SCURÌU – Wilhelmina EP

A one man project from Italy, Scurìu set out to convey the darkest musical interests of its creator. An early demo released during the pandemic lockdown of 2020 introduced a small group of listeners to a sound that blended classic doom metal with traces of black metal harshness, and a vocal that almost seemed to channel Love Among Freaks’ ‘Berzerker’. If it weren’t for the presence of some great riffs and atmospheric spoken word passages, it might have even sounded like a comical pastiche of the extreme subgenres, but somehow – despite a wilfully lacking budget, truly home grown stance, and lack of actual songs – the recordings had something about them that pulled in the listener. It says a lot about how durable Cathedral-esque riffs can be, and how extreme metal’s insular and sometimes truly claustrophobic feel will hold up against less than ideal recording circumstances.

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WITNESSES – The Holy Water EP

Essentially a vehicle for multi-instrumentalist Greg Schwan, this EP from Witnesses takes goth and doom metal traits and applies them to a cohesive narrative based around the lives of characters found within the text of Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’. An obvious subject matter for a gothic metal band, yes, but the way Schwan and his assorted friends present their material very much shows that the tried and tested – whether musically or lyrically – need not feel too stale.

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CLEANBREAK – Coming Home

American singer James Durbin isn’t a household name in the UK, but for those Stateside, his work comes with a certain amount of expectation. After a stint fronting veteran metal band Quiet Riot, he eventually launched a solo career that aimed to take his huge voice and a love of classic metal in an even more traditional direction. The resultant album, ‘The Beast Awakens’ (released under the name Durbin in 2021) was well received in some corners of the rock press, but despite a few great tracks, the bulk of the material valued volume and bombast over almost everything else. In addition, clichéd material like ‘By The Horns’ and ‘The Prince of Metal’ honestly didn’t do Durbin any favours. Although it was all well intentioned, the worst aspects of the album played too much like a broad parody of old school metal, leading to the kind of thing that a more discerning listener might spin twice and then move on.

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ARDOURS – Anatomy Of A Moment

In 2019, Ardours’ debut album ‘Last Place On Earth’ mixed heavy edges with darkwave synths to create a relatively contemporary sound. In taking the gothic and using that to underscore a modern take on melodic rock and applying a touch of electronica very naturally, the band’s sound was rather big and broad, but for lovers of classic Lacuna Coil – and, to a lesser degree, Evanescence and their ilk – the album certainly had…something. The heavier moments provided former Tristania vocalist Mariangela Durmatas a much denser canvas to work with than before, as evidenced during the title track, but she was more than up to the task in numbers like ‘Truths’ and ‘Last Moment’, the band showed an affinity for applying a classic sounding melodic hook to something a little more alternative – at least in a retro sense – and with ease. It’s fair to say the album didn’t suit everyone’s tastes – it certainly wasn’t aimed at those who felt that, as a label, Frontiers Records should only be releasing music that sounded like Survivor and Night Ranger throwbacks – but it showed a lot of promise.

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