Diablo Blvd – Follow the Deadlights

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For the last 10 years, Antwerp’s hardest working and hardest rocking band Diablo Blvd have been plying their rock n roll trade to a steadily increasing level of acclaim and popularity. 2015 should see their stock rise even further, with the support slot on the forthcoming Epica European tour being confirmed. It’s no great surprise then to see this timely (if fairly rapid) reissue of their third album, Follow the Deadlights, from their new worldwide distribution partner, Nuclear Blast.

Follow The Deadlights is a solid, muscular hard rock album with echoes of Black Label Society, Corrosion of Conformity (the more eagle-eyed among you will have already spotted where they got their moniker), The Cult and the occasional flourish of mid period Danzig which, I’m sure you will concur, is a fairly decent set of influences.

Opening track ‘Beyond the Veil’ comes rumbling in, drums aplenty, akin to what might happen if BLS met Alter Bridge on a dark night of the musical soul. ‘Rise Like Lions’ has pretty much the same opening drum led flourish but this time with a bigger riffs and greater level of ambition; ‘Get Up 9’ ups the tempo somewhat, a driving and burly number with a healthy dynamic. The title track, following the well-thumbed rule book of hard rock and heavy metal, has a massive chorus and set of guitar solos and ‘Son of Cain’ ticks every single one of the melodic hard rock boxes and a few more that you didn’t think needed ticking. In a good way, though. ‘We are Legion’ is as preposterous as it is infectious, leaving no cliché unturned but you can’t help but be carried along with the band’s enthusiasm and earnestness. Who cares that you’ve heard this stuff a thousand times before?

It would be really easy to be cynical about records like Follow the Deadlights. Yes, I’ve heard it all before and yes, the structure of the record is as predictable as fireworks on Bonfire Night and yes, sometimes you can see the joins but at the same time, you can see how these guys have earned their slots with Epica and, late last year, Machine Head. Follow the Deadlights sounds highly accomplished and there has, self-evidently been a sizeable effort in bringing together the band’s influences, creative juice and energy into the ten songs on offer here. Follow the Deadlights is probably not going to set the world on fire but as an exercise in modern hard rock and heavy metal, it does a solid job.

7.0/10

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MAT DAVIES

In Flames – Siren Charms

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Whatever your personal journey with In Flames, they rank as one of metals most influential bands of the last twenty years. Along with peers At The Gates and Dark Tranquillity they spearheaded the Scandinavian Melodic Death Metal attack of the Nineties and by 1999, you couldn’t move without being stabbed in the ears by jester clones. Ten years later, despite some inconsistent outputs of their own, they had proven to be a lead influence in the most popular development in the heavy metal sound of the new millennium – metalcore.

The seminal, early, albums of In Flames were all about jagged riffing and scything twin-guitars jostling with folk influences. Clayman and Reroute To Remain were about taking that step into the mainstream, adding chug and progressing their sound. Come Clarity was the ace that defined what they had become. Eleventh album Siren Charms (Sony) is all about the songs.

While In Flames started out as a guitar band, the role of vocals has become more prevalent in their sound throughout their twenty-one year evolution; from throaty roars, to a husky half-sing, to Siren Charms being Anders Friden’s album. Come clarity and come confidence of voice, reminiscent of Brandon Flowers at times, predominantly clean he leads this album in the way a frontman and vocalist should, bridging and building interesting and, at times, vulnerable verses into anthemic choruses. The dual/duel guitars are still there, just used more cerebrally, sparingly, but available to provide the bands’ trademark.

At first listen ‘In Plain View’ is an underwhelming opener, electronica seguing into a rolling riff, stripping down then pushing off, but repeated plays bring out its qualities, before ‘Everything’s Gone’ barrels in, the most aggressive track on the album, a combination of punches provided by chromatic chords leading to a Slipknot meets Marilyn Manson chugged verse and strong chorus, before the real tone of the album is opened up with a hat-trick of great dark pop metal songs (‘Paralysed’, ‘Through Oblivion’, ‘With Eyes Wide Open’), between them referencing Clayman, Killswitch Engage, Katatonia, The Killers and 30 Seconds To Mars (A Beautiful Lie / This Is War era) in a joyous gamut of aggressive modern rock music. ‘When The World Explodes’ spits out metalcore 101 before a left at the traffic lights swerve turns it into a gothic metal classic with vocals of opera singer Emilia Feldt.

Continuing strongly, the band hit a salvo of ‘Rusted Nail’ with its bouncing guitars, electronica, and build via traditional In Flames guitar harmony to an anthemic chorus and ‘Dead Eyes’, which starts slower before hitting a hands in the air refrain. ‘Monsters In The Ballroom’ unfurls into a beautiful, sprawled chorus of its own via some tighter, thrashier guitaring, while, last up, ‘Filtered Truth’ flips from a casual AC/DC riff to a metalcore rhythmic verse, into a strong chorus with the twin leads dancing in and out behind, before spiralling away to close the album.

With Reroute To Remain In Flames showed they would not spend their career rehashing their earlier albums. They left that to countless others. Instead they’ve refined and developed their approach to songwriting, working on creating a set of excellent dark pop metal songs to the point where they can add Siren Charms, and its collection of anthems, to The Jester Race, Clayman, Reroute To Remain and Come Clarity – each distinctive from the other yet all obviously “In Flames” – in the list of classics under their belt.

 

8.5/10

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STEVE TOVEY