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ARTRACH – Through Archways Of Dark (Midas Productions 2002)

Artrach - Through Archways Of Dark
  1. Into The Valley Of Shadows
  2. Legionnaires Pray
  3. Reborn
  4. The Curse Of The Gladiator
  5. The One
  6. Through Archways Of Dark
  7. Admiring The Serial Killer

ARTRACH has been working on its image since the beginning of the 21st century and has so far released three demos, of which "Through Archways Of Dark" is the first. As usual, some biographical info is required to know who we're dealing with here:

At the end of 2000, after a 12 years long history, ANESTHESY, until then a name of value in the Belgian death metal scene, split up. Yet, as in ancient mythology, death brings forth rebirth and from its ashes, ARTRACH was raised by remaining members Diëgo Denorme (drums) and Guy Commeene (guitars). They decided to cast aside the technical death metal of their former band and, assisted by Jeroen Doeve (bass guitars), started to play progressive power/heavy metal.

By August 2001, a first complete line-up was finally achieved, as Glenn Devos (vocals), Filip Delva (guitars) and Christof Colle (synths) had joined, and a first series of songs were composed. In October, ARTRACH gathered in the Midas Studios of Tony Deblock to contribute their track "Curse of the Gladiator" to the all-Belgian "Overdrive 20 Years Tribute" compilation, in honour of Patrick de Sloover and his metal radioshow Overdrive, still Belgium's oldest on the air. Shortly after this recording session, both Jeroen and Filip left the band, but their replacements were soon found: Wouter Nottebaert (bass guitars) and David Vandewalle (guitars). In this new line-up, the first live performance took place in April 2002, headlining at "Live On Stage 2002" in Lauwe.

In May 2002, the band re-entered the Midas Studios to record 6 tracks for their debut demo-CD "Through Archways of Dark". In September, both "Archways..." and the "Overdrive" compilation were finally released and after a couple of weeks, the first promisingly positive reviews on both releases started to appear everywhere in magazines, e-zines,... By the end of 2003, the copies of the "Archways" demo-CD had sold out, and a series of shows were succesfully completed.

So far the bio-stuff. Saturday 4th November there was a gig in the city of Heule, Belgium, at OC De Vonke where ARTRACH kicked ass with their new and older songs and prepared the crowd for SAVAGE CIRCUS and EVERGREY. But that's irrelevant now, except for the fact that I bought the band's demos there and decided to write some comments about them. ;-)

As stated in the biography, ANESTHESY was the former band of Guy and Diëgo and when seeing their faces I knew I had seen them elsewhere: on the "Fifth Season" album by ANESTHESY and this probably also was the band's last. This is by the way a decent album, although there's of course better Death Metal out there.

ARTRACH is now the band to focus on and with their Progressive Power/Heavy Metal it's a total change from the Death Metal of old, although the guitars are tuned to still sound in that vain. "Through Archways Of Dark" starts with a bombastic intro with a touch of mystery. The following "Legionnaires Pray" slowly builds up the tempo at first with the drums and guitars backed by the keyboards. Glenn's voice is good, although you could ask if he's maybe not too light for this kind of songs, since his range is not big. The screams at around 4:40 are a pluspoint however. "Legionnaires Pray" offers enough tempo changes and a break here and there to keep you attentive. Musically you'll also hear IRON MAIDEN-esque licks.

"Reborn" starts with strange keyboard sounds, which I don't really find very suitable as they're more noise and don't do the song any good. But things improve very rapidly. The guitars ensure a heavy foundation, where the keyboards provide the melody and background atmosphere. While Glenn was acceptable in the previous song, he's not always hitting the mark in "Reborn". Around 3:23 it's time for some very nice solos, accompanied by a tempo increase and that really the most interesting part of the song.

Vicious start for "The Curse Of The Gladiator", a bit in the vain of (old) MEGADETH. The keyboards have changed to the organ-option. During the verses, the guitars remain silent for the largest part and then let the Metal flow and prepare you for the faster chorus. Again, the vocals seem to get the most criticism. But there's also a positive note: the Tim Owens-screams fit in very well. When he sings in a clean way, I sometimes wish there was a mute-button for that and just let the instruments do the talking.

And yes, ARTRACH also knows an (half-)accoustic song is a necessity and with a title like "The One" you could already have guessed this would be the ballad, right? Overall, not bad, but nothing renewing either.

The titletrack starts wild, after the keyboards have let out some suspense and the guitars follow with their wall. When the uptempo chorus, eh no, the solos are set in, this is just heaven. :-) The verses are slow and once again Glenn shows he's the weakest link, especially in the very decent chorus. Yes, it's a demo, I know, but that still doesn't change my opinion.

The closing track, "Admiring The Serial Killer", starts with some emotional keyboard-melodies. The rest of the instrumentation joins soon after, building up the heaviness. This is a slow song with Glenn going for a rougher kind of singing and I must say, this is a very good and wise decision. Around the fifth minute the guys have found the acceleration pedal and push it down some more. The guitars still prevail with their brutal sound, while the keyboards try to get through with the melodies. All in all, a nice song, though perhaps a bit too long to hold the attention.

ARTRACH have - all things considered - made a decent demo here, but many things could have been improved of course, especially in the vocal department. But that's for the review of "Faceless God", the second demo that came out in 2004.

More info at www.artrach.com.

Line-up:
Glenn Devos - vocals
Guy Commeene - guitars
David Vandewalle - guitars
Christof Colle - keyboards
Wouter Nottebaert - bass
Diëgo Denorme - drums


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KALEDON – The Destruction (Steelborn Records 2002)

Kaledon - The Destruction
  1. The Calling
  2. In Search Of Kaledon
  3. Army Of The Undead King
  4. Thunder In The Sky
  5. Streets Of The Kingdom
  6. Spirit Of The Dragon
  7. Hero Of The Land (mp3)
  8. God Says Yes (mp3)
  9. Deep Forest
  10. Desert Land Of Warriors
  11. The Jackal's Fall

Don't be fooled by the quality of the cover, because it's the music that matters. KALEDON isn't just another Italian Powermetalband, they have a special sound and overall package which makes them worthwile. The album has been produced in a way that it's almost a live-album. The instruments sound so 'real', like you are in the studio with the band. Now, that can be a good point, but other bands have a more professional touch for that.

"The Destruction" is the first album in a serie of 6, called "Legend Of The Forgotten Reign". The backgroundstory is written by guitarist/composer Alex Mele. The band is determined to release an album every year.

Inserting the cd into the stereo and pressing the 'Play' button, there's a nice instrumental intro, played by keyboards, and could very well fit into a full song. After that it's metal-time: heavy riffs, great drums, beautiful melodies, ... As said earlier, the vocals are something to get used to. There are songs where Claudio sings very high and you might press the 'Next' button, but listen to the album a couple of times and you'll start to appreciate it somehow.

To create the appropriate atmosphere (inline with the story), sounds of nature, marching, fighting, ... were added.

Songs like "God Says Yes" and "Hero Of The Land" are a pleasure to listen to, with beautiful melodies, fast drums,... "Spirit Of The Dragon" has a nice beating with keyboard-beats added to the bassdrum.

KALEDON is about heavy (and mostly fast) riffs, great drums, melodies that are a delight for the ear. Ok, maybe I exaggerate a bit, but they (the band) are worth checking out.

Line-up:
Claudio Conti - vocals
Alex Mele - guitar
Tommy Nemesio - guitar
Daniele Fuligni - keyboards
Paolo Lezziroli - bass
David Folchitto - drums


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MANTICORA – Hyperion (Scarlet Records 2002)

Manticora - Hyperion
  1. A Gathering Of Pilgrims
  2. Filaments Of Armageddon
  3. The Old Barge
  4. Keeper Of Time - Eternal Champion (mp3)
  5. Cantos
  6. On A Sea Of Grass - Night
  7. Reversed
  8. On A Sea Of Grass - Day
  9. A Long Farewell
  10. At The Keep
  11. Swarm Attack!
  12. Loveternaloveternal...

After two very good albums, you would expect another killer-album. Well... no. It's a good album, yes, but the production has stepped back a bit and the songs aren't that strong as on "Darkness With Tales To Tell". With 'strong', I mean the 'feel', not the heaviness.

Lars and Mads like Fantasy and are a huge fan of Dan Simmons's "Hyperion" book(s). So they used this book to create this dito-titled album "Hyperion". Apparently this is based only on the first book in the series, "Hyperion", which means there's still room for the rest of the books. But if and when those will be converted to an album is still undefined. I (and probably other people as well) hope MANTICORA will one day tackle these albums too.

Twelve songs of which six are at least 7 minutes long. Making an album based on a book, and having the songs clock at 3-4 minutes wouldn't do justice when interpreting certain passages of that book.

On the cover you can see an impression of the Shrike, the beast aka guard of the time tombs in the story, together with the baby that keeps getting younger and younger.

"Filaments Of Armageddon" is one of those great, speedy songs. To the point. "Keep Of Time - Eternal Champion" has this Eastern-like sound which I find a bit annoying. Good thing here is that around 4min.50sec. there's resting point providing calm music played by the bass guitar, eh, Kasper. ;-) Guitars and drums follow, building the tension. Solos follow soon after that.

"Cantos" is great and one of the best on this album. But a bit heavy to digest and comprehend. Live it's a nice one to experience. With "Reversed" MANTICORA did an excellent job in interpreting this respective scene/event from the book (yes, I read the book too and own the entire series, which makes it easier to understand). They expressed the emotional feeling very well. Stunning result! "At The Keep" is the other emotional, ballad-like song.

The two "Sea Of Grass" songs are my least favourites, having certain sounds/melodies that I find hard fitting in these songs.

"A Long Farewell" is a (long ;-) and) very nice uptempo song with very well played riffs and melodies. Also one of the best on the album. As with some other songs, there's large instrumental part filled wth solos of both guitar and keyboards, which is always welcome.

To give Lars some rest, they made "Swarm Attack": an instrumental song, changing between mid- and uptempo.

And finally "Loveternaloveternal...", starting with an accoustic intro and featuring a combination of male and female vocals. The result is quite good and the voices are very compatible.

Conclusion? It certainly is recommended if you have/like(d) the book "Hyperion" and/or if you're a MANTICORA fan. Overall, it's a nice album and it contains very good songs, but for me, there are only 4-5 songs that really grasp me. Good thing they released "8 Deadly Sins" (2004), which was again a very strong album.

Line-up:
Lars F. Larsen - vocals
Kristian Larsen - guitars
Martin Arendal - guitars
Kasper Gram - bass
Jeppe Eg - keyboards
Mads Volf - drums


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Reviews 2002

On this page
ARTRACH -
Through Archways
Of Dark
KALEDON -
The Destruction
MANTICORA -
Hyperion