British politician, Ed Miliband, recently invited Napalm Death front man Barney Greenway to his show on BBC Radio 2. During their conversation, Barney explained the merits and sub genres of metal to Ed, which led to the politician to ask for extreme metal vocal lessons. Continue reading →
Still They Pray (Relapse Records) is the first long-player in six years from legendary Virginian Doom quartet Cough, with a couple of later ‘splits’ the only things preventing their status from slipping into the mythical. Thankfully this time lapse hasn’t seen the band’s power or collective ability diminish.
Album opener ‘Haunter of the Dark’ exudes the heavy, Occult feel of their one-time ‘split’ mates The Wounded Kings: riffs and leadplay evoking the bone-crumbling mysticism of George Birch and Steve Mills. This is allied to the fuzzed sound and laconic, harrowing vocal of Electric Wizard, which is apt given that Jus Osborn handles production here. Follow-up ‘Possession’, however, and wonderful album highlight ‘The Wounding Hours’ with its haunting keys, both take on a new resonance: obsidian screams leading a slower trawl through infested swamps, resulting in the more familiar funereal pace. The standout feature here and in the crawling, sinister warmth of ‘Dead Among the Roses’ is some mournful, stirring leadwork, squealing and moaning through an oppressive riff and pummeling rhythm section like a speared anaconda.
This is, of course, the mark of this lumbering leviathan: it’s a sound you’ve heard before but, as with TWK, Cough adds a variety and subtlety which supposedly more influential contemporaries seem loath to display. The sheer evil of ‘Masters of Torture’s Blackened Sludge vocal heightens both the intensity and the omen: while wailing solos add morose emotion to a creeping, hideous body, suddenly enlivened by a rumbling, Dorrian-esque groove. The beautiful, leaden balladry of ‘Let it Bleed’, meanwhile, is graced by a Hippy drawl which still manages to carry a certain malevolence; as does the monstrous instrumental ‘Shadow of the Torturer’, Parker Chandler’s basslines plumbing the Pacific depths whilst seedy, seductive leads screech and oscillate, easing Joseph Arcaro’s lazy yet powerful drums to a crushing main section.
It’s a sound undeniably British, whilst reminiscent of Chandler’s work with Windhand and, as evinced in the acoustic-led closing title track, a late 60s Haight-Ashbury Americana. With such obliterating Doom spirited by the fire, despair and hate of the 21st century, Cough has never sounded so vital.
The host of independent labels involved in the various-format issue of Burn and Bury (React With Protest /Vetala Productions/SuperFi Records/Prismatik), the latest EP from Colchester nasty noiseniks Jøtnarr, is testament to a steadying realisation of the promise this relatively young outfit possesses in buckets.
From the start there’s an unmistakably British feel to the music: the Crust infusion lending the frosted riffs an almost Post-punk vibe. The mournful groove to opener ‘Rise By Sin’, however, is as desolate as it is infectious and memorable. Stark, cold leadwork opens into a rolling, crushing coda of Stoner-style riffs which pulse with an added energy, while Chris Moore’s harsh vocal coats the whole with brief yet highly-effective bursts of tar-gurgling. The band’s diversity is fully displayed in the ensuing ‘Sunless’: a Shoegaze jangle, doubtless anathema to many pure Blackhearts, steadily dropping into a eruption of Winterfylleth-esque violent emotion; the slower pace and wistful lead yowls maintaining the earlier touches of humanity.
The tremolo thrills of ‘Hernswolf’ zig-zag through intricate patterns and bludgeoning riffs, Moore’s horrifying rasp unifying the band’s core elements in an all-too-brief track which perfectly embodies their ethos. The medieval melancholy opening ‘Waldeinsamkeit’, meanwhile, is wonderfully dictated by Oliver Harvey’s stunning stickwork which courses subtly throughout this eye-opening set; the closing track exploding into life halfway in before cascading to another of those pensive time switches and subsequent wailing solos.
Jøtnarr’s arsenal is proving increasingly powerful, their Black undercurrent positively effervescent with the superb blend and execution of other hostilities. Burn and Bury marks them out as one of the UK’s brightest underground lights at present.
While blighted by sound problems, it is apparent that Eastern Front have undergone significant improvements over the last twelve months, adding melody, tension and drama to their Marduk-ian overtures and go down well to the swelling crowd. Playing a set entirely of tracks from their new album Descent Into Genocide, the Suffolk black metallers have made the right choice in focusing on new material that comes across as an entirely different, improved band to their previous efforts.
Yet from the moment vocalist/guitarist Chris Naughton leads the crowd in a semi-ironic arm waving intro that leads into the Celtic Frost /Motorhead chug that propels ‘Mam Tor (The Shivering Mountain)’ into the converted church, it is clear that Winterfylleth are a class apart. While they remain staunchly anti-image, no histrionics or pyrotechnics, and clad in plain black T-shirts, their music does all the speaking and impressing for them.
Up next ‘The Swart Raven’ builds from open chords, swathed in beautiful tremolo-picked melodies and underpinned by a driving beat, before dropping down to it’s clean build-up, that sees arms and voices of the gathered throng raised along in chorus. Already the audience is firmly in the hands of the band as the song’s coda bruises in a flurry of bass drums and vocal roars, even before the double-punch of crowd-pleasers ‘Casting The Runes’ and ‘The Wayfarer Part I’ see the dark of night.
Yet, better is yet to come, as the two new tracks aired, an epic broil titled ‘A Careworn Heart’ and the more straight-forward Darkthrone tinged yet still wholly “English” Black Metal of ‘The Divination of Antiquity’, along with rousing closer ‘Fields of Reckoning’ are the highlights of a set where the ‘fylleth disprove the myth that black metal doesn’t work live with an excellently delivered performance that uplifts the gathered faithful, with heads banging all the way back throughout. Mesmeric and powerful at Bloodstock, they perhaps even exceed that, with darkened anthems filling the Essex evening.
In a scene where the genre classics have been unchallenged for two decades, Winterfylleth are now established as one of the leading exponents in their field, status their excellent new album The Divination of Antiquity will only enhance. With their output ranging from raging Bathory influenced aggression to sweeping, landscape-inspired grandiose moments via Primordial midtempo pump, all is delivered with the confidence of a band who know their wave is rising. Their brand of organic, atmospheric and all-consuming blackened metal with touches of class, heritage and intelligence has seen them rise, relatively unopposed, to stand as one of the best black metal bands today both live and on record, with tonight a further example of their inherent quality.
Winterfylleth Set List:
Mam Tor (The Shivering Mountain)
The Swart Raven
Casting The Runes
The Wayfarer Part 1: The Solitary One Waits For Grace
It has been 40 years since Judas Priest released their debut album, Rocka Rolla, a kitsch rock album that showcased little to suggest the career that was to follow. Just take a minute to take that in. Forty years. Four decades in which Priest have, along with Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath, formed an unholy British triumvirate that has influenced every single metal band, bar none, between them. Unlike Maiden, who are at the peak of their popularity in their later years, and Sabbath, who since reuniting with Ozzy are world-wide festival headliners, the Priest never quite received the same level of consistent commercial success, despite tracks like ‘Breaking The Law’ being universally known, and their Painkiller album being one of the greatest metal albums ever released.
It has been strongly suggested that Ruby anniversary album Redeemer Of Souls (Epic/Columbia) is going to be their last foray into the recording studio, and that should come as no surprise. Not only has Redeemer been over 3 years in the making, but iconic vocalist Rob Halford and bassist Ian Hill are 62, while guitarist Glenn Tipton is 66. Despite such a lengthy career, his foil and lead sparring partner KK Downing has stepped down from the band due to a breakdown in relationships and doesn’t feature on a Priest album for the first time, unobtrusively replaced by Richie Faulkner.
So, against the backdrop of both their own incredible legacy, a confusing and underwhelming last album (2008’s Nostradamus), and recording without a long-term member for the first time, Judas Priest are releasing their swansong.
The first thing to point out is that they were never going to re-record Painkiller, itself nearly a quarter of a century old and THE most “metal” album of all time. So, if you’re expecting raging drums, pinch harmonic squeals, full on aggression, this isn’t the Priest album for you. The intention after Nostradamus was to release a more straightforward, down the line summation of what Priest is, does and stands for and what Redeemer Of Soulshas is a beautifully warm and classic Priest feel, not too dissimilar to the vibe embraced by Angel Of Retribution and highly reminiscent of a Sad Wings Of Destiny or Sin After Sin;
While Rob Halford’s ear-splitting attack has been toned down to a more mid-range delivery, he is still distinctive and stately over a series of strong rock songs that takes you through the dynamic range of what Priest have offered over the years. Opening triad ‘Dragonaut’, ‘Redeemer Of Souls’ and ‘Halls Of Valhalla’ bring the quick, single note, spiky riffs synonymous with tracks like ‘Nightcrawler’ or ‘Freewheel Burning’ and raise the horns, arms pumping, choruses soaring, an approach that serves ‘Down In Flames’ and the Hill driven ‘Hell & Back’ equally well.
But where Redeemer…really works is in the more mature, considered material like ‘Cold Blooded’, that amalgamates ‘Blood Stone’ with a downer, Heaven & Hell darkness, and ‘Sword Of Damacles’, ‘Crossfire’ and ‘March Of The Damned’, with their looser, head-nodding 70’s vibes. A very consistent album is finished strong with the epic ‘Secrets Of The Dead’, brother-in-arms to ‘One Shot At Glory’ the marvellous ‘Battle Cry’ before a very brave and interesting choice of closer ‘Beginning Of The End’, a reflective number in the vein of ‘Before The Dawn’ or Black Sabbath’s ‘Solitude’, finishes things.
Redeemer of Soulsfulfils the role of final chapter capably, as JudasPriest release a retrospective that nods to their career, recalling everything that has made them genuine legends of our metal world. I sincerely feel honoured and saddened to be writing about final release from one of the best there’s ever been; a true great that is signing off with a fitting epitaph.