Review: “Isle” by Millstone

As the 10th Anniversary of their album “Moment Of Truth” approaches across the barren, War torn lands with the slow rumbling of the tanks caterpillar tracks as depicted on the cover art of their latest burnt offering “Isle“, Siberian Groove soaked Death Metallers Millstone have a lot to smile an evil black toothed grin about. They have taken the work of Arkady and Boris Strugatsky in sci-fi novel “The Inhabited Island” and used it as the basis for a concept album with the help of producer Vladimir Lehtinen (Second To Sun, Ultar, Grima); the story of Maxim Kammerer, a cosmonaut who gets stranded on the Alien World of Saraksh. As the story plays out, he attempts to free the inhabitants from transmissions that control them. Concept albums can be difficult to judge; too much emphasis on the concept as a whole and you may risk losing the connection with the listener if they’re not buying what you’re selling; the punishment has to fit the crime with the music and concept going hand in hand to be successful and some do that better than others. Dante’s “Inferno” being a prime example of something that translates well and having been done by both Sepultura and Eighteen Visions recently, there is a benchmark for this type of record.

Fortunately, Millstone are well versed in creating material that wraps around a concept and chokes the life right out of the listener like a poisonous snake around coiled around the neck. “The Inhabited Island” has been swallowed whole, digested and regurgitated as an album divided into 9 tracks that do as the bands previous works have done; cross Metal sub-genres effortlessly in order to deliver the message; atmosphere being the key to it all, from the rich closing solo of opening cut “Patres Ignotum“. The impressive Pantera esq riffs of “Promised Land” are surprisingly joined by blast beat sections, the track an absolute beast that improves as it plays out, the mid-cut breakdown section being a headbangers delight and the hellraising solo in “Everything Is As It Should Be” is very Dimebag Darrell and extends out into some high quality menacing Groove Metal riffs with plenty of venom. For the most part, the vocals are classically throat splitting uncleans from a Death Metal vocalist in Yan Nikov of grit and integrity, the Serbian Randy Blythe if you will, the band have however tempered that with some harsh spoken word and whispered parts that work really well within the dynamic, helping to create the atmosphere that is needed for a work like this.

The absence of clean singing is a something of a victory here, a riff within “The Dark Tower” that echoes out like sonar and reminds of 90’s Industrial lite bands that grates on the nerves like nails on a chalk board but as a whole the cut is a grower with much else to appreciate if you survive that. “Zombieland” was the first single for obvious reasons because as a single track it gives the whole of the dynamic of the album in a single easy to swallow pill. There are new gravelly vocal lows and shriller highs towards the end of the galloping white knuckle thrill ride as Millstone push on their Death Metal side before getting the listener into a headlock and running head first into traffic with “One-Way Ticket” which brings the funkier bass lines and is as infectious as an STD. There are also smatterings of Progressive Metal moments which guitarist Ivan Scherbakov should get plenty of credit for; as the main writer behind the album, he has managed to interweave plenty of riffs into a multitude of different styles in order to float the concept and it works really well. There is plenty of creativity and ingenuity which makes the album has a whole a great listen as it never dwells in one particular moment, it’s always reaching for the next and that is what makes it. Variety, as they say, is the spice of life [7.5/10]

Track listing

1. Patres Ignotum
2. Promised Land
3. Turned Inside Out
4. Everything Is As It Should Be
5. The Dark Tower
6. Zombieland
7. One-way Ticket
8. The War Of Fools
9. Progressor

Isle” by Millstone is out 15th May 2021 and is available for pre-order over at bandcamp

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