Vinterblot – Nether Collapse

Building on the acclaim deservedly gathered from their debut EP, Italian pagan death metalers Vinterblot return with their first album Nether Collapse to confirm that initial promise and realise it as a mightier and more powerful monstrous and deeply satisfying entity. The album thunders across the senses equalling battering and gracing the ear with acidic melodies and coarse guitar intrusions all powered by intimidating unstoppable riffs. Behind the intensity there is an impressive creativity and diversity going on, at times mesmeric and always inspiring the carefully crafted melodies and expressive sounds give a real depth to each song even if there a few times one has to focus through the assault raging above them.

Formed in 2008, Vinterblot were determined to bring traditional European death metal in a merger with black metal and darker atmospheric and ambient sounds. The quintet from Bari of Phanaeus (vocals), Vandrer (guitar), Fjorgynn (guitar), Eruner (bass), and Wolf (drums) released their For Asgard EP mid 2010 to as mentioned strong response and acclaim, backed up by impressive live shows throughout Italy. Nether Collapse released via Rising Records lifts the band to the forefront of melodic death metal, its diversely spiced black sound surely the breakthrough to place Vinterblot on a multitude of extreme metal playlists.

The album starts with the stunning instrumental ‘Prelude’. Darkly acoustic the track is an expressive and visual piece of music. Its peace and melodic creativity weaves a calming atmosphere tinged with a feel of something impending. That feeling is soon found in eruption of ‘Upon A Reign Of Ashes’ which leads straight on from the opener. Concussive rhythms, antagonistic riffs and sharp guitars beat and force their relentless intent through the ear. Despite the harshness and deep intensity, the track and the album come to that, is not particularly violent upon the senses, its enormity and heavy oppression  more intimidating, unforgiving and challenging.

From here on in the album really gets into its stride with firstly the excellent ‘Council of Trees Beholder’, a track merciless in its firm grip and constantly badgering as burning melodies scorch the ear. Unsettling and persistent it weakens defences for the might of ‘Remembrance’ and the staggering ‘Howling Shadow ‘. The first of the two makes the relentlessness of its predecessors on the album seem lightweight compared to its bestial intensity. Drummer Wolf is outstanding throwing up an unbridled creative energy to keep the track’s onslaught continuous whilst bringing impressive diversity. Like a monster storm awaking the song consumes down to the last cell of its victim.

One would have made the song best on album but even its majesty has to make way for ‘Howling Shadow ‘. From first note the track stomps across the senses, its militant rhythms and battalion like groove unstoppable and thoroughly irresistible. It defies anyone not to be swept up in its call to arms anthemic sound, and even if there is not a chorus or vocal part to become one with the track engages and instigates complete compliance and participation. The vocals of Phanaeus are as formidable as the music, dragging tones from the deepest pit within him; they are venomous and dripping malevolence to infuse this and every track with a menace and foreboding in league with the intent of the sound.

Apart from another stylish and beautifully crafted instrumental in ‘Sol Invictus (Ritual Act)’ the album continues to pummel and explore with the likes of the more metal toned ‘Whispers to the Headless’ and the striking ‘As Sleipnir Rides’.

Nether Collapse is a tremendous album, it does take a little work at times but the reward is very satisfying though your tattered and bruised senses might disagree at first. Vinterblot are ready to take metal by the scruff of the neck, keep listening.

Ringmaster 09/02/2012

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Allerjen – Equilibrium

Equilibrium the new album from UK metalers Allerjen may not have the brute force to bring down nations but it will leave plenty of casualties with numbed senses and weakened knees. Already renowned for their ferocious sound and instinctive grooves the Manchester quartet has hoisted up their intensity and aural intimidation with Equilibrium, bringing ten mighty tracks to accost and abuse the ear and beyond.

Formed in 1999 as Sphere, it was after their evolution into Allerjen in 2002 that things started to pick up for the band including a relatively settled period line-up wise, their earlier years seeing much instability. Through sharing stages with the likes of Sepultura, Amen, Man Must Die, Biomechanical, Skindred, Khanate and Forever Never, festival appearances such as the Damnation Festival and the Godless Festival the band brought strong support, acclaim and marked themselves as a rising formidable band in UK metal. Their recordings have further accentuated the band’s reputation, the early EP’s Lies, Allerjen, Progression Of Direction, and Resurrection grabbing attention and debut album No Guts, No Glory of 2008 proving the band was on a constant and strong rise despite at times a stop start journey. Over the years the band’s sound has hardened to become even more abrasive and rugged until this point when with Equilibrium, Allerjen have unleashed a bestial album of deathcore, metal and technical intrigue and more to take one down a heavy and brutal road graced with insistent grooves and fine creativity.

Released February 20th via Brutal Elite Records, Equilibrium slams fast and hard into the ear from the opening note of first track ‘Destroyer Of Worlds’. Commanding rhythms back up the striking guitar play. It turns out not to be the most powerful track on the album but with muscular riffs determined to occupy the ear and razor sharp melodies permeating the senses it is an excellent track. It comes with a diversity and thoughtful creation, the edgy melodic side matching the strength of the bruising power. As the whole album proves the guitars of Paul Wilkinson and Audie Harrison are not content with straight forward yet impressive displays but they stretch themselves and the songs with unpredictable changes, directions and refined creativity.

The brilliant ‘Treachery Be Thy Name‘ takes over next to rile up the pulse and excite the heart. Drummer Paul Tarbuck guides the track firmly as bassist John Dower solidly completes the formidable rhythms attack. Again though it is the guitars forming and providing instinctive grooves and insatiable riffs that make the track irresistible. Shifts in pace, time signatures and some delicious discordant guitar play give options to the unrelenting riffs and commanding beats. Dower’s vocals spew bile and malevolence all over the track, again something every song offers. His harsh growls like having one’s ear caressed vigorously with gravel mercilessly to overwhelm.

It is consistently the grooves and intelligent play that makes the band shine. Within the likes of ‘The Process To Being’ with a partial hard rock feel, the predatory threat of ‘Hunter’, and the best track on the album ‘Achieving Equilibrium’ the band offer so much more than other like genre bands, Allerjen provoking themselves and us with thoughtful and inventive songwriting and performance. The third of these tracks is a merciless searing attack intent on grounding one into the dust whilst feeding acidic and appeasing melodic intercourse. Unrelenting it grinds the senses into submission to revitalise with their melodic and inventive flair.

The album is deeply impressive but it does carry one negative that restrains it from greater heights. The vocals of Dower as mentioned are uncompromising and severe which is fine, and they are great at times. The problem is his delivery across the whole album is one pace, and unvaried. Often this works but in others the songs creativity is crying out for a disruption and ingenuity within his delivery.

Truth is though Allerjen have returned with an album that reinstates them as a definite force within UK’s metal scene. Equilibrium is a fine release with an ingenuity and thrust that hits the sweet spot whilst bludgeoning the ear. Simply just check out Allerjen.

RingMaster 09/02/2012

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Beat Seeking Missiles – ‘Break My Fall’/’Dr. Strangelove’

Warm, enthusiastic and completely magnetic, the debut single from Beat Seeking Missiles jumps all over the ear to offer riotous beats, melodically curved grooves, and insistent energy.  ‘Break My Fall’/’Dr. Strangelove’ knows what it has and is unashamed in bringing it directly and openly to one’s senses. It has irrepressible blends of beat and surf rock coupled with garage and heartfelt rock ‘n’ roll to merge into a sound that brings sixties vaunt alongside punk attitude and garage rock honesty, it has unbridled dirty charisma.

Released on Dirty Water Records the single brings elements of the likes of The Stones, Bo Diddley, Link Wray and in some ways The Modern Lovers. For all the artists their music does remind of the Beat Seeking Missiles as evident on the single, has a distinctive rugged sound of their own, offering influences as spices to their thick spirited creations. The band is comprised of a pedigree many bands would drool for. There is Sir Bald Diddley (from the Wig Outs/Big Wigs/Alopecia Records), Mick Quinn (dB Band and founding member of Supergrass), Kid Wig (of the Wig Outs/Big Wigs), and Bruce Brand (Pop Rivets/Milkshakes/Thee Headcoats/Masonics), a collective that certainly with this first single combine their experience and attributes into a stimulating and very exciting proposition.

Lead track is ‘Break My Fall’, a sixties lined slice of electrified raw pop. Combining a feel of the Who and the Troggs with The Stooges and The Ramones, the track flows with spiky melodies, soaring Beatlesque harmonies and tenacious riffs. The song openly wants the ear captivated, thrusting a simple but eager driven riff through its centre to allow the guitars to bring scorched diversions and enterprise to the track. The song is an excellent introduction to the band but soon left in the shade by its partner track.

Dr. Strangelove’ or to give it the full title on the single sleeve, ‘Doctor Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Beat Seeking Missiles’, is a rumble upon the senses. Part rock ‘n’ roll, part rockabilly, and part sixties enthused blues, the track is monstrous. Its persistent beats are hypnotic and the vocals dogged, the mix recalling the likes of Reverend Horton Heat, Link Wray and at times Ray Campi, plus the punk essences of a Rocket From the Crypt, It is wonderful stuff that gets better with the explosive melodic crashes and cascades within the song. The track plays with an arrogance and self belief that is irresistible and easily confirms that this is a band one needs to hear more of and go see live.

Beat Seeking Missiles are an instinctive need for your musical day, simple as that. Just trust and go listen to this single for your proof.

RingMaster 08/02/2012

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Thee Vicars – Every Day/Don’t Wanna Be Free

Better late than never right? Such is the case with the excellent single from UK garage rock band Thee Vicars. Released the tail end of last year the single recently swaggered into the aural gaze of the RM Review and what a joy it is. Playful, feisty and incessant, ‘Every Day’/’Don’t Wanna Be Free’ is a glorious two track gift for the heart.

Imagine you are sitting there undecided on what to listen to. On your left shoulder is the angelic and safe indie pop of say a Gotye or Mumford & Sons and on the right the devilish and mischievous Thee Vicars encouraging and tempting. There is no contest of course and once their songs unveil their wondrous sounds to captivate and inflame, they ensure there will never be any other destination than Thee Vicars considered again.

The trio from Bury St Edmunds of Mike Whittaker (bass/vocals), Chris Langeland (guitar/vocals), and Alex De Renzi (drums), have for three years used their combined disdain /hatred of modern music to fuel a vibrant mix of R&B and a raw Sixties sound veined with essences of trashy and garage punk, or if you like essential rock ‘n’ roll. Their music is the insistent rascally fusion of the likes of 13th Floor Elevators, The Seeds, The Stones and Chuck Berry with essences of Thee Mighty Caesars, The Hives and the early sound of The Horrors. The band take these and seep them into their own distinctive irrepressible sound and ideas to simply create music that shakes you out of your stride and complacency, as their previous duo of singles and two albums has already proved.

The new single released on Dirty Water Records, as their previous releases, is a refreshing and invigorating stiffener to any day, livening up staid emotions or depleted will. It bristles and oozes energy, quality and most of all fun to enhance and spoil the senses. The band is renowned for its work ethic with masses of shows and tours honing their punchy and melodic sound into the hard hitting and scalding harmonious music evident on the single.

Every Day’ starts by teasing with short bursts of the soon to be constant temptation of an infectious riff and hook. These act as a continual beckoning finger, enticing and coaxing one into the song’s expressive and caustic explosions of sound. The bass of Whittaker throbs with a knowledge and confidence that you cannot refuse its lure aided by the uncomplicated rhythms of De Renzi, her beats completely hypnotic. Langeland’s guitar at times sizzles with contempt and enthused malice but always generating only welcoming compliance from the ear. A brilliant track that alone no matter the quality of its partner would make the single a must buy.

Of course ‘Don’t Wanna Be Free’ is more than able to back it up. With an early Kinks like vibe the song sways and dances with eagerness and fine melodic grace. It has a slight Mod feel to it in the swagger the song carries into its sixties toned melodies and urgency. There is at times a fuzzy chaotic feel to the drive of the song which is impressive and gives off an unbridled energy that can only enthuse.

By the end one feels like the vocals on the single, excited, slightly strained and thoroughly contented. The single is near perfect and encapsulates what rock ‘n’ roll and punk is all about. Is it too late to make it my single of 2011?

RingMaster 08/02/2012

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Goatwhore – Blood For The Master

It really is impossible to imagine a metal fan that will not be swept up and carried away by the impressive and powerful onslaught that is Blood For The Master , the new album from Goatwhore. The release is a brute, an insistent merciless tsunami of sound that will not be denied. Ok the album may not be strong on originality, certainly from the band’s existing catalogue, but very few bands can create intense and creative sounds as essential as Goatwhore nor deliver them as wonderfully.  Though not particularly a fan of the band nor having any negative thoughts about them, they are unquestionably respected and recognised for their presence and influence on metal since their arrival in 1997, given birth by the guitarist Sammy Duet (ex Acid Bath/Crowbar ).  Credit where credit is due and they have earned plenty across their years so far, Blood For The Master rocks like a dog after a bitch on heat. It is relentless, insatiable and will have its way.

Since forming and through various line-ups New Orleans based Goatwhore has laid down a deep mark on metal, their fused blackened death come thrash metal devastating and constantly pulling in formidable acclaim and continually increasing loyal fans. From the demo Serenades To The Tides Of Blood in 1998, through debut album Eclipse Of Ages Into Black in 2000 onto 2003 follow up Funeral Dirge For The Rotting Sun, the band drew unwavering positive responses, each release showing more of the band and their varied ideas and evolution. All powerful and brutal but brought forth with a progressively evolving sound.

The band has held misfortune by the hand more than once over the years too, the near fatal van crash that left vocalist Louis B. Falgoust II temporarily paralyzed and the band unsure of its future and the escape from the catastrophic floods of Hurricane Katrina just two examples. This has seemed to add more iron and intensity to the band’s sound as subsequent albums A Haunting Curse(2006) and Carving Out The Eyes Of God (2009) showed. New album Blood For The Master is made from the same brute force and stylish creativity and if sound wise is not a major departure from its predecessor has an even more defined authority and depth to it.

Opening up the charge and turbulent engagement of the senses ‘Collapse In Eternal Worth’ is a violent and incessant attack, with  uncompromising rhythms and riffs violating every inch of the ear and beyond.  The guitars of Duet twists nerves around their spiky fingers stretching and turning them throughout whilst Falgoust scowls and unleashes his coarse spite vocals to great effect. An impressive start soon swiped away by the even more masterful ‘When Steel and Bone Meet’. It is an unstoppable trash powered sonic train hammering on the ear, drummer Zack Simmons and bassist James Harvey fuelling the drive with eager vindictive rhythms.

This is just the start as the next duo of tracks ‘Parasitic Scriptures of the Sacred Word’ and ‘In Deathless Tradition’ hold dominion.  The first swings with a scorched groove that mesmerises as the intensity is raised even higher behind. The track is confident and arrogant in its knowledge it has you hooked and deliciously glorious because of it. Ferocious and a maul upon the senses it is the biggest highlight on the album. The second of the two is in some ways even more intense, its heart blacker and malevolent and carries another irresistible groove veined by corrosive melodic manipulations. Each track upon the album feels like a living entity, each with a distinct unstoppable corrupting mission and directive.

Tracks carry on stimulating and provoking, each laden with an artillery of venomous riffs and barbed melodic intrusions. The likes of ‘Judgement of the Bleeding Crown’, ‘An End to Nothing’, and ‘Death to the Architects of Heaven’ impressively adding to a fulfilling and satisfying menu to feast upon. This is metal as it should be, furious, hostile, and  overwhelmingly heavy. Blood For The Master is a pleasure, it may not be ground breaking but very few releases match the enjoyment it and Goatwhore give.

Blood For The Master will be released in Europe Feb 10th, UK Feb 13th, and  North America on Feb14th

RingMaster 07/02/2012

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Michael MacLennan – Wolves

Wolves from Scottish pianist and singer songwriter Michael MacLennan is a sneaky little collection of songs. First listen, maybe two and one is aware of the quality and strength of the songwriting on show and its realisation but maybe not initially bowled over by uniqueness or originality. But a couple more plays and one finds oneself completely wrapped up in the album’s warm charms, pleasured by its well crafted arrangements and absorbed by the display of infectious melodies and catchy songs.

From the secluded stark peace of Nethy Bridge, MacLennan having been playing the piano from the age of seven won a place at the Royal College of Music. Dedication and practice is obviously not a weak part of his personality either, as MacLennan obtaining and playing gigs in London 7 days a week, writing two songs a day for a year, and the obvious concentrated carefully created songs on Wolves prove. Returning to Scotland MacLennan recorded the album across 2010 to the following year as well as playing shows across his homeland. Working with many new producers making a name for themselves, he found something special in particular with Craig Ross and Garry Boyle. The trio coming together to bring something extra and defined to Wolves, their understanding and fluid collaboration giving an ease and depth to the album.

Each track within the album is understandably piano led but there is much more to songs with contributions from a varied array of fine musicians adding to the creativity, only the closing and deeply touching ballad ‘The Old Tree’ finds MacLennan and piano alone. There is a good variety to the album with the afore mentioned sombre ballad and another in the reflective title track placed alongside the vibrant likes of ‘Fall Down On Me’ and the jazz pop ‘How Come’ which comes with the same flavour of his previous EP History from 2009.

Musically the songs are undemanding but perfectly crafted with a touch and understanding that is understated allowing for MacLennan’s lyrically prowess and excellent voice to shine and engage. It is hard to say he has a distinctive voice compared to other similar artists grabbing headlines and ears but there is a natural flow and instinctive expression to his delivery that makes MacLennan preferable to listen to than most, and with songs of a shining calibre Wolves a standout album.

Personal preferences will vary to the best tracks on show within the album but there is a trio of consecutive tracks that simply mesmerise the senses on every level. First is ‘Keep A Light On’ a remembrance of desires, passion and heartache it is a stirring track that all can easily relate to. It brings a nod and smile, maybe an ache too as MacLennan reveals its tale backed by the wonderful vocals of Catherine Ward.  This is followed by the first single from the album, ‘To The Fire’. From a emotive piano and voice opening the track expands into a heartfelt statement that wraps around the senses wonderfully. The track is mesmeric,  MacLennan at his most expressive and the music the perfect  company to his piano play to wrap the listener up in a provoking yet uplifting track.

The third track is the best of all, a deeply emotive ballad that kind of builds like the title suggests. ‘Avalanche’ floats in on piano and voice once more, tugging on emotions. A subtle bass comes in as company before the song opens into a graceful and sweeping chorus. The song is beautiful, evocative and a caress upon the ear. Though it never reaches the suggested overwhelming proportions of its title the thick luxury it reaches is fully and welcomingly consuming.

The rest of the album is less assuming and at times a little lost against these tracks though all of a high quality and moments like the wonderful violin within the social/political comment of ‘State Of Affairs’ deeply satisfying. Wolves is a must for all who wish a singer songwriter with something extra. Michael MacLennan is not particularly edgy but his music has something just as powerful, heart.

RingMaster 07/02/2012

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Wykked Wytch – The Ultimate Deception

With intent as devilish as the band’s name suggests comes the new album from extreme metal band Wykked Wytch. Dripping malice and unbridled intensity The Ultimate Deception is an undeniable caustic rub on the senses, its acidic melodies, threatening riffs, and badgering rhythms manipulative as they toy and tease, and overall it is one fine experience. Bringing a mix of black metal, death and thrash infused with a technical prowess and industrial like steel ,the album grabs hold before rupturing and unleashing its formidable and consuming sounds. They sound like a sinister alchemist’s invocation formed from the tattered corpses of Cradle of Filth and Dimmu Borgir with the bones of a Djerv, Otep and Dominanz thrown in for extra spice, malevolent, nasty and entrancing. The Ultimate Deception is far from perfect but the lasting emotion at its close is to dive right back into its intimidating charms and often.

From South Florida Wykked Wytch formed in the mid 90’s with their debut album Something Wykked This Way Comes self-released in 1996. This was the starting point of keen interest and growing acclaim for the band firstly with the album being picked up for a re-release by Demolition Records in Europe, then in 2001 with the release of follow-up Angelic Vengeance. Successful European tours and further albums releases in Nefret (2004) and Memories of A Dying Whore (2008) has only enhanced and cemented the band as an intriguing and impressive proposition live and in the studio, never dull or predictable and always challenging in the best way. Current line-up for The Ultimate Deception consisting of the majestic tones and vocal ability of front woman Ipek, the stunning guitar skills of Nate Poulson, session drummer Kevin Talley, and Salvatore Lopresti on keys have unleashed a beast that takes charge of the ear to abuse and violate as it equally engages and inspires. The album is unpredictable and at times chaotic and across its length wavers in consistency but when it is peaking it is glorious and within its lows strongly satisfying.

Released via Goomba Music February 14th the album starts on a distinct high with opener ‘Birthing The Beast’ and plays as the title suggests. Coming into view with peaceful almost angelic charm the track mesmerises before black hearted tones take over. Pounding challenging riffs and punchy rhythms rage whilst Ipek shows she has lost none of her impressive range and skill. Her delivery here and throughout the album bring a jaw dropping mix of clean and serpentine vocals into a merger with bestial and venomous then going deeper into the infernal pit for guttural and virulent. With most bands a vocalist of this talent would override the sounds, prove too distracting but upon The Ultimate Deception there is no fear with the stunning guitar skill of Poulson. He guides the ear to the whole sound with incisive play, scorched melodies and beauteous balance to the harshness elsewhere, ably and impressively aided by Talley and Lopresti.

As mentioned the album ebbs and flows a little, mainly from the likes of the title track, ‘Prayer Of The Decapitated’ and ‘Abolish The Weak, very pleasing and strong songs that they are but not having the essences to sweep one up into their muscular arms and give something that lingers. That is highlighted when the tracks that really hit the mark unveil their quality alongside these great but unmemorable songs. ‘Serpents Among Us’ is easily the best track on the album, its spite and bile oozing from every pore. Poulson pummels and mesmerises throughout, his heavy riffs an incessant intrusion tempered by glorious razor sharp melodies and thoughtful creativity. Talley barges through the ear with bullying rhythms and Ipek does what she does best, give her all with more varied and irresistible vocals.

Despised Existence’ and the closing ‘Eyes Of The Vulture’ come close to matching ‘Serpents Among Us’, the first a bitter declaration that plays the senses with a force only instinct and Nature can bring, its melodic moments like being in the eye of the storm, a peace and melodic assurance waiting to be blasted apart. ‘Eyes Of The Vulture’ is a predatory monster of a track in intent and riffs, a withering hate fuelling the sound. A maelstrom of energy, sounds and emotions it picks the ear clean leaving one breathless at its departure. There is a cover of Metallica’s ‘Fade To Black’ included within the album too and if not quite up to the original Wykked Wytch have given it their own unique and agreeable touch, refusing to go the route most do of simply doing a version of.

The Ultimate Deception is an excellent album that does not quite reach its potential to be a classic, but it is easily a release that will be welcomed and played consistently, all one can ask of a record right?

Ringmaster 07/02/2012

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