The Dead Lay Waiting – Almost Heaven

It has been impossible to miss quite a flurry of negative almost vehement reviews and first reactions to the new album from UK metalcore band The Dead Lay Waiting. Certainly Almost Heaven is not the perfect album or a classic in the making but it is also far from being the car crash and failure that many seem to be declaring. Obviously any review is down to personal opinion and taste as much as the evidence that is the music but it is hard to understand the harsh and destructive views of many towards the album and band itself. Maybe The Dead Lay Waiting is simply the current band to hate much as My Chemical Romance and Disturbed and countless others have been before them. All that is apparent from Almost Heaven is that though not flawless the album is a very agreeable and enjoyable release that shows a band creative and with great promise.

From their coming together in 2007 the band has grabbed attention, making a marked impact on a swiftly growing fan base. Debut EP Memories Of A Massacre in 2007 followed the next year by a self titled one plus an appearance at the 2008 Bloodstock Open Air Festival increased the interest and led to signing with UK based label Rising Records. January 2010 saw the release of the band’s debut album We Rise surrounded by acclaimed performances at Download in 2009 and ’10, plus tours with the likes of Trigger The Bloodshed, Bleed From Within and Sarah Jezebel Deva. The band this year found themselves nominated for KERRANG! Magazine’s ‘Best British Newcomer Band’ award, and the Metal Hammer Golden God ‘Best Underground Band’ award, their stock and rise continuing at a rapid rate, something surely Almost Heaven will accelerate further. 

The album starts with an ascending intense sound erupting into the explosive ‘This Day Will Be Your Last’ through the brief but mountainous intense ‘Wake Up’. Crushing riffs and ear bending rhythms pour incessantly over the senses, vocals growling deeply and threateningly aided by lighter screamo chants and shouts. As following track ‘Take Me Away’ picks up the hard lined energetic baton it is apparent The Dead Lay Waiting know how to create and deliver flesh melting sounds and have a string ability to write memorable and intricate songs. It is also clear that they are far from the finished article which gives exciting promise ahead from the impressive sounds within Almost Heaven.

One can understand some of the criticism laid at the band’s door for as good and as agreeable the strength and incisive music within the album is there is not a great deal of originality there. This is not to say it is just reproducing sounds others have created but there certainly is nothing awe inspiring or jaw dropping either. This can be said about75% of all releases this year so it is a criticism that applies to a great many. The two things that do stop the album from being a major land mark is firstly and something that I never thought I would complain about, that the songs are too varied within their own skins. This makes songs such as ‘Always Ask Why’, chaotic with many elements included which would really work if they were better blended with a more seamless feel, something experience will surely improve. It should be remembered this is a very young band and credit should be given that they do try to be different and attempt to make their songs unique, it is just they need to know when less is more. The other problem with the album is that it feels like the band is trying too hard, as if comments given and seemingly continuing made them try so hard that their instinctive touch and ease was held down.

Despite this the album is an impressive release with songs like ‘Open Your Fucking Eyes’ with its crunching basslines, the abrasive ‘Choke on Your Words’, and the immense ‘Burnt to Ashes’ easily bringing great pleasure and pulse racing emotions. Even the epic meanderings of the closing title track ‘Almost Heaven’, despite its slightly overblown near ten minute journey gives far more joy than doubts.

Almost Heaven has its negatives but far more positives and is far ahead of the majority of albums coming out of the woodwork these past months. Why some have such a downer on the band is hard to comprehend unless it is solely based on their seemingly manufactured visual image. The Dead Lay Waiting will ahead make those doubters eat their words one suspects; they just need more time to find their very own unique sound and undeterred belief.

RingMaster 27/11/2011

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Skeletal Damage – Fire And Forget

Fire And Forget the debut album from UK metalers Skeletal Damage is one mighty chunk of thrash power, a muscular riot on the senses to satisfy and rile up the pulse rate. Released via Rising Records the album from the Stoke quartet takes the heart and influence of early UK thrash with a liberal infusion from the likes of early Metallica with a splash of Slayer to unleash meaty rhythms and imposing riffs across nine honest and formidable tracks.

Formed in 2009 Skeletal Damage has made a distinct impression and name with their live shows resulting in a triumph performance at this year’s Download plus support slots for the likes of Revoker, Holy Grail and Funeral For A Friend.  This live intensity and power is notable on the album and the ‘…a headshot is the only way!’ EP released earlier this year, the releases holding a very agreeable raw edge to their sounds. 

Opening track ‘Rise of the Morningstar’ is an instant barrage of thumping explosive rhythms and senses consuming riffs. Though not the heaviest or most numbing assault heard this year the track pummels the ear with eager intent and intrusive success. Sounding like early Metallica given a booster of Killswitch Engage anger, the song treats the ear with excellent driving riffs and well crafted and executed melodic guitar insertions to raise anticipation of what is to follow even higher. The growls of Martyn Flannagan spine the song with belligerence and attitude, direct and uncompromising and though there is no variety to his delivery which brings a similarity across all tracks, it simply adds to the pure thrash sound and aggression bursting from the speakers.

There is good variety within Fire And Forget though overall the sound, especially the straight forward riffs and Bren gun drum assault and as mentioned the vocals, do instil a strong similarity from track to track. Inside songs though and never far from the surface there is a distinct and exiting array of engaging and impressive guitar play from Tom Barnes to ensure no song is simply a repeat or continuance of another. If one was being fussy there could have been more variety to the thrash riffs and what seems like a single minded drum attack but they are so effective and well formed it can be excused for the enjoyment given.

The consistency and quality across each track is also impressive though as the base sound is so great and every song uses it that maybe is not a surprise. The songs all rile up the juices and excite the heart with their skilled play and unforgiving riff laden intent. From the second track ‘Beneath the Deep’ with its predatory intent, through the thumping energy of ‘Kissing The Knives’ and ‘Blue On Blue’, to the melodic and expressive play within ‘The Deadlights’ and ‘Of False Hope’, the songs never fail to absorb the ear and attention with their neat and instinctive sounds.

The album’s best song is ‘The Dogs Of War’ a song rippling with defiance and menace. The song epitomises the band’s sound, large powerful and with no pretence or attempt to be what it is not. Yes Fire And Forget is far from the most original album you are likely to hear but it certainly delivers thrash better than most releases from similar styled bands this year. Skeletal Damage leave nothing behind on the album, with no shortage of energy, heart and intent Fire And Forget is one of the most enjoyable releases and one that will see many returns to its thrash delights.

RingMaster 227/11/2011

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