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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Live review: Solstafir at Patronaat, Haarlem, The Netherlands, May 16th 2016

Solstafír have been making a steady climb for the top in the metal scene for the last few years. Ever bigger venues and shows, and with the newest album Ótta came a more calm and atmospheric tone to their music. This evolution has been taken further once again with their new set of concertdates amongst others in the Netherlands. This time though, they are doing their concerts with a string quartet with members from amongst others the band The Ocean, and a complementary pianist. The songs were somewhat rearranged in places to accomodate these additions, but overall the music was only simply enhanced by these musicians, making the whole thing more symphonic and very, very beautiful.

The venue in the Netherlands, in de Patronaat in Haarlem, wasn’t exactly sold out but was pretty busy nonetheless. The doors were open already at half past 7 but unfortunately the concert didn’t start until half past 8, due to what seemed some technical difficulties on Patronaat’s side. The setup of the night was firstly a complete playthrough of the Ótta album and after this a selection of fan favorites, also with the complementary strings section. Solstafír were, once they got on stage, in a more mellow mood than usual; it almost seemed they reflected the atmosphere of the music. Especially Ótta benefitted heavily from the classical additions, as it is already a pretty grand and more ‘classical’ in tone than earlier albums. Again, there were still some unfortunate technical problems at times, mostly to do with the volumes of the different sections, but overall the music came across OK. The epic climaxes of certain songs with the strings screeching over it is definitely goosebump material, in a good way.

Then came a little break while on a screen onstage there came a short clip of the film Hrafninn Flygur, a Norse/Swedish film from 1984 which beautifully captures the dichotomy of Solstafír, the western-ish style combined with the nordic, snowy atmosphere. It was somewhat weird to have the film inbetween but in the end it was fitting with the mood of the night.

The last set was a welcome variation on the night. When the band came back onstage the difference was palpable, and the audience was in for some more upbeat rock ‘n roll to end the night. More of their older songs were played, but also classics like Fjara were amongst the setlist; they cannot do without. Godess of the Ages was, as traditional, the closer of a very awesome night. The classic addition will hopefully result in a live dvd, or hell, even a cd would be awesome. Here’s to hoping!

Written by Frank van Drunen

Solstafir Official Website
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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Live review: Marduk, Immolation, Origin, Bio-Cancer at Baroeg, Rotterdam, The Netherlands, May 13th 2016

On Friday the 13th, I (finally) went to see Marduk live, after years of being a fan. I was very excited about the support acts too, though unfortunately, due to the event starting quite early, I had to miss out on Bio-Cancer, whom I will not leave unrepresented in this review. Other support acts this evening were none other than death metal giants Immolation and brutal tech death quartet Origin. Let’s go!

Bio-Cancer
Bio-Cancer is a 4-headed thrash beast hailing from Athens, Greece. Between their formation in 2010 and now, they have released 2 full-length albums, a split EP and a demo, so there might be a lot to expect from these guys in the future. The title of their first album pretty much says it all: ‘’Ear Piercing Thrash’’. With titles such as ‘’Spread the Cancer’’ and ‘’Tormenting the Innocent’’, Bio-Cancer makes sure you get your daily dose of violent lyrics, thrash riffage, and headbanging. Word has it they put on a hell of a show, so make sure you see them when they hit town! (Also, they have really cool merch!)

Origin
Second band of the evening was Origin. It was a very satisfying first encounter, I must say. Hadn’t heard of them before, but I immediately added some tracks to my playlist after the show. They had just started playing when I entered the venue, and the place was almost packed from front to back (though this isn’t a hard thing to achieve for a place such as Baroeg), but I made it through to the moshing area regardless. Not even 30 seconds into watching, I waste my first beer and I’m like ‘’yeah, fuck it’’ and surrendered to the sound of brutality. IT was a kickass show, in retrospect, a great fit for this night’s line up. Really impressive vocals, instrumentally it is what you would expect from a tech death band (and then some!), and basically (this is my general opinion on most death bands) they are even better live than they are on record, so check ‘em out!

Immolation
Need I say more? Most death fans won’t need to be introduced to these New York death-veterans. As far as audience interaction goes, these guys put on the best show tonight. The singer/bass player is a big, mean looking, freakishly long haired machine when he’s playing, but when the sound fades, this guy really knows how to get the crowd on his side. You know what to expect from their generation of death bands: lots of deep grunting, blastbeats, shredding (especially shredding) and the works. Then add a touch of madness, and you end up with a live performance by Immolation! Very nice guitar work, by the way: unlike on the records, there was this eerie but reaaaaaaally nice effect that is guaranteed to provide eargasms, if you’re a fan of the axe in particular! The show’s highlight was most definitely their classic ‘’Burn with Jesus’’.

Marduk
Now for tonight’s main course: Marduk. After 3 sets of bonecrushing death and thrash, it sure was time for some change, and man, it was powerful! As a first timer, this was everything I expected it to be. Marduk really delivers one hell of a set, bringing about the dark, ambient vibes of black metal combined with the speed and rage of death metal. As far as performance goes, and allow me to quote one of my favorite TV-characters here: ‘’NAILED IT!’’. By the end of Immolation’s set, I was getting pretty exhausted (and inebriated ;)) and so was the majority of the crowd right around where the pit should be, but when Marduk finally hit that first note, I was instantly re-energized and ready to go! No comments on the technical sides, really impressive vocal work, drums that’ll blow your head off, angry evil guitar sounds; loved it. A lot of crowd favorites were played (unfortunately not ‘’Christraping Black Metal’’), but you know they can’t finish a show without ‘’Souls for Belial’’ and ‘’Panzer Division Marduk’’, which were of course the show’s highlights. An experience I won’t soon forget, and you wouldn’t regret!

Written by Nino Milillo

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Origin Facebook
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Bio-Cancer Twitter

Review: Nervosa - Agony


While much can be made of the fact that this is an all-female trio, the far more pressing issue at hand is that this second full-length from Brazilian thrashers Nervosa rips and slays mightily regardless of its members gender. Releasing June 3, 2016 on Napalm Records, this effort positions them near the top of the class for the South American revival scene and perhaps the movement in general.

As expected for acts in this type of scene, the main focus for the majority of the album is the old-school Bay Area riff-work prominent on the songs which generates the same crunchy, tightly-wound rhythms that were present back then, coming off with the same fiery energy and drive here that makes that material all the more impressive for creating that same impact, especially such efforts as “Theory of Conspiracy,” “Intolerance Means War” and “Guerra Santa” being among the clear highlights for that type of effort. On the whole, though, the rhythms with this one give a far more mid-tempo vibe overall with a few touches off into the more brutal and blistering tempos that works nicely here adding a nice impact to the proceedings when they occur as it acts accordingly to the tempered rhythms being focused on by the majority of the tracks, especially in “Deception” and “Hostages” which work rather nicely despite clearly slowing down on the tempos. This though is clearly exacerbated by the fact that the album is slightly too long for its own good, featuring a few too many tracks here that serve the same purpose as each other so it really feels like it could’ve used a trim to knock off one or two to make for a tighter and less repetitive experience as that gets highlighted listening to three tracks in a row featuring the same effects for the most part.

Through no fault of the music itself and really only hurt by a feeling of overkill with too many tracks for its own good, there’s so much to like here as the group continues to harness it’s destructive old-school thrash sound that this ends up being of a solid, worthwhile choice for fans of the bands’ past or those looking for a solid retro-thrash experience. 8.5/10

Written by Don Anelli

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Nervosa Official Website

Review: Khasm - Fenris


This is a fairly short EP more than a album, since there are 4 songs with about 12 and a half minutes of running time. None the less, the quality of the EP is superb.

Sound quality is on par with most of the known and popular metal artists. The guitars are sharp and crisp, cutting through the mix. The bass is very loud, fairly muddy and clearly heard through the EP with a great undertone to the guitars. The drum sound is also superb, as the drums are not too clicky in any sense, as even the bass drum be it triggered or not sounds natural. The vocals are musically speaking great sounding, but the performance of the vocalist is in sometimes a bit off in comparison to the rest of the band's sound. The vocals use a shouting technique in most of the time, and can even be alltogether irritating in that riff of the songs. Besides that I don't have other complaints on the EP.

All in all, the EP is great and the band has achieved a great sound quality in the EP, and I would surely hope that the band comes out with a full album with the same quality. I give this album a 9/10.

Written by Nikola Milošević

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Review: GGU:LL - Dwaling


Ggu:ll is a hypnotic drone/doom metal band from Tilburg, the Netherlands that has been active with the current line-up since 2009. This line-up, in true obscure metal style, consists of four guys known by their initials only: DvB on bass, BW on drums, GJK on guitar and WvdV also on guitar and vocals. In 2010 they released a demo called ‘Man dies when he wants’, followed by an EP in 2014 called ‘Waan:Hoon’ (Delusion:Scorn). Now it’s time for their first full-length called ‘Dwaling’ (Fallacy). In between releases they weren’t exactly sitting on their hands. Not only did they keep on writing songs, only to discard many of them because they did not meet their ever higher demands, they also kept polishing their sound by playing a lot of live shows, earning them quite a reputation in the live scene. Mind you, polishing is only metaphorically spoken, polished is probably one of the last words you’d use when you had to describe GGU:LL music. Their aim is to make you feel. Instead of just listening to it, they want you to lose yourself in their music. That is why they never write any lyrics, lyrics offer you guidance which prevents you from experiencing their music cleanly. Sounds highly complicated, but also highly interesting, so enough leads for a review here.

As with many drone/doom metal songs, the basic riffs are minimalistic, simple and effective, but never truly innovating or particularly striking. There is no doubt they are played with skill here, but they in themselves are of course not enough to grab hold of the listener and submerge him or her in the feelings of despair the way ‘Dwaling’ does. ‘Dwaling’ is a 49 minute long oppressive, burdensome journey through the darkest corners of your musical mind and awareness, split into six equally unnerving songs. Exactly what GGU:LL’s intention was with this album. Their drone/doom metal is slow, grievously heavy and, most important, drenched in darkness and evil, obviously aiming to invoke as much feelings of unease, depression, sadness and despair within the listener. This conclusion of course raises the question what exactly GGU:LL have done to achieve such a throat-grabbing atmosphere and the answer to that is a s simple as the basic riffs are: entourage!

The solid, uncomplicated basic rhythms merely are the backbones of the songs and they provide the perfect base for GGU:LL to create layer after layer of elaborate structures on, culminating in complex, haunting melodies built on amazing guitar work. Opener ‘Hoon’ (Scorn) is a bit misleading, because it does not show the band’s full potential nor the path they are about to follow. It’s a good song, but a bit on the average side in my opinion. It picks up a bit slow and has no really striking pieces or arrangements, although the slow, stretched grunts in the song are a harbinger of what lies ahead of us, which becomes clear in title song ‘Dwaling’. The screaming, haunting, black metal-esque high pitched grunts, the peculiar soundscapes surrounded by a ditto guitar sound, the church bell-like bass, everything is set to create a feeling of extreme unease with a variety of faces.

The next song, ‘Het smerige kleed van de ziel’ (The filthy gown of the soul) only adds to this. It has clean vocals for the most part, distantly reminding me of King Diamond at times, but the grunts are well represented as well. It’s those clean vocals that make this song stand out. ‘Waan’ (Delusion) takes us back to the screaming grunts and the slow, heavy pace that gets under your skin, with a leading role for the awesome bass lines here. ‘Het masker vande wereldt afgetrocken’ (Old dutch, meaning ‘The mask pulled off of the world) appears to drift along the same path until halfway through the song the guys decide to up the speed. Don’t misinterpret this, it is still a very long way from speed metal, but it proves GGU:LL has more to offer than just slow, heavy songs. Again great bass lines here, and the drum lines in the end are noteworthy as well. The album’s end is a massive, lingering piece called ‘March 28 1941, drowning’. I’m not sure if it’s intended, but the way the song is build up towards a dying end perfectly fits its title. I can imagine one experiencing something like this when drowning. Creepy.

It’s safe to say that GGU:LL’s goal to make people lose themselves in their music can easily be achieved with ‘Dwaling’, which by the way is a striking title considering all this. Their music is not easy to digest and it can create quite an oppressive atmosphere, which limits the number of people who can appreciate this type of music. A shame really, because even though there’s a distinct aim to create such an atmosphere it all comes down to how you as listener interpret the music. I think ‘Dwaling’ is a great album within the genre, with its thoughtful, complex song structures and ever-changing, yet always eerie atmosphere, that shows the considerable skill and craftsmanship the members of GGU:LL have. Doom or drone fans have no reason to hesitate, and for those new to the genre: try this for size.

Written by Henric van Essen

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GGU:LL Official Website

Review: Unothera - Broken


Unothera makes a peculiar kind of music that has certainly got some gothic or black roots, but it doesn’t seem to find its own sound on the cd Broken. The EP consists of five songs, 3 of which are either an intro, interlude or outro in the form of a piano piece. The piano parts have a distinct link with some of the introductions to much of the band Heaven Shall Burn’s CDs. It doesn’t really build suspense though, and in the end the EP Broken doesn’t really come out of this rut. It is just all a bit bland.

The EP opens on the first piano part while the rain is pouring down in the background. The atmosphere is set a bit, and it should make one ready for a gloomy cd. The first song “The Sum of Contradictions” however seems to randomly start without much build-up and starts repeating a pretty boring guitar riff that will stay with you for the entire six minutes and will have very little variation.

“The Sum of Contradictions” has its moments, for instance in the bridge, but it will revert back to the same riff over and over again, taking any suspense in the music right out of it and quickly taking away all the interest in a listener’s ear.

The growls of singer Ferdinand Wanders are not all that bad, and in the chorus something comes to life somewhere. The clean singing is not all that good though, with little intonation and sometimes just outright out of tune. It is once again a shame because in every song there is a core of interesting music that just gets killed by these things and the little variation songs have most of the time.

The potential for good music is there, shortly. It is a shame it doesn’t really come out anywhere in the album, but it is perhaps not too much of a deal while Unothera still is in their early years. They only now brought this first EP out and before this haven’t had much luck in creating a stable group of people in the band. So maybe there is room for growth still and then it is very well possible Unothera is going to make some very interesting music. Broken however does not yet showcase this, sadly.

Written by Frank van Drunen

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Review: Unhuman Disease - De Templi Autem Veteris Serpentis


So, first things first. I love black metal a lot. It is by far the metal genre I listen to the most, almost exclusively sometimes, yet reviewing black metal is something that I find hard to do. This is because black metal drives more on atmosphere, mood and feeling than any other metal genre. Black metal connects to primal gut feelings and those aren't easily put into words.

Now that we have the disclaimer out of the way it is time to start the review. Unhuman Disease is an American one man black metal band and De Templi Autem Veteris Serpentis (hereby abbreviated to DTAVS) is the seventh album.

Unhuman Disease plays a primitive mid tempo form of black metal with tremolo riffs played mostly high up the register, giving the typical eerie American sounds also found in a band like Judas Iscariot. Production is as you'd expect. DTAVS sounds like it's recorded in a big tunnel with huge reverbs on everything and the drums far in the mix. The vocals are nice and raspy and one of the stronger points of this album with sole member Nocturnus Dominus having a high pitched screech that sometimes reminds me of old Taake albums, albeit not as varied or good. All seems to be well and by the book so far.

And that is exactly where my biggest gripe with this album comes from. To me it feels like Nocturnus Dominus listened to a lot of old Taake, Judas Iscariot and Horna and then went and did just what they did. Nothing presented on this album is something you haven't heard a million times before and the song writing falls short compared to the bands mentioned above. I'm not saying bands should always push boundaries. There is absolutely nothing wrong with primitive back to basics black metal. In fact, I love that kind of music and Taake and Horna are 2 of my favourite bands. However, this primitive approach has to be combined with good song writing, songs and a certain intensity that those bands posses and that Unhuman Disease lacks. There are just not enough standout moments for me personally to enjoy this album. I will give compliments to the songs Obscurity of Invocation and Holy Flames of Perdition for standing out above the grey mass but the rest just plods along in a mid tempo wash.

Once again, black metal is highly dependent on your personal taste. If you are a fan of primitive black metal by all means give this album a chance and add 10 points to the final score. With the exception of the totally redundant "Accursed Ritual" DTAVS isn't a bad album. It's just mediocre and there are way better bands out there that kind of do the same thing. Now if you'll excuse me I'll go and blast some MGLA.

Score: 61/100

1. "Maleficent Devoutness"
2. "Obscurity of Invocation"
3. "Inner Ascension to Incandescence"
4. "Behold the Magnificence of Satan"
5. "Accursed Ritual"
6. "Illuminated Eternal"
7. "Holy Flames of Perdition"
8. "De Templi Autem Veteris Serpentis"

Written by Doctor Chris

Unhuman Disease Facebook

Friday, May 20, 2016

Live review: Heidevolk - Rhovanion at Bibelot, Dordrecht, The Netherlands, May 7th 2016

I've been a fan of Heidevolk for quite some years, and luck had it that they were playing 6 km from my home, so it would've been a shame if I didn't go!

The atmosphere was pretty nice and friendly, and everybody was pretty excited about the evening.

Rhovanion

They put on a great show, good opening act. Unfortunately the PA had some trouble during some of their songs, and when it finally got fixed they started a pit where a guy ended up in the hospital. Kudos to them for stopping the music and only playing again when they found out that he's going to be alright!

Heidevolk

Everybody was really excited to see this band, which isn't surprising, considering they were the headliner for this evening.

They had a really great intro that immediately grabbed your attention, so you couldn't look away. During their third song, Astara, the entire crowd turned loose!

What grabbed my attention was the fact that they needed to warm up a bit, but after that they introduced us to some new songs from their album, before playing some great classics and of course the drinking songs.

They also had some great crowd interaction, responding to the energy that we put out.

Halfway through the evening they turned their set into an acoustic set, which gave it a more intimate setting, before playing their song "Hulde aan de Kastelein" which is about thanking the bartender for his great service.

After this session they returned to their electric instruments, and played their hits like "Nehalennia" were everybody was singing along.

They had a great ending with "Vulgaris Magistralis" (Normaal cover).

I really liked the fact that they were having fun with the audience, messing around for a bit, joking.

Shows that what they're doing is a work of passion, not a job.

Overall, if you have the chance, I'd definitely recommend seeing them, even if you don't know the words or the language. Find a dutchie in the crowd and he'll fill you in ;)

Written by Gijs de Wolff

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Review: Paradox - Pangea


Always the most underrated of the German thrash efforts, Paradox have nevertheless created some of the most enduring yet overlooked classics of the day when they first started back in the mid-80s, in fact celebrating the 30th anniversary of their debut this very year. Still burning strong to this day, they now present their seventh full-length album on June 3, 2016 in Europe with a June 24 US release-date from AFM Records.

Much like their previous efforts, this here is basically set-up to feature their classic speed/thrash metal and churning power metal melodies into one raging mixture. Taking tight, crunchy patterns more influenced by the Bay Area style as in such phenomenal efforts as “Apophis,” “Manhunt” or “Alien Godz” with the occasional burst into a melodic mid-tempo chug from “Cheat & Pretend” or the title track, this here manages to spell out many of the band's trademark rhythms here and gives this a solid thrashing energy. Those are driven along by a rather frantic and impressive amount of technicality in the riff-work, especially “Raptor” and “The Raging Planet” which adds a superb amount of energy and dynamic bounce to the material alongside the excess melodies that makes for a soothing and utterly appealing mixture here that plays much like the band’s signature style from the very beginning. This is in fact so similar to their past work that it can feel quite similar and plays off so many of those familiar rhythms that it can slot in amongst its discography and get lost does manage to hold off its originality to a slight degree, as well as its few tracks that just seem like bland, slow-paced plodding efforts without anything really going on for them, but for the most part this one isn’t too bad.

For a band to remain as consistent and enjoyable as they’ve been from the beginning makes them one of the undervalued and overlooked heavyweights in the style with ease as this is another stellar addition to their discography and makes for a superb choice for thrashers in general, aficionados of the more classic metal sound or just those looking for good solid metal in general. 9.5/10

Written by Don Anelli

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Review: Misteyes - Creeping Time


Gothic metal, synthesizer backed metal with dark growls and high sopranos. Wasn’t that the nineties, a time where bands like Theatre of Tragedy, The Sins of Thy Beloved and everything that followed afterwards were booming? Yep, it was, but it is still present. The bands developed and moved on from the standard ‘beauty and the beast’ vocals or changed their style altogether.

Yet still new bands (re)discover the genre which is still an interesting one. Misteyes refers to their music as ‘Light and Dark Metal’. And while opposites attract, it is interesting to try and find new ways to make these shades of dark and light work together.

With the history of this style it is very hard not to look at the past. To me the music has a strong resemblance to what Trail of Tears used to produce around 2000, yet with less keyboards. Melodically most songs are strong and easy to connect with. Quickly I tap along with the rhythm and especially the more brutal parts are very addictive.

The album features quite a few guest performances. A Fragile Balance therefore has different, clean male vocals (Matia Casabona, Aspasia) that fit very well with the atmosphere. And yes, together with the subtitle (Awake the beast part1) it makes me think of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast...

Last song Winters Judgement features Eluveitie’s Nicole Ansperger on violin as a nice addition to the song. Although again it is hard not to compare this sound to the first Tristania album.

Basically one can say the album takes great parts of gothic metal history, adds some of their own elements and comes up with an album that is a nice addition to your album collection. There is a downside however. Denise Manzi’s vocals have a range, yes, but she sometimes overdoes it. When she reaches higher than she should it makes you wonder: Why?! Please do not to prove you can do highs, when it does not fit the music, or when it does not fit. Her voice is nice, but she sometimes pushes limits she should not push, for example in Lady Loneliness. Then again, it happens only so often. The band has nice potential, because the sound is well worked out, full of sound without being too bombastic. The male vocals are great, the female vocals would need some extra attention.

Written by Martijn Bakker

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Review: Seventh - The Herald


Never have I listened to a more interesting and at the same time confusing mix of genres and musical styles put into a album. I can't really pinpoint a certain genre Seventh belongs to, as it uses a lot of different styles and genres of metal in this album. And the way the genres are mixed is sure to give you a great time while listening to the album.

The songs are varied in length but are generally about 6 minutes and even in the longer songs there is no feel of the song crammed with notes or riffs. The sound quality is great, all of the instruments are heard clearly, and even in some parts where is total chaos in the riffs present there, all of the instrumentation is clearly heard. The album has clean and harsh vocal, hard pounding riffs and clean guitar parts, heavy double bass and polyrhythmics and all of that makes the album a great listening treat.

Sometimes the crossing of the genres may be shocking or awkward, but considering all of the songs have this kind of structure it is not really that bad and it gives a unique twist in the album all together, and a new style of doing metal if I may say so.

In general I really liked this album, and would recommend it to anyone who is into weird genres of metal.

Written by Nikola Milošević

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Review: Ragdoll - Back To Zero

Ragdoll is a 3-pieced rock/hard rock band from Perth, Australia. This debut album was released on 6th of May.

This album starts off with the instrumental track "Back To Zero" that is a perfect opening for the next track "Shine" that immediately starts with the vocals, which rolls on with its sweeping groove. Is this track the calm before the storm on this album? By the track "The World You Gave Us" you groove from begin to end, with the vocals that come through and the guitar riffs. The middle part of this song lets you head banging for a moment. "Letting Go" is a fast paced song and again the vocals go perfectly with the song. The track "Save Me" is a more jazzy groove song, with a lot of swing. This is a track that you keep playing in repeat. "Kungfoolery" is the last track before the bonus tracks comes in. This track is full of nice guitar solos. The track "Rewind Your Mind" is a live track that sounds amazing on this album, because so you can hear his voice is even more great live.

This is a great rock/hard rock band from Australia. They know the right things to make an album to a success. If you love rock/hard rock this is a band for you, you won’t be disappointed.

Track list:
1. Back to zero
2. Shine
3. Playing god
4. The world you gave us
5. Rewind your mind
6. The last time
7. Letting go
8. Dreaming out loud
9. Save me
10. Love and run
11. Kungfoolery
Bonus tracks
12. All I want (single edit)
13. Rewind your mind ( live)

Written by Nathasja Voerman

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Saturday, May 14, 2016

Live review: Slabdragger at Winston Kingdom, Amsterdam, 7 May 2016

Travelling off to Amsterdam is a hell of a pain in the ass but in this review I’ll explain why everything was worth it. Slabdragger was playing! To the people who don’t know Slabdragger, Slabdragger is a really, really heavy stoner/doom band from the UK. Gaining recognition by being fuzzy and doomy and smokey.

At first we entered the building (Winston Kingdom in Amsterdam) we were astonished by the size of the room, it was not big at all. Significantly smaller than Melkweg also in Amsterdam. So the feeling of the music could only get better. The good thing is… the soundman did his job really good. In a room where there were less than 50 people including the bartenders and sound people the atmosphere of the music was better than with any other music genre. You get into a vibe, maybe even a trance when your ears are being completely obliterated by heavy guitars and vocals so uneartly that death and black metal bands should all come to see the show and take notes.

The first song Slabdragger played was Mercenary Blues from their newest effort called “Rise of the Dawncrusher”. On a side note, I am also the one who reviewed the album and gave it a 10/10 so if you want to know what this album sounds like just look for it here. Mercenary Blues started off a bit messy with the guitar tones and fuzz but a minute later everything was perfect again and you could tell by the look on the bands’ faces that the sound man struck a good nerve with their sound. Every note came out so well and recognizable. My absolute compliments to bass player and vocalist Yusef for sounding even better than on the albums. His high form of screeching goes right through the bone straight into the marrow. When in the vibe of the music the vocals hit so hard. I get goosebumps every time. Yusef was definitely in his own world and that’s a good thing. Making funny faces at the microphone and staring into the (rather small) crowd.

After playing 3 other worldly songs off “Rise of the Dawncrusher” they played two songs from their first full length called “Regress”. In this album you could notice guitarist Sam Thredder had a lot more vocal lines and he played the riffs with a powerful roar at the same time. His shirt also caught my eye. It said Grey Widow and I went to look it up today and I must thank Sam Thredder for introducing me into this band. Fuckin’ heavy mate.

The only complaint I have about this evening is that their setlist couldn’t be longer. I would have loved to hear “Iron Vulture” or “Implosion Rites” but I hope they will play it next time because I am definitely going to be there. This band is an example to follow. Do what you love. And have fun while you’re doing it. I could see every smile and every bit of laughter up close and it was very inspiring.

After the show I had my copy of “Rise of the Dawncrusher “on vinyl signed and had a quick chat with the guys. It was a good evening and I wish more people had seen this band. They’re like the undercover version of Stoned Jesus but in my opinion better (and HEAVIER). As one of my favorite bands at the moment I can honestly say they delivered their best. Sounding better than on the record in a live setting. That is something most bands of today can take notes on.

Slabdragger, until next time brothers! Like you said in my signed vinyl, keep it Sludgy-G.

Written by Joost van der Leij

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Review: Burn The Ocean - Come Clean


When I heard the name for the band I was about to review I was like, please don’t be another fucking metalcore band. I was wrong luckily but not too far off.

They obviously took a lot of inspiration from Led Zeppelin and AC/DC there is even a cover of Blackdog on the album. With this song I think they made a mistake by covering it. They just don’t hit it like Led Zeppelin. I mean, it’s cool if you want to pay homage to a band you like but for god's sake make sure that song fits into your repertoire. The singer is not able to hit the notes like Robert Plant can. It sounds a little ‘overproduced’ which kind of takes away the experience of the song.

The rest of the album is not too bad but I feel like some other bands have done this before. It is not your average cup of tea but it certainly isn’t that original.

With a guitar sound like theirs (which is very pleasurable) they could have done bigger things. The album as a whole sounds pretty plain. Like I mentioned before the music sounds overproduced and you hear that the best with the drum sound. It’s too loud and present. It should be the backbone to support the music. There is a certain feeling about the drums I do not like, especially the kick drum. It sounds a little fake.

All taken into consideration, Burn the Ocean is good for your local club if they really need someone to perform that night. This is not something I would show to my friends while saying this is definitely something you need to hear. Come Clean is an “okay-ish” album with overproduced drums and underproduced bass. I’m sure there’s a group of people that like this stuff but it’s just not for me. Burn The Ocean haven’t discovered a loophole in metalworld. I just did not find it worth my time. But I hope for the band there are other people who like it.

5/10

Written by Joost van der Leij

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Review: Vampyrsgard - Phantom Der Nacht

The debut album from Spanish black metal band Vampyrsgard comes off as a rather intriguing and at times enjoyable release from a band without any releases prior to this point. Released November 26, 2015 from The Horror Dimension, this doesn't come off as a terrible debut and offers some enjoyable elements within here.

From the onset this here seems to be set-up primarily as a rather traditional outfit just with a much more melodic bent to the music. The main genesis is still swirling tremolo-picked patterns straight from the second-wave Norwegian originators in the mid-90s, though they get balanced out by much heavier melodic leads running throughout the tracks. With efforts like 'Vampyrsgard' and 'Fallen' utilizing a more mid-tempo and plodding pace while 'Sensual Neck' and 'Phantom der Nacht' going for a more up-tempo variety to really work nicely overall here in making this work within the confines of its simplistic style here of it holding onto a steady pace without overdoing or needlessly complicating itself than it really has to. This does feel very nice when the tracks work, but it can lead to deathly boring affairs when the pacing and songwriting aren't up to par. It's a problem inherent in the tracks due to the band's overall inexperience and youthful age where it hasn't had the opportunity in really honing in on their prefered style rather than just jumping out with a full-length effort right from the start.

Though the band's inexperience and youth does become apparent at times throughout here, there's enough quality and worthwhile moments here that it doesn't hold back to where it should end up appealing quite nicely with fans of older black metal or those that prefer the slower, heavier side of the genre. 8/10

Written by Don Anelli

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Review: BAT - Wings Of Chains


The BAT is back, flying on Wings of Chains! This is how the info sheet that came along with this release starts. I couldn’t help wonder from what, since I hadn’t heard of BAT before. Apparently they have released a demo a couple of years ago that showed great potential and that was sold out in a heartbeat. This combined with the release of a single and a large amount of gigs throughout the US built them a solid reputation makes their debut album highly anticipated. However, as little as I have heard form BAT itself, when I read the line-up it was immediately clear with what I was dealing with here. BAT only has three members: Ryan Waste ( Municipal Waste) who is responsible for the vocals and bass lines, Nick Poulos (Volture), responsible for the guitar work and Felix Griffin (Ex-D.R.I.) on drums. These three, no surprise here, play old school crossover/speed metal hugely influenced by, again no surprise here, eighties crossover/speed metal bands like D.R.I., Sacred Reich, Flotsam and Jetsam and the likes, where there’s some Motörhead to be found as well (Rule of the beast!). In fact, judging by the sound of ‘Wings of chains’, if I was told this was an eighties album instead of a new release I wouldn’t have doubted it for second.

Staying true to the unwritten eighties speed metal rule to make loads of songs in as little time as possible, the guys burn twelve songs in just over 29 minutes. The longest song on the entire album by far is the song ‘Bat’, that spans a whopping 3:40 minutes. But setting the whit aside, ‘Wings…’ is an album to remember, taking you right back to those memorable eighties when speed metal had reached the peak of its glory. I’m loving every second of it. I might be a bit biased due to the fact this is pretty much a trip down memory lane for me, there’s no denying that BAT’s music is as contagious as the flu, it catches you faster than lightning. It’s impossible to stay put when you give this a spin, even when you’re all alone you’d be challenged not to start a circle pit right away. Having said this ’Wings…’ is in no way a cheesy, old-fashioned album for grey rockers from days gone by, on the contrary, I think BAT proves old school speed metal is very much alive and present-day.

Even though the intro throws you off track for a bit, sounding more like an appropriate intro for a black metal band with its haunting atmosphere than an intro to a speed metal album, it won’t take you long to get back on the right track when you play ‘Wings…’. The second ‘Bloodhounds’ truly starts the guys hit the gas, never to slow down until the dying tones from closing track ‘Bat’ fade out. Ryan not only plays his bass impressively fast and impeccable, try ‘Ritual fool’ for example, his vocal performance at least equals that. He has a pleasantly hoarse voice, which perfectly suits BAT’s raw, energetic music. It’s apparent he’s not a rookie, judging by the excellent control he has over his voice. The same can be said from Nick, whose ongoing high speed torture of snares is both very well timed as well as raw. Some of his solos are true gems, often being genially short. Listen to his ten-second debauchery in ‘The master of disguise’ for a great example. And then there’s Felix, who relentlessly pounds his drums like there’s no tomorrow. Speed, precision, rhythm breaking, he can do it all, sometimes even all in a single song (‘You die’).

Needless to say I think BAT nailed it with their debut full-length ‘Wings…’, although the term full-length might not be the best term when you look at its playing time that only spans 29 minutes. On the bright side, as far as I’m concerned that is the only minus of this release. I wouldn’t have minded it at all when they had doubled its playing time. ‘Wings…’ is filled with ripping, high speed songs that refuse to leave your head. You will be playing songs like ‘Master of the skies’ and ‘Condemner’ in your mind over and over again for a very, very long time. Don’t get the wrong idea here, that is in no way a punishment, I can think of a gazillion worse things. BAT simply delivered a delicious metal album that breaths old school, yet sounds timeless and should please the vast majority of metal fans. Great skill in composition, execution as well as production. A no-brainer in my book. Best enjoyed in good company so you can build a pit or a wall of death…

Written by Henric van Essen

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Review: Dangerego - Special Dreamer


Dangerego is a very interesting band from Italy that, however gaining some fame in Italy, has not yet really reached the European/international scene. The album Special Dreamer is set to make a difference in that, perhaps. The album that has been out for a while now and has certainly got some entertaining tunes, though has perhaps not yet matured enough for the versatility that could lie in the bandmembers’ skillsets. Overall though it is an easy and entertaining listen, hinting Audioslave, sometimes the serenity of Tool, yet the music could do with some progressive influences.

The guitars on this album are the driving force and for the most part do a great job. The solo’s aren’t all they make out to be. In fact it sometimes is a shame the groove of the songs is broken by the otherwise pretty catchy and groovy guitarwork that upholds the album. It is varied, swinging, going from smooth acoustics to sweeping and pretty grand rock ‘n roll sounds to a hint of metal here and there. The interesting and weird thing about the whole album is, however, that though it’s usually very groovy and all, the acoustic parts are usually even more interesting. The voice of Flavio Angelini is a great combination with the very well chosen acoustic sounds for the guitar, and if this kind of rock is anything for you these parts will really pull you in and you’ll have a blast listening to this.

For a band that hasn’t made it that big yet the overall sound is very mature and well thought out. As they describe themselves influenced by Alter Bridge, Audioslave etcetera, this genre really shines through in Dangerego. They are however not yet there; some songs really do sound alike and sometimes fail to get and keep attention.

The verdict cannot be too harsh though. At several points Dangerego shows great potential in creating an atmosphere in a song, which is overall a bit melancholic, but has a very potent power in it. One of the best examples of creating this atmosphere is in the song “Red Dawn”, where in contrary to most of their songs the bass is prominent and really pulls of a groove and drive in the couplets that slowly build into a pretty broad and epic distorted guitar riff.

The Italian background is, in contrary to some other bands from Italy, not really discernable. That is not a disadvantage perse; Dangerego has a very American sound, without getting tacky or unoriginal. It is, as said, a mature sound. In the end Special Dreamer is a nice, relaxed listen with some punch here and there, but most versatile in its sweeping ballads and acoustic sections. Not bad at all!

Written by Frank van Drunen

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Friday, May 6, 2016

Review: DevilDriver - Trust No One


California groovemachine DevilDriver is back with a devastating new album, ready to tear you a new one! ‘’Trust No One’’ is the band’s first release since the departure of drummer Boecklin and guitarist Kendrick, the news of which left me and many others surprised and anxious to know what was in DevilDriver’s future, especially since the tight drums, other than Fafara’s trademark roars, are really what makes DevilDriver (for me, at least). Later in 2015, fans finally got the news they were waiting for: drums were to be filled in by no one other than ex-Chimaira’s Austin D’Amond, a choice that could not have been better. Guitars were to be replaced by Neil Tiemann (David Cook, Midwest Kings) and this year it was announced that Diego ‘’Ashes’’ Ibarra, known for his work with the late Wayne Static, would be the band’s new bass player.

If you’ve been following these guys, you’ll know that since the release of their self-titled debut album in 2003, DevilDriver’s studio productions have become increasingly more aggressive, technical, and generally just way more ruthless *subtle reference to their single of off 2013’s ‘’Winter Kills’’ album*. I have to say, I was a little afraid a line-up change might compromise the band’s characteristic sound, but damn, was I wrong! I wasn’t completely blown away by the first single ‘’Daybreak’’, but I still had a blast listening to it, and it’s a great showcase of the current line-ups sound. So basically, this was just the tip of the iceberg. Let’s take a look at some of the tracks.

Album opener ‘’Testimony of Truth’’ is a track that sounds like it could’ve been a bonus track on ‘’Pray for Villains’’. Part of this song was teased a while back, which fans all the more impatient to hearing some new tunes. This track does not disappoint, seriously. Like the rest of the album, it rages all the way from start to end, with a diversity of sounds and speeds. What I noticed immediately in this song is how you can actually hear influences from their newly recruited musicians, but the DevilDriver sound we all know is still there. This tracks not only marks the beginning of a new album, but also a band reborn. Track #2, ‘’Bad Deeds’’. Whereas the previous track still shows similarities between old and new, ‘’Bad Deeds’’ is something totally new. For starters, the intro is something I’ve never heard these guys do before. Overall, this is a very fast and angry song, but when the chorus hits, the sound gets really eerie and evil, something I’ve only experienced on 2011’s ‘’Beast’’ with titles such as ‘’You Make Me Sick’’. I was really impressed by this song, and it’s certainly among the heaviest on this release. ‘’My Night Sky’’ is up next, and it keeps that evil vibe going with a lower tempo, which casts an ever darker shadow over this song. Again, this is something completely new and unrelatable to previous works, yet matches the band so well. The title track is probably the most anticipated song off this album, since the band has done a pretty good job keeping this album’s content a secret. ‘’Trust No One’’ is undoubtedly the best song, whichever way you look at it. This song is relentless, yet very emotional. The lyrics are amazing, kind of reminds me of the ‘’The Last Kind Words’’ era, which is never a bad thing! Musically, the song features a variety of sounds; expect a lot of mid/high tempo drums, harsh riffs, shredding and much more. The chorus on this one is an absolute beast! ‘’Feeling Ungodly’’, a track that took a little longer to grow on me, but I want to point this one in particular out, since it is very different from the rest of the album. This song shows the groovier / funkier side of DevilDriver, with a lot of extra added bass and a completely different groove. Album closer ‘’For What It’s Worth’’: the ‘’heaviest love song of all’’ according to the man himself. Very strong, emotional song overall. Beautifully written, the sound matches the type of song really well, as does the beat, surprisingly. He may just be right about this one.

Overall, this album definitely deserves a 9/10 for its authentic feel, its ruthlessness, its diversity and much more. ‘’Trust No One’’ is yet another great example of how a band can noticeably evolve, yet still sound the way you’re used to. DevilDriver has literally taken a sound and made it their own. If you were displeased with their first single ‘’Daybreak’’, I hereby urge you to listen to the rest of the album!

Written by Nino Milillo

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Review: Necronomicon - Advent Of The Human God


Always one to move at their own pace, Canadian death/black metallers Necronomicon are certainly whipping out the goods at a far more rapid pace than usual as this now marks a three-year gap between records following a three-year gap which preceded a near-decade long one before that. The new time-table they’re utilizing is certainly working for them as their fifth full-length, out on March 18 from Season of Mist Records, is perhaps their best effort yet.

From the onset this here is set-up mostly around their dynamic mixture of blackened death metal that’s been at the forefront of their sound for so long. Tight tremolo riffing and frosty vocals make for a wholly appealing black metal surge throughout ‘The Golden Gods’ or ‘Unification of the Pillars,’ though the deep churning rhythms and sweeping blasting drum-work gives it a more death metal center much like ‘Crown of Thorns’ and ‘The Fjord.’ As well, there’s also the additional of grandiose symphonics on display here with the cinematic-sounding keyboards peppered throughout the tracks as well while not relying heavily on their usage at all, keeping them to select sections or omitted altogether which is a highly enjoyable status here which keeps this running along very well. It does run into overly-familiar territory a couple times over and does seem far too concerned with the usage of interludes breaking up the flow of some of the songs here, but for the most part the music stands out quite nicely and competently.

Though this one does tend to run into overly familiar patterns from their past and the frequent interludes can disrupt the flow somewhat, this is still a wholly strong and impactful collection of tracks that stands as their best effort yet and makes for an easy pick for fans of the band or this style as a whole. 9/10.

Written by Don Anelli

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Review: Drakwald - Riven Earth


Folk-ish sounding types of metal music seem to have a particular effect on people as in most people do like it in one way or another, I personally like anything folk metal related with some Lord of the Rings vibe to it. Drakwald perfectly sums it in one album. Even the name Drakwald makes you think of a Norse mythology creature, and the album name Riven Earth does have a Middle Earth undertone to it.

All of the songs on the album have a distinct folk element in the sound, be it in the start or later in the song. A lot of the folk melodies are pleasant to the ear, as they draw a lot from the folk songs of Europe, and if you have ever heard or listened to Ensiferum you know what I am talking about. The band mixes the folk sounds with melodic death metal very well, yes you can hear the stark differences in the two section of the songs, but there are part when the folk sounds of the accordion or violin are combined with heavy distortion guitars and vocals to make a memorable riff or melody.

The band needs some work in the mixing of melodic death metal and folk parts into one coherent section as you do get a feeling sometimes that you are listening to one or the other, but apart from that I do not have other complaints on the album.

It is a great folk metal album, and maybe one day in the future the band can rival the success of Ensiferum. I give this album 8/10.

Written by Nikola Milošević

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