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  • Our picks

    • One of my favourite urban myths is that you will go blind if you masterbate too much you will go blind.  Listening to Portal might make you go blind as you ears frantically take resource from your brain that was needed for mundane tasks such as vision and bladder control as they try to cope with the relentless auditory assault of "ION", however pulling your pud won't affect your eyesight boys.  Science bit over, on with the review.

      "ION" seems instantly more refined than previous outings.  Don't get me wrong here, there's no slick production values been applied and there isn't any venture into clean vocals for example.  It just seems that this time around things are more calculated.  "Phreqs" is like being attacked by a swarm of wasps, as chaotic as it seems there's some well thought out structure to the attack to maximise the impact.  One of the only criticisms I could draw against Portal of old was that sometimes the mental factor was up over 11 and things did tend to get lost.  "Vexovoid" remedied this a lot with its more "Horror" approach and "ION" seems to take that on a notch further combining dark alchemy and atmospheres perfectly.  The build of "Crone" for example is full of creeping dread and menace, finally arriving and proving to be as ghastly as I had hoped it would.

      For all the scientific intimation of the cover things are still more on the experimental as opposed to technical side of death metal.  There's still that pit of the stomach sensation of being dragged into some fathomless void by the spiralling darkness of those fucking guitars and the taunting evil of those drums - they are not just about all out assault folks.  The layers do genuinely seem to be being applied with more structure this time around and the instrumentation is used better than ever to produce real atmosphere.  Favourite release of 2018 so far.

      5 horns out 5

       
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    • Fucking hell.  Where to start really?

      Nu-metal is apparently alive and well in 2018 and I don't like Nu-Metal, so the prospects for positive words in this review are slim.  It is not that I don't like Machine Head.  I mean I am not one of the mindless internet troll brigade who respond to every release with "These guys made "Burn My Eyes" and listen to this!".  Get over it bell ends, there's no more "Burn My Eyes" nor is there anymore "The Blackening" left to come.  Whilst I will openly admit to enjoying most releases since "The Blackening" there is no denying that the sound of MH has become increasingly diluted over the albums since their "comeback".  "Catharsis" is the end point for me.  It is so diluted it is like wearing my once dark black hoodie after it has been bleach hand washed and then boil washed - it kind of has lost all substance.

      The rapping is back, as if the first time round wasn't enough of a fucking car crash.  "Triple Beam" is without doubt one of the worst pieces of "music" I have ever heard.  When we aren't being treated to poor attempts at lyrical rhyming we are drowning in dreamy, hazy clean vocals that seem to be aiming (yes actually aiming) for harmony.  Yep, there's some catchy riffs but who fucking cares if you have to drink from the toilet to realise all you'll ever find in there is shit?

      Why this all has to go on for 15 tracks is a mystery?  I'll be honest, the skip button got used at least 13 times in writing this review.  For all the (frankly excessive) marketing that has been done for "Catharsis" I don't think I could feel anymore of an anti-climax.  Robb Flynn is all over every mag cover, web and video interview defending "Catharsis" and that's his entitlement, he didn't write any of this for me.  It is still terrible though.

      0 horns out of 5

       
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    • Watain's last album "The Wild Hunt" got slated on one internet review for being "Nu-Dark Funeral with the heart of Bon Jovi".  Whilst a certain amount of butthurt contributed the scribe of aforementioned review choosing such a frankly ridiculous statement, it was unfortunately indicative of the direction change of the album that saw the raw and ferocious nature of the band be trimmed back to make way for more melodic, progressive and accessible aspects.

      "Trident Wolf Eclipse" is a return to that more traditional sound.  Although melody is obvious throughout, it is more restrained.  We have more Gorgoroth here than we do Bon Jovi that's for sure.  No wheels are reinvented on Watain's sixth studio album.  It is pretty standard BM fare, full of raw production values, tremolo leads and drums that can peel flesh from faces.  You won't find a lot here that hasn't been done by Watain before but then again the fan base has been crying out for a return that more "underground" sound for four years plus now.  As opposed to innovation let's just look at this albums raison d'etre as being to rectify the imbalance in their discography.

      Even the album is more BM than your average Bandcamp BM demo release nowadays.  Straight out of a 13 year old boy's maths jotter who gave up on trigonometry weeks ago.  So, depending on whether the kvlt legions of troo black metal want to put their sacrificial goat carcasses down for long enough to give them a chance, Watain are back.  Average at best, but back at least.

      3 horns out of 5. 
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    • Two album reviews in one day today.  Boy, will I sleep tonight.  Although perhaps not as easily as I might think.  "X - Varg Utan Flock" has a bit flustered, a bit confused yet in a good way - like when I saw a magician at my friend's wedding and he wasn't just counting cards even though he didn't walk through a wall either.

      Shining's latest album twists and turns as it unfolds in front of you like some venomous snake.  Depressive tone? Tick.  Demented vocals? Check!  Sad piano track?  That's a roger sir!  All the stuff you expect to hear assisted by the usual clean and full production job we've all come to expect.  "Han Som Lurar Inom" reverberates though your actual soul as it lurches through eight mins plus of spat lyrics, Behemoth like riffs and hazy reprises.

      The classical keys of "Tolvtusenfyrtioett" are actually hauntingly beautiful and the bonkers vocal cabaret of "Gyllene Portarnas Bro" make it sound like a pisstake Eurovision Song Contest entry.  Unfortunately it is this varied nature to proceedings that does become a little off putting on repeated listens.  The latter mentioned track actually is more than a little awkward and closing track "Mot Aokighara" strays close to similar territory before a change of pace rescues it and takes it off in a much stronger direction.

      Crooning aside, there's still lots to like on "X - Varg Utan Flock" and there's evidence of some strong songwriting skills and instrumentation prowess also.  It might not all fit together perfectly but what is pieced together well is really solid.

      3 horns out 5.
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    • After two singles – 2014’s poppy “inner Enemy” and the somewhat more straight-laced “The Promise” in 2016 – Swedish progressive metal maestros Seventh Wonder have recently announced their new album “Tiara”. The release is being mixed by Oyvind Larsen, the man responsible for mixing on the already-mentioned singles. The album has undergone mastering by Jens Bogren at Fascination Studios. Bogren has previously worked with other progressive metal stalwarts such as James Labrie, Katatonia, Opeth and Symphony X. ( Frontiers Records will oversee the worldwide release of the 13-track concept album, including as a double LP.

      The band used the following lyrics in their promotion:

      “’We've watched you since the dawn of time,
      with every moment gone by.
      A million suns fade and die,
      this is the end?’
      Beware, for they're coming..!”

      These are presumably an allusion to alien forces, given the cosmic imagery. The precedent for a concept album about exists in the band’s widely-lauded “Mercy Falls”, and more within melodic progressive metal more generally, perhaps most notably in Evergrey’s “In Search of Truth”, which also concerned aliens and isolation. Musically it’s very much in keeping with the band’s tradition. From the promo, the work sounds rather more like “Mercy Falls” than the preceding “The Great Escape”. It’s less melodic (of course this should be taken with a grain of salt given the general character of their oeuvre) but slightly darker than their previous work.

      From the musicianship I trust this will work; Anubis Gate attempted this in 2017 and failed, as did Adagio who despite employing the preeminent “dark prog” master Kelly Carpenter (Beyond Twilight, Darkology, Epysode, Outworld, Zierler) dropped their neoclassical edge and therefore their unique appeal. If anything it sounds like SW might be making the opposite ‘mistake’, but their style is developed enough that for them churning out the same stuff would be at least to my ears an entirely acceptable route.

      The tracklist is unknown, but Seventh Wonder’s promo video can be found here:

       
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