HELLWELL “Beyond The Boundaries Of Sin”

HELLWELL
”Beyond The Boundaries Of Sin”
(Shadow Kingdom)
OK, I gotta admit that I’ve never bothered to check out Manilla Road although I’ve been aware of them close to 30 years now. Perhaps that’s my loss, well it is isn’t it? I can’t give you a reasonable explanation for it really. It’s just one of those things that keep happening from time to time. Hellwell is an offspring of Manilla Road, sort of. Not being at familiar with Manilla Road I have nothing to compare Hellwell to. Yet I kinda expected this to be more along the lines of Deep Purple and 70s hardrock than the heavy metal of the British 80s. I guess my expectation had to take a back seat as this was much more heavy metal than I expected. There is still a slight 70s feel/aura to it but not of the Deep Purple kind I first thought. You can also trace bits of the more epic kind of power metal and perhaps a slight thrash touch too. This turned out to be a fave. Anders Ekdahl

ODIUM ”Burning The Bridges To Nowhere”

ODIUM
”Burning The Bridges To Nowhere”
(Year Of The Sun)
There are a number of bands that have or still uses the moniker of Odium. From Portuguese black metal to Canadian melodic metal to German death/thrash to how knows what. Don’t get them confused unless your taste is wide enough. This Odium is the Canadian one. I kinda hoped that this would be a blast of fresh air much needed. Don’t know how melodic this is though as all I can hear is a heavy beat that drives the music forward. The melodic side could be in the vocals but that doesn’t last too long each time. Not that it matters. This might not have been what I expected but nonetheless this turned out to be a great relief and a break away from the mundane everyday mediocrity. This is a far cry from the whole metalcore debacle. This is much more along the lines of death metal crossed with melodeath. Perhaps not the freshest breaths of air I’ve heard this year but good enough to cleanse my ears for a short while. Anders Ekdahl

REVOLTING “Hymns Of Ghastly Horror”

REVOLTING
”Hymns Of Ghastly Horror”
(FDA Rekotz)
Old school Swedish death metal. Anybody? If you’re not up for it I sure am. I simply can’t get enough of this stuff. I can’t really explain what it is about it that moves me in so many ways. It’s not just nostalgia. There’s more to it. I guess it is true what they say about you never forgetting your first love and that everything after that is just a search for that first time over and over again. What so great with old school death metal is that you can return to it time after time without anybody getting hurt or jealous. This is like a listening to a cross of Nihilist, Autopsy and Bolt Thrower. Three of my all time fave death metal acts of the 80s. It’s inevitable not to mention how much this reminds me of an up-sped Bolt Thrower. There is that groove that is so synonymous with Bolt Thrower. I just simply love this kind of stuff. Anders Ekdahl

SOLACE AND STABLE “The Systematic Erosion Of Integrity”

SOLACE & STABLE
”The Systematic Erosion Of Integrity”
()
I’ve complained and complained over and over again about how much I don’t understand metalcore of today. I think I’ll stop wasting time and energy on it from now on and just embrace it for what it is. If you can’t beat it join it. In theory I’d embrace it with open arms. In reality there is a threshold that I can’t seem to get over. Perhaps Solace & Stable are the band to push me through. My greatest qualm with metalcore is the break beats. Why the hell do they have to break the flow of the song? Solace & Stable are more hardcore in that sense. They go more for the throat with their music. Which is why I have an easier time getting into this. This is the kind of music that I could go for every day of the week. This is what metalcore is to me. This is great. Anders Ekdahl

TITAN’S EVE “Life Apocalypse”

TITAN’S EVE
”Life Apocalypse”
()
Canadian thrash metal has given me some great memories over the years. And it still seems to do so. Titan’s Eve are on to a new album that seems to be another concept one. Truth be told I haven’t for the longest of time cared too much about the lyrics unless they are blatantly racist or fascist or of the more derogatory kind. All I really care for is the music. And seeing how much I liked Titan’s Eve’s last album this one has the promise of being another favourite. I like the thrash metal that they play. I have a number of bands from the second wave of thrash that I keep using as reference points and Titan’s Eve are up there with Holy Terror, Defiance, Agony when it comes to thrashing with the best. This is another damn fine thrash metal album that not only brings about memories of times passed but also brings about a need to mosh like there’s no tomorrow. Anders Ekdahl

UNCHAINED “Oncoming Chaos”

UNCHAINED
“Oncoming Chaos”
(M&O Music)
I have a fascination with words and the way they are used as band names. The first impression you get about a band is the name. Wrong name and you might just kill you band. With the right name and you could be onto a winner. Unchained might have made me think of a tribute band to the Canadian muscle man Thor the first time I saw it but I was quickly put straight by this French band. This might have as much muscles as Thor but that is the only thing they have in common. This is the kind of extreme metal that you find in the twilight zone between death and thrash. Perhaps closet to Arch Enemy in sound than any other band out there today. This quickly turned into a new highlight on my metal map. This I can bop my head to all day long. Anders Ekdahl

UNCONSECRATED ”Awakening In The Cemetary Grave”

UNCONSECRAED
”Awakening In The Cemetary Grave”
(Chaos)
Spanish death metal has come and gone in periods for me. In the late 90s I came upon a bunch of them but for most part of the 00s and now well into the 10s my contacts with Spanish death metal has been miniscule. Unconsecrated might not change that fact too much seeing as this is a retrospective collection of the stuff they did do before calling it a day. Not having any first hand memories of this band all I have to go on is what is written in the booklet. What I can say is that this is heavy death metal much like Bolt Thrower without the up tempo bits or perhaps with a touch of Necrophagia in their early years. This is death metal that sounds so familiar it is like you’re meeting an old friend you haven’t met in years. This is death metal that is so timeless that you don’t have to know its origin to fully appreciate it. This is the good stuff no matter the age of it. Anders Ekdahl

YELLOWTOOTH “Disgust”

YELLOWTOOTH
”Disgust”
(Orchestrated Misery)
Yellowtooth… The very word doesn’t not bring with it any positive pictures, does it? I think of dirty old men in the south of USA sitting on their porches smoking and drinking moonshine, spilling their guts on the good ol’ time. Yellowtooth does not sound like a metal band that you’d like to hear. But as they say, never judge the dog by its hairs. This could in fact be the next best thing to sliced bread if you just give it a chance. This is doom, sludge, slow death or call it what you like. It moves with the speed of a drunk tortoise. Crawling slowly forward this is the kind of metal that requires you fullest attention or you’ll end up running past it leaving it slithering on its own. This is the kind of Eye Hate God/Crowbar sludge that could replace any kind of rock’n’roll tobacco you could think of. No need to smoke when you can get stoned on this. Anders Ekdahl

Marillion – “Sounds That Can’t Be Made”

Marillion – “Sounds That Can’t Be Made” (earMUSIC)

Wow, I remember these guys way back in the 80s when they appeared as a new band in Kerrang! – complete with a vocalist strangely titled ‘Fish’ lol! Still, one couldn’t help but marvel at their debut “Script for a Jester’s Tear” which took the band to the forefront of the British neo prog movement. Since then there’s been the usual band changes but the most significant had to be the departure of Fish in the late 80s and the arrival of his replacement Steve Hogarth such that fans very often cite this as reflective of the two eras in the band’s history. Judging by this album, the Marillion of today is very different to that which I heard back then such that it’s barely a prog band – although there are still elements in there – but more of a modern soft rock band. Songs like ‘Montreal’, despite clocking in at a heavyweight 14 mins or even ‘Power’ are anything but that, being more ethereal, carried off in atmospheric splendor by Hogarth’s excellent high end vocals, at times reminiscent of Phil Collins – albeit only in a breath – as well as the truly breathtaking keyboards of founder member Mark Kelly – not to mention the rest of the band, who also put in superior musical performances. As I said, it’s all pretty light stuff so I guess the band must channel their energy in a more cerebral direction these days if ‘Gaza’ is anything to go by. The longest song on the album, which I guess is reflective of this Middle East conflict in general, was a bit of a surprise to me coming from a band like Marillion given its heavy subject matter never ceases to inspire conflict – verbal or otherwise! Yet despite the cliched Arabian melodies, Marillion bring a calming, reflective musical perspective to it all, thankfully in an unpatronizing way to both sides. I did wonder while listening to the album if at first the band should have considered either a name change or doing this sorta music as a side project, but upon reflection, they seem to be doing what they originally started, but only in a more real world dimension so well done lads.

Vision Divine – “Destination Set For Nowhere”

Vision Divine – “Destination Set For Nowhere” (earMusic)

Like Ferrari, Italian modern prog metal band Vision Divine bring together a number of talents steeped in richness and grandeur! Formed in the late 90s by ex Labyrinth guitarist Olaf Thörsen, he was soon joined by Rhapsody vocalist Fabio Lione although the ability to commit to this band as well as their other projects soon presented problems resulting in the inevitable line up changes, although Vision Divine continued nonetheless. However, in 2008 he rejoined the band and with “Destination Set For Nowhere”- the band’s eight album no less – has brought his vocal splendor to the majesty that is Vision Divine! Listening to the likes of ‘The Lighthouse’, ‘Beyond The Sun And Far Away’ and ‘Mermaids From Their Moons’ Lione certainly brings an epic proportion to these songs, which in some cases are up tempo, although not quite pure power metal. For the most part, the material is highly atmospheric and in no small part thanks to Thörsen’s superb guitar work and Alessio Lucatti’s amazing keyboards, which remind me a lot of Marillion. Together, they do true justice to the album’s concept of brave souls leaving Earth in search of a new Eden by steeping their vision in mystique, majesty and magnificence!