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Not Above Evil - 'The Transcendental Signified' (self released) 4/5

Early last year I received a copy of 'Deification', the debut full length release by Manchester multi influenced metal outfit Not Above Evil. Sadly I didn't review it as I wasn't running this blog at the time, but I played a few tracks off it on BCFM, and it got good feedback, and the Radio Satan 666 listeners loved it; so marked them down on my mental list as ones to watch. Now, less than  year later Sideeq Mohammed and his crew have issued their second album The Transcendental Signified.

Now this is pretty good, NAE take their musical cues from a number of diverse influences. There are large slices of Behemoth and Bathory style black metal in their sound, a fair bit of old school Slayer type thrash as well, and then, just to take the edge off the bang and bludgeon there are bits of Lamb Of God and Mastodon-U-Like southern metal thrown in the mix as well. The result is most pleasing to the ear and makes for a far more complete and rounded sound than on the preceding Deification opus. It's almost as if NAE have come of age musically.

All the extremely brutal slash smash and slay of the proceeding album is here in abundance. Tracks like the opener Crossroads crawl from the speakers dripping menace and metallic mindfuckisms like and H.P. Lovecraft novel made sonic reality. Yet where as Deification tended to steam roller along laying waste to all its path, this album is more controlled, more considered and is all the better for it. We get tracks like Nexus where raw speed is sacrificed in the name of darkly controlled riffage and almost Machine Head style song structures and Amon Amarth type epic storytelling.

Just to select a few more highlights; we have Death and Transformation, one of the best thrash-outs I've heard since Onslaughts seminal album The Force; Legion with its Behemoth referenced attack and drive and my fave cut on offer here, the epic closer of The Duel, a classic in the making that build from a deceptively sweet and mellow introductory riff into a multi-sectioned meisterwerk that showcases exactly how good a band NAE really are.

Add in the fact that every member of this band delivers the goods in playing their parts to almost perfection and the production, which the band did themselves, is spot on, and you have an album that will do NAE's grow reputation no harm at all and will only add to their status as one of the UK's most promising up and coming metal acts.

In short - a damn fine album from a band to watch

For fans of... Lamb Of God, Elimination, Anterior, Behemoth, Slayer etc....

Tylean - 'Formaldehyde EP' (Bast Records) 4.5/5

Darkwave / alternative singer songwriter and self confessed 'cello rapist' TyLean originally hails from Wapwallopen in the USA, but these days is based in London, UK. Over the past few years she has served up a trio of really quite remarkable albums, that featuring just keyboards, vocals and cello, explore the darkest textures of the human condition with an insight that few artists can match. Now we have 'Formaldehyde' a four track EP of finely presented slices of musical darkness to add to her canon of works.

Now if your not familiar with this ladies work, be warned. This is not easy listening, far from it, TyLeans music makes the likes of Bjork sound mainstream. But please don't take that as a negative comment. This is very very good stuff, it's just very very dark.

We start off with Love Always Dies, a dark and downbeat tale of lost romance that speaks of 'sleepless nights and tearful goodbyes', Tyleans vocals are bleak and sorrowful, and they are rocked gently along with a simple piano line and a haunting cello solo. Next up there's The Dark The Blue and The Grey, a moody and brooding piece that is almost disturbing in delivery, with its discordant chords, heartbeat rhythms and multilayered  vocal lines. Then there's Big Hearts that spins off into a dark jazz vibe, almost like a gothic Billie Holiday, all late night piano and heart rending lyrics; and then to conclude there is Amputation Of A Heart, in my book the real stand out track on this impressive EP., with its free form intro, sawing cello riffage and almost operatic vocals. Spine tingling stuff.

So we have the songs here, and I'm glad to say we have the performance as well. TyLeans vocals are some of the very best, she can take in everything from heart broken whispers to primal screams, from jazzy resignation to operatic resolution like very few others can. Add in the fact she can play a mean piano line that steps well away from the expected cliche and she can use a cello to add attitude, attack and atmosphere and you have here a four tracker that is a real gem.

And there's more. It seams TyLean is not only a musician of extraordinary talent, but she is a bit of a painter. This ep comes with her original art work on the cover and with more original paintings to illustrate each track, now I'm no art critic, but I know what I like and I love the artwork as much as I'm loving the ep.

In short - Another winner from TyLean

For Fans of... Bjork, Tori Amos, Errin Williams, etc......

For more info and details how to get hold of this ep...

Primal Fear - 'Unbreakable' (Frontiers) 4.5/5

Just in case you don't know, German power metal outfit Primal Fear came together in the late 1990's around the core of vocalist Ralf Scheepers (ex - Gamma Ray / Tyran Pace) and Bassist Matt Sinner (ex-Sinner), and have since become fairly major players on the European metal scene. Now they are hitting us with studio album number eight, 'Unbreakable'.

Now as a fan of both Gamma Ray and Sinner I've kept an eye on Primal Fears development over the past 14 years or so and grown to really like their no frills, straight forward, highly headbangable brand of pacey power metal; and I'm glad to report, that this new album stay true to the bands core direction, whilst taking their delivery to the next level.

There are 12 cuts on offer here, and everyone of them is a balls to the wall metal classic. There are metal floor fillers like Bad Guys Wear Black with its sub tribal almost boogie beat and air punching anthemic chorus 'Bang your head and never turn it down....'; power metal epics in the finest Teutonic rock traditions of Scorpions and Helloween like the eight minute plus Where Angels Die; spine tingling semi ballads like Born Again (a track that contains an early contender for lead guitar solo of the year) and of course lots and lots of good old school power metal cuts like the storming Blaze Of Glory and break neck riff fest of Give Em Hell.

The band are on fine form, Ralf Scheepers vocals sneer and wail with an infectious venomosity, the twin guitars of new boy Magnus Karlsson and Alex Beyrodt drive and wail like the good 'uns they undoubtedly are and the rhythm section of Matt Sinner and Randy Black keep the whole kit and caboodle rolling along like a trans European express train on a falling grade.

OK this is not the most original album I've ever heard, far from it, but for anyone who likes their metal old school and stripped of the trappings of pretentiousness then this is as good as it gets.

In short - a belting album that will put a smile on the faces of most metalheads.

for fans of ...  Helloween, Gamma Ray, Machine Head, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest etc....

Red Kyte - 'Look To The Sky' (self released) 3.5/5

Red Kyte are a five piece indie type pop-rock outfit based between Brighton and Oxford, and this is their debut album.

Now as indie rock type stuff this isn't too bad. there are eight tracks on offer, most of which follow the fairly safe indie rock formula of big walls of fuzz guitars with a chiming lead, Aled Phillips style plaintiff vocalisations, big hooky choruses etc. It is a tad generic, but fortunately not too annoyingly so; this band are no Tiger Please or Kids In Glass Houses, but they are mercifully several cuts above the likes of My Extraordinary and Street Fight Silence - mainly due to the fact this lot can, when they put their minds to it turn out a good tune.

Don't get me wrong. not everything on here is top notch, the best material on offer here is is placed towards the end of the album, meaning the listener has to struggle through a couple of fairly uninspiring indie rock by numbers cuts like Hearts Of Stone and You Are My Gold before they reach the good stuff.

And the good stuff IS worth looking out for. You get the chilled and laid back Not Letting Go which has a certain Radiohead vibe about it. Safe Side which is a bit of rock that hints at the aforementioned Tiger Please. Sharks is a great anthem with a catchy hooky chorus, that has fan fave penned all over it. Then we have the mini epic closer of ...But Where Do We Go From Here? that smacks of Kids In Glass Houses jamming with The Verve and features a very nice Hammond organ chord at the very end.

Over all this album isn't earth shattering, but its a competent and promising debut from a young band that if they started to develop their own sound and move away from the well worn indie rock pathways could turn into an outfit of note.

For Fans of... Tiger Please, Kids In Glass Houses, Lost Prophets, Radiohead etc...