Cryptic Shift are a technical thrash/death group from Leeds, Yorkshire. After encountering them opening for the legendary Exodus in 2016, I was instantly won over with their aggressive, technical brand of sci-fi metal. They’ve toured and performed with bands such as Vektor, Lost Society, Mithras, Ingested, and will soon be opening for the death American metal juggernauts Suffocation in Leeds. After their monstrous 2016 EP ‘Beyond the Celestial Realms’, in April they released their new digital single ‘Cosmic Dreams’ through UKEM Records. Read on for an interview with their guitarist and vocalist Xander on death metal, sci-fi, and touring with Vektor.
Some bands take a few releases to mature, hone their technical skills, and refine their sound to a point where they sound confident in their music and carve out a niche for themselves. Other bands, like Setentia, nail it on their first attempt. Their debut full-length album (and, in fact, their very first release of any kind) ‘Darkness Transcend’ was released independently earlier this year, and reissued on the reputable Finnish label Blood Music on November 11. Though the band have been compared with Ulcerate, this does not do justice to the breadth of Setentia’s sound, which incorporates elements of progressive metal and black metal to a far greater extent. Beyond that, they have an uncanny knack for suffocating atmosphere, highly technical, brutal death metal, as well as writing songs with enough variety and unexpected surprises to stave off monotony.
Four years on from their last full-length album Test of Submission, the Philadelphia instrumental progressive metal group Dysrhythmia are treating us to another head-spinning journey of an album in the form of “The Veil of Control”. This is their seventh full-length album, and though the album has a brisk 35 minute runtime over six songs, this disguises an album of stunning depth and complexity. The musicianship on display on this entirely instrumental album is simply awe-inspiring, but their prodigious talent has been honed and directed over time resulting in an album that feels lean and full of purpose.
On their sixth full-length album Magma, progressive metal band Gojira experiment with influences from further afield while processing the grief that comes with the loss of a loved one. Four years on from 2012’s astonishing L’Enfant Sauvage, the French quartet’s blend of blisteringly heavy death metal, fascinating progressive tendencies, and subtle atmospheric flourishes has lost none of its force or vitality.
Leviathan is the one-man black metal project of the controversial California-based multi-instrumentalist, tattooist Jef Whitehead, a.k.a. ‘Wrest’. Wrest made a name for himself with Leviathan’s early music which channelled the depressive suicidal black metal spirit better than almost any of his contemporaries, and 2003’s ‘The Tenth Sub-Level of Suicide’ remains a classic within that subgenre. But as time moved on Wrest began to incorporate many more influences and styles into Leviathan’s music, culminating in 2008’s ‘Massive Conspiracy Against All Life’, to date (in my view) one of the best albums in the entire black metal genre. I remember listening to the album through my earphones on a long, late walk back from town and this album absolutely engulfed me. It grabs you and pulls you in in a deeply unsettling but gripping way with weird, psychedelic melodies and distorted riffs as well as long, progressive song structures.
DIR EN GREY are a band whose past seems to haunt them. They formed in 1997 in Osaka, Japan as a visual kei band playing a sort of gothic-themed type of rock music. Visual Kei is “a movement among Japanese musicians, that is characterized by the use of varying levels of make-up, elaborate hair styles and flamboyant costumes, often coupled with androgynous aesthetics.” Their image from their early years has done them no favours with much of the western metal community, which in my view is an absolute tragedy. DEG have been on a continuous evolution as a band, moving from alternative rock to a unique style of metalcore. In 2008, with Uroboros, they continued their evolution by exploring elements of death metal, progressive metal, and avant-garde music. These elements were explored and deepened in 2011’s Dum Spiro Spero producing their most accomplished album yet with long, haunting, pieces, significant orchestration, and a level of unprecedented unpredictability. On ARCHE DEG continues that natural evolution.
Very few metal albums have been hyped as much as Fallujah’s second full length album ‘The Flesh Prevails’ has. Though their first album put them on the map as one of better deathcore bands, blending technical death metal and progressive metal elements together, it was their Nomadic EP in 2013 that really made this a band to watch out for: ambient, heavy, and progressive all at once, the EP significantly raised people’s expectations for his band, though its short tracklist left us wanting more. So the question is: Does The Flesh Prevails live up to that hype?
In one word: yes. It absolutely does. On The Flesh Prevails, Fallujah take that deeply atmospheric and progressive death metal sound they began to really explore on Nomadic and really make it their own. There’s an even greater sense of atmosphere, but where Nomadic was dark and murky, The Flesh Prevails is ethereal and even upbeat. Of course, this is ultimately death metal so when I say upbeat take it in that context! There’s a great sense of contrast created between the ambiance and atmosphere created by the guitars and other instruments and the vocals; low, guttural, death metal roars keep The Flesh Prevails from floating away completely and keep it grounded.
Rivers of Nihil’s debut album ‘The Conscious Seed of Light’ was actually released on Metal Blade back in October 2013. That means I’m pretty late with reviewing this album, but this album has impressed me so much that I feel I need to share it with you. If The Faceless and Fit for an Autopsy had a baby, this band would be it. Rivers of Nihil take a technical approach to death metal that is thoroughly brutal while also trying their hand at a bit of melody and ambiance, largely created by the two guitarists, as well as a nice sprinkling of black metal. I’ll be brief so you can just go and listen to the album straight away.
The twin guitars are at times pummeling, in the opening track ‘Rain Eater’ acting as an auditory jackhammer, drilling away at your eardrums with absolute ferocity, while at others such as on ‘Mechanical Trees’ where they play with the contrast between a down-tuned background chugging and ambient post-rock moments. The riffs come thick and fast, with the only problem being that there are so many riffs that I’m not sure which one I like the most! The drums compliment the guitars as an equally varied instrument, moving with ease between mid-tempo rhythms, to blastbeats, and other complicated, fast-paced arrangements. The vocals have a slightly deathcore edge to them but remain varied, with deep gutturals and powerful mids, while on some parts of ‘Place of Serpents’ they’re more hardcore. The vocals may be the only point on which Rivers of Nihil may divide opinion, as they’re not your usual death metal gutturals.
DIR EN GREY‘s new EP “The Unraveling” follows their latest full-length album ‘Dum Spiro Spero’ which was released in 2011. The Unraveling has a new track, ‘Unraveling’, and 6 ’re-recorded’ tracks, but they’re much more than just re recordings. These are some of Diru’s older tracks completely re-imagined in the style of progressive metal that they now play, which has a lot more in common with deathcore in places, minus the breakdowns. But to fully understand “The Unraveling” requires placing it in the context of the incredible musical journey Japanese metal band DIR EN GREY have been on since their inception.
Their early years were characterised by a fairly conventional Visual Kei aesthetic with pop-centric songs, but also a surprisingly dark atmosphere. Since then, the band has grown and evolved on every release. Their second and third albums ‘Macabre’ and ‘鬼葬 (Kisou)’ witnessed the band beginning to delve into a definitely more metal-centric sound, as well as the avant-garde. Their fourth album ‘Vulgar’ is where they really made their mark, unleashing a very heavy, dark, grotesque album that began to move more towards a more American metalcore sound. This evolution became way more apparent on the subsequent albums ‘Withering to death.’ and ‘Marrow of the Bone’. Their two latest albums, ‘UROBOROS’ and ‘Dum Spiro Spero’ are where they really came into their own, however, and are now firmly a progressive metal band. The closest artist I could compare them to would be Opeth, but a significantly more twisted, heavier version with more Eastern influences. Continue reading “Review: DIR EN GREY – “THE UNRAVELING””