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Interview: Richard Christy – Charred Walls of the Damned

American metal supergroup Charred Walls of the Damned have recently released their highly anticipated second album Cold Winds on Timeless Days receiving rave reviews across the metal community. Richard Christy (Death, Control Denied, Iced Earth), Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens (Judas Priest, Yngwie Malmsteen), Steve DiGiorgio (Death, Control Denied, Testament) and producer/guitarist Jason Suecof join forces in what is undoubtedly one of metal’s most exciting outfits today.

I caught up with drummer and songwriter Richard Christy and found out more about the band, the making of the new album and also the latest on the highly anticipated second Control Denied album.

 

Daniel Aston: Congratulations on the new album, how did the making of the new record compare with Charred Walls of the Damned’s debut?

Richard Christy: This record was much easier to make and went much smoother, not that we had any trouble with the first album, but with the new album, the demo tapes that I wrote and recorded for the album were much more detailed and complex so once we got into the studio we had a very good idea of how this album was going to sound, which made it much easier to record this new album.


DA: The recording process for the new album was completed very quickly with the drums only taking two days, was that a natural occurrence?

RC: I think that’s because we were all very well rehearsed. I played the 12 songs for the album every day for two months on the drums in my rehearsal room in Queens, New York so by the time I was in the studio I knew the drum parts like the back of my hand. It’s the same thing with Steve, Jason, and Tim too, I sent them the demo recordings for the new album about two months before we started recording and they were very well rehearsed by the time we got into the studio and they knew their parts very well. We were able to get a very raw, live, and tight sound on the album because everyone was so well rehearsed.

DA: You wrote the material on this record to cater to each members’ personal playing style, was that a particular challenge or did it help with the writing process?

RC: It definitely helped, when I was working on the vocal melodies for the demo tapes I would definitely think about Tim’s singing style and put plenty of screams and high parts in there because I know he would sound amazing singing in that style. Same with Steve and Jason, I can’t play guitar or bass anywhere near as good as them but when I wrote the guitar and bass parts for the demos I would tell those guys to improve the parts and make them their own and I knew that on the final album the bass, guitar, and vocal parts would sound amazing once Tim, Steve, and Jason played them.

DA: What was your inspiration behind the lyrical content on this album?

RC: It was many different things that inspired the lyrics for this album. It’s just things that I see every day and things that inspire me enough to write lyrics about them. I’m inspired by a lot of things in New York City where I live, like the song “The Beast Outside My Window” which is inspired by the Queensboro Bridge which I can see out of my bedroom window and every day I see it I’m very inspired because I love living in New York City and I’m very thankful that I live here.

DA: What creative input does the rest of the band bring to the song writing process?

RC: Once we get into the studio to record the album they have a lot of input. I originally write all of the music and lyrics and record everything on our demo tapes, but once we get into the studio I tell Jason, Tim and Steve to put in their ideas and suggest any changes or improvements, so once we get into the studio everyone works together to make the songs amazing.

DA: It is perhaps unusual for a drummer to have such a large role in the music writing within a band, how would you describe your own personal writing process?

RC: I’ve been playing guitar since 1992 so my songwriting usually starts with guitar riffs, although my writing process differs from song to song, like the song “Forever Marching On” which was written around a drum beat that I came up with at drum rehearsal one day. Usually though I start with guitar riffs and then build from there. Even though I’m mainly known as a drummer, I also play guitar, keyboards, and bass so I’m able to write songs.

DA: Is there a song or moment on the record that you’re particularly proud of?

RC: I’m very proud of the whole album but if I had to pick one song it would probably be “Forever Marching On”. I love the drum beats in that song and I’m really proud that it was all written around the drums, and I also really love the middle part where it goes from super technical to straight forward and epic in the middle, the middle part in that song gives me chills.

DA: How did the band form originally?

RC: I had been writing songs for fun from about 2004-2008 and when I realized I had enough songs for an album, I decided to call up Steve, Tim, and Jason and ask them to join a band that I was forming and they were totally into it. At first it was something we were just going to do for fun, record an album of songs that I had written and see how it turns out, but once we got a record deal it became much more serious and I knew this band would be around for a long time.

DA: You’ve worked with some iconic bands in your career, how does this supergroup compare to them? Is there ever a battle of egos within the band?

RC: There are no egos at all in this band, that’s why I chose Steve, Tim, and Jason, because they’re super cool down to earth guys and I knew that we would have a lot of fun in this band and there would be no egos. I’ve been very lucky because out of all of the bands I’ve been in, there have never been any egos in any of the bands I’ve been in.

DA: As individuals you all undoubtedly must have heavy schedules but for you and Steve there is a particular interest from the metal faithful to hear the long awaited second Control Denied album (myself included!). Will you both be going back to that project now this album has been completed and do you know when it is likely to be finished?

RC: Yes we’ve actually been working on finishing this album for a while now. The legal issues were finally cleared up a while back and now we’re working on getting everyone from Control Denied’s schedules and also Jim Morris’ schedule situated so that we can finish the album and hopefully it will be ready for release in early 2012! Chuck’s family is working with Relapse records and we’re all very excited about finally finishing this album so the fans can finally hear it!

DA: Can we expect a tour from Charred Walls of the Damned any time soon?

RC: Yes definitely! We’re speaking with some booking agents now about doing a Charred Walls tour in 2012 and also doing some festival shows. I’m so excited to get out on the road and play all of these new songs, and now that we have two albums worth of material to play so we’ll have plenty of metal to bring the fans in 2012. We should have some show announcements very soon at www.RichardChristy.com and www.MetalBlade.com/cwotd!

DA: What’s next for the band?

RC: We filmed a video for the song Zerospan which we will be releasing very soon and I’m so excited about it! It’s going to be like a 5 minute horror movie and people are going to be blown away by it! We’re also planning on touring next year so I’m really excited about that as well! Thank you so much for interviewing me and for all Charred Walls info you can go to www.RichardChristy.com and www.MetalBlade.com/cwotd! Take Care!

Album Review: Relic – Matt Stevens

Album: Relic

Release: 2011

Artist: Matt Stevens

Label: Spencer Park Music

Track Listing: 1) Nightbus 2) Relic 3) Rusty 4) 20 GOTO 10 5) Rushden Fair 6) Up 7) Scapegoat 8) Sand (Part 2) 9) Frost 10) 30 END

Internet phenomenon Matt Stevens returns with his latest offering Relic only a year after his critically acclaimed Ghost album. His third instalment is an inspirational blend of progressive guitar passages accompanied by drums, bass, strings, glockenspiel and even the occasional Mellotron. Stevens’ solo climb through self-internet promotion via social media sites and an army of enthusiastic bloggers, podcasters and fans is respectable in itself with his music being well worth the effort to promote.

The cheery grandeur of tracks such as Nightbus and Rusty are a delight upon first listen and the musical textures and melodic hooks grow more impressive with each consecutive play. Known for his technical blend of acoustic guitar music, Stevens moulds intriguing song structures with catchy melody lines throughout this release. The swirling time signatures in Up and Scapegoat create an effortless dreamscape crafted by complex rhythmic passages that appear more beautiful that they do awkward.

Despite the many moments of splendour, Relic isn’t as consistent as its predecessor. Whereas 20 GOTO 10 and Rushden Fair fail to muster the same magic found elsewhere, there are welcomed surprises held within this record. Frost is a prime example; a dynamic explosion of distorted guitars and soft soundscapes that marry perfectly within a spiralling seven-eight landscape, providing a much needed boost of energy to the album. 30 END is a pleasant closing number with luscious Mellotron layering that creates yet another wonderful dreamy soundscape whilst Stevens’ lead guitar melodies serenade the listener into a state of bliss. The chaotic white noise at the end is perhaps a little too out of place yet it is just another testimony to Stevens’ open-minded approach to song writing.

So, if you’re in search of a fresh musical journey that will take you through the realms of prog, folk, ambient and post rock then you can’t go wrong with Relic which has proved itself to be one of this year’s most interesting releases.

 

Rating: [8/10]

 

TTT:

1)      Scapegoat

2)      Frost

3)      30 END

 

Reviewed by: Daniel Aston, 19/10/2011

 

Interview: Jon Arch – Arch/Matheos

 

After collaborating once again with former Fates Warning band mate Jim Matheos for the successful Sympathetic Resonance album (Review: http://danielaston.co.uk/album-review-sympathetic-resonance/), I catch up with vocalist Jon Arch and quiz him on the process of creating the album, his time away from music and the future of Arch/Matheos.

 

Daniel Aston: Congratulations on the new album, what was it like getting back into the groove of writing and recording a full-length album after all these years?

Jon Arch: Thank you, one word comes to mind, “daunting” I knew I had a lot of work ahead of me when we started this. Vocally I was at square one and a whole lot older and as far as the creativity, it was a wait and see what happens kind of thing. In a few months time it seemed to be evident that Jim and I were working well together and the music started to take shape.

DA: You worked closely with Jim Matheos on your 2003 solo EP A Twist of Fate, how did the writing for that project differ from the current collaboration?

Arch: Well this full album was a true collaboration between Jim and I like we have worked in the past where Jim presents music to me and through a process I write the melodies and lyrics. ATOF was considered a solo effort because I presented Jim with the Music for Cheyenne and part of Relentless, but in my opinion we both had our creative input on that as well, we just went about it a little differently.

DA: The music that you and Jim have written for Sympathetic Resonance is as impressive as the material from the early Fates Warning days, has anything changed in the way you write songs together and what is the process that you two go through to create lengthy prog epics like Stained Glass Skies?

Arch: Well the beginnings of these songs and the movements that make up the length of a song start with Jim and whatever is inspiring him, and that is done in the privacy of his own thoughts alone. When I write melodies and words it is done in the same way, where there are no distractions, and you can hear your own thoughts. Then when we get together in the studio it’s like a presentation where we get to hear how well or not so well everything meshes together. Usually a little tweaking is all it needs.

DA: Sympathetic Resonance contains performances from musicians that have been a part of Fates Warning at some point or another, what was that like and was it something you planned to do from the start?

Arch: I’m pretty sure before I got involved with this, Bobby and maybe Joey were already working with Jim, as this was originally slated to be a FW record, so actually I was the odd man in this. The guys are all awesome at what they do, and I love all they added to this record.

DA: Your vocal power remains stunning after all these years, did you have to do much work on it before recording?

Arch: You’ll have to trust me when I say that I told Jim if he released any of the early vocal tracks, I would brain him. It took some doing to get into respectable shape, and it’s gonna be lots of work staying there.

DA: What inspires you to write lyrics?

Arch: The music and all its movements get the ball rolling, and with this album the words are of a more real, non-mythological nature, based on a more personal perspective. I have been praised for the honesty and criticized for the self indulgentness, and I couldn’t be happier about that.

DA: Your work with Fates Warning in the eighties has inspired a legion of bands, what’s your opinion on the state of progressive metal today?

Arch: There is no doubt that the technical ability of the musicians in this type of music is unbelievable, almost neurotic at times and can be just what the doctor ordered, but if it is not a cocktail mixed with dynamics and melody it can be tiresome after a while. In an effort to undo insult to injury, there is so much talent out there, much of it still undiscovered.

DA: Who would you name as your main influences in music?

Arch: Well there are so many time periods for me I would break it down as early influences would be, Tull, Grand Funk, Yes, Kansas, UFO, Uriah Heep, Deep purple. Later influences would include, Scorpions, Maiden, Priest, Dio, among many others.

DA: Your return to the music scene is much welcomed by music fans all over the world, why did spend so many years away from it all?

Arch: I was never in a band situation after Fates Warning, and that is the biggest motivator. When you are immersed in something you are passionate about, and you make a living doing it, well there is your motivation. As soon as you step out of that arena, things change quickly and you soon feel like a stranger to something you once knew so well.

DA: Can you give any details on a potential tour for Arch/Matheos?

Arch: Not much to mention at this time, except for one fesival in Germany.

DA: What are your plans for the future, can we expect another Arch/Matheos album?

Arch: After all was said and done, it was lots of work, but we had fun doing it, and the fans made it all worth while… making the way for music in the future.. why not?

 

Album Review – Chickenfoot III (Classic Rock Limited Edition Collector’s Pack) – Chickenfoot

Classic Rock Presents: Chickenfoot III

Album: Chickenfoot III (Classic Rock Limited Edition Collector’s Pack)

Release: 2011

Artist: Chickenfoot

Label: Ear Music

Track Listing: 1) Last Temptation 2) Alright Alright 3) Different Devil 4) Up Next 5) Lighten Up 6) Come Closer 7) Three and a Half Letters 8) Big Foot 9) Dubai Blues 10) Something Going Wrong 11) Down the Drain (Live in Phoenix) 12) Oh Yeah (Live in Phoenix)

The lively supergroup returns with their bizarrely titled second album. The version reviewed here is the Classic Rock Collector’s fan pack which includes two bonus live tracks and a host of exclusive goodies. The bulk of the extra items is the 132-page glossy magazine. Inside you will find lots of interesting articles including in-depth interviews, a track by track guide, details on the new live drummer and features on Satriani and Hagar’s respective solo careers (although disappointingly dodging out the Montrose albums). The presentation is clear and it’s a real delight to behold. A great deal of 3D imagery is used inside the mag and also on the four postcards inside the album packaging with 3D glasses included. The cards also include amusing interviews with the band members and bar codes that allow bonus video content to be accessed when scanned by a smart-phone. The icing on the cake is an official guitar pick pack for all those aspiring Satriani shredders out there.

So far so good, now down to the quality of the album itself. The band have deceivingly dodged the ‘difficult second album’ in name, but thankfully they have also produced a solid album that completes the illusion. This is after all not a strenuous second offering and if anything cements the band’s reputation as a strong creative unit. Egos still tamed, Chickenfoot III is the sound of a band growing musically – not a group of rock gods trying to outplay each other.

Last Temptation is a strong opening number and is as impressive as the material on their debut. The band’s bluesy roots are again in full swing with catchy chorus lines being pumped into every anthem giving this album plenty of replay value. The memorable funky riffs that spawned all over the previous release are present here in numbers such as Up Next and Big Foot. The softer songs are just as strong with the likes of Different Devil and Come Closer showing that the band can do more than just party with Hagar’s vocals being suitably versatile. Three and a Half Letters sees the band produce a fiery and rebellious monster. Tales too familiar of individuals struggling to find work in an unfair world are represented with class and passion accompanied by the explosive musical performances of the band.

Satriani’s guitar solos are as well-crafted and just as tasteful as before. Sure he’s known as a shred master, but his melodic lines in songs such as Alright Alright and Something Going Wrong are both technical and musical to a high standard, showing professional restrain when needed.

The new album is a good listen and is destined to please fans that have already lapped up their debut album and energetic live DVD Get Your Buzz On. Two tracks from that video make up the bonus live tracks in this package. Lengthy versions of Down the Drain and Oh Yeah sound not only as crystal clear as the record production-wise, but they also sound better than the majority of the new material. There are occasional shades of mediocrity in the likes of Lighten Up and Dubai Blues which fail to muster up memorable qualities and the overall feel of the album isn’t quite as great as their first effort. There’s plenty to enjoy here and the extras in the Collector’s Pack make this particular version an essential purchase this year.

 

Rating (Collector’s Pack): [9/10]

Rating (Chickenfoot III):   [7/10]

 

TTT:

1)      Last Temptation

2)      Three and a Half Letters

3)      Come Closer

 

 

Reviewed by: Daniel Aston, 27/09/2011

 

Album Review: A Dramatic Turn of Events – Dream Theater

Album: A Dramatic Turn of Events

Release: 2011

Artist: Dream Theater

Label: Roadrunner

Track Listing: 1) On the Backs of Angels 2) Build Me Up, Break Me Down 3) Lost Not Forgotten 4) This is the Life 5) Bridges in the Sky 6) Outcry 7) Far From Heaven 8) Breaking All Illusions 9) Beneath the Surface

Arguably the most anticipated Dream Theater album in quite some time, A Dramatic Turn of Events is the aptly named product of a shaken band. Co-founder, drummer and songwriter Mike Portnoy infamously departed last year on the back of the group’s most successful album in search of a more metallic venture with Avenged Sevenfold. Once he was surprisingly shown the door from that project he was justifiably denied his place back in Dream Theater and the band (after a long drawn out process) recruited former Extreme and Annihilator powerhouse Mike Mangini. Recent reports that Portnoy is now looking to sue his former band mates is casting yet another shadow over the Dream Theater camp, but if not more so over the ex-drummer himself. For this new album is the result of a band bravely marching on, leaving the past behind and embracing a new future. Perhaps their strong defiant approach has left Portnoy more than just a little bitter.

Eager fans will already know the opener On the Backs of Angels since it was released as an early album teaser. Our first glimpse of the new outfit is most impressive. A technically advanced yet musically enjoyable track, the opener proves to be one of the most satisfying Dream Theater tunes in recent years. Beautiful chiming clean guitars marry with the atmospheric keyboard pads and chugging riffs. Build Me Up, Break Me Down is also a success, presenting brutally heavy memorable riffs and catchy chorus lines.

Lost Not Forgotten sees the band return to the technical exploitation that they’ve become renowned for. The complex sections are perfect opportunities for Mangini to prove his worth, complementing shifting rhythmic patterns with his likeable, if not Portnoy-inspired style. Despite the instrumental virtuosity, the track fails to deliver on the melodic side. At ten minutes in length it falls victim of a tried and tested formula that the band have been milking to death over the last decade. Outcry and Breaking All Illusions contain further examples of this.

Bridges in the Sky is a more inspired musical venture. With an intro that contains Tibetan throat singing, harps, oriental chimes and a choir, the track sets itself up to be nothing short of epic. It doesn’t disappoint with the eleven minutes packing in quality riffs and melodies to make it easily one of the most playable tunes on the record. The inspiration is also found on the tender ballad Far From Heaven. The single-length song contains a believable performance from James LaBrie accompanied by piano and strings. A much more stripped-down song, it proves to be one of the album’s most enjoyable. Beneath the Surface has the same approach, the band proving that they can do just fine without a drummer at all.

If fans had any doubts that Dream Theater would struggle without Portnoy then they can breathe a sigh of relief. A Dramatic Change of Events contains some great material and much promise for where the band may grow with future releases. This is one of their more enjoyable records in recent years and a strong one at that.

 

Rating: [7/10]

 

TTT:

1)      On the Backs of Angels

2)      Far From Heaven

3)      Bridges in the Sky

 

Reviewed by: Daniel Aston, 22/09/2011

Album Review: Heritage – Opeth

File:Opeth-Heritage.jpg

Album: Heritage

Release: 2011

Artist: Opeth

Label: Roadrunner

Track Listing: 1) Heritage 2) The Devil’s Orchard 3) I Feel the Dark 4) Slither 5) Nepenthe 6) Haxprocess 7) Famine 8) The Lines in My Hand 9) Folklore 10) Marrow of the Earth 11)

Here it is, the most controversial Opeth album to date. Fans were warned well in advance that Heritage would be the start of a new musical direction that, daringly, would contain no death growls; the only album to do so since 2003’s Damnation. Whilst Watershed was an aptly named step in a new musical direction that largely favoured soft melodies over brutal death metal, this new release is another world still.

With keyboardist Per Wiberg departing from the band earlier in the year, his replacement Joakim Svalberg opens up the album with the solo piano piece Heritage. The beautiful solo spot conjures up classical and jazz vibes, a little on the short side at two minutes, it’s merely the doorway to the journey ahead. The Devil’s Orchard is a fine representation of the new style. One of the first noticeable changes is that the guitar tones are noticeably fuzzier and less ‘metal’ than before. Martin Axenrot’s drumming also adds an entirely new dimension to the sound. Credit has to be given to his playing here, his technical jazz talent is present throughout the album and the band’s new style has given him space to prove himself a versatile musician. The new sound takes a while to get used to but once the past is left behind there’s no doubting the grandeur of the opening song. Well-structured and melodically rich, The Devil’s Orchard is sure to become a staple in the new live set.

Whilst I Feel the Dark contains the classic Opeth acoustic vibe fans will be accustomed to, there are songs here that unashamedly display Mikael Åkerfeldt’s other musical influences. Slither is indisputably Rainbow. Not only that but it contains a guitar solo that is characteristically Ritchie Blackmore in every way. Their roots are revealed further with Ian Anderson-inspired flute solos in Famine and the pompous prog nature of Folklore reminiscent of 70s Camel. The latter track is the clear album standout and one of Opeth’s finest songs to date. An eight minute exploration that concludes with a spiralling dance-fused section, something not previously associated with the band that works tremendously well here.

Heritage is the beginning of a new chapter for Opeth. It’s worlds apart from their death metal days, a clear progression from Watershed and, if you’re expecting Damnation 2, it’s not that either. Open minded fans will cherish this new venture and it will surely enlighten a new prospective audience. Not everything is perfect and there are a few touches of mediocrity in tracks such as Nepenthe and Marrow of the Earth which show that Opeth have yet to fully master this new musical territory. The metal-heads out there will be disappointed if expecting anything remotely heavy, this is pure revitalised 70s prog rock.

 

Rating: [8/10]

 

TTT:

1)      Folklore

2)      The Devil’s Orchard

3)      Slither

 

Reviewed by: Daniel Aston, 19/09/2011

Album Review: Sympathetic Resonance – Arch/Matheos

Album: SYMPATHETIC RESONANCE

Release: 2011

Artist: Arch/Matheos

Label: Metal Blade

Track Listing: 1) Neurotically Wired 2) Midnight Serenade 3) Stained Glass Sky 4) On the Fence 5) Any Given Day (Strangers Like Me) 6) Incense and Myrrh

It’s been twenty-five years since John Arch last appeared on a full-length album. Since Awaken the Guardian, the former Fates Warning frontman released his solo EP A Twist of Fate in 2003 with help from former band mate Jim Matheos. An impressive return it seemed, yet it was to be another eight years before a full-length record would emerge, and here we are with Sympathetic Resonance. Bringing in further ex-Fates Warning members Joey Vera (Bass) and Frank Aresti (Guitar) almost makes this a version of Fates Warning in itself with Bobby Jarzombek completing the line up on drums.

This is an ambitious and undoubtedly progressive release, containing six solid pieces of music, three of which clock in past the ten minute mark. Neurotically Wired and Midnight Serenade are stunning tracks to open up the album. Arch’s angelic vocals glide sublimely above the voracious technical instrumental passages that shift relentlessly from one heavy riff to another. The guitar tones are beefy and heavy as hell. Creating a monstrous wave of sound, Matheos and Aresti execute intellectual guitar wizardry through the shifting time signatures. Each section compliments the next as tension-building soft passages mould seamlessly with the heavy riffage. Arch’s persistent use of the harmonic minor scale creates a sense of mystery that runs throughout the album. His vocal delivery is staggeringly powerful and with his high range as strong as ever this record is proving to be more than just a welcome return.

Stained Glass Sky is the longest track clocking in just shy of fourteen minutes. The instrumental intro is a show of technical brilliance and a prime example of how these musicians have inspired the likes of Dream Theater and Symphony X. Despite its mammoth length the track succeeds in being melodically rich and musically entertaining. Any Given Day (Strangers Like Me) is not quite as polished with some sections feeling a little out of place if not forced to fit into the arrangement. On the Fence and album closer Incesnse and Myrrh are shorter ventures (the former still hitting the eight minute mark) that solidify the strength of the album; expertly written songs that don’t outstay their welcome. Arch’s lyrics frame him as the perfect storyteller. His first person fantasy accounts blend perfectly with the instrumental progressions, together forming an intriguing musical landscape.

Far from just a Fates Warning side project, Arch/Matheos is a collaboration that has proven it has a place in the current progressive metal scene. The high calibre song writing seldom fails to impress, the individual performances from each contributing band member are unfaultable and the production is clear and polished. Kicking off a month full of highly anticipated progressive releases from the likes of Dream Theater, Opeth and Mastodon, Arch/Matheos have set the standard high.

 

Rating: [9/10]

 

TTT:

1)      Neurotically Wired

2)      Stained Glass Sky

3)      Midnight Serenade

 

Reviewed by: Daniel Aston, 05/09/2011

 

Live Review: Animals as Leaders

Headline Act: Animals as Leaders

Support: The Bad Channels, Convex

Venue: Bunters, Truro

Date: 26/08/2011

All the way from California, acclaimed jazz-prog-metal act Animals as Leaders ventured down to Truro for a free-entry performance at Bunters. The fans could hardly believe their luck, and perhaps the band could hardly believe how their booking agent had allowed it to happen. Tosin Abasi and co have been embarking on a heavy touring schedule that has seen them play virtually every day for the past few months. Fears that the trio may be suffering from fatigue were put to rest as the band effortlessly ploughed through a set demonstrating high-calibre musicianship.

In today’s musical climate it is harder than ever for a band to get the spotlight and accumulate the following it needs in a landscape that is cluttered with music piracy and immeasurable competition. Kudos then to Animals as Leaders, their ambitious world tour on the back of their debut album has shown their passion and dedication in getting their music heard across the world.

Support came from two local bands. Convex opened up the night with a set of grunge rock. Sounding like a modern Nirvana, the band managed to deliver a decent set yet bizarrely managed to not acknowledge the audience once. The Bad Channels’ then swiftly succeeded in rallying the audience with an excellent set of high-energy stoner rock. During this time, Abasi was perched by the merch stall. Seemingly warming up by playing through the night’s set alone, a small audience had gathered around him simply to watch his virtuosity up close.

When the headline act took to the stage the room became full to the brim and the venue erupted in a roar of cheers. Animals as Leaders played for just over an hour, displaying excellent performances of fan-favourites such as Wave of Babies, Tempting Time, and CAFO. The band were somewhat taken aback by the high positive reception and shouts for an encore left Abasi in a state of bewilderment, resorting to apologetically packing away his gear. An impressive set nevertheless and a promise to return in the future left all those who witnessed the magic hungry for more.

 

Reviewed by Daniel Aston 28/08/2011

Photography by Daniel Aston

Album Review: Until Fear No Longer Defines Us – Ghost Brigade

Album: Until Fear No Longer Defines Us

Release: 2011

Artist: Ghost Brigade

Label: Season of Mist

Track Listing: 1) In the Woods 2) Clawmaster 3) Chamber 4) Traces of Liberty 5) Divine Act of Lunacy 6) Grain 7) Breakwater 8) Cult of Decay 9) Torn 10) Soulcarvers

If you like your metal dark, brutal and twined together with delicate acoustic passages and imaginative song structures, then Ghost Brigade’s third offering should be part of your record collection. The Finnish quintet has struck gold with this release. Until Fear No Longer Defines Us is every bit as good as their previous albums, and then some. The band has shown great promise with their open-minded approach to song writing and their diversity is in full swing here, combining elements of progressive rock, death metal and sludge metal into a magical concoction.

The album opens strongly with In the Woods and Clawmaster. The former is a beautiful stripped-down acoustic number that displays vocalist Manne Ikonen’s powerful emotive delivery. A soothing albeit bleak opener drifts away before the album explodes with Clawmaster that sees Ghost Brigade hit the death metal switch and unleash a wave of intense riffs. The storm isn’t allowed to rage on uncontrollably and is instead divided by mesmerizing soft passages. Ikonen’s talents at switching between growling death and clean vocals emphasises the light and shade of the song with each side of his technique being equally impressive. The inclusion of Aleksi Munter (Swallow the Sun, Insomnium) on keyboards adds great sonic depth to the music, particularly during the eerie gentle sections.

Finnish metal has a reputation for being a bit on the depressing side and Ghost Brigade are no exception. Chamber is as melancholy as it is beautiful. An excellent slow-tempo song packed full of emotion and haunting melodies, something Ghost Brigade’s music is full of. The band sound at times like a cross between Katatonia and Alice in Chains, Ikonen’s clean style being a nod towards that of Jerry Cantrell. The doomy chords have an element of grunge to them whilst maintaining prog sensibilities that at times sound akin to the likes of Opeth and Mastodon. The band admits to having a rich bank of influences and this is unsurprising with their music being so open. With such an extensive source of inspiration to draw from, Ghost Brigade still manage to create their own sound – something rare in today’s metal scene that shouldn’t go unnoticed.

The album develops from strength to strength with Traces of Liberty and Divine Act of Lunacy providing harder hitting numbers fuelled with energy and bite. Dull moments are few and far between on this album yet Grain is a momentary lapse in aggression and a temporary dent in quality, coming across a little predictable and long. Cult of Decay and Torn are finer numbers, presenting fresh musical ideas and more successful riffs.

The band’s progressive edge has produced epics such as Breakwater and Soulcarvers. The former being the band’s longest track to date, a mid-album mammoth that comes close to the nine-minute mark. Ending the record on a solemn not, Soulcarvers slows down proceedings for a moment of reflection through meandering guitar melodies and subtle touches of musical brilliance. A fantastic listen.

Ghost Brigade have produced an impressive piece of work here and have proved themselves to be a promising act for the future. This is an impressive show of song writing that scores highly on both musicianship and emotional delivery. Highly recommended.

 

Rating: [9/10]

 

TTT:

1)      Clawmaster

2)      Breakwater

3)      Cult of Decay

 

Reviewed by: Daniel Aston, 20/11/2011

 

Album Review: In Waves – Trivium

Album: IN WAVES

Release: 2011

Artist: Trivium

Label: Roadrunner

Track Listing: 1) Capsizing the Sea 2) In Waves 3) Inception of the End 4) Dusk Dismantled 5) Watch the World Burn 6) Black 7) A Skyline’s Severance 8) Built to Fall 9) Caustic Are the Ties That Bind 10) Forsake Not the Dream 11) Chaos Reigns 12) Of All These Yesteryears 13) Leaving This World Behind

Trivium return to the formula used on 2005s Ascendency with their new record, developing their old thrash sensibilities whilst continuing the melodic exploration where Shogun left off.  In Waves is another bold attempt to create a concoction of brutal metalcore with catchy vocal hooks that will need to refresh their reputation and prove their worth as a credible force in the face of a new decade of music.

The title track executes this premise to perfection. A solid opener that highlights Matt Heafy’s now convincing vocal style, his combination of harsh growls and strong clean vocals have a powerful delivery that shines amongst a unified high level of musicianship. Inception of the End is another well-structured track with memorable melodies. New drummer, Nick Augusto, adds his element to the mix with an energetic show of rhythmic adjustments that work both for and against the music. Whilst his tempo shifting is well placed and needed, the trigger-happy blast beats and double-kick spamming stands at times out of place, particularly when competing with Heafy’s melodic vocal hooks.

The album continues to impress with highlights such as Black, Built to Fall and the particularly well-crafted Caustic Are the Ties That Bind Us. Hard hitting sections are moulded perfectly with clean passages, producing interesting arrangements decorated with memorable riffs and high-calibre guitar solos. A Skyline’s Severance however is a victim of the flat modern metal sound. With little in the way of dynamic range the track relies purely on musical quality and delivery that unfortunately isn’t up to scratch. This proves to be a significant dash of mediocrity that crops up again in the second half with Chaos Reigns proving itself to be one-dimensional and undefined. That said, two tracks out of thirteen hardly bring a black cloud over what is wholly a consistent album.

Of All These Yesteryears is a satisfying album closer that grows from ballad to metal anthem in fine style with alternating time signatures of sixes and eights crafting an interesting sonic landscape. It flows directly into Leaving This World Behind, a short instrumental slither of sound and that, as with Capsizing the Sea, only contributes to the song next to it.

In Waves is a success that manages to deliver fifty minutes of heavy yet accessible metal that will both satisfy fans and gain new followers. Trivium have put a lot of effort into proving to critics that they’re more than a predictable Metallica clone and In Waves is a testament to this.

 

Rating: [8/10]

 

TTT:

1)      In Waves

2)      Caustic Are the Ties That Bind us

3)      Black

 

Reviewed by: Daniel Aston, 11/08/2011