Villa Rise: Wastelands

Classed as a hardcore/punk band in their own bio Australian band Villa Rise are one of an emerging breed that do not neatly fit in any department, this quintet alone veining their creations with a varied and flavoursome array of ideas and sounds. It makes for an intriguing and in some ways an initial undefined direction from many bands though one cannot say that about Villa Rise. As their debut EP Wastelands shows this is a band with clear ideas and thought as well as a craft and ability to achieve them.

Coming from Sydney the band took the decision to relocate to the UK not so long ago to hit the music scene here, making Brighton their base. Whether simply a confidence in their sound, the wish to try new pastures, or a statement about the scene in their homeland it was a brave move for a young band to undertake, though going on the evidence of Wastelands and the high profiled gigs on the horizon, they could and should find big rewards for doing so.

As mentioned they are classed as hardcore but the tracks with the EP reveal veins of metalcore and tech metal to same just two, the songs bursting with aggressive intensity, dark bulging riffs, thoughtfully crafted melodies, and a wonderful discordant touch that always hits the spot. There is also intelligent attention given to their lyrical side, the EP offering the  thought that happiness is a state of mind as it brings the story of ’a young man who descends into madness, because of his inability to accept the positives and in his life.’

From the brief opening track Fracture and its sampled disaster broadcast the release erupts fully with the following Keeper. With a breathless assault from the first note the band thrusts through the ear with towering riffs and incisive melodic guitars from Ben Clink and Brendan Farneli whist the vocals of Jarrod Martin scowl and rage perfectly, his attack dripping anger and venom. The song twists and turns with a seamless flow and success as group vocals, stirring rhythms from drummer Alex Wood, and belligerent riffs from bassist Kyle Usher punctuate the great searching melodic manipulations.

Blindeye and the title track take over next, both impressive and deeply striking tracks though the latter of the two has an easier gait to been drawn to despite being further down the descent to disengaged sanity. Though each track can be taken singly very effectively there is a definite connection and bond that can only be felt and appreciated between the songs when taken as a whole,  a provocative and thought inspiring package.

The EP is completed by Villains and Shadows. Again two songs as equal in quality and enterprise as those before them. In a parallel to the subject they are investigating the songs and EP become more challenging as it nears its end though never losing its firm creative grip and imaginative use of melodies, diverse sounds, and unpredictable invention.

Wastelands is also a grower that starts with an appealing and impressive first introduction but the more time spent in its company the more one finds its depths and creative treasures. Taking influences from the likes of Defeater, Alexisonfire and Comeback Kid, Villa Rise release the EP on April 30th via Monarch Records and as a free download. Already the band is proving a worthy new addition to the metal scene in the UK with Wastelands suggesting there is still much more to come.

Ringmaster 23/04/2012

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Moonspell: Alpha Noir

Portuguese gothic metallers  Moonspell  return with their new album Alpha Noir to confirm themselves as one of the more important bands of the genre not that we needed reminding. Once more bringing their distinctly powerful dark world and sound the band offers an arguably more intense and inflammable energy within Alpha Noir to leave one enthralled, thrilled and very satisfied. Though not a dramatic step forward from previous acclaimed album Night Eternal, the band has found a rawer edge and darker definition that intimidates as much as it captivates. As always the band challenges with and invites one into the well crafted and thought out songs, bringing intrusively provocative and openly catchy, melodies, grooves, and intensity.

Since their excellent and inspirational debut Wolfheart in 1995 and the equally impactful Irreligious the year after, Moonspell has continually through its twenty year existence forged their own path and sound for others to contemplate and be inspired by. They have never followed but instigated trends and with their ninth album and first release since the 2008 Night Eternal, are pushing their and the genre bar higher again. It may not be a massive rise but it is distinct and very rewarding for all who dive into the heavy blackened atmosphere of Alpha Noir.

The album, recorded with returning producer Tue Madsen (The Haunted, Dark Tranquillity, Halford), is also the first with  their new label Napalm Records and is a very strong way to start this new union. Consisting of nine varied and excellently crafted tracks Alpha Noir swoops upon the senses as if they were prey with the impressive dark atmospheric class and grace they are noted for, the deep and striking melodic creativity they are admired for, and a formidable might and intent that they have always inspired with. This time though there is a coarser edge, an extra darkness and raw energy to it all that at first makes one tiny step back before the sounds consume and fulfil.

The album starts powerfully with the opening Axis Mundi and the following Lickanthrope, both songs opening up the senses and ears perfectly though neither finds the spark to truly ignite the passions, though that is remedied further into the release. The first song confidently strides into view on a sonic atmospheric introduction. As its pace and intensity quickens and the rhythms of Miguel Gaspar dazzle the ears with mesmeric effect the guitars search out every corner of its recipient with sharp melodies and cutting riffs. Group chants elevate the moment before vocalist Fernando Ribeiro growls and scowls his lyrics to great effect. The guitars of Ricardo Amorim and Pedro Paixão expand the song with their creative and imaginative play whilst Aires Pereira proves himself to be one of the more striking bassists as he prowls and pulsates through this and every track.

The following wolf homage Lickanthrope continues the good start with a more restrained intensity and pace but still has plenty to rile up the senses with, the keyboard sounds of Paixão adding a good depth but it is after its final howl that the album finds an incendiary like touch. The excellent Versus lights things up with a quite minimal start reminding of 80’s gothic bands before the sounds and members unite into a pulsating and persistent scorched examination of the ear. The intrusive acidic groove the song attaches itself with is infectious and works with relish alongside the increasing intensity which ebbs and flows but constantly builds. This great song is eclipsed by the best on the album in the title track. Alpha Noir is stunning, a muscle flexing predatory beast that ignites each and every sense and synapse, stripping them down and laying heavy towering riffs, barbaric rhythms, and incisive guitar manipulations upon the soreness. With essences of vehement black metal dripped onto the ailing senses for good measure and further explosive guitar play it is a deep and true treat to succumb to.

The whole album is of great quality with the likes of Love is Blasphemy with its Sisters Of Mercy groove, the magnetically grooved Grandstand, and the closing atmospheric instrumental Sine Missione with its epic and majestic soundscape, all leaving one deeply satisfied and happy. To be over critical maybe not enough of the songs lit the fuse within to make it a classic but that is more down to personal taste and it is without doubt that Alpha Noir is an immense release.

Also available in a deluxe edition with a second companion CD Ómega White made up of eight songs that offer homage to their Type O Negative and Sisters Of Mercy roots, Alpha Noir is a mighty and excellent release whilst Moonspell continue to be one of the most influential gothic metal bands.

RingMaster 23/04/2012

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Huntress: Spell Eater

Before a sound was really heard the buzz behind Californian metal band Huntress was beginning an avalanche like consumption, the coming of a new force in metal being shouted from the rooftops. Good and creative, if not forceful PR is essential for any band to gain attention but it is of course with the sounds where things accelerate or grind to a halt. Spell Eater is the debut album from Huntress following on from just one single and it without doubt declares that this really is a band going places and swiftly. The album is not striving to create new directions and sounds but simply staying true to its metal inspirations, it also will and has spawn divided and often vociferous opinions on the band, but it is impossible to ignore it. The band creates metal firmly veined with classic metal alongside melodic black and thrash metal plus extras all brought with modern thought and intent. Their music is an event, a show that you immerse within or not. It is not world changing or life altering but a show that leaves one satisfied and energised. It is like a musical version of Xena Warrior Princess, bold and in the face, at times over the top and occasionally verging on silly, but always brought with a great quality and drama plus most of all it is just great fun.

All attention and even band info is seemingly centred on front woman Jill Janus which is understandable though a little unfair on the fine musicianship and sounds from the rest of the band who include ex-members of Professor, Dark Black and Skeletonwitch. She is certainly the initial focus the band is gaining attention for, a force with a voice and style as striking as her appearance and demeanour. A classically trained singer who toured Europe as a teenage opera starlet, she has already marked her resume with things like performing with Dave Navarro in a project called Under the Covers, creating Felliniesque cabarets and parties, working as a club promoter, DJ, and appearing in Playboy, but Huntress is certainly her greatest triumph. The seeds of the band began really when she met LA underground metal band Professor in 2009, the moment things fell into place.

Two years on and Huntress sign with Napalm Records, with first single/video Eight of Swords being released just before. The beginning of this year saw the recording of Spell Eater and April 27th its release to what surely will be a great response either positively or negatively, for it is an album that will not simply creep in and out again, it is here to make a noise. Produced by Chris Rakestraw of Sunset Lodge Recording, the release is a rampant and salacious feast for the senses, an easy to get to know and impossible to forget slab of metal. It preys upon and stirs up the senses with the wicked mischievousness of a horny witch and the evil deviousness of a snake, all venomous intent and delicious temptation.

The album opens up on the title track and slicing melodic intrusions from guitarists Blake Meahl and Ian Alden which instantly grab attention before they join in a galloping assault through the ear alongside the strong muscular bass of Eric Harris and the combative rhythms of drummer Carl Wierzbicky. As this takes root Janus steps forward with her startling and impressive delivery and voice. Whether she strikes with elevated clean notes or her imposing and deeply pleasing coarse style she never misses the mark, her training and natural ability put to a full and riveting use.

The song itself is a strong opener without being anything notable but that is soon changed with the following Senicide and its following companions. The growling bass paces behind the expressive guitars adding a menace to the acidic creativity, whilst the eager riffs and commanding rhythms forge a mighty framework for the vocals to mesmerise and thrill within. The song as the album is confident and complimentary to all that produced it, the music allowed to shine as much as the vocals and all individual parts given open clarity without losing the tight group sound.

The album simply gets better and better as it winds its metallic charms around the senses. From the excellent Sleep And Death, where Janus soars the vocals skies whilst bringing a serpentine malevolence, through the slightly bestial Night Rape and the best track on the release Snow Witch, to the predatory Children, the album thrills and lights up the ear with accomplished sounds and ideas. It is not as mentioned groundbreaking stuff but it is damn infectious.

If you liked previous song Eight Of Swords, also on the album, you will love Spell Eater as that is arguably the least impressive song on the album. Huntress might be the beneficiaries of much hype but as the album proves they are not exactly proving it wrong.

RingMaster 23/04/2012

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