Reviews roundup ~ Sombria ~ Communic ~ Legion ~ Bubba Ho-Tep ~ Motion Device
Oooh! A new goth metal band. Haven’t had a decent one of them in ages.
And this, much to my surprise, is a decent one. I say surprise because there is a tendency for bands of that ilk to be lacking in individuality. But this certainly has a life of its own.
The brainchild of singer Valentina Devin and guitarist ’Raven Seven (I’m guessing they’re probably not their real names unless their parents were called Morticia and Gomez) both of whom have form in previous bands, this debut sees them augmented by sessions musicians Lucien Keir on guitar, Saber Thorn on bass and Winter Cain on drums. Which means they span the globe with contributors from Norway, Greece and Mexico. The joys of the internet.
They’ve certainly got the dense, dark atmospherics down as this record really does weigh you down. The second time I listened it was headphones after dark and I could barely sit up afterwards. But that’s actually a good thing as you’re feeling the import of the music. Well when you give your record a title like that you’ve got to have some gravitas behind it. A chirograph being a medieval document that came to mean a Papal Bull. And Dei. Well you should all know that. I went to chapel enough times as a boy when they still did the High mass.
Back on the record and there is a fair swathe of doom metal in the grooves as well with some impressive riffs over which the vocals are allowed to roam. Personally I liked it best when things got really, really bleak as opposed to just really bleak. Hand me a bottle of malt and whap on ‘Sarcophagus of Roses’ or ‘Ballet of Sadness’ and I’ll show you what a depressive looks like. The arrangements are quite delicious and the orchestrated backgrounds are really impressive. Throw in some choral vocal sounds and a feeling of oppression and you’re getting everything that this type of music should give.
The aforementioned ballad, ‘Ballet of Sadness’ really is a thing of beauty. The vocals are allowed to shine over a delicate keyboard backing while the almost Gregorian chorals send chills down the spine. The songs tend to be fairly lengthy but, for once, I’m glad they allowed the music to slowly develop, enveloping you in its wintry splendour. It’s the kind of thing you wished existed on vinyl but do yourself a favour and get downloading now.
Hiding From The World
I’m always surprised that Communic aren’t bigger in the world of prog metal. I mean, they must be doing OK as this is, what, their sixth album in fifteen years and they are signed to AFM. But, somehow,, they’re not a name that springs to mind when you’re scanning the shelves for a prog metal mix.
“Hiding From The World” is the latest from the Norwegian trio of Oddleif Stensland—vocals and guitars, Erik Mortensen—bass and Tor Atle Andersen—drums, and anyone who’s enjoyed their previous releases are going to find their Communic craving sated by this one. As before they mix up their prog metal with plenty of other metal influences with some thrashy guitar work and the odd power metal riff popping in. But basically it’s the sound of a band who listened to Fates Warning and Nevermore in their youth and thought that’s for me!
Granted, they can be hard work at times as the songs are always incredibly complex and there is the odd moment where I’m hoping for a breather. But when they get it right then they’re really good. ‘My Temple Of Pride’ was probably my favourite as they managed to balance the complexity of the music with some really good melodies while the drums set about destroying the world. It’s a cracker, so it is. ‘Born Without A Heart’ is another gem which starts off slowly and develops into a brooding monstrous beast of a track. They even manage to find room for some blast beats on ‘Face In The Crowd’ so a lot of bases are covered.
The vocals of Oddleif Stensland never fail to impress and this is no exception. Again, I’m often surprised that he doesn’t get more praise in the prog metal world. They cover a lot of ground on this album and fans of the genre who’ve bypassed them should really give them a chance.
OK. Let’s address the elephant in the room. No beating about the bush. Straight tae the point. Nae messing aroond. That’s a shocker of an album cover. Makes you think you’re going to be getting some sub Blackmores’s Night hey nonny aerie faerie nonsense.
Instead it conceals the eleventyteenth Legion album which when squared equates to the total number of Phil Vincent albums, of which this is one. Actually, I think it’s number 9.
Yes, dear reader, this is another record from Phil Vincent (solo, Cranston, D’Ercole and Tragik) alongside bassist Gavin Cooper, guitarist Vince O’Regan and keyboardist Irvin Parratt who once served as Magnum vocalist Bob Catleys solo band along with drummer Andy Pierce. Legion takes a slightly more muscular approach to his music as it tinkers around the edges of melodic metal. Which means the ever impressive Vince O’Regan gets to widdle his wotsit to great effect. In fact the riffs here are absolutely splendid.
Vincent, as always, does a great job on vocals and some of the songs here are among his best. ‘Run’ was the first one to catch hold with some fiery guitar work but he never forgets about melodies which is where the likes of ‘Reach For The Sky’ and ‘Die Young’ kick in. The harder songs such as ‘Tramp Stamp’ (tsk) almost topple over into full blown metal but there isn’t a single song here you wouldn’t welcome into your home. Considering how records are made nowadays it sounds remarkably cohesive so a gig hand for the mixing job. Another excellent release.
The Space Between
If you’ve come here looking for Egyptian inspired Crescent type death metal then you’re in the wrong place.
For Bubba Ho-Tep is a five man rock band from Berlin in Germany who named themselves after the dodgy yet amusing B-movie with Ash from the Evil Dead. And what they’re purveying is quite a groovy stoner meets desert rock kind of thing.
They put out a live debut a couple of years back but this EP / mini album is their studio debut and it’s really rather good. The opening ‘V.O.T.A’ (nope, me neither) rocks like an utter bastard while the ‘Pity Pity’ is a sprightly and melodic tune that would have sat happily on a latter day QOTSA record. The majority of the tunes follow that template and there always seems to be a hook to keep you going. Eric Michaelis has a warm and inviting voice which holds the attention while the guitars spend most of their time supporting the song rather than playing at show off.
They’ve been playing the German club for a few years and it certainly sounds like a band who know each other. The opening ‘V.O.T.A’ and the closing ‘Howling With The Wolves’ work best for me as that’s where they seem to tinker at the edges of their sound the most. QOTSA fans whose lives have been on hold since “Lullabies to Paralyze” should check it out.
Are they grown ups yet? It’s hard to tell because it wasn’t that long ago that singer Sara Menoudakis was performing ‘War Pigs’ on YouTube when she was 10 years old. But that was a whole eight years ago so she’s practically a veteran.
Even more so when you consider the family band are now on to their fourth album. That’s Sara Menoudakis on vocals, Josh Marrocco on guitar, along with Andrea Menoudakis on bass/keys and David Menoudakis on drums. Their debut release was in 2014 and this, as the name suggests, is their fourth album. And what you’re getting is a mix of prog and goth metal. With some modern metal influences as befits a band young enough to be my granchildren.
But I’m not going to bang on about their youth because it makes no difference to the music. Which is, generally, very good. The guitars seem to veer between prog metal and Sabbathy doom so that’s a definite plus point. If you’re looking for the latter then ‘Warped’ is a good starting point. If you’re looking for something a bit more modern then try ‘Unmonsterme’ and if you’re wanting a power ballad then go to ‘Here4You’. I quite liked it when they go a bit arty meets goth pop so really liked ‘No Control’. There is absolutely no doubt that the band are really strong musicians and that Sara Menoudakis can sing.
It was self produced and recorded in their home studio but they’ve done a bang up job on it. Granted, by the time the song count hit double figures my attention started to flag slilghtly. Take away the brief intro and there are fifteen tracks here. Which is a double album in old money and they’re not that guid!
But some judicious sequencing sees a band well worth hearing.
St Columba’s Hospice Tribute Fund for Linda Hamilton