Veil of Maya - Eclipse [Released February 27th]
Although a short album, particularly in metal terms, Chicago’s Veil of Maya pack one hell of a lot into their third outing of ten tracks, running at just under thirty minutes. Ultimately, “Eclipse” proves a brutal collection of technical progressive death core, although it’s the additional subtle nuances which make this such a gripping listen. Opening in industrial territory with “20/200,” similar aspects also prevalent within the rhythms of “Divide Paths” the whole metal gamut is on show throughout. “Punisher” includes monastic choral tones and subtle keyboards to create an ephemeral atmosphere behind the belligerent riffage, before a seemingly random spoken sample interjects. “Winter is Coming Soon” more melodious, keyboards used, although again sparingly, this time inducing a dreamlike quality if only for a few short seconds. “Vicious Circles” provides the most nightmarish vision, tinkling keys, exhibit a manic tune worthy of enticing children to buy ice cream, they arrive, excited and breathless at the van, only for a diabolical death scream of “Do you want raspberry sauce on that” sends them fleeing for their lives and Veil of Maya batter their way through yet another elaborate metallic oeuvre.
The instrumental title track switches pace and genres, an epic sweeping sound apparent, before final track, “With Passion and Power” closes, summing up the exceptional “Eclipse” in one fell swoop.
Zulu – Way of the Zulu [Released on 5th March]
Short and petulant, this nine track mini album by Zulu proves a lustrous piece of retro Gothic post punk. Vocalist Luke Brennan a conjoining of Dave Vanian and Andrew Eldritch’s slashed arms in a blood brotherly coagulation, his impassioned, possessed vocals violating and augmenting, underscored in opener “Annoying Song” or closing “Zombies.”
While the rhythm section, including Paul Simonen’s son, Louis, pulsates and urges, the lead guitar entwines an arachnid web around the structures, swathing compositions in gossamer filaments, drawing the listener further and further within, escape from Zulu’s snarling mesh unimaginable. http://soundcloud.com/wayofthezulu
Therapy? – A Brief Crack of Light
Album number thirteen, unlucky for some, but not for Therapy? fans old or new. Although veterans of the extreme music scene, the Northern Ireland trio sustain as refreshing a sound in 2012 with “A Brief Crack of Light” as exhibited in debut mini album “Babyteeth” back in 1991. The sheer vivacity and grandiose riffscapes of “Living in the Shadow of a Terrible Day” or “Before You, With You, After You” a lesson to bands half their age. As invigorating as these tracks are however, perhaps even more interesting the reggae rhythms and ethereal inferences of “Get Your Dead Hands off My Shoulder” or the restrained electronica spattered conclusion “Eccelsiastes.” The vast majority of bands start to run out of ideas around album four, if they manage to even make it that far, the fact Therapy? leave me salivating at the thought of album fourteen , quite some feat. www.therapyquestionmark.co.uk
Kellar – Beloved Dean of Magic [Released Feb 27th]
“Beloved Dean of Magic” is a dense electrical storm of sound, impenetrable and cryptic, opaque and impervious to structure. Noise reigns supreme, whilst melody is unceremoniously trampled into the dust, any attempt to resuscitate met with disdain. The shoot of a riff breaks ground as “The Vanishing Lamp” forms, before strangulated and discarded. Flashes of light occasionally break the sonic ether of “Otis Elevator Company” but rather than provide luminescence, they sear and clash, collide and rebound, banished behind the solid wall of sound, aural titans defeated and demoralised by incessant, disjointed free form jazz rhythms.
Kellar do not exist to provide relief, their aim to confuse and challenge the very nature of our perceptions of music. http://kellar.bandcamp.com
PanzerBastard – God, Thugs and Madmen EP [Released on March 12th]
PanzerBastard create a monstrous crusty heavy metal sound, all slashing guitars, rip snorting solos and drums, raising an image of being trapped in a dark alley with a herd of stampeding equines bearing quickly down. Murky production suddenly reveals blistering guitar in “Gods, Thugs and Madmen,” the opening salvo of “Belfast City Meltdown” provides shredded shards of sound emanating from fret board heaven and the slower tempo of “Ten Years” delivers a dark brooding menace.
Down side to the five track EP, not quite enough individuality and slightly too much of a Motorhead influence, although truth be known, there are much worse bands to emulate. "Gods, Thugs and Madmen" will be available as a 10" vinyl as well as the usual digital version. http://patacrecords.bandcamp.com/album/gods-thugs-and-madmen
Bloodloss – The Struggle
The debut mini album from Bloodloss is real balls to the wall metalcore in the vein of Machine Head and even Trivium during the more melodic, clean vocal passages. The six tracks are more than proficiently played, all unyielding riffage and searing guitar breaks to the fore with strong vocals. Why am I not in that case overly pontificating the brilliance on offer? Basically, “The Struggle” is a good opening cast from the South Londoners, there’s just not enough individuality to stand out from the crowd. Similar to PanzerBastard, an additional, more original spark required to take Bloodloss to the next level.
Animal Train - Animal Train EP
First impressions of Animal Train suggest just another of thousands of young American bands cranking out exuberant pop punk in a pumped up early Undertones style, slightly loose and ragged in places with familiar lyrical themes, cars, getting wasted etc. Why in that case, do I keep returning to this five song EP with increasing interest? Delving and listening more closely, “NRA” reveals a lyrical narrative similar in style to Neil Young or Springsteen, verses split into separate short stories, all highlighting the downside to gun ownership. “Neighbour kids were playing, thought they’d give him a scare, he opened fire on them and judge gave him the chair,” there’s a maturity within the song, which the music and backing vocals in many ways disguise. The band prove unafraid once again in “Global Market” to address further contentious issues, the chorus proclaiming “Open up your door take a look outside, sweat shops keep the word alive.”
There’s a long way to go for Animal Train, their chosen genre absolutely saturated, the intelligence exhibited within their lyrics and inherent boisterousness however, uncover a glistening gem.http://www.freewebs.com/animaltrain
Reviews by Andy Barnes