Dec 31 2017

Witchseeker – When the Clock Strikes

Witchseeker has certainly come a long way since their debut EP in 2014, as evident from the recent launch of their debut albumWhen the Clock Strikes. They have certainly grown much, not only as songwriters and musicians, but also as performers. Live performances aside, would the band be able to capture that live charm and energy on their studio record, and how far they have come since the oh-so-cheesy Wishing You Were Mine? So here we are with their full length album, When the Clock Strikes.

Surprisingly, quite well. When the Clock Strikes effectively captures the band’s growth, as they further explore their musical influences, and incorporate them into a sound that is proudly theirs. Opener Speed Away immediately brings one into the familiar territory of bands like Enforcer, especially in the speedy riffs unleashed by guitarist Brandon. Sheikh’s vocal styles have also shifted here compared to those on Night Rituals, having a rougher, rawer edge to them, while adopting a slightly higher pitch as well. Because of this, oftentimes one is reminded of the earlier works of Olof of Enforcer, and the imperfections and rawness of his vocals add to that overall authentic feel to the album.

While there is no shortage of moments that lead to comparisons to Enforcer, there are also other influences that could be clearly heard on the record. For instance, the arrangement and the riffs on Angel of Sleeze brings to mind the works of Gezol’s Metalucifer, and Brandon easily adopts his playing style fittingly to the song. Heavier, but groovier songs like The Sniper even bring to mind the works of local heavy metal compatriots Suicide Solution. Also, speaking of ballads and love songs, Witchseeker has also upped their game with Dream Come True, a maturation from Wishing You Were Mine, musically, even if the lyrics remains equally cheesy.

I particularly liked that raw production quality on When the Clock Strikes. Unlike many heavy/speed metal releases of late, When the Clock Strikes manages to retain the 80s charm with that unpolished sound, without compromising any of the instruments on the mix. In fact, Sheikh’s bass is placed rather prominently in the mix, and this often gives songs a nice low-end rumble. The production quality also adds a nice live vibe on the record, and one could easily imagine watching the band live in their rehearsal studio.

It’s been quite a long while since I’ve heard such a refreshing, old school heavy metal release from a local band, with the last good heavy metal album probably being Suicide Solution‘s 2009 release Shake Well Before Abuse. Listening to this has gotten me all worked up and excited for their next live performance, and we don’t see why it won’t do the same for any self-respecting old school heavy metalhead.

Dec 24 2017

Galneryus – Ultimate Sacrifice

To me, 2012’s Angel of Salvation is always gonna be the quintessential Galneryus album. There was a perfect harmony of melody, technicality, and the title track of the album thoroughly showcased the band’s ability to communicate emotions without sacrificing their musicianship. The follow up album Vetelgyus was an excellent follow-up, which left 2015’s Under the Force of Courage feeling a little underwhelming after riding on 2 rather groundbreaking albums. Galneryus this year releases their brand new record, Ultimate Sacrifice, their 13th full length release, and it leaves one to wonder if it would impress.

With the teasing of the album with the release of the MV to the title track, things seem to be looking rather good. Fortunately, as the album is finally dropped, it seems that the band has gone back to their more familiar style. The moment Heavenly Punishment kicks off, one is brought back to that unmistakable sound of Galneryus. The high-octane speed that the band goes at is perfectly fused with the melody of the lines unleashed by Syu, often with a rather symphonic backing by the keyboards of Yuhki. Masatoshi’s vocals are on point here, as he hits every note with ease, and is often the means of conveying the messages of hope and positivity to the listener.

While fans of Galneryus often tend to place heavy focus on Syu’s guitar-playing, it is the way every instrument plays a significant role and collaborates that makes Ultimate Sacrifice such an entertaining listen. (On a sidenote, I found Syu‘s solo album rather boring compared to his output with Galneryus.) For instance, there is lots of room for Yuhki to really shine as he keeps up with the pace that Syu and the rest of the band has set with much ease, particularly on his solos.

There is a lot more orchestration on Ultimate Sacrifice. Although already hinted at by that climactic intro with Enter the New Age, these orchestral elements are often infused in their songwriting and music as well. Songs like With Sympathy, with the epic soundscape created by the orchestra, gives one the feeling of catching an epic war scene in a movie, leaving one almost breathless.

And of course, there is that obligatory ballad-y track, this time presented in the form of Wherever You Are. It is songs like that, that present the more sensitive side of the band. The track veers towards a more j-rock territory, and the beauty in the track definitely leaves no rooms for complaint. In fact, I for one wouldn’t complain about a compilation of all the ballads that Galneryus has written over the years, which often at once incorporate sadness, and a sense of hope towards the end.

Interestingly, the tracks on Ultimate Sacrifice are arranged in increasing lengths, from the 3-minute intro track Enter the New Age leading up to the epic finale that is the title track, lasting in excess of 12 minutes. While it certainly gives a sense of building up of a climax, there is the risk of listeners falling off in the mid point as the songs get slightly too long – which happened to me the first couple of times listening to the album. Multiple listens though, one discovers the ingenuity in such an arrangement, as the album does seem to get progressively better as it progresses. This leaves one feeling as though one had to go through some form of trial before savouring the oh-so-sweet fruit – only that the journey itself should already reward enough.

Though it has only been a short 2-year wait after their last album, Ultimate Sacrifice comes at the perfect time for Galneryus, especially for my enjoyment (or lack thereof) of Under the Force of Courage. While one could hardly ask for a repeat of Angel of SalvationUltimate Sacrifice does come close enough to be as enjoyable as the aforementioned album.

To re-emphasise my fanboy-ness of Angel of Salvation:

Dec 21 2017

Ancestor – Age of Overload

It’s been a damned long while since I last heard any metal out of China. The last bands that I heard were black metal bands like Skeletal Augury and Zuriaake. Apart from that, I have been pretty much ignorant about the scene in China. Until recently when a friend passed me a CD from Beijing thrashers, Ancestor – their debut EP, Age of Overload.

Age of Overload kicks off with an ominous roar of thunder, accompanied by a clean guitar line, and one would almost expect this to be an introduction to some classic raw black metal. But as soon as Immortal Dreams hits the listener, the band’s music couldn’t be further from that initial impression. What Ancestor presents on Age of Overload is some high-octane, chaotic thrash metal. Everything here is reminiscent of classic Slayer – the frantic riffs, the chaotic lead guitars, down to the relentless battery on the drums.  The vocals of Li Meng even has a slight blackened touch, helping to give some slight Venom or even Sodom comparisons.

Playing aside, Ancestor‘s songwriting style also reeks of Slayer, as the song structures easily remind one of Reign in Blood or South of Heaven.  Of course, this is heavily aided by the production quality of the album. The rawness helps emphasise the chaos and raw energy of the band’s music, and at times one even feels as though one were in a studio watching the band live. The added old school touch as a result, definitely adds to their charm for the old school metalhead.

One thing though, while speed is crucial in the music of Ancestor, there are times when this turned up as a potential weak link. There are some moments where guitarists Li Meng and Yang Fuwen almost seemed to sacrifice speed for accuracy on their solos like on Into Madness, which is rather unfortunate as the rhythm section is solid as hell.

Overall though, Ancestor‘s debut is still a fun listen, and presents the potential that is brewing in the Chinese metal underground.

Dec 19 2017

Interview with Implore

Having just released their new sophomore full length Subjugate, we were fortunate to have German extreme metal band Implore grace our shores in Singapore for their Subjugate Asia tour. Our foreign correspondent Clarence had the opportunity to sit down (or stand up, really) with vocalist/bassist Gabriel and guitarist Petro to learn more about the band’s history, and their music.

Hi guys, thank you for giving us this opportunity to talk to you. Before we begin the interview proper, could you give us a brief introduction of Implore? I understand the band was formed back in 2012?

Gabriel: There’s a misunderstand with our timeline. The band was initially formed as a solo project in 2012 when I recorded some songs with a few friends. I always had the intention to form a band, but it wasn’t a band until I met Daniel who was the first guitarist in 2013. It was an idea, and the song never got released anyway, till I met Daniel. When I told him my idea, he had some demos as well, so we put both demos together and things worked perfectly. So we got a drummer, and we recorded our first EP as a band. I would count 2013 as the real beginning for the band.

How did the band’s name come about?

Gabriel: That’s was my idea. When I had this one man project, I just called it Implore. I kind of liked the name, as it sounds good and strong with just one word, and at the point of time no other band was using the name. When Daniel join the band he liked the name as well, thus we continued on with the name.

The band released its second album, Subjugate on September 2017. This is the band’s first album under Century Media Records. How has the response been so far?

Petro: It’s been great so far. For sure you can’t always have really good reviews, and some people didn’t really enjoy it in terms of sound and production. But generally, the overall feedback from media and fans has been really positive. We have a good feeling with the album we put out, and we are even happier that people are appreciating our hard work.

Gabriel: All we know is that we wrote music that satisfied ourselves, and we tried to write something that was for us, which we would like to perform every night for the next two years. If there are people who like our music we wrote, that’s great.

Petro: Sure the music comes straight from the heart, no intention to sound exactly like other bands.

The band’s sound can be described as a mixture of blackened death and grind core, how did this style came about for the band? Who were some of the main influences in Implore’s music?

Gabriel: Listening to a lot of different stuff, we don’t close ourselves to one genre. No bullshit – we listen to everything from Katy Perry to Marduk. We like everything.

Petro: When it comes to sounds, probably each one of us comes from different scenes and backgrounds, and this is what resulted in the sound of Subjugate – mixing all these different backgrounds and finding a common point between all of these influences.

Let’s talk about the band’s lyrics. I understand that the band focuses on the topics of conspiracy, human misery, etc. How does the band seek inspiration for your lyrics?

Gabriel: I did pretty much all of the lyrics of the band. The first album Depopulation was based on conspiracies and the violence in humanity. Subjugate was based on the control of system on humanity, so one is more of decimation and killing and the other is more of the control of system. In order to despise and disagree with the system we lived in, I tried to go back to how this system came to exist, from the hunter-and-gatherer society and the little groups that started to evolve into cities, towns. How everything evolved into this Capitalistic system.

The band recently performed in countries like Taiwan, Hong Kong & Korea, how was the crowd response like?

Petro: It was really good! We have played crazy shows like in the Philippines, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Cambodia. We got great responses, and we had people travelling 2-3 hours to see our show. It’s our first time here in Asia, we had some expectations but we didn’t really know what to expect.

Gabriel: Also we are really down to earth, like we never go anywhere expecting anything. We just go and do it, and if the feedback is better than we thought – cause we are a small band and even smaller in Europe, coming to Asia which is on the other side of the world, where people never heard of us – when we get a good feedback is a plus point for us.

After playing for a couple of years now, if you compare the crowd in Europe and Asia, are there any differences between the two crowds?

Gabriel & Petro: The Asian crowd is more passionate.

Gabriel: I think the Asian crowd isn’t so spoilt, because we tour the same countries every year in Europe, and everyone has seen us for a couple of times so probably there might be less excitement when you see the band for the sixth time. But here so far, it’s really good. In fact here in Asia, people thank us for coming, but we should be thanking them instead for coming to the show. At the end of the day what you do is all about making someone happy and that makes you happy which is good for self-esteem.

2018 will definitely be another busy year for Implore with the extensive touring in support of the new album. The band is currently working towards some European dates from January onwards. Will the band be heading to the States anytime soon?

Petro: Probably next year, we will be playing in the US. Next year we will be mainly touring in support for the new album, everywhere possible.

Gabriel: For the next year, we want to start to set-up our dates in the US.

Petro: We did a tour in the US two years ago, it was a DIY tour and we played really small shows, and it was a cool experience. We would like to go back and tour the rest of the country because it’s such a big country.

Gabriel: Next year the band will be focusing more on quality rather than quantity, so hopefully we get to have better tours in Europe and start to build an audience in the US. So hopefully one to three tours in the US next year.

Are there any parting words for your fans in Singapore?

Petro: We expect to have a good show in Singapore!

Gabriel: What you’re going to see is 100% honest, straightforward music and there’s no acting, no bullshit, what you see is what you get from the band.

Heavy Metal Tribune would like to thank Implore, as well as Vent Box Productions for this opportunity to speak to the band.

Dec 17 2017

Views from the Pit: Witchseeker “When the Clock Strikes” Album Launch

Finally, the time had come for Singapore heavy metal heroes Witchseeker to launch their debut album. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a local gig, and this time the launch was held at Anaki Records, a small empty space located in an industrial building at Geylang Lorong 23.

By the time we reached the venue, we had already missed the opening bands (sorry, BC and Terminal Cry!), but in time to catch Metalgunz and their brand of groovy, heavy/thrash metal. Great way to start the night. Before long it was Dispiteous‘ turn to take the stage and tear the house down with their brutal brand of death metal, playing a mix of originals and covers. Their cover of Zombie Ritual really got the crowd moving, and raring to go for the main act of the night – Witchseeker.

To say that the band has grown is quite an understatement, as Witchseeker shows how to have a good time, both for the crowd, and for themselves.The band played a mix of songs from their new album When the Clock Strikes and older material, like their love song Wishing You Were Mine. Frontman Sheikh interacts with the crowd in between every song with his banter, and the influence from Enforcer‘s Olof is obvious not only in his performance style, but also in the way he manages to charm the crowd. Guitarist Brandon is a wiz on his instrument, as he hits every note with speed and precision, never missing a single beat. The band even had a surprise announcement – session drummer Aip from Thy Fallen Kingdom was officially made a full fledged member of the band.

Overall, it has been a fun show to attend and watch, and goes to show that heavy metal is well and alive in the 21st century. You can still read our interview with Witchseeker right here.

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