I Prevail – Trauma

With the numbers they put up with debut LP Lifelines and the warm reception they received at Warped Tour, I Prevail clearly has designs on going mainstream. How grand are these designs? Well if Lifelines was them knocking at the door of stardom, Trauma (Fearless Records) is an urban assault vehicle demolishing the front gate and making its way through mainstream America.

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Underoath – Erase Me

Underoath’s history has been a roller coaster of emotions and lineup changes. They were one of the most recognizable names in the Metalcore scene in the 2000s. Even without putting out new material, fans still showed up for the Florida natives who did reunion shows and tours in those eight barren years—indulging in the Christian Metalcore they are known for. Rumors have been roaming the web for a while about new material and in February the band teased a sample on their social media pages until unveiling the release of Erase Me (Fearless) Continue reading

Caliban- Elements

With around twenty years and now eleven albums to their name, it is safe to say that Caliban are Metalcore stalwarts. Yet they remain one of the genre’s overlooked, even near forgotten, names. Having never reached the commercial success or the attention levels of the likes of a Killswitch Engage back in the day, the current resurgence in Metalcore today still sees them majorly overshadowed whilst While She Sleeps, Of Mice & Men and others ascend, even as far as to arena level in the latter’s case. Nevertheless, Caliban has always proven to be a reliable entity who continuously deliver strong (if not ground-breaking nor game-changing) material, with The Undying Darkness (All Blacks) and Say Hello To Tragedy (Century Media) being particularly strong efforts. Continue reading

Amon Amarth- Jomsviking

It seems to be somewhat overlooked just how impressive Swedish death metallers Amon Amarth have grown in terms of status and position, especially for an extreme act. Somewhat under the radar for many for the early days of their career, out of nowhere 2008’s Twilight Of The Thunder God(Metal Blade) took the world by storm (pun intended) with some catchy, but still thunderous (ahem) death metal offerings. Further albums since have also seen high praise and more of the same sonically, culminating in a signing to a major label in Sony for European releases (still Metal Blade for North America). This is a death metal band we are talking about, this is huge news.

As a result of major label signing you could be forgiven for thinking the band may water down, but instead Jomsviking(Metal Blade/Sony) is in some ways, the band’s boldest album to date. Unsurprisingly Jomsviking goes down the Viking route again, but for the first time in the band’s career, this has a full conceptual narrative; that of a young man joining the elite Jomsviking after being separated from the love of his life, a befittingly tragic tale which invokes the ferocity of both its historical context, and of Amon Amarth’s music.

Musically the band have never been ones to deviate massively from their formula other than some examples of fine tuning or refining, and much is the same here. A mantra which did no harm for the likes of Motorhead and AC/DC and has certainly not done so for Amon Amarth. Thus, Jomsviking doesn’t throw any new surprises our way, other than some of the band’s finest and most instant songs to date. The white hot fury of ‘First Kill’ proves a suitably morbid and striking opener, whilst ‘Raise Your Horns’ is surely the most archetypal anthem the band has written thus far. Vocalist Johann Hegg may not have the most diverse of vocals but he pulls off individuality of differing characters with ease, whilst the addition of the legendary Doro Pesch on ‘A Dream That Cannot Be’ adds an extra dimension that could bolster the band further if explored further.

Amon Amarth are never going to make a Jazz fusion record or hugely surprise us; but what they do offer however is continuous refinement and subtle evolution, and Jomsviking is further evidence that Amon Amarth are still a huge and creative entity. The boldness of an in depth and intricate storyline intertwined with some of their strongest and catchiest songs to date, and you have perhaps the best album of their career.

8.0/10

CHRIS TIPPELL

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Tau Cross – Tau Cross

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With Britain once again under the yoke of an unrestrained Tory government and the Cold War seemingly re-activated, it’s beginning to feel like the 80s never ended. Therefore what better time for former Amebix frontman Rob “The Baron” Miller to step back into the limelight with a new band after his legendary crust trio failed to capitalise on their recent comeback record. Joined by comrades in arms Jon Misery and Andrew Lefton on guitars; both seasoned veterans of the US scene and Voïvod drummer Away behind the kit, the quartet have united under the banner Tau Cross, and with their debut self-titled album look set to prove once more that the old guard knows best.

Those expecting a re-run of Arise! (Alternative Tentacles) will be choking on their bottles of White Lightning as the massive chugging riffs and subtle electronica of album opener ‘Lazarus’ announces itself with aplomb. Both verses and choruses are positively radio friendly and were it not for Miller’s customary gritty throat, you could almost be listening to Killing Joke try their hand at stadium rock. Next track ‘Fire in the Sky’ has a somewhat 90s alt rock vibe struggling to emerge from under the guitars and Away’s solid percussion before things speed up considerably on the restless ‘Stonecracker’, which Lemmy would have sold his last bottle of Jack to have penned.

As the album progresses, it becomes more obvious that the band have no interest in trading on former glories and are eager to let these new songs stand on their own two feet. The expertly written flowing riffs and soaring chorus of the likes of ‘Midsummer’, the simple yet deadly stop-start refrains of ‘You People’ and the levelling power of ‘Our Day’ are so well written that the whole thing soon begins to feel like a greatest hits collection. The production is crystal clear; making the songs sound simply massive and the sheer amount of hooks on offer suggests that large festival stages were in mind during the writing process. It’s easy to imagine a whole field at a mainstream music festival raising their hands and voices to the brilliant acoustic driven ‘We Control the Fear’, for example.

The sole misstep is closing track ‘The Devil Knows His Own’; a rather twee folk ballad that allows the album to dwindle out when it should have finished with a bang, but that is a minor issue when the rest of the material on offer here is so strong. Evidently his day job as a swordsmith on the Isle of Skye has given Miller plenty of time to think up some fantastic material, and it’s something we should be incredibly thankful for as Tau Cross (Relapse Records) is one of the most listenable and engaging releases you are likely to hear until the clowns at Number 10 have been sent packing.

 

8.5/10

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JAMES CONWAY