Svartsot – “Maledictus Eris”

“Maledictus Eris”
(Napalm Records)

Svartsot are a jolly buncha Danes who make merry with their lighthearted brand of folk metal. I thoroughly enjoyed their last opus “Mulmets Viser” but sadly the more miserable metallers out there didn’t so on this latest album, Svartsot journey back to a 14th century Denmark ravished by the plague! Gutteral growling vocals, harsh driving rhythms amidst folk melodies either by the clean guitars or by flutes produce a strong medieval theme on songs like ‘Dødedansen’, ‘Den Forgængelige Tro’ and ‘Den Nidske Gud’ and if the cover art by Gyula Havancsák (Tyr, Grave Digger) isn’t a bit of a giveaway, they seem to be steering their ship closer to that of label mates Alestorm, who also formed around the same time. Despite that, I think that Svartsot have a lot to offer, and if “Maledictus Eris” broadens their horizons farther, then it should silence the critics.

In Cold Blood – “A Flawless Escape”

In Cold Blood
“A Flawless Escape”
(Rising Records)

WE ALL FIGHT TO KEEP HEAVY MUSIC ALIVE! So speaketh the 5 Romans making up ICB (not the Cleveland crew) who play modern metalcore featuring throat strained vocals, fast melodic metal a la The Haunted and impressive guitar warblings that threaten to take them into the extreme metal league. So impressive in fact, that the master of fretboard burning Jeff Waters of Annihilator and death metal warrior Giulio Moschini (Hour Of Penance) guests on tracks like ‘Choose A Life’, ‘Bad Wolf’ and ‘No Sun’. ICB are already on the road in continental Europe where they’ve toured with Municipal Waste, Illdisposed, All Shall Perish, and Sybreed so their quality brand of crossover is clearly making an impact just as the ancient pillaging ancestors did LOL!

Malefice – “Awaken the Tides”

“Awaken the Tides”
(Metal Blade)

F–kin’ ell, I better be careful wot I say, this lot are just down the road from me LOL! But I guess they’ve done the job for me by saying ‘… Britain is an isle that has long been steeped in heavy metal heritage but when was the last time it produced an act that showed the genuine potential to bother the biggest names in world metal?..’. Too bloody right. Step in Malefice with chopping drumming, whirring dervish guitars and brutal aggro core vocals and just way lay into you like a drunk on a Fri nite in Reading ;-)! Truth be told, from songs like ‘Baying for Blood’, ‘The Day the Sky Fell’ and ‘Flood of Red’ is that they remind me heavily of At The Gates, which is no bad thing, cos they do what they do well and have added in a touch of Lamb Of God to create just the right form of extreme metal that goes down a storm in the pit – so let’s hear it for Malefice metal for the festival!

Skálmöld – “Baldur”

(Napalm Records)

Iceland is a contrasting land of fire and ice – even today volcanoes are active and erupting – so it’s easy to understand how legends of demons and dragons have risen thru the ages. Indeed, this bold debut is a concept album based on a Viking seeking bloody retribution against a not-of-this-world demon-like creature who murders his family! Despite all this Skálmöld are a newly formed band only 2 years old although each of the band’s 6 members come from a very different musical background and had been formerly active in other bands—not all metal. And that’s manifestly clear from songs like ‘Upprisa’, ‘Draumur’ and ‘Daudi’ that feature folk, choirs, metal and deep drawling Nordic sung vocals very much like Amon Amarth. The one constant theme that runs throughout the album is how Scandinavian everything is from the lyrics to the melodies and indeed theme. Bearing in mind that Icelandic is arguably the truest form of Norse dialect should give you an idea of this deep and captivating musical experience!

Glorior Belli – “The Great Southern Darkness”

Glorior Belli
“The Great Southern Darkness”
(Metal Blade Records)

Mon dieu – dark, swamp metal not from the Bayou but the seedy streets of Paris! Although labelled by some as black metal – and indeed they are in terms of their core sound – J’s vocals are more tortured drawls than screeches, whilst H’s guitar churns out twisted dervish riffs as on ‘Per Nox Regna’, almost heading into the satanic realm of Glenn Danzig. Yeah, even the song titles like ‘They Call Me Black Devil’ lend more than an ear to Evil Elvis, but also to the NOLA scene like on the quieter twanging ‘Horns In My Path’, which doesn’t come as a surprise given the Cajun connection. All in all Glorior Belli have achieved an interesting mix without compromising these great styles and for that they deserve a look.

Brainstorm – “On The Spur Of The Moment”

“On The Spur Of The Moment”
(AFM Records)

Wow, these dudes have been goin’ since the late 80s when old school power metal was in. Somehow they’ve managed to survive on the German circuit all these years and still with most of their original line up intact! I guess they are one of these timeless bands having taken 8 years to release their debut and despite coincidentally having now released their 8th album in “On The Spur Of The Moment”, haven’t really grown in terms of popularity. Still, their music has given songs like ‘My Own Hell’ are almost symphonic whilst ‘Still Insane’ is a pleasant power ballad complete with some excellent dual melodic guitarwork from founders Torsten Ihlenfeld and Milan Loncaric. However, Brainstorm still prove they are true to their roots when it comes to the power thrash of ‘In The Blink Of An Eye’ or the heavy chugging ‘Dark Life’, proving their is still plenty if life in these guys, even if they don’t actually live it on the spur of the moment.