Symon- Musica

This is not the easiest review ever attempted at The Ringmaster Review. Firstly the info behind the project Symon- Musica is hard to find and when found is in Belarusian/Russian and we all know what those online translators are like. Type in something related to the music and it will emerge in English as my fish fancies your sister with hairy feet. With a appreciated helping hand from Slava at Strong Music we can bring you some background to the release. First thing to say is that the album is simply magnificent, a slice of folk metal to leave the heart aflame and emotions flying.

The project and release Symon- Musica is a collaboration between symphonic black metal band Dialectic Soul (who I believe aforementioned Slava is a member) and vocalists from the folk ensemble Rechytskіya muzykі. The project finds its seeds back in 2003 as an idea from members of Dialectic Soul and with a song The Symon-Music appearing on a compilation Metallection III the following year. It seems the inspiration for the project comes from the poem “Symon-music” (1925) which was written by Jakubom Kolasom a literary giant said to have been the founder of Belorussian literature. The album was truly set in motion in 2010 when the members of Dialectic Soul, Slava Znakharenko (guitar), Alexander Kluchnikhov (Guitars, bass, drum programming), and Gala Kulitskay (keyboards) began working on the release. The trio brought in the vocalists of national folk ensemble Rechytskija of music, Victoria Bidovoj and Ilonoj Avramchikovoj as the project found its realisation and impressive results. The album received a limited edition release on Strong Music Productions in August 2011 but now has a wider release being sold through the likes of Napalm Records.

The most important piece of information regarding Symon- Musica is that it is simply outstanding, a festival of light and dark encapsulating the breath, passion, and tested emotions of the people, history, and land which spawn its creators. Opening track Сымон-музыка treats the ear to a jazz funk bass start as mesmeric and instinctive as you could ask for before the song spreads its expansive arms with stirring riffs, melodic keys and wonderful female voice and harmonies. The growling male vocals offer an excellent contrast and complimentary edge to the song matching the unrelenting rhythms and eager riffs. As the track swipes at the ear with gleeful mischief the female voices soar the skies in mesmeric splendour. It is an impressive start and folk metal at its best.

The following song Разважанне аб смерці raises the heat a little more as its surging veins of energy wrap fully around the ear with venomous black metal vocals. This is tempered by the warm melodic charms of the keys and female voices and against the blend of light and seemingly malice coated dark is impressive. These two songs alone would grab a favourable review whatever came next good or bad, especially with the teasing break within the second track playing like the lull before the returning storm of knee buckling invention and aggression.

With greater even pleasure the album reaches and achieves even greater heights with the next pair of irresistible pieces of magic in Родны край and Крыж няволі. The first offers a land of warmth and peace whilst the scowling vocals leap and bound across the song like a devilish sprite. It is the contagious hooks and melodic journey through the heart of the song which captivates the fullest to leave one intimidated but wanton in wanting to hear and feel much more. The second of the pair opens on an emotive pipe beckoning before erupting into a stunning treat of scorched melodic guitars. With the same power and magnificence of the essential riffs and stirring punk sound Skids conjured up in their prime, it is as irresistible as any siren.

These maybe the peak of the album but the rest of the songs take barely a glance back as the likes of the equally wonderful Вясна, the blazon imaginative Песня вольная, and Пушча with its rampant and dizzying aggression and untainted beauty, all ignite the deepest passions and brightest flames.

Sung in native tongue it is impossible to relay the lyrics but the heart and emotion within is unmissable. Symon- Musica is an album which will fire up fans of the likes of Arkona, Korpiklaani, and Midnattsol though it offers just as much for black metal and metal fans in general.  It is unreservedly impressive and thoroughly enjoyable, what more could you want.

Ringmaster 24/05/2012

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Acephalix: Deathless Master

What to say about Deathless Master the debut album from US death metallers Acephalix. It is singular in attack, sound, and intent, it is relatively unadventurous and it is unremarkable in changing the genre or thoughts of its followers, most of all it strikingly impressive and deeply satisfying. The album does nothing but stoke up the fires and passions that lurk in every dark recess of the heart and mind. It is a release that barely strays from its core and a blistering album uniformal in sound, quality, and enjoyment.

Out of San Francisco, Acephalix formed in 2007 with originally a crust punk surface to their death metal sounds. Taking influences such as the likes of Celtic Frost, Cro-Mags, Discharge, and Bolt Thrower to add to their ideas the band has evolved into what is bursting out from Deathless Master, a spiteful venomous old school tainted death metal band. Last year saw an upturn in attention their way with the bringing together of their two cassette demos in one limited edition CD called Interminable Night through Southern Lord. The 2,000 strong pressing sold out swiftly and brought them to the fore of underground metal. Shows in support of the release did them no harm either whilst their part in the Power of the Riff 2011 tour with the likes of Undergang, Black Breath, Winter, Noothgrush, Eyehategod, and Pentagram only increased the acclaim.

Again through Southern Lord, Deathless Master seals the full transformation of the band and their sound though there are still tones of their initial punk driven energies veining the tracks within. As heralding chords open up the album and starter Bastard Self and guitars blister the ear the sense of something powerful and vicious approaching is immediate. The track does not leave it long to bring confirmation as tumultuous riffs flatten all defences and the rhythms leave the ear quaking in the aftershock. The track is not a full on assault though, it is more premeditated and picks at the nerves with razor blade melodies and a groove to strangle all life it touches, and with the festering corruptive filth claiming to be vocals outstanding the track lays waste.

It is a staggering start from arguably one of the weaker songs on the album, if the word can be used in any context regarding a release this powerful and aggressive. Things do take a further upturn though with the following duo of the title track and Tomb Of Our Fathers. Deathless Master surges upon the senses like a rabid scourge, incessant and merciless it is a ravenous assault of thumping drums and malicious riffs. With a death knell ambience to the cleaner spoken vocals behind the full pit borne gutturals creations that lead, the track is a crushing pleasure. Tomb Of Our Fathers picks up where its predecessor left off, its raging rampage hypnotic and the caustic groove that follows in their wake vehement in intent and mesmeric effect. With an added solo which sears deep furrows within the senses it is an unstoppable joy.

Already one is aware that diversity is not the order of the day though each track offers something a little different to be numbed and violated by. Because the base and intensity of what the band does offer is so immense and gratifying it really is not an issue. Tracks like the outstanding On Wings and Raw Life just leave one a gleeful spent husk from their irrepressible consumption. The first of the two is a song staggeringly effective in simplicity of vocals and attack, its smothering fetid aural stench a contagion that reeks of malice and foul intentions. The latter is a mesmeric piece of putrefaction, its decomposing breath a smog of sonic evil. From an initial prowl and taunting air the song slowly shifts its muscular might into the expected charge that fuels each track but always it offers the tease of a respite to snatch it away with pure devilment.

Blood Of Desire, In Arms Of Nothing, and the great closer In Hunger ensure the album retains its high level from start to finish. The uniformal heart of the album means every second of the album is an incessant and very satisfying annihilation devoid of lulls. Obviously you have to have that level set at a high to make it work and Acephalix definitely achieve that. Like ordering eight slabs of quality steak for consecutive meals you know what you will get, there are no surprises, but it is a guaranteed feast of flavoursome and undeniably tasty pleasure each and every time. Deathless Master is the same, enjoy!

RingMaster 24/05/2012

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Stalwart – Manifest of Refusal

Sometimes music and metal in particular does not make sense. Take a band like Russian death metallers Stalwart. They have just released their stunning new album Manifest of Refusal, their fifth full length release and one of such creative might and devastating power it is easily one of the most impressive releases of the year. But have you heard of them? Certainly this is our first introduction to them. From those that do know of them, and it is a mere handful it seems, the band has been producing striking music throughout their formation in 1999 but still they are an unknown joy. Maybe it is a prejudice to and assumption of the music from their homeland but it is staggering that they still are invisible to most. Hopefully with the simply outstanding Manifest of Refusal that will shortly change.

Stalwart is labelled as predominently death metal but there is so much more to their sound. Death metal is just a bulky flavour matched in mass and strength by a mix of technical and groove metal with large veins of industrial and progressive metal. Imagine a mutated offspring of Behemoth, Morbid Angel, Meshuggah, Fear Factory, and Livarkahil and you get an idea of the diverse and mighty sounds the band lay waste to the ear with. They produce extreme metal with imagination and the darkest thought for a resulting glorious consumption of mind, body and soul.

Released through PRC Music, Manifest of Refusal searches out and fills every sense, thought and emotion. From the opening chimes of the opening leviathan The Karma Circle and its heralding of what is about to emerge the track seizes full attention with force and drama. Crushing riffs, skull wrecking rhythms, and an intensity to topple continents soon overrun the ear to devastating effect. The song proceeds to pick upon and blister the senses with raging torrents of aggressive energy whilst slipping into partial lulls to wipe the wound clean before ripping it open once more. The guitars of  Leonid and Antuan weave in and out with stirring riffs and cutting melodies like fighter pilots picking their spot to for fullest impact and intrusion whilst the drums of Alex are as hypnotic as they are vicious, his skill and intensity beyond impressive.

From the opener alone the vocals leave one surprised and eager, the delivery of Oleg Sobolevsky ably backed by bassist Demian, are as varied and imaginative as the music. He veers from growls to clean through a gamut of variations to ensure the unpredictability is in every aspect of the album. The following Downgrade Evolution easily confirms this fine display, the track another compulsive corruption of the ear.

As the songs rip chunks off the senses one by one there is nothing but the deepest pleasure and satisfaction. The songs surge up and leave their own deeply furrowed individual mark one by one to make the release an unrelenting assault and persistent muscular invention. Tracks like Rise Of The Ninth Wave with excellent bass play from Demian, the intimidating spectacular Corrosion with its slightly chaotic ingenuity and startling detours, and the brilliant disruptive mesmeric title track, leave one grasping onto anything for security and support against the stunning aural cataclysm.

Great as the whole album is Idol Of The Time easily grabs best track acclaim, the song a riot of punishing rhythms and vengeful riffs. With vocals as coarse and malicious as the sounds the track obliterates every synapse and emotion daring to step in its way. It is the growling bass of Demian which steals the fullest praise though as he stalks and underpins the song with the frightening might of a bear with its temperament and attitude in tow.

Manifest of Refusal is easily a contender for album of the year not only in Russia but worldwide, it and Stalwart just need people to finally take notice is all.

RingMaster 24/05/2012

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Six Feet Under: Undead

To be honest the enthusiasm going into the new album from death metal giants Six Feet Under was not at an all time high. This is a band that has not really lit any personal fires or imagination since their emergence leading into the mid nineties most predominantly from the dislike of the style of vocalist and founder Chris Barnes, something the attention to his previous band Cannibal Corpse also suffered when he was fronting them. It is purely personal taste and without any reason, just an aversion to his vocals as simple as that. This has led to only fleeting acquaintances with their previous eight albums until now. It has to be said Undead again did not cause any mass jubilation or a breakout of unbridled passion with the initial contact relatively underwhelming. But it is a sneaky little beast and given the deserved time and multiple chances to state its case the album proves to be a bit of a slow and persistent burner. It still does not have flags flying but it is a feisty little piece of pleasure that proves its worth even with Barnes as distinct as ever.

Released via Metal Blade Records, Undead is the first release with new guitarist Rob Arnold (ex- Chimaira), who we are led to believe also contributed the bass parts too as new bassist Jeff Hughell joined after the recording. Alongside Arnold and Barnes the album also sees long time guitarist Steve Swanson and drummer Kevin Talley (Dying Fetus, Misery Index, and Chimaira), also new to the band. The album has been quoted by Barnes as “…a rejuvenation, it’s a rebirth of Six Feet Under, and fans will definitely latch on to my excitement and how focused I am in the lyrics I’ve written.” Whether it is down to the energy and creative input of the new members or not there is certainly a freshness and intensity to the release that had vacated some of the previous albums. Arguably originality is still not in full force but allowed the attention and time to express itself the album is certainly rewarding and at times rather impressive.

The opening bomb that is Frozen at the Moment of Death from a first feeling of this is good but… evolves into something additive and openly hypnotic. With a groove that churns up the senses into a tight knot and riffs beating it around the ear the track grows more essential and striking the more it meets the ear. As assumed the vocals stoke up the expected personal preference immediately though once realisation that he sounds just like the Judoon out of Dr Who emerged there was an extra sense of fun attached. As said Barnes is a strong if unvaried vocalist with many others far worse around and it is merely personal taste involved but saying that as the album progresses even a warmth to him emerges or is it submission.

The following Formaldehyde is a blistering assault upon the ears whilst 18 Days with its striking waspish persistent groove sends sparks through the senses. By this point Talley has left nothing but an immense impression upon the music and thoughts, he is a literal machine but with organic instinctive passion and invention. The guitars of Swanson and Arnold too impress as they bustle and cut through the ear with fine play and intensive sounds to ensure each track is intriguing and gratifying, whilst Barnes is Barnes, you always know what you get with his brutish guttural delivery.

Whether the band have worn down the defences or there is a sudden vein of something new the best two tracks on the album by far step up to challenge and inspire next. Firstly the Molest Dead collapses on the ear like a juggernaut of death and destruction, its sprawling fetid breath soaking every note with an atmosphere of dread and violation. This is immediately backed up by Blood On My Hands, a song from an initial predatory crawl which envelopes its host in a soak of spiteful malevolence completes the malefaction with a scorched melodic entrancement and groove which blisters every surface it consumes.

It has to be said by this point and entering into the last third of the album one is hooked especially when the obvious but irrepressible and irresistible Reckless rumbles across the ear. With the most wanton of grooves and an insatiable infection the track rummages through thoughts and darkened corners with eagerness.

     Undead is far from a classic but it is an album that in hindsight ignited a few more flares of passion than at first thought and the more times shared the hotter they become. Six Feet Under did arguably find a rejuvenating essence for the album and it turned out quite striking if not stunning.

RingMaster 24/05/2012

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