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[Review] Emperor @ Forum Theatre, Melbourne 17/05/2023

Review By Mitch Charlton

“Melbourne, are you ready to embrace the Nightside!?” I’ve always said in my reviews that I love The Forum in Melbourne, it makes every band sound and look amazing, and tonight was no different. The line out the front tonight shivers in anticipation for seeing one of the greats in the genre play one of their most prolific albums brought out. This is the second time in my life I have managed to see one of the founding bands of Black Metal play a classic album in its entirety. I was fortunate enough to see Mayhem play De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas in full a couple of years back, Cradle of Filth have been here with Cruelty and the Beast album and tonight, Melbourne gets to witness Emperor play In The Nightside Eclipse in full. If Satyricon can come play Rebel Extravaganza in full here, I’m pretty sure that would be my favourites done! HINT HINT!!

Ten years ago, I first saw The Amenta support Cradle of Filth, I’d never heard of them before that show, they then left an incredible impression on me that I went out and found a copy of their Flesh is Heir album and thrashed it for months! Then the announcement that they would be going on hiatus. I was shattered! Fast forward to 2021, The Amenta come back with a brand-new album, Revelator in 2021 and my hopes of seeing them get a little bigger, THEN comes the news that they are supporting the almighty Emperor! What a rollercoaster!

As soon as doors open, the crowd start packing the venue, although not completely sold out, it is still pretty damn full. It’s great to see the place over half full already before The Amenta start and also seeing such a diverse crowd, there are old schoolers and also younger people in the crowd, it just goes to show how influential Emperor have been over their career.

The Amenta slither out on stage to start the opening track, dressed in white shirts, ties and the skin masks from the Sere Money film clip, and then Cain, front man of this repulsive abomination of an outfit, storms the stage, in all black suit and red tie, in perfect contrast to the band. These guys have always had a flair for the theatrics of what they do, they take the art of their craft seriously and it shows in their performance tonight.

The Amenta are just as good as I remember, Cain is a commanding presence on stage and the band plays with machine like tightness. He occasionally jumps down to the bar at the front and stalks the crowd, getting in their faces, bringing them into his world of madness. They are able to create the same atmosphere live as their haunting tracks do played at home which is an incredible feat. Cain works the crowd as the band run through old tracks and new like Sere Money, Ego Ergo Sum and Teeth, just to name a few. The mix is great, everything is clear and crisp, I put it to being this venue, everyone sounds great here. The Forum tonight learns that The Amenta are back to shock and bring them into their dark world of disgust.

The reason we have all ventured out tonight, Emperor, one of the best in the business when it comes to epic sounding black metal, they walk out to the screaming crowd and kick straight off with Into The Infinity of Thoughts. Ihsahn’s voice is exactly the same as on the record, it’s incredible to hear this live, I never thought I would get to see Emperor live but seeing this album in full has been one hell of a show. I got to see him play his solo work live a few years back and he threw in a couple of Emperor tracks but this is next level, this is the true thing from start to finish. A minor technical issue causes the stop of a song a couple of tracks in and with minimal muck around they kick straight back into Towards the Pantheon. I am The Black Wizards gets the desired effect from the crowd, everyone goes nuts and when I say nuts, fans go from standing with their arms crossed, nodding to the beat to, horns up and whole-body head banging, there is minimal moshing when it comes to these types of crowds. The movement and excitement continue into Inno A Satana before they take a quick break to then come out for classics from Anthem to the Welkin at Dusk.

Watching Emperor perform was inspiring, what they have accomplished over their careers, their musicianship and skill in performing these songs, was a true sight to behold. As mentioned earlier, without the slight hiccup of a tech issue, this would have been just like the CD being put on. To play an album from start to finish as good as it was, maybe even played a little better now after decades in between, is such an amazing feat. It’s unreal to see these albums in full live, these have been some of the bands turning points in their careers. I hope that a few more bands do this type of thing when anniversaries come up. Melbourne embraced the Nightside whole heartedly! Hail to Emperor!

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Album ReviewReviews

DevilDriver – Dealing With Demons Vol. II

DevilDriver fans know exactly what they want from an album, headbanging riffs with killer grooves that you can’t help but move to from first to last, and that’s exactly what Dez Fafara and the heavy groove lords of DevilDriver deliver with Dealing with Demons Vol. II. This marks the band’s 10th album in about 20 years, and for those of you who got into Volume I, be prepared for a harder hitting set this time around.

Straight out of the gates this album gives you that DevilDriver hit, I Have No Pity comes in hard with the groove orientated riffage over syncopated kicks, they know that’s one of their strong points, it’s one of the main reasons I love this band, it just drives the nail into the coffin and makes for a heavier track. The only thing I’ve ever had to say negatively about some of DevilDrivers tracks is that they can be so compressed in sound, that some of the riffs just have no room to breathe. I know that’s their sound and I still enjoy what they do but a couple of the tracks on here just reminded me of the way the modern metal sound is recorded and produced and I guess what I’m personally into.

Steve Evetts, who produced Dealing with Demons Vol I. and the Outlaws Til the End Vol. 1 albums is once again at the helm of this one, I mean, why would you change the goalie if he’s on fire right? The album production is very much the same as those albums but as I said at the start, these songs are written heavier than the previous album, but the mood is captured perfectly with songs like Bloodbath and Mantra. There is an element of southern style to a few of the riffs and melodies and I swear slide guitar, whether that’s been a thing since the Outlaws album, I’m not 100% sure but its wicked! The dual guitar work by Mike and Alex is incredible as always with their rhythm and lead work. Through the Depths, the first single off this album was a great choice, that chorus is catchy as hell and they released a film clip for it, Dez looks mad with white hair. My favourite off the album was a track called Bloodbath though. The riffs are dark and memorable, I couldn’t help but have this song on repeat. One of the other singles released was If Blood Is Life, and this track has that killer bouncy verse riff and big open sing along chorus that will definitely make the live setlist.

I feel with Dealing With Demons Vol. II, you aren’t necessarily getting something new per se, its more of what that do well, which is just going to add to their live element really. If you are a fan of Dez and the gents, then you know why you’re here and what you expect from a DevilDriver album. There are a few tracks that may convert some fresh minds to the cause but if you are expecting them to break their mold, then sorry. These tracks will convert to the live stage incredibly well and I’m excited to see which ones they choose to bring out, I honestly hope that Bloodbath makes the cut!

Dealing With Demons Vol. II was released on May 12 via Napalm Records, though you can order your copy today.

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Cradle of Filth – Trouble and Their Double Lives

With the release of a Live album, you need to make sure that the production of each recording is top notch and that the songs were played spot on, unless there is a planned deviation from the original. Trouble and Their Double Lives, Cradle of Filth’s second Live album ever, since Live Bait for the Dead in 2002, is a compilation of live recordings spanning between 2014 – 2019, which brings you some of your favourite COF tracks live from across the globe.

The song choices for this album are a solid line up of classic Cradle of Filth, although it is missing some of my personal favourites, it’s still a great track list from start to finish. They have included Honey and Sulphur and Death of Love off Godspeed on the Devils Thunder, which I think has some amazing tracks that we never really get to hear live. Promise of Fever, off Damnation and a Day, a stand up heavy track on the Cradle spectrum makes the cut as well, another album I’d love to see more of live. The 11 minute track, Bathory Aria is placed about halfway through the album, such an incredible track and they do it well live.

Trouble and Their Double Lives starts off with one of the latest singles She Is A Fire, which is a new Cradle concoction bringing a great introduction to the next studio albums direction. For those of you who haven’t listened to it yet, it is along similar lines to the last couple of albums writing and production style. There is a cheeky second single halfway through the album Demon Prince Regent, there was a live footage video clip release alongside the album release. This track is incredibly melodic and heavy, another nice mix of a song to give further insight to the new direction. Cradle of Filth have been one of my favourite bands for the last 20 years, I have enjoyed the different approaches to each album, the concepts, the art, some of them have worked and some of them haven’t but it has always been them and I’m excited to hear what they come out with next.

Dani Filth is one of my all-time favourite front men, he wears the mantle well and in the last decade where I have seen them come out to Australia, I have seen him deal with hecklers, stage issues and poor crowd involvement and every time he has managed to turn it around. It’s good to hear some of the stage persona on this album as well as just his vocal work.

Listening to these live tracks brings back all the memories of the past shows I’ve seen. It’s great to reminisce on their shows, Nymphetamine will always make me think of watching a crowd slow dance, multiple couples, hand in hand, in the moment, dancing to gothic metal, I love being in this scene. There are tracks on here that cater to all Cradle of Filth fans, from all or most eras. Go out and get this Live album to tide you over until there is the release of a new studio album!

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Enter Shikari – A Kiss For The Whole World

Its been 3 years since we ventured out into the great unknown with Rou and the gents from Enter Shikari. The Great Unknown can be an incredibly fickle thing, it can bring you to your destination quickly or you can wander, get lost and eventually rediscover yourself, which seems to be the path that Enter Shikari took. There were some doubts as to how long it could have been in between albums but with the brand-new album, A Kiss For The Whole World, a bright light has been cast in this current world of turmoil and uncertainty for everyone to look to for a piece of positivity in sound format.

Enter Shikari are one of the very few bands that I will try and listen to the lyrics before the music, being a little bit of a muso myself, I tend to gravitate to everything else first before lyrics, but these guys have always had incredible and inspiring lyrics, Rou’s messages are always worth a listen. The topics of choice for this album pass over, identities and Self-esteem or Self-worth, this is a very introspective album. Which makes sense, the time it was written was a solitary time for a lot of people, where else could you look but in?

With this record, they brought back a sense of DIY and freedom to their writing and recording process. Rou directed and produced the single video clips for (pls) set me on fire, It Hurts and Bloodshot and they went out to a farmhouse, powered off solar power, to try and rebuild themselves from the ground up. A Kiss For The Whole World is incredibly accessible to new fans, the music is light on the electronic aspect, incredibly catchy sing along choruses and rockin’ guitar riffs from start to finish. The album is only just over 30mins long, songs are straight to the point and with no real filler tracks, there are only 2 tracks that are the typical hardcore electro bounce that will be amazing in the live set for Rou to jump around to and they are the little outro filler track things they put in.

I couldn’t stop singing along after only a couple of listens of this album, all the choruses are catchy and have wicked hooks, my favourite track was Giant Pacific Octopus (I don’t know you anymore). It has such a catchy guitar and keys riff that got me right from the start. Lyrically it had me as well, dealing with the question of identity, go and check this one out! The singles for this album were a solid choice, (pls) set me on fire, It Hurts and Bloodshot, they show all the elements of the album and what to expect. Although they are great tracks, they aren’t the best off the album in my opinion, so that means you will enjoy the other songs more if you already liked them! Which is what I always hope when bands choose singles, don’t give away the best track straight up.

The new tracks from A Kiss For The Whole World will add more messages to the live performance, the introspective aspect is just another positive message for Rou to bring to the world. I was lucky enough to catch their gig at The Forum in Melbourne last year and their music translates live incredibly well, as well as their messages. The energy these guys bring out in their shows is incredibly positive and you can’t help but get into it. Stop doing your normal everyday routine, sit down, go get some sun and have a listen to this album. It pays to stop and think about something bigger than yourself from time to time and you’ve now got a perfect album to do that to.

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Album ReviewReviews

In Flames – Forgone

Review by Mitch Charlton

Straight off the bat, this album reminded me of why I put on an In Flames album, it has all the right ingredients, heavy, diverse, bouncy, and catchy as hell, this is In Flames in true fashion. You know when you hear a track and you get that hit of nostalgia, remembering the first time you put them on and the reasons why you liked them in the first place? This is what I felt when I put this on, welcome to Forgone.

In Flames have now been around the scene for 30 odd years, I can only imagine what kind of pressure or strain that can put on creativity. There is nothing new here from them, it’s brilliantly performed riffage just like their previous albums but the biggest stand out is that it has a different energy to it. You know when you hear a track, and it just takes you back to being a teenager or whenever you first heard a band and you get that excitement? That’s what I got when listening to this. This is album number 14 for In Flames and I was just excited for this release as I was back when Come Clarity was released in 2006, and that was only from hearing the singles.

The album opener, The Beginning Of All Things That Will End, is incredible, I’ve always enjoyed their acoustic pieces and melodies, it was something different they used to do on older albums and they still do the dual guitars and melodies so elegantly, and it’ s only going to get better from here on out with Chris Broderick on guitar, damn that guy can play! Word on the street is, that he wasn’t involved too much in the overall album writing process but did sprinkle his flavour on solo’s throughout the album.

One of the singles, State of Slow Decay with its Straight Outta Gothenburg sound, just hit home. It sounds like they wrote it in a jam session with At The Gates, it has that old school melo death vibe. Anders’ vocals are the perfect mix for each scenario as always, laying down that killer melo death growl and then straight into those big chorus cleans. Listening to Pure Light of Mind, this song is an incredible song of light vs dark, it is well written and catchy as hell, a perfect example of how good Anders vocals really are.

Meet your Maker, another one of the singles released before the album drop, sounds like it comes out of Come Clarity era In Flames, I loved it, fast paced, melodic with that classic chorus hook that makes a single great! The single choice for Forgone was brilliantly chosen, I was excited to hear the rest of the album just from the energy of these first couple of tracks released.

With their upcoming shows at Knotfest, I am really keen to see and hear how these tracks go live. I can imagine songs like The Great Deceiver really getting that crowd moving with the opening riff and then into the stomping verse riff. Its been a little while since In Flames were here to bring the goods and with this new album under their belt, it’s gonna be one hell of a show!

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[Review] Darkest Hour @ Max Watts, Melbourne 09/02/2023

The hardcore and metal scene has to be one of the most dedicated group of people in the world, people showing up on a school night is great commitment to live music, overhearing in the line up outside “I just come from work straight down” or even the band commenting on how they are playing tonight then going home to get up and go to work, it just shows that we all do what we do for the love of the music and scene.

Starting off this intimate night are Melbourne’s RUN, a heavy hardcore act that came out swinging from the get-go even though there were minimal people at the very start. I feel like dedication and heart is the theme for tonight, for these guys, they had a banner playing behind them of a brain scan, this was in fact an actual scan of the singer’s brain from a couple of years ago after being diagnosed with brain cancer. It was a touching story that gives light into the reasons he does what he does. Back story aside, these guys played their hearts out with one of the guitarists first shows with the band, you wouldn’t have been able to tell, showing off their tight riffs and melodies giving their drummer plenty of room to be a highlight of their set with some unreal drum fills and great energy.

Following up was Primitive, an up-and-coming metal band with the style like Machine Head or Chimaira, heavy and melodic, great twin lead work and solid precision! Yet again with a slow filling room, these guys came out and played like it was a full house, getting people to move in closer and enjoy the show. Primitive played the stage like they owned it and the front man getting down to fist bump crowd in between riffs is a humbling sight, it’s always a good idea to interact with the people who show up and support. The band looked like they had a blast playing off each other’s energies and even from the middle of the venue you could see that the drummer had a massive grin on his face loving every moment.

Finishing up the local supports are The Ascended, bringing in their brand of melodic death influenced syncopated riffage. These guys make great use of their 3 completely different vocal styles with a clean and a more typical death growl style as opposed to the metalcore scream of the other supports. Following along in the melodic sense of the night, The Ascended show off their musical prowess with some unreal leadwork and big sounding choruses with some of the crowd singing along, they’ve got some killer songs. The thing about metalheads is that they are pretty damn humble, “Thank you for coming out and spending your Thursday night with us, we appreciate it!”. They appreciate the chance to support and play live, all bands playing tonight have shown that being humble is also apart of the scene lifestyle, we appreciate the chances we have to play live music once again and have international bands back.

All of these bands have shown aspects of a Darkest Hour influence or at least the scene they represent. Its unreal to see how bands influence a play style throughout generations. 10 years since Darkest Hour have been to Australia, and while their fanbase maybe smaller tonight they make up for in energy and heart for seeing these guys do what they do! From the beginning of the intro music to the final chords the crowds energy is relentless and feeding the band, showing it’s always worth while and amazing to be apart of the live music scene.

Darkest Hour come out showing why they are still doing what they do twenty odd years later, with incredible energy and clearly enjoying how excited the crowd are. The guitarists are fantastic to watch as they bounce of each other’s melodies and solos and I couldn’t help but notice the drummer having an ambidextrous looking set up of his drum kit, it was nearly identical for each hand, watching how he played was unreal. Playing songs that cover their career, the singer stops about midway to ask if anyone was at their tour 10 years ago to a fair few of the crowd responding and then asking if anyone’s got their first record, a couple of people go berserk and the singer is just stoked that there are people here that have been listening for so long “This song is for you few”. 

I love seeing these types of shows, the bands that have only been here once or twice and finding that there are still fans around the world that get into their music and from seeing the age difference in this crowd, its covered a generation of Hardcore/Metal fans! That’s incredible. What is also incredible to see and hear is how bands unconsciously help shape a sound and in the Metalcore world, Darkest Hour would have to be one of them! If they come back on the next album cycle, get out and catch these guys!

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InterviewsTour Interview

Interview with Björn Gelotte (In Flames)

IN FLAMES represent the best of metal’s past, present, and future. New Wave Of Swedish Death Metal architects and innovative purveyors of groove, hard rock, and melody, the band’s artistry, influence, and stature loom as large as the vibrant style’s horizons. The widely recognized titans boast an impressive and diverse catalog celebrated internationally. IN FLAMES are as vital (and even more energized) today than when they unleashed classics like Come Clarity and Clayman in decades past.

“IN FLAMES are one of the few bands to successfully pull off a radical stylistic shift and not only maintain but actually grow their fan base, while also staying true to the band’s core sense of self,” Revolver Magazine wrote in 2020, saluting their dual status as hooky hard rock heroes and melodeath icons.

The continued popularity of anthems like ‘Only for the Weak’ (72 million streams on Spotify alone), ‘Cloud Connected,’ ‘Alias,’ ‘I Am Above,’ ‘Pinball Map,’ ‘Zombie Inc.,’ ‘Artifacts of the Black Rain,’ and ‘Come Clarity’ demonstrates how much the fans embrace the diversity of In Flames

The songwriting duo of singer Anders Fridén and guitarist Björn Gelotte (both of whom appear on every IN FLAMES release since 1995) persists as one of the most potent creative teams in heavy music.

Foregone, the furious fourteenth studio album, combines the greatest aggressive, metallic, and melodic strengths of their landmark records with the seasoned songwriting of their postmodern era.

“In a way, it sounds stupid to say we wanted to be more ‘metal,’ because we always felt that we were,” Fridén observes. “Over the last couple of years, the world became even more hostile and evil in certain ways. We have a war in Europe. People, in general, are more stressed. All of that energy and anger helped fuel this album. We went in to make something on point, heavier, and yes, ‘more metal.’”

Gelotte concurs. “We made an aggressive album. We kept the dynamics, some big epic choruses, heavy guitars, lots of kick drums, and melodies. That’s who we are and who we’ve always been.”

Foregone is the second IN FLAMES album with bassist Bryce Paul and drummer Tanner Wayne, the first with ex-MEGADETH guitarist Chris Broderick, and the third with Grammy-winning producer Howard Benson (MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE, THREE DAYS GRACE). Mike Plotnikoff (ALL THAT REMAINS, WARBRINGER) engineered at Benson’s West Valley Recording Studios. Joe Rickard (10 YEARS, STARSET, DIAMANTE), who played drums for IN FLAMES from 2016 through 2019, handled mixing duties.

“Tanner is the best drummer we’ve ever had,” Fridén says proudly. “I don’t say that to diss anyone that came before. Tanner has so much energy and there is so much stuff going on all of the time. Bryce is an amazing bass player, really, really heavy, with a good feel. Chris comes in with all of his knowledge of the guitar. His solos are way different from Bjorn’s and the combination of those two guys just works perfectly. It’s easy to do what I do on top of it because the foundation is so solid.”

Songs like ‘State of Slow Decay,’ ‘End the Transmission,’ ‘Bleeding Out,’ ‘Meet Your Maker,’ and ‘The Great Deceiver’ pulsate with hypnotizing power and furious anger. There’s desperation, a raw nerve exposed, brought on by the chaotic dystopia of post-pandemic society.

“This album is about lost time. Everything is going in the wrong direction,” Fridén explains. “We can’t make up for the lost time. That’s why the album is called Foregone. We’re destined to end. That realization creates different emotions – panic, frustration, fear. ‘Scary’ isn’t a horror movie or an angry metal guy screaming. The real horror is what’s going on in the news from around the world. We are basically doomed. The album is about the few moments we have left and what we do with them.”

The melodic guitars, crushing riffs, and high-speed tempos that define much of the IN FLAMES catalog first crystalized on their second album, The Jester Race (1996), complete with hints of the catchy choruses to come. Whoracle (1997) is the rawest and arguably heaviest IN FLAMES album from the 90s.

Metal Hammer declared melodeath masterpiece Colony (1999) “an undisputed fireball of an album.” Clayman (2000) introduced synths and more prominent clean vocals, with accessible hooks, without sacrificing the band’s overall intensity, resulting in their first Top 20 album in Sweden. Reroute to Remain (2002) took the groove element even further and broadened the American audience.

Soundtrack to Your Escape (2004) expanded the arena rock bombast. Come Clarity (2006) is a perfect metalcore slab, as majestic as the American bands IN FLAMES inspired. Even as it stepped away from death metal, A Sense of Purpose (2008) delivered some of the band’s best and most eclectic songs.

The gothic groove metal of Sounds of a Playground Fading (2011) paved the way for the unapologetic arena rock of Siren Charms (2014) and Battles (2016), albums full of Active Rock hooks. Fans of the more aggressive side of IN FLAMES heralded I, the Mask (2019) as a return to form. Foregone masterfully, if improbably, manages to serve all sides of the IN FLAMES fanbase, with powerful force.

“We’ve had our fair share of times when we were trying to please others,” Fridén reflects. “‘You should write with other people. You should go after radio.’ We tried it but it wasn’t for us. With this album, we didn’t even think about anyone else or any of that.” The major strength of Foregone, and of IN FLAMES altogether, continues to lie in the long partnership between the singer and guitarist.

“Bjorn and I have 100 percent trust in each other,” Fridén says. “He can give me a piece of music and know that I will give him something back he’ll feel proud about. I know his way of playing and it’s something I love singing on. He’s from that Ritchie Blackmore, Jimmy Page school of soulful, bluesy guitar players. And he has a good melodic sense. I know him inside and out and I love him to death.”

 Both men continue to follow their own compass. “It’s impossible to please everybody. So the most important question to ask is always, ‘Do we like it?’” Gelotte points out. “If I didn’t like the music we play, I couldn’t believe in it. It’s a lot of time away from family. I wouldn’t do this if I didn’t love it. That’s why we’ve been able to do it for such a long time; because we actually enjoy what we do.” 

The band built a stunning reputation with devastating, crowd-moving, inspired performances around the world at every major rock and metal festival imaginable, on festival tours like Rockstar Mayhem and Ozzfest, headlining multiple treks, and touring with their heroes, friends, and giants in the genre.

The band regularly headlines some of the biggest stages and festivals in the world. The list of IN FLAMES tourmates boasts SLIPKNOT, MEGADETH, JUDAS PRIEST, KILLSWITCH ENGAGE, WITHIN TEMPTATION, and LAMB OF GOD. (Over the years, they even took newer bands like GHOST & GOJIRA as support acts.)

“I’m really proud of what we achieved and that we never went away,” Fridén says reflectively. “Sometimes you’re loved, sometimes you’re not, but we always pushed ourselves and created the music we felt was awesome. I’m so proud and happy with Bryce, Tanner, and Chris, what they’ve brought into the band, on the recordings, and with their energy, and where IN FLAMES is at today.”

A sense of pride, accomplishment, and continued vitality are evident every time the band takes the stage, and all over Foregone. The album itself represents IN FLAMES of the past, present, and future.

“Not caring about anybody’s opinion but ours is a great situation to be in,” Gelotte says. “We’re confident in what we’ve done. We love what we’re doing. And we’re constantly exploring forward.”

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Katatonia – Sky Void of Stars

If you listen to the void, you will be able to hear incredible things. Once you think you’ve heard everything it has to offer, you will find something else that will draw you in even deeper. Welcome to Katatonia’s, Sky Void of Stars. Katatonia have covered a lot musical soundscapes in their 22 years of playing and now they take the very stars from the sky and leave us with a stellar album, filled with Jonas’ incredible voice and melodies behind him that will have you headbanging, swaying or singing along from start to finish.

Three years since the previous album, City of Burials, Sky Void of Stars follows a similar writing style and production. This album is just as crisp and clean as you would expect from these gents, with arrangements that just form and melt into another for a smooth journey that will have you questioning where some songs are left off or begin.

The first three singles, Birds, Austerity and Atrium are great choices for Sky Void of Stars, they all give elements of what to expect out of the album, giving a good overview to anyone who hasn’t listened to Katatonia before and are wanting just great songs to chuck on any prog rock playlist. Birds has a great bass driven verse section, I always fall for a good bass tone, it’s an incredibly melodic song that will hook you in from the get go. Atrium is a bit more poppy with a big chorus and open guitar playing, a bit more atmosphere about this song and Austerity being the album opener, it has everything a song needs bring its listener to focus, rock riff straight out of the gate, catchy vocal melodies and hints of things yet to come.

My personal favourite track was Colossal Shade, a heavy rock song that kicks in with a fair amount of melody as well. It plays on a duality of light and dark very well, you have a solid rock riff and drum beat that kicks in to a low heavy chugg pre chorus then into a big chorus with strong vocals that match each mood perfectly. I had this song on repeat quite a bit. Impermanence was another track that stood out to me, this track was maybe the most epic or cinematic sounding off the album. There was so much in this track that I had it on repeat to make sure I could hear everything. Guided by a slower guitar riff that dances between clean and distorted to then bring in an amazing guitar solo just adds to the flow of the album, a standout track for sure.

Speaking on duality, this album has an equal amount of both light and dark moments. You have a few heavy rock songs but then you also have your quieter, melodic songs like Drab Moon, with a slower pace that lets the drummer shine. This guy nails everything about this album, his drumming fits all moods. The more I listened, the more I found little cymbal or tom rolls that just get captured in the mix that make it all the more interesting. Dynamics are an integral part of this bands playing and overall sound. I can’t imagine a song that doesn’t have a flow or certain arrangement style to it.

This is such an easy album to just put on a rock out to. There’s enough here to keep you entertained from a background music vibe but then you get a hell of a lot more in the writing and playing when sitting there paying attention. I really hope there is a Katatonia tour on the horizon, two albums have now been released since they were here, and I would love to see these songs live. Go and check this album out now!

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Ville Valo – Neon Noir

It’s been 10 years since HIM released their last album Tears on Tape, I didn’t think it had been that long but Ville Valo, the king of Love Metal is back with his own album Neon Noir. After the heartbreaking news that HIM was calling it a day back in 2017, at least it was for me, I didn’t think I would hear music from one of my all-time favourite singers again but here we are, 2023 and goddamn it’s unreal to hear this guy’s voice on new music once more.

From start to finish, Neon Noir has all the hooks to get you singing, humming, or moving along, it’s something that Ville has always had a knack for, it’s rocky, it’s gothy, it’s soft in all the right places. I got a strange feeling from listening to this for the first time. I never expected to hear new music from Ville so it I had a sense of nostalgia from older albums but then excitement at the realisation this is new solo music, his own demon to control, this can go wherever He likes.

A big thing for me was the sound of this album. HIM albums had a doomy fuzz tone to them, a mix of Linde and Mige’s guitar and bass, Neon Noir is cleaner and crisper, it’s own sound. Yes, there is distortion still but it’s less Sabbathy in sound. The writing style is still the same or incredibly similar as to what He had been doing in the past but maybe more the arrangement of the album tracks is a new or different way of looking at things as it starts off more on the rock edge and then slowly makes its way to the moodier, goth sound with songs like Heartful of Ghosts.

My favourite track would be the title track, Neon Noir, I have been singing it non stop since hearing it. The main riff and the chorus are catchy as hell. This is one of the songs that have now been released on youtube with a film clip, alongside Loveletting and Echolocate your Love, which will also draw you in. I really enjoy seeing the released singles and then listening to the album to see what is the song that draws me in as a listener and the title track got me good!

This will be hard for Ville, whether he wants to break away from the HIM sound and create his very own thing or stay close by, he will have critics having a go from either side surely. Fans will either gravitate towards this because its so HIM like or they will dismiss it for the same reason, thinking he will do something completely different. I mean, still using the heartagram makes it pretty clear in the direction he wants to go but you know, people like to whine. I loved this album the whole way through and I’m excited to see what He does next with this project.

If you’re a lover of HIM or Goth n Roll, or just some catchy rock, then you will fall for this album just as hard as you did when you were 13 or 14. It has that sense of giving you nostalgia yet it’s something new to your ears as well.

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