Today is the day! America’s best underground brutal, blackened underground music festival, Shadow Woods Metal Fest begins today. Although a few bands have been last minute cancellations due to Hurrican Florence and Ghost Bath canceled their entire tour due to van troubles, the festival is 100%taking place with only rain expected at Camp Hidden Valley, in Whitehall Maryland. The lineup includes Abigail Williams, Xasthur, Aether Realm, Rozamov, Heavy Temple, A Sound of Thunder, Barishi, Destroyer of Light, Husbandry, God Root, Hepatagua, Cloak, Wolvhammer, Imperial Triumphant, Black Mass, and many more. Tickets are still available at the gate for you late deciders. Continue reading
Shadow Woods Metal Fest has announced the full lineup for the 2018 edition, their fourth year in a row. Returning for the fourth year in a row. Taking place from September 20th to 22nd, at Harper’s Ferry Adventure Center in Purcell, VA against the backdrop against the epic Blue Ridge Mountains, Shadow Woods IV features UADA, Tombs, Xasthur, Heavy Temple, All Hell, Bound By The Grave, Barishi, Destroyer Of Light, God Root, Husbandry, Imperial Triumphant, Rozamov, Wayfaerer, and many more listed below. Tickets are on sale now. Continue reading
I think it says something about me that the phrase “Progressive Power Metal” ranks considerably higher up the list of music I’m interested in than “mates band” does – though let’s face it, mates bands are usually shit. I’m not quite sure what it is that it says (other than “shit taste, nobber”), but it’s always with enthusiasm that the triangle of play is hit on an album of that ilk. It also says something about Progressive Power Metal that it is quite possibly the uncoolest of uncool subgenres to date. So uncool it hasn’t even become cool through its uncoolness.
If you consider that insanity is doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results (Wikipedia can’t make its’ mind up if Einstein or Franklin should be attributed the source quote – it was probably neither) then the white coat is being sized up for me right about now, because by now that wave of enthusiasm should really be a cynical mistrust. Because it’s rare. Rarer than a 20 year old buxom beauty queen genuinely loving a rich octogenarian with a dodgy ticker that the potential and promise of Progressive Power Metal actually delivers.
There are two traps Progressive Power Metal bands fall into – being overly prog but without fully understanding the dynamics and nuances of the genre and end up boringly noodling with some helium-vocalled loon in a flowered shirt thinking he’s the reincarnation of Michael Kiske. Alberta, Canada’s Viathyn avoid that trap with consummate ease. Phew. But don’t wipe that brow just yet, because, no, they dive headfirst into the other trap… That they’re actually a Power Metal-lite band who love a bit of twee, and the prog bit is a misnomer. Have they never seen Spinal Tap? Those “folky” bits…? Stonehenge more like it.
With one metallic bear-trap having wrenched their first leg off, they’re soon left without a leg to stand on, as the jaws of trap two snap down thigh high (obviously catching the nadgers too, cos this is fucking testicle-less) as there is very little that’s vaguely memorable. Part of it is because Tomislav Crncovik is a vocalist as unremarkable and indistinct as the music he writes, but in the main because the album is a loop of double bass drums and inane leads interspersed with underwhelming vocals and less dynamic movement than a dead fish. Though ‘Countess of Discordia’ and ‘Three Sheets To The Wind’ at least have choruses that differentiate from the verses.
Look, Viathyn can clearly play blah blah blah… Who cares? Their album is boring and uneventful. And I like this sort of stuff. Get A Sound Of Thunder‘s latest instead. Also, if you’re self-releasing an album through Bandcamp at least put some fucking band/album details on there, will you?
There is a particularly bitter feeling of disappointment that only comes from realising that an album – though good – is not QUITE as awesome as you thought it was going to be.
When ‘Udoroth’ came thundering out of The Lesser Key Of Solomon’s (Mad Neptune) intro like the vengeance of True Metal – all churning riffs, portentuous keys and Nina Osegueda’s throat-shredding Metal shrieks – I had my 9/10 review half-written already, and there are other moments across the album that are as good. ‘Elijah’ wouldn’t be out of place on a classic King Diamond album, and the epic swagger of ‘Blood From The Mummy’s Tomb’ is exactly the kind of high that the brilliant artwork promises. A couple of listens in, however, the initial kick starts to wear off and it becomes clear that these are peaks rather than the general standard.
With the exception of the tracks named above, the album largely sits in a quiet intro/big verse/anthemic chorus format that fits them comfortably but feels repetitive over several tracks. Aside from ‘Udoroth’ they never hit quite as hard as they clearly can, largely defaulting to a middle-of-the-road Stadium Metal level which works well but feels like they’re selling themselves short. Some of the longer tracks also suffer a little from their own length – closer ‘House Of Bones’ in particular – and succumb to unnecessarily meandering.
I absolutely must stress that The Lesser Key Of Solomon is a catchy, effective and extremely classy collection of stadium-friendly big Heavy Metal songs from a band who are great at what they do. Even as I’m writing this I’m wondering if I’ll regret these words in a month’s time when the album clicks and I realise what a depth of song-writing A Sound Of Thunder achieve here, but at the time of writing it feels like a band who’ve not quite pushed themselves as hard as they could.
Recommended for anyone who likes their Metal pure and unburdened by extremity – and anyone who’s enjoyed the last three Iron Maiden albums – but I hope their masterpiece is still ahead of them.