Escher: Self Titled EP

The self titled EP from North Carolina metalers Escher is an excellent little beast of a release that introduces a band full of impressive promise and blossoming creativity. The four track EP brings a progressive metal/metalcore blend which is strong on ideas and structure whilst forceful in directness and intensity. Though still with room for improvement the quintet show they are a band to take notice of already and one that should make future deep searing grooves in metal.

From Durham the band was previously known as Evisceration but changed to Escher on the back of a new band line-up and the sound emerging from it. An EP teaser in the middle of 2011 gave a flavour of what was to come without giving a full taste, something the EP rectifies. The band offers a sound that is inspired from the likes of Sikh, Between The Buried, and Periphery, its content emerging as music that challenges and tests the senses with aggression whilst mesmerising with intricate and razor sharp melodic invention. The majority of the EP finds a band already at a high level, the remaining time it shows one with a still evolving sound that suggests it is only a matter of time before it reaches its full potential.

Opening track The Inverse throws crystalline bursts of tricky guitars at the ear whilst vocalist James Broadhead lurches from growl to grunt accompanied by hefty riffs and intense sounds that take no time in punishing the senses. The track seems to shy away from all out violation though to suggest more is to come from the track but though it never materialises it is a strong song that provokes nothing but eagerness to taste the rest of the release. The group shouts work well and the bass of Cody Rogers is a hungry behind the cutting guitars of Will Collins and Luke Dingfelder.

Jungle Space steps up flexing its toned riffs next. The track also brings the progressive metal side of the band which the opener kept veiled. Scorched melodies and incisive guitar strokes leave a distinctly satisfying mark whilst vocalist Broadhead shows more range in his delivery bringing a slightly smoother style at times though it did come over as a little random which intrigued more than disturbed. Mid way the track evolves into a resourceful melodic sound, Eschers progressive skills an equal match to the intensity they can bring. The songs instrumental second half caresses the ear nicely and though one was waiting for and wanting the earlier aggression to return in tandem with the well crafted sounds, the song leaves again feelings of wanting more.

The best track comes next in the shape of Nerve Damage.  Immediately drummer Dan Ray brings a complicated structure which Rogers makes full use of, their combined rhythms leading the ear down challenging corridors where the guitars pick off the senses at will. The track has a predatory feel, its intensity prowling and waiting to pounce. This is the most venomous track and the most creative. Within its harsh tones the band twist and turn directions and sounds, all changes and invention brought in with a generally seamless flow. As with all their songs it neither chooses to go for a full onslaught or rely on mesmeric charms but walks a fine line between the two successfully. Whether that will change only time will tell but right now it certainly works for the band.

The EP is completed by Running Underwater, its body as forceful and dense as the title suggests. The vocals are at their best here especially with the caustic tones and effect loaded moments. The track is primal and malignant, the venom of the lyrics dripping from every growled word and the guitars as potent and acidic as the poisonous intensity. Another great track confirming Escher as a band to follow intently.

Recorded and engineered by Ray the production on the EP though not perfect is strong enough to show all the qualities from song writing to instrumentation to show through even if there seems a preference towards the guitars. Escher have announced themselves with a thoroughly impressive release and made the anticipation of further sounds from them a very eager activity.

Grab your free copy of The Escher EP @ http://escher.bandcamp.com/

RingMaster 16/02/2012

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Funeral Heaven / Plecto Aliquem Capite: Astral Mantras of Dyslexia Split Release

Astral Mantras of Dyslexia sees the coming together of Sri Lankan black metal bands Funeral Heaven and Plecto Aliquem Capite in a split release that is unpredictable, surprising and at times almost shambolic. With eventual focused attention it also offers some startlingly yet intriguing striking compositions. Nothing is as anticipated or expected which is always good, experimentation is rife so another good thing, and the intent and provocation within the release direct and harsh, but whether it is likeable is hard to decide. For every moment that engages and inspires there are painful and hard to listen to periods that makes the release hard to make a decision either way. Despite that it certainly offers enough to entice returns to its intriguing challenging arms, just maybe not frequent embraces.

Astral Mantras of Dyslexia first appeared as a limited edition vinyl release in 2011 and is now given a Digipak CD unleashing by German label Dunkelheit Produktionen on February 25th. The release contains seven tracks, three from each band and a combined track to close the cacophony of splintered imaginations and black aural manifestations. Without doubt this will have a limited audience even amongst black metal fans as the two bands twist the genre inside out to leave its entrails on the outside, dripping sonic chaos and bedlamic mayhem.

First band up is Funeral Heaven, a band made up of in their own words “nothing more than a congregation of a few concerned and ardent individuals belonging to one of the few and remaining cautiously orchestrated systems of preservation of the dark arts of Sri Lanka.” Funeral In Heaven bring themes of Sri Lankan demonology and war, the countries unsettled history seemingly an inspiring force along with ancient cults, religion and occultist energies. Their opening track Transmigrations Into Eternal Submission (Of Altered Consciousness) is a deceptive instrumental piece bringing traditional sounds and instruments to the fore over an ominous waiting intensity. The ambient texture and mesmeric ethnic rhythms and instruments draw one into its trance intended mission. The electric guitar like drone behind brings the impression of a looming shadow without giving indication of what is to come later within the bands other contributions. The track is, and it is something that can be laid against their other songs, over long. It reaches a point where it evolves into background music which is a shame as it is an unexpected but enjoyable opener.

Their second track Bandhana (Gatahaththey kathaa wasthuwa) is a more straightforward black metal creation. It carries tones of bands like Archgoat and Burzum with no real surprises. Again it is stretching its stay at thirteen minutes in length and the track lacks enough diversity within its funereal purge to engage for too long. They complete their solo songs with Buddhang Saranang a cover of a track from cult Sri Lankan ritualistic rock band Thapas. With a bluesy vein and combined ethnic rhythms and a much better vocal mix of delivery it is a track that pleases without exciting.

Now the fun or nightmare begins depending on how it takes you. The tracks from Plecto Aliquem Capite take all they do to the limit, their creations a nightmarish maelstrom of sound. Their first track Lament is a haunting almost harrowing piece. First emerging as a sorrowful atmospheric sound it evolves into a grief stricken emotive play upon the ear through distressed cries. It never erupts into an unbridled release of heartbreak but does raise the emotion well. Like with Funeral Heaven the first track is deceptive to what is next, not giving a hint to the hellish onslaught to come.

Stoned Guru Ramblings and Cemetary Of The Deep both rip senses apart with chaotic distortions, demonic intrusions, and unsettling sonic vocal contortions. The first with a sampled spoken piece throughout ruptures the ear with punishing aural examinations. The structured rhythms barely hold order, the guitars, screeches and distortions like liquid hot sound dripping from the track scorching the senses. The second of the two has a slightly more ordered and accessible drive behind more blistered vocal violations, the riffs heavy and forceful and seemingly in control of the chaos. The band is really hard to take in one go, despite their tracks only being around the four minute mark. They are far more interesting than Funeral Heaven though even if harder to endure.

The releases final track Crestfallen: Immolating Shakthi sees both bands coming together their two distinct black metal sounds combining to create a track that takes the senses down further sonically excruciating blackened halls but upon a driven groove that is very agreeable. The song is overlong again but with its blend of traditional sounds, satisfactory black metal flavours and hell unleashed it is an easier beast to take.

Astral Mantras of Dyslexia really should have your attention at least once. It is not an impressively great release but one that cannot be dismissed either. It sits somewhere between pretty good and once is enough. It is just hard to endure in one go, though individually the tracks are not an easy challenge either, but worth a go for sure.

RingMaster 16/02/2012

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77 – High Decibels

If you come across any other reviews of Spanish hard rock band 77 you would have read they more than carry an air and sound heavily influenced and taken from AC/DC. No argument from us at the RR regarding that, which is hard luck on the band as this style of music and their influences do not offer anything to ignite sparks or to go deeper than just the ear here. It has to be said though that High Decibels, the second album from 77 is an easily accessible and engaging release. It comes with no pretence or aspirations to be anything it is not, it just bursts with an eagerness to bring straight honest heavy rock n roll.

Released February 28th via Listenable Records the album is rich in 70s heavy metal with other touches of earlier rock. It is also low in originality but the band more than make up for that with strong tracks that take the better elements of the genre and sound and restyle them to their own compositions. Recorded with of Nicke Andersson (Imperial State Electric and ex-Nihilist, Entombed, and Hellacopters), High Decibels is an accomplished follow up to their debut album 21st Century Rock, and though It does not venture away from its predecessors sound or the influences that inspire the band it does have a better rounded feel.

The brothers Valeta lead the band with their creative but unfussy guitars; LG Valeta is never over indulgent in his solos and Armand backs up his brother perfectly with power and controlled play. Armand also continues his vocal delivery with a Bon Scott styling that goes beyond a mere impression adding to the overall homage of sound. Completed by the excellent bass play of Mr. Raw and the controlled but energetic drums of Johnnie Dolphin, 77 know how to create music and songs that grab hold and lead one into a world of solid and satisfying rock music.

The album is highly consistent with tracks like the opening title track, the energetic Are You Ready For Rock n Roll, and the chunky riff pleasure of Lets Beat It Up making the album more than worth a listen even if like us this is not music that one finds enthusiasm for. There are two central tracks within the album that ensures the release should be looked at. The first Backdoor Man has a neat blues vein pulsating through it and guitars that tease and beckon the ear wonderfully. Again the bass of Raw is a delight, his rhythms moody and provoking without demanding centre stage. The second of the songs is Gimme A Dollar and it is a gem, the one song that shone brightest of all. The fact that it has a hook and riff straight out of Buddy Hollys Not Fade Away does it no harm at all. It offers much more than that though and is a nice blend of rock n roll, blues and hard rock. If all tracks were like this they may have a convert on their hands.

Songs like This Girl Is On Fire and Meltin In A Spoon keep up the overall standard and AC/DC tribute, which is what it feels like at times, though the band do try to bring something new as with their mini epic Promised Land. It does not quite come off but is still a fine and interesting track with striking riffs and ideas.

One cannot fail to see hard rock and especially classic hard rock fans loving this and so they should. It has everything to excite their ears and beyond, but for us where the genre has no haven it is fighting a lost battle. To be honest High Decibels was enjoyable and if it was playing there would be no rush to turn it off for sure. The album will definitely also find favour with fans of their obvious idols, 77 making an album and music that is respectful and inspired by love of what AC/DC always do best.

RingMaster 16/02/2012

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