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.:CD Reviews:.

THEY AWAIT – Moment Of Eclipse (They Await 2005)

They Await - Moment Of Eclipse
  1. Hanging Room
  2. Whispers In Code
  3. Inhibitions
  4. Corporate Prison
  5. Slowburn

THEY AWAIT is a new band of ex-HOSTILITY/GULCH guitarist Jamie Mai. Two years ago (2004, I'm writing this in 2006) the start was given for what was first a studio project, but as time passed by it became clear things were developing towards a real band.

And now, the debut EP, "Moment of Eclipse", is ready and described as "a collection of metal-influenced songs twisted into a dark soundscape of despair, hope, fear, destruction and rebirth, with influences ranging from metal and hardcore to goth and industrial."

It starts with "Hanging Room". Groovy, but heavy, guitars dominate with the drums providing diversity. The singing is clean. The atmosphere is overall a bit doomy and not too fast. Very decent stuff, although the ending is a bit too sudden. "Whispers In Code" continues the heavy grooves even more and heavier. Keyboards (or samples) have been added for melody and atmosphere. But the guitars remain the most dominating and important instrument. And here too things end in a strange way. It's ok to have compact songs, but I still feel more could be added and ultimately head towards a proper final note.

"Inhibitions" is the 'ballad' of the bunch and the guitars don't sound as heavy as before. Again keyboards (or samples) add more melody and feeling. In general this is an ok song, but nothing more. The tempo increase around 2:50 does make things more interesting. And this time the guys did manage to end in style. ;-)

"Corporate Prison" sounds much rawer than the previous songs, as if a different kind of mixing was applied. Musically it's not as good as the other ones and the rawer sound doesn't make things better either. And finally, "Slowburn", starts with samples and industrial sounds. But the whole sounds so raw I'm not really keen on commenting this. The song's atmosphere is very dramatic and dark and perhaps such industrial sounds are more fitting than normal playing. Still, I consider this the worst - or least interesting - song on this EP. The screams actually also have a part in this.

All in all, THEY AWAIT have good ideas, especially shown in the first two songs. The others are bit to experimental for my taste.

More info at www.myspace.com/theyawait.

Line-up:
Spazz - vocals
Jamie Mai - guitars
Jeff Butler - bass
Tony Witt - drums


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ADOR DORATH – Symbols (Shindy Productions 2005)

Ador Dorath - Symbols
  1. Rosa
  2. Vitriol
  3. Earth
  4. River
  5. Desert
  6. Mountain
  7. Balance
  8. Limits
  9. Nine
  10. Island (bonus track)

In May 2006 (I'm writing this in July 2006 ;-)) I received a copy of the Czech band ADOR DORATH's second album "Symbols" (released in the second half of December), and again it concerns a band I have never heard of before. Then again, they're not so famous yet, so no worries. Musically this six-piece plays a mix of melodic death/black and gothic in a doomy atmosphere.

Dual vocals are represented by Ivoš Dosedel and Lenka Machová. Keyboards are of course a vital instrument to provide the melodies and surround the songs with the right feeling. The riffs put the emphasis on certain parts. The songs are fairly short, but flow into each other via nature sounds or start without barely a second of rest.

"Symbols" is a concept album, about the use and importance of symbols in our lives.

The album starts with a spoken introduction by Lenka, using words from Umberto Eco's "The Name Of The Rose". Then hell breaks loose, with the grunts and pseudo-operatic vocals. Uptempo drumming and riffs dominate throughout the song. The violincello adds a fresh touch now and then. A more than great start, as you can really feel the passion for this music.

"Vitriol", is overall quite good with again the violincell and also the keyboards/organ giving the song more power, but there's a certain, rather annoying, part sung by Lenka: "Sun is hidden in a star, East in the west, artist in a masterpiece". Musically, everything's more than alright.

On "Earth" Lenka uses a more operatic voice, to underline the Gothic/Black Metal influence. Grunts are the primary voice. Rough riffs and variated drumwork give it a progressive kind of approach.

Sea sounds making the bridge between "Earth" and "River", this latter being a very calm song. The melody is played by the piano and here the grunts are left aside for a minute in favour of Lenka's soft voice, which returns further along the song. After that minute the rest of the band joins in and things get heavier, with the grunts taking back their position behind the microphone.

Spacey winds carry you into (the) "Desert", this too being some kind of resting point with Lenka in the spotlights. Electric guitars have been replaced by accoustic ones, keyboards are of course dominatingly present. The violincello adds more emotion. Very nice song and very touching.

Thunderstorms this time leading towards "Mountain". Trying something different, Martin uses more electronic sounds instead of regular keyboard sounds. This time Lenka doesn't sing, but whispers. To be honest, it makes me shiver... in a negative way. Luckily Ivoš's grunts take over soon enough together with more powerful drumming. The song sounds somewhat RAMMSTEIN-ish, but only in a small proportion. Overall not a bad song, but not superb either.

What comes next, could have been a COVENANT (THE KOVENANT) song, off the "Nexus Polaris" album. Or a CRADLE OF FILTH song. Melodically and musically this is very nice and of the best on "Symbols". Lenka's operatic singing is top notch. Nothing to add, splendid song, but ends quite unexpectedly.

With "Limits" you get some tribal sounds to start with, preparing you for the upcoming blast. Uptempo drumming, evergrunting Ivoš, the soft voice of Lenka together with the violincello towards the end, .... it all fits, but somehow I feel they could have added more minutes to this song (and some of the others too). But it's very good.

"Nin.E" might sound chaotic at first, but it's in fact well-structured and played. It's one of the (if not thé) wildest song(s) on "Symbols", but so damn beautiful. Add the strange ending (Lenka's laughing) and the song even seems more charming. ;-)

The last track, although bonus apparently, is truly one of kind and totally stands apart from the other songs. You can almost imagine how "Island" sounds without having listened to it. No heavy riffs, no thunderous drumming, no demonic grunts, no heavenly chanting. Just the atmospheric keyboards and bird sounds. Truly a-ma-zing!! A perfect song to come to peace and in the vain of those meditation songs. Even if you're not into that (meditation), you just have to give the band (or Martin) credit for creating such a wonderful piece of music. It almost made my cry. Martin, if you can, try making a whole cd of this kind of music. But WITHOUT the crazy ending (cock-crowing). ;-)

I didn't know any Czech band until now, but with ADOR DORATH I guess I have a fine band to start with. Their second album "Symbols" is a diamond in the rough and could even shine brighter with a better production, yet the roughness also gives it a certain appeal/flair and honesty. From the start you can hear they put a lot of work and energy in creating this album, but still have some things to work on. Details, but when 'fixed' it will only be in the band's favour. I doubt if the album is easy to get via the shops, otherwise contact the band via their website.

More info at www.adordorath.com.

Line-up:
Ivoš Dosedel - male vocals
Lenka Machová - female vocals
Kamil Pfeffer - guitars
Martin Rozenek - keyboards, synthesizers
Kamil Kottek - bass
Zdenek Cepa - drums
Kristian Danel - violincello


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PERZONAL WAR – When Times Turn Red (AFM Records 2005)

Perzonal War - When Times Turn Red
  1. When Time Turns Red
  2. In Flames
  3. For The Last Time
  4. The Unbeliever
  5. My Conspiracy
  6. New Age
  7. Frozen Image
  8. 5 More Days
  9. Hope Dies Last
  10. Inferno

PERZONAL WAR, formed in 1996 by four guys from the area around Siegburg in Germany. Having been compared to METALLICA with their first three albums "The Inside", "Newtimechaos" and "Different But The Same", they have now found their very own identity, without changing Metti's powerful voice or the straight and brutal guitar sound.

Red has always been a symbol for pur energy, for exploding aggressions and for power. And red also is the (not only) symbolic trademark that leads through the album.

You can't really put a tag - which makes it easier to recognize genres - on PERZONAL WAR's music, but it does have some Thrash influences. NEVERMORE also comes to mind a bit, but that's a different band.

"When Times Turn Red" starts with an Eastern sound, a sitar I believe it is. But then this instrument makes place for the brutal riffs and pounding drums of "When Time Turns Red", which brings out the Thrashiness of the band. "In Flames" continues the uptempo pace. Here Matthias' melodic voice really comes out very nice. Next to the heavy riffs, guitar solos are also not strange to them and are very good.

After the midtempo "For The Last Time", of which there's a video on their website, a PARADISE LOST track follows: "The Unbeliever". Of course this is no PARADISE LOST song, but musically this could easily have been a track from their "Draconian Times" album. More specifically it resembles the song "Shadowkings".

The Eastern melody from the first song return at the end of "My Conspiracy", almost like these songs fit together. The brutality continues, there are no soft songs, ballads or similar.

Another PARADISE LOST-like track can be found in "Frozen Image", which also could come off "Draconian Times". When having to describe PERZONAL WAR's music, you could say: PARADISE LOST meets NEVERMORE. ;-) Not that there's anything wrong with that. They did a very good job with "When Times Turn Red", implementing brutality, melody, catchy tunes and sing-along choruses.

"Hope Dies Last" is the calmest track, but still with heavy, groovy riffs. With the sad undertone, this song will probably really come to life in such situations. To continue in the vein of the first couple of songs, PERZONAL WAR give their last all with the uptempo "Inferno", which would also do very well in live situations.

PERZONAL WAR have done a very good job with their new album "When Times Turn Red", providing a mixture of Thrash and melodicness. As mentioned, PARADISE LOST's "Draconian Times" and NEVERMORE in general are two bands that can be considered an influence (I don't know if it's true though ;-)), but adding the input of PERZONAL WAR, this is something worth getting.

More info at perzonalwar.musicground.de.

Line-up:
Matthias "Metti" Zimmer - vocals, guitar
Sascha Kerschgens - guitar
Sven Krautkrämer - bass
Martin Buchwalter - drums


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SARATOGA – Tierra De Lobos (Avispa Music 2005)

Saratoga - Tierra De Lobos
  1. Barcos De Cristal
  2. Necrophagus
  3. Contigo, Sin Ti
  4. Ave Fénix
  5. Quinto Infierno
  6. Fe
  7. Fuerza De Choque
  8. Prisión En Vida
  9. El Jardín De La Niebla
  10. Siento Que No Estás
  11. Tierra De Lobos
  12. Pura Sangre

SARATOGA, a long-time running Heavy/Power Metal band from Spain, released its latest opus on the 28th of November of 2005. I'm writing this because I received my copy in May 2006. Since this is the first time that I hear about the band and what they play, I can't compare with previous albums. Still, seeing which genre they fit in, it should be easy to know how their back catalogue sounds. ;-)

But on to "Tierra De Lobos". Like other Spanish bands, they only sing in their native language, which makes it hard for foreign fans to understand what the songs are about. Musically it's clearly Heavy/Power as they manage to implement different tempos but also give lots of attention and space to uptempo, speedier songs.

And that's how "Tierra De Lobos" kicks off, in uptempo style, with "Barcos De Cristal". "Necrophagus" is even faster and more ferocious. What comes next needs no explanation: a mix of midtempo, ballad ("Fe" and "Siento Que No Estás", the latter being quite boring) and more uptempo.

Songs that stand out, because of the melody, the chorus, the solos, ...: "Barcos De Cristal", "Contigo, Sin Ti", "Ave Fénix", "Fuerza De Choque" (except for the screamy vocals), "Tierra De Lobos" and the closing track "Pura Sangre".

Negative points go to mainly the vocals. I consider them the 'least good' element, as the screams and tone many times annoyed the hell out of me. Musically there are a lot of good moments and songs.

Fans of SARATOGA should have little to no problems with this album. People who are new regarding SARATOGA, it might be better to have a listen first before buying, unless you don't give much about the vocals. ;-)

More info at www.saratoga-agotaras.com.

Line-up:
Leo Jiménez - vocals
Jéronimo Ramiro - guitars
Niko del Hierro - bass
Daniel Pérez - drums


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DREAMLAND – Future's Calling (Dockyard 1 2005)

Dreamland - Future's Calling
  1. The Chance (intro)
  2. Hearts Like Lions
  3. A New Way
  4. Breaking The Chains
  5. Destiny
  6. Die Slowly
  7. Fade Away
  8. All For One
  9. Dreamland
  10. Future's Calling
  11. Blank Mind
  12. A New Dimension
  13. Repeating Supremacy (outro)

DREAMLAND, Joacim Cans of HAMMERFALL discovered this young Swedish band. DREAMLAND's singer Joacim Lundberg, also recently became the official new singer of DREAM EVIL. With "Future's Calling", another band enters the Powermetal arena. The album was produced by Joacim Cans and Andy LaRoque. Surprisingly (read: totally not), there are many HAMMERFALL influences. Although I also noticed some SHADOW KEEP similarities and more specifically from their first album "Corruption Within".

Melodic Powermetal is the music DREAMLAND plays. The sing-along character is very present: e.g. "Hearts Like Lions", "A New Way", ... Also very noticable are the use of choirs to give the songs a more epic touch.

Uptempo and midtempo are well divided over the tracklisting. "Destiny" is a very nice rocking song and one of the best on the album. Among the heavy guitarriffs, there's also room for a calmer song. Here "Fade Away" forms the central resting point, but it's also well done. "Blank Mind" is another song of this kind.

In general, this is a nice Powermetal album. Nothing spectacular as you'll find plenty of this on HAMMERFALL's albums and other similar bands. Of course, Joacim Cans' influence also plays its part and the production is logically very good. The only problem for me was Joacim's voice. He may be a good singer, but it tends to get boring after a while. Hopefully this will be a bit different on the band's next album.

More info at www.dream-land.nu.

Line-up:
Joacim Lundberg - vocals
Eric Rauti - guitars
Johan Eriksson - guitars
Mats Rendlert - bass
Marcus Sköld - drums


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YARGOS – To Be Or Not To Be (AFM Records 2005)

Yargos - To Be Or Not To Be
  1. The Guilded Cage
  2. Why?
  3. Peace Of Mind
  4. Point Of No Return
  5. A Time To Decide
  6. Pink Confusion
  7. Human Nature
  8. Time Drops
  9. The Summer Tree #1
  10. Full Circle
  11. Sometimes It Is Easier
  12. Turn Away
  13. The Summer Tree (Beat The Big Break) (live bonus track)

YARGOS, the latest project from the THRESHOLD frontman Andrew "Mac" McDermott. Well, it's not really HIS band, as you'll read below. ;-)

From their website:

Mastermind, composer and musician Wieland "Wielo" Hofmeister (guitar, keyboards), Producer Osssy Pfeiffer (piano, keyboards, drums) and Anca Graterol (vocals) did not need much time to convince Mac that the powerful Prog-Rock-Projekt YARGOS was not something to be turned down lightly. Featuring Andreas "Andy" Kienitz (solo guitar - HYDROTOXIN, HUMAN FORTRESS) and Peter Pichl (bass - RUNNING WILD).

Mac: "Anca and Osssy are considered (together with their studio FRIDA PARK) as two of the figure heads of the Hanover rock music scene. Their experience over the years with numerous international productions i.e. MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP, ROUGH SILK, THE JINKS, SPICE, STEFAN REMMLER, THE SWEET, JANE and many more guaranteed an optimal work force. Anca is not only an outstanding singer, she was also a great help in assisting with her professional vocal coaching. YARGOS gave me the freedom to explore the my vocal spectrum."

Wielo: "I am very happy and honored to have been able to realize one of my dreams in the making of this concept album. These wonderful musicians, Osssy's multi-instrumental and producer abilities have helped to make a dream come true. For the co-producing we brought in Jan Nemec (HANS-A-PLAST, ROYAL GARDEN, ELOY) a very experienced producer (Horus Sound Studio and also did some work in the Abbey Road Studios) who succeeded in putting the final polish to the YARGOS sound."

The album "To Be Or Not To Be" was released on the 18th November via AFM Records, parallel to the single "Why?".

Musically, the first bands that come to mind are AYREON and there are also some similarties with ORCHESTRAL MANOEUVRES IN THE DARK (OMD). Melodies are defined by keyboards and samples, resulting in at times bombastic songs.

"To Be Or Not To Be" start very good with the beautiful "The Guilded Cage", which has an amazing chorus and deep lyrics. Also noticable is the power of Andrew's voice! He already proved his skills in THRESHOLD, but here it's mindblowing at times. Very full and strong.

The next song, "Why?" is a heavy track, and also starts in a nice way. This track is a bit more complex than the first one and here too, the chorus stands out, but somehow reminds me of another song. One that is more pop-related.

"Peace Of Mind" starts with a guitar solo, backed by samples. Personally, I prefer real instruments in such a case, since the samples are badly chosen. when the entire band comes into play, it's like two different songs are being played, which makes it messy and a bit chaotic. I for one am not getting any 'peace of mind' from listening to it.

"Point Of No Return" is in itself not a bad song, only Anca's vocals are not melodic enough. Luckily she's backed during the chorus, so that's alright then. Another problem in this song are the samples. Now, you can add samples to provide more melody, or create a certain atmosphere or another reason why you might want to do that, but you have to draw a lne somewhere. Here it's just too much, buffer overflow as one could say. Because of this, the result here as well is not so orderly.

The rest of the songs suffer for the biggest part of the same problems, but there are some that are good: "Time Drops" is a calmer song and overall not so bad. "The Summer Tree #1" chooses the heavier way and is one of the better tracks, next to the much better "The Guilded Cage" and "Why?". The following "Sometimes It Is Easier" can also be put in the 'good' category, together with "Turn Away".

Conclusion? While I expected something grand, I'm disappointed. The idea is good, but the result is not. The overuse of keyboard sounds and samples tend to create a crisscross/jumble of melodies that you want to skip and go to the next song or maybe play another cd. The start is good, the middle is not good and the end is above average. A shame really, if you what kind of musicians worked on it. Still, if you like ProgRock à la AYREON - who does a much better job in my opinion - you might want to check YARGOS out.

More info at www.yargos.de

Line-up:
Andrew McDermott - vocals
Anca Graterol - vocals
Wieland Hofmeister - guitar, keyboards
Andreas Kienitz - guitar
Peter Pichl - bass
Osssy Pfeiffer - piano, keyboards, drums


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ANNIHILATOR – Schizo Deluxe (AFM Records 2005)

Annihilator - Schizo Deluxe
  1. Maximum Satan
  2. Drive
  3. Warbird
  4. Plasma Zombies
  5. Invite It
  6. Like Father, Like Gun
  7. Pride
  8. Too Far Gone
  9. Clare
  10. Something Witchy

ANNIHILATOR, another long-time running Metal band. Good for them. Since their (his? = Jeff Waters) debut in the '80s with "Alice In Hell", the band has toured extensively, made ten studio albums and two live ones and some compilations and best of's. And now, another album is added to the list: "Schizo Deluxe".

I knew the band, but this is their first full album I have now, but it is good. A lot better than the previous "All For You", in my opinion.

Bass and all guitar duties were handled by Waters. Dave Padden again did the vocals, but here it's rougher, better. Mike Mangini was replaced by Ottawa native Tony Chappelle, who did a pretty good job on the new album. Most of the "Schizo Deluxe" recording sessions were done at Waters' Ottawa, Canada studios, with Waters engineering and producing. Mixing and mastering duties went to engineer Chris Coldrick.

Musically, this is tight playing with a lot of Thrash. Somehow the sound also reminds me of PAINMUSEUM's "Metal For Life" album. Starting with the great "Maximum Satan", followed by the uptempo "Drive". Both are superior tracks here. And Dave's rougher vocals really fit, especially in "Warbird", which ends with a looooong scream.

"Plasma Zombies", which is about the video game obsessed youth culture, also jumps out and has true lyrics. The song tackles a problem that has stirred many discussions, but one cannot deny it. TV also gets mentioned as a cause. A great song, musically and lyrically.

After playing a little killing game and returning to the real world, more uptempo follows with the also great "Invite It". Easy to sing along during the chorus, this song also has a nice melody. Again, tight riffing is key and Jeff is really good at what he does. To avoid monotonous singing, Dave also uses his clean vocals.

"Like Father, Like Gun", a lesser song in my opinion, reminds me in a way of PANTERA. Going really Thrashy is the fast "Pride". Excellent musicianship. Here too, nice coverage of the subject. "Too Far Gone" starts with a nice melody, which comes back a couple of times.

Despite Jeff's words about "Schizo Deluxe" being a non-ballad album, "Clare" has a softer part which strays away a bit from the other, heavier songs. But that impression soon gets blurred when the chorus kicks in. Jeff is the last man to end the song.

The closing ""Something Witchy" is another lesser good song, mainly because of Dave's screaming of the verses. The chorus sounds much better, the guitars have another sound too, more hollow. Luckily there's a nice guitar solo to make the song worthwhile.

Conclusion? A solid album. Personally not for my top 10 of 2005, but it's definitely better than "All For You". "Schizo Deluxe" has more balls and with a title like that... ;-) If you like your Metal rough, you'll like this one. ANNIHILATOR fans will surely buy this one. And if you're fast or interested, you can get the limited edition with three bonus tracks.

More info at www.annihilatormetal.com.

Line-up:
Dave Padden - vocals
Jeff Waters - guitar, bass
Curran Murphy - guitar
Tony Chappelle - drums


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CREOZOTH – Creozoth (Escapi Music 2005)

Creozoth - Creozoth
  1. With The Flow
  2. Stares Back
  3. Forsaken
  4. Minute U Die
  5. Intoxicatedead
  6. For Your Amusement
  7. Watch 'n Wait
  8. State Of Shock
  9. Bad Day
  10. Mind
  11. You Don't Know
  12. Dash
  13. Spectorized

Lars Johansson (CANDLEMASS) and drummer Jan Lindh (CANDLEMASS) in the line-up, completed by singer extra-ordinary Michael Storck (X-PLODE,YNGWIE MALMSTEEN) and bassist Torbjörn Moen (OZ, REDFUN), CREOZOTH is a result of ideas and projects started by Lars and Jan in between the times when CANDLEMASS took their breaks.

The meaning behind the term "Creozoth" has its origin in fiction "but it is about the man who eats that much so he explodes in a Monthy Python movie, it is also a 12000 year old plant that lives in the American desert, and also a deadly poison that killed many railway workers..." according to Lars.

The band has been around for quite a while and played together with this line-up for almost 2 years. The self-titled album was for the biggest part written and also produced by guitarist Lars Johansson at Soundland Studio (in Upplands Väsby, a small city) outside of Stockholm.

So, two years before popping up and releasing their first album. CANDLEMASS is one of the biggies in Doom Metal, CREOZOTH also has a doomish side, but is more rock-orientated, though the border with Metal is narrow.

The first things that are nocticable are 1) the raw and fat sound, which is quite good, and 2) first half is more mid- and uptempo, while the second half contains the slow(er) songs, like we're used to with CANDLEMASS. Nothing wrong with this kind of order, but it takes away the variety in tempo throughout a tracklisting.

When I first heard the songs, they didn't really do me much. After a couple of days, I played the CD again and my findings were more positive. But before this review, I listened again and I have to stay with my first impression. Although there are good songs on this self-titled debut, the fat sound and vocals make it a bit monotonous in the long run.

With CANDLEMASS, this kind of sound is better controlled, produced, ... while here - I could be wrong - it's like they want to use this to make a more hardrock-orientated kind of music. The idea may be good, the result is less. Overall, it's not a bad album, but what it contains could have been better. Fingers crossed for the next, which will probable BE better.

More info at Escapi Music, since there's no CREOZOTH website yet.

Line-up:
Michael Storck - vocals
Lars Johansson - guitars
Torbjorn Moen - bass
Jan Lindh - drums


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ENEMIES SWE – Behind Enemy Lines (Locomotive Records 2005)

Enemies Swe - Behind Enemy Lines
  1. Powertrain
  2. Enemy
  3. Mainstream King
  4. Sliced And Diced
  5. Nasty Idol
  6. Elvis In Brooklyn
  7. Superstar
  8. Glam Star Cabaret
  9. Back With The Bullets
  10. Hello Hell
  11. Rock 'N' Roll School

ENEMIES SWE were formed in October 2001 by Marco and Ricki. Simon, Andreas and Bevis joined the band shortly after that. The plan was to start a dangerous and powerful rock n’ roll band in the spirit of giants like AC/DC, AEROSMITH, KISS, GUNS 'N' ROSES, SEX PISTOLS and many more.

The band also did a lot of songs and gigs with famous Swedish acts like HARDCORE SUPERSTAR, MUSTASCH, HELLACOPTERS, etc. Been playing on Swedish festivals: Kalas, Skarakalaset, Hjofestivalen, Decibel 2000, Mudmusic festival etc.

After a year they signed a record deal with Plugged Records and started to record 16 songs for the long awaited first coming album "Behind enemy lines" with the single/video "Enemy".

Luckily the tracklisting was printed onto the CD, because the one on the back of the promo 'booklet' is totally different.

"Behind Enemy Lines" starts very good, very rock'n'roll-ish with "Powertrain". This is one of the few songs that stand out. Melodically and chorus-wise this is very good stuff. The next one, "Enemy", takes it a bit slower and with "Sliced And Diced" the tempo is going up again. To avoid the same kinds of tempo after one another, ENEMIES SWE switch it many times. ""Elvis In Brooklyn" has a funny drumpattern which makes it a nice and somewhat happy song, although the chorus is not really of my liking.

Another song that stands out is "Back With The Bullets", because of the melody, the drums and the guitarriffs. Then we're going slower again, but the ending is nice: "Rock 'N' Roll School". The title says it all. ;-)

But like I said earlier, few songs stand out. The rest floats between good and average. Overall, it's a nice rock album, providing a good start for the Swedes. As background music it'll do quite well, but for active listening the list isn't long enough.

More info at www.enemiesswe.com.

Line-up:
Rickard Andersson - vocals
Simon Karlsson - guitar
Andreas Lagerin - guitar
Daniel Bivesjö - bass
Marco Siila - drums


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NIKKI PUPPET – Puppet On A String (Armageddon Music 2005)

Nikki Puppet - Puppet On A String
  1. Puppet On A String
  2. Sirens
  3. Syncronized
  4. I Feel Unreal
  5. Grumpy Face
  6. Another World
  7. Ignorance
  8. Enjoy
  9. Stand Here This Way
  10. Insignificant

NIKKI PUPPET, a name that I thought was already in existence for quite some time. Apparently not. This Hannover-based band was formed by frontwoman Nicky Gronewold and guitarist Christos Mamalitsidis when they met via a magazine ad. They started out as HUNGRY, but in 2004 - when bassist Anke and drummer Michael joined the fold - the four were known as NIKKI PUPPET.

"Puppet On A String" is their debut album, produced by Hermann Frank, who's well-known for his work with VICTORY and ACCEPT. He gave the songs a rough sound, resulting in a rocking album that should do well for airplay via different radio stations. The running time of the songs - average of three minutes - should also help.

Don't expect anything original or technical stuff. NIKKI PUPPET delivers straight-forward rock and leans a bit towards Metal. Catchiness is key (e.g. "Sirens", "Ignorance", "I Feel Unreal", ...) and there's not a single bad song here. One of the bands you could compare NIKKI PUPPET with are the disbanded GUANO APES.

A plus for this band is Nicky Gronewold, who's charismatic voice can be seen as a trademark for NIKKI PUPPET. Not only does it fit the rocking songs, she also handles accoustic songs with great ease, as you can hear in "Grumpy Face". This song also is the resting point among the other rocksongs.

"A Puppet On A String" offers some nice and easy rock and is enjoyable as opposite to the heavier music found in different Metal genres. It's nothing original, but it's good.

More info at www.nikkipuppet.de.

Line-up:
Nicky Gronewold - vocals
Christos Mamalitsidis - guitar
Anke Sobek - bass
Michael Wolpers - drums


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EDDIE OJEDA – Axes 2 Axes (Black Lotus Records 2005)

Eddie Ojeda - Axes 2 Axes
  1. Tonight
  2. Axes 2 Axes
  3. Please Remember
  4. Eleanor rigby
  5. Evil Duz (What Evil knows)
  6. Crosstown
  7. Senorita Knows
  8. Love Power
  9. Funky Monkey
  10. The Reason
  11. Living Free

EDDIE OJEDA, the name will probably only ring a bell with the people who grew up with TWISTED SISTER and other hardrock/heavy metal bands from the '80s. I have to confess, though I grew up with Metal, it was more METALLICA and similar bands that dominated my metal life, though I had heard of TWISTED SISTER, but not their music. But since some time I've started checking out older bands again and DIO is the one that really sticks out then, like SAXON and others. Great was my suprise when I got a promo of Eddie Ojeda's first solo album in the mail.

Some quotes (5) from the press text:

1) "Eddie's best known for all the years he has spent as the lead guitarist for TWISTED SISTER. After years of creating a name for themselves in bars and clubs in the New York area, Twisted eventually toured the world from Japan to Canada, Europe to Australia. Eddie played on eleven albums (which earned a combined 25 gold and platinum records worldwide) and performed in over 4000 shows, opening for groups such as IROPN MAIDEN, DIO, ZZTOP, WHITESNAKE, and MOTÖRHEAD. Ronnie Dio chose Eddie to perform alongside Neal Schon, Yngwie Malmsteen, George Lynch, and many other great musicians in the "Hearing Aid" video - Heavy Metal's contribution to the African Relief Fund. During the TWISTED period Eddie was recognized in the book, "Who's Who in Rock'n'Roll"."

2) "Eddie Ojeda in his first solo album has nothing to prove. For instance when he wrote "Tonight" (a magnificent opening track with the mighty R.J Dio on vocals) he knew exactly how to make it a hit and how it could fit Ronnie’s voice." - And this is very true. It also is one of the best on the album. Dio's voice.. it's just amazing what that little man can do.

3) "When he re-arranged the classic BEATLES "Eleanor Rigby" (actually transformed it into a heavy metal avalanche!) he knew that Dee Snider’s powerful and enormous throat would make it one of the classic covers ever made!" - It sounds familiar, but this is a little less good. Nice try, but I'm not overly fond of it.

4) "Ladies and Gentlemen this is heavy metal! And heavy metal is all about celebrating our anger, our passion, our dreams and nightmares; it’s about who we are and who will always be." - Hell yeah!

5) ""Axes 2 Axes" is THE heavy metal album; made by musicians who live and breath this music, made by some of those who first played it and lived it to the bone. And Eddie, with all his friends, truly mean it..." - THE Heavy Metal album? Definitely not, but it sure is a must to have in your collection if you like bands like SAXON, DIO, TWISTED SISTER, and others. Pure Heavy Metal, like (for the biggest part) only musicians from the '70s and '80 can make it.

"Axes 2 Axes" is a mix of Hardrock and Heavy Metal, with melody and catchy riffs, but also with variated drumwork, making the songs even better. Not all songs have vocals - otherwise this wouldn't be a solo album by a guitarist - so Eddie also added some instrumental songs (e.g. "Crosstown").

The only negative criticism I can give here is the short running time: about 39 minutes. Some songs only take more than 2 minutes and for a Heavy Metal album I find this too short. And you can almost hear it too, these particular songs end so quickly that you feel something is/was missing. Eddie, next time you better add more music and try to reach the 50-60 minutes marker. ;-)

Nevertheless, this is qualitative music which should appeal to old rockers, new rockers, any rocker with an open mind. Get this album!

More info at www.eddieojeda.com.

Line-up:
Eddie Ojeda, Ronny James Dio, Dee Snider, Joe Lynn Turner, Terry Ilous - vocals
Eddie Ojeda - guitars
Chris MacCarvill, Eddie Ojeda, Rudy Sarzo - bass
Joe Franco - drums


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WOLFCRY – Warfair (Black Lotus Records 2005)

Wolfcry - Warfair
  1. Once Again...
  2. ...Here We Are
  3. Hesitant Gathering
  4. Honored Expedition
  5. The Mirror Mask
  6. Semper Casta
  7. On The Edge
  8. Fatal Conflict
  9. The Pledge
  10. 6 Must Die
  11. Enola Gay (bonus track)

The Hellenic Heavy-Power Metal band WOLFCRY was formed in September 1992 by Andreas "The Wizard" immediately after the split-up of the band VANGUARD.

But in that same year, the band experienced line-up problems, which led to inactivity for four years. So, in August 1996, Andreas "The Wizard" decided to renew and reform the band to record the debut demo called "The Ivory Tower".

After a couple of years of intense rehearsing and song writing, they recorded their first album called "Power Within". The album released from the local label Black Lotus in November of 2001.

In December of 2002 the band with the same line-up entered once again the studio, this time for the recording of their second album entitled "Nightbreed" which also released from Black Lotus Records in June of 2003 and made the band one of the most successful ones from Hellas in their music genre.

In 2005 two new members joined the band John B. on the second guitar and Nick "Peper" Zanninello on keyboards. With the solid older line up, along with the two new members the band entered the studio in the summer in order to record its third full length album entitled "Warfair". In October of 2005 "Warfair" was released by Black Lotus Records.

As it says in the first line, Heavy/Powermetal, and you can hear it very clearly. No mistake possible. ;-) "Warfair" starts mysteriously, followed by heavy riffs and bombastic keyboard sounds, forming the intro for the uptempo "...Here We Are". Heavy riffs, a clear sound, pounding drums, what more could you ask for? This is Metal! At first you could be surprised by the vocals as they sound a bit light, but for the most part, they suit the songs well. At around three minutes there's a nice instrumental part, with keyboards defining the melody.

Next is "Hesitant Gathering", where some nice hooks were implemented. Melody is very important throughout the album and depending on the song, keyboards are a key instrument. Another interesting element in "Hesitant Gathering" is the grunting in the chorus, giving it a special feel.

Taking back some speed, "Honored Expedition" relies heavily on keyboards, backed by the guitars. As a whole, this is a good song, also because of the drums, but one 'problem' might be the vocals. Here I would prefer someone with a deeper voice, a singer like Hansi Kürsch (BLIND GUARDIAN) or similar.

If the previous track was too slow for you, "The Mirror Mask" should please you more. Heavy riffs, uptempo drums in the intro, but then it all fades.. until the chorus.

One thing's for sure: you get a lot of music for 11 tracks. Most of the songs end around the 5-minute marker or further.

"Semper Casta" stands out for its melodies and the beautiful chorus. Not a fast song, but still well done.

Buckle up, for you're going on a fast ride with the one of the best tracks on the album: "On The Edge". The title actually says it's not a slow-paced song. During the verses there's playful drumming, backed by heavy and fast riffs for the bridge, ending in a kick-ass chorus! "On The Edge" is also a great song to headbang to. I can't speak about it enough, just... gimme more of this! :-)

Going slower again, "Fatal Conflict" is on next, followed by an even slower "The Pledge". "6 Must Die" is also synonym for the short chorus of that song, giving more attention to the instruments. Pluspoint here are the rougher vocals. If only this could have been done on some other songs as well. ;-)

A cover of ORCHESTRAL MANOEUVRES IN THE DARK's (OMD) "Enola Gay" closes the album. WOLFCRY's version is not bad, also using the rougher vocals here, just a nice extra.

Conclusion? Even though WOLFCRY probably isn't as known as FIREWIND, they sure deserve it (= getting more attention). What this band has come up with on their third album is really amazing, pure Metal that should catapult them into stardom (by manner of speech). This should open many (venue) doors for them and end up in the collection of many Metalheads. Fans of Powermetal or Heavy Metal with a rough edge MUST get this. This is a job very well done!

More info at www.wolfcrymusic.com.

Line-up:
Costas Hatzigeorgiou - vocals
Simos Kaggelaris - guitar
John B. - guitar
Spyros Triantafillou - bass
Nick "Peper" Zanninello - keyboards
Andreas "The Wizard" - drums


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TOKYO DRAGONS – Give Me The Fear (Escapi Music 2005)

Tokyo Dragons - Give Me The Fear
  1. What The Hell
  2. Get 'Em Off
  3. Do You Wanna?
  4. Come On Baby
  5. Let It Go
  6. Johnny Don't Wanna Ride
  7. Teenage Screamers
  8. Ready Or Not
  9. Burn On
  10. Rockin' The Stew
  11. Chasing The Night

TOKYO DRAGONS.. what a name, ey? ;-) Anyhow, these London-based guys play rock'n'roll with a dirty edge. One could compare it a bit with STATUS QUO, maybe DOOMFOXX and other similar bands. You get eleven songs for a total running time of 40 minutes.

The music these DRAGONS play is far from original - not that there's anything wrong with that - and has influences from the '70s, which also makes it good for parties. But not all of the songs would fit in such a situation.

You feel this band has the enthusiasm to play this kind of music, but their latest work here, "Give Me The Fear", could have been better in my opinion. It starts well with "What The Hell" and (for me, the best song) "Get 'Em Off". "Do You Wanna?" is also worth mentioning.

But then it tends to get monotonous. I really recommend not to play this album song after song, but mix some other kinds of music in between, because it will sound boring if you don't mix or give it a rest now and then.

With "Ready Or Not" things start sounding better again, continuing towards "Chasing The Night", but they don't lift the album to new heights, they're not as good as the first tracks.

Still, with this album, they should get attention from mainstream radio stations, at least those who give airplay to rockbands, if I compare it with other better-known rockbands.

More info at www.tokyodragons.com.

Line-up:
Steve Lomax - lead vocals, guitar
Mal Bruk - guitar, vocal
Mathias Stady - bass
Phil Martini - drums, vocals


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PERSUADER – The Hunter (re-release, Dockyard 1 2005)

Persuader - The Hunter
  1. Fire At Will
  2. As You Wish
  3. Cursed
  4. The Hunter
  5. Secrets
  6. Escape
  7. And Then There Was Light...
  8. Heart And Steel
  9. My Life For You
  10. Escape (demo version)
  11. Cursed (demo version)

Sweden's PERSUADER can be compared to BLIND GUARDIAN, but then in a rougher version. Jens' vocals sure makes this comparison more viable, since they resemble those of Hansi Kürsch.

So far, the band has released two albums: "The Hunter" in 2000 via Loud'n'Proud and "Evolution Purgatory" in 2004 via Noise Records. They got the deal with Noise Records after winning the Young Metal Gods competition, which was sponsored by a.o. this label. DYECREST and BEYOND SURFACE were the other two winners.

Since their contract with Noise Records was not prolonged, PERSUADER had to search for a new label and got picked up by Dockyard 1, which is run by ex-Noise Records people and IRON SAVIOR mainman Piet Sielck, who also produced PERSUADER's second album.

The last couple of years, "The Hunter" was hard to find in the stores or online, so Dockyard 1 decided to re-release this album. Two demo songs were added to the tracklisting: "Escape" and "Cursed", which come off the earlier demo "Visions And Dreams".

When I first heard the album, I was suprised and disappointed. I'm not questioning their skills, since they undoubtebly are good musicians and you can hear the passion they have for this music. What I àm referring to is the production. Though for a debut it's well done, it's not really an album I'm playing a lot. It can sometimes sound too monotonous. The variation in the songs is missing at times. But the songs are good. For instance the titletrack is for me one of the best. "Cursed" and "Escape" are the others that jump out.

The strange thing is also that the demo songs tend to sound more polished, tighter than the album versions. The instruments seems to be more/better geared to one another. Maybe if all the songs were recorded in demo-style, it would make the album more appealing.

PERSUADER fans who couldn't get this debut album the last couple of years now have a chance to add it to their collection. If you didn't know the band yet, but would like to know how it sounded in the beginning, you can check it out too or you could go straight for the band's second album "Evolution Purgatory".

PERSUADER's third album "When Eden Burns" is scheduled for release in March 2006, via Dockyard 1.

More info at www.persuader.nu.

Line-up:
Jens Carlsson - vocals, guitar
Emil Norberg - guitar
Fredrik Hedström - bass
Efraim Juntunen - drums


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PRIMAL FEAR – Seven Seals (Nuclear Blast 2005)

Primal Fear - Seven Seals
  1. Demons & Angels
  2. Rollercoaster
  3. Seven Seals
  4. Evil Spell
  5. The Immortal Ones
  6. Diabolus
  7. All For One
  8. Carniwar
  9. Question Of Honour
  10. In Memory
  11. The Union (bonus track)
  12. Higher Power (bonus track)

PRIMAL FEAR, the JUDAS PRIEST clones, have released another very good album and have topped their entire discography so far. Correction on the 'JUDAS PRIEST clones' thing: because Ralf Scheepers' voice and PRIMAL FEAR's music is close to that of respectively Rob Halford and JUDAS PRIEST, the bands have been compared numerous times. But even though there are still some similarities, PRIMAL FEAR is another kind of band. An even bigger difference is the music, as PRIMAL FEAR have stayed true to their 'sound' and power.

"Seven Seals" starts with the bombastic, but marvellous "Demons & Angels" with not only great melodies, but also a big sing-along factor, which also counts for many of the other songs. The midtempo "Rollercoaster" is on next and here too, pure Metal, pure quality. Live this is also great to hear.

The titletrack takes it a bit easier and adds more symphony to the melodies. Here too, a catchy chorus stands out and you can't help but sing-along.

PRIMAL FEAR wouldn't be PRIMAL FEAR if they didn't have uptempo songs on a new album. But despite very good previous efforts on albums like "Nuclear Fire", "Jaws Of Death", etc..., "Evil Spell" is the best of the bunch. Majestic, wonderful, divine piece of music which moves me (in a positive way) time and time again. Simply stunning material and live it is just breathtaking, mindblowing as the power of this song grips you even more.

After this inferno of metallic power, the band continues in a somewhat slower way ("The Immortal Ones") and round it off with the symphonic ballad "Diabolus", containing a sad undertone. When the solos come into play, the tempo increases, but only for that limited time.

The midtempo "All For One" commences with a spoken intro before the heavy riffs are let loose. "Carniwar" sees Ralf using his high-pitched screams again. Personally, I'm not so fond of that. The song is good, though.

In comes a piano (accompanied by the guitars and drums) as the introducing instrument for the uptempo "Question Of Honour". The normal track listing ends with the ballad "In Memory". This is an even more sad song than "Diabolus", but the result is also superb.

The limited edition of "Seven Seals" contains two bonus tracks and the "Seven Seals" videoclip. The first bonus song, "The Union", belongs in the 'slow songs' category, while "Higher Power" chooses a more faster pace and is in general a solid song.

I can imagine you might not have liked PRIMAL FEAR in the past, but this album is different. The band have improved themselves a great deal and this is easily their best album to date and also one of the best of 2005. I cannot do anything else but highly recommend it! Great musicianship, wonderful melodies, compositions, ... As a matter of fact, every PRIMAL FEAR album is worth getting, one more than the other of course. ;-)

More info at www.primalfear.de.

Line-up:
Ralf Scheepers - vocals
Tom Naumann - guitar
Stefan Leibing - guitar
Mat Sinner - bass
Randy Black - drums


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WET ANIMAL – Wet Animal (Escapi Music 2005)

Wet Animal - Wet Animal
  1. Soul Alone
  2. Lost in My Head
  3. Outside a Hole
  4. Left Behind
  5. Land Mines
  6. Don't Put Me Down
  7. Fade Away
  8. Nomads Land
  9. Wreathe of the Roses
  10. Relentless

WET ANIMAL, a new band featuring Rick Wartell and Jeff "Oly" Olson from legendary Chicago doomsters TROUBLE.

Guitarist/songwriter Rick Wartell started the legendary TROUBLE in 1977 Chicago. Six studio albums and 18 years later, TROUBLE is largely looked at as one of the bands that gave birth to American Stoner Rock/Doom Metal.

WET ANIMAL was born the year TROUBLE ended, 1995, the brainchild of Wartell, singer/guitarist Shane Pasqualla and TROUBLE bassist Ron Holzner, but by 1997, Wartell and Pasqualla were family men, and Holzner took off for another band. By 2003, Shane and Rick started collaborating on new material. They recruited Jeff "Oly" Olson to play drums and Michael "Vito" Diprima to play bass.

The result is this self-titled "Wet Animal" CD. "This is what I imagined when we first formed WET ANIMAL," Wartell explains. He produced the effort between two studios in hometown Chicago and Massachusetts.

On concert stages later this year and next, Wartell and Pasqualla will utilize the talents of Richard Lee Gardner on bass, and drummer Scott Davidson (STONEHENGE, SMOKE).

As comparison, ALICE IN CHAINS was also mentioned in other reviews, with which I can agree as I faintly remember some of this band's music.

When I first played the disc, I wasn't suprised or anything. Well, I was, but in a negative way. Maybe my expectations were a little too high, but even after giving it some more spins I still can not change my opinion. It starts fairly good with "Soul Alone", with a rough/raw guitar sound. And that instrument will change a couple of times in sound during the playtime. One time it sounds raw, then sharper, then back to the earlier sound, followed by another kind of roughness... and none of those is good enough.

Actually, the best song of the first number of tracks is "Left Behind", a calmer song with accoustic guitars. But after a couple of minutes, the song comes to a halt and you'd think the next song will start, but no. Suddenly an accoustic guitarmelody is played - totally different from what you have heard before that - and then heaviness comes back, also not related to the first part. And when you follow the time on your player's display, you'll see that this heavy part is actually the beginning of the next song, "Land Mines". So, when you would start from "Land Mines", the beginning isn't like it's supposed to be, since the song has already commenced.

The only song that still is something after that, is the closing "Relentless". The previous ones just aren't attractive enough and also the vocals are too weak and at times make the songs monotonous.

"Wet Animal" just couldn't convince me, even if it's made by experienced musicians. Production is average, could even be better for the guitars, and Shane's voice lacks a cetain range. Fans of TROUBLE and/or ALICE IN CHAINS might like this, but do listen to it before buying, if you want to be sure.

More info at www.wetanimal.net.

Line-up:
Shane Pasqualla - vocals, guitar
Rick Wartell - guitar
Michael "Vito" Diprima - bass
Jeff "Oly" Olson - drums


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PETER AND THE TEST TUBE BABIES – A Foot Full Of Bullets (Locomotive Records 2005)

Peter And The Test Tube Babies - A Foot Full Of Bullets
  1. My Unlucky Day
  2. Driven To Beers
  3. Minor Celebrity
  4. Ye Olde Pub Rocker
  5. Haves And Have Nots
  6. Smiling Through The Tears
  7. Foot Full Of Bullets
  8. The Mistress
  9. Distorted View
  10. Still Love The Pub
  11. Traffic Jam Man
  12. All About Love

PETER AND THE TEST TUBE BABIES have written some of the best punk songs ever. At least, according to their website, since I'm not familiar with the band. In the early 80's they stood out, above all other bands to emerge, with their tales of the hazards of being young punks in Brighton. "Banned From The Pubs", "Intensive care", "Run Like hell", the list goes on .. all had the TEST TUBE's hallmark, combining personal experiences, real cool tunes and most important of all maintaining a great sense of humour. More biographic and discographic info can be found on their website (see below).

The band has thus released many albums, played a whole load of gigs, knew some line-up changes, but after all this time, they still make punkrock.

"A Foot Full Of Bullets" is the latest of their works and here too, humour is one of the ingredients. The subjects vary from beer, love, the pub to football, marriage, ...

In the first track, there are some nice (in this context and see the humour of it ;-)) lyrics like how awful it is to "getting kids, become a dad" and at your wedding "standing at the altar, like a lamb to the slaughter". And then there's that typical British accent, which is the finishing touch. A great uptempo song.

Next one "Driven To Beers" sees beer as the solution to all problems, apparently. Or the consequence of them.

Like Hollywood celebrities, PETER AND THE TEST TUBE BABIES also want this kind of attention ("Minor Celebrity"). But here, they manage to focus on the bad things and in a humourous way. Another great song. :-)

As said, football also is one their interests and they dedicated a song - "Smiling Through The Tears" - to England's national team. The band hopes with many other fans that England will one day win the cup, and this after 40 years. Of course, no football song without match commentary.

The other songs are between listenable and (very) good. Closing track is a ballad, but to be honest, I don't find it that good. Musically it sounds very cliché and the vocals sure don't fit here. Peter's doing a much better job in more uptempo songs, where he can use his rougher voice.

PETER AND THE TEST TUBE BABIES have again delivered a solid album, with the necessary humour, the typical accent (I really like it, it's got humour in itself ;-)), nice grooves and melodies. Though not every song is as good as the other, if you like punkrock, you can't ignore this album.

More info at www.testtubebabies.co.uk.

Line-up:
Peter Bywaters - vocals
Derek Greening - guitar
Paul 'H' Henrickson - bass
Dave - drums


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SCARS OF TOMORROW – The Horror Of Realization (Victory Records 2005)

Scars Of Tomorrow - The Horror Of Realization
  1. The Constant Horror Of Reality
  2. The False Love In Lust
  3. Murderers And Madmen
  4. Ssnova
  5. The Hidden Grudge
  6. The Marks Of Time
  7. The Unknown
  8. 4Smith
  9. This Autumns Bleeding
  10. The Struggle
  11. Onthe15

SCARS OF TOMORROW's follow up to 2004’s "Rope Tied To The Trigger" is a fact. Titled "The Horror Of Realization", deals with many an issue, ranging anywhere from haunting self-discovery to quasi-political matters to various personal apprehensions. ""The horror of realization" is basically realizing what surrounds you. A lot of times people don‘t want to believe what‘s there and want to forget about it, but the reality of the world can‘t be avoided." said vocalist Mike Milford.

I like the idea of discussing these subjects. But I have to be honest: I like it.. a bit. I'm not going to buy their previous works and their next either, but "The Horror Of Realization" is the third metalcore album I could stand listen to for a longer while.

Mike, Carlos, David, Chris, and Rob started SCARS OF TOMORROW in 2000. The band released two full lengths via Thorp Records before "Rope Tied To The Trigger". Next to that, they also toured with bands like ATREYU, NORMA JEAN, and HIMSA.

Another quote from the Victory Records website. Vocalist Mike Milford said: "This record differs from the last in a bunch of different ways. It’s more upbeat, has a faster tempo, and the guitar work is a lot more versatile on this record. Lyrically, a lot more emotion was piled into it as well. People blind themselves and try to believe everything is perfect when it’s not. This is something that needs to be shoved in their faces and hopefully they help make a difference." There's emotion indeed, but versatile guitar work? Not really.

Quote 3: ""The Horror Of Realization" also shows SCARS OF TOMORROW switching gears a bit and experimenting with ambient noise tracks, catching different emotions and mirroring some situations and events from the band’s past." And those are the least good/worst songs on the album.

ATREYU frontman Alex Varkatzas features on the track called "The Hidden Grudge".

Basically, it's not bad and has some nice songs musically. The vocals are here as well a problem. Though his 'growling' is good, it tends to get boring after a couple of songs. But it's definitely better than his cleaner voice, which really doesn't fit in the songs. Nevertheless, "The Horror Of Realization" is a good album.

More info at www.scarsoftomorrow.net.

Line-up:
Mike Milford - vocals
Carlos Garcia - guitar
Dave Rodriguez - guitar
Robert Bradley - bass
Chris Warner - drums


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RINGWORM – Justice Replaced By Revenge (Victory Records 2005)

Ringworm - Justice Replaced By Revenge
  1. Justice Replaced By Revenge
  2. No One Dies Alone
  3. Seeing Through These Eyes
  4. House Of Hell
  5. Day Of Truth
  6. Whiskey Drunk
  7. God Eat God
  8. Ghosts Of The Past
  9. Thrive
  10. Devil's Kiss
  11. Death Is Not An Option
  12. No More Heroes
  13. Live After The End Of The World

"The world’s most destructive hardcore metal band", that's what it says in the biography on the website of Victory Records. Rofl, gimme a break. Cut the clihé marketing talk. Have a listen at ANGEL CREW, I think they're as worthy as RINGWORM and maybe even better.

Anyhow, RINGWORM has released a new record called "Justice Replaced By Revenge". The past decade they've been playing with HATEBREED, TERROR, and BLOOD FOR BLOOD (isn't that a MACHINE HEAD song? ;-)).

Another quote from the biography page: "RINGWORM’s brooding guitar lines and pummeling riffs on "Justice Replaced By Revenge" reach into the depths of the psyche and bring forth the evil that lives inside. The Human Furnace‘s agonizing, distressing and remarkably memorable vocals provide a horrific narration for thunderous songs with an unmistakable brutality." Eehh, yeah sure. Damn, you can really feel the evil, very frightning. (*sarcasm*) And Human Furnace's agonizing, distressing and remarkably memorable vocals? Well yes, they've got that right. He screams like he's in agony. But what for? And memorable? Certainly not for the depth or range or melodicness.

The band was formed back in 1991 and a Vincent Price movie provided the name. Like always after some records, each went his own way, but they got back together around 2001.

"Justice Replaced By Revenge" starts in a direct way, no time for an intro or something similar. And from the beginning, there's the typical problem (in my opinion) of many bands in this genre, but it's also a typical aspect: the vocals. While fans of the band/genre may like it - or they don't, but just don't think about it - it's just screaming to me. I kinda think it requires no talent at all. I mean, there's screaming and screaming with a trained voice (see Gothic, Death, Black, ....). Musically there are some nice things, but the majority of the songs just isn't good. There are some guitar solos too, and in general, they're good, but not that special. RINGWORM also uses a lot of double bass in the drumpatterns and though this is generally a nice thing to do, too much makes it boring and monotonous.

Two songs stand out for me: the instrumental "Whiskey Drunk" played with an accoustic and electric guitar, and the last, faster "Life After The End Of The World". The first part in "Devil's Kiss" reminds me a bit of older ANTHRAX and METALLICA stuff, but the second part is back to the usual kind of playing.

Well, I guess the band has fans, but this kind of music sure wears off fast, also speaking litteraly since the album doesn't even run for 28 minutes. 28 minutes and 13 eh, 'songs', of which some don't even hit the 2 minute marker. Now, I may not be a hardcore specialist, but this sure seems like a rip-off to me, no matter how much effort the band did to make this album.

More info at www.ringworm13.com.

Line-up:
Human Furnace - vocals
Frank 3-Gun Novinec - guitar
Matt Sorg - guitar
Aarron Ramirez - bass
Chris Dora - drums


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BATTLEROAR – Age Of Chaos (Black Lotus Records 2005)

Battleroar - Age Of Chaos
  1. The Wanderer
  2. Vampire Killer
  3. Siegecraft
  4. Tower Of The Elephant
  5. Deep Buried Faith
  6. Dyvim Tvar
  7. Sword of Crom
  8. Narsil (Reforge The Sword)
  9. Calm Before The Storm
  10. Dreams On Steel

BATTLEROAR is a traditional epic metal band formed in Athens in September 2000. The roots of the band's style sink deep into the sound of legendary 80s American and European bands such as MANILLA ROAD, OMEN, CIRITH UNGOL, BROCAS HELM, JAG PANZER and HEAVY LOAD. The band's name was taken from the lyrics of HEAVY LOAD's song "Singing Swords" ("I loved the battleroar").

To get the necessary attention from the public and labels, the band not only played live, but also recorded a promo CD including the five songs "Swordbrothers", "Almuric", "Battleroar", "Morituri Te Salutant" and "Dragonship", recorded live in studio.

This release got positive feedback, and so the band started working on a self-financed 7" vinyl single in March 2002, containing the title track "Dragonship" and a new version of "Swordbrothers". Shortly after, the line-up was changed: the original bassplayer and vocalist left the band for personal reasons and was replaced by Kostas Makrikostas (ex-SPITFIRE, CASUS BELLI, AIRGED L'AMH) on bass and the italian singer Marco Concoreggi. With this new line-up, BATTLEROAR recorded their self-titled debut album, which was released in August 2003 via the Greek label Omicron Music. OMEN's Kenny Powell contributed solo parts on the track "Megaloman".

In September 2004 BATTLEROAR signed with Black Lotus Records on which their second album has recently (Oct. 17) been released: "Age Of Chaos". Bob Katsionis (FIREWIND, NIGHTFALL, ...) was responsible for te keyboards and drummer Mark Cross (ex-HELLOWEEN, ex-METALIUM, WINTERSBANE, ...) also makes a guest appearance.

BATTLEROAR also has its own Fan Club, "Swordbrothers". More on this can be found via the band's website.

"Age Of Chaos" starts with the kind of song of which the title, "The Wanderer" says it all: calm, accoustic, not immediately rushing into things. This song also offers much space for instrumental parts, lets the instruments do the 'talking'/'singing'. The following "Vampire Killer" logically turns the pace up and brings 'electricity' into play. This song reminds me a bit of SHADOWKEEP, which is good of course.;-) Although this is a good song, you cannot deny that Marco has an accent and throughout the album it will come back many times. But musically I've got no complaints, also thanks to the various drumwork.

The slower "Siegecraft", also a very nice song, has some resemblances to MANOWAR's "Call To Arms", especially how the hi-hat is being played in the beginning and the chorus. The guitars and drums show the album's got a clear and pure sound, which is always positive.

I could go on song per song, but one can summarize it by saying that BATTLEROAR play qualitative Metal and can reach higher levels in due time. Musically this is a job well done, but there are two things to consider:

1) vocals: not only the accent - something you can work on - but also the range. Marco tends to sing in te same way in almost all the songs, and at times it can become monotonous.
2) more tempochanges: the only song that really has some speed is "Vampire Killer". The others remain in the slow and midtempo area. This too can become boring after a while. There are ten songs, and I would have been more glad if there were like four fast or more uptempo songs.

Conclusion? Like I said, the guys have released qualitative metal with their second full album and it's really worth checking out, despite the two 'problems' I mentioned above. Musically this is nice to very nice and it can only get better. Give this album a listen if you see it in the stores and then buy it. Or wait for the next album, which should be even better... I hope. ;-)

More info at www.battleroar.com.

Line-up:
Marco Congoreggi - vocals
Kostas Tzortzis - guitar
Manolis Karazeris - guitar
Gus Makrikostas - bass
Nick Papadopoulos - drums


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DOOMFOXX – Doomfoxx (Armageddon Music 2005)

Doomfoxx - Doomfoxx
  1. Pure Platinum
  2. Piece Of Me
  3. Look Ma No Hands
  4. Boyfriend
  5. My Beautiful Friends
  6. Schoolboy Adonis
  7. Ginger Rose
  8. Sweetheart Of The Troops
  9. Drugs
  10. Abandon All Hope
  11. Girls Like You
  12. Rock 'n' Roll Show

DOOMFOXX is an Australian hardrock band, which can be compared with AC/DC, THE BLACK CROWES, etc.. The music itself clearly sounds that way and it's well played, mixing mid- and uptempo. The real tempo increasing comes with the third song "Look Ma No Hands", which has nice melodies and grooves. The solos too are very nice.

Not every song is as 'rocky' as the other and to avoid same kind of songs, DOOMFOXX also wrote a ballad, entitled "My Beautiful Friends". And truly, this is a beautiful song. It has some sing-along parts, which will make the song do well in live situations.

Continuing with the rock 'n' roll, "Schoolboy Adonis" could easily be an AC/DC song. "Ginger Rose" starts very nice, but then Stuarts's voice comes in and to me, this doesn't sound well, doesn't do the song much good. It's got this rawness that requires getting used to it.

"Abandon All Hope" has a catchy rhythm and melody, which also makes it one of the best on the album. "Rock 'n' Roll Show" is a nice closing track and sounds like it says in the title. Musically all is well, vocally.... not really.

DOOMFOXX' self-titled album sure is a rocking one and sounds like back in the days. It's a decent album, nothing shocking though. But you might like this one if you like bands like AC/DC. For me, the vocals are the instrument that needs a couple of listenings before really liking them.

More info at www.doomfoxx.com.

Line-up:
Stuart McKie - vocals, harp
Mick Cocks - guitar
Dave Thomas - guitar
Archi - bass
Jase Burec - drums


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SPELLBOUND – Incoming Destiny (Armageddon Music 2005)

Spellbound - Incoming Destiny
  1. Sonic Departure
  2. Incoming Destiny
  3. Arrival Of The Gods
  4. The Hollow
  5. Spiritual Decline
  6. Focus 22
  7. Trust In Fire
  8. View To Remote
  9. Hate
  10. The Human Race

It's great to see, eh, hear there are still new bands being inspired by the '80s and using that sound, but make it a bit more modern. Like it says in the biography, Thrash like (old) KREATOR and EXODUS, but based on certain song parts I'd add DESTRUCTION as well.

You can read the biography on their website, but just some short info, taken from the press release: SPELLBOUND was formed in 1998 by David Maier (vocals, guitar) and Kai Lohwasser (drums). Their first attempt was a Melodic Death Metal band called TEARS OF SADNESS, but they soon wanted something else. So Lennart Vocke (bass) and Daniel Tschoepe (guitar) joined the fold, resulting in SPELLBOUND. Before "Incoming Destiny" was written, the band had already played many gigs and put out some demos: "First Contact" (1999), "Extensions" (2000), "Violent Forces" (2003).

In November 2004 the guys then entered the legendary Stage-One studio, to record alongside Andy Classen (HOLY MOSES, TANKARD, DEW-SCENTED, etc.) their debut album "Incoming Destiny", Also SPELLBOUND are represented on the legendary underground sampler "The Reaper Comes", which will be released for the fifth time in August. Apparently even Schmier from DESTRUCTION promoted the band in his band's forum.

Apart from the musical elements, the lyrics are an important part of the band's songs. Songwriter David concentrates on the theme of secrecy and withheld information. SPELLBOUND try not to look for guilty parties, but concentrate on what effect this topic has on the human imagination.

On to the music then, starting with the intro, which prepares you for the real deal. "Incoming Destiny" starts right after the intro, no time left in between. Heavy guitars, uptempo drums, rough vocals, ... everything's there. Typical for this album is the sound of the guitars: raw and fat. Every track simply says 'Thrash' and they (band members) keep on going, but also take back some speed with a song like "Focus 22", which is of course still heavy and not an accoustic song. Also an important ingredient are guitar solos and here, they're not just solos to fill the songs. They are well chosen and come at the right time.

SPELLBOUND have everything to make it, to break through. You can clearly hear the influences of KREATOR and EXODUS and I really hope they continue like this and make more songs. Producer Andy Classen has done a great job here. Thrash fans must have this album in their collection.

More info at www.spellbound-thrash.de.

Line-up:
Lennart Vocke - vocals, bass
David Maier - guitar
Daniel Tschoepe - guitar
Kai Lohwasser - drums


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U.D.O. – Mission No. X (AFM Records 2005)

U.D.O. - Mission No. X
  1. Mission No. X
  2. 24/7
  3. Mean Streets
  4. Primecrime On Primetime
  5. Eye Of The Eagle
  6. Shell Shock Fever
  7. Stone Hard
  8. Breaking Down The Border
  9. Cry Soldier Cry
  10. Way Of Life
  11. Mad For Crazy

Which metalfan doesn't know ACCEPT, doesn't know brilliant Metalsongs like "Metalheart", "Balls To The Wall", "Princess Of The Dawn" and more.. ? ACCEPT were one of the biggest and most influential Heavy Metal bands in the '80s, mainly because of Udo's appearance and voice, which has a roughness that makes him easily recognizable.

During ACCEPT, Udo released albums under his own name, starting in 1988 with "Animal House", with a new release almost each year after that. Udo just breathes Metal, he IS Metal. Even when ACCEPT called it a day in 1996 - they still did/do some reunion shows - Udo went on and now, album no. 10 is ready. And it's been given the appropriate title: "Mission No. X".

As ACCEPT stood for pure Heavy Metal, so does U.D.O. . "Mission No. X" rocks from beginning 'till end. Well, not completely, since there are also calmer songs like the beautiful and touching "Eye Of The Eagle" - which has some nice guitar solos - and "Cry Soldier Cry". The latter may contain a certain message or deal with a real life situation, but musically I find this one of the least good songs.

Of course, kick-ass riffs and drums are also present with the Metal hymn "24/7" ("24 hours, 7 days a week" - oh yeah :-)), the in live situations splendid "Mean Streets", the wonderful uptempo "Shell Shock Fever", "Breaking Down The Borders" and "Mad For Crazy", being a great closing track. "Stone Hard" and "Way Of Life" are going to get you 'hard' and are as pure as can be.

Pure Heavy Metal like you won't find it anywhere else, if you know what I mean. ;-) Still going on, after all those years, never giving in. The Metalheart still beats and it doesn't show any signs of weaknesses. ACCEPT = Udo = U.D.O. = Heavy Metal!! "Mission No. X" is powerful, solid, filled with guitar solos, must-have.

More info at www.udo-online.de.

Line-up:
Udo Dirkschneider - vocals
Stefan Kaufmann - guitars
Igor Gianola - guitars
Fitty Wienhold - bass
Francesco Jovino - drums


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SHAKRA – Fall (AFM Records 2005)

Shakra - Fall
  1. Chains Of Temptation
  2. Out Of Control
  3. Take Me Now
  4. All Or Nothing
  5. How It Feels
  6. Fall
  7. Walk On Water
  8. She's My Ecstacy
  9. Make It Alright
  10. Nightlife
  11. Do You Know
  12. Immortal

When you concentrate on Metal, you forget the 'softer' music like Hardrock. Luckily I got a promo copy of Swiss hardrock band SHAKRA's forthcoming album "Fall", which is to be released in October. "Fall" is the follow-up of 2003's "Rising" and is also the first album on the band's new label AFM Records.

Like on "Rising" the songs have a clear sound, greasy riffs, nice solos, love is a central theme, ... and a mix of mid- and uptempo songs. The uptempo ones are really great, as they have a positive vibe and get you moving. In this case it's "Out Of Control", "Walk On Water" and "Nightlife" that fulfill this mission. The sing-along factor is in some songs clearly present. The vocals by Mark also give the songs a special feel and depth. He can sound mellow at times, but Mark can also express the appropriate feelings if necessary.

During the chorus of "She's My Ecstacy", the groovy guitarmelody reminds me of JOE SATRIANI's "Mind Storm" ("Strange Beautiful Music" album, 2002), which happens to be one of my favourite songs of this guitar hero. ;-)

"Make It Alright" is a sad song, at least the chorus is and if you're in a sad mood and/or you're still grieving over the ending of the relationship with your girlfriend, then you migh shed a tear or two. A beautiful song.

When I first heard the album, I immediately liked it, because of the sound, riffs, ... there are songs that can really make you feel better. Fans of SHAKRA won't have problems with this one or if you like decent hardrock, give it a try. It's actually quite good. :-)

More info at www.shakra.ch.

You can watch a video teaser of "Chains Of Temptation" at this location. Song and clip are about the tragically dilemma drug addicts are in. In the clip you can see the full 'action' of a heroin-addict, from getting ready with heating the heroin until injecting it into the body.

Line-up:
Mark Fox - vocals
Thom Blunier - guitars
Thomas Muster - guitars
Oli Lindner - bass
Roger Tanner - drums


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EXODUS – Shovel Headed Kill Machine (Nuclear Blast 2005)

Exodus - Shovel Headed Kill Machine
  1. Raze
  2. Deathamphetamine
  3. Karma's Messenger
  4. Shudder To Think
  5. I Am Abomination
  6. Altered Boy
  7. Going Going Gone
  8. Now Thy Death Day Come
  9. .44 Magnum Opus
  10. Shovel Headed Kill Machine

Thrashmasters EXODUS needs no introduction anymore. They showed the world they still are masters of the art by releasing one of the best Thrash albums ever - or at least of the last 10 years - "Tempo Of the Damned", an album that got a lot of very positive reviews and comments. And now they're back with a follow-up: "Shovel Headed Kill Machine", a tittle that says it all. The resemblances with "Tempo Of The Damned" are very clear, but the new one sounds just a little different.

But the making of "Shovel Headed Kill Machine" didn't go without problems: Steve 'Zetro' Souza got fired and replaced by newcomer Rob Dukes (described as mix of Baloff and Souza), guitarist Rick Hunolt left the band to focus on his fathership and drummer Tom Hunting needed to stop because of medical issues. Rick was replaced by Lee Altus from fellow Thrashers HEATHEN and Paul Bostaph (ex-SLAYER) took the seat behind the drums.

Just by looking at the cover art, you know this is a killer album. With titles like "Raze", "Deathamphetamine", "I Am Abomination", "Now Thy Death Day Come", etc... there's a lot of anger and frustration that needed to come out apparently. Each song shreds from beginning 'till end. "Altered Boy" is the song I like the least, though, being a bit too long and in a way monotonous because of that.

Some things that jump out: "Deathamphetamine" starts with the drums and bass, after which the guitars set in. But this all happens in a calm way and when the first minute marker is reached, a breathtaking riff demands all the attention. This riff will also be heard throughout the entire song. Another 'remarkable' thing is the similarity between "Shudder To Think" and "Black List".

You can argue which is the best: "Tempo Of the Damned" or "Shovel Headed Kil Machine", but in a way I think they belong together, even though they both were made by different musicians. Personally I find the first the better one, also because of the variety.

The musicianship on "Shovel Headed Kill Machine" as well is excellent and I can only conclude that this is a must-have for every Thrash fan. If you get the limited edition, there's a hidden bonustrack, also in the vein of the other songs. KREATOR, DESTRUCTION and now EXODUS... all three released a very good to fantastic album this year and still kick the butts of upcoming bands.

More info at www.exodusattack.com.

Line-up:
Rob Dukes - vocals
Gary Holt - guitar
Lee Altus - guitar
Jack Gibson - bass
Paul Bostaph - drums


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SVARTSYN – Bloodline (Sound Riot Records 2005)

Svartsyn - Bloodline
  1. Terrordemon
  2. Bloodline
  3. Vampyric Sleep
  4. Upon The Throne
  5. Great Mysteries Of Death
  6. Starcursed And Dead
  7. From Haunted Depths
  8. Witches Dance For Satan
  9. Waves Of Eternal Darkness
  10. Goat Throne (bonus track)
  11. Throne Of The Antichrist (bonus track)

SVARTSYN, a Black Metal band from Sweden. Apparently they have been around since 1991 (CHALICE, 1993 as SVARTSYN). In 1996, Draugen (ex-DARK FUNERAL) teamed up with original founding member Ornias and signed to Folter Records on which they released the "The True Legend" CD. In June 1997 SVARTSYN recorded the "Tormentor" 7"EP. In September 1997 and October 1998 SVARTSYN recorded their second album entitled "Bloodline" at Sunlight Studios, which was released as a limited Double-LP by End All Life Productions. In February 2000, SVARTSYN recorded their third album "...His Majesty" at Voisin Studios and they signed to Sound Riot for the release of this album exclusively. After three years of silence, in 2003, SVARTSYN sign with Sound Riot again for the release of their third album entitled "Destruction Of Man" and re-release of "Bloodline" including the "Tormentor" 7"EP as bonus track on CD format in 2005.

So, a little pre-history of this re-release of "Bloodline". Although they are compared to SATYRICON, DARKTHRONE, MAYHEM and CARPATHIAN FOREST, I cannot believe these bands also sound so chaotic. To make it short, "Bloodline" is badly produced, the screaming is what it is - barely understanding what he screams -, screaming, and on top of that, it's more in the background than the front. Also, practically all the songs sound about the same with the same drumpattern, same riffing, not exactly lifting you up. It's most of the times so depressing that even the slowest Doom Metal band would cheer me up more. Ok, I'm exaggerating, there are some good parts. Parts, not full songs. And that's not enough to positively comment on this album.

Conclusion: to avoid, unless you're so into Black Metal that you actually like this kind of music, the way SVARTSYN play it.

More info at www.myspace.com/svartsynband.

Line-up:
Ornias - vocals, guitars
Kolgrim - bass
Draugen - drums


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DRAGONLORD – Black Wings Of Destiny (Escapi Music 2005)

Dragonlord - Black Wings Of Destiny
  1. The Becoming Of
  2. Curse Of Woe
  3. Revelations
  4. Until The End
  5. Sins Of Allegiance
  6. Mark Of Damnation
  7. Blood Voyeur
  8. Fallen
  9. Black Funeral (MERCYFUL FATE cover)
  10. Emerald (THIN LIZZY cover)

DRAGONLORD, a name you usually link with a Powermetal band, but this band plays anything but that. With this second album - the follow-up to 2001's "Rapture" -, this Black Metal band tries to conquer the throne. Well, not really, because the competition is enormous. ;-) Formed by TESTAMENT guitarist (and founder) Eric Peterson, he's joined by ex-TESTAMENT/NEVERMORE guitarist Steve Smyth, drummer Jon Allen (SADUS), bassist Derek Ramirez (who performed with TESTAMENT on the "Demonic" record) and keyboardist Lyle Livingston. Also involved in the creative process were master lyricist Del James (GUNS 'N ROSES, TESTAMENT) and classical guru Charlie Storm.

It's the first time I heard about this band, and although I'm no Black Metal fan, DRAGONLORD did please me with album. Maybe I expected something à la DIMMU BORGIR or DARK FUNERAL or similar, but it's not like that. Well, it's got some DIMMU BORGIR similarities, also vocally, even though Eric's vocals sound like a squealing pig at times. No disrespect meant.

Musically there are also some NEVERMORE-like riffs, but one band/album that immediately came to mind was COVENANT (now THE KOVENANT) and their "Nexus Polaris" album, which is a very good album. The keyboards create the right atmosphere and add some nice and sometimes playful melodies. The sound is very clear, but with the right roughness thanks to producer Fredrik Nordstrom and his famous Studio Fredman.

Next to the 'squealing' and rougher singing, Eric also mixes it with clean vocals, e.g. the beautiful "Revelations" and "Sins Of Allegiance". While most of the songs are really good, I find it a bit less (but still good) at the end, with the last three songs before the THIN LIZZY cover, which is done well. But Eric's vocals don't fit the song so good in my opinion. Other pluspoints are the great musicianship, varied drumwork, guitar solos, ...

DRAGONLORD have delivered a nice piece of (Symphonic Black) Metal. What also makes me enjoy this record - and I already referred to it - is the similarities with "Nexus Polaris". I guess this is a nice alternative.

More info at www.enterthedragonlord.com.

Line-up:
Eric Peterson - vocals, guitar
Steve Smyth - guitar
Derrick Ramirez - bass
Jon Allen - drums
Lyle Livingston - keyboards


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CANDLEMASS – The Curse Of Candlemass (Escapi Music 2005)

Candlemass - The Curse Of Candlemass DVD 1:
  1. Intro
  2. Demons Gate
  3. Dark Reflections
  4. The Well Of Souls
  5. In To The Unfathomed Tower
  6. Ancient Dreams
  7. The Bells Of Acheron
  8. Witches
  9. Mirror Mirror
  10. A Cry From The Crypt
  11. Mourners Lament
  12. Black Stone Wielder
  13. Solitude
  14. At The Gallows End
DVD 2:
  1. Comprehensive Interview
  2. Live in Uppsala 1987
  3. Live in Fagersta 1989
  4. TV appearance 1993
  5. Live in Albstadt 2003
  6. Live in Uddevalla 1992
  7. Photo gallery

CANDLEMASS, the masters of Doom Metal, have released a solid self-titled album this year, their first after the reunion. During that reunion, the band first played some gigs and one of those was in Stockholm, Sweden. This is the recording of that gig in 2003, where they played their well-known classics from the '80s.

The first DVD thus contains the concert, the second DVD comes with an interview with the band, live appearances, tv appearances and a photo gallery.

The concert can be watched song by song or the whole gig at once. The atmosphere is very good, with Messiah getting the crowd excited. Candles surround the drums, the music... needs no explination ofcourse ;-), but slow and 'faster' songs are well mixed in the setlist. Messiah still has a magnificent voice, even live.

Of course, because they play a home match, Messiah addresses the crowd in Swedish, and if you don't understand the language... :-(

The interview on the second DVD - luckily WITH subtitles (English and German) - deals with the band's history, how they got together, how they got into music, the albums, Doom Metal itself, and much more. Of course, this makes "The Curse Of Candlemass" extra interesting with all this information. You could call this DVD a historical piece of CANDLEMASS. The early live recordings and the the tv appearance are nice, but also have the related sound and visual quality, which is raw. The tv appearance sadly enough is not only without Messiah, but also playback.

If you haven't seen CANDLEMASS live yet or want to expand your collection, then this may not miss amongst the other CANDLEMASS releases you possess. ;-)

More info at www.candlemass.se.

Line-up:
Messiah Marcolin - vocals
Lars Johansson - guitar
Mats Björkman - guitar
Leif Edling - bass
Jan Lindh - drums


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ABSOLUTE STEEL – Womanizer (Black Lotus Records 2005)

Absolute Steel - Womanizer
  1. High Heels And Fishnet Stockings
  2. Beerrun
  3. Kick
  4. Rough Love (Tender Heart)
  5. Deeper
  6. Juicy Lucy
  7. Too Slow Above
  8. Deliverance
  9. Opus Suite

ABSOLUTE STEEL, a Norwegian heavy metal band formed in 1999 by a couple of people who loved the metal of the '80s, which also explains why "Womanizer" has such a sound.

Their debut album "The Fair Bitch Project" came out in 2002, after which they got wellknown for their stage presence: shows with heavy metal helmets, loads of pyros, strippers and more. Shortly after the recording of their second album "Womanizer" (2004) the label Edgerunner Records had to close the books, but the band found a new home with Black Lotus Records. So now they have re-released "Womanizer" and the first album "The Fair Bitch Project" will undergo the same treatment.

The band describes their music as 'party metal' as women (sex) and alcohol are key subjects in the lyrics and song titles.

Most songs are midtempo, though there's a slight increase of tempo too in certain songs. You also get a ballad, "Juicy Lucy", about the one girl/woman of which there aren't two. The album closes with the instrumental "Opus Suite", which is quite nice.

Overall, this is a pretty good album still hanging on to that '80s sound, but I do have some complaints about the drums: though of the conventional type, they too have this eighties sound, which I find a bit over the top here, they sound too electronic. Nevertheless, this is a solid album, very suitable for parties. ;-)

More info at www.absolutesteel.com.

Line-up:
K2 - vocals
Dave Bomb - guitars
Andy Boss - guitars, keyboards
Dr. Schmutz - bass
Rick Hagan - drums


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DYECREST – This Is My World (Dockyard 1 2005)

Dyecrest - This Is My World
  1. Fight Fear With Fire
  2. Rush Of Life
  3. Hollow
  4. Man Who Was Me
  5. Dream Of Crown
  6. Failed One
  7. Banished
  8. My Only Sin
  9. Credulous Soul
  10. Took My Will To Feel

DYECREST, the Finnish melodic metallers who also won the Young Metal Gods competition (cf. PERSUADER) have released their second album. As with PERSUADER, they got a deal on Noise Records but then too got no new contract, and so they too were given new opportunities by Dockyard 1.

You can read the biographic data on their website, but to keep it short: it all started back in 1993, but a few line-up and name changes later (last was DYECAST, which had to be changed on demand of the American band DIECAST), DYECREST was born.

Their debut album "The Way Of Pain" was recorded in 2003. Everything but the drums was recorded and mixed at Power House Studio by Piet Sielck. The release was for the 19th January 2004.

All didn't go smooth for this second full album. Again, a change in the line-up was neccessary. Kimmo Blom became the new vocalist. Though I haven't heard the debut album, except for some samples on the band's and Young Metal Gods websites, I did like what I heard. DYECREST's "This Is My World" certainly pleases me a lot, since I got to listen to the entire album.

Throughout the entire album you'll hear beautiful melodies woven into various kinds of tempo, with outstanding songs like "Fight Fear With Fire" (mainly the chorus is very nice), "Rush Of Life", the uptempo "Hollow", but also the calmer songs like "Dream Of Crown" and "Took My Will Fo Feel".

What also is noticable, is the bass guitar. Mainly in the first song, this instrument can be heard very clearly. Not that I mind of course - if it's done in a proper way - since it gives the song more power.

There's a lot of emotion in practically every song and I can't really pick one song that isn't great, because they all are. I don't know why Noise Records 'dumped' DYECREST, but I'm glad they made this record, because it's one of the best of 2005.

If you like Melodic Metal with a certain roughness and you want something new, get this album. "This Is My World" is outstanding work with great riffs, breathtaking melodies, and more. If they keep it up like this, I can't see why they shouldn't become as big/popular as the veterans in this genre.

More info at www.dyecrest.com.

Line-up:
Kimmo Blom - vocals
Matti Pasanen - guitar
Henri Arola - guitar
Pirkka Ohlis - guitar
Jukka Matilainen - bass
Niko Takala - drums


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ANUBIS GATE – A Perfect Forever (Locomotive Records 2005)

Anubis Gate - A Prfect Forever
  1. Sanctified
  2. Kingdom Come
  3. Future Without Past
  4. Curfew
  5. Children Of The Pauper King
  6. Approaching Inner Circle
  7. The Wanton Blades Of Lust
  8. Epitome Of Delusion
  9. Endless Grief
  10. A Perfect Forever

The name didn't ring a bell when I received the promo copy and my first impressions - after a fast listen - were positive, though I wasn't convinced yet. When comparing with other bands, CLOUDSCAPE was one of the first that came to my mind.

"A Perfect Forever" is the second album of these Danish Progressive Powermetallers. Their debut album, "Purification", was released last year. As I said, ANUBIS GATE sounded quite unknown to me, but when I saw the debut's cover on their website, I remembered having heard that album at the store. I didn't buy it because it lacked power or something. Perhaps if I give it another listen, I'll be more positive about it. "A Pefect Forever" certainly does convince me, after more thorough listening.

ANUBIS GATE was founded in 2001 by multi-instrumentalist (guitars, bass, keyboards) Jesper M. Jensen and drummer Morten Sørensen. Jesper had played in the Thrash band INVOCATOR in the '80s and '90s before setting his mind on other musical areas, which led to his new band ANUBIS GATE.

For this second release, Jacob Hansen sat again behind the panels and buttons for the production, mixing and mastering. Mathias Norén from Progart was again given the task to create the cover artwork. The layout was done by Claus Jensen from Intromental.

Keyboards play an important role as they determine the melody, counter it, back up the song with a appropriate atmosphere, ... At the same time melody also is key with a lot of space for instrumental parts, solos, and more.

Torben's voice is of the clear type and really fits this music. He can reach many levels which prevents the songs from sounding monotoneous. On "Future Without Past", a nice uptempo song, I can in a way compare him with SAXON's Biff Byford.

Don't expect short songs on this album. The majority of the songs has a running time of at least 5-6 minutes.

While midtempo rules, there's also a ballad: "Curfew". This is also the first song where the accoustic guitar gets a leading role and which - at a certain point - reminds me of Danish colleagues MANTICORA. A flawless song, by the way. The accoustic guitar will be used again in a few other songs, but electric instruments still are dominant.

"Children Of The Pauper King" marks part 2 of heaviness and in this song drums get a more important role. The rest of the songs are in the same style: melodic, heavy riffs, solos, ... Nothing but positive words for that.

While the debut album "Purification" didn't do me much, "A Perfect Forever" is a big improvement. All of the songs are of high quality, and though I would have liked a bit more uptempo, I can end with about the same words as with VANISHING POINT: quality music that should not be missed in your collection.

More info at www.anubisgate.com.

Line-up:
Torben Askholm - vocals
Jesper M. Jensen - guitars, bass
Kim Olesen - guitars, keyboards
Henrik Fevre - vocals, bass
Morten Sørensen - drums


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MORNING – Hour Of Joy (Black Lotus Records 2005)

Morning - Hour Of Joy
  1. Intro
  2. Hour Of Joy
  3. Inside
  4. This Unreachable Mess
  5. The Unknown Is Searching The Unfound
  6. Kill The Silence
  7. Circle Of Power
  8. When Shadows Dance In Light
  9. Captured By The Colour Of Faith
  10. Perception Of Feelings
  11. You're Setting Fire
  12. Stop Drawing
  13. The Show Must Go On (QUEEN cover)

Genre-tags can be quite handy to discover similar bands. But when you think you know them all (Thrash, Power, Gothic, Black, Death, ...), here's a new one: Dream Metal. This appears to be a mix of atmospheric pop, progressive rock and heavy fantasy metal. At least according to MORNING's (website) biography. Formed by singer Saskia and drummer Mauro, they seem to be influenced by THE GATHERING, AYREON, RHAPSODY and LACUNA COIL. The presstext also mentions EPICA. The music is also more Gothic oriented, so this is a Gothic band, tout court.

"Hour Of Joy" is the band's debut album, after a couple of demo EP's of which the last, "Inside", apparently got good reviews internationally. For this album, they found a place with Black Lotus Records, who also houses CHRIS CAFFERY, NIGHTFALL, ...

While the artwork is of high quality, the music is.. not, or better said: the sound is clear, and you kinda get a live-feel, but it's as if they didn't take the time to further polish up things.

The intro is spoken by Arjen Lucassen (AYREON) backed by spacey sounds, just like you'd hear on his albums. After that, the band comes into play. Keyboards determining the melody, guitars mainly serving as a backbone, together with the drums. Here and there you'll hear a solo and some nice drumparts (with rolls etc..). But the main problems are the guitars and the vocals.

Saskia may have a decent voice, but it's flat. Despite the Gothic-ness, don't expect a (operettic) voice like Simone Simons, Liv Kristine, Floor Janssen, ... who have more depth. Saskia's voice is more pop-oriented. And this at many times during the songs wants to make you push 'next' or 'stop'. The reason why I mention 'pop' is because I hear similarities with the Belgian singer Geike from HOOVERPHONIC.

The guitars' sound could have been better, much better. The solos are nice, but the low (chug chug) riffs at times don't even fit the melody and form a wall of noise. They sound heavier than needed. If the band would have given them a sharper sound, it would have made the songs a bit better.

There are good melodies and compositions on the album (honestly!), but because of the mentioned problems, the end result is not something you'd be wild about. Also, don't use the word 'joy' if the cover doesn't represent anything in that area or if the music is of the sad, doomy kind. I definitely don't feel any joy or happiness here. In fact, DESTRUCTION's "Inventor Of Evil" or NILE's "Annihilation Of The Wicked" cheer me up a lot more. To remain in the Gothic genre, there are some similarities with EPICA, but that band is so much further, advanced.

Ok, this is a debut album, so it's normal they don't hit the mark right away. But it's not good enough for me to play this album once every x months. I started with a positive idea about the album and even slept a night over it, but my opinion remained the same. If you're into Gothic or Progrock and want to discover something new, go ahead, but if you're really critical of what you like, then I don't think you'll be checking this out. About the QUEEN cover: I hope this is not to crank sales up, because the result is far away from the original version.

Yes, I've been negative here and yes, I realise the band have put a of effort in this, but it's not gripping me, mainly or just because of the vocals and (the sound of) the guitar riffs.

Line-up:
Saskia van Heugten - vocals
Martijn Brauwers - guitars
Bas Rensen - guitars
Pol Bannier - bass
Stijn Bannier - keyboards
Mauro Pi - drums


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BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME – Alaska (Victory Records 2005)

Between The Buried And Me - Alaska
  1. All Bodies
  2. Alaska
  3. Croakies And Boatshoes
  4. Selkies: The Endless Obsession
  5. Breathe In, Breathe Out
  6. Roboturner
  7. Backwards Marathon
  8. Medicine Wheel
  9. The Primer
  10. Autodidact
  11. Laser Speed

It's always hard to review music you're not really fond of, but I received a promo copy, so... I decided to give metalcore act BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME the benefit of the doubt, like with BURY YOUR DEAD. With the latter it didn't work out, as you can read in that particular review. BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME apparently were formed in 2000 and got positive reviews for their previous record "The Silent Circus". "Alaska" is the follow-up and is said to be as good as (or even better?) than "The Silent Circus".

"Alaska" was recorded throughout June of 2005: first at Basement Studios in Rural Hall, NC with Jamie King, who was known for recording BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME's self-titled release. After the recording sessions were complete, the band headed to Boston and finished up the album with producer Matthew Ellard, who recorded "The Silent Circus" and is also known for his work with CONVERGE and BURY YOUR DEAD.

The album starts with the typical blunt sounding guitars and growling vocals. The band seems to switch between different kinds of rhythm/tempo which makes it a bit messy. Melody seems to have fairly important role, in the form of keyboards or guitar solos. You can also hear Death Metal influences throughout the album.

"Alaska" (the song) starts in a more Progressive way after which brutality comes into play. And the difference with the intro is big, almost like 2 different songs. The following "Croakies And Boatshoes" continues the fast paced music. The fact that the guitars have the same blunt sound, can make the song tiresome at times.

Taking back some speed, "Selkies: The Endless Obsession" prefers a lighter touch... for the first minute or so. To be honest, this is quite a good song, also because at around 4:40 ('till the end of the song) there's an (non-brutal) instrumental part which is very nice. Hands down for this.

"Breathe In, Breathe out" - which I find an original title - needs no explanation. The title says it all: this is a calm, instrumental song and is also one of the best on the album.

"Roboturner" brings back the rough, brutal sounds and kinda spoils the positive mood of "Breathe In, Breathe out". But the lighter instrumentation comes back in the second half of "Backwards Marathon", which again has heaviness for the last part of the song.

"Medicine Wheel" is another nice song, instrumental and not like the others. So, 3 - to me - good songs so far. ;-)

"The Primer" starts good and gives the impression that it will continue this way, but then there's... well, you know. :p ;-) The next two songs aren't any different - or not much - from the previous heavy songs.

And finally, "Laser Speed" ends the album in a great way. It's an accoustic, instrumental song. Also one of the best here and it shows the guys can implement non-metal influences in a good way.

BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME have written some good songs here. But the heavier ones really don't convince me. If more songs had such lighter parts I mentioned, then I would be more positive about the album. Sadly, only 4 songs out of 11 isn't enough. But they've got potential and if they put more lighter parts in their songs in the future, then I!ve got another band to be on the lookout for. ;-) Still, there are a lot of people who seem to fan of this band and like this kind of music (metalcore) more.

More info can be found at www.betweentheburiedandme.com and the page on their label Victory Records: Between The Buried And Me.

Line-up:
Tommy Rogers - vocals, keyboards
Paul Waggoner - guitar
Dusty Waring - guitar
Dan Briggs - bass
Blake Richardson - drums


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EDGUY – Superheroes (Nuclear Blast 2005)

Edguy - Superheroes
  1. Superheroes
  2. Spooks In The Attic
  3. Blessing In Disguise
  4. Judas At The opera
  5. The Spirit (MAGNUS cover)
  6. Superheroes (epic version)

Last year's "Hellfire Club" was another great EDGUY album, though many found "Mandrake" still the better of the two. After a succesful tour with a.o. NOCTURNAL RITES, BRAINSTORM, ... the band also gave many speculations on the title of the next album. I clearly remember "Maserati Madness" being one of them. :-)

One of the assets of "Hellfire Club" was the drumsound, as they were recorded with analog equipment, which gave the drums a more realistic, harder and clear sound. This time, the band chose to record things digitally again. Sascha Paeth was again helpful with th production, mixing and mastering and everything was done in his/the Gates studio. Of course, soundwise (guitars) you'll hear similarities with AINA, LUCA TURILLI, ... But the result is very good and EDGUY have again made a stunning EP as pretaste for the forthcoming full album "Rocket Ride", which is scheduled for the 23rd January 2006.

So, as with the "King Of Fools" EP, "Superheroes" follows the same pattern and the titeltracks are in a way of the same kind. But while the limited edition of the former contained a video with the 'making of', this time the 'making of' and more (live footage, video of "Superheroes", ...) is found on the "Superheroes - Heroic DVD Edition", which comes at about the same price as the EP.

Starting with a mid-tempo song, "Superheroes" is great to listen to, has a very catchy chorus (and should do well in live situations). Next is the more uptempo "Spooks In The Attic", with again sing-along lyrics but also containing a nice guitar solo.

Taking it a bit easier and darker is the "Blessing In Disguise", which has a rather sad touch to it. Here the band implemented some atmospheric elements to create the right mood.

And then Michael Kiske is on with the fast and majestic "Judas At The opera" in which uptempo drums, guitar solos and symphonic elements form a great whole of musical delight. Like with AVANTASIA, Michael does an excellent performance and Tobi has again shown his divine talent (which can be said about the other songs too).

"The Spirit", originally by MAGNUS, is also well covered, even though I've never heard the original version.

Finally, "Superheroes" (epic version) is the titletrack wihtout the electric instrumentation, which means: Tobi and his piano/keyboards. But even though the basis is simple, the result is also thumbs up. ;-)

Yes, EDGUY are back where they belong and again they've made a very good release, just like the previous one(s). This EP can be bought without problems and the album will also be of the renowned quality EDGUY has always offered to far. "Rocket Ride" is to be released in January, so be ready to get your copy then as well. :-)

More info at www.edguy.nu.

Line-up:
Tobias Sammet - vocals
Jens Ludwig - guitar
Dirk Sauer - guitar
Tobias Exxel - bass
Felix Bohnke - drums


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SAVAGE CIRCUS – Dreamland Manor (Dockyard 1 2005)

Savage Circus - Dreamland Manor
  1. Evil Eyes
  2. Between The Devil And The Seas
  3. Waltz Of The Demon
  4. Tomorrowland
  5. It - The Gathering
  6. Beyond Reality
  7. When Hell Awakes
  8. Ghost Story
  9. Born Again By The Night

SAVAGE CIRCUS.. what originally was meant to be a side-project from ex-BLIND GUARDIAN drummer Thomen Stauch turned out to be full band. There were some musical differences between Thomen and the new music BLIND GUARDIAN was playing, since Thomen preferred the speedy, rougher songs from the beginning. So the only solution was creating a new band. And here it is. Thomen contacted his friend Piet Sielck from IRON SAVIOR and discussed his plans. Piet gave Thomen the contacts of Jens and Emil of the Swedish Powermetallers PERSUADER and from thing came another.

So basically, SAVAGE CIRCUS is a mix of BLIND GUARDIAN, IRON SAVIOR and PERSUADER. But only in terms of people, also in the songs you can hear clear references to these three bands. Piet Sielck produced the album, so that's already a big influence for the sound. The drums are so fast, just like with BLIND GUARDIAN. To add a little more of the BLIND GUARDIAN flavour, notice how Jens' voice resembles Hansi Kürsch's! Hansi's is a bit more melodic though, while Jens has more roughness/harshness.

The first track "Evil Eyes" reminds me a bit of "Valhalla" or "Welcome To Dying" (both BLIND GUARDIAN). It's speedy, rough and more. Simply amazing! A little slower is the next song "Between The Devil And The Seas", where you can clearly hear the presence of keyboard sounds.

"Waltz Of The Demon" brings some rest by startng accoustically before the demon dances a bit wilder, so to say. In the speedier "Tomorrowland" there's plenty of room for instrumental parts and solos. The start of the song has some nice drumming and low riffs.

"It - The Gathering" creates a special atmosphere, where drums play a vital role, especially in the beginning of the song. And then it's time... to take off, at a nice pace, like a galopping horse. Certainly worth noting is the chorus, which is simply amazing. Truly one of the best, if not thé best song on this album. Musically but also productionwise

There's also a ballad-like song, "Beyond Reality", which has a bombastic sound. In general a decent song, but the faster songs are the better ones. ;-) And there we go again.. "When Hell Awakes" says it all. No slowing down, but accelerating at a high pace with pounding drumrolls in the intro. Here too, a nice chorus with a sing-along touch.

Fact is that Thomen's not only a great drummer, but manages to implement of a lot of variation in the songs, which makes this album even more worthwhile. :-)

"Ghost Story" takes back some speed and though it's a bad song, it's less good when compared with the other tracks. The ending of the album is as expected: fast. Variety rules, but there's also a great deal of BLIND GUARDIAN similarities. You'd really think this was copied from them. Nevertheless, a quality song.

If you're more a fan of the older BLIND GUARDIAN and/or a powermetal fan in general, this is your music! It's not the cheesy, soft powermetal. This one here has balls. The roughness of PERSUADER, power of IRON SAVIOR and melodicness of BLIND GUARDIAN, a killer recipe!

"Ghost Story" and "Evil Eyes" are available as online single (zip-file) on the band's website: www.savage-circus.com.

Line-up:
Jens Carlsson - vocals
Emil Norberg - guitars
Piet Sielck - bass
Thoman Stauch - drums


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TRAVERS & APPICE – Live At The House Of Blues (Escapi Music 2005)

STravers & Appice - Live At The House Of Blues
  1. Taken
  2. Better From A Distance
  3. I Don't Care
  4. Crash And Burn
  5. Living Alone
  6. Gotta Have You
  7. Turn Me On
  8. Can't Escape Me / La, La Love
  9. Evil
  10. Don't Ya Think I'm Secy
  11. Boom, Boom
  12. Keep On Rocking (bonus track)

""Live At The House Of Blues", highlights the songwriting and performing skills of three of the most exceptional musicians in Rock and Pop during the last 30 years. Legendary drummer Carmine Appice has played and sold millions of records with Rod Stewart, Vanilla Fudge, King Kobra, Blue Murder, Ted Nugent, Ozzy Osbourne and Jeff Beck, just to name a few. Vocalist and guitar hero Pat Travers, whose 1979 album "Go For What You Know" led to an immense increase of his fan base, is considered an all-time classic and a must-have for any guitar fan. Last but not least, T.M. Stevens, with his ferocious, yet melodic, style of Bass playing that is as unique as his larger than life persona, has been involved with various superstars, artists such as Joe Cocker, Tina Turner, James Brown, Billy Joel and Steve Vai. He also played on AINA's "Days Of Rising Doom - The Metal Opera".

Recorded at The House Of Blues, Myrtle Beach, USA in September of last year, the end result is timeless and powerful Blues Rock that highlights not only the technical competence of each individual musician but also their exquisite songwriting."


Above comes from the press text, but it's true. This is a very good live album, providing dito rock songs and creating the right atmosphere, like you were there. Well, not exactly, but it comes close. Each musician gets his moment to show his skills and here and there the trio turns up the tempo, especially with the 'party' song "Boom, Boom" and - as the title implies - "Keep On Rocking", which isn't on the DVD of this concert.

What more is there to say than: if you're into hardrock, blues(y) rock, you're gonna love this one. Even fans from DIO should like what Travers, Appice and Stevens bring here.

They also have an album together, of which you can find info at Available Entertainment.

Carmine Appice website: www.carmineappice.net
Pat Travers website: www.pattravers.com
T.M. Stevens website: www.tmstevens.com

Line-up:
Pat Travers - vocals, guitar
T.M. Stevens - bass
Carmine Appice - drums


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SYLVER MYST – Depths Of Illusions (Sylver Myst 2005)

Sylver Myst - Depths Of Illusions
  1. As Heaven Blessed A Dying Rose
  2. Escape From Reality
  3. Depths Of Illusions
  4. Seduction
  5. Desire

And here we are, SYLVER MYST's first MCD. Hurray! Again, this is a self-financed release, but now it's been done better. The music sounds more polished and I'd say even a bit more bombastic. The artwork has also improved and looks more professional.

Shortly after the recording of this MCD, Bart (keyboards) left the band and the collaboration with bass player Ronald was also put to a halt. So the band had to search for new members, which they found: Martijn in't Veld (keyboards DARWIN'S PRIDE) and bass player Marcel Swinkels helped them out for the CD presentation. Soon after this, Martijn would become a full-time member. Marco Brugmans filled the empty bass seat around the end of July.

The first thing that stands out while listening to "As Heaven Blessed A Dying Rose" is that Marjolein's voice has also changed in the past 2 years, reaching higher levels and sounding fuller. The song also contains a nice bass solo.

"Escape From Reality" is next and truly, this is a very nice song. Calm verses followed by a heavy chorus. Hands down. Live as well, this is a great one to experience.

The heaviest song on this MCD is without doubt the titletrack. Especially the harsh riffs stand out. Marjolien switches between normal singing and soprano. But the normal singing can sometimes sound 'annoying' (though this term is too extreme). At least, that's how I feel about it. Grunts are also an important element and have a beasty sound.

As "Seduction" paves the way for "Desire", merging the songs would not have been a bad idea, I think. Then they could entitle it "Seduction...Desire" or "Seduction => Desire". :-) The latter is a beautiful midtempo song, though there's one part where the drums go ta-ta-ta during the chorus, which tends to slow down everyone. It's a nice implementation, only it needs to be executed a bit faster, more fluently.

Release by release more songs are added to the respective tracklistings. They're up to 5 now, so fingers crossed for a full album soon. For a self-financed MCD, the result is quite (to very) good. since they're a live band, a live album would naturally be more appropriate. SYLVER MYST has the potential of an EPICA (to name one band), and I hope that in due time they will get picked up by a label that can make the band grow more and record full albums.

Support talent instead of products and get "Depths Of Illusions". If you can't find it in the stores, contact the band. ;-)

There are samples on their website: www.sylvermyst.nl.

Line-up:
Marjolein Hüsken - vocals
Didier Roumen - guitar
Rob van Dijk - guitar
Bart Spackler - keyboards
Ronald van de Rijt - bass
Marc Jaspers - drums


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THE DICTATORS – Viva Dictators! (Escapi Music 2005)

The Dictators - Viva Dictators!
  1. Intro
  2. New York, New York
  3. Haircut And Attitude
  4. Master Race Rock
  5. Avenue A
  6. Baby, Let's Twist
  7. Weekend
  8. Pussy And Money
  9. Who Will Save Rock & Roll
  10. Next Big Thing
  11. Minnesota Strip
  12. What's Up With That
  13. Faster & Louder
  14. I Am Right
  15. Stay With Me
  16. Two Tub Men
  17. Cars And Girls (bonus track)

And another band I had never heard of before. A little quote from Blabbermouth:

"Formed in 1974, New York City's THE DICTATORS are one of the finest and most influential proto-punk bands to walk the earth. Originally formed as an homage/response to the MC5, FLAMIN GROOVIES, NEW YORK DOLLS and THE STOOGES, THE DICTATORS wound up playing a similarly crucial and inspirational role to the generations that followed them.

In 1991 the original DICTATORS reformed (with drummer Frank Funaro, later replaced by WILD KINGDOM skinsman J.P. "Thunderbolt" Patterson) and set out on tour, something they have done with increasing dedication, geographic reach and consistency ever since."


Their last release was in 2001, entitled "D.F.F.D.". Late August of this year (2005), THE DICTATORS have released the live album "Viva Dictators", consisting of 16 proto-punk classics (plus an additional bonus track recorded at soundcheck).

It's a live album, but for a lot of songs, you can hardly hear the crowd. Ok if you want to put the music in the spotlight, but I appreciate the sound of the audience as well. But that gets solved pretty quickly as during other songs, they (crowd) are more present.

17 songs and a running time of barely 50 minutes, mainly because of the shortness of many of the songs. But though I would mind if it were one of my favourite bands, I don't here. There are some very good songs here, with a very nice guitar solo in "I Am Right", a song that really jumped out for me, but there are others too, no doubt about it. I also noticed a guitar melody in the beginning of "Who Will Save Rock & Roll" that makes me think of the Belgian punk band JANEZ DETD and their song "Rock On". Great to know who inspired them. ;-) I don't know if it's true though.

Long-time (pseudo-) punkers, if I may say, but they are very good indeed. Let's conclude by saying this is a great party disc. :-) Rock & Roll with a Punk flavour. A decent (live) album and certainly good to get to know the band and their music.

More info at www.thedictators.com.

Line-up:
Handsome Dick Manitoba - lead vocals
Ross the Boss - vocals, guitar
Scott "Top 10" Kempner - vocals, guitar
Andy Shernoff - lead vocals, bass
JP "Thunderbolt" Patterson - vocals, drums


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DESTRUCTION – Inventor Of Evil (AFM Records 2005)

Destruction - Inventor Of Evil
  1. Soul Collector
  2. The Defiance Will Remain
  3. The Alliance Of Hellhoundz
  4. No Mans Land
  5. The Calm Before The Storm
  6. The Chosen Ones
  7. Dealer Of Hostility
  8. Under Surveillance
  9. Seeds Of Hate
  10. Twist Of Fate
  11. Killing Machine
  12. Memories Of Nothingness

The first time I got in contact with DESTRUCTION was last year (2004), when I bought their first albums (combined on 2 cd's): "Sentence Of Death"/"Infernal Overkill" and "Eternal Devastation"/"Mad Butcher". Before that I had already heard of them, but not their music. These first albums sound very rough of course, as was natural in those days (see also KREATOR, EXODUS, ...), since artists didn't have the tools/equipment nowadays available. The roughness also made it honest music, 3 people giving their all for this great music.

After a couple of months I refocussed on Powermetal, until some months ago there was news about a new album. So you get curious and only recently did the band make a videoclip available of the song "Soul Collector", played in the studio. From that moment I knew "Inventor Of Evil" would be a kick-ass album. It's also the band's first album on their new label, AFM Records.

I've already reserved my copy (of the limited edition) even though I received a promo copy for this review. The limited edition digipack comes with

* 2 bonus tracks: "The Alliance Of Hellhoundz" (Schmier only on vocals) and "We are the Road Crew" (MOTÖRHEAD cover)
* 2 videoclips
* wallpapers

Comparing old Thrash with new isn't always possible as the roughness tends to fade and the music sounds more polished. Still, like KREATOR's "Enemy Of God" and EXODUS' 2004 "Tempo Of The Damned", you can clearly hear DESTRUCTION's new album is Thrash and has an '80s feeling to it (not the newer Thrash à la NEVERMORE or THE HAUNTED or ...). They remained true to their style, which is of course great news.

The man who's responsable for this Thrash masterpiece is HYPOCRISY/PAIN mainman Peter Tägtgren, who also did the mix. The cover artwork is of high quality and features the butcher again, back for more slaughtering.

The great, speeding and 'headbanging-required' "Soul Collector" opens the tracklisting and shows what you'll hear on the album: pure, in-your-face Thrash, brought to you by the masters. Chorus-wise this is 'fun' to sing along: "Havooooc and haaaze, bleeding restless 'till the last daaayys (...) Detector! Soul Collector. Detector!... Detector Of Sin."

And so the pace is set. "The Defiance Will Remain" seems to take it even further and harder. This is not for the weak of heart, hehehe. ;-) DESTRUCTION delivers here (and on the other tracks), no trends or signs of weakening. Straight from the heart, honest Thrash.

For "The Alliance Of Hellhoundz", the band asked some people to join Schmier on vocals: Biff (SAXON), Doro, Shagrath (DIMMU BORGIR), Speed (SOILWORK), Paul Di Anno (ex-IRON MAIDEN/KILLERS), Messiah (CANDLEMASS), Mark Osegueda (DEATH ANGEL), Peavy (RAGE), Peter Tägtgren (HYPOCRISY/PAIN). The song is about tolerance and unity between metalheads. It's really great to hear those great artists coming together for a good cause. :-) Definitely one of the better songs on this album and no, not only because of this collaboration.

"No Mans Land" is again Schmier only and you can hear it, the song sounds clearer and pushes the pedal a bit more down, resulting in a whole of killer riffs backed by fast drums.

After all the brutality, you are given some time to get to your senses as "The Calm Before The Storm" commences with accoustic guitars. But then the storm does break loose. The butcher knows of no stopping when "The Chosen Ones" pounds further on. The drums play an important role here. Although this is a solid song, I find it less good than the previous ones. "Dealer Of Hostility" on the other hand is again sharper, clearer.

For "Under Surveillance", DESTRUCTION chose to slow down a bit, but doesn't forget to implement faster parts, mainly for the bridge. After the midtempo ""Seeds Of Hate", which has a nice bridge ("Crusader, manipulator, bloody creature, feminine creature") but not so interesting chorus, it's time for a "Twist Of Fate". This song seems to have found new power as the tempo increases again. With very fitting riffs and drums (and of course the vocals), this is another great song, though the guitar solo tends to ruin it a bit. Other than that it's flawless.

DESTRUCTION go on and on, this album is filled with energy, rage, killer stuff. "Killing Machine" says it all. The real moment of peace and calmness comes at the end - when all is slaughtered and butchered maybe? - with "Memories Of Nothingness", played only by accoustic guitars. A short, but nice ending.

Ok, a long pile of text, but "Inventor Of Evil" is an album that should not be commented in a short way. DESTRUCTION fans will surely get this and so will Thrash fans. KREATOR released a great album, now it's DESTRUCTION's turn to shake the world and slaughter all who stand in their way. Truly a masterpiece and despite some minor details, "Inventor Of Evil" writes history.

Line-up:
Schmier - vocals, bass
Mike - guitars
Marc - drums


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GUT – Shrubbery (Fat Togue Records 2004)

Gut - Shrubbery
  1. Smoking Man
  2. Some Friend
  3. Promise Keeper
  4. Trapped, Entwined
  5. The Butcher (Knee Deep In Blood)

GUT is a new band from Boston and consists of five musicians. Together they created a first release, an EP entitled "Shrubbery", which contains 5 songs full of healthy energy and devotion. This EP came out in 2004, but I got my copy in September 2006, which is also why I placed the review here.

"Shrubbery" brings a total of 18 and 1/2 minutes of Hardcore meets Thrash with some grooviness where appropriate. The songs don't sound as polished as professional releases, but this can get better in time and with every release. Still, the roughness is a good thing as it shows better how the band plays, sounds like and it all sounds more real. Almost like you're there with the guys in the basement, hearing and seeing them jam.

No compromises, full on Metal from start to finish. Of course, there are always things that could use some improving, particularly in "Smoking Man" where Mike hits his crash cymbal too often. Other than that there are no real 'problems' in the other songs. Oh wait, there is one: Brian's growling, harsh vocals. It's really hard to understand what he says/sings/growls, except for a word here and there. In itself, I'm fine with that as you can consider Brian's input on the same level as the guitars: an instrument. Yet, there are lyrics and I'm interested to read them.

But to end I can say that GUT is a very good and fresh addition to the scene with their mixture of Hardcore, Thrash, Groove, Progressive and whatever more, although the emphasis (on this EP) lies on Hardcore/Thrash. No doubt that these guys stand their ground on stage and I'd love to see to see them tour Europe in the future. "Shrubbery" is a decent release and very promising for the albums to come. Support these guys if you can. Music played for the love of music.

More info at www.bostongut.com.

Line-up:
Brian Morse - vocals
Geoff Morse - guitars
Jeremy Youngberg - guitars
Mark Pryor - bass
Mike Adams - drums


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GAIA EPICUS – Symphony Of Glory (Sound Riot Records 2005)

Gaia Epicus - Symphony Of Glory
  1. Welcome (intro)
  2. Time And Space
  3. Miracles
  4. Sieze The Day!
  5. Hand Of Fate
  6. Wings Of Freedom
  7. Spanish Eyes
  8. No Release?
  9. Chamber Of Secrets
  10. Be Thy Cross My Victory
  11. Symphony Of Glory

GAIA EPICUS started out as a Punkrock band in 1992 and evolved to what they play nowadays: Powermetal. In between they switched to Thrash and Hardrock. From Punk to Powermetal in... FOUR years. Also noticeable is the change of band name: from EXECUTION (Thrash period) over MILLENIUM (Powermetal), taking a turn to be THEATER OF PAIN and ETERNAL FLAME, but then in 2001 GAIA EPICUS was chosen as the final name. Talk about knowing what you want and not trying to confuse people. :p

"Symphony Of Glory" is the successor to 2003's "Satrap", and was recorded and mixed at Top Room Studios (TRISTANIA, VINTERSORG, BORKNAGAR) with producer Børge Finstad and features artwork by Michael A. Mueller (MEGADETH). The CD was mastered at Bazement Studios. Lars A. Larsen and Jan Thore Grefstad from HIGHLAND GLORY made a guest appearance (keyboards, choir respectively).

Recording the new album was one thing, releasing it another. First it was scheduled for early 2005, but then there were some problems involving the tracklisting, which led to discussions between the label (and almost escalated to contacting lawyers), but then around July, both parties found an agreement and the necessary corrections would be applied.

This was the discussed track listing:

01. Sieze The Day!
02. Miracles
03. No Release?
04. Be Thy Cross My Victory
05. Wings Of Freedom
06. Spanish Eyes
07. Welcome (intro) / Time And Space
08. Chamber Of Secrets
09. Hand Of Fate
10. Symphony Of Glory

And if the song order wasn't enough, the band also lost its bassplayer Yngve Hanssen in March. A serious search led to Hans Aage Holmen, who joined the band in June. To complete the line-up, a new drummer was found in Ole Alexander Myrholt, joining at the end of October.

On to the music. Why there's an intro is beyond me, as it doesn't really add anything to the album and in my opinion seems just to fill some space. But after this short piece, the fast paced music comes into play with "Time And Space". This is one of the best songs on the album, also (or mainly) because of the solos.

Continuing the speediness, "Miracles" comes next. Although musically this is fine song, the biggest 'problem' here are the vocals. Thomas' voice seems to sound flat many times and lacks the range of other Powermetal vocalists who can give a song more feel, more power.

And if 2 songs weren't enough as a start, here 'fasty' number three: "Sieze The Day!". Again musically it has some nice parts, but since it sounds almost the same like the previous ones, this can get tiresome. The various drumming on the other hand makes it worthwhile. Chorus-wise, the vocals bend the song more negatively than positively.

And then, finally, some slowing down with "Hand Of Fate", which chooses the midtempo way and "Wings Of Freedom" also seems to take the easier part... at first. Then there's no stopping and we're off to a fast ride again. To be honest, this is also a very good song with nice melodies. *thumbs up*

"Spanish Eyes" is a lovesong. Not bad, but nothing special either. With "No Release?" I first thought this title was yet to be chosen, but this really is the name of the song. As expected, fast riffs and drums rule here making this also nice to listen to, were it not for the chorus which really is out of place here.

So, musically most of the songs are alright and the vocals seems to form the biggest problem. Maybe Thomas also knows this and decided to add an instrumental song, for which I'm quite grateful. Because keeping it instrumental can a lot of times make the song come out more than when adding vocals. "Chamber Of Secrets" therefore is a nice addition.

"Be Thy Cross My Victory" has no need for speediness either. Not a bad song, but nothing spectacular either. The closing and title track "Symphony Of Glory" clocks in after 10 minutes and is a mixture of midtempo and uptempo, accompanied by orchestral elements. A good song, though maybe a bit too stretched and again.. for the x-th time, the vocals ruin it. Especially when Thomas sings the moment the instruments stop playing.

GAIA EPICUS' latest release can be considered a solid album, which should appeal to Powermetal fans in general. Musically it's got all the typical elements: melody, fast riffs, uptempo drums, good to very good solos. Though it's not groundbreaking, it's nice to listen to if you want to hear an other band. But as was mentioned a couple of times, either you like the vocals or you don't. I tend to think that if Thomas would work more on the heavier notes, it could make the songs better.

More info can be found at www.gaia-epicus.com

Line-up:
Thomas Christian Hansen - vocals, guitar
Joakim Kjelstad - guitar
Hans Aage Holmen - bass
Ole Alexander Myrholt - drums


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A PERFECT MURDER – Strength Through Vengeance (Victory Records 2005)

A Perfect Murder - Strength Through Vengeance
  1. Strength Through Vengeance
  2. Black Hate Machine
  3. Wake Up And Die
  4. Snake Eyes
  5. Path Of Resistance
  6. Deceit Of Man
  7. Body And Blood
  8. Rotten I
  9. Suffocation Of Thought
  10. Time Changes Nothing
  11. Slay The Masses

A PERFECT MURDER, a Canadian metalcore band of whom I've never heard (until I got a promo copy of this album). Now, there are hardcore/metalcore elements in it, but the band seems to take a more Thrashy approach. Clearly they've been influenced by PANTERA and METALLICA (mainly "Master Of Puppets"-era) as the riffs and drums - and not to forget, the vocals (!) - can be compared with PANTERA's works and the guitar solos with METALLICA's 1986 masterpiece.

Before I go on, there is one thing I don't get. On their label's page, the line-up is different than what's on the band's website and the booklet:

Kevin Randel - vocals
Dave Bayreuther - guitar
Carl Bouchard - guitar
Francois Michel Labrie - bass
Yan Chausse - drums

Band's website ("Band" section) - these are the guys that recorded the album:

Kevin Randel - vocals
Carl Bouchard - guitar
Pierre Remillard - guitar
Dave B. - bass
Yan Chausse - drums

"Strength Through Vengeance" booklet:

Kevin Randel - vocals
Carl Bouchard - guitar
Dominic Poisson - guitar
Dave B. - bass
Yan Chausse - drums

Make up your minds, guys. :p

Now, the music. The album starts in a fast way with the speedy titletrack. From the first riff, I instantly like the song. Like it was pointed out in an other review, this song seems almost a copy-cat from METALLICA's "Battery" and I have to agree. Mainly the guitar solos have the same sound as then. And in a way you could say, this is "Battery" by PANTERA. ;-) The influences are clearly there, but I truly don't mind as both bands are in my all-time favourites list.

Up next is the slightly calmer song "Black Hate Machine", which is not bad, though has the same drum pattern throughout the song. "Wake Up And Die" drives up the pace again. Here Kevin mixes his screaming with normal singing and although it sounds strange at first, the result is quite good.

"Snake Eyes" is a song of which the first riffs reminds me a bit of PANTERA's "Walk". Around 2:40 there's a nice piece starting with heavy, slow riffs. Very good for (slow) headbanging. ;-) "Path Of Resistance" starts calmy, after which it's all about the heaviness again. To be honest, this song is one of the least good, though it has some nice riffs.

With "Deceit Of Man", the band is taking the right path again, with very nice melodic riffs. This song also has major PANTERA similarities. Kevin's vocals are contribute to that.

And then one of the best tracks: "Body And Blood". The uptempo parts here are truly great fun to listen to, the riffs combined with the double-bass drums. Simply kick-ass!

"Rotten I" (is it I or one?) takes it a bit slower again and is overall a nice track. "Suffocation Of Thought" continues at about the same speed as "Rotten I". Standing out in this song are the very well played and nice guitar solos.

"Time Changes Nothing" is an instrumental song, and not of the fast kind. It's a nice addition to the tracklisting and also a very beautiful song in itself. Thumbs up.

"Slay The Masses", which is put as last, mixes slow parts with more uptempo stuff. A good closer. Around 2:00 Yan hits his drums a little faster, which results in a delight for the ear. :-) At 2:50 the band take it a bit faster (for only a short time) and of course, this is heaven.

A PERFECT MURDER, metalcore with a more Thrashy sound. Production is well done, musicianship is also of a high level. If they keep it up this way - choosing the Thrash road - then 'woohoo'. ;) "Strength Through Vengeance" is - despite some minor details - a decent album. One of the better hardcore/metalcore albums I've heard so far. Yeah, ok, maybe not a lot (i.e. albums), but I like what these Canadians have made.

If you do want to check out this band, feel free to browse their website at www.aperfectmurdermusic.com and on the page at their label Victory Records: A Perfect Murder.

Line-up:
Kevin Randel - vocals
Carl Bouchard - guitar
Pierre Remillard - guitar
Dave B. - bass
Yan Chausse - drums


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SHE'S CHINA – Odyssey To Mars (Point Music 2005)

She's China - Odyssey To Mars
  1. The Odyssey Overture
  2. Odyssey To Mars
  3. Space Between The Heavens
  4. Velvet Spacetime
  5. Shine On
  6. The Inner Light Of The Odyssey
  7. Rock 'N Roll Star
  8. Spaceman
  9. Shadows On The Moon
  10. When A Blind Man Cries
  11. The End Of The Odyssey
  12. The Return From The Odyssey - Part I

SHE'S CHINA, a German rockband of whom I have never heard before, despite having released albums since the late '80s. I'm not going to go into detail about those, since I only have their latest: "Odyssey To Mars".

So, a rockband... without some real rocking grooves or riffs. The emphasis lies on the keyboards, organs and accustic guitars. Vocally it's for the most part inadequate and it totally fails with "Velvet Spacetime" where Sherman 'sings' more in a 'sigh' manner than in a normal way.

The theme is space-related and because of the keyboard and organ sounds, you can compare it with Arjen Lucassen's STAR ONE project. But that's the only comparison you can make, the 'spacey' sounds. But wait, how can you talk about spacey sounds, when you don't know how space 'sounds'? :p

To be honest, no matter how good the musicians are here, there's not enough good material to carry the rest of the album. Still, it's not all bad: songs like "Space Between The Heavens", "Rock 'N Roll Star" and "The Inner Light Of The Odyssey" (instrumental) form the better part. "When A Blind Man Cries" starts with a woman screaming and singing, and has a sad undertone, which is ofcourse logic when you look at the title. ;-) But this song is nice too. The rest just is too slow, boring, and more of that. Maybe if you've smoked some pot or something, then you might enjoy it. Yes yes, people have different tastes, but it still remains 'not good enough'.

SHE'S CHINA.. maybe they would sell good in China, but with only 3 average to good songs, this album is to be avoided! Or who knows, maybe the next album will (not :p) be an improvement as they return to earth. See the last track.

If you do want to check out this band, feel free to browse their website at www.sheschina.de.

Line-up:
Sherman Noir - vocals, keyboards, vocoder
Malibu Gordes - guitars
Uwe Minge - guitars
Alex Strauch - Hammond organ, piano
Ulf Ipsen - bass
Flo Gerwien - drums


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DEMONS & WIZARDS – Touched By The Crimson King (Steamhammer 2005)

Demons & Wizards - Touched By The Crimson King CD 1:
  1. Crimson King
  2. Beneath These Waves
  3. Terror Train
  4. Seize The Day
  5. The Gunslinger
  6. Love's Tragedy Asunder
  7. Wicked Witch
  8. Dorian
  9. Down Where I Am
  10. Immigrant Song
CD 2:
  1. Lunar Lament
  2. Wicked Witch (slow version)
  3. Spatial Architects
  4. Beneath These Waves (edit)

DEMONS & WIZARDS, or ICED EARTH meets BLIND GUARDIAN. The two bands' mainmen join forces to create something new and fresh. The self-titled debut album from 1999 was a nice start with some good songs, though it lacked certain things, making it not perfect. But as Jon said in the booklet "there's more to come", a second album was just a matter of time.

It took them about 5 years to make "Touched By The Crimson King". This delay was mainly caused by a lack of time on both sides. ICED EARTH and BLIND GUARDIAN had albums to release and promote and if one band wasn't on tour, the other was. Also, Jim Morris (producer, who also played the guitar on the first album) fell sick.

But now the worries are over, for the second album has arrived! This time the sound is more powerful, more direct. Of course, the typical Jon Schaffer riffs are omni-present. And yes, one tends to think the album is simply ICED EARTH with different vocals. Well yes... and no. Because it's too simple a conclusion. ICED EARTH's songs are still a bit different. Also a remark on the 'ICED EARTH meets BLIND GUARDIAN' subject: what do you expect? A Death/Black metal album? Of course you'll hear influences of these two bands. If you don't like them, then don't bother writing crap about DEMONS & WIZARDS.

Guest performances (since they also help an album sound worthwhile and are sometimes forgotten) were done by:

Bobby Jarzombek - drums, percussion
Jim Morris - guitar solos, backing vocals
Robin Drake - bass, fretless bass
Howard Helm - piano, backing vocals
Kathy Helm - backing vocals
Tori Fuson - backing vocals
Jesse Morris - backing vocals
Krystyna Kolaczynski - cello

The extremely talented Bobby Jarzombek handles the drums and percussion here and was also present on a couple of ICED EARTH albums. The sound is very clear and powerful and reminds somewhat of PAINMUSEUM's "Metal For Life", where Bobby also is behind the drumkit.

There are three songs (+ the album title) that are based on Stephen King's "Dark Tower" book: "Crimson King", "Terror Train" and "The Gunslinger". "Dorian" is about the demise of Dorian Gray (from the book of writer Oscar Wylde).

On to the songs then... The album starts furiously with "Crimson King". Jon's famous riffs, Hansi's multilayered voice - melodic, but with a certain roughness. Bobby implements some nice drumrolls here. At 1:45 the tempo is lowered, giving the guitars more space and attention. Play this loud and it sounds breathtaking! After the accoustic interlude vicious riffs and drums come into play again, accomapnied by a screaming Hansi. This is an amazing song, flawless!

"Beneath These Waves" starts slow (at least slower than "Crimson King") and has a very touching melody. The chorus too features Hansi's beautiful voice and when it sounds doubled (or backed), the effect is even greater. The second part of "Beneath These Waves" is a sad one, but played by cello with "aaah" backing vocals.

Prepare for furious riffs again, for here's the "Terror Train". And indeed, the way the guitars and drums play together make it sound like a train thundering on the tracks. True craftsmanship.

Taking the calmer road again, "Seize The Day" starts accoustically. The main thing about this song is its catchy sing-along chorus. Overall it's a nice song.

Next is "The Gunslinger" and as the titles implies, this isn't a soft song. Starting with a calm intro to prepare the listener, hell breaks loose after that. Compliments to the guest musicians for the backing vocals.

It's good to change guitars throughout the album, for it makes you relax a bit and get more into the songs. So here again - "Love's Tragedy Asunder" -, the band starts accoustically before continuing with the heavy riffs. Though it's not a bad song, I don't like the chorus much and especially Hansi's voice here. At 3:40 there's a calm piece before the solo, which isn't bad at all.

Putting the heavy guitars aside for a couple of minutes, "Wicked Witch" is fully accoustic and has a sad undertone. Still, a beautiful song.

Now, brace yourselves, the weak of heart may have some problems with the (first) riffs of "Dorian". ;-) Not a bad song, but not that special either, in my opinion.

"Down Where I Am" seems to be about an unwanted birth/child and not wanting to have to take care of it. Or feeling guilty about it. This is another mixture of accoustic and electric parts. "Down Where I Am" is a sad, touching song which makes me produce some tears. And then when heaviness kicks in with the drums... A-MA-ZING song! Work of art.

The first cd ends with a LED ZEPPELING cover of "Immigrant Song". It's not a bad performance, but I too prefer to have seen a DEMONS & WIZARDS song. Still, on the bonus disc (Limited Edition), there are 2 songs that didn't make it onto the album/first disc:

"Lunar Lament" and "Spatial Architects". Both don't have the powerful sound of the others, but a softer feel. Still, they're not bad and to me "Lunar Lament" is the better of the two. For "Spatial Architects" it can be understood why this one doesn't appear on disc 1. It lacks something, as if it's not finished yet. Or are Jon and Hansi giving us a pre-taste of a third DEMONS & WIZARDS album? ;-)

Final words: If you liked the first album, then you will surely like "Touched By The Crimson King". If you're a fan of ICED EARTH or BLIND GUARDIAN (or both), then you should normally like this one as well. Jon Schaffer and Hansi Kürsch are great musicians, delivering great music with their respective bands. Here's great music delivered by them together. A true masterpiece.

Line-up:
Hansi Kürsch - vocals
Jon Schaffer - guitars, bass
Jim Morris - guitars
Robin Drake - bass
Bobby Jarzombek - drums


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DARKEST HOUR – Undoing Ruin (Victory Records 2005)

Darkest Hour - Undoing Ruin
  1. With A Thousand Words To Say But One
  2. Convalescence
  3. This Will Outlive Us
  4. Sound The Surrender
  5. Pathos
  6. Low
  7. Ethos
  8. District Divided
  9. These Fevered Times
  10. Paradise
  11. Tranquil

DARKEST HOUR, another metalcore band of which I received a copy of their latest work "Undoing Ruin". The first thing that pops up when playing the cd, is the sound of the guitars. Like A PERFECT MURDER, DARKEST HOUR also chose to give the album a more Thrashy sound. But this was for the biggest part thanks to Devin Townsend (STRAPPING YOUNG LAD), who 'guided' the guys and produced this album.

While "Hidden Hands Of A Sadist Nation" (2003) attacked the duplicity of government, "So Sedated, So Secure" (2001) skewered organized religion and rampant commercialism. On "Undoing Ruin", the latest chapter in the DARKEST HOUR story, themes of healing and moving forward are prevalent. "It’s our first album that isn’t overtly political, though we did record "District Divided" which deals with the rapid gentrification in our hometown, Washington, DC," commented guitarist Mike Schleibaum, "The album is about change, personal and musical. The name, "Undoing Ruin", fit the concept - it’s about making life worth living again."

The first track is one of my favourites. Uptempo and nice sharp guitars. This kind of playing returns in songs like "These Fevered Times" and "Tranquil", which are all very good. Also worth mentioning are the guitar solos. I'm not so fond of "This will Outlive Us All" with its 'chaotic' sounding guitars in the intro. The rest of the song too is not so fluid as the others. "Pathos" (accoustic) and "Ethos" (electric) form the resting points in this otherwise heavy album. The vocals are something to get used too. They're not bad, and at times very fitting but also annoying (though 'annoying' is maybe too strong here) on certain occasions. But overall, these guys know how to play their instrument. ;-)

And yes, DARKEST HOUR are the second metalcore band that gets my attention, but I remain sceptic. I like for the most part what they've done with "Undoing Ruin" and for me, Devin Townsend's contributions helped with it. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think the album would have sounded this ... good if he wasn't behind the buttons and panels. So, next to A PERFECT MURDER, this is another band to check out.

More info at their website: www.darkesthour.cc and the page at Victory Records.

Line-up:
John Henry - vocals
Kris Noris - guitar
Mike Schleibaum - guitar
Paul Burnette - bass
Ryan Parrish - drums


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REBELLION – Sagas Of Iceland (Massacre Records 2005)

Rebellion - Sagas Of Iceland
  1. In Memorandum Lindisfarnae
  2. Ynglinga Saga (To Odin We Call)
  3. The Sons Of The Dragon Slayer (Blood Eagle)
  4. Ragnhild's Dream
  5. Harald Harfager
  6. Eric The Red
  7. Freedom (The Saga Of Gang Hrolf)
  8. Treason
  9. Sword In The Storm (The Saga Of Earl Hakon, Protector Of Norway)
  10. Blood Rains (The Saga Of King Olaf Trygvason)
  11. Ruling The Waves
  12. Canute The Great (The King Of Danish Pride)
  13. Harald Hadrade

REBELLION (website), German Heavy/Power Metal featuring two ex-GRAVE DIGGER members (Uwe Lulis, guitars and Tomi Göttlich, bass). I hadn't heard of the band yet, though it could also be that I overlooked their albums at the metalstore. But at least I know of them now. :-)

The band already has released two albums: "Shakespeare's Macbeth - A Tragedy In Steel" (2002) and "Born A Rebel" (2003). "Sagas Of Iceland", their latest, is part 1 of a trilogy, entitled "The History Of The Vikings". For this trilogy, the band didn't just write songs about the Vikings, but did some serious research.

Every part will be covering a different geographical area and their rulers. Part 1 deals with Ragnar Lodenhose ("Sons Of The Dragonslayer"), the Norwegian king Harald Harfager (who created the first united Norwegian kingdom), Eric the Red, and both Danish kings Sven Gabelbart ("Ruling The Waves") and Knut the Great - both ruled England besides Denmark as well. Part 2 (estimated release in 2006) will deal with the Swedish and Russian Vikings and their glorious deeds. Part 3 (estimated release in 2007) will be based upon the "Edda"-story-collection where we will get more information about the mythology and the gods of the Vikings.

"Sagas Of Iceland" is also available in Limited Edition, with a nice glossy image wrapped around the jewel case. Since the band is covering the story of the Vikings, you get a background story in the booklet, spanning 4 pages, but - and I don't know if this is also for the normal edition - but you also get the German version of the story. Not that I find it necessary, but it's good to train your German. ;-)

The cover artwork is by the hand of Thomas Ewerhard, who also worked on BRAINSTORM's "Liquid Monster" cover.

Musically you get solid Powermetal with cutting riffs (e.g. "The Sons Of The Dragon Slayer (Blood Eagle)"), beautiful solos (e.g. "Ragnhild's Dream") and melodies, backed by symphonic elements. Though there are no speedy songs, the tracklisting is filled with slow songs, midtempo and some uptempo.

Not forgetting a live atmosphere, certain choruses are easy to sing along, like in "Ynglinga Saga (To Odin We Call)":

"To Odin we call, in his name we will fight
Riding on dragons through the waves
And the gods on our side
To Odin we call, in his name we will fight
Summon the valkyrs in the sky
On the wings of death we ride"


Still, one point of agitation is Michael's voice. He's got talent and a certain roughness which makes his voice perfect for this kind of metal, but I have the impression the range isn't that big, making his voice sound, well, not annoying, but tiresome sometimes.

Anyhow, "Sagas Of Iceland" is a very decent Metalalbum and I find it quite interesting that REBELLION are writing about the Vikings. Reading history books can be educative and all, but somehow it's more fun when you get your favourite kind of music with it. :-) REBELLION are doing a very good job at this and I can only encourage them to continue and cross my fingers that the next 2 albums will be as good as (or even better than) "Sagas Of Iceland". Metal with an educative basis, even for that you must consider buying this album / trilogy.

Line-up:
Michael Seifert - vocals
Uwe Lulis - guitars
Björn Eilen - guitars
Tomi Göttlich - bass
Gerd Lücking - drums


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SECRET SPHERE – Heart & Anger (Nuclear Blast 2005)

Secret Sphere - Heart & Anger
  1. Endless
  2. Where The Sea Ends
  3. First Snake
  4. Loud & Raw
  5. Dance With The Devil
  6. Set Me Free
  7. I Won't Say A Word
  8. Lights On
  9. Leonardo da Vinci
  10. You Still Remain
  11. Bad Blood
  12. No Reason Why
  13. Faster Than The Storm

SECRET SPHERE (website), another Italian powermetal band implementing melody, symphony, speed, bombast, ... which makes it one of the gazillion other identical bands. The first thing that catches your eye is the beautiful artwork. The hearing is taken over by a very clear production. For this clear sound, Achim Köhler was part of the crew. You may know him from his work for the German powermetallers BRAINSTORM. The artwork is by the hand of Simona Adriani (mwbdesign.it).

So, melodic/symphonic powermetal, there's no doubt about that when you hear the songs. "Heart & Anger" is the band's fourth album and you may already know them, but SECRET SPHERE is new to me. Music-wise, you can hear influences from LABYRINTH, DARK MOOR, and the likes.

Beginning with a symphonic intro, "Endless", hell breaks loose with the speedy "Where The Sea Ends". A great song with lots of melody, a very clear sound, ... one of the those songs that will create a great atmosphere when played live.

For "Heart & Anger" the band asked some people to make a guest appearance for the choirs, symphonic parts, vocal lines (a.o. Roberto Tiranti from LABYRINTH). You can hear him on the third track, "First Snake", and his voice gives the song a LABYRINTH touch.

The following song "Loud & Raw" starts logically... raw, with just the guitars and drums. The keyboards set in later in a gentle and discrete way. "Dance With The Devil", which you can hear on the Nuclear Blast website, is not a bad song, but you can hear Ramon has an accent. The chorus is nice, though.

With "Set Me Free" the pace is driven up again and has some nice symphonic parts. Overall, it's a good song. "I won't Say A Word" reminds me a bit of HIM and has some gothic-like influences. Nothing personal, but I find this song rather boring despite some good drum parts. Best thing now is pushing the 'next' button for the more powerful and uptempo "Lights On". The 'wuwu' guitars in the beginning remind me of BRAINSTORM. Ramon is assisted here by choirs and result in a job well-done. this is one of my favourite songs on the album. Here too you may hear LABYRINTH influences.

"Leonardo Da Vinci" starts accoustically, backed by violins, after which they have to make way for the guitars and drums. In short, a solid song. "You still Remain" clearly shows that Ramon needs to work on his accent and somehow I feel the similarity with Roy Khan (KAMELOT, "Memento Mori") is too obvious (low singing), with the difference that Roy is a master at this kind of singing. with more excercise, Ramon should be able to clear away the present errors. "You Still Remain" is a sad song and if you're in a sad mood, it can help you produce some (more) tears. But enough of feeling sad, back to positivism and energizing music: "Bad Blood", though this song only partially helps you on the way. Maybe "No Reason Why" can help... yup, going better now, though not 100% yet. It's a nice song nevertheless and one of the better on the album.

Having reached the end of the tracklisting and seeing a title like "Faster Than The Storm", this must then be thé song that will keep you going again. And yes! It doesn't disappoint. Top song, great speed, superb chorus.. I love it!!

If you like DARK MOOR, LABYRINTH, and other melodic/symphonic Powermetal bands, then "Heart & Anger" is a must-have! It's got great melodies, a very clear sound, nice vocals (though here and there some accent problems, which can be solved over time), uplifting drums, and more. Well, any Powermetal fan should have this album in his/her collection. I'm curious to see them live one day, since there are quite some songs that would sound great on stage.

Line-up:
Ramon - vocals
Paolo "paco" Gianotti - guitars
Aldo Lonobile - guitars
Antonio Agate - keyboards
Andrea Buratto - bass
Luca Cartasegna - drums


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VANISHING POINT – Embrace The Silence (Dockyard 1 2005)

Vanishing Point - Embrace The Silence
  1. Hollow
  2. My Virtue
  3. If Only I
  4. Live 2 Live
  5. Embraced
  6. Season Of Sundays
  7. Once A Believer
  8. Reason
  9. Breathe
  10. Somebody Save Me
  11. Inside Yourself
  12. A Life Less
  13. As I Reflect

VANISHING POINT (website), one of Australia's greatest bands and a very good Progmetal band. The name? As Chris said it in another interview: "VANISHING POINT to us is pretty much to some of us definitive of how we work together, there are scientists who have been studying this phenomenon of when things go into a black hole they all become one in matter, this is called singularity and it is also termed as being the Vanishing Point. We all work together as one and we all contribute to the songs, so in a way this description represents how we are as a band and team. Another thing is also that Silvio once saw a painting that really caught his eye and at that time we were searching for a new band name, by suprise the painting was called Vanishing Point and so we all thought this was a cool name, so here we are."

"Embrace The Silence" is their third album, since "In Thought" was released in 1997. Growing with each release, this new album is really amazing. I wasn't so fond of "Tangled In Dream" and therefore didn't buy it. Also, third album, third label: Dockyard 1, which also has bands like SAVAGE CIRCUS, PERSUADER, IRON SAVIOR, CELESTY, and more under its wings.

Not only did it take the band five years to release this (after their previous keyboardist leaving the band [Leonard Kopilas (MANIC OPERA) replaced him], health problems for Silvio, ...), but you also get an almost FULL cd of great music. Total running time: 79:38, which isn't very common in metal, except for maybe a RHAPSODY whose latest album ("Symphony Of Enchanted Lands II - The Dark Secret") ended after some 73 minutes. METALLICA also did it with "Load" (79:59). Anyhow, you really get a lot of music for your money.

VANISHING POINT put the emphasis on melody here, not so much on harshness/roughness or speed, though there are uptempo parts spread over the tracklisting.

"Hollow" kicks off the album in a direct manner, no intro preparing for things to come. The emphasis lies on the keyboards, while backed by guitars. This is definitely a 'live' song. While this is a very good song, there's one tiny little detail I just have to mention: the sound of the toms of Jack's drums. They tend to have a muffled sound instead of a 'deep' one. But like I said, it's just a detail in this great melodic unity. ;-)

"My Virtue" starts in a calm, atmospheric way - almost like meditation music. Then then drums and guitars are added without disturbing this peaceful flow of sounds. The chopping riffs are a nice feature here. No double bass drums here, but still very qualitative music!

"If Only I" starts in the about the same way as "Hollow", i.e. direct. The biggest difference is speed. Its chorus too is of tremendous quality and of the melodic side of the song can't be said anything bad. I guess those five years were supposed to happen to be able to create such great music. ;-)

"Live 2 Live" still has the keyboards determining the melody, but also makes sure the guitars are given more attention. Although the chorus is well done, I'd make the drums play a bit faster (with double bass). It would give the song that little extra. After three minutes there's a nice instrumental 'duel' between the keyboards and guitars followed by some solos.

"Embraced" also draws the 'atmospheric' card (like "My Virtue") for the intro. The rest of the song as well is filled with this calmness, even with the entire instrumentation. Personally, I find this having an emotional edge and it could make you produce a tear or two if you're in a down mood. Overall, a flawless song!

A remarkable and beautiful song - and one of the best here - is "Season Of Sundays". The intro ('till 1:30) is breathtaking!! The melody of the keyboards, backed by the heavy guitar riffs.. it's just wonderful and very touching. No complaints here at all, VANISHING POINT did an amazing job here. I would even like to encourage the guys to make an instrumental song of this song, or one that's based on this song.

"Once A Believer" drives up the pace again (and heaviness) with a beautiful and bombastic intro by the keyboards. "Reason" is on next, with the piano/keyboards as first instrument after which the guitars set in. It's a midtempo track, which plays at a lower level than the others, in terms of quality and feel. Still, the result is very good.

Putting electric instruments aside, "Breathe" is thus an accoustic song. Nothing spectacular, but it's decent. "Someone Save Me" welcomes back the heaviness. Here too, decent work, but it lacks that little bit to make it as good as the first few songs.

And yes, more speed, at last. :-) "Inside Yourself", a very nice track with a beautiful melody and dito chorus. This is another top song and one of my favourites. The uptempo pace continues in "A Life Less". It seems that the higher the tempo, the better (= more beautiful) the choruses. The song even has some resemblances with CLOUDSCAPE, though VANISHING POINT's guitars sound heavier. ;-)

As the title implies, "As I Reflect" is a calm song, no electric guitars. Just Silvio backed by the keyboards. Not a bad song, but I needed a couple of listenings to get into it.

Five years of guessing, five years of waiting, but now it's here. VANISHING POINT delivered a fine piece of (melodic) Progmetal here, very fine indeed. Despite some less good songs/parts, this is an amazing album. Great melodies and solos, heavy riffs, touching sounds, ... I could say "If you're a Progfan, a VANISHING POINT fan, of DREAM THEATER or any other similar band..." , but like Michael from Metal-Temple.com said: If you like quality in music, then there's no doubt: "Embrace The Silence" is an album for your taste.

Line-up:
Silvio Massaro - vocals
Tommy Vucur - guitars
Chris Porcianko - guitars
Leonard Kopilas - keyboards (MANIC OPERA)
Joe Del Mastro - bass
Jack Lukic - drums


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KALEDON – The Way Of The Light (Steelborn Records 2005)

Kaledon - The Way Of The Light
  1. The Inexorable Light
  2. The Glory Starts
  3. The Angel
  4. The Hidden Ways
  5. In The Eyes Of The Queen
  6. Mighty Son Of The Great Lord
  7. Voltures In The Air
  8. Lord Of The Sand
  9. Black Telepathy
  10. Come With Me
  11. Break The Chant
  12. The Sword On The Shoulder
  13. The Way Of The Light
  14. Great Night In The Land

At last, another KALEDON album is born, but it wasn't an easy delivery: David Folchitto leaving the band and VICIOUS RUMORS guitarist Geoff Thorpe needing to end the collaboration (due to health problems) before it even started. Luckily they found STRATOVARIUS-drummer Jörg Michael willing to replace David, who rejoined the band the band again shortly after.

Remember "The Destruction" and "The King's Rescue"? These albums weren't bad, but weren't exactly masterpieces either, mainly due to a bad (read: lesser good) production. But you can forget about that now, because for "The Way Of The Light" they found a better producer and dito studio: Giuseppe Orlando and Outer Sound Studios. Result: a much clearer, smoother sound. A day to night's difference compared to the first 2 albums. It's like everything fits better.

"The Way Of The Light" forms the third part in the story ("Legend Of The Forgotten Reign") created by KALEDON-guitarist Alex Mele.

The band has grown over the years: better riffs, solos, more variation with the keyboards, and better singing. And luckily the artwork has improved as well.

The album starts calm with "The Inexorable Light", keyboards building the tension before the ride begins and the guitars take over. A nice song, with a nice chorus and melody. The speedier parts add some variation. I thought Claudio would have given up his high-pitched voice, but to no avail. Although here it's less annoying than on "The King's Rescue" for example.

A gust of wind forming the bridge with "The Glory Starts", an up-tempo song with a nice sing-along chorus. The keyboards fit well here, reminding of "The King's Rescue". Giving the drums and vocals a rest, "The Angel" gives total freedom to the guitars and keyboards. Keyboards creating the right atmosphere in the background, guitars expressing appropriate feelings. Though the drums would fit in here, it's better to let the power of the guitar do the work.

"The Hidden Ways" follows next, but starts a bit too soon. There's not enough time to let "The Angel" end. Nevertheless, the song starts furiously, making you wide awake again. Speed is the key element here with a very well singing Claudio. Hands down. The chorus is also one of the best I've heard, really amazing. It also makes this song one of my favourites here. The guitar solo is a confirmation of the beauty of the song.

Sea gulls and waves making us dream away before *bam!*, the guitars kick in. "In The Eyes Of The Queen" is an easy-going song with some up-tempo here and there, but also with a very nice chorus. Good song overall.

What I like about "Mighty Son Of The Great Lord" is the intro: "Daniel... follow me." Furious guitars follow accompanied by the drums. This is one of the heaviest tracks on the album and another well-done job. The riff pattern starting "Voltures In The Air" remind me of another band, but the name escapes my mind. Anyhow, it's a decent song, nothing bad about it.

"Lord Of The Sand" takes a slow start, but shortly after, the pace is driven up. The keyboards play an important role here, determining the melody. Rain and thunder announce a fast song: "Black Telepathy" is the second instrumental song. If "The Angel" was slow, this is the opposite. Great melody, dito drums... Gimme more! Too bad it's barely 3 minutes long.

Lara Bertoli, from the Italian IRON MAIDEN coverband ED HUNTER, made a guest appearance on "Come With Me". Paolo (bass) had the honour the start the song, together with Jörg. The most important thing about the song is that Lara's and Claudio's voices seem to be quite compatible. Almost flawless.

"Break The Chant" increases the tempo again. Claudio does a good job here (in line with the keyboards), whereas on "The King's Rescue" he would have sung too high, not doing the song much good. Fast riffs, accompanied by the keyboards commencing "Sword On The Shoulder" with the latter reminding me of LUCA TURILLI's "Prophet Of The Last Eclipse" album. This intro is breathtaking and promises a continuation of the tempo, but no.. going slower again with the chorus. Still, I would have liked it faster, but maybe it would have sounded too monotonous then. Jörg offers enough variation on his drums to make it worthwhile.

The title track "The Way Of The Light" is not such a spectacular song and the chorus is the only part that really jumps out. Still, it's nice when Claudio is backed by the background vocals.

Closing the album is for "Great Night In The Land". Overall, a nice song with a nice chorus, but the ending is a bit dashed by the high-pitched scream of Claudio. As I said in the reviews of "The Destruction" and "The King's Rescue", this doesn't do the songs much good in my opinion.

Final words... A couple of years ago, KALEDON was considered a small fish in the Metal ocean. True, but small can get big. With "The Way Of The Light" the band has made a lot of progression, with better compositions. Getting a better producer and studio also helped a lot, making the songs more solid, smoother. Not to mention the drums, which also played a crucial part.

If KALEDON wasn't of your likings with their first albums, then give them a chance now, because this is really worth it. Sure, there is still room for improvements (how about the accent?), but with this pace of progression, I'd say: beware, fellow Power metal bands.

Samples are available at this location.

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


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NANOWAR – Other Bands Play, Nanowar Gay (Nanowar 2005)

Nanowar - Other Bands Play, Nanowar Gay
  1. Intrue
  2. Tricycles Of Steel
  3. True Metal Of The World
  4. Burger
  5. King
  6. Introducing The Power
  7. Power Of The Power Of The Power
  8. Pino
  9. Metal-La-La-La
  10. Gioca Truè (Other Bands Play, Nanowar Gay)
  11. The Number Of The Bitch
  12. Entra L'Uomo Di Sabbia
  13. Triumphant March Of The Nanowarrior
  14. Outrue

NANOWAR hail from Italy and can be considered a fun Metal band, getting inspired by bands like RHAPSODY OF FIRE, MANOWAR, ELVENKING, KORPIKLAANI, and so forth. Just search on YouTube.com and you'll see some of their joke songs and covers. Founded in 2003, the band has so far recorded three releases: "Triumph Of True Metal Of Steel" (2003), "Other Bands Play, Nanowar Gay" (2005, their debut album) and the live album "Made In Naples" (2007). I got a copy of "Other Bands Play, Nanowar Gay" in August 2007 and I'm glad I finally have the chance to properly listen to this band's music. Since the album came out in June 2005, it's on this page and this low.

It all starts with the chanting of different chemical elements (Nickel, Iron, Strontium, Radium, and more -iums...) and then the music kicks in with "Tricycles Of Steel", incl. motorsounds. This one could be based on MANOWAR's "Wheels Of Fire", although it's a totally different song. "True Metal Of The World" very easily reminds you of MANOWAR's "Warriors Of The World" and not just because of the title. Musically as well there are similar patterns. NANOWAR's addition of the fun-element is crucial, as it sheds a total new light on the music. :-) Feel free to sing along.

Folk is another element that this parody-band uses. Again inspired by their Italian colleagues RHAPSODY OF FIRE, the song "Burger" is in the vein of "Elgard's Green Valleys". This violin-melody finds a sequel in the heavier "King", which is a midtempo Folk Metal track like ELVENKING and KORPIKLAANI have done before. There are also lots of interruptions like RHAPSODY (OF FIRE) did in "Holy Thunderforce". The lyrics are also quite funny and the interruptions only increase in number as there are more words added. You have to hear it to appreciate it, because it's just great. References to McDonalds's "Happy Meal", epicness in Metal, and more of that.

The epic, RHAPSODY-ish intro that is appropriately titled "Introducing The Power" is in fact double as long as what comes next: the fast and one-lined "Power Of The Power Of The Power Of The Power Of The Power Of The Power (Of The Great Sword)", played on drums by ex-RHAPSODY drummer Daniele Carbonera.

Besides him, the band also made use of other guests: Michele 'Apeiron' (drums, ex-EYECONOCLAST), Alessandro Beato (drums, ETEREA), Alberto 'AiJaNai' (drums, OTHINN BOLVERK), TheElder (motorcycle, EYECONOCLAST), Raffaello Venditti (vocals), BettaLaGatta (vocals), Fiorella Manoia (vocals) and Ivan 'Yasser' Prado Longhi (vocals).

Continuing the music then... "Metal-La-La-La" is another Folkish song, with a big role for the drums, being the basis and giving impulses for the crowd. This a very groovy song and not bad, but not really super either. Acutally you should only see this as a fun song without too much thinking. It's totally different in "Gioca Truè (Other Bands Play, Nanowar Gay)", where the guys play a MANOWAR-medley of "Hail And Kill", "Metal Daze", "Black Wind, Fire And Steel" (with the focus on Happy Meal and Pizza) and "Kings Of Metal". This is one of the best tracks on the album. Everything is well executed, the fun-factor is present, and it all just fits.

"The Number Of The Bitch" is - needless to say - a (alternative) cover of IRON MAIDEN's classic "The Number Of The Beast". What is there more to say than that the result is definitely worth hearing? METALLICA was also used: "Entra L'Uomo Di Sabbia" is nothing more than "Enter Sandman". Here too, a job more than well done. And in Italian. ;-)

"Triumphant March Of The Nanowarrior" is another epic song in the vein of RHAPSODY OF FIRE. Good stuff, to put it short. "Outrue" = "Intrue", but with other chemical elements and in the end something from "King" again.

NANOWAR is a band that plays Metal for the fun of it and making fun of other songs is all well meant. If they were in it for the money and a huge career, they'd be on a label like Scarlet Records, AFM Records, LMP, ... by now. I also think that their releases are just a promotional tool, so to speak, and that the real power (of the power of the power of the power of the power of the power of their performance) is to be found at their live shows. And yes, they do happen to play in other countries besides Italy. So if you want to have an evening full of tr00 entertainment, I don't think you can go wrong with NANOWAR. ;-) Speaking of their album, "Other Bands Play, Nanowar Gay": it's true Metal with a ;-), but at the same time a tribute to this great music. Want to obtain a copy? Just surf to the band's website and get in touch with the band.

More info at www.nanowar.it.

Line-up:
Potowotominimak - vocals
Mohammed Abdul - guitars, keyboards
GattoPanceri 666 - bass
Uinonraider (Milino) - drums


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BEYOND THE FLESH – What The Mind Perceives (Escapi Music 2005)

Beyond The Flesh - What The Mind Perceives
  1. Rise Above The Weak
  2. Fleshwound
  3. The Scars That Remain
  4. Is This Life?
  5. The Sick
  6. Wasteland
  7. Darkest Days
  8. Scattered Thoughts
  9. Prophecies Of The Dead
  10. What The Mind Perceives

"What The Mind Perceives" is nothing else but a re-release of the 2003 version. Just like it was back then, no bonus tracks or remixing.

I hadn't heard of this American band, but from the first note my heart jumped. Yes! Finally some good old Death Metal again. :-) Though it's not that pure, it's got Thrash influences, which makes it even better.

So like I said, old Death Metal, since it has this sound like many years ago. Almost demo-ish. Metal like DEATH (the band) would make in their later years, or a bit like CARCASS. At least, the vocals are a bit reminiscent of this latter band.

Midtempo and uptempo are nicely divided over the tracklisting, with "Rise Above The Weak" "The Scars That Remain", "Darkest Days" and "Scattered Thoughts" being my favourite tracks. "What The Mind Perceives" is very riff-driven and also has kick-ass drumming and I do not question the band's musicianship, at all! Especially in "The Scars That Remain" there's a moment when the music stops and then continues in uptempo. Breathtaking! Too bad this great song only lasts a small 2 minutes 16. :(

"What The Mind Perceives" is one hell of an album and should appeal to every Death/Thrash Metal fan. Fans of DEATH and CARCASS (or similar bands) must have this in their collection. Production is very good, musicianship is also of high quality and it can only get better, even if this is already a kick-ass album.

Also great is that there are some interesting facts about the album on their website, like info on he recording process, background info, etc... You will also find samples and videoclips. Last one is from "The Scars Will Remain".

More info can be found at the band's website: www.beyondtheflesh.net and their MySpace page.

Line-up:
Justin Leary - vocals, guitar
Rick Flanegan - guitars
Brian Gawaski - bass
Senen Solis - drums


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LEE Z – Shadowland (Escapi Music 2005)

Lee Z - Shadowland
  1. Shadowland
  2. Enemy In Me
  3. Cold Days
  4. Save Me
  5. Alive
  6. Nights In Dover
  7. Troublemaker
  8. Sweet Surrender
  9. Fallen From Grace
  10. Peaceful Lake

The Story of LEE Z from Greven near Münster, Germany started in 1988 with the aim to play first class Progressive Rock. A record deal was soon arranged and the debut album "Primetime" - being produced by former MAD MAX drummer Uwe Starck - saw the light of day in 1989.

Original guitarist Manfred Kubillus and drummmer Jens Uwe Rahe had to leave the band due to problems with their schedules and were replaced by "Dixie" Voss on drums and Peter Pauliks on guitars. Their first album with LEE Z was called "Timeline" and hit the shelves in Japan.

The band´s third album "Time Will Tell" was released in Germany on Inside Out/SPV in 1995 and again saw LEE Z massively touring. Another four years passed, the vocal job went over from Thomas Zink to Peter Pauliks and the band released "Alive" with the new singer.

After the release of "Alive", the band split-up and each went his own way.

During the year 2004, LEE Z decided to give it another try and sent demos to various record companies. A deal with Escapi Music BV was announced shortly afterwards and resulted in the recordings of the comeback album "Shadowland", released in May this year (2005). The CD was produced by Michael Voss (CASANOVA) at Barfly Studios in Münster, Germany.

Discography: Primetime (1989), Timeline (1995, Japan only), Time Will Tell (1995), Alive (1999), Shadowland (2005)

Musically, there's a nice change between calm and more rocking songs. The level of musicianship is high here and these guys can really compose beautiful melodies and create the right atmosphere. Vocally too, everything's alright, except maybe for a slight accent. Peter also reminds me a bit of Carsten from German powermetallers GALLOGLASS.

"Shadowland" starts in a rocking way with the title track, which is a very nice one and also seems to have an emotional touch. From 3:30 until 6:45 there's a beautiful instrumental part. Superb!

After the even heavier "Enemy In Me", it's time to calm down a bit with "Cold Days". Two heavy but beuatiful songs follow, after which it's getting more quiet again with "Nights In Dover". The list goes on with nice songs, though they remain the 'heavy' area and we leave the "Shadowland" via the (instrumental) "Peaceful Lake".

Conclusion: recommended. If you're into ProgRock, then you must give this album a chance and more by adding it to your collection. There's not one bad song, fine musicianship, beautiful melodies, appropriate riffing, nice drumwork... Really worth it.

More info can be found at the band's website: www.lee-z.de.

Line-up:
Peter Pauliks - vocals
Thomas Zink - guitars
Matthias Rethmann - bass
Dirk Brand - drums


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BEN JACKSON GROUP – All Over You (Escapi Music 2005)

Ben Jackson Group - All Over You
  1. Turn It On
  2. Mean Machine
  3. All Over You
  4. Falling Down
  5. Ghost In The Mirror
  6. Eyes Of Ice
  7. Far And Away
  8. Heavy On My Mind
  9. Break It
  10. Rock & Roll Heaven (Or Bust)

One of the founding members of melodic/progressive Metal act CRIMSON GLORY, with which he released four albums, Ben Jackson is back with a new 'solo' album of his BEN JACKSON GROUP. The first album "Here I Come" was released back in 2001, 2 years after CRIMSON GLORY's last, "Astronomica".

With BEN JACKSON GROUP, the music is a bit different from that of CRIMSON GLORY, as it's more straight-forward Hardrock. Ben also sings in his new band. Like "Here I Come", "All Over You" was recorded at Morrisound Studios (CRIMSON GLORY, KAMELOT, DEMONS & WIZARDS, and many more).

The first thing that one notices is the clear production and the rough sound. I had to listen to Ben's singing a couple of times before accepting it. It has a roughness that can be very useful in certain songs, but he also sings with a 'tough' attitude to express the lyrics in a better way.

There are no uptempo songs, only midtempo, except for the slower titletrack "All Over You", which is very nice and one of the best on the album. Spread over the entire album you'll hear nice melodies, rough riffs, great solos from time to time, ... The piano seems to be the most important instrument in "Ghost In The Mirror". Not every song is a hit though. "Heavy On My Mind" for example is rather average and in the quite good "Turn It On" the vocals during the chorus seem somewhat misplaced, but musically everthing's alright, no doubt about it. "Break It" then again has nice drumwork in the intro.

A nice and suprising part in "Mean Machine": around 2:25, when Ben sings in a more evil way, it's almost similar with DESTRUCTION's "Soul Collector" where Schmier 'talks' in the same way, same vocal effect. :-)

I haven't heard his first album, but I'm pretty sure, if you have, you'll like this successor too. Fans of CRIMSON GLORY shouldn't have many problems with it either. This is a solid Hardrock album which certainly deserves much attention.

More info can be found at the band's website: www.benjacksongroup.com.

Line-up:
Ben Jackson - vocals, guitar
Rose Sexton - background vocals
Mark Borgmeyer - guitars
Dano Binz - bass
Rich Tabor - drums


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SHAAMAN – Reason (AFM Records 2005)

Shaaman - Reason
  1. Turn Away
  2. Reason
  3. More
  4. Innocence
  5. Scarred Forever
  6. In The Night
  7. Rough Stone
  8. Iron Soul
  9. Trail Of Tears
  10. Born To Be

SHAAMAN, previously known as SHAMAN (due to legal reasons), is back with a new album. Consisting of three ex-ANGRA members, they were/are somewhat considered to be ANGRA II. In 2002 they released their debut album "Ritual" which turned out to be a big success, also thanks to the very good production work of Sascha Paeth. Soon after the release, the band went on tour and made a DVD and CD of it ("Ritualive"). This was pretty soon, since most bands release a live album after three or more studio albums.

"Ritual" was released on the French label Nothing To Say (NTS), but some time ago this label went bankrupt and SHAAMAN had to look for another home, which they found in Germany: AFM Records.

For "Reason" Sascha was asked again to handle the production (and more, e.g. additional guitars). Since Sascha and Miro are a close duo, the latter was again responsible for the orchestral and keyboard arrangements, delivering splendid work (as usual). Next to them, other musicians were asked to help make "Reason" heavy, melodic, and more.

The album starts with some screaming followed by heavy riffs and uptempo drums and from this first minute you can hear a better production, a very clear one. "Turn Away" is an uptempo song with nice symphonic elements giving the song more filling, creating one whole. I also have the impression that Hugo improved his guitarplay. Apparently the live performances did him much good.

An change in tempo is brought by "Reason" in which the piano plays an important role. SHAAMAN also included a cover version of SISTER'S OF MERCY's "More", and the result is amazing.

To avoid having heavy riffs all the way, there's also a ballad flowing out of te speakers: "Innocence". At first, it's fully accoustic, but then the electric guitar and drums come into play. Really a beautiful song and it can make you produce some tears. This is one of my favourites. But don't cry too long, because "Scarred Forever" will/should lift you up again. About the same 'trick' was done on "Ritual" with "Fairy Tales" and "Blind Spell".

"In The Night" begins with drumsamples and keyboards, creating a dark atmosphere. Guitars soon set in, together with the drums (first only hi-hat and bassdrum). It's a midtempo song, and though it's not bad, I found it rather average. I do like the symphonic parts.

"Rough Stone" is an easy, relaxed song with some uptempo here and there. "Iron Soul" is another favourite of mine. Drums and symphonic elements play a key role here. This uptempo track will be a killer live.

"Trail Of Tears" continues the uptempo with very good and rough riffs. Quality song! "Born To Be" closes the tracklist and is a mix of easy-going, midtempo, heavy parts but with a beautiful chorus. Piano and operetic singing fill the last minutes.

Final words: "Ritual" was a strong album, live too, and you could hear some references to ANGRA. In my opinion, the band members weren't that close yet when making the album. Touring did them much good and also brought them more together, so they really became a 'band'. You can hear his very well on the new album. The songs are more solid, the compositions have improved, though they already were very good on the debut album. With "Reason" SHAAMAN have confirmed their talent and are really worth having in your collection. In the Powermetal genre this is one of the best this year. SHAAMAN or ANGRA fan? Get this album. This is one of those albums you can buy with your ears closed (= no pre-listening required).

Line-up:
Andre Matos - vocals
Hugo Mariutti - guitars
Luis Mariutti - bass
Ricardo Confessori - drums


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EXCALION – Primal Exhale (Sound Riot Records 2005)

Excalion - Primal Exhale
  1. Temptation Wasteland
  2. A Moment In The Spotlight
  3. Reality Bends
  4. Dire Waters
  5. Stage Of Lies
  6. Heart & Home
  7. Megalomania
  8. My Legacy
  9. Obsession To Prosper

EXCALION... the name didn't ring a bell until it was mentioned a couple of times in several news items. Founded in 2000, the band had recorded a couple of demos and played some gigs here and there before getting signed by Sound Riot Records in 2003. The recordings for "Primal Exhale" took place in September 2004. The music is said to be a mixture of NIGHTWISH and STRATOVARIUS.

At first, this was the original line-up:

Jarmo Pääkkönen - vocals
Tero Vaaja - guitars
Kimmo Hänninen - guitars
Timo Sahlberg - bass
Jarmo Myllyvirta - keyboards
Henri Pirkkalainen - drums

But at the end of April, Timo decided to put the bass guitar down and remain out of the spotlight, but still being a bandmember. Therefore, Tero was chosen to play the bass which leaves Vesa Nupponen as only guitar player. Vesa joined the band mid-April to replace Kimmo Hänninen, who left in December due to musical differences.

On to the songs then (based upon the promo-cd): In certain songs, there are some similarities with the above mentioned bands, but not that much. I also notice about the same sound as CLOUDSCAPE's debut album, especially the drums.

"Temptation Wasteland" (not 'Island' ;-)) starts with keyboards creatng a certain atmosphere before heavy riffs take over. Especially the chorus is sung very nicely, Jarmo's voice fits in very well. In "A Moment In The Spotlight" the keyboards play an important role. Jarmo sings in different tones: clean, a bit rougher, high, clean again, ...

"Reality Bends" is an uptempo song with 'wild' keyboards. Overall, it's a good song, though the drums should have sounded more powerful. Now, they're just too... flat. "Dire Waters" starts mystically, drums coming from far and increasing in sound/loudness. Then you hear very nice chopping riffs, giving the song a very nice touch. This is one of the best songs on the album.

"Stage Of Lies" is another uptempo track with again the keyboards being a key instrument. The first minute of the song reminds me of AVANTASIA's "Neverland" ("The Metal Opera Pt. II" album) and more specifically the structure: keyboards in the background and drums and then around 1:50 adding the guitars. It's almost an exact copy of "Neverland", though I don't think EXCALION did this on purpose. ;-) At least, I hope not.

"Heart & Home" is a ballad, and though it's not that bad, it lacks some violins in the chorus which would have made it sound fuller, more complete. Personally, I don't like the guitar solo that much.

"Megalomania" turns up the heaviness again. Not bad, but a bit cluttered at times. It does have nice part where the guitars's chopping riffs dominate.

"My Legacy", probably the heaviest song, takes a faster pace and is in general a good song. "Obsession To Prosper" is the last song and even has some Gothic-like feeling in the beginning. It's not bad and shows the guys have good ideas.

I understand that it's hard for a beginning band to immediately have a killer-album with a tight and powerful sound, but "Primal Exhale" is certainly well-done. As mentioned before, mainly the drums needs some tweaking, since they are the weakest link in most of the songs. I'd give an EDGUY as a comparison or a KAMELOT (just examples). Still, EXCALION is a name to remember. The songs have potential, the guys have talent (with a lot of room for improvement) and some good ideas.

Line-up:
Jarmo Pääkkönen - vocals
Vesa Nupponen - guitars
Tero Vaaja - bass
Jarmo Myllyvirta - keyboards
Henri Pirkkalainen - drums


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PAGAN'S MIND – Enigmatic: Calling (Limb Music Products 2005)

Pagan's Mind - Enigmatic: Calling
  1. The Celestine Prophecy
  2. Enigmatic Mission
  3. Supremacy, Our Kind
  4. Entrance To Infinity
  5. Coming Home
  6. Celestial Calling
  7. Taken
  8. Ressurection (Back In Time)
  9. Appearance
  10. Search For Life
  11. New World Order

2002 was a great year on Limb Music Products: e.g. RHAPSODY ("Power Of The Dragonflame"), LUCA TURILLI ("Prophet Of The Last Eclipse") but also PAGAN'S MIND ("Celestial Entrance"), which was the follow-up to "Infinity Divine" which in turn was reworked and re-released last year with a more powerful sound.

"Celestial Entrance" was special in that it was something fresh in ProgPower, in my opinon, mixing heavy riffs, special atmospheres and battering drums, making it sometimes even bombastic. But creating atmospheres isn't the only pluspoint of the band; Nils's extraordinary voice (ok, maybe I'm exaggerating, but you can't deny he's got a great voice) and Stian's style of playing the drums also add up to the experience.

Between "Celestial Entrance" and their newest album "Enigmatic: Calling" the band didn't sit still. Stian played with FIREWIND, Jörn did some producing... and Thorstein (guitars) left the band. So now it was just Jörn who'd do the guitars. You would think that with one guitarist less it won't sound so heavy anymore, but guess again, it even sounds heavier. Of course there's the feeling that a second guitarist would fit on the new album and somehow I hope they'll look for a replacement someday.

"Enigmatic: Calling" continues the concept of the previous album, being inspired by Erich von Däniken, Steven Spielberg, Einstein, ... about mankind, the relation with extraterrestrial life, and more related things.

Again, Fredrik Nordström handled the mixing and again it's a very clear and powerful sound. While "Celestial Entrance" had an intro ("Approaching"), "The Celestial Prophecy" immediately pulls you into the album.

It's hard to comment on each song, since they all have something special, offering a mix of slow-, mid-, and uptempo, brought by furious riffs and raging drums. The album as a whole is just amazing. Still, the ones that are easy to talk about are: 2 instrumental songs: "Coming Home", which is a rather uplifting song. After this, "Celestial Calling" drives up the pace and heaviness again. "Appearance" is the other instrumental song, played solely by keyboards which also flows into "Search For Life", which starts accoustically, but the second part of the song is electric, having an emotional touch to it.

"Enigmatic: Calling", and I can't stress it enough, is a MUST-HAVE!!! This is ProgPower of a very high level and also one of the best albums of 2005 so far. Whether you're a fan of PAGAN'S MIND or of Progressive/Powermetal in general, do buy this!

Line-up:
Nils K. Rue - vocals
Jörn Viggo Lofstad - guitars
Ronny Tegner - keyboards
Steinar Krokmo - bass
Stian Kristoffersen - drums


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PARAGON – Revenge (Remedy Records 2005)

Paragon - Revenge
  1. Intro/Impaler
  2. Assassins
  3. Traitor
  4. Masters Of The Seas
  5. Revenge
  6. Symphony Of Pain
  7. Beyond The Veil
  8. The Battle Rages On
  9. The Art Of War
  10. Empire Of The Lost
  11. The God Made Heavy Metal (bonustrack)

PARAGON, synonym for pure Heavy/Power Metal. With "Revenge" they add another Metaldisc to their discography.

With an intro building the tension, "Impaler" trows the power of metal in your face. A powerful sound for which Piet Sielck, frontman of IRON SAVIOR, has been responsible since "Steelbound" (2001), for which they also transferred their present label, Remedy Records. Yes, you can say the sound is about the same on the IRON SAVIOR albums, but PARAGON is still a little different.

"Revenge" is filled with heavy riffs, solos and battering drums. And Andreas's metal voice (clean, growling, ...) makes it a great whole.

Every song is a hit, with a nice mixture of mid- and uptempo. Especially "Assasins", "Revenge" and "The Art Of War" are on my 'favourites'-list. Though one could say "Empire Of The Lost" can be a bit boring after a while. But that's just nagging. ;-)

Though I can't really find a bad thing, I do have a remark about the drums: some more variation would do some songs very good, since I feel that Markus tends to stick to the same patterns. It's a detail, I know, but one I find quite important.

The album also introduces a new guitarist: Günny "Gunman" Kruse, who replaces Claudius Cremer. On the accompanying DVD of the Limited Edition you can see him playing. For this DVD, PARAGON recorded the Sweden Rock 2004 performance. A nice gesture and addition, though the sound is't so superb, especially on the drummer's part.

Another extra on the Limited Edition is the MANOWAR song "The Gods Made Heavy Metal", coming off the "Louder Than Hell" album. PARAGON does a nice performance here, though the Kings of Metal can not be copied. ;-) But it's the next best thing.

In short, this is pure Heavy/Power Metal that shouldn't be missing in your collection. PARAGON-fans can buy this with their ears closed, others too, even IRON SAVIOR fans. Unless you don't like the pounding sound of this fantastic band. Which would be sad, to be honest.

MP3-samples are available on their website.

Line-up:
Andreas Babuschkin - vocals
Martin Christian - guitars
Günny "Gunman" Kruse - guitars
Jan Bünning - bass
Markus "Big M" Corby - drums


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SINAI BEACH – Immersed (Victory Records 2005)

Sinai Beach - Immersed
  1. Apocalypse
  2. Obedience Through Desecreation
  3. The God I Would Be
  4. Necessary Bloodshed
  5. To The Church
  6. Return To Dust
  7. His Chosen Fate
  8. The Stagnate
  9. Distressor
  10. The Serpent's Letter
  11. Hell Blaze
  12. Ignoring The Conditional Response

SINAI BEACH, a Christian (see also lyrically) metalcore band, also under the flag of Victory Records. I've got the impression almost every metalcore band sounds the same, unless they implement samples and things from other genres. Still, the basis is the same, but SINAI BEACH have used some Death Metal elements and samples (almost like IN FLAMES). Overall, I'm not really convinced of the music, though there are some nice parts when it's uptempo. The biggest 'problem' for me are the vocals, be they screaming/growling or normal. The screaming sounds senseless to me, as if there's no real practising to improve your 'singing', like: get into the studio and just scream into the mic.

One song that stands out from the rest, is the intro: "Apocalypse". That one sounds quite good. The others have too much a wall of guitars - though, like I said, there are some nice moments - and those (...) vocals.

Metalcore fans will probably like this, so if didn't know yet, here's their website: www.sinaibeach.net, the page at Victory Records and their previous label Face Down Records.

Line-up:
Courtney Alderson - vocals
Logan Lambert - guitar
Mike Risinger - guitar
Jeff Santo - bass
Mike Dunlap - drums


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RHAPSODY – The Magic Of The Wizard's Dream (Steamhammer 2005)

Rhapsody - The Magic Of The Wizard's Dream
  1. The Magic of the Wizard's Dream (English version duet with Christopher Lee and Fabio Lione)
  2. The Magic of the Wizard's Dream (Italian version duet with Christopher Lee and Fabio Lione)
  3. The Magic of the Wizard's Dream (French version duet with Christopher Lee and Fabio Lione)
  4. The Magic of the Wizard's Dream (German version duet with Christopher Lee and Fabio Lione)
  5. The Magic of the Wizard's Dream (orchestral version)
  6. The Magic of the Wizard's Dream (original version)
  7. Autumn Twilight
  8. Lo Specchio D'Argento

I think I can be short on this one. "The Magic Of The Wizard's Dream" was one of the most appreciated songs (by the fans) on the band's latest album "Symphony Of Enchanted Lands II: The Dark Secret". And since C. Lee wanted to do more than just narrations, RHAPSODY and Magic Circle Music decided to re-record the song and release it as a single. C. Lee and Fabio would sing the song together, but not just in English. To give it a more international flavour, other languages were added to the list: German, French and Italian.

To me, the best version is still the original one, on "Symphony Of Enchanted Lands II: The Dark Secret". The English version with Lee isn't bad and can be appreciated more than the others, of which I prefer the Italian version where Fabio and Christopher sing more inline with the music. On the French and German versions they sing a bit too fast in my opinion. Why they added an orchestral version is beyond me (and other people), since I heard no difference compared to the English version. If someone knows what so special about it (orchestral), please mail me. ;-)

"Autumn Twilight" is a typical (?) RHAPSODY song, in that it's got speed and melody, with less symphony. It can in a way be compared to "Rage Of The Winter" ("Legendary Tales" album, 1997). The song isn't part of the story, it's a stand-alone, non-conceptual song. Maybe to give an impression how the songs would sound or what they would be about if they weren't a part of a trilogy or more. Overall, it's not a bad song, but RHAPSODY can do better, much better.

"Lo Specchio D'Argento" is no Metalsong at all, but a folkish one. They've done similar songs before, on almost all of their albums. It's not bad, sometimes funny, but I prefer the older stuff.

This single is a nice treat for the fans, but also a way to attract new people, a broader public. Above tracklisting is from the limited edition digipack. The difference with the slim box is:

* "Last Angels' Call" instead of "Autumn Twilight"
* no French, Italian or orchestral version

Line-up:
Fabio Lione - vocals
Christopher Lee - guest vocals
Luca Turilli - guitars
Alex Staropoli - keyboards
Patrice Guers - bass
Alex Holzwarth - drums
Manuel Staropoli - flute


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BRAINSTORM – Liquid Monster (Metal Blade 2005)

Brainstorm - Liquid Monster
  1. Worlds Are Comin' Through
  2. Inside The Monster
  3. All Those Words
  4. Lifeline
  5. Invisible Enemy
  6. Heavenly
  7. Painside
  8. Despair To Drown
  9. Mask Of Life
  10. Even Higher
  11. Burns My Soul

After the succesful "Soul Temptation" accompanied by a big tour supporting EDGUY, but also playing solo shows, much was expected for the follow-up to that album. It's the fourth album since Andy B. Franck (also in SYMPHORCE) replaced Marcus Jürgens as singer of this powerful band and little by little Andy started to put his stamp on the band, on the sound, the songs, ... creating a powerful and melodic sound that makes it very recognizable when you hear a BRAINSTORM-song. Just like MANTICORA has its own unique sound, in my opinion.

Where "Unholy" sounded a bit rough, things started getting better with follow-up "Ambiguity". This album introduced Andy as the new singer, but at the same time the production was more polished without neglecting a powerful sound. "Metus Mortis" was also a strong album, though there weren't that many changes in terms of sound. "Soul Temptation" then was mindblowing, with a very melodic sound - sometimes even symphonic, since they asked Michael "Miro" Rodenberg to play some keyboards on the album -, very heavy riffs, nice changes in speed and rhythm, powerful vocals, great solos... all of this also amazing on stage.

But how much further could the band go? Could they even come up with a more powerful or catchy album? Knowing that they are/were growing with every album, BRAINSTORM wasn't expected to relax a bit. "Liquid Monster" is a nice successor, with again a very nice tracklist full of melodies, power and speed. And not forgetting their sound. To me, "Soul Temptation" is their best album so far. But don't get me wrong, because the new one might lack certain things from the previous album, but it's still a very good album. One might say the songs are lighter or slower than on "Soul Temptation" or one of the other previous albums and in a way, I can't disagree. But then there are songs that sound even a bit heavier than some of the previous works. So, 'lighter' is the wrong word here, I'd say 'different'.

Again, great artwork covers the album and fills the booklet as well. Tom Thiel and Thomas Everhard are responsible for that, under the watchful eye of, indeed, Andy. ;-)

The first sounds of "Liquid Monster" remind me of "Soul Temptation", followed by heavy riffs. "Worlds Are Comin' Through" is a 'slow' song - good for headbanging ;-) -, but a very typical BRAINSTORM one. Driving up the pace a bit is the next song, "Inside The Monster", which will be great to hear live, and also has a nice guitar solo. "All Those Words", being chosen as the first single and for which a video has been shot (available on their website), is not such a heavy song, but still quite nice and good to sing along with the chorus.

Power and ferocity is delivered by the breathtaking "Lifeline". This song is one of the reasons why I love BRAINSTORM: heavy, cutting riffs, speedy drums, great melodies. Here as well, it's easy to sing along. And then there's the guitar solo... wonderful! One of the best songs on the album, for sure. A pity though it only lasts 3 minutes. Next time, make songs like these a couple of minutes longer please. :-)

It's not all power and heaviness, but o suprise, there's a ballad! "Heavenly" starts calmly, sung beautifully by Andy. A nice heavy piece completes the second half of the song. The chorus has an emotional basis and this is a job well done.

When "Painside" starts, it feels like someone stopped the cd after "Invisible Enemy" to give some playtime to "Heavenly" and then resumed with the rest of the songs after that, if you see (or hear) what I mean. I could compare it with playing a cd, then pushing the pause or stop button to look at the news and after that continue with the cd. I'm not saying it's bad, certainly not. I just have this impression.

The following song "Despair To Drown" is another great song. The first riffs promise a heavy and speedy song, which the drums confirm. Nothing more to say but 'thumbs up'. "Even Higher" also belongs to the club of uptempo songs and is nice to listen to as well. "Burns My Soul" finally is a slower song, with short, heavy riffs. To be honest, the band did a pretty good job here as well. It doesn't always have to be hard, heavy and fast. ;-)

In other reviews, there are (small) complaints about Andy's accent still not being English enough. Yes, in "Heavenly" and "Mask Of Life" - where Michael Rodenberg plays the keyboards again - you can hear he's German, but it's so hard to notice and if you're using that as a reason to give the album a lower score, then you don't know what you're talking about. When he sings again with his 'powervoice' it's even harder to notice an accent. ;-) Another 'complaint' was that the band hasn't evolved (much or at all) with this new release. What do you expect then? This is BRAINSTORM and in my opinion they don't need to change thàt much. Given scores were between 6.5 and 7.5. You know I don't give scores, but to counter these low ones, I'd give it between 8.5 and 9/10.

Final words then. If you like BRAINSTORM, you won't have a problem with "Liquid Monster", I assure you. If you want decent Powermetal, get this as well. This may not be as superb as the previous "Soul Temptation", but it sure is a very good album. Let it digest a bit, give it some time if you don't like it right away. In the end you WILL like/love it. ;-) And if your budget allows it, get the limited edition with DVD. On this DVD you'll find some video footage from the travels of the band and their time in the studio as well as a bonus track "Before The Dawn", orginally by JUDAS PRIEST.

Line-up:
Andy B. Franck - vocals
Torsten Ihlenfeld - guitars
Milan Loncaric - guitars
Andreas Mailänder - bass
Dieter Bernert - drums


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OVERLOADED – Hail The Kingdom (No Deal Records 2005)

Overloaded - Hail The Kingdom
  1. Beaver Fever
  2. War Of The Worlds
  3. Feeling Overloaded
  4. Where Are You Running To?
  5. King Of The Landfill
  6. Cyclone
  7. Sick

It's good to see that there's still good music coming from the States, that there are still bands playing true metal instead of going pop or nu-metal. One of those talented bands is OVERLOADED, who sent me a copy of their debut album/EP "Hail The Kingdom" a couple of weeks ago. "Hail The Kingdom" was released in April this year under the flag of No Deal Records.

OVERLOADED was founded in August 2004 and has already played many venues, sharing bills with ALTER BRIDGE, VIXEN, SKIDROW and more.

Their debut album is self-financed and money also played a role in the recording process, resulting in - though still a bit demo-ish - a very good and raw album. Important to add is that the mastering was done by Tom Morris at Morrisound Recording Studio, where KAMELOT and DEMONS & WIZARDS also are 'customers'. In July, OVERLOADED went back to Midwest Studios to record a 4 song follow up EP, "Hellfire". More on those songs below.

A raw album, containing Chris' rough voice (which really suits this kind of music), great and sharp riffs of Erik and John and rhythm support by bassist Michael and drummer Lorenzo. Michael designed the digipack package and cover.

Lyrically, many themes are covered, be it relationships, fucking up the environment, etc... And despite the band being angry about certain things, they do make great music and have managed to fill the EP with quality songs, one by one. There's not one song that is bad or boring. All of them are of a high level. With the implementation of solos and varied drumwork, this is more than worth the attention. Most songs are midtempo, but of course, uptempo is always welcome, here under the title of "King Of The Landfill". The last song, "Sick", even has a sad undertone.

There are bands that make good music and of which you have to buy the album because of that (= I like it, so I want it), and then there are bands who really must be supported because their music is really really great and the band's talent is amazing. OVERLOADED are such a band. "Hail The Kingdom" is simply a must-have for all fans of Heavy Metal. I do have to mention that to me, there are some similarities with Britain's NWOBHM legends SAXON. Well, not completely, but in a way, you can compare them.

OVERLOADED – Hellfire EP (No Deal Records 2005)

Overloaded - Hellfire
  1. Hellfire
  2. Shotgun City
  3. Zygote
  4. Heavy Metal Highway

As mentioned above, OVERLOADED also sent a copy of their forthcoming (release date: 24/11) EP "Hellfire": The songs are of course of the same sound like "Hail The Kingdom". "Hellfire" seems to be about religion and preaching and how you'll end up in hell (I think ;-)). The others are also of the same kind as on the debut EP. The best of the four is "Heavy Metal Highway", uptempo, great melodies, ... a happy song. ;-) One downer is "Zygote", which I'm not fond of. It's a slow song, with an annoying chorus "yeeeeeeeeaaaaaahhh ....". I know you can't make good songs all the time, so this is the first bad/lesser good song. Still, with what they've recorded so far, one song is peanuts. So the "Hellfire" EP continues the great work that was started on "Hail The Kingdom".

You can find more info about the band at:
www.overloadedmusic.com
www.myspace.com/overloaded

Both releases can be purchased at CD Baby:
Hail The Kingdom
Hellfire

Line-up:
Chris Gillen - vocals
Erik Kluiber - guitars
John Sullens - guitars
Michael Massie - bass
Lorenzo Gonzalez - drums


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THE DIFFERENCE – Lost In Mass Confusion (The Difference 2005)

The Difference - Lost In Mass Confusion
  1. Child Of The Flames
  2. The Mirror
  3. The Darkness Of All Times
  4. Dying Eyes
  5. Dying In Vain
  6. Embrace Me
  7. Naked And Fragile
  8. When The Light Fades
  9. Destruction By Blindness
  10. Blood Is The Life
  11. The Eternal

THE DIFFERENCE is a Belgian Metalband, founded some 8 years ago. Back then they still played Doom-inspired Metal and relased three demos over the years: "Demo '99" (1999), "Autumn Tale" (2001) and "Into A Distant Past" (2002). In 2004 the basis was laid for new songs which would eventually lead to the band's first full album. Around the end of March 2005 it saw the light of day under the title "Lost In Mass Confusion". The recordings were done in the well-known Midas Studio in Lokeren under the watchful eye of Tony De Block, who also worked with e.g. OCEANS OF SADNESS and ARTRACH.

THE DIFFERENCE is really not a famous band, also because they have to finance everything themselves and aren't constantly busy with writing new songs or playing gigs. It was via a colleague at the office that I heard about this band and so I decided to contact the guys to help them in their quest for (inter?)national fame. ;-)

The samples on the band's website give a clear, yet short impression of their music and you can distinctively hear they moved away from the classic Doom style to a more Heavy Metal oriented sound. But it's not pure Heavy Metal (yet?), as the songs on "Lost In Mass Confusion" are a mix of Doom, Progressive and Heavy.

What is immediately noticable is the hi-hat. Sure, it's a necessary element, but here it's a bit too much and could in the end be considered as an annoying aspect. But you can get used to it pretty quickly.

Most is rather slow to midtempo, but there are songs that add more punch, more aggressiveness to the whole: "The Darkness Of All Times" - which reminds me a bit of GRAVE DIGGER -, "Dying In Vain" with its rolling double bass, great rhythm and dito solos, and "Destruction By Blindness" where the first part is more to the point. Later things get back to a slower pace.

Another particular aspect on this album are the vocals: Gerd has a clean voice but with a very fitting roughness. The melody of his vocals is quite similar to that of Silvio Massaro of Australian Progressive Metallers VANISHING POINT. Of course, it's never 100% but the comparison is justified.

On one hand, I'm kind of sad the band has drifted away from the inital Doom start - also because I don't really know any Belgian Doom bands, but I hope to solve that problem in time -, but at the same time I'm glad with how the evolution is going. There's still a fair amount of 'slowness' in the songs. What could make the album - or future material - more interesting, is the addition of more uptempo songs (for the sake of variation), but then you have to be careful to keep your own identity and at the moment THE DIFFERENCE is indeed making a difference, especially among the many Thrash/Death/Black Metal bands that dominate the Belgian scene.

All things considered, if you want to add a diamond in the rough to your collection, "Lost In Mass Confusion" is a valuable one. You get very decent Metal (even if it's not as polished and digitalized as albums of bands with (bigger) budgets), very good musicianship and I bet THE DIFFERENCE stand their ground live as well, which I hope to confirm as soon as I can attend of their few gigs. Support talent and give them the recognition they deserve.

More info at www.the-difference.be.

Line-up:
Gerd Hanssens - vocals
Steven Van Hyfte - guitars
Christophe De Bock - guitars
Steven Mervielde - bass
Edward Timmerman - drums


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KAMELOT – The Black Halo (Steamhammer 2005)

Kamelot - The Black Halo
  1. March Of Mephisto
  2. When The Lights Are Down
  3. The Hauting (Somewhere In Time)
  4. Soul Society
  5. Interlude I - Dei Gratia
  6. Abandoned
  7. This Pain
  8. Moonlight
  9. Interlude II - Un Assassinio Molto Silenzioso
  10. The Black Halo
  11. Nothing Ever Dies
  12. Memento Mori
  13. Interlude III - Midnight, Twelve Tolls For A New Day
  14. Serenade
  15. The Haunting (Somewhere In Time) (radio edit) - bonustrack
  16. March Of Mephisto (radio edit) - bonustrack

Their previous album, "Epica" (2003), started the concept story about love and hate, life, ... and proved to be a killer-album. So much, that a Dutch Gothic Metalband used this title as the name for their band, but also because they are dedicated KAMELOT-fans. Simone Simons (EPICA) makes a guest appearance on KAMELOT's newest work of art, "The Black Halo", and more specifically in the song "The Haunting (Somewhere In Time)". Look out for EPICA's forthcoming album, "Consign To Oblivion", where Roy Khan makes a guest appearance in return. ;-)

Produced by Sascha Paeth and Miro, well-known for combining Metal and Symphony (ANGRA, RHAPSODY, EPICA, ...), this is another masterpiece. So much even, that I find this one of the best of 2005, even though we're only in the 1st quarter. Many people worked on "The Black Halo", incl. the engineers Olaf Reitmeier, Jim Morris. The list of guest musicians:

* Shagrath (DIMMU BORGIR) - "March Of Mephisto" and "Memento Mori"
* Simone Simons (EPICA) - "The Haunting (Somewhere In Time)"
* Jens Johansson (STRATOVARIUS) - keyboard solo on "March Of Mephisto" and "When The Lights Are Down"
* Cinzia Rizzo - "Soul Society"
* Geoff Rudd - intro and "Interlude III"
* Mari (MASQUERAID) - "Memento Mori" and "Abandoned"
* Annelise Youngblood - "Soul Society"
* Miro - keyboards and orchestral arrangements
* Sascha Paeth - additional guitars
* Andre Neygenfind - D-bass on "Abandoned"
* Rodenberg Symphony Orchestra
* KAMELOT choir: Herbie Langhans (SEVENTH AVENUE), Amanda Somerville-Scharf, Michael Rodenberg, Gerit Göbel, Thomas Rettke (HEAVEN'S GATE), Elisabeth Kjaernes

Why am I mentioning all this? To show you how much work is put in creating an album, and not just any album. Not just the composing, but also getting the right people together to make it all sound worthwile, to create the right feelings/atmosphere/...

The artwork was again by the hand of Derek Gores, but for the booklet, the band contacted Mathias Norén (CLOUDSCAPE, MANTICORA, ...). The border of thorns or pins resembles those on MANTICORA's "8 Deadly Sins" album.

From the start ("March Of Mephisto") you can hear Shagrath's (Mephisto in the story) deep and dark voice, followed by Thomas's heavy riffs. It is a fact that the album has a heavier, more tight production, especially for the guitars. The speedier and very beautiful "When The Lights Are Down" expresses the emotions very well and makes it one of my favourites. "The Haunting", another beautiful and touching song has a nice sing-along chorus, but the beginning of the song is also nice. Heavy bass (by Glenn and Casey) gives this song a special touch. As said before, Simone Simons from EPICA sings on this one and she does a wonderful performance here. What a voice! Combined with Khan's, it's amazing.

A siren forms the bridge to "Soul Society", which starts furiously with Casey beating his drums to death. ;-) This song has some nice riffs, but also an emotional part where Thomas's daughter giggles, accompanied by violins. After that Thomas plays a little solo, together with Casey. Chorus-wise this also is one of the best songs.

On "Abandoned" Khan does a more than great job. This song is very touching and emotional and I couldn't help but shed some tears. The drums with the symphonic elements, it's just brilliant. I'm not so fond of "This Pain", and more specifically the chorus. It sounds annoying after a couple of listenings. Melodically the song is nice, though. The part I like the most of "Moonlight" is "You cut the silence like a knife, You know I can't repent for all", for its nice guitar and keyboard melodies.

The title track "The Black Halo" is another powerful song, a very nice one. The chorus too, with the voices/choir in the background. "Nothing Ever Dies" starts with fast riffs and violin melodies, and you think it will go fast after that. No, unfortunately. Because I think it would have that little extra if Casey hit his drums (i.e. snaredrum) a bit faster.

The longest track, "Memento Mori", is an uptempo, almost bombastic song with some very nice melodies, dito rhythm. Again, Shagrath/Mephisto appears in the song. The only point of irritation is where Khan's voice has been changed/reformed with an effect. After the rewinding and a little speech from the usher at the theater (by Geoff Rudd), the album comes to an end with "Serenade": an uptempo track with a nice melody.

You can really see and hear a lot of work and effort has been put in making "The Black Halo": artwork, melodies, lyrics, compositions, etc... This album is a MUST-HAVE for your collection. Do not doubt, just go for it.

Line-up:
Roy Khan - vocals
Thomas Youngblood - guitars
Glenn Barry - bass
Casey Grillo - drums


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HAMMERFALL – Chapter V: Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken (Nuclear Blast 2005)

Hammerfall - Chapter V: Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken
  1. Secrets
  2. Blood Bound
  3. Fury Of The Wild
  4. Hammer Of Justice
  5. Never, Ever
  6. Born To Tule
  7. The Templar Flame
  8. Imperial
  9. Take The Black
  10. Knights Of The 21st Century

HAMMERFALL are back, after 2 (3) years. In 2002, they released "Crimson Thunder" and "Chapter V: Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken" is the successor and obviously their fifth album. Between these two, they released the live-album "One Crimson Night" (2003). "Glory To The Brave" was a good debut album with some very good songs. "Legacy Of Kings" was a huge step forward, stronger, heavier and a better production, which was the weakest link on the successor "Renegade". "Crimson Thunder" was again a step in the right direction. For "Chapter V: Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken" they appealed to Charlie Bauerfeind to handle the production, and I must say he did a very good job.

The cover artwork was done by Samwise Didier, who worked out the idea Joacim Cans and Oscar Dronjak had in mind. It's quite nice, showing the knight rising from the snow proving that HAMMERFALL is still alive and kicking. Which also explains the album title.

On to the songs then... "Secrets" is one of the few songs with fast parts, i.e. the chorus, which is very nice and has nice lyrics. "Blood Bound" is a solid song which will be very nice to hear live, creating a special atmosphere.

With a title like "Fury Of The Wild", you expect a fast, 'making-your-heart-pound-faster' song, but it's not like that, unfortunately. Sure, it's got some fast riffs and double bass, but it lacks the speed. Nevertheless, I find this one of the best on the album. "Hammer Of Justice" is another nice song, with a good rhythm and melody.

The middle of the track listing forms a 'resting point' with the beautiful and deep (also because of the lyrics) ballad "Never, Ever". "Born To Rule" is a slow song, praising Metal and somehow - in my opinion - expressing the meaning of the album title. "The Templar Flame" is another one of my favourites, having a great sing-along chorus. "Imperial" is just Oscar Dronjak playing the accoustic guitar, making it a relaxing song, but very well played. After that, it's time again for some Powermetal with "Take The Black", an uptempo track.

For "Knights Of The 21st Century" they asked Conrad "Cronos" Lant from VENOM to make a guest appearance. In the beginning and ending of the song, you can hear him growl about "the prophecy" and "hell fucking yeah". Especially this last thing bothers me, since I can't really see why this is in a HAMMERFALL song. The song itself isn't bad, but it's not superb as well. Maybe a bit too bombastic, too slow, tending to get dull after a while.

One thing that I find lacking on this album, are speedy songs, especially compared to "Legacy Of Kings". Still, this is a solid and decent Metalalbum, showing HAMMERFALL is still worth the investment.

Line-up:
Joacim Cans - vocals
Oscar Dronjak - guitar
Stefan Elmgren - guitar
Magnus Rosén - bass
Anders Johansson - drums


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KIKO LOUREIRO – No Gravity (Replica Records 2005)

Kiko Loureiri - No Gravity
  1. Enfermo
  2. Endangered Species
  3. Escaping
  4. No Gravity
  5. Pau-De-Arara
  6. La Force De L'Âme
  7. Tapping Into My Dark Tranquility
  8. Moment Of Truth
  9. Beautiful Language
  10. In A Gentle Way
  11. Dilemma
  12. Feliz Desilusão
  13. Choro De Criançia

Kiko who? Ok, here's a hint: ANGRA! Together with Rafael Bittencourt, Kiko (website) forms the basis of the Brazilian Progressive Powermetallers. He already prooved his talent with the extensive discography of ANGRA and the tours, and with this album he can make music his way.

So, a solo album, but only instrumental, no vocals at all. No doubt he got some advice and support from Rafael and others, but in the end, Kiko had to do it himself. All guitars – electric, bass, accoustic – some percussion, and the keyboards. For the drums and percussion, Kiko appealed to Mike Terrana from German Power Metalband RAGE. Production was in the hands of Dennis Ward (PINK CREAM 69, SILENT FORCE, ANGRA).

On to the songs then... What can you expect? Heavy, powerful songs in à la ANGRA, but also calmer and accoustic songs with a more Latino touch.

"No Gravity" starts in ANGRA-style with a variation of mid and fast tempo. "Endangered Species" follows immediately, with awesome low-sounding riffs. Mike Terrana does a great job with some nice drum moves. But it's not all about electric guitars, since Kiko handles the accoustic one in the same manner... flawless. ;-) This can be heard on tracks 7, 9, 10, 12, 13.

"Escaping" and "No Gravity" remind me of some work of Joe Satriani, one of the best guitarists on this planet. I mean, it's hard to notice a significant difference in sound and play between him and Kiko. Of course, there are differences, only here it's like Joe is playing. This is superb stuff! In my opinion, Kiko is the Brasilian Satriani. Extremely talented and somehow underrated/underestimated. "Pau-De-Arara" is another uplifting song, very melodic, while "Dilemma" is THE 'power' song on he album: fast riffs, speedy drums, ... Fan-tas-tic!

Fans of Steve Vai and/or Joe Satriani will surely love this, since this album has resemblances with the works from those 2 guitarists.

I'll stress it again: BUY THIS ALBUM!! Really, if you like instrumental and Rock/Metal, I see no reason why you shouldn't have this in your collection.

Line-up:
Kiko Loureiro - guitars (electric, accoustic, bass), keyboards, piano, percussion, programming
Mike Terrana - drums, percussion


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ETERNAL REIGN – Forbidden Path (Limb Music Products 2005)

Eternal Reign - Forbidden Path
  1. Gate To Infinity
  2. Light The Light
  3. Into My Own Hands
  4. The Last Call
  5. Edge Of The World
  6. Les Rêves En Plastique
  7. Forbidden Path
  8. Losing Ground
  9. Set The Sails
  10. Nightstalker
  11. Ten Seconds In (BREAKER cover)

ETERNAL REIGN, melodic metal aus Germany. This is the band's second album (released in February), following 2002's "Crimes Of Passion", which was released via TTS Media Musik. For "Forbidden Path", LMP took over. Knowing that bands like RHAPSODY, PAGAN'S MIND, ORATORY, and many more released very good album via this label, ETERNAL REIGN would also be worth the while, I thought. And yes, it actually is.

While you probably wouldn't reflect on the band's name, it does seem to have a correlation with the album cover, as this one features remains of an old civilization. The intro is the second link, as the center of the cover is some sort of gate(way) - like in Stargate SG-1. ;-)

The music is very melodic, has tight guitarplay and a quite good production. There are no real uptempo, speedy songs, but that's ok. They aren't really missed here, even though 1 or 2 such songs would be nice, of course. ;-)

Musically, everything's alright, even the calmer songs. Dirk has a clean voice, but with a light roughness. A bit like Ronnie James Dio. But there one other band that came to my mind at a certain time: EUROPE. Dirk's voice reminds me in a way of Joey's. The majority of the songs, the vocals are good to very good, but in "Losing Ground" and "Nightstalker" (chorus) he hits the higher levels too much, which doesn't do those songs much good.

The cover of BREAKER was handled pretty good. No complaints here.

I've read some reviews where this album got a score around 7/10. I say, give it another listen. In my opinion, this is very good stuff and somehow underrated. The sound's good, the guys càn play their instrument, ... I mean, except for the higher singing (in 2 songs), there's nothing bad on this album. "Forbidden Path" is an album you really should check out if you like melodic metal.

More info about the band can be found on their website, which is unfortunately only in German: www.eternal-reign.de

Line-up:
Dirk Stühmer - vocals
Michael Sebastian - guitar
Torsten Fünfhaus - guitar
Jörg Hassel - bass
André Genuit - drums
Björn Meyer - keyboards


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UNCHAINED – Unchained (Sound Riot Records 2005)

Unchained - Unchained
  1. My Guide
  2. The Analyst
  3. Ghost Of The Alchemy Hall
  4. Theater Of Fear
  5. I Dream
  6. Ordinary Sinner
  7. Like The Candle
  8. The Great Witch Hunt
  9. Seventh Sin

UNCHAINED, an (to me) unknown Swedish band, seems to have been active since 1999. Between that year and the release of their self-titled debut album, the band played at festivals, released a single and a promo, but also knew some line-up changes, and got signed by Sound Riot Records in the end (September 2003).

The band spent about 6 months in the studio, improving their songwriting and instrumental skills. The result is "Unchained", their first full album. Here as well, Mattias Norén is responsable for the cover artwork.

The album starts with a midtempo track, "My Guide". Overall, this is a nice song and you can hear the guys have talent. Per's voice is still rough, but with the appropriate exercises he will become very good. ;-)

You won't find any speedy songs on the album, but that's ok, since the songs don't really require speed.

In "The Analyst" the band built in some resting points before increasing the heaviness again. "Ghost Of The Alchemy Hall" starts with a peeping door being slammed shut. Following is bubbling liquids like from a laboratory. The music reminds me of STEEL ATTACK's "Where Mankind Fails" album and so do Per's vocals. What makes this song good too are the guitar solos, David and Peter know their instrument very well.

"Theater Of Fear" is my favourite song here. Thunder and screams trying to scare you, followed by heavy guitars and fitting keyboards. What I like so much about the song, is the way they play the guitars, supported by a very fitting drumpattern. This will sound great when played live.

"I Dream" is a ballad, and not bad at all. "Ordinary Sinner" takes a slow but heavy start after which the drums increase the tempo a bit. Again, I hear some similarities with STEEL ATTACK, but UNCHAINED is fortunately another band. I don't mean that in a bad way, for neither of the bands.

In "Like The Candle" the drums play an important role, especially with the frequently played toms. This is definitely one of the best songs on the album. The beginning of "The Great Witch Hunt" reminds me of PERSUADER's "The Hunter" album, but it's a nice song nevertheless.

"Seventh Sin" closes the album and clocks in at about six minutes. Four would have sufficed, I think, since I kind of have the feeling they wanted to stretch the song.

UNCHAINED, though having similarities with other bands, are worth the attention. These guys have talent, but still have a large progression margin. The fact that the band spent a long time in the studio was also helpful to give "Unchained" a clear and full sound. Not perfect yet, but very good. Maybe the drums could use some polishing, but I'm nagging now. ;-) Anyhow, if you see this album in a store near you, give it a listen and support the band by buying it. Because they really deserve it.

Line-up:
Per Karlsson - vocals
David Blome - guitars
Peter Ericsson - guitars
Mattias Osbeck - bass
Martin Michaelsson - drums


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MASTERPLAN – Aeronautics (AFM Records 2005)

Masterplan - Aeronautics
  1. Crimson Rider
  2. Back For My Life
  3. Wounds
  4. I'm Not Afraid
  5. Headbanger's Ballroom
  6. After This War
  7. Into The Arena
  8. Dark From The Dying
  9. Falling Sparrow
  10. Black In The Burn
  11. Treasure World (bonustrack)

"Aeronautics" starts with the sound of a starting aeroplane, followed by furious guitars and drums. A great start, very powerful and uplifting. Overall production is very good – by the hands of Andy Sneap – setting the bar a bit higher. The debut album "Masterplan" was already a killer one, but "Aeronautics" does it a little better. A lot of attention went to the melody-side of the album.

Jorn does again a very good job here and in a way I would compare him with Oliver Hartmann (ex-AT VANCE, AVANTASIA, ...), though both of them are quite different singers. But there's one thing that kinda annoys me on this album, vocally, and that's Jorn's screams and sometimes too many "oh yeah"s.

Again, the album is full of heavy riffs, solos, ... like on the debut album, divided over powerful and softer songs. "Back For My Life" and "Wounds" (nice melody) sound very familiar compared with the first album. Personally, I'm not so fond of "I'm Not Afraid". It's not bad, but the drums and guitars/melodies don't match on certain moments in the song, it doesn't run so smoothly. It could also be that this is one of those songs you need to listen to when the mood is right. One of the best songs in my opinion is "Black In The Burn": heavy, furious guitars and drums! And a beautiful chorus. Piet Sielck (IRON SAVIOR) helped with "After The War".

Compared with "Masterplan", "Aeronautics" is a bit more complex and needs several listenings to appreciate/understand it. Overall, the band has done a great job, really. You should have this album in your collection. While you can, get the limited edition. It comes with a bonus track and a multimedia-section (wallpapers + screensaver).

Line-up:
Jorn Lande - vocals
Roland Grapow - guitars
Jan S. Eckert - bass
Uli Kusch - drums
Axel Mackenrott - keyboards


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DRACONIAN – Arcane Rain Fell (Napalm Records 2005)

Draconian - Arcane Rain Fell
  1. A Scenery Of Loss
  2. Daylight Misery
  3. The Apostasy Canticle
  4. Expostulation
  5. Heaven Laid In Tears (Angels' Lament)
  6. The Abhorrent Rays
  7. The Everlasting Scar
  8. Death, Come Near Me

DRACONIAN, a Swedish Gothic Doom Metal band formed in 1994, released its second album this year in January (I'm writing this in August 2006). Given the title "Arcane Rain Fell", the band created a concept album - as vocalist Anders puts it in the interview with Lords Of Metal webzine - "about Lucifer and the fallen angels... their emotional and philosophical views on spirituality, retribution and independence. It's a documentation of both the fallen angels and God really. I decided to go with this concept because it really moves me... and the name of Lucifer needs to be cleared from misunderstandings and religious prejudice. The message of the album is that God is a tyrant and his holy light is deceiving. Lucifer realized this and revolted against him... but he lost the battle and fell from heaven. The greatest story of all... to me anyway. The last two songs speak for themselves though."

In the beginning they released a couple of demos, saw their line-up changed/altered a couple of times, and even with this album, "Arcane Rain Fell", there still was a change of positions within the bandwith members leaving for personal reasons and others stepping in as easy as switching a player in football. You can read more details on the band's website www.draconian.se.

But let's continue with the music, right? Starting with - how else could it be? - rain and some thundering with the guitars slowly fading in. Then the whole band sets in with Anders acting poetically and demonically via his grunts. This first song shows clearly this is not 'happy happy joy joy' music. On the contrary, it's melancholic, depressing and more of that. But done in a great way. Occasionally vocalist Lisa shows her skills. At around 5:40 there are double bass drums to give the song more power for a short while.

Rain also ends the song and forms the bridge to "Daylight Misery". Most important or outstanding element is the chorus, which is simply breathtaking. Anders' grunts and Lisa's angelic voice are very compatible. Musically things are also well done.

"The Apostasy Canticle" takes it even slower, but still remains heavy of course.This is also a long song (< 10 min.), but I don't think they could have shortened it without losing part of the atmosphere and feeling.

"Expostulation" sounds like the spoken parts of AYREON's "Into The Electric Castle". Atmospheric sounds and talking, not singing. Very nice and it makes you listen to the text.

Up next is the beautiful "Heaven Laid In Tears (Angels' Lament)", offering again a sad, yet touching melody brought by Lisa's soft vocals. Anders' grunts take over for the chorus, together with the heavy guitars and keyboards, which make the song more complete. The song is also connected with the previous one "Expostulation", as the lyrics "El-Shaddai, we serve thee, henceforth... no more" return, but slightly altered.

Leaving the slow, Doomish sound for what it is, the band chose a more midtempo speed, more emphasis on the Gothic aspect. Result: "The Abhorrent Rays". Overall, not bad. It's different from the previous songs, but of the same quality.

In "The Everlasting Scar" there's more room for Lisa to express the right emotions and feelings. And that's a good thing, as she has a remarkable voice. Not the best in the genre, but she can sing, that's for sure. The song itself is not bad, but nothing special either.

The final track, "Death, Come Near Me", is the longest one, clocking in after 15 minutes, so brace yourself. ;-) First you get a calm, backed by symphonics snare-picked intro. A minute and a half later, the rest of the band joins and things get heavier in the same spirit as the other songs.What else to say but very slow, very deep, very good? A great ending for a great album.

"Arcane Rain Fell" is probably the best DRACONIAN album so far and should appeal to any fan of quality Doom or Gothic Metal. DRACONIAN melt the two together in a splendid way, making this a band to keep an eye on. As far as I'm concerned, I can add another band to my favourites in Doom Metal. This is recommened material, no question about that.

Line-up:
Anders Jacobsson - vocals
Lisa Johansson - vocals
Johan Ericson - guitars
Magnus Bergström - guitars
Jesper Stolpe - bass
Andreas Karlsson - synthezizer & programming
Jerry Torstensson - percussion


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Reviews 2005

On this page
A PERFECT MURDER -
Strength Through
Vengeance
ABSOLUTE STEEL -
Womanizer
ADOR DORATH -
Symbols
ANNIHILATOR -
Schizo Deluxe
ANUBIS GATE -
A Perfect Forever
BATTLEROAR -
Age Of Chaos
BEN JACKSON GROUP -
All Over You
BETWEEN THE BURIED
AND ME -
Alaska
BEYOND THE FLESH -
What The Mind
Perceives
BRAINSTORM -
Liquid Monster
CANDLEMASS -
The Curse Of
Candlemass
CREOZOTH -
Creozoth
DARKEST HOUR -
Undoing Ruin
DEMONS & WIZARDS -
Touched By The
Crimson King
DESTRUCTION -
Inventor Of Evil
DICTATORS, THE -
Viva Dictators!
DOOMFOXX -
Doomfoxx
DRACONIAN -
Arcane Rain Fell
DRAGONLORD -
Black Wings Of Destiny
DREAMLAND -
Future's Calling
DYECREST -
This Is My World
EDGUY -
Superheroes
ENEMIES SWE -
Behind Enemy Lines
ETERNAL REIGN -
Forbidden Path
EXCALION -
Primal Exhale
EXODUS -
Shovel Headed
Kill Machine
GAIA EPICUS -
Symphony Of Glory
GUT -
Shrubbery
HAMMERFALL -
Chapter V: Unbent,
Unbowed, Unbroken
KALEDON -
The Way Of The Light
KAMELOT -
The Black Halo
LEE Z -
Shadowland
LOUREIRO, KIKO -
No Gravity
MASTERPLAN -
Aeronautics
MORNING -
Hour Of Joy
NANOWAR -
Other Bands Play,
Nanowar Gay
NIKKI PUPPET -
Puppet On A String
OJEDA, EDDIE -
Axes 2 Axes
OVERLOADED -
Hail The Kingdom
OVERLOADED -
Hellfire
PAGAN'S MIND -
Enigmatic: Calling
PARAGON -
Revenge
PERSUADER -
The Hunter
PERZONAL WAR -
When Times Turn Red
PETER AND THE
TEST TUBE BABIES -
A Foot Full Of Bullets
PRIMAL FEAR -
Seven Seals
REBELLION -
Sagas Of Iceland
RHAPSODY -
The Magic Of The
Wizard's Dream
RINGWORM -
Justice Replaced
By Revenge
SARATOGA -
Tierra De Lobos
SAVAGE CIRCUS -
Dreamland Manor
SCARS OF
TOMORROW -
The Horror
Of Realization
SECRET SPHERE -
Heart & Anger
SHAAMAN -
Reason
SHAKRA -
Fall
SHE'S CHINA -
Odyssey To Mars
SINAI BEACH -
Immersed
SPELLBOUND -
Incoming Destiny
SVARTSYN -
Bloodline
SYLVER MYST -
Depths Of Illusions
THE DIFFERENCE -
Lost In Mass
Confusion
THEY AWAIT -
Moment Of Eclipse
TOKYO DRAGONS -
Give Me The Fear
TRAVERS & APPICE -
Live At The
House Of Blues
U.D.O. -
Mission No. X
UNCHAINED -
Unchained
VANISHING POINT -
Embrace The Silence
WET ANIMAL -
Wet Animal
WOLFCRY -
Warfair
YARGOS -
To Be Or Not To Be