Review: Rolo Tomassi/Stockades Split

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We’re bending the rules a bit by reviewing a split record featuring Australian screamo band Stockades, but this split also features Sheffield mathcore luminaries Rolo Tomassi and it was released via UK label Tangled Talk Records so shut up; it totally counts.

ROLO TOMASSI

Rolo Tomassi went through a slight stylistic shift on their last album Astraea which can only be down to the change of guitarist and bassist. When Joe Nicholson and Joseph Thorpe left the band, the band also lost their jazzier elements and the multiple changes in time signature weren’t nearly as prevalent on Astraea.

This hasn’t changed on Rolo Tomassi’s Adrasteia. New guitarist Chris Cayford and bassist Nathan Fairweather still favour a more metallic mathcore sound akin to that of The Dillinger Escape Plan and the addition of new drummer Tom Pitts also leads to a more frantic and double-bass-heavy performance.

The big change is that Adrasteia features a considerably larger amount of memorable riffs and melodies which was something that was lacking on Astraea. This is a precision attack on the aural sense and despite the technicality there is an obvious improvement in song-writing.

There’s also brilliant use of the quiet/loud dynamic. The song begins with a technically proficient mathcore opening before the song takes a breather in its middle eight to lure you into a gentle yet eerie keyboard-lead section. The song is then bookended by an almighty beast of a riff that is bound to ignite some serious mosh pits.

Rolo Tomassi might be losing their more unpredictable and progressive elements, but songs like Adrasteia prove the band are still an engaging mathcore band even when they’re playing things a little more straight forward. Adrasteia is also notable for being one of the heaviest songs the band has produced so far and that’s fine by me.

8/10

STOCKADES

Melbourne’s Stockades offer a very different listening experience. The band are just as much of a fan of the quiet/loud dynamic as Rolo Tomassi but their brighter, jangly guitar tone is more reminiscent of bands like Maths.

The more delicate opening of Unfix leads the listener into a false sense of security before the song speeds up for a blistering screamo section. It’s a glorious cacophony of abrasive noise that leads to an early crescendo before the song dials it back for another shift in tone.

After an almost relaxing section of glittery guitar worship, it’s back to another mammoth chord-driven section that is bizarrely euphoric in its loudness. It’s moments like these that remind us of bands like Self Defence Family and Goodtime Boys which is no bad thing by any stretch of the imagination.

Stockades offer up a lovely little progressive screamo anthem and it beautifully flows through its various riffs and melodies with ease. It’s still early days for these boys but it would appear they’ve already nailed and extremely accomplished sound that I’ll be paying some serious attention to from here on.

9/10

Rolo Tomassi and Stockades’ split is available to purchase on 7″ vinyl from Tangled Talk Records now.


Review: War Wolf/Crossburner Split

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Two UK hardcore behemoths collide on this split EP from War Wolf and Crossburner. While both bands have a sound that is rooted in hardcore, each offer a very different experience that warrants closer inspection.

WAR WOLF

War Wolf are a band who deal in a more mid-paced and careful battering of the senses. Their style of hardcore takes elements from sludge metal creating slower, more punishing riffs and their songs are generally built around some serious groove.

Each of the bands three songs is built around this stylistic choice and guitarist Oliver absolutely steals the show with his consistent yet down-tuned riff worship. This was a stellar decision by the band as the aggressive nature of the vocals delivered by bassist and vocalist Paul means that the riffs become the most important part of the band’s music and Oliver completely delivers on melody.

Highlights come in the form of The Worm which beats you around the head with its pounding rhythm delivered by drummer Ant and its marriage with Oliver’s riffs create an irresistible head-banging anthem. When War Wolf pump out songs like these, you’re reminded why they’re so enjoyable to listen to.

The only down-side to War Wolf’s side of the EP is that if you’re familiar with the band then they don’t really offer anything new. War Wolf have found their hook and it looks like they’ll be sticking with it for the foreseeable future. There’s nothing wrong with it but after an EP, album and now 2 splits it might become a bit stale for fans of the band. Thankfully, the band’s sound is so damn enjoyable that it’s not too much of an issue.

8/10

CROSSBURNER

Crossburner play things a little faster than War Wolf. Crossburner’s sound takes cues from black metal to create a sound that is absolutely visceral in nature. Crossburner employ blast-beats and tremolo-picking for an extremely dark and oppressive sound. When it’s joined by the Entombed-esque riffs from guitarist Matt it creates a wonderful cacophony of thrashy, blackened noise.

The band even find time to add elements from doom metal into songs like Rotten Book which features a slower tempo in its breakdown. Crossburner have loaded these songs with a considerable amount of variety and they’re quite progressive in nature; rarely revisiting a riff in the space of a single song.

The trouble is the band are definitely better off when they do revisit melodies. The highlight of the Crossburner side of the EP definitely comes in the form of Pray to Me which returns to its tremolo-picked riff and is far more memorable because of it.

The band often get a little too progressive for their own good and this has the unfortunate effect of not presenting the listener with riffs that last long enough for them to stick with you. Crossburner’s songs need more defining features because the unfortunate side effect of their progressive nature is that all three songs feel like they blend into one.

Regardless, Crossburner have all the right elements to create some seriously engaging and outrageously heavy hardcore, they just need to spend a little more time driving home their most memorable riffs.

7/10

War Wolf and Crossburner have delivered an EP that will satisfy hardcore fans the world over. This is a seriously strong collection of tunes that deserve your attention despite some small grievances with over-familiarity in War Wolf’s case and not enough time being spent driving home the strong melodies in Crossburner’s arsenal. If you’re a fan of the genre you’re still in for an absolute treat.

War Wolf and Crossburner’s split EP can be downloaded from Headless Guru Records now. Consider throwing them some money if you care about music. Also available on limited edition cassette.


Review: Marmozets’ The Weird and Wonderful Marmozets

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Marmozets are one of those bands that have always been in my peripheral vision but for whatever reason I didn’t initially get on board with their rather weird take on post hardcore originally. That all changed with their debut album, The Weird and Wonderful Marmozets. What became a vague interest in the band has now turned into what might be one of the most important UK rock albums of recent memory.

What Marmozets do so well on their debut album is songs. Yes, albums generally contain songs but not many bands can claim to have written a song that will be bothering rock radio for decades to come. Marmozets have done just that and not just once but thirteen times. There isn’t a single song on this album that I’d even consider skipping. This is an unbelievably good collection of songs that all have eligibility as singles but are still positioned perfectly to make this an enjoyable album in its own right.

As for the songs themselves, you’ll recognise a lot of Telegraphs and The JCQ in Marmozets’ sound and it makes for songs that are big on melody and even bigger on choruses but have a tendency to drop into progressive moments that would be more suited to a mathcore band. Its elements such as these that make The Weird and Wonderful Marmozets stand out as a defining album of its own and not just another entry in the post hardcore lexicon.

Album highlights come thick and fast but the tracks you’ll be revisiting the most have the strongest choruses. Why Do You Hate Me?, Is it Horrible, Love You Good and Move, Shake, Hide are all contenders for Best Chorus of 2014 and they’re bound to be bothering DJ sets at rock clubs for quite some time.

What makes the choruses and melodies so engaging are the vocal performances by Becca Macintyre. This woman has a voice that rock vocalists should be jealous of. Not only is Becca’s singing voice full of passion but her screams are pure rock ‘n’ roll hero and she has a lovely little knack for singing the more aggressive lyrics in her repertoire through gritted teeth. This has the added effect of making her sound like she’s absolutely seething which is always a good thing for a really rocking album. I love a vocalist who sounds like they care.

Marmozets have made an album that I would regard a classic had it been released in my youth. The fact that it’s being released now hopefully means that a whole new generation of kids will be introduced to post hardcore through what I regard an essential purchase for any fan of the genre. The Weird and Wonderful Marmozets is one of the best rock albums this year and if you’ve ever enjoyed a catchy rock number then you’ve just found your new favourite band.

10/10

The Weird and Wonderful Marmozets is out now through Roadrunner Records.


Review: Gnarwolves’ Gnarwolves

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The Gnarwolves album has finally landed. It seems like this album has been a long time coming and Gnarwolves have been mastering their craft after 3 very successful EPs, but have the boys from Brighton managed to make a full length that does their rowdy pop punk justice? The short answer is, “yes”.

The long answer is that even after 3 EPs, Gnarwolves are still churning out skate punk anthem after skate punk anthem. Every track on Gnarwolves’ self-titled debut album is a real fist pumping sing-a-long which is unnaturally impressive. No band should be able to consistently make such catchy punk for so long but Gnarwolves are making it look easy.

What makes Gnarwolves so effective is their ability to write a chorus that will stick with you for weeks. The best tracks on the album have the most memorable choruses and songs like Boneyard, Bottle to Bottle and Smoking Kills are easily going to become live favourites.

Speaking of live, special mention has to be given to the production which captures Gnarwolves energy in a similar way to a great live recording. The one element that seems to make this work so well is the vocals which are shared between all 3 of the band members and makes for a beautiful collision of raw, grunted vocals and the sort of crooning you’d expect from Rise Against and Green Day.

The only negative you might level against Gnarwolves is they’re basically writing the same songs they’ve always written, but is that really a negative? When the music is this memorable and passionate I’d argue, “no” but even if you’d written off Gnarwolves’ creativity something shows up right at the end of the album that truly surprises.

There’s a bloody hardcore song at the end of this album. The untitled song in question is full of aggression, riffs and beatdowns and Gnarwolves pull it off just as well as any of hardcore’s finest. If there were any worries of where Gnarwolves could go after this record then I’d happily put money on them getting heavier because hardcore elements really suit their abrasive punk sound.

Gnarwolves have successfully delivered the album they were always threatening to make. This is a wonderful 28 minutes of direct yet anthemic punk that showcases a band at the top of their game. Gnarwolves are one of the most exciting bands in UK punk right now and this is an essential purchase for anyone who likes their music catchy yet lairy.

8/10

Gnarwolves’ self-titled debut album is out now through Tangled Talk Records and Big Scary Monsters.


Review: Empress AD’s Still Life Moving Fast

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It’s so good seeing young bands signed to Roadrunner Records again and Empress AD are a perfect fit for the label’s roster. The band deal with the sort of thunderous, proggy, groove metal that bands like Mastodon deal with but they sprinkle their sound with an earnest and very British-sounding layer of alt rock which reminds us of bands like Reuben.

Empress AD have been honing their craft for quite some time and it really shows on Still Life Moving Fast. This record has a seriously accomplished sound that dives effortlessly in and out of massive riffs and slower, more contemplative moments of restraint. Empress AD make the quiet/loud dynamic sing on this record. The more reserved moments give way to some absolutely Earth-shattering grooves and the contrast makes their impact all the more powerful.

An album highlight comes in the form of Deeper in Disguise which bursts out the gates with a blistering riff before slowing down for a sombre moment. It isn’t long before the track once again bludgeons you with its Glassjaw-esque, post hardcore craziness. It’s a beautiful lesson in heaviness.

Things even manage to move into doom metal territory for the crawling, bass-heavy dirge of On My Return. This is the sort of groove that would make Black Sabbath jealous but it’s juxtaposed with a beautiful vocal melody by Ollie Loring before it opens up into a more spacey, desert rock sound. Empress AD have really packed a surprising amount of influences into these songs.

The only downside to Still Life Moving Fast is that it does get a little bogged down in its prog rock leanings. Some of the quieter moments meander around doing very little for far too long and it unnecessarily bloats the album. Delve into the Retrospect suffers from moments like these and it often feels like the band have extended the run time of the song for the sake of self-indulgence.

Regardless, Empress AD manage to hit a larger amount of highs than they do lows on Still Life Moving Fast. This is a wonderful prog metal album that is stuffed with interesting song structures that are also bolstered by some of the best riffs heavy music has to offer. This is an impressive beginning to what I hope is one of the UK’s brightest metal discographies.

8/10

Empress AD’s Still Life Moving Fast is out now and available to buy from Roadrunner Records.


Review: Oblivionized and Razoreater’s This is S.O.A.N.

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A split UK underground metal release? Recorded live!? You better believe it. Oblivionized and Razoreater have teamed up for a double dose of chaos that was recorded during a gig at Stuck on a Name Studios in Nottingham. The advantages of recording this in an actual studio means that even though this has the energy and rawness that comes with a live recording, it’s mixed and mastered to a professional level meaning this is one of the best sounding underground live recordings released for quite some time.

OBLIVIONIZED

Things kick off with Oblivionized who are one of the most difficult bands to categorise. The band play a mixture of mathcore, grindcore and death metal that is full of technicality and balanced with some absolutely crushing riffs from guitarist Sammy Urwin.

The band are on top form in this recording. The frantic and utterly mental drum work from Will Merlin is on full display and despite his aggressive playing style, Merlin manages to hit every one of his drum patterns with pin-point precision. This man is an absolute beast behind the kit.

What makes Oblivionized so satisfying to listen to is how they balance their bonkers technicality with moments of pure riff worship. Urwin will often drop into a thunderous groove that demands everyone in the room bang their heads and it’s captured perfectly on this recording.

The down-tuned nature of the guitar work also suits the mix as it contrasts with the drumming and vocals making each element of the band’s sound stick out in the mix. This is extremely important in a live recording as it’s very easy for these elements to meld into one unlistenable mess when every musician is giving it their all.

Oblivionized are one of the most exciting live bands in the UK and their sound is fascinatingly unique and devastating at the same time. Despite having to re-start You’re Spineless due to guitar issues, the band don’t put a foot wrong in this entire recording and it’s a beautifully visceral listening experience.

9/10

RAZOREATER

Razoreater deal with a different sort of mayhem; the band make metallic hardcore in a similar vein to Converge, Nails and Weekend Nachos which means that these boys have a thrashier and more direct playing style.

Like Oblivionized, Razoreater have a live show that will grab you by the balls and then run across the street while still clutching them. Razoreater’s music rarely slows down and the pace is exhaustingly fast. You can expect blast-beats aplenty on this recording.

Sadly the mix doesn’t work as well for Razoreater’s recording. This is down to the buzzsaw guitar tone clashing with the crash-heavy drum work. Because of the similarity of the two sounds it means it can be hard to hear the melody in Razoreater’s riffs. It’s not completely lost but sometimes you really have to pay attention to hear what’s going on in the guitar department. This is quite apparent on Razoreater’s cover of Slipknot’s Eeyore.

Regardless of mix, Razoreater’s performance is still utterly electric and it’s frankly amazing how they manage to keep up this level of intensity for their entire set. This is an exhausting experience that will keep the craziest mosh ninjas incredibly satisfied.

8/10

Oblivionized and Razoreater are champions of the UK underground music scene and this recording showcases exactly what’s so great about going to a dirty club show and getting your mosh on. This release is also accompanied by a live video recording of both band’s sets which is essential viewing if you’ve ever cared about the long lost art of the concert film. If you pre-order the split on cassette from Witch Hunter Records you also get a bonus Let it Die set which was also recorded at Stuck on a Name and like the Razoreater performance, it’s an utterly devastating streak of hardcore.

Order Oblivionized and Razoreater’s This is S.O.A.N. on limited edition cassette from Witch Hunter Records.


Review: Alpha Male Tea Party’s Droids

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Alpha Male Tea Party sound like the sort of band who should be an absolute chore to listen to. Instrumental prog rock brings about images of extended guitar solos, freeform song structures that spend too long going nowhere and the lack of vocal melodies can be an instant turn-off for a lot of music fans. With the band’s sophomore album Droids, the band seek to trim all the fat that bloats progressive music to unnatural sizes and instead focus on massive riffs and songs that contain more manageable run-times.

What’s really quite clever about Droids is how the opening track Happy as Larry, Larry is Dead actually contains some sparse vocals. These short bursts of yelping suit the angular nature of the track but what really strikes you is the treacle-thick guitar riffs that stand loud and proud at the front of the mix.

When the next track You Eat Houmous, Of Course You Listen to Genesis rolls around (yes, all the track titles are this bizarre) you soon begin to appreciate how important the guitar melodies are to Alpha Male Tea Party’s sound. The whole track is driven by some seriously bouncy, chunky, chord-heavy guitar work and it’s also bolstered by some fantastic bass-lines that are just as groovy and twangy as the guitar riffs.

What doesn’t become apparent until you pay some serious attention to it is that the vocals don’t appear again on any of the following songs on Droids. This is a particularly clever move on Alpha Male Tea Party’s part as the focus is put directly on their music instead of their vocal delivery. It’s a true testament to the band’s song writing that Alpha Male Tea Party’s music is strong enough without vocals that you simply don’t notice when they completely vanish.

Despite the progressive nature of the band’s music, their ideas are condensed into songs that average 4 minutes in length and they always put their guitar and bass melodies directly at the front of the mix so you can really appreciate the band’s song writing. It’s a genius move by some extremely talented musicians.

We can’t finish without mentioning how wonderfully unique it all sounds. The album is generally quite positive in tone despite the heavy, riff-lead structure of the music and it leads to a sound that can only be described as Alpha Male Tea Party. It’s getting extremely more difficult to stand out in heavy music these days but Alpha Male Tea Party need to be applauded for creating a record that truly sounds like them and them alone.

This is an easy recommendation to make; you need Alpha Male Tea Party’s Droids in your life. This a wonderfully unique and riff-laden record that is loaded with catchy melodies. Despite the progressive nature of the band’s music, they manage to make it incredibly palatable and Droids is a considerable more enjoyable experience for it.

9/10

Alpha Male Tea Party’s Droids is out now via Superstar Destroyer Records. You can buy a copy by clicking here.


Review: Radio Alcatraz’s It’s All Coming Up Roses

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Radio Alcatraz have returned and they’ve created a post hardcore album with some pretty interesting names attached to it. The band’s sophomore album is called It’s All Coming Up Roses and it’s produced by Refused’s own Pelle Henrisson. Not only that but it also contains guest appearances from Justin Schlosberg from Hell is for Heroes, Jamie Lenman, Justin Sane from Anti Flag and Liam Cormier from Cancer Bats. That’s some pretty hefty names in the heavy music scene.

So why have these guys decided to take an interest in Radio Alcatraz? It might have something to do with the fact that the band make some of the best post hardcore the UK has to offer right now. Since the release of the band’s debut album Populous: In the Belly of the Beast, the band have grown exponentially as song writers. The band’s music is brilliantly dynamic and while the angular openings of the songs and the quiet/loud dynamic will make fans of the genre feel at home, Radio Alcatraz have an unnerving knack for making each of their songs build up to an epic crescendo full of excellent melodies and leads by guitarist Andrew Eales.

The crescendos are where Radio Alcatraz really shine. There’s a real euphoria that comes from listening to tracks like The Physical Effect as you’re taken on a journey that begins in the weird, progressive area that so many post hardcore bands explore to be lulled into a gentler and more melodious middle eight before the band hit home with some soaring vocal melodies and guitar leads. It’s a beautiful experience that Radio Alcatraz have absolutely nailed on this album.

Not only is the music a wonderful love letter to post hardcore but the guest appearances from Justin Schlosberg and Jamie Lenman have the rather lovely effect of reminding you how brilliant UK rock music was in the early 2000s. This country had some stunning post hardcore to its name and Radio Alcatraz bring back joyous memories of bands like Hell is for Heroes, Hundred Reasons, Million Dead and early Funeral for a Friend and you can’t help but be reminded at how fantastic our rock music is.

It’s a shame that an album this well written should come out in an era where UK rock doesn’t bother the charts in the same way it used to because if It’s All Coming Up Roses was released in 2003 it would already be regarded a classic. That’s not to say that this record sounds dated in any way, just that it calls back to a bygone era of great UK rock music and Radio Alcatraz deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as the band’s that championed it.

Do you like post hardcore? Do you like early 2000s UK rock music? If the answer to either of those questions is, “yes” then you should be buying a copy of Radio Alcatraz’s It’s All Coming Up Roses right now. What this album lacks in originality is made up for by being one of the best post hardcore albums to come out in recent memory and I hope a legion of rock fans are still talking about it in 10 years’ time.

8/10

Radio Alcatraz’s It’s All Coming Up Roses is released on the 8th of December. You can pre-order it from Banquet Records right now.


Review: Corrupt Moral Altar’s Mechanical Tides

Corrupt Moral Altar - Mechanical Tides Front Cover HIRES

Corrupt Moral Altar have come a very long way in such a short amount of time. The groove-ridden grindcore sound of the band’s previous EPs has now sprouted shoots that extend into genres like black metal, noise and doom to create the band’s debut album Mechanical Tides.

The black metal influences are instantly apparent in the opening track Father Tongue which is full of bleak and moody atmospherics. The band also deliver blast-beats by the bucket load. Then the first instance of electronic noise seeps into the band’s sound for Blood Harmony and the slower pace will put doom fans in a horrible yet comfortable spot. Then we’re back to the classic Corrupt Mortal Altar combo of groove and grindcore for Die Glocke and Line Check but even then we’re getting touches of thrash and death metal in those riffs courtesy of John Cooke.

The ride doesn’t let up here. Vocalist Chris Reese takes a step away from screaming for the hauntingly stripped down Admit Defeat. This level of diversity puts Mechanical Tides on a completely different level than Corrupt Moral Altar’s previous material and it’s a beautifully accomplished cacophony of noise.

What’s all the more impressive is just how well it all works together. Corrupt Moral Altar have always had a knack for writing a smashing riff or twelve but this time they managed to being that proficiency into areas that it hadn’t previously visited. The frequent divergences into slower tempos and dark atmospherics are fantastic additions that make listening to Mechanical Tides feel like a journey into the unknown instead of a simple collection of songs.

Special mention also has to be brought to the guitar because the filthy, Entombed-esque guitar tone smears the whole record in a wonderfully disgusting veneer that is complimented by the raw aggression of Tom Dring’s drum work. Every nasty, distorted imperfection is captured perfectly and the crash-heavy drumming just makes the whole experience even more chaotic. I can’t imagine listening to Mechanical Tides through the bright and almost robotic production that gets applied to things like tech metal. This album is a much better experience for all it’s harsh, wretched volatility.

Corrupt Moral Altar have delivered one of the most amazing debut albums any metal band could hope to make. Mechanical Tides is a raucous, nasty bastard of a record that manages to take influences from as many areas of the metal spectrum it can and it fuses them into the band’s already brilliant sound with ease. It’s not often we get to experience an album that’s so magnificently loud yet diverse at the same time and Corrupt Moral Altar have made us wish this experience occurred more often.

9/10

Corrupt Moral Altar’s Mechanical Tides is out now via Season of Mist.


Review: Mage’s Last Orders

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When I noticed that Mage’s latest album Last Orders was only 7 tracks long I began to worry that the groove-metallers might have rushed an album out that wouldn’t make it to the half hour mark. What I was not prepared for was how much the band have grown as song-writers since Black Sands. Mage have evolved into a doom-ridden, sludgy beast of a band. The groove is still there but the band have seen fit to take elements from various down-tempo heavy music like desert rock and fuse it with their signature sound to create a thunderous slab of quality metal that’s immensely satisfying to listen to.

The band have also decided to indulge their proggier leanings by generally writing far longer songs than the band have created previously. Melodies are often not revisited once they shift into a new riff and there are some impressive bursts of speed in tracks like Dark Matter and Old Bones. These thrashier moments are beautiful little additions that help break up the slower pace of the album which is a genius move as the down-tempo nature of the band’s music could’ve become a bit tiresome.

Special mention has to be given to guitarists Woody and Ben who deliver massive riff after massive riff. There are plenty of thick, chunky chords to bite into throughout the album and they’re decorated with some impressive solos like the one on The Fallen. A good solo should always favour melody over technicality and Mage are fully aware of this which is why each solo on Last Orders is a really momentous occasion.

Rounding out this rather meaty package is the wonderful production job by Chris Fielding who keeps the guitar and bass tones as murky and filth-ridden as you’d expect them to be on a sludge metal record. Fielding has seen fit to give the bass prominence in this mix and it suits the huge, spacey vibe of songs like Lux Mentis and Beyond to a tee.

The only real negative we can sling at Mage is that they are an excellent sludge band in a sea of excellent sludge bands. Mage inhabit the same space as bands like Limb, Gurt, Black Moth and Trippy Wicked and they’re often a very similar experience. If more groovy, desert sludge is what you want then Mage have you covered but if you’re after something with an identity of its own then you might be out of luck.

Regardless, Mage have put together a stunning sophomore album that improves on every element of the band’s sound and marks a massive leap forward from their debut album Black Sands. Last Orders is an enormous, neck-bothering monster of an album that sludge fans will be stupid to miss.

8/10

Mage’s Last Orders is out now and available to order on CD via Witch Hunter Records.


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