NEW RELEASES FROM DAMAJ, MERCY ISLE, KRAMPUS, WRETCHED SOUL
31st December 2016
Edition Seven of You Spin Me Round and we know we said number six was the very last of 2016 but this one really is, unless we manage to squeeze another one in before midnight... we'll be resuming this highly successful column in early January...
Here's the very last four of 2016...
Let's do this...
DAMAJ: 'THE WRATH OF THE TIDE'
Released: 1st March 2017 (Independent)
Greenock based Damaj are certainly making a name for themselves on the local circuit and I've seen them enough times to know that they're a solid unit on stage who have an impressive catalogue of tracks to their name already, and this four track EP is their first foray into the recording studio, and it isn't bad at all.
Kicking off with 'The King', it's the weakest of the four tracks here, but that's not to say that it's not good, because it's a solid effort with the vocals of front man Daniel Stewart slightly further back in the mix than I expected. Title track 'The Wrath Of The Tide' is up next and this is where things move up a gear. A firm live favourite already, this studio version just adds so much more to the listening experience. It's fiendishly heavier with Stewart and guitarist James Haggart really coming across well whilst everyone in the band gets to shine here from drummer Scott Macleod with his driving beats to the bass guitar interlude courtesy of David Douglas before the guitar solo from Haggart is unleashed.
'Testament Of Judas' is a fast paced number that allows Stewart to showcase his vocals once again, and very good their are too although at times it feels liked he's holding back a bit on his performance when he really wants to let rip, as he does so well on stage. Closing things off is 'The Well Of Souls' with a guitar sound straight from the book of Slayer but that's never a bad thing because if you're going to be influenced - do so from the best.
There's an epic battle between the rhythm and lead guitar during the verses but not to the point of overload and the track is executed well overall. There's lots to offer here, and the promise that these guys have in their live shows translates well into the studio.
Out Now (Apple Music)
And now for something completely different. Krampus emerged five years ago and were a breath of fresh air with a unique Folk Metal sound that really made an impact but all that is gone now as they've merged their Folkishness with alt rock, post hardcore, modern rock and other sounds to create something even more really unique.
The whistle and the violin remain but Krampus have evolved massively and stepped into new styles and what a brave move they have made. Frontman, Filippo Gianotti says: "A bands identity does not stem from a genre: its music is recognizable whatever the style," and he makes a good point but you would never have been able to tell this was Krampus when comparing to their debut album.
The new songs sound refreshingly new in the way genres are mixed. Their sound is unpredictable and relatable at the same time; it is honest in its inspiration and execution and you have to take your hat off to them for making this incredibly bold move.
It will split the Krampus fanbase right down the middle and it will win them some new fans and lose them some old ones but when all is said and done, they might just have invented a new genre by trying to step away from the one they were firmly rooted in. The more things change, the more they stay the same... or do they?
MERCY ISLE: 'UNDYING FIRE'
Out Now (Independent)
Symphonic Metallers Mercy Isle are one of those international bands that are becoming more and more common. Made up of Dutch and American musicians they have managed to get together despite the obvious geographical limitations and garnered enough of a following through their initial crowdfunded 'Storm' EP release to get further support for a full length follow up. As a result we now have 'Undying Fire' to enjoy.
These guys obviously decided half measures would not do when you are playing dramatic symphonic Metal so they got enough funds to allow them to enlist noted Dutch producer/guitarist Sander Gommans (After Forever/HDK/Trillium) and his wife, singer Amanda Somerville (Avantasia/ Trillium/Epica) to assist them in making the best album they could. The result is an impressive, multi-faceted debut album from a band full of confidence and ideas.
Starting with the straight ahead rock of 'Wake Up', singer Kassandra Novell shows straight away that she has real range and power at her disposal matched nicely with some nice work from guitarist Freek Gielen and the additional vocals from bassist Chad Novell. There is some nice variety in the song writing as the album progresses too, some electronica effects are added to the narrative vibe of 'I Am' while 'Stop. Kiss Me' has a pop-rock feel without losing their symphonic Metal roots. 'If I Could' even steps close to a folk Metal vibe at times.
In addition, the thing about working with such talented people on an album is that you can get a wee guest appearance out of them so the emotive ballad 'Saying Goodbye' is a duet with Amanda Somerville who sounds as sublime as ever. The album as a whole though is all about the band's own sound and 'The Ghost' ends things on a high with that firmly in mind, combining guitar and keyboard hooks, layered vocals and a song full of ideas.
This is a very promising album indeed from a surprisingly mature band. They have obviously been smart enough to learn from the experienced professionals they employed to assist them and the songs all sound polished and well arranged while the production is up to the Mr Gomman's usual very high standards. On a personal level I'm not a fan of the modern fashion for so many Metal bands these days to throw occasional growling vocals in plus maybe the otherwise excellent Ms Novell doesn't need to push to the edge of her range quite so often as she is an impressive talent throughout but these are minor quibbles. A very good album and a band who will be worth watching, even if just to see how they overcome the small issue of an ocean lying between the members.
WRETCHED SOUL: 'THE GHOST ROAD'
Out Now (UKEM Records/Plastic Head)
It's been a couple of years since Canterbury's finest, Wretched Soul, last had a record out - 2013s 'Veronica' to be exact and it was a record that I remember reviewing at the time, and it was my first exposure to the band. I've been keeping a close eye out for a follow up and it's safe to say that 'The Ghost Road' is as good as, if not better, than it's predecessor.
Coming in at just under forty minutes, the first track, 'Necromancer', is fast paced but not as heavy as I was expecting for the first track. Rather than instantly grabbing you, it eases you into the listening experience. The follow on track, 'War Wolf', is where things really pick up though. Probably the fastest paced track of the album by some way, drummer Andy Clifford is like a metronome as he batters the drums whilst the guitar riff courtesy of Steve Clifford is never-ending as it pulls the listener in and won't let go - and that's all before the guitar solo.
'The Great Destroyer' has tons of atmosphere in the intro, and this mid-paced number quickly became a favourite of mine. Frontman Chris Simmons switches from growling to singing throughout the track without flinching, and the stop start guitar riff shows a different side to the band. It still cuts like a knife through butter though, and that chorus, man, can Simmons sound any more evil?
'Bury The Heretic' has another razor sharp riff (reminiscent of early Metallica) and, firmly supplanted itself on my favourites list with it's relentless guitar riff while Simmons puts in another great vocal performance. Title track, 'The Ghost Road', slows things down a bit, but remains super heavy - this ain't no soppy ballad, that's for sure. The longest song here, it's worthy as the title track but the lyrics are almost overpowered by the music at times but Simmons manages a devilish scream that won't fail to give you shivers up your spine - a fine end to a truly monumental track.
Edition Eight of You Spin Me Round here in early January...
ALL EDITIONS OF YOU SPIN ME ROUND
21st April 2017: As Lions, Def Leppard, Burnt Out Wreck, Immolation and many more...
15th January 2017: Pain Of Salvation, Stephen Pearcy, Jack Russell, Powerwolf and many more...
31st December 2016: Damaj, Mercy Isle, Krampus, Wretched Soul...
18th December 2016: Alice Cooper, Beyond The Black, Rush, Magnum and many more...
28th November 2016: Graham Bonnet, Civil War, The Doomsday Kingdon, Departed and many more...
15th November 2016: deVience, AC Angry, Solitude, Pretty Maids and many more...
30th October 2016: Testament, Sonata Arctica, Drescher, The Answer and many more...
16th October 2016: Kix, Tyketto, Joan Ov Arc, Kingbreaker and many more...
2nd October 2016: Twisted Sister, Extreme, Tygers Of Pan Tang, Pain, Raveneye and many more...