Album Review – The Astroplex / The Chronicles of Azhul’Tar (2016)

In the distant world of Azhul’Tar, who will reign supreme in the battle between the young and brave Satis and the tyrannical emperor Zarkhonn? Only this excellent Canadian band can answer you that through their cinematic blend of Melodic Death and Black Metal.

Rating4

the-astroplex_artwork“Way beyond our stars, lies a world in ruins. Kingdoms where people are left fighting over basic needs. Independent groups of space explorers, named Travelers, are hired to look for such resources throughout the different planetary systems.

One band of Travelers, led by the young Satis, has struggled for years to find such scarce goods. Flying an old war vessel, the Astroplex, Captain Satis and her crew are about to see their fates changed.

A monumental event that will take its toll throughout the entire galaxy…”

Deeply rooted into science fiction soundtracks from the 80’s such as the masterpieces Alien, Blade Runner and Terminator, creating a cinematic blend of that vintage sound with contemporary extreme music, Canadian Modern Melodic Death/Black Metal act The Astroplex will take you on an exciting journey to a world far, far away in their debut full-length album The Chronicles of Azhul’Tar. From the opening credits to its climatic ending, The Chronicles of Azhul’Tar tells a compelling and epic post-apocalyptic story of survival and death, all embraced by high-end metal music.

Born inside the minds of two former band mates in 2014, Herr Nox (lead singer, lyricist, keyboardist, graphic designer and instrumental composer for the project) and Commander John Steele (guitarist, bassist, drummer and the one responsible for the background story in The Chronicles of Azhul’Tar), The Astroplex aim at blurring the line between science fiction and heavy music, bringing forward a fresh and exciting experience to the listener. As the third member of the project we have the charming Lindsay Schoolcraft, keyboardist for British Extreme Metal titans Cradle of Filth, who beautifully portrays the story’s main character Satis and, consequently, makes you more and more attracted to the events happening in the distant world where the story takes place.

Just like in any good sci-fi movie, The Astroplex provide us all the Opening Credits, an instrumental intro from outer space (sounding like the iconic Terminator theme at times) informing the journey is about to begin, before Prophecy explodes into a modernized version of Melodic Death Metal led by the bestial growls by Herr Nox. At this point, the story already starts to take shape and form (“The world is changing / The suns are rising / Light fills the empty ship / Darkness is gone / There may be hope, there may be One / Time is running out / Life is running short / ‘Tis Azhul’Tar that you’ll behold”), and the music itself couldn’t sound more perfect for the whole concept proposed by the band.

In the atmospheric instrumental track Travelers, our brave captain Satis leads her crew in pursuit of a spacecraft named Xenova-2, guiding the listener to A Dying World, with additional elements from Groove and Progressive Metal giving the song more stamina and heaviness. Herr Nox has a precise performance, blasting some deep guttural vocals while the guitar riffs by Commander John Steele pierce your brain until the song’s ferocious ending. Modernity blended with old school Death Metal is offered once again by the band in The Red Emperor, where Commander John Steele and the stunning Lindsay beautifully craft the futuristic ambience needed for Herr Nox to tell the story through their magnificent guitar riffs and solos, potent beats and operatic backing vocals, turning this into one of the best compositions of the entire album.

the-astroplexVa’Hel (The Prison Moon) is another sci-fi movie-inspired instrumental track that shows us Satis became a prisoner to Zarkhonn (also known as the Red Emperor, ruler of Azhul’Tar and its three moons, master of the Life Stream, to the people of Earth), an exotic voyage through space and time in the form of music with highlights to the crisp sound of its keyboards and synths; whereas the epic and gripping composition The Rise and Fall of Satis presents a melodic approach of Extreme Metal with the exciting guitar lines by Commander John Steele guiding the musicality, while Herr Nox continues to translate the world of Azhul’Tar into words.

And as the story advances to its ending, we have Battle for Azhul’Tar, another epic hymn where you can feel the agony and pain of all characters of the story being told and the perfect soundtrack for an intergalactic war, with its lyrics depicting the brutal devastation caused by this sanguinary battle (“The sky is burning, bombs are droping / Lazers blazing, who’ll get out of here alive / Such suffering, greed is causing / People dying, who will see the next sunrise”). Moreover, Commander John Steele lets his beast arise through his Black Metal-ish blast beats and sick guitar solo, only making things even more exciting. Lastly, the cinematic outro The Heir (End Credits), highly inspired by classics such as Star Wars, Star Trek, Blade Runner and many others, leaves us questioning what will happen next to the newly crowned empress Satis, to the fallen emperor Zarkhonn and to the entire world of Azhul’Tar. If this will become a trilogy, only time will tell.

While we all wait for the next episode of such metallic saga (if it happens, of course), you can go check The Astrpolex’s Facebook page, YouTube channel (where you can listen to The Chronicles of Azhul’Tar in its entirety) and SoundCloud page to know more about the band, their music and their plans for the future. You can also buy this movie in the form of heavy music through their BandCamp page, and if you don’t do that, well, I have a special message from Zarkhonn himself (wherever he is now) telling you what he will do to you in case you “forget” to buy your copy of The Chronicles of Azhul’Tar. He seems to be a very reasonable guy, don’t you agree?

Best moments of the album: Prophecy, The Red Emperor and Battle for Azhul’Tar.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2016 Independent

Track listing 
1. Opening Credits (instrumental) 1:53
2. Prophecy 4:29
3. Travelers (instrumental) 0:56
4. A Dying World 5:17
5. The Red Emperor 5:51
6. Va’Hel (The Prison Moon) (instrumental) 4:00
7. The Rise and Fall of Satis 6:14
8. Battle for Azhul’Tar 6:11
9. The Heir (End Credits) (instrumental) 3:26

Band members
Herr Nox – male vocals, synthesizers
Commander John Steele – guitars, bass, drums, additional synthesizers
Lindsay Schoolcraft – female vocals and voices

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Album Review – Subliminal Fear / Escape From Leviathan (2016)

A collection of boundless and modern Melodic Death Metal creations, which together represent the next step in the evolution of the music by this excellent Italian band.

Rating4

Subliminal_Fear-cover640While listening to the brand new full-length album by Italian Modern Melodic Death Metal band Subliminal Fear, entitled Escape From Leviathan, I realized how dynamic, fresh and ravishing the mixture of Extreme and Cyber Metal with electronic music can be when brought forth by a high-skilled and honest band like these Italian metallers. Following the steps of renowned acts such as Sybreed, Mnemic and Fear Factory, this band from the cities of Barletta and Bari put all their passion for heavy music and their futuristic vision in the conception of the album, surpassing their debut album Uncoloured World Dying (2007) and their latest release One More Breath (2012) in quality and feeling. Put differently, Escape From Leviathan is undoubtedly Subliminal Fear’s finest release to date.

There are two additional ingredients that make the album so special, bringing more value to the already gripping music by Subliminal Fear. First of all, the participation of three international guests in different songs add extra layers to the musicality and concept of the album. Guillaume Bideau (Mnemic, One-Way Mirror), Jon Howard (Threat Signal, Arkaea) and Lawrence Mackrory (Darkane) lend their potent voices to some of the best tracks of the album, always in sync with what the band is firing through their instruments. And secondly, the beautiful artwork by Seth Siro Anton, the Greek artist and musician also known as Spiros Antoniou (Septicflesh) who has already worked with bands like Moonspell, Arch Enemy, Paradise Lost and Old Man’s Child, is based on the lyrics concept, which present a futuristic and apocalyptic vision of the world and the society inspired by movies like Terminator, Alien and Matrix. A subtle but very important detail that only proves how focused those guys were while composing the album.

Phantoms Or Drones is industrialized from the very beginning, presenting electrified riffs and a futuristic ambience as expected, as well as a good mix of clean and harsh vocals, with guest singer Guillaume Bideau bringing an extra dosage of aggressiveness to this progressive and groovy tune. The accelerated beats by Ruggiero Lanotte guide the high-octane Industrial Metal chant All Meanings They’ve Torn, featuring Lawrence Mackrory, where once again Carmine Cristallo and Matteo De Bellis make an effective and balanced duo with their clean vocals and visceral growls, respectively; followed by the alternative and mechanized Nexus, an excellent blend of dark and violent soundings with very melodic passages thanks to the electronic effects in the background and its polished riffs. In addition to that, fans of the genre will definitely enjoy the song’s lyrics, in special its excellent chorus.

SubliminalFear-promo_pic1An ominous intro is gradually enhanced by each instrument in the title-track Escape From Leviathan, building a futuristic aura while Ruggiero gets quite progressive behind his drums, adding more intricacy to the overall result; whereas Evilution, featuring guest singer Jon Howard, is a robotic heavy hymn depicting the evolution of man into a greedy and devilish machine. Industrial and Melodic Death Metal are nicely blended in this exctinig song, with the “special effects” in the background together with the industrialized and violent drumming turning it into one of the best moments of the entire album. And if you’re a fan of cover songs, you’ll simply love Living In Another World, an amazing version for a classic from the 80’s by English post-progressive band Talk Talk. The band was capable of keeping the magic from the original version and mechanizing it with their own industrial touch, with guitarist Domenico Murgolo having a great share of responsibility for such a pleasant result due to his powerful guitar lines.

Yet again the band fires a solid Industrial Metal tune with hints of Melodic Death Metal entitled Dark Star Renaissance, with Matteo and his evil growls driving the song’s effectiveness up while Carmine maintains the smoothness in the musicality, before Self-Proclaimed Gods, with its metallic drumming, a brutal industrial atmosphere (even Carmine gets robotic), its lyrics about the arrogance of man (“Killing the parthenogenesis I’ve created / And still living always into the other truth / I’m born on this land for deny / I don’t want to look like you”) and Domenico’s riffs complementing the futuristic keyboards (and vice-versa), brings forward all core elements of the genre, which consequently make it the most exciting of all tunes. Lastly, we have the Melodic Death Metal with industrial elements of Limitless, showcasing a good riffage by Domenico while bassist Alessio Morella and Ruggiero take care of the “structure” of the music, and an eerie outro about the inevitable ending of mankind in a not so distant future named The Disease Is Human Emotion, with its movie-like start (as many industrial bands enjoy doing) and an ominous narrator giving the details about the disease that exists inside every man.

Enjoying this futuristic album by Subliminal Fear and knowing more about the band’s day-to-day activities and music is quite easy, as you can find them on Facebook, YouTube, SoundCloud and ReverbNation, as well as purchase Escape From Leviathan at their BandCamp page, at the Inverse Records’ webstore, at Record Shop X, or on iTunes. In a nutshell, Subliminal Fear are paving a solid and prospering path to stardom with their boundless and modern creations, with Escape From Leviathan being the next step in the evolution of their music.

Best moments of the album: All Meanings They’ve Torn, Evilution and Self-Proclaimed Gods.

Worst moments of the album: Limitless.

Released in 2016 Inverse Records

Track listing
1. Phantoms Or Drones (feat. Guillaume Bideau) 6:17
2. All Meanings They’ve Torn (feat. Lawrence Mackrory) 4:45
3. Nexus 5:00
4. Escape From Leviathan 4:55
5. Evilution (feat. Jon Howard) 5:51
6. Living In Another World (Talk Talk Cover) 4:56
7. Dark Star Renaissance 4:07
8. Self-Proclaimed Gods 5:22
9. Limitless 4:48
10. The Disease Is Human Emotion 3:09

Band members
Carmine Cristallo – clean vocals
Matteo De Bellis – harsh vocals
Domenico Murgolo – guitar
Alessio Morella – bass
Ruggiero Lanotte – drums

Guest musicians
Guillaume Bideau – additional vocals on “Phantoms Or Drones”
Lawrence Mackrory – additional vocals on “All Meanings They’ve Torn”
Jon Howard – additional vocals on “Evilution”