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Returning with their third full-length release are Wigan's finest metallers Element, a band I've followed with a keen ear since their demo EP arrived for review back in 2007. Consolidating on the promise they showed all those years ago, 2011's 'Corrupt Desires' album saw them progress and diversify beyond their thrash roots and influences to mature into a sophisticated alt-metal act. The thrash traits that've always characterised their sound were still present but they refreshingly transcended the thrash resurgence of recent times to deliver a platter of music that offered something new, unlike the glut of retro plagiarists that've infiltrated the scene such as Bonded by Blood, Evile, Warbringer, Havok et al. I've no major gripes with said bands, and there's evidently a market for retro thrash regurgitation, although I'd rather listen to Slayer than a band that's overtly mimicking Slayer. Anyway, I digress, but I guess the point I'm trying to convey is there's nothing inherently wrong in having influences - after all, influences provide not only a compositional point of reference when starting out, but also inspiration for forming a band in the first place. As long as bands progress beyond their roots and continue to evolve and develop their sound, then originality and identity can be forged down the line. Element have most definitely achieved the latter and continue to do so with their third album, 'WTF Happened to Journalism'.

That's quite a provocative title for starters and, I guess, a fairly daring and confrontational one. However, this is explicated within liner notes located in the smart looking digipak: "The biggest thanks are to the following zines for coverage over the years. Mostly written by true fans of the genre, from the inspiration and genuine passion that they get from heavy music. Nothing more. Nothing less. In our book, the true journalists." It's a respectful acknowledgement of integrity from a band who are, in essence, coming from a standpoint of integrity themselves with the music they make. There's not an ounce of ego-led pretension here, just four guys creating the heavy sounds they're evidently so passionate about. And those sounds happen to be rather fucking great on their latest record. Shifting even further away from their thrash foundation (give or take occasional palm-muted riffage), 'WTF Happened to Journalism' is an exercise in alt-metal splendour.

Generally eschewing an up-tempo impetus, Element have opted to create their heavy soundscapes within the context of down and mid-tempo structures, and the overriding affect is a rather mesmerising one that draws you into its intensities. Firstly, there's a massive, warm, analogue sound that works so effectively for the nature of the material. Recorded, mixed and mastered by Paul O'Neill, who's previously worked with the likes of Saxon and The Verve, we're talking quality throughout here. And then there's the way Element use two guitars efficaciously - a juxtaposition of rhythm and lead where, sometimes, just one or two notes are sustained over some big, chunky chords. It's an oft-deployed device in post-metal stylings but works a treat here. Amidst all the alt-metal meanderings, songs occasionally carry a stoner vibe, which is most prominent over the down-tempo passages. Alt-stoner if you like! Vocal-wise, frontman Adam Calderbank, after what I perceived to be a shaky start on that six year old demo EP, seems to have gone from strength to strength with his voice and, here, delivers his strongest vocals to date, ranging from nice clean tones to just enough growl in his gruffer delivery. A cover of 'She Sells Sanctuary' to end the album might seem a little misplaced and not such a good idea in theory, but Element have made it work brilliantly in its heavied-up form (and, ironically, provides the album with its most up-tempo moment). Overall, 'WTF Happened to Journalism' is another winner from Element.
Lucidia Music
Review by Mark Holmes
25th Nov 2013
1) Whiskey Voodoo
2) Zombie (Instrumental)
3) Kings of Martyrdom
4) Abbey Lakes
5) WTF Happened to Journalism
6) Something Down
7) Wasteland Stomp
8) December Son
9) She Sells Sanctuary
"Shifting even further away from their thrash foundation... 'WTF Happened to Journalism' is an exercise in alt-metal splendour."