Elevation ScrollerWe Are the Catalyst; so what is the genre? I could spend half the review listing categories they’re listed in. I’ll cut to the chase and go for Dark Rock/Metalcore and hope we don’t fall out over it. The first good choice I made was to listen in a car; volume up, foot down. The opening song, “Delusion” sets the tone perfectly; four bars of Morse Code keyboard gives way to Håkan Strind’s fast, clinical, precise and absolutely thunderous bass drum and toms. If all else fails, WATC will blow you away with sheer power, but there’s a lot of subtlety and use of loud/soft dynamics there as well. “Delusion” is fairly representative of “Elevation”; there are thick wedges of Kenny Boufadene’s dirty, distorted guitar packing out the mid-range, underpinned by Joni Kaartinen’s solid bass to create an alternative Spector – the Dark Wall of Sound. And then Cat Fey’s powerhouse voice cuts through the glorious noise like a serrated knife.

The mood of “Elevation” is dark throughout (no surprises there) with titles like “Our Dark World”, “Never Ending Night” and the album’s final song, the surprisingly slow quiet “Life Equals Pain”. The lines ’Up against a million claws, ripping out our beating hearts’ give a good feel of the mood of the album. The quiet verse/ear-bleedingly loud chorus dynamic is fairly common, but the song tempos generally vary from fast to very, very fast and there are breakdowns using synth washes and clean guitars as well. There’s a lot happening besides white noise guitars and percussion artillery.

“Askja” builds from a clean detuned guitar and keyboard intro to a massive distorted guitar sound in the chorus and some uncharacteristic male/female harmonies (as a change from Kenny’s archetypal thrash metal strangled orc vocal) and is a nod in the commercial direction of Paramore, while “Home” is the dark parallel universe of “The Wizard of Oz”. We’re definitely not in Kansas anymore. I wouldn’t say I’m a huge fan of the metal genres, but it’s difficult not to love the power, passion and percussive attack of We Are the Catalyst.

“Elevation” is out on Friday 2nd September and you can pre-order here.

Just have a look at the official video for “Delusion” here before you go:

Smoke and MirrorsUnless you’re the most jaded and cynical old hack ever to have had any connection with the music business, then surely an email with the header ‘Slovenia’s ShadowIcon to release Symphonic Metal EP’ has to grab your attention. I mean, we know that symphonic metal exists, so why shouldn’t it exist in Slovenia? It’s easy to dismiss the genre as clichéd, over-the-top and predictable, but if you threw Paramore, My Chemical Romance and 1970s Queen into a blender you’d probably end up with something very like ShadowIcon (or a few litres of very messy genetic material).

The EP opens with “(Now I See) Through a Mirror Darkly”, a duet between Ana Prijatelj Pelhan and Helloween’s Sascha Gerstner and blasts in with a high-speed guitar riff and strings which break down briefly for the entry of the vocal, but carry on at 100mph (sorry 160kph) for the rest of the song. “If I Was the One”, the lead track from the EP is up next; slightly slower with loads of keyboard arpeggios under the vocal and a synth solo at the two-thirds mark which doubles up with guitar before the final chorus comes in. Here’s what the video looks like:

The Edge” (and it isn’t about the guitarist from U2),opens like a Phil Spector classic, breaking down briefly again for the entry of the vocal before building to wall of sound climax with strings and bells. Of course it’s over the top, but isn’t that the point? “The Beauty of a Rose” starts with slow solo piano and voice, but it doesn’t take long before it becomes a big production number, trading string and guitar riffs before the obligatory impassioned guitar solo and epic finish with massed choir vocals and a plaintive synth line. “My Plea” again opens with just mid-tempo voice and keyboard but doesn’t even make it to the end of the first verse before the rest of the band starts to pile in, building up to an epic final chorus with the usual massed backing vocals, guitars and keys all turned up to eleven. The final track is a non-duet version of the opening track which doesn’t really add anything, but it doesn’t take anything away, so I guess the decision was easy; just put it on there and the fans can decide which version they prefer.

In addition to Ana, the band comprises Tomaž Lovšin (guitars), Bojan Kostanjšek (guitars), Matej Ravšelj (bass), Peter Smrdel (keys) and Žiga Ravšelj (drums) and they’re all good musicians. It’s easy to criticise bands like ShadowIcon but the music’s dramatic and dynamic; the drums thunder, the guitars scream, and the lyrics stand up to scrutiny pretty well. If you like your metal melodic and melodramatic, then you’ve come to the right place.

Out on March 16th.