(Andy Synn is back again with three more examples of home-grown British talent)
These “Best of British” pieces are a lot like buses… you wait ages for one and then two come along (almost) at once!
Does that joke/reference track? I hope so, because the underlying premise – that these articles were intended to be a much more regular thing, but tend to just come along at relatively random intervals – is pretty accurate.
If you haven’t checked out the previous edition of the “Best of British” from last week – where I covered the new albums from Everest Queen, Terra, and Vacuous – you might want to do so now, otherwise I invite you to settle in and get to know the latest offerings from Battalions, Ingested, and Mountainscape.
BATTALIONS – KING OF A DEAD WORLD
To call Battalions a Sludge band wouldn’t be inaccurate. But to call them just a Sludge band definitely would be.
After all, it doesn’t take long for the band to reveal their knack for penning big, shamelessly bombastic hooks, with the ridiculously catchy riffs and instantly infectious rhythms of tracks like “Green Boots” and “Coughing Nails” (the latter an early highlight, though far from the only one) giving off a poppy/proggy vibe reminiscent of bands like Torche and Boss Keloid (albeit with an altogether harder, harsher edge).
At other times, such as during the bleaker, bluesier “Bones to Dust” and the absolutely groove-tastic “Light a Fire” – they sound more like a Hardcore band (I’ve seen them compared to Cancer Bats here and there, which certainly makes sense after going through this album a few times) covering classic Black Sabbath, with all the in-your-face aggression and sorcerous swagger that implies.
And while there’s an argument to be made that King of a Dead World is at its strongest when it leans into the more unconventionally energetic and up-tempo vibes of a song like “No Safe Place” (just try not to get that one stuck in your head, I dare you) it’s also capable of going to some pretty dark places, with the punchy Punk-Metal of “Diagnosis Fucked” and the doom-laden density of the climactic title-track making it clear that Battalions are about far more than just fun and games.
That being said… there’s no denying that this is one hell of a fun album, one that’s not just easy to pick up but also hard to put down.
INGESTED – ASHES LIE STILL
While I enjoyed Ingested‘s previous album, Where Only Gods May Tread, I remember commenting that, overall, it felt a little disjointed (though it still had some absolutely massive tunes), and gave the impression that the band weren’t entirely sure what direction to go in after the massive success of The Level Above Human.
That’s not an issue with Ashes Lie Still, however, as the band’s new record – their first for Metal Blade – sees them embracing a much more Tech/Deathcore leaning direction which, while it may not please some of our readers (though I guarantee you these new tracks will be going down a storm right now on their tour with Lorna Shore, Aborted, and Ov Sulfur), makes for a much more focussed and cohesive listening experience.
It’s not a perfect album by any means – the drums are somehow (despite the group’s move away from Unique Leader) even more artificial than usual, the much-vaunted “atmospheric” embellishments are spread pretty thin, and closer “Scratch the Vein” seems like it’s trying a little too hard to appeal to as wide a demographic as possible – but when it hits it really hits hard.
Whether that’s the bludgeoning brutality and subtle splashes of moody melody of songs such as “Shadows in Time” and “Tides of Glass” (with the use of understated clean backing vocals in the former, and the techy, staccato riffs of the latter both adding a new – or new-ish – dimension to the band’s sound) or the absolute sonic sledgehammer of tracks like “You’ll Never Learn” and “Echoes of Hate” (whose ginormous, chugging guitars and gargantuan, gut-wrenching breakdowns wouldn’t sound out of place on a Despised Icon or Dying Fetus album) there’s no question that the current incarnation of Ingested have their eyes firmly set on the prize.
To help them get there they’ve even recruited a couple of heavy-hitters as guest stars, and while Matt Heafy’s contribution to “All I’ve Lost” (one of the album’s weaker tracks, if I’m being honest) is more of a curiosity than anything, the appearance of Aborted‘s Sven de Caluwé on “From Hollow Words” helps turn an already excellent song into another major stand-out.
So while I’d argue that Ashes… still doesn’t quite have the same consistency of quality as the band’s titanic 2018 magnum opus I’d also say that the high points here are easily the equal of some of the band’s best work, which makes this a must-buy for any fan of Death Metal, Deathcore, and everything in between!
MOUNTAINSCAPE – ATOMS UNFURLING
It has to be said that I’m not usually one for instrumental albums.
I have nothing against them, per se, it’s just that – for whatever reason – they often seem to be missing that human connection I need to really get into the music.
There are exceptions, of course, which is why you’re reading about Mountainscape right now!
Over the course of six tracks the trio – comprising brothers James and Dan Scrivener (on drums and guitars, respectively) and bassist Ethan Bishop – manage to imbue their music with an exceptional amount of character and charisma (all without a single line of vocals) that shines through in every shimmering synth, every soaring lead line, and every suitably mountainous riff.
Speaking of riffs… one thing that really helps this one stand out in the fertile field of instrumental “Post-Metal” (although describing it as such somewhat undersells the scope of the record, which also embraces elements of Doom, Sludge, Black Metal, and Ambient music as well) is the sheer size and heft of the guitars, which at certain points – most notably during cinematic opener “Awakenings”, penultimate powerhouse “Earthpulse”, and the stupendous, stand-out title-track – remind me of the stellar self-titled album by instrumental Prog-Death supergroup Conquering Dystopia.
But it’s not just the fact that Mountainscape can bring the thunder when they need to (seriously, that second half of “Atoms Unfurling” might just make a case for it being one of my “songs of the year”, particularly when the bass really kicks in and starts to punch its way through to the front of the mix), but the way in which they weave it all together – moving back and forth between nimble, proggy passages like the opening of “Transient”, colossal Post-Metal crescendos (such as the climax of “Solace”), and moments of moody, meditative ambience (like the opening of multi-faceted finale, “Patterns”) – while also dropping in these earth-shaking eruptions of titanic, subtly-technical riffage at just the right moment, which makes this album such a joy to listen to again and again (and again).