Posts Tagged ‘UK’

Alestorm - Curse of the Crystal Coconut

Review by Sandre the Giant

Even as a guilty pleasure comedy band, my fellow Scots Alestorm should really have died by now. I’m a big fan and I’m saying this. Frowned upon by po-faced metal fans that take themselves far too seriously, the main reason that Alestorm are still around, singing daft songs about pirates is because of two things; their songs are fucking great and their live shows are loads of fun. Their new record, ‘Curse of the Crystal Coconut’, which appears to have some links to the Donkey Kong game series (?) is out now through Napalm Records.

Opener ‘Treasure Chest Party Quest’ is an uber catchy party anthem, with its irresistable chorus and bouncy accordions followed by the instant standout gallop of ‘Fannybaws’. Probably the greatest concept for a pirate I’ve come across, you’d struggle not to shout along with this chorus too. Alestorm have never been shy of the ridiculous when it comes to the singalong moments but this takes the empire biscuit. Pop artists will struggle to out-chorus these guys this year. The addictive Maiden-esque gallop of ‘Call of the Waves’ is pure early power metal, and it reminds you that beneath a lot of this silliness beats the heart of a very talented metal band.

Alestorm do tend to follow a formula at times; you’ve got the thrashy, heavier song (‘Chomp Chomp’), the drinking song (‘Pirate Metal Drinking Crew’), the more solemn ballad (‘Henry Martin’) and even the power metal epic (‘Wooden Leg Pt.2: The Woodening’). Predictable maybe but that does not mean that it doesn’t work. I’m not sure about the rap metal experiment of ‘Tortuga’ but maybe it’ll grow on me. You can’t complain that they never do anything different now guys!! This also applies to ‘Pirate Scorn’ which is a cover of a song from the Donkey Kong Country cartoon series. Man, that is a deep cut. But it is this sense of irreverant fun that has always helped Alestorm stand out from the crowd.

You’ll either hate this album, and therefore you probably shouldn’t be reading this review, or you’ll love it and actually my opinion will mean shit to you. ‘Curse of the Crystal Coconut’ continues Alestorm’s streak of somehow keeping pirate metal interesting and not running out of material to write songs about. Maybe this’ll be the last time. But we’ve said that before. Dust off your tankards and eye patches, and let’s have some fucking laughs!

Dawnwalker - Crestfallen

Review by Geary of War

Londoners Dawnwalker deliver to us an album in ‘Crestfallen’ which casts up a very Nordic, pagan vibe with their quite beautiful album cover, which I also encourage you to visit on the artist’s Facebook page, its a gif and the movement is most calming. It is out now through the band’s Bandcamp.

As with all album covers you create a idea about what this band will sound like. I assumed it would be something progressive and they did not disappoint. In fact the class themselves as post/progressive metal.  Opener ‘Crestfallen’ has a bass line which could put doors in, or at least result in a chap from the neighbours if played at sufficient volume. The vocals by Mark Norgate fit the music really well, it is clean, well delivered and something which could absolutely make an evening walk that little bit better. ‘Pollen Cloud’ continues the measured and delicate tone set up by the sweeping ‘Crestfallen’. The very subtle flute played by Sian Alex really gives this track a very ethereal feel. Around the two min mark things change and there is more of a purpose delivered, I am reminded for reasons I cannot quite put my finger on, of ‘Antenna’ era Cave In. Wonderful stuff.

My favourite track off the album is next and it is ‘Towpath’. Having said it is my favourite it is also the most jarring on the album as here we hear a harsh black metal vocal. It fits the feel of the track which you conjure images of a frozen windy environment with some poor soul trudging ever onward into the night. Thereafter we have a smashing cover of ‘Lost Wisdom’ by Mount Eerie which ends with the last harsh vocal we hear.  We close out the album with the marvellous acoustic track, ‘Pagan Plains’. This deserves a place in every garden playlist right now and would be my other pick from this album depending on who I was airing it too.

Overall this is a gem of an album made in the heat of lockdown. In a way, even with the jarring moment of ‘Towpath’ this album encapsulates all the various moments and emotions of the lockdown. Take the time, dig this out, play it a few times and let it unfold before you.

Wolvencrown - Of Bark and Ash

British black metal continues to go from strength to strength, and last year we had the debut of another band drawing inspiration from this ancient land. Wolvencrown’s debut ‘Of Bark and Ash’ is out now through Avantgarde Music.

Opener ‘Earth’s Eternal Dawn’ plys a well worn furrow of pagan black metal; a mid paced riff that grinds hypnotically underneath a spectral synth and a raspy snarl. I love this ghostly atmosphere, it haunts each song like a misting rain. The two part ‘1194’ is steeped deeply in second wave mysticism, beset with gloomy blasting on all sides. ‘Infernal Throne’ is full of propulsive melody flowing again within that atmospheric shroud, and there’s something very British about that style these days. There’s a little touch of Drudkh though about the winding ‘Towards Broken Depths’, and some Panopticon seeping through ‘Destined’ as well. The Cascadian and Ukrainian black metal influences are far ranging these days as well.

‘Of Bark and Ash’ is an inspirational record that flows like an olden river, shrouded with ghostly mist and haunting melodies. Poignant and breathtaking at points, Wolvencrown are a welcome addition to the thriving black metal scene here on these ancient isles. More please!

Paradise Lost - Obsidian

First published here:

Where do you even begin with a band as legendary as Paradise Lost? Pioneers of death/doom and gothic doom, creators of some of metal’s most iconic records and songs, and have maintained a career of 30 years plus with barely any creative missteps. You’d think that the band may have began to wane creatively at this point, but their last two records, ‘The Plague Within’ and 2017’s superlative ‘Medusa’ proved that is not the case. So comes ‘Obsidian’, the latest opus in a discography littered with classics, but will it continue this trend? ‘Obsidian’ is out now on Nuclear Blast.

It is a funny thing to review a record by a band so influential, because every time you hear a certain tone or style you have to remember that this doesn’t just sound like Paradise Lost, it IS them. It’s a revelation at that point just how important they’ve been. The bleak acoustic and softly sung opening to ‘Darker Thoughts’ paints a scene of classic Yorkshire misery, and when the song opens up there is a wonderful gloom coating this melodic powerhouse. Paradise Lost have never been a band to shy away from using different styles to create their particular brand of haunting heaviness, with ‘Fall from Grace’ wringing mournful lead guitar over a refrain of ‘we’re all alone…’ and the driving ‘Ghosts’ reaffirming their gothic metal credentials, bringing to mind Sisters of Mercy or even a little Type O.

Their most goth moment comes in the bleak ‘Forsaken’ however, as hook filled as a song this cold and miserable could possibly be. The solo is a high point in an album full of them, and the album never loses steam from here. The serrated riffs of ‘Serenity’ draw back the doom which then filters through the violins and grandiosity of ‘Ending Days’ and the rich post punk tapestry of ‘Hope Dies Young’ into the war torn regality of ‘Ravenghast’, a baroque doom masterclass that conjures some traditional Northern pessimism as well as some of the best riffs Gregor Mackintosh has ever pulled from his six strings.

It feels very reassuring to hear a band fully absorbed by their past but creating new music that is as vital as their iconic releases ever were. Sure, there are hundreds of bans that do what Paradise Lost do, but none will ever come close to the masters. ‘Obsidian’ is an important addition to their legacy; a reinvigoration of their gothic roots while remaining fully rooted in the doom that brought them to the dance. Dark and beautiful.

Wolves in Exile - Frost and Ruin

Featuring current and past members of Baalberith, Deadwood Lake and Skiddaw, British black metallers Wolves in Exile have definitely got an underground pedigree that I am very familiar with. Their debut album ‘Frost and Ruin’ comes armed with as much traditional black metal as you can handle, but doused with symphonic and melodic elements. It is now through UKEM Records.

The opening track, ‘Frozen Underground’ is full of powering blastbeats, rapidfire tremolo riffing and yet is in no way one dimensional. There are some really nice synth and keyboards working later on in the song, when the pace drops a little.  Add in touches of atmospheric lead guitar solos and you’ve got an instant hit in terms of dynamics on show. Each song benefits greatly from a touch of orchestration every so often, from the piano led intro to ‘The Night Madness’ to the bleak grandiosity of ‘Mirror and Prophecy’. The keyboards etc rarely take over and become overbearing, which is gladly appreciated in this. Symphonic black metal has a tendency to become too overwrought, but Wolves in Exile balance this nicely.

If you like early Dimmu Borgir, and wondered what it would be like if the full orchestras hadn’t taken over, then Wolves in Exile are a similar proposition. The songwriting and musicianship is strong, the album art is glorius and songs like ‘The Ancient Red Lake’ and particularly the closing ‘River of Thorns’, laced with more than a sliver of Cradle of Filth and Bal-Sagoth, serve to highlight the obvious talent here. ‘Frost and Ruin’ feels like a promise of more to come, and steps out from long shadows to have its day in the cold sun.

Old Corpse Road - On Ghastly Shores Lays the Wreckage of Our Lore

In the four years since their last full length, ‘Of Campfires and Evening Mists’, UKBM has missed Old Corpse Road. They’ve always felt a bit more visceral than a band like Winterfylleth without losing any of their traditional heritage themes. Their newest album, ‘On Ghastly Shores Lays the Wreckage of Our Lore’ is another fine addition to the canon of black metal from the isles of Britain, and it is out in May on Trollzorn Records.

The ethereal blast of the opening title track sets the scene for the tales of watery myths and legends to come. The tidal, ahem, tempests of ‘Harbingers of Death (Voices in the Tempest)’ sweep you along on waves of icy riffing, while cold melodies seep into your skin and leave you shivering in their wake. Vocals like the shrieks of a howling wind entwine with storytelling elements, bringing us the eerie tales of yore. ‘Black Ship’ is a great example of their epic scale and ferocious black metal combination. Acoustic folk builds into a fearsome maelstrom of tremolo riffing, savage growls and huge clean vocal sections that give this song a scope as vast as the open sea. And when that slower section comes in, with sweeping leads? Oh my…

Old Corpse Road have struck pure black gold on this record. It marries the barely tamed power and rage of traditional black metal to the kind of grandiose folklore vision that the likes of Enslaved or Drudkh brought to the genre. ‘Sea Fire’ feels like if Melechesh were from Yorkshire, not the Middle East; capturing an ancient feel without losing strength. The gothic piano of ‘As Waves Devour Their Carcasses’ provides a ghostly respite from the fury, before the one-two hit of ‘Demons of the Farne’ and the titan ‘The Ghosts of the Ruinous Dunstanburgh Castle’. The former thrashes with fiery fury while the latter soars on a blizzard wind through 16 minutes of some of the most epic black metal you may hear this year.

‘On Ghastly Shores…’ is a black metal opus of grandeur, of blackened majesty and frozen beauty. Old Corpse Road feel sometimes a little unsung beyond these shores, but with albums like this that should change. This is now the high watermark for 2020 black metal. Impeccable.

Hand of Omega - Left Hand Wrath

First published here:

The debut demo from Stoke on Trent’s Hand of Omega is called ‘Left Hand Wrath‘, and this sludge doom quartet are looking like devastation is their forte with a two track, twelve minute bludgeoning on the cards. It is out now self released.

The sickening guitar tone that rises from ‘Amazon Burning‘ is met by the equally disease ridden vocal snarl, drowning within a suffocating murk. It’s a pretty heavy place to start, and it only continues down this path of nihilistic dread. There are moments of utter Lovecraftian insanity, when the pace rises and the song flails like an unknown beast. The second part of this miasma, ‘Convolution‘, has absorbed much of the same bile that infested the opener, and sounds like if EyeHateGod released a bedroom black metal demo. Except with way more low end. The bass crunch on these tracks is thunderous, and unlike a lot of sludge there is no bluesy groove saturated in here, just pure straightforward violence.

Left Hand Wrath‘ is a brutal reminder of how lo-fi, sanity cracking sludge can feel like the end of the world, and why that self destruction is so addictive. Hand of Omega are here to be feared, and there will be few survivors.

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Those of you who have followed the blog from the start knows I had a bit of a thing for Cumbrian black metal back then. It’s still there, but I must admit, I don’t break out the Skiddaw, Nefarious Dusk or Helvellyn demos as much as I used to. Well, enter Whinlatter, bringing yet more north western bleakness with their debut EP ‘Duddon Valley’. Inspired by the local landscapes, and the poetry of Cumbrian Norman Nicholson, it is out now through Wulfhere Productions.

Opener ‘River Duddon’ employs everything brilliant about Cumbrian black metal; a uniquely lonely atmosphere thriving beneath biting riffs and a range of bleak melodies. The vocals howls beneath blizzards of guitar, as the Darkthrone worshipping, two part ‘Duddon Estuary’ thrums with malevolent power. The first part, ‘(At Winter)’ adopts a more sinister mid paced approach, while part two ‘(Sea to the West)’ rasps through virulent blasting and icy guitar. By the time the black majesty of ‘Cumbria Be My Grave’ comes to a buzzsaw, gloomy end, I’ve rediscovered my love for a local style.

As a resident of this fair county, I have a great appreciation for what Whinlatter do here. Capturing the savage majesty of these fells and the people they inspire is not always easy. I’d take this over soulless landscape shots any day. This is the real Cumbria, industrial greyness overlooked by unforgiving mountains. They won’t show you that in the tour guides.

Tides of Sulfur - Paralysis of Reason

Tides of Sulphur hail from the south of Wales, and their newest EP from last year ‘Paralysis of Reason’ is a collection of filthy murk, sure to appeal to anyone who likes a melting pot of sludge, doom, black and death metal. It is out now through a collaborative effort between Sludgelord Records, APF Records and Astral Noize.

Often you’d expect a short first track to be an intro of such, but opening track ‘Worms’ is just as thick, raw and vicious as the rest of this record. A crusty d-beat rager, it opens out into the sludgy crunch of ‘Humourless Cunt’, which has got to be one of the best song titles of all time. It also features one of the best samples of Bricktop from ‘Snatch’, and various other people yelling the word cunt so that’s even more points for it. The deathly rampage of ‘DLMM’ has some serious weight to it; chugging doom riffs coated in a miasmic nastiness. The blackened crust rage of ‘Pariah’ and the savage beating of the title track will leave you broken and bruised.

I’d never come across Tides of Sulfur before, but I’ll definitely be paying more attention to them now. ‘Paralysis of Reason’ is a vicious blast of pure underground hate and I can imagine little survivng such an onslaught in a live setting. Tremendous stuff.

Beggar - Compelled to Repeat

First published here:

The debut full length from London’s Beggar has been a long time coming, and those of us who have barely sated their lust on their numerous EPs are ready for ‘Compelled to Repeat’ to destroy us. It is out in April through APF Records, whose back catalogue contains a number of lesser known gems of the UK underground.

The thunderous, knuckle dragging opener ‘Blood Moon’ possesses the kind of torturous groove that any self respecting sludge band is born with. Savage vocals compliment this expertly, and it is all going just as you’d expect before a quieter and almost soulful solo glides in. It is this juxtaposition of violence and stylistic shifts that characterises this often startling debut. ‘Anasthete’ feels like some orthodox black metal, dragged through tar heavy riffs. Those same riffs cascade through the dead valleys of ‘The Cadaver Speaks’, curling like black smoke within your lungs, suffocating, choking, miasmic in their intent.

‘Compelled to Repeat’ has so many different genre moments piled into the brew it is a miracle that this is even coherent, let alone the churning greatness that it is. Post metal, sludge, death metal, hardcore, black metal; Beggar flirt with them all and filter them all through some huge groove. For a glorious second you think ‘Trepanned Head Stares at the Sun’ is going to build into a vast soundscape and your dreams are shattered by visceral, death laden violence. I love the unpredictability that Beggar employ throughout. The only constant is an intense atmosphere of anger and rage.

From the sickening crunch of ‘Tenantless the Graves’ to the Louisianian groan of ‘Matryoshka Brain’, ‘Compelled to Repeat’ is an album of multiple levels where the idea of genre is pushed to its limits, and Beggar are a band whose hatred and bile for the universe is only just beginning to crystalise. A triumphant full length, and if this record doesn’t push Beggar towards a legacy of greatness then it’ll be a big surprise.