REVIEWS ROUND-UP: Week 45 (2017) Part 1 – feat. Evanescence, AUÐN, code, Entheos, Erkonauts and more…

The Ghost Cult album round-up is back in town, for your vulgar delectation…

It came as no surprise whatsoever when Evanescence announced they would be working with an orchestra and bringing to the forefront those elements of electronica and programming that had subtly underpinned their work across their previous three albums for a one-off, guitarless release. Primarily a compilation of reworkings of tracks across their three previous albums, Synthesis (BMG) also contains two brand new songs that slot in seamlessly.

When this works, such as on the gorgeously restrained ‘Lithium’ or the pained ‘My Heart Is Broken’ you can value the merit in such an undertaking, but it’s fair to say this straddles the line between beautiful and boring with equal measure, especially as proceedings clock in at over an hour, and the revised ‘Bring Me To Life’ feels shoehorned and lacking the grace of its counterparts. Yet it cannot be argued that Amy Lee is not a sensational vocalist, for she is truly exceptional, nor should it be questioned that Evanescence are masters of gothic dark rock. With the second half stronger than the first, and with Lee enchanting and flawless, there’s something to be found in Synthesis, but it’s not quite the emotional orchestral soundtrack it could have been, and does, as a whole, outstay its welcome. [6.0]

With less than fifteen minutes on offer on code’s latest offering, Under The Subgleam (Apocalyptic Witchcraft), it is disappointing that the opening three are wasted on a tolling bell (and not even a particularly atmospheric one at that), particularly as once ‘Plot of Skinned Heavens’ arrives, it’s a clever, convoluted twist of discordant progressive Black Metal, with Wacian incorporating traditional howls and a dark croon that recalls the pioneers of the Scandinavian Nineties, Ved Buens Ende. ‘Pollution Vigil’ is a more straight-forward monster stomp before a two-minute haunting outro, ‘Cave Soul’ calls time on a quirky release that is more or less a double A-side (in old money) with two ineffective superfluities book-ending the good stuff. [7.0]

There’s a hint of Sølstafir and fellow rural appreciators Winterfylleth in the expansive, pastoral Black Metal of AUÐN who, with their second album Farvegir Fyrndar (Season of Mist) have found that sweet-spot of melody, pace, atmosphere and the occasional touch of nastiness in their musical tribute to the natural climes of Iceland. AUÐN are a tasteful act, who truly peak on their longer creations. There are occasions where songs end when you feel they could have been developed more or taken you further; Haldreipi Hugans’ benefitting from a more reflective and patient approach as it expands to eight enthralling minutes, but there are far worse ways to spend an hour than immersing yourselves in this. [7.5]

The Erkonauts don’t give one single solitary shit about “the rules”, instead they are happy to, like a whirling dervish of jangling ideas, flail out a collection of eccentric, predominantly uptempo statements of livewire rock. I Shall Forgive (Indie) is not one to show its full colours on even a handful of listens, achieving that rare status of being both a grower and a show-er as there is nothing uneasy listening on even the first run through. Interesting without being difficult, quirky without being off-putting, by being open to alternative rock, punk, and just being themselves, the Erkonauts’ melting pot is the home of some musical alchemy to savour. ‘Globlebl’ brings the funky bass, while ‘Seven Macaw’ is more straight-forward and lets the vocals lead, but, to these ears, the Wild Western slink of ‘The Snick’ is the “one”, particularly when the drums pick up the pace while the rest of the song continues its drawl in a juxtaposition that really works, before the wholly appropriately titled gruff rager ‘Chaos Never Fails To Appeal’ races away. [7.5]

And it wouldn’t be a week in 2017 without a “Progressive” (I’m with Richie HR, this term is soooo misapplied these days, being the catch-all for long and/or widdly and/or fucking boring) Tech Death Metal album now, would it? Which brings us to Dark Future (Spinefarm), and Entheos’ unhurried, choppy take on the genre. A measured array of technically superbly played creations that flit from being rhythmically challenging to instrumentally gloating, a change of direction, such as the easy jazz interlude in ‘Melancholia’, is never too far away. While all very impressive (hmm), this is much more an array of grandstanding than any actual songwriting, as things appear to happen because they can, rather than because they should, and while there are two voices to switch things up ranging from your standard bellows, to a weird alien croak, both are monotone and lacking in the hooks department. But if the boat Entheos want to keep afloat is a showboat, then why bother with the anchor of some musicality and songcraft to spice up this staid collection of unrelated passages that seems to go on and on while steadfastly going nowhere. [5.0]

STEVE TOVEY