There’s so much great music coming out of Australia at the moment that it can be hard to keep up with it all. In order to alleviate some of the anxiety, here’s somce quick rapidfire reviews of three of the country’s most promising up-and-coming acts, featuring punishing thrashin-infused melodeath from The Harvest Trail and Flaming Wreckage and some epic folk-metal courtesy of Stormtide!
The Harvest Trail – Instinct
The newest act on today’s line-up, The Harvest Trail are still somewhat veterans of the Australian metal sceene, featuring vocalist/guirarist Brendon Capriotti and drummer Ashley Lagre of fellow Perth melodeath sensations Claim the Throne. Yet, despite that band’s penchant for folk extravagance, this new trio play it pretty straight, delivering nine tracks of punishing, thrash-infused melodic death metal that throws back to the glory days of At the Gates. The band also bring a hefty dose of groove to their sound, reminiscent of earlier Truth Corroded. Although not the most original of metallic tapestries, it remains a potent combination, especially when combined with the band’s superb sense of songwriting.
The sheer aggression of Instinct is exhilarating. However, the band also loose some if their impact through the album’s thinner presentation. The album has a glorious, retro-melodeath tone to it but there are also moments where it doesn’t hit quite as hard, or sound quite as full as it should. The quality of the production, which was handled by the band themselves, is fine, making this an aesthetic issue than a technical one. Nevertheless, there are moments where the guitar sounds a bit thin or where the floor of the sound drops out, such as the otherwise brilliant bridge of “Blood.”
This obviously stems from the band being a trio, and I’m glad to see them stick to their guns, rather than adding in a non-existent rhythm guitar, as they do elsewhere, but, if they’re not going to get another guitarist, then maybe the bass tone could be punched up a bit. Other than that, though, Instinct is a promising debut that manages – if not to make an old sound fresh – then to recapture what made it so fun in the first place.
Flaming Wreckage – Cathedral of Bones
Melodeath-thrashers Flaming Wreckage caused quite a stir among the Australian scene with their 2017 debut From Flesh to Dust. Since then, however, the Sydney act have more or less maintained radio silence, until their sudden return with this fantastic second effort.
Straight off the bat, Cathedral of Bones establishes itself as a superior record to the band’s well-received debut—boasting better production and a far stronger and more consistent array of riffs and grooves to boot. If The Harvest Trail throwback to At the Gates and the foundations of melodic death-thrash, then Flaming Wreckage embody its heftier second wave, delivering a forceful mix of groove and melody reminiscent of The Haunted’s golden age on albums like One Kill Wonder (2003) and rEvolver (2004).
For all their superior musical firepower, however, Flaming Wreckage’s one major drawback remains the same as on their debut, which is that the vocals simply don’t do the riffs justice. Again, there’s nothing inherently wrong with vocalist Dave Lupton’s delivery, but it’s also largely monotone, robbing the band’s songs of the kind of impact they’d have if paired with more memorable and dynamic vocal hooks. Lupton brings a respectable death metal intensity aggression to the table, and, as I said at the top, Cathedral of Bones is a clear improvement over its predecessor.
The long intermission between records may have derailed Flaming Wreckage’s ascent somewhat, but it was certainly worth it in terms of quality.With this one crease ironed out, the band could perhaps be true contenders on the international metal stage. Hopefully we won’t have to wait too long this time to find out whether the band can make good on their continuing promise with the next release.
Stormtide – A Throne of Hollow Fire
The second full-length album from Melbourne Power-folk metallers Stormtide, A Throne of Hollow Fire is another long-awaited follow-up to a promising debut. Unlike Flaming Wreckage, they haven’t quite managed to better their phenomenal 2016 record Wrath of an Empire with its successor, although the band continue show a command over their genre that sets them above the rest.
A Throne of Hollow Fire is a much more conventionally melodeath record than its predescessor, doing away with much of its folk flair in favour of a more straight-forward sound, reminiscent of recent Amon Amarth or Insomnium efforts, except with the epicness still turned up to eleven and, for my money, A Throne of Hollow Fire is a better and far more consistent record than the most recent releases from either band as well.
As with Flaming Wreckage, however, the vocals don’t quite match up to musical backdrop. Keyboardist Reuben Stone, whose been promoted to vocal duties following the departure of previous vocalist Taylor Stirrat, delivers a phenomenal Johan Hegg impression, although he lacks the instantaneous hooks that have seen Amon Amarth elevated to the pinnacle of the extreme metal mainstream. There are moments – as on album highlight “Crucible” – when he gets close, but their overall absence from the record really puts into perspective just how much of a talent Hegg truly is and the reduction in folk melodies from their debut leave a gap in Stormtide’s sound that needs to be filled if they’re going to have any hope of conquering the world.
As it stands though, I’d still be shaking in my boots if I were any other epic melodeath band out there and, again, I really hope we don’t have to wait another half-decade to find out if Stormtide will be victorious in their conquest.