Humangled – Prodromes of a Flatline

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While Italian death metal has never been able to get a word in edgeways when competing with its rivals from Sweden or the USA, the genre is in ruder health these days due to the international success of acts such as Fleshgod Apocalypse and Hour of Penance. This resurgence in fortunes has led to a few old hands reforming for another crack of the whip and Tuscan stalwarts Humangled are one of them. Prodromes of a Flatline (Bakerteam) is the group’s second effort since 2010’s Fractal (Abyss) turned a few heads. So is it enough to gain them a seat at the big boys table?

Unfortunately the answer is a definite no. While their strand of death metal certainly packs a punch, most noticeably on opening track ‘Liberté, Égalité, Brutalité’, there is not only too little going on throughout Prodromes of a Flatline to merit repeated spins, but crucially nothing to make the band stand out from the crowd. There’s not enough of the technicality of Nile, the brutality of Cryptopsy or the catchiness of Deicide, so we are left with a rather unappetising lumpen stew of the most bog standard elements of death metal, bereft of flavour and passion.

Too often it feels that the band is just going through the motions, often with some rather forced and clumsy transitions between parts that really should have been ironed out in the recording studio. At worst they come across as simply derivative as on the Death-aping ‘Intimacy Curse’ and God knows what possessed them to record such a horrible cover of ‘To Mega Therion’ and tack it on the end of the record. At best they’re a support band that tries hard for twenty-five minutes with the occasional half-catchy riff. However, in this day and age, it’s certainly not worth reforming for

 

5.0/10

JAMES CONWAY

Silentlie – Layers of Nothing

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10 years after forming, Italian goth rockers Silentlie have finally released their début album, Layers of Nothing (Bakerteam). The band – Giorgia Sacco Taz (vocals), Luigi Pressacco (guitars), Davide Sportiello (bass & Keyboards) and Andrea Piergianni (drums) – have previously managed to release two EPs, but perhaps should have taken a bit longer working on this release…

The 10 tracks and 45 minutes on offer provide plenty keyboard-heavy melodic mid-paced rockers featuring lots atmospherics and thick riffs. While it’s not terrible (nor particularly original) there’s little variation in the speed, style or structure and it’s all pretty safe, even occasionally plodding.

Opener ‘Unbreakable’ is a promising start; upbeat and catchy yet retaining plenty of heaviness in the guitars. But it’s more of an exception. Mostly we’re given mid-tempo filler that fails to stir anything other than apathy. There are some decent moments; ‘Slave’ and ‘Change’ almost stray into doom territory, ‘Dark Nights’ has a real 80s metal feel about it and could be a cover of some lost Ozzy Osbourne b-side.

Taz’s vocals are solid; she knows how to carry a tune but there’s not a lot of range outside her low croon or chorus shout. Pressacco’s guitar work is decent through with occasional flourishes, and there’s a decent selection on solos on offer, especially on the likes of ‘My Scream is Silence,’ ‘Unbreakable’ and album closer ‘Dark Nights’.

There’s not much particularly wrong with Layers of Nothing: the vocals are ok, there’s some nice riffs, and a decent amount of guitar solos scattered about the album. But there’s very little to get excited about.

One for people really hankering for a new hit of gothic metal.

 

6.0/10

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DAN SWINHOE

Tristana – Virtual Crime

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There is something special about bands that go against the grain and laugh in the face of convention. From the likes of Mr Bungle to modern day greats like Between The Buried & Me, some bands have gained huge acclaim for experimentation, from marrying a weird hybrid of styles and genres together to create something new, or perhaps for a groundbreaking mentality upon the tried and tested. Slovakians Tristana are keen to place themselves in this category; their own bio pointing towards images of the mysterious and revolutionary, even describing themselves as some love child of Sepultura and Bon Jovi; lofty claims that their music does nothing to back up.

On latest album Virtual Crime (Bakerteam Records), the conundrum is a tricky one. Initially it is hard to categorise as it does branch into different directions and sounds; but at its core, it simply feels generic. Founded on melodic death metal with power metal tendencies towards the anthemic with added touches of gothic tinged keys, nods to prog and even the occasional dubstep like electronica passage, rather than weaved into the mix all these extra elements they feel bolted on, made to stick out and grab attention, rather than bolster and support the rest of the cast.

Taking away these additional elements entirely and you’re left with an all too familiar branch of melodic death metal at its thinnest with patterns that are all too predictable, and an album that’s all too comfortable in tone and its production doesn’t give it any meat. Vocally it veers from cookie cutter harsh growls to a big but ultimately forgettable wail which could have been taken from a plethora of power metal hordes. The only vocal highlight is on ‘Jannie’s Dying’ where Peter Wilson shares duties with an unaccredited female vocalist who gives a stronger performance than their full-time frontman.

It’s very easy to offer bold claims that you are a forward thinking act but it is your music that needs to back it up, and Virtual Crime is a spectacular failure in this sense. An uninspiring, formulaic canvas with some cheap, brighter colours on top.

4.0/10

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CHRIS TIPPELL