldom 4:29” brings us right back into the foggy crypt for another lesson in just how it’s done. I can count on my fingers and toes just how many bands have used these riff melodies before, but damn it; you just can’t kill that classic sound. I also need to pinpoint the drum work on this one, because the whole marching vibe that he’s employing here works wonders on the track, adding to that the melody section near the end of the piece. You don’t hear much of it, but that only makes you appreciate it more. From just these two tracks alone, I’m hearing a great deal of promise in Mordbrand which really says something about where they may go in the future. And then “That Which Crawls 4:48” comes into play, bringing the sweet sounds of doom into the mix. These thumping leads go great with the band’s already bone-smashing riff melodies, making for a truly solid death metal release. Decibel gave this a 7, I believe (I thumbed through it last night before bed) yet I believe that it deserves a point higher. It is true that there are still a couple of fuzzy things here and there on the disc, but perhaps these guys will get them all ironed out and ready to deliver an ever stronger effort with their next release. At any rate, the almost operatic and black metal inspired “Bastion Of Blood 5:36” is much different than I would have expected from a band of this nature, showing that these guys want to do much more than just play classic death metal. Add to that the atmospheric drum ritual of the album’s title track, and you’ve got a band with so much to offer, that I don’t even think they realize it yet. Mordbrand are definitely skilled at making memorable classic death metal retreads with extra flavor, but there’s so much more to be had on this beast than meets the eye. It’s almost like an undead transformer robot that’s willing to smash your head against its steely metal foot. These guys are definitely Decepticons.

(9Tracks, 38:00)

8/10

Polars - Shadowed By Vultures

Polar – Shadowed By Vultures (2014) – Sometimes you just get a band photo and album cover and have to go by that. Such is the case with Polar, who seem to mix metalcore, nu-metal and post together in a weird sort of mixture that comes off quite ferocious, and yet melodic as the album’s opener “Blood Lines 2:43” shows. Of course, shouldn’t it be “bloodlines” and not “blood lines?” The next cut, “Glass Cutter” comes on with much of the same modern post metalcore feel, much in the vein of other popular “three-word” bands of the same nature. “Glass Cutter” does come with a catchy chorus however, but the fun is gone all too soon as “Black Days 3:28” comes sprawling into action. To be honest, I’ve really heard a lot of bands already like this, and am not really a fan of this flavor of metal. Some really don’t even consider it metal, as it has more in common with punk and pop-punk, even emo (as I’m getting with this current cut) than it would with heavy metal. A ballad makes its way in with “Before The Storm 3:41” which features a female vocalist by the name of Ellie Price. She’s got a good, British vocal tone to her; I think I’d like this band better it they sounded like this, instead of the tired formula that they’ve been attempting with the first couple of songs on the record. I just can’t get into that style of music and perhaps that’s age showing on me. Though I like the name “Mountain Throne 4:21”, the song itself doesn’t sound quite as grim and mighty as I’d like. Once again though, the band show a good slice of repetition and emotional seriousness. If nothing else, I can say that the vocals on this piece seem heartfelt and serious, and not like they were written by some ghostwriter at the last minute. After another two bland cuts, an instrumental called “Paradise 2:49” plays a soft and morose tune, something you might hear playing during an advertisement for some sort of hunger or animal abuse crisis. Two more heavy cuts take place after that, showcasing d-tune riffs and melodic leads backed by reverberating choral hits. I will say that there are some occasional nice melodies in the album’s closer “Our Legacy 4:11” right at the very end, but the rest of the album lacks the same amount of potency. If you like punk, emo and metalcore with a dose of nu-metal groove however; then you might find yourself salivating for Polar. But as for me, I think I’ll stay in the sun.

(11Tracks, 35:00)

6/10

So Hideous - Last Poem First Light

So Hideous – Last Poem/First Light (2014) – From the very first note, I’m already hearing something I don’t hear every day and that alone is worth mentioning. So Hideous attempts to mix the same core shouts and screams that were used on the Polars album (see previous review) alongside the frostbitten and sorrow filled landscapes of black metal. Opening cut “Rising 4:41” treats us to some equally bleak tremolo riff melodies, backed with occasional blasts from the kit, added to some inky black atmosphere. Regardless of the fact that the band’s frontman chooses to dwell in the realms of core, these guys are still more than worth their weight, providing just the kind of pitch-black soundscapes and classical gone hell-bound style symphonics that we’d look for in a proper black metal album. But with the core vocal influence, can you really call this black metal? I’m still trying to wrap my head around such a strange, yet feasible concept. Someone somewhere was eventually going to mix the two styles together into a memorable mix, but I had no idea that I would be the reviewer faced with just that type of album. Yet “Sabat Mater 4:58” proves that as long as you don’t whine your way through a song and belt whatever core shouts you want through that motherfucker, it still gets the point across. Once again, the band goes back to weepy piano melodies, almost bringing this into the realms of depressive black metalcore; which really describes the album quite well. “My Light 5:23” comes in much the same way as you’d expect; with core screams and sad melodies (in addition to what seems to be a choir effect of sorts) that actually take it away from the realms of black metal and into shoegazy post metal. I can actually get into this, so that surprises me a bit. I think it has just the right amount of elements that appeal to my musical taste buds, even though the core shouts do seem a little irritating. But being a vocalist, you can’t tell me that he’s not giving it the college try, because the meld of screamy core, depressive shoegaze and black metal seems to meld flawlessly on this album. I actually think that Last Poem/First Light is one of the very few records I could actually mention to people out there who normally don’t like the core scene. As I continued through the record, I didn’t notice much of a change and it would seem that So Hideous make exactly the kind of music that they want to and are content to stay in their own place. They are breaking boundaries a bit with this one and I’m sure it might be a bit of a gateway drug to the depressive black metal stuff that I normally can’t stand. But when all is said and done however, I have to keep note of the atmospheres that these guys have created as they manage to deliver the right mood and emotion with each and every track on the album. It’s definitely a moody, angry, dark and screamy piece; but there are some great nods to depressive rock and shoegaze as well as black metal. I actually recommend that you give these guys a shot. It’s much better than the generic post metalcore stuff that we usually get from the scene. Deafheaven fans might really find something here as well though, and damned if I’m one of them. I guess I’ll just have to carry that burden to my grave. Somewhere, King Diamond has frowned in my direction.

(6Tracks, 32:00)

8/10

The Graviators - Motherload

The Graviators – Motherload (2014) – The Graviators mix doom and stoner rock together in order to make the rough-edged sound that you’ll hear at full-force on Motherload. “Leil’s Last Breath – Dance Of The Valkyrie 5:58” opens the disc with red hot fire, as the guitars immediately burst into action and the frontman’s vocals come screaming into the forefront. Sabbath can definitely be heard here, and all the fittings of doom certainly seem well regurgitated on the piece. To someone who wasn’t very familiar with the doom-revival movement, I’m quite sure they would say something to the tone of, “These guys made a really great Sabbath album.” But is it all regurgitated Sabbath? The next track, “Narrow Minded Bastards 6:28” certainly doesn’t change my mind, as I definitely could have heard something like this on Sabbath Bloody Sabbath or Master Of Reality. Though I will admit that these guys manage to pull off the style quite formidably and punch it up with a more than memorable jam session lodged right in the middle of the piece. “Bed Of Bitches 5:31” continues the formula right along, and by this time it really doesn’t take three tracks to show me what kind of band The Graviators want to be. It’s 100% assured that these guys are Sabbath enthusiasts, and they utilize every bell and whistle (like the church organs and vocal chants here) in order to give their music a more modernized and polished approach to those Sabbath classics. There’s even a thumping doom anthem gone jaunty little progressive blues rock on here called “Lost Lord 11:09” which was definitely made to smoke a bowl to. It sounds a little more like Pink Floyd (as in I mean, a lot) than Black Sabbath, but it definitely seems welcome on the disc and does a good job of breaking up the monotony. As good as these guys are, something like this really serves as a nice intermission. I kind of wish it didn’t have the doom influence at all though. Would’ve served as an unexpected instrumental if it had just been the prog rock section (which goes on for about five or six minutes in its own right). The album’s closer, “Druid’s Ritual 13:50” also serves up some wonderful instrumentation as we start to care less about the vocals and main leads, and much more about everything else. It’s this kind of prowess that really drives the album and transports one directly into the heat of the music itself. But I also have a feeling that seeing these guys at a live show might be even better than listening to this disc. But if they didn’t play “Druid’s Ritual” at a live show, I would be extremely upset. Despite the fact that it’s almost fourteen minutes long, this is definitely a song that was made for a live setting and further establishes to me the awesomeness of this act. Motherload actually takes what Sabbath started years ago and manages to build onto it quite magnificently. There’s no doubt in my mind that The Graviators are a truly worthy and promising doom act that’s worth getting your hands on as soon as possible.

Highlights: Lost Lord, Druid’s Ritual (9 Tracks, 76:00)

9/10

John Wesley - Disconnect

John Wesley – Disconnect (2014) – For the record, I have no idea who John Wesley is. But from the very start of Disconnect, the title track (5:19) itself assumes me that this guy might very well be in the vein of Steven Wilson-esque prog rock atmosphere. The title track itself comes on strong with bright, yet haunting melodies as Wesley’s vocals come off quite fragile, almost like a sort of audial paper. The guitars however, sound mightily meaty as they do a hefty amount of shredding (but not so much as to ruin the atmosphere) making this an approach to prog that’s very much in the school of alternative rock. “Any Old Saint 7:42” comes in next, making me almost think that Mr. Wesley is indeed a fan of classic Bush, or of what may have influenced them. Then things take a modified seventies route, half-reminding me of the days when rock was still good. The length of the piece is due to its massive display of instrumentation, much in the vein of The Graviators (see previous review) which additionally comes on just as strong. John Wesley seems to want to show you just how well he can play guitar, compared to his vocal talents and I’m completely fine with that. My only qualm with the track, is that it took so long to even get to that mesmerizing display of guitarmanship. “Once A Warrior 6:51” rolls along the same lines as it features some amazing guitar work, albeit with a melancholy introduction piece. It’s almost like a mix of Anathema and Steven Wilson’s solo work, but you’d rather hear more of the proggy shredding than the down in the mud vocal approach. Then we get to “Window 3:32” which certainly plays the part of a mainstream single. If Anathema went commercial, then this is probably what they would sound like. It’s not bad and I’d much prefer it to other mainstream pop rock songs, but it’s a big change for a man who showed me what his guitar can do for roundabout the first fifteen minutes of the disc. “Gets You Everytime 3:32” almost sounds like The Cult, which is a great influence and I can feel it wholeheartedly. Though the track is oddly the same length as “Window” and just as catchy, it features even more of that already great guitar playing of which I’m quite thankful. “Mary Will 5:12” delivers the same melancholy (let’s even throw The Cure in here as an influence) atmosphere injection with strong solo efforts, as “Take What You Need 5:19” continues that same effort. As the album continues, you’ll hear many of the same influences jumbled together, but in a melancholy, somewhat psychedelic and solo frantic sort of fashion that makes the disc definitely unlike anything you’ll hear today. If I’ll say one thing about John Wesley, it’s that he’s certainly displaying a good showcase of his influences and he’s doing it unlike any other musician that I’ve ever heard. Never in a million years did I think I’d hear melancholy alternative rock mixed in with hints of prog and mounds of dazzling guitar explosions. Whoever you are, you’ve certainly got a fan in me. A definite recommend for fans of Anathema, Steven Wilson, The Cure, The Cult and various guitar shredders the world over. More of this, please!

(10Tracks, 51:00)

9/10

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