Laika – Somnia

Laika Press Photo

Though it ebbs and flows in the strength of its persuasion at times, there is no escaping that Somnia, the new album from Canadian melodic death metallers Laika is one compelling and thrilling encounter. It may not seemingly be bursting with open originality, the old school breeding of their style driving the creative tempests making up the album, but there is a specific drama and adventurous enterprise belonging to the band flowing through each fresh and seriously captivating persuasion that begs different. It is occasionally not as startling in places as it is elsewhere and maybe should be overall, but Somnia is certainly an impressive and lingering encounter ensuring that the name Laika will not just known for being that of the name of the Russian dog who became one of the first animals to travel to space.

Formed in 2009 with the name inspired by that hound, the then sextet soon drew strong local underground attention with the release of their full-length demo Crafting The Cataclysm the following year, and a live presence which has seen them play with the likes of All Shall Perish, Kataklysm, Necronomicon, Skeletonwitch, Abysmal Dawn, Septic Flesh, and Unleash the Archers over the past few years. The release of the Somnia EP in 2011 was subsequently followed by the band taking two years out to create and work on their debut album. Produced by the Winnipeg quintet, mixed and mastered by Ryan Forsyth, Somnia provides a striking and imaginative new assault for the band, one seeking and easy to see finding a more intensively crowing spotlight.

The release opens with Restless Mind, a brief instrumental which initially strokes the imagination with evocative piano drama against a ticking clock before expanding with a wash of similarly coloured keys and elegant harmonies. It is a laika 1-front cover- smallgentle and intriguing, if not startling, start which leads into the instantly imposing Escalation of Terror. It is a gripping entrance with riffs and rhythms offering hungry energy and intent straight away. Ears and appetite are ignited further as the bait intensifies with a muscular torrent of feverish grooves and vocal causticity crossing the intensive presence of the song. The keys of Steve Tedham bring rich and expressive hues to the great tempestuous intent of the track, their warm beauty a transfixing contrast to the raw scowls of vocalist Jordan Dorge and rhythmic provocation set by drummer Blair Garraway. It is a riveting blend which only grabs greater potency and suasion as ridiculously flavoursome and contagious grooves cast by guitarist Ian Garraway are matched by those throatily laid by the bass of Mike Mason.

It is a sensational incitement to body and emotions, a creative roller coaster which never dips below the exceptional on its way to setting up a hungry anticipation for the rest of the album. The title track is the first to feed that greed, its first touch rugged in riffs and beats but seductive in keys sculpted melodies. That evolves into a more expansive and less hostile landscape, though there is still a busy imposing air to the encounter. Guitars proceed to cast a sonic weave of enterprise and melodic tenacity across the still sinew driven terrain whilst the bass at times almost ventures into a post punk repetition and invention which, along with spicy grooves and vocal savagery, brings fresh character and intrigue to the enthralling track.

Both Fidelity and Caligae A Galea keep the creative and satisfaction levels high, the first stalking ears with a predatory attitude and gait but one fired in sonic invention and seductively inhospitable toxicity. As its predecessor, the track ripples with eclectic textures and imagination soaked ideation, defying expectations and binding eager attention from start to finish. It’s almost exhausting revelry and bold tapestry of sound is swiftly matched by the second of the pair. Opening on a heroic groove, its lure potent caped crusader like coaxing, the song growls and prowls with infectious charm and intimidation. There is a menace to it which Tedham’s craft can only wrap not defuse and Dorge’s grizzled tones easily accentuate. The song is soon providing an addictive canvas of sound which maybe is death metal based but just as pungently entwines a mass of flavoursome tendrils from the likes of noise and psyche rock to post punk and progressive metal. It is a stunning protagonist for ears and incessant lust for the passions.

The album’s pinnacle is followed by the enchanting instrumental Dream of Nothing, a magnetic and reflective slice of melodic beauty. Dark bass emotions lie easily with the sultry charm of keys whilst rhythmically the song walks with a firm and steady but restrained hand. There are also raw guitar crafted flames which intensify the expressive atmosphere and climate of the song, everything uniting for an immersive emprise of sound and imagination. The track also brings respite for the senses though they are soon under demanding pressure as the punk fired assault of The Immortal takes over. For all its ferocity and abrasing presence, it is another song unafraid to spring a web of melodic and expressive beauty in its successful trapping of ears and attention, and though in many ways it takes longer to persuade than elsewhere, it emerges as a simultaneously bitter and warm buffeting to devour with greed.

The final two tracks upon Somnia might not quite match up to their earlier companions, but each leaves no second or note unattended by the listener’s fullest attention. First up Predictions (Tide Bearer) rages and bristles with a merciless graze of sonic bad blood and vocal malevolence, a hostility which wears down the senses with its bruising but still flirts with the occasional melodic seducing. The tracks unrelenting pressure is followed by the exceptional majesty of final track Invaders, a song which sums up the album with its eclectic stock of sounds and spellbinding ideas within a virulent and concussive antipathy. The song is another intoxicating proposition leaving the listener basking in unique temptation and ready to share the glory of album and band.

Somnia just gets stronger and more impressive over time, shown by the fact that listening to it again whilst writing this, there are more reasons to argue against the earlier thought that the album is not as startling throughout as in particular certain moments. That gap closes with each venture, proving this is an album wanting more time than most to really reveal all of its consistent thick rewards and that Laika is a band with the potential to sit beside the ranks of Insomnium, Dark Tranquillity, and Amon Amarth.

Somnia is available now via Filth Regime Records and @ http://laikawpg.bandcamp.com/album/somnia

https://www.facebook.com/LaikaOfficial

RingMaster 23/10/2014

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Abysmal Dawn – From Ashes (Reissue)

A reissue of their 2006 debut album Los Angeles death metalers, Abysmal Dawn with From Ashes shows as on its original unleashing they were and are still ahead of the game in bringing urgent essential senses grinding sounds. The songs on the remastered long out of print release show with total ease why the band at the time had claims of being the ones to watch and why the album since has been called one of the top death metal debuts of the past decade. The album now released via Relapse Records is as fresh as if it was made in the past few months, settling naturally amongst current death metal releases and putting many to shame.

Formed in 2003 Abysmal Dawn first drew attention with their 3 track demo in 2004, its sounds drawing in good press and responses with underground metal media and helping the band to share stages with the likes of  Exodus, 3 Inches of Blood, Hate Eternal, Into Eternity, and Aborted. The following year the band began work on their debut From Ashes, its success and impressive aggressive sounds leading the band to a first U.S. tour alongside Six Feet Under and Decapitated as well as more shows with bands such as Suffocation, Emperor, Immortal, and Goatwhore. 2007 saw the band working on their follow-up release Programmed To Consume as well as many festival appearances, and the next year after signing to Relapse, the album was released to similar acclaim as their debut. Last year saw the band’s third album Leveling The Plane Of Existence again garners strong interest and responses keeping the band at the head of the genre where From Ashes put them, even if awareness of the band has still to fully find its peak.

The founding trio of Charles Elliott (guitars/vocals), Jamie Boulanger (guitars), and Terry Barajas (drums) certainly set a benchmark with From Ashes when it was first released and even now though it does not stand with an over abundance of originality it blisters the ears with an energy and vibrant force and creative skill that subsequent bands and releases have failed to match. As mentioned even set against modern albums and there have been a great deal of inspiring and impressive ones, From Ashes generates a satisfaction and attention that sets it apart. The album is brutal, never releasing its grip on the senses as it drives hard and deep with forceful intensity but to this the band add some creative melodic insertions and solos that at times mesmerise. The technical prowess of the band shines whether in these melodic moments or in the gut punching wall of aggression they dish up.

The tracks after an initial warning in the instrumental opening track ‘Impending Doom’ are unrelenting in their intense race to violate. All strike impressively and leave a welcome mark but the likes of the caustically grinding ‘In The Hands Of Death’, the simple slightly obvious but nevertheless addictive ‘Blacken The Sky’, and ‘Wicked Impulse’ which twists and torments the senses with some taunting and teasing grooves and colourful guitar play, leave the biggest smile across the heart.

Some people have stated that the release is too similar across its length for them, and that is fair to say to some extent but when the core sound is so addictive and plays with the emotions like a wanton siren it is not the biggest issue in the grand pleasure it brings. When you are swept away by the sheer joy and immense beating the album’s best track ‘Salting The Earth’ gives with riffs that permeate and manipulate like a demented dark malicious puppeteer it is hard to find any true negatives.

The guitars of Elliott and Boulanger create sharp melodic patterns that wrap around the ear they simultaneously abuse and their artistry is impressive. The same goes for the riffs of bassist Mike Bear (Ex-Prototype, Artisan and since replaced by Mike Cosio) on the album, they are wonderfully grouchy as they fill each track with menace. With three additional demos from 2004 added, From Ashes is a definite buy for any who do not have a copy of the original or are yet to have a taste of Abysmal Dawn; it is a treat for any metal fan.

Ringmaster 16/01/2012

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