Review: Arête – Hymnal

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Label: The Fear and The Void Recordings

Whilst metal, as a genre,  may largely be thought of in terms of aggression, volume, and speed (doom excepted), the genre also has vast scope for music that is atmospheric and captivating. This is, in itself, no great surprise (as the existence of atmospheric black metal proves, arguably the most popular black metal sub-genre of our times). Yet sometimes, an album can come along that blindsides you with just how masterfully it wields those aspects, conjuring up a dreamscape from a foundation of blasts and tremolo-picking riffs. The debut demo from Arête (who contain members of bands such as Twilight Fauna, Slaves BC, and Evergreen Refuge) impressed me just over two years ago, and I’ve been eagerly awaiting release of Hymnal, their first full-length. Adding traditional folk elements to the core atmospheric black metal sound, theirs is music of belonging; of searching for a place to call your own; ultimately, of home.

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Review: Roadkiller – Roadkiller (self-titled)

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Label: Self-released

Hey, you. Do you like metal? Do you like riffs that make you want to drive fast, raise hell, and fight cops? Do you like vocals layered in attitude, that won’t stand for any bullshit? Do you like songs that have the ass-kicking power of a demonic skeleton riding down a bunch of other, less awesome skeletons? Then the self-titled EP by Roadkiller is for you. Containing five tracks of no-nonsense, take-no-prisoners speed metal, full of punk energy, snarling attitude, and a hell of a lot of fun.

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Review: Mamaleek – Out of Time

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Label: The Flenser

The promo for Out of Time, the new album from Mamaleek, describes the duo as “black metal weirdos”. It feels like a fair description; but also, on the evidence presented here, like a fairly tenuous one. That’s not intended as any kind of slight; rather, as anyone who has previously listened to the band will know, Mamaleek make the kind of music that isn’t so much difficult to categorise, as it defies genre almost completely. Out of Time, at various points made me think of funk; later-day David Bowie; art rock; Swans; dark jazz and, yes, avant garde metal. And yet, it always feels coherent, moving with singular purpose and direction, and far easier to lose yourself in than such a combination of styles might suggest. But more than that, it is an album with an unusual sense of character and humanity; most extreme music can feel like it is putting up a barrier between performer and audience, but this? This album wants to invite you in to share its pain.

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Review: Hierophant – Spawned Abortions

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Label: Unholy Anarchy Records

Italian trio Hierophant have had an interesting journey to bring them to where they are today. Initially starting life as a cross between hardcore, black metal, and sludge, their first records were released by hardcore stalwarts Demons Run Amok and Bridge Nine Records. 2016 saw the jump to the arguably more fitting Season of Mist though, and a subtle shift in sound – their approach to sonic devastation become less hardcore, more grind. New EP Spawned Abortions carries on in that style, being a short, yet undeniably vicious slice of black/death/grind, that takes no prisoners.

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Review: Atrament – Scum Sect

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Label: Sentient Ruin Laboratories

Atrament‘s previous album, Eternal Downfall, was a conscise blast of blackened crust, ticking all the right boxes without ever risking over-staying its welcome. The follow-up album, Scum Sect, largely picks up where that one left off; which is to say, it’s a barbaric onslaught of violence and filth, with D-beat rhythms providing the backdrop for riffs that are heavy in decay and danger. Given that Atrament contains members of bands such as Vastum, Necrot, and Abstracter, odds are you’ll come to Scum Sect with high expectations; and it’s safe to say that the album meets them.

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Review: Jo Quail – Exsolve

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Label: Self-released

Fans of Jo Quail‘s previous records might find Exsolve to be a bit of a surprise. The cellist and composer has come to the attention of metal fans in recent years, touring with the likes of Amenra, Boris, and Winterfylleth, as well as appearing at festivals such as ArcTanGent. This is despite (or perhaps because of) her sound, up until this point, taking an innovative approach to the cello, resulting in compositions that have as much in common with drone and post-metal as they do modern classical. So, it is perhaps little surprise that Exsolve sees Quail team up with guests including Dan Capp (Winterfylleth), and Nik Sampson (Devilment, Prolapse A.D.). The result is an album that occupies a unique position in Jo Quail’s discography, being one of her most accessible, but also one where her distinctive musical identity is sometimes overshadows by her collaborators.

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Review: Cancer – Shadow Gripped

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Label: Peaceville Records

It’s an old tale: classic band splits. Classic band re-forms a few years later. Classic band releases new material. Classic band releases an absolute clanger of a record. Classic band splits, and we all collectively agree to never talk of said disaster of an album ever again. Classic band splits for the second time. Such was the case with Cancer, the UK’s death metal veterans who released some undeniable classics in the form of To the Gory End and Dead Shall Rise. They also released the horrid Spirit in Flames – but we won’t talk about that. Instead, we’ll focus on the fact that Cancer have reformed again, and have a new album, in the form of Shadow Gripped. And, other than the artwork, it’s an utter triumph. It’s the sound of a band who have learnt from past mistakes, and come back with something that can sit comfortably alongside their old classics. This is no-nonsense UK death metal, as vicious as ever, and it’s just what you want from Cancer.

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