Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Compilation Review: British Steel 'The Rising Force Of British Heavy Metal'

It feels almost redundant to point this out, but the UK metal scene is brimming with talent right now. Through a mixture of veterans who've been plugging away for years and relatively young blood, we're blessed with a stable of bands delivering heavy metal at varying degrees of ferocity and majesty, with a knack for memorable songwriting and intense live performance in common. Dissonance Productions, who launched last year, have been kind enough to gather some of the finest examples under one roof and have put together this compilation, launched to much fanfare with a show headlined by Steve Grimmett's Grim Reaper and four of the bands involved (Amulet, Seven Sisters, Aggressive Perfector, Eliminator) at the tail end of September in Camden Underworld. This album serves simultaneously as an introduction for the curious, a sample of new material for established fans of some of the bands involved, and a statement of intent for future releases.

Opening the collection is London’s stalwart Bloody Knights,
Amulet, who contribute 'Highwayman'. A fast, punchy number with a triumphant sounding chorus delivered with gusto by frontman Jamie Elton, this does a great job of showing the unsuspecting listener what they’re in for and is itself a good augury for their second full-length album, due for release in early 2018.

The second track drags us northward to Manchester with Aggressive Perfector who supply a fine slice of raw aggression in the form of 'Harlot’s Spell'. This is one I keep coming back to. The harsh vocals are complemented by a some very catchy melodic riffs that never sound too forced or at odds with the overall “feel” of the song. This is my first encounter with Aggressive Perfector and I’ll be keeping an eye out in future.

Up next we have Eliminator’s 'Lost To The Void'. I can’t stress enough how good it is to be hearing from these lads again after a relatively quiet period. This is an older number re-recorded to show off new singer Danny Foster and he certainly delivers, fitting the grand scope of the song perfectly. 'Lost To The Void' draws the listener straight in with a forceful introduction, fancy leadwork and an almost operatic sounding chorus.

We move from the stratosphere to the depths of Hades with the next track, Dungeon’s 'Queen of Sin'. In this preview of an upcoming 2017 EP, the London quartet capture the frenetic energy of their live shows. Don’t look for anything resembling elegance here: 'Queen of Sin' hurtles towards its ending relentlessly, only gaining in intensity. A satisfying slab of speed metal.

Dark Forest are up next with 'Where The Arrow Falls' from last year’s Beyond The Veil LP. A successor in spirit and theme to 2011’s 'Under The Greenwood Tree' (from their sophomore Dawn of Infinity album), 'Where The Arrow Falls' trades in reverence for a mythic past, a sense of freedom against forces that would curtail it and a simple appreciation of nature’s beauty and grandeur. Led by guitarist Christian Horton, Dark Forest have been going in one form or another for 15 years now and it shows in consistent quality of their songwriting, and by-now second nature affinity for memorable melodies and riffs to get fists pumping.

Following on, Toledo Steel deliver 'Rock Nights': A solid, mid-paced ode to the joys of touring and playing shows, propelled along by a satisfyingly pounding main riff, 'Rock Nights' is a straightforward, no-nonsense banger. Look out for the strong vocal performance we've come to expect from Rich Rutter and a tasty solo courtesy of Tom Potter.

Scotland is represented on this compilation by speedsters Vuil, who contribute 'Iron Witch'. Fast and furious riffage and positively Vio-Lence-esque vocals add up to a maddening racket. Lovely stuff.

Seven Sisters bridge the gap between last year's self-titled LP and 2018's upcoming Cauldron And The Cross by contributing 'The Witches Eye'. This is a faster number than we're used to from the West London wreckery merchants (drummer Steve Loftin is clearly putting in a hell of a shift), and as such stands in contrast to the more sweeping, epic sounds that dominated last year's record. Their long-established melodic sensibility is still present though, and the chorus provides on one of Kyle McNeill's best performances so far.

The most nakedly aggressive entry on this release arrives in the form of Insurgency's 'Destined For Death', a taster from the recently released Militant Death Cult EP. The combined Lancaster/Glasgow fury that Insurgency bring to the live environment is very much in evidence here, with a brief break in the otherwise relentless tremolo riff/blastbeat combo serving to showcase some sickening distorted bass work. Messrs Shackleton, Baali and McLaren can be proud of their work here.

London veterans Neuronspoiler weigh in with 'Slay The Beast', from their upcoming Second Sight album. This is a strong slab of polished, melodic heavy metal; evidence of a band that have been honing their craft for some time. Second Sight will be an album to look out for.

The compilation closes with 'Freedom Battle', taken from Wytch Hazel's 2016 LP Prelude. To this author's ears Prelude was 2016's finest metal release and 'Freedom Battle' exemplifies what worked so well on that album - lush melodies, a majestic chorus, overall just a simple, memorable song. Colin and co. really worked some magic here.

In summary, this collection presents to the listener a fine cross-section of what's happening in more old school-oriented British heavy metal in 2017. Many of these bands have new releases coming up shortly and are gigging frequently, which makes it an ideal introduction for the curious and dedicated fan alike. Very much worth a buy.

CD and LP versions of the album are available to order via Plastic Head.

Score: 4/5

Writer: Craig Stewart

1 comment:

  1. prelude was my fave album for 2016 too. amazing stuff.