Album Review – Eths / Ankaa (2016)

One of the most prominent and innovative French bands of all time returns with a true masterpiece of complexity, darkness and heaviness, shining brighter than the main star of the Phoenix constellation.

Rating2

CoverThere’s a thin line between change and evolution several bands worldwide can’t or simply just don’t know how to walk without losing their balance and, consequently, damaging their core essence. Fortunately, this is not the case with French Neo-Metal adventurers Eths, who in my humble opinion have just released their boldest and most innovative album to date, the splendid Ankaa, but still being the Eths we all learned to love. Although I had been preparing myself for quite a while for another blast of creativity by Mr. Staif Bihl and his bandmates, I must say I was blown away by the level of intricacy, darkness and heaviness found throughout the entire album. This beautiful work-of-art crafted by this distinguished group hailing from the city of Marseille, France is the perfect depiction of what evolution in music is all about, and it will surely help spread the electricity and emotions flowing from the music by Eths to the entire world.

Ankaa, which features a unique selection of guest musicians such as Björn “Speed” Strid (Soilwork), Sarah Layssac (Arkan), Jon Howard (Threat Signal), Faustine Berardo and session drummer Dirk Verbeuren (Soilwork), not to mention it is also Eths’ first full-length album with the stunning Rachel Aspe on vocals, shines brighter than the main star of the Phoenix constellation, which by the way was the inspiration for the album name. “This album is linked to the cosmos and the concept of rebirth for the band as well as personally”, said Staif, and that’s indeed what you’ll experience while listening to each one of its twelve jaw-dropping multi-layered songs, all beautifully and meticulously connected to tell a bigger story to the listener. Again, Eths might have changed their musicality in Ankaa considerably, but it was a change towards evolution that no one in their right mind should ever complain about.

One of the best compositions in the history of Eths, entitled Nefas (the Latin word for “atrocity” or “wrong”), kicks off Ankaa in a very impactful way, being insanely heavier, faster and darker than anything the band has ever done before. It’s a feast of Metalcore, Melodic Death Metal, Alternative Metal and many other subgenres of heavy music perfectly put together, and pay good attention to what our screaming diva Rachel does with her “voix incroyable”, it sounds beyond astonishing. Nihil Sine Causa (or “nothing happens without a cause”, from Latin), featuring Sarah Layssac and Jon Howard, is yet another obscure and thunderous composition where the band’s mastermind Staif showcases his always solid guitar lines, with the addition of the Arabic words by Sarah as well as the electronic effects during the song’s second half bringing a fresh taste to the music. And in Amaterasu, part of the Japanese myth cycle seen as the goddess of the Sun and the Universe, Dirk (who sounds like a beast behind his drums) makes a great duo with newcomer Damien Rivoal and his low-tuned and heavy as hell bass lines. Moreover, it’s impossible not to love this brutal Groove Metal aria, and I don’t recall coming across such a powerful triumvirate of songs like these starting an album in recent years.

eths 2016All the craziness, occultism and darkness found in Ankaa keep growing with each and every song, and in Seditio (or “rebellion”, from Latin) that couldn’t be any different. It amuses me how Rachel can sound like a beauty and a beast at the same time, showcasing all her vocal skills and contributing to the song being heavier than usual but still innovative and progressive, just like we expect from such a talented group of musicians. Then we have the startling Nixi Dii, a general term applied by the Romans to those divinities who were believed to assist women at the time when they were giving birth to a child, where its eerie background effects, demonic drumming, choir-like backing vocals and lots of breaks and variations, together with Rachel growling like an evil queen, are all the ingredients you need for awesomeness. In other words, it offers you eight minutes of the best modern metal music you can find in the entire world. And just when you think things couldn’t get more alternative we’re treated to Vae Victis (Latin for “woe to the vanquished”), with Staif providing an amazing piano base for Rachel to shine once again, this time with a mix of clean vocals and visceral growls. As a side note, the production of the album is so brilliant you can clearly hear every single note coming out of each instrument, enhancing the overall experience even more.

The next song, named HAR1 (the acronym for human accelerated region 1, a short DNA region identified recently to have evolved the most rapidly among highly constrained regions since the divergence from our common ancestor with chimpanzee) and featuring Björn “Speed” Strid, gets closer to traditional Melodic Death Metal thanks to the contribution of Björn, but of course with Eths’ own touch added to it; while in Sekhet Aaru, the Egyptian reed fields considered the heavenly paradise where Osiris rules in ancient Egyptian mythology, your soul will be transported to those fields in a flawless fusion of alternative and occult music. Sarah is back with her gorgeous voice as a guest vocalist in Kumari Kandam, which refers to a hypothetical lost continent with an ancient Tamil civilization (located south of present-day India, in the Indian Ocean), perhaps the closest song to Eths’ old musicality with Damien and Dirk providing all the uproar while Rachel takes care of the song’s tranquility, sorrow and anguish.

eths-ankaa-digibox

Ankaa Deluxe Digibox

Last but not least, Eths bring forward a spine-tingling trilogy inspired by the Orion constellation, accurately representing the idea of rebirth. The first piece of this trilogy is named Alnitak, a multiple star (also known as “Zeta Orionis”) that’s part of the famous Orion’s Belt, which Staif effectively translated into an epic and vibrant chant overflowing his deepest emotions. The second piece, entitled Alnilam, a large blue supergiant star also known as “Epsilon Orionis” estimated to be 275,000 to 537,000 times as luminous as the Sun and around 34 times as massive, is an extremely powerful and aggressive tune led by a relentless Rachel, with Dirk yet again pounding his drums mercilessly. And finally, the climatic end to this trilogy comes in the form of another violent chant with esoteric passages and a pleasant ambience named Mintaka, from منطقة (“manṭaqa”), which means “the belt” in Arabic.

As aforementioned, calling Ankaa simply as a “change” in the music direction by Eths is an understatement of the actual evolution Staif, Rachel and the others reached with their musicality, as well as of the brilliant destiny that lies ahead for them. Ankaa is not just another regular metal album, and I’m sure it will shortly become a reference in contemporary heavy music. Thus, if you want to join Eths in this exciting path they are taking towards the future of Heavy Metal, I suggest you go grab your copy of Ankaa (which can be listened to in its entirety HERE), in special its top-notch deluxe digibox including a CD and an exclusive DVD “Live at Hellfest 2015” in digisleeve with a 24 page booklet, an Eths metal key ring and a pyramid folding card, at the Season Of Mist webshop or at the Napalm Records webshop. After listening to such a masterpiece like Ankaa, you will quickly realize it is no wonder Eths are considered by many the most prominent and innovative French band of all time.

Best moments of the album: Nefas, Nihil Sine Causa, Amaterasu, Nixi Dii and, from the Orion-inspired trilogy, I would say Alnilam is the most entertaining composition.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2016 Season Of Mist

Track listing
1. Nefas 3:50
2. Nihil Sine Causa (feat. Sarah Layssac and Jon Howard) 4:53
3. Amaterasu 3:57
4. Seditio 6:36
5. Nixi Dii 7:58
6. Vae Victis 5:05
7. HAR1 (feat. Björn “Speed” Strid) 4:04
8. Sekhet Aaru 4:09
9. Kumari Kandam (feat. Sarah Layssac and Faustine Berardo) 4:15
10. Alnitak 4:04
11. Alnilam 3:40
12. Mintaka 5:07

Band members
Rachel Aspe – lead vocals
Staif Bihl – guitars, keyboards, programming, vocals
Damien Rivoal – bass
R.U.L. – drums (live)

Guest musicians
Dirk Verbeuren – drums (studio recording)
Sarah Layssac – additional vocals on “Nihil Sine Causa” and “Kumari Kandam”
Jon Howard – additional vocals on “Nihil Sine Causa”
Björn “Speed” Strid – additional vocals on “HAR1”
Faustine Berardo – additional vocals on “Kumari Kandam”

Album Review – Be Under Arms / Doomed To Life (2016)

Do you think you’re worthy of joining this Russian army of Alternative Metal? If your answer is yes, then it’s time to get armed to the teeth with their uproarious and ruthless music.

Rating3

be under arms_doomed to lifeDon’t you just love when completely independent bands are capable of delivering to the world music that sounds a lot more entertaining and well-crafted than many of the already established and famous groups that have a lot of support from their record labels? Maybe that’s simply a statement of how many magnificent musicians are out there just waiting for their chance to shine to a bigger audience, or maybe that only proves how much the passion for heavy music can push the musician even further in their creative process. In the case of Russian Groove/Alternative Metal act Be Under Arms I would say it’s both, and after listening to their excellent new album Doomed To Life you’ll understand how this solid balance between technique and feeling will take this band to stardom.

Despite being a fairly new band, formed in 2013 by the dynamic duo Anna “White Queen” Logacheva and Vladimir “Szandor” Nasonov in Moscow, Russia, Be Under Arms already released a full-length album in 2014 named Let Shots Will Be Your Music, displaying what would be perhaps the most “Americanized” sounding you might ever find on Russian soil. Now with Doomed To Life their main influences coming from bands like Slipknot, Stone Sour and Five Finger Death Punch become even more noticeable, which combined with their unique concept, blending the atmosphere of old westerns with steampunk and our modern and urbanized world, makes their music even more electrifying. Even the dystopian album art transpires rebellion and anarchy. Put differently, are you ready for a neck-breaking experience offered by these talented Neo-Metal troopers?

Be Under Arms kick off the album with the theatrical and contemporary Armed & Defenseless and its Slipknot-inspired intro in an interesting blend of Alternative and Symphonic Metal, where Vladimir is responsible for the deep guttural growls while Anna takes care of the clean (and almost operatic) passages and high-pitched screams, followed by Lord Of The Bomb, a polished onslaught full of elements from Metalcore and Melodic Death Metal. Vladimir pays a tribute to the most gruesome Death Metal singers such as Chris Barnes and Jeff Becerra, with bassist Dmitriy Kashirin and drummer Denis “John Doe” Vinitskiy adding tons of groove to the musicality, therefore enhancing the song’s punch. And their working single, Burn For This, is an breathtaking fusion of the high-speed and intricate music by Arch Enemy with the straightforward aggressiveness of the Butcher Babies, with the final result sounding beyond entertaining. Moreover, pay good attention to the metallic riffs by guitarists Viktor Gostemilov and Dmitriy Solo and to the passionate performance by Anna, they truly deserve that.

The whole band demands we keep banging our heads nonstop in March Of The Iron Hearts, a tune that leans towards pure Groove Metal with nuances of Death Metal, and as aforementioned it amazes me how a Russian band can sound so American and consequently ready to conquer the Western side of the world. And yet again inspired by the Butcher Babies, Keep This World provides the listener a violent ambience where Vladimir sounds as bestial as possible on vocals, with the song’s guitar riffs penetrating our heads and piercing our brains mercilessly. Then out of nowhere Be Under Arms morph their musicality from brutal Death Metal to modern Alternative Metal and back again within a short span of five minutes in the thrilling Locked And Bound, where Anna once again steals the spotlight with her deranged screams and also with her potent clean vocal lines.

be under armsDon’t even think about taking a break, because there’s a lot more to come in this awe-inspiring album, starting with To Rise From The Ashes, which presents that characteristic riffage from bands such as Slipknot by Viktor and Dmitriy, helping Vladimir and Anna in offering a great vocal duo to the listener. Be Under Arms then put the pedal to the metal in a hurricane of Melodic Death Metal full of anguished growls, fast beats and tons of groove entitled No Place Like Home, a short and sweet tune perfect for putting the audience to “dance” (or, in other words, slam into the circle pit). Surprisingly, after that we’re treated to a distinct chant named Spit On Your Grave, which is in fact a thoughtful power ballad despite its demented name (who doesn’t love that movie franchise?). While Anna’s vocals work extremely well during the whole song, Vladimir sounds a little weird with his clean vocals, somewhat like a gothic singer from the 80’s, but in the end when all is put together the result is very pleasant indeed.

The last part of the album gets back to sheer brutality, as you’ll be able to enjoy in Human Testing, which due to being slightly rawer than the other songs will surely cause a strong pain in your neck and maybe some bruises when played live. Then we have the title-track Doomed To Life showcasing the best riffs of the whole album by far (Viktor and Dmitriy were remarkably inspired when they composed them), with all other instruments being boosted by that energy flowing from the guitars and consequently turning this into another top moment of the album. On the other hand, in Kings Of Wasteland they tried to be even more alternative than usual, and despite not being a bad song it sounds a bit over the top. That doesn’t harm the overall quality of the album at all, but it’s surely the weakest chant in Doomed To Life. Lastly, we have the vile Metalcore chant Becoming A Monster, where we can enjoy a more introspective side of the band with highlights to the outstanding performances by Anna and Denis (not to mention its short but effective guitar solo), perfectly depicting the name given to it.

Do you think you’re worthy of joining this uproarious cyber army of Alternative Metal from Russia? If your answer is yes, go check their Facebook page, VKontakte and YouTube channel, and in order to get armed to the teeth with their ruthless music, you can find Doomed To Life on sale at the band’s official webshop or BandCamp page, as well as on iTunes. As aforementioned, based on what you will be able to witness in Doomed To Life, you’ll quickly realize this talented sextet from Moscow is actually “doomed” to awesomeness.

Best moments of the album: Lord Of The Bomb, Burn For This, No Place Like Home and Doomed To Life.

Worst moments of the album: Kings Of Wasteland.

Released in 2016 Independent

Track listing
1. Armed & Defenseless 4:39
2. Lord Of The Bomb 3:53
3. Burn For This 3:53
4. March Of The Iron Hearts 2:57
5. Keep This World 3:43
6. Locked And Bound 4:57
7. To Rise From The Ashes 3:29
8. No Place Like Home 2:24
9. Spit On Your Grave 2:36
10. Human Testing 3:19
11. Doomed To Life 4:27
12. Kings Of Wasteland 3:06
13. Becoming A Monster 4:28

Band members
Anna “White Queen” Logacheva – vocals
Vladimir “Szandor” Nasonov – vocals
Viktor Gostemilov – guitar
Dmitriy Solo – guitar
Dmitriy Kashirin – bass
Denis “John Doe” Vinitskiy – drums