Album Title: Colosseum
Label: Metal Blade Records
Date of Release: 19 November 2021
You’d think that now I’ve begun my mammoth annual Top 30 album countdown series, I’d have no more time for album reviews, wouldn’t you? Well, in the past, you might be right. But this is a new, ultra-enthused Man Of Much Metal and while albums are still being released, I will do my best to bring you my thoughts about the better ones. And the first ‘better one’ is this, ‘Colosseum’ by W.E.B., a band I’d never heard of until about three weeks ago. Bearing in mind that W.E.B. have been around for nearly twenty years, and have released four full-length albums before this one, I thought that maybe there’d be a flicker of recognition deep in the darker recesses of my mind somewhere. But no, they are a completely unknown entity.
If you’re in the same position when reading this review, then prepare for W.E.B. to come screaming into the forefront of your awareness, particularly if you’re a fan of symphonic metal. With ‘Colosseum’, the Greek quartet have delivered an album that could finally place them on the map, rather than languishing off-grid as they seem to have done to date.
Led by the rather hilariously-monikered Darkface on vocals and guitar, W.E.B. are rounded out by the equally preposterously named guitarist Sextus Argieous Maximus as well as drummer Nikitas Mandolas, and newest recruit, Hel Pyre on bass and backing vocal duties. Thankfully, their musical prowess is vastly superior to their naming abilities, a statement that becomes clear almost immediately thanks to the opener ‘Dark Web’. The orchestration is huge and dramatic, quickly joined by a ferocious bout of extreme metal, complete with blast beats, incisive riffs, and Darkface’s caustic growls. The symphonics feature throughout, adding a cinematic bent to the composition, before the savagery gives way to a rousing melodic section that is simply huge, and thoroughly enticing.
‘Murder Of Crows’ then takes over, immediately demonstrating the melodious side of the band. The pace then increases to deliver more extreme metal, punctuated by what I assume is Hel Pyre’s voice to counteract the harsher growls. The song then swings between a slower pace and bursts of extremity, creating a sense of drama that is impressive given the brevity of the song. There is a delightful lead solo to add another texture, before everything drops away except some bold orchestration. How is this song just four minutes long? It crams so much in, in that time, making it an impressive track.
Brevity is a theme on ‘Colosseum’ as it happens. The album features nine individual songs and an overall run-time of just 38 minutes, with the longest of the tracks clocking in at under six minutes. It is a refreshing change of pace, and one that does W.E.B. a lot of favours. It begins, smacks you in the face, and then leaves.
I’m not a big fan of the spoken-word Cradle Of Filth-esque intro to ‘Pentalpha’, but there’s no denying the strength of some of the muscular riffs that appear, as well as huge orchestration that means the song could have been featured on a Hollywood blockbuster quite easily. The title track builds from a dark, foreboding intro to more of a thunderous and ponderous affair before a stark change of pace brings with it some of the fastest material on the album.
I’m reminded of Nile when ‘Dominus Maleficarum’ enters the fray; the Egyptian style melodies and guitar work are strangely reminiscent of the US death metal stalwarts, despite there being a much different feel to the song overall. The death metal references continue with the excellent Gothic-tinged ‘Necrology’, a track that cleverly blends out-and-out death metal trappings with Gothic atmosphere and a sense of bombast. The chorus is surprisingly catchy, once again featuring Hel Pyre’s rich voice to great effect.
Middle Eastern melodies dominate the intro to ‘Ensanguined’, another brutal song that puts to bed any ridiculous notion that symphonic metal has to be pretty and whimsical at the expense of brutality. In fact, that’s a trait that W.E.B. exploit across the entirety of ‘Colosseum’.
If I was to have one criticism, it’d be that the production could have been better; at times, it feels a bit cluttered, with a lack of clarity, as if the metallic elements are fighting against the orchestration rather than both working in unison. I’m not a production expert but I wonder if it has something to do with the compression that has been used during the production process. Whatever the reasons though, it’s just a small black mark that threatens to impede the enjoyment of some of the material.
Production gripes aside and forgetting the daft names of some of the band members too, it must be said that W.E.B. have come from absolutely nowhere to deliver an album that I just had to review, despite currently drowning in my end-of-year top 30 series. ‘Colosseum’ falls just a little short of causing me another headache in that regard, but there’s no denying the quality that they have delivered here. If you have a penchant for heavy music with Gothic overtones and strong cinematic orchestration, then W.E.B.’s ‘Colosseum’ should most definitely be on your list to check out sooner rather than later.
The Score of Much Metal: 87%
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: