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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Review: Bloodbath -The Arrow of Satan is Drawn

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Label: Peaceville Records

Can I confess something that, to some, will sound like a blasphemy? I’ve not really cared for Bloodbath before now. I’m not exactly sure why. I mean, I like death metal. I like Swedish death metal. I like Swedish death metal that recreates the glories of old, and seeks to do little beyond that. So, in theory, Bloodbath should be one of my favourite bands. And yet, before now, I’ve only ever reacted to them with a shrug. So, that context should be kept in mind when I talk about how excited listening to The Arrow of Satan is Drawn got me. It doesn’t do anything too different from previous Bloodbath albums; and yet, it felt as revelatory as hearing Left Hand Path or Like an Ever Flowing Stream did all those years ago. Can I work out why? Not really. But, when the results are this enjoyable, do I care? Not especially.

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Review: Violation Wound – With Man In Charge

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Label: Peaceville Records

Violation Wound are more punk than you. The three-piece, led by Autopsy’s Chris Reifert, were born from a desire to create beer-soaked, utterly unfashionable underground punk rock; and they completely deliver. With Man in Charge sees the band continue their impressive rate of recordings (at least an album or split every year since 2014, thus far), and unleashes 20 songs of take-no-prisoners, crude as fuck punk rock that sounds like it could have been a long-lost 80’s recording (other than the fact that it actually has a decent production, that is). Clocking in at 34 minutes, this is over in a flash, leaving you bruised, bloody, and having had a hell of a time.

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Album of the Day: Darkthrone – A Blaze in the Northern Sky

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Label: Peaceville Records

Released 26 years and a day ago, A Blaze in the Northern Sky is a pivotal album for Darkthrone, and black metal as a whole. It saw the band shed their death metal skin, evolving (or regressing, depending on your point of view) in to the black metal beast that made them their name. Even now, A Blaze… stands up as an incredibly strong album, with its long, captivating songs, and aura of raw cold; but there’s also something more, a feeling of hatred and isolation that few albums have matched since.

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Album of the Day: My Dying Bride – Turn Loose the Swans

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Label: Peaceville Records

I know it wasn’t that long ago that I named an album by My Dying Bride as an album of the day, but that I do so again so quickly should say a lot about how highly I regard this band, and this album. Turn Loose the Swans is an album of infinite sorrow and grace, its sense of drama matched only by the quality of the music contained within. Grandiose to the point of self-parody, it succeeds simply because the songs themselves are so good, and played with such conviction, that to protest about the album’s weaknesses is to miss the point of it completely.

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Album of the Day: My Dying Bride – Feel The Misery

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Label: Peaceville Records

As time goes by, bands will inevitably have highs and lows; and as bands go on for ten, twenty, thirty years, there will be peaks and troughs of quality – no one stays brilliant forever, if they reach such heights at all. My Dying Bride have never released a thoroughly bad album (we’re excluding the experimental Evinta from this judgement), yet their considerable discography contains variable quality. The highs are among the best of the genre, with Turn Loose The Swans and The Dreadful Hours being genre-defining records. Feel The Misery, their latest album from 2015, is another one of My Dying Bride’s high-points, and as good as summation of their sound as any.

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Album of the Day: Autopsy – Mental Funeral

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Label: Peaceville Records

For a long time, Mental Funeral was the only Autopsy album I had heard. Whilst that might seem a borderline blasphemous statement to some, take a step back and consider just how good this album is. When an album is this close to being perfect, there’s always the worry that other releases wouldn’t stand up in comparison, and as a result somehow spoil them. To some extent, it’s a needless worry – Autopsy have never released an out-and-out bad album – but at the same time, I don’t think anything they do will ever compare to Mental Funeral for me.

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