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Impaled Existence - These Lifeless Plains (self released) 4/5

There has been a lot of great rock and metal out of Wales in recent years, but most of it has come from the south and west. But now here to remind us that there is still metal north of Merthyr Tydfil come Impaled Existence who hail from the seaside resort of Rhyl on the north coast. (a town better known in musical circles as the home of The Alarm). This lot have been around since 2004 and have issued a string of eps of which this five tracker is the latest.

Now I've been listening to this one for a few days now, and I gotta say I've found myself growing rather fond of their distinctive brand of progressive death thrash. First up we have at obligatory introductory instrumental, (and I gotta say as far as intro tracks go, its far better than most), then the ep itself kicks in with Fictions Within The Mind a dark and doomy number that kicks off sounding not unlike Cathedral before moving on into Whitechapel territory. Next up is my fave cut on this one If Error Were True which kicks off with a wonderfully quirky 'call and response' section between some blindingly heavy guitars and the lightest of cymbal fills which then resolves into a track that reminds me a little of Imperial Vengeance stripped of the steam punk trappings. Then we have Through Stinging Eyes which starts out with a dabbling in some moments of sublimely dark doom before ripping into some great old school death thrash riffage. Finally we wind up with Worthy Of Remains a traditional death metal work out that reminds me of Behemoth at their best.

All tracks are superbly produced and played with a huge amount of skill and huge amount of raw fire and righteous passion. The music is intelligent, well penned and I just know the band are gonna win a lot of friends with this one.

I had heard of Impaled Existence by reputation a fair while before I had heard the music for myself, and I can now see what the hot gossip was all about. This ep will do their already impressive reputation no harm at all, and whilst they are at the moment unsigned I can't see them remaining that way for long. Well worth a listen.

For fans of... Whitechapel, Suicide Silence, Cindersfall, Spires, Fornost Arnor....

Noctem - 'Oblivion' (metalblade) 4.5/5

Black death thrashers Noctem hail from Valencia in Spain. Now in their 10th year they have in the past issued a couple of EPs, a self released live album and a previous studio opus on Austrian label Noisehead, before switching to Metalblade earlier this year and bringing us this rather tasty little nugget.

Now I gotta say that this album is one of the most interesting black / death / thrash / whatever (I'm not good at sub genres) albums I've had through in recent months. I had albums that are more extreme, I've had albums that have been heavier and more intense, but when it comes to the all around package this is the dogs bollocks.

There are 11 tracks on offer, each one as heavy as a chieftain tank, as metal as the Forth Bridge and as intense as playing chicken with a speeding freight train in a narrow tunnel. But what marks this album out above the crowd is the quality of the song writing and the way the tracks are structured.  Yes there is shed loads of pound, thrash and bludgeon of offer; but within the raw brutality there are shades of light and dark; tempo, riff and key changes that although often subtle, still serves to keep you interested and actively listening.

Style wise we are talking touches of early Slayer, hints of acts such as The English Dogs, Behemoth, Bathory and Rose Funeral; but there also bits, often short snatches that hat tip acts such as Megadeth, Armored Saint, even Iron Maiden style NWOBHM!!. Then we come to the playing, musically this album is flawless. The whole band is a tight as David Coverdales bell bottoms and certainly know how to lay down a wall of sonic battery. Special praise though must be given to the two guitarists, Exo and Helion, who show a great ablity to not only shred like a Frankenstein office paper disposal unit on the rampage, but also mange to lay down some superb melodic lead lines, sweet harmony sections and infectious lead licks, but also swap riffs like the good uns they are.

Special highlights of this impressive album include the strangely titled A Borning Winged Serpent with its wonderful guitar interplay and harmony lead sections, the brain meltingly brutal Seeking The Ruin Of Souls and the gloriously menacing Unredemption - track whose final riffing section is to die for. But in truth this album is one glorious highlight of the pure talent that is Noctem.

Bottom line is this is a great album and one I will not hesitate to recommend to metal fans everywhere.

For fans of... Glorior Belli, Behemoth, Novel of Sin, Slayer, Mercyful Fate.

I Divide - 'Whats Worth More?' (self released) 4/5

I Divide are from Exeter in the UK and apart from that I know very little about them. But I do know one thing since this album dropped through my inbox the other day, they have found in me an another admirer.

What's Worth More? is a great little album, there are seven songs on offer, plus a short intro and a short interlude at half time, and all six cuts are pretty good slices of contemporary commercial hard rock that seam to be batting from the same wicket as the likes of Kids In Glass Houses, Lost Prophets, Tiger Please, Funeral For A Friend etc, and as I have over the past few years developed a bit of liking for all the aforementioned acts I am finding myself beginning to get into this one.

This album is tight and well played, its as commercial as hell, but nowhere does it sound generic. Vocalist Tom Kavanagh has raw sounding, but far from unpleasing voice and a highly energetic delivery, the rest of the band also seam to be very competent musicians as well. There are lots of dynamics on show here, lots of light and shade, which shows that I Divide have learned the most important lesson in music, that the spaces between the notes are just as important as the notes themselves.  There is nothing to find fault with in the song writing either, all the tracks have some intelligently put together lyrics and some nice structuring. The album closer Whats Worth More? is especially worthy of praise with its thoughtful acoustic guitar and piano breakdown in the middle and slow but relentless build up to a glorious anti-climactic conclusion.

Other highlights include This Ship's Going Down, with it's big riffs and powerful tempo changes, Burning Out with its guitar motif that sounds a little like a classic Mike Oldfield moment and Deja Vu with its massive hooky chorus and mob chorus backing vocals.

OK I do have one small issue here. I'm not a fan of the over all guitar sound. Don't get me wrong, its well played, but on the whole the guitars are just one huge wall of fuzz that makes it hard to really pick out the often killer riffs and at times swamp the rest of the band. But this is not the fault of I Divide as such. I have the same issue with the production on a lot of todays more commercial bands. Ho hum, its a style that seams to go down well with the youth though; I suppose its only a minor gripe and one I can live with.

Over all I Divide have got a good thing going on here and I'm sure that given a few breaks they could well develop into major players on the UK rock scene. Well worth checking out.

For fans of... You and Me At Six, Kids In Glass Houses, Tiger Please, Funeral For A Friend