The Diary: A Full Review of The Gentle Storm’s Debut Record

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The masterful wizard Arjen Lucassen is back with a whole new magical project.  The songwriter instrumentalist has been at the helm of so many incredible projects.  Star One, Ayreon, Guilt Machine, Stream of Passion, Ambeon are some of the amazing projects he has been a part of and formed.  This Prog Metal God never ceases to discover new musicians and harness their full potential.  Artists like Floor Jansen, Simone Simons, Russell Allen, Ed Warby, Damian Wilson, Tobias Sammet, and Robert Westerholt have all been magnified by the amazing producer and writer that Arjen is.  He has once again created another project with one of the best vocalists and musicians ever, Anneke Van Giersbergen.

 

Anneke is possibly one of the greatest vocalists in modern times.  Her ability to emotionally connect with a single line in a song is visionary.  Her vocal control and overall technical ability is absolutely unparalleled.  Anneke began in a Gothic 90’s Rock band, The Gathering, where she first began mesmerising music fans.  Her smooth vocal delivery and brilliant lyrics lead to a lot of attention for The Gathering.  Other artists from around the world wanted to work with her, which lead to Arjen featuring her on two Ayreon albums.  Most notably, Anneke has been featured on several Devin Townsend Project albums that are some of the best albums of all time.  Her collaborations is how I discovered her and became utterly infatuated with how she carries a melody.  Arjen Lucassen no doubt shares the same infatuation, as he brought Anneke on for an amazing project.

 

The Gentle Storm, a project utilizing more of the world’s best musicians and shining a light on the beautiful Dutch Golden Age, is unlike anything I have ever heard.  The Gentle Storm encompasses a blooming culture of the Dutch in the 1700s, a topic very rarely illustrated in music.  So far, the album combines many of my favorite things in a two disc album.  The way the album is presented is also very unique   The concept is an age old love story told with amazing historic themes.  The story is told throughout both discs as well as the amazing cover art by Alexandra V.  The unique aspect of the two disc album is that both discs have the same songs, just different sides. Disc 1 is the Gentle Side of the album, where all the songs are done acoustically.  Disc 2 is a completely different electric take on all the ballads, turning them into something Metal.  It is a truly unique and brilliant new approach to doing a new album, showing unparalleled musicianship.

 

“The Diary” begins with the “gentle version” of Endless Sea, a haunting and moving track, ebbing with pure emotion from Anneke and all the instrumentation behind her.  The deep concert drums add an intense sound to this track.  The Heart of Amsterdam is very heartfelt and lovely with a beautiful melody atop an absolutely fantastic violin part done by Ben Mathot and cello from Maaike Peterse.  This song is very traditional sounding with beautiful Jazz tones.  This song beautifully encompasses the greatness of Amsterdam, back then and now.  The Greatest Love is even more beautiful and traditional, to a point of mesmerization of the ears.  Shores of India is bridging two incredible cultures and creating a track that sounds older than the history books themselves.  The way Anneke fits into the style of the song and perfectly executes a complicated melody is absolutely spectacular.  Cape of Storms is more of a dramatic track on the album with heavier percussion and flowing strings underneath a captivating melody. The Moment is an absolutely enchanting ballad, full of emotion and poetic lyrics.  Another impressive track on the gentle side is The Storm that solidifies the story so perfectly and effortlessly.  Also, New Horizons is an absolutely incredible track as it is intense with emotion and features great rhythmic percussion.  All the vocals and instrumentation definitely sound effortless in this album, because the talent level is extremely high on this album.  To sum up the Gentle Version of “The Diary”, it is a heartfelt classical disc with immense musicianship and absolutely brilliant writing.  It comes in like a gentle tide, but “The Diary” leaves like a storm for the ages.

 

The Storm version of “The Diary” is completely different than the Gentle Version, giving two completely different takes on a great story.  Personally me being a Metalhead, I prefer the Storm version of the album, because it is heavier.  The guitar solos and the more grandeur sound of Disc 2 is absolutely incredible.  The guitar work on Endless Sea and Heart of Amsterdam as well as other tracks is so unique and excellently executed, you can definitely tell it’s Arjen.  I absolutely love that the guest soloist on Heart of Amsterdam is Timo Somers of Delain.  His dueling solo with Ben Mathot is ridiculously good and addictive and adds flair.  Shores of India sounds much darker on this disc, which I love.  It breaks up the mood of the album and makes it interesting.  Ed Warby’s drumming on this track is absolutely spot on as well as Anneke’s soaring vocals throughout.  The best part of a two disc album or a two sided is that each disc has its strengths.  Some tracks fit better with the Gentle side like The Moment and The Greatest Love.  Some tracks like Endless Sea, Heart of Amsterdam, and The Storm fit a little nicer on The Storm side.

 

The strength and brilliance of the album is that both sides have their standout tracks, even though both discs contain the same tracks.  It is not that either disc has a weak track, but that the styles can appeal to tastes in different ways.  “The Diary” is brilliant in that it’s an album for anyone with truly sophisticated taste in Progressive music and Metal, and if you’re a huge fan of Anneke and Arjen.  In the subject material and musical composition, I have never heard an album quite like this one.  The use of World instruments and modern instruments definitely adds aspects that I love.  There’s not an aspect that I can’t appreciate or am not captivated by with “The Diary”, and that is vastly rare in music these days.

 

Album Rating 10/10

 

“In The Shadow of the Inverted Cross” by Sorcerer Review

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Sorcerer, a band cultured in Epic Doom Metal and Historical Fantasies, is one of Sweden’s finest.  In 1988, the band was forged in a time where Metal was on the downhill run of Mainstream popularity.  Thrash was still raging as Metallica and Slayer were at the top of the hill.  Sorcerer have not been steady in their history, with band changes and pesky timing with Metal trends.  History has not been necessarily kind to Sorcerer, but in 2015 the band uses history to their advantage.    The band effortlessly combines Power Metal vocals with Doom and Sludge backing tracks.  This makes up the “Epic Doom Metal” sound that the band is oh-so famous for with their cult following. The band has come together to honor this cult following create a haunting, chilling, mesmerizing new album that is “In the Shadow of the Inverted Cross”.

 

“In the Shadow of the Inverted Cross” in this modern age of Metal stands up so uniquely.  There are Progressive and Power themes like Grand Magus and Symphony X have mastered and fine tuned.  It’s so Powerful with vocals and heavy distorted muddy guitars, yet melodic and gorgeously composed.  Lake of the Lost Souls perfectly illustrates these brilliant aspects, being one of the best tracks I’ve heard yet in 2015.  If you like the heavier side of Sorcerer, tracks like Sumerian Script and The Gates of Hell will blaze and surge with energy.  The title track of the album is the darkest and the angriest track, brilliantly delivering 5 minutes and 25 seconds of epic sound.  The aspect of all these tracks that caught my attention is the mix of Power vocals and Doom mood. Sorcerer absolutely nailed this amazing mix the cross and took it so far down to the muddy shores of the river Styx.  The guitars are just so low and heavy and well executed, not becoming muted or boring.  This album could easily have Speed Metal guitars and high pitched squealing mixed with throaty growls.  But, Sorcerer dares to be trailblazers and come up with a unique sound that is like nothing I’ve ever heard.  There is no album quite like “In the Shadow of the Inverted Cross”.

 

Album Rating 8/10- One hell of a powerful album; Great vocals and guitars.  Like nothing else you will hear this year.

 

2015 Sorcerer Lineup

Anders Engberg – Vocals
Kristian Niemann – Guitars
Peter Hallgren – Guitars
Johnny Hagel – Bass
Robert Iversen – Drums

http://www.sorcererdoom.com/

 

“From Beyond” by Enforcer Review 2015

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A Swedish Power Metal band formed in 2004 has bottled a secret formula for creating bombastic and reminiscent music.  Their throwback 80’s Heavy Metal sound somehow works in modern times.  Their catchy and anthemic formula includes loud perfectly aimed power chords with shredding nuances in the guitars, a solid rhythm focused bass line, simple drumming, and high powerful screaming vocals.  This formula Enforcer has forged in a small town in Sweden rages and swarms all across the world.  Enforcer can be categorized with the likes of the Scorpions, Hammerfall, Helloween, and even Judas Priest.  Enforcer is however influenced by European Metal of the 80’s and 90’s like Credo and Magnit.  Their ability to create extremely solid music foreshadowing a great era of Metal is unparalleled in 2015.  Enforcer’s new album “From Beyond” is nothing short of jamming fantastical Power Metal.

 

“From Beyond” is an album that could’ve been forged thirty years ago and sent forward in time to make a point.  The album proves that Rock/Metal is alive and thriving.  Enforcer took Traditional Metal sounds and smashed them all together with an iron fist with this album.  Typically I find albums of this style quite cheesy and flat, but “From Beyond” rewrites history.  Tracks like Out of Fire, Undying Evil, and The Banshee are wailing and bursting tracks.  These tracks are furious and bursting with energy, showing a thrilling passion still alive and well after a decade.  Below the Slumber is one of the most epic tracks on the album, starting with a melodic side and dropping into a blazingly heavy and speedy guitar riff.  Farewell is vastly impressive mixing the melodic tones and 80’s rhythmic jamming.  These are only some great highlights of the album, so definitely listen to them all and see what you think.  It is by no means a concept album, but it is one I think you should listen front to back.

 

“From Beyond” is certain to impress the likes of Power Metal fans and even convert the 40 year olds who just can’t get over the 80’s.  Enforcer created something special with this album, a sound that only comes once every 15 years, in my opinion.  This album impressed me more than the latest from Hammerfall and Judas Priest, which I know is sacrilegious.  That is a big testament to Enforcer’s musicianship and writing ability.  If this album gets over looked for a “Best of 2015” list, then it doesn’t necessarily have the staying power that other albums might have.  Although “From Beyond” might be a great album as of now, later there is more Power Metal albums to be delved into.  Right now, I’m impressed by the album, but I might forget in time and find 10 other albums that with reign supreme in 2015.

Album Raiting 7/10- Amazing album and will be cherished by many, but forgotten and overshadowed by other albums this year.

Celebrating 20 Years of Evanescence


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20 years ago, one of the most influential American Rock bands was birthed in the heart of Little Rock, Arkansas, after a youth music camp brought together two young musicians and friends.  Ben Moody, founding member and ex- guitarist (departed in October 2003)  discovered Amy Lee during this camp, as she had learned I Would Do Anything for Love by Meat Loaf on piano.  This bonding over music started a fascination and a mix of styles that birthed Evanescence, mixing Classical, dark, heavy, and mainstream sounds.  The band brought on friend David Hodges and recorded an ep in 1998.  The band then recorded another EP, known as the Whisper EP after playing these tracks in local bars.  The interest in them lead to the band recording a full length album called Origin, only making 2,500 to sell at shows.

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After the departure of David Hodges, the band went on to impress several producers in Memphis at Ardent Studios and a few at Wind Up Records.  This lead to the signing of Evanescence and birth of their first mass produced album “Fallen” and the addition of friends John Lecompt, Will Boyd, and Rocky Gray in 2003.   Lee and Moody had already written more than 20 songs together, making the creation of the album fairly smooth.  However, the two were clashing on what the band Evanescence should be about and the music they want to produce.  Moody was pushing for the band to incorporate more mainstream and pop sounds, where Lee wanted the band to retain dark and mysterious attributes that the fans already loved.  “Fallen” went on to sell 7 million copies in the U.S. and 17 million worldwide as well as two tracks from it be featured on the Daredevil Soundtrack.  “Fallen” is listed as number six of The Best Selling Albums of the 2000s.  Despite the album’s success, Evanescence was under tension with Moody and Lee on the outs.  On October 22, 2003, Ben Moody departed from Evanescence due to “creative differences”.  He was shortly replaced by Terry Balsamo as Evanescence embarked on a world tour in 2004 where they filmed live DVD “Anywhere But Home” in Paris, France.  The live album/DVD has sold a million copies worldwide.

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“Fallen” is a revolutionary Metal/Rock album in the Music Industry.  Its success and unique darkness is unparalleled.  This album is tremendous in its impact on young musicians and the way America approached Gothic Rock.  This is really the first album that introduced me to these sounds, definitely foreign sounds that I am now discovering only exist in European Metal.  I think that Amy Lee’s Classical training on piano no doubt attributes to this incredible sound that began with these EPs and translated so well into “Fallen”.  I find Amy Lee to be one of the most refined and intelligent musicians in America from the birth of Evanescence till now.  Her influences of alternative, Grunge, Goth, and Euro Rock and Pop and her immense talent is why “Fallen” is such a great album.

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In 2006, more change was brought to Evanescence as bassist Will Boyd departed from the band to be closer to family.  Amy Lee announced his replacement would be Tim Mccord, adding another incredibly talented musician to the lineup.  Terry Balsamo not long after suffered a stroke, other band member’s had other projects, and their former manager had passed.  All of these factors held back Lee’s plans for another album and her large ambitions for the band.  However, all of these setbacks may have attributed to the meticulous brilliance that next album “The Open Door” exuded.  This album had the catchiness that “Fallen” had, but was much darker and more complex.  “The Open Door” was such a brilliant album that brought out Evanescence’s Gothic influences for everyone to experience in such a deep way.  This album’s guitar work was simple, which bored Metal purists out of their minds, but the rest of the instrumentation was extremely dynamic.  The album truly utilized Amy Lee’s talent, in my opinion.  This was crucial to Evanescence’s staying power in the music industry, because it proved they could go darker and where most Metal bands in the States don’t dare to go.  The new album quickly sparked a co headlining spot at Rock Am Ring and more incredible tours, as well as an incredible Yahoo! acoustic performance.  Call Me When You’re Sober and Lithium were also very popular singles, ending up in the Billboard Hot Charts along with the full album.  “The Open Door” sold 447,400 copies in the first week of sales.  Its popularity is definitely justified in creativity, proof of talent, and unique ambiance.

 

The lineup changes continued after the success of the album, unfortunately good friends John Lecompt and Rocky Gray departed from the band on May 4th, 2007.  It was a shocker to Evanescence fans, but didn’t hurt the progression or stability of the band.  Evanescence replaced the two musicians with Will Hunt and Troy Mclawhorn from Dark New Day.  The band embarked with the two on the legendary “Family Values Tour” and then “The Open Door” headlining tour.  After all the touring and huge festivals, the band announced they were working on material for a new album.  This lengthy album process that had a lot of setbacks and uncertain times with the label, leading to a 4 year writing process with an unofficial hiatus. The only new music the fans received was Together Again, a track Lee wrote to aid in the recovery efforts for the earthquake Haiti had suffered in 2010.  As a fan, I was worried that Evanescence would not release a new album due to label troubles and so many lineup changes.  It was difficult to think the band would fold because of these issues, and I thought it would be an utter waste of talent if Evanescence would cease to exist.  Luckily, the band found prevailed in finding their creative spaces and completed the new self titled album.  Evanescence was officially released October 11th, 2011.  The album was a combination of ocean themes, falling in love, and a longing for freedom.  Lee took her love for Evanescence and its previous albums and used that as fuel for a new album.  The band was also inspired by the tsunami disaster in Japan and claimed the track Oceans was purely inspired by the event.

 

Sadly, Evanescence is on an official hiatus now due to a lawsuit and break up with Wind Up Records and more positively the birth of Amy Lee’s first child Jack Lion.  The future of Evanescence is uncertain as of now, as Amy pursues solo project and other band members have other projects going on too.  Amy Lee reassured fans and said she’ll never be done with Evanescence, but insight beyond that is limited.  For now, fans are forced to relish in the past and enjoy these past 20 years.  I have hope that there will be more Evanescence tours in the future and possibly new music as little Jack matures.  So, happy 20 years to Evanescence, may there be many more in the future.

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The Order of Things by All That Remains Review

 

 

All That Remains has been a force to be reckoned with since 2000, releasing albums that sit on the unstable border of Rock and Metal and stirring up conversations about genre limitations.  More recently bold and daring frontman Phil Labonte has been making headlines about controversial views on Gays and Blacks and the differences of struggle.  Regardless of whether you agree with his views, you probably admit All That Remains is stirring things up and working their way up the pedestal in Hard Rock and Metal; In the end it should all be about the music anyway.  The new brave and bold Heavy Metal release “The Order of Things” is definitely a well played and highly talked about album in 2015, creating bridges and burning them all over again.

 

If you frequent this site and blog, you are aware of my displeasure with Mainstream Rock and Metal these days, and also my disappointed feelings towards American Metal.  It is odd for me to review such a high profile Radio Friendly Heavy Metal album, but I have my reasons for reviewing “The Order of Things”.  All That Remains has drifted from their original Melodic Death Metal roots and become more Mainstream, which displeases me a bit.  However, the band has made it work and has created a unique identity that sets them apart.  This daring feat has lead me to respect this band and what they work for with their music and I wanted to review this album as fairly as possible.

 

“The Order of Things” is a surprisingly diverse and well executed Heavy Metal album.  The album mixes Mainstream Lyrical themes (relationship based story songs) and Melodic Technical Guitars featuring well done solos.  The guitar work is what hugely separates this band from the boring and monotone Metal being played on the radio, in my opinion.  I find the guitars layered nicely and dynamic with different sounds and styles.  The vocals are pretty well done, although a bit weak on some songs.  The heavy and powerful instrumentation sometimes overshadows the vocals and sounds unbalanced.  I particularly noticed this on Bite My Tongue and The Greatest Generation.  Otherwise, the vocals are well done and very relatable on For You and Flat Empire.  My favorite part of the vocals however is the growls and the heavier style on this album.  No Knock is definitely my favorite track on the album, because of the guttural growls done on the track.  True-Kvlt Metal is also a huge standout on this album and keeping it to a likable level of heaviness.  I liked some tracks more than others, mostly because of personal preference, but I think all people will find their favorite tracks on this album.

 

Overall, I think this is a pretty good and strong effort All That Remains.  Every track is diverse from others, meaning the album is more about individuality than a succinct style.  However, the album is pretty straight forward Heavy Metal and doesn’t really differ much from other bands in the genre.  The lyrics are also difficult to connect with for me, but I know that’s not the case for thousands of fans.  I would like All That Remains to refine the clean vocals and introduce a lot more power as well as branch out into other styles.  Personally, this album will not hold up in 2015 due to so much more powerful and heavy releases and I will not end up buying this one.

 

Overall Rating 6/10- Although this album is good, especially for Mainstream Metal/Rock, I think it will soon be forgotten and overshadowed.  It lacks any truly great and catchy aspects.

 

Eye of Providence by The Agonist Review

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Eye of Providence by The Agonist

The Agonist has been a reckoning force in Melodic Death Metal since 2004, with several excellent albums and daring sounds.  They prevail with diverse and hardcore music, ranging from melodic to all out thrashing Metal.  I’ve enjoyed this band off and on since 2010, when the dynamic and talented Alissa White-Gluz fronted the band.  When she announced she was replacing Angela Gossow in the Swedish Melodeth band Arch Enemy, it was clear she couldn’t balance too popular bands at once.  The Agonist however prevailed on without her, picking up long time friend Vicky Psarakis as their new vocalist.  I did not foresee The Agonist successfully continuing on without Alissa, no doubt due to my personal connection with the vocalist, but on their new album I am slowly convinced.
“The Eye of Providence” is just like previous albums from The Agonist, with new flavors and no doubt a heavier sound.  It is the band matured and refined into a heavier more aggressive band, while keeping the melodic breakdowns they exhibited in previous tracks.  The guitars are also magnified 100x to a stellar speed and technical quality that sets this band above other bands in their genre.  The guitars are loud, dynamic, and absolutely crazy in such a well executed way.  Every part is turned up and blended into this hard to grasp chaos, and I absolutely love it.  The hard to grasp aspects of the album are good aspects, but took awhile to get my head around It took awhile to warm up to Vicky’s style, but to be absolutely honest the difference of style between the old vocals and news ones isn’t too drastic.  There’s just so much chaos and style exploding in the album, it takes around three listens to hone in on all the good parts.  The old albums and “The Eye of Providence” aren’t too far apart in sound, but miles apart in maturity.

 

I found the first couple albums from The Agonist seemed to have an “Emo” quality that appealed more to teens than to the typical Metal fan.  “The Eye of Providence” is certainly not anything you can compare to breakup emo bands like Pierce the Veil and Black Veil Brides.  Songs like My Witness Your Victim, I Endeavor, and A Necessary Evil prove the band has come a long way and is in a league of their own.  Each track is powerful, concise, and well versed in song structure and brilliant lyrics.  All of the songs standout on “The Eye of Providence” because of their consistent theme and hard work put into every track.  I also must commend them for the epic and dark bass solo on A Gentle Disease, it sets this album apart from other hardcore releases even more. All of these characteristics of the album remind me why I love this band and why The Agonist will continue to grow.

 

Album Rating 7/10- I really enjoyed the album and all the aspects that made this a really unique album, but found it a little weak in some areas.  I will most likely forget this album later in the year, because there are so much more powerful albums to come in 2015.