(Andy Synn is here again to serve as ambassador for some of the mightiest Metal from his homeland)
If it seems like I haven’t done one of these in a while… that’s because I haven’t.
Partially because I’ve been pretty busy so far this year and partially because, to be honest, I haven’t been massively blown away by a lot of UK bands recently.
Of course, I dare say I’ve missed out on quite a few things over the last several months, and there’s a number of upcoming albums from the home scene that I’m looking forward to hearing in the future, but for the most part I just haven’t felt particularly inspired to do many “Best of British” posts so far in 2022.
Thankfully I recently came across three excellent albums – one from the end of March, one from the end of April, and one set for release tomorrow – which, together, have done a lot to restore my flagging faith in this year’s crop of home-grown metallic morsels.
ANTE-INFERNO – ANTEDILUVIAN DREAMSCAPES
Back when I reviewed Ante-Inferno‘s first album, Fane, I remember being struck by the fact that, even though it wasn’t perfect (it was their debut, after all) it was so clearly the product of a band who, despite being a relatively new name on the scene, were so honestly and unapologetically themselves throughout.
There was nothing trendy or tropey about it, nothing calculating or conniving, it was simply a vital, visceral album made by a bunch of musicians who were unabashed and unashamed in their love of Black Metal.
In that sense, then, very little has changed when it comes to the group’s new album, which is still as vital and as visceral as you could ask for.
But it’s also a bigger, bolder, and braver album, one which proves that Ante-Inferno aren’t “just” a Black Metal band… they’re a really good Black Metal band, and don’t need to resort to fancy gimmicks, flashy guest appearances, or pretentious pseudo-philosophical pontificating to prove it.
Just take a listen to the aptly-named “Transcendence”, whose sinuous, streamlined structure and grandiose melodic ambition combine to create something which feels far greater, far grander, than its six minute run-time would suggest, while both of the album’s ten minute epics (“Celestial Mirage” and “Two Score and Ten Souls”) hammer home the idea that this album is all about taking subtle, but effective creative risks (more melody, more nuance, more intricate layering of instrumentation and – in the case of the latter track – even a dash of vocal experimentation) while still remaining true to the core essence of what Black Metal is.
Sure, it’s not perfect (stripped-down and straight-forward closer “Nightmares of the Eschaton” is something of an anti-climax coming as it does so close on the heels of the far superior strains of “Beyond the Immemorial Veil”), but it’s a captivating display of a band really coming into their own, all the same, and while Ante-Inferno may not bring anything particularly new to the Black Metal table on Antediluvium Dreamscapes, their powerful performance and palpable passion for the genre is more than enough to earn them a seat anyway.
MAMMOTH WEED WIZARD BASTARD – THE HARVEST
To be perfectly honest with you, I am kicking myself about not getting to this record sooner, because on their fourth (and, let me make this clear nice and early, best) album, Welsh wonders Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard (hereafter to be known as MWWB) are a band reborn, and I’m confident that The Harvest is going to feature on a lot of “Album of the Year” shortlists when the time comes.
Whereas the band’s previous work (with which I am passingly familiar) was much more grounded and earthy, this time around the band’s sound, and their creative ambitions, are much more cosmic in scope and scale, a shift which allows them to really get their Prog on while still laying down some absolutely massive, doom-laden riffs (such as you’ll find during the gargantuan, synth-and-symphonic infused opening of the titanic title track), all juxtaposed against the soaring, seraphim-like vocals of singer Jessica Ball.
As you might have guessed from what I’ve already written, The Harvest is an album of dynamic, creative contrasts, simultaneously both heavy yet ethereal, varied yet cohesive, intense yet oddly intangible, and trying to grasp it, contain it, compartmentalise it, is therefore something of a fool’s errand – this really is the sort of record which demands, and deserves, to be absorbed and experienced as one continuous, contiguous, whole.
How else, I ask you, will you be able to fully appreciate the way that the album switches back and forth between scene-setting, synth-driven passages like “Interstellar Wrecking” and “Betrayal” – part John Carpenter, part Carpenter Brut – and massive, riff-heavy monoliths like Prog/Sludge/Post-Metal masterpiece “Logic Bomb” and the hypnotically heavy Dream-Doom of “Altamira”?
Sure, you could choose to just drop in and out (each one of the album’s “main” tracks is more than strong enough to stand on its own, that’s for sure) but you’d be missing out on the totality of the experience on offer.
And that, my friends, would be an absolute crime.
TYRANNUS – UNSLAYABLE
Call them what you want – Black Metal, Death Metal, Blackened Death Metal, Blackened Thrash – there’s no denying that Tyrannus kick some serious ass on their debut album, Unslayable.
With track after track of heart-racing riffage and head-banging hooks, Tyrannus prove that the old adage of “take no prisoners, take no shit”, still holds true, as they blast and thrash, stomp and swagger, their way through just under thirty-seven minutes of hellacious hybrid heaviness that sits somewhere between Absu, Carcass, and Possessed.
But even though the riff is clearly king on Unslayable, the band also demonstrate some subtly proggy proclivities during tracks like “The Flood”, “It Taketh”, and ambitiously arranged closer “Break the Will of Evil”, showcasing an altogether more introspective, atmospheric, and doomily evocative side to their still-evolving sound in the process.
Don’t worry though, none of this takes away from the powerful impact of the music in any way – if anything the clever contrast these more esoteric embellishments provide only serves to make you appreciate the blistering fury and bombastic, blunt-force assault of songs like “Unslayable” and “Light the Last Sun” (two of the album’s heaviest, hookiest, and hardest-hitting highlights) all the more.
And while Tyrannus have, in certain places, been referred to as “the UK’s answer to Skeletonwitch” (which I suppose holds true in a superficial sense, especially when compared to the latter band’s most recent album), the comparison ultimately falls a little short, purely because – based on the strength of this album alone – it’s clear to me, as it should be to you after listening to Unslayable, that Tyrannus have already moved beyond being compared to other bands like this… and if they keep on going as they are now it won’t be long before we see other bands being referred to as their country’s “answer to Tyrannus“.