This week we’ve got a surprising spotlight in Philm. Dave Lombardo might be getting a lot of heat in the media, but this album is nothing short of amazing. It’s one of my favorite releases to come out all year, so I would highly recommend it. For you dark rock fans, Alternative 4 is another must. If you’ve got to have dark rock, then you’ve got to have Alternative 4. Evergrey’s new one also got reviewed along with Rage Nucleaire and a previously forgotten submission in Warlord (UK). Sorry guys, but I finally got it up and it’s a rather solid release!
Philm – Fire From The Evening Sun (2014 SPOTLIGHT) – Fire From The Evening Sun is the sophomore effort from the new project of former Slayer and Testament drummer, Dave Lombardo. Now I know that you might have heard a lot of dirt about him on the internet lately, but let’s face facts – Fire From The Evening Sun is fantastic, especially if you don’t mind experimental rock in the vein of Fantomas (keep in mind that Dave also drums for Fantomas) clashing with fierce metal in the vein of Slayer which is even referenced on the album. Frontman and guitarist Gerry Nestler commands an incredible vocal approach here, sometimes going into full-on Tom Araya mode, which sounds really odd with such funk/rock and metal atmospheres. It’s rather quite new and different, and despite the popular opinion on Dave right now; I just cannot recommend this album enough. “Train 5:06” comes in like a funk rock steam engine, with just enough punch to appeal to the metal crowd. The album’s title track (4:56) sounds like King Crimson mixed in with the Foo Fighters and even has that slight touch of Slayer I mentioned. “Lady 5:14” features some incredible solo work by Nestler, but in this kind of funkadelic rock/metal I definitely have to acknowledge the bassist, Francisco Tomaselli as well. If it wasn’t for this guy, the band wouldn’t quite have such a heavy low end and that’s just what makes it so damn pungent in the beginning. Listen to the beginning of “Lion’s Pit 6:53” and you’ll hear what I mean exactly. There’s definite doom influence here, which gets offset by light melodies that you wouldn’t think stick together, but it really brings out an entertaining atmosphere that doesn’t let up for a second. Fires From The Evening Sun is a record that really takes you on a trip. It absolutely does not let go for any reason and it’s completely unpredictable. If you’re sick of the same old rock and metal albums, then this one just might do the trick. It’s the kind of record that changes with every song, a thing that very few bands do nowadays. These guys almost rewrite themselves with every few minutes that pass on the album, which I can understand would be too much for some people; but if you like an extra heavy dose of sporadity, then you’ll certainly fall head over heels in love with this disc. There’s an amazing balance of heavy elements sitting alongside some of the more progressive and rock atmospheres, which equals out to an impressive disc that I think should get far better recognition than what I’ve seen on it lately. Yeah, I know the media is having a field day with Dave and Slayer right now, but for the love of fucking God, don’t let it stop you from checking out this amazing experiment. This is the kind of album that people will be considering an “obscure cult classic” in the years to come and I blame the over dramatized new media for that. If there hadn’t been so much heat on Dave right now, this album might have gotten a bit more promotion. It’s definitely not a disc that you need to miss out on and I’d consider it an essential game-changer. The Grim Tower certainly recommends Philm for a truly unique experience that should deliver for rock, hard rock and heavy metal fans alike. This is the bridge where you all meet and shake hands. Without a doubt, this record is definitely as potent as an evening solar storm.
(12 Tracks, 54:00)
Evergrey – Hymns For The Broken (2014) – It’s been a while since we’ve heard anything from dark melodic metallers Evergrey, but Hymns For The Broken might not be the big comeback that we were all waiting for after 2011’s relatively strong release, Glorious Collision. But while “King Of Errors 5:40” might show these guys playing with a smidgen of the might that they used to possess back in the heavier days, the record as a whole contains a few unexpected directions that might not sit well with some. “A New Dawn 4:35” brings in the electronic melodeath influence ala Soilwork, albeit with the clean that you might expect; making it one of the strongest and most familiar tracks on the disc. It really should have been the single for the album. “Wake A Change 4:48” brings in the electronic synths and pianos which offers a more mature and accessible approach, but it’s definitely not the kind of material that I was looking forward to from these guys. “Archaic Rage 6:26” actually manages to inject some well-needed firepower back into the act, with Tom S. Englund in fine form in both the vocal and solo department. He does play a few captivating solos on this record, which definitely improves its merit as opposed to some of the previous works. But make no mistake, because this is a greatly matured Evergrey and it’s not quite what you might remember from the heavier Torn and the boisterous Glorious Collision. Synths come back into play for “Barricades 4:57” along with another fantastic solo selection that stands out as almost a sore thumb, but a sore thumb that we’re glad to see. Really, its little things like this that make the song notable. As a verse/chorus number, it’s really not that special compared to other works they have done before; but the out of nowhere guitar antics make this one worth sampling yourself. But we’re not done yet. “Black Undertow 5:01” gently creeps into existence with a rather funereal passage, until it explodes with both meaty riffs and Englund’s passionate vocal work. This is definitely the kind of sound that we expect from Evergrey and despite a few less colorful ideas; we get this absolute smorgasbord of wonder. But the solo seems a bit muted when it appears in the middle of the track, only to appear on the tail end, where it indeed slays. “The Fire 4:10” chugs into action, as it delivers something that we’ve certainly heard before, but I wouldn’t really use the term “filler” either. The album’s title track (4:56) roars next, delivering another standard Evergrey piece with Englund’s vocals being the main point of focus, even though it’s more or less a radio-ready rock song. “Missing You 3:25” is a rather soft piano ballad, which leads right into the lengthy “The Grand Collapse 7:46.” Let’s examine this song first and see why it was justified the nearly eight minute track length. First of all we’ll discern that the track is full of chugs and piano, as it utilizes that extra time in which to create a sense of atmosphere. There’s more instrumentation in the piece, giving the listener a bit of a break from Englund’s verse/chorus (even though when he does it right, he really does it right) as the track spits out a few unexpected heavy breakdowns. Keep in mind that this probably the heaviest that you’ll hear the band, but it’s definitely not the worst; nor the most mainstream album that they’ve ever done. The disc ends with “The Aftermath 7:25” which more or less sounds like end credits. I mean, it’s a decent closer, but a bit softer in most regards and it feels just a little drawn out. Compared to some of the stronger pieces on the disc, we didn’t really need it. All in all, Evergrey’s Hymns For The Broken certainly shows a more mature side to the band, which demonstrates that they can still be heavy while also being commercially acceptable and marketable. If you dropped off the Evergrey boat long ago, then this record isn’t really going to make you jump back on. It’s a veritable mixture of hits and misses, showing that a band well past its prime can still continue for another twenty years if they choose to. But the aggression featured on discs like Recreation Day is surely now a memory of the past.
(12 Tracks, 60:00)
Alternative 4 – The Obscurants (2014) – This sophomore album from Liverpool doom rockers isn’t actually a doom metal record at all. Quite frankly, it’s not even a metal album. This time Duncan Patterson opted for a symphonic rock album that musically reminds me of Pink Floyd at their slowest and vocally reminds me of Depeche Mode at their most passionate. There’s even the inclusion of a female vocalist that backs up a few of new frontman Simon Flatley’s dark croons. There’s no doubt about it, Flately croons throughout the entire album making for something that sounds almost like The Cure in some instances, more towards their Pornography or Bloodflowers era; which are highly regarded as their best work. So you’ve got Depeche Mode, Pink Floyd and The Cure all making love on this one and it’s just as dreary as you might expect. But if you’ve certainly got to have dark music, then The Obscurants is an absolute must. The gothic crowd will and should be buying boatloads of this album, passing it around at festivals and just overly praising it on forums/social media. Yes folks, it’s really dark rock at its best and I personally haven’t heard anything like this in a long time. I’m reminded of so many bands that aren’t even in the running of metal influences, like early Audra and especially Black Tape For A Blue Girl at their darkest. I would certainly urge the listener to check out As One Aflame Led By Desire or Remnants Of A Deeper Purity or even Dead Can Dance’s work before Spiritchaser. You might shudder as to why I’m hammering out so many goth and darkwave releases, but that’s because the proof is in the pudding. Patterson obviously wanted to bring that sense of depression first unleashed in Alternative 4 to his own project given the same title. While I’ve no problem with the uplifting tones of current Anathema, listening to The Obscurants gives me a much needed appreciation for dark music again. This is the kind of album that I could whittle away at my keyboard describing, but it’s best to say that with the exception of the confusing “Closure 7:15” there is not one track on the record that feels misplaced or loses the feel of the atmosphere and that is a huge part of what The Obscurants is. You can separate a certain track that you like from others, but you would find that it just doesn’t flow in the same way. Trust me, as I’ve tried. I thought I could extract a piece or two from this release to listen to at my leisure in the form of a playlist, but that proved utterly impossible. “Mr. Black 5:19” is a genius piece, but it doesn’t work by itself. You’d have to listen to it within the context of the album. The only real issue I have with the disc is in its closer, “Closure” as I’ve mentioned earlier. Why I feel that the track doesn’t fit the mood of the rest of the album, is due to its beginning. The band adopted a more electronic approach that didn’t work well with Flately’s vocals, yet due to its length, it still manages to pick up the pieces and bring back the atmosphere. I am really not sure why the band decided to kill such an atmosphere for approximately five minutes towards the very end of the disc, but I’m wondering if such a thing can’t be ripped and re-stitched back into play via the use of an editing program. Is it actually possible to remove the entire electronic section and resume the piece as it picks back up into the original atmosphere, in essence preserving the entire experience untarnished? Well, you could either do that, or just remove “Closure” entirely I guess. Technically, that gives the album no closure though. But I guess you can listen to it and make your own opinion there. At any rate, I still highly recommend The Obscurants to all fans of dark rock and just plain dark music in general. It really is a monument and I think that in the coming months that opinion will be shared likewise. Since we haven’t heard a good bit of sorrow from The Cure in quite a while, it’s refreshing to hear it coming from another slew of Brits who are helping to keep that melancholic sound alive.
(8 Tracks, 49:00)
Rage Nucleaire – Black Storm Of Violence (2014) – Canada’s post-Cryptopsy black metal project are back with Lord Worm still in tow on the vocal end. But other than that, there’s nothing too spectacular here. The record has a rather warm feeling, with only Lord Worm’s growl being the real standpoint here. There are tremolos and blasts and more tremolos and more blast, and more and more and more tremolos and blasts, oh my! But the performance itself seems like a uniting of classic black metal with a slight bit of an industrial edge in the vocals, soundclips and light effects. “Annihilation Frenzy 5:52” and “A Sino-American Chinese War 6:19” pretty much stay in the same tempo, so they come off relatively flat other than a few key melodies here and there. Once again, Lord Worm’s trilling is the major standpoint, as he sounds like some sort of space invader rather than a granite golem on vocals. Truth be told though, there’s nothing here that even sounds half as good as Cryptopsy, including Once Was Not which was my gateway to this amazing frontman in the first place. It was “The Pestilence That Walketh In Darkness” video from that record, which completely blew my mind. Lord Worm stood there silent, reading from what appeared to be the Bible; when all of a sudden, this roaring death metal eschewed and he began to growl the Bible in a fashion which would actually make me want to step foot in a church. (Truth be told, I had an idea to do just that, with a metal album that was going to capture the entire book of Revelation, until I realized just how long it was and realized that six or seven discs for one record would be a bit incessant.) At any rate, that’s what introduced me to the man’s talent and it also ranks as one of my favorite videos and records (I love that one) of all time.
And here we are with “The Deadfall Triptych 6:19” which slightly changes the tempo up a bit and adds a few marchy bits to the atmosphere. However, “Goddess Of Filth 7:55” finally breaks free of the stale black metal approach for a few seconds to add in some gothic elements and some piano. Sounds a bit Cradle Of Filth to me, which might be the slight inspiration for the name. “Ritual Murder (And It’s Attendant Blessing) 6:02” pretty much captures the same atmosphere at the first two tracks on the record and then even Lord Worm’s mighty trilling and slight growls begin to seem a bit of annoyance and just out of place for this music. It’s odd to say this even, but I just don’t think he fits in with this kind of music. The man who crafted None So Vile clearly proved that his prime efforts were based in death metal, which is what we should be hearing from him. You know, I love dark gothic rock. But I don’t think I’ve got that great of a singing voice, so I would never do a record like that, and that’s how I feel about this record. I just don’t think that the vocals really work later on in the piece, after you’ve heard the first two tracks and have gotten the gist of it. The band does try a few different structures but sometimes the melodies sound out of tune “Le Grand Mal De Vivre 4:27” which ultimately doesn’t work as well as it should. Then the album’s closer manages to do all of nothing, as it does absolutely no justice to the title (7:51) that it represents. All in all, I think that Black Storm Of Violence is a complete wash, with really nothing at all to offer. I’m not sure if it’s the fact that Lord Worm just doesn’t need to be there, or that the band members themselves really aren’t that good. I mean, anyone can go out there and create black metal. The underground black metal scene is absolutely immense. But how many of those acts really manage to stand out? How many times have you said, “Well, I’m listening to this black metal band right now?” I’ve said it a bunch, because there are many acts out there that are just not memorable. Either it’s a copy/paste job or just an incomplete effort altogether. You never caught anyone saying, “Well, I’m just listening to some death metal band right now” when you’re talking about Cryptopsy’s golden relics, as you’ll usually get “I’m listening to None So Vile, which is a great fucking record.” Because it is. In my honest opinion, I just don’t think that too many people are going to say the same about Rage Nucleaire. I won’t say that they didn’t try, but there’s just really nothing to offer here. I’ve heard all of these riffs and melodies before and the drums blast as much as any regular black metal album, by any regular black metal band. The only differing factor is in the alien vocal efforts, but in the end it’s just not enough to make a real impact. He’s trying to capture the same atmosphere that he did with Cryptopsy in black metal, but it just doesn’t seem to have the same effect and comes off as mediocre at best. Some people might like it (and one did on MA who gave it a 92% while criticizing the 50% review below it) but it just didn’t work for me. I don’t really recommend it, but whatever floats your boat.
(8 Tracks, 46:00)
Warlord (UK) – We Die As One (2013) – This English three-piece reunited in 2008 to kick out roaring death metal, which is exactly what they manage to do with their latest release, We Die As One. I originally got this record a few months back, but found it drifting along the sea of records that comprise my HD and fished it back out. Originally released in 2013, I got this one a little late – but definitely better late than never. Especially with a band that manages to pump out a performance quite as potent as this one. It says death/thrash on MA, but to me that’s kind of pulling hairs because I hear a lot more traditional death metal elements on this one. Which begs the question… what exactly makes them death/thrash? The Crown of course is death/thrash, but there are a lot of groove elements here as well. To the old heads, this would just be “death metal” and that’s about it. Sometimes, I think we strangle ourselves in our genre tags. At any rate, you’ve got a ripping little disc to behold, with a strong vocal approach and memorable riffing. Alright, so maybe there are a lot of thrash based elements here, but that simply adds to the package for me. Of course, it really depends on which of these nine tracks (not counting to introduction) that you’re listening to. But whether you want to call them death metal, or a thrash band with slightly dirtier riffs and growled vocals, there’s still a whole lot of fun here. It’s not the kind of record that I have to go out on a limb and explain and I’m sure that after listening to a few short clips on YouTube, you’ll get the gist of it immediately. I was playing an old game (as always) on the PlayStation 2 by the name of Evil Prophecy and this record really made a great soundtrack for the McFarlane produced beat’ em up. I can’t say that I really recommend you play that game as it’s a bit tedious, but Warlord UK certainly made the experience a bit more tolerable and I’m thankful to have been able to jam out to this one. It even got my head banging a few times, so there’s definitely something to be said here. I especially like when the frontman goes into British prose on a few of these tracks, like “Knights Of The Godless 4:07” for example. However, “Remember Them 2:07” might not have been the best idea for a closer. Alright, so that’s eight strong tracks that should appeal to both fans of thrash and death metal. These Brits are definitely experimenting, but they also prove that they can make some respectable death metal as well. Or death/thrash, whatever the hell you want to call it. Definitely give We Die As One a spin. It’s a solid record that shows some definite promise.
(10 Tracks, 43:00)