The UK heavy music scene has evolved spectacularly over the last few years, with an abundance of bands destined to challenge those who sit at the top table. Bands such as Malefice and Sylosis are worthwhile examples who have enjoyed commercial success, honing their catchy modern metal style whilst incorporating varying elements (be it technical death metal in Sylosis’ case or electronic metalcore from Malefice).
Another up-and-coming band to add to the mix is Scottish metallers Blackwork. Formed in Glasgow in 2014, their début EP Impasse sets upon recreating tried and tested groove metal with an additional layer of progression and polish that is both refreshing and ingenious. Harsh vocals and headbang-worthy guitar riffs constitute 70% of what’s on offer here. And whilst these groove metal elements feel vanilla and from a well-trodden path, it sets a decent base layer to what’s included within the other 30% of their sound.
Every track on this EP adds a unique side to the band who have mastered the art of tinkering. Opening track ‘Alias’ feels both theatrical and grandiose with toe-tapping rhythms. But then all of a sudden the mood of the song changes, introducing a dark and doomy guitar riff combined with a deafening roar from vocalist Josh Graham that meanders into a gentler, more melodic ending. Meanwhile, lead single ‘Filthist’ incorporates a thunderous thrash metal intro before back-pedalling into a slower-paced but incredibly atmospheric and melodic chorus, the mid-section guitar riff on ‘Unguided’ could be found on an early 90s Metallica record and the six-minute closing title track packs in a sumptuous guitar solo and gang chants into the mixing pot.
This variety sums up the theme. Just when you think the music is sending the listener down an avenue, it picks them up and transports them to an altogether different place. Traces of black metal, hardcore and thrash can all be found lurking in and amongst the groove metal template, and it’s this fusion of styles that elevates the band to more than just another sub-standard metalcore act.
On a negative side, while the introduction of gang chants and melodic flourishes on a couple of the tracks helps to break the slightly monotonous and abrasive nature of the harsh vocals, truth be told those vocals could do with a touch more variety. A couple of the tracks also feel stitched together, where the band attempt to cram in as many influences and styles as they can. The constant segue between light and heavy soundscapes may not be to everyone’s tastes, but with a little more focus and precision, those decent song writing and technical abilities could be heightened even further.
Nevertheless the production of the EP is solid and the band’s writing will surely mature in time. The promise shown on Impasse is very strong, and should hopefully see Blackwork gain the momentum they most certainly deserve.