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Wretched Empires – ‘Bloom’ [EP] [Album Review]

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Contrary to its famed origins as a secretive, exclusive club only for the trvly kvlt, black metal has grown to become one of the most versatile subgenres of metal. It goes with anything: shoegaze, NWOBHM, death, doom, synth, you name it. Proving this with aplomb is Wretched Empires.

Their debut EP, Bloom, is a short sharp shock of pure second-wave worship, all furious blast beats, abyssal vocals, tremolo riffs, and suitably murky production. But while the influence of the second wave looms large over the record, there are plenty of other ingredients in the mix. NWOBHM rears its denim-clad head in the guitar solos of both “Ghosts” and “Shadows,” but more noticeable is both the crust-punk edge on the riffs and bass, not to mention the murky production that mires the record in perfectly filthy distortion.

But soft, what light through yonder interlude breaks? It’s folk, and it’s beautiful. On both the instrumental track “Home?” and in the quiet moments on “Ghosts” and “Shadows,” the guitars of Will become softer, exhibiting some excellent folk melodies in the vein of Twilight Fauna. There’s a palpable, heartbreaking sense of yearning on “Home?,” which ties in nicely with the themes of the lyrics.

The personnel on the album – Tom on vocals, Will on guitars and bass, and Cody on drums – are alumni of two of the most explicitly political bands out there at the moment: Tom lends his fearsome bellows to Allfather while Cody and Will are former members of hardcore-crust-punk outfit Redbait. Will himself is responsible for mixing everything together, an impressive feat given that Tom lives in England and the others are out west in Missouri. But rather than the furious calls to arms of either of those bands, Wretched Empires challenge listeners to look inwards and think about who we are as people and how that can influence global politics.

For example, “Ghosts” invites us to reflect on the ongoing climate crisis: “Graveyards of skeletal forests/The stink of a dying land … We are the ghosts/The ghosts of broken earth.” Those skeletal forests are clear references to the forest fires and bleached coral reefs of Brazil and Australia, both of which are direct results of (or at least natural phenomena horrifically exacerbated by) man-made climate change. Long after humanity is gone, our ghosts will remain in the graveyards of skeletal forests – forests which we killed.

Meanwhile, the lyrics of “Bloom” exhort us not to bury our heads in the sand and ignore the truths of ourselves: “This is not who we are? This is who we’ve always been… Too Late We See The Truth of Ourselves.” Things are bad right now, and guess what? It’s our fault. Perhaps not on an individual level, but certainly on a collective one. However, I’ll offer a counterpoint. The song focuses on hateful politics, pushing listeners to interrogate their personal responses. But we don’t need to look too far for the solution. In the wake of Covid-19’s quarantines and lockdowns, mutual aid groups have appeared globally. There are plenty of people working to try to halt the climate crisis. Antifascism is a growing movement. Famed children’s tv presenter Mr. Rogers once quoted his mother as saying: “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping” when news reports scared him. And it’s true. There are people who are helping. For all that we absolutely must look deep within ourselves and accept that we are responsible for the bulk of our planet’s current problems, the other side of that coin is that we are also the solution.

Our inherent gregariousness, that human urge to reach out and offer help to one another is what will save us if we allow the seeds of it currently being sown to truly bloom. Change the emphasis in the lyrics, and the opening question posits humanity-as-problem, while the follow-up highlights humanity-as-solution. The lyrics of “Shadows” are thus a defiant call to listeners not to forget this: “Hold your torches aloft/These roots cannot be lost.” Sandwiched between them is the pensive instrumental track “Home?,” a wistful, at-times mournful, but overall hopeful guitar solo that invites the listener to sit and reflect quietly on the questions asked of them.

In sum, Bloom is excellent. The furious riffs and anguished lyrics are sure to please even the trvest kvlt fan. With this debut EP, Wretched Empires are offering listeners a bright torch in the night, held aloft, saying “Come, follow us, we will find our way out of the darkness together.” This is the kind of black metal we need right now.

Bloom Track Listing

1. Ghosts
2. Bloom
3. Home?
4. Shadows

Run Time: 18:57
Release Date: April 3, 2020
Record Label: Self-Released

Album Review

Blind Channel – ‘Exit Emotions’ [Album Review]

While ‘Exit Emotions’ (Century Media Records) contains many of the tropes from the golden age of nu-metal, it still feels refreshing. Blind Channel continue to move from strength to strength.

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Blind Channel ‘Exit Emotions’ album artwork
Blind Channel ‘Exit Emotions’ album artwork

Cast your minds back to 2021; it was a dark time for humanity, with the entirety of the world still gripped by the COVID-19 pandemic, countries going in and out of lockdowns, and the entertainment industry being brought to its knees. Yet, in the midst of all of this, mankind fought on, with some events managing to take place. One of these was Eurovision, which has delivered, over the years, some incredible winners and given lesser-known artists global recognition. 2021 saw Måneskin take the crown, but on their heels was Finland’s own Blind Channel in sixth place with their song “Dark Side.”

The Finnish nu-metalers already had a handful of records to their name but it was Lifestyles of the Sick and Dangerous that contained their aforementioned Eurovision entry and made the world really sit up and take notice. With its mix of metal, hip-hop, synth and a touch of glam, it was a breath of fresh air from the European region better known for its output of, let’s say, the (much) heavier side of metal.

With Exit Emotions, Blind Channel now have their eyes focused on bigger things. Whilst they have broken through to the mainstream beyond their borders, it’s not enough for the six-piece, as they explore what it means to truly be on the global stage.

Exit Emotions kicks in hard with “Where’s the Exit,” with its distorted nu-metal beat laced with some techno elements followed swiftly by distorted vocals mixing rap and metal styles seamlessly. Dual vocalists Joel Hokka and Niko Moilanen bounce off each other in a symbiotic way, indicating how in tune with each other these guys can be. “Where’s the Exit” feels like it throws everything the band can portray at the wall from their varying influences, and while, on paper, a mix of metal, rock, hip hop, techno, and synth, if difficult to get right, Blind Channel nail it with absolute precision. Several songs on this record follow this formula, like “Deadzone,” “Wolves of California,” and “XOXO” (amongst others), and if the entirety of the record kept to this, whilst fun to listen to, it would run the risk of becoming samey. Thankfully, Blind Channel does mix things up throughout.

Blind Channel, photo by Christian Ripkens

Blind Channel, photo by Christian Ripkens

Keeping it Surreal” maintains a relatively heavy approach but dials it back a tad to give the hip-hop elements more of a chance to shine and deliver a more emotional element with the band, highlighting the surrealness of their current position. This is followed by the extra-emotional “Die Another Day.” The tune opens with a piano melody and slows the entire pace of the record, and moves into ballad territory. Hokka and Moilanen are accompanied by RØRY, ensuring the sensitive lyrics portrayed are emphasized to the max. Despite the relative negativity of the lyrics, the trio somehow makes this extra melancholy tune drive forward positive feelings.

Exit Emotions is a great follow-up to Lifestyles of the Sick and Dangerous, and although it contains many of the tried and tested tropes of what was delivered in the golden age of nu-metal, it still feels refreshing. The band has gone from strength to strength since their respectable placement at 2021’s Eurovision, which demonstrates they have lots more to offer than just their hit song “Dark Side.”

Read our interview with Joel Hokka and Niko Moilanen at last year’s Download 20.

Exit Emotions Track Listing:

1. Where’s the Exit
2. Deadzone
W3. olves of California
4. XOXO
5. Keeping it Surreal
6. Die Another Day
7. Phobia
8. Happy Doomsday
9. Red Tail Lights
10. Not You Bro
11. Flatline
12. One Last Time… Again

Run Time: 35:15
Release Date: March 1, 2024
Record Label: Century Media Records

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Silent Planet Bring Their “Superbloom Tour” to Worcester Palladium [Photos]

Silent Planet brought their “Superbloom Tour” to Worcester Palladium with support from Johnny Booth, Aviana, and Thornhill.

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Silent Planet on Feb 20, 2024, photo by Christina Altamirano
Silent Planet on Feb 20, 2024, photo by Christina Altamirano

Silent Planet brought their “Superbloom Tour” to the Worcester Palladium on February 20, 2024. They had Johnny Booth, Aviana, and Thornhill join them on this fun adventure.

I had no idea what to expect during Johnny Booth and was happy with the outcome. Johnny Booth is a five-piece hardcore band from New York. They performed a seven-song setlist with a few cuts like “2040,” “Full Tilt,” “Asymmetrical,” and “Deep Fake.” Johnny Booth stands out with their crushing melodies and multi-genre influences.

Following Johnny Booth was the Swedish alt-metal band Aviana. I had heard a few songs off Spotify, but I’ve never seen them live, and I loved every second of their time! The band wore masks and cloaks, so you can’t see anything under it. When they opened with “Rage,” the crowd chanted “Rage” with frontman Joel Holmqvist. Other songs were “Illuminate,” “My Worst Enemy,” “Oblivion,” and “Obsession.” This is definitely a band worth checking out!

Next was the Aussie alt-metal band Thornhill. If you know Thornhill, then you know you’re going to have a good show! They played eight songs, consisting of “Arkangel,” “Viper Room,” “Coven,” and “Casanova,” and closed with “Where We Go When We Die.” During their set, you can see fans all over having fun and dancing to the music.

Lastly, Silent Planet! The band incorporates a screen in the back for stunning visuals to accompany the songs being played. They performed mostly new songs off their latest album, Superbloom, and other beloved songs like “Panic Room,” “Native Blood,” and closed with “Superbloom.” Towards the end of their set, they did a jam session, which was fun to watch! During their encore, they performed their popular song “Trilogy.”

The “Superbloom Tour” is coming to a close this week. If you got to see it, then you know you got to go to an awesome show. Here’s to the next one!

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Seven Cities Dead Unleash Single “Take This To My Grave” feat. Josh Gilbert

Milwaukee outfit Seven Cities Dead released their latest single, “Take This To My Grave,”  featuring As I Lay Dying’s Josh Gilbert.

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Seven Cities Dead
Seven Cities Dead

Milwaukee outfit Seven Cities Dead released their latest single, “Take This To My Grave,” featuring As I Lay Dying’s Josh Gilbert. SCD’s new single embodies the best attributes of classic and modern metalcore, pulling influences from Trivium, Wage War, and Motionless in White.

The story of “Take This To My Grave” in the words of the band:

“All the way back in 2021, we had this new demo for a song that was a little different than anything we had written before. It felt heavier than anything else we made but also somehow the most accessible. It had blast beats and a nasty breakdown, but it was also still structured like a radio single with a really catchy chorus and epic singing outro. We were already excited about it, but this was also the time when Featured X first came out.”

The story continues… “This was a website where artists, including some big names, signed up to make themselves available for people to request as features. At first, when we saw Josh Gilbert there, we thought he was way out of our league. As I Lay Dying was one of our favorite bands as teenagers and even to this day they’re a huge influence on our style. But we fantasized about what it would be like to have him on our song, and it genuinely felt like he would be a really good fit. So we reached out.

“We weren’t sure if we’d get a response, or if he even checked his messages on the site. And if he did, what are the odds he would agree to feature on a song by a no name band like us? But… he did! A few days later we got an email that he really liked the song and he would do it. What’s more, we learned that he’s also a professional producer working with Joseph McQueen at Sparrow Studios in Los Angeles. This is where Shaped By Fire was recorded.

“They’ve also produced records by bands like Bad Wolves, Bullet For My Valentine, Jason Derulo. We knew it would be the best experience and also the best song possible if we could go down and record it with him in person. So that’s exactly what we did. It was an amazing experience! We had planned to release this song in 2022 with an epic animated video which we had a whole script drawn up for – but things fell through with the animator after several months and delayed deadlines. And then things fell through with the next animator. And the next one. Two and a half years later, we decided this song just HAS to see the light of day, one way or another. We still have dreams of bringing the full story to fruition, but for now – we just want to release the song!”

Seven Cities Dead “Take This To My Grave” (ft. Josh Gilbert) single artwork

Seven Cities Dead “Take This To My Grave” (ft. Josh Gilbert) single artwork

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