Bring Me The Horisont – Axel Söderberg of Horisont

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You can’t call yourself a proper prog band until you’ve attempted those two most indulgent of propositions… the ten minute long epic and the concept album. For their fourth album, Swedish retro rockers Horisont haven’t just attempted both, they’re brazenly flaunting it, kicking the Rise Above released album off with ten minute prog opera and title track ‘Odyssey’.

“The whole thing started when we were joking around saying “Let’s do a 10 minute song”,” laughs vocalist and keys man Axel Söderberg. “We really did think of it as a joke at first. But then we came round to it saying “You know, we should really do that, it’d be really cool”. So we proceeded from there, building the other songs around the same subject and it came together. It’s one of those songs where a 10 minute song doesn’t feel like a 10 minute song, so, then it’s a good 10 minute song!!”

And what a subject it is, too. Raiding such luminiferous source materials as an entire book-shelf full of sci-fi paperbacks, and a life-time worth of Blakes 7 and Buck Rogers ideals, via a touch of War of the Worlds, the story of Odyssey “concerns a supreme race of mysterious beings” confirms bassist Magnus Delborg. Of course it does… but just what do we encounter these beings doing? “(they) experiment with the creation of life and start to populate planets around the universe. This is the story of one of those planets…”

“The main theme of the album is Magnus our bass players story,” affirms Söderberg before explaining how the title track served to feed the rest of the album. “When we started with this 10 minute song, that started with me buying a synthesizer and trying out the main riff and finding something that the song was going to evolve from.”

The main keyboard lick reminds me of Magnum (a band I never thought I’d reference when talking a new release in 2015). “Ha, yes, I like them. Well, the first album only” grins the voice of Horisont, before diverging more about his additional input to the album; synthesizers… “I’ve always played the keyboards and we never got around to using them live before. So now I’ve bought myself 3 proper keyboards, so it’s going to be nice trying it out live. I can’t drink as much, anymore, though…” he muses on his new live responsibilities with just a pang of regret in his voice.

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The introduction of synthesizers has rounded out the Horisont sound, like the pair of Doc Martens that have finally stopped giving you blisters and now fit like a foot-glove. “I’m not really sure why it works better now”, is the shrugged reply. “It’s like, this album is more a mix of what we actually listen to. I listen to lots of Kansas. Not the “proper” prog groups like Yes or that, but more AOR prog-ish stuff is really what I like. So that shows on this album more than the others. We’re into UFO and Black Sabbath as well, obviously, but this one really reflects what we listen to.”

“We probably would have liked to have played this stuff before, but I don’t think we had the skills back then!”

It’s been a natural evolution, and a return to the music that is in their hearts. “We’ve played this kind of music for ten years now and genres and new kinds of music they come and go, but the classic rock sound is something that will always come back. Everyone that listens to rock in general always goes back to the classic bands.”

The amiable frontman gets sheepish about his love of the retro… “I started out singing in a Misfits and Danzig covers band! That was what pulled me into playing music, made me realize I could play music and it sounded OK! Then I proceeded from there, so I guess that’s my musical background – punk and hard rock.

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“I’m actually really not that good at listening to new bands, because there’s no other bands like the classic bands. I do try to check out newer bands, but it’s been a long time since I bought a new record, put it that way.”

Not content with breaking new ground with Odyssey, the upcoming tour will also see the band pushing their horizon(t)s (#SorryNotSorry). “Yes, I just came back from practicing vocal harmonies… and we’ve got a lot of work, as that’s something we’ve never done before! We’re rehearsing hard for the tour and realizing how much work we have to do in learning the songs!”

But it seems like it is hard work that’s paying off. There seems to be a genuine buzz and interest in Odyssey and the bands fourth, most organic and natural album, appears to be the one set to raise their profile all across the board.

“I can feel it; it all feels promising. Yes, it’s looking good! We had more time writing and recording this album than before. All the other albums were a bit stressful, this one, though, just feels really good.”

Odyssey will be released on Friday 18th September via Rise Above Records

WORDS BY STEVE TOVEY

 

 

 

Terror – The 25th Hour

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Terror is one of those veteran bands that you know what they sound like as soon as you hear their name. That’s because they have put down a nearly fifteen-year career doing hardcore the right way. They are old-school sounding enough to love, and modern enough to carry weight without trying hard to be too modern (no death metal vocals, no breakdowns for the sake of it). When they signed to Victory Records a few years back, it was a no-brainer. Terror is a band that really espouses the what the Victory punk bands of yesterday used to be and what hardcore continues to need in these times. Their first release for the label, 2013’s Live By The Code was a solid affair, but a little too clean for me. It was a major move for the band to switch labels, so I can understand playing on the safe side then. Their new album The 25th Hour is downright dangerous by comparison.

With 14 songs clocking in at 22 minutes, the album breezes right by you. However, don’t mistake brevity for lack of quality. The 25th Hour is one of the strongest releases in a good year for hardcore with memorable tracks that hit hard, and cut you to the bone. Scott Vogel’s impassioned rasp wails with urgency as the album is a loose concept of our modern society on the brink. You feel all of Vogel’s desperation, fear, contempt and dismay on track after track. Great riffs, tight beats and a few breakdowns mark these songs, and with zero time for B.S. Besides the title track, the stand out cuts are ‘No Time For Fools’, ‘Feed The Rats’, ‘The Solution’, ‘Blinded By The Lights’, ‘Why_’, ‘Sick And Tired’ and ‘Deep Rooted’. These songs will have you foaming at the mouth with anger, but inspire you enough to think, after you are too tired from moshing and screaming along to the words.

8.0/10

KEITH CHACHKES

Augment Of Rebirth (Part 2) – Dan Briggs of Between The Buried And Me

 

 

Between the Buried and Me, photo by Justin Reich

Between the Buried and Me, photo by Justin Reich

With their, at times, near insanity-inducing levels of genre merging and sheer unpredictability it is pretty apparent that the lyrical subject matter of Between The Buried And Me also fits this bill. Even a cursory glance over previous song titles such as ‘Foam Born (A) The Backtrack’ and ‘Croakies and Boatshoes’ prove that even lyrically they come with rather a large dose of head scratching. Even so, the concept that saddled both The Parallax releases (both Metal Blade) was so intricate that explaining fully would require its own essay to explain (Dan Briggs’ own advice in conversation was to check Wikipedia).

On Coma Ecliptic (Metal Blade) the story is much easier to understand on the face of it, but still presents a multitude of “WTF” moments, nor is it any less grandiose. In its most basic explanation it follows a man who falls into a self-induced coma in order to explore a plethora of different realities. Seriously, it’s still easier to understand than The Parallax.

Firstly, Brigg’s explains where the story came from: “That was totally Tommy’s thing. We were a while into the album and I think he was getting nervous, he was out in California and we were locked in, and we pretty much had the album laid out. I think Tommy felt all of a sudden “I had a load of catching up to do”. I don’t know how many ideas he had before he went with the coma idea.”

“I know he was influenced by The Trumann Show and The Twilight Zone, like you’re in a reality and it’s not quite what it seems, it’s fucked up and it’s not what you thought. Thus lies an interesting groundwork for, I guess inherently a BTBAM album which is going to be all over the place.”

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With this overriding story thread through the album, rather than simply an ideal or a notion, the band have raised the idea before of it being more than a concept album but instead a “Rock Opera”. The thought behind this is one that Briggs seems keen to back up, as he explains. “All a rock opera is, is telling a story through a song, and that’s what we are doing. Not too different from a concept album but it’s being in the mindset that we wanted to do something more theatrical and take it to the next level, and for us that was just calling it that, and that was propelling us to a different headspace.”

Certainly it’s a terminology which pricks up interest more so than the more tried and tested concept album, and with it brings a greater sense of gravitas. This way of looking at their work, it turns out, is also a product of some important members coming further out of their shell in terms of story writing, even with elements of stories and tales in their work before;Colors (Victory) is a conceptual album but not lyrically, musically it works as one unit but lyrically was not locked in. Tommy was not confident enough that he could do it, even though there are songs like ‘Sun Of Nothing’ that was such an intense story that surely he could have locked in and carried out. So he was hinting at it then and on the The Great Misdirect (Victory), and he picked at little elements of those in The Parallax, but he is at a cool place now when it comes to writing stories and being vivid.”

What is made even clearer from Briggs’ explanations about the songwriting processes is just how long the whole system has proven. “Some of these songs we have already been sitting on for a year, and it’s so nice that people are finally hearing it, to finally get feedback.”

 

Between The buried and Me, by Meg Loyal Photography

Between The buried and Me, by Meg Loyal Photography

With the framework begun such a long while ago, it makes it all the more bewildering the number of other musical projects that Briggs has under his belt and currently in work. As passionate about each one, with a hugely variant music taste, Briggs relishes the chance to touch base, firstly with the most high-profile of all, his dissonant, Mahavishnu Orchestra inspired Trioscapes, and the adrenaline shot it gave him: “We have done a good bit, we’ve done handfuls of touring in America and trying to get to Europe; it’s just lining up with the right people to make it happen. That group’s a lot of fun. When that started in 2011 it really gave me a jolt, and I feel like I’ve been riding a wave ever since. I don’t know what it is but it just got me so pumped and really excited and it hasn’t stopped.”

Also included are the more melodic Orbs with a new album, which “We have been trying to shop it and work out how to get it released”, a project he describes as the closest yet to a solo effort, which is “inspired by a lot of music from the 30’s and 40’s, jazz standards, but it’s pretty fucked up, it’s different”, and another that has been mostly kept under wraps until now which sees a new working relationship with Richard Henshall of UK tour buddies Haken.

“We haven’t really announced the band yet but I’ve been posting bits and we finished the album in April, trying to find a good time to record it, which will probably be towards the end of the year or start of next year. That music is really fun, really exciting, really different, and I love the band Haken, and Richard has been super cool to work with.”

How Briggs finds the time and the energy to work on so many different acts and types of music is simply astounding, and you get the impression this is just the tip of the iceberg for him. What can’t be overlooked though is how much Briggs (and the rest of BTBAM for that matter) are fans of exciting, experimental music that pushes boundaries. “For me, all the music I do is equally as important. It’s never a question of do I ever want to book studio time in these two weeks I have free before I go out; it’s like ‘Yeah, obviously, am so excited to do that’.”

More than enough proof that the future of the quirky, difficult to grasp music is in very sturdy hands.

 

CHRIS TIPPELL

 

 

A Tourists Guide to London – Sam Loynes of VOICES

 

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With a debut album that flew under the radar, twisted progressive extreme metal outfit Voices made the ultimate statement with their incredible, expansive, complex and warped second album, the must-hear fucked up concept of London. Guitarist Sam Loynes took time out to give Ghost Cult an open top tour…

 

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The difference between your debut, From The Human Forest Create A Fugue Of Imaginary Rain and your second opus London (both Candlelight) is monumental, both in terms of scope and quality. How do you account for this improvement?

We were still finding our feet on the first record and came up with the songs within a couple of months through improvisation, which is how we write. Moving into London, the songs, again while relying on improvisation a lot in their construction, are far more considered.

We wrote London in a visual mode that became the narrative that runs through it, and we had this idea of trying to write a really ambitious piece. We wanted it to be big, meaty, with a lot of information for people to get into; to go full on with it. We didn’t want to do just another standard album, you know, seven songs, and it’s OK. Fuck that. This needed to be a serious, complete record that people can really get their teeth into.

Ambition was the main difference, really. We aimed for the stars with this one.

That’s a good word, because the album is ambitious, with no half measures taken, especially as it has a fully developed narrative and concept running through it. Which came first, the chocolate or the colour?

85% of what you hear on the record comes from improvisation. A great example is a song like ‘Fuck Trance’ that was composed completely in the moment. There was no preconception of riffs, or ideas, or anything like that, we just got into the rehearsal room after a long fucking day at work and fucking horrible journey down to the studio which is way out West London. We looked at each other, and we had it. I looked at Pete (Benjamin – guitars/vocals) and Dave (Gray – drums) and we had it. And the song came out.

The way the narrative came about was within that improvisation. When we were playing and creating it, we’d have these almost like visions, visions steeped in our non-musical influences at the time, things like Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair and the character Maurice Bendrix, who is an anti-hero that is obsessive and anxiety ridden over, of course, a woman. These reference points helped us visualize this new anti-hero as he moved through the streets of London being accosted by these various distorting events, and he’s reaching out trying to find this Megan figure that’s the object of his affection, even though she turns out to be less than agreeable.

It’s quite an abstract thing, but it was such a powerful mode of writing. When we got to the end of, say, ‘Hourglass’, when he was washed up by the River Thames after being poisoned, in our brains we desperately wanted to know where he’s going to go next! And the only way for is to find out is let’s fucking do the next song!

So, the narrative was spawned out of the visual style of writing (and) it was an amazing way to write. I don’t know, but it might even be a once in a lifetime only way of writing, because it was also very specific to where we all were in time and in our lives.

How auto-biographical is it?

 

Dave was very much at the forefront of encapsulating the specifics of what the narrative became. He then actually wrote the passages that you hear link the songs. It’s most personal to him, but the reason we chime as musicians and as people together is that we all have this disposition within us, this Maurice Bendrix syndrome – steeped within anxiety, very much onlookers, particularly living in London, and not feeling part of it, or feeling not quite right being within London.

I’d say that Dave was the one who related most to the anti-hero character and he brought him to life on paper but we all have over the top, vivid imaginations.

 

Did you reference other concept albums, perhaps something like Queensryche’s Operation Mindcrime which tells a story?

We were very aware of wanting to live up to the effect that concept records can have and the Zappa one is the one we looked at (Editor’s Note: Sam couldn’t remember the title at the time, I think he’s referring to Freak Out). Dave was keen it was a key reference point. With the theme of detachment, did you look at something like The Wall? To be honest, our influences in terms of the concept were very detached from music. JG Ballard and extending to things like Bladerunner, even Lolita to a certain degree.

So works with those feelings of being outside, or different… that detachment again? There’s a vicarious element to them. It’s very difficult to hone in on what we’ve done here, but it’s those ideas of vicarious obsessions, anxieties and distortions, all captured in an abstract narrative.

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As one of the creators of such an ambitious and successful dark work of art, how are you feeling about it now? 

Creatively it was daunting, but more so now we’ve done it, because I listen to London and I think “where do we go from here”? What kind of planet are we going to have to be on to live up to, or surpass this!? So for me, I do think we’re going to have to seriously consider what direction we go in next.

I think it was Krystoffer Rygg (Ulver) who said that each album he has done is a reaction to the one preceding it… So, is the response to something as complex and dark as London is maybe something lighter, catchier, more simplistic and punkier…?

It’s funny you should say more punky and poppy, because that was the idea I had. Myself and Dave are massive fan-boys of bands like Joy Division and Bauhaus and more recently to name a contemporary band I’m into, Savages, and while we’re not all of sudden become a fucking pub rock band or whatever, let’s think a little more about song based material, rather than really sprawling epic songs.

A song like ‘Last Train Victoria Line’ is in line with that kind of idea, and to me that’s the direction I’d like to consider going towards. Songs with hooks, choruses, that are a bit like Killing Joke, and a bit like Joy Division, but also extreme and out there.

Who knows what comes out when we start writing again, but I do not have any interest in regurgitating London because we ain’t gonna better that record.

 

Voices on Facebook

Words by STEVE TOVEY

Carach Angren – This Is No Fairytale

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Fortune favours the brave, and Carach Angren are forging something of a name for themselves by putting effort into the narratives of their albums, and looking to create something that at least pokes a toe outside the rigid walled box labelled “Black Metal”. A concept album that unfurls telling a story of two children caught up in a chilling horror (no spoilers here, if you want to find out the full extent of a tale that makes King Diamond’s tales seem like bedtime stories you will need to find out the hard – and heavy – way), This Is No Fairytale (Season of Mist) is the Dutch orators most compelling release to date.

Eschewing the usual black metal practice of ripping off thirty year old albums (praise be the dark lord!), Carach Angren are trying something different, with reference points of Abrahadabra (Nuclear Blast) and Grand Declaration of War (Necropolis), This Is No Fairytale takes the blood-curdling scream of black metal, and mixes it in the cauldron with a caustic steampunked Nachtmystium, darkened Imaginaerium (Nuclear Blast) symphonics and a liberal dose of Tim Burton.

While the resultant “whole” unfortunately doesn’t quite equal the sum of its parts, there are some very good parts here. The Dutch trio’s fourth album is an ambitious and enjoyable album, though at times it does allow certain tracks to outstay their welcome (‘Two Flies Flew Into A Black Sugar Cobweb’) and perhaps lacks a certain je ne sais quoi in the hook department.

This isn’t to put This Is No Fairytale down, because “when you reach for the stars, you may not quite get one, but you won’t come up with a handful of mud either” (Leo Burnett) and this stomping, frictional theatrical album conjures twisted Burton-esque images, especially during interlude ‘Dreaming of a Nightmare in Eden’. Carach Angren are at least looking to carve their own niche, and they aren’t too far from pulling the twisted nails of faith together to make their own maddened masterpiece.

Patience be thy virtue, Carach Angren.

7.0/10

Carach Angren on Facebook

 

STEVE TOVEY

Voices – London

 

Born from the ashes of much missed extremists Akercoke, Voices have proven a near ever present on the UK live scene in the last couple of years, yet upholding a sense of enigma and intrigue. Musically they prove all the more abrasive than most, through sheer venom, their unpredictable nature and their uncompromising boldness; a boldness that sees them take on a concept album on their second outing, and a sprawling metropolis of one at that.

London (Candlelight) follows an anti-hero like figure through the dark underground of this nation’s capital, a cold and grim tale within the dissonant and complex City, exploring his mental state, his sexual craving and his ultimate isolation. Far from being a story based on pure fantasy and whimsy, the overall setting and feel to proceedings is so organic and could easily have been a true account. Various spoken word interludes increase the almost cinematic experience as they interchange from male narrator and the news reader delivery of the female, one that paints a vivid picture of London’s dark side as often seen in the media.

Conceptually this is a mammoth prospect and it is perfectly matched sonically in both mood and diversity. Beginning with pure melancholy with the acoustic opener ‘Suicide Note’ is a surprising start which lulls you in before ‘Music For The Recently Bereaved’ quite simply erupts in a white, fist flying, rage. Like the urban jungle of its namesake, each turn proves capricious as dynamics quickly change, paces slow and quicken again in a breath as it simultaneously terrifies and hypnotizes. Vocally this shows a huge plethora of styles beyond most of their black/death metal peers, veering from both guttural and shrill growls and screeches, to an eerie, Scott Walker like croon.

The roots of the majority of this unit may have history together in Akercocke (David Gray, Sam Loynes and Peter Benjamin all previous members) but this is still a new band in some sense of infancy yet with an already formidable reputation and artistic vision. London is a tremendous feat which not only surpasses expectations, but buries them deep underground, and album that sees Voices as not only one of the UK’s but the world’s most forward thinking and captivating extreme acts, and should be seen as a benchmark release.

Huge in scope and style, but pulled off with astonishing effect.

 

9.0/10

 

CHRIS TIPPELL

I.N.C. – Black Hearse Serenade

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New York thrashers I.N.C. (formerly Indestructible Noise Command) are back with fourth album, Black Hearse Serenade (Ferocious Records). Their second record since reforming in 2010, the band have decided to take the often risky route of the concept album. Based around religious zealotry, Black Hearse Serenade “tells a story set in Southern California about a broken man, his congregation of runaways, junkies and lost souls and a murderous path to finality. A childhood filled with embarrassment and shame, born of religious zealotry and an overbearing mother, that broken child has now become a man.”

Despite the possibly overblown premise, the album is actually just a solid, groove-laden thrash album. The band – Dave Campo (Bass), Kyle Shepard (Drums), Dennis Gergely (Vocals), Tony Fabrizi and Erik Barath (both Guitar) – clearly like a bit of Pantera and Alice in Chains, but manage to avoid simply rehashing 90s sounds. Opener ‘Stirring the Flock’ is a lesson in pure speed metal; lightning fast riffs and vocal melodies Anthrax would be proud of. It’s a great standout track, but hardly fits in with the rest of what’s on offer. The likes of ‘Sainted Sinner,’ ‘Organ Grinder’ and are all packed with a slower, muscular groove, occasionally brining to mind Damageplan or a less cringey Hellyeah.

Every song is packed with host of big, chugging riffs and a healthy dose of pinch harmonics, while the vocals sway from throaty Anselmo-eque screams to almost Alice in Chains styles crooning. The middle trio of the album’s title track, the furious ‘The Lies We Devour’ and crushing ‘Lucky #7’ are the highpoint, but there’s very little fat here. In fact the only real drawback is when ‘Love Like Napalm’ drags the album to a close. More of a slow stadium rocker, it doesn’t really fit, but offers another side of the band. It’s a small nit-pick on an otherwise enjoyable experience.

Black Hearse Serenade manages to avoid falling into the self-importance trap most concept albums succumb to. INC has created a solid album that owes plenty to 90s groove and grunge, but retains enough energy and song writing chops to ensure it stays interesting over the 45-odd minute runtime.

7.0/10

I.N.C. on Facebook

 

DAN SWINHOE

Scar Symmetry – The Singularity, Phase One: Neohumanity

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Part of the charm of being in the heavy metal community is the fact that it is a real community, a group of diverse people from diverse backgrounds, beliefs and ethnic origins bound by a shared love and appreciation for all things heavy and metal. It gives a real sense of belonging, a shared understanding – a belief that the music that you love can open hearts and minds and generally make the world a better place.

If you’re getting the distinct sense that I’m filibustering and not actually getting to the actual review of the sixth album from Sweden’s Scar Symmetry, then you’d be right because if you like Scar Symmetry, my suggestion is that you look away now.

The Singularity, Phase One: Neohumanity (Nuclear Blast) is the first of a trilogy of records. The Singularity is a sci-fi (in the loosest sense of the word) concept album that revolves around the rise of “artilects (artificial intellects) with mental capacities far above the human level of thought” and that “by the year 2030, one of the world’s biggest industries will be ‘artificial brains,’ used to control artilects that will be genuinely intelligent and useful.” According to the band, the album focusses on the divide between “those who embrace the new technology and those who oppose it” due to the social issues caused by the rise of artificial intelligence and the emergence of trans-humanists adding artilect technology to their own bodies.” Of course.

Let’s not get too carried away with the ludicrousness of the story – what we have come here to praise, or not, is the music, isn’t it?

Well, as you probably know already, what you get is fundamentally a melodic death metal record that is exquisitely produced and efficiently and energetically performed by a band that appear to have gotten themselves something akin to a second wind. The problem is the entire enterprise leaves me utterly, utterly cold.

Granted, there’s a bit more on the melody and a soupcon of prog thrown in but that’s it really. You know when the choruses are going to kick in, know when the growly vocals are going to get really growly. It’s all just a bit, well, obvious.  I thought the lyrics and subject matter in need of an editor and the overall effect of listening to this record was, I imagine, like being covered in a vat of cliché and self-regarding hubris. I’m sure there will be plenty of people that will praise this to the highest, revel in its supposed ambition and generally fawn around it like a sycophantic junior at an Elizabethan court: not me, though.

There’s two more where this came from, too.

You know, sometimes if it’s not doing it for you, then it’s not doing it for you. And The Singularity… is not doing it for me. At all. I can admire the effort here, the scope and the ambition, and I applaud the single-mindedness and the collective musicality. What I can’t do is pretend that I like any of it.

 

4.0/10

Scar Symmetry on Facebook

 

MAT DAVIES