Reviews Round-Up: ft. Uriah Heep, MaYaN, Once Human, DragonLord, And More

Mid-September officially sees the start of Crazy Season for album releases… But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered here at Ghost Cult with our round-up of some of this weeks and last weeks albums that may just have escaped your attention, for better or for worse…

If the seventies summoned forth Classic Rock (well, just Rock back then…) and Punk, the eighties brought us Heavy Metal and Hard Rock, the nineties Grunge and Nu-metal, the noughties Emo and Metalcore, this current decade would appear to be the first time since the electric guitar came to be that the dominant style is that of a yesteryear, with the common themes and predominant success stories being of retrospective bands… the sounds of the seventies have never been more popular.

Twenty-five albums in (and forty-eight years after their Very ‘eavy, Very ‘umble debut), Uriah Heep have performed that most magical of things; of producing an album that stands up to the best that both the past and the present has produced, with the excellent Living The Dream (Frontiers). From the pacy rocking Deep Purple tinged opener ‘Grazed By Heaven’, the title track that could have sat shoulder to shoulder on any non-Ozzy Sabbath album, to the folky Zeppelinisms of ‘Waters Flowin’’, Mick Box has a bag of tricks that oozes effortless class, while long-standing vocalist Bernie Shaw delivers a versatile, distinctive and strong performance, leading each song.

In the least patronising way imaginable, it’s delightful to hear one of the old guard (indeed the Templar in the Grail Room) deliver an album that is as enjoyable and strong in 2018 as it would have been in the early seventies, and that is both worthy of their legacy and of matching their current contemporaries. [8.0/10]

 

Part collective, part rotating cast supergroup, all bombastic, MaYaN, the genius wunderkind of Epica’s Mark Jansen and After Forever’s Jack Driessen (to be honest, this is too well crafted and arranged to have been a novice effort), have not just pushed the boat out on third full-length album Dhyana (Nuclear Blast), they’ve plumbed in the kitchen sink and built an extension to house The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. As you do.

A sensory overload of ambitious and epic proportions, Dhyana sits somewhere in a crazy, chaotic space that could be described as the outcome of a Bioshock splicing of Epica, Ziltoid The Omniscient (HeavyDevy) and Fleshgod Apocalypse; it really is as full-blooded and overblown as that sounds.

It’s also, for the most part, very good indeed, though there is drama fatigue as matters progress through the albums (very full) length. Powerful, aggressive, over the top symphonic Death Metal, the additional growls of George Oosthoek  (Orphanage) add bite to a party that is resplendent with splashes of Power Metal, slicing arctic Blackened tremolo melodies all topped off with nods and winks of sci-fi and fantasy, and sprinklings of Prog and Tech Metal, Dhyana is as exhausting and rewarding as it sounds… with promise of even more to come in the future. [7.5]

 

It is an unusual step for a band to release a support slot as a live album, but then Once Human, the riff-vehicle of producer and former Machine Header Logan Mader, like to do things on their own terms. It’s just a shame that their terms aren’t, well, better, really… In terms (sorry) of performance on Stage of Evolution (earMUSIC), there is little to complain about, as each musician is exceptionally technically proficient, and the recording deliberately representative of the live sound rather than polished and glistening with studio overdub or remix shine, which gives the whole thing an interesting bootleg vibe. The issues lie with Lauren Hart whose bellows are clearly strained, repetitious and fail to enhance the guitar lead-led melodeath underneath, and, it has to be said, the material itself, with Once Human to all intents and purposes Arch Enemy without the songs. A disappointing cover of ‘Davidian’ and a lack of between-song editing (Hart mentioning DragonForce, who one assumes were the headliner of the show, more times than her own band) all form part of an underwhelming package. [5.0]

 

German aggro electro Metalcore merchants Vitja are upping the angst on their third opus, Mistaken (Century Media), the quartet deliberately exploring their darker, heavier side, opening the door to a more personal album. Where they are mistaken though (bands really do need to stop using titles for albums that are open goals for puns or takedowns… or I need to stop taking the opportunity to use them) is that, in doing so, they have highlighted that their aggro stuff isn’t nasty or skin-flaying enough, and their pop side just doesn’t carry the hooks. Add in the fact that David Beule’s harsh vocal borders on Angela Gossow territory for monotony of tone and delivery, and that the choruses don’t cut the mustard, and even Andy Dormer of Caliban dropping by on album highlight ‘Overdose’ can’t lift standards too high.

Look, there are far worse bands out there than Vitja, and their electro-metalcore with thick nu-metal elastic grooves is no doubt competent, but there are, likewise, far better and more interesting ways to exercise your ears. [6.0]

 

Veering from the angular riffs that adorn the ‘Entrance’ and the subsequent title track of Dominion (Spinefarm), the third album from Dragonlord, the alter-ego outfit of Erik Petersen (Testament), sets its stall out in a cascading shower of Dimmu Borgir tinged symphonic Black Metal with no lack of style nor substance, flitting chaotically from melodic batterings reminiscent of Borknagar’s late nineties triumphs, with solos pealing into and around Petersen’s cleans, before the divergent riffs and choral voices summon throat-ripped harsh vocals. No exaggeration, ‘Dominion’ in particular would stand proud with the best of Abrahadabra (Nuclear Blast).

Consistency (both of style and quality) is a slight issue throughout the album, though ‘Ominous Premonition’ takes a left turn at the traffic lights to worship The Ultimate Sin (Epic) in a glorious move, but less effective is meandering fantasy of ‘The Discord of Melkor’, which would sit better as a Cradle of Filth bonus track.

Still, veering between Trad Metal laced Thrash and blackened symphonic slatherings, Petersen has produced a strong and enjoyable album. [7.0]

 

 

Oh, yes. Evil Scarecrow Chapter IV: Antartarctica (Dead Box)…? Fucking dreadful, if slightly less dreadful than their others. [4.0]

 

 

 

STEVE TOVEY