Posts Tagged ‘Shadow Kingdom Records’

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The rerelease of Droid’s superlative debut ‘Terrestrial Mutations’ on LP by Shadow Kingdom Records should be an event shouted from the rooftops. Originally put out last year, this will hopefully bring Droid to a bigger fanbase, as their technical thrash is a sight to behold. It is due for release early in August.

Opener ‘Amorphous Forms (Shapeless Shadows)’ gives you a little taste immediately of the kind of technical wizardry these guys can pull off. Spiralling guitar melodies wrap around some very Voivodian tones and labyrinthine riffing threatens to derail your mind at any moment. But Droid always reel you back in from the edge of technical insanity with solid songwriting underneath. It’s all very good slapping loads of riffs and notes together but if you don’t have a coherent song structure, then who cares? Droid care, and that’s why you get the hooks of ‘Cosmic Debt’, the galloping pit fodder of ‘Abandon Celestial State’ and the stunning structural intricacies of ‘Mission Drift’. It all builds an image of a band that are more concerned with getting their talents in line with their songs than just dazzling with musicianship.

‘Terrestrial Mutations’ is gloriously complexy but still capable of igniting a pit or two with their adherence to the basics of thrash. An air guitarist’s wet dream, but with beautifully written songs, Droid are staggering and this record is the proof. I love it, and you should as well.


The culmination of a 35 year journey, Robespierre’s full length debut ‘Garden of Hell’ is the follow up to the re-release of their two 1983 demos as the ‘Die You Heathen, Die!’ compilation in 2011. These lost classics were never released originally, and Robespierre were one of those lost gems of the NWOBHM movement. Until now, and Shadow Kingdom Records have brought it for all to enjoy.

It doesn’t sound like 35 years have passed, such is the iconic NWOBHM sound coming from opener ‘Punish Oppressors’. This is instantly iconic, hooky as fuck and possessed of a killer set of riffs, and this is a common theme throughout ‘Garden of Hell’. If you spend most of your musical life listening to nothing after about 1985, then this is the stuff for you. ‘Mare of Steel’ and ‘Feed the Fire’ are galloping heavy metal for the masses, and Robespierre are never scared of adding a little doom to proceedings too, sprinkling a little dust over their timeless, ancient magic. This is no more apparent than in the gloomy ‘Dwelling in the Shadows’ or the gritty chug of ‘The Black Mirror’. This really makes this record stand out as not just another old band trying to make a name based on their old kudos, but as a band who are ready to stand separate and proud of a new heritage.

If Robespierre had been lucky enough to release this back in the early 80s, we might have been speaking of them in the same revered tones as Maiden, Diamond Head, Angel Witch and the like, such is the strong song writing and the awesome guitar work. I mean, you’d struggle to tell that the likes of ‘Welcome to the Cult’ wasn’t written 40 years ago. Excellent stuff.

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Croatian heavy metallers Speedclaw are striking quickly after last year’s superlative debut, ‘Iron Speed’. ‘Beast from the East’ features more of the same, classic heavy metal licks with a sense of fun and conviction I haven’t come across since I discovered Night Demon two years ago! It’ll be out on Shadow Kingdom Reocrds in April!

An acoustic ‘Prelude’ almost lulls you into a false sense of security with its beautifully realised scales before the title track roars into gear, overflowing with classic NWOBHM moments. Siphoning the finest riffs from the likes of Angel Witch and Jaguar, with a dash or two of early Maiden, Speedclaw hit all the right marks immediately. ‘Faster than Hell’ is a galloping ode to the most melodic of early thrash, while the killer leads of ‘Rising of the Claw’ is a personal highlight. ‘Aggression Strikes’ hits you like a missing B-side from ‘Bonded by Blood’.

Basically, with Speedclaw you would struggle to find anything not to like about this release. Drinking deep from the well of classic heavy metal, Speedclaw realise this vision in glorious modern form. Solos spray wildly, choruses are really catchy and melodies will dig into your frontal lobe and refuse to leave. Speedclaw are fucking awesome, buy this goddamn record!

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Haunt is the solo work of Beastmaker vocalist/guitarist Trevor William Church, and his day job’s two albums on Rise Above Records have received critical acclaim, but Haunt are more of a classic, early 80s NWOBHM act. Your nearest reference points are early Maiden and Angel Witch, so you know you’re in for a grand trip!

The opening title track has some great riffs; absorbing some cool hard rock stylings with a darker edge. The fuzzy guitar tone betrays the doomy influences but the melodic passages are pure heavy metal. Infectious, vibrant and instantly memorable, Church’s smoky, haunting vocals play off the bluesy guitar tones perfectly. ‘As Fire Burns’ is just as good, with a choral hook that’ll have you coming back repeatedly. There’s an honesty about Haunt, where bewitching gloomy riffs can draw you in so entirely that you feel you already know this record, and you’ve known it for a long time. Closer ‘Fallen Star’ is a contender for my favourite track this year, so good is its melody and riffing.

‘Luminous Eyes’ is a record that instantly makes you comfortable;  drawing on the rich history of heavy metal leaves you hearing nothing original but everything good. Haunt is full of that good, from the massive melodies to the fuzzy riffing and the cool as fuck vocal styling. A tremendous introduction to a project that will hopefully keep producing material.

Chilean duo Crime have exploded out of the rock and roll underground in South America with their debut tape ‘First Crime’, out now on Shadow Kingdom Records. Three tracks of energetic, punkish heavy metal invade your ears, inspiring the raising of horns and the thrashing of necks.

Opener ‘Highway Robbery’ takes a while to get going thanks to a lengthy and creepy intro, but once it kicks into high gear it provides delightful Venomisms with some killer hooks. Galloping leads mesh with a squealing solo that invokes fond memories of early German thrash, while raspy vocals match up perfectly. Same with the infectious ‘Give Your Life to the Ruin’, where the urge to air guitar furiously increases with every minute.

Closing with the rampant ‘We Shall Destroy’, it is amazing how a short sharp burst of raucous energy can really reinvigorate your love of heavy music. Crime may steal every trick in the book, but ‘First Crime’ is a love note to the genuine roots of the genre and therefore you can be forgiven all of your sins when you make us all remember how fun metal used to be.

Altar of Oblivion - Barren Grounds

Danish lords of thy doom Altar of Oblivion return with their new EP ‘Barren Grounds’, a grandiose four tracks of epic as fuck melodic doom that makes you want to draw your sword and stand upon your mountain kingdom! Ok, that may be a bit over the top, but there is something magical about the purity of the heavy metal within. It is out through Shadow Kingdom Records now!

Opener ‘State of Decay’ has a regal stomp to it, like the procession of a warrior king heading to war. There’s some obvious Candlemass influence here, but glimmers of prog sneak in, and the folky, flute led ‘Serenity’ completes that retro, 70s feeling, if all too briefly. The heaving, groaning power of the title track is the pinnacle of Altar of Oblivion here; a lumbering riff oozes with soulful groove, while a versatile and bluesy vocal croons with classic doom emotion. ‘Barren Grounds’ hearkens back to the days of Sabbathian power, but with moments of NWOBHM melody and glorious passion.

Closing with the stark loneliness of ‘Lost’, Altar of Oblivion stake their claim as the most vital member of the court of doom. Emotional, heavy and chameleonic, ‘Barren Grounds’ is a work of heavy metal art, possessed of a natural charisma and swagger that most bands would kill for. Essential.

Reborn In Blasphemy cover art

The most famous ‘scenes’ in metal mainly come from Scandinavia, Germany, the US and the UK. But metal is a worldwide commodity, and more and more there have been excellent bands in all genres coming from Italy. Home of the Roman Empire, cultural influence that has spread across the globe, great food, great people and some of the most exciting metal in years. Gargoyle are set to be the next name chiselled onto the Italian scene’s grand marble wall of achievements.

Despite taking their name from classic Dismember, Gargoyle are decidedlyy doom in their offerings, and their self released ‘Reborn in Blasphemy’ debut is being rereleased by Shadow Kingdom Records in October with a bonus track on cassette. Opener ‘The Lord of the Tentaculars’ has that familiar Italian doom feel; ancient, moss covered riffs hiding something most sinister and dark. Odd vocals convey both the madness and horrors of the music within, where blasphemous creatures lie waiting for their deaths. It is instantly unsettling.

The pervasive gloom of ‘The Highlander’ has more than a touch of early Sabbath and Pentagram about it, while strange incantations loom over the rumbling riffs. It’s like the soundtrack to some 70s horror movie, where you don’t really understand what is causing the fear, but it is tangibly there. The tolling bell of ‘Lady Dead’ leads in with an excellent, seasick riff, coupled with shapeshifting vocals that switch between a rasping growl and a melancholic moan. This is doom in its purest form, creating dark and unsettling fear and misery.

Gargoyle’s debut is an excellent example of not only Italian doom, but the genre’s most primal inspirations. Dark, dense and fear inducing, ‘Reborn in Blasphemy’ is a birth indeed, of something eldritch and mysterious.