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Gryph (Wales)

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Curse and Chapter (Bonus One DVD)
Curse and Chapter (Bonus One DVD)
Price: £12.79

4.0 out of 5 stars A Winning Formula, 29 Nov. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
As far as live shows go, there are fewer doing it better than Hell at the moment. I managed to catch them at Bloodstock in 2011 and they were one of the highlights of the weekend. Since then, their show has developed even more, with this year's Bloodstock appearance, amongst others, seeing exuberant frontman David Bower marching around on a pair of stilts while donning an enormous set of devil's horns.

They're a good band on disc, too, but like Kiss in their heyday, there is something lost in translation when you hear the material out of its live context. Curse & Chapter is a perfectly decent record, carrying on, quite literally, where Human Remains left us, as opening track Gehennae Incendiis begins with the same spoken word conclusion which that album ended with - In a world bereft of divinity, only the human remains - and the music pretty much does the same. Although there are few extra elements of experimentation thrown in here and there, this is pretty much an addendum to Human Remains as far as the sound goes. In itself, that is no bad thing as the songs, the playing and the vocal theatrics of Bower are a winning formula to stick to. The problem lies there - it's a formula. And as solid as the material might be, there feels little enough progression in it to make it really stand out.

No metal fan could wholly dislike Hell, what they sound like, and how they play their game, as everything they do is close to the pure archetype of what a metal band should be with the Satanic imagery, the stage theatrics, the shredding guitars, the high pitched vocals, the dramatic interludes, the minor chord progressions, the harmony guitars, the chugging riffs and the tongue that is distinctly in cheek. Even the packaging of the limited edition comes in a fold out Ouija board, though I can't verify if it actually channels inane messages from the disembodied spirits of the void. With the band having all of those ingredients intact Curse & Chapter wasn't ever going to be a bad album, even if it does feel a little too similar to Human Remains at times. But with standout tracks like Darkhangel, Something Wicked This Way Comes and Deliver Us From Evil, it resolves itself of its faults enough to be an entertaining record that is worth repeated listening.

In The Minds Of Evil
In The Minds Of Evil
Price: £14.93

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reverting to Classic Form, 29 Nov. 2013
This review is from: In The Minds Of Evil (Audio CD)
Deicide's first three albums were of a class that elevated them ahead of most of their peers in the first half of the nineties. Of especially high quality was 1992's Legion, a short album - running at less than thirty minutes - of early technical death metal that smacks you in the face like a 200mph gust of hellish wind. After 1995's Once Upon the Cross, their output was inconsistent, sometimes strong enough to be called above average, often not. In The Minds of Evil is not one of their lesser releases, finding itself easily comparable with their best output.
Being able to say that was a pleasant surprise. It was not something I was expecting to find myself saying, as I expected it to be another moderately good album that I would soon forget about and rarely go back to. But what we have here is a fresh take on their old style, with riffs and rhythms that are distinctly those of the Deicide of old, being fastidiously tight - if more simplistic in its execution than the technicality of Legion - sinister, brutal and touching on trad and thrash metal at points with its harmonies, gallops and polyrhythmic counterpoints .
But its ballsy aggression and well-crafted guitar riffs are not the only strengths of this album. Glen Benton's vocals are sounding better than ever, steaming with bile and rage at the Christian religiosity, theology and hypocrisy that it ever derides without any obvious resort to technological enhancements, effects or even to the high, rasping overdubs of old, as his snarling voice is powerful enough to convey all the hate it needs to all by itself. When you listen to tracks like Between the Flesh and the Void, Trample the Cross, Kill the Light of Christ and End The Wrath of God, you are left with no doubt that this is a band that has entirely reverted to form, much like Carcass did earlier this year with their much lauded Surgical Steel. In every respect, this is as true to form for Deicide, in respect to their classic era, as Carcass's new masterpiece was to theirs, with the only weaknesses to its overall sound coming from the drums sounding far too clinical and clean in their production, and the heavier, chugging parts of the guitars sounding far too greatly repressed by compressors, limiters and the like, thus stripping them of that ultra-heavy thudding, throbbing impact they have when they bludgeon your entire body at a live gig (or more fittingly produced album).
Such technicalities - which do not truly detract from the albums quality - aside, what Deicide have achieved here is something that anyone with a love of their classic output or Death Metal in general would be well advised to pick up.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 28, 2014 3:56 AM GMT

If You Have Ghost
If You Have Ghost
Price: £6.58

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars If You Have Plans for Commercial Success, 25 Nov. 2013
This review is from: If You Have Ghost (Audio CD)
Ghost never pretended that they wanted anything but commercial success, packaging themselves like a European version of Kiss for the 21st Century, with their vigorously defended anonymity, silly outfits and an understanding of how tunes can catch in the listeners brain like barbed hooks. And like Kiss - despite the demographic of their fan bases - they only really skirt around the edges of Metal in favour of a classic 70s rock sound that ensures that their success goes beyond the reaches that all-out heaviness would bar them from attaining.

And so, as their side of their contract with the devil flourishes, they now find themselves working with Nirvana and Foo Fighters megastar Dave Grohl, who has produced this EP of pop covers, including a reworking, with some very Grohlesque drumming, of Abba's I'm A Marionette, which also featured on this year's Infestissumam. Other tracks involve a fine rendition of acid rocker Roky Erickson's If You Have Ghosts, Depeche Mode's Waiting For the Night and Army Of Lovers' camp classic Crucified. Despite the mainstream veneer of such choices, each track has something of genuine darkness spilling out from it, and taken as a whole they click together nicely, producing a coherent and consistent project that Grohl and the band have drawn together very well. Concluding matters is a great live version of their sinister waltz Secular Haze, which seals this new sub-section of their unravelling contract together in a satisfactory manner.

Augur Nox
Augur Nox
Price: £13.69

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Further Shift, but Still Interesting, 25 Nov. 2013
This review is from: Augur Nox (Audio CD)
Following the departure of Hexvessel main man Mathew `Kvohst' McNerney, whose vocal abilities in that group of forest folk, Dødheimsgard and Beastmilk have proved him to be such a formidable talent, <Code> might have found it easy to struggle in their quest to find a fitting replacement. They managed it though, with new, mysterious and versatile vocalist, Wacian, who performs well in his extreme metal debut, coping admirable with the flurry of styles that the material demanded of him. His attack is similar to that of McNerney, effortlessly passing from impassioned high notes to a rasp to a Carl Michael Eide style croon and then down to guttural Death Metal tones.

Sonically, it's hard to describe <Code> as Black Metal at all these days, with only a touch of it remaining around the edges of songs like Ecdysis. Although they've moved even further away from the vestiges that remained of that genre on Resplendent Grotesque with this release, their further focus on the avant-garde, progressive style that they have always nurtured is not at all a bad thing. To chart the evolution of <Code> by means of comparison, the general sound on Augur Nox is reminiscent of the driving prog intensity of Enslaved mixed with the less lunatic, more lucid moments of the Avant Garde palette of Arcturus or Vulture Industries, whereas the more overt blackness of their debut Nouveau Gloaming was closer in style to early Black Metal crossed with a doom-soaked Ved Buens Ende.

Comparisons to other artists and their previous work aside, Augur Nox is a good record in its own right, showing enough progression in its writing and sound to keep things interesting. It frequently shifts between grimness and melody, sometimes melding the two, with strong points such as The Lazarus Chord, which has a beautiful acoustic outro, and climax White Triptych which voices a tone so dark that the band's choice to dispose with the majority of the aesthetic trademarks of Black Metal hardly seems to matter. Despite its strengths, some moments are in danger of coming across as a little generic and formulaic. Others, however, genuinely express something very real and dynamic that is filled with power and beauty in ways that, typically, only the heavier and more progressive genres of music are capable of expressing.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 26, 2013 2:31 AM GMT

Close To The Edge [Cd+Dvda]
Close To The Edge [Cd+Dvda]
Price: £15.64

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Perfect Way to Listen to a Classic, 25 Nov. 2013
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It's been a busy year for musical polymath Steven Wilson, with the release of his best solo album to date, the Prog Award winning The Raven That Refused to Sing, followed by a long stream of worldwide tour dates, a new Blackfield album, the fantastic visual treat that was the Drive Home DVD, and yet more 5.1 remasters from the original tapes of classic prog like Jethro Tull's Benefit, XTC's Nonsuch and this perfect gem from 1972 by Yes. And, much like the King Crimson back catalogue that he's been working on, Wilson has reproduced this album into the sonically superior 5.1 format with great mastery.

This release will need little introduction to the majority of people interested in it, who, like me, will probably be audiophiles who have loved this album for a long time and want to hear how it sounds in all-enveloping surround sound. There'll be little disappointment for this kind of purchaser, as this package is as perfect as could be wished for, with four different 24 bit versions on offer, being the 96kHZ MLP Lossless version, the 96kHZ MLP Lossless 2.0 Stereo, the 96kHz DTS 5.1 Digital Surround and the 48/96kHz LPCM 2.0 Stereo. On top of those versions there is additional material featuring single versions and edits of Total Mass Retain, being the second section of the 19 minute opus Close to the Edge, a truncated version of And You and I and a cover of Simon & Garfunkel's America (of which there are also three fully remixed and remastered versions of their original length reworking elsewhere on the DVD). On the Alternative Version of the album that's included there is an interesting early mix of Close to the Edge which, being stripped of some of vocal layers, harmonies and a few other post-production twiddlings and overdubs, provides a whole new and different perspective of the song by enhancing the appreciation of its raw songwriting at the expense of its production. On top of that plethora of material from what was initially a three track album, there is a fine piece of writing in the inlay booklet that explores the history of the album's recording by Prog Magazine's Sid Smith.

For those less familiar with the material itself, this is probably the version you'll want to buy. It's Yes's strongest and most consistent offering - eclectic, but not as chaotically variable as Fragile; of complex substance - but not as drawn out and meandering as Tales From Topographic Oceans. It captures the band in their best line-up in its best form: Anderson's vocals reach their best emotional dynamism on And You And I, while Wakeman plays understatedly most of the time, pulling grandeur and virtuosity out of his wizard's hat only when it is necessary to. Bruford plays strongly, though, considering his output on the album he worked on after leaving Yes that year - King Crimson's Larks Tongues in Aspic - it seems as if he was maybe denied the chance to hit the heights he was capable of as a performer. Steve Howe dazzles with his range of styles, as usual, and Chris Squire's genre defining bass sound leaps out at you with its brilliance.

Performances aside, it's still the songwriting that is the strongest feature of this album. Close to the Edge is a quick-shifting tour of the intensity and brilliance of Progressive Music at its finest, beginning with a dynamic instrumental passage, then borrowing from Herman Hesse's magnificent journey of change and Becoming, Siddhartha, in its lyrical content, then reaching its zenith in Wakeman's thundering Church Organ solos in the centrepiece before resuming to its core themes. And You and I presents emotional depth in music at its best from its opening harmonics on Howe's guitar, to its 12 String accompaniments in the verse sections before it achieves divine levels of sublimity in the Eclipse section when Anderson's soaring voice floats transcendentally over the Mellotron and synth parts beneath, stunning you with a thick wall of majestic pathos. Siberian Khatru ends the whole thing with an upbeat tone, with funk qualities in its riffing that have inspired artists such as John Frusciante in their playing, showing you just how diverse Prog rock can be - and this release was a defining moment in that genre.

With each of its members working together so well, and with the material they produced being as close to perfect as it was in what was to be a definitive year in prog, the creative output can only be described as sumptuous. My only criticism of the album has only ever been that with just three tracks on it, it is too short, even if those three tracks still come in just short of thirty-eight minutes. Ultimately, what this reissue from Panegyric and Wilson does to an already outstanding classic record is enhance its sumptuousness to a thoroughly exquisite level.

Price: £9.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Old School Psyche'n'Doom, 25 Nov. 2013
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This review is from: Avatarium (Audio CD)
The first full-length effort of Leif Edling's newest project has been one of the most anticipated releases of 2013 for this old-school psyche'n'doom fan. On the back of the Moonhorse EP from earlier this year, it became apparent that this album was going to be something of a delight for Candlemass fans, and, with textures sitting very competently astride the current predilection of the metal scene for prog and retro vibes, a whole load of others besides. Despite the popularity of such things, there is no obvious bandwagon jumping evident here, with material that is unique to itself, yet is undeniably another strong link in the heritage of Edling's musical creativity.

Thematically, Avatarium has a fragmented, dreamlike quality that the sometimes unconventional song structures emphasise, with lyrics that invoke dark, evasive fairytales, sorcerous conspiracies and the red grimness of nature. Jennie-Ann Smith's vocals add a crucial element to the realisation of these aesthetics and are one of the obvious highlights, delivering an enchantment and power that echoes the presence, phrasing and strength of Messiah Marcolin in female form.

With its higher level of experimentation, the riffs are more reminiscent of mid-era Candlemass like From The 13th Sun, Candlemass and the Abstrakt Algebra material than early albums like Tales of Creation or Nightfall. Though the doomier sections are strong and crushing and bear all the trademarks of their prodigious creator, it is the lighter interludes that carve up the boulder-heavy slabs of doom which add a subtlety and depth of interest that makes Avatarium more than the quick spin off project that Edling's doom supergroup Krux - for all of its quality material - has often felt like.

Das Seelenbrechen
Das Seelenbrechen
Offered by roundMediaUK
Price: £9.64

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Put Tacitly, 25 Nov. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Das Seelenbrechen (Audio CD)
The irony of how fans of such an alternative and diverse genre as metal can sometimes be so close-minded is a strange fact that shows how staid many people's aesthetic tastes can become once they are set in stone. Not this reviewer, though; and thankfully, not musicians like Ihsahn either. The creative gulf between Ihsahn and the rest of the world has grown significantly with the release of Das Seelenbrechen which, despite not being very `metal', does little to put the serious musical explorer off this release; even those, like me, whose bulk of aural delectation comes from the heavy metal genre. This work is an example of true progressive music, in which the artist - unbound from both forms and expectation - uses his talent to both express and manifest his profundity.

Hiber, or Winter, seems like a fitting place for such an aesthetically bleak effort to begin, rising like chaotic storms from the underworld into consciousness in what is perhaps, with NaCl, the most typical expression of his previous sound found here. Despite that, it sets the agenda for the changes too, with the first hint of drummer Tobias Ørnes Andersen's chaotic rhythms - which are later brought to their fullness in smothering intensity in Tacit 2 - as well as the dark, resonant chord progressions that make the aesthetic texture of the whole album so sublime. Regen expands the coldness of Hiber with rain, bringing in a gentle piano broken by slow, symphonic blasts of emotion before the layered choirs of Ihsahn and wife Ihriel bring climax to the chill. NaCl brings forth Salt, the alchemical base matter - the raw, impure elements of the human soul which must be broken down and dissolved - into the alembic. Again, this sounds quite close to previous Ihsahn offerings, with more than a hint of Opeth revealed in its inspiration, not least in the clean vocals that Ihsahn uses to such good effect throughout this track and the next, Pulse, where the Tveitan choir makes a welcome return, this time layered over a lonely, repeated guitar phrase and accompanied by a hint of the ambience to come.

After this contemplation comes the dissolution, with the shattering storms of Tacit 2 bringing 'The `Soul Breaking' that the Nietzschen title alludes to in a hypnotic, shamanic threnody to that which cannot be expressed. Tacit, which I see as the aesthetic scion of previous Ihsahn songs such as From the Shores and The Grave, follows, bringing an attempt to coagulate what has been dissolved in the underworld of Tacit 2 into a structure of conscious emotion, seeking, as great art does, to explain the spiritual cataclysm that has been experienced. The drum pattern of Tacit reflects but cannot mimic the chaos of its abyssal predecessor, though its chord progression and pained vocals and lyrics hint of the catastrophe and emotional emptiness that was found in that descent to the most tortured reaches of the soul.

Like the album as a whole does, the Tacit tracks express the descent and attempt to rise of the self-aware soul - of its solve et coagula - and in doing so Ihsahn attempts to transmit something tacitly from his soul straight to that of the listener. Rec, M and Sub Äter - which also have a touch of Opeth about them, this time stumbling through formless darkness and bumping into Radiohead during the darker moments of Amnesiac and Hail to the Thief - show that the process is not some self-help agenda that helps you to 'heal' yourself, but is a key to a further, darker descent. The albums ambient endings, in See, Entropie and Hel show words becoming increasingly useless, petering out as `the eyes secretly disappear, like escaped prisoners through a forest'. In context with the rest of the album, the ambient tracks do not turn to anti-climax, which they would be in danger of doing so were it not for the profundity of this work, but help to temporarily seal shut the sarcophagus of this exploration of a dark spiritual process.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 27, 2013 6:31 PM GMT

Last City Zero
Last City Zero
Price: £11.19

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How Supergroups Should Sound, 25 Nov. 2013
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This review is from: Last City Zero (Audio CD)
There are pivotal moments when you listen to music with intent when, suddenly, something special happens and you're struck by some realisation of the sublime. It usually comes when the spirit of the unbound is released through instruments, voice and words, wherein man's innate, unconscious connection to otherness can be captured. This record, from a collective featuring Scott Kelly (Neurosis), Mike IX Williams (Eyehategod), Sanford Parker (Minsk/ex-Nachtmystium), and Bruce Lamont (Yakuza/Bloodiest), like last week's sublime release by Ihsahn, features a bundle of such moments. When the opening track, Serve or Survive, rolls from Scott Kelly's opening refrain, `the travel of the stone...that brings the body home' into the machinery and pistons of Parker's programming and Williams's coarse, distorted vocals, the first of those many realisations comes. The formula remains consistent throughout - simple but oppressive repetition with an industrial stamp punctuated by Kelly's clean guitar lines and Lamont's saxophone.

Despite that observation, nothing has been painted by numbers. The eclecticism on display, bound by a common sonic thread, varies from sounding like something Nailbomb could have done (Bullets and Graves) to something with more than a shade of Ancient VVisdom in it (Run Through The Night). Last City Zero, in contrast to both aforementioned songs and the opener, fits a simple, Kelly guitar figure under Seward Fairbury's bleak verbal tour of the States, before the dark brilliance of Drapes Hung By Jesus brings this highly satisfying release to a close like a maelstrom of bleak rage.

Interesting, unique and eclectic this album certainly is. Its superior craftsmanship lies in the knowledge of what tones and textures fit the atmosphere and aesthetic that the artists have envisioned. Deep brass punctuates chorus-soaked guitars, fuzzed bass and industrial drum-programming with nuanced subtlety throughout, mixing each artist's unique timbre and input into a shared soundscape that conjures up broad creative and emotional textures with simplicity and minimal structure, so that no single individual can dominate, or the point of the project doesn't become lost in the blandness of creative democracy. This is a `supergroup' that works convincingly together without any obvious compromise and is a true example of how a balanced multi-talent project should sound.

Genesis Revisited II
Genesis Revisited II
Price: £45.50

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Good Reminder..., 25 Oct. 2012
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This review is from: Genesis Revisited II (Audio CD)
Having loved the original Genesis tracks revisited on here for years, I was pleased to find that Steve's retake on these old, masterly classics made me feel a whole new love for them. They don't replace the old tracks - and they don't intend to - but they do compliment them beautifully with a clear, 'new' sound that doesn't deviate from the originals in the way that the tracks on GR1 did. For me, this was the ideal treatment for them this time around, as though they may lack the experimentation of GR1 (for which there is a place) that treatment isn't my own particular preference.

The tracks chosen here seem just right and compliment each other perfectly, like a particularly satisfying Genesis playlist. They showcase some of Steve's finest moments with the band but his playing is humble and understated, and never really shows off the considerable talent that he has accrued as a musician since he left Genesis in 1978. Again, this works to the album's credit - Genesis was never really about showing off.

All of the vocal performances are solid here, and the 'committee method' works in a way that it sometimes fails to on collaborative efforts. The Lamia, Ripples, Entangled, Fly on a Windshield and The Chamber of 32 Doors all capture the haunting beauty of the originals wonderfully, and with the combination of up to date recording technology and a loud 5:1 sound system to play them on, really deliver some added sonic punch.

The strong point for me though was Supper's Ready and I particularly loved Mikael Akerfeldt's parts in Lover's Leap and How Dare I Be So Beautiful. His 'clean' vocals have developed amazingly over the years and seem to have found a whole new strength here.

Steve's own material, all originally played and considered for album inclusion by the old line up, fit well here too, especially Please Don't Touch in the context of the instrumentals from Wind and Wuthering, while The Shadow of the Hierophant (again, especially when played at ASBO inducing volumes) makes an epic finale to this truly brilliant retake of some truly brilliant songs.

The Barghest O' Whitby
The Barghest O' Whitby

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bargain, 14 Nov. 2011
This review is from: The Barghest O' Whitby (Audio CD)
An excellent return to a more old-school offering from My Dying Bride. There's a nice, rough feel to this that gives it a dirty, dark and raw edge. And the material itself is strong, referring closest perhaps to their Trinity era.

I managed to catch it for the probably mistaken price of 79p, which for a full length EP, despite only consisting of one 27 minute long track, is a bargain I'm sure you'll agree.

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