Kirk Hammett’s Horror + Sci-Fi Exhibit Coming to Peabody Essex Museum

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Fractal Generator – Apotheosynthesis

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It’s hardly a new observation, but one of the many effects of the home-production/internet release revolution was to completely change the expectations of what we can reasonably expect from a band at the stage of putting out their first album. There are many reasons to celebrate the death of the system by which labels were the sole gatekeepers of the power to record, but one thing we’ve arguably lost is the filter which used to block many amateur or poorly-conceived outings before they hit the studio.

Which makes it even more satisfying when a début album arrives so well-formed.

Every aspect of Fractal Generator’s aesthetic – from the name to their white lab-coats – tells us that this is that engagingly awkward nerd hybrid Science Fiction Death Metal. There are significant nods to Wormed and The Faceless in their sound, touches of first-album Cynic and even the odd distorted riff that Meshuggah would be happy with, but they’ve already started combining them into their own sound.

Apotheosynthis (Independent) doesn’t sound like the first self-released fumblings of a band who’ve skipped past the old gate-keepers and jumped straight to the album stage. One of the first things to catch your attention here is just how tight the performances are – a blinding blur of taut riffing, thunderous blasts and well-executed keyboard work exhibit a band with total confidence in their chosen style. They know what they’re doing, too, never allowing the more esoteric expanses of their sound to detract from the central task of writing powerful, urgent Death Metal.

Apotheosynthesis isn’t without its flaws, of course. It’s arguably longer than it needs to be, losing some of its momentum in the last ten-to-fifteen minutes, and though the production is crisp and crunchy it sometimes relegates the keyboards and spacey noises to sonic garnish, burying some of the atmospherics that the band are aiming for. For a self-released début, however, it’s an absolute revelation, and leaves behind several of the year’s more established Death Metal releases in its wake. Fractal Generator are not simply a band it’s worth keeping an eye on in the future, but one who deserve your attention right now.

 

8.0/10

 

RICHIE HR

Lonely Robot – Please Come Home

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It has taken John Mitchell several years to see his Lonely Robot project come to fruition, during which time Mr. Mitchell has been involved with a handful of gold-plated prog projects including It Bites, Frost* and Arena. Lonely Robot seems to be a very personal endeavor; one that Mitchell has been able to throw his unique insights and personality into. One gets the impression that when listening to Please Come Home (InsideOut) we are peering through a window into a man’s soul.

The noticeable trait of this album is the classic science fiction tone; it is permeable through each of the benevolently hewn songs. One of the aspects of space that has always intrigued humanity is the endless vacuum, the vast loneliness that engulfs its sparse inhabitants. While Please Come Home has elements of this, the spasmodic positivity ensures that the album isn’t too dense. Mitchell’s now distinct vocals bring a sense of comforting warmth, and are reminiscent of ‘Map of the Past’. Featuring the likes of Craig Blundell (drums) and Nick Beggs (bass) Mitchell and his comrades have the ability to tingle spines and reduce even the hardiest men to tears. ‘Airlock’ is an instrumental track steeped in classic sci-fi, with vintage synths from Frost*’s Jem Godfrey. Possibly the most captivating all the tracks on Please Come Home is the compelling ‘Man vs. God’.  It wouldn’t be out of place in a movie soundtrack, inspiring countless thought of rockets, celestial pioneers and something otherworldly altogether.

Please Come Home will no doubt feature on many Top 10’s at the end of 2015, and deservedly so. All music aficionados, no matter their musical leanings should give this a listen. It transcends categorization and showcases John Mitchell at his finest.

 

9.0/10

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SARAH WORSLEY

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

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MAT DAVIES