BYZANTHIAN NECKBEARD – Extinction EP

It took Byzanthian Neckbeard five years to follow up their 2014 ‘From The Clutches of Oblivion’ long player, but for fans of that record, the three tracks that make up their 2019 EP ‘Extinction’ will certainly impress. In just fifteen minutes, Guernsey’s loudest band churn, grind and chug their way through a trio of incredibly heavy numbers, drawing influence from greats like Conan and Crowbar to help them in their quest for the ultimate riff.

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MNRVA – Black Sky EP

Formed in South Carolina in 2018, MNRVA brings together the talents of Arcane vocalist/guitarist Byron Hawk and Iron Fist’s Gina Ercoli and Kevin Jennings (drums and bass, respectively) to create an uncompromising sludge metal power trio. Often showing an unhealthy early Melvins and Electric Wizard obsession, their main concern on this debut EP is taking some really heavy riffs and slowly bludgeoning their audience. As heavy as a very heavy thing, of course, that results in a timeless doomy, sludgy and sometimes uncompromising sound that fans of the style will love.

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BLACKTHORNE – Blackthorne II: Don’t Kill The Thrill

In 1991, ex-Balance guitarist Bob Kulick teamed up with ex-Rainbow/Alcatrazz vocalist Graham Bonnet, his Alcatrazz mate Jimmy Waldo, Quiet Riot bassist Chuck Wright and sometime W.A.S.P. drummer Frankie Banali and formed metal supergroup Blackthorne. In 1993, the band unleashed ‘Afterlife’, a cliché-ridden debut album that needs to be heard to be believed. Rarely have four such talented musicians come together and produced such a bewildering results. Nevertheless, it was a success in Japan and by by the mid 90s, Blackthorne (minus Wright) had a second album written, demoed and almost ready to go. …And then Bonnet quit. With no band polish up and then promote the recordings, the tapes were shelved by the record company and seemed destined to never see the light of day. On the basis of about half of their debut, that might’ve seemed like a blessing.

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VEHEMENTOR – Dungeons Of Grotesque Symmetry

Although on the surface Vehementor’s debut ‘Dungeons of Grotesque Symmetary’ looks like the kind of record aimed squarely at the dyed in the wool death metal fan and pretty much no-one else, the reality is somewhat different. On this album, the Macedonian band mix all manner of extreme metal influences. Huge amounts of melodic death and classic thrash metal meet elements of groove metal and occasional industrial-ish rhythms, resulting in one of the most enjoyable – and filler free – extreme metal discs you could hope to find.

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ASTROSAUR – Obscuroscope

With a name like Astrosaur, you’d half expect this Norwegian trio to be a full on doom metal band. Appearances can deceive, of course, and their 2019 release ‘Obscuroscope’ is nothing of the sort. Its six pieces of music are lengthy and complex; there are elements of trippy space rock and a few stoner-ish tropes, but in the main, the release delves deep into a world of complex post rock and post/progressive metal sounds that should appeal to prog fans who like things at the heavier end of the scale.

The public perceives metal and academia as rivals” reads the Astrosaur website, somewhat pompously. Whether that’s true of not, at least half of their second album would’ve benefit from far less musical academia and far more actual tunes. With Astrosaur’s brand of prog, it really is all about the flashy self-indulgence…and for anyone whom isn’t actually a musician, this works hugely towards the album’s detriment.

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