ArcticFlame: Shake The Earth

After his impressive debut solo album Death In The Family earlier in the year, songwriter/drummer Mike Paradine returns with his ‘day job’ ArcticFlame and its unleashing of storming new album Shake The Earth. The album is the fourth full length release from the band and is a deeply impressive and invigorating explosion of classic and power metal brought with a distinct and rich imagination.

It has to be said such was the great pleasure brought by The Mike Paradine Group and their aforementioned album, which found acclaim and strong media response including regularly play on the likes of The Bone Orchard podcast from The Reputation Radio Show, that there was a heightened anticipation for the next release from the New Jersey quintet which Paradine founded in 2001. The album feeds those expectations and more with ten majestic slices of metal to captivate and fire up any rock and metal heart. Wonderfully eclectic yet soaked in the classic essences of metal throughout it is a release which concretes the reputation of ArcticFlame as one of the most accomplished and essential bands around.

From those early times when Paradine, upon leaving previous band Balistik Kick, set about forming a band influenced by the traditional metal of Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Motorhead, ArcticFlame has been on a constant rise. From their first ever gig supporting Thin Lizzy, shared stages with bands such as Motorhead, Overkill, Helloween, WASP, and their well received EP of 2005 through their debut album Primeval Aggressor of 2006 and its successor Declaration of 2008, the band has risen higher and grown stronger stage by stage. Unexpected changes in 2010 could not make an obstacle for the band for long as the new line-up of Paradine, new vocalist Michael Clayton Moore, guitarist Sebastian Garcia, and returning original bassist Jeff Scott, emerged stronger and more determined. 2011 saw Alex Schuster join their ranks as second guitarist and the release of third album Guardian At The Gate which marked the band as one of the most powerful and enthralling melodic metal bands around.

Shake The Earth not only builds on what came before but throws the band up with the giants of the genre, their incendiary sounds and sharp imagination a sonic explosion of skill and passion. The album is a brew of multiple flavours which sets it apart from similar styled releases. Their melodic prowess again runs as a controlled riot throughout whilst the generated energies are as rampant and hungry as any offering anywhere. These strengths are fused with an array of grooves and disharmonies compound the full ignition of the passions, their discordant breath an inspired counter to the scorching and inventive melodies which burn from within every song.

The opener Man Made Man instantly piques interest with its electrified strokes across the ear, their sparks slowly blistering the air whilst heralding the following predatory stomp of badgering riffs and heavily jabbing rhythms. The vocals of Clayton Moore as expected are immense proving he is one of the best metal vocalists around and immersed in the surging guitars sounds, a wonderfully snarling bass from Scott, plus the unmissable power and mighty punches from Paradine, it all combines to show the band is pushing new heights. It is a thunderous start with a song which will rile the passions for fans across the years.

Two Sides Of The Bullet and Last Chance continue the high octane adrenaline riling enjoyment. The first is a pulse racing bruise of a track which fires up any passions still only simmering from the opener whilst the second simply enflames the soul with its abrasive intensity and incisive melodic dazzle. Both offer rock n roll at its best, neither arguably trying to break down boundaries but simply conjuring the freshest most majestic sounds from existing palettes.

The punk rawness of Call In The Priest as it rampages like a bull increases the heart rate whilst songs like Rider Of The Headless Horseman and the excellent Run To Beat The Devil only leave raptures with their melodic charms and insatiable hearts. The last of these three especially shows how the band, their craft and songwriting, has reached yet another level which can only reward fans and music alike.

The album ends with a cover of the Uriah Heep song Rain and the power ballad Seasons In The Cemetery (Gardens Of Stone), the first a vocal and piano treat passing to the second and its orchestral kiss upon the ear brought with a power metal embrace. If there is only one minor quibble about Shake The Earth it is that as it progresses the earlier charging energy dissipates, though the quality remains at the same impressive height, making it a little top heavy in adrenaline. Just a minor complaint and the placing of tracks as they are do allow one to recover the loss of breath which results from the first three quarters of the album.

Shake The Earth is outstanding and easily one of the best melodic metal albums this year, and ArcticFlame… well they simply make the best kind of metal to leave one energised and fulfilled.

RingMaster 11/09/2012

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Yellowtooth: Disgust

Disgust the debut album from US rock band Yellowtooth, is one of those companions you know you are going to have great fun with but will come out of any shared mischievous escapade with plenty of deep bruising. The release is a collection of ten songs which instigates wounds as rewarding and deep as the mighty sounds on offer. It comes with no pretence just an honesty of what it is and what it wants to achieve, which is to unleash a booze soaked feast of low slung, heart borne, heavy weight sounds.

From Michigan City, Indiana, the trio of Henry McGinnis (guitar/vocals), Ed Kribs (percussion) and Peter Clemens (bass/vocals), bring a formidable blend of metal and rock swarming with the best essences of Southern rock, sludge, doom, groove, and thrash metal plus much more. It combines for a brawling stew of raw and dirty energies brought through down tuned riffs, exploitive rhythms, and snarling passion. Not always the easiest experience, its caustic breath bringing a stripping of the ear as sonically searing as a blow torch, but it is a permanent captivation which one cannot or wants to escape.

Though the band is relatively new its members has stalked senses from the nineties through numerous impressive bands such as Invasion, Skullview, Chronic Disorder, Sea Of Tranquillity, Shades Of Grey and Nocturnal Torment. That accomplished skill of experience is rife throughout the album, each song a storming fire in their distinct identities, of stirring and impressive skill from guitars and rhythms.

From the opening Wizard Dust through to the closing might of 11th Hour, the album entwines its listener in an abrasive and compulsive rampage which whether a song offers an oppressive heavy crawl or a boisterous aggressive assault upon the senses, only fully involves and engages. The first track once in its full height bitch slaps the ear with heavy treading riffs and combative rhythms alongside destructive vocal growls. The unrelenting snarl of the bass behind the excellently crafted and mesmeric grooves brings a balance and threat to the song which is outstanding. The song despite its bullying intensity is almost subtle in its unique elements and their appearance, though there is clarity when paying attention which makes their absorption easy.

Track by track the album offers no intention to take it easy on senses, the likes of the malevolent and vicious Soulstalker, the glorious ’75 Black Pontiac with its steaming red hot rock n roll passion, and the rabid Prophetic Ramblings, making every second in their company a dangerous and aurally churning onslaught as pleasurable as could wish for.

The vocals throughout take gruff into new realms and there are moments where one might have cared for some greater diversity to match that offered by the guitars but it is a mere quibble when their coarse texture work off the scorching disharmonic fires as well as they ultimately do.

Further tracks like On The Trail of Lewis Medlock and Decaying From Within ensure one is bustled down darker and weightier avenues before the release ends with the striking maelstrom of sound which is 11th Hour. The track has everything within its boundaries and all seamlessly linked, veins of classic metal, thrash, and death metal locked in triumphant union with black and doom strains of the genre. With explosive solos and yet more impressive bass sounds, the biggest highlight of the whole album, the song brings a memorable and towering end to the satisfying corruption.

The band has probably not quite created an album of the year contender with Disgust but certainly has unleashed a bear of an album which is openly inspiring and a certainty to capture vast amount of imaginations for all things Yellowtooth.

RingMaster 11/09/2011

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Hooded Menace: Effigies Of Evil

With one of the heaviest presences to consume the senses this year, Effigies Of Evil from Finnish death metalers Hooded Menace is a plundering exhaustive chasm of never ending intensity and weighty ravenous breath. The release overwhelms and suffocates whilst treating its victims to some quite fine melodic touches which should sound out of place but have a seamless and engaging fit. Engaging, not really a word to slip easily from the lips in regard to Effigies of Evil but at times that is what it is; the rest of its slowly rippling muscular presence though is just corrosive oppression.

Formed in 2007 by guitarist, bassist, vocalist Lasse (Phlegethon , Vacant Coffin), the band is heavily influenced by the old school entity of death metal with the likes of early Cathedral, Asphyx, Black Sabbath, and Candlemass strong flavours in their doom /death devouring pit spawn filth. Lyrically songs are driven by cult horror films and ideas, especially the classic 70’s Spanish horror series the Blind Dead and the rotting, eyeless Templar Knights who slowly stalk their prey. This makes for music and tracks which are cinematic in their story telling and corruptive in their breath. Effigies Of Evil the third album from the band and first for Relapse Records is no different, destructive and laborious energy wise; it sucks upon the senses whilst leaving nothing but satisfaction behind.

The album is one which needs plenty of attention to unveil all the acute melodic flames within the always crushing intense blanket of sound and though it may be too uncompromising for some the release is still undeniably an unforgettable and impossible to ignore violation. The opening track Vortex Macabre sums up the release and band alone. It is an epic ten minute prowl through the senses and emotions which initially makes its introduction through an atmospheric beginning. With cold winds suggesting a harsher landscape a lone desolate guitar expels its melancholic heart into the air. Eventually the track raises its head to start its crawl through the ear with acidic guitars and prowling rhythms, the song choosing its moments to quicken its heart and pace as it subsequently leaps deeper with immediately captivating melodic strokes and caustic caresses. All the while though the guttural bestial growls of Lasse spill venom into every note and admittedly indecipherable word thus ensuring the intimidation and brutal nature of the beast is always to the fore. Lurching into its latter half the song falls over the edge into an abyss of tar like energy and  scorched manipulation of the ear, its mass seeing off the addictive hook which had threatened to light up the song just before. With climax in sight the track does merge both aspects again and though arguably the song is overlong, it is a darkly mesmeric companion into the death soaked world of Hooded Menace.

The following title track continues along the same fetid journey with equal success and effect but it is with the next in line where the album ignites real passion. The vampire themed In The Dead We Dwell is a masterful example of inescapable malevolence, deathly intent, and the wanton attraction of pure evil. With a sickened groove veining the twisted charm of the track and the rhythms and guitars as satanic as the unhealthy atmosphere seeping from every second of the song, there is a sirenesque pull which ignites the heart and hunger more than elsewhere on the album. The blend of the as ever abrasive and light defeating vocals and incendiary sonic invention is a perfect and heady match making the song irresistible and lingering.

The likes of Crumbling Insanity with its heart breaking melodic groove within unforgiving black shadows, the magnetic smothering touch of Summoned Into Euphoric Madness, and the excellent Evoken Vulgarity all continue to strike with impactful effect through their fine elements. The latter of the three especially captures the imagination with its unexpected closing strains of goth metal which brought spices of The Mission to bear.

Effigies Of Evil is a fine album which maybe did not ignite enough consistently burning fires but those it did spark up raged with great pleasure. Hooded Menace is well on course to being a prominent player in death metal, their new album the next impressive step.

RingMaster 11/09/2011

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