(Andy Synn presents three more prime-cuts of British steel)
The ever-fertile UK scene has produced a lot of new releases so far this year.
Some of them I’ve loved, some of them I’ve not been too fond of, and some of them… I just haven’t had a chance to listen to.
But these three stood out to me recently (even if I’m a little late getting to them) and felt like they deserved more attention, both from me and from our readers!
AEFFECT – THEORY OF MIND
Let’s address the big Swedish elephant in the room right away, shall we?
Yes, Aeffect clearly take a lot of influence from Meshuggah. They’re not hiding that.
However, unlike so many of the bands who follow in the footsteps of “the Big M” rather than trying to sanitise and simplify things to make them more palatable and accessible to a wider audience, Aeffect have instead chosen to focus even more on the Death Metal side of things, pushing the heaviness while still retaining a touch of twisted angularity, in a manner which makes them the British counterpart to similar post-Nothing nihilists like Dissentient and Koronal.
But whereas the former band have more than a touch of Fear Factory to their sound, and the latter toy with some Car Bomb-esque chaos, Aeffect – aka Mark Broster (ex-Sarpanitum) and Mike Pitman (ex-Xerath) – have doubled-down on the darker atmospherics and distorted density in a way that, especially during the most obnoxiously heavy sections of songs like “Emergent Behaviour” the claustrophobia-inducing title-track, and punishing penultimate track “Acceptance”, recall the suffocating sonic weight of Humanity’s Last Breath.
I’ll grant you, a little bit more dynamic diversity here and there would probably take things to a higher plane – the occasional burst of blastbeats or transition into eerie ambience suggests that pushing things a little more in either direction would only expand upon the duo’s already impressive approach- but this is still a confident, creative and, most importantly, crushing debut from a band with a huge amount of potential.
THE BLEEDING – MONOKRATOR
The Bleeding‘s previous releases were, unquestionably, all solid examples of Death/Thrash Metal.
But, for whatever reason, they just didn’t seem to have that x-factor which could have made the band a household name.
Well, take it from me, whatever it was that they were missing they’ve definitely found it on Monokrator, which bursts out of the speakers with the frenetic riffs and frenzied blastbeats of “Chemical Lobotomy” and then proceeds to kick ass and take names like the bastard child of The Crown, Cannibal Corpse, and Goatwhore.
Sure, those are some pretty big names to drop (especially all at once), and I need to be clear that The Bleeding aren’t quite on that sort of level… yet… but there’s no question that they’ve majorly stepped up their game here, with songs like “Chainsaw Deathcult”, “Mutation Chamber”, and “On Wings of Tribulation” marrying thrashy, galloping rhythms with streams of strangulating tremolo riffage and passages of lurching Death Metal heaviness, all topped off with some seriously sharp, snarling vocal hooks.
Sure, there’s still some room for improvement here and there. For one thing, a little bit more groove wouldn’t go amiss (as the churning “Screams of Torment” so effectively demonstrates), and the absolutely killer title-track really should have been the album’s finale (which isn’t a knock on “Throes of Repulsion” by any means but… seriously, just listen to it and tell me that wouldn’t have been the perfect way to end things). But this is the sort of record – lean, mean, and taking no prisoners – that may well put The Bleeding on the global metallic map where they belong.
WALLOWING – EARTH REAPER
As good as Wallowing‘s 2019 debut, Planet Loss, was… there’s no question in my mind that Earth Reaper is better – significantly better – in practically every regard.
The whole thing just sounds bigger, beefier, heavier… while also having more depth and substance to it, and the songwriting overall just seems that little bit more focussed and ferocious (despite the last two tracks together taking up a full three quarters of the album’s run-time).
In fact, it frequently reminds me of the very best output of similarly soul-crushing and emotionally abrasive artists like Body Void, Rorcal, and Phantom Winter in the way that it organically deploys its gruesomely groovy, sadistically sludgy riffs and hideous, howling vocals for maximum impact without overplaying its hand, while also making space for a plethora of gleefully malevolent melodies, lurid sci-fi synths, and honest-to-god headbangable hooks whose inclusion only serves to expand the scope of the band’s sound without diluting it.
This is particularly apparent during the closing pairing of “Cyborg Asphyxiation” and “Earth Reaper” (which is not, let me assure you, to downplay the sheer sonic weight of “Flesh and Steel” or the doom-laden slow-burn and explosive climax of “Cries of Estima” by any means), with the former opting for a more apocalyptically atmospheric approach in its first half, before shifting to a more aggressively riff-driven, synth-ridden, attack later on, while the latter (which clocks in at just under twenty-two massive minutes) evinces a more “progressive” approach which incorporates and intertwines passages of bleak melody, bruising groove, baleful ambience and bowel-quaking heaviness in a way which takes full advantage of every cinematically sludge-soaked second.
It’s an album that keeps on giving more and more with every listen. And if you don’t believe me… just try it for yourself.