The British Metal scene has well and truly been spoilt for choice when it comes to exciting and hugely important releases in recent years. Whether it being in the case of killer new bands causing waves on their first full release such as Venom Prison or The King Is Blind or follow-ups that build massively on the previous potential such as Employed To Serve or Architects with All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us (Epitaph), British Metal has shown its greatest period of abundance for quite some time. Continue reading
Ahead of the unleashing of their debut album, the hotly anticipated Our Father on the relaunched seminal UK label Cacophonous Records on 29th January 2016, Monolithic Metallers The King Is Blind are delighted to team up with Ghost Cult Magazine to premiere the second advance track from the upcoming release.
Entitled ‘Bloodlet Ascension’, the track showcases a snappier side to the band and is further testament to the metal diversity on display throughout the album, while forming an integral part of the story of Our Father. Our Father is a dark and involved concept album discussing the true genesis of man and the origin of our multitude of deficiencies, adapted from various literary sources including Paradise Lost and The Book of Revelation. ‘Bloodlet Ascension’ is a pivotal moment where the story’s protagonist, Satan, forms his plan to subvert and claim mankind and issues a rallying call to his daemons, to ascend through claiming the bloodline of man.
Vocalist Stephen John Tovey added:
“Every track on the album feeds the central narrative, but beyond that, each track also delves into the murkiness of human behaviour and expands outside of the story and lyrically operates on at least three plains. ‘Bloodlet…’ on one hand tells a positive message of overcoming failure, or rising up when you’re knocked down, while on the other exploring vengeance, and the complexities and vagaries of it… even when someone has been rightly dealt with in the first place, often the response is that it isn’t “their” fault, there’s always someone else to blame, and rather than reflect and take responsibility, instead disproportionate responses are planned in rage, anger, even using those flags as justification when the planned act far outweighs the initial event that caused the feeling of wrong doing.
“There is no black and white, everything is grey. It often depends on your point of view, and which side you’re standing with. There are no right answers, only more questions with which to challenge yourself. The point of it all is to ask questions. To push the listener to evaluate who they are, how they’d react and is their response not justified, but right.
“As with each track, the music and the lyrics match the emotion of the narrative, and ‘Bloodlet Ascension’ is a suitable rousing, riling, roiling, cascading call to arms.
“Subjects of The King, prepare to RISE, prepare to ASCEND!”
Our Father is released on Cacophonous Records on 29th January 2016.
The King Is Blind play an exclusive show at Black Heart, London, where they will be playing the concept album in its entirety on Sunday 31st January 2016. Support comes from Obscene Entity and Shrines. Tickets can be purchased here.
Set against a stunning and wholly appropriate backdrop of the genuine Ancient Roman Amphitheatre of Philippopolis in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, Symphony For The Lost (Century Media), a double CD and DVD package, is a culmination of a seed germinated and cultivated over a decade before being actualized in a unique and special moment for a band that has made a genuine and lasting impact on European metal and beyond, as Halifax’ finest, Paradise Lost, achieve a long-held ambition of performing with a full orchestra (the Plovdiv Philharmonic) and the Rodna Pesen choir.
Split into two halves, the first set is the band performing a selection of tracks specifically chosen due to their natural allegiance to classical music – accompanied by the full orchestra and choir – beautifully scored by Levon Manukyan, known for classically reworking Marilyn Manson and Judas Priest along with collaborating with Tarja Turunen.
While Paradise Lost’s music does lend itself to the swells, crescendos and additional trimmings expertly and subtly applied by Manukyan, containing a lot of space, it is particularly pleasing how compatible the partners in this marriage are. While Metallica’s S&M (Vertigo) was a spotted affair, the eight tracks of collaboration here are perfect bedfellows, with ‘Victim of the Past’ from The Plague Within (Century Media) in particular enriched by the additional melodies and strings that dance over the intro and weave into the tapestry of the song.
‘Tragic Idol’ is a classy opener, and throughout Nick Holmes is in good voice while Gregor Mackintosh’s distinctive melancholic leads intertwine with the strains and descants flowering around him, before we are treated to a jaw-dropping, mesmeric rendition of ‘Joys of Emptiness’; the iconic (sic) track truly resplendent in darkest majesty. The doom-grandeur of ‘Gothic’ is the natural conclusion to a special first half of the show.
The one nagging disappointment is that, as with exposure to any good thing, the desire is, naturally, to want more, and the second half of the set, performed sans embellishments, leaves you wishing that they had the same orchestral touches and enhancements, particularly as the backing tracks splice in synths, strings and female vocals. It’s a minor quibble, as the band polish off the latter nine tracks with style and panache.
Deliberately eschewing the option of being too dramatic or cinematic with the shooting, the direction is an understated warts-and-all that suits the band, as does Holmes dry self-deprecating between song wit. The overall release is truly completed by the brilliant Bulgarian crowd, as you can feel their love for PL, and their gratitude at witnessing something special, in their honest appreciation and participation.
Paradise Lost is one of Britain’s greatest, most distinctive and influential bands. Symphony For The Lost is a fitting addition to their career and a well-deserved achievement.
By this point, it shouldn’t surprise too many people to hear that Death Metal is stronger right now than it’s been since the 90’s. The renaissance – for want of a better word – has been going on for years now, and the renewed quality and focus has spread to most pre-existing subgenres as well as made some new ones. Among the slew of Old School-, Post-, Blackened-, Progressive- and Abstract Art Tentacles-Death Metal, however, the 90’s American style of DM characterised by bands like Cannibal Corpse has been largely absent.
On their debut Lamentia (Tridroid), Obscene Entity combine this currently underrepresented style with a touch of Ulcerate’s atmospheric, ambient approach. The combination of crushing, rhythmic Death Metal with more progressive passages is reminiscent of fellow Brits Ageless Oblivion, but much tighter and more focussed. Unlike some of their peers, OE understand that a short and concise album is often preferable to a longer one, and Lamentia makes it points quickly and effectively. Some thought has also gone into the structure, with an instrumental separating the more progressive tracks at the end from the more straightforwardly brutal first half.
Lamentia may not offer anything particularly original in terms of its musical elements, but they’ve been combined effectively to make an album with both instant catchiness and lasting depth. Another example that the current health of Death Metal is not entirely linked to the success of a couple of “big name” bands, and another name to add to the list of bands to watch out for.
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The arrival of a new Iron Maiden album is nearly always something to be celebrated. Probably the most consistently inventive and compelling heavy metal band of the past thirty years, the band’s new record, a double album effort, The Book of Souls (Parlophone/Sanctuary/BMG), is their 16th opus. For a band with such a celebrated history, it is a joy and delight to confirm that it stands resolute as one of the best things the band has produced. Ever.
Given the backdrop to the arrival of this record, notably lead vocalist Bruce Dickinson’s unexpected brush with cancer, one could be forgiven – and forgive the band – if you thought that, given the turmoil, something sub-par might turn up. Not a bit of it. Far from The Book of Souls being a “will this do?” contractual obligation effort, The Books of Souls sees the band in ridiculously fine fettle, delivering an album with heart and chutzpah in equal measure. It is a record of heft, of innovation and invention. It is an album to cheer from the rooftops.
The first two songs on the album are Dickinson only compositions and, perhaps more so than any Iron Maiden album even since his debut on 1982’s The Number of the Beast (EMI) his personality and musical talent positively radiates and dominates the record. ‘If Eternity Should Fail’ and ‘Speed of Light’ are both superb tracks, full of power and emotional range, substance and guile. On ‘The Great Unknown’ and ‘When the River Runs Deep’, the creative and intelligent interplay between Adrian Smith and Steve Harris is much in evidence. Harris’s role as a key driving force in Maiden has never been in doubt; Smith’s song writing is taught and focussed as ever, his musicianship breathtakingly accomplished. It’s a performance of valediction.
For an album that lasts the length of a movie but contains only eleven tracks it is perhaps inevitable that much of the focus on The Book of Souls will revolve around the album’s epic songs: ‘The Red and the Black’, ‘The Book of Souls’ and ‘Empire of the Clouds’.
‘The Red and the Black’ is a Harris-penned song and his only solo effort on this album; however, when it is as powerful and inspiring as this, you need not worry. This is a magnificent composition, fourteen minutes of atmospheric, captivating metal that is so brilliant put together that you can only sit back and admire the artistry at work. Whether it’s the infectious wo-oh-ohs, the cheeky and cunning nods to ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ on parts of the musical interludes, or the sheer bloody joy of it all, it scarcely matters. This is Maiden at their most epic, most versatile and most bellicose.
The album’s title track is similarly effortlessly brilliant. A continent-sized riff eases the listener into one of those epic, universe spanning classics that lets Bruce and his not inconsiderable lung power free. It’s familiar, alien, exotic, defiantly Maiden. The middle part sounds awfully like ‘Losfer Words’, the instrumental track off 1984’s Powerslave (EMI) but, as with the rest of the record, this sounds more like a band embracing their heritage rather than plundering it.
It’s the piano that initially knocks you sideways on the stunning coda that is ‘Empire of the Clouds’. Dickinson’s retelling of a British R101 Airship disaster of 1930 is, simply, majestic. This is historical narrative set to a Maiden soundtrack, passionate in its re telling the tale of human frailty and human heroism. This is progressive music at its very best: complex without indulgence, structured but not arch. Above all, it’s a song that for all the talk of it being eighteen minutes long, is actually something that would benefit from being longer. It’s an extraordinary way to end what is, let’s not be coy here, an extraordinary record.
The Book of Souls is everything that you hoped it would be and more. In this world of short attention spans, the announcement that Iron Maiden’s new album was going to be a proper double, weighing in at a hefty 92 mins felt like some statement of intent. Iron Maiden have never been ones to follow the vagaries of fashion and given their history and their collective sense of purpose they were deeply unlikely to start that kind of nonsense at this stage in their career.
An album that works on a number of levels – the strength of the songwriting, the collective and individual musicianship, the range and power of the entire album are all deeply impressive. This is a record about confronting mortality in an adult and mature way but it is no maudlin self-indulgence and is resolutely in favour of life and resolutely life-affirming.
The Book of Souls is the collective endeavour of a band still resolutely in love with music and still gracious and humble enough to want to share that with its audience. Happy and glorious, from epic start to bombastic end.
2014 saw the departure of Paul Allender from the Cradle of Filth ranks for the second time in his life; Allender having left to form The Blood Divine after the bands’ debut album The Principle of Evil Made Flesh (Cacophonous). The White Empress six-stringer then rejoined for what is often seen, perhaps unfairly, as the bands last “great” album Midian (Music For Nations/Koch) [I for one have a lot of time for Nymphetamine (Roadrunner) and Manticore (Peaceville) – ST]. With Allender’s departure, so the exploration of a shorter, punkier, more traditional verse-chorus structured album of 2012’s Manticore departed with it.
Cradle frontman Dani Filth then followed up Manticore with the debut album of his other band, Devilment, ten tracks of straight forward Gothic groove metal, resplendent with tongue-in-bum lyrics and simple, catchy slabs of rock club anthems. With his two most recent albums being simpler affairs, the obvious conclusion is that Hammer Of The Witches (Nuclear Blast) is a reaction, with its return to lengthier compositions and a more grandiose presentation, all tied up with some of the bands thrashiest riffs for a while. “I guess so” muses Dani. “We never do two albums the same. It’s definitely a bit more meandering, and I think people like to have that, they like Cradle of Filth to be about storytelling, to be very cinematic, about it being a journey and immersive. I personally like it. Some of my favourite Cradle songs are the ten minute ones – ‘Queen of Winter, Throned’, ‘Bathory Aria’, etcetera”
“The necessity of having to get 2 new guitarists on board, both joining the band at the same time for our tour with Behemoth last year, it’s given them a place almost like Murray and Smith, Hanneman and King” continues Filth, discussing “new” (they’ve been in the band a year, mind) guitarists Richard Shaw (Emperor Chung) and Ashok (Fear). “They’re very competent musicians. Their musicianship is out of this world and I can say that, because I’m a vocalist, so I’m only hanging around them!
“Everybody’s really contributed to this album and on that tour in particular we were plundering a lot of our old material, playing ‘Beneath The Howling Stars’ and ‘Funeral In Carpathia’ ‘Haunted Shores’ and I think that was a good springboard for us to then jump off onto writing this album”
Cradle recorded once again with Scott Atkins at Atkins’ own Grindhouse Studios, in deepest rural Suffolk. Speaking to Atkins, a guitarist himself and formerly of Stampin’ Ground, the producer confirmed the technical qualities of the new pair had hugely benefited the recording process. “Yes, they’re awesome, they’re fans of the band and they contributed well to the record” opines Dani of the guitarists’ contribution to a record that could easily have been a double album. “We were very prolific in the fact that we actually had to drop 3 really good songs which with a little bit more nudging day will hopefully see the light of day.
“Maybe if the album does well, we can extend the touring cycle and get an EP out with those three songs; that’d be on top of the two bonus tracks. We see all of our music as children and we didn’t really want to see those bonus track songs segregated from the bulk of the album, but record companies do as they do.
“We couldn’t decide on a track listing until the 11th hour, so, some people may even prefer those 2 tracks.”
Despite the impact, technical ability and understanding of the legacy of Cradle of Filth brought by the latest through the revolving door of official band members, what would Dani see as the definitive Cradle line up? If there was money on the table… “People have offered us a lot of money to do various things, but it’s just a bit shit really, in my opinion. It’s like going to Martin (Skaroupa – drums) and saying ‘Martin, we’re going about to do a tour, but sorry, you’re not invited because somebody’s given me a fat wad of cash to get Nicholas Barker back in.’
“And as much as I love Nicholas, and what a great drummer he is, it just doesn’t feel right, you know? And that’s one thing Cradle have always maintained throughout the years, thick and thin, whether people love us or hate us, we’ve always done our own thing, and we personally think we’ve done it for the right reasons. The possibilities are endless, People have come and gone and I can’t see it (a vanity tour) happening.
“Unless it was a VAST amount of money, and it got me my second luxury yacht…” chuckles Filth.
“Look, the line-up of Cradle of Filth is the current line-up. Hopefully should the longevity of the album continue, we’ll get in there and do the EP, because we’ve got 3 songs which are great and are only going to the better once they’ve been worked on further. And then we can add a couple of covers to the mix as well, because we’ve been favouring a few songs that we’d just like to add the Cradle touch to.
“But that’s the imminent future aside from the massive touring ahead of us. I’ve got some ideas for that (the tour), but we’ve got to keep them within budget, so the giant robot ripping off the roof of each venue, sadly, doesn’t seem viable…
“I’m a dreamer like that, see… We can only hope, hey?”
There aren’t many characters left in the world of rock and metal, those that we used to call “Rock Stars”, particularly populating those swathes of bands who sit betwixt strata, neither mainstream nor underground, being too extreme to be commercial, yet too commercial to belong to the underground any more.
For here lies the beast that is “He-who-takes-himself-too-seriously”, where frontmen are too concerned with being seen to be intellectual and learned, to present their bands as bastions of intelligence, and by proxy, “cool”.
Both loquacious and mischievous and one of the last of a bygone age of frontmen, Dani Filth is an erudite, self-aware and humorous chap, at ease mercilessly mocking himself and his own vehicle of melodic extreme metal, one Cradle of Filth, often before chuckling to himself.
In terms of speech mannerisms, the literarily savvy Filth orally moves in similar patterns to Russell Brand; selective, creative and poetic in his language. “I’ve backed myself into a corner, lyrically, yes,” conceded the distinctive frontman, “and I don’t think people would appreciate if I did try and simplify things, but I think that’s where my other band, Devilment, come in, it’s the fact there are no presumptions with those guys yet, so that’s like a pressure valve and is something I can do without having to worry about anything like some horrible little internet troll peaking over my shoulder every five seconds…”
Along with Brand, another protagonist who inspires a similarly marmite response, plenty of people love to hate on the ‘Filth. Not that, after 24 years of being the main focal point of such a mixed reaction, Dani gives much of a shit about those trolls any more…
“Fuck, no! There are way too many good things going on with Cradle of Filth for me to give one. I look at it with trite amusement now. I find it hilarious when I read spiteful comments. I actually think ‘You’re sitting down, writing this… what a waste of your time! All the things you could be doing in the world, and you’re spending your time moaning about something you don’t particularly like…’ It’s tragic…”
One of those “good things” is new album Hammer Of The Witches, the bands’ first for Nuclear Blast, and eleventh overall. Now halfway through their third decade, facing taking the band once more ‘round the sun with an impending European tour announced, along with plans to take in both South and North America before returning to play HammerFest VIII, is it no more than just a job? This is surely what Dani Filth now “does”. How does it all feel to be back in the cycle again?
“Having spent the best part of four months in the studio which is tantamount to living in a cocoon, we then emerge this big, horrible Gothic butterfly, then suddenly you’re back into the whirl and rush of humanity again. We were reintroduced the world from the theme of isolation, and being locked away out in the Suffolk countryside to flying out, playing a big festival in the Philippines, I presented a couple of award ceremonies, we’ve been doing summer festivals… Yeah, it’s just the tip of the iceberg at the moment.”
There have always been varied literary references flittering throughout Filth’s lyrics. From tales of Elizabeth Bathory to the Marquis de Sade to Dani’s own Gothic visions, dark romances have played out over the melodic blackened thrash and classic metal tones of the band. But this is a man who writes A LOT of lyrics for every album, for whom the cauldron of creativity must, surely, be in danger of reducing too far, and turning to unusable mulch? “Some of my notes probably aren’t fit for human consumption for a few hundred years” Filth admits, “but while sometimes you have panic attacks where you think “Shit, I’ve just been delivered 3 albums’ worth of material and I’ve literally got no idea where it’s going”, we work really hard on things and it all pans out really well in the end.
“The music suggests the ideology anyway, that’s where you get that epiphany. After 3 or 4 songs, you know the crux of where the album is going. You know, obviously it’s not going to be a reggae tune coming in, but in that respect, I don’t think the well will run dry… Though who knows, I’ve just babbled and totally forgotten what I was going to say, so maybe it will…”
Concepts, lengthy epics and gothic story-telling are all traits that Cradle have become known for… “Well, we’ve become known for quite a few things, not all of them good!” laughs Filth, before continuing to impart details on the cover and the central piece(s) of the album.
“I would say if there was any concept on the album, it’s very medieval. ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’, which will probably delight a lot of traditional black metallists through its title, concerns itself with the crusades and draws obvious comparisons with today’s religious climes and the fact Mohammedans and Christians are still at each other’s throats, so spiritually we’re still in the same cesspit we’ve always been in. I would say, that concept bleeds nicely into everything else.” But with particular regard to Hammer Of The Witches, how does the concept translate across? “It’s a loose concept. One could be forgiven for thinking it was a concept album because the Latvian contemporary artist Arthur Berzinsh, what he’s done to draw it and draw it all together would make you think it was conceptual, but it’s only as conceptual as much as other peoples are.
“The title track is taken from ‘Malleus Maleficarum’ but our interpretation of that, which puts the hammer, the judges gavel, in the hands of the witch cults, practitioners of other-worldly practices!
“The album is testament to that; you listen to it and it sounds like a true Cradle of Filth album. And, at its’ essence you can tell this line up really enjoys playing with each other” concludes Dani, letting out a, um, Filthy laugh…