Fresh Hell Vol. 4
Armored Saint - Win Hands Down
Their first album in five years, Win Hands Down is an all-out carnival of thrash metal revelry. The band is in inspired form, firing on all cylinders with smiles warping their faces as they do. Fun, groovy and infectious, it’s eye-catching stuff; they grab your attention from the off, the title track a fully-charged riff fest with John Bush especially enthralling. Mess is superb, its use of sitar both surprising and genius; this is thrash for the thinking man as it never allows itself to become predictable or stagnant. The concluding breakdown/freakout of Muscle Memory was designed to be the soundtrack for the self-destruction of teenager’s bedrooms the world over while That Was Then, Way Back When packs thick and staunch grooves which, in its mid-section drops the dynamics for a stunning solo that sounds like Free's All Right Now on crack. It escalates from their emphatically. With A Head Full Of Steam is an adrenalised punk number of smouldering energy that gets the blood flowing with a fever, the record on the whole utterly convincing.
Standout tracks: Mess, That Was Then, Way Back When
Iskra – Ruins
This week, hell comes at the price of a single, solitary Canadian Dollar courtesy of Victoria’s Iskra who play vicious music for a world taking a breath before a war. If you’re a devotee of 1349’s modern classic Hellfire, with its machine-gun fire drumming, slayer-come-emperor riffs and oppressive vocal delivery – there’s a lot to love here on Ruins. There are fewer standout moments and less all-out insanity, but Iskra succeed through the merits of their songwriting and the sublime production. Album standout Predator Drone MQ-1 is, without question, the best black metal song I’ve heard this year and for a very long time before it. The whole six minutes are a devastating exercise in tension building and release. Iskra choose to do away with many of the melodic components of black metal in favour of riff-worship and if this sounds like your sort of thing – it’s time to spend that dollar.
Standout tracks: Predator Drone MQ-1, Nihil
Dead Existence – Endless Misery
As the title suggests, this isn’t the cheeriest of affairs. It’s a record for the downers, those who indulge in the darkness and grief and find release through unholy noise. The tribal intensity of Consume giffs way to slow, crushing and misanthropic doom. The scope of this record is impressive, taking in the most grievous elements of many genres and spitting them out in a tar caked and bile splattered cough.
Chris Fielding, producer extraordinaire at Skyhammer studio has done an impressive job of capturing the nuances and subtleties that lie beneath the surface of the disgusting sludge, creating a listen that is as encaptivating as it is harrowing.
Standout tracks? Obsidian Black is as dark as its name suggests while 12 minute closer Regretamine is a bad trip you’ll want to take again and again.
Standout tracks: Obsidian Black, Regretamine
Noctum – Until The End…Until Then
Writing for The Sludgelord, I called Swedish doom/occult rockers Noctum’s last release, Final Sacrifice as having "dark, rain-sodden clouds over its skyline." With this 7” release they carry on in the same formidable vain, referencing the classic NWOBHM style alongside Iron Maiden and Blue Oyster Cult while still sounding resolutely Scandinavian. These songs are shadowy anthems that familiarise themselves with you rapidly. Much like fellow Swedes Ghost, they blend bouncing riffs and light, infectious choruses together excellently. Until The End…Until Then is deftly written, with creepy nuances wrapping themselves around a tightknit rock n’ roll band. The first release featuring new guitarist Christoffer Löfgren, he instantly sounds at home with the band with his finely concocted riff work, giving us a tantalising taste of what’s to come from the full length album they’re currently working on.
Standout tracks: Until The End…Until Then, In Precious Time
Words: Phil Weller, Ben Armstrong & Adam Robertshaw