Wolves in the Throne Room – Celestial Lineage

Wolves in the Throne Room

Celestial Lineage
Southern Lord 

The best artists within metal seem to have an air of mysticism about them. Ronnie James Dio possessed it in spades. Ghost are doing it pretty well right now, despite everyone’s attempts to decloak them. Even Kiss had an aura with the whole facepaint thing. And Enslaved seem to have the ability to rapture us all with the Norse Gods, Vikings and more. That’s just scratching the service. I’m sure there’s plenty of bands out there who carve their living from the air, the spirits and more.

While those bands aren’t exactly connected to one another in many other ways, it serves to show that mysticism in metal takes many forms. If Wolves in the Throne Room don’t give you that air at the beginning of ‘Thuja Magus Imperium’, what with the chimes and the operatic vocals from the returning Jessika Kenney, perhaps you’re missing something. It instantly takes you to a cold, harsh and desolate landscape where hope comes in small quantities. Use of such cliches is tired and old, but entirely correct. It sweeps through several different phases from here, as brothers Nathan (guitar) and Aaron (drums) head on the attack.

You’ll notice the running themes of nature, the afterlife and more within – ‘Woodland Cathedral’, again featuring Kenney’s vocals and organ over a doomy riff, almost makes for a real out-of-body experience; whereas ‘Astral Blood’ has all kinds of surreal going on, starting as battering ram blackness before wind and atmospheric effects briefly take over, introducing a brief harp solo, before the darkness returns to complete the ritual; and the closing ‘Prayer of Transformation’ really feels like the final act of transcendence, with a slow guitar opening the song before tremeloing into life around three minutes in, with guitarist/vocalist Nathan hallowing a final call to the sky, awash with ambience and minimal percussion. Within 49 minutes, the spiritual adventure is complete. A perfect end to a fine album.

The Wolves sound is gritty and as raw as the wasteland it inhabits, yet completely in harmonious existence with it too. That mystical feeling I referred to remains throughout, and while happy to attract other components, it retains a distinctly uncompromising, yet entirely encapsulating feeling. The multi-faceted approach is so that any of their releases, and particularly this one, need to be listened to as a whole to be fully appreciated. The individual tracks are great, but the experience has to be one as a whole. Wolves in the Throne Room fully realise this and deliver with aplomb.

Peter Clegg 
 
 
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Here come Ufomammut!

There’s a rumbling on the horizon – nope, it isn’t Godzilla. Nor is it a Mega Shark or a Crocosaurus. Yep, its only psychedelic doom titans Ufomammut, who are heading back to the UK for a series of live dates sure to smush the designated venues into a pulp. It will be to be the last tour in support of current album ‘Eve‘, with new material on the way. They’ve also just signed with Neurot Recordings, having caught the eye of Neurosis guitarist Steve von Till. Visuals will also be provided during the dates by longtime collaborator Malleus. Support comes from fellow psych monsters Morkobot, who are touring supporting recent release ‘Morbo‘.

Tour dates as follows:

3rd Oct 2011 – The Croft, Bristol
4th Oct 2011 – The Well, Leeds
5th Oct 2011 – The Continental, Preston
6th Oct 2011 – The Purple Turtle, London

This is sure to be a special set of shows, and is sure to a heady sonic brew designed to dazzle and fry the senses. Get on down.

Peter Clegg

Evile – Five Serpent’s Teeth

Evile
Five Serpent’s Teeth
Earache

The new wave of thrash has reached its apex. Such was its love affair with the first wave, it was bound to reach a crescendo fairly quickly, and so it has proved. For some, it came and went too quickly; some still stuck in the 80’s simply didn’t deliver, some didn’t get the credit they deserved, and a few seized upon the thrash ball and ran with it, to reap the rewards for simple awesomeness or for daring to bring the genre up to date. That paragraph is, as a mega thrash fan, equal parts heartbreaking, true and triumphant.

Evile certainly fall in the latter camp. I feel priviledged to have seen them in Huddersfield during their unsigned days because to have watched their rise into the metal stratosphere bestows a feeling of pride and awe. Having tracked them from the ‘All Hallows Eve‘ EP through to 2009’s ‘Infected Nations‘, I was certainly looking forward to the next step in their career, although admittedly with quiet optimism, as I found ‘Infected Nations‘ to be a bit of a grower. I needn’t have been so cautious.

Whereas they hinted towards a move away from thrash on the previous record, ‘Five Serpent’s Teeth‘ sees Evile fully reembrace the thrash spirit with added groove and dynamic. The ten songs here are among the finest you’ll find anywhere all year. The proof is in the pudding – the opening salvo of the title track and ‘In Dreams of Terror’ attack and strike with razor-sharp precision, the latter in particular possessing quite the shred. Straight away you’ll also notice vocalist Matt Drake’s increased vocal prowess, an instant sign of the work gone into making this record.

Lead single ‘Cult’ slows down the pace to a midpaced groove. A stab at organized religion, Matt Drake’s wider vocal range really makes this song possible. It’s accessible but without sacrificing any verve – it’s hard not to sing along to the chorus of “all we ask is that you join our…cult!”, before rocking out to the main riff the next. It’s an anthem in the making. Collectively, they’ve fully harnessed the slower grooves and become a much more intelligent beast. The album continues to excel as it continues, the progressive angle of ‘Xaraya’, which gradually builds over the course of the song, culminating in another searing guitar solo from lead guitarist Ol Drake, and ‘Origin of Oblivion’, one of the finest all out thrash songs of the resurgence, charging through out before hitting a slightly slower groove at the end to the defiant shout of “I will not become machine!”
 
Proof of the elevated maturity of the band is evident particularly as the album reaches its climax. After the ripping assault of the first seven songs, ‘In Memoriam’ is a largely acoustic number throughout, featuring the Drake brothers’ father, and ex-Pilgrym guitarist Tony, and a fitting epitaph for their former, late bassist Mike Alexander. The bass riff is one he frequently played during rehearsals and feels extremely poignant. No doubt Mike’s death hurt Evile, but equally no doubt it strengthened them as a band.

The album closes with two more knuckle-grinding thrash numbers, and its ‘Descent Into Madness’ that particularly stands out. If this was Bay Area in the 80’s, it’d be held as a classic, cos the first half if an absolute rager. It gets really interesting when bassist Joel Graham, on record with Evile for the first time, gets the spotlight with a little bass solo to finish the song. It obviously owes to Cliff Burton but its bloody great to see.

Expectations were certainly high for this album and not only. have Evile met them, they’ve blown.them out of the water. Naysayers will still argue there’s too much Metallica influence, but that’s negligible. Hand on heart, if this had been the 80’s we’d be hailing this as a genre classic – it certainly has that feel about it, such is the quality of the material. Let’s ensure that in 2036 we’re still talking about this album. I also make no apologies for labelling ‘Five Serpent’s Teeth‘ a thrashterpiece. Because any album you can’t fault despite several listens has got to be worth the recognition.

Peter Clegg

Machine Head – Unto The Locust

Machine Head

Unto The Locust
Roadrunner

The world at large went positively nuts when Machine Head released ‘The Blackening‘ in 2007. It was positively great, although comparisons to the great ‘Master of Puppets‘ were a little over the top. Needless to say, anticipation for new album ‘Unto The Locust‘ has been feverish to say the least. Following years of touring for their previous record, how has it shaped their new release?

Well, for starters, there’s some choiral harmonies from the band at the start of the three-part ‘I Am Hell (Sonata in C#)’. It’s definitely not like ‘Burn My Eyes‘. It’s certainly not ‘Supercharger‘. It’s certainly an eye opener in some senses, but not in others – it shows how far the band have matured that they are willing to incorporate such an influence. It soon heavies up though, with a real thrashy section soon to follow the intro, and a massive slow groove to finish. The album’s most epic track, covering more ground in one song than most bands of their ilk can cram into one album.

The album’s title track, ‘Locust’, starts with a real hard-rocking riff, twisted into metal form with a crunch punctuated by Flynn’s harsh vocals. When Flynn finishes the chorus with the words ‘suffer unto the locust‘, it’s a proverbial call to arms; that riff will devastate moshpits all over the world. That’s pretty much my favourite song on the record – that’s a proper metal anthem that will surely soon become recognisable on many a night out. ‘Darkness Within’ is another outstanding track, opening with a long intro consisting of a solitary simple guitar riff, and a slow building Flynn vocal. It’s so rewarding when the rest of the band do come in because from thereonin its massive. It eventually does reach a heavy breakdown reminiscent of early Machine Head, before closing in melodic fashion again. It’s in the same vein as ‘Halo’, only with broader shoulders.

Machine Head still possess that ability to suckerpunch you at numerous points in the album. The aforementioned intro in ‘I Am Hell’ and groovy riff in ‘Locust’ aside, ‘This Is The End’ begins with a classical guitar intro in much the same way Metallica used to make ’em, before launching a full on assault of the senses, mixing some breakneck speed riffs with more trademark pounding grooves; perhaps the only downside to this broadened scope is the children who turn up singing on closer ‘Who We Are’. I’m not too big on this song – it’s not bad but the children bring it down a touch and it’s not as strong as the darkness and devastation that prevailed before it.

I am still one of those who hankers for Machine Head’s early days. And by that, I mean the vibe you got from ‘Burn My Eyes‘ and ‘The More Things Change‘ – that being the streetwise, pissed off with the world vibe that you got from the sound, the production, from the bile in Flynn’s voice. Although there’s still hints of their original sound abound, there’s nothing here with quite that same vibe, and nothing like the pure rage possessed on ‘The Blackening‘ with songs like ‘Aesthetics of Hate’, where you could positively feel every word of hate Flynn spat out.

That said, that doesn’t mean ‘Unto The Locust‘ is a bad album. The Maiden-esque riff prevalent in ‘Be Still and Know’, and the intro to ‘This Is The End’ further underlines the band’s nod to their ascendants, and their continuing ability to fuse these influences into their own sound, as well as drawing upon other, non-metal elements, is what keeps Machine Head on top of their game, displaying a level of maturity the newer bands either haven’t yet fully realised, or simply don’t have at all. That is a testament to how far Machine Head have grown as a band. They fully deserve their status, their fanbase, and the acclaim they receive. I’ve moved on from a lot of mainstream metal, but albums like this one will keep me coming back.

I’ll say ‘Unto The Locust‘ is at least on a par with ‘The Blackening‘. Nay, its better.

Textures – Dualism

Textures

Dualism
Nuclear Blast

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When Textures first emerged in 2004 with their slightly more melodic take on Meshuggah mind-mangling technical metal, it’s taken the world at large a little while to come round to them. Efforts like ‘Drawing Circles’ and ‘Silhouettes’ deserved wider attention – the mixture of technical riffs, beats and ambience was certainly a winner and Textures showed they could pull it off with ease. Since releasing ‘Silhouettes’, a slew of (progressive) technical metal has emerged, each claiming to be original by going under a name derived from an apparent guitar sound.
That claim I refute on two grounds:
1. They wouldn’t exist without Meshuggah and, to a lesser extent, bands like Textures;
2. It’s not even a word! Hence it shall not be named here, and simply known as what it is: technical metal.

But on a more serious note, this is the first album from the Dutch sextet since the departure of Eric Kalsbeek, replaced by former Cilice singer Daniel de Jongh. The first thing you’ll notice about de Jongh is what an impressive set of pipes he has, arguably possessing a greater range than Kalsbeek, and it would appear that Textures have chosen to emphasise this fact on album number four, ‘Dualism’, as now a whole new world of guitar nerds suddenly looks to them as a major player within their scene – praise they struggled to attain on their first three records, despite great reviews.
There are numerous positives to take from ‘Dualism’, as there’s no shortage of cracking riffs and off-kilter beats and melodies. The opener ‘Arms of the Sea’ has plenty of jaw-rattling action just before de Jongh’s roar is introduced, his vocal prowess becoming apparent during the course of the song. His voice is tailor made for the single ‘Reaching Home’, a much more straightforward, melodic numbers, relying less on polyrhythmic worship and more on creating a potential anthem.
de Jongh’s vocals continue to flex on ‘Consonant Hemispheres’, which slowly builds up into a cracking midsection flexing de Jongh’s vocals with a fantastic spacey line, eventually crashing into a tasty tech mosh. They pair the vocals and riffs well on numerous occasions, notably on ‘Stoic Resignation’, with the closing ‘Bring it all down’ refrain from de Jongh and guitarist Jochem Jacobs. ‘Burning The Midnight Oil’ is another corker, an instrumental track and another slow burner, again building into another kick ass riff, running along the fretboard almost in sync with Stef Broks’ groovy beat. And you know you’re onto a winner when songs like ‘Sketches from a Motionless Statue’ sound as huge as they do, Broks like a man possessed as he throws out numerous drum patterns across the duration of the closer.
The major problem with this album ironically lies within de Jongh’s vocals and Textures’ apparent emphasis on them. The mix prioritises them quite highly and at times it seems to dominate proceedings. Yes, he’s got a damn fine voice – but at times you just want to hear the riff and at times it’s washed out by soaring melody. Upon repeated listening this becomes more and more of an issue, and sometimes you would rather be jarred by the rhythm section than hear de Jongh reach his apex yet again.
It’s that for me that prevents ‘Dualism’ from being among the very best albums this year, as well as Textures’ new found sense of balancing time signatures and more straightforward sections between one another, all of which might need time to get used to. It’s still streets ahead of the chasing pack though, and is a much welcome return from six of Holland’s finest technicians.
Peter Clegg

 

Farewell, Cosmo Lee


Those of you among the blogosphere, and particularly those of you among the metal community, may have encountered upon Invisible Oranges, the best of all the metal blogs out there, run by Cosmo Lee. That is, up until today. Yes, Cosmo is retiring from running the site, in pursuit of other things in life that up to now have been tied up from running Invisible Oranges.
Cosmo has put in an incredible shift since first starting Invisible Oranges, stating in his leaving announcement that he often worked 30-40 hour weeks, seven days a week, totalling thousands of unpaid hours and a constant battle with a huge surge in submissions and press releases. We serve and receive only a tiny fraction of this so you can imagine what the guy has been up against at times.
Invisible Oranges was probably the first metal blog I ever came across and without a doubt was the main inspiration in starting up We Must Obey. Cosmo’s writing is unparalled – he writes about bands and albums and music in general in a way that nobody else does. It’s not just crushing riff here, blistering beat there. Cosmo’s ability to write as though its an actual experience, a journey – that’s what sets him apart from other writers out there. His taste in music has led me to check out bands I would otherwise not be familiar with, and is about to conclude an epic series on each track from Metallica’s first four albums, which is simply essential reading!
With that in mind, we here at We Must Obey would like to extend hails and horns to Cosmo and wish him the best in whatever he does in the future. And to the people taking over IO, good luck in continuing with the best blog in the business!
Peter Clegg

Help save The Well from becoming a restaurant!


In the last few days, it’s become apparent due to campaigning on Facebook that the future of the Well (formerly the Joseph’s Well) venue in Leeds is in doubt, thanks to plans by the owner of the Joseph’s Well office complex to turn the venue into a restaurant, which he feels would be a more profitable venture. Along with many other like minded people who want to see live music in Leeds and the UK continue to thrive, we think this is a huge mistake.

The Well is located on the fringes of Leeds city centre, a ten-to-fifteen minute walk from Leeds rail station, and isn’t ideally situated for a restaurant for starters. In a city chock full of brasseries, bars, restaurants, cafés, etc., and really doesn’t need another one located out of the way of everything else. It already serves some food in the daytime; burgers, chips, stuff like that – that’s cool. It doesn’t need to extend beyond that. There’s plenty of other places to eat if that’s not your thing.

Furthermore, Leeds is crying out for venues supporting a range of music, particularly heavier genres from the underground circuit. Yes, there’s The Cockpit, which does host the occasional heavy bash but more frequently hosts trendy indie bands. We used to have the Bassment and Subculture – they’ve been and gone. And Rio’s moved from Bradford into Leeds, and then back again. To lose another venue would be a hammerblow to the underground punk, hardcore and metal scenes; we can’t allow this to happen.
The Well has hosted live music for over 15 years and regularly hosts up and coming bands from the local scene and has hosted many a great band over the years – to name a few, Gallows, Chimaira, Necrophagist, Converge, Eyehategod, Rufio, Electric Eel Shock, Black Breath, G.U. Medicine, Weedeater, Voorhees, The Eureka Machines, Municipal Waste, plus upcoming shows from YOB, Sick of it All, Ufomammut, earthtone9, Royal Republic and more. A little known band called The Kaiser Chiefs also played there before they got their big break!
Put simply, it’s essential for The Well to stay open as a music venue, and not as somewhere to simply scoff yourself silly. Please sign the petition, wherever you are, and help convince the owner of the premises that this is just a bad idea and that live music, homegrown and from around the world, is essential, and well and truly alive.
Sign the petition here. We’ve also added a widget in the top corner. Help us spread the word.
Peter Clegg