(Andy Synn presents three more fine examples of bombastic British belligerence)
Like I said yesterday… I’m more than a little swamped – both mentally and physically – right now, so I’m not going to waste what little time I have on a long preamble.
Instead I’m just going to urge you all to give each of these three albums – two from last month and one scheduled for release at the beginning of September – a shot. You might just discover something you like!
BASTIONS – MAJESTIC DESOLATION
Don’t call it a comeback… or maybe do. I doubt Bastions will care what you call it as long as you’re willing to give the music on Majestic Desolation – the group’s second album, and their first full-length release in over a decade – the chance that it deserves.
From the electrifying energy and brooding darkness of “A Broken Crown” to the sombre denouement of “A Spiteful Reign”, it’s clear that Bastions have invested a lot of time and energy and – most importantly – passion into this record, to the point that its integrity, and its intensity, is never in any doubt.
It’s also obvious that just as much attention to detail was paid to the depth and clarity of the overall mix as to the dynamic, light-and-shade, songwriting too, with the combination of these two factors giving both the album’s more explosive moments (like the massive, speaker-shaking climax of “Slithering”) and its more introspective and atmospheric passages (such as the unexpected metamorphosis halfway through “Coalfields”) an equal sense of weight and presence.
Of course, if you’re just hoping to be hit hard then Bastions have you covered there too, with the powerful one-two combo of the bombastic, bass-heavy “Acres of Love” and the helter-skelter avalanche of aggression that is “Heavy Hearts” both going right for the proverbial jugular.
And while there’s an argument to be made that Majestic Desolation is a little too short for its own good (sure, it leaves you wanting more, which is a good thing generally, but it also leaves you feeling a little unsatisfied too) there’s no denying the album’s outsized impact despite its brevity.
So, like I said at the start, call it what you will – Hardcore, Post-Hardcore… heck, the stunning “Darker Paths” makes as good a case as any for calling them “Post Metal”, at least in part – Majestic Desolation is an album where the music matters far more than the moniker you put on it.
GRAVE LINES – COMMUNION
It’s gothic, it’s doomy, it’s… let’s call it “Gloom Metal” for want of a better term. After all, the shoe most definitely fits because this is some deeply gloomy, devastatingly groovy, music (with multiple song-titles and lyrics themed around parasitic insects – always a laugh-a-minute subject ) that finds the band upping their heaviness without sacrificing their uniqueness in the process.
Sure, there’s definitely some recognisable elements and inspirations on display – opener “Gordian”, for example, has both a fair bit of Paradise Lost to it as well as, in its latter-stages, a touch of Pure-era Godflesh, to my ears – but the group weave them all together in a way that’s both instantly recognisable and effortlessly distinct.
Part of this, as you may have noticed, is that – along with all the Goth and Doom influences – there’s just as much Post-Punk/Rock/Pop (delete as appropriate) as there is Post-Metal in the band’s sound, something which is especially obvious during “Lycaenid”, whose juxtaposition of minimalist melodies and maximalist riffage, all topped off with an array of imploring clean vocals, answers the question “what if The Smiths but also Black Sabbath?”
Sure, that’s a lot of names to drop in a very short space of time, but – like they say – “good artists borrow, great artists steal”, and while there’s no denying that Grave Lines have absolutely stolen from some of the very best here, they’ve also put in the work to make what they’ve taken their own.
The latter half of the album in particular is packed full of abrasive, antagonistic “anti-anthems” that seemingly favour catharsis over catchiness… but which you still won’t be able to get out of your head… from the grandiose Art-Doom of “Carcini” and the Killing Joke meets Neurosis nihilism of “Broodsac” to the stunning, slow-burn post-genre pulse of closer “Sinensis”.
Mark my words, this one’s a grower, not a shower. But give it time and you’ll eventually discover how deep this particular rabbit hole goes.
IMPERIUM – EX MORTIS GLORIA
If you recognise the name Imperium (sometimes stylised as Imperivm) here that might be because we’ve mentioned them before. If you don’t… well, I don’t necessarily blame you, since it’s been a little over six years since the band’s last album (and you’re going to have to wait another month to hear this one in full too).
But whether you’re (un)familiar with the group’s previous work or not, there’s a good chance you’re going to like what you hear here… as long as you like your music ridiculously brutal and relentlessly blast-fuelled.
To call the group “the UK’s answer to bands like Hour of Penance and Hate Eternal” wouldn’t necessarily be inaccurate, as the opening assault of “Through Gates of Fire” – four minutes and forty-four seconds of ringing, rat-a-tat drum salvos and twisted, technical riffage, all augmented by just the right amount of dense, deathly groove – and the massive guitars and martial hooks of “Seven Legions” swiftly demonstrate.
And while you get the sense that the band themselves probably wouldn’t mind the comparisons one bit, it’s worth pointing out that that’s not all they are, and that their songs are more than strong enough of standing on their own.
“Indignitas”, for example, exposes a slightly more melodic approach along the lines of Man Must Die at their most audacious, keeping the tempo at a frantic pace even while lashing your eardrums with lethal leads and soaring solos, while both “Echoes of Slain Kings” and “Per Silentium Noctis” recall the bombastic brutality and grim grandeur of pre-Satanist Behemoth (albeit with the technicality cranked up another few notches).
It’s the final third of the album that really shows what these guys are capable of, however – from the humongous eight minutes of atmosphere and extremity that is “Under Shadows of Giants”, to the unrelentingly riff-tastic “Burning Crucifixtions…” and the crushingly catchy “Blood On Seas of Black”, and culminating in the absolutely thunderous “Forged in Treachery” – proving that hyper-speed heaviness and string-straining technicality are no obstacles to writing good songs if and when the band are willing, and able, to put the effort in.
And, on the evidence presented here, Imperium are more than willing, and more than capable, of doing exactly that.