Nordic gothic rock is on the menu this week as we review and rate the new record by Midnattsol.

Plus there’s the rushonrock verdict on My Passion, Leaves Eyes, Wolf, Lower Than Atlantis, Dawn Of Disease and Vomitory.

Every Sunday we look ahead to the very best in new rock and metal – if it rocks it rushonrocks

Midnattsol – The Metamorphosis Melody (Napalm)

Two albums ago, when Midnattsol’s Where Twilight Dwells debuted to a swarm of mixed reviews, it might have been perceived that Carmen Elise Espenæs was living in the shadow of her older sister of Theatre Of Tragedy and Leaves’ Eyes fame – Liv Kristine Espenæs Krull.

The Metamorphosis Melody quashes any such impressions, with enough individual strength to stand on it’s own two feet, whilst proving that Midnattsol do have an interesting take on symphonic metal somewhat.

However, despite the fact that I’d like to do my best in appreciating each act for their own unique sound, it doesn’t mean that there won’t be others who make attempts in critically examining the two sisters’ projects and twisting it into a fiasco of sibling rivalry – especially given the fact that both of their new records are released on the same day! (see Leaves’ Eyes review)

In terms of genre, Midnattsol actually prefer the term Nordic Gothic Metal as opposed to folky symphonic metal – the latter being a term that could fit the bill in describing the five-piece.  But it becomes clear in this record that there is a huge gothic influence in most of the lyrics – and with an occasional track in Norwegian – their self-tagged label may just make sense.

It is one of these tracks written in Norwegian, that produces a superior song.  Forvandlingen asserts the band as a heavier force than many other female-fronted gothic and symphonic acts, centred around some weighty, melodic riffs and splayed with pensive lead guitar.

Goodbye reveals their pure folk side with roots in celtic acoustic music.  Espenæs’ vocals are considerably tainted with this influence, but while that may be the case musically, the singer croons some love-lost gothic tinged lyrics to assist.  In contrast she also has a lower operatic edge, in particularly when performing title-track The Metamorphosis Melody.

Final track My Re-Creation once again demonstrates their depth with some – dare I say – head-slinging drumming from Christopher Merzinsky, but only after a lovely folk intro of strings and harp.

In relation to other female-fronted gothic bands, The Metamorphosis Melody holds a denser sound in places, but instead of buckling in a cumbersome mess, this flourishes after a few listens. CR

rushonrock rated: 7/10 ‘Sol Survivors

Leaves’ Eyes – Meredead (Napalm)

While I may have said there would be no likening the two Espenæs sisters’ projects, (see Midnattsol) it is difficult to completely turn a blind-side to some of the corresponding parallels between the two acts.

There’s a number of genres that do admittedly intertwine, so I’ll deal with this now – the common ground is their huge orchestral symphonic sounds, but there’s a massive difference here –  Leaves’ Eyes has a far stronger Celtic and folkloric influence, especially with this new release.

With that said, it’s important to say that Leaves’ Eyes not only suit their newly embraced style, but in addition, Meredead is far better than their previous record.

On 2009’s Njord, the five-piece recorded a unique version of Simon and Garfunkel’s Scarborough Fair. This time, Leaves’ Eyes make a great choice in deciding to cover Michael Oldfield’s To France because the song quite frankly suits their musical style to a tee and is executed with convincing conviction.   Personally my (perhaps unfair) favouritism would dictate that a certain Hansi Kursch and co. made a solid claim for outing the most impressive cover of the 80s single, but that still takes nothing away from the fact that this is a fantastic, folk interpretation.

Moving back to their own material, title-track Meredead builds on Leaves’ Eyes’ inclusion of more folk to instigate an epic mid-album track, readily embracing a more Celtic sound in places with violin beautifully weaved into a construction of operatic harmonies and slow but thunderous riffs.

In their last full-length attempt, Leaves’ Eyes featured some feisty growls from Liv Kristine Espenæs Krull’s husband – Alexander Krull, known for his work with German metallers Atrocity.  His melodies on keyboard may be prevalent throughout and he is producer of the record, but getting half-way through the album, I thought the band had dropped the guttural element altogether.  However it takes six-tracks before his brazened, primitive style of shouting makes itself aware to the ear – and what a way to christen his involvement in the vocal department.

Thorsten Bauer and Sander van der Meer’s guitar work set up the pedestal in which Krull can let his gruff cannon of a voice impress on Sigrlinn.  It does however prove to be Krull’s only contribution other than his clean vocals on Tell-Tale Eyes, ending the record and fundamentally marking a change in direction to a resonating bloom of mellifluous, icy, magical, folk.  Don’t be fooled by it’s title – Meredead is no mere, middle of the road record. CR

rushonrock rated: 9/10 The Eyes Have It


Lower Than Atlantis – World Record (A Wolf At Your Door)

With The Streets on permanent hiatus and Frank Turner eschewing his more bombastic Million Dead moments in pursuit of an all-conquering acoustic solo career there’s a gap in the market for some serious social commentary with a hard edge. Lower Than Atlantis are rapidly moving into position to fill the void.

Frontman Mike Duce may be an acquired taste with his heavily accented punked-up singing style but the great thing about World Record is the fact that you can hear just about everything he has to say first time around. And a lot of his views deserve respect and debate in equal measure.

But we can leave the meat of the lyrics for another day. As a modern guitar album World Record ticks all the boxes with short, sharp bursts of alt-rock underpinned by piercing solos, solid riffs and, in particular, percussion perfect for demolishing the local tower block.

LTA excel in brief and focused bursts perfectly suited to the Scuzz generation but one tune stands alone as a measure of just how far this youthful crew have come in a very short space of time. Another Sad Song is a soaring, emotive and engaging tune which could, given the right exposure, fire LTA into rock’s stratosphere.

If Therapy? stand alone as Britain’s alt rock standard bearers for the past two decades then now could be the time to pass on the baton. LTA are worthy successors to the Northern Irish three-piece and when Andy Cairns and co. do decide to call it a day their mantra of making good music that really matters will be followed to the letter by Duce and his buddies. SR

rushonrock rated: 8/10 World Best

Wolf – Legions Of Bastards (Century Media)

For all those trad metal converts anxiously awaiting the new record from genre darlings Black Tide it’s time to try Wolf for size. Staying true to titanic power chords, cliched choruses, soaring solos and foundation-shaking rhythmic blasts these boys know their NWOBHM by numbers and it works. Even the shiny, spiky logo belongs to another era and the fantastic album title tells you everything you need to know.

This is one glorious romp through metal’s heyday from start to finish and if Judas Priest require a warm-up act before support band Queensryche hit the stage on this summer’s UK arena tour then Wolf would whip any denim and leather clad crowd into a frothing frenzy.

Not quite ripping up the blueprint for 2009’s Ravenous, the Swedish quartet have reinvented themselves to an extent on their fifth and finest long player. Fusing a cleaner production with more polished shout-out-loud standards, Niklas Stalvind and co. have crafted a career-defining juggernaut of a record which just screams to be heard.

Skull Crusher is a stone cold modern metal classic while Tales From The Crypt could be the best Wolf song we’ve ever heard (and we’ve heard, and enjoyed, quite a few). Stalvind stands alone as the king of Swedish heavy metal and this expert study in the movement should establish the Orebro boys once and for all as serious players on a burgeoning scene.

Wrapping up with the killer K-141 Kursk this stunning album is a wonderful throwback to the days when Saxon, Accept, Maiden and Priest ruled the muddy festival fields of Britain and Northern Europe. Wolf will be massive in 2011 – prepare to be devoured. SR

rushonrock rated: 10/10 Howl Good?

Vomitory – Opus Mortis VIII (Metal Blade)

If Vomitory sound like they should be the sick bag of death metal then there’s so much more to the Swedish death metal crew than stomach churning grunts and ear-bleeding riffs.

Eight albums into their Metal Blade career and Urban Gustafsson’s men are offering up tunes more diverse and thought-provoking than ever with strong flavours of thrash and trad metal regularly jostling for position with the more familiar death metal fare.

Take the brilliant They Will Burn. There’s some obvious NWOBHM riffing to get you in the mood but this tasty track wastes no time in drifting towards Master Of Puppets-era Metallica-esque majesty. It’s unexpected and undeniably addictive.

Then there’s Hate In A Time Of War and if there’s a standout track on Opus Mortis VIII then this is undoubtedly it. An intro mixing Megadeth and Quuensryche quickly cedes to Erik Rundqvist’s trademark growls and if the extreme nature of the singer’s uncompromising style may deter the heavy metal crowd then it proves to be the piece de resistance on this impressive record.

Tracks like the less than ordinary Forever Damned don’t enhance an otherwise enlightening album and this is one rare example of big growls equating to little substance. But it would be wrong to judge Vomitory on this weak moment or their sickly name – listen to the music and it’s clear why Metal Blade have refused to let this lot out of their sight since the release of 1996’s Raped In Their Own Blood. As assets go these death metal legends are invaluable. SR

rushonrock rated: 7/10 Vom Out Of Nowhere

Dawn Of Disease – Legends Of Brutality (Napalm)

For Dawn Of Disease, debut record Legends Of Brutality is long, long overdue to say the very least.  Splitting in 2007 after four-years of activity saw them release a sole EP Through Bloodstained Eyes in 2004, the German metallers reformed in 2009 and have finally brought a tightly sealed package of untampered death metal for genre-lovers to bask in.

As it’s name would suggest, Legends Of Brutality is an unadulterated assault of death metal, but hearing the final product, there’s undoubtedly a heavy homage to Swedish death metal.  There’s no sham attempt at rip off though. The band will be the first to admit their huge influence in stylistic origins and if anything, their respectful ‘don’t f*ck with the genre too much’ attitude certainly doesn’t work against them.

Beginning the album with an eerie passage from book-turned-film Perfume, Dawn Of Disease outline their intentions and follow up with powerful deep bass providing a sturdy foundation for slow melodic guitar duelling. Above The Gods reveals a twisted core of jagged riffs that set the hellbent mood, but it’s not till next song Impervious Minds that this album really gets underway with a host of twisted growls, a mix of thrashy drumming and stark blastbeating.

Legends Of Brutality has a menacing layer of rhythm guitar that surfaces through the dark atmosphere to not only show the pinnacle of their Swedish influence, but create one of the best aspects of the album.

The first seed has been planted. Although this one might not blossom into the most innovative of acts, Legends Of Brutality has dug a foot deep and soaked up a healthy nourishment of Swedish DM from some already established roots. If you’re a purist you’ll appreciate their modest extractions of brutal and melodic sap. CR

rushonrock rated: 6/10 Dawn Chorus

My Passion – Inside This machine (Spinefarm)

Heavier than the Pet Shop Boys, lighter than The Prodigy and much too poppy for Pendulum fans, the electro goth phenomenon that is My Passion populate a musical no-man’s land that has, nevertheless, proved attractive to many a made-up rock raver. Media darlings before they really deserved to be, this is the record when time finally caught up with Laurence Rene and his pretty boy pals – it’s poor to say the least.

Of course it’s a national pastime to big up the best in British talent before knocking it down without a care in the world. But rushonrock has never been fans of My Passion’s powderpuff all-style-no-substance pop rock by numbers and so we’re ideally placed to heap criticism upon Inside This Machine.

Perhaps it’s not all the fault of the band that this follow-up to critically acclaimed debut Corporate Flesh Party sounds like a gang of misguided youths playing guitar hero in a bedroom with paper for walls. It’s a mushy mess of unfocused fuzz and if Rene’s voice is always high in the mix then that’s not always a good thing.

Asleep In The Asylum is a jaunty enough number and Cage is pretty cool in its own one-dimensional way. However, neither is a statement of intent from a band with plenty to prove in 2011 and as for the rest – well, don’t be fooled by making a saving on the bulk download bundle. The two aforementioned tracks are the only laudable additions to the My Passion back catalogue and they’re all you need to keep track of the band’s progress.

And on this evidence that progress is painfully slow. Record label bosses will have every right to feel a little jittery as Inside This Machine makes its play for the notoriously fickle pop metal crowd as this is no Corporate Flesh Party – not even close. SR

rushonrock rated: 4/10 No Passion

This week’s reviewers: Simon Rushworth, Calum Robson.