Reviews roundup – Metalite ~ Nathan Hall & the Sinister Locals ~ Vhäldemar ~ Heart By Darkness ~ Dutch Schultz
Fancy some melodic metal with some power metal riffs and eighties influenced synths? Well then, you’ve probably already met Metalite.
They’re gearing up to release their third album in 2021 and have punted out a single to give you a taster of what is to come. Newish singer Erica Ohlsson has got her feet well under the table after her debut with the band and seems very comfortable in the role. I vaguely recall founder Edwin Premberg saying that he wanted a poppy rock sound to the vocals rather than the well established metal operatic style so prevalent and he’s certainly found someone who can do that.
Are they changing the world or doing anything radical? No. But if you like a blend of modern and power metal with memorable riffs then Metalite can certainly sort you out. Their one twist is a good one and that’s the keyboard sound which is very eighties synth pop. I’ve always assumed it’s Mr Premberg who is responsible for these as the credits are a bit shy and they don’t have an actual keyboard player. But whoever it is has done a bang up job. They layers of sound really mesh well together and ‘Peacekeepers’ is another catchy and melodic tune to add to their catalogue. The B-side, ‘Riders Of The Storm’ is lifted from their previous album “Biomechanicals” and shows they’re not shy of going a wee bit symphonic.
As a lure into the new album, ‘Peacekeepers’ does what it needs to.
NATHAN HALL & the SINISTER LOCALS
On The Blink
In case you were wondering who Nathan Hall is, well he’s the frontman of well regarded psychedelic band the Soft Hearted Scientists. They’ve put out a bazillion releases of wizardly Welsh wibblings over the years and in his solo capacity Mr Hall is catching up fast.
It’s a double album (in old money) with 22 songs although a few of those are brief musical interludes. Even then most of the songs hover between 3 and 4 minutes as he presents a series of songs which would have fitted nicely on a set of 7″ singles back in the day. To be honest it’s not a million miles away from his day job so anyone who enjoys the SHS will find themselves very much at home here. It’s very sixties influenced with a smattering of Canterbury, pre disco Bee Gees and sunshine pop. And it’s really good. Especially if you’re interested in bees, highwaymen, elephants (of the orange variety), nature, murmurings, drone, sleeplessness and more.
A proper solo album, this was put together in three weeks as his next planned release was put on hold to the madness of the modern world. At times it’s very whimsical although there are moments of sadness woven in hither and thither. It’s definitely the kind of record you want so sit down and listen to as a whole. Preferably through headphones. Having said that I was particularly taken with ‘Serpent On The Path’, ‘Stand And Deliver’ and ‘The Signs’.
I always sigh when folk reckon things like this aren’t mainstream. Yes, it’s not tinny pop designed to be heard through a phone in the back seat of the bus. But it’s dripping with melody and deserves a much bigger audience.
Straight To Hell
I’m not getting back in the bus until you say we’re Heavy Metal. That’s not a sentence you’ll hear from any of the members of Vhäldemar who are very Heavy Metal.
Power metal is their thing and the Spanish band have been banging out tunes since 1999 with this “Straight To Hell” release being their sixth full length release. They like songs about wizards, battles and Heavy Metal. Which is always fun although I’m still thinking about consulting my lawyers over the cover art which seems to have used a picture of me without my consent.
Vocalist Carlos Escudero has a voice that is perfect for this kind of music. He’s brutal yet melodic which is quite a tricky thing to pull off. Add in some raging riffs on tunes like ‘Death To The Wizard’ and the Manowar like title track and there is plenty hear to sate the most battle hardened power metal veteran. They vary the pace a bit on ‘When It’s All Over’, one of the best songs here, which is a weary tale of a warrior waiting for his end of days.. I’m guessing that guitarist Pedro J. Monge is a Ross the Boss fan from way back. But in a good way, not a rip-off way.
There is some great shredding, chanted choruses and enough windmill moments to keep a Wacken stage entertained in the afternoon. I can only assume that there location is why they’re not better known as, based on this. they’re more than capable of climbing a few divisions in the world of power metal.
HEART BY DARKNESS
Love’s Evolution Theory
That threw me for a moment. See, the sole member of Heart By Darkness is a chap called Ivan de la Pena. Who used to play football for Barcelona. Except, judging by the full head of hair this Ivan has it’s not the former Barca player.
Turns out this one has been beavering away in an assortment of bands over the last couple of decades but decided that it was time to release a solo project largely influenced by his teenage love for the Finns of His Infernal Majesty. H.I.M. to you and me. He loved the voice of Ville Valo and certainly seems to have modelled his vocal style on that. He also freely confesses to being a fan of Muse so when he goes into a higher register you know who he sounds like.
Musically, it’s all over the place. But in a good way. He certainly seems to have no truck with musical conventions as he can go from the melancholic goth of H.I.M. to out and out shred within the space of a dew bars. He’s also got a few eighties synth soundtracks tucked away in his collection somewhere as every now and then you’ll hear a tinkling that sparks a memory deep down. ‘Don’t Fear’ is probably the song that will appeal to Muse fans the most while the ballad ‘Let Me’ manages to mix despair and elation into the one song. The guitar work on that is ridiculously good.
He plays all the instruments here and for once the programmed drums don’t stick out like a sore thumb as the music actually welcomes a slight industrial influence. ‘A Hundred Million Years’ would have been a huge pop hit in 1983 as he channels an early Vince Clarke meets Japan vibe. It’s great.
This is one of those records you’re going to look back on and curse everyone who didn’t give it a chance. Fools.
Friends Like Brutus
It’s eight years since Dutch Schultz released a record. That’s the Belfast band as opposed to the long dead gangster.
Seems the delay was down to guitarist / vocalist Willy Mundell having spent time playing the drums in Haunch alongside Therapy? bassist Michael McKeegan. But he’s got the band back together for a third album as an expanded four piece alongside drummer Kevin Quinn, guitarist Ryan “Snoop” O’Neill and bassist John McHugh. And what you’re getting is some nineties styled indie noise. You know. Helmet. That sort of thing.
So lots of spiky guitars, shouty choruses, bits of Headswim. They’re at their best when they mix all that up with a good melody which happens more often than you’d think. Try ‘Start Me,’ ‘Brutus’, ‘Ride Along The Jackal’ or ‘Men With Hammers’ and you might be quite surprised. At times you can hear a swirl of noise boiling away in the background which sounds huge. But then producer Russ Russell has worked with the likes of Dimmu Borgir, The Wildhearts, New Model Army and legions of others so knows his way round a desk. I’m not sure if nineties indie noise is back in fashion again. But if retro Jesus Lizard sounds like your thing you won’t be disappointed.
St Columba’s Hospice Tribute Fund for Linda Hamilton