In Solitude “Sister”

In Solitude

In Solitude

Genre: Heavy/ Doom Metal
Label: Metal Blade Records

Satanic heavy metallers In Solitude gained much praise for their sophomore effort “The World, The Flesh, The Devil”, a blend of Merciful Fate riffs, twin guitar majesty and early Danzig drama. “Sister” takes all those aspects into darker territory with further atmospherics and gothic influences making for a rich and compelling release.

“He Comes” is a fantastic acoustic number, as foreboding as it is restrained, with Pelle Åhman’s wounded howl evoking dark spirits and desolate lands and “Pallid Hands” combines melodic fretwork with a power that would make Beelzebub proud.Indeed this release is littered with subtle touches, which enrich the songs within it. The eerie glockenspiel outro on “A Buried Sun” and subtle vocal effects and acoustics bring to mind Bauhaus or the Sisters Of Mercy covering early Maiden only they have been kidnapped and locked in a Swedish barn in the middle of nowhere with only whisky for company.

There is no denying the accessibility of songs like “Lavender” with the twin guitars of Niklas Lindström and Henrik Palm almost hypnotic at times. The change the band has undergone between their last record and this is quite remarkable. The gothic paranoia is omnipresent yet so are some infectious melodies that should see In Solitude outgrow their “cult” status in a hurry.

Witchery and wickedness with a more seductive voice than most “Sister” is a dish worth savouring.




Kvelertak – Meir Album Review

Kvelertak – Meir


Originally posted on Ghost Cult Magazine’s website on 26/03/2013

Norse trailblazers Kvelertak split open the metal scene with their incendiary self titled debut not to mention a fierce reputation on the live front. A mash up of furious punk rock, searing black metal and rock n’ roll swagger the first record was indeed something very special. Having returned to Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou and God City studios for this sophomore effort Meir contains all the characteristic of what made Kvelertak such a shot in the arm.

Frantic tremolo picking and lush melodies of ‘Spring Fra Livet’ kicks the party off and the rousing ‘Bruane Brenn’ is classic Kvelertak not to mention the best reason to stage dive you may get this year. Erlend Hjelvik’s vocals are still as corrosively intense but the rapturous sing-along’s are also in great abundance.While the band remains blessed with fantastic rock n’ roll hooks regrettably yet there are a couple of tracks which could have been given greater attention.Åpenbaring’ has a gorgeous build up riff but finishes to quickly after the vocals have kicked in and the solo in ‘Månelyst’ could happy be extended by a few bars such is the magnetism of its gigantic hooks.

‘Nekrokosmos’ moves away from the garage punk aspects with an almost stoner rock middle section and ‘Undertro’ mixes frostbitten aggression with an almost Thin Lizzy vibe to the guitars.Great musicianship and the seamless melding of musical genres are aspects one expects of Kvelertak by now and while there are some great songs present here just a couple of tracks don’t maintain the lofty standards set by the first album. To follow-up such a groundbreaking debut has clearly been tricky but aside from a couple of half-baked ideas the album is a classy and well rendered affair.

It is a shame to see a couple of small disappointments here and there but when the bar is set so high that can be expected. While Meir may not have the impact its predecessor has had it still contains some fantastic music which may make more sense in the live concert environment. Meir is still a fantastically well written album but this is a tricky transitional record from an undeniably fantastic group.


Ross Baker

Ghost – Infestissumam Album Review

Ghost – Infestissumam


Originally posted on Ghost Cult Magazine’s website on 20/04/2013

Since their Opus Eponymous debut dropped three years ago the nameless ghouls have enticed the greats of rock into their diabolical trap with a combination of a lavish stage show and the catchiest tunes Old Nick has given us in years. Yet by 2013 surely we’ve all gone back to our King Diamond and Blue Öyster Cult albums and cooled off. Not likely!

Beginning in triumphant fashion with their dark choir underpinned by lush classic rock riffing Papa Emeritus II and company have risen to deliver a sermon bolder and more dramatic than the first. ‘Per Aspera Ad Inferi’ stomps along with an almost military drumbeat leading to a triumphant expansive chorus. ‘Infestissumam’ see’s the Swedes expanding their horizons and further incorporate church organ, choral vocals and occasionally eastern melodies while remaining resolutely satanic.

Eschewing the more pop orientated song structures of the debut was a bold approach, certainly while this may be their major label debut the band have pushed themselves into bold new territory delivering an album full of quirks and killer melodies. The psychotic waltz of ‘Secular Haze’ is not the only stylistic departure with ‘Ghuleh/Zombie Queen’ beginning with stark piano and Papa’s chilling “From the darkness/ comes a succubus” refrain before the sinister organ builds the song to a powerful crescendo. The presence of big name producer Nick Raskulinecz has only encouraged the band to unfurl their greater potential, gleefully incorporating classic rock hooks with their blasphemous agenda in even more theatrical and bombastic fashion than before.

Having won fans such as Phil Anselmo and Dave Grohl (The later appearing behind the drumkit drumming on their cover of ABBA’s “I’m A Marionette”) it’s clear that Satan’s minions have the tunes to match their exquisite presentation. The finale of ‘Monstrance Clock’ with its infectious “Come together” refrain will haunt you insidiously for hours after its last airing.

Infestissumam may be Latin for “Most hostile” but this is a graceful and grandiose affair which further pushes their esoteric agenda together with sweeping and timeless melodies. A deliciously tuneful black-hearted affair this sophomore effort shall see Ghost welcome many new parishioners to join their faithful congregation.


Ross Baker

TesseracT – Altered State Album Review

TesseracT – Altered State


Originally posted on Ghost Cult Magazine’s website on 26/05/2013

Since debut album One was released to much critical acclaim prog metal pioneers TesseracT have been dogged with the departure of not one but two lead vocalists. While such adversity would have broken manly lesser acts, the Milton Keynes act picked themselves up and following the departure of American singer Elliot Coleman came across young Brighton based frontman Ashe O’Hara.

The move has proved a shrewd one as O’Hara’s voice has a wealth of emotion and power that belies his cherub like appearance.  Following up such a resound praised record especially after such crippling circumstances TesseracT have refocused with a new album that retains the technically and emotional depth which made the debut so essential.

Boldly hinged around the concept of ‘”The Law Of Conservation” which states energy is transferred between the four states of matter, mind, reality and energy the stabbing polyrthymic structures remain but with a greater emphasis upon melodic hooks. Altered State disowns any screaming vocals which were present on the debut which the band felt they need “in order to fit into the scene”. It’s a bold move but one that paid off well.

Ashe’s delicate haunting notes more than match the unmistakable impression Dan Tompkins left on One with numbers like ‘Of Matter – Retrospect’ showing an emotional range rarely felt within the myopic scope of the average metal band. Familiar complex rhythms and patterns are present but the emphasis has shifted towards a more mature and reflective direction.

O’Hara’s performance is simply stunning. First single ‘Nocturne’ is brimming with passion and sincerity. His angelic tones reaching for the heavens while the swirling mass of guitars churn malevolently beneath him.

Considering the impact One had upon British metal TesseracT could be forgiven for resting upon their laurels yet Altered State expands their vision adding bold new elements. The elegant jazz saxophone on ‘Calabi-Yau’ is curveball and ‘Exile’ breaks new ground with some delicate acoustic chords further enhancing the reflective mood of the song.

A couple of tracks standout from the pack but Altered State” is best experienced as a whole piece. Distilling and focusing all their frustrations into creating a record which transcends the boundaries of the subgenre they found themselves a part of TesseracT have become the benchmark for progressive acts the world over.


Ross Baker

Shining (NOR) – One One One Album Review

Shining (NOR) – One One One


Originally posted on Ghost Cult Magazine’s website on 28/05/2013

Masterminding the melding of Jazz and metal has been attempted by many noisemakers but these proponents have often hailed from the metal world. Shining mainman Jørgen Munkeby has travelled a different path hailing from a trad jazz background Munkeby introduced “Black Jazz” to an unsuspecting world three years ago nailing progressive metal to free jazz and harsh electronics it was an uncompromising and experimental record which sat up and slapped the metal scene square in the face.

Fast forward to present day One One One sees Shining condensing and distilling their freeform frenzy into more traditional song structures.For some this would seem like Shining has lost its edge yet what One One One succeeds in doing is compressing these rogue elements and spewing them out in controlled bursts of kinetic energy.

Spanning thirty five minutes this high energy thrill ride is a seemly mesh of all Shining’s musical styles with all the indulgences stripped away leaving only the juicy succulent flesh for the listener to feast upon.The driving percussion and industrial guitars of ‘I Won’t Forget’ kick off this adrenaline ride recalling the manic rush of NIN circa Broken and ‘My Dying Drive’ pulls no punches with its stellar grooves.

What makes this album so inviting is how every instrument is allowed to stand out without being smothered by the rest. The frantic saxophone on ‘How Your Story Ends’ ads to the song without becoming its main focus and the electronic elements are never employed at the expense of the guitars.The album title itself alludes to Munkeby’s desire to create a series of “track one’s” or “hits” and while the songs have shorter running times than the sprawling Black Jazz this is still the bold work of an extreme act hell-bent continually challenging themselves and their listeners.

The corrosive saxophone grind of ‘The Hurting Game’ alone should serve as a vehement denial of the notion that Shining have become a straight metal act. Jørgen’s vocals while mostly screamed still allow for lyrics to be clearly deciphered and while the cold industrial sections complement the harsh guitars there is an organic feel to the songs.

In One One One Munkeby has succeeded in balancing the fine line between indulging his renegade tendencies while simultaneously delivering his most direct and simplistic album yet. While a fine collection of music never before have Shining’s individual songs shone so brightly even when removed from the context of the album. A vital and exhilarating brand of controlled chaos bravely realised and delivered with the meticulous brilliance of a master craftsman.


Ross Baker

Megadeth – Super Collider Album Review

Megadeth – Super Collider


Originally posted on Ghost Cult Magazine’s website on 02/06/2013

“Burn baby burn cos it feels so good/burn baby burn like I knew it would” no these are not lyrics from a seventies disco hit but the chorus of the third track on the new Megadeth release “imaginatively” entitled ‘Burn!’ It’s a worrying entry which will again have both fans and detractors casting aspersions regarding the sanity of one Mr Mustaine.

Such god awful lyrics may be expected from a tired old has been of the glam metal era but when they are delivered by the voice of thrash metal’s most politically astute, polarizing and thought provoking artists then something has gone horribly wrong.

Cringeworthy and questionable lyrics aside, there is a lack of technicality with many a generic mid paced riff underpinning songs like Off The Edge’. Perhaps the lack of technicality can be attributed to drummer Shawn Drover whose kit work, while solid, still feels like that of a hard rock player rather than an out and out heavy metal percussionist.

‘The Blackest Crow’ pulls another curveball with the addition of banjo yet, while it’s a brave experiment, it sounds like a Volbeat cast off at best. Touted as a crackpot and conspiracy obsessed nutter, Mustaine has carved a career from controversy and while recent albums have been strong since the return of bassist Dave Ellefson to the line up, Super Collider sounds like the wheels may be coming off. ‘Dance In The Rain’ rails against “the dead end 9-5” and the “big brother” surveillance society we find ourselves in yet his intentions are questionable. Considering his own controversial views on issues like gay marriage, one wonders how much Mr. Mustaine would fight to protect certain people’s civil liberties.

The later track even features a back up vocal from Disturbed mouthpiece David Draiman whose contributions are thankfully difficult to detect. Attempting to shy away from the controversy and focus on making great music Mustaine has written the most watered down and disappointing album since Risk He is apparently content to fit comfortably into mediocrity which is especially disappointing considering how strong the last couple of Megadeth albums were.

Undeniably one of the greatest guitarists in metal with a C.V. of hits acts of today would sell their first born children for, the distinct lack of hooks and memorable riffs seriously wounds Super Collider.  The odd break of fret wizardry cannot save what is unquestionably one of this year’s most disappointing albums.


Ross Baker

Paradise Lost – Tragic Illusion 25 (The Rarities)


Originally posted on Ghost Cult Magazine’s website 21/10/2013

Commemorating a quarter century with a collection of outtakes and b-sides often delivers mixed results but West Yorkshire’s gloomiest act have never been afraid to take chances. Encompassing outtakes from the last couple of studio releases plus a couple of cover versions and two re-workings of old favourites, ultimately, Tragic Illusion 25 (Century Media) by Paradise Lost will appeal mostly to collectors and existing fans but when you acknowledge this as five guys having fun in the studio in between albums, it becomes a far more enjoyable affair than many stopgap efforts. Albums of this nature have a tendency to lack a cohesive flow but while this is true, there are a couple of gems to be had here.

Tragic Idol era opener ‘Loneliness Remains’ is typical of their recent output. Sabbathian dirge meets funereal bleakness and the orchestral reworking of ‘Faith Divides Us (Death Unites Us)’ is certainly a highlight but the re-workings of the older numbers do not differ enough from their original form to merit more than a cursory glance.

‘Gothic 2013′ feels a bit pointless as the only real difference is the slightly cleaner vocal and while it has been apparent for some time that Nick Holmes prefers to use his more melodic range, it makes you wonder why Greg Macintosh’s gruff backing vocals are not put to further use. Considering the strength of his death vocals in side project Vallenfyre, it makes you wonder why Paradise Lost have not utilised his considerable skills when performing older compositions live.

Holmes himself manages to snarl impressively through ‘Our Saviour’ which could perhaps be a sign the band may break out some of the Lost Paradise material live, something which fans have long hoped for. The mishmash of styles the band have employed throughout their career have polarised opinion yet PL’s influence on a generation of acts can never be denied.

Of the covers Spear Of Destiny number ‘Never Take Me Alive’ is interesting but Everything But The Girl’s ‘Missing’ harks back to the ill advised Depeche Mode light flavour of their Host era. Likewise, the ill-fitting instrumental Godless will be avoided by even the most devoted of fans. Perhaps a live album with these extras as a bonus disk would have been a more fitting manner to celebrate 25 years of the band’s dark art.


Ross Baker