Review: The Tidal Sleep and Svalbard’s Split 7″

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It’s a double-dose of glittery yet aggressive post hardcore from Germany’s The Tidal Sleep and Bristol’s Svalbard on this extremely dense slab of wax. The two bands complement each other amazingly well making this a surprisingly cohesive release that betrays its split format.

THE TIDAL SLEEP

The Tidal Sleep’s Are You Ok? is a very interesting and progressive track that isn’t afraid to get weird and spacey in its middle eight. Bursting out the gates with a venomous punk rock fury, the band get wonderfully introspective for a lot of this track and it makes for a bizarrely pleasant and atmospheric experience that distracts from the fact the band were just screaming their lungs out a minute ago. As the song slowly builds itself back up for the final attack, it explodes with one final burst of energy and it’s absolutely magnificent. This is a fantastic offering from The Tidal Sleep that deserves to be heard.

8/10

SVALBARD

Open the Cages is another monster of a song from Svalbard, complete with shimmering guitar leads and an absolutely relentless and exhausting pace that shows no sign of the band slowing down. It also does that patented Svalbard build to a monstrous and uplifting crescendo that’s full of hope, despite the visceral nature of the music on display. Svalbard haven’t put a foot wrong for the entirety of their career so far and this release is just another example as to why they’re one of the most exciting bands in the UK right now. Svalbard have no right churning out songs as good as this for a 7” split and it’s satisfying to know they didn’t phone this one in and save themselves for a larger release.

9/10

Despite being a brief listening experience, this a brilliant split 7” that fans of post hardcore should not be sleeping on. Both bands put forward fantastic songs that are well worth your time and the production quality is magnificent throughout, making the entire release sound absolutely massive. Again, it’s wonderfully surprising that such a small release like this can contain such quality.

The Tidal Sleep and Svalbard’s split 7″ is out now and available to buy through Holy Roar Records.


Review: Cult Cinema’s Cosmic Horror I

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Cult Cinema have returned with a new focus and the first part in a high concept series of EPs that focus on the loneliness of outer space. Cosmic Horror I is the band’s first EP in over five years and also marks the debut of a brand new line-up that brings some interesting changes to the band’s sound.

While the band’s debut EP Iscariot certainly had some very interesting things going on, it was a little more straightforward in its song structures. That record was heavily entrenched in a darker and more brooding hardcore sound and while that certainly returns on Cosmic Horror I, there’s just a more consistent approach to delivering those ideas in a more effective and cohesive way.

Opener Glass Coffin lurches in with a moody yet glittery shower of guitar that hides the onslaught that’s about to ensue. By far the most hardcore-sounding track on the EP, Glass Coffin is a fast-paced assault that lends its sound more heavily to post hardcore and screamo. This means we get a more varied and textured showing from Cult Cinema that sees them experimenting with progressive song structures, guitar leads and blast beats to great effect. It’s very much akin to the sort of noise bands like Svalbard and Terrible Love are making and it’s a great and natural direction for Cult Cinema to follow.

Closing track Distress Signal takes Cult Cinema’s new found love of varied texture and applies it to a slower and more drawn-out song that brings in a lot of atmosphere to the band’s sound. Distress Signal does an amazing job of sounding like a harrowing and forlorn tale of abandonment complete with an absolutely terrifying and stricken vocal performance.

The only real problem with Cosmic Horror I is that it’s all over far too quickly. Both tracks are such a sumptuous and enticing appetiser that it feels too abrupt when it comes to a close after only two songs. It’s certainly got me excited to hear more from the new and reformed Cult Cinema, but in hindsight it might have been nice if the band just held on a little bit longer and put something together that had a little more to offer.

Regardless, this is a minor quibble with an otherwise fantastic return from one of the UK underground’s best acts. Cosmic Horror I is a bold step forward for Cult Cinema that showcases a sound with an increased scope that has me begging for more. I’m lucky that the band is heading into the studio to record the follow-up next month then, eh?

8/10

Cult Cinema’s Cosmic Horror I is out now and available to buy direct from the band’s Bandcamp page.


Review: A Cunning Man’s Practical Applications of Theurgy

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A Cunning Man is the one-man metal project of Ged Cartwright who previously fronted Scumscene post hardcore favourites Teenage China. This new project is extremely high concept stuff; a progressive and symphonic metal project that simply shouldn’t be coming out of the mind of one man.

Practical Applications of Theurgy is such a dense EP that it inspired me to do some background reading on a lot of the references in the song titles. Each track contains a name that appears in The Grimoire of Pope Honorius, which is a 1760 text that was made to be read during mass. Whether or not this is actually the influence on Cartwright’s lyricism remains to be seen, but the fact that I was even intrigued enough to find some meaning in this monumentally enormous sounding EP is a true testament to how interesting A Cunning Man’s music really is.

From the first track Honorius & the Choral Forecast, the listener is assaulted with a symphonic metal attack that’s heavy on blast beats and ethereal strings. Think of a melding of Dimmu Borgir, Between the Buried and Me and Periphery and you’ve got a good idea as to how wild this all sounds. Cartwright’s virtuosic vocals are placed front and centre and rightly so; the man’s singing is nothing short of staggering with its beautiful, lilting melodies permeating every song. It’s a huge amount to take in for a first track and if there’s one criticism to be levelled at this track then it might be a case of over-egging the pudding.

The next two tracks actually reign in A Cunning Man’s tendency to throw every influence under their belt into the mix. A more considered introduction leads the listener along carefully before the instrumentation picks up and when it does it never gets overindulgent. Closer Juratus & the Sulfur Psalm also follow a similar structure and it allows the impact of A Cunning Man’s crescendos to really shine. There’s more of a post rock influence on these tracks that remind you of prog bands like TesseracT, as they show less outright visceral metal like on the first track.

Practical Applications of Theurgy is an extremely unique and almost overbearing symphonic metal release from one of the most gifted Scottish musicians I can think of. This is an extremely accomplished first offering from A Cunning Man and while it sometimes veers dangerously close to being a little too dense for its own good, the song-writing shines brighter and makes for a record that’s more than the sum of its parts. A Cunning Man have an awful lot to offer over these 3 tracks and I’m very excited to see where the project goes in the future.

8/10

A Cunning Man’s Practical Applications of Theurgy is out now and available to download direct from the band’s official Bandcamp page.


Year End: The 10 Best Albums of 2016

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10) Raging Speedhorn

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Raging Speedhorn released a new album in 2016! Holy shit! And it sounds like a direct continuation of the sound on How the Great Have Fallen! And Frank is back in the band! Raging Speedhorn’s return with their 5th long-player Lost Ritual certainly quashed any worries that their previous album Before the Sea Was Built might have instilled and it’s absolutely fantastic to have them back on top form. The kings of sludgecore have finally returned.

9) Aliases – Derangeable

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“Derangeable is a welcome addition to Aliases very limited library and it’s pretty safe to say that if you were a fan of the band before, then this was certainly a record worth waiting for. However, if you’re well versed in tech metal then you’ll certainly notice the similarities to SikTh and while you’ll probably never ask yourself, “why am I not just listening to SikTh?” you’ll certainly wonder if there wasn’t more the band could have done to differentiate themselves a bit.”

Click here for the full review.

8) Rash Decision – Headstrung

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“Regardless, Rash Decision have managed to churn out 17 minutes of hardcore punk perfection on Headstrung and if the new material doesn’t quench your hardcore thirst then there’s another 19 minutes of songs for you to indulge in, thanks to Seaside Resort to Violence being on the B side. Rash Decision are an immensely enjoyable hardcore punk act that don’t have too many strings on their bow, but thankfully the ones that are there do the job perfectly.”

Click here for the full review.

7) Karybdis – Samsara

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“Karybdis have put together a smorgasbord of metal subgenres and masterfully fused them into a sound that is exclusive to the band. Samsara is a metal album that heavy music fans will be championing for years to come and it establishes Karybdis as one of the UK’s best metal acts.”

Click here for the full review.

6) Iron Witch – A Harrowed Dawn

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“Iron Witch have certainly spent a long time getting to this record and at only 6 tracks long it is a bit slight for a long-player, but those years of writing and touring have turned them into a well-oiled, doom-making machine and A Harrowed Dawn is the realisation of all their achievements so far. This is easily the best and biggest sounding Iron Witch release to date and an essential purchase for any doom fan.”

Click here for the full review.

5) Let It Die – The Liar & the Saint

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It feels like I’ve been waiting forever for Let it Die to put their efforts into a long-player and with The Liar & the Saint the band have finally delivered. In typical Let it Die fashion it’s as heavy as a tonne of bricks to the skull and faster than a cat belting it across the room after having its tail stepped on. The Liar & the Saint is a relentless assault of hardcore punk and grind that demands you’re moshing for its entirety. Let it Die certainly didn’t disappoint on their debut album, but was there really any doubt?

4) The Infernal Sea – The Great Mortality

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“The Infernal Sea’s The Great Mortality is an album that you simply must own if you like metal. The Inferal Sea have absolutely mastered their craft and turned in one of the most satisfying black metal releases you could possibly want. It’s heavy, it’s memorable and it’s pretty much essential if you enjoy metal.”

Click here for the full review.

3) Sunwølf – Eve

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“Eve is another monstrous achievement for Sunwølf. It’s an album of uplifting highs and crushing lows and despite the simplicity in the song-writing and how long the songs can be, everything is crafted with atmosphere in mind. Sunwølf songs will only linger if the atmosphere requires it to and thanks to the simplicity of the song-writing, the band also put focus on their melodies. You wouldn’t think an album like this would be so memorable but thanks to the focus on melody and atmosphere, it’s very easy to find yourself playing Eve repeatedly without even noticing it. Eve is a beautiful album that makes you appreciate good song-writing and if you’re a fan of post rock then it’s an essential purchase.”

Click here for the full review.

2) Wode – Wode

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“Wode’s debut self-titled album is a fantastic achievement. Every element of the band’s song-writing has been so carefully crafted and sculpted to maximise the impact of their music and it makes this album one of the most approachable black metal releases I’ve ever come across. If you’re a fan of heavy music in general then Wode’s self-titled album is something that has a much broader appeal than most underground black metal and it’s a release I’d thoroughly recommend.”

Click here for the full review.

1) Slabdragger – Rise of the Dawncrusher

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“The UK is spoilt for great sludge as Slabdragger are competing with other brilliant acts like Limb, Gurt, Monolithian and Opium Lord, but Rise of the Dawncrusher sets a new standard for UK sludge metal. Slabragger have written a follow-up so utterly devastating that it demands your attention. Slabdragger, man; what a band.”

Click here for the full review.


Year End: The 10 Best EPs of 2016

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10) Cold Summer – Fight to Survive

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“Regardless, Cold Summer have finally hit their groove on Fight to Survive. This is an extremely bold and fearless record that sees all the pieces of the Cold Summer jigsaw puzzle fit together comfortably. If fist-pumping, anthemic post hardcore music is what you crave in life, then Fight to Survive is an EP you can rely on.”

Click here to read the full review.

9) Conjurer – I

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Despite making a name for themselves in the UK underground’s live circuit for what feels like ages, Conjurer finally released their debut EP this year and it’s fantastically difficult to categorise which is always a fun job as a music critic. This EP is a seriously challenging slab of metal that draws on so many different elements from genres as wide and diverse as death metal, classic rock, black metal and doom metal. Conjurer manage to sound like Mastodon, Between the Buried and Me and Deicide running at each other full pelt across a room with the resulting impact birthing whatever Conjurer are.

8) Wren – Host

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Wren continue to impress us with their huge, atmospheric take on doom metal. Host may be only 4 tracks long, but there’s an awful lot of music to indulge in. This is a creepy and forlorn take on doom that intersperses the music with elements of post rock to create a truly desperate and bleak tone that permeates the entire record. If you’ve been looking for a doom release that could probably make you emotionally well up, then Wren will certainly deliver that. Host is a really unique record from a band who are doing something very interesting with this genre.

7) Terrible Love – Change Nothing

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“Terrible Love’s Change Nothing is an incredible debut from a band that comes with a lot of expectation and they absolutely deliver. This is a remarkably accomplished start to a band’s career that I hope lasts for a very long time.”

Click here to read the full review.

6) Nembutal – Pay to Die

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When bands put out releases like this I always get tempted to just write, “FUCK” and leave it at that. Nembutal’s follow-up to their 2014 demo is about as no-nonsense as hardcore punk records come. The goal of every song on Pay to Die is to play as loud and fast as possible and it just so happens that Nembutal are bloody excellent at doing both. Nembutal’s music has about as much depth as a roadside puddle, but if you enjoy your hardcore punk being played with as much energy as the human body can muster then you absolutely have to listen to Pay to Die.

5) Allfather – Bless the Earth With Fire

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“Allfather have evolved significantly since their debut EP and with Bless the Earth with Fire we see the band writing more diverse and interesting songs that complement the shift towards sludge metal. It also rocks like a mother fucker.”

Click here to read the full review.

4) So-Crates – v1

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“Overall, v1 is an accomplished and intense debut from an extremely exciting new band. If you’re a fan of post hardcore and math rock then you’ll find a lot to love here and despite some niggles regarding the production, the song-writing really does shine bright and offer a record that is greater than the sum of its parts.”

Click here to read the full review.

3) Underdark – Mourning Cloak

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Nottingham’s Underdark exploded out the gates with a black metal release that’s scarily accomplished for a first drop. Mourning Cloak is a wonderfully textured and beautifully structured EP that betrays how heavy it is. The ebb and flow of every song on this record is so gloriously natural and well placed that there’s a dream-like quality to the music that’s at juxtaposition with all the screaming and double-bass drumming on offer. Underdark are a very special band that instantly have my attention and have me begging for more.

2) Watchcries – Watchcries

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Another EP that took me by complete surprise, Watchcries’ debut self-titled EP is never short on ideas. This 3 track offering of metallic hardcore fuses itself with elements of death and black metal and instantly grabs you by the collar and gets right in your face. Watchcries have no interest in nuance; this is a band who are itching to make the most visceral and aggressive metal they can and if this debut is anything to go by then their next record might actually kill you.

1) Razoreater – Vacuum of Nihil

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“Vacuum of Nihil is a loud, noisy, racket of a metal EP and it contains Razoreater’s finest work to date. This band has only managed to get more ferocious with every record and still manage to find new ways to assault your ears. Vacuum of Nihil might have been a long time coming but when Razoreater deliver a record as disgustingly vicious as this it makes you realise that it might have all been worth it. This is an essential UK metal release.”

Click here to read the full review.


Year End: The 5 Best Splits of 2016

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5) Temple Steps/Wreck

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A massive, lurching doom behemoth from Lincoln’s Temple Steps and Germany’s Wreck, this split highlights two young talents who are making a captivating low-tempo racket. While Temple Steps prefer the long form, almost funeral doom approach to song structures, Wreck have a real sludgy guitar tone and some really creative riffs that make their tracks a little more interesting. The production is a little rough round the edges, but it’ll be fascinating to watch both bands grow on their next releases.

4) God Mother/Artemis

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Sweden’s God Mother teamed up with Basingstoke’s Artemis for their final release (another great band taken by the onslaught of 2016) and it’s a bittersweet effort as Artemis put forward 2 of their best songs. Both bands fit into the same metallic hardcore mold with extremely progressive song structures that focus on speed and aggression. Fans of hardcore are serviced well by this 7”.

3) Szyslak/Misgivings

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This double-dose of pop punk from the two fresh faces of Brighton’s Szyslak and Portsmouth’s Misgivings offers up 4 tracks of no-nonsense, hooky punk-rock for fans of Gnarwolves. It’s great to hear more pop punk cropping up with a little more bite than the usual sugary, hyper-polished efforts by a lot of the big name bands like Blink-182 and Green Day so if you enjoy massive sing-a-long choruses but like your punk with a bit of dirt then you can do no wrong with this split.

2) Harrowed/Art of Burning Water

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“Harrowed are still an exciting hardcore band and these tracks are by no means bad, they’re just not up to the band’s usual standard. Fingers crossed Harrowed have another belter of a long-player in the works because it’s about time we saw something more substantial from the band. It’s weird to think that Into Inferno is around 3 years old now.”

“Thankfully, despite all these elements coming into play, they manage to fuse in a way that makes Art of Burning Water’s music sound utterly ferocious. Let Me Let You Finish is the perfect example of all these musical styles coming together harmoniously and it’s a terrifying and scattershot explosion of disgusting metal that demands your attention. Please start paying attention to what Art of Burning Water are doing because a band like this shouldn’t be so criminally overlooked.”

Click here to read the full review.

1) Gurt/Trippy Wicked – Guppy

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Seeing as how Gurt and Trippy Wicked now share a drummer, it made perfect sense for the sludge metallers to team up for a split and the result is nothing short of excellent. Gurt are on form once again with their special blend of sludge and hardcore that makes for a suitably unpredictable yet surprisingly memorable couple of songs, but it’s Trippy Wicked that really shine. Their first new material in 3 years, this is easily the best the band has sounded. There’s real depth to their bluesy sound now and the production finally makes them sound as massive as they do live. Let’s not forget the wonderfully daft cover of T. Rex’s Children of the Revolution which sees members from both bands team up to create a truly “revolting” version of the rock classic.


Review: Simmer’s Paper Prisms

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Glittery emo quintet Simmer have returned with their debut album entitled Paper Prisms. Simmer previously impressed us with their 2015 EP Yellow Streak; a beautiful and delicate yet sharp and biting rock record that showcased an extremely accomplished sound for such a young band. Personal anticipation was high for this record, so do Simmer deliver the goods when they move onto their first long-player?

Sort of. This is clearly the same band that wowed us last year, but there’s something about Paper Prisms that feels like a band trying to spread their ideas too thin. The setup is identical to Yellow Streak; we get beautiful, sweeping guitar melodies complimented with sombre, lilting vocals and it’s all accompanied with a punchy performance on the drums. The one/two opener of Faze and Control is a perfect beginning to the record and it showcases all these elements beautifully.

However, what becomes apparent very early on is just how much time is spent on overindulgent moments of guitar feedback. Every song seems to start with a big wailing burst of feedback and in the case of some songs like Antwerp, they even linger to a limp conclusion using even more feedback. Simmer are clearly trying to create atmosphere on Paper Prisms and the guitar feedback is never abrasive or obnoxious in anyway, it just feels like it takes away from the immediacy of the song-writing. Songs like Calendar don’t kick in until half the track’s run time has gone by and it’s a bit annoying that so much time is spent holding a guitar to an amp.

It’s also a shame that the vocals often get lost in the mix. The vocals on Paper Prisms are often treated more like an instrument and they’ve been hidden away in the composition to the point that you can’t really make out what’s being said. It’s not the biggest problem because thankfully the gorgeous melodies are still audible; it just would have been nicer to have heard the vocals front and centre.

Simmer’s Paper Prisms is by no means a bad record by any stretch of the imagination. This is still a wonderfully light and dreamy emo record and as a debut album it certainly sets the band up with a great foundation to build on. Sadly it’s let down by a lot unnecessarily drawn-out moments of guitar feedback that have a tendency to kill the pacing. It Simmer can tighten up their song-writing and think of ways to meld the extra texture into the songs themselves, then their next release should be something really special.

7/10

Simmer’s Paper Prisms is out now and available to buy from Dog Knights Productions.


Review: Wode’s Wode

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Wode’s debut long-player shouldn’t have turned out this good. How does a band debut with something this wonderfully nuanced, textured and accomplished? This album sounds like it came from a band that’s been writing and touring for a decade, not half that time. If Wode’s debut album proves anything it’s that you shouldn’t rush your art and Wode have certainly perfected their own blend of melodic black metal.

Black metal can be a challenging genre to get your ears around. Often lacking in melody, being purposely under-produced and focussing on heaviness instead of melody, Wode’s self-titled album suffers from none of these factors. Well, it’s certainly heavy and there’s almost always a blast beat happening, but it’s so much more than simple heaviness.

First of all the guitar work is astounding. Melody permeates every riff on this record and the amount of tremolo picking is astonishing. It’s exhausting listening to how fast and tight the guitar work on this record is. There’s a wonderful ebb and flow to the riffs as well; always moving in a very natural and calculated way and adding an almost glittery texture to the proceedings.

There’s some real variety to the sound of the songs on this album as well. Opener Death’s Edifice is a pretty bleak and foreboding track that leads into the stunning melody of Trails of Smoke which is almost uplifting in nature. I certainly didn’t expect to have my mood lightened by a black metal song but here we are. There’s also a surprising thrash influence on a lot of this record and the riffs on Cloaked in Ruin certainly have a classic heavy metal vibe which once again adds some welcome melody to the record.

Wode’s debut self-titled album is a fantastic achievement. Every element of the band’s song-writing has been so carefully crafted and sculpted to maximise the impact of their music and it makes this album one of the most approachable black metal releases I’ve ever come across. If you’re a fan of heavy music in general then Wode’s self-titled album is something that has a much broader appeal than most underground black metal and it’s a release I’d thoroughly recommend.

9/10

Wode’s self-titled debut album is out now and available to buy from Broken Limbs Recordings, Vendetta Records and COF Records.


Review: Harrowed and Art of Burning Water’s Split 7″

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HARROWED

Harrowed’s take on dark, metallic hardcore is one of the best in the UK and their debut album Into Inferno is a vicious and dangerous sounding record that takes all the best bits from the genre and plays them really well. However, on the two tracks they offer on this split, the elements are all still there but Harrowed don’t sound as volatile. This is Harrowed doing what Harrowed do and that’s fine because Harrowed make great hardcore, but they’re missing the edge that made Into Inferno so utterly sumptuous.

This is mainly due to the production style which is a little rawer than the band’s debut. Into Inferno certainly wasn’t a bright, shiny album when it came to production, but the guitar sounded deadly. It had a real bite that’s sadly missing on these tracks and it just means that they’re missing a special something that would make them stand out better, especially now that dark hardcore is such an overpopulated genre.

Harrowed are still an exciting hardcore band and these tracks are by no means bad, they’re just not up to the band’s usual standard. Fingers crossed Harrowed have another belter of a long-player in the works because it’s about time we saw something more substantial from the band. It’s weird to think that Into Inferno is around 3 years old now.

7/10

ART OF BURNING WATER

Art of Burning Water are one of those bands that have been slogging their way through the toilet circuit for what feels like forever and never really been given their dues. Their music is very difficult to categorise as it draws in so many different influences from the heavy music spectrum, but it’s mainly a form hardcore punk that’s sprinkled with elements of black metal and grindcore. Vocals are always high-pitched and raspy giving their music that nasty, brooding vibe that black metal does so well and the loose, short bursts of almost free-form song-writing definitely lend themselves heavily to hardcore and grind.

Thankfully, despite all these elements coming into play, they manage to fuse in a way that makes Art of Burning Water’s music sound utterly ferocious. Let Me Let You Finish is the perfect example of all these musical styles coming together harmoniously and it’s a terrifying and scattershot explosion of disgusting metal that demands your attention. Please start paying attention to what Art of Burning Water are doing because a band like this shouldn’t be so criminally overlooked.

8/10

Harrowed and Art of Burning Water’s split 7″ is out now and available to buy from Secret Law Records.