Dautha “Den Förste”
Unsigned, but for how long? Yeah, Dautha is one of those acts. For what I know, they could already have signed for a label by now. Dautha is, or at least should be, the dream of every record label with a bit of integrity that wants to give the listener a high quality experience. By the way, we’re in Sweden again, and the band consists of three members that are also involved in Wardenclyffe, amongst those Ola Blomkvist, who was also in the absolutely brilliant Griftegård, who sadly split last year. The singer should also be familiar to some of you, as Lars Palmqvist is also responsible for the clean vocals in Nuclear Blast recording artists Scar Symmetry.
When Griftegård released their first recordings, Ola did a really cool, hand made CD-release in leather. I believe it was limited to 81 copies. This time, he has used the same method and made a smiliar looking leather and cardboard case, with the CD itself being a pro-printed CD-R. A really nice and totally unique item, this time limited to 78 copies and totally sold out by now. The demo contains three tracks, an intro with the “wonderful” title “Horkarlar Skal Slås Ihjäl” (it’s easy for us Norwegians to understand Swedish) as well as two doomy, midtempo oriented tracks in form of “Benandanti” and “In Between Two Floods”.
Together these three tracks represent about 15 minutes of music, or should I rather say “magic”? We’re dealing in epic doom metal, here in the best Swedish tradition, that can of course be traced back to Candlemass, but I also hear things here that could have been on an album by Count Raven or Griftegård for that matter. However, the use of violin in both tracks makes the material stand out and sound really fresh. The inclusion of violin works wonderfully well, and adds to the melancholy of the songs. Palmqvist has a powerful, soaring voice that fits great with these compositions. He is also in possession of a natural authority, as he really “bosses” the songs and sounds very convincing. It all sounds elegant and very well crafted, as you can expect from such seasoned musicians, but still that little bit dirty and raw.
The sound and production is album class, no less. You can clearly hear that a lot of resources are invested in this little taster. In the unlikely event that Dautha isn’t signed yet, all good and honest labels should hurry up an offer them a great deal. Why? Simply because they write stellar songs, and have that little bit of originality about them, mostly due to the aforementioned violin, but also because of some not so obvious melodies and vocal lines.
Fyrecross “Burn Them To The Ground”
I’ve already done a review of Iniquity’s strong debut demo, and here is another Greek act trying their luck. And guess what? I like Fyrecross too. While maybe not as excellent on all fronts as Iniquity, the four tracks presented on “Burn Them To The Ground” should be able to impress plenty of people with an interest in underground heavy metal. Recorded, mixed and mastered in Made In Hell Studios, the CD-copy this review is based on, comes as a pro-printed CD-R and with a glossy booklet. The CD is limited to 150 copies only, but last time I checked, they were still available. At a very affordable price too, I should add.
I don’t know a lot about the members of Fyrecross or their former bands, for that matter. The exception is George Skourtaniotis, one of two guitarists, who I believe played in the thrash metal band Endless Recovery. Musically, Fyrecross has some similarities with many of the newcomer acts that has risen to more or less fame during the last years. Even though they are clearly inspired by the acts from the eighties, the have that slightly more modern sound, making it quite easy to hear that “Burn Them To The Ground” wasn’t actually recorded in the eighties.
The self titled opening track is an enjoyable, energy packed and song with great guitar parts, but I feel the chorus is repeated a bit too much towards the end of the tune. This is also to a certain extent the case with the last song “Heavy Metal Battles”, which also sees the band changes the subject matter in the lyrics . Again the chorus has some damn catchy guitarwork, but it seems a little naïve, and again it feels like it’s repeated too many times.
I really feel Fyrecross have their hearts in the music they’re creating, but they should try to add a bit more of their own identity to the songs, and maybe work a bit more on the choruses. As I already mentioned, the guitar work and the background vocals make them are catchy, but you get a little sick of them after a while. “Widow’s Revenge” is the exception, as this has a different type of chorus, which works better for the band. There is also room for improvement in the vocals, as Raff Kritoulis, while sounding quite diverse, also give me some mixed feelings, especially when he reaches for the notes in the higher regions.
Iniquity ”Demo 2016”
One of the few things I dislike about running Metal Squadron, is the messages I get from black, modern or alternative “metal” bands looking for my opinion. As clearly stated on my site, there is no room for these acts here. A much cooler thing about running Metal Squadron, is when I am approached by bands that play the type of heavy metal I love. If I am not familiar with the band already, then we’re really talking! So all heavy, speed, thrash, power or traditional metal bands reading this – you now know what to do.
As you probably understand, I was recently contacted by one of the members from the Greek band Iniquity, who had heard from someone else that maybe, just maybe, their demo would be of interest to me. And hell yeah, it was, and I didn’t hesitate to order a copy before they all were gone. Their demo tape, limited to 100 copies contains two self penned songs, “Hang ‘Em High” and “Till We Meet Again”. In addition the band has also recorded a version of the dark and heavy “Cry Wolf”, originally featured on the “Day Of The Saxons”-EP by the underrated Canadians in Witchkiller.
Until I get the planned interview with the band done, I have to admit that I don’t know a lot about the members of the band, other than the fact that the drummer is Vagelis Felonis who sits behind the drums for a whole host of bands, including one of my current favourite acts, Sacral Rage. While recorded in what I guess is the band’s home studio, this demo is mixed, mastered and produced at the much used Entasis studios by the just as frequently used Nick Papakostas. The sound is mighty fine, and better than on many full length these days. I have played this demo 25 times or so since I got it, and not only because it’s a short one. The songs are just so good, I have a hard time not listening to it.
Both the fast opener “Hang ‘Em High” and “Till We Meet Again”, which starts out heavier and mid paced, but picks up speed and aggression as the song moves along, are great songs. Call it heavy metal, or maybe epic metal, but be aware that there are some damn cool speedy parts reminding me a little of Agent Steel here as well. The cover version is also fine, and the song fits well with the style of the band. Listening to these songs, this feels like very honest stuff, with a natural flow, never sounding forced. Something that can’t be said about a lot of the stuff released these days. The vocalist with the initials M.B does a great job, with his solid, powerful and well controlled voice, and is one of the main assets about this very promising band. Even if the tape is sold out, you should do your self a favor and either download the demo from Bandcamp or wait for it to be released on another format.
Road Warrior “Ignition” (Heavy Chains)
A lot of the most promising new metal acts are connected to the Australian record company Heavy Chains in one way or another, and Road Warrior is no exception. This tape contains two tracks, “Thrill Of The Kill” and “The First Strike”, and as far as I can understand, Road Warrior consists of two experienced musicians, with Denny “Denimal” Blake handling bass, vocals and drums and Darren “Arena” Mclennan” on the lead guitar. At least, they’re the ones performing on “Igniton”, but it seems like they’re searching for musicians to establish a full lineup.
A really good thing about “Ignition”, is the fact that it offers something different to many new bands today, as a lot of them seem to be clearly inspired by the NWOBHM, while Road Warrior sounds darker, heavier and a little like the American acts that were labeled as power metal when they were at their prime, the likes of Jag Panzer, Powerlord and Omen to name som rather rough references. While not as raw and savage sounding as these acts , the two songs on “Ignition” showcases a bit of the same muscularity.
Instead of the typical falsetto-singer that typically fronts these new bands, Road Warrior has a vocalist with a mid range voice, who does things the safe way and never gets out of his comfort zone to do vocal acrobactics. Even though it feels like Denny is seldom putting full power in his performance, he still has command of the songs. Some might say the vocals are a bit monotone, but for me personally they work quite well, and they certainly sound different.
I have to say I was a little underwhelmed with the songs at first listen, maybe because they sounded different from what I expected, but I have come to realize that especially the opener, “Thrill Of The Kill” is a real hymn. This is clearly the best track on offer here. “The First Strike” is enjoyable too, but not quite as impressive. These two tracks are quite similar in style and tempo, something which contributes to the feeling that your are listening to a product here, not just two individual tracks. One other important point about the songs, is that they don’t seem designed for mass consumption like a lot of heavy metal tracks are these days. There is a somewhat darker atmosphere here with long and great guitar solos that literary scream heavy metal and some really solid, basic power metal riffs. The vocals aren’t as much upfront in the sound as in commercial heavy metal- releases, and it works really well , as the vocals blend well with the music instead of laying on top of it. I certainly want more from these guys. Soon, please!
Starlight “Starlight Warriors”
This demo is released as a silver printed CD in a cardboard sleeve, and I got mine directly from the band. Later it has also been rereleased on tape format by Heavy Chains. The band is from Stockholm in Sweden, was formed just last year and the demo was recorded in January 2016.
“Starlight Warriors” contains three tracks of fast heavy metal, and as the band name suggest, it’s quite influenced by early Helloween and other German acts dealing in things speedy and melodic. This is most obvious in the title track, which offers absolutely nothing new, but is a catchy and fast hymn with a huge singalong chorus. In addition to the German masters of the genre, the vocal lines during the chorus also have a certain Tony Moore-era Riot flair. “Madness Rising”, while still very much uptempo, is a bit different, not so German sounding if you know what I mean, and also a bit more diverse. The last track “Too Drunk, Too Fast” is more straight ahead heavy metal, without the big singalong chorus. In other words, this is a surprisingly diverse demo.
The sound is as expected for a demo, naked and raw with a thin lead guitar and the bass very prominent in the overall sound. Not the tightest of recordings, but I can admit that it has a certain charm. The singer Alex Härkesjö has a pretty decent set of pipes, and shows that he can adjust his voice pretty well to the different expressions of the songs, from the Kai Hansen style in the title track, to a more powerful, controlled approach in the other songs. I am not blown away by the 10 and a half minutes of music presented here, but need to hear more from the band to pass judgement.