REVIEWS ROUND-UP: Week 45 Part 2 – Sinsaenum, Impureza, Scour, Amberian Dawn And More

 

 

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

Three new tunes, and a couple of previous bonus tracks makes up Sinsaenum’s Ashes EP, which serves as a nifty follow-up to last years’ impressive, if bloated, début Echoes of the Tortured (both earMUSIC). From the distinctive Joey Jordison drum-fill that launches things, to the Frédéric Duquesne remix of ‘Dead Souls’ to close matters off, we’re reminded that Sinsaenum have a touch of class to their extremity. ‘Monarch Of Death’ marries Morbid Angel contortions to twisted Black Metal devices, ‘2099 (Heretics)’ welds harrowed riffs to a sense of urgency, that expands to a whale and wasp haunting lead coda. Predominantly Deathly in its Metal, but taking strands of quality from the blackened and the grinding, if this is what Jordison, Frédéric Leclercq, Attila Csihar and Sean Z (and friends) can do in between their day job bands, imagine what they could do if this were a full-time gig, and with a touch more dirt in their aural oyster. [8.0]

Having kept a low profile and stayed away from the white wine recently, Philip H. Anselmo makes a return with a feral (to say the least) EP with his Scour collective. Featuring the aforementioned throat, Red (Housecore) is also born from the untamed and unhinged minds of various Pig Destroyers and Cattle Decapitationists. I’m just putting this out there… this is fucking brilliant. Full-force Black Metal rage, with scything sweeping guitars, pulling tremolo-leads out of the ether and seething along with guile and menace, for this is no uncontrolled malevolence, this is written and delivered by experts who fully understand and know their craft. ‘Bleak’ is straight out of the De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas book, with Anselmo pulling out an Attila tribute croak as it seeps into tormented being, while closer, the frost-bitten and gnarled ‘Shank’, is a roller-coaster of dark melodies and chromatic riffing. Six tracks, all less than three minutes each, and Scour prove again the antidote to insipid, stagnant Black Metal acts; a vital force of impetus and anger allied to skill and a love of an art form that too often lacks all three of those key elements. [9.0]

Impureza’s commitment to combining “Iberian soundscapes to brutal Death Metal” is fully realized on the wholly impressive La Caída De Tonatiuh (Season of Mist). The scene is set early as Lionel Cano Muñoz ushers in the album with a rousing traditional Spanish guitar entrada, before the imposing ‘Sangre Para Los Dioses’ muscles in, with a matadorian riff and feel, while being wholly contemporary Death Metal. The combination of Esteban Martín incorporating barítono canto, with traditional inflections, amongst his growls and barks, Florian Saillard’s fretless bass, and the intricacies of integrating Hispanic flourishes and percussion into the transitions helps Impureza create a distinctive and expertly fused product, where the two styles work with, rather than against each other.  ‘Otumba, 1520’ is a powerful early beast, mirrored by the bulldozing ‘Ultimo Día Del Omeyocán’ that shines towards the end. On both occasions the Franco-Spanish outfit condense everything that they are and do at their best into five minute tours-de-force, managing to produce hooks in the riffs, in the grooves, in the vocals, all without sacrificing a shred of intensity. Both lay down markers at the outset and the conclusión of the album, markers that Impureza live up to throughout. [8.0]

Stepping back from the HEAVY into more Thrashy terrain we have the self-titled debut EP from Boston’s The Offering (Century Media), who crash old school HM vocals, not a million miles from “Ripper” Owens territory, into groove-and-chug based Thrash Metal, with a contemporaneous grunt all allied to doses of Melodic Metal. And bloomin’ decent at it, too, they prove across The Offering’s five tracks, with opener ‘Rat King’ proving a particularly effective statement of intent. With a touch of Gothenburg, a headbutt of OverKill and an appreciation of Judas Priest and Iced Earth, but with the muscle fully flexed, and face in full on gurn at all times, The Offering have made a resolute and strong first, um, offering… [7.0]

Being an international collective studio project makes the cohesiveness of the technically excellent melodic Heavy Metal of Moonlight Prophecy all the more impressive. Based across the US, Norway and Brazil, their début full-length Vanquished (self-released) comes at you with a focus on the serious rather than the cheesy. Most comfortably pitched in the Nevermore ball-park, their metal is flecked with nods to Thrash on one side, and a touch of Power Metal on the other. Interestingly, though, and this is no slight on Raphael Gazal’s voice, MP’s finest moments are their instrumental pieces, particularly early track ‘Spellbound’, and there is plenty to offer promise for next time around. A little more killer (instinct), of the likes of the spiky Judas Priesty ‘Fury M’, a little less filler (the momentum sapper of ‘Fading Away’), and if they find a way to let the undoubted talents of guitarist Lawrence Wallace take the forefront more (or write better vocal parts, I guess), Moonlight Prophecy could well find themselves on the ascendency [6.0]

 

To paraphrase the esteemed and, frankly, awesome Michael Kiske… “And, now we go… No, really I tell you… Ah, so… do you want another one!?” Well, who am I to argue with the Pumpkin (United) king, particularly as that gig was soooooo good this week… Anyway, I digress… and so the final victim of this week’s round-up, and Finland’s symphonic metal curios, Amberian Dawn, who once again find themselves on my desk for review. Having followed them with interest since Capri took over the vocal mantle for the release of the playful Magic Forest, Darkness of Eternity (both Napalm) is the bands eighth overall, and third in this series. The Nightwish comparisons still abound, and, with the exception of the delightful ‘Sky Is Falling’ they still seem intent on subduing their ABBA bent, even though they’re clearly at their best when they let their pop-whims run free. With dramatic flashes, and fantasy-dripped symphonic power metal, Amberian Dawn continues to produce perfectly decent releases, but the same issues remain, for me. They stand out most when they’re fun, when they marry their Lloyd Webber and pure pop tendencies, rather than when they keep it straight-laced and dance to the tune that others do better. For me, they’re still digging in the wrong place [6.0]

STEVE TOVEY