Album Review – Absolva / Side By Side (2020)

Celebrating the great tradition of British Heavy Metal with huge riffs and massive hooks, this young and restless Manchester, UK-based unity returns with their breathtaking fifth full-length album.

If you’re a fan of the most recent solo albums by the indomitable Blaze Bayley, more specifically with his  Infinite Entanglement Trilogy, you’ve probably heard the names of vocalist and guitarist Christopher Appleton, bassist Karl Schramm and drummer Martin Mcnee, who together with Chris’ brother, guitarist Luke Appleton (of Iced Earth), have been making a lot of noise since 2012 with their Manchester, England-based Melodic/Heavy Metal band Absolva. Each member has a wealth of experience with an impressive pedigree recording and touring with their other above-mentioned associations with Iced Earth and Blaze Bayley, and have also toured as support artists with the likes of Saxon, Michael Schenker and Y&T. Now in 2020 it’s time for Absolva to strike again with Side By Side, their fifth studio album following on from Flames of Justice (2012), Anthems to the Dead (2014), Never a Good Day to Die (2015) and Defiance (2017).

Recorded at Rocksector Records headquarters in Manchester, produced by Chris Appleton himself, mastered by Ade Emsley at Table of Tone Mastering Ltd. in London, and featuring a classic artwork by Brazilian artist Alberto Quirantes of Akirant Illustration (Blaze Bayley, Iron Maiden, Star Wars), Side By Side undoubtedly celebrates the great tradition of British Heavy Metal with huge riffs and massive hooks. However, Absolva have never been scared to mix things up, and fans will discover light and shade across the ten original songs (plus two very special bonus tracks) found in such entertaining album that transpires metal music, showcasing an exceptional performance by all band members and, therefore, being highly recommended for fans of the music by Iron Maiden, Saxon, Judas Priest, Helloween and several other metal giants.

The strident guitars by Chris and Luke bring thunder to the opening track Advocate Your Fate, accompanied by the band’s heavy kitchen of Martin and Karl in a pure traditional Heavy Metal feast, with their guitar solos being absolutely incendiary; and blasting a Judas Priest-inspired mega-riff the band embellishes the airwaves with the high-octane Burning Star, where Chris’ soaring screams are beautifully supported by his bandmates’ backing vocals, sounding perfect for headbanging nonstop in the name of Heavy Metal. Then keep banging your heads and raising your horns to the sound of The Sky’s Your Limit, where the bass punches by Karl will reverberate inside your brain, feeling very melodic from start to finish and being obviously recommended for enjoying it while on a road trip, whereas the title-track Side by Side brings forward an inspiring, upbeat atmosphere showcasing the union among the band members, with both Chris and Luke taking the lead with their refined riffs and solos and, of course, living up to the legacy of the biggest exponents of the genre.

After such amazing first batch of songs, it’s time to speed things up and slam into the pit together with the boys in Living a Lie, another lesson in traditional Heavy Metal where Martin is unstoppable on drums while its guitars will pierce your ears and Chris powerfully declaims the song’s austere lyrics, followed by Legion, presenting a “Stranger in a Stranger Land” vibe generated by Karl and his menacing bass, alternating between heavier moments spiced up by Chris and Luke’s shredding and more serene, melodic passages. And more metallic sounds permeate the airwaves in Eternal Soul, a galloping tune led by Karl and Martin armed with their thunderous instruments, feeling like a metal classic from the 80’s with a catchy chorus that will put you to sing along with the band, not to mention their trademark electrifying solos.

Chris leads his metal army in the rebellious anthem End of Days, a more epic and imposing tune where Martin’s beats dictate the pace and the band’s stringed trio doesn’t stop firing sheer electricity from their axes, and setting fire to the world the band brings forth the frantic, melodic and absolutely awesome Heart Let’s Go, where Chris keeps blasting his sharp vocals accompanied by the razor-edged sound of the guitars and the groovy bass by Karl. Finally, a serene Hard Rock-inspired intro ignites the melodic From This World, the last original song of the album where the quartet showcases a lot of passion and feeling, led by the pounding beats by Martin (albeit going on for a little too long, though), before we’re treated to two metallic and vibrant bonus tracks by Absolva showing their respect and admiration for the undisputed metal titans Iron Maiden, with 2 Minutes to Midnight, and Black Sabbath, with Heaven and Hell, with their Iron Maiden version sounding and feeling beyond stunning.

The guys form Absolva are waiting for you on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Spotify, ready to invade your senses with their refined old school Heavy Metal, and with Side By Side being the perfect representation of everything they stand for and what we can except from such talented band in a not-so-distant future. Hence, don’t forget to purchase your copy of the album from their Big Cartel page, from Apple Music or from Amazon, standing side by side with one of the youngest and most promising bands of the UK scene and, as a consequence, living and breathing metal music together with a band that proudly carries the flag of NWOBHM wherever they go.

Best moments of the album: Burning Star, Eternal Soul, Heart Let’s Go and 2 Minutes to Midnight.

Worst moments of the album: From This World.

Released in 2020 Rocksector Records

Track listing
1. Advocate Your Fate 4:39
2. Burning Star 4:02
3. The Sky’s Your Limit 5:22
4. Side by Side 4:39
5. Living a Lie 3:07
6. Legion 3:42
7. Eternal Soul 5:37
8. End of Days 6:07
9. Heart Let’s Go 4:21
10. From This World 5:51

Bonus tracks
11. 2 Minutes to Midnight (Iron Maiden cover) 5:49
12. Heaven and Hell (Black Sabbath cover) 7:01

Band members
Christopher Appleton – lead vocals, lead guitar
Luke Appleton – rhythm and lead guitar, backing vocals
Karl Schramm – bass
Martin Mcnee – drums

Interview – Andreas Slocinski (Stone Cadaver)

Andreas Slocinski, the talented bass player for Danish Stoner Rock/Metal power trio Stone Cadaver, talks to The Headbanging Moose about the band’s brand new album Reject Remove Replace, their passion for the music from the 70’s and all things metal, and the flourishing metal scene in Denmark, among other topics, in one of our most interesting interviews ever.

Andreas Slocinski (Stone Cadaver)

The Headbanging Moose: Could you please introduce yourselves to our readers? Who are Stone Cadaver, how was the band formed, what’s your goal with your music, and any other details you want to share with us about the band?

Andreas Slocinski (Stone Cadaver): Stone Cadaver is a Danish stoner metal threepiece from Aarhus, Denmark. The gentlemen that wield the instruments and compose the music are Anders Bech Nielsen (guitar and vocals), Jesper Hauptmann (drums) and yours truly, Andreas Slocinski, on bass. The band’s history is relatively short, so it’s easy to sum up. Stone Cadaver rose from the ashes of Chosen Legacy, a metal cover band that featured all of us. It was fun and all, but eventually we all got fed up with playing other people’s stuff, so we decided to abandon Chosen Legacy and start focusing on writing our own material in an attempt to satisfy our creative need. That was back in 2014. Chosen Legacy was all about thrash and groove metal (we played songs by Pantera, Slayer, even Cannibal Corpse), but none of us were interested in writing that kind of music, and, as it turned out, we all harbored a secret desire to play some dirty, 70s inspired stonerish metal, so we just said to each other, “hey, let’s give it a shot and see what happens”, and started jamming on a few riffs. The first song we wrote was “Black Magick” off the self-titled EP, and things just started growing from thereon. As for the goal or purpose of Stone Cadaver, well, it’s just to have a good time and write some cool music. We don’t plan to make a living from it, we’re too old for that now, but the idea of creating music and performing it under the moniker of Stone Cadaver, a beast that’s totally our own creation, appeals to us very much, and it’s definitely a cool way to spend your spare time.

THM: How was the writing and recording process of your new album, Reject Remove Replace, and what’s the main difference between it and your debut self-titled EP from 2014?

AS: RRR differs musically from the EP in a lot of ways, although there are also a lot of similarities. The EP is more doomy and, perhaps, slightly more metal overall. RRR is more dirty and fresh. We have always tried, though, to mix the 70s with more modern elements to create some varied music, and although RRR is more varied than the EP that whole idea of mixing newer and older stuff in an effort to create some exciting material that stays interesting to the listener throughout, is sort of the red thread that runs through all our compositions. I am into bands like Electric Wizard and I always to try to get some really heavy, slow stuff into the stew. Anders digs bands like Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple and likes to add faster paced stuff akin to those bands to the recipe. The end result is almost always a compromise and thus amalgamation of all those things, heavy, doomy elements coupled with faster parts. Naturally, all of us love Black Sabbath, and the mantra WWBSD (What Would Black Sabbath Do?) act as a sort of litmus test if we’re stuck in a song and don’t know how to finish it or get from one part to the next. Ah, that might be a stretch, but Sabbath are very important to all of us and most definitely act as a shared key inspiration. The album was recorded over a week or so at our old rehearsal space, which we shared with another band, Magnified Eye, probably one of the oldest Danish stoner bands. Torben Egebjerg, lead singer and guitarist in the ol’ Eye, recorded and produced the songs in collaboration with us. A guy named Michael Larsen, who’s been part of the local music scene as a booker and all-round technical guy for many years, helped us get the sound of the instruments just right for the recording. The album was then mixed by Stefan Krey, who also plays in Magnified Eye. He has another band, Alkymist, which is a new name on the Danish metal scene. It’s progressive doom metal and very cool. Definitely worth checking out! Lastly, the album was mastered by James Plotkin. We chose him, because he worked on Electric Wizard’s “Time To Die”, so if he’s good enough for the Wizard, he’s good enough for us. A very helpful and cool guy!

THM: In our review for Reject Remove Replace, we quoted a sentence from you stating it’s a concept album, with the concept being “a unified, musical whole”. Can you elaborate more on that? Why do you consider it a concept album? What’s the main storyline that guides the album from start to finish?

Album Review – Stone Cadaver / Reject Remove Replace (2017)

AS: It’s true that we call it a concept album, but it’s not a concept album in the sense that there’s an overarching storyline or theme guiding everything. Albums from the 60s and 70s are often as good as they are, because a lot them work as albums. Today, there’s a tendency to just slap a bunch of songs together without really paying much attention to how they work in relation to each other and the album as a whole. We wanted to create an album that really works as an album, and not just a collection of songs. To this effect, RRR was actually only intended to be released on vinyl, because we “designed” it for vinyl, and because vinyl, at least as far as we are concerned, is a superior way of enjoying an album. An example of what we mean when we say that it was designed for vinyl is the small instrumental interlude “Ruins In The Sand” at the end of side A, a short, atmospheric piece with acoustic guitars. This segment is very different from the preceding and following songs, which have a lot more bang for the buck. “Ruins” was placed at the end of side A very intentionally. As you know, once the A-side is finished, you have to lift the vinyl, flip the disc over and lower the pickup in order to start the B-side. While you’re doing this, there’s obviously no music playing. “Ruins” ends softly, so you could argue that it actually segues into the musical void that accompanies the lifting and flipping of the disc. Likewise, the B-side also ends on a soft note with the instrumental piece “Omega”, which is part 2 of the song “Dead Horses, pts. I & II”. The soft endings of both sides create unity and bind both sides together nicely, we think. This obviously doesn’t work as well on the CD. Combined with the varied nature of the rest of the songs themselves, the album, as a whole, has the feel of one those good albums from the 70s. That’s the intention, anyways. Hopefully, there are people out there who have picked up on it.

THM: The official video for the opening track of the album, the heavy and groovy Sscum, is in my humble opinion really entertaining, just like those old low-budget, catchy-as-hell horror and suspense movies from the 70’s and 80’s. Can you tell us more about the story behind the song and how you decided to shoot the video? Will there be a sequel for it?

AS: We’re glad you like the video and that you dig the 70s low-budget vibe, because that kind of vibe was exactly what writer/director Ulrik Haenschke was aiming for. The lyrical content of the song and the storyline in the video actually have nothing in common. The song is about neo-nazis and how fucking stupid they are, but it wasn’t important to us or Ulrik that the video dealt with that topic at all. Ulrik was involved in the video for Magnified Eye’s “Legion”, which was done very professionally and we all liked it, so Anders chatted him up at a concert, and, as it turned out, Ulrik was interested in doing a video for “Sscum”. He had heard the song at one of our gigs and, basically, wrote the entire script in his head right there on the spot. For some reason, he envisioned this psycho redneck in a really cool car who picks up a hot blonde that he brings home to kill in a twisted, misguided attempt to get back at his girlfriend, who left him because he cheated on her. A pretty simple plot, but very effective nonetheless. The entire process was one of those things where everything just came together very smoothly. Ulrik wrote the script, consulted with us, auditioned the actors and procured all the equipment, lamps, cameras etc. He’s attending some sort of film school and he did the video for a project, which enabled him to use all the equipment for free. Otherwise, it would have been an extremely expensive shoot. The camera alone, a Red which is the same kind of camera used by Peter Jackson on “The Hobbit”, costs between 60-80,000 CAD, so if we had had to rent it, it would have been costly. We also got hold of the car, a ‘69 Torino, for free (thank you Susan!). The video was shot over the course of two weekends in a barn close to Aarhus. The exterior shots were also done not too far away. Ulrik then spent a few weeks editing the material and in late 2016 we were able to premiere it at a local hard rock and metal bar. It was a fun and drunken night. There’s no plan for a sequel, but, you know what, none of us has thought about making one, and it might actually just be a very cool thing to do. Let’s see what happens …

THM: Talking about heavy music made in your gorgeous homeland Denmark, the average metalhead usually knows only the classic metal by King Diamond and Mercyful Fate, and more recently the hybrid of metal and rock by Volbeat, but no other Danish bands are part of his regular playlist. With that said, how’s the current Heavy Metal scene in Denmark? Is the scene getting stronger, with new bands booming all over the country, or do you feel it’s stagnated like in many other countries?

AS: The metal scene in Denmark is alive and thriving. It may not be booming per se, but it’s definitely not on the decline. Denmark is a small country, but we have a lot of metal festivals, Copenhell, Aalborg Metalfestival, Metal Royale, Metal Magic to name some of the bigger ones, and there are metal concerts in almost all Danish cities, big and small. That being said, it’s not always easy to land gigs, for some reason. You really have to put a lot of effort into landing gigs and it’s boring work.

THM: Which new bands from Denmark do you recommend to our listeners? It can be in the same Stoner Metal and Rock vein as Stone Cadaver, or any other style like Black Metal, Metalcore or Power Metal. How bright do you think the future is for those bands?

AS: There are loads of Danish bands. Some cool names to check out are the curly haired troupe of death metal jugglers in BAEST. They are definitely on the rise, and will probably make it big. Bersærk is another band who also enjoys a lot of success. They sing in Danish and call their music “hedningehegn”, which is a pretty cool, self-invented word for “pagan noise” (that’s probably what comes closest). Alkymist, as mentioned before, are definitely also worth checking out as are Magnified Eye. Currently, there’s talk of a New Wave Of Danish Black Metal spearhedead by bands such as Myrkur, Solbrud and Orm. They are also very worthy of your attention, if black metal is your thing. An older black metal band, or black n roll, is Horned Almighty, which you may have heard of. Smaller interesting names include Disrule, Fusskalt, Drön, ThunerWhip, Impalers and Fordærv.

Stone Cadaver

THM: In regards to your influences and idols in music, what would be your top metal or even non-metal artists and albums, the ones that have a strong influence in the music by Stone Cadaver, that helped shape your musicality and fuel your creativity?

AS: As previously mentioned, Ozzy-era Black Sabbath is a major shared influence. On a more individual level, Anders always cites Alice In Chains and Jerry Cantrell as some of his key influences. “Dirt” ranks really high on his personal list of faves as does Deep Purple’s “Fireball”. Jesper is in love with Iron Maiden and Satyricon. Frost’s drumming in particular on “Nemesis Divina”, one of Jesper’s top favorite albums, has had a major impact on his playing as can be heard on RRR. My own main influences include Geezer Butler, Steve Harris and Jaco Pastorius and some of my all-time favorite bands include Electric Wizard and Pink Floyd. All of us dig all kinds of metal and rock, though. It’s important to listen to a lot of music, when you’re in a band, so we try to keep our minds and ears open.

THM: What about your current tour dates to promote Reject Remove Replace? How have the concerts been so far? In addition, as the summer is considered “festival season” all over Europe, have you guys been able to play any major or even smaller festivals, and if so, how was the experience? Did you play alongside any of your music idols in any of those festivals?

AS: We actually haven’t played a lot of gigs in 2017 so far. We played three in May and we don’t have anything planned until October. Jesper recently became a dad for the first time, so that naturally put a dampener on things, but we’re slowly starting to get the gears grinding again. The 2017 gigs we’ve played so far, however, have been cool. We played the inaugural Children Of The Sun festival in Copenhagen, two days of stoner, doom and space rock. We shared the stage with bands such as Dead Witches, Yuri Gagarin and Dopelord. We opened the second day to a rather small crowd and the sun was baking through some overhead windows, so it was not the easiest of gigs, but it was fun and we had a swell time afterwards, drinking with some of the other bands. Dead Witches in particular was a fun crowd to hang with and we would love to meet with them again at another festival or concert at some point. In October we’ll play Copenhagen again with Drön and French band Dot Legacy. We are working on landing gigs for 2018 and so far things are looking bright.

THM: What’s next for Stone Cadaver after the Reject Remove Replace tour is over? As Stoner Rock and Metal is a type of music widely appreciated in North America and in the UK, do you have any plans to further explore those regions in a not-so-distant future with perhaps a combined tour with a well-established band?

AS: We have started writing material for a new album, but it’ll be some time before we’ll get to record anything. The album will be fucking killer! As for touring outside of Denmark, that’s definitely something we’d love to do. There are no plans yet, though, but hopefully, one day, we’ll get a chance to go on a smaller tour abroad with some other bands. As previously stated, we handle all the booking ourselves, so putting together a “world tour” would be quite taxing. A booking agency might be worth considering at some point, but right now that’ll have to wait.

THM: Thanks a lot for your time, we really appreciate that. Please feel free to send a final message to our readers in Canada and all over the world.

AS: Thanks for taking your time to read this interview. Remember to keep the underground alive and support the bands you like by buying their albums and not downloading them.

Links
Stone Cadaver Facebook | YouTube | Instagram | BandCamp