(Here’s another edition of Andy Synn’s series of reviews focusing on sonic extremities from his homeland.)
So it turns out that it’s been over two months since I last put together one of these columns.
That doesn’t mean that there’ve been no good albums issued from these green and pleasant lands in the meantime of course (as a matter of fact I’ve reviewed albums by Dvne, Vacivus, Paradise Lost, and Dawn Ray’d in the intervening period), just that I haven’t had the time or the wherewithal to collate the right candidates for a proper “Best of British” collection.
That all ends today though, with this Death Metal focussed feature on three of the UK’s brightest and fastest-rising stars.
HORRIFIED – ALLURE OF THE FALLEN
Making a point of referring to Horrified as an “old school” or “classic” sounding band is neither an attempt to criticise or flatter the band or their abilities, or to put them on some sort of unearned pedestal.
It’s simply an acknowledgement that their primary influences – Death, Dissection, Edge of Sanity early Metallica – are all of a particular type, even if they don’t all necessarily belong to the same genre.
It’s worth pointing out, however, that there’s nothing self-consciously retro or aimlessly nostalgic about Allure of the Fallen. Though the band may have their roots in a certain era, they’re not content simply trying to recapture past glories, and the six tracks which make up this album all demonstrate a keen grasp of character and dynamic that goes well beyond simply paying tribute to a bygone age.
The title track immediately introduces you to the backbone of the band’s sound, a mix of heroic riffs, scorching solos, and epic harmonies built in the classic Melodic Death Metal mould, all delivered with a sense of blackened intensity and thrashy belligerence, and topped off with the suitably Mameli-an growl of vocalist/guitarist Dan Alderson.
And while the opener certainly sets a high bar – “classic” sounding enough to be instantly recognisable, yet with more than enough depth to stand on its own two feet – you’ll be happy to hear that the rest of the album largely follows suit, sometimes erring towards a slightly more progressive approach, and sometimes favouring a slightly heavier, more aggressive style… frequently within the the same song.
Blastbeats are, for the most part, employed sparingly but effectively, their use during tracks like “Light’s Dissolution”, “The Perceiver”, and the knowingly Metallica-tinged “Unanswered” adding an extra dash of energy and extremity to the proceedings, and contrasting nicely with the thrashy gallop and splashy cymbal work which drummer James Charlton tends to employ as his main weapon(s) of choice, while every track also benefits from a plethora of soaring lead guitar licks and duelling harmonies (not to mention some nicely nuanced bass work) that add a wealth of light and colour to the proceedings.
Concluding with the phenomenal “The Promise of Solace” – which once again finds the band channelling their love of classic Metallica into what is perhaps the album’s best cut – it should be clear to anyone that Horrified aren’t out to reinvent the wheel here… just to give it their own distinctive spin (pun intended).
And, in that respect, they’ve certainly succeeded.
OVEROTH – THE FORGOTTEN TOME
Northern Irish ne’er-do-wells Overoth may have been around, on and off, since 2005, but The Forgotten Tome is only their second ever full-length album, and their first release in seven years.
The good news, however, is that the quartet don’t appear to have let their talents grow rusty in the intervening years. In fact, the band’s abilities, and their ambition, seem to have only improved with time.
The Game of Thrones-esque intro track, “Opus Obscura”, immediately introduces you to the newly symphonic side of the band’s sound, before the booming, ominous riffs and ribcage-rattling drums of “Sigil of the Empty Throne” plough their way right through everything in their path, reminding you that, for all its fancy orchestral bells and whistles (and violins, and harps, and so on), this is most definitely a Death Metal album at its heart..
Packed with beefy, bellicose riffs, and gritty, gnarled vocals, tracks like the suitably chilling “Winter of Iniquity” and the aforemention “Sigil of the Empty Throne” perfectly sum up the band’s modus operandi this time around, fusing aggressive, Vader-ish riffs and moody, Dimmu Borgir-style symphonic elements in an unrepentantly grim and groovy display of (slightly) blackened Death Metal delights that’s not miles away from Vesania at their most mid-paced and menacing.
And while the punchy production gives things a more modern (though not overly so) sense of balance and clarity, the band’s roots are very clearly in the old-school, with hints of Grave and Immolation peeking through the cracks during numbers like the doom-laden “The Keeper” – which features some outstanding work from the rhythm section of Jay Rogers (drums) and Andy Ennis (vocals/bass) – and the chunky, hook-heavy title-track.
Granted, there are times when the band’s influences are perhaps a little too obvious, and a few more variations in the album’s overall tempo (such as can be found on bite-sized barnburner “God of Delusion”) might not go amiss… plus the interlude track “Leviathan Swallowed the Sun” does little more than take up valuable space really… but overall Overoth are very much “in the zone” on their second album.
Wisely saving the best for last, the one-two combo of “Harbinger of the End Times” and “Shadows in a Thousand Shades of Black” end things on a major high-note, with a mix of metallic aggression and mournful atmosphere that really gets under your skin, and hopefully signals even bigger and better things to come from the band.
Let’s just hope it doesn’t take another seven years, eh?
THE KING IS BLIND – WE ARE THE PARASITE, WE ARE THE CANCER
Despite only releasing their debut album, Our Father, in January last year, The King Is Blind are back already with the follow-up, We Are The Parasite, We Are The Cancer (and I have it on good authority that they’re already hard at work on album number three).
The danger with being so prolific of course is that you run the risk of not progressing very much between albums, and falling afoul of the inevitable law of diminishing returns…
…but thankfully that’s not the case here.
No, as good as their debut was, We Are The Parasite… is just that much harder, heavier, and altogether more hostile, blending elements of Grind, Death, and Black Metal into one unholy Molotov cocktail of explosive sound and fury that’s sure to appeal to anyone who enjoys having their eardrums caved in.
The amplified aggression that fuels tracks like scorching opener “Patriarch” and its similarly savage counterpart “Embers From A Dying Sun” practically radiates out of the speakers with all the force of a dirty bomb detonating in your sound system, with the ravenous, rancorous vocals of frontman Steve Tovey adding an extra dose of filth and fury for good measure.
And while this added aggression does mean that the doomier elements of the band’s sound are perhaps slightly more subdued this time around, the grim and gothic strains of “Like Gods Departed” and the fatalistic gloom of album finale “The Burden of Their Scars” both demonstrate that the band have lost none of their knack for painting with darker shades amongst all the metallic menace and backreaking belligerence.
Not only is We Are The Parasite… more aggressive than a pissed off polar bear, and heavier than Iron Man’s codpiece, it’s also far hookier than an album this abrasive has any right to be, with the band incorporating an added helping of dark melody this time around that is, at times, reminiscent of classic God Dethroned and/or Hypocrisy, and I challenge you to try not to bang your head to the catchy-yet-crushing riffs that make up the backbone of “Idolatry of Self” or the bellowing, instantly infectious chorus refrain of the Bolt Thrower-esque “Godfrost”.
Less “old school” and more “school of hard knocks”, We Are The Parasite, We Are The Cancer is the sort of album which reminds you why you got into Extreme Metal in the first place, filled to bursting with vim, vigour, and a barely repressed sense of impending violence.
And really, what more could you ask for?