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Album Review: TBA

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Feature: Johnskibeat's Best 20 Albums Of 2013

john skibeat

2013 has seen large growths in the, quite frankly, already sweaty regions of punk n’ roll, progressive metal and retro blues rock. Naturally, this has made me a very jolly fellow. You might be able to spot a few of the more impressive additions in my all-singing, all-dancing end of year list. Happy xmas to one and all!

20. Iron Tongue – The Dogs Have Barked, The Birds Have Flown

Iron Tongue roughly feed their country affectations and hefty, blues-tinged rock through the chomping maw of old school doom metal to inspire Steve Von Till to comment that The Dogs Have Barked has… “a power and an edge and soul that rarely exists in music today”. [Review Here]

19. Gorguts – Colored Sands

Those 12 years of waiting between albums were worth it. The vast leaps made in production quality mean Gorguts have given us the gift of a powerful and precise shock to the system. Colored Sands is gritty, powerful and effortlessly precise and with songs like the epic title-track tearing us asunder it really is harem-scarem technical death metal of the finest quality. [Review Here]

18. Karnivool – Asymmetry

The essence of their post-rock forbears has always weighed heavy on Karnivool‘s work and, unsurprisingly, their third long-player Asymmetry shows all the same hallmarks. Song by song they draw upon the karmic power of giants like Tool, Deftones and The Mars Volta to grant us the opportunity to gaze upon yet another stunning, colour-streaked soundscape. [Review Here]

17. Motörhead – Aftershock

This album is proof that Motörhead are adapting beautifully to old age. It’s a little flabbier and it has a few more wrinkles, but this still comes with plenty of snarl amidst the laconic blues and gravelly rock n’ roll. Aftershock may not have come from the same dark hole that spawned Overkill or Bastards but it’s right up there with them. [Review Here]

16. Extol – Extol

Construction meets deconstruction as Extol lay waste to our perceptions of what is sonically possible. By turns, scrawling, visceral and beautiful, this magnificent spot of post-everything allows us a glimpse of the endless possibilities when boundaries are shattered beyond repair. [Review Here]

15. The Dillinger Escape Plan – One Of Us Is The Killer

Antagonistic short spurts of bloody hate, this contextually profound lump of chaos is DEP at their most vindictive. Just beware those misleading pop hits – those are there to tempt in the suckers amongst us. How mean. [Review Here]

14. Cult Of Luna – Vertikal

Patience is the key. The stylized emotional flow throughout is spasmodic, yet thought-provoking and utterly engaging. Beware, because when these beasts get their gnarly on, Vertikal‘s neanderthal sludge can become the monster of your nightmares. [Review Here]

13. Deafheaven – Sunbather

The ultimate sonic lightning bolt out of blue, Sunbather smears the visceral guts of black metal onto the blank canvas that is shoegaze. For an hour, they effortlessly fuse their songs together to do nothing less than break our hearts in two. [Review Here]

12. Funeral For A Friend – Conduit

Trimming a little off the sides and adding plenty of honest and committed metalcore power to the melting pot, FFAF give us yet another welcome stepping stone on their path back to glory. [Review Here]

11. Hatebreed – The Divinity Of Purpose

A stunning assertion of dominance designed to incite total mayhem, this hardcore behemoth provides sheer brute force to beat down the doubters. Predictable? Maybe. Empowering? Oh my god, yes. [Review Here]

10. Spirits Of The Dead – Rumours Of A Presence

It was inevitable that after producing such a brilliant debut, SOTD would become one of the finest of the current crop of retro bands. Rumours Of A Presence rams that thought home by worshipping at the twin altars of doom and prog; reinventing their forbear’s artistic touches to fit a thoroughly modern template. [Review Here]

9. Clamfight – I Versus The Glacier

Not just a pretty name, Clamfight‘s latest is one hefty statement of intent. First they ram it home with absolute power. Next, they open it all out into strong, hook-laden tracks and then they take their collective foot off the accelerator. Impressive stuff. [Review Here]

8. Palms – Palms

This ambient-minded supergroup’s debut is littered with moments that remove your capacity for resisting emotion and motion – your heads will nod, your hair will stand on end and your spine will shiver. [Review Here]

7. The Ocean – Pelagial

It is not by chance that you can sense the increasing depth, pressure and diminishing light as you progress through this album. What we have here is a conceptual masterpiece with genius to be found in both its shifting, beguiling, expansive post-metal wash and in those thick, dark brushstrokes that produce such thunder. Performed live, it has transformed The Ocean from an all-too-wieldy wall of screaming sound into an absolute tour-de-force of atmosphere. [Review Here]

6. Dark Buddha Rising – Dakhmandal

Mile-thick chants that sound like they come from the throats of a coven of hooded giants. Know that Dark Buddha Rising’s latest, no matter how gloriously trance-inducing it may seem, is pure evil and as such it should be restricted to small amounts and is definitely for personal consumption only. [Review Here]

5. Pelican – Forever Becoming

pelican forever becoming

Rather than lament guitarist Laurent Schroeder-Lebec’s decision to move on, Pelican have come out fighting and their fresh, beefed-up approach has resulted in a conveyor belt of riffs and wave after wave of warming euphoria to bathe in. Acceptance and absolute absorption in the rhythmic drive is essential; achieve that and you’ll reveal an absolute tour-de-force. [Review Here]

4. Secrets Of The Sky – To Sail Black Waters


Secrets Of The Sky fearlessly dive into their subject matter of death with real abandon and without restriction. By doing so, they treat us to monstrous production and five forms of vocal attack. The combined force of this results in an atmospheric, doomy, subversively black, richly progressive and bollock-janglingly heavy debut that marks these Californians out as real forgotten heroes. [Review Here]

3. Steak Number Eight – The Hutch

Steak Number Eight

Prepare for luminescent flourishes à la Torche, Isis-rich thundering and cherry-picked moments from the entire Baroness’ discography. Prepare for slack-jawed, clean vocals, thick, rotational riffs and dark melodious washes. Then, as malcontent is piled upon upon disillusionment and ‘core edges are sharpened, prepare to acknowledge The Hutch as nothing less than the organic masterpiece that it is. It is SN8′s “coming of age” album; a deal-maker. [Review Here]

2. The Safety Fire – Mouth Of Swords

The Safety Fire - Mouth of Swords

Both soothing and vicious, Mouth Of Swords glows with a fluorescent vitality. The constantly burbling, rise-and-fall guitarwork, the crisp tone and accurate switch-up from ripped invective to soft melody is TSF at their finest. They have developed into a unique, inspirational force and the verve of this album has rightly set the benchmark, not just for them, but for much of their competition. [Review Here]

1. Man The Machetes – Idiokrati


Fast, bombastic, anthemic, groove-riddled and utterly addictive, Man the Machetes’ debut long-player Idiokrati is a behemoth of Norwegian punk n’ roll. From the fire and swagger of opener “Sluk Det Rått”, through the “Slagen” gang chants and short rhythmic pauses for breath to the joyful menace of “Hjemkomst”, these Norwegian’s prove themselves more incisive than Kvelertak and more explosive than Oslo Ess. Their album is the very definition of “grip it and rip it”. [Review Here]

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Further musings on the soundtracks that rocked 2013 can be found here =

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Album Review: Eye Of Solitude – Canto III

The concept of a guided tour around a city centre is, on the face of it, a decent idea. All the better if it’s a night tour of all the area’s more spooky haunts. I’d understand if this one isn’t your bag though – having some pimply pre-pubescent in a bleeding Scream mask jumping out at you can inspire one to violence. How about a guided tour down through the nine circles of hell, though? Yes? In that case, you’ve come to the right place.

It doesn’t take a genius to understand that Dante Alighieri’s 14th-century allegorical epic poem Inferno (the first part of his monster work The Divine Comedy), where his guide Virgil takes him down into the belly of the Earth, has played a hugely influential role in the development of the dark arts both directly and indirectly. It seems such a natural progression, then, for heavy metal bands (Iced Earth, Sepultura, Meshuggah, HIM, etc. ad infinitum) to look upon the visions of Dante as truly inspirational. London’s Eye Of Solitude, with new album Canto III, are the latest to have a crack at providing the ultimate soundtrack to his prose.

Click here to listen whilst you read...

From every angle, their soul-sapping, funereal doom is perfectly suited to the role and, quite honestly, if at some point during its running time you don’t feel overwhelmed then you have a harder heart than my own. I felt overwhelmed just looking at that gorgeous album cover (by Mortal Torment’s own Giannis Nakos) of Charon the ferryman navigating the river Acheron. I mean, just look at the intensity of the colours and the gentle tapering of the misty point where sky meets water.

Naturally attempting to live up to the imagery, one instantly knows the music is not going to be for the faint of heart. Take the lyrics. When they are delivered at little more than a skull-shaking rumble, all frustrating attempts to decipher those words that lurk behind it is going to be an impossible task. However, it does seem safe to assume that somewhere amidst the fear-mongering, the infamous (and much abused) line “Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate” (meaning “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here”) will feature in some form.

So, wind up the volume, sink back and close your eyes and let your imagination run amok. Follow these instructions and you will discover that from the thunder and lightning as the first act “Between Two Worlds” opens, right through to the close of the sixth act as dawn breaks “In The Desert Vast”, Eye Of Solitude have created a gripping, at times bludgeoning and often torturous experience. When the double-kick isn’t letting rip and the infamous soul-sucking roar of lead vocalist Daniel Neagoe isn’t kicking you in the gut, the effective insertion of featherlight segues encourages your mind to wander off and explore the landscape that the music inhabits.

“Where the Descent Began”, for instance, is a track that features a pounding heartbeat effect, echoing footsteps, cries of anguish and a wedge of breathy vocal. There’s also guest spots from Anton Rosa on vocals and Dmitry “Casper” Rishko on violin (both from Russia’s Dominia). “He Who Willingly Suffers” features a gentle piano riff and a faltering spoken vocal, both so restrained and so doused in emotion that they will leave you reeling. “The Pathway Has Been Lost” has sobbing, whilst “I Sat In Silence” is all about Neagoe letting go of his very deepest, bowel-emptying growl.

The critic in me would have preferred a grittier guitar tone on the lead solos (they’re a bit too electro, a bit too synthetic), and an even tougher, meatier bite to the doom with a more intense degree of layering. Also, hearing more of the varying types of torture suffered by the sinners and their vocalised anguish would have ramped the fear up several notches.

Happily, Dante’s Inferno is this year’s current hot topic, thanks to Dan Brown’s latest adventurous novel. That particular release is a timely reminder of just how much frivolous tat on the subject there really is out there. Fear not though, if you are you still a lost soul who fancies getting closer to a taste of what hell is like then, next to the great work itself, Canto III is one of your better options. It is a distressingly cruel, grief-soaked and ultimately tormenting journey that Eye Of Solitude have presented here. You know you have sinned. Now prepare to regret and repent.

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