Void of Kings – Stand Against The Storm


Released in 2011, the If Ever Hades Spoke EP made for an imposing and attention grabbing debut from US metallers Void of Kings. Raw and slightly flawed in small areas it still impressively insisted that its creators were kept under close watch and that the potential of greater things ahead was inevitable. A couple of singles the following year confirmed that suggestion and more but only hinted at the might and furiously thrilling encounter which has emerged as their first album. Stand Against The Storm is a beast of a confrontation, a proposition bursting with exhaustive fury and enthralling invention around a spine of uncompromising metalcore voracity. It shows a growth in sound and songwriting which not only irons out any earlier ‘issues’ but reveals there is still plenty more to be discovered and tapped within the band in the future.

Since forming in 2011 and alongside their previous releases, the Baltimore quintet has similarly drawn acclaim with their live presence, playing alongside the likes of Periphery, Impending Doom, and Becoming the Archetype as well as making highly praised appearances on the 2011 Thrash and Burn tour with bands such as Winds of Plague and playing the main stage at Scream the Prayer Tour a year later. Now Void of Kings unleashes their most potent and broadest temptation yet with Stand Against The Storm. Recorded with Will Beasley (Emarosa, Handguns) at Salad Days Studio (Darkest Hour, Senses Fail, Sky Eats Airplane, Converge, Thrice), the album is a statement of intent and alarm call to the world of the inescapable venom swinging, imagination driven storm that is Void of Kings.

The first breath of opener Crossing the Acheron is a thick expulsion of pungent riffs and imposing rhythms bound in a sonic spicing which has ears and appetite immediately and seriously interested. This bait only increases as the rich scowls of vocalist Brian Behm roar and rage whilst the abrasing and enticing craft of guitarists Grant Rizzi and Dan Maloney add their weight to the persuasion. One of the comments we had about the band’s previous EP was the strong and enjoyable but unadventurous vocal presentation which is swiftly left in the past as Behm explores a varied and thrilling diversity across song and album. His antagonistic incitement is a constantly enthralling twisting of tenacity and imposing narrative whilst the clean vocals of Richards equally light up the thrillingly unpredictable brute of a song.

The stunning start is continued with Wounds, another going for the jugular from its first second with tendrils of sonic tenacity courting the dramatic punches of drummer Jake Livingston and 1911882_983788448302453_5892065009981890503_nthe bass predation of Nick Richard. More vicious and intensive than its predecessor, the song stomps across and stalks the senses with a ravenous rabidity and riveting invention, raising another spring of hunger in the appetite which both Scars and Pathways feed with ease. The first of the pair has an almost serpentine edge to its vocals and melodic toxicity but equally a thunderous and at times lumbering intensity which adds to a beauty and the beast contrasting presence. Again the spread of vocal enterprise is exciting whilst the rhythmic and melodic invention has the passions licking their lips in satisfaction and the anticipation of more, straight away provided by the song’s rapacious successor. There is a hunger and instinctive savagery to Pathways which engrosses as potently as the technical and sonic prowess skirting the anthemic roar of the encounter thrills.

Though neither The Darkest Place and the slightly over long H.O.P.E. quite live up to the peaks before them, each provides creative adventures which add easy to devour intrigue and flavour to the album, especially the latter of the two with its delicious gentle opening weave of evocative melodies and mellow emotive vocals. Lined against a brooding bassline from Richard, it is a richly tantalising entrance which fascinates as it evolves into a torrent of thrash spiced riffery within fierce sonic flaming. The song is a perpetual lure but just lacks the final spark to be the pinnacle it could have been, though to be fair it only impresses more and unveils greater depths with every listen, much as the album.

The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress looms over the listener next within the artillery of testing rhythms and caustic riffery ridden by the eventful vocal scourging of Behm. A hardcore spicing adds extra character to the drama and lure of the transfixing incitement before it makes way for the mightily bracing and anthemically challenging Conviction, which in turn departs for the outstanding Foreverwar to unveil its triumph. The band’s current single, it is a web of bass tenacity, vivaciously swung beats, and vocal raging within which guitars and clean tones flirt with mouth-watering designs.

Stand Against the Storm is completed by firstly the dark and heavy suasion of Surrender (Bleach the Flag) and lastly the toxic furnace of Serotinous Seed, both tracks exacting and compelling offerings reasserting the strength of the album and the new creative stature of Void of Kings. It may have come in the final weeks of the year but Stand Against the Storm has staked its claim as certainly one of our favourite metal offerings this year and right there on the front line of the best unleashed. More importantly it declares Void of Kings as ready to steal the passions of the world, a theft it is hard to see the band not pulling off.

Stand Against The Storm is available now on CD from http://voidofkings.bigcartel.com/ and digitally @ https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/stand-against-the-storm/id947137489


RingMaster 23/12/2014

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Allegaeon: Formshifter

Formshifter the new album from Colorado melodic death metallers Allegaeon is just one of those beasts that you can only be impressed by no matter which metallic flavour lines your heart most. It is quite simply a masterpiece of defence splitting aggression, mesmeric technical prowess, and blistering scorched melodies, that is not to mention the deeply manipulative grooves and tumultuous numbing riffage which drives each and every track. The album is immense, a ruthless incursion of ear and heart which leaves one in no doubt they have just experienced the mightiest and most invigorating storm.

    Formshifter is the follow up to 2010 debut album Fragments of Form and Function, an album that put them on the metal map with force. Formed in 2008 by founding member and guitarist Ryan Glisan and soon completed with the addition of classically trained guitarist Greg Burgess, vocalist Ezra Haynes, and bassist Corey Archuleta, Allegaeon (pronounced: uh-lee-juhn) drew attention with their four tracked self-titled EP of the same year. 2009 saw them sign with Metal Blade Records and the eventual release of their critically acclaimed first album the year after. Following up such an impressive introduction to the wider world is always testing but they make it look easy as they return with an album that puts even that mighty debut in the shade.

Recorded at Lambesis Studios with Daniel Castleman (As I Lay Dying, Impending Doom, Carnifex, Winds of Plague), Formshifter splatters the senses against the cranium from the start with not only brutal intensity and insatiable grooves but also from the sheer class of their melodic invention. It never leaves one alone for a moment persistently barracking, provoking and captivating. It retains the core sound that made its predecessor so dominant but brings a fuller depth and uses a wider palate to create with. The band adds in multi sourced flavours to their melodic death metal spine without diminishing the tight powerful structure and strengths that make them Allegaeon; in fact they have simply just made them even more formidable.

The opening melodic beckoning of first song Behold (God I Am) sets one up majestically for the soon to follow wall of destructive intensity, and riffs that cripple the senses within seconds. It is a rampant muscular assault that leaves no avenue twisted and escape route blocked with its mountainous intensity. With solos which leave flesh as cinders the track is a stunning start to the album and yet not even close to be the best track on the album.

The following Tartessos: The Hidden Xenocryst explores inner corners you did not know existed as its grooves search out every shadow for the stunning guitar invention to glow within. Not one for over blown guitar play or constant solos it is still impossible not to be blown away from the imaginative and glorious creations from Glisan and Burgess, the latter one of the finest guitarists around and with the discipline and skill to stay well away from indulgence.  Throughout the vocals of Haynes growl and crawl all over the emotions with authority, emotion and venomous spite veining every track with a harsh intensity.

Every song on the album is a ravenous predator upon the ear mauling with titanic riffs and melodic ingenuity that lights every pore. The likes of the unrelenting bruising Iconic Images, the viciously clawed The Azrael Trigger a track which twists and torments the senses until you have no idea what day it is, and the infection spewing From The Stars Death Came, all leave one a breathless husk as they devour every synapse and feeling.  It is with Twelve – Vals For The Legions though that the band ignites the most ravenous fire within.  It immediately consumes with a groove which tantalises and excites whilst wrapping it in a fury of rhythms and riffs to bring any stiff kneed recipient to the floor. Contagious and intimidating the song prowls the ear as the guitars eagerly offer a mesmeric sonic intrusion with a final captivation coming from the brief Latin classical guitar insertions which invite nothing but the deepest affection. As the track drops its final colossal note it transforms into a wonderful guitar instrumental, the classical heart and skill of Burgess irresistible, and though the piece feels unrelated to the song it aligns itself to it is a deeply satisfying moment on the album to match the song itself.

Formshifter is immense and Allegaeon a metal giant, the album is the proof so now is the time to go and be impressed.

RingMaster 16/05/2012

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Winds Of Plague – Against The World

Metal, deathcore, hardcore, death metal, L.A. Wind Of Plague court them all making exact labelling of the band’s sound impossible. Such difficulty is a sign of a band that is always thinking and looking for new ideas or random, often both as in the case of Wind Of Plague and their new album Against The World. On the album there is an eagerness to stretch and expand their music with often surprising and intriguing ideas and directions which for the main work impressively well. There is as expected still the power, defiance and in the face aggression that previous releases have gained acclaim for in abundance.

Against The World brings simple and devastating attacks flavoured and enhanced with some inspired keys from newest member Alana Potocnik, her skills obvious throughout, and the album is a riveting amalgam of sounds underneath the Wind Of Plague canopy of power. About the album vocalist Johnny Plague  has commented “We set out with producer Matt Hyde to raise the bar for Winds Of Plague both as a band and as musicians. We put a lot of our writing focus into the energy and the structure of the songs and everything else just seemed to fall into place naturally. We really just wanted to create a fun but heavy album. We still topped every song off with over the top epic orchestral arrangements, but we brought back the more hardcore, live show elements from ‘Decimate The Weak’. Unlike the previous release this record is not a concept album, which gave me freedom as a writer. Both fans of ‘Decimate The Weak’ and ‘The Great Stone War’ will be pleased for we haven’t altered the formula or strayed from our roots, but injected them with rage and fury. This record is beautiful, ignorant and heavy.”  

The album starts off with one of the best beginnings on any album this year so far. ‘Raise The Dead’ is a cinematic and atmospheric track that is long enough to be more than a mere intro though it sets up the tone and leads wonderfully straight into ‘One For The Butcher’. The haunting keys and disturbing child chants from the opener reappear in this second track, making a death/black metal flavour at its best creating not only good sounds but emotional  responses too.

Drop The Match’ and ‘Built for War’ step up next screaming at and bludgeoning the ear with a hardcore/ deathcore middle finger up assault. On the first the keys play elegantly behind the storming intense drum attack from Art Cruz and the pillaging throbbing bass of Andrew Glover. Vocally Plague delivers his growls and force with venom, as always you know what you will get with his vocals but they never from become stale at the same time. The second of the two songs rides in on some fine teasing symphonic keys whilst the metal urgency and direct strikes from the guitars of Nick Piunno and Nick Eash come striding through. There were moments  on the track that brought bands like Mudvayne and Children of Bodom  to mind all distilled in a neat blend of vintage Biohazard and Hatebreed.  ‘Built for War’ does feature gust vocals from Jamey Jasta so a clue maybe as to one of the spices to it.

 Jasta is one of a few guests on Against The World, which include Martin Stewart (Terror) and John Mishima (ex Blood Runs Black) on ‘California’, and also Mattie Montgomery (For Today) and Drew York (Stray From The Path) elsewhere. Also notable is the appearance of wrestling legend Ultimate Warrior on the brief ‘The Warrior Code’. Musically the Japanese sounding keys are great but overall with the vocal spoken narrative  from the wrestling icon it is debateable if it works and really was just a moment of self pleasuring by the band. Good to see the ring rope shaker is still alive at least.

Tracks such as ‘Refined In The Fire’, ‘Most Hated’, and California’ all satisfy immensely and the blend of hardcore devastating ferocity and flowing melodic keyboard pleasure from Potocnik make the album intently pleasurable and very repeatable. No, Winds Of Plague will not set new trends for others and lyrically they do not exactly write words to be devoured eagerly by scholars in decades to come, but they are what they are. A strong and powerful band that eagerly fills your ears and hearts with greats sounds.


RingMaster 25/07/2011

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