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  • Our picks

    • 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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    • I call false album title.  There's no doom on here folks.  Any flare-wearing readers can stand down at this point of the review.  I imagine the doom aspect of the title refers to the medieval threat of some Tolkien inspired fictitious army that Summoning have kindly recorded a soundtrack for.  If you are familiar with Summoning there's little in the way of anything new here as the Austrians again bring their own brand of epic/atmospheric black metal to 2018.  I would be interested to know what @Requiem makes of it of course as I imagine this album could accompany many night of his sat at home alone playing Warhammer.  

      The problem I have with "With Doom We Come" is that it doesn't really "go" anywhere.  It could quite easily all be one track with seven pauses given the sound and structure varies very little from track to track.  That is not to say it is a bad album, it just drips into the water without ever making a real "splosh" at any point.  There's the usual gruff vocal style and occasional chanting over keys galore whilst the guitar just sits in the corner with a tea and some crossword books to bide the time one presumes.

      Sarcasm aside, fans of the band will like this albeit without any truly remarkable moments to cement it is a stand out album.  Usually, I can't sit and listen to Summoning without doing something else and this made a great accompaniment to some shelves I hung this morning, very rousing at times to the point of making me forget about my hangover altogether.  The atmospheric magic never really finds any identifiable peak though, beautiful though the record is at times nothing really stands out overall.

      2.5 Horns out of 5 
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    • Sorry deathstorm, I don’t like it.

      It took me a while to come round to Amaranthe. I first heard them when they were announced for the roster of ProgPower XIII and thought they sounded too poppy, sage musical critic that I was. I did entertain the idea that that was the entire point, but dismissed them as being too technically lacking in any case. Their second album, The Nexus, featuring the least inventive album art I’d seen in a while, was a marked improvement, with its title track nearly a total ripoff of the leading single from their self-titled debut but a demonstrably better take. Everything was more or less the same, just done right. The riffs were on point, there were a higher proportion of peppy bubblegum tracks that sounded like Cascada doing djent (or just a slightly less sugary Blood Stain Child) – it was their best album. They followed this up with Massive Addictive, a somewhat weaker but nonetheless slightly different album with a couple tracks that sounded like they could have been composed by MrWeebl. As far as third albums went, it wasn’t bad – and the slow songs were actually all rights, even on the acoustic versions. It was also a little closer to regular melodeath. That brings us to Maximalism.

      In principle, the concept behind this album is fine. Amaranthe always imitated pop, so why not imitate current pop? It could inject some life into this worthless moribund slurry of pink noise that the post-Trump miasma has been nice enough to slowly excrete over this most recent tax period. I mean, the only way this would could fail is if modern pop were so limp-wristed and ineffectual that even the nuclear cocaine infusion of metal failed to resuscitate its bloated heart.

      Whoops.

      It’s fascinating how one can avoid actually discussing the album for so long here just because of the hilarious incidental commentary. All of the songs here a poppy in an obligatory sense, rather like the current generation of pop. I remember hating Ke$ha back in 2012 when she was big, but hearing “Tik Tok” after a bleak slog through a bunch of mopey nonsensical dogshit and limp-wristed soggy whining is a godsend. At best, Maximalism is a poor man’s version of their previous output, and at worst it’s an imitation of modern pop in the sense that you don’t remember anything about it other than that it sucked. Anyway, what about the actual songs?
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