Skarthia: Retaliate

For a band labelled on their own profile as melodic death metal/groove metal, London band Skarthia rather underplay the depth and diversity to their sound. They are a band which pulls the ripest flavours across metal before teasing and twisting them into their own impressive and striking sound. For a band still in its formative years you could ask if the eclectic elements were down to one still undecided on their direction. Listening to Retaliate though, the debut album from the band, the quality and skill is so controlled and imaginative that you know this quartet (currently a trio as they search for a drummer), is creating exactly the sounds they strived for.

Formed in early 2009, the band took influences from the likes of Lamb Of God, Machine Head and In Flames, searing them into their own flaming musical vision. Throughout the eight tracks which makes up Retaliate, those inspirations are noticeable and potent spicery to the originality of the band but it is fair to say they never over power to send thoughts away from the band in the direction of the influences, a testament to the fine songwriting of Skarthia. Consisting of guitarist and vocalist Avichai Myers, bassist Adam Gigi, and guitarist Sapir Rajuan, the band began writing for this their debut album alongside drummer Orrie Catriel. 2010 saw the release of demo track No Last Words to a good response before the departure of Catriel the following year.  Working alongside engineer/co-producer Tyrian Purple, the band then recorded Retaliate in 2011 and what has emerged is nothing but blackened destructive gold.

The album begins with its finest moment though there are plenty of close runs throughout the explosive release. Drill is a staggering introduction to the album and band, immediately revealing the band as one not bound to follow expectations. Its initial breath is a blistered whisper of brewing sound which evolves into an electrified cloud of energy, restrained guitars and a wonderful prowling bassline. In the time it takes to gather a deep breath the track then explodes into a fury of bone breaking rhythms, air igniting riffs, and a varied display of vocals from Myers which is unexpected and very welcome. Primarily he growls with venom ripping off each syllable but he is also unafraid to explore and expand his delivery, something many more should take note of. The charge of sound is a vibrant mix of Lamb Of God, In Flames, and certainly vocally offers a slight Korn lilt, but it is the sensational female vocals of presumably Rajuan which offer the biggest surprise and delight. Her presence brings a startling contrast to the intense menace storming within the track and if there is any complaint about the album as a whole it is that she only appears vocally on Drill.

The following No Last Words and Demolition both trample and crush the pieces left by the opener with equal power and invention. The first is a torrent of crippling rhythms and spiteful riffs with melodic guitar play to light up the darkest heart. It is a glorious mix and a distinct change in the attack of the band from its predecessor, just the first of many wonderful and diverse shifts in imagination and invention. The second of the pair finds an even more venomous intensity within to corrupt the ear, its power leaving the senses sweltering before its malicious intent. There is a firm Devildriver moment within the song to add even stronger flavour to the impressive corruption.

It has to be said every song opens up the right sores and abuses them for the greatest satisfaction, the gloriously wanton Liefest with its sirenesque melodic beckoning and predatory bass stalking, the sensational Parasite with its ravenous melodic prowess, and the rabid My Retaliation, a further three examples of the triumphant success of album and band. The first of this trio is a rival to Drill for best song, both lingering pleasures long after their departure from the ear.

War Graves and In Vain complete the corruption in equally powerful and contagious style leaving one to ponder how long it will take for Skarthia to become a major force in UK metal. On the evidence of Retaliate it will be sooner rather than later. This is simply an outstanding album from an even more impressive band, time to discover for yourselves.

RingMaster 14/08/2012

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k.N.O.T.S. – Feel The Change EP

Barely six months old as a band, Dublin trio k.N.O.T.S. made their full introduction to the world with what is easily one of the more refreshing releases this year in their Feel The Change EP. The five track release offers the accomplishment and skill of veterans with the vibrant passion of youth and though the members of the band have evolved and honed their abilities in previous bands and projects, the brief length k.N.O.T.S. has been together makes for a remarkable entrance. One can only imagine the hours toiled to bring their sound and songwriting to the levels impressively unveiled on the EP.

Consisting of vocalist and guitarist Botham, bassist Ciaran, and Rob on drums, the band came together in January. With inspirations coming from the likes of Pearl Jam, U2 and Jeff Buckley, the threesome evolved their own startling sound through constant songwriting, gigging, and recording. What emerged was a sound which employs the stirring attributes of stadium and melodic rock into a heart borne emotive breath which wraps around the senses. It is an addictive, compulsive, and evocative force which leaves one shaking under its expansive and intimate power.

The release opens with the title track, a song which from the first time it came to attention through a video captured the imagination and eager enthusiasm.  Feel the Change is a glorious song, a track to make the heart pump faster and elevate pulse rates. A constant ride of building intensity and melodic crescendos, the song leaves one breathless and desperate for much more. From a slow burning start with the excellent emotional vocals of Botham accompanying his guitar, the track slowly opens its arms with the twitching restrained rhythms of Rob flicking at the ear. Unable to hold back any longer everything explodes in a vent of melodic beauty to capture the last of any undecided focus. From now on in until the final teasing note, it is a ride of quality infectious hooks, excellent shadowed bass articulation from Ciaran, and the linked enterprise of vocals and guitar. From the song alone one could only enthuse over the EP but the treats keep coming.

The following Falling opens with eighties jangling guitar and vocals which actually reminded of ABC initially. It soon explores the air with thumping rhythms, inciteful riffs, and the dangling of melodic imagination which has one hooked immediately. As much as avoidance of the comparison was tried it has to be said that as the song ignites the atmosphere thoughts of early U2 were at large, k.N.O.T.S. creating their own but similarly robust and stirring rock contagion.

Variety is also very evident on the EP with the piano led Shy and the thoughtful Waiting Still firing up the passions in their own distinct ways. The first is a thumping slowly brewing stomp across the heart, its intention and emotion bringing the fullest responses and passions in exchange for its magnificent sounds. The track is inventive adding mesmeric asides to dazzle the ear but the pumping core of the song reigns and leads one by the hand into a riveting and heated weave of melodic and passionate intensity. The second of the pair exchanges incendiary climatic choruses with heart driven caresses from the continually impressing vocals for a seamless and inciteful journey. It is another stunning track to join the others on a release which the word classic is never too far from the lips.

The closing Home finally allows one to take a breath, though its positioning might have been better earlier. It is again fully impressive with striking power and passion, but there is a slight anticlimax after the grandeur and heights before. The song is excellent though, once more showing the strength of the songwriting and craft the band have within them.

The Feel The Change EP is stunning, a release which ignites only the fullest fires within, whilst k.N.O.T.S. announce themselves a band which is surely going to take indie music to new glorious heights. As if the pleasure could not get any better the band has released the EP as a free download @ but hurry it is limited and no one should miss out on such magnificence.

RingMaster 14/08/2012

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Altar of Pain: Severe Scourge

Severe Scourge is the latest EP from Portuguese death metalers Altar of Pain, a release which drives its festering consumption with a technical skill to match the destructive passion. It is also another example of the quality of bands and music bursting out from the country, every way you turn there is a not only another band waiting to be announced but one with a craft and invention to step out from the masses. Altar of Pain is no different and though Severe Scourge feels like an above average demo it is a mighty and impressive release which only fuels further promise from the band ahead.

From Madeira, the quartet of Elder Abreu (vocals), Guilherme Abreu (guitar, keyboards), Zé Rodrigues (guitar), and Marcelo Rodrigues (bass guitar, synth-fx), formed in 2010 with the intention of making heavy brutal death metal based music. Inspired by bands like Vader, Death, Morbid Angel, Asphyx, and Cannibal Corpse, the band first drew wider attention with their debut album The Ritual Has Begun of last year. Severe Scourge continues their fine progress with a storm of expansive and imaginative ideas fuelled by a blackened and skilled intent. There is nothing healthy about the sounds of Altar of Pain but nor is there anything dismissible, each song a stirring and concussive enjoyment which is so easy to return to again and again.

The EP is a release with only one real issue to contend with, the drums. They appear and sound as if they are all computerised. Though the band overall just get away with it, there are times it is a niggling itch which diminishes the quality elsewhere. The sound does not really integrate into the organic playing of the band and makes for an irritant which can distract too much at times. The thought though is that if the band find a strong and skilled drummer there will be no stopping them.

Opened by the senses crippling Death By Exsanguination, the release takes no time in igniting the fullest attention. Triumphant Pantera like riffs slash the air whilst a groove dripping in infection, twists around the ear with fangs sunk deep. The song is a breathtaking expulsion of energy, the band unrelenting in their bruising and exciting of the senses. The guitars scythe fiery patterns with their razor sharp play whilst the bass stomps and prowls around with a rabid menace for a combination which is impossible not to fall eagerly before. With the varied guttural growls of Abreu flinging words like plague ridden carcasses on top, it is a storm only pleasure can spawn from.

From the impressive opener Fatal Disease and The Fleshless Goddess offer their own unique corruption as the band explore and unleash further inventive play, the guitars especially in the first scorching the atmosphere with explosive solo work and scarring riffs. The pair keeps things boiling but it is with the latter part of the release where greater highlights lay in wait.

Infected is a corrosive beast which sears the synapses with crushing intensity and acidic guitar enterprise. Arguably less infectious as other songs, its deep rooted groove is merciless in its lure whilst the vocals and energy is a dehabilitating oppression allowing no place to hide.  Again the band shows their songwriting is expansive and unafraid to explore which brings freshness to each and every song.

Top track award goes to Scriptorium, a song which is aural addiction. From an almost lumbering start it explodes into a raging rampage of battering corruptive riffs and incendiary melodic hooks, both leaving whiplash and adoration in their wake. With vehemence oozing from every syllable of the vocals and piercing sonic lashing accompanying the melodic contagion, the track is nothing but immense. Stick a live drummer in there and we are talking probable classic.

With only the earlier mentioned issue to throw at its hide, the Severe Scourge EP is an impressive slab of melodic death metal which genre fans will relish. It is surely only a matter of time before Altar of Pain is given the opportunity to unleash themselves in a full studio with all its armoury, when it happens watch them bring a real explosion to the corruption.

RingMaster 14/08/2012

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EndAnd: Adventures of Fi in Space

EndAnd is one of those bands which instantly strikes up a rapport with the senses, heart and mind. They are refreshing, honest, and more than a little mischievous which is always a plus but most of all they create music which you feel you need. The trio barge through the ear with a brew of garage rock and melodic punk which is all passion, an insatiable noise to excite the palate and thrill the extremities.

Their new album Adventures of Fi in Space is made up of two EPs, Adventures of Hi-Fi in Space and Adventures of Lo-Fi in Space. The first is a five song adventure consisting of pristine studio recordings whilst the latter brings a collection of DIY recordings. Together they combine for a release which provokes and incites in equal measure and most of all gives the fullest pleasure.

Formed in early 2011 in Brooklyn, New York, EndAnd was originally the project of duo of vocalist and guitarist Daniel Fern and drummer Mike Morales. As their stock rose and acclaim gathered around them the band expanded to a trio with the addition of bassist and vocalist Bill Fitzgerald, a man they found playing for Capita Clip who the pair shared a stage with one night. Asking him to sit in on a practice he became a full member from that point and EndAnd from a project became a power trio.

Adventures of Hi-Fi in Space is a breathtaking quintet of songs which fire up the senses with explosive rock n roll at its finest. The opening Far In Between is an openly infectious feast of sticky hooks and melodic teasing driven with addictive rhythms and vocal harmonies to devour greedily. The song is impossible to refuse and soon has voice and limbs let alone passions, in sync to its compulsive eagerness. It is as poppy as is possible without any lost of power and in many ways takes one back to the eighties when power pop found a foothold in punk rock.

The Pixies flavoured Labor Force continues the stunning start. The guitar of Fern churns up the senses through inciteful discord whilst the bass of Fitzgerald stokes up any dormant embers within for more raging flames of pleasure. With elements of bands like The Melvins joining the sound the song scampers through the ear with relish intent to ruffle up the edges of the constant enjoyment instigated by its melodic presence. The track works on every level and leaves a big grin inside by its end.

The scuzz littered So What Now and Commando, a track which bristles with an intensity which leaves one gasping, both take the ear and beyond on a riotous electrified journey, brief and explosive it may be especially with the first of the pair but gloriously rewarding. The closing Death Song too is a storm of riled sounds brought with a relentless abrasive energy. Looking in to every corner and cranny of the EP to try and find some less successful element to temper the unbridled enthusiasm towards the release the realism that there is nothing soon emerges, the release hitting every spot dead centre for the greatest satisfaction.

Of course we have Adventures of Lo-Fi in Space yet to maybe bring a balance to the adoration so far. Made up of four songs the second EP is a raw warts and all slice of unpolished punk n roll. The untouched sound gives a different organic feel to the companion EP but is no less absorbing as songs like Dawl and Legend arguably reveal more about the strength and craft of the songwriting and the band. It also shows how DIY can spawn the most pure and honest sounds, the two songs just mentioned alone taking you emotionally places a studio cut can only dream of. The second of the pair brings a mix of The Jam, Pere Ubu, and Screaming Blue Messiahs to mind as it lights up the ear whilst the garage rock distillery of sound within Sweet is a Kinks borne hybrid which one can only relish deeply.

Bottom line, Adventures of Fi in Space is quite brilliant, an outstanding treat of punk and garage rock all can delight and get dirty within. Oh, and its available at a name your own price offer @ so basically all your birthdays have just gathered at your door, go enjoy!

RingMaster 14/08/2012

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Crown Cardinals: Born Old Die Young EP

Sitting somewhere between post hardcore and melodic metalcore, Crown Cardinals is a force on the rise. The proof comes with their impressive new release, the Born Old Die Young EP, a riotous burst of creative energy which leaves no doubt as to the promise of the band. The five track EP is a skilled amalgam of influences and sounds turned into something which inspires and excites as it barracks and bruises to leave one happily satisfied in the now and full of anticipation for the future.

Formed in 2010, The French quintet grew from the union of members from Normandy bands The Hollywood Drive, Auta, South Of The Border, and Manhattan Cabaret. It was not long before Crown Cardinals were lighting up stages and accumulating ardent fans in their wake, the playing alongside bands likes Cross Damage and While She Sleeps only adding to their growing fan base. The Born Old Die Young EP is the next step and destined to be the entry point for many more new passionate ears to the Crown Cardinals.

The title track opens up proceedings with a gentle beckoning from guitar and keys, their atmospheric call warm and shimmering with no hint of the intensity to follow. Intrusive riffs soon slash across the calm before the band explodes into a raging torrent of explosive energy and predatory intent.  From caustic growls the vocals turn into emotive clean squalls, both aspects entwining throughout to marvellous effect within the thumping and formidable assault.  The song is not all about aggression though, its journey smoothly moving within passionate melodic whispers and boiling melodic sonic eruptions. The guitar play of Mickael Doublet and Jean-Baptiste Gimay is openly striking, their invention leaving the ear on the cusp of adulation throughout whilst the vocals of Max Rodriguez Medallo offer an equally impressive and rewarding presence to greedily consume. It is a crushing and glorious start which arguably is the fullest highlight on the release though the following tracks show no less ability and endeavour to challenge.

Fooling Me Was The Worst Idea Ever takes no time in making is presence a corruptive one, the track blistering the ear with crippling riffs and hungry melodic teasing. The rhythms of Romain Vannier are controlled but with a rabid energy to leave their mark as they thrust the song straight to the core of the senses like an artillery strike. The track is a constant rampage which makes it hard to turn away from even if one wanted to. Though the song lights the skies with showers of flaming melodic enterprise and sparking beats throughout, there is a prowling entity in the bass of Lucas Geffroy which keeps a depth and menace at play to give a balance to it all which should not be underestimated. At times his presence is swamped but he is always the shadow which ensures the intensity is grounded.

A toy box melody sound tracking a news description of zombies opens up This New Plague. It is borderline as to how well it works but once into its stride the track itself is nothing but excellent aural venom for the senses. The track is the most destructive on the release, a more straight forward metalcore assault though the sharp melodic manipulations are not left in their box. The track is nasty in the best way and leaves the ear grinning broadly whilst stewing in its own melted fat.

Completing Born Old Die Young there is the melodically lashing We Walk Alone and the acoustic My Eyes Through The Night. Whilst neither quite live up to the earlier songs both leave only satisfaction behind, the first a further example of the ability of the band to mix consuming intensity with imaginative mesmeric invention, and the second simply a piece of melodic elegance.

The Born Old Die Young EP admittedly does not break out into new and starkly unique pastures but give the band time and one feels that their horizon certainly will. Crown Cardinals is a band we will be hearing a lot more of, the pleasure starts here.

RingMaster 14/08/2012

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