So taking a deep breath Gizmo reaches in and has a rummage to see what's left in the open casket...
Deadend In Venice- See You On The Ground
First up we have Deadend In Venice, from Germany. They have a bit of a goth metal set
up with snarling male and clean female vocals but this is firmly melodeath riffing from the nice safe side of Gothenburg. 'See You On The Ground' is neatly played and spritely enough I guess. For once there is actually some nice interplay between the two vocalists rather than staged swapping of lines but despite this believable musical conversation on display the hooks are often too well hidden. There are some nice melodic guitar parts here and particularly on 'Brain Execution' there are tasty flourishes in the vein of early Skyfire with that death metal meets power metal rush.
Often, though it simply rolls along pleasantly enough just without enough of an attack to turn your head for long. Perhaps at times it veers a little too close to turning up to the Evanescence party after the drink has run dry but, having said that, mostly it is far heavier and there is a good bit of commercial hope, too. I can see certainly see songs like Dirty Little Princess being a hit on video channels. If Arch Enemy can do it, so can Deadend In Venice I suppose. File under OK.
Edenshade- 'Stendahl Got That Close
Next along is Italy's Edenshade and the curiously, seriously titled 'Stendahl Got That Close'. A brighter production graces this album which allows the crunchy guitars to sparkle nicely with a modern tone and pseudo industrial metal edge. The rough hewn vocals paired with them fall into melodic break downs on cue, with the brief scattering of sampled voices to a backdrop of electronica to flavor here and there.
I guess if you wanted to annoy someone of heavier taste you might comment that the riffs sometimes sound weirdly like a Triptykon-lite but otherwise with the obligatory arching melodies it would slot right in to Kerrang! TV with barely a ripple. The vocals courtesy of main man Stefano Wosz are nice and distinctive and everything is done with an air of confidence. It struts with class and bleeds in the right choreographed places to show you how human it is and is well put together for mainstream modern metal. It hardly has enough fire and bite to induce Stendahl syndrome in me though, I'm afraid. But not bad, not bad by any means.
Hangover- Is Time To Change
Hangover time next with more Italians and 'Is Time to Change'. We also have more of the male/female set up on the vocals, but this time with a far more metal chugg approach; a dash of restrained Pantera and a pinch of Killswitch Engage and a decent enough attempt to sidestep the Goth Metal but I guess this is what I was afraid I'd find in this pile as it does nothing for me and speaks in an utterly alien language. Still, constructive hat on, Gizmo: Lorena Pinna has a really good, strong metal voice and range and she would be a great front for a more traditional metal style, of which there are strong traces here amongst the Pantera-isms. There's an engaging touch of Lullacry-style metal-lite to the melody when the riffs roll rather than judder and when they drop into this more flowing style I find myself smiling a little. The snarling and snap male vocals are good, too, but it fits a formula a little too much for me. But mostly this is simply just Not My Thing and leaves me flat. Sorry guys but on the bright side I'm not your market either.
Huron- Mary Celeste
So what comes after a hangover? In my case it's a Huron. For those of you who skipped 'Last of the Mohicans' that's a native American nation not me making a dash for the toilet. This is a UK band, 'Mary Celeste' is their second album and it's a real surprise; a really hard crunchy bit of metal. It kind of sticks out from the rest here by just getting it's head down and going for it. It is a very American sound, that kind of granite hard bounce and groove to the riffs that brings Corrosion of Conformity circa 'Wiseblood' easily to mind but there's also down to earth British bluesy taint to it just under the surface. There's some down the line hardcore in the vocal sound, too, with the odd gang chorus in there and the spirit and sound of the more sane parts of the Georgian Skull rises in the sandpaper throat bellowed lead vocals and when they drop into some steamroller heavy destruction blues grooves.
It is huge, dense and hard stuff that reeks of sweat and sea salt and, also curiously amongst this package, there is a real sense that these guys have been round a few blocks in their time and an air of experience helps you believe in them. This all turns in some damned catchy songs, thundering drums and a hard committed sound which is a real pick-me-up.
When they drop into an acoustic mood on Armageddon themed 'the Eternal Sea Pt1' they can also pull in the emotions and head for deeper waters, spinning a tale or too. An interesting lyrical approach swims through this beneath what superficially sound as standard lyrics. It may not be anything new (so what?) and it may wear it's influences on it's sleeve but it is also full of its own personality and really rather fine muscular modern metal with a sprinkling of Southern bite and working class dirt. Cool. Pretty darned cool.
No Way Out Of Madness- Revenge Me Tomorrow
And that's your lot..... oh wait. Ow! Dont you hate it when your fingernails scrape on the bottom of something? Anyway the final installment is No Way Out Of Madness. Their album 'Revenge Me Tomorrow' is Italian sceamo. What does it sound like? Well, American for a start. Pick a random episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer or any teen series since, fast forward to the introspective angsty montage bit, close your eyes and there you are. The good points (if you like this sort of thing) are this is spot on teenage Americana and it is sharply played. It is bright eyed and bushy tailed and ready for its close up. The bad points are it's totally generic screamo; half a scream, half an emotion. All shorthand and none of the real thing. I'm not unaware that millions love this stuff and they are probably all shouting “You just don't understand!” at this very moment, and that NWOOM are genuinely exactly as good as the rest. Frankly though I'd stick to pre major label AFI if you have to. There is nothing here I haven't heard every time I turn on Kerrang! TV and nothing that stays longer than the next song I'm afraid.
Ah, yeah I'm too old. But that means I really have heard it all before and I'm in touch with my own emotions enough not to need second-hand photocopies and airbrushed versions of when things go bad. Still it ain't aimed at me, is it? I'll sit here in the corner being grumpy shall I? I wish them luck. For all I know they really could well be the next big thing.
So the winner is... well it ain't a race or a competition and good luck to them all for getting out there and doing it, but hand on heart the tough-guy noise of Huron do more for me than the rest by a good long way. They are well worth shelling out for so keep your eyes peeled.