Friday, 26 February 2021

Alice Cooper - Detroit Stories (2021)

Country: USA
Style: Hard Rock
Rating: 8/10
Release Date: 26 Feb 2021
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Alice is back again with his 21st studio album and it'll be a surprise for many listeners, though less so to those of us who heard The Breadcrumbs EP in 2019. Perhaps more appropriately, we should call it his 28th and add back in those seven recorded when Alice Cooper was a band rather than a frontman, as it's a throwback in many ways to those early years of School's Out and Billion Dollar Babies. That's only in part because quite a lot of that band is here.

Two songs here were recorded with Michael Bruce, Dennis Dunaway and Neal Smith, who left the band in 1974 though have been back for odd songs like these on Welcome 2 My Nightmare and Paranormal. Perhaps more importantly, Smith co-wrote one of them and Dunaway two. Bob Ezrin, Alice's producer back in those days, produces again here. He also co-wrote the majority of the songs and performs on a bunch of them, whether through percussion, keyboards or backing vocals.

Other major contributors include regular guitarist Tommy Henriksen, Wayne Kramer of the MC5, jazz man Paul Randolph and Johnny Badanjek of Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels, the common factor in all those names except Henriksen being that they hail from Detroit. This isn't a concept album but it's themed around that city, where Alice was born back in, holy crap, 1948, even if we don't notice much of the time. That means that it follows on nicely from The Breadcrumbs EP, which mostly featured covers of songs from Detroit bands. Two of them are here—the MC5's Sister Anne and East Side Story by Bob Seger—along with two Alice originals, Detroit City and Go Man Go.

Now, Breadcrumbs was a garage rock EP but this is more of a hard rock album like the old days, maybe as a nod to the fiftieth anniversary of Love It to Death and Killer, Alice's breakthrough 1971 albums. I should note here that they were pivotal not just to hard rock but to other genres too. Johnny Rotten has called Killer the greatest rock album of all time. This isn't but it is a thoroughly enjoyable ride to a lot more places than I've heard Alice go on one album in a long while. Admittedly, I don't remember anything about Paranormal, but this plays a lot better to me than Welcome 2 My Nightmare.

To get us in that seventies mindset, it kicks off with a seventies song, Lou Reed's Rock & Roll, which is a new cover, though given that the lyrics mention a Detroit station rather than a New York one, this is really a cover of Mitch Ryder's cover of the Velvet Underground song. The next couple of songs feel as if they ought to be covers but they're not. Go Man Go is still the energy shot of punk rebelliousness I remember from Breadcrumbs, while Our Love Will Change the World sounds like a Beatles single with psychedelia edges. Social Debris, on the other hand, sounds exactly like Alice Cooper.

The sheer variety here means that this is a treat for Alice fans, especially those who have followed him through what sometimes seems like every genre under the sun. Drunk and in Love is a prowling brooder that feels longer than it is but in a good way and Wonderful World does some of that too. Independence Dave is a blitzkrieg that finds its groove quickly and milks it. Detroit City, namechecking a plethora of musical legends from that city, sounded great on The Eyes of Alice Cooper and still does, but it may be $1000 High Heel Shoes that ends up my favourite here. It's a sassy number with horns and sax and a prominent shooby doo backing vocal from what seems to be much of the modern incarnation of Sister Sledge.

I can imagine many reviews talking about the return to an older style and the loose Detroit theme we continually forget about, but I wonder how many will talk about how self-aware this album is. There's a pair of songs here that epitomise Alice's personae. I Hate You is a stomping anthem with lyrics that rage about how awful Alice is on stage: "A guillotine! Oh, big surprise!" And, just to flip that around, Hanging on by a Thread (Don't Give Up) is a catchy little song with narrated verses that offers hope to troubled listeners to the degree that it includes the number of the Suicide Prevention Hotline at the end of the actual song.

That Alice is both of those people may be the primary reason why he continues to be relevant even at 73 years young. That he's made a lot of great music over the years (and, let's be honest, some dreck as well) may be secondary but there's a lot more of it on this album, which is the most enjoyable that he has conjured up in years.

Thursday, 25 February 2021

Ricky Warwick - When Life Was Hard and Fast (2021)

Country: UK
Style: Hard Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 19 Feb 2021
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I remember Ricky Warwick as the lead singer of the Almighty, but it won't surprise anyone who listens to a verse of the title track to this album that he ended up singing for Thin Lizzy too. That's not quite what this is, but it's impossible not to hear some Phil Lynott in his voice, even if it's hard to tell that that's Joe Elliott of Def Leppard behind him. There are a few guests here, including Luke Morley from Thunder, Dizzy Reed of Guns n' Roses and Andy Taylor of Duran Duran. They're dotted here and there, but the album's pretty consistent regardless.

And, like Lemmy, would have said, he plays rock 'n' roll. If we hadn't noticed a rocked up old time feel on You Don't Love with Me, it becomes obvious on Gunslinger, the only cover here. It's a Mink DeVille song, dating back to 1977, and beyond the fantastic sound that is the combination of Gary Sullivan's drums and Robbie Crane's bass, it's the rock 'n' roll that stands out and what's particularly important to note is that it doesn't sound remotely out of place following the three originals that came before it. After this, it isn't surprising to discover that on his prior covers album, he took on Eddie Cochran, Elvis Presley and the Bobby Fuller Four.

So this is rock 'n' roll heavied up to have a hard rock edge, with some punk attitude, some sleazy blues and some country emotion to spice up the gumbo. It's an interesting mix, even if what's interesting is sometimes surprising. I'd Rather Be Hit starts out a little similar to Ants Invasion, for instance, and I really wasn't expecting that. Oddly, it works though, just as the blitzkrieg approach on Never Corner a Rat works and the acoustic ballad that follows it, Time Don't Seem to Matter, on which his daughter Pepper joins him at the mike.

Six tracks in of eleven, that's appropriately the heart of this album, even if its calm singer/songwriter vibe renders it something of an interlude between halves. He covered Johnny Cash too on that covers album. Oddly, he didn't cover Thin Lizzy, because the next song, Fighting Heart, is the most overt Thin Lizzy song here amongst quite a few with a discernable Lizzy influence. Then again, Warwick was born in Northern Ireland and grew up listening to Phil Lynott. It would be more surprising if there wasn't any Lynott in his voice.

I think the first half is generally stronger than the second, but the second has Still Alive and that's an obvious highlight for me, up there with Gunslinger and Never Corner a Rat. It features Warwick's firm voice and attitude, with the return of that gorgeous combo drum/bass sound and wicked slide guitar from Keith Nelson, formerly of Buckcherry, who also produced the album. It's as emphatic as the demo of Clown of Misery, recorded over the phone, isn't (though it's interesting).

It's another overt rock 'n' roll song that wraps up the album though, the appropriately if illiterately titled Your My Rock 'n' Roll. This is the sort of song you expect to hear blaring out of the stage when you walk into the right sort of small bar. It's a simple but energetic stomper that stems as much from Joan Jett as Jerry Lee and it'll have you down the front before you grab a pint from the bar. And that has to be about the best way to end this rock 'n' roll album that I can think of.

This is Warwick's fifth solo album and, if I'm counting right, he's recorded twelve more with Black Star Riders, Circus Diablo and the Almighty. As such, it's not surprising to find that this is mature but it's good to find that it's still energetic and alive.

Evil - Possessed by Evil (2021)

Country: Japan
Style: Heavy/Speed Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 9 Feb 2021
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Wow, that's a lo fi sound to kick off this album, with background hiss and rough, frantic drums which seem to be determined to keep up with a band that doesn't want to hold back. Then again, the band is called Evil, as simple a metal name as can be. Metal Archives lists nine other metal bands called Evil. I think the only other one formed within the last twenty years, which has actually released anything, is from Tunisia, where that name is probably quite the statement all on its own.

Then again, a 2021 band calling themselves Evil and releasing an album called Possessed by Evil (after a debut called Rites of Evil) is making a statement too. They're saying they're emphatically old school and we shouldn't expect anything modern. Certainly all the names I can conjure up date way back. The drums remind me of the earliest days of Sodom, the music is often pure NWOBHM; much of The Cycle of Pain and Raizin could almost sit on either of the Paul Di'Anno albums by Iron Maiden. At breakneck pace, like on Yaksa, named for their drummer, they're a combination of early Bathory and Possessed with speed metal solos.

In other words, this dates back either to NWOBHM days or the proto-extreme metal that grew out of it. And it isn't just the music that sounds like that, the production does too. While the sound is meaty and energetic, I could believe that Evil just showed up one day to the studio, hooked up all their gear, played these twelve songs off the cuff in 36 minutes and 45 seconds and, job done, went home again. I could even believe that the engineer just pressed record, waited for them to be done, ejected the tape and sent it to the plant to press. Oh, and no overdubs.

In a way, that kind of makes this kin to the most recent Sodom album, Genesis XIX, except they took a little time to rehearse and I'm sure those songs weren't all recorded on the first take. Here I'm not so sure. I'd say that I'm surprised to find that Evil are a four piece instead of a trio like Sodom, Raven or Venom, but then Sodom are four people nowadays too. They merely sound like a quintessential power trio setup who grew up listening to Motörhead and the bands they inspired.

I like this, but I'm an old school proto-extreme metal fan. I remember when albums started having the sort of track listing this one has: out of a dozen songs, Hell is in three of the titles and Evil four. Hell's Evil Bells, of course, has both. This isn't trying to be clever. It's trying to fit into a scene that arguably ended before these musicians were even born and doing a decent job of it. The only aspect here that's of later heritage is the vocals of Asura, who's also one of the two guitarists. He's a bit more extreme, I think, than even Bathory was doing back then, but his style fits the band well.

This is the sort of album that you don't need to hear first. If what I've said piques your interest, you'll be in seventh heaven with this. If it made you shrug and move on, then this isn't for you at all. This is for people who still spin those early Venom, Celtic Frost and Bathory records; who wish that Di'Anno still sang for Maiden and Possessed hadn't split up in 1987; or who got all nostalgic hearing that last Sodom album. Sure, some songs are certainly better than others, and I'd suggest the first half is a lot better than the second, but it won't matter. If you're on board, you'll love it anyway. If not, you won't.

Wednesday, 24 February 2021

Mogwai - As the Love Continues (2021)

Country: UK
Style: Post-Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 19 Feb 2021
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It seems that I was just reviewing a Mogwai album last week, ZeroZeroZero, but it turns out to be last April. Time is a speedy critter nowadays. That wasn't a regular studio release, though; it was the soundtrack to a show on Amazon Prime. This is a regular studio release, their first since Every Country's Sun in 2017, and it may well be the first that I've heard. I'm learning a lot about post-rock but haven't had a lot of chance to go back and discover the founders and the classics and how the genre developed.

My favourite post-rock is very visual, in that the soundscapes conjure up images for me. This isn't one of those albums but I like it anyway. These pieces of music play more like moods to me, maybe because I'm hearing influences and they're flavouring the experience for me. For instance, the opener, which is imaginatively titled To the Bin My Friend, Tonight We Vacate Earth, feels like Joy Division to me and that's enough to generate a mood. It's not entirely depressing, because the brightness is turned up a little, so more Love Will Tear You Apart than the second half of Closer.

Often the mood includes perkiness, either through the beat or through the electronic blips that coast over some of the songs. Here We, Here We, Here We Go Forever is just insufferably upbeat, but others have more depth. Dry Fantasy is like the start to a beautiful day, if you're a morning person, the fresh discovery after a long night of sunlight, birds and flowers and an abiding feeling that all is right with the world, but there's a little darkness underneath it like the moving shade.

To my mind, the best pieces here are the ones that mix those moods without anything feeling wrong. I particularly like Midnight Flit, which counters all the perky blips with dark undertones, brooding and menacing. That contrast is magnetic. The final track, It's What I Want to Do, Mum, fosters a real cloud of sadness out of clean notes and soft swirling keyboards, but there's hope littered through it and it's always building. The title suggests that the hope won out in the end but perhaps never entirely. There are interesting edges in Drive the Nail and Ceiling Granny too.

I have to mention the odd song out because it's a really odd song out, though it wouldn't be on a lot of albums because it's the most normal song here, not least for having vocals. It's Ritchie Sacramento and it's very good, a mid eighties British indie pop song but with what would no doubt have been an overly primitive artificial backbeat replaced by a submerging in texture. Maybe some of the bands of the day would have written Ritchie Sacramento had they had 2021 equipment, but maybe this is more than just a progression of technology; it's a progression in songwriting too.

I liked this album, which played well while I was running reports at work. It's good background music but it kept grabbing my attention at odd points to highlight something new and interesting that I'd missed earlier. What it didn't do was blow me away, as the tenth album by a band who helped bring a focus to the nascent post-rock genre. I think I'd like to hear Mogwai write longer songs with more and broader dynamic play. And, the thing is, I think that's what they used to do. I should find out.

Yoth Iria - As the Flame Withers (2021)

Country: Atmospheric Black Metal
Style: Greece
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 25 Jan 2021
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Yoth Iria is a new band, formed in 2019, and this is their debut album, but the two men involved have quite the history in Greek extreme music and black metal in particular. Bassist Jim Mutilator was one of the co-founders of Rotting Christ, back when they played grindcore, and he remained with them for a decade. He also co-founded Varathron and was part of their line-up for their first five years, but he's been gone from the scene for a long time, as a musician at least. The vocalist known here as the Magus was also in Rotting Christ, as well as Necromantia and Thou Art Lord, among many others.

All of which means that it's really not surprising when The Great Hunter is a decent opener. It's heavy and fast and black with a doomy drone in the midsection. It's nothing outrageous or innovative but it ably demonstrates that these folks still have it, even if they haven't been using it for a while. It's Yoth Iria, though, the second song, that really made my attention perk up. This one isn't heavy and fast and black, at least not in the way that we're expecting after that opener.

It's more interesting from moment one, with a vaguely middle eastern intro that defines the song, as that theme permeates the song, shifting from instrument. It heavies up, but never gets fast and never gets particularly black either, except for the commanding voice of the Magus, which is an archetypal black shriek and very consistent, whatever his tone. He narrates and chants and shrieks, with massive amounts of intonation, but it's all in done in that beautifully evil voice. I love the outro too, which is a gradually decreasing thing, dropping to bass and keyboards and then just those pulsing keyboards from guest musician John Patsouris.

And so we realise that this isn't just the decent new black metal album from a couple of old names. It's an album rooted in black metal that experiments to see what else they can do with the genre. It plays in doom, without getting weighty and oppressive, but also in traditional heavy metal, folk and gothic metal too.

For instance, while I can't particularly quantify it, I continually felt during Yoth Iria like I was hearing an Iron Maiden song translated into another genre. I think it's the storytelling style. Hermetic Code starts out with a riff worthy of Satyricon in their heavy metal days, but it becomes very folky during a dramatic black metal midsection and during the outro. That midsection also features those Patsouris keyboards elevating this music once more, and they're a constant reminder here that we're listening to something beyond pure black metal.

The Mantis builds on the Magus's narrative style in Yoth Iria and the midsection of Hermetic Code to get even more dramatic, with choir effects layered in for emphasis. By this point, it feels like there's something visual going on that I should be watching while I'm listening, like this is a soundtrack to a black metal opera. Again, though, the black is mostly in the vocals, the Magus stalking the stage in an impressive costume dominating our attention with the swagger of an Alice Cooper (or the god on the album cover), while the music is traditional in a Mercyful Fate vein.

The Red Crown Turns Black is faster and more traditional atmospheric black metal, though it doesn't quite become a wall of sound and it continues to expand beyond its genre, ending with more of those reminders of Iron Maiden, even though it features particularly galloping drums from JV Maelstrom, another guest musician, who was in Thou Art Lord with the Magus. The other guest that I've skipped over thus far is George Emmanuel of Lucifer's Child, who played guitar live with Rotting Christ for a majority of the previous decade.

I've run through each song thus far because they're all different and interesting in their way. Unborn Undead Eternal continues that, with a gothic feel laid over Celtic Frost bedrock, something that flows less notably into Tyrants, which at seven tracks into eight is the first song not to do anything new on this album, if we exclude the industrial effects at the very end. And that leaves The Luciferian to wrap up the album and that does quite a lot, even if it's the least engaging song for me.

So I'm not going to put down the bookends but they vanish on me. Every time I listen through, I get re-engaged by Yoth Iria and stay captivated until the end of Unborn Undead Eternal, at which point I drift away. That half hour in the middle is fascinating and 8/10 for sure. With the rest put back in, it's still a solid 7/10 from me.

Monday, 22 February 2021

Labyrinth - Welcome to the Absurd Circus (2021)

Country: Italy
Style: Progressive Power Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 22 Jan 2021
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Also on Frontiers Records and not light years away from Joel Hoekstra's 13 in style are Labyrinth, the Italian power metal band, formed in Massa in 1994 and on their ninth album. They have all the same instrumentation, though these keyboards are too buried in the mix, and they share a solid grounding in melodic rock, but they're harder and heavier and they also have a progressive edge that leads them to more solos, more vocal layering and more dynamic play. But hey, these two albums play excellently next to each other.

The Absurd Circus is a strong opener but I like Live Today even more. It's faster, really stirring up the blood, and it does a lot in under six minutes, even if I wish I could hear the keyboards more. It sounds like Oleg Smirnoff is playing in the next studio over and someone just left the door open so we could catch a hint of what he's doing. It's a really odd decision because everything else is well mixed, with a good balance between vocals, multiple guitars and drums. I'd like to hear more of the bass too but I'm used to not hearing that nowadays. Struggling to hearing keyboard solos is something new.

The problem with Live Today is that it's such a powerful track that One More Last Chance seems lesser just by comparison and the album suffers for a while. Live Today's a real go getter, speed power metal during the verses with slower dreamier sections to really keep us on the hop. The extended solos are engaging and upbeat and the whole thing just works. However, One More Last Chance is often a softer and more passive song and, with our blood now up, it feels like it unfolds in slow motion.

The album does pick back up again. As Long as It Lasts starts that with some neat intricacies and Den of Snakes does a lot more with some more overt melodic riffing bringing us mostly back on track, but I was questioning the album at this point while realising that I was being utterly unfair. It isn't that One More Last Chance is a bad song; it's actually a pretty decent one that merely struggles to follow such a stormer. It would have been better anywhere elsewhere on the album. Den of Snakes would be a better choice to follow Live Today and slow us back down gradually.

There's a cover nestled in here eight tracks into eleven and I have to call it out because it's an unusual choice but a good one. It's of an Ultravox song called Dancing with Tears in My Eyes, which I'd say was an old song if only I hadn't bought the single when it came out. It does feel a little different to what's around it but a lot less so than I would have expected. It sounds good and it's actually good to hear a Scottish vocal sung with a slight Italian accent.

This is a solid 7/10 album, consistently above average European power metal but without much that's leaping out for special attention. Live Today is about it on that front. I was tempted to drop a point for the buried keyboards but decided against it because this is a generous album that runs a breath beyond an hour and never really drops the quality. So imagine I dropped that point and added it back again.

Joel Hoekstra's 13 - Running Games (2021)

Country: USA
Style: Hard Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 12 Feb 2021
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For those who don't know the name, Joel Hoekstra is the current guitarist with Whitesnake who tours with both Cher and Trans-Siberian Orchestra. This is the second album from his own band, following a 2015 debut, Dying to Live, and it features the same stellar line-up of musicians as before. Ironically, it may be that Hoekstra is the least experienced of them, his first album being solo instrumental guitar music, appropriately titled Undefined, back in 2000, eight years before Night Ranger and six further years before Whitesnake. That means that there's a heck of a lot of experience here to draw from!

Russell Allen handles the lead vocals, as he has with Symphony X since 1995. That's the legendary Tony Franklin on bass, whom I first heard in the Firm back in 1985, alongside Jimmy Page and Paul Rodgers, and he's been a very busy man ever since. Derek Sherinian is behind the keyboards and you may know him from his work with Alice Cooper, Dream Theater and Black Country Communion; merely two weeks ago I was listening to him on the new MSG album. And, without forgetting the suddenly omnipresent Jeff Scott Soto on backing vocals, who's still ahead of the pack for my album of the month with W.E.T., there's Vinny Appice on drums, who started out with John Lennon and has been a force to be reckoned with ever since, playing for Rick Derringer, Black Sabbath, Dio and more.

Very few bands can boast that level of experience and unbridled talent but bands need more than that to sound good. Fortunately whatever that X factor is, this band has it. Whether they're playing with a heavy Dio feel on Finish Line, which sometimes resembles those Dio opening stormers like We Rock or Stand Up and Shout, or a little softer on I'm Gonna Lose It, which is a bit closer to Hoekstra's work in Whitesnake, they play in a consistent melodic hard rock style, as tight as you'd imagine, with perhaps more of a focus on hooks than riffs but plenty of both.

What works best is that this really does feel like a band, even with Hoekstra's name on the cover. He's obvious throughout, of course, but he's not dominating the way that, say Yngwie Malmsteen did on a couple of albums that Jeff Scott Soto sang on back in the eighties. There are points where this feels as if it's Hoekstra's band, but others where it feels like Allen's or even Appice's, who's so utterly on point here that it feels like he's playing in slow motion so as not to overwhelm. The mix is superb, so it isn't difficult to track any of these musicians, even Franklin, and they're all worth tracking. While each has their moments to shine, they support each other well here, both stepping up and getting out the way.

I think my favourite song here is Heart Attack, a little closer to the Whitesnake approach than the Dio and with some added sass. All these songs are worthy but the best ones really nail the groove they're aiming for and that one does. Fantasy does too, albeit a different groove with strings that remind of Led Zeppelin and Rainbow and a cool keyboard solo from Sherinian that marks it apart from its peers. I'd call out Cried Enough for You too, as it's almost like a Metal Church song covered by Dio, without the level of crunch but with even more of a brooding nature.

But hey, not everything needs to thrill us here. There are eleven songs on offer, twelve if you count a bonus track called Lay Down Your Love, and they're highly consistent in quality. The question is more about which songs elevate beyond that than which don't reach it, because there are no duff ones here, just ones that might not speak as much to our individual tastes. For instance Lonely Days isn't a bad song at all, doing that Fantasy string thing with guitars, but I'm less sold on it because it's somehow a classic rock stomper and a laid back melodic rock song at the same time and it doesn't work for me. I'm less fond of the title track too, even though it does the laid back melodic rock song thing on its own very well indeed.

I haven't heard Dying to Live but, on the basis of this album alone, Joel Hoekstra already has his own supergroup in place for whenever that long Cher tour ends or David Coverdale decides to refresh the Whitesnake line-up again. The 13 don't have the hit singles those acts can rely on, but they would be worthy support for either and a bunch of people ought to show up just to see them.

Friday, 19 February 2021

Tribulation - Where the Gloom Becomes Sound (2021)

Country: Sweden
Style: Gothic Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 29 Jan 2021
Sites: Facebook | Instagram | Metal Archives | Official Website | Wikipedia

Not to be confused with the earlier thrash metal Tribulation from Surahammar, Sweden who released their only album in 1991, this Tribulation are from Arvika, three hours west, and they started out in a death metal that's gradually shifted to a gothic flavoured heavy metal. This is their fifth album, with the shift happening on their third, The Children of the Night, in 2015 which features Irma Vep rather than the expected Dracula in the cover art, I believe.

I really like the opener, In Remembrance, which is a moody, broody gothic rock epic adorned with the accessible harsh vocal of bass player Johannes Andersson. It's weightier than it is heavy, if that makes sense, the weight coming not from guitar riffs but a lush gothic texture that pervades the album. It's not denim and leather, it's heavy velvet, regardless how harsh that vocal gets. That only doubles when a song like Leviathans shows up, with playful guitars dancing above everything else. The most gothic piece here is Lethe, a concerto for piano and creaking oak. It isn't remotely heavy but it has weight to it like a curse. There's as much influence here from the Damned as Black Sabbath, if not more.

Plenty of names come to mind though. When Dirge of a Dying Soul begins, I thought Rainbow, as it's a doomy take on a classical piece of music I'm sure that I ought to recognise, though it moves more to Candlemass territory as the intro becomes the song. That's the only song with "dirge" in its name but it's not the only dirge, Inanna showing up later on. And that sits in between the two most traditional metal tracks, Daughter of the Djinn and Funeral Pyre, the latter of which especially screams Mercyful Fate, even without any falsettos. These are up tempo and lively but still dark and mysterious.

Much of this is immediate, which surprised me. There's a lot of musical territory in between Dirge of a Dying Soul and Funeral Pyre and that applies whether we're talking specifically about this album with pieces like Lethe or generally. Tribulation trawl a lot in, but they stamp their own brand onto it well enough that it all seems natural. Candlemass, the Damned and Mercyful Fate is a tasty combination. I could suggest that In Remembrance could sit on a Tim Burton soundtrack, if only he'd stop pandering to the mainstream public and grow some balls. There's a lot here.

However, some of it wasn't as immediate for me. There are ten songs here and, if half resonated from a first listen, the other half didn't. Some of them gelled the second time through, especially Hour of the Wolf, but others, such as Leviathans, continued to elude me. Parts of it got through, maybe, but not the whole song. This may not sound like me but perhaps it tries to do too much. I can't connect with Elementals, either, even though it sounds good. It just fades away for me in between the powerful Daughter of the Djinn and the arresting Inanna, though Inanna itself isn't Dirge of a Dying Soul.

So I should listen to this more, I think. For now, it's a good album. I just wonder whether how much of a better one it'll be when I'm fully acclimatised to Where the Gloom Becomes Sound.