Reviews Round-Up May 2020 Part 2
• Paradise Lost – ‘Obsidian’
• Cryptex – ‘Once Upon A Time’
• Caligula’s Horse - ‘Rise Radiant’
• Haken – ‘Virus’
• and more...
Spring is in the air, and the traditional season of rebirth has led to a seemingly bumper crop of new releases hitting the shops in May and early June, starting this time around with PARADISE LOST.
It’s being hailed as a true return to form, but when did Halifax’s finest ever release a bad album – 2001’s ‘Believe In Nothing’ aside? You’ve got more chance of seeing Greta Thunberg standing in a speedboat smacking a dolphin on the head with a plastic lemonade bottle. That said, there’s little doubt that ‘Obsidian’ (Nuclear Blast, 15 May) – a naturally occurring volcanic glass that’s dark and hard (or the ultimate weapon of salvation for ‘Game Of Thrones’ fans) – is a very strong and incredibly varied body of work which both draws and reflects upon the best of their diverse back catalogue. It also presents the band in seemingly incredibly rude health. In David Gehlke’s excellent band biography ‘No Celebration’, a recurring theme is the need for the band to make a different album every time, and that’s certainly true of ‘Obsidian’. From the extremely catchy and deliberately old-school ‘Ghosts’ to the more hard-nosed ‘Forsaken’ and personal favourite ‘Ending Days’ ‘Obsidian’ offers a window on a band that, after thirty-two years (and sixteen albums) of spreading doom and despondency to the metal masses, is still one step ahead of the pack. A glorious offering that’s bound to find favour in many end-of-year Top Tens.
German progressive metal trio CRYPTEX have been consistently refining their sound since their 2011 debut album ‘Good Morning, How Did You Live?’, and with their third full-length release ‘Once Upon A Time’ (SPV, 8 May) Simon Moxon, Marc Andrejkovits and André Jean Henri Mertens have pushed the boat out further still. From the bombast of the opener and title track to the less-than-joyful closer ‘Leaving’, ‘Once Upon A Time’ is quite a deceptive album, harbouring darkness in plain sight and springing surprises – some quirky, some menacing – along the way. First single ‘Bloodmoon’ has all the lycanthropic bite its title conjures up, and is a pretty good taster if you’re new to the band’s banquet. Elsewhere, ‘Reptiles’ throws an interesting drum pattern (courtesy of guest skinsbeater Simon Schröder) into an already quite clever composition, while ‘The Promise Keeper’ plays it pretty straight, with a handful of Beatle-isms scattered amongst its operatic dynamisms.
A grand opener – ‘The Tempest’ – calls things to order for CALIGULA’S HORSE’s latest release ‘Rise Radiant’ (InsideOut Music, 22 May). Formed the same year as Cryptex released their first album, the Brisbane quintet are now five albums into their career and as their last release broke into their native Australian Top 50 big things are expected of this latest offering. Its simple but arresting artwork encloses a beautiful and beguiling release, and although attention will almost certainly focus on the lengthier workouts like ‘Salt’ and the enigmatic album closer ‘The Ascent’ (which itself occupies one-fifth of the album’s running time, and packs a fabulous guitar solo), the likes of ‘Slow Violence’ and the imaginative ‘Oceanrise’ show the band know how to construction a snappy four-and-a-bit minute song while still packing in plenty of progressive sleight of hand. Look out for the version with a pair of bonus tracks (‘Don’t Give Up’ and ‘Message To My Girl’) tacked on the end.
Although it’s part of a concept begun with in October 2018 with HAKEN’s fifth studio album ‘Vector’, you don’t need the backstory to be able to enjoy the band’s follow-up release ‘Virus’ (InsideOut Music, revised release date 19 June). An eclectic and at times bruising album (attention-grabbing opener ‘Prosthetic’ takes few prisoners) coated in Ross Jennings’ wonderful vocals, ‘Virus’ is – as you’d expect from Haken – a complicated and unforgiving album which demands full attention at all times to engage with its rigorous soundscapes where nothing is ever quite what it seems; even the seemingly innocuous ‘Carousel’ packs a surprisingly brutal and quite unexpected mid-section. Dominated by the sprawling ‘Messiah Complex’, a seventeen-minute mindgame split into five parts, ‘Virus’ does sound very much like a continuation of its predecessor – actually, not a continuation: more an evolution – and it’s interesting to note that the biography does mention the possibility of the two albums being played back-to-back at some future gig – a real progressive metal treat.
Just time for a brief mention that cult Belgian metallers ACID’s three albums – ‘Acid’ and ‘Maniac’ (originally released in January and September 1983 respectively) and ‘Engine Beast’ (which followed in January 1985) – which were made available on CD via Cherry Red / Hear No Evil and reviewed here back in 2015, have been spruced up and re-issued on vinyl by High Roller Records. The albums are of their time, true, but there’s no doubting the enthusiasm and energy the band put into their records and it’s great to have them back on the turntable once more. Also on High Roller Records, and also from Belgium, come RITUAL, whose ‘Surrounded By Death’ LP features the band’s self-titled 12” EP released in 1986 (although taken from their 1984 demo) together with a second batch of material recorded when the band reformed fourteen years later. Finally, and interviewed elsewhere, NWOBHM act BADGE, famous for their one single ‘Silver Woman’ on Neat Records’ imprint Metal Minded, are back with a new line-up and cracking new CD ‘Supernova’. Enjoy!
© John Tucker May 2020