Vreid: Welcome Farewell

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    Following up their immense 2011 album V, Norwegian melodic black metallers Vreid have in Welcome Farewell unleashed another impressive and enthralling encounter. Whether it is the equal of its stunning predecessor is debatable but certainly the new nine track journey of enterprise and invention is a masterful confrontation of the imagination and thoughts as well as the instigator of another wash of passion for the ingenuity of the quartet.

Across their impressive albums the band has shown that tagging them as merely melodic black metal is short changing their invention as the band weave a web of sounds which court varied flames of rock and metal across numerous decades. Often referred to as Black & Roll their sound once more upon Welcome Farewell explores and re-invents a varied spicery to create songs which are consistently compelling and perpetually thrilling. Since forming in 2004 out of the demise of Windir, the band has been a blur of releases and touring, Vreid having performed over 300 shows in 22 different countries across 3 continents, lit up numerous festivals, played alongside the likes of Enslaved, Pestilence, Marduk, Unleashed, Eluvetie, Belphegor, Einherjer, Paradise Lost, and Kampfar, and released acclaimed albums in the shape of Kraft (2004), Pitch Black Brigade (2006), I Krig (2007), Milorg (2009), and of course their tour de force V.

Released via Indie Recordings and produced by bassist Hváll (Jarle Kvåle), Welcome Farewell brings the senses into its arms with01framside the opening melodic mists of first track The Ramble. It is a gentle beckoning which before long opens up its muscles with rumbling rhythms, a seductive groove and sultry sonics weaved into a hungry rampant surging gait. The bass of Hváll growls with hungry saliva dripping from its carnivorous tones whilst the beats of Steingrim (Jørn Holen) jab, punch, and roll over the ear with merciless intent. Carved into compelling shape by the exceptional craft brought to bear by guitarists Strom (Stian Bakketeig) and Sture (Sture Dingsøyr) whose vocals grasp and rasp over the senses with serpentine malevolence to temper and compliment the heated melodic wash, the track commands attention and rewards with a mix of uncomplicated and finely crafted sounds.

From next up Way Of The Serpent with its rampaging breath and slight folk metal whispers, the album lights up thoughts and emotions with a perpetual cascades of flavours and invention. The following Devil’s Hand opens its claws with an energising punk rock abrasion ridden by venomous vocals before merging thrash and rock n roll into its blackened touch whilst the title track offers a classic metal and prog embrace within the intensive ravaging which breathes within the track. It is a continuing and enthralling blend of seamlessly entwined spicery which sets each song apart from each other and Vreid distinct within black metal.

The magnificent Sights of Old takes the album to one of its loftiest pinnacle, a song which challenges and rewards with fiery invention. From a slow stroking of melodic licks the track explodes into a furnace of vicious insatiable rhythms and a spiteful twisted groove which seduces and spears the senses with sabre accuracy. Across its corrosive journey the song evolves and shifts its character to ignite intrigue and unrivalled focus upon the tempting twisted wash of predatory and mesmeric splendour. It is a song you cannot predict one note of and continually keeps the listener off guard and absorbed with the dawning shifting landscape.

The virulent Black Waves also ignites the deepest richest rapture with its goth/blackened swagger and riveting aural shadows armed with lethal barbed hooks and melodic mischief. From drums to bass, guitars to vocals, the song entices and recruits the passions with a lure as catchy and as destructive as you could wish for.

Offering a final almighty slab of muscular grandeur in the best moment on the album, the brilliant At The Brook, Welcome Farewell is simply sensational. This outstanding song is another which breeds an addiction in the listener with its predatory stance and voracious groove amidst an all devouring and insatiable acidic progressive glaze. It with ease leads you right back to the start of the album as after its esurient rewards resistance to the band is impossible.

If there is to be a better black metal release this year than Welcome Farewell it will be something quite spectacular as Vreid yet again has set the benchmark impossibly high.

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http://www.vreid.no/

9/10

RingMaster 25/02/2013

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Centurian: Contra Rationem

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    Formed in 1997, Dutch death metallers Centurian were one of the formidable forces in underground metal up to their demise’ in 2002, a band which was to the forefront of the second wave of death metal which included the likes of Angelcorpse and Krisiun. Now they have returned with their first album in twelve years in the destructive storm that is Contra Rationem, a release which in many ways just continues where the band left off but equally forges a fresh presence with an intensity and spite derived from current inspirations.

Started by Rob Oorthuis (guitars) and Wim van der Valk (drums) with the intent of creating death metal based on memorable riffs, one-foot blastbeats and lyrics that celebrate Choronzon333, Centurian fronted by vocalist Seth van de Loo grabbed attention with their demo Of Purest Fire in 1998. The same year bassist Patrick Boleij joined to complete the line-up and the band signed to Full Moon Productions who then re-released their demo before in 1999 the debut album Choronzonic Chaos Gods. The following year saw the departure of van de Loo and Boleij to be replaced by vocalist/bassist Jerry Brouwer and guitarist Oskar van Paradijs as the band began writing their follow-up album. Signing with Listenable Records the band unleashed Liber Zarzax in 2001 to great acclaim but by the end of the year due to Oorthuis wanting to explore other realms of extreme metal with a new venture NOX, the days of Centurian came to an end leading to its closure in 2002. The new avenue for Oorthuis also found strong success if at times hampered by line-up changes and by 2010 after the release of Blood, Bones and Ritual Death again via Listenable who also release this returning beast of a Centurian release, Nox was put on hiatus and the former muscular guise returned to action. Consisting of Oorthuis, Boleij, and van de Loo (on drums this time around) once more with vocalist Niels Adams adding his magnificent vocal scourge, Centurian leaps at the senses with an appetite and brutality which instantly harks back to their former presence whilst bouncing off the boundaries firmly entrenched in current violations.

Thou Shalt Bleed for the Lord thy God assassinates the senses first, its lethal rhythms and teasing sonic lashing sunk within anCENTURIANcontra1400x1400 OK onslaught of ravenous riffing, instantly contagious and intimidating. The vocals of Adams expertly scowl and scar the ear to match the intensity forged elsewhere and though barely two minutes in primal length the track is a declaration that the band is back mightier and more sadistic than ever.

The following of Crown of Bones and Feast of the Cross explode with sadistic hunger to continue the impressive start. The first of the pair courts and prowls the listener with unbridled malevolence fused within tightly infectious grooves and abrasive sonics carried on a further brawling tempest of vocal excellence. You cannot say Adams offers anything in his delivery which others have also not explored but there is a compelling element to his style and expressive craft which like the music grips firmly and magnetically. The second of the two songs is a maelstrom of back snapping rhythms from van de Loo which demand respect and attention and a rapacious attack of accomplished sonic venom and annihilatory bruising.

Into the heart of the release the band pull out their finest moments starting with Judas Among Twelve. Veined by spiteful grooves and further rhythmic violence, the song crowds the ear with intensity and passion whilst forcing through rabid sonic seduction and bestial riffs which chew and rampage across the senses until they are black and blue. Virulently contagious and equally corruptive the song shows the full potency drawn from the band recording the tracks on Contra Rationem as single takes fired by their intense passion. The outstanding demonic Antinomian and the tempest of malicious vehemence that is The Will of the Torch both raise a further greedy ardour with their commanding accomplished statures to leave a lack of easy breath in the lungs.

Ensuring the savageness continues to the final note of the release tracks like Sin Upon Man and Damnatio Memoriae unleash further irresistible barbarity, violence and persuasive grooves wrapped in impossible to refuse corrosive dynamics. Arguably Contra Rationem does not venture in to new territories but such the quality and irrepressible inducement on offer it is not an issue to make a dent in the pleasure it delivers throughout.

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8/10

RingMaster 25/02/2013

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City Reign: Another Step

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    Another Step the debut album from UK indie alternative rock band City Reign, is a release which leaves one mutually satisfied and dissatisfied. Consisting of eleven excellently crafted and presented slices of guitar driven passion the album has all the ingredients and invention needed to ignite the passions but lacks the fire and uniqueness to achieve that intention. The band from Manchester has the promise and craft to forge a formidable place in UK indie music, and has already for a great many people, but Another Step falls short of being the trigger.

The band was formed by songwriters and guitarists Chris Bull and Mike Grice, who met six years ago at a Ryan Adam concert at the Manchester Academy. The following years saw them writing and playing in bands together before starting up City Reign whose name the pair took from an Adams song, City Rain, City Streets. The past three years has seen the band release their debut single Making Plans on their own label Car Boot Records, the song gaining the support and enthusiasm of Steve Lamacq, and the Numbers For Street Names EP in 2011. As with following singles Out InThe Cold and Daybreak, the band received strong reviews and responses from online press and bloggers from their releases and soon embarked on their first UK tour and ventures in Europe.

With drummer Duncan Bolton and bassist Michael Glaze completing the line-up, the quartet recorded Another Step with producer Sam Jones (Band on the Wall, Alex Turner) in Salford’s Sacred Trinity Church, making full use of the building’s natural acoustics and not allowing being interrupted by a funeral the priest had double booked at the same time, to slow their creative momentum. Musically the band has a sound which to simplify things is an intriguing mix of Oasis and The Mighty Lemon Drops which possibly shapes the personal indecision towards its potency from a dislike of the former and love of the latter. Certainly from opening track Anchor through to the last rich note of the release the album enthrals and evokes with its honest impassioned voice. The first track opens with sturdy riffs and rapid rhythms around a sonic groove which plucks at the senses with infectious engagement. The vocals of Bull releases the heart of the track with strong expression and is ably aided by the good group harmonies across the chorus, whilst musically there is a slight Inspiral Carpets whisper to the pulsating track. It is a grower too, the initial encounter leaving mild content with evolved into strong admiration and pleasure, something which can be applied to the whole album.

Making Plans, Out In The Cold, and Sleep Easy follow to warm the ear with stylish melodic enticement and an overall raw honest energy. There is a familiarity to the songs which even with their individual moments of compelling invention means they do not leap out at the ear or rip attention from the world but all are accomplished and well- crafted companions.

After the slow melodic melancholy of The Line, a track which brings Doves and Mighty Lemon Drops to thoughts as well as seductive strings from Maya Kashif, Graham MacKenzie, and Ailsa Hoyle, the album truly hits its strides and moves into its strongest moments starting with Retaliate. The song opens with guitar caresses brought with a delicious kiss of discord and wraps its emotive arms around the listener with warmth and plaintive passion. Again Oasis is a predominate spice with the rich lush strings again elevating things to an absorbing grandeur to leave ear and thoughts engrossed from start to finish.

The excellent See What It’s Worth with its sinewy rhythms and bulging energy is the prime highlight of the album, the rock track bringing vibrant diversity to what is at times a singularly gaited release whilst musically the band show they can pump up the pulse rate as easily as they can tenderly coax it. The big boisterous beats of Daybreak introduce another pinnacle upon the album, the song a sculpted melodic brawl for the ear to devour. Contagious in every note and rhythmic persuasion, the track is a pleasing restrained riot of sound which like many other tracks shows the deep potential of the band.

With further songs like the first single from it, the sensitive Ahead of Ideas and closing track Anywhere, Anyway offering strong ideas, the album is a satisfying if at times underwhelming release which certainly deserves investigation. With a more distinct character to its songs and diversity to the vocals of Bull to break up the similarity which puts a glaze upon the album, Another Step would have convinced the passions much more but nevertheless it still sets City Reign firmly on the radar of bands to watch.

http://cityreign.net/

Another Step 6.5/10 The promise of City Reign 8.5

RingMaster 25/02/2013

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