Silent Knight – Conquer & Command
“One of Australia’s leading Power Metal bands” (at least, according to their press release) Silent Knight are about to drop their second full-length record, and by god does this thing have some serious balls. No one would ever accuse them of being part of the “happy metal” pantheon of supposed “power metal” bands that are so saccharine in their approach that they might as well be off writing medieval ballads with Ritchie Blackmore. No, what we have here with Conquer & Command is heavy fucking metal the way the gods (see: Judas Priest) intended: swords & chains, big brash riffs and blazing solos, percussive thunder to cave-in skulls, and a big pair of brass balls!
Seriously, if these guys aren’t students of the gospel according to Painkiller I’m not sure what in the hell they’ve been consuming as an alternative but I want some! The whole album is fast, fast, fast, with no let up at all. Vocalist Jesse Onur Oz is fantastic, not only keeping up with the band’s all-out assault, but soaring above it with complete ease, his voice textured and interesting in each passage, giving the music its flare and verve. Speaking of Painkiller, drummer Paul Wrigley is so obviously cut from the same stylistic cloth as Scott Travis it’s ridiculous. The man is just rumbling away under all the chaos of the immaculately played guitars, building not just the backbone of the songs but the entire skeletal structure, bringing order and stability to the runaway train that is the guitar interplay between Cam Nicholas and Stu McGill.
One gripe about the album is that the lack of variation in speed makes it a little more difficult for the listener to groove and invest in the barrage as a whole. Something a little more mid-paced would have been not only suitable but beneficial. Having said that, with the musical being as headbanging-ly fantastic as it is, a slight lack of variation is just a trivial matter. Few things in life are perfect anyway, and few bands score a perfect record on just their second full-length.
For what it’s worth, if you’re into quick-picked, ballsy, full-on power metal, then Silent Knight have got the goods. Check this shit out!
Hypermass – Clouded Visions
The Norwegians of Hypermass have an approach to melodic death metal that, while quite pleasant, isn’t exactly what you’d call groundbreaking. They seem to be quite connected to the Gothenburg school of death metal, taking quite a few cues from the likes of Arch Enemy and In Flames. While a derivative sound can be a turn-off, it is something that we can overlook when it comes to new bands that are still finding their own sound (hell, let’s not forget Pantera started as a fucking glam rock outfit). It’s actually when they try to do “new” things within that style that they really miss the mark. For example, Hypermass will sometimes try to slow things down to a doomy vibe, and there things go to hell (check the last few sections of “Ionize” to see what I mean).
Aside from their melodic death metal, they also dabble in a competent metalcore attempt, packing a few breakdowns in their sound that really make you wonder what happened to the death metal band that opened the EP. It’s not bad, as far as metalcore goes, but it’s definitely annoying for those who might have been interested in the melodic death metal aspects of their music. It’s also quite derivative at times, adding little to the already overpopulated genre of metalcore and its derivations.
The problem of Clouded Visions, aside from the occasionally derivative sound, is that it seems to show a band that hasn’t really found its sound yet. Although what they do they do it competently enough, the absence of a unifying thread, of a single identity to which they can hold on to (I mean, what’s up with the half-assed attempt at prog rock in “Clouded Visions”?!), makes it at times sound more like a compilation of tracks by different artists than the work of a single band. It’s like they all had many ideas, and none of them wanted to leave anything out this release, no matter how seemingly unrelated it might be to the rest.
It is undeniable that Hypermass know what they’re doing. They are accomplished musicians who are on their way to master their craft; the problem is that skills alone won’t always cut it. Until they learn that, despite their clear potential, they’ll stay in the shadows.