Chainfist – Black Out Sunday

With the recent signing of Danish groove metal band Chainfist in a worldwide management deal with Rock N Growl, the band’s debut album came back into view so we thought it was time to dive into it and get a taste of things to come. The band has just finished recording a 3 track promo with producer Søren Jensen with the results to be mixed by the legendary Jacob Hansen and from the evidence of their album Black Out Sunday there is nothing short of eager anticipation and high expectations building for its release later this year.

Consisting of Jackie Petersen (vocals), Michael Kopietz (guitar), Jesper Heidelbach (drums) and Braca Pedersen (bass) Chainfist recorded Black Out Sunday in 2010 and gathered some good acclaim upon its release. Since then the band has been joined by the skilled guitarist Thomas Hvisel recently, to take over lead guitar and there is a sense that the band now a quintet, is only going to be more powerful and creative.

Chainfist has strong pedigree with members previously in the likes of Infernal Death, Epicenter, Panzerchrist and Frozen Sun. Their individual ability and accomplished songwriting is evident from the opening track to the last lingering note of Black Out Sunday. Chainfist’s sound is a heady mix of metal, heavy metal and hard rock, the band seamlessly blending the flavours into an intriguing and thrilling beast of a sound that offers something captivating and powerful at every turn. First listen brought an appreciative nod and full enjoyment but upon subsequent plays as more and more qualities emerged within songs the album simply worked itself deeper and deeper to become one of the more rewarding and satisfying rock releases heard in a while.

The infectious rampant ‘Free Me’ opens up the onslaught of Black Out Sunday. Driving riffs, dominating rhythms and a swinging groove from start to finish make the song a vibrant exhausting party. The vocals of Petersen are clean, crisp and expressive yet hard and aggressive in the right spots. The track does not offer too much new but to introduce a release and band it is an insatiable pleasuring of the ear. If you are looking for an explosive straight forward rock song this is it.

The songs from here on in are nicely varied and creative whether more melodically led as in ‘Edge Of The World’ or on a thunderous charge as in ‘Be A Man’. The latter of the two is an aggressive little fiend of a track, defiant and carrying a stunning senses twisting teasing groove. It recalls elements of the likes of Society 1 as does the brilliant ‘Have You Ever’. This song is a gloriously dark pulsating brute winding within the head and heart with sinister riffs, grouchy basslines and a hungry waspish groove that consumes relentlessly.

It has to be said when the Chainfist go for the heavy and intensely direct route they really light up the senses though their ‘mellower’ melodic flows are just as gratifying. In the excellent ‘Stay’ the band begin the song with an emotive voice and feel before the song lifts off into a forceful but controlled rock song. On the less aggressive songs such as ‘Show Me’ the band has a sound that reminds of bands like Volbeat and Dommin with a touch of Danzig which pleases just as much as the heavier more intense tracks.

Throughout the album feeds the senses wonderfully with the chugging riff fest of ‘In Your Face’, the rampaging mischievous and venomous chaos of ‘Clown’, and the chunky guitar loaded ‘Blackout’ as striking and thoroughly as stirring as those previously mentioned. Black Out Sunday is simply a great rock album from a band that has yet to find one feels its full potential. Guitarist Michael Kopietz has said “The new material is stronger, heavier and even more melodic than the songs we made on our debut CD Black Out Sunday.” We say bring it on!

RingMaster 25/01/2012

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Chainfist – Have You Ever

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Pilgrim – Misery Wizard

Dark, heavy and thoroughly imposing the debut album from US doom metal band Pilgrim is an immense beast with monstrous sonic claws that show no mercy once their undeniably epic and extremely satisfying grip has clasped around and into the senses. Riding the intense brutal form of “true doom metal” Pilgrim assault and bludgeon deep beyond the ear whilst pleasuring and igniting black deep emotions within. Their new album Misery Wizard is a colossus of black dirges, resonating ravenous riffs and blistering caustic melodies dragged from the pits of hell and sorcery.

Formed in 2010, the Rhode Island trio of Krolg, the Slayer of Man (drums), Count Elric the Soothsayer (bass) and The Wizard (guitars and vocals) openly take inspiration from the likes of Black Sabbath and Pentagram, the weighty classic feel  soaking every pore of Pilgrim’s oppressive yet invigorating sound. As mentioned the album is brutal but without being openly destructive or violent, its slow drawn heavy mass enveloping every sense to wear away defences and consume whilst enflaming and instigating full unbridled pleasure. Pilgrim dominate through sonic persuasion and crushing drones, the lengthy passages and journeys of the tracks an experience that absorbs everything from ear and thought to the primal inside.

      Misery Wizard is unleashed via Metal Blade Records on February 14th and is in many ways a real example of a slow burner.  The initial listen finds the great positives that live and flourish within its dark long winding corridors but at first the slow grinding muscular ripples that drone across its bulk give up more the similarity between tracks that seem to pay homage to their open influences rather than use them as inspiration for something strikingly new.  That is at first for given numerous listens the album’s slow consuming intensity immerses one deeper and deeper into its depths to find oneself mesmerised and eagerly wanting more.

The tracks within Misery Wizard are boundlessly instinctive; their natural intense flows taking the listener down six epic travels that only once lie short of six minutes plus, the majority touching ten minutes or more. Often doom metal drags and lumbers at such lengths but with Pilgrim it feels the right evolution of a song, the music taking its time and only departing when it is finished not when told it should. The impressive eleven minute title track and the closing thirteen minute unsettling ventures of ‘Forsaken Man’ are the best and most fulfilling examples. On ‘Misery Wizard’ the band twists and turns eagerly and the track ebbs and flows all within the dense sound and it engages from first note to last despite its lengthy intent, whilst ‘Forsaken Man’ strikes with an initial sonic violation that brings heat and blood to the surface, the track being the one time that listening is somewhat uncomfortable but at the same time deeply hypnotic to ensure due attention and focus.

The equally hungry formidable songs of ‘Astaroth’, ‘Quest’, ‘Adventurer’, and the down-tuned majesty of the enthralling ‘Master of the Sky’ satisfyingly complete the album with equal power. Misery Wizard is an effortless listen, its uncompromising guitars, imposing riffs, slow mesmeric melodically strained vocals, and unrelenting smothering intensity combining to make a release that one cannot deny or want to refuse attention. It may not be the most original album in recent years but it is one of the most captivating and easily returnable to.

RingMaster 24/01/2012

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MaloKai – Heartbeats EP

 

Whether you class them as power pop or pop punk UK band MaloKai as they show with their new EP, know how to blend insatiable melodies with energised riffs and pulse racing urgency. Neither threateningly aggressive nor a band simply plumping for easy options their music is an uplifting rip-roaring thrust of fun and enjoyment.

Formed in 2007 the band is a multi nationality band with members coming from England, Ireland, Wales, Bolivia and the US. Through the years despite many line-up changes suggesting an unstable beginning, the band has steadily built up an eager underground fan base with live shows and recordings.  Their debut album Perception Of Reality drew in firm critical acclaim and even though the band members changed it set in motion an increased attention and rise for the band. Now with the solid line-up of Alex Greig (vocals/guitar), Andy Bell (guitar), Dack Powell (guitar), G Suaznabar (bass) and Dave Williams (drums), their new Heartbeats EP will add fuel to and ignite the band’s climb and recognition.

The EP released February 13th via Nameless/Faceless Records, explodes after an opening intro with the welcoming catchy melodies and hooks of ‘Rumours’. Chunky guitars and riffs flood the track alongside flowing and insightful melodies showing the band’s skill. Grieg’s vocals mellow yet forceful melt all over the music to great effect and though the track to be fair does not offer anything particularly new it is an infectious bundle.

The title track delivers a similar formula but with a more serious emotive tone that grabs attention easily. ‘Heartbeatsas does the whole EP dangles tantalising hooks, punchy riffs and contagious melodies that shout pop more than punk though there is nothing lightweight about the release or its components.

The release takes a step up with the following two tracks, a cover of Jessie J’s ‘Price Tag’ and ‘Young And Dumb’. Though a simple interpretation of the original, ‘Price Tag’ leaps across the ear with energy and most of all shows the band’s ease at not always taking themselves too seriously. The second of the two is a stoked burst of intense and distinct creativity.  The track drips passion and emotion veined by stirring riffs and tempered guitar play.

Remaining tracks ‘You’ and the rampant ‘What’s Inside’ carry on the attack with blistering guitars and irresistible melodies, the closer probably the best track on the EP and certainly these two with ‘Young And Dumb’ give all the evidence that MaloKai are a band with immense promise, With a sound that is in the area of the likes of All Time Low and You And Me At Six the band still feel as if they are a few steps from their true sound but have all the tools and engaging elements in place to see healthy and productive musical years ahead.

With a tour of the UK in support of the Heartbeats EP planned for the year the time to taste their pop punk with the emphasis on pop is now and if their live shows are as powerful and enjoyable as the EP there is no reasonable case for not catching the band as their rise continues.

www.malokai.co.uk

RingMaster 24/01/2012

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Decode

UK rock band Decode begin 2012 in the same vein they graced the previous year, with a fine release in the shape of new single Before We Burn. To be released February with an  excellent accompanying video, the track shows a band on a strong rise and one that crafts music with minute attention and passion. Previous EP Shaping Shadows from 2011 announced the band as ones to watch with its fascinating blend of big rock sounds, engaging melodies, unpredictable twists, and metal edges. The new single cements all previous thoughts whilst placing Decode as a band on the verge of greater heights.

The Sheffield quartet (a five piece live) have recently linked with Ambicon Records and one can only feel things are falling into place for a band already acclaimed for their music and vibrant live shows. Their sound is a heady creative mix that recalls the likes of Fightstar and Taking Back Sunday as well as Manchester band Our Innocence Lost and label mates Down The Machine. The guitars of Adam Mintram and vocalist Daniel Jeffery rampage through tracks whilst bringing stylish and often intricate melodies and variation. The band are not afraid to add swooping keys and haunting strings either to make each track an experience that holds something new no matter the amount of times you listen to it.

The single opens on an emotive guitar before harsh growls lay on top leading to excellent smooth vocals from Jeffrey. The frontman’s delivery is expressive and controlled, the song’s passion dripping from every word, and assisted by the equally strong vocals of bassist Lewis Wild their vocals are as compulsive as the sounds surrounding them. Before We Burn is littered with rock hooks alongside its metallic aggression and though these never slip into the obvious they are easily digestible and mesmeric.

The single is a natural progression from the Shaping Shadows EP, the track feeling an easy fit with the songs making up the previous release. This does not mean a lack of progression just the high quality of the band’s songwriting from day one. Released April 2011 the EP is a bustling and exciting collection of songs. From the opening title track the release unleashes everything the band possesses from power and aggression to creativity and melodic intricacy. With sing-a-long parts and teasing hooks the song is an instant invitation to the band and their stirring rock sounds. The bass of Wild is deep and taunting, playing with the senses whilst drummer Daniel Greasley wonderfully softens up the ear with deliberate and skilled abuse and the guitars unveil their musical twists and turns.

Your Country Is Ours’, ‘If Only (We Live To Tell The Tale)’, and ‘The Days After You’ carry on the great and attentive quality whilst the striking and excellent ‘Enemies’ punishes and pleasures with equal measure and intent. So far every song unveiled by Decode has the ability and desire to rile up the senses whilst treating them to soulful melodies and infectious excitable energy. This energy that floods from the recorded tracks gives eager thought and anticipation to the impressive live force they must be and the carnage they unleash.

One still feels there is much more to come from within Decode to really define their sound but they are already leaving many other bands in their wake and 2012 feels like the year they will become the focus of a great many more enthused ears.

For a free download of the Shaping Shadows EP go to www.soundcloud.com/decodeuk

RingMaster 24/01/2012

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Engraved Ritual – Synthetic Rage Volume 1 – Various Artists

If you are looking for the best new bands and sounds of a dark electro/industrial/harsh EBM flavouring then your first port of call is without doubt Engraved Ritual. The Colorado based record label has dedicated itself to searching for and bringing forth outstanding bands to the ears of the world, taking a defined emphasis towards the talent within America and the Latin America.

Synthetic Rage Volume 1 is the label’s first compilation album mixing artists on their label with other raw and extremely promising bands on the verge of making very distinctive marks. The release sums up Engraved Ritual’s aim and intent in unveiling and helping underground artists and sounds find new homes in the ears of the masses, its sixteen tracks and bands a vibrant kaleidoscope of striking and future essential sounds.

The first impressive thing about the album as a whole is the high consistency of quality across its pulsating electro breadth. Though there is always going to be through personal tastes tracks that step out from the line-up with extra distinction it has to be stated that every track here offers something energising and invigorating to the ears. Most compilations have a weak link or two in its aural chain but Synthetic Rage is an impressive brute with a unflinching strength from the blistering sonic creations of all the artists within.

Four of the opening tracks come from bands signed to the label starting with Andro-Dioxin. From Mexico the industrial/ harsh EBM project of Everth Dioxin offers up ‘Suicidal’ its striking sounds permeating and twisting through ear and head from the album’s opening seconds. From this impressive start the album, manipulates and stretches the senses through varied and often defiantly intrusive intensity. The opener’s label mates, Chile’s Say No Words with ‘The Perfect Killer (Andro-Dioxin Rmx)’ and the excellent Angels of Suicide and ‘Dark Lust (Hex’d Mix)’ soon get the pulse rate sprinting with their mesmeric sounds and the second of the two with its incessant siren veined nerve pinching beats and grooves refuses to accept anything than mental, emotional and physical surrender.

The emotions stomping ear invasive sounds of God Destruction and their track ‘Anticristo’ are the first major sonic highlight amongst all the irresistible tunes on display, with dark and perverting black metal vocal scathing and mind tripping unrelenting electro probing. The track bursts and burns like an aural flare and stands as one of the brightest beacons for the album, the label itself and what Engraved Ritual do.

Before one can take a breath after the last note of the track another sonic explosion thrashes the senses in the intense shape of Brazilians Nahtaivel and ‘The Storm is Coming’. The track is like a teasing metallic predator provoking and taunting the ear and beyond. Wonderfully diverse its industrial muscles are wrapped and coated in varied tones of wanton electro insidiousness. Synthetic Rage has already proven its worth and value, and we are only six tracks into its depths.

Surrounding these stunning tracks bands like Wire Vein, Sodomy Down the Cross, Mas-Si-Osare and from Portugal Aktivehate keep the harsh and fascinating sounds at full on satisfaction mode. The consuming dark nightmarish and slightly invidious sounds of Bind.Torture.Kill with ‘A Madman’s Lullaby’ attached itself deeply within the senses next it’s imposing almost resentful venomous tendrils merciless in their captivating and violating power. This excellent track’s intensity is openly contrasted by the following ‘Suicide Girl’ from Miami based trio Cyanide Regime. To be honest this was the one track that took some extra work to bring into the fold, its light pop like weaves sounding like a harsher industrial mutated offspring of Aqua. It soon proves to be a grower though and soon shows it is a worthy part of the release.

Two more tracks to rival God Destruction and Nahtaivel for best track come in the majestic ‘Spirits of the Night’ from Antemortem and Cold Sequence with ‘This is Not’. The first brings a gothic flavoured theatrical presence bringing a feel of Bauhaus, Marilyn Mansion and symphonic metal veined with electro urgency and creativity. It is grand, mischievous and irresistible. The second of the two is another relentless sonic intrusion, its hypnotic beats and grooves punctured with original industrial crashes, drilling and vibrant starkness. Both tracks are completely different but united in satisfying and pleasing dark hearts.

Anamadim, the one man instrumental electronic music project from Yugao (Javier M.N.) with Synthetic Salvation (featuring Fredrik Croona of Project Rotten), Alienoxir and Euphorbia complete the massive and thoroughly enjoyable line-up. They all keep the level so high it is almost a shock that a compilation of this size can be so strong but that shows how effective and highly selective Engraved Ritual is, if you seen their name on something it is without doubt worth checking out.

Mixed by DSBP’s Tommy T Rapisardi (Diverje) Synthetic Rage Volume 1 is an essential release for anyone looking for great industrial/EBM sounds. If you cannot find anything to please within its muscular corridors then you are in the wrong genre. Engraved Ritual have with this album introduced us to some of our new best friends musically here’s to Volume 2 it has a lot to live up to but as its Engraved Ritual it is unlikely to disappoint either.

For more on the CD and label go to http://engravedritual.com or http://engravedritual-digital.com

RingMaster 23/01/2012

Track listing:

1. Andro-Dioxin- Suicidal

2. Wire Vein- We Burn

3. Angels of Suicide- Dark Lust (Hex’d Mix)

4. Say Just Words- The Perfect Killer (Andro-Dioxin Rmx)

5. God Destruction- Anticristo

6. Nahtaivel-The Storm is Coming

7. Sodomy Down the Cross- Angra Mainyu

8. Aktivehate- The Walking Dead

9. Mas-Si-Osare- [C.M.S.]

10. Bind.Torture.Kill- A Madman’s Lullaby

11. Cyanide Regime- Suicide Girl

12. Antemortem- Spirits of the Night

13. Cold Sequence- This is Not…

14. Anamadim (featuring Fredrik Croona) – Synthetic Salvation

15. Alienoxir-Anikilation

16. Euphorbia- Achromatopsia

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4 Arm – Submission For Liberty

 

Bristling with defiance and attitude the third album from Australian thrashers 4 Arm pounces upon the ear to equally punish and satisfy with an excitable collection of muscular tracks that deliver no frills hard edged thrash. Submission For Liberty may not be the most original album but it fuels up the senses with pulsating riffs and eager melodies as well as excellent instrumentation to make it one of the most enjoyable albums in recent months.

Formed in 2004 4 Arm hit the ground hard and fast without taking a backward step ever since. Debut album 13 Scars laid waste to an ever increasing fan base and acclaim, the album leading to the band gaining a nomination in the top 5 Metal Bands at the 2006 Music Oz Awards. Their second album The Empires Of Death in 2009 saw the band’s rise continue, the evolution in their sound showing them to be stronger more accomplished songwriters. Off of the release the following year saw the band headline the ‘Crush the Empire Tour’ across Australia and support Testament on the Australian leg of their ‘Damnation Tour’.

4 Arm entered the studio in 2011 to work on the third album Submission For Liberty, bringing in Matt Hyde (Machine Head, Slipknot, Trivium) to mix the album. The resulting beast released via Rising Records February 6th without digressing far from the sounds they emerged with on previous album, is a full blown assault on the senses and declares that the band has stepped up a few notches yet again. Across the ten tremendous tracks it is fair to say one will not find many groundbreaking elements for the genre or band but 4 Arm have progressed into an even stronger and well rounded intimidating band. The edges are sharper and even more intense and aggressive making the album one that will surely find a regular place at the top of any rock playlist.

Submission For Liberty opens with a brief but powerful piece containing sampled extracts of the speech from ‘The Dictator’ backed by haunting piano music. The track is the perfect announcement of the intent and message from band and album, the words from what is acclaimed as one of the greatest speeches ever made, perpetually apt in this world. Immediately with barely a breath to absorb the words before, the album erupts into ‘While I lay Awake’ and the beginning of the relentlessly intense and enjoyable rampage ahead. Punishing riffs, ear badgering grinds and excellent melodies all consume the senses wonderfully. The guitars of vocalist Danny Tomb and Johnny Glovasa are mesmerising from their sonic bombardment of the ear to the invention and glorious solos from Glovasa. Tomb’s vocals though heavily influenced from James Hetfield and probably Tom Araya somewhat, are impressive with their balanced mix of smooth and harsh tones to compliment the energised sounds flooding form the tracks.

The album is ferocious and even when it brings in more expressive melodic touches it still is thrusting deeply and firmly into thought and heart. It is a giant call to arms and battle cry with tracks like the outstanding ‘Raise A Fist’ and the chest beating ‘I Will Not Bow’ defiant rallies for the senses. Every track is impressive and an eager heavy feast to enjoy but the band raise their own existing high bar with the violent explosive ‘Taken Down’ with drummer Michael Vafiotis and bassist Andy Hinterreiter unleashing their already impressive skills vigorously and the closing and stunning track ‘Blood Of The Martyrs’. This latter song finds the band stretching their creativity and sound more than on the rest of the album, bringing an invigorating meld of thoughtful melodies and invention alongside riveting and breath taking power.

Submission For Liberty just to be picky does offer many Metallica flavoured instances and riffs that are recognisable to make the album unique but against the immense enjoyment the album brings it is not an issue. 4 Arm are ready to set the world alight with their insatiable thrash sounds, this album the initial exhilarating fuse.

RingMaster 23/01/2012

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Northpaw – Self titled EP

A recent email from Andy Allen of UK band Forever Wednesday brought sadness and a big grin. First it contained the news that the impressive post hardcore rock band had split bringing a sad day to all fans of their robust and highly energetic formidable sound. Then the message informed that out of the band’s ashes some of the members had started up a new band Northpaw, so it was with eagerness and immediate endeavour their self titled debut EP was investigated and thoroughly enjoyed.

Consisting of drummer Allen, vocalist Charlie Grout-Smith, guitarists Josh Irvine and Spencer Huet, all coming from Forever Wednesday and bassist Jack Robinson, Northpaw have in many ways continued the sound created within Forever Wednesday but it has evolved into a more defined and compact yet still strongly expressive and explosive sound. Aggressive and equally melodic the band has managed to become more metal and more rock at the same time. To be honest listening to both bands side by side will bring full understanding of the last sentence but the best way to describe it is that the musicians that make up Northpaw and the music itself has matured and become an even more rounded and impressive beast.

The EP consists of three tracks that burst with vibrant ideas and energy, and dare one say more passion than heard before from the players within Northpaw. Their musical ability has never been in doubt but the new songs show them with an undefined extra edge that bristles within the tracks. The three songs threaten and engage with equal strength, the EP a tower of intensity and skilled craft.

Dead Horse’ opens the release to immediately announce that one’s attention is going to be taken and kept until the band decides differently.  The decisive guitars trample all over the senses with imaginative creativity and power, their crashing riffs and scorching play igniting eagerness within for more and more of the band’s impressive intrusion. Vocally Grout-Smith is as emotive and forceful as ever and ably backed by Huet, their clean and harsher tones striking in taking the song’s lyrical intent and emotions deeper than the ear. The song is one that strikes a chord with most as it deals with debt and life.

Set Aside The Feud’ takes over next with equal effect and satisfaction. It carries a more personal feel to it rather than the more general content of the opener. Again the song drives deeper with intelligent songwriting and its realisation, the song holding and feeding the senses with ease. Already by the midpoint of the track the anticipation of a full album from the band let alone just one more song is rife and Northpaw firmly sealed in the ‘to follow closely’ box.

The EP’s best song closes this excellent release. ‘Pawns’ throbs with irresistible riffs and pulsates with soaring yet cutting melodies giving evidence that the members singularly and as a band have come of age. The track is stunning and though ‘Dead Horse’ is probably destined to be the lead track off the EP, this song will be the one to seal the deal with a surely soon to be avalanche of new fans and attention.

Whilst there is still a lingering regret at the loss of Forever Wednesday, the EP shows that something good and majorly important has stepped from its demise. Northpaw are going to make a deep and permanent mark on certainly UK rock music, but one feels that is just the start.

To grab your free copy of the Northpaw EP go over to either their Facebook profile https://www.facebook.com/northpawofficial or http://northpawofficial.tumblr.com/ you will not regret it.

RingMaster 20/01/2012

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Northpaw- Pawns

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Interview with Ed Warby of The 11th Hour

Though only a couple of weeks into 2012 the year has got off to a strikingly impressive start in metal releases with Lacrima Mortis from the doom metalers The 11th Hour. Fuelled by melancholic tones and a deeply striking theme the album is a wonderfully inspiring and emotive weave of oppressive riffs and stark intent graced by soul searched melodies. Provocative and perfectly intrusive whilst engaging it is hard to imagine many future releases will consume and fulfil as thoroughly as Lacrima Mortis. With great pleasure we had the chance to ask multi-instrumentalist and song writer/composer Ed Warby from The 11th Hour about the album, band and about his music.

Welcome and thank you for finding time to talk with us at The Ringmaster Review.

How are emotions on the ‘eve’ of the release of new album Lacrima Mortis?

Excited mostly, no matter how many albums I make this is always a stressful period but the first reviews have been very good so I’m a little more at ease.

You must be proud of what is a stunning and creatively impressive album. Did it come out as you envisaged when recording or has it surprised you a little how it evolved?

All songs were demoed extensively so there weren’t many surprises anymore once I started recording. On the other hand it is a magical moment every time a part comes together the way you hoped it would, especially after focusing on little details for weeks and finally being able to hear a piece with everything in place.

As you write and compose the songs and play all instruments on the album did the songs find their form more in the studio or did you have a firm shape and direction to them before hand?

I usually have a very clear idea of what a song should become, but sometimes you find a part lacking and you have to search for a way to make it work. I added the choir in We All Die Alone at a later stage, and the intro was done during mixing. But I’d say 90% of the album already exists in my head before I start, it’s almost a visual thing for me.

Being the sole song and music contributor to The 11th Hour must give you not only control but a freedom to develop as you go?

Absolutely, I enjoy being in a band situation as well but it’s great to have the freedom to do literally anything I like without having to take other band members’ opinion into account. That’s not to say I don’t value their opinion, but The 11th Hour is so extremely personal I don’t think I could write easily with another person.

Sleepless nights too considering you also produced the album? Haha.

Sleepless nights are an integral part of the album-making experience, unfortunately. The closer I get to the deadline, the worse it gets. I can lie awake for hours thinking about a fade-out, or a delay, small things that nobody will notice but it drives me insane! I cannot however take credit for the entire production, I did record and engineer the whole thing but the mix was done in Sweden by Ronnie Björnström.

So you bring in an outside ear and opinion during production to test and challenge the safety one could fall into doing it all oneself?

Ronnie is my outside ear and his contribution is hugely important. By the time he gets involved I have lost all sense of perspective so it’s refreshing to have someone “fresh” come in at this point. The most important thing he taught me is to look at the big picture like a casual listener would, instead of obsessing over details (which I will continue doing as that’s how I work, but good advice it was nevertheless).

I believe Lacrima Mortis took many months to complete, did you give yourself targets or it was going to take as long as it took?

When I started recording in February I told Napalm optimistically I’d be done by July so we could have an October release but I missed that deadline by about 3 months. Once it became clear I wasn’t going to make my original target I didn’t set myself a new one, although I knew I didn’t have unlimited respite because of the whole promotional side of releasing an album.

As with your previous album Burden of Grief, the new release is extremely powerful and dark. It does though have a lighter, for want of a better word, touch giving a fuller experience, do you agree or what are the differences for you?

I think it’s a more colourful album than the debut, which was very bleak and dreary. The arrangements are much richer and there’s a lot going on in each song, so the replay value has hopefully increased.

The songs feel deeply personal in places; certainly they hold a surety seemingly of experience. Is this the reality and what inspired the albums concept?

While the lyrics themselves are largely fictional, they’re invested with a lot of deeply painful personal elements. The main inspiration comes from the death of my parents, which happened a long time ago (mid and late 90’s respectively) but it’s something that I will always carry with me. When I made Burden Of Grief my sister was very ill as well as she suffered from the same lung disease that killed both our parents, fortunately she was successfully transplanted in 2010.

In reference to the themes on both albums are you a cheerful person at heart haha?

I am, jolly and cheerful! But I do have a very strong melancholy side, I can totally lose myself in the past and when I do the doom just comes pouring out.

Unfortunately due the effects of illness you could not collaborate with Rogga Johansson vocally on Lacrima Mortis, did this feel like a big setback initially?

Absolutely, at that time I still believed I was going to make the deadline so it really put a spoke in the wheel. And while I knew Pim did great on stage it was still a gamble as I didn’t know whether his voice would work well with mine and the rest of the music on the album.

As you mentioned Pim Blankenstein of Officium Triste took over with blistering effect. Did you have to change the songs at all to accommodate his impressive delivery?

Not at all, I already had all the vocal lines worked out for Rogga and Pim came well-prepared so the recordings were a breeze. We changed a few words here and there so they felt more comfortable to him, but overall it as exactly what I wanted. Talk about a blessing in disguise!

This is a wicked question but how do you think the album has benefitted from having Pim contribute as to if Rogga was able?

I think Pim’s voice is more solemn and therefore more suitable for doom, Rogga is one of my favourite growlers but he’s very “death metal”. Pim almost sounds like a force of nature when he starts bellowing and that really gave an extra dimension to the growling parts.

Can we ask about how The 11th Hour came about originally and the inspiration for its direction?

It was Rogga that came up with the idea of doing a doom project, but he being as busy as he is that never happened and we made Demiurg’s The Hate Chamber instead. I liked the idea though so I started writing on my own and when I had enough material for an album I asked Rogga to provide the growls for it. The first song I wrote was One Last Smoke and that set the direction for the rest of the album pretty firmly, Rogga convinced me I should sing myself and he put me on the right track as far as the lyrics are concerned.

Your history involves a variety of bands and styles in the likes of Gorefest, Hail of Bullets, and Ayreon as examples. Are you trying out genres and styles, like a boxer moving up in weights?

Good theory! It’s more simple than that though, I’m from a time when there was just “metal” and “everything else” so to me it doesn’t feel as wildly eclectic as it may seem. I approach each project the same way: what’s best for the song and how can I give the best performance possible?

You are known for being a drummer obviously but with the talent you have for multi instruments do you find it a little restrictive now sitting behind a kit solely on other projects?

On the contrary, I love getting behind the kit and not having to worry about anything else than bashing the hell out of it. You could say It’s almost liberating in its restrictiveness as such.

The 11th Hour originally was just a studio project but starting with one show initially turned into a live unit, did this mean any changes to the music from its studio creation?

We play to a backing track with all the orchestral parts so the music can’t change that much.
The main difference is that live the songs sound even heavier, which is something I didn’t really expect. The 3-guitar line-up works brilliantly since it enables us to play everything you hear on the album without sacrificing the heavy foundation when there’s a harmony lead.

You have some great musicians in the band but was there any air of unease passing over parts of your composition to others to bring forth live?

For a self-admitted control freak it’s quite a scary thing to have other musicians perform your songs, but like you say I have a great band and I find I can let go a lot more easily than I thought. Drummer Dirk Bruinenberg was a bit worried I’d be looking over my shoulder constantly to glare at him in disapproval, but he does a great job and so do the others.

What are the influences past and present that inspire you to this day?

Musically I can be inspired by almost anything, I’m a musical omnivore and I buy tons of CD’s every month. I have periods where I’m totally into vintage soul (that’s the one I’m in right now), or 50’s country, delta blues, but I also keep up with most current metal releases. I got into music because of KISS and that is still a big influence on me as far as “why do I do this” goes, and no that reason is not “getting filthy rich off band merchandise” but rather the excitement I felt when I bought my first KISS album as a kid.

Reading that you were writing towards Lacrima Mortis almost from the moment the first album came out, are you working towards the next, certainly in writing songs?

No, I figured I deserved a break from writing and recording as I’ve been working non-stop for 3 years. So I turned off my workstation in November and only turned it back on to help Pim and Stephan (Gebédi) record some guest vocals. I plan to remain inactive until April and then Hail Of Bullets will have my undivided attention.

What is next for The 11th Hour as the album is released?

First I have to teach the songs to the other guys, we’ve done 2 of them so far and they sound great. We’re trying to book some good shows for the next few months, looks like we’ll do a shared album presentation with Asphyx here in The Netherlands which should be fun.

Thank you so much for talking with us, it has been a pleasure.

The pleasure was mine, thanks for the challenging questions!

Would you like to leave with any words or thoughts?

I think I’ve said everything I wanted to say and more, so I think I’ll let your readers go now…

 

For more about go to Lacrima Mortis http://www.napalmrecords.com/hp_artists.php?osCsid=94e34f54ff2a43d28603a8d7e62250be&artists_ID=THE%2011th%20HOUR

Read the Lacrima Mortis review @ http://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2012/01/13/the-11th-hour-lacrima-mortis/

RingMaster 18/01/2012

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Tom Kills – Million Pieces

Rather than introducing himself to the world through an elaborate bio or a colourful rhetoric Scottish singer songwriter Tom Kills has announced himself with the release of the single ‘Million Pieces’ and further more made it a free download. Giving away tracks is nothing new of course but usually an artist or band has constructed a ‘body’ to themselves before hand. Kills is letting his music make his welcome, his song being the first ‘face’ for people and a fine introduction it is.

From Cumbernauld, North Lanarkshire Kills creates music that swarms slowly but eagerly across the senses, its 80’s electronic pop laced with a dark tone bringing a thoroughly mesmeric sound. ‘Million Pieces’ wraps itself around the ear, soothing deeper as it caresses with vibrant graceful melodies and atmospheric sways of synth creativity. The track is emotive despite the lighter easy hook that latches on first to open up the listener for the expansive emotion touching sound surrounding it. The track carries an expressive mix of Strangers, Depeche Mode and Matt Johnson (The The) blending a nostalgic 80’s feel with a modern darker edge.

For a starter to any public musical introduction ‘Million Pieces’ is deeply impressive and a perusal  and digestion of other tracks posted on Kills’ web site and profiles shows this is not a one off. Songs like the emotive ‘Silly Little Self’, the excitable majesty of ‘Sex Robots’, and the impassioned ‘Catastrophe’ all show that Kills is a songwriter than knows how to create well crafted songs that make their home far deeper than the ear. All are haunting in some degree and trigger responses to ensure they are not fleeting romances with their hosts.

As mentioned ‘Million Pieces‘ can be downloaded for free by simply going to his official website @ http://tomkills.com/ or Facebook profile https://www.facebook.com/tomkills to treat yourselves.

RingMaster 18/01/2012

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Tom Kills – Million Pieces

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Iron Fire – Voyage of the Damned

 

With a trepidation inspired from other power rock albums over the years and their dislike, going into the new album from Danish power metalers Iron Fire was not over appealing but that feeling was swiped fiercely away by the mid-point of the second track, Voyage of the Damned reminding that assumptions are never a great thing.  Admittedly the album will probably still not make the end of year top 10 here but that is down to personal prejudice against the classic rock vocal style employed. Founder and band mastermind Martin Steene is a fine and dramatic vocalist with measured control and expression but despite that his style is not one I enjoy generally, but it has to be said that overall he, the band and the album did nothing less than please with its impressive creative power.

The early days of Iron Fire was an explosive entry into the corridors of rock with much acclaim and promise coning from their 2001 debut album Thunderstorm. From that point things became rocky to simplify it with a completely opposite reaction to follow-up release On the Edge. Though fans were still behind them elsewhere things soured with even their own label appearing disinterested which eventually ended with the band being dropped on the eve of the release of the band’s third album. Under this continued downturn the band found itself containing just Steene as people left. A fighter, Steene  through his disappointment built up his determination accumulating in 2006 with a new Iron Fire album in Revenge. Based upon the fictitious fantastic world of the warrior Cain, a man double crossed and betrayer by his closest friends and allies (wonder what inspired that?), the album now with the support of Napalm Records drew in immense acclaim and positive reaction. The band were back and has since risen to higher stronger heights with their albums Blade of Triumph in 2007, To the Grave of 2009, and the following year Metalmorphosized. During this time shows and tours alongside the likes of Demon, U.D.O., Primal Fear, Saxon, WASP, and Doro added more impact and power to the return of Iron Fire.

Released January 27th again via Napalm, Voyage of the Damned is a powder keg of explosive and at times deeply aggressive riffs and fluid soaring melodies. The release draws on many genres bringing elements of black and death metal, doom, thrash, prog rock, and more, all spicing up their own vibrant and stirring sound. On the album the band is more muscular and threatening than on previous releases without losing its skilled melodic touch, the release hitting hard and with venom whilst enticing and inviting with pleasing melodies and ideas. The quartet of Steene, guitarist Kirk Backarach, bassist Martin Lund, and Fritz Wagner on drums have evolved into an even tighter and mightier band with deep flavours to grab most metal fans.

From the atmospheric doom type opening of ‘The Dark Beyond’, the kind of opening so many bands use now to lead into their releases, the album erupts into the folk metal tinged might of ‘Enter Oblivion OJ-666’. With chunky riffs rapping at the ear within soaring symphonic keys the song is prime metal urgency bringing a heavy dominance upon the senses with fluent breaks into scorching melodies and guitar creativity. The album as it unveils its wares is deeply varied to ensure constant attention. From the further brutal riffage of ‘Taken’ to the industrial veined orchestral grace of ‘Slaughter of Souls’,  and the drama of ‘Leviathan’ to the emotive passion of ballad ‘The Final Odyssey’ the band come from different angles and with consistent effect.

The slightly erratic yet excellent ‘Ten Years In Space’ and the dark energy of ‘Realm of Madness’ stand out on the latter part of the album but as a whole the release is impressive. It is the staggering dangerous intense riffs and varied metal intrusions of multiple sources that lift the album beyond the band’s previous releases. This new heavy intensity suits them and when Steene and the band venture into growls and a less polished rock vocal delivery the songs turn into even stronger beasts. Though personal taste has an impact on one aspect the truth is Voyage of the Damned is a mighty album even these ears will visit often.

RingMaster 17/01/2012

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