Category Archives: Review

Review: Corrupt Moral Altar’s Eunoia

It’s been 3 years since Corrupt Moral Altar’s debut album Mechanical Tides; an album that creaks under the sheer weight of influences it crams into its confines. With the band’s sophomore effort Eunoia, the band have seen fit to distil their song-writing into its raw components and what we get is a grindcore album that manages to constantly push the boundaries of what it means to be heavy and it’s scarily consistent for its entire run-time.

Despite generally dealing in the sort of metal that likes to make a racket and get the job done very quickly, Corrupt Moral Altar do a fantastic job of writing tons of memorable riffs and barely revisit them over the course of a single song. Their music is fast and punishing; riffs come and go with complete abandon, and just when you’ve got your head banging to a tasty groove, the band have jumped into a sequence of blast-beats or a disgustingly heavy section of double-bass drumming.

What really helps Corrupt Moral Altar from losing all semblance of melody and musicianship is they’ve clearly got a taste for a nice bit of death metal. Songs like Night Chant and Survivor’s Guilt benefit from the sort of structure that death metal brings and it allows the band to push those riffs forward before beating you about the head with another lightning-fast grindcore segment. This results in Eunoia becoming an uncompromising 43 minutes that never puts a foot wrong and never finds itself delivering a song that is merely there to pad out the run-time.

The sheer amount of riffs on Eunoia shouldn’t be possible. The songs are all fairly progressive and always pushing forward at an incredible pace, so it’s nothing short of a miracle that the album manages to maintain its intensity for the entirety of its run-time. It can be quite an exhausting listen, but if you’ve been looking for a grindcore album that never lets up then you’ve absolutely found it with Eunoia.

Corrupt Moral Altar are one of the most consistent and extremely exciting bands in heavy music and Eunoia has cemented their position at the forefront of UK grindcore. The band have so many great riffs to share that they end up making a record that sounds like a grindcore compilation but somehow only made by one band. Despite almost exclusively playing as fast as possible, the band manage to sprinkle their music with interesting little moments like the hardcore punk introduction to Burning Bridges and Burning Homes or the enormous, swinging, mosh-pit groove in Rat King. Eunoia is an album that’s almost euphoric in its consistent delivery of grindcore classics for a new generation.

9/10

Corrupt Moral Altar’s Eunoia is out now and available to download direct from the band.

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Review: Atragon’s I, Necromancer

Atragon’s debut EP Volume I is one of the earliest reviews I wrote for UK Scumscene, so it’s bizarre to see the band’s name crop up again almost five years later for their debut album I, Necromancer. My lasting memory of Volume I is that one of the tracks was pretty good and the other one was a bit dull. Well as it turns out, the good track (Jesus Wept) has been re-recorded for I, Necromancer alongside six new songs. My cynical side instantly thought, “So it’s taken Atragon five years to write six songs?” but that’s just me being a condescending prick because those five years have clearly seen Atragon improve dramatically.

Now Atragon’s Sabbath worship is certainly nothing new among doom bands, but what they do they do bloody well. Atragon’s songs usually kick off with an absolutely gargantuan riff that builds and builds over the course of the track. More elements are thrown into the mix including Jan Gardner’s bellowing vocals and some beautifully indulgent guitar solos that always punctuate the closing moments of the song in a wonderfully heroic way. Album opener Matriarch certainly follows this pattern and it’s repeated on the title track and Wallowing Wizard to great effect. There’s something euphoric about the way Atragon build to their crescendos.

Even though the song-writing on I, Necromancer is often quite simplistic, Atragon have seen fit to shorten the songs since Volume 1 and they now average around 6 minutes. This means that even though most songs are carried by one riff, it never gets to outstay its welcome. Plus, everything sounds absolutely massive now thanks to the fantastic production job done by Graeme Young at Chamber Studio. Doom metal lives and dies on its production and Atragon certainly chose well for this record.

The only time the song structure changes on I, Necromancer is for the eerie album closer Guilt Returns. This track chooses to dump almost all of the percussion and instead lets a moody bass line and guitar melody create some really unnerving atmosphere that’s accentuated by Gardner’s vocals. It’s a suitably expansive ending to an album that’s spent its entire time sounding enormous.

It may have taken a long time getting here but Atragon’s I, Necromancer is a gleefully gargantuan doom record that revels in its simplicity. Atragon aren’t exactly reinventing the wheel here, but if big riffs and even bigger crescendos are something that you get your rocks off to then Atragon certainly have you covered.

8/10

Atragon’s I, Necromancer is out now and available to download direct from the band.


Review: Helpless’ Debt

If you’ve yet to discover Helpless then you’ll be pleased to know that they feature ex-Brotherhood of the Lake guitarist Russell Cleave (but this time around he’s on drum duty) and they’re about the closest thing to the depraved, metallic hardcore madness of that band that you can find in 2017. With their debut album Debt we are treated to a metallic hardcore record that takes elements from grindcore and black metal to create something akin to Throats, but with a frequent marriage of atonal, high-pitched guitar work and low-end, crunchy riffs.

Debt clocks in at 22 minutes and sounds like the sort of thing you’d expect to soundtrack a serious psychotic breakdown. This is not a subtle record and it frequently assaults you with fast-paced, abrasive tracks full of blast beats and tremolo-picking and then slightly slower, crushing moments of doomy hardcore. Add a vocal performance that sounds like the agonised screams from hell and you’ve basically explained everything you can expect to hear on this record. This is not music for the faint of heart.

Thank God Helpless have seen fit to make this a short record because if it was any longer it would probably be a serious threat to your health. Tracks like opener Worth, Grief Vultures and Sertaline are uncompromising attacks of relentless speed, crusty riffs and devastatingly thrashy drums. When the tempo changes to something not so punishingly fast, Helpless up the oppressive and gloomy atmosphere of their music by using the aforementioned atonal, higher-pitched guitar work. This manifests itself on tracks like Out of Commission, Moral Bankruptcy and Manufactured Consent and they often pair these atonal guitar passages with monolithic, low-end riffs to make their impact that little bit more powerful, and my God does it work.

Helpless’ Debt is an extremely dense and unrelenting record that makes no apologies for being ridiculously heavy. Helpless use some extremely creative guitar work to create a dark and isolated atmosphere to make an absolute racket in. It may not be the most nuanced long-player you’ll hear, but it certainly delivers one of the most powerful and devastating heavy music experiences of 2017. Lord knows Helpless have a serious task ahead of them if they want to best this record with their next release.

9/10

Helpless’ Debt is out now and available to buy on vinyl and CD from Holy Roar Records.


Review: Stinky Wizzleteat’s Quit Drugs!

All hail the return of the Teat! There’s been a five year gap between releases and a lengthy hiatus for the Birmingham sludge-metallers, but Stinky Wizzleteat are back and with a new EP entitled Quit Drugs! and it’s probably the most expansive-sounding thing they’ve ever done.

Stinky Wizzleteat’s last outing was with 2012 EP Butterscotch Crucifixxx which saw the band a man down and contained no bass or vocals. It was certainly a valiant attempt at maintaining what the band is about, but it was clearly lacking. There is no such problem on Quit Drugs! and considering this is an independent release, it’s the biggest sounding record the band has put out to date.

We kick things off we Snack Heavy, a savage, bass-heavy stomper of an opener that encapsulates the unpredictable and progressive nature of the band perfectly. Stinky Wizzleteat have often sounded a little messy and unfocussed on previous releases, but here we have a band firing on all cylinders. This is tight, interesting and unashamedly heavy.

The next track Omar explores this mantra further with some really creative guitar work that generates some wonderfully bizarre riffs. We also get a reappearance of Asymmetrical Bashing from Butterscotch Crucifixxx, but this time it’s completely fleshed out with bass and vocals and sounds better than it ever has before.

In the closing two tracks Bingo Mandingo and DP, we see Stinky Wizzleteat slow things down and create some absolutely monolithic music in the process. Bingo Mandingo is a crushing little tune that moves into doom territory in its closing moments and DP sees the band explore a more psychedelic, desert rock style that doesn’t sound out of place at all. Considering how weird Stinky Wizzleteat can be, it’s fantastic to see how well these tracks have come together for this EP.

Stinky Wizzleteat’s Quit Drugs! is quite easily the best thing the band have produced to date. This is a really accomplished showcase of progressive, unpredictable sludge metal that manages to rein in the band’s eccentricities just enough to make a cohesive and absolutely punishing record. It would be great to see if the band have an equally effective long-player in them, but only time will tell. Welcome back, guys.

9/10

Stinky Wizzleteat’s Quit Drugs! is out now and available to download now direct from the band.


Review: Yards’ Excitation Thresholds

It’s been a long time coming but the debut long-player from Yards is finally here. Excitation Thresholds is a 33 minute metallic hardcore assault that noticeably benefits from the amount of time Yards have had to perfect their craft. Everything on this album is here for a reason and it never outstays its welcome.

Despite being a shouty, aggressive hardcore act, Yards have a lot of strings to their bow. During the first half of the album we see the band getting straight to the point and absolutely blasting our faces off with massive riffs, terrifying vocals and one of the thrashiest, loudest drumming performances put to record. The drums in particular are always front and centre in the mix and they really heighten the ferocity of the music on Excitation Thresholds.

But then Yards start to do something different. The tempo slows down a notch and favours a more mid-paced, stompy approach to heaviness that’s just as effective as when the band are going full steam. The album likes to jump between the two styles and it keeps the record fresh and exciting with every song. For example, the no-nonsense hardcore attack of War Tourist is followed by the mid-paced, chunky assault of Everything You Love Reduced to Rubble. This happens again with The Attic, which despite being 4 minutes long and crammed full of ideas, manages to go flat out for its entire run time. Then we get BL-755 which is an extremely bleak and oppressive track that deals more in atmosphere than savagery.

Yards manage to showcase some extremely diverse song-writing for a band that are this unashamedly aggressive. By the time we get to album closer The Shadow Stealer, we get to experience a song that encapsulates all the ideas that came before it in one mammoth 7 and a half minute beast. It’s fast, it’s dark, it’s atmospheric, it’s punishing. It’s everything Yards stand for and a career highlight for one of the most exciting bands in hardcore right now.

Yards’ Excitation Thresholds is an instant recommendation. If you want to hear a passionate, exciting hardcore band putting all their cards on the table and never putting a foot wrong then this is the album for you. Sure, it’s over pretty quickly, but any more time spent with music this visceral would be exhausting. It’s the perfect length for one of the most diverse and relentlessly savage debut albums in recent memory.

9/10

Yards’ Excitation Thresholds is out now and available to buy on vinyl from Truthseeker Music.


Review: Psython’s HATRED

Sheffield thrash-punkers Psython return for their second long-player HATRED, which is apparently an acronym for Hopelessly Aware That Rage Engenders Despair. The band have now expanded into a five piece and clearly haven’t lost their sense of humour since …Outputs because HATRED contains a song called Chai Latte.

Since we last visited Psython, we were certainly impressed by their no-nonsense, blistering approach to making daft, catchy, thrash bangers and that’s certainly still the case on HATRED. There’s actually a bigger focus on just being a band that doesn’t fuck around and gets the job done and HATRED is a more enjoyable record as a result.

Album highlights include opener Jörmungandr which despite being 5 and a half minutes long, never takes its foot of the gas. Battery Life, Teeth, the aforementioned Chai Latte and Hashtrap are some of the best songs the band has produced and it’s because they’re loaded with great riffs and solos and get the job done. If you like your music fast and aggressive then Psython certainly have you covered and then some.

Unfortunately in the few moments where the album falls down, it’s due to the same reasons as their debut. HATE is more of a mid-paced track and while it’s a perfectly serviceable, stompy little number, the bridge feels like it meanders and kills the momentum as a result. The same problem appears on Ten Pounds and One Indeed. It would have been more effective if Psython got to their solos quicker during their middle eights and just spent more time being fun.

Then there’s album closer Old Man which takes the crown of the only bad song on HATRED. Old Man is the slowest track on the album and it feels overlong and lacking enough ideas to warrant being 9 and a half minutes long. A shame because despite some unfocussed moments during a few of the album’s bridges, HATRED is a great thrash album that deserves your attention.

Psython’s HATRED is definitely a great follow-up to the band’s debut. It’s fast, catchy, aggressive and fun and certainly a great addition to any thrash fan’s record collection. Despite a weak closing track and a few moments where the songs lose momentum, Psython’s song-writing has definitely improved and when the band are going balls to the wall they’re just untouchable.

8/10

Psython’s HATRED is out now and can be bought on limited edition CD direct from the band.


Review: SikTh’s The Future in Whose Eyes?

In 2015, SikTh released their first new music in 9 years with their Opacities EP. Opacities showcased a direct continuation of the band’s sound with their original line-up completely intact, but with the release of their 3rd long-player The Future in Whose Eyes?, founding member and vocalist Justin Hill has parted ways with the band and in his place we now welcome Joe Rosser of Aliases.

As we’ve previously discovered with Rosser’s work in Aliases, the man has a surprisingly similar vocal style to his predecessor, so his inclusion on this record should’ve been a good fit. Unfortunately what’s ended up happening is Mikee Goodman has taken on the brunt of the vocal work on The Future in Whose Eyes? This isn’t necessarily a bad thing because Goodman’s vocals are still instantly recognisable and entirely unique; his voice will forever be a huge part of what makes SikTh SikTh.

Sadly, so does Justin Hill’s voice. Hill leaves a big hole in the wider picture of SikTh’s sound and his sugary, sweeping vocals are not emulated by Rosser. Great examples come in the form of Century of the Narcissist? and The Aura which feature chorus melodies that sit more comfortably in the mid-range and don’t have the same impact as Hill’s soaring melodies.

As for instrumentation, there’s been a conceited effort to strip back SikTh’s song-writing style and focus on a more traditional structure that’s more akin to the band’s material on The Trees are Dead & Dried Out… Songs follow the typical verse/chorus structure and don’t show off many progressive tendencies like the band’s material on Opacities and Death of a Dead Day. It’s certainly not simplistic by any stretch of the imagination and the rhythm section always impresses with their technicality, but the song-writing does feel a little more predictable than usual.

That’s not to say that there isn’t some great material here. Vivid, The Aura, Cracks of Light (featuring a fantastic performance by Spencer Sotelo of Periphery), Riddles of Humanity and No Wishbones are obvious highlights with incredible performances throughout and the strongest melodies on the album. These 5 songs deserve their place on any SikTh setlist from here on and they show that regardless of the band’s change in personnel, they’re still the same SikTh you know and love.

There is one glaring flaw with The Future in Whose Eyes? though; someone needs to reign in Mikee Goodman. Goodman is singing on more choruses than ever on this record and it makes Rosser’s inclusion in the line-up feel a little redundant. The point of SikTh’s dual vocalists is that the two men bring different things to the table, but with this record the line is getting quite blurry and it’s not really benefiting the music. We also get 3 different spoken word tracks from Goodman which means there’s only 9 songs on the album which feature the entire band in action. If you’ve been waiting 11 years for another SikTh long-player then that’s a tad disappointing.

However, there’s no denying that there simply isn’t another band like SikTh. The Future in Whose Eyes? does manage to remind you frequently that SikTh are a band like no other and a true innovator in UK heavy music. The performances on this album could only have come from SikTh and as we’ve previously mentioned, there’s definitely 5 future SikTh classics here that deserve your attention. In the end, The Future in Whose Eyes? is an album that sees the band rediscovering themselves in the wake of a vocalist change. It’s sad to see how much it affects the overall product, but there’s more moments of genuine awe then there are moments of weakness on The Future in Whose Eyes? No song on this album is anything you’d regard as bad, but you can definitely tell the change in personnel has had a noticeable effect on the band’s song-writing and overall sound.

7/10

SikTh’s The Future in Whose Eyes? is out now and available to buy direct from the band or via Peaceville Records.


Review: Barrabus’ Barrabus

After over a decade, Barrabus have returned for the release of their debut album. Lead by the mighty UK underground overlord that is Paul Catten of Medulla Nocte, Lazarus Blackstar and Murder One fame, Barrabus are a noise-rock band that draw comparisons to USA Nails and Chickenhawk-era Hawk Eyes.

The first thing you’ll notice on the band’s self-titled debut album is Catten’s voice. It’s as instantly recognisable as ever. Catten has a wonderfully unique, piercing scream that loosely flops around between low-pitched grumbling and spoken word sections accompanied by a bizarre, Southern-American drawl. Catten does what he wants and does it with passion. Similarly to Mike Patton, here’s a vocalist who could easily sound like he’s taking the piss, but thanks to how wonderfully heart-on-sleeve his performance is, it always sounds genuine even if it’s a tad unconventional.

However, we should move on from Paul Catten’s vocals because these are just a single element in this almighty racket. Frequent Catten collaborator Mark Seddon (also of Medulla Nocte and Murder One) is playing guitar on this album and my word does that man have chops. Despite this album being quite a frantic, often messy slab of noise, Seddon keeps the album grounded with big riffs that are memorable enough to get their hooks deep into you. Porn! is a real highlight in this regard (I mean with a title like that, obviously) and its punky guitar work is surprisingly catchy considering how unapologetically heavy it is.

Album highlights include the slow-burning, somewhat doomy opener of My Nightmare as a Reality TV Contestant and the no-nonsense thrill ride of Behind Closed Doors. This track barrels along at a devastating speed before breaking down into sheer lunacy. Let’s not forget the similarly structured Kleptomania which gets equally weird after its opening barrage of riffs. Then we’ve got songs like In League with Vader which decides to add a touch of black metal to the mix with its opening tremolo-picked riff. There’s just so much going on here that it’s difficult not to be enamoured by the sheer amount of ideas Barrabus have managed to include in such a short space of time.

Barrabus’ debut album is a fantastically weird collection of songs that don’t outstay their welcome. It’s all over in 29 minutes and rarely gives you a moment to breath. This is a noisy, sludgy punk album that isn’t too interested in showing any restraint. This album has certainly been a long time coming considering Barrabus’ last release was a demo in 2006, but its arrival is much like Paul Catten himself; unexpected and unrelenting. Long may he reign.

8/10

Barrabus’ self-titled debut album is out now and available to buy through Undergroove Records.


Review: Esprit D’Air’s Constellations

One of the things I really enjoy about running UK Scumscene is getting sent records like this. Esprit D’Air are a Japanese metal band based in London who make the sort of music that should be coming from more established J-metal acts like Coldrain and The Gazette. Yet Constellations is only their first long-player and it sounds absolutely enormous.

Esprit D’Air take a broad range of influences into their sound. Constellations sounds like a blend of post hardcore, metalcore and trancecore, meaning you get an album that sounds like Blood Stain Child mixing it up with Girugamesh.

Now if the alarm bells are starting to ring because of the amount of sub-genres listed with the word ‘core’ in the title, then you’ll be pleased to know that while Esprit D’Air love to pound a single-chord riff, there’s enough variety and melody in these songs to keep them engaging. Songs like The Hunter manage to draw from post rock to create a delicate and tuneful middle-eight and there’s so many outstanding guitar solos to choose from that you’re a little spoilt for choice.

As with most metal in this style, Esprit D’Air’s big focus is on massive, stadium-sized anthems and Constellations is wonderfully consistent in delivering them. Starstorm sounds like a future rock club classic in the making, Guiding Light has the sort of sing-a-long quality you’d want from your favourite arena rock band and even when things slow down for penultimate track Reminisce, you’re still treated to an absolute monster of a riff.

While this sort of metal heavily draws from pop music for song structure, Esprit D’Air manage to drop in some nice progressive elements. You often find the first half of any song on Constellations is where you most frequently revisit riffs and melodies, while it’s the second half where things get a little weird. The aforementioned The Hunter does this with its post rock middle eight and Ignition is another track where the final half builds to a wonderful crescendo full of impressive guitar solos. It’s just enough variety to keep Constellations fresh and not as derivative as a lot of Japanese metal releases.

Esprit D’Air’s Constellations is a wonderfully accomplished debut album that’s full of massive anthems that stand toe-to-toe with the more established J-metal acts. The band also manages to add enough of their own love for progressive music and post rock to make the album stand on its own merits. If you like anthemic, sing-a-long pop metal full of massive riffs and soaring vocal melodies then you can certainly rely on Esprit D’Air to become your new favourite band.

8/10

Esprit D’Air’s Constellations is released on the 30th of June 2017 and is available to pre-order from the band’s Bandcamp page right now.


Review: Cult Cinema’s Cosmic Horror II

Cult Cinema return with the second volume in their trilogy of concept EPs about being abandoned in outer space and despite a change in producer, this is a direct follow-up to their previous Cosmic Horror EP that continues with their frantic post hardcore sound.

The main difference with Cosmic Horror II is we get a more substantial offering this time around. While the first EP felt like a taster of things to come, this release feels more like the main event. Across these four tracks we’re treated to an outstanding display of versatility as Cult Cinema blend hardcore with moments of delicate ambience and harrowing black metal. You’re not just getting heavy music on Cosmic Horror II; you’re also getting a cohesive piece that takes you on a journey that ebbs and flows wonderfully. There’s an awful lot more to Cult Cinema than just playing fast and screaming.

Structurally it’s actually quite similar to Cosmic Horror I. The EP starts with a vicious one-two assault in the form of Bad Blood and Midnight Man before closing with the gargantuan Labyrinth of Solitude. This seven minute monster of a song slows things down and focuses on creating a disparate and terrifying atmosphere that matches the concept of the record perfectly. It’s largely instrumental as well which adds another string to Cult Cinema’s already varied bow.

What’s really interesting is how naturally this volume of the Cosmic Horror trilogy follows the first. Playing it directly after the original reveals an obvious connection that adds some additional context to this record. It works well enough on its own, but partner it with the original EP and you create something very special and bizarrely consistent considering the change in producer. By the time the third volume comes around I can imagine Cult Cinema will have created a long-player that will also deserve to be played sequentially with its previous volumes. Multi-volume records aren’t exactly a new concept but it’s fascinating to watch Cult Cinema’s Cosmic Horror come together in such an organic way.

Cosmic Horror II may be a smaller part in a larger release, but as it stands it marks another bold step forward for Cult Cinema who continue to showcase their violent yet beautiful song writing. Cosmic Horror II is the sound of a band who understand that heavy music is a hell of a lot more powerful when you create contrast and juxtaposition and once again the results are fantastic. By the time this trilogy comes to a close we should have a real highlight of modern post hardcore to enjoy and that in itself is very exciting.

9/10

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