Nov 07

Degial – Predator Reign

After finding out the connection between Ghost and Repugnant, I quickly got hooked onto the thrashy, chaotic-styled Swedish death metal that Repugnant dishes out. From there, my fascination in the genre led me to bands like TribulationMorbus Chron, and of course, Degial and their debut album Death’s Striking Wings.

With their sophomore album though, the band seemed to start taking a darker route, with hints of black metal peppered on Savage Mutiny, though their thrashy edge was still unmistakable.

And now here we are with their new album, Predator Reign. Jumping from Death’s Striking Wings to Predator Reign, one may be forgiven for not realising that these are records from the same band. The blackened edge has now been fully integrated into their sound, and from the get go the comparisons to those cavernous black/death metal bands such as Vorum and Corpsessed are obvious. Considering the fact that 2/4 of the band hail from Vorum, perhaps this isn’t too surprising at the same time.

Trem-picked riffs are aplenty, and the guitars often descend into chaos with the frantic, furious solos that are at times rather reminiscent of the works of Trey Azagthoth on Morbid Angel. Songs like Thousand Spears Impale, with its sense of urgency brings one back to the early days of Altars of Madness and Blessed are the Sick with the sense of urgency.

To disrupt the pace a bit, the band includes doses of doomier, heavier moments throughout the album like on Triumphant Extinction or closer Clangor of Subjugation. Here the band unleashes their madness in a starkly different way, bringing to mind the works of bands like Incantation.

Predator Reign also indulges in a rather cavernous production, giving the album a nice balance between the rawness of 90s death metal and the clarity of a more modern sound.

On albums as such, it is indeed hard to escape the trap of monotony, what with most tracks moving at the same tempo, along with the noise and chaos. However, that is precisely the point of Predator Reign, and Degial manages to ensure that this remains a thoroughly enjoyable album to fans of thrashy, chaotic, Swedish death metal.

Nov 05

Aosoth – V: The Inside Scriptures

After four long years, the great Aosoth are finally back with V: The Inside Scriptures. And I have been waiting very eagerly for them.

With their fourth album, IV: An Arrow in Heart (thank god Satan for bands who number their albums), these stalwarts of the French Black Metal scene created quite possibly one of the top Black Metal albums, let alone Heavy Metal albums of 2013. And the album still sounds fresh four years on. So with an album cover, depicting another arrow in the heart of another angel (albeit with less nipples and now blonde hair), were we getting a continuation?

The answer is no, not really. V is clearly Aosoth, and if you’ve been listening to them for some time now, from the first riff of A Heart to Judge you will know it is them. But the album is weird, and it is mixed and mastered differently from its predecessor. But there’s something else. There’s more ferocity, but in an odd way less heaviness than its predecessor IV. But don’t think for a moment that darkness has dissipated.

While IV felt like you being submerged in the depths of hell, its successor V feels more like the purgatory you experience before you’re plunged into hell. Then add to that a large swarm of bees constantly buzzing and stinging you. One might even argue the purgatory might be scarier than the end place. The feeling unknowingness, loss and desolation is well and truly established on this album. For a very clear example of what I mean, listen to the 2nd track Her Feet Upon The Earth, Blooming The Fruits Of Blood.

V also veers slightly further away from the thrash- and death-metal influences found on IV, and their newer sound is clearly established by the 3rd and title track The Inside Scriptures. It’s a slower, more brooding track, but really stands out in album with 6 depressingly good songs. The track also introduces that weird whinging/whining/bees stinging you to death riff, which is in bits on the other tracks. The final 3 tracks also pull the album as far away from the hit that was its predecessor, without compromising on the quality. Contaminating All Tongues is a roller coaster of the typical Aosoth riffing, bile-spewing vocals and head-bashing drumming that changes pace all over.

I never thought Aosoth could top IV: An Arrow in Heart, and I did think the same upon the first few spins. But as with all great, genre-pushing releases, it takes a while to really appreciate it. It is still growing on me, but V is absolutely killer. Even if I were to be stuck in purgatory, tortured till the end of days, the one respite would be this album playing in loop in the background.

Standout tracks: Her Feet Upon The Earth, Blooming The Fruits Of Blood, The Inside Scriptures, and Contaminating All Tongues

*V: The Inside Scriptures releases on November 17th, 2017, on Agonia Records. Pre-order at: https://agoniarecords.bandcamp.com/album/v-the-inside-scriptures

Oct 31

Bruce Dickinson – What Does This Button Do? An Autobiography

Bruce Dickinson: The voice of Iron Maiden, aka the Air-Raid Siren, pilot, and fencer, in that order. Or so one would have thought prior to reading his new autobiography, What Does This Button Do?

Fans of Iron Maiden expecting a biography of the band from Bruce’s perspective will be left very disappointed. Rather, What Does This Button Do? focuses on Bruce’s early life that turned him onto singing, his early bands, passion for fencing, solo career, flying, and finally his battle with cancer. Any mention of Maiden (if any) were relegated to short paragraphs, and he somehow manages to relate them to his fencing and/or flying.

What Does This Button Do? is packed full of anecdotes that leave one chuckling at his dry-witted humour, even through the more morbid sections of his biography like his fight with cancer. Also, we learn about the not-so-glamorous lifestyle of a band as professional as Iron Maiden, and trivia such as the origins of his nickname, the “Air-Raid Siren”.

While Bruce may be known to many as a singer, and for his musical output, What Does This Button Do? shows his path towards a successful fencer, and more importantly, a pilot with a huge passion for aircraft and flying. There are some lessons to be learned by fans, as Bruce shows how the life lessons picked up through his different ventures have affected him and aided his growth as a performer, and vice versa.

As already prefaced, What Does This Button Do? is hardly a book that is about Bruce Dickinson as just the singer of Iron Maiden. There is so much more than that here, and it almost feels as though Bruce gets more excited talking about his flying than his musical masterpieces, giving fans a treat to a different side of his life.

Oct 29

Ne Obliviscaris – Urn

Ne Obliviscaris (NeO) burst into the international metal scene in 2012 with their progressive take on black metal on their debut, Portal of I. The fusion of the aggression of black metal with the melancholy of the violins, and emotional clean vocals made for a perfect listen on a cold, depressing night. 2014’s Citadel took this progressive aspect even further, as the band seemed to focus more on the melodic side of their songwriting.

The band returns this year with their third full length Urn. They say that the third time’s a charm, and the pressure’s on for NeO to release something far better than the previous two masterpieces.

Building on the style that they have popularised over the last 5 years, Urn has an increased inclusion of elements from genres such as Flamenco and jazz making it an extremely compelling listen to those tired of the rinse-and-repeat black/extreme metal formulae. This isn’t to say that the band has turned their backs on the black metal foundation that they build their unique style on, as Urn also contains some of the heaviest, bleakest passages in their discography.

This results in an album that takes the listener through a rollercoaster of emotions. For instance, the band first puts out a full on assault on opener Libera (Part 1) – Saturnine Spheres with furious black metal riffs before giving some semblance of hope with Libera (Part 2) – Ascent of Burning Moths. The songwriting mastery is also evident, on tracks like Eyrie where they seamlessly transit from an almost Dream Theater-like dream state to a dark, oppressive mood. Often, the band dangles a carrot of hope, only to cruelly, albeit masterfully, take it away from the listener.

As per past NeO releases, the band has once again upped their production game on Urn, being a clean and precise record. Quieter moments on the album on tracks like Libera (Part 2) and Eyrie are excellent showcases of this. Urn (Part I) – And within the Void We are Breathless manages to make the bass sound so massive and overwhelming that, true to its name, leaves the listener rather breathless.

The third full length release of a band often makes or breaks their musical career, and defines their identity. Urn may not be a revolutionary album in NeO‘s discography, but it is one that is evolutionary. Those already familiar with the band’s work would be delighted to listen to the growth of the band as songwriters and musicians, while newcomers should prepare to be blown away by what could be summed up as a unique, progressive/extreme metal experience.

Favourite tracks: Eyrie

Gear used: Calyx 24/192 > Shanling PH 300 > Audeze LCD-2

Oct 24

Steven Wilson – To the Bone

Steven Wilson: singer, songwriter, producer, genius. That’s the sense that I got listening to Porcupine Tree, and finding out more about his extensive works. Yet, this year’s To the Bone is the first time I am actually taking the time to check out his solo works. Not really with much choice actually, since Porcupine Tree seems to already be taking a backseat.

While Porcupine Tree‘s later works seem to move towards a milder direction, the band retained some sense of heaviness, especially with their last works on The Incident. So the pop-rock leanings on To the Bone isn’t very surprising, with some mild touches of progressive rock. Gone are the heavy riffing of Porcupine Tree, and in its place are mellow, almost melancholic, beautiful pieces. Even the heaviest tracks on the album like The Same Asylum as Before only indulges the listener to short spurts of heaviness, with Steve‘s soothing voice contrasting the intensity of the track.

The progressiveness in Steve‘s songwriting especially stands out on tracks like Song of I, with the darkness and the sense of unease he manages to conjure, yet retaining its pop rock structure. Detonation expertly maneuvers a whole spectrum of emotions with its oft-changing tempo, though the mood remains mostly dark even on the softer moments. There are also a whole range of influences from various genres on the album, most prominently being the rather bluesy guitars on tracks like Refuge.

That said, Steven Wilson‘s fascination in technology and its effects are still highly featured in the lyrics. Pariah seems to deal with the bombardment of social media and the internet, along with its isolating effects – feeling almost like a continuation of Fear of a Blank Planet. The raspy vocals of Ninet Tayeb made the track all the more bittersweet, with her beautiful, emotive style of singing contrasting the seemingly depressing theme.

Steve‘s works on bands like Porcupine TreeOpeth, and Anathema show his clean and modern production style, and this is no different on To the Bone. Every instrument is placed perfectly, every tone is pitch perfect, with a wide soundstage that leaves an almost binaural effect on the listener. Songs like Refuge sound huge, and the immersive listening experience is an almost spiritual one at the same time, leaving one overwhelmed with emotions especially as the solos enter and fade out.

While Porcupine Tree may be no more (for now), Steven Wilson has made sure that his musical sharpness has not degenerated. To the Bone is an exceptional album, both for fans of Steven Wilson‘s works, and to any fan of good, but dark pop-rock.

Favourite tracks: PariahRefuge

Gears used:
Schiit Bifrost > HiFiMAN EF2A > Fostex T40RP Mk 3
Calyx 24/192 > Shanling PH300 > Audioengine A5+/Audeze LCD-2

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