The Commander-In-Chief: Evolution EP

By now you might have heard a lot about a release from a certain young lady that is leaving scorch marks in its wake as more enthusiastic ears and views discover it. If not it is only a matter of time before the Evolution EP from The Commander-In-Chief has you stalled in your tracks, grinning deliriously, and drooling eagerly from shredding of the highest order. From the off the four track release grabs the ear with a tight metal grip demanding attention and respect but before long the full impact of the musicianship and power within, as one delves deeper floods through from an  EP which is deeply impressive.

The Commander-In-Chief is a 22 year old Norwegian lady and one of the most impressive emerging artists to badger and implore the ear for attention in a long while. She does not just ask and demand but backs up her request with skills and creativity that many others long for after decades as a musician. Singer, songwriter and a thoroughly mesmeric exponent of her 7 string guitar, Evolution is a dramatic and vibrant release that opens up metal to many opportunities and choices. Already from the evidence on the EP she is stretching boundaries and supposed limitations but for the future she offers nothing less than staggering possibilities and a definite anticipation for much more from her.

Evolution is produced by the legendary and highly acclaimed Sterling Winfield (Pantera, Hatebreed, Hellyeah). It has a raw feel which really adds to the powerful honest musicianship and sound within the quartet of striking songs. Devoid of any trickery and added falseness the release feels as clean and genuine as it does forceful and combative, The Commander playing and singing every guitar and vocal note unaided, maybe something other artists should note.

Joined by drummer Jason Bowld and bassist Andy Saxton, The Commander flexes musical muscles whilst spurting forth a fiery flare on each and every song. The explosive and sarcastic Thou is a prime example, its intimidating riffs and driving guitar not interested in mercy as it exploits and intrudes upon the ear. With the great melodic touches and finely crafted flowing combination of intense power and engaging invention the song, as is the whole EP, is an unpredictable pleasure. With graceful vocal harmonies contrasting her moments of soaring scorched high notes which at times touch her limits there is a wonderful blend of extremes which play naturally side by side. Once you add the ability and creativity of her playing to the vision and power, this and each song venture into the area of groundbreaking with ease.

Famous and Evolution are equally as impressive if not more so. The first dealing with celebrities and reality TV is a musical look down the nose at more falsehoods. The anthemic tone and badgering riffs within an easy accessible pleasure for the ear evoking attitude, energy, and the will to join the commentary in voice and aggression. The latter of the two is the best on the release, the title track rampaging with urgent riffs that scamper through the ear with enthused energy and devilment. Inspired by the scientist who invented lobotomy and the Mary Shelley novel Frankenstein, the track is a full blooded and dark indictment on science and man. Showing the diversity of her sound, Evolution offers rock essences wrapped in aggressive metal craft. The song plays in the head long after it leaves its last rippling note, a classic song sure to bring The Commander to the masses.

The EP is completed by Let It Go, a song that The Commander wrote for her younger brother and dedicated to those who have suffered bullying or depression. It is a strong power ballad seeping emotion and passion in every note and word. It is nicely balanced and though it does not hit with the same intensity as elsewhere it is as effective with its well formed and balanced ideas and sounds.

Offering riffs that ignite the heart and melodies to enthuse the senses, The Commander-In-Chief makes metal that is eagerly digestible yet thoughtful and inspiring, not to forget stunningly skilful.  This is just her debut EP, imagine what lies ahead, the wait is going to be unbridled anticipation.

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RingMaster 12/03/2012

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The Firstborn: Lions Among Men

With a sound as unrelenting and unforgiving as a towering storm Lions Among Men, the new album from The Firstborn is a devastating and compulsive smothering of the senses. It does not have an explosive destructive might that strikes with a swift vengeance but instead consumes and over whelms with a merciless sonic tirade upon the senses, leaving them under an aural avalanche of intensity. The album from the Portuguese metalers is a directly testing and formidable release that has no qualms in taking one to their limits in focus and patience. It is also a deeply rewarding release once given the strength and patience needed to discover its wealth of satisfying sounds and invention. For many it will be too much work but for others it will be an enlightening experience that works on many levels.

Though the seeds of the band go back to 1995 it was with the release of their concept album based on the Tibetan Book Of The Dead, The Unclenching Of Fists in 2005 that the band came to the notice of a wider audience, and though the album due to poor distribution did not find itself reaching as many as it deserved the media was openly on its side. This was followed by The Noble Search in 2008; furthering their sound and direction it explored the Buddhist Scriptures and the multiple paths to nirvana in concept. Lions Among Men sees the band return with an even more closely united blend of metal intensity and the fusion of Buddhist philosophy. Powerful and provoking it leaves no sense untouched and gasping for air nor any thought lingering without meaning or at least a question to contemplate.

Released via Rastilho Records, Lions Among Men opens with a slowly dawning atmosphere, slightly foreboding and partially inviting. The title track emerges at its own pace, as if it is watching and sizing up the listener. As the low grizzled tones of vocalist Bruno Fernandes slowly grind upon the ear the song expands, continuing its lingering emergence into the light. Almost five minutes in and mid-point of the song the guitars light up with Nuno Gervásio and Filipe Lima exploring sounds and its recipient with inciting sonic stabs and twisting riffs. The song offers technical metal without the embellishments most bands attach to it, ensuring the song and subsequently the album intrigues and engages deeply whilst manipulating with the immense heaviness of sound surrounding it.

The following track Without As Within though with a lighter initial tone carries on as the opener ended. This marks the only real issue with the album in that overall there is a similarity between many of the songs which is hard to dismiss. Within the songs though as here with the drums of Rolando Barros barracking and bullying the ear whilst the vocals switch and vary wonderfully, there is distinct variety but you have to work quite hard at times to find it, questioning how many are patient and determined enough. Obviously that is really a flaw of the listener and not the band and once inside to play with the treasures the songs are immensely gratifying and unique.

The further in the greater the quality of Lions Among Men, the likes of Vajra Eyes and Eight Flashing Lances exploring further and shining brighter. The latter of these two with its seamless mix of sitar majesty and powerful metal strength is a mighty black metal flavoured feast for the ear. This is equalled and then eclipsed by the closing duo of tracks, the album ending on a real high. Nothing Attained, Nothing Spoken though a less intense track still ripples from the drums and dark impressive riffs of bassist Hélder Malícia. It swoops and teases the senses, pouncing with mighty riffs and venomous growls from within its depths. Sounds Liberated as Mantra ends things perfectly; the lumbering intent and defined groove a thrilling companion to the Indian spiced sounds and chants. The instrumental though lengthy is vibrant and a welcome guest in the ear.

Though Lions Among Men does not always make it easy to stay patient it is an excellent album that invites and requires constant attention. Give it and The Firstborn that and the rewards are greatly impressive.

RingMaster 12/03/2012

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