Reviews Round-Up December 2023
• EVIL BLIZZARD – ‘Rotting In The Belly Of The Whale’
• HYPERIA – ‘The Serpent’s Cycle’
• INFERNO – ‘Psychic Distance’
• PARADOGMATA – ‘Endetid’
Let’s start with something quite different... EVIL BLIZZARD come from Preston, and their fifth album ‘Rotting In The Belly Of The Whale’ (Crackedankles Records, 1 December) is a nine-track melange of shapes and styles. Think David Bowie and Hawkwind beaten up by Nine Inch Nails in a dark alley and you might be on the right track. Sort of... Obscured both by masks and mythology the band are heavier than a wheelbarrow full of wet sand, largely because of boasting three bass players in their line-up (at a time when some bands seem to be getting rid of theirs altogether!) alongside a singing drummer, a keyboard player and a guitarist: and six people with a lot of bottom end can make a great deal of noise! The addition of former Hawkwind vocalist and bassist Mr Dibs – now rechristened Fleshcrawl – might (or might not) have something to do with ‘Tiny People’ being a page torn directly from the Hawkwind songbook, while the seven-and-a-half minute ‘Clouds’ could easily be an out-take from Bowie’s Berlin musings and ‘Pro Driver’ calls to mind Gary Numan’s ‘Cars’ as revisited by Fear Factory. Let’s be honest, maybe this shouldn’t work, but the fact remains that it does – in fact, the material blends seamlessly into an identity which the band can wholly call their own. Just when you think there’s nothing new under the sun, a band like Evil Blizzard show you how wrong you can be. File under unusual but exciting...
Opening their account in 2019 with a three-track EP entitled ‘Fish Creek Frenzy’, HYPERIA are a high-octane thrash outfit based in Calgary, Canada, whose roots lie in the Eighties – when I doubt any of them were actually born! – but whose vision is twenty-first century. ‘The Serpent’s Cycle’ (Independent, 17 November) is the talented quartet’s third album, following on from 2020’s ‘Insanitorium’ and ‘Silhouettes Of Horror’ which followed two years later; and although the gravel-tonsilled vocals of Marlee Ryley brings Arch Enemy to mind there’s a touch of Détente about them, for those with longer memories. Songs like ‘Prophet Of Deceit’ – with its intricate guitar work courtesy of Colin Ryley – and the fast-as-a-shark ‘Spirit Bandit’ showcase what this band is capable of; and while bassist Jon Power and drummer Ryan Idris (who seems to have two modes: ‘hit the kit hard’, and ‘hit the kit harder’) keep the wheels from coming off as the band turbo-charge their way through forty-five metal thrashin’ mad minutes, it’s the Ryleys who are the focal point. The album then runs off with a cover of Heart’s ‘Crazy On You’ which showcases a different facet of what Hyperia can pull out of a hat but still allows Idris a little space in which to work out.
Based in Florida, INFERNO issued ‘Psychic Distance’ on cassette in 1993, before it was then picked up for release on CD by Massacre Records. The four-piece progressive metal band came together at High School, playing their first gig at the school talent show in 1989, and cemented their line-up when bassist Paul Lapinski joined Jay Peele (guitars / vocals / synthesisers), Scott Brundle (guitars /synthesisers) and Kenny Phillips (drums) the following year. ‘Psychic Distance’ has just been re-issued by Golden Core, and is a treat for fans of bands like Fates Warning in particular, boasting nine tempo change-ridden yet accessible and extremely well played workouts. The CD is augmented by a five-track demo – ‘Architect’ – released in 1995, and songs like ‘The Second Hand’ and ‘Staring Into Chaos’ demonstrate that Inferno had grown in both technical proficiency and outlook while remaining true to their progressive metal roots. ‘Psychic Distance’ is also available on vinyl, stripped of the ‘Architect’ demo material.
The debut album from Norway’s PARADOGMATA is a heavy beast, rooted in what the band call “the borderlands between thrash, death and black [metal], but still with our melodic approach.” As such, it covers a number of bases, and ‘Endetid’ (Hymn For The End Of Times, 24 November) – the title is Norwegian for end time – is a challenging album which tackles a lot of the contemporary issues facing the world today; as such, understandably, anger and frustration pretty much bleed through every cut . But tracks like ‘Seven Curses For The Deathly Pale’ and the more nuanced ‘The Cleansing Flood’ work on a number of levels, and the album is heaviness personified. Three bonus tracks at the end of the CD take the running time over the hour mark and feature a demo of non-album cut ‘Certain Future’, a ‘raw mix’ of ‘The Cleansing Flood’ and an alternate take of ‘The Princes In The Tower’.
© John Tucker December 2023