Interview with Aries of Hellsaw

Austrian black metal band Hellsaw with their new album Trist, released a beast that demands and tests before it consumes and lays waste to the senses. Intensely powerful and completely devastating upon the ear the band has set the genre up for a mighty year if others can rival Trist. We had the chance to talk with vocalist Aries from the band about the album, songwriting and Hellsaw itself.

Welcome to The RingMaster Review and thanks for talking with us.

Firstly could you introduce the band and its members?

I am Aries, and I am one of the founder members and I handle the vocals, write the lyrics and the music.  Our two guitarists are Malthus and Isiul.  On bass we have Desderoth and on drums we have Neuroticon, a recent, and very welcome, addition to the band.

What were the beginnings of Hellsaw like; I believe you were initially just a duo?

We were yes.  Hellsaw was founded by myself and our then drummer Svart, with me handling the vocals, guitars and bass, so essentially we were a studio band at that point.  We knew what we wanted to do with our music, but we were really trying things out at this stage.

This did not include live shows or did they only come once you expanded the band line-up?

They came later.  Once we had released our first full length album Spiritual Twilight it became obvious that there was a demand for the band to appear live, and we knew that if we wanted to take the band to another level we would have to do that.  We first used a session line up, but we needed the commitment that comes from permanent members who can contribute to every aspect of the band, which is what we have now.

What was the drive and inspiration that inspired Hellsaw and has that changed over the years in any way?

To be as good as we can be at any given moment in time, and to continue getting better and better.  That will never change.

What were your influences that shaped your sound and personal musical developments?

We were influenced to become musicians by the Black Metal of the early 90s but that was just the catalyst really and I should point out that being derivative is not something we have ever aspired to.    It is very important for us as musicians and individuals to create and develop our own sound.  Obviously, as we grow in experience as musicians and performers there will be tweaks to that sound, but essentially it’s very much Hellsaw.

You have just released your new album, the impressive Trist; can you give some idea of what it has in store for new listeners to Hellsaw?

We recorded the album live in the studio, and I am sure that most people will realise how much more difficult that is to do as you have to get everything right in one take.  But we feel it paid off and that the listeners will get a sense of spontaneity and aggressiveness that is often missing in studio recordings.

How has the band evolved for you over the years from previous albums Spiritual Twilight, Phantasm and Cold?

We have obviously grown both as individuals and musicians, and the band has grown with us.  We have always known what we wanted from our music, but now we have not just the skills, but also, very importantly, the technical knowledge to be able to make it sound as we want it to sound.

Do you approach recording differently now to how it was for earlier releases?

Apart from the fact that we recorded this album live in the studio as I mentioned previously, these days we can go into a recording session better prepared in terms of knowing what will be required of us in order to get the sound we want.

How does the songwriting work within the band?

I do the majority of the songwriting, but the others will also contribute.  Once the song or the riff has been written it is a collaborative effort, with everyone having their say.  We all know our own and each others strengths so we can write or arrange accordingly.

Do you write with particular intentions especially for an album or is it always an organic process? The songs in a way creating their own direction as you write them?

It is very much an instinctive process. I would never sit down to write a whole album.  The inspiration has to come from within, and if something inspires me to write a song I will.

What triggers generally your inspiration for songwriting and is it the music or words that most often are the seed to songs?

Both.  I get my inspiration for several sources.  It could something that has happened to me or something I have witnessed, maybe an historical event that interests me, or even nature itself, but the essential factor is that my take on all this is skewed by the negativity that is inside of me, inside of us all as it happens.  Most people deny that they have this, whereas I make use of it.

With many bands there is a difference between their live and studio sounds, is this something you keep an eyes on or does your musically instinctively translate to bring an equal intensity in either arena?

I think there is always a difference between live and studio sounds, it is inevitable unless you travel with a massive amount of equipment and several sound engineers, and probably a lot of samples! As a band we really enjoy playing live because you have to approach how you play and how you present yourself in a totally different way, and it brings a whole different dimension to the music. Added to which there is the interaction with the audience.  You can see for yourself how they are reacting to the music and you can respond accordingly.  Audiences can differ widely in reaction, and you need to adapt to that.

The stunning Doom Pervades Nightmares is the track that hit deepest with us on Trist, could you give some background to it and its inspiration?

I do not really like to talk in depth about individual tracks, I really prefer the listeners to draw their own conclusions. Let us just say it reflects the kind of insanity that you feel when you are alone and at the mercy of something that you can not escape.

Your music is dark, intrusive, provocative and intimidating but what are the shadows that do the same to you as musicians and people?

Negativity.

There is a satanic element to the band though that term is a mere simple tag and I am sure just a small part of your wider personal beliefs, but when do these personal elements that must infuse into the band, become or evolve into the theatrical or visual part of Hellsaw?

The satanic element is largely due to the preconceptions that everyone has about Black Metal.  We are all atheists.  We do not believe in any form of higher being.  The theatrical element as you call it is a symbiosis between the music and the visual.  The one suits the other and they feed off each other.

How do you feel about the state of black metal right now?

It is really not for me to judge.  There are some phenomenally good bands around, and these are the ones who have an originality to their music and who have their own way of expressing themselves.  Then there are some really dire ones who think that Black Metal has to sound like the original bands from way back when, which, considering that the original bands themselves moved on from that sound a long time ago is a very limiting way of looking at things and just creates second rate copies.

What is next for Hellsaw?

We are about to head for Russia for the first time, for quite an extensive tour, so we’re very much looking forward to that. We can also announce that we’ll be playing at Extreme Fests in Austria, Switzerland and Germany, and at Walpurgis Metal Days, but obviously we are not allowed to mention any other appearances until they are announced.

A great many thanks for taking time to talk with us. Would you like to leave with a thought or idea that fires up your day?

Take the negativity that is inside of you and use it to create.

Trist is released via Napalm Records now!

Read the review of Trist http://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2012/02/20/hellsaw-trist/

RingMaster Review 29/02/2012

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The Stranglers: Giants

With Rattus Norvegicus the very first album purchased by my own eager pennies The Stranglers and any release they offer up always makes the heart skip a touch and the juices of anticipation seep. Over their almost forty years in existence  the band never compromised in attitude or sound, and even if some releases did not match certainly the glories of the first decade or so, the band never offered half hearted or formulaic releases. The previous two albums Norfolk Coast (2004) and Suite XVI (2006) gave strong suggestion that the band were returning to the form that saw them as consistently one of the leading punk/rock bands. New album Giants not only confirms that feeling but announces The Stranglers have returned to being again a fiercely formidable band that easily can fire up the heart.

Giants is stunning, a release that dips into the strength and elements of previous releases to manipulate them into fresh sounds, alongside this the quartet go down new avenues and ideas for the creation of an eclectic album that impresses and excites. Since the days of Dreamtime albums have to a varying extent left one feeling hungry and dissatisfied, Giants though not only feeds the appetite fully it treats it to an excess of  quality and essential Stranglers.

Not only is the creative heart of the band back to full strength so is the bass of JJ Burnel, not that it has ever gone away but that element that makes one tingle right down into the deepest corner when its throaty grumbles erupt is back to its glorious muscular strength. The album opens with the first instrumental from the band for years and an instant notification that the band still is eager to incite the senses. Like a velvet clad grater the bass crawls over the ear whilst the guitar of Baz Warne lays its bluesy fingers firmly and wonderfully around the senses ably accompanied by keys from Dave Greenfield which courts the time of No More Heroes. The track though uncomplicated captivates from first note to last and sets up Giants perfectly.

The album never lets up in giving songs which wrap themselves eagerly and effectively around the senses. Whether vibrant and light or darker and with a firmer intent the tracks satisfy deeply with honesty and genuine imagination. Freedom Is Insane opens with waves upon the beach as emotive keys float through the air, with vocals from Burnell to match the song slowly dawns before exploding into a driven energy and depth reminding of the Raven days. Jet Black as always directs with the surest and firmest of hands whilst the keys of Greenfield call to the soul under his wizardry, it has been a while since his playing and conjurations sounded this wonderful.

Two songs in and the heart is won which the likes of the title track with its nostalgic prowl and solar powered melodies against gutsy vocals and basslines plus My Fickle Resolve only go to reinforce and increase the enthusiasm and desire to fall into the albums charms. The second of the two songs sways with a confident swagger as it strolls through the ear with a vibrant mesmeric English sound. The song radiates warmth and swings with a groove which takes one by the hand to encourage involvement physically and mentally.

Giants hits the deepest and most potently on two songs especially. Lowlands is a pulsating accosting of the ear with a resonance and chilled steel right out of Black And White. It barely takes a breath in its consistent pace and energy with Burnell and Warne in fluid unison musically and Greenfield treating us to more sounds that make the senses weak at their knees. It is one of those songs where its three minutes feels as brief as a thought swiftly flickering in the head to be gone before one can fully appreciate its power, songs like this is why replay was invented. Equally impressive, though the whole album is to be fair, is Time Was Once On My Side. A rock tune with seeds in the Meninblack period it leads one into new radiant pastures and creative wells within the band. The swift Madness ska pop moment raises a deep grin to add to the glow the song has already instigated.

With all four members exploring new avenues within themselves and re-energising past influences The Stranglers show they not only retain the strength and creativity we knew they had but are just as inspirational and important as ever. Giant is without doubt going to go down as a classic, with songs like Mercury Rising with its pop/rock blend of coarse and mellow and the Spanish sung metal tango of Adios (Tango), not forgetting the quirky simplicity of Boom Boom just as startling and thrilling as those mentioned.

In many ways with no disrespect to the band the album is a surprise though the band suggested they were always able to bring something special out in the previous releases. It is thoroughly exhilarating and pleasing to the highest degree, go find out for yourselves, you will not regret it. The Stranglers are back!

RingMaster 29/02/2012

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Interview with Marco Heubaum of Xandria

This month saw the return and release of the impressive new album from German symphonic metal band Xandria. After a long wait between previous album Salomé – The Seventh Veil in 2007 to new album  Neverworld’s End, which saw the departure of previous singer Lisa Middelhauve to be replaced by the wonderful voice of Manuela Kraller, Xandria has burst back with a new intensity, creativity and collection of songs which treat the senses to a feast of majestically soaring metal veined sounds. With a great deal of pleasure we had the opportunity to talk to band founder guitarist/keyboardist Marco Heubaum about the new album, new singer Manuela and other aspects of Xandria.

Hello and welcome to The RingMaster Review, thank you for talking with us.

Marco: You are welcome, it´s a pleasure for us! J

First simple question is could you please describe the band in your words and introduce its members?

Marco: We are a German metal band that plays a symphonic, atmospheric and cinematic sound! We consist of five members: Gerit Lamm on the Drums, Nils Middelhauve on deep strings, Philip Restemeier and me on guitars and our new singer Manuela Kraller.

The band has been a vibrant force for a few years now but what was early Xandria like compared to now?

Marco: In the beginning Xandria was heavily influenced by nineties atmospheric, dark metal bands like Tiamat, Paradise Lost and other, and our debut Kill the Sun sounded like late nineties Tiamat only with female vocals. Much less bombastic than we are now and also more simple.

Has the evolution in sound and as musicians been completely organic or have there been times you have made a deliberate change in direction?

Marco: If you are calling picking up new influences and checking out what you can do with them organic, then it is this way. After the debut, influences like movie soundtracks and folk music emerged and our music became sounding bigger and more varied.

Relating to the last question your excellent new album Neverworld’s End has a more defined steel and harder edge to it than ever before was this deliberate or as I asked before a simply natural progression?

Marco: This time we had a clear picture of what the new album should sound like. We wanted to reach another level and to bring forward everyone´s favourite tastes more than before and thus we wanted the next album to be heavier, darker, and more complex.

What are your emotions on the eve of its release, trepidation, fear or confidence or …..?

Marco: We are very confident of what we have done on this album. Whatever the reaction will be, they will not change this, because this album is what we liked to do! But of course we are excited to hear people´s opinions, because it would also be great if our fans like it!

It has been roughly five years between Neverworld’s End and previous release Salomé – The Seventh Veil, why the time? Was it down to simply time taken writing the follow-up, the line-up change which we will talk about later or a mixture of factors?

Marco: Yes, the ones you mentioned have been the main reasons.

Though not openly active over that period to the outside the band must have been continuing in aspects of Xandria but how frustrating and hard is it to deal with things when all you want to do is play music to people live and for them to take home and immerse into?

Marco: We played our first South American tour in this time, and some more shows, all of them belong to the most successful live shows in our history, so there indeed has been something going on. But you are right; being not able to present a new album to the public because we had no permanent singer for the future was frustrating. Especially when you already know what you are about to create, that this is much more what you want to present than only the old songs over and over again. That´s why we already played at least one or two of the songs that have already been written live in this time.

As we touched on, the period between albums saw the addition to the band of vocalist Manuela Kraller, where and how did you all initially link up and meet with her leading to her eventually joining the band?

Marco: Because we started a public call for a new singer, we got lots of applications, and she has been the one we have been searching for! She sent us a very nice email with stunning samples of her voice and then we had invited her to our place to get to know her.

Replacing Lisa Middelhauve, Manuela has brought a new and impressive dynamic to the band but how much of an impact does a new singer have on the older already established songs and how a band plays them from that point on?

Marco: On stage it´s all about the chemistry between the musicians, and that is the most crucial thing. As this chemistry is absolutely great now with Manuela, this is what drives the songs, whether old or new, to new heights. It´s amazing to see how she can bring power to some of the old songs so they get a totally new dimension!

How daunting was it for Manuela to come into the band and bring alive these existing songs with her own ‘breath’.

Marco: I think she wasn´t too scared of this. She knows that we chose her because we believe in her voice and that she is the right one for us, so I think that gives her confidence. But I know that she – as we all do – has great respect for the older carnations of the songs as sung by Lisa, but we do not look back too much. We are the Xandria of now altogether and that´s how we see it when playing the songs.

The new album Neverworld’s End is a stunning release with as mentioned a new edge to the band’s sound, where did this new direction find inspiration and is this the future of Xandria?

Marco: The inspiration came from the things we liked most in our previous music, the atmospheric, bombastic and heavy moments, but we wanted to take this even further. There also have been influences by classical metal bands we always loved, like Iron Maiden, Pantera, Dream Theater, Emperor, Judas Priest, Metallica and also movie soundtracks. Of course there are also the likes of such fantastic symphonic bands like Nightwish that inspired us to go some steps further and unleash everything that was only sleeping in us until now.

The impressive blend of metal forged intensity and the soaring vocal command of Manuela is a seamless and creative mix but has songwriting for the album been as it has been on previous releases, how you go about crafting songs?

Marco: Well, as the main songwriter, I first gather ideas and work on them for myself, in my own fantasy I try to make the best out of them, and when I think they have become good songs, I show them to the other guys and then we are working on them together, everyone bringing in ideas to the arrangement. This main scheme has been working best since the very beginning of the band, when I founded it back in the late nineties to bring my musical visions to life. But also sometimes the other guys come up with ideas for songs and then we are working on them the same way.

Many bands stiffening up their attack with darker metal edges might have brought in additional coarser male vocals to play across from Manuelas tones, was this ever a thought approached and dismissed?

Marco: We thought about a male singer´s guest appearance on one song, but not as a permanent addition to our sound. And it didn´t happen in the end. Well at least you can hear me  doing some spoken stuff, backing vocals and also some screams in the finale of Soulcrusher – listening to Children Of Bodom while driving the long distances between the recording studios inspired to do something like that (laughs). But it´s nothing too obvious and we are not really thinking about hiring a permanent male singer…

I must be honest my favourite tracks on a album of nothing but highlights is the meatier likes of Euphoria, Soulcrusher , and Cursed but are there any tracks or just elements of parts that you are most proud of or even surprised you at how well they have emerged?

Marco: I am most proud of the more complex, heavy and long songs, because this is something I never done before but absolutely wanted to.

This is your fifth album, how has the bands approach to recording and the studio changed over the years?

Marco: This time the production has been lying in our hands and we also recorded most guitars and bass at my home studio, this is something new for us. It gave us a lot of freedom but also big responsibility. If something would have run terribly wrong, we couldn´t blame someone else for it (laughs). But we had a lot of great people working with us, the Principal studio´s boss Jörg Umbreit who recorded the drums and did the mix, Corni Bartels with whom we recorded the vocals in his Weltraum Studios in Munich, and also the amazing talents of our orchestral arranger Joost van den Broek and the musicians who played authentic Celtic and Arabic instruments. These brilliant artists accompanied us very well and so we always had faith in what we were doing. Also we have been well prepared after this long time of rehearsing the songs and letting them mature.

Do you now have a more defined destination each time you enter a studio that you do not need or welcome outside ideas or has it worked the other way and you are more open to suggestions than ever before?

Marco: Both. We had a strong picture of the album and its sound in mind when we started with the actual recordings, but ideas from our orchestral arranger or other involved parties had been always welcome, though this didn´t affect the big picture as a whole.

Your retrospective album Now & Forever – The Best Of Xandria that came out in 2008 was a kind of summary and rounding up the band to that point, should we have seen it as that and was it a kind of that was us then release and now for something new?

Marco: Exactly. At the point of planning this best of  it was an idea of our old label, a natural thing when contracts have been fulfilled, I think  we already knew that our former singer would leave and that we would be heading for new directions. The title was not only referring to our song of the same name, but was meant as a hint that we would carry on with the band for sure.

Though generally it is a compliment do you get frustrated at the early Nightwish comparisons even with the new album which we feel definitely holds a distinct sound of your own far removed from theirs?

Marco: It´s right, Nightwish sounds different today, at least because they don´t have a classical sounding singer anymore (laughs), but for sure there are parallels in the overall musical vision, I think we share a lot there. As they are a real great band and have been one of the launchers of this kind of metal, it is a compliment when someone says “I think you are as great as…”. But of course we don´t like if someone says we are copying them. This is not our intention, we want to go our own way, we just share a lot of the destinations.

Is there to be extensive touring to promote Neverworld’s End?

Marco: We hope so, but we are just in the middle of planning things. So keep checking our tour dates in the next time, there will be news!  

It is always too soon to ask really what is next for Xandria, but we will all the same.

Marco: Playing live as much as we can!

Thank you so much for sharing time to talk to us, good luck with the album though one doubts you will need it.

Would you like to leave us with a final thought or comment regarding anything?

Marco: Thanks for this statement, but good luck is always needed, we just hope people haven´t forgotten us and give us a chance with our new singer and the new album!

Neverworld’s End is available now via Napalm Records

Read the Neverworld’s End @ http://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2012/02/17/xandria-neverworlds-end/

RingMaster Review 28/02/2012

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The Machine Room – Love From A Distance EP

Whatever is in the drinking water up in Scotland that is dripping into its musical creativity long may it continue. This especially applies to the city of  Edinburgh with bands like Letters, My Tiny Robots and Dead Boy Robotics have more than made a stir over recent months and releases. Joining them is The Machine Room who will release their new EP Love From A Distance on March 5th. The new EP follows up previous acclaimed singles Girly which formed part of a split release with a song from Dead Boy Robotics for the TAPE singles club and Camino de Soda, which finds a place also on the EP.

The Machine Room create music which soothes the senses, its dream pop/shoegaze caresses a smooth yet startling stroke across the ear and beyond. The quintet of John Bryden, Tom Adam, Adie Emanuel, Scott Hitchings, and Ryan Marinello explore and bring forth music and expression influenced by the likes of New Order, Depeche Mode, and seemingly at times with a spice of the likes of Blancmange, though The Machine Room never more than dip their toes in the easily accessible waters of electronic eighties pop.

Consisting of four quite varied songs within the overall jangly guitar and broad soaring synth sound, the EP is an expression of love gone wrong and its contemplation. The opening song Cost Of Progress immediately stands out and remains through the length of the EP the strongest and most engaging song. With a nagging bass throughout and dazzling spotlight like melodies the song sways and leans upon the ear wonderfully with more than a heavy feel of eighties band The House Of Love, and with the wonderful falsetto sound of vocalist John Bryden has a definite flavor of Shine On from the Guy Chadwick led band to it. Attentive and attention seeking the song is a glorious flight for the ear to catch a ride upon and the one song that surely will take the band to more and more hearts.

The electronic driven Your Head On The Floor Next Door comes next, dripping with an ethereal gentleness which sparkles within its harder crystalline flow; the song dazzles rather than erupts within the ear. It is another song that one can see many finding the doorway to the bands sounds through, its honest well lit journey a simple joy.

Previous single Camino de Soda fingers the senses with care and an easily pleasing nature. It is not hard to see why the song drew much attention to the band when it was released the latter part of last year but against the previous two songs it does dim in its light a little despite being an attraction the ear cannot deny.

The heavier tones and emotion of Picking Holes completes the release to further delighted satisfaction. Again with a New Order like touch the song offers an emotive mass that soaks the feelings with a melancholic density to temper the other more vibrant sounds previously unveiled on the release, though at no point can the EP be accused of being in party mode.

      Love From A Distance is a refreshing release that coaxes rather than enflames the senses. It does not hold a song with an infectious hook or hypnotic melody to easily captivate but offers a mesmeric charm and knowing arm around the shoulders for the same result. For sounds where emotion and touching sounds walk arm in arm The Machine Room is your destination.

RingMaster 28/02/2012

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Bloodloss: The Struggle

The Struggle, the debut mini album from UK metalers Bloodloss, is quite simply stunning and it is frightening to know that as mightily intimidating and impressively crafted as it is, you know there is so much more yet to come from within the London quintet. The release inflicts merciless rampaging riffs upon the senses and striking melodic incursions which take them into blistering realms of ingenuity. For a band new to metal and making its first marked venture into view the release is beyond immense, Bloodloss announcing their arrival with brutal aggression and high quality melodic imagination and vision. The fact that at the end of it one still feels the band has yet to find its true sound is even more impressive and anticipation of what is to come for the band deeply eager.

Released March 5th The Struggle denies resistance to its might from the opening note, the title track leading the consumption of ear and beyond like a mighty goods train flattening all before. Riffs muscle their way through the ear opening up the senses with their staccato attack and a groove that winds itself tightly around its victim. Like a military manoeuvre the song demands and takes complete control to then unveil an expanse of melodic guitar and atmospheric emotion that immerses one like a warm lake. Vocalist Matt Hobbs floats along this passage with smooth vocals that caress and a seamless contrast to the excellent caustic growls he delivers for the majority of the song, and album. The song carries a tinge of Five Finger Death Punch and more than a taste of Bloodsimple but is definitely all Bloodloss.

With a chest thumping entrance This Still Remains  takes over to raise the heat even more. With riffs from Rob Ironmonger and Mark Browell that fracture the defences like sledge hammers the song explodes with group shout vocals and more expressive melodic ventures within the ever gripping intense assault. Pierced with some great rock guitar and further smooth vocals which carry as much emotive fuel as the bestial power thrusting the song forward through bassist Dave Smith and the formidable drums of Dan Kelly, the song is the proof of how good this band is and how mighty they are destined to be.

Things though only get better with the best track on the album Stand Alone next swaggering in like a mighty silverback. Confident and arrogant the song bleeds attitude and defiance, its nerve snapping intensity absorbing every sense possible. The song further unveils the craft to the songwriting skills and invention within the band and the skill to bring it forth without depleting the unrelenting power.

The remaining three tracks are just as jaw dropping astounding, the bruising Reborn with a groove as tight as a noose around the neck, the brilliant Lost which stomps over the already surrendering senses with even more passionate aggression, and  the closer Paradise and its full arsenal of essential metal weaponry, all continue the wonderful annihilation. The final track is the most diversely creative of what  are six intelligent and varied  compositions, and a closing declaration of how grand and powerful this band is destined to be musically and in standing.

The Struggle is simply already one of the best and most impressive releases from not only a new band but of any albums or EPs already laying waste to and feeding the ears of the world of metal this year. Do yourself a favour and join the bruising with Bloodloss, you will not regret it.

RingMaster 28/02/2012

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Christian Mistress: Possession

Deep within its vibrant heart Possession the new album from US metalers Christian Mistress has a little siren at work. Once the release has laid its splendid and full charms upon the ear there is an irresistible urge and need to repeatedly throw oneself back into its impressive swirling blends of classic rock, heavy metal, and stoner rock. You can fight it, offer a well meant resistance but Possession always wins out with sounds that light up the ear and riffs that excite the heart.

The new album is the follow-up to the 2010 critically acclaimed debut Agony & Opium from the Olympia, Washington quintet and their debut on Relapse Records. Long awaited the album is a sure bet to elevate the band to greater heights and draw a growing swarm of new souls eager to be touched by their well crafted rock sounds. Inspired by and spiced by flavours past and present the release offers moments and elements first seeded in the likes of Black Sabbath, Thin Lizzy, and Witchfinder General. They are not another band just copying the sound though or simply playing homage, Christian Mistress use these influences to fire up their own distinct invention and also add in a Blood Ceremony like stoner swagger that is tinged with psychedelic tones and punk rock. The last is less defined but it is there and offers a bite and attitude to stir up and impress.

From the opening track Over and Over the band reveals their cards and skills. Vocalist Christine Davis fills the song with a vocal that breathes energy and attitude and a lot of the punk feel stems from her delivery, as here where her tones recall early Siouxsie Sioux. Alongside her the guitars of Ryan McClain and Oscar Sparbel ignite sparks in the ear with their cutting play and enormous riffs whilst bassist Johnny Wulf is immense as his heavy lines rumble and intimidate. With drummer Reuben Storey equally formidable and impressive the band gives notice of what is ahead though not yet of how good things will get as the opener though agreeably strong is relatively unsurprising.

Pentagram and Crucifix is instantly a different beast to the opener. Big burly rhythms and heavy riffs to match accost the ear whilst a guitar litters the surroundings with acidic sounds which invites one into the throbbing mass. Again Davis delivers her words with a punk spite that is excellent and a great counter to the mesmeric play and a colleague to the eager might that crowds the ear. Christian Mistress never demand attention on any of their tracks instead they let the music give the invitation but their power does feel as if it is standing over one to ensure nothing is missed, the riffs like bouncers to the skilled melodic creations within .

The album is firmly consistent with songs like the striking Conviction, the Sabbath riffed The Way Beyond, and the prog/pixies meld of Haunted Hunted very rewarding. The latter of the three sounds strange on paper but musically that is what hits the ear to great satisfaction. There are songs which go further to leave one breathless and smiling ear to ear like the previously mentioned Pentagram and Crucifix. The title track is the biggest thrill on the album, the moment its riffs slowly crawl through the ear as Davis serenades with seductive grace it captivates the senses. The song unwinds like a pole dancer, tempting and teasing with a blissfully wanton groove and eagerly sensuous guitars. The track never breaks free to run riot remaining a seduction to the end enticing and flirting with the senses whilst Davis offers the steel with more punk styled vocals and harmonies.

Black to Gold and There is Nowhere come close to matching this stunning track, the first with a chunky moody bass that lifts the already enthused riffs, scorching solos, and anthemic flow is a tasty treat whilst the second driven by a heartbeat rhythm from Storey caresses the ear with sparkling guitars and vocals before building into a climactic heavy rock crescendo of bustling riffs and dazzling progressive guitar invention.

Possession is an excellent album, a constant pleasure no matter the amount of times one lets its impressive charms play with the senses. It also still feels like the band has a lot more to come within them, so watch this space and hold onto your hats as there is an exciting and irresistible creative storm brewing ahead and it is called Christian Mistress.

RingMaster 27/02/2012

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Lay Down Rotten – Mask of Malice

If you are looking for soaring melodies and intricate meanderings that leave fingers twisted inside out then run for cover now for the new album from German metalers Lay Down Rotten only offers brutal and barbaric obliteration that leaves one a devoured husk after it unleashes the full explosive force upon the senses. Mask Of Malice is relentless, a beast that stalks, punishes and then batters the senses into further submission. It attacks with only one intention, to hit directly at the core with cataclysmic riffs and an intensity that would find the primal forces of nature think twice before standing in opposition.

Formed in 1999 initially as a solo project by vocalist/guitarist Daniel Jakobi, Lay Down Rotten within a year was a fully armoured band and on a formidable constant ascent. From their self released demos Colder As Cold and Way Of Weakness of 2000 and 2001 respectively through their five albums leading to Mask of Malice, the rise of the band has been marked and unstoppable as media and fans alike succumbed to their ferocious and staggering metal sounds. Their album of 2006 Breeding Insanity was the point when things really burst forward at a defined rate with it leading to the band signing with Metal Blade Records. The third album with the label, Mask Of Malice is the first with new guitarist Daniel Seifert who replaced Jakobi who left the band in 2011, and a continuation of the sound that Lay Down Rotten own and know so well.

The album starts on an almighty high with the staggering Deathchain, a track that violates every corner of the body, Mountainous riffs tumble onto the ear whilst a malicious groove grips the senses twisting and twisting until they snap. The guitars of Seifert and Nils Förster show no mercy whilst the bass of Uwe Kilian stomps with riffs made of iron all over the carcass of what was the ability to feel. These three would just be about survivable but with the incredible drumming of Timo Claas obliterating any living cells left alive and the blackest pit spawn growls of Jost Kleinert spewing bile from every syllable there is no escape or survival. Like the album itself the track is not bursting with innovation but when metal is this relentless and mesmeric there is glory in death after all.

After such a tremendous start there was bound to be a decline, though that is not really the fairest word to use as the impressive tracks that follow in the likes of the uncompromising A Darker Shade Of Hatred, the predatory And Out Come The Wolves, and the crushingly demonic The Devil Grins, the band shift emphasis to a heavier, darker intensity. Less accessible and violently upfront the songs stalk and sprawl around the ear before seizing with an over powering grip. The venomous pace and malevolent aggression is never reduced but delivered in a more structured way than possibly seen from the band before that makes the songs more journey to explore than an instant barracking of the senses.

As final song The Loss departs and leaves the body shell shocked and numb the knowledge that one has just experienced one of the best intensive intrusions for a long time brings a very satisfactory feeling. Ok the album will not bring you new ventures or particular expansive diversity but it is doubtful many albums or bands have unleashed as enjoyable a fury upon your soul as Lay Down Rotten do with Mask of Malice.

RingMaster 27/02/2012

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The Suicide Denial: We’ll Go Down Fighting

We’ll Go Down Fighting from US rock band The Suicide Denial is a slightly mixed bag of infectious hooks and engaging striking melodies rolled off the back of stirring riffs and eager energy. It is a boisterous album that teases and excites with easily accessible sounds and agreeable intent but it also carries what seems like obvious and open flavours and influences within its songs. The result is a release that is not soaked in particular originality but bursts through the ear with familiar and easy to absorb recognisable aural pleasure. The outcome being a strong and excitable album that gets limbs, voice and pulse a playing from start to end.

The Suicide Denial began when Chad Gerbers previous band Korben came to an end. 2007 saw Gerber and Korben relocate to Montana from California as they went for the Midwest with a vengeance with plans for extensive touring. Needing a drummer for the venture the number of Chad “AKA 2012″ McKinsey a college student, was passed on to the band. Recruited, McKinsey toured with the band until it broke up a while after upon which time Gerber approached McKinsey about the “Suicide Denial Project” he had been working on and the two decided to collaborate on this endeavour and what they called was its “Ghetto Sample Rock”. Using a small college studio at night the duo began work on songs and what would become their debut album I’m Sorry LA. Within a few months they signed to Divulge Records and the album was finished and produced, receiving a strong and eagerly positive response and acclaim across national and internet media, radio, and the public alike.

The band has thrived and steadily increased a fervent fan base across the US and into Europe, Australia and China. Something their latest album We’ll Go Down Fighting and its determined to please attitude will surely inspire even further. With a successful series of shows on the 2011 Vans Warped Tour the album came out to immediately register highly with existing and new fans with its thirteen slightly mischievous engaging songs. With the undeniable friendliness of the tunes and a sense of intimacy with some of the flavours it carries, the album which though at times is unstressed by originality leaps upon and pleases the senses far more than most other similarly fuelled releases.

The tracks rifle through the ear solidly, from the opening rock explosion of Mindless And Dumb and its Sick Puppies styled discontent and backing Aha spiced synth play through to the closing melodic joy of Your Hell and the great vocal blends within, the album makes  a case for and wins with its defence of the mission to excite and satisfy. As soon as second and best track We Go Down Fighting hits the air submission to the albums charms is a given. The track again with a Sick Puppies toned attack reminding of their track Gasoline is a raucous defiant triumph of self strength and intractability.

The album is diverse within its rock intent, from the slow emotive Radiohead spiced I’m Ok which is strong without being spectacular, the fine melancholic and dark Souls with a glorious bassline out of A Forest era Cure songbook, to the bluesy/grunge Nirvana tinged Robot, the release offers variety and gratifying flavours for the ear and deeper. It has to be said though that when the band raises the temperature as in the punk veined bursts of Shot Again and the Mucky Pup like Medicate plus obviously the previously mentioned We Go Down Fighting, they are at their height and truly expose what a great rock band they are.

Though a guitar driven band, the use of keyboards is a strong and impressive part to many of the tracks most notably in Insane. Though the track borrows a synth melody from Visages Fade To Grey the song is a delightful electro pop sway upon the ear that sweeps one up in its caresses.

Yes as mentioned We’ll Go Down Fighting maybe not the most groundbreaking or original album to pleasure the ear but the fact it does please and with such great satisfaction makes it and The Suicide Denial worth a huge amount of anyones time.

http://www.thesuicidedenial.com/news.html

RingMaster 06/01/2012

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Baddies: Build

After being completely infected and charmed by their debut album Do The Job, the review of the Baddies follow up Build was never going to be anything less than enthusiastic in their direction though there was still a part ready to chomp down on any deficiencies found.  The first single from the new album Bronto indicated at the beginning of the year that things had moved forward with their sound but now we have Build to prove if it was so. The answer is that the instigators of kinky hooks, beautifully erratic rhythms, and melodies that play hop scotch on the ear have not only returned with another stunning release but taken their sound into depths and risen to heights that exceed already enthused hopes and expectations.

After the deserved and almost crazed response to their 2009 debut form a great many, and the UK band embarking on a schedule that took in an arduous tour schedule of 180 shows in 365 days across the world which included taking in 32 major European festivals, the quartet not so much took a break but slowed things considerably as they went into thinking about and creating the successor to their successful debut. Using Pledge Music to help raise finances for the release whilst remaining strongly independent and reaching closer to their eager fans, Baddies release Build on March 5th and surely destined to ignite an even bigger response, acclaim and adoration.

Do The Job was marked for the direct and spiky hooks and addictive prickly melodies within its songs with the likes of Battleships, Open One Eye, and We Beat Our Chests uncompromising in their intent to infiltrate and control limbs and senses, turning them into thirsty marionettes. Build continues this incisive attack, bringing more additive voracious lures and instinctive harmonic essences but now with a more refined and rounded shape that  is as effective but even longer lingering and insatiable. Basically the Baddies creativity, songwriting and sound has grown, spread and dare one say matured into an even more vibrant and impressive creature.

Whereas their previous album was riotous, Build consumes in waves of gentler expressive sounds but to no less effect or impressive wonder. Do The Job threw  grating quirky crunchy guitar jabs and punchy rhythmic kicks to the ear but Build whilst taking the best of those elements fuses them into soaring electronics and graceful harmonies with a flair that is musically poetic and steamy. The album bursts into life with the slightly familiar sound and territory of the excellent Rewire. A sweeping synth cradles one in the songs arms before the guitars leap upon and bounce incessantly around the ear. Vocalist Michael Webster and fellow guitarist Simon Bellamy litter the senses with kinetic and contagious stabs whilst the futuristic inspired electronic sounds dazzle and sparkle around them.

The stunning start continues with the Frankenstein Man Made Man, another song that simply whips one into a frenetic ball of enthused hunger for more and more. The track weaves between excited agitation and a laid back melodic sensual symphony to create something glorious yet an unbridled aural solicitation. The first two songs bring older Baddies into a new expansive version that is irresistible, the man and science theme of these and the album intriguing and pleasing.

Every song within the album is without exception pure quality, from the sparkling yet provocative Mind Machines with a Thomas Dolby like flavour, to the big pulsating rhythm punch of The Lightmen. The latter of the two with its tingling electrified flow driven by the roaming throaty bass of Danny Rowton, who is imperious throughout Build, and the inspired mountainous rhythms of drummer Jim Webster, has a Colin Moulding written feel of XTC as well as of Young Knives. The swell of great vocal harmonies, expressive lyrics and their delivery an expansive gorgeous journey.

The XTC sound appears again in Excess Energy to great effect, but despite these references Baddies are undeniably and wonderfully unique. They also are distinct in the diversity within their music, something openly obvious in the likes of the album’s forthcoming single Talk To Me Germany, the stunning Centurion, and the stirring These Animals. The first is a stoked burst of punk pop joy whilst Centurion is a pulsating electronic mesmeric light brought with a slight John Foxx/ Bill Nelson touch in its scintillating sparkle.

Bronto like the opener is the perfect connection between the older sound and the new hypnotic direction the band has spread in to. The song is as virulent as any song you are likely to hear anywhere, its electronic punked venom impossible to deny as it firmly grips with its hot thirsty urgency. It has a chest beating defiance that can only inspire one to join its intent and chorus in emotion and voice. Do not be surprised that once having heard the song it reappears in your head at numerous and any time, it is an infection with no known cure.

Closing on the captivating Star Surfing and its celestial majesty, Build is simply magnificent. Baddies have once more revitalised and given a new rousing energy to not only alternative indie music but music in general. If craft, originality, and inventive music which inflames your every day with warmth and rampant fun is the juice for your thirst, than Baddies is your first and essential option.

RingMaster 26/02/2012

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Funeral Whore – Step Into Damnation

With a formidable old school death metal muscle and black intent the debut album from Dutch band Funeral Whore is an impressive release that even without threatening to stretch the imagination or genre boundaries brings a solid satisfaction to its predatory sounds. Step Into Damnation released worldwide via Chaos Records marks the band as one to keep a keen eye upon with sounds that step through the ear with an aggressive nature whilst taunting and piercing the senses with grooves and grinds that unsettle and captivate in equal measure.

Formed in 2006, Funeral Whore has from day one driven themselves with the intention of creating traditional death metal as it should be steeped in the old school sound. Despite the releasing of a self titled demo, the Morbid Intensions EP, and the three track promo …for all Eternity, all receiving a good reaction, it was not until the return of original drummer Olle to the ranks in 2010 that the band found a point to really push on from. After going through a few drummers that did not or could not bring the sound the songs needed up to this time, the return of Olle to the band he started with Roy (guitar/ vocals) and Kellie (guitar) ignited an already impressive Funeral Whore to find its deepest intensity and creativity. Completed by bassist Tim who joined not long after the formation of the band, a split release with Profanal called Two Morbid Ways To Die and now their debut album Step Into Damnation shows the band is primed to make a distinct and forceful mark on death metal.

The album is a release that grabs the ear with a vice like grip though the intensity and aggression is not as violent and brutal as expected. Instead the band lie upon the senses heavy prowling riffs and doom soaked grooves that permeate every corner to greater effect. From the thunderous drive of opener Eternal Genocide through to the closing might of Buried In Hell, the album is a tenderising rampage across the senses. These two tracks though strong and very agreeable are both straight forward direct osdm sounds offered without any extra essences.  In between them the band expand in the other nine songs by unleashing grooves and varied ruptures in pace, intensity, and sound to keep the album constantly intriguing and less predictable.

The level across the album is high and consistent, each track staring into the eyes and flexing its muscles to confront the ear wonderfully but there are times when the band raise their own already high game to make the album a sure investigation for all death metal fans. Wasteland of Corpses intimidates with a prowling groove that stands over the senses like a hungry beast whilst the drums pick off the ear at will. The track immerses one in a thick fog of sound that is glorious due to the fact that though heavy and an unforgiving mass it still allows each integral part to be clear and potent.

Funeral Whore left their game even more on the brilliant El Salvador Death Squad, a song with a groove as sinister as it is infectious, and the consecutive songs of Pierce My Flesh and Threesome. All three turn the body into their punch bag but with at the same times enthusing it with melodies and incisive razor sharp grooves that inspire and permeate eagerly. The rhythms of Olle and Tim are always uncompromising and demanding without brutalising whilst the guitars of Roy and Kellie leave one breathless and wanting more of their venomous creativity. The vocals of Roy complete the monstrous tracks with a depth and sound dragged from the blackest pestilent lined pit, bile and malignancy dripping off every growl.

       Step into Damnation misses being  a giant of a release because despite  its great sounds and accomplished invention and musicianship it really does not offer anything particularly new, and though Funeral Whore do it far better and effectively than most  there is still a slight lack of unpredictability and originality that comes with it. Not many death metal albums are more pleasing though and that is the bottom-line as to why this should be listened to.

RingMaster 26/02/2012

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