Månegarm: Legions Of The North

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As compelling as an impending storm and as dramatically powerful, Legions Of The North from Swedish folk metallers Månegarm catches the breath and imagination as it takes the listener on a stirring ride of Viking/pagan adventure. There have been numerous folk and pagan metal bred releases in recent months to stir up and ignite the passions but few it has to be said as impressive and as fully absorbing as the Norrtälje hailing band’s seventh album.

Formed in 1995, Månegarm have constantly impressed and drawn eager acclaim for their mix of flavours within the cast folk metal, a sound explored constantly by their invention and the use of traditional instruments. Moving through a black metal seeded sound to a more contagious and organic folk imagination, the band has forged a potent place within the genre, albums like the 2003 Dödsfärd and its successor Vredens Tid two years later garnering impressive responses from fans and media. Their live performances have been the same at home and across Europe over the years, and whilst line-ups changes have meant numerous shifts within the band they have continued to build a greater stature within the genre and metal, live and through previous two albums Vargstenen and Nattväsen of 2006 and 2009 respectively. Signing with Napalm Records the line-up of vocalist/bassist Erik Grawsiö, guitarists Markus Andé and Jonas Almkvist, and drummer Jacob Hallegren have returned with what just might be their most immense and thrilling release yet, certainly it leads the pack of recent releases from their contemporaries.

From the desolate ambience of Arise, its brief scene setting raising echoes and spirits of ancient shadows and epic atmospheres, 486_Manegarmthe album leaps upon the awakened sense with its title track. It is an instant blizzard of scathing riffs, debilitating rhythms, and guttural vocal scowls with serpentine rapaciousness. Insatiably hungry and impossibly contagious, the track courts the passions despite its destructive intensity, especially through the clean group calls and cavernous depths suggested and paraded throughout. As the folk heart stakes its claim within the ferocious narrative, the song climbs to greater climes and persuasion leaving an exhausted but exhilarated victim in its wake.

The following Eternity Awaits explores the harsh and warm extremes further, at times a marauding predator and in others allowing melodic breeze to sooth the anger and corrosive energy. As with its predecessor, there is an intriguing and enticing evolution to the song which leaves assumptions redundant and captivation full whilst passions eagerly ride the muscle bound warrior cast confrontation. Like the first it is an instant highlight soon left in the shadow of the towering encounter that is Hordes of Hel. Seemingly the dawning of a new destructive force, sinews are stretched and flexed with persistent incitement whilst wrapping the dark core is a weave of infectious and incendiary melodic enterprise, its welcoming  presence a torch to meet the encroaching shadows. Vocally the track is outstanding, though that could apply to them all, the insidious growls and harmonic clean suasion a fluid and impressive union whilst musically the track fills every thought for an imposing yet triumphantly alluring temptation.

The likes of the heavy chested behemoth Tor Hjälpe, the riff torrent Sons of War, and the ravenously esurient Fallen unleash their own distinctive rigorous furies to feed and enflame brighter the passions. Each track as the album as a whole, uncages a violent rabidity upon the senses whilst employing a beauty and folk seeded elegant call which easily and skilfully and inspires thoughts and imagination into creating their own colourful and resourceful imagery.

Completed by another turbulent ferocity in the shape of the excellent Echoes From The Past and the closing emotive Raadh, a folk song acoustically carved and sung in Swedish by a wonderful fusion of female and male vocals, Legions Of The North provides one enthralling provocative journey which rewards the enduring of senses chewing savagery with tempering melodic seduction. Månegarm creates metal which is not just about assaulting with the ferocity and strength of passion driven warriors but providing a full and rounded sense of tradition and pagan jeopardy, the album is a thrilling canvas for all of this and more.

http://www.manegarmsweden.com/

8.5/10

RingMaster 28/06/2013

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Huntress – Starbound Beast

Huntress-Promo-1

Though not flawless, Spell Eater the debut album from US heavy metallers Huntress, made a strong impression, its potent sounds and in the face devilry receiving mixed responses but always sparking something. For us it bred a definite appetite for what was to follow, a keen hunger which new release Starbound Beast teases with, satisfies more often than not but also leaves a sense that maybe the album is resting on earlier laurels rather than forging its own unique and forward driving adventure. It is certainly an appetising and frequently thrilling collection of powerful multi-flavoured tracks but lacks the dramatic impact which its predecessor ultimately achieved.

The Californian band fronted by the always potently pleasing vocals of Jill Janus, a classically trained singer who toured Europe as a teenage opera starlet before moving onto performing with Dave Navarro in a project called Under the Covers, arrived with a wind of brewing excitement and recommendation with their first full length, the anticipation for that already seeded as the band signed with Napalm Records and helped intensely by first single Eight of Swords. Made up of guitarists Blake Meahl and Anthony Crocamo, bassist Ian Alden, and drummer Carl Wierzbicky, some of whom ex-members of Professor, Dark Black and Skeletonwitch, alongside Janus, Huntress it is fair to say split opinions with their debut and are sure to do the same with Starbound Beast. It is fair to say the band and release does everything you would wish for in a heavy metal release, its sound a constant blaze of barging rhythms, predatory riffs, and soaring stormy vocals drenched in passion, but throughout the additionally thrash, death and black metal spiced encounter something is missing or been allowed to escape which leaves the new album bringing up the rear to their first rampage into the world.

Produced by Zeuss (Shadows Fall, Hatebreed, Agnostic Front), Starbound Beast starts like a beast on heat, its opening full song 494_Huntresscoming after the brief chaotic tempest seared by the classical tones of Janus weaving harpy like harmonic toxicity across its sky, the instrumental Enter The Exosphere. The following Blood Sisters sets its dramatic walls from the start, flames of sonic taunting and melodic colour caging the attention whilst rhythms frame it all with deliberate prowling intent. Once secure in its entrapment the excellent vocals of Janus, with a husky growl to her tones, rides boldly on the cantering charge of eager riffs and probing drums jabs which then open melodic arms through the infectious chorus. Throughout there is a constant menace to vocals and sound which flares up and casts shadows over the rampant muscle clad energetic core. It is an excellent track which twists and turns through dark provocation and warm evocation, the perfect scenario for light and dark to wage physical debate within brewing thoughts and maelstrom courting imagination.

It sets a high standard and equally lofty hopes and expectations for the rest of the album which are immediately dented by the following I Want To Fuck You To Death. The song has already seemingly come under fire from many quarters and though we would argue that it is not as bad as many claim, in many ways it does not do the album any favours. Co-penned with Lemmy, the song has a power metal grandeur in intent and a rapacious hunger in certainly the breath and the delivery of the verses, but as the predictable and underwhelming chorus loses the established pull of the track it sounds like a weaker fish from another pond, not the devil spawn lake of Starbound Beast.

Destroy Your Life gets things back on track, its striking melodic and fevered guitar invention standing out as much as the fury that is Janus’ vocals. The solo within is a sizzling detour from the greed of the song, its flare and craft lighting up hot sceneries for the band to exploit with the returning vociferous appetite of the sound and intensity. It is another of the more prominent highlights which the title track, which to be honest took time to persuade but eventually did succeed especially with Janus at her potently sirenesque best, the thrash driven carnivorous Zenith, as well as the following tracks Oracle and Receiver all make very decent attempts in emulating. The second of these savages the senses with primal greed and air scorching intensity vocally and sonically to lift the album back to its highest plateaus whilst the others hold their own with inventive endeavour to undoubtedly leave strong pleasure.

Completed by the more than decent Spectra Spectral and the stirring Alpha Tauri, the album offers plenty to enthuse over and take enjoyment from, especially taking songs individually but Starbound Beast as whole does seem to lose an undefined something Spell Eater which had and feel like a lost opportunity. Despite that Huntress and album still secure a regular appearance on our playlist.

http://huntresskills.com/

7.5/10

RingMaster 28/06/2013

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Max Pie – Eight Pieces -One World

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The first thing to say is do not let the quite uninspiring band name of Belgian metallers Max Pie put you off from investigating what is in the form of  their new album a rather thrilling and dramatic adventure and sound. Eight Pieces -One World is a captivating heavy metal release, an album bulging at the seams with muscular and almost carnivorous tracks soaked in fiery melodic invention and potently expressive passion. To be honest it came as a complete surprise but as the saying goes ‘do not judge a book by its cover’, or in this case the name, as you will miss out on one of the treats of the year.

Formed in 2005, Max Pie started off with a classic hard rock/ metal which was said to frequent the same well as of Deep Purple, and Whitesnake. Obviously over the years something riled up their hunger, invention, and attitude as proven by the new album, its tracks attacking and chewing on the senses with a destructive rabidity whilst infusing irresistible and captivating melodic metal bred flames. It is a scintillating mix which catches you by surprise and then force feeds some of the most contagious and riotously inspiring songs heard this year through to the heart.

Following their acclaimed debut Initial Process of last year, the Mausoleum Records released Eight Pieces – One World takesTITRE.EPS no time in tearing up the senses, the line-up of vocalist Tony Carlino, guitarist/keyboardist Damien Di Fresco, bassist Olivier Lemiere, and drummer Sylvain Godenne, initially laying a sonic wash on the ear as Cage Of Sins stakes its claim on the listener before with no thought of mercy unleashing a rhythmic and riff sculpted intensity. Immediately there is compelling temptation at work especially as once into its rapacious stride the music is joined by the excellent vocals of Carlino, his tones equally coarse and clean echoing the sound. References to Kamelot and Symphony X seem to come with the band and going by song and release you can easily add the likes of Fates Warning and Periphery, such the numerous textures and spices conjured.

The stunning start is soon matched firstly by I’m Sealed and then Earth’s Rules which is one of two songs featuring guest Simone Mularoni  of DGM and Empyrios on guitar. The first of the pair teases djent rhythmic manipulation, riffs churning up nerves and thoughts so that warm inviting vocals and melodic enterprise can dance over the victims with soothing invention. Across the constant snarl of bass and drums assisted by equally predatory riffs, the guitars weave a sonic narrative which twists and sculpts its distinct tale upon aggressive canvas. Its successor with keys seducing with elegance and almost emotive mischief starts off with another predatory inducement before opening up progressive/classic metal arms to reveal a lake of evocative warmth and fire sourced melodic fascination. Though neither quite rivals the opener, they leave an enflamed greed for their and the following unpredictable and now assumed glories, which without exception the rest of the album delivers.

From the excellent evocative sonically coloured power ballad I’m In Love, tracks like the carnivore Vendetta rampage and seize full control of the passions, its rabid grip of primal rhythms and treacherous riffs irresistible whilst being ridden by the paint box of absorbing synth hues and the again impressively delivered and varied vocals. It is not all about aggressive intensity at any point though as the magnificent The Side Of A Dime shows with its Middle Eastern seductive promise courting emotions and heart from within the tumultuous web of rhythms and riffing voracity. The best track on Eight Pieces -One World, the encounter is a blistering expanse of inventive and urgent cajoling which rewards submission with beautifully crafted melodic heat and passion driven splendour.

As both the engaging Addictions and the equally engrossing Don’t Tell Me Lies with its gothic breath and sinister wink of the sonic eye bear evidence of, the skill and imagination of each member and their individual aspect within songs impress on the passions with clarity whilst combining to offer further irrepressible bait emphasising that though classed as heavy metal, band and album have a presence which crosses the desires and appetite of multiple genres within metal. Eight Pieces -One World is an excellent treat; as said an unexpected and surprising one but a creative coup which will be drawing out a zealous ardour for a long time to come. Slip yourselves pass the name and discover one of the gems of the year so far.

http://www.maxpie.be/

9/10

RingMaster 28/06/2013

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