ALBUM REVIEW: High Spirits – Hard To Stop 

 

High Spirits’ endearing sincerity has always been a shining contrast to the often-sour realms of Hard Rock and Heavy Metal, and that feelgood brightness is needed now more than ever. While it’s been four years since the release of their last album, 2016’s Motivator, the Chicago project’s fourth full-length doesn’t skip a beat and their established blend of AOR and Classic Metal is well intact. You always know what you’re getting but it’s presented with far too much enthusiasm to ever feel stale.

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Naglfar Resign with Century Media Records, New Album Due Out Soon

Long-running Black Metal legends Naglfar has resigned with Century Media Records and will release their new album Cerecloth via on May 8th. The band recorded and mixed by Naglfar guitarist Marcus Norman at Wolf’s Lair Studio and mastered by Dan Swanö at Unisound, the underlying musical and lyrical themes of Cerecloth were succinctly and confidently described by guitarist Andreas Nilsson as, “the usual death and destruction”. The cover art was created the renowned artist Kristian Wåhlin and layout by Seiya Ogino of Ogino Design. New music is forthcoming and the band has already booked shows and festival dates for 2020, which you can see below. Continue reading

God Dethroned – The World Ablaze

It’s nice to have God Dethroned joining us once again. And by that I mean another reactivation of the band not unlike they had in 1996. Yeah, extreme metal is a tricky business to try to make a living in, but lineup changes and restarts aside, it seems like this Dutch metal institution is stable enough again to crank out a new LP in The World Ablaze (Metal Blade). Continue reading

Ancient Ascendant – Raise The Torch

As far back as 2008, with the independently released EP The Heathen Throne, Ancient Ascendant have been very clear in their intentions. And with a couple more EPs and two very well received albums under their belts, the English Black/Death Metal quartet have raised the bar again with latest full length, Raise The Torch (Candlelight). Continue reading

Deserted Fear – Dead Shores Rising

The steepest hill to climb in Death Metal today seems like it isn’t crafting a great album as much as it achieving sustainable recognition and market share. Does Dead Shores Rising (Century Media) get Deserted Fear’s foot in the door?  Continue reading

Witherscape – The Northern Sanctuary

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Witherscape is a Swedish progressive/melodic death metal band formed by Dan Swanö who has quite the pedigree in the metal genre, previously being part of the band Edge of Sanity who alongside Opeth helped pave the way for the blending of progressive rock elements with extreme metal as well as many other projects such as death metal supergroup Bloodbath and progressive rock band Nightingale, as well as fellow multi-instrumentalist Ragnar Widerburg, who is relatively unknown by comparison. Together they have produced one of the finest metal albums of 2016 in The Northern Sanctuary (Century Media Records), which serves as the follow-up to their 2014 EP The New Tomorrow and 2013 debut album The Inheritance.

Witherscape are a band who doesn’t just release albums for the music alone, they are creating a narrative that expands with each release. This is far from a new concept, with bands like Rhapsody on Fire, Coheed and Cambria, and King Diamond being well-known for their ongoing concept albums. This doesn’t make Witherscape any less intriguing though. From what I can tell, the story-line revolves around a haunted house of sorts, with The Northern Sanctuary taking place 50 years after The New Tomorrow EP, with a new person taking over the house. The underlying story is ultimately a bonus for the dedicated fans who will dig into the lyrics and embrace the narrative, but for the average music fan, this album gives more than enough to satisfy musically.

If you aren’t familiar with the work of Dan Swanö, you might be caught off guard with just how talented he is. On this album he handles all vocals as well as drums and keyboards. His ability to shift from melodic progressive rock style vocals to incredibly vicious death growls is truly impressive and keeps the album extremely dynamic. The keyboards add that timeless progressive feel to the album, and the drumming keeps the pace of the album in check. Widerburg handled the guitars and bass work on this album, and the incredibly riffs and solos alone make this an album worth checking out. He might not be as known as Swanö, but he proved to be equal in skill on this release. Tying everything together is a very clean production style that helps make everything sound very crisp and impactful.

Overall, there really isn’t much to not love about The Northern Sanctuary, as it’s simply a progressive metal masterpiece. Being a narrative focused album does make some of the lyrics a bit cheesy at times, and some songs are a can get a bit long-winded, no time feels wasted on this album. It’s another excellent release for the discography of Dan Swanö, and one of the best metal albums of 2016.

9.0/10

MATTHEW BLANCHARD

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Audio: Entrails – Midnight Coffin

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Swedish death metallers Entrails (Birdflesh, General Surgery) is streaming “Midnight Coffin” off of their new album Obliteration, out May 19, 2015 via Metal Blade Records here.

The album was tracked by Jimmy Lundqvist at Bloodshed Studios and mixed and mastered by Dan Swanö (Edge Of Sanity, Bloodbath, Aeon, Hail Of Bullets etc.) at Unisound.

Nightingale – Retribution

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Swedish multi-instrumentalist Dan Swanö has had a long and strange career. On the one hand, he’s known for ambitious melodic death metal with Edge of Sanity on the other, he’s been a stalwart of the progressive rock scene with the likes of Nightingale, who are back after a seven-year hiatus. Their new album, Retribution (InsideOut), it’s all about the melody.

This is the seventh album from the band – made up of Swanö on guitar, keyboards & vocals, his brother Dag on guitars and keyboard, Erik Oskarsson on bass and Tom Björn on drums. In their early days, Nightingale was a goth rock outfit unafraid to embrace their experimental progressive sides. Today, they’re more of a poppy, radio-friendly outfit with hints of 80s goth, 70s style synth and AOR.

From the upbeat opening of ‘On Stolen Wings’ to the gentle rock of ’27 (Curse Or Coincidence?)’ it’s clear Nightingale are sticking to the lighter side of the rock spectrum. Whether it’s the synth heavy ‘Chasing the Storm Away’ or the slow gallop of ‘The Voyage Of Endurance’, every track is essentially a catchy, hook laden pop songs and it’s not to get caught up in the moment.

Swanö’s vocals have always been a strong point, no matter which band he’s playing in. And while there are no death growls, his powerful, soaring voice suits the AOR style of Nightingale’s music perfectly. But despite being easy on the ears, there’s little on offer for anyone who doesn’t like their rock dad or radio friendly. Pretty much every song is either a mid-paced stomper or some kind of power or acoustic ballad. The song writing is all to a high standard, there’s little filler, but there’s nothing to get the blood pumping or the head banging.

It might lack any adventure or experimentation, but Retribution is an enjoyable and perfectly listenable album. Edge of Sanity fans may find little to enjoy, but anyone who enjoyed the melodic aspect of Witherscape‘s debut or any of Swanö’s prog-orientated releases will be pleased to find the man back on good form.

 

7.0/10

Nightingale on Facebook

 

DAN SWINHOE

Witherscape Streaming “The New Tomorrow”

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Witherscape is streaming “The New Tomorrow” here.  This is also the title of their new EP, by Swedish singer, multi-instrumentalist and producer Dan Swano and Swedish muti-instrumentalist Ragnar Widerberg, out via Century Media Records.

The New Tomorrow contains 5 unreleased songs: A brand new (title) track, 3 cover songs (“Defenders Of Creation” by Warrior, “A World Without Heroes” by Kiss and “Out In The Cold” by Judas Priest) and “Dead For Another Day” (an extension of the debut album’s “Dead For A Day” single). Its CD version (10 tracks) will also include special vinyl-mix versions of the same songs as bonus and the Digital Download version (7 tracks) includes another 2 bonus cover songs (“A Cry For Everyone” by Gentle Giant and “Last Rose Of Summer” by Judas Priest) from the sessions of “The Inheritance”, which are so far digitally unreleased. The 12″ vinyl version of the EP is playable on 45rpm,will be pressed on 180 gr. vinyl and comes either as standard black edition or in the following limited coloured options: Gold (100x, via CM Distro Europe), Transparent Red (200x, via CM Distro Europe) or Neon Orange (100x, via CM Distro USA).

WITHERSCAPE – The New Tomorrow EP:
1. The New Tomorrow (4:42)
2. Defenders Of Creation (4:27)
3. A World Without Heroes (2:36)
4. Out In The Cold (6:35)
5. Dead For Another Day (4:40)

WITHERSCAPE Line-Up:
Dan Swanö – Vocals, Drums and Keyboards
Ragnar Widerberg – Guitars and Bass

Witherscape on Facebook

Bloodbath – Grand Morbid Funeral

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As far as supergroups go, few come more awesome than Stockholm’s Bloodbath. Formed as a hobby by Katatonia members Anders Nystrom and Jonas Renske along with Opeth mainman Mikael Akerfeldt and producer extraordinaire Dan Swano back in 1998 with the simple desire to pump out some filthy old school death metal, it’s unlikely they ever would have expected to become one of the biggest and most well respected bands in the scene, although given their combined status the result was pretty much a foregone conclusion.

After releasing three blood-splattered and evil sounding albums but having to deal with the departure of Akerfeldt and Swano, some might have expected these veterans to stop playing with the corpse and allow it to rot in peace. However the desire to riff fast and ugly is a strong one and a new vocalist has been found in Paradise Lost frontman Nick Holmes whose new role is elementary (I can’t believe you just did that – Ed [and I can’t believe you wrote an ‘Ed insert’ for me – Dep Ed]) given his growling performance on PL’s classic debut record Lost Paradise (Peaceville).

But is Old Nick’s presence behind the mike enough to ensure Bloodbath remain deadly in a scene rife with sharp-eyed competition? One listen to Grand Morbid Funeral (Peaceville) proves the answer is an emphatic, bellowed yes!

As the serrated riffs of opening track ‘Let the Stillborn Come to Me’ tear out of the speakers like an escaped serial killer on his way to a nearby summer camp, the primal fury of Death Metal is fully revealed in full-blooded, hate-filled form and as the track settles into a disgusting Dismember-esque groove, you’re reminded just how much this music kicks ass and lops off heads with abandon. The buzzsaw guitar sound, as much a part of the Swe-death scene as any notable record you could care to mention, is heavily evident in the marching attack of ‘Total Death Exhumed’ which also features some suitably gloomy lead-work, while the ramshackle chugging of ‘Anne’ evokes images of a demented butcher manically hacking apart corpses in some benighted slaughterhouse.

Bloodbath records have always relied on frantic pace and aggression to get their gruesome message across and while they may lack the precision of Cannibal Corpse or the bad-time grooves of latter day Entombed, their modus operandi is built on a basis of seeing how many people they can kill in the room with a rusty chainsaw before the police take them down, rather than methodically picking off victims. It’s a messy approach, aided by a suitably grimy production but which gives proceedings a rabid and unclean feel, and when they do slow things down slightly such as on the gut-wrenching crawl of ‘Church of Vastitas’ and the grotesque melodies of the title track, the atmosphere drops to especially ghastly levels of hopelessness.

Nystrom and fellow axeman Per Eriksson focus more on tearing our minds apart with a seemingly endless selection of slashing riffs, gloomy melodies and frantic solos while drummer Martin Axenrot flays the skins with an unfussy, methodical determination. Holmes may not have the deepest growl and he is buried too deep in the mix to have a massive impact but his sinister tones give the music a depraved grandeur and when all of these elements combine like on the unrestrained ferocity of ‘Famine of God’s World’ and the monstrous ‘Beyond Cremation’ you’ll be wishing that all the members quit their day jobs and focus on pumping out more of this filth every other year.

There’s enough elements of the US death metal scene to ensure that this isn’t just a caricature of the Stockholm sound, but it’s undeniable that Bloodbath are to all intents and purposes a nostalgia act and a way for a bunch of blokes nearing their 40s to act like they were teenagers again. But some of the best death metal albums were made by whippersnappers so as long as this bunch of morbid Swedes and one ghoulish Brit keep failing to act their age, the world of extreme metal will stay suitably macabre.

 

7.5/10

Bloodbath on Facebook

 

JAMES CONWAY