SLAVE STEEL – Dream Of Decadence EP

Slave Steel’s independently released debut LP ‘Entanglement’ came with a brilliant riff heavy sound that introduced the band with a great confidence. A few of the vocals were a little scratchy in places, but the material had the kind of strength and confidence you’d expect from a band with far more years behind them. As if realising there was a little room for improvement, the band took three of the album’s songs and re-recorded with superior vocal takes for a self-titled EP in 2017. This proved to be a good move, taking a much bigger step towards capturing that perfect sound.

Much like the material chosen for the self-titled release, the four tracks that make up Slave Steel’s 2021 release ‘Dream of Decadence’ have origins that date further back. ‘Ogre Cage’ was first released in video form in 2019 – at a time when the world hadn’t been derailed by the Covid-19 pandemic – and the remaining songs were issued sporadically throughout the following year. Although the material been circulating for some time, the opportunity to hear it properly sequenced and in one place really lends everything a welcome extra punch.

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BLESS THE DEAD – Overdue Lies EP

Following the release of a couple of EP’s, Bless The Dead’s full length release ‘The Boars Nest’ (Sliptrick Records, 2018) cemented their reputation as a growing force within the world of groove metal. Taking cues from Pantera and Lamb of God, the record wasn’t particularly original, but what it did, it did brilliantly. In approximately half an hour, it showcased a riff-centric band ready to bring their brand of metal to the masses. In an ideal world it very much needed a timely follow up to really gain traction – supplying something of a massive one-two punch – but it would take almost three years for the band to deliver their next studio recordings.

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DEVILZ BY DEFINITION – The Bitter Remains Of Human Consumption EP

The arrival of ‘The Bitter Remains of Human Consumption’ marks the end of a near five year silence from Devilz By Definition. However, within about twenty seconds of hitting the play button on their 2021 EP, it’s clear that they’re not approaching their return in a half-arsed way. The lead track ‘Time Is Near’ absolutely thunders from the speakers with a perfect blend that combines twenty first century thrash and groove metal with a metalcore attitude. Moving through a barrage of jagged and intensely heavy riffs, the band show a huge love for Lamb of God and the more melodic end of DevilDriver, often showcasing a really tight musical symmetry between guitarists J. Couvillon and B. Munro as they use their sharp style to lock into T. Robert’s drum groove.

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HYDRAFORM – Hydraform EP

For this Colorado based band, there’s more to progressive metal than shamelessly aping the leather trousered tedium of Dream Theater and the hundreds of copyists that have sprung up since the 90s. On this trio of tunes that make up their second release, you’ll find the obvious speedy soloing and obvious posturing, but you’ll also find influences from a post-grunge dirtiness, traces of gothic metal and eventually a love of groove and even melodic death metal. When you glue all of those together, you end up with something that at least half feels progressive, even if it wouldn’t appeal to those who love “prog”.

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