Genune — Inert & Unerring
I will start this review by saying I can now die happy after hearing this album.
Genune sprung forth from Romania back in 2012, releasing a demo that year and the following year. The next release didn't come until their debut album Cern Sol in 2018. Now, they have brought further beauty in the form of atmospheric black metal. Described on their Facebook page as “post-happiness music”, I can safely say that I have not been as happy to hear something this melancholic in a long time.
From the opening notes of Eastern European Discontent, a flowing and ethereal sound akin to the likes of Alcest or Deafheaven come out, but with harsher vocals and a slightly grittier tone to the music, giving it that slight edge of despair over the others in that “blackgaze” styling.
To Drown Within Yourself continues this style with a discordant, chugging rhythm before bringing in the tremolos, blast beats and harsh, despairing screams. The band's name means abyss or chasm, and this track does bring you to the edge of desolation, before bringing you back with softer melodic passages.
The short interlude titled The Pyres of Autumn comes in next, with a gentle acoustic melody throughout which brings to me similarities to bands such as Agalloch in the way that it is a nice, folky instrumental that makes me think of mountains and forests.
And finally, the closer Unworthy Sons & Daughters. This song is about how heritage has been largely forgotten, and identity and culture are being abandoned. But it can also be seen through an environmental spectrum. For me it sounds like the perfect summary of the rest of the album. All the buzz words (melancholic, melodic, harsh, gentle) apply here in perfect balance.
If, like me, you are a huge fan of post-metal, atmospheric black metal and blackgaze, and if you like the bands mentioned above or the ones like Wolves in The Throne Room and Drudhk or Pillorian, then if you don't listen to these guys, you are missing out.
Heyoka's Mirror — The Uninvited King
After a decade or so where djent-stylings dominated the progressive metal sub-genre, it has been great to see a fresh wave of bands revisiting the format with vigour and imagination, to prevent it ever becoming a self-parody.
Canada's Heyoka's Mirror is the latest outfit to come to my attention for bringing something fresh and interesting to the feast.
A Calgary-based progressive rock/metal duo, they actually set their roots in the summer of 2015 with founding members Andrew Balboa and Omar Sultan. A three-track EP, Loss Of Contact With Reality came out in 2017. This is the band's debut album. The duo's sound is supplemented by guest bassists and drummers.
The seven compositions are very heavy, often melodic and always ambitious. The following is a brief effort to prepare you for what you might hear, if you decide to take a look into the Mirror.
You could take either of the opening pair and it would at least give you an indication of what would be in store for you. Neither stay in one place for long, although there is a cohesion to each composition that makes them stand out as different.
Groove is something very important in the HM spirit, matched by a System of a Down grunginess to the guitars. The most striking element will be the vocal approach of Andrew Balboa. He can sing for sure but the highly theatrical style will alienate as many as it delights.
The Darkness Within takes the style to another chaotic level. Think Slipknot meets Zappa in an ever-changing landscape of darkness and a veritable kaleidoscope of time signatures. For my tastes it is incoherent. The semi-rap vocals and swearing really isn't my thing but for any fans of post-grunge avant-freakiness this will be a pot pourri paradise!
Asylum is an complex instrumental with some spoken words. A showcase for Omar Sultan's guitar pyrotechnics, the extended jazz fusion guitar solo towards the end is a calm delight.
Going off at another angle completely is Dance with the Devil, with a heavy use of harmonica and a real swagger to its groove that reminds me of Dead Soul Tribe. After an extended opening it is one of the more accessible and direct tracks. Balboa's variation between deep growls and a falsetto towards the end, may however be too much of an acquired taste!
King of Deception clicks by opening with something of the Savatage-style piano before veering in a pop-prog sound derivative of Saigon Kick within another Slipknot avalanche of pounding riffs and drums and growls/shouts/screams. To complete the rainbow of prog-metal colours, Celebration is a classic prog-rock instrumental, inspired by one of the spacey early Porcupine Tree albums. A very weird closing combo!
The Uninvited King is a brave album for brave listeners. I greatly admire the ambition and adventure but listening to this as a whole, has been too much of a challenge for my more melodic tastes. However those who like their progressive metal to have had more of a schizophrenic upbringing, may well find that they have been led to the promised land.
Rhapsody Of Fire — I'll Be Your Hero
Italian symphonic metal superstars Rhapsody Of Fire are back with a new release before the launch of their upcoming full-length album later this year. Prior to this, I hadn't listened to any new Rhapsody Of Fire releases since the release of their 2016 album, Into The Legend, which I reviewed very favourably. The band has released one new studio album with new singer Giacomo Voli, 2019's The Eighth Mountain, as well as 2017's Legendary Years, which features re-recorded versions of songs from earlier in the band's career.
I remember being disappointed when former singer Fabio Lione left the band in 2016, not too long after the release of Into The Legend. He had been with the band almost from the beginning in the mid 1990s, and any time someone like that leaves a band, it's a big change.
Rhapsody Of Fire has had a rather confusing past. Founded as Thundercross in 1993, they went by the name of Rhapsody for a decade before having to change the name to Rhapsody Of Fire in 2006 due to trademark issues. In 2011 guitarist Luca Turilli left the band and formed Luca Turilli's Rhapsody. Fabio Lione joined Luca Turilli's Rhapsody after leaving Rhapsody Of Fire, and that band toured for a couple years playing the original Rhapsody band's music. Then that version of the band went inactive around 2018, but Turilli and Lione formed Turilli / Lione Rhapsody. Is anybody else as confused as I am?
After Lione left Rhapsody Of Fire, Giacomo Voli joined as vocalist and Manu Lotter joined as drummer. In 2017 the band released Legendary Years, an album of 14 re-recorded Rhapsody songs. In 2019 they launched the first in a trilogy of albums with the release of The Eighth Mountain. Lotter announced his departure from the band last year, with Paolo Marchesich being his replacement. Now the band have released this in advance of their upcoming album, Glory For Salvation, which will be the second in their Nephilim's Empire Saga trilogy.
So now I'm at least up to speed on what the band has been up to over the last five years. Hopefully you are too.
This features one new track, entitled I'll Be Your Hero. Thus the name of the release. This song is the typical Rhapsody Of Fire sound; heavy guitars and synths with soaring vocals and vocal harmonies.
The second track, Where Dragons Fly, is a bonus track originally released only in Japan. The piece quickly reminded me of Saltatio Mortis, a German band I was introduced to earlier this year through a Vanden Plas cover and collaboration. Saltatio Mortis is a metal band that utilises various medieval-style instruments. This track by Rhapsody Of Fire is a quieter song, using similar instrumentation and vocal styling, albeit with lyrics in a different language. It's a change of pace from what I have heard from Rhapsody Of Fire in the past, although I admit I'm not an expert on their back catalogue.
The third and fourth songs are live tracks taken from their last tour, and they demonstrate the band's energy and skill in a live setting. Particularly noticeable is Voli's voice, which has the power and tone necessary for this band's soaring music.
The final four songs are versions of the song The Wind, The Rain And The Moon in four different languages: English, Italian, Spanish, and French. Something for everybody, although Voli's accent when singing in French gave me a chuckle. There's too much phlegm in it, but it turns out okay. Musically this song isn't really metal until just over the final minute. Most of the song is symphonic, which isn't a bad thing, but one you might want to be aware of before purchasing. After all, four versions of this song comprise half the EP, and on the American iTunes store it is priced at $8.99, which is almost as high as a regular album. That price seems rather high to me.
This EP is obviously meant to be a teaser for the upcoming album, so it is hard to criticise it or praise it too heavily. It does show the variety Rhapsody Of Fire is capable of offering. The medieval folk touches on Where Dragons Fly are a nice touch, and I hope the new album contains more of that. It compliments the symphonic and power metal they are known for quite well. If you're a hardcore fan, go ahead and pick this up. Otherwise wait for the new album.
Terravoid — Ectogenesis
After two years of development, this self-released EP is the first product of the new collaboration between Oliver Palmquist (singer of the death metal band Phidion) and guitarist Nino Vukovik of technical speed metal bands Immaculate and Tyranex.
Ectogenesis aims to take you on a dark, dystopian sci-fi trip in a world where technology eventually overtakes humanity and nature reclaim its basis in the planet's cycle of life. Musically the album takes you back to the heavy and dark prog metal that emerged 20 years ago with bands like Nevermore, Communic, and Strapping Young Lad with layers of eerie atmospheres and keyboard passages.
We begin with semi-spoken/shouted vocals over a repetitively basic refrain on piano and guitar. It takes up speed with a one-dimensional drum and guitar battle, before predictably returning to the quieter refrain from the opening. For a full-length effort this would have been a passable opening scene-setter, but on a four-track EP its occupies 25% of the time for little benefit.
Ectogenesis takes a speed metal path, with touches of death and an eerie cinematic mid-section. Again it is rather one-dimensional and predictable. Reaching the Unexplored is much better. The punk-metal sound reminds me a lot of Voivod but the blast-beats and guitars and the alt-theatrical vocals, bring an experimental prog-death slant which makes it more interesting and experimental. Error Endeavors really pushes the boundaries further, with the use of piano and keyboards adding some interesting textures amid the speed metal drive and the darkly-theatrical vocals.
Overall I find this to be a somewhat experimental release by a band still finding its sound and place in the metal spectrum. The first two tracks are a miss. The second two show better potential. There are some promising elements, and fans of the more experimental, dark, avant-garde side of metal may get more out of this than I have. Purists should go for the cassette version! Terravoid is a work in progress.