Review Archive

Archive of All Reviews, Ever.

 

Battle Beast Unholy Savior Review

 

 

Finnish Power Metal band, Battle Beast, is back in 2015 with the most epic album of the year so far, “Unholy Savior”.  The incredibly energetic and anthem writing band has a reputation for creating fantastic Traditional Metal sounds.  Their previous self titled album was a hit, containing several gems like Out of Control and Black Ninja.  That album set high expectations, because of the start to finish quality and excellent Power Metal tracks back to back.  It wasn’t the best album of 2013, but more of an unsung hero.  After that album, you expected something of similar caliber, but “Unholy Savior” is a step above.  If you like dragon slaying, battle, and epic sound tracking music, this album is definitely to your liking.  The first time I heard Battle Beast, I was instantly blown away by the immense power from every area of the band.  The vocals are insanely powerful and diverse along with melodic and speedy guitars and perfectly executed speed drumming.  The new album is all of that and more.

 

“Unholy Savior” is an all out epic Power Metal album with everything a fan could want.  The guitars are all over the place, technical, fast, and squealing, adding so much dynamic to the music.  The vocals are powerful and very well executed, each word is easily heard and sang with a true passion.  The drums are a good base and add a controlled chaos sound to the music, making it very dynamic.  I have trouble hearing the bass in the faster parts however, meaning the music lacks that nice bottom end.  And with most Power Metal albums in the 2010s and even 2000s, a lot of the tracks sound very similar and you tend to mistake one for another.

 

Lionheart, Unholy Savior, Sea of Dreams, and Angel Cry are my main highlights of the album.  Lion Heart opens the album fast and furious, with an incredibly catchy vocal line and awesome guitar work.  Unholy Savior fits the whole theme of the album perfectly with mind blowing instrumentation and a great anthemic theme.  Sea of Dreams is more melodic and more ballad-like than other tracks, containing other instruments like a flute and acoustic guitar.  Angel Cry is a moving epic end gamer to the album, summing up the power of the album perfectly.  Speed and Danger is also a fantastic track and one of the fastest tracks Battle Beast has put out for awhile.  These are just some of the great tracks on the album to give you an insight of what to expect.

 

“Unholy Savior” is a spectacular Power Metal album all the way through.  I really enjoyed the subtle 80’s vibe throughout the album as well.  The evocative 80’s sound reminded me of Journey’s use of synths and lead guitar in a good way.  Battle Beast know how to take sounds from an older generation of Metal and Rock and transplant it into modern times, so that these talents can be accessed by a newer generation.  I dare to say that “Unholy Savior” impressed me more than the previous two Hammerfall albums, even though that is blasphemy to my own ears.  Battle Beast is newer and has a whole new sound, not yet stale and watered down yet.  I expect this album and Battle Beast as a whole to be revered and respected across the seas and genres.  Battle Beast could be around for quite awhile.

 

Overall Album Rating 8/10

 

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“Dormant Heart” Sylosis Review 2015

 

January 19th, 2015

UK Progressive Death Metal Band, Sylosis, have risen to great success in recent years with their unique and dark vibes in blisteringly heavy music.  Since 2007 the band has pounded out interesting and intense albums like Conclusion of an Age, Edge of the Earth, and the popular Monolith.  They have also released two EPs and an independently released seven track live album.  The band has a certain artistry and ever changing sound that appeals to the complicated Metal listeners.  They combine Prog and Death Metal with grinding Thrash riffs and vocals, creating a much heavier and layered version of Trivium.  It is an acquired taste, but well deserving of special recognition.  I hadn’t heard Sylosis until the brand new album “Dormant Heart” dropped this year.  Immediately upon listening to Mercy, I decided this album deserved a review.

 

“Dormant Heart”  is a mix of hardcore, Progressive, and Industrial sound, making for an unpatterned listing experience with many layers.  Upon listening, you can hear the mastery and work that was put into the composition of this album.  The layers of guitars and the pounding of the drums is much less drowning and repetitive than I expected.  It is a lot more refined, making it interesting and great music to listen to during road trips.  The vocals range from deep grunting to powerful mid ranged screams, adding a much needed diversity to separate this from typical “Thrash Metal”.  Don’t be fooled, you can still hear those influences in tracks like To Build a Bomb, Overthrown, and Victims and Pawns. The interesting Progressive sounds come from the guitars and occasional ambient fills, creating a whole new vibe with each track.  Mercy and the title track really stand out on Dormant Heart”, because they’re really different from what the other bands in Sylosis’ wheelhouse put out.  The best track of the album however is the last.  Quiescent is such a dark and proggy song, it made me wonder why the album didn’t contain more brilliance like it.  If the whole album illustrated this much emotion and passion, it’d get much higher ratings.   The creativity is well represented and much appreciated in Death Metal.

 

As a fan of Death Metal, I strive to hear an album that is unique and something completely different from the other recent albums in the genre.  Death Metal can be convoluted and you’re typical band is a dime a dozen, but Sylosis strive to be a different band with different sound.  Yes the vocals are your typical growls and screams, in and out of proper annunciation, but it is broken up by dynamic riffs and interesting time signatures.  I notice these attributes the most on “Dormant Heart” than other Sylosis albums.  The growth in this album is quite large, but I am left with desiring more after such a prominent track, which could be done on purpose to pull the listener in.  Whatever the target was for “Dormant Heart” Sylosis did a commendable job at succeeded.

 

Album rating 6/10

 

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“Not Just Tits In a Corset” by Jillian Hughes Kirtland Review

 

 

 

As a fan of female vocals, I am always interested in learning more about how women contribute to Metal.  Not Just Tits In a Corset should be revered as a “game changing” book, as so many front women in the book strive to utterly destroy stereotypes about women in metal.  Doro Pesch and author Jillian Hughes Kirtland went to great lengths to create this book, that’s obvious from the great quality.  The book is truly a celebration of how far Metal as come with gender equality, but also how much it still needs to be progressed.  The book features the best vocalists and instrumentalists from all over the world, candidly discussing their personal accounts and stories about being in Metal as a woman.  It features vocalists and instrumentalists Cristina Scabbia, Charlotte Wessels, Morgan Lander, Alissa White Gluz, Angela Gossow, Anneke Van Giersbergen, Maria Brink, Lzzy Hale, Elize Ryd, Floor Jansen, Tarja Turunen, Simone Simons, Lita Ford, and so many more incredible talents.  Each account in the book from the contributing musicians is inspiring, intelligent, and honest.  The words written in this book are incredibly powerful and reflect the power these incredible artists have on and off the stage.
Not Just Tits In a Corset deserves to be globally revered and a multi targeted book, as a guide and as a testament to how society is still not handling gender equality correctly.  This book’s message is so perfectly clear and accessible to anyone, not just Metal fans or aspiring young women.  This book has changed the way I will go about reviews on this website.  “Female Metal” is not a genre and I honestly feel mislead by other review sites and record companies.  Women in Metal are still a minority, but the amount is rapidly growing as the trailblazers in this book have inspired so many.  One day, I hope the message of this book is spread throughout all areas of society and not just music.  If you want this change or even don’t want this change, read Not Just Tits In a Corset.  It will inspire you, no matter who you are.

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A Metal Insight to 2015

 

 

 

2015 brings in a whole new year of Metal to look forward to as many bands have already announced new releases as well as amazing tours.  After an exploding year of Metal in 2014, I’m guessing this ever diverse musical genre can only get better.  Whether you like Death, Thrash, Symphonic, or Black there’s probably going to be a release for you in the next coming year.  I say this because the genre has recently grown exponentially, adding thousands of all new bands and a resurgence of Metal popularity.  Also, old classics are coming back strong this year, which means a ton of new music for everyone in the new year.   There are negative sides to it growing and getting more recognition however, as Black Veil Brides is still alive and decently thriving.   Below I will list and expand on some releases and tours that you can look forward to that don’t involve your typical Emo-Rock boy bands.

 

Dark Tranquility With Insomnium North American Tour

 

In late December, Dark Tranquility announced a North American tour with Finnish Melodic Death Metal band, Insomnium.  The tour has already embarked but you can check out the remaining dates below.  I have seen both bands live before and highly suggest them one hundred percent.

 

Kamelot with Dragonforce North American tour

 

A night of Power Metal at its best, what more do you want in 2015?  Kamelot are also currently in production of a new album, sadly without much detail yet.  Check out tour dates below.

 

http://enterthevault.com/artist.php?id=47

 

 

Nightwish Endless Forms Most Beautiful, NA Tour With Sabaton/Delain

 

2015 is set to be the biggest year for Nightwish since the release of Imaginaerum in 2011, with a brand new album with a new vocalist and a new drummer, but also a massive North American tour.  Nightwish is easily the most revered Symphonic Metal band of all time, so the wait for a new album has been seemingly long.  “Endless Forms Most Beautiful” is said to utilize the softer and beautiful intricacies of Floor Jansen’s vocals.  The title is inspired by a quote from Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species. The album is also said to have a whole new sound that we’ve never heard from the band.  From the “Making Of” videos for the new album, you can see how hard Tuomas worked to make the new album and truly put everything he had into it.  The entire band has a level of musicianship that is unmatched, so I honestly expect nothing less than a total masterpiece from this album.

 

Nightwish are also embarking on a month long North American tour upon the release of their new album.  This tour is all over the country and features two of the best metal bands right now, Power Metal band Sabaton and Gothic Symphonic Metal band Delain.  There is not going to be a better European tour in the US this year, so I highly recommend buying your tickets as soon as possible. Do not miss this tour.

 

http://nightwish.com/en/news

 

http://enterthevault.com/

 

Battle Beast Unholy Savior  

 

Finnish Female Fronted Power Metal band, Battle Beast, is back in 2015 with new traditional influenced album.  “Unholy Savior” comes out early, January 13th to be exact.  The album features a broader range of styles and different emotional influences than previous albums.  Guitarist and writer Anton wanted to go farther on his “spiritual journey” of music and expand the horizons of Battle Beast’s sound.

 

The Track listing for UNHOLY SAVIOR will be as follows:

 

  1. Lionheart
  2. Unholy Savior
  3. I Want The World….And Everything In It
  4. Madness
  5. Sea Of Dreams
  6. Speed And Danger
  7. Touch In The Night
  8. The Black Swordsman
  9. Hero’s Quest
  10. Far Far Away
  11. Angel Cry

 

http://www.battlebeast.fi/

 

 

Sylosis Dormant Heart

Progressive Death Metal band Sylosis are back in 2015 with a crazy technical and shredding album “Dormant Heart”.  With a new drummer, Ali Richardson from DevilDriver, the band aims to come back heavier and darker than ever.  The album drops January 17th via Nuclear Blast Records, but you can preorder it still on their site.

 

http://sylosis.com/

 

 

Blind Guardian Beyond the Red Mirror

German Power Metal band are releasing their 10th studio album January 30th, 2015.  “A story between science fiction and fantasy,” explains Blind Guardian vocalist and lyricist Hansi Kürsch. “The story begins with our 1995 album, Imaginations from the Other Side. The two worlds described therein have changed dramatically for the worse since then. While there used to be several passages between the worlds, there is only one gate left now: The Red Mirror. It has to be found at any cost.”  It is their first release in five years and is highly anticipated, because of its recent high mark reviews from Blabbermouth and other popular sites.  For the hardcore fans of Power Metal I can say that this album will be everything you expect from Blind Guardian, no tricks or frills here.

 

Halestorm

 

If you caught any of Halestorm’s studio diary videos or their recent live shows, you know they’ve got a screamer of an album coming very soon this year.  You also know the band is teasing the new album picture by picture, purposely torturing the fans.  The reveal however is set for January 13th.  There are no more details beyond the date and song titles.  Check out more below.

 

http://www.halestormrocks.com/11315

 

http://www.blabbermouth.net/news/halestorms-lzzy-hale-on-upcoming-album-its-very-organic-and-unapologetically-us/

 

 

Bands in Production

 

Kamelot

Deftones

Soilwork

Fear Factory

Decide

Five Finger Death Punch

Stone Sour

Symphony X

Dimmu Borgir

Soulfly

Paradise Lost

 

 

For a full comprehensive list of heavy metal releases go here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2015_in_heavy_metal_music

 

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 Top Ten Best Albums of 2014

 

 

 

2014 has been a prestigious year in metal, with many new albums, new bands, break ups, huge tours, and great losses.  All of these events and highlights attributed to metal being a huge topic this year, very deservedly.  The amount of crossover fans from country, pop, electronica, and indie to hard rock and metal is astounding.  Many bands and artists pushed the limits with music and media this year, gaining metal the popularity it deserves.  As a very passionate metal fan, this year made me proud of this musical genre and lifestyle.  I discovered more incredible bands this year than I have in my entire life, meaning the new releases caught my attention in special ways; Not to mention the several tours I had the lucky pleasure of experiencing in person.

 

 

Summing up a year in metal in just one post is difficult, so I decided to list what I think are the best albums of the year.  This list is merely based on quality of music and personal preference, not based on gain in popularity or popular opinion (unlike other review sites).  It took all year long to develop this list, as more and more new releases upped the anty on talent, quality, passion, and true musicianship.  Picking the top ten for the year wasn’t easy, but these choices for me are definitive.  The amount of incredible and intelligent metal musicians prevailed this year, giving hope to metal music afterall.  If it weren’t for true passion in metal, 2014 wouldn’t be a year to remember for me; Passion being the biggest contributor to my decision making and a word you will hear throughout this post.

 

 

Top 10 Mainstream Releases

 

1: The Human Contradiction (Deluxe Version) by Delain

 

Upon my first listen on a rainy April Wednesday to this album and my first concentrated listen of this Dutch Symphonic Metal band, I was bombarded with sounds and characteristics that were foreign to me.  Every aspect to what I was hearing was new and very intriguing.  I found myself getting lost in the music and dissecting it as I listened.  The album was loud, layered, textured with beautiful melodies and contrasting heavy riffs.  The keyboards and synth were grand, yet not overpowering.  The writing was complicated and passionate, every track exploding with personality and emotion.  The vocals in the forefront, filled with technical and poppy lines throughout each track, each word well placed in a defined pocket of music.  Every aspect, every measure, every characteristic of “The Human Contradiction” blew me away with the first note to the last note.  From the heavy and dark intro Here Come the Vultures, to the incredible poppy anthem Stardust, to epic and powerful game ender Tragedy of the Commons, this album is a Symphonic Metal Masterpiece.  Upon first listen, this band opened a whole new world of metal to me and instantly became one of my all time favorites.

 

Delain have this way of crafting well thought out, intelligent, mesmerizing music that is just so different than anything being produced today.  You can hear directly how each member contributes to each track individually, giving the music life and its own personality.  Considering Delain started out as a collaboration studio project by Martijn Westerholt, the growth is exponential in the music.  You can hear the growth of the band in “The Human Contradiction” especially.  It is matured and well versed in subjects the band is passionate about, creating this very unique identity for the band.  The vocals are absolutely stunning and room filling from lead vocalist, Charlotte Wessels, and the lyrics are so perfectly delivered.  The instrumentation from Zoer, Martijn, Timo, and Otto is powerful and contrasted with interesting subtleties.  The bass guitar is well heard with heavy and low bass lines, like on Army of Dolls.  The synth and keyboards are epic, mimicking the sound of an entire orchestra.  The guitar is punching, powerful, and screaming with technique.  The drums are simple, balancing out the sound perfectly.   All of these aspects make “The Human Contradiction” and Delain’s music in general catchy and powerful unlike anything you’ve ever heard before.  Each track is interlaced and streams together, almost like a story or a musical.  Regardless of how people characterize this album, I think it’s an incredible and transcendent Symphonic Metal release and I highly suggest it at any age or musical preference.

 

I picked the Deluxe Edition of the album because it is 100% of Delain’s effort.  Two bonus tracks and perfectly performed live tracks adds to the incredibly high quality of the album.  Scarlet is a moving, powerful track that is a gorgeous stripped down version of Delain.  It highlights beautiful vocals of Charlotte and the classical abilities of Martijn on keys.  This song is really a defining track from the band, because it is every characteristic that makes this band great slowed and based on pure emotion.   Don’t Let Go is a fun upbeat heavy and dance style track that is different from Delain’s other material, showing great versatility.  The live tracks are absolutely flawless versions of other songs and are mastered surprisingly well.   Every track on this album sounds incredible and refined perfectly.  This deluxe album is my number one album of the year, because there is no album like this one and it reinvents metal in a passionate, technical, fun, engaging way.  I highly suggest listening to this band’s entire catalog and experiencing their live shows.

 

2: 5. The Gray Chapter by Slipknot

 

After the death of Paul and all the turmoil that the band has experienced for the better part of five years, I didn’t think Slipknot were ever going to tour, let alone release a huge new album.  It surprised me when they announced the new album.   I wasn’t sure what to expect, especially after hearing the first three singles.  I liked the singles, but they led me to believe that Slipknot was becoming too much centered around Corey Taylor’s vocals.  As much as I think Corey Taylor is an amazing vocalist, Slipknot is about what each member has to contribute.  I didn’t want another Stone Sour album in the form of a Slipknot album.  After first full listen of “5. The Gray Chapter”, I was sorely proven wrong.  This album is a spectacularly heavy, dark, and intense release from the legendary American Metal band.  It is every great aspect of Slipknot’s music in one epic album.  I was genuinely surprised by their comeback with this album.  The band took all the pain, turmoil, and emotions from over the years and used it for the fuel of writing this new album.

 

“5. The Gray Chapter” has every Slipknot characteristic a cherished fan might expect.  Tracks like the intro XIX, Skeptic and Custer are reminiscent of “Iowa” in the darkness and heavy guitars and percussion.  Other tracks have undertones from “Subliminal Verses” and the self titled album, creating slow and dark haunting melodies through vocals and guitars.  There is of course that mainstream “All Hope is Gone” sound on tracks like The Negative One and catchy song Killpop that reminds me of Vermillion.  This mixture of classic Slipknot and new evolved Slipknot is brilliant, pulling you in differently with each track.  The darkness they achieved on certain tracks like Goodbye and If Rain Is What You Want is captivating.  Once again Slipknot’s darkside has prevailed and inspired absolutely brilliant tracks.

 

It is no doubt that this album is a tribute to Paul Gray, with songs like Skeptic and Goodbye.  The heaviest part of the album is not the instrumentation, but the sadness and frustration.  The burden of losing Paul hangs over this album and somehow brings it to life in an absolutely incredible way.  Fans can complain about the “change” or “new sound”, overlooking the complexity and beauty of the album, but it will never demean the album’s sentimental value.  This is the first album without Paul, but it keeps him alive somehow.  I think all of the emotion and sentimental thoughts put into it is why it may be Slipknot’s best album ever and why it has the number two spot on this list.

 

3: War Eternal by Arch Enemy

 

I had sadly never heard of Arch Enemy (due to living under an American rock) until the headline that Angela Gossow had stepped down as lead singer of the Melodic Death Metal band.  The band then brought in former singer of The Agonist Alissa White-Gluz and the news scattered about with hateful and disappointed forums.   As a previous fan of The Agonist, I was ecstatic to see Alissa getting an opportunity to use the heavy side of her in such a prestigious band.  I knew she could handle anything Michael and company threw at her, as she was personally mentored by Angela and asked to fill the spot in the band.  When the band announced “War Eternal”, I had no idea what to expect.  Alissa can also do clean vocals, so I wondered if Arch Enemy were going to use this dueling talent.  The fans were worried about a “softer” side of the band.  Upon first listen, I was enraged by any negative reviews or comments I had read prior, because of how absolutely powerful and brilliant this album is.  Being that this is my first Arch Enemy album that I’ve heard, I became a fan and now love their entire discography.

 

“War Eternal” is a brilliantly composed album about the wars we face everyday.  Whether it’s people trying to control you, judge you, hurt you, or inner struggles this album empowers you to rise above.  The theme of this album is very relevant to modern times, seeming like a heavy soundtrack to going through the trials of high school.  The instrumentation is obviously incredible, mixing pummeling riffs with well executed melodic solos.  The drums are spot on and driving along with the bass, truly carrying the rhythm.  The vocals on this album are extremely heavy and true to Arch Enemy’s roots.   The lyrics are still incredibly audible, like Angela had achieved on “Khaos Legion”.  The guitars are layered and constructed with extreme technical ability, adding a vast depth of sound on this album more than previous releases from the band.

 

This album is number three on the 2014 best album list because of the authenticity and pure quality of Melodic Death Metal Arch Enemy has created.  Everything about it is excellent and profound with everything I expect from a Melodeath album.  The transition of Angela’s style to Alissa’s style is a game changer for the band, and keeps them going in modern metal times.  The change is huge, but the change is ultimately good.  As long as Michael is the sole writer for the band, I don’t foresee anything half-effort ever coming from Arch Enemy.

 

4: Massive Addictive by Amaranthe

 

Amaranthe, a Gothenburg Metal band with a brand of their own, has struck big once again after the profound success of “The Nexus” album.  It was uncertain if Amaranthe could put out an album of equal or better quality, after the perfect mix of heaviness and poppy vocals were achieved.  The band mixes power vocals, poppy vocals, and death growls with loud and catchy synths and techno.  The lead guitarist Olof tames the three vocalists with melodic and shredding guitar riffs.  This creates a unique blend of sound that I’ve never experienced before with any metal band.  Having three vocalists and three exceptional instrumentalists creates stadium filling sound, especially with anthemic songs like The Nexus, 1,000,000 Light Years Away, and Invincible.  There’s certainly no lack of explosive sound and energy piercing through every Amaranthe track, and that energy and enthusiasm is what makes their music so great.

 

“Massive Addictive” is everything Amaranthe has ever achieved with any release, ten fold.  The energy, passion, technicality, and effort put into this new album is incomparable to 90% of the albums I’ve ever heard.  This album may take time to grow on you, because it is a very fast paced techno metal album and is hard to grasp.  It takes several listens to comprehend all that’s going on in this album.  The vocals are huge and powerful, providing attitude and identity to the album.  Between Jake E’s powerful vocals, Elize’s innocent poppy lines, and Henrik’s chesty growls the album is not short of dynamic sound.  The perfectly pocketed vocal lines are as catchy as ever on this latest Amaranthe album, clearly justifying the name for the album.  The guitar work from rhythmic riffs in the background and insane shredding melodic solos is absolutely incredible.  If it weren’t for Olof, this album might be overpowered by the vocal section.  His visionary guitar work adds a much needed balance to the album, keeping it to it’s melodic metal roots.  Olof had more free reign to get creative on this album more than past releases, adding a new sound and epic quality to “Massive Addictive”.  Songs like Dynamite, Drop Dead Cynical, and Digital World are blazingly fast and heavy, more than ever before.  Over and
Done, Trinity, and True are softer songs with moving vocals, adding depth and diversity.

 

I think “Massive Addictive” deserves the number four spot on this list because it is the bravest metal release of the year.  Amaranthe dares to defy genre and metal stereotypes and create something one hundred percent authentic to themselves.  The passion and perseverance comes out strongly in every song this band puts out.  Their music is incredibly unique and brings something completely different to the world of metal.  The fact that there’s no album that sounds even close to “Massive Addictive” is a sign that Amaranthe strive to create authentic music, bringing a new string of metal into modern times.

 

5: IV- One With the Storm by Ghost Brigade

 

Ghost Brigade is a Melodic Death Metal band from Finland, mixing Doom Metal lyrics and Death growls with slow building guitars.  Their special blend of music creates ethereal, mood setting music that is truly hard to describe.  Past albums from the band have been incredibly dark and heavy, with Sludge like characteristics.  “Isolation Songs” their second album had a perfect blend of Death Metal tracks like Suffocated and Birth, then Doom Metal tracks like Into The Black Light and My Heart Is a Tomb.  “Guided By Fire” was an all out growl fest with echoey guitar solos and heavy drums.  The band strives to get better with each album and advance their sound, getting darker and deeper with each one.

 

Ghost Brigade’s new album achieves the growth of quality perfectly, getting darker and even more ethereal than ever before.  “IV- One With the Storm” is a complicated and emotional album.  Each song is much different than past releases from the band, but definitely keeps the same characteristics that make their music so captivating.  The guitar work stands out to me the most on this album, holding a consistent building sound with each track.  The guitars create this incredible ominous and absolutely heavy sound that I’ve never heard on any other album before.  Songs like Departures, Electra Complex, and one of my favorite songs of the year, Long Way To the Graves highlight this signature guitar sound.  Aurora is one of the heaviest songs on this album and is the best single from the album so far.  Aurora and every track on the album is well balanced between instrumentation and clean vocals and grunts.  The mix of Death Metal and Doom Metal is perfection on this album, a mix no other band achieved quite as well this year.

 

It differs from any Melodic Death Metal album released this year, surpassing In Flames and At the Gates ten fold in my opinion.  Ghost Brigade created a perfectly balanced and intricately crafted album, which I find rare in the stereotypical genre of Death Metal.  This album made it on the list because of the emotion it successfully captures and delivers in a powerful way.  The way they combine Nihilistic yet hopeful themes into Death Metal is pretty brilliant and can’t be heard anywhere else besides bands like Summoning and Omnium Gatherum.  Ghost Brigade is high on this list because they released one of the most unique albums of the year and the album transcends 95% of the music I’ve heard this year.

 

6: The Quantum Enigma by Epica

 

Epica being one of the best Symphonic Metal bands of all time have released brilliantly composed albums over a decade of existence.  The level of pedigree this band achieves with albums is absolutely legendary.  The combination of Classical Themes with grand orchestrals and well executed operatic vocals with heavy instrumentation and growls from Mark Jansen is Symphonic Metal at its best.  Epica have a huge signature sound that either fills your entire house and stadiums, or is soft enough to sleep to.  With every album this band gets better and creates even bigger sounds that cannot be matched.  “Requiem For the Indifferent” is such an amazing album and conquered so many fans to where they believed it couldn’t be topped.  The same quality was achieved with older records  “Design Your Universe” and “The Divine Conspiracy”, both contenders for best albums of all time.  So how could Epica ever top those albums and advance their sound to a better level?  They topped those albums by going in a brave new direction and smashing any predispositions about the band, creating something completely different and daring.  Epica is a trailblazing band and “The Quantum Enigma” proves it.

 

What Epica did with this new album strives for a new level of masterful Symphonic Metal that is unlike any release in their listed genre.  The orchestra work underneath the pounding instrumentation from the band create a completely full sound.  The songs are as fast and as technical as ever, sounding completely succinct with every note, having the tightest sound I’ve ever heard from the band.  The layers upon layers of Classical influence is what makes this album so great.  The sound is ghastly large and potent on this album because of these layers.  The vocals of Simone are ever interlaced between Classical, Power, and pure Symphonic influences.  She combines pure emotion and power to deliver cleverly written modernized lyrics, much like Epica achieves on every album, but even greater.  With absolutely pounding songs like The Essence of Silence, Victims of Contingency, and Unchain Utopia, the band fills the mind and ears, captivating the listener with every tightened and refined beat.  The Melodic side of each song balances out the heaviness perfectly, making it certainly not your typical Metal album.  This album is different, because it is an album so intelligently layered that it took me at least five full listens to be able to compartmentalize it.  At first it didn’t grab me, but the more I listened to it the more I could appreciate it.

“The Quantum Enigma” deserves to be on this list, because it is one of the best examples of Symphonic Metal I’ve ever heard.  It takes every quality from the genre and reinvents it in a personalized way.  It is so different, yet true to the defined identity of Epica.  Each of their albums is its own project and creates its own world, but this album creates its own universe where traditionality and modernism collide in the heaviest way possible.  Each album has its own great aspects and brilliance.  This album’s sound is so vast, I simply cannot describe it without boring everyone to death.  It is Epica’s best and most textured, layered, and refined album yet, so just give it your best concentrated listen.

 

7: Z10 by Devin Townsend Project

 

The musical mastership and inventiveness of Devin Townsend is unparalleled in our current universe, because of his ability to mix creativity, intelligence, Sci-fi, inner struggles, and Metal all into one progressive monster.  Summing up Devin Townsend project in a two paragraph review is simply not possible.  He has this imaginative way of creating non stereotypical metal, mixing Power Metal and Progressive Metal with his own signature sound.  The edition of his accompanying musicians adds another incredible aspect to this particular project, especially the contrast of female vocals from Anneke van Giersbergen.  Every album is straightforward and true to the styles and creation of Devin Townsend, but this new album is particularly epic and huge with Progressive sound.  This album is nothing short of a Soundtrack to an epic Science Fiction blockbuster and it is a great approachable Prog Metal album

 

The new album from Devin Townsend Project is essentially three albums smashed into a two disc compilation.  Z10 is an album that has two sides to it, a side similar to “Epicloud” and “Ghost” with melodic touches from Anneke and well executed synth throughout disc one.   Songs like Rejoice, Universal Flame, and Forever are similar and in the similar gauge of songs off other albums, while other tracks like A New Reign and Midnight Sun are really different from past work from Devin.  The first disc is astounding with passion and power and would be an amazing album alone, but Devin had to add another spin on this album.  The second disc is a soundtrack to Devin’s Ziltoid character that has been chronicled throughout the past couple albums.  It’s full of chaos and good character, allowing you to use your imagination and put your own vision to the Ziltoid.  The second disc is heavier than the first disc, breaking up one album into two completely different projects.  It is rare that a band can achieve this kind of diversity on just one album, but I am not surprised that Devin achieved this.  While this album is not my favorite release from Devin Townsend Project, it’s still an absolutely amazing release of 2014.

8: Broken Crown Halo by Lacuna Coil

 

Lacuna Coil is one of my favorite metal bands of all time no doubt, but I had a love hate relationship with their last release “Dark Adrenaline”.  I appreciated the change up and modernized concept of the album, but none of the tracks truly captured my attention.  I wanted to like it, as I had been waiting for a new album for awhile, but it just didn’t impress me compared to other releases that year.  I was not confident in Lacuna Coil after that album and did not anticipate the next album being any better.  In true Metal fashion, the band proved me sorely wrong and exceeded all expectations.  “Broken Crown Halo” is everything I expected from such an amazing Gothic Metal band and so much more.  This album is different from anything they’ve put out, but does not lose the band’s original identity, beating the hell out of “Dark Adrenaline”.  Every song on this new album is dynamite and catchy, with brilliantly delivered Melodic vocal lines that soar above past albums where Cristina was more in the background.   Lacuna Coil rises to their full potential on this album.

 

Every song is of great quality from anthemic Nothing Stands in Our Way, to dark and melodic Zombies, to heartfelt and hard hitting track One Cold Day.  Every song is impressive as the next and not one song falls flat, thanks to the brilliant dark composition of this album and the power coming from the vocals and bass.  “Broken Crown Halo” is full of sounds from every spectrum, full with heavy instrumentation and intricate vocal lines fitting atop the distorted riffs.  Songs like I Burn In You and In the End I Feel Alive have a unique off beat that keep the album interesting.  Then slow building track One Cold Day ends the album in an epic way, full of pain and darkness, letting Cristina deliver a hopeful and emotional vocal line.  This is one of my favorite Lacuna Coil songs, because of how dynamic and dark it is.  The album overall is absolutely solid and  “Broken Crown Halo” certainly worth the recognition of the masses.  The album would be higher on this list it weren’t for the domination of Symphonic Metal, because of that the album didn’t stick with me very long.

 

 

9:  Home Is Where The Heart Is by Any Given Day

 

A German Melodic Death Metal band released one of the most surprising albums of the year with hardcore and moving album “Home is Where the Heart Is”.  For a debut album and considering the band isn’t very well known, this album is absolutely incredible.  The guitars are incredibly heavy and technical, reminiscent of Adam from Killswitch Engage and his fast melodic style.  The vocals are a mix of chesty growls and high pitched screams and spot on clean vocals from lead vocalist Dennis Diehl.  Dennis has powerful and unique male vocals, unlike anything I’ve ever heard.  The drums are simple but perfectly placed as a structural support for the music.  The bass is dropped extremely low and pounds the rhythm full and audibly.  Already with their first album, the band has put everything they have into it.  It is a brilliant effort from the band and absolutely caught me by surprise upon first listen.

 

The title track is a perfect example of everything that makes this band great.    The rhythmic and technical instrumentation drives hard, while the vocals pound and soar, and the music comes together with a catchy formula.  Every track on the album is a powerful anthem:  From Anthem for the Voiceless, The Beginning of the End, Never Say Die,  and If Tomorrow Never Shows, the album has a pounding and strong song to lift you up at any occasion.  The mix of hardcore and melodic metal is not foreign to me, but this album seems to capture it in a whole new way.  Some of the songs on the album are unlike anything I’ve heard in metal, especially since the uprising of Metalcore in America.  Genre aside, this album is beautiful and heavy at the same time.  It dares to be different than anything out there while being a very approachable Death Metal album.  “Home Is Where the Heart Is” is one of my favorite albums of 2014, because it surprised me almost as much as number one of this list.

 

10:  High Priestess by Kobra and the Lotus

 

Regardless of recent opinions from online blogs saying that this band “should stick to being an Iron Maiden tribute band”, I find the latest release from Kobra and the Lotus beastly and of high quality. This band mixes Traditional Metal with Modern Metal, similar to Halestorm’s approach but with more of a European sound to it.  The band is set apart from other Power Metal bands, because of the female Alto vocals from powerhouse vocalist Kobra Paige.  The band is highly acclaimed by manager and supporter Gene Simmons who originally discovered the band.  Kobra Paige is the main songwriter for the band, inspired by theatrical and wartime themes, making their music an epic experience.  Her vocal range is also a huge highlight of the band, ranging from high pitched screams, to lower aggressive vocals, to ballad soften tones.  The range of the entire band is incredible however, containing influences from Judas Priest, Dio, and even some Anthrax Thrash.  Kobra and the Lotus could be a band for old and new metal fans, if only they could escape from unfair stereotypes of metal elitists.  Nonetheless, the band continues to put out solid albums and blow me away with their style.

“High Priestess” is an excellent Power Metal album from a Canadian band with sounds that are a blast from the past.  The album has awesome tracks that highlight the band’s identity more than other tracks do.    I am, I am is a fast one of the album with impressive power screams and low bending speed metal guitars.  Hold On is my favorite track off “High Priestess”, because of the energy and technicality it shows throughout each instrument.   Heartbeat is a blazingly fast track, one of my favorite tracks on this album. Soldier is a beautiful rhythmic track, telling a tale of a innocent soldier going through battle, painting a very vivid picture from the eyes of a man of war.  Not every track on the album is up to the quality of the ones I listed above and that’s why it is last on the list, but it is by no means a bad album.  I find this to be a very underrated album of 2014 and I think it deserves to be on more top ten lists.


*Notes*

 

*I did not include “Hydra” from Within Temptation because it is a compilation album.

 

*This list is purely based on subjective opinion and if you’re opinion differs than mine, please write your own list and share it with me.

 

 

Honorable Mentions

 

Suspended At Aphelion by While Heaven Wept  Review: http://metalvalkyriereviews.wordpress.com/2014/11/24/while-heaven-wept-suspended-at-aphelion-review/

 

Melana Chasmata by Triptykon

 

Shadows of a Dying Sun by Insomnium

 

Guilty by Dawn of Eternity Review: http://metalvalkyriereviews.wordpress.com/2014/09/26/i-review-independent-symphonic-band-dawn-of-eternity/

 

Back From the Edge by Mindmaze Review: https://wordpress.com/posts/metalvalkyriereviews.wordpress.com

 

A New Dawn Ending by Ancient Bards

 

Origins by Eluveitie

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While Heaven Wept Suspended at Aphelion Review

 

 

 

Virginian Doom Metal band, While Heaven Wept, create passionate music that is a league of its own.  The band mixes classical styles with modern progressive music to make incredibly ethereal music.  Their last record “Fear of Infinity” was an explosive Power album that contained jam after jam, threading passion through each and every line, weaving brilliance as each track was produced.  This album is rivaled with Arjen Lucassen’s Star One and any Dream Theater album released in recent years.  After “Fear of Infinity” and earlier work “Vast Oceans Lachrymose”, While Heaven Wept was posed with the task of creating a new, more moving, more mind blowing album.  This task was vastly completed with their 2014 album, Suspended At Aphelion.

 

Upon first listen to While Heaven Wept’s new album, you are opened up to a number of transcending sounds throughout each track.  From the moving and saddened strings, to the powerful and smooth delivered vocal lines, to the slow building guitars and drums, this album can only be described as a masterpiece.  The intro track Introspectus is a classical movement, strings and classical acoustic guitar bringing a feel reminiscent of Greensleeves.  The album then drops into the Power and Doom Metal mix with partner tracks Icarus and I and Ardor.  The two tracks are brilliantly melded and crafted together, with a slow building delivery much like a soundtrack to a Medieval movie.  Icarus and I also mixes growling with powerful vocals, mixing perfectly to prove this band isn’t just another Prog band.  Ardor is more moving and theatrical compared to its sister track, bursting with emotion and passion.  Heartburst is an even more moving track, with a slow building piano melody building on top of light synth, all highlighting the soft and deepened vocals.  The build up into the dueling vocals and neoclassical guitar solo is absolutely brilliant and captivating on this track.  This song definitely gives the feel I expected with a new While Heaven Wept album: dark, gloomy, saddened, and uplifted all at the same time.

 

“Suspended At Aphelion” does pick up into the Doom Metal side with the faster jamming track Indifference Turned To Paralysis.  The bass line on this track is technical and played with fast precision, adding a new layer to the sound on this album.  As a bassist, I applaud any band who makes the bass a stand out instrument on albums.  The three part epic track The Memory of Bleeding/ Souls in Permafrost/ Searching the Stars is layered with four thousand different sounds and feelings, without becoming overwhelming and confusing.  The vocals are really unique on this three part epic, containing perfectly harmonized vocals from two well versed vocalists.  This song is particularly catchy and interesting because of the changing tempo coming from the drums, adding even more layers of the music.  Every band has layers, but no one flows through the layers like While Heaven Wept.  Each layer sounds carefully crafted and inspired by this harmony the band always achieves on every album.  Reminiscent of Strangers / Lifelines Lost is evidence of the layers with a slow piano ballad beginning, building into brilliant guitar work with excellent soloing one after another., leading into soft group sung vocals. Restrospectus is an album closer with trademarked strings, leaving you with a feeling of melancholy, yet hope.  It is a perfect way to wrap up this short but beautiful album.

 

The passion, artistry, writing, and well thought out instrumentation and vocal melodies that were put into “Suspended At Aphelion” make it a masterpiece of an album.

 

Album Rating 8/10

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Ghost Brigade Release New Transcending Melodeath Album

 

 

 

Finnish Melodic Death and Doom Metal band, Ghost Brigade, are one of the up and coming Death Metal bands as of now, even though they’ve written three absolute pounding albums since their birth in 2005.  The Finnish band melds hopeful and beautiful melodies with dark and heavy instrumentation, with absolutely incredible chest rattling growls.  The melded sound is unlike any metal out there, rivaling Insomnium and Omnium Gatherum in Melodic Death Metal, but remaining their own sound.  What sets them apart is their resonating and trendsetting melodic clean singing from lead vocalist Manne Ikonen.  The band is dark and moody, driving with subtleties and power, making for a sound that engulfs your senses from the first listen.  There is something ethereal, something unexplained, something inaudibly incredible about this band’s sound.  Which is why their new album IV-One With The Storm is one of my favorite albums of 2014.

 

Ghost Brigade’s new album IV-One With The Storm is everything I expected in a new release from them, but it exceeds so much more than my expectations.  The album is as beautifully crafted and melodic as Isolation Songs and as heavy as Until Fear No Longer Defines Us.  The instrumentation is melodic and gripping, with well executed fast playing and driving rhythm. It sounds like you’re the pallbearer in a mystic land, trudging your way through shin high grasses and wet stones, with this album playing as your soundtrack.  It paints so many distinct visions in your head as you listen through it.  Each song is an entirely different soundtrack.  Ghost Brigade nailed their classic Melodic Death Metal sound with this album, and enhanced it to the best possible level.

 

The epic album begins with “Wretched Blues”, a fast strumming track with deathly melodic tones, making a dark and ominous sound.  The over six minute long track has this darkness hanging over it, with light synth in the background.  The song is haunting, slowly morphing and building with infinite layers of guitars and passion.  The sound of this album slightly reminds me of what Type O Negative achieved in their music.  Slower track “Departures” is a different track for Ghost Brigade, featuring mostly clean vocals and a less depressing sound.  It’s a brilliantly written track, succeeding at being something new from Ghost Brigade without being a negative departure from the band.  “Aurora” is an emotionally heavy track, a quality the band polished so well through the years.  It builds up from Death Metal to a melodic verse, then keeps changing with different dynamics and a tempo change.  I loved this track from the moment the band released it and find it fits very well on this diverse album.  “Disembodied Voices” is an ominous and dark track, full of melody and emotion, keeping with the typical mood of Ghost Brigade.  The song sounds of healing and hope, proving the music is just as meaningful as power ballads.  The driving instrumentation of this song pulls you in with a catchy beat.  The lead guitar adds subtleties with mini solos throughout the last half of the song, adding that truly haunting melodic sound Ghost Brigade is famous for.  The outro also includes light synth and muted vocals, leading into the next track.

 

“Electra Complex” is  creepy, mysterious, elusive, soundtrack that takes your breath away with its effortless and drifting vocals and instrumentation.  This song almost sounds like a partner to “Soulcarvers”, with similar guitar work and slow headbanging feel.  It is absolutely brilliant in its delivery.  “Electra Complex” may be one of the best songs Ghost Brigade has ever put out.  Yet another song on this album has left me speechless and with a sore neck.  “Stones and Pillars” changes the mood up from the previous tracks, proving that this album has even heavier tracks than Isolation Songs.  This track is heavy all the way through with chest rattling extreme growls, taking a break from the swaying clean vocals.  Then once again the album changes with melodic beautiful track, “Anchored”, that builds back into a hardcore sound.  The melodic and Death influences sound like they’re in a very heated battle on this track, as the tone switches back and forth like an argument.  “The Knife” is a very rhythm driven track and heavy with all elements from Ghost Brigade.  The use of high, ear piercing synth adds a new eerie and Hallows Eve touch to it.  It is a very appropriate song for this time of year.  The change of style throughout the song is refreshing and captivating too, making a complete new sound for the band.

 

“Long Way to the Graves” is a self descriptive track.  It is a long dragging, influential, slow dark ballad that will move you, taking you away to a completely new state of mind.  This song is beautiful, haunting, and inspiring all at the same time.  Listening to this track is an indescribable experience.  It is deflating and depressing, yet uplifting and inspiring with beauty.  This track feels like a soundtrack for driving through the woodlands of Finland, back from a funeral and straight to a woman you love.  It is an incredible track to say the least.  “Elämä on tulta” is the perfect ending track for this exquisite Melodeath album.  It begins slow and ominous, building into a guitar driven instrumental part, then into resonating growls and synth, continuing to place haunting music in your mind.  This song is every characteristic about Ghost Brigade has ever showed on every album all put into one song.  It is full of energy, unlike any track I’ve heard from the band yet.  The title translates from Finnish to English “Life is a fire”, which is the absolute perfect title for such a powerful track. It leaves you satisfied, yet wanting more.  Ending the moral of the album on an aggressive note, but still filled with the hopeful melodies echoing in your head.

 

Ghost Brigade once again creates the most unique, heavy, melodic, emotive, transcending album of Melodic Death Metal.  They have raised every bar and have climbed to a new height with the flawlessness of this album.  It is resonating and soaring with pure passion, tangible with conviction.  They make you believe that you’re in a deep chasm of depression, but also lift you out with this beautiful sound of hope.  Somehow this band creates incredible emotion filled music, describing emotions or lack of emotions with only three struck chords.  Their music is unlike anything I’ve ever heard, regardless of genre.  The prominent use of clean vocals on this album also makes the music extremely dynamic compared to previous albums, setting them in the center of true Melodeath.  I really can’t say enough good things about this album.  It is rare, but sometimes an album is just so fantastic that it becomes indescribable.  I hope this very descriptive and emotion fueled review is enough to make you listen to this album, as well as check out Ghost Brigade’s entire catalog.  They are the future of Melodic Death Metal.

 

Rating 9.6/10 This album sets the quality bar high for metal at the end of 2014, and I don’t think any other new release will top it for quite some time.

http://www.nihilindustry.com/

https://www.facebook.com/ghostbrigade

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Review of Black Widow from In This Moment

 

Powerful hardrock and metal band, In This Moment, are back in 2014 with heavy mainstream release Black Widow.  The follow up album to Blood, is a mix of different modern metal sounds with extreme attitude.  In This Moment and lead vocalist Maria Brink infuse hard rock with poppy hooks, feminist attitude, heavy breakdowns, and melodic vocals with a scream edge.  Blood also incorporated more techno and poppy sounds, blending two genres in a very unique way.  No doubt there is no band out there quite like In This Moment, and there is nothing out there like their new album Black Widow.

 

Black Widow has parallels with Blood, but even more attitude and darkness as well as completely new sounds to the band.  It is clear the band is going for a mainstream sound, integrating a rap rock and Korn style sound to the new album.  They also have tracks that are similar to “The Gunshow” and the entirety of Star-Crossed Wasteland.  There is something more shocking and gripping about this album than previous In This Moment releases.  I can say honestly this album is heavily targeted towards women empowerment and feminist themes.  Obviously Maria Brink is very active in female expression and it has clearly steered their music in new direction.  Regardless if you like these themes or not, there is an artistic quality that makes the music desirable.   This album is also themed around old film, having this horror movie feel to it.  Black Widow is reminiscent of Rob Zombie and Marilyn Manson as well.

 

Every track from “Sex Metal Barbie”  to “Infection” to “Big Bad Wolf” is extremely catchy and dark, with beats easy to dance to and words easy to sing along with.  These songs are audibly written for shock rock live performances, having an attitude to pull the audience in and memorize them.  Then there’s completely new and gripping tracks like “Sick Like Me” and “Sexual Hallucination”.  “Sick Like Me” is an epic, dark, melodic anthemic track that is undoubtedly one of their best tracks yet.  “Sexual Hallucination” is a power ballad featuring Shinedown’s power house frontman, Brent Smith.  This track is reminiscent of “The Promise” with the dark and gloomy weight and melodic bursting vocals from two different vocalists.  “Bloody Creature Poster Girl” is a really different track with this traditional pop sound, blended with a couple growls and heavy instrumentation.

 

Black Widow continues to surprise with a piano ballad with a dark Jazz sound never heard before in the track “The Fighter”.  This track features Maria Brink’s amazingly powerful vocals in a stripped down and unedited way.  It is a much needed track on this very poppy album.  “Bones” is a darker melodic track, staying with the poppy theme of the album, but adding a Five Finger Death Punch like heaviness.  If all the tracks were similar to “Bones”, “Sick Like Me”, and “Sexual Hallucination”, I would still label the album as metal and not pop rock however.  “Natural Born Sinner” is poppy and heavy like Blood, reminiscent of “Whore” and “Comanche”, containing a slow and dramatic build up with aggression.  This track is definitely rebelling against religious figures and themes, a newer influential subject to In This Moment’s writing.  The emotion definitely carries it beyond the actual instrumentation.  Maria Brink still has one hell of a voice and that’ll never change.  “Into The Darkness” is a disturbing and gut wrenching interlude that solidifies the women empowerment theme to it.  It tackles the subject of self doubt and inner demons, featuring a sobbing Maria, making it really difficult to listen to.  It is moving to say the least.

 

“Out Of Hell” begins with a beautiful piano intro and soft emotive vocals, reminiscent of the brilliant sound achieved with “World in Flames” of The Dream.  This is by far one of the best songs In This Moment has ever put on an album.  This track is a much needed artistic track on the album.  “Turn You” and “Rib Cage” are back to the Blood sound, bringing the metal and hardrock back to In This Moment’s prized sound.  These two tracks are good, but do not stand out compared to other tracks on the album.  I expected a more epic closing track to Black Widow, but it seems to end as quickly as it began.

 

Overall, Black Widow tends to be very disjointed and all over the place, lacking a consistent sound to pull the the album together.  The beginning of the album is very shock rock and rap rock themed, while the middle contains a power ballad and more pop-like songs, and the last four tracks tend to be a throwback to In This Moment’s melodic hard rock sound.  It sounds like the band are caught in a limbo of mainstream radio and 2000s metal.  It’s a different direction for the band, and overall they pulled it off well.  However, the first few tracks on the album are terribly executed and have no catching qualities to them.  I could’ve done without some of the songs on the album, because they just don’t fit with the other tracks.  I liked a lot of tracks on the album, but the shock rock direction of the band is demeaning and dumbing down their sound.  Maria Brink is too vastly talented to waste time with these shouty rap rock vocals.   Black Widow isn’t disappointing, but it is not the best from In This Moment.

 

 

Rating: 5/10  I stand by this review, even if it is against popular opinion.  

 

Listen for yourself here: http://loudwire.com/in-this-moment-black-widow-exclusive-album-stream/

 

http://inthismomentofficial.com/landing/

 

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Power Metal Band From Allentown PA Releases Amazing New Album

 

 

 

Mindmaze, a Traditional Metal and Power Metal band from Allentown PA, released their 2nd album this October.  As far as Power Metal goes, America is lacking in numbers, so discovering a quality band here is a big deal.  Mindmaze is a meld of Ancient Bards, Iron Maiden, and Dream Theater.  Their music has characteristics of European Power Metal that most American bands do not strive to achieve, causing American Metal’s downfall in my eyes.  This band restores my hope for American Metal. With Female Fronted Metal on the rise, more and more extremely talented Metal bands are coming out with a woman at the front.  No doubt there is something different about the music when a woman leads the band, causing a superior power to male lead metal bands.

 

With their new album Back From the Edge, Mindmaze proves their underrated qualities and shows immense maturity.  Every song on this album is different and unique, containing subtleties as well as huge powerful sound.  The guitars are technical, gritty, and fast with perfect rhythm from guitarist Jeff Teets.  The bass is incredibly audible and quick, demonstrating a rare technical ability from bassist Mike LePond.  The drums are dynamic and hit with precision, reminiscing of the days of Mike Portnoy.  Kalin Schweizerhof is just a great quality drummer and holds the music together.  Last but not least, Sarah Teets is a powerhouse of emotive and technical vocal ability.  She brings an explosive quality to the music, fitting inspiring lyrics in a perfectly placed pocket.  Her abilities are that of Tony Kakko of Sonata Arctica, having a theatrical quality that makes the music so relatable.  All of these amazing musicians put their all into Back From the Edge, making it a well executed metal album that sounds like a blast from the past.

 

Tracks like “Dreamwalker” and “The Machine Stops” remind me of the times of Dio and Iron Maiden, when true Power Metal prevailed over the Hair Metal.  Then there’s tracks like the title track and “The Machine Stops” that bring a more modern metal song.  “The Machine Stops” is actually a ten minute long track featuring brilliant instrumental sections as well as slow building vocals.  It is one of the best tracks I’ve heard of this year.  “Consequent of Choice” is another great song, showing a progressive off-beat rhythm that is reminiscent of Dream Theater and Hammerfall.  With songs like that, I could easily Mindmaze touring with bands like Kobra and the Lotus and Halestorm.  There is no song on this new album that disappoints.

 

Back From the Edge is an incredible Power Metal album that brings reincarnates a classic edge that American metal has strayed from.  Mindmaze truly surprised me with how solid their sound is for being a smaller American band.  I absolutely loved this album.  Every aspect of it blew me away, but especially the throwback sounds that they executed so well.  It’s so rare to find Metal like this in America and it’s something I hope gets much popular here. With bands like Mindmaze being overlooked here, it makes me wonder if the music industry is just as greedy as the government.

 

Rating 8/10- I highly suggest purchasing this album.

 

https://www.facebook.com/mindmazeband

 

http://www.mindmazeband.com/

 

http://www.reverbnation.com/mindmazeband

 

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Sonata Arctica, Delain, Xandria Denver October 4th, 2014

 

 

 

In 2014, I discovered three bands that would forever change my perception of music.  I have been an obsessive fan of Symphonic Metal for about three years now, but discovering Xandria and especially Delain opened my world to new music.  So of course I jumped on the chance to see the two charismatic female fronted bands live, and get a chance to discover Sonata Arctica.  I was extremely excited for this show, because I knew all three bands put on a spectacular show in concert, but they blew my expectations out of the water.  This is now my favorite concert I have ever been to, topping an Epica headliner and many Halestorm shows.  Every band lit The BlueBird up and continually raised the intensity in a way I have never experienced before.  Discovering these three bands prior to the concert, I knew what to expect, but this was a greatness I could have never anticipated.

 

Regardless of my personal preference of Delain and Xandria, these two bands are absolutely flawless in concert.  Xandria came on and played a very short explosive set.  They opened with Nightfall, their heavy operatic single off of their latest album, Sacrificium.  Dianne’s delivery of soprano operatic vocals on this track blew my mind.  Her technique, control, and projection match a perfection few singers achieve today.  “Blood on my Hands” was a heavier jam, keeping up with the intensity Nightfall had started.  Every member had energy and intensity as well as excellent and engaging stage presence.  “Forevermore” was seamless in the set and allowed Dianne and guitarists to show off a little more than earlier songs.  “Stardust” was well played and executed in a live setting and proved Xandria are up to par with the best live Symphonic Metal experience.  Dianne Van Giersbergen was absolutely the right choice for the new era, as she blew away all expectations with their final song, “Valentine”.  This is one of my favorite songs they’ve ever put out and their execution of it live made it even greater of a track.  The only complaint I have about Xandria’s set is that it was entirely too short for their quality of live play.

 

I have the utmost genuine respect for Delain and this concert made that respect turn into love.   Delain is possibly the best band I have ever seen live, because of the fun, tight, interactive set they produced at this concert.  Their set was absolutely spectacular and awing.  The mix and volume of each member, the lights, their overall live sound is absolutely perfect.  Most songs sounded like an album version turned up on high and injected with fierce energy.  The set was diverse as well, playing songs from almost every album except April Rain.  They opened with the heavy track “Mother Machine” off of We Are the Others and instantly stunned the crowd with their tight sound.  They followed the heavy opener with the fun and jamming track, “Get the Devil Out of Me”, giving Charlotte the chance to show off her flawless falsetto.  “Army of Dolls” swoons and ebs with intricate melodies and a unique beat easy to dance to and rock out to.  Next they mesmerized the crowd with their impressive hit, “Stardust”, off of The Human Contradiction.  This song was absolutely flawless live, containing a breakdown that centered around Charlotte’s enchanting vocals.  Delain continued to heat things up with emotive and powerful track, “Electricity”, a song that had the crowd belting lyrics out and head banging all the way through.  They also played the slower more haunting track, “Milk and Honey”, that was smooth and delivered well.

 

Delain continued their dynamic set with an old track off Lucidity “Sleepwalker’s Dream”, a more symphonic track that contains mind blowing vocals.  The delivery of operatic soaring vocals by lead vocalist, Charlotte Wessels, is indescribable.  The pure power of her voice on this song was distorting the sound system of the venue.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  They also played heavy hitting song, Pristine with bassist Otto on grunts, classic symphonic duet The Gathering with Timo on the male vocals, and closed with powerful hit “We Are the Others”.  I cannot say enough good things about this band live.  Delain really set the bar high for Symphonic Metal performances.  I will never forget their set, and can’t wait to see them again with Nightwish in April 2015.  I highly suggest seeing this band live.

 

Sonata Arctica are a legendary Power Metal band hailing from Finland.  They are still one of the most unique and cherished bands from Scandinavia.  They integrate Folk, Theatrical, and Symphonic aspects into their music.  Sadly, I didn’t hear of this band until I discovered this concert date with them as headliner.  The good thing is, this concert developed a love and immensely impressed me.  Lead vocalist, Tony Kakko, is one of the best male vocalists of all time in my opinion.  His performance throughout their nearly two hour set was flawless and eye catching.  The whole band matched Tony’s theatrical enthusiasm and made for a show that pulled you in.

 

The new songs they performed from Pariah’s Child were even better live than on the album.  “The Wolves Die Young” was dynamic and fast, a perfect live jam with an incredibly well executed bass part.  “Love” was a ballady change up in the set, allowing for an easy sing along.  “Cloud Factory” is possibly their catchiest song ever and was really fun and exciting to experience live.  They also performed older tracks without missing a beat.  “Letter to Dana” was a beautiful power ballad.  Tony captivated the audience with softer building vocals on this song.  Sadly, I am not familiar with a lot of the songs they played that night.  Regardless, Sonata’s set was absolutely incredible.  Their sound is infinitely energetic and hooks you right from the beginning.  I was vastly impressed with them and would love to see them again soon.

 

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Metal Valkyrie of 2014 Results

 

 

In early October, the polling for Metal Valkyrie of 2014 began.  The poll got over the required forty votes by fans, making it a fair decision for best front woman of the year.  With great new albums, trailblazing tours, and uprisings it was a big year for female fronted metal.  The year was bombarded with new albums from Lacuna Coil, Delain, Xandria, Ancient Bards, Stream of Passion, Lyriel, and of course Within Temptation and Epica!  Every one of these releases were fantastic and unlike anything I’ve heard before.  The voting was certainly close between Floor Jansen, Marcela Bovio, Charlotte Wessels, and Cristina Scabbia.  The countdown below will list the top three highest scorers and explain why they deserved to be on the podium for the first ever Metal Valkyrie of the year polling.

3.   Cristina Scabbia of Lacuna Coil

Lacuna Coil, the Italian Gothic Metal band, has been popular for 10 whole years now.  They have influenced so many people and have become one of the most popular Goth Metal and Rock bands ever.  From their breakout album, Comalies, to the coveted Karmacode, to the moving and power album Shallow Life, to the controversial change up Dark Adrenaline, Lacuna Coil create absolutely fantastic albums.  One of their greatest elements is one of two vocalists, Cristina Scabbia.  She is a pint sized mixture of attitude, range, dynamics, and well executed skill. Cristina is one of the most influential vocalists in metal, having guested on anything from Ayreon to Apocalyptica, to Alter Bridge.  It is unarguable that she is one of the most gifted vocalists in metal of the 2000s and why her success continues on.

 

In 2014, Lacuna Coil release brilliantly and beautifully constructed beast of an album, Broken Crown Halo.  The album had something huge to prove after the great departure from their sound with Dark Adrenaline.  Broken Crown Halo is everything Lacuna Coil is about summed up into one powerful and moving album.  Scabbia’s emotional performance and artistry on this album is absolutely unparalleled.   Broken Crown Halo is a perfect example of what Cristina brings to music.  Her transition from power vocals, to perfect falsetto, to emotional and moving ballads is executed with a level mind blowing perfection.

 

After her performance on this album, Ayreon’s The Theory of Everything, and the smashing sold out tours she’s lead, she absolutely deserves to be on the podium of this poll in 2014.  Every music project she’s been a part of is pure gold and impossible not to love.  Cristina will continue to rule Metal throughout the years and impress all who witness her spectacular talent.

2.    Charlotte Wessels of Delain

Symphonic and Gothic Metal band, Delain, released a smashing and daring new album in 2014, The Human Contradiction.  Despite lack of hype by critics and limited reviews on the new album, it has become very popular and gained the Dutch band many new fans.  The band has also put out earlier albums of spectacular and tremendous quality.  Lucidity, their very first album released in 2006, was a dark and mysterious pool of heavy tracks featuring special guests like Liv Kristine, Marco Hietala, and Sharon Den Adel.  April Rain was a departure from the first album, exploding with beautiful and intricate melodies, heavy driving drums and guitars, and masterful classical piano lines from founder Martijn Westerholt.  We Are The Others is a jamming, empowering, and enchanting album from start to finish.  Interlude is a brilliant compilation album with a number of gems, including a moving and mesmerizing cover of The Cranberries’ Cordell.  The Human Contradiction however is leaps and bounds above their previous releases, heavy with instrumentation and emotion.  It is a purely beautiful and solid album, and may be my favorite album of 2014.  So, why is Delain’s music so unique, beautiful, and mesmerizing?  The main reason is undoubtedly lead singer and writer, Charlotte Wessels.

 

Charlotte Wessels may not be the most popular or most hyped lead singer in Symphonic Metal, but she is quickly growing to the top five of the world’s most talented vocalists.  In 2014, she’s lead some of the best tours and headlining shows throughout Europe and making huge waves in America with Sonata Arctica and Xandria.  The reviews of Delain’s most recent shows have been bursting with surprise and respect for the band, but also Charlotte’s mesmerizing and breathtaking live performances.  Some say her performances are flawless, containing incredibly moving and emotive performances throughout the set, and absolutely inspiring.  She isn’t compared to any other vocalist, because there is simply no other fitting comparison.

 

Charlotte’s uprising in 2014 has brought a lot of needed attention to Delain.  The band has gained fans from North America as well as all over the world this year, thanks to Charlotte’s constant interactions with fans, brilliant and intelligent interviews, and mesmerizing powerful performances.  She has literally every characteristic you want in an influential front woman.  It’s no surprise to me that she is runner up to Metal Valkyrie of 2014 and was close to being the winner.  I truly believe in the next couple years, she will rise to the top and be an essential vocalist in metal.  I cannot rave about her and Delain enough.  There aren’t enough words to explain Delain’s sound or why they’re fantastic.  You simply just have to listen to them and see them live to experience their incredible sound and presence.

1.   Floor Jansen of Revamp and Nightwish

Floor Jansen has been a huge influence in Symphonic Metal, since her origin in the powerhouse band After Forever.  Floor’s vocals are beastly, haunting, and bursting with power and gorgeous tones.  She began as an Operatic Soprano with an impressive technique, not sacrificing emotion with skill.  With each album and project she’s been involved in, she’s progressed into one of the best vocalists of all time. Floor has since branched her vocals out into more power vocals and picked up grunts on Revamp’s latest album, Wild Card.  From the powerful jamming album After Forever, to her performances on Ayreon and Star One albums, to her recent work with her Power Metal band Revamp, Floor is undoubtedly dynamic and a very desirable voice in metal.  There is no limit to her vocals or skills as a singer.

 

Now Floor is getting the recognition she deserves in the legendary Symphonic Metal band, Nightwish.  She was a shoo in for the lead part, after Nightwish departed with Anette Olzon in 2012.  Floor had to quickly learn the set for the Imaginaerium Tour and fly out to finish the tour in America, whilst Alissa White-Gluz and Elize Ryd filled in.  Floor quickly took the part in a brilliant and unexpected way.  She was a departure from Tarja and Anette, using pure power to her advantage.  Nightwish got new life from Floor, and soon after the tour she was announced as the official singer.  No one knew what to expect, but Floor’s loyal followers expected greatness and a new era for Symphonic Metal.  They were absolutely right, evidence being Nightwish’s 2013 live DVD, Showtime Storytime.  On that DVD, Floor performs classic Nightwish tracks to an unparalleled quality.  Her performance throughout that Wacken show is absolutely legendary.

 

Floor has earned her spot in Nightwish, regardless of what the hardcore Tarja fans think.  Floor will be a huge addition to Nightwish, as they embark on a new era and a new album.  Tuomas Holopainen and crew are still vastly impressed by Floor’s voice and technique and are very happy that she is a new addition to the band.  She may not be the original vocalist and is a huge departure from past Nightwish vocalists, but she is unarguably the greatest vocalist the band could’ve gotten for the lead part.  Her range, power, technique, stage presence, and emotive ability is unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.  Her talent is infinite, and that’s why she is the Metal Valkyrie of 2014.  Floor getting to the top of Symphonic Metal as lead singer of the band that started it all, is enough reason to put her to legendary status.  I don’t think there will be another vocalist like Floor, ever.

 

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.5 The Gray Chapter Reviewed and Unleashed

 

 

After an almost six year long wait without new Slipknot, they emerge from the darkness with new album .5 The Gray Chapter in 2014.  The band was put up to a difficult task, to go on without two original brethren.  Paul Gray passed in April of 2010 suddenly and tragically, leaving Slipknot grieving.  During this time, the band was in shambles.  The eight were determining if they could go on in music without Paul and Slipknot seemed to be doomed at the time.  But, they prevailed and continued playing festivals   They did a small stint of touring in Europe in 2011 and vocalist Corey Taylor said “If this tour doesn’t work, this band might be over, straight up.  And I’m not gonna lie; I’m not the guy that’s going to lie to the fans.”  Luckily, Slipknot weren’t without hope as they began writing new songs for a new album just as DVD Antennas to Hell was released.  Then, they disbanded with drummer Joey Jordison because of his “lack of commitment to the band”.  The band has been through a lot for the past four years, but .5 The Gray Chapter turns the news into a positive bombardment of brilliant new songs.

 

The new album is a mix of Iowa’s intensity and aggression and Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses melodic and artistic processes.  .5 The Gray Chapter is everything Slipknot has to offer all in one album.  The drums are heavier than ever.  The guitars are tight, technical, fast, and absolutely shredding.  The vocals are raw, melodic, powerful, and chest rattling.  The bass is technical and fast, played as a definite tribute to Paul.  The album is everything the fans love about Slipknot and so much more.

Each member of the band put everything they had into this album.  Whether it’s grief, rage, discontent, or relief, you’re going to hear it on this album.  Slipknot have tracked back to their roots to create a brilliantly well written and heavy new album in 2014.

 

The sixteen track album begins with XIX, a chilling and haunting intro track that brings images of walking down the aisle with a casket in hand.  It leads into Sarcastrophe, a song straight out of the hell that Iowa created.  This song is brilliantly heavy and fast, keeping the raging sounds that they’ve always had.  The dynamics on this song prove that time away brought Slipknot together, combining their best qualities into one album.  AOV has a Thrash edge to it with blazingly fast rhythmic guitars and perfectly executed drums.  The chorus is full of beautiful and powerful melodic vocals.  The bass solo on the bridge sounds like a soulful and skilled tribute to Paul.  Then you have The Devil In I, the perfect single for a perfect album.  This track really represents the band’s aura in such a darkened way.  It is tightly percussed and pocketed with flawless powerful vocals.  This is absolutely one of the best tracks ever released by Slipknot.  The album continues with the dark and chilling, Killpop, a track very reminiscent of the sound created in Vermillion Part 1.  The melody on this track is extremely catchy and is written out of beauty.  It drives with passion and quality that I’ve never heard on a Slipknot album.  .5 The Gray Chapter might qualify as the best Slipknot album of all time.

 

Keeping true to the tribute album to late bassist and writer Paul Gray, Slipknot keeps the passion alive in track Skeptic.  Skeptic proves to be everything Paul would’ve  wanted in another Slipknot album.  It is shredding, angry, dark, and as scary as Slipknot ever was.  It touches on the subject of loss in such a brilliant way.  I almost feel like this track is one to be smiled upon, even by Paul himself.  They couldn’t write a more fitting and personal tribute than Skeptic.  Lech is an angry and aggressive track, filled with industrial drums and raging guitar solos.  The new drummer absolutely shreds on this track in particular.  Goodbye is another track to deal with the grievances of Paul Gray and tales how the band came back together for this album.  It is such an incredible dark, atmospheric track that could easily be a soundtrack to a horror movie, entailing a glimmer of hope.  The guitar work is on Goodbye is absolutely my favorite work Mick and Jim have ever put out.  Nomadic is a faster more rhythmic track, definitely pulling a page straight from the chaos of Iowa’s sound, mixed with the melody that Corey Taylor achieves so dynamically.  The One That Kills the Least is one of the most melodic tracks on the new album, containing similar sounds to Till We Die.  It is one of the least impressive songs from the album, but contains one of the longest guitar solos from Jim Root.  It is a true Slipknot album.

 

The album continues with the last six tracks that contain more haunting melodies, faster tempos, more dark and disturbing atmospheres, and powerful smashing drums.  Custer screams and squeals like Eyeless, containing the blazingly fast and raging tempo that we’ve been waiting to hear again from Slipknot.  It has a frustrating edge to it that will send fans into a tantrum of anger and release.  Be Prepared for Hell is an interlude that screams the brilliance and darkness of Clown (Shawn M. Crahan).  It is a disturbing track as any, taking Slipknot back to their horror themed roots.  The interlude leads into more disturbing and haunting thrash track, The Negative One, a jam reminiscent of the energy and strength of Duality.  The Negative One is powerful and heavy, capturing the heart of Slipknot in a very visual and strong way.  If Rain is What You Want has a darker, more ethereal sound than I’ve really heard from Slipknot.  It is unlike anything the band has ever put out, in the best way possible.  It has a Doom Metal sound to it, unexpected from such an energetic Death Metal band.  It adds a new tone to the album, standing out as a gem much like Skeptic does.  There is nothing like this track on any Slipknot album.

 

The last two tracks on .5 The Gray Chapter close the album out perfectly, showing the true epicness of everything Slipknot strives to create.  Override let’s each musician shine and shred in their perfect form, proving to be an anthem on the album.  The build up to a shouty chorus from Corey Taylor and the contrast of melodic vocals is spectacular.  The stripped down style of the verses give you break from the constant onslaught of pounding guitars from JIm and Mick and effects that Chris and Craig provide.  Slipknot have really grown and shaped their music to a personal memoir made of sound.  This album is definitely the deepest, most meaningful album they’ve created.  Paul Gray and the departure of Joey Jordison inspire this album to greatness.  The Burden is the send off track of the album, leaving you with a sense that the saga of Slipknot may continue on past this album.  It is an unsuspecting ending track, but brings the album to a conclusion of melancholy and pain that Slipknot had to share one last time on .5 The Gray Chapter.

 

Overall there are a million good things and qualities and layers of this album that make it my favorite Slipknot album.  All my favorite things about the band are highlighted insanely well.  I think the band wore their lost brethren on their sleeves and took every ounce of pain and anguish, stuffing it all into this cornucopia of brilliant metal tracks.  Every instrumental piece is well executed and performed with urgency.  All vocals and lyrics on the album are unparalleled to any album released this year.  I really think this is the best album Corey Taylor has ever sang on.  Slipknot are fighting their way back into the hearts of their fans and into the spotlight.  To me, this is the most meaningful album they’ve ever put out and it has overall bettered the band.  They sound like they’re at their peak, which is something bands hardly ever achieve in America after losses and drama.  Slipknot is America’s best metal band, and I think .5 The Gray Chapter proves it.

 

Rating 10/10

 

“It was the rebirth of Slipknot, […] it was like us coming back together, pushing out the vibe that had gotten in there and kinda started pulling people away. But we figured out that you know, we do have to get space you know, we do need to let people be sometimes.”- Paul Gray

 

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Review of Swedish Metal Band Amaranthe’s MASSIVE ADDICTIVE

 

AmaranthePress-3-1020x471

Insight to the Brand New Energetic Album from Amaranthe

 

Gothenburg multi genre group, Amaranthe, are famous for powerful and catchy hooks and pummeling riffs.  They create a new and fresh sound on every album that cannot be heard from any band in the world.  Jake E, the birther and lead male vocalist, has created an A Team of brilliant and passionate musicians, bursting with personality through every line of music.  Elize Ryd provides mesmerizing and unendlessly powerful vocals with a poppy upbeat sound, pairing well with Jake E’s Power and Theatrical vocals.  Olof provides masterful riffing and ragingly dynamic solos, bringing the true Gothenburg sound to Amaranthe.  Henrik is the new comer, providing chest growls and intensity, contrasting with Elize’s sweetness and Jake E’s theatrics.  Johan pulls the whole rhythm section together with low booming, hard hitting bass lines that blend in perfectly with the music.  Morten provides heavy perfectly timed drumming, combining with the added beats perfectly.  Every member comes together for a smashingly addictive tight sound, a sound I’ve never heard before.  Amaranthe brilliantly combines melodic metal and pop, perfectly layered under three completely unique vocalists.  No other group in the world can master the mix Amaranthe has created with utter soaring passion.  Amaranthe will continue this journey of power as their third album, Massive Addictive, brings them to the top of European Metal.

 

Massive Addictive is an absolutely perfect title for Amaranthe’s new album, as every track is an ear worm of brilliance.  Every track is roaring and raging with huge sound, exploding and encompassing every sense.  This album is everything Amaranthe is, turned up to a legendary level of pure chest pounding power.  The hooks and beats are perfect and energetic, making you want to jump on the nearest desk and dance.  The heaviness makes you feel that adrenaline rush of a full raging pit at a concert, simply just through your home stereo.  The vocals are performed with incredible ease and mastery, but also a passion that is unparalleled.  The dubstep and synths are used heavily, but contrasted with smashing drums and guitars for a perfect mix.  The sound is overwhelming and the layers are plentiful.   Massive Addictive has succeeded all expectations and muted every negative thing ever said about this band’s music.  It is purely incredible.

 

Massive Addictive opens with an uplifting power track, Dynamite, that fits Amaranthe’s inspiring themes and explosive energy.  The chorus and verses are catchy and powerful, like “The Nexus”, injected with adrenaline.  Right away Massive Addictive pulls you in with purely tantalizing and mesmerizing power from every vocalist and every instrument.  Drop Dead Cynical, the lead single, provides fast paced rhythmic epicness, bound to repeat in your head upon first listen.  Jake E and Elize’s attitudinal vocals on Drop Dead Cynical what really pull you in on this particular track, as well as sick riffage from Olof.  This song is definitely the perfect mix of heavy metal and pop beats.  Trinity is a blazing rhythmic breakdown track, with all three vocalists having equal parts throughout the song.  It is inspiring and uplifting, providing an anthem that begged to be written all along.  Elize’s innocent and sultry vocals on this song rival “Amaranthine”.  The title track off the album, Massive Addictive, encompassess the main meaning of the name, building up into a heavy punching hook.  They really put everything they had in their hearts, minds, and talents into this entire album, and it impresses more and more with every song.

 

Digital World is a revolutionary new age metal track that touches on the world’s obsession with technology.  It is one of the heaviest tracks on the album, making it a true hit and gem.  The chorus is a new level of catchy with perfectly harmonized vocals from the clean singers.  I also enjoyed Henrik’s opening lines on each verse.  The bridge is a highlight of Amaranthe’s  pummeling and heavy side.  Digital World proves Massive Additive is Amaranthe’s heaviest album yet and that their dynamic sound can keep growing and expanding.  True is a slow mesmerizing power ballad with brilliant harmonizing and a beautiful piano track under the millions of layers.  Elize’s vocals shine on this song, showing masterful control and a range that can lift you off your feet.  True is Amaranthe’s best ballad yet.  True is stunning, beautiful and inspiring, as well as innocent.  Unreal lets each vocalist shine perfectly with a rhythmic groundbreaking track, suiting well to fighting movies and video games.  Olof’s solos get better and better with each track, Unreal containing a Van Halen and classic rock sound.  I knew Olof was underrated as a guitarist, but this album proves he deserves to be on the short list for best guitarist.  Over and Done is a personal and soft track, a true brilliant power ballad of man and women versus the world.  It pulls the listener in better than any track Amaranthe has ever created.  The innocence of Over and Done is so addictive.

 

Danger Zone puts listeners back on their feet with an adrenaline rushed and aggression filled track, Henrik setting the tone with chest rattling growls atop technical instrumentation.  Danger Zone is the most metal themed track on the album, also containing a screaming and shredding guitar solo.  Elize also puts her two cents in with an incredible high note in the bridge, as well as background vocals containing masterful and flowing runs.  Skyline shows Amaranthe can soar through the atmosphere with limitless dynamics and technicality.  This track also has a solo that captures my attention as it is one of the longest guitar solos from the band.  The bridge is purely instrumental, allowing your ears a break from the captivating vocals, showing true musicianship.  Massive Addictive speeds up with pocket riding track, An Ordinary Abnormality, perfectly rhyming in this epic Power metal track.  Morten shows his speed and change up skills on this track, with insanely technical and hard hitting drum beats that are front and center.  This is one of the best instrumentally written tracks Amaranthe has ever done.  The album suddenly closes with the innocent and driving track, Exhale, showing the honest and passionate side of Amaranthe beautifully.  Exhale is the perfect closing track, as you let the album flow through you like an intense action filled movie.

 

Massive Addictive is the best of Amaranthe’s talents yet, as the band continues to find themselves in the ever changing world of music.  Amaranthe has created something unique, something tantalizing, and something you just have to hear to believe with this latest album.  Their music has always been hard to put in one genre to describe it, but now I just see their music as indescribable.  Every aspect, every layer, every piece of this album sounds perfectly executed and produced.  Massive Addictive also gives each member a chance to shine.  Passed albums Elize tended to dominate with power.  Now, Amaranthe are as tight and as talented as ever.  Upon three listens, you may realize the album is truly addictive.  I cannot get enough of Amaranthe or their new album, Massive Addictive.

 

Rating 9/10 Massive Addictive is Amaranthe’s most solid album yet and is hands down in my top 5 of best metal albums of 2014.

Official Website: http://www.amaranthe.se/

Drop Dead Cynical Music Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RdyExxpd3Pg

 

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2014 A Year of Symphonic Metal

 

 

Symphonic Metal is a constantly growing genre that mixes classical music and Modern Metal.  Characteristics of Symphonic Metal are typically a mix of classical piano composition, orchestral music, and synthesizers,  mixed with heavy distorted guitars and heavy double bass drums.   The vocals can be Power Metal vocals or more commonly and preferably, female Operatic vocals.  The genre started in Europe in the late 80s when a Swedish Metal band called Therion began incorporating orchestral music into Death Metal, marrying classical music and modern metal.  Although Therion are coined with creating Symphonic Metal, it was a Finnish band in 1997 that began a crusade.  Nightwish took the world by storm with their take on Symphonic Metal and changed music forever.  Tuomas Holopainen is the mastermind  behind Nightwish.  He took the genre and integrated in some of the most talented musicians in metal ever, with spectacular writing and phenomenal female vocalists.  Symphonic Metal has grown exponentially since Nightwish became a big influence in metal, keeping this new genre growing over the years.

 

Symphonic Metal typically includes fantasy based lyrics.  The ideals can include anything awesome to dragons, magical utopias or dark dystopias, Viking folklore, and local folklore.  These characteristics mixed together creates some of the most complex and the most beautiful music written in modern times.  There’s truly a band for every listener’s tastes, for metal fans anyway. Other influential bands of the genre include Epica, Within Temptation, Avantasia, and Kamelot.  Every band under the Symphonic Metal category is incredibly unique and brilliant in their own way.

 

Now that you have a bit of an understanding to what Symphonic Metal is, you can appreciate the genre’s powerful uprising in 2014.  This year has been great for the genre as it has grown exponentially in popularity.  The buzz is certainly unavoidable thanks to Within Temptation’s Hydra and their popular world touring, as well as new releases from Epica, Delain, and Xandria. Obviously this list I have made mostly covers female lead Symphonic Metal, because this is “Metal Valkyrie”, but I added some other bands that aren’t female lead to the list too.

 

Below is a detailed timeline of Symphonic Metal releases and events in 2014 and a quick review of new releases.

 

Within_Temptation-HydraHYDRA

 

January 22- Within Temptation put out highly anticipated collaboration album, creating some of the most world wide radio played tracks ever for Symphonic Metal.  While HYDRA is probably the most popular album of the genre in 2014, it is not the whole of the talent of Within Temptation.  This album is considered a tribute to the fans and is not a formal album for the band, lacking their traditional concept and long composition.  However,  Paradise (What About Us?) is one of the best songs of 2014 and maybe one of the best collaborations ever featuring Tarja and her huge operatic range.   I see Hydra as a mere appetite whetter to bring old fans closer and to pull new fans in, and it has certainly worked this year.  Hydra also contains brilliant covers like Radioactive by Imagine Dragons and Summertime Sadness by Lana Del Ray.  Once you accept it is merely a collaboration album, it is fantastic and exciting.  The new album also sparked a well respected world tour, featuring other Symphonic Metal bands like Delain, Amaranthe, and Serenity.  Next on the docket for Within Temptation is a live DVD Let Us Burn featuring two shows, one paying tribute to their first release Elements.  Within Temptation is surely exploding worldwide and spreading Symphonic Metal through all ages.

 

 

Sonata-arctica-pariahs-childPariah’s Child

 

March 26th- The legendary and cherished Finnish Power/Symphonic Metal band, Sonata Arctica, release a new album in honor of it being 15 years since their first album was released.  The band is notorious for mixing chugging guitars with operatic and theatrical style male vocals, all following a sort of mystical fairytale and lore theme.  The band also touches on the slow and gloomy characteristics on Doom Metal.  Pariah’s Child is the typical beautifully composed and jamming album from Sonata, turned up to epic proportions.  Its hit after hit pace is paralleled by none.  Cloud Factory is the catchiest song on the album, impossible to get out of your head upon five seconds of the first listen.  The Wolves Die Young is a fast theatrical track that hints at the concept of The Emperor’s New Clothes and is a fun jam.  Love is a ballad reminiscent of Letter to Dana with epic building vocals, setting a romantic and everlasting mood. This album is something only a band with 15 years of writing experience could create.  Each song is a perfect mix of Folk Metal and Power Metal, masterfully composed.  This album proves Sonata Arctica is here to stay at the top of Power Metal.

 

The_Human_Contradiction_(2014)_-_DelainTHE HUMAN CONTRADICTION

 

April 4th- Delain, a Symphonic Metal band hailing from The Netherlands, oriented with catchy pop themes, releases The Human Contradiction.  This album is one of the most solid releases of 2014, despite it’s lack of large reception and critical flack.  The album doesn’t illustrate 100% of singer Charlotte Wessels range and lacks anything truly new from the band, but it is however an incredibly influential and powerful album.   I feel like this album was more of a concept album, centered around ideas rather than an all out Symphonic slugger. It contains catchy and headbanging gems like Stardust, Army of Dolls, and Here Come the Vultures, and a heavy well orchestrated anthem Tragedy of the Commons.  The deluxe double CD edition also has some amazing bonus tracks as well as perfectly performed live tracks.  The bonus track, Scarlet, is a powerfully ballad with absolutely stunning vocals and touching piano.  While the reception for the album has been dull, it doesn’t truly reflect the brilliant musicianship and composition quality for the album.  I see Delain as a very underrated and overlooked band in Symphonic Metal, especially considering their powerhouse live performances.  While Charlotte’s range wasn’t fully harnessed, her vocal delivery and control on this album prove to be mesmerising and unlike anything I’ve heard.  I consider the writing duo of Charlotte Wessels and Martijn Westerholt to be incredibly innovative and their own strand of Metal that can’t be heard anywhere else.  The Human Contradiction still stands as my favorite album of 2014.

 

streamofpassionawarA War of Our Own

 

April 18th- Dutch Symphonic Metallers, Stream of Passion, are back in 2014 with a moving and Gothic solid album.  Stream of Passion originally was one of Arjen Lucassen’s projects, but the band became too big for his recluse way of life.  Marcela Bovio carries this band and album to greatness with powerful and moving performances from the dramatic Monster to the epic title track A War of Our Own.  Her range and vocal capabilities really blow me away on this album, more than past Stream of Passion albums.  Her vocal control has really progressed over the years, making her vibrato much easier to listen to.  Gothic Metal is seriously lacking these days in quantity, but this album filled that niche.   Every song is haunting and dark, with this undertone of a hopeful outcome;  The mood is spot on with modern Gothic Music.  The musicianship on this album isn’t foreshadowed either, but perfectly balanced with Marcela’s powerful vocals.  I found the piano arrangements to be my favorite part of A War of Our Own.  I highly suggest this album for Evanescence fans.

 

 

Xandria_sacrificium_-_album_coverSacrificium

 

May 2nd- Xandria, an absolutely epic German Symphonic Metal band, comes out raging in 2014 with Sacrificium.  The album is an operatic masterpiece that is unparalleled.  Sacrificium flows and ebbs perfectly with a powerful symphonic sound, pairing orchestral work with soprano vocals and the occasional choir.  Dianne Van Giersbergen (no relation to Anneke) is absolutely spectacular on this album, showing supernatural vocal control.  Nightfall is a raging anthemic track with absolutely captivating vocals.  Little Red Relish is an addictive jamming track, heavier than other tracks off the album.  Sweet Atonement is an epic end gamer, showing the dynamics of the band in full force.  The album reminds me of older Epica like “Design Your Universe”, because of the technical drumming paired with smooth operatic vocals.  The guitar work is also brilliant and mesmerising, adding a complex depth and catchiness to the album.  I find the writing to be solid, very little space between each track making the album like an epic soundtrack.  Xandria has never sounded better.

 

downloadThe Quantum Enigma

 

May 2nd- Epica came back in 2014 after the highly cherished “Requiem for the Indifferent”, with a much different and unique album.  The Quantum Enigma is a slightly controversial album, as it is quite a contrast to the previous release and not quite what Epica fans expected.  Fan mania aside, The Quantum Enigma is a beautiful and dynamic symphonic metal album that may be one of their strongest albums to date lyrically.  The incredibly fascinating theme is laced throughout every track.  The lyrics harness a story about modern government and corporations in such a poetic and classical way, making the album deeper than your typical metal album.  The album flows in and out of old Epica influences and a much more modern version of Epica, making it a more full and interesting sounding album than earlier works from Epica.  Upon each listen of the album, it becomes more enjoyable as you notice more and more complexities.   “The Essence of Silence” and “Unchain Utopia” are two of the best tracks of 2014 and stand out to me as two of the best Epica jams.  I do think Epica’s future endeavors will top The Quantum Enigma vastly, so I can’t wait to follow their progression.

 

 

threshold-for-the-journey-320x320For the Journey

 

September 9th- Damian Wilson lead Symphonic Power Metal band, Threshold, blows all expectations away in 2014 with epic For the Journey.  The album is a mix of Space, Power, Symphonic, and Power Metal into one very well driven album.  The album also has Progressive tracks like “I Wish I Could” and “Autumn Red”.  The energy throughout each track on the album is absolutely incredible.  There isn’t one dead song on the album, making for a solid and captivating listening experience.  Some songs hint on Peter Gabriel and Rush influences, while maintaining an intensity of Kamelot’s talents.  This may be one of Damian’s best album performances yet, because of how dynamic his vocals are throughout each track.  The contrast of Theatrical, Power, and Ballad vocals prove Damian is an extraordinarily underrated vocalist in metal.  The quality of each instrument is vast however, laced somewhere at the threshold of Power Metal and something more unique.  “Lost in Your Memory” is an example of mixing Symphonic with many influences, creating a piano driven ballad that Meatloaf himself would appreciate.    I really enjoyed every track on this album.  For the Journey is a truly well done album that should be more in the spotlight.

 

download (1)Skin and Bones

 

September 29th- German Folk Symphonic Metal band, Lyriel, is back with their heaviest and best album yet.  Skin and Bones is an incredible mix of beautiful strings, heavy guitars and drums, and powerful Theatrical vocals.  Lyriel has written some of the most unique and interesting music, ranging from pure Folk to the occasional Metal jam.  Luckily for us Symphonic Metal fans, they’ve gone full Symphonic Metal with Skin and Bones.  Jessica and Linda’s dueling vocals on this album are so catchy and addictive, making Lyriel unique and full of depth upfront.  Linda also plays the Cello beautifully, an instrument rarely used in Symphonic Metal.  I like the subtlety of strings in metal and no one does it better than Lyriel, especially on this album.  Skin and Bones is absolutely Lyriel’s best release yet!  I highly suggest this album for fans of Apocalyptica, Eluveitie, and Delain.


Upcoming

Within Tempation Let Us Burn DVD November 14, 2014 http://www.within-temptation.com/orderletusburn/

Nightwish TBA Spring 2015

Nightwish/Delain North American Tour April 2015 http://enterthevault.com/artist.php?id=43

Kamelot/Dragonforce North American Tour http://enterthevault.com/artist.php?id=47

 

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Review of New DragonForce Album Maximum Overload

 

 

 

The English Power Speed Metal band, DragonForce are back in 2014 with an absolute overload of sound. Maximum Overload is the sixth studio album from the famous Speed Metallers.  The band has been around for a solid 15 years, with at least a dozen of member changes.  DragonForce is still alive and well in 2014, topping charts as they always do, with new album Maximum Overload.  Guitarist Herman Li says that the album is inspired by the overwhelming amount of information and technology we try to absorb.  The album describes how we obsess over unnecessary stuff through phones and digital technology.  It is DragonForce at its best, everything turned up to 11 with faster guitars, drums, bass, and much higher vocals.  They went for a drastically more different and dynamic album in 2014, and I think Maximum Overload succeeds very well.  The message of the album is solidly carried out as well and a message all of humanity could use to take seriously.

 

I haven’t been the biggest fan of DragonForce,  but I decided to give this album a chance.  I find Maximum Overload to be a typical Speed Metal album.  I found it enjoyable and easier to listen to than past DragonForce albums.  The Game opens the album with technicality through every instrument and vocal tracks, keeping the bar high for the band.  The vocals are dynamic and interesting, having the same powerful sound I expect in Power Metal.  Tomorrow’s Kings is incredibly fast and beautifully melodic.  It has an epic anthemic sound proving DragonForce can still create a full sound after 15 years.  No More is a little different than the past two tracks, keeping the album flowingly interesting and pleasing to listen to.  This song throws back to an 80’s Metal sound with excellent modern qualities.  Three Hammers makes the two guitarists, Herman Li and Sam Totman, shine perfectly in a gem of a Power Metal song.  It is a melodic battle anthem with incredible male vocals that are unparalleled in 2014.  Marc Hudson has a huge range, and he certainly uses it on this “war cry”.

 

Symphony of the Night is a darker track, but still has blazing fast track that does Maximum Overload’s name justice.  It is an audible assault of group vocals, impossibly fast guitar scales, and building sound.  It is a perfect change up in the album.  The Sun is Dead is the most aggressive and heavy song on the album.  This song has more of a Thrash sound than any track on the album, until the chorus where it opens back up to the melodic anthemic sound.  Extraction Zone is another blazing fast song with rhythmic lyrics, almost performed too fast to understand clearly.  The name of the song is somewhat cheesy, however.  The way it’s said throughout the song makes it hard to be taken seriously.  This track sounds more like a demo than a final release and I find some of the “squeaky” guitar effects to be annoying.  Maximum Overload  still continues to surprise me with City of Gold, picking the album back up to a high quality sound.  This song is more radio friendly, similar to the anthemic sound of Three Hammers.  I also like that the bassist, Frederic Leclercq, is more audible on this track.  The album closes with a cover of Johnny Cash’s Ring Of Fire, completely redone in a way you’ve never heard.  It is a well executed cover that continues to make DragonForce famous for their signature Power/Speed metal song.

I am now a DragonForce fan because of how good this new album is and will be researching more albums.

 

Rating: 8/10

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I Review Independent Symphonic Band Dawn of Eternity

 

 

Dawn of Eternity and their new album Guilty has vastly.  After several listens to this new album, I found it to be one of the best Independent albums I’ve ever heard.  The German Gothic Symphonic band is everything I love about Symphonic Metal: heavy driving guitars, enchanting vocals, technical drums, and a dark theme throughout.  The vocals are dark, theatrical, and beautiful at the same time.  Their lead singer Sara Seubert delivers incredibly passionate and raw vocals on this album.  Her vocals tend to remind me of old After Forever and Leave’s Eyes mixed together.  Johannes Kittel is spot on with growls and heavy distorted guitars, making for a perfect contrast.  Their music is interesting and so much different than any Symphonic Metal band out there today.  They have created a really spectacular album that you just can’t hear anywhere else.

 

 

Ego, a slow building, haunting and dark track pulls you in with the mastery of Gothic sound.  The range of Sara is mesmerizing on this track; She goes from soaring Soprano vocals, to theatrical melodic vocals full of anger and regret.  Johannes has a chest rattling growl, keeping the track extremely heavy and dark.  The lyrics are well placed in the pocket on this song, making it catchy.  I find this track to be very addictive, yet raw and depressive.  If you’re going to get into Dawn of Eternity, this track is a perfect place to start.ac

 

Goodbye is a faster song than the opener, showing dynamic and technical ability that every modern band must have these days.  This track is more abstract than Ego, with more of a flowing melody that comes in and out rather than being conformed into the pocket of rhythm.  The two vocalists harmonize between growls and Symphonic vocals, much like Epica has achieved over the years.  Goodbye shows Dawn of Eternity can hold their own in Symphonic Metal.

 

Cut Me Loose is a hard driving track, more centered around heavy guitars and drums, keeping the vocals from being overpowering.  It is a well written song, full of grungy and angry tones.  I enjoy how much each track is different from the last on this album.  This track has more of a modern metal sound to it than a Symphonic style, proving Dawn of Eternity has many different sounds and qualities under their belt.  They surprised me more and more with each track on Guilty

 

 

Amorticure and Cut Me Loose are dueling tracks on the album, mirroring each other in a really cool way.  The tracks are similar sounding, but still unique and contrasting.  Amorticure keeps the band’s technicality in the forefront, containing a really cool jamming guitar riff throughout the song.  Although the guitar is almost constant on this track, it doesn’t become repetitive at all.  Johannes manages to throw bending and sliding nuances that I appreciate in this particular style of metal.  The vocals are especially spectacular on this song, not overpowering but incredibly powerful at the same time.  Amorticure is one of my favorite tracks I’ve heard in metal this year.

 

Sing For Me starts out with high energy Thrash style guitars and drums, with melodic Siren vocals over the top.  It is a perfect marriage of heavy and aggressive instrumentals, with sweet enchanting vocals.  At the bridge, the song breaks down into this rhythmic depressive sound that I’ve never heard from a female fronted band before.  Then Sara manages to steal the song back and hit this thrilling high note in true Soprano style.  This song is one of the best on the album, I highly recommend it for heavy metal fans.

Guilty, the title track off the album, is just an incredibly well written song.  The lyrics are what makes this band and this song in particular so great.  They are audible, relatable, and performed with great believability.  Believability is a difficult trait to achieve in their Gothic/Symphonic Metal genre, but Dawn of Eternity definitely does on this song.  This track makes me believe that they would be an awesome live band.

 

Blind My Eyes is a heavy track, keeping with that Alternative Thrash sound that Sing For Me accomplished so well.  I find this track putting Johannes in the forefront, making the album appeal to the Melodic Death Metal fans.  It sounds like both vocalists are fighting for control in the band, and the instruments communicate the tension perfectly.  This song keeps the album interesting.  It throws out any possibility of the album becoming bland.

 

No Emotions is truly a well crafted Gothic song.  The track starts out with slow haunting vocals and acoustics, on top of slow building rhythmic drums in the background.  No Emotions has this lonely, desperate, bottom of the barrell sound to it.  It capitalizes on the depressive sound so well, without having the cheesier side of Doom Metal.  The placement of this track on the album is perfect, keeping the album from becoming monotonous or boring.

 

You Suck is a rhythmic hate filled song, just like the title suggests.  The guitars are down tuned and melodic, perfectly sitting under the aggressive and haunting vocals.  I like how the song builds up faster and harder from beginning to end, a trait good Symphonic Bands usually carries.  This isn’t the best track on the album, but it still has some good qualities to it.  I found the vocals to be all over the place, not retaining a melody or style at all, so that’s why it isn’t the best track.

 

Oceans is one of my other favorite songs off of Guilty.  The atmospheric guitar part, growing into a heavier rhythm style part is drastically different.  This song reminds me a lot of Elegy by Leave’s Eyes because of the haunting and smooth vocal delivery.  I never thought I’d be reminded of Leave’s Eyes, but this band is honestly on their way to that masterful sound.  Although they remind me of other bands, they are still extremely unique. Oceans is a pure quality track off a truly well written album.

 

Fire closes Guilty out perfectly, with a dark, entrancing, ballad that builds up with a hopeful sound to it.  There’s something truly beautiful about this song.  The vocals are well placed atop a rhythmic acoustic guitar, without any effects or other instruments.  It is a barebones, emotional, ballad that is completely different from the rest of the album.  It ends the album on a slow note, but definitely a high note.  Fire is a must listen track.

 

Guilty overall is a well written Gothic Metal album.  It encompasses everything I expect with Symphonic and Gothic Metal, but adds unique sounds that I’ve never heard in either genre.  Like I said, the album surprised me with just how amazing it was.  I have listened to it over two weeks, trying to compose a in depth review of it.  I didn’t find many negative points, mostly positive points, which is a rare thing in today’s music.  For an independent Metal band, this record is a high quality release.  Dawn of Eternity is vastly talented and I expect more great albums to come from them in the future.

 

Quality Rating Overall; 8/10

 

Links:

 

https://www.facebook.com/officialdawnofeternity

 

https://twitter.com/DawnofEternity

 

http://www.reverbnation.com/dawnofeternity1

 

http://dawn-of-eternity.bandcamp.com/album/guilty

 

0002498812_10

 

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Review of the New Hammerfall Album Revolution

 

 

 

I’ve been talking about Gothenburg metal a lot lately with new At The Gates and In Flames albums coming out this year as well as Amaranthe.  Being a huge fan of what Gothenburg has to offer in the metal scene, I surely cannot look over Hammerfall.  The Swedish Power Metal band has been creating anthemic metal since 1993.  Hammerfall began a new era in Power Metal and began my crusade for European in America.  Hammerfall is one of the most influential Power Metal bands ever, Glory To the Brave and Legacy of Kings attribute to their powerful reign of metal all over the world.  Those are two of my favorite albums of all time.  Hammerfall is certainly not Swedecore, but their own genre alone.

 

After an almost two year long hiatus, Hammerfall are back in 2014 with (r)Evolution, their brand new album.  Their ninth album is a huge departure from their last, Infected (2011).  It is a throwback album to Hammerfall’s roots and their best characteristics.  The album is a perfect cross between Glory To the Brave, Legacy of Kings, and heavier guitars from Nikas and Pontus.  The guitar solos are screaming, fast, and placed perfectly in the pocket.  (r)Evolution just has that powerful sound that takes you back to the days of sword battles and the fantasy world of conquest and dragons.  It has every ingredient that the fans wish for in the typical Hammerfall album.  Joacim Cans is of course the biggest contributor to the band’s sound, with his mighty and powerful lead vocals, perfectly executed on every song.  (r)Evolution is the best album from Hammerfall we may ever get.

 

The album opens with the epic anthem, Hector’s Hymn, with a powerful viking edge to it that their last album was absent of.  The trackhas absolutely amazing vocals, epic Speed Metal guitars, and perfectly executed technical drums.  The title track, (r)Evolution, is spot on with Hammerfall’s anthemic sound.  The second track starts out slowly building, then a great powerful high note, and then building faster and heavier into another amazing fist pounding anthem.  The softer verses on this song are what makes this song perfect, giving a great dynamic to the album.  Bushido is reminiscent of their first album, but so much cleaner and well produced.  This song has the typical dynamic and does tend to fall flat after the first two songs.  However, Bushido is true to the story of the warrior.  Live Life Loud is yet another slow building power anthem, but the guitars are harder hitting and more interesting on this song than Hector’s Hymn.  Live Life Loud sounds like a tip of the hat to Judas Priest and Iron Maiden.

 

Ex Inferis is a darker, more intense, harder hitting song and breaks the album up from the typical anthemic song.  This song specifically shows Hammerfall went for a lyrical and vocal based album than Infected.  We Won’t Back Down speeds things up and finally turns the bass up more.  The song features vocals from the brilliant and powerful James Michael from American rock band, Sixx Am.  He is featured throughout the album singing the lower parts, adding contrast to Joacim’s soaring high vocals.  James was also featured on Infected.  In true Hammerfall style, (r)Evolution has it’s well executed beautiful ballad, Winter Is Coming.  This song takes me back to Legacy of Kings in such a vivid way.  Winter Is Coming is one of the best written songs on this album, however I expected it to be a little more long and epic.  Origins is a very interesting Celtic Speed Metal song that I absolutely love on this album, having a more rhythmic feel to it than other tracks.  Tainted Metal is a stomping track, having guitars a bit more in the forefront to keep the vocals from being too repetitive throughout the album.  The snare however gets repetitive on the verses and drowns out the other instruments too much.  Evil Incarnate is a dragging, technical heavy song, that delivers adequately with typical Hammerfall sound.  The album closes with a bang at the track Wildfire, a fast intense ride that brings (r)Evolution to life, giving every musician their final say  It is a perfect epic jam to close a well produced Hammerfall album to an end.

 

Overall (r)Evolution is a well executed and well performed album from Hammerfall, however it lacks the typical energy the band  usually attributes to their albums.  The dynamic truly falls flat and the vocals tend to be at one level throughout most songs, making for a boring listening experience.  Although this isn’t Hammerfall’s best album, it is everything I love about the band and makes for a reminiscent experience.  I liked everything they put into this album and I am glad to hear them go back to their roots.  Their root sound is what makes them truly great and is the biggest factor  to why this album is overall perfect.

 

Rating; 7/10

 

Also Listen To: High Priestess by Kobra and the Lotus, Maximum Overload by Dragonforce, The Human Contradiction by Delain, Heroes by Sabaton, Fallen Leaves & Dead Heroes by Amoral

 

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I Talk About Gothenburg “Swedecore” and the New In Flames Album

 

Gothenburg, the birthplace of Melodic Death Metal and famous for its “Swedecore” sound is one of my personal favorite inspirations for metal.  From the early to mid 90’s, the metal scene in Gothenburg has grown to be refined and full of variety, growing a heavy and huge metal scene in a beautiful city.

 

Gothenburg metal bands include Amaranthe, Arch Enemy, Amon Amarth, Dark Tranquility, and Entombed, At the Gates,  just to name a few.  There is no lack of talent in Sweden in general, but this one city has something magical.  There is a recipe for brilliant metal written in Gothenburg; Melodic guitars, dynamic vocals that switch between a growl and soft delivery, hard and loud pounding drums, and lyrics that seem sad but are truly inspiring.  This recipe never fails to wet my appetite for more Melodic Death Metal.  When I came across another influential band, In Flames, my expectations were high when put in the same category as the first bands I listed.  In Flames unfortunately fooled me into believing bands in Gothenburg will never stray away from the brilliance.

 

In Flames released Siren Charms on September 9th, 2014 as a very anticipated album.  In Flames mixes Melodic Death Metal influence with a more modern flavor on this latest album.  At first listen, I thought they were an American band influenced by Chevelle and Dark Tranquility.  I was shocked to find this band was from Gothenburg, Sweden, because of how mainstream and radio friendly this album appeared to me.  Upon more listens, Siren Charms does have its Gothenburg influences, you just have to listen harder to hear it.  It is not In Flames best album by any means, but Siren Charms dares to break out of the mold of Swedecore.

 

In Plain View opens the new album with a building heavy intro, breaking into a nice groove reminiscent of Arch Enemy’s guitar lines.  The vocals are cleaner on this one, on the whole album to be honest, and lacks some solid emotion throughout.  The album continues with Everything’s Gone, a faster and heavier track than the later with that same cool groove to it.  Unfortunately what came to mind on the clean vocals to me, is Marilyn Manson, but maybe you hear something different and less grading.  Paralyzed is dark and haunting with a dual guitar overlay and better sounding clean vocals from Anders.  I found Paralyzed to be a little more on the Metalcore side, but with Sybreed like vocals.  Next is one of my least favorite tracks on the album, Through Oblivion.  I feel like this song falls flat and is a serious low point in the album, losing the power and groove other tracks have.

 

With Eyes Wide Open, picks the album back up from Through Oblivion, into a more melodic and better composed sound from In Flames.  The song is begging to be one of those slow building epics and it achieves it well.  With Eyes Wide Open  is so good and different that it sounds misplaced on the album.  The title track on the album follows the epic, with a rhythmic driving sound and desperate vocal delivery.  Siren Charms inserts a much needed bit of emotion on the album.  One of the highlights of the album, is When the World Explodes, as In Flames go back to a more European metal sound.  This track features beautiful and enchanting vocals from Stockholm Opera Soprano, Emilia Feldt, which really add an amazing touch to this song.  The single, Rusted Nail, pounds and drives just like it went high on the charts in Sweden and also North America.  It is still one of the best songs on the album.  After that, Dead Eyes comes in and once again Siren Charms falls flat.  This song could honestly be left of the album and it certainly wouldn’t be missed.  Monsters in the Ballroom picks the album back up a bit, but sounds to me like 90% of what’s being played on rock radio right now.  The album finally closes with Filtered Truth, an apt disappointment of a generic song, lacking dynamics and anything to make me want to listen to this album again.

 

Siren Charms was disappointing and sounds like a complete departure from their legendary sound.  I can only hope that they will return to their roots after this flop of an album.

 

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I review the New Opeth Album, Pale Communion, A Gothic Tribute to the 70’s

 

Opeth-Pale-Communion-album-art

 

Swedish mood setting Progressive Metal band, Opeth, are back in 2014 with Pale Communion.  Over the years the band has had many lineup changes, but somehow stays the same in its glory and brilliantly composed music.  Opeth is famous for their ability to mix Progressive music and Death Metal with a Gothic influence.  Their music is some of the most dynamic and interesting music ever written. Thanks to frontman Mikael Akerfeldt, who started the band in 1992, Opeth dares to be unique, powerful, and unmatchable.  Pale Communion is a good example of everything this band has to offer.  The whole album is a throwback to the 60’s and 70’s, with a slow melodic and psychedelic sound.  It is brilliantly composed and played, each song flowing to the next.  This album doesn’t sound like anything I’ve ever heard in metal.

 

Pale Communion is another album from Opeth only featuring clean vocals, but they are as haunting and as beautiful as ever.  Eternal Rains Will Come is a perfect example of Opeth’s dark and Gothic side, with a chest piercing organ and brilliant drumming from Martin Axenrot.  The song twists and turns from a Gothic sound, to a late 60’s early 70’s sound  reminiscent of Led Zeppelin and The Doors.  I was pleasantly surprised with that song, but it does not set a tone for the whole album.  Each song differs in a virtuous sense, onto heavier songs like Cusp of Eternity and Moon Above, Sun Below.  Then it goes into a beautiful ballad, with a possible influence from Simon and Garfunkel, Elysian Woes.  Goblin is as enchanting as the tracks before it, with a slow building funky sound to it that is almost indescribable.

 

Pale Communion continues with a lighter hearted song, River, that breaks the album into a whole new tone and sound.  River is a perfectly crafted interlude to the album, with chilling and beautiful vocals.  It reminds you of the classic Free Bird by Lynard Skynard, but better than that even.  Voice of Treason has all kinds of different sounds and flavors; It’s a little symphonic, a little Gothic, and a little cinematic.  These past two tracks prove why Opeth is one of the best bands of all time, because of their ability to write anything and everything with such immense quality.  This fantastic album closes with the melodic ballad, Faith in Others, ending the album hopefully with goosebumps on your arms and hair standing on your neck.  The album is short, but it delivers a brilliant cinematic collection of tracks.

 

Pale Communion is a must buy for all Opeth and fans of rock and metal.

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Review and Insight to German Metal Band Any Given Day

 

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Germany is a region that contains most of the best metal, in my opinion.   With bands like Rammstein, Deadlock, Words of Farewell, Accept, and so many more, Germany is a great place for metal.  There are now over a hundred metal bands from the area.  You could say that Germany helped bring the genre to its high point with Wacken and Rock Am Ring, both epic annual music festivals.  People from all over the world say Wacken is the greatest music festival of all time, topping American festivals by a mile.  Wacken has been held for almost 25 years now, making it a historical festival.  Rock Am Ring has the sickest crowds with a three day attendance total at 150,000 rock and metal fans   Germany should certainly be credited with having such an amazing breeding environment for music.

 

There’s a lot of inspiring history, scenery, and people in Germany.  From the reign of the Holy Roman Empire in the 840s, the Holocaust, to the Berlin Wall, Germany no doubt has enough pain to influence music for centuries.  Pain creates many powerful songs as opposed to happiness, said by many famous writers from the dawn of music.  Maybe this pain combined with the beautiful scenery and advanced way of thinking (Compared to where I live in the USA, Germany is really advanced) is why German metal is so unique.  You can find anything from Symphonic Metal to Thrash and Death metal, and yet all these types have that signature German technicality.  It’s an interesting thing to find so much quality metal in one country alone, because it honestly is one of the universal languages in the world since the late 70’s.  I give much credit to Germany to influencing so many incredible musicians and metal bands.

 

I recently found yet another band that encompasses all the amazing qualities of this region’s metal scene.  A Newage Melodic Deathcore metal band from Germany, Any Given Day, released their latest album My Longest Way Home.  The album contains sounds that are reminiscent of old Killswitch Engage, Bury Your Dead, Divine Heresy, and the melodic qualities of Insomnium.  By that description, I expected a very moving but heavy album that would absolutely blow any “Metalcore” album away from the past couple years.  It wasn’t a hard feat, but Any Given Day succeeded all my expectations and more than a short review could cover alone.  Finding this gem of an album shined up the rather dull pot that I consider to be the genre of Metalcore.

 

My Longest Way Home is everything metal has been lacking for quite awhile.  It’s a mix of heavy chugging riffs, haunting melodic tracks, chest pounding growls, and technical musicianship with one word I crave to feel with music; Passion.  Passion can be heard front and center in this album.  From the middle of the first track Darkness Within, to the end of the last track Possession, the passion is almost tangible.  Every track in between is inspiring, gritty, powerful, and just superbly composed.

 

To continue with the review after Darkness Within, Dead and Gone is a chugging rhythmic track to open up the smallest and lamest pits around.   The Beginning of the End contains a dash of Thrash with Djent style guitars that Tesseract mastered so well, but Any Given Day integrated in a whole new way.  Anthem for the Voiceless is indeed an anthem, with intense heavy masterful vocals from beastly singer Dennis Diehl.  On to one of my favorite tracks of 2014, Home is Where the Heart is, a beautifully inspiring melodic death metal song with a haunting emphasis.  That song is unlike anything I’ve heard in my decade of journeying to find the best and most passionate music in the world.

 

On to My Own Sweet Hell,  a Five Finger Death Punch-like pounding track that trudges through the heaviest part of the album.  Yet again with this track, Any Given Day breaks out of the Metalcore mold.  Dead Forever is completely different from the rest of the album, with the slow building vocals and guitar.  The song is definitely slower and cleaner, but gives a fresh break in the album.  Never Say Die is an anthemic metal core track that may appeal to the lighter metal fans, even though it has a wicked breakdown towards the end.  If Tomorrow Never Shows sounds like an intense, heavy, angry break up letter that you’d never want to receive from Dennis, who delivers powerful and honest vocals perfectly in this particular track.  Possession launches the end of the album with a hard driving jam that once again proves this band is just as dynamic and technical as any German metal band.

 

My Longest Way Home is one of my favorite albums of 2014.  There is so many qualities about this album that surpass 90% of Metalcore bands out there.  Expectations of their next album are extremely high for me and I can’t wait to hear if they can progress and grow into a bigger band.  I hope this review convinces everyone to check Any Given Day out.

 

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LINKS;

 

http://www.anygivenday.eu/

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GbomlWknAOQ

 

https://www.facebook.com/AnyxGivenxDay

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