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.:CD Reviews:.

MAIN PAIN – Food For Thoughts (Powerzone Records 2006)

Main Pain - Food For Thoughts
  1. D.I.E.
  2. Running Blood
  3. Deep Down Inside
  4. Ghost Of Sinai
  5. Liar
  6. The Abyss
  7. MainPain
  8. When Death Calls
  9. Room 666

MAIN PAIN is a very unknown - as there are many - Heavy Metal band from Italy and have released their debut in December 2006 (ten years later since they started) under the title "Food For Thoughts", this via Powerzone Records. Heavy Metal it is, although you could say there are Powermetal influences as well. The tracklisting on the website is different than the one one my promo copy. Speaking of the promo copy: all I got was a CD and the booklet, which didn't really make me much wiser. So I had to look up the info on the band's website, but since everything is in Italian and I don't speak that language... it's a bit hard to know more about this band. And no, their MySpace page didn't help either, nor other websites where MAIN PAIN might (!) get some mentions. As you can already tell, this is really a small fish in the Metal ocean. It's plankton.

Anyhow, the debut album, "Food For Thoughts". Well, it certainly makes you think about the record. The songs sound good, but there are few uptempo tracks ("MainPain" seems to be the only one, at least for the first part of the song). The vocals are clean, but you do get a bit of an accent with it. The lyrics are... food for thoughts and in that way they need improving, mainly on the grammatical part. Sure, not everyone is good at speaking and/or writing English, but you would think they would do some research or something to know how it's pronounced and/or written correctly. Well, none of that.

All in all, "Food For Thoughts" is fairly enjoyable, but don't think about the songs too much, because then you'll desperately want to pop in a disc from another band. A band that has proven its qualities for a long time and many albums. Things to work on for these Italians: the lyrics (i.e. lyrics and grammar) and songwriting (i.e. make them more interesting, add more solos, more intricate drumwork, stuff that sticks). The sound was good, though, making sure every instruments comes out well enough.

This record is certainly not a must-have, not in the least, but MAIN PAIN could go far if they really work on their skills. On a sidenote: the drums and bass on this album were played by respectively Ricky Masciaga and Boca Alberto.

More info at www.mainpain.it.

Line-up:
Ronnie Borgese - vocals
Dave Valli - guitars, screams
Paolo Raffaello - guitars
Marcello Bovio - bass
Antonello Botta - drums


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BLOOD STAIN CHILD – Idolator (Dockyard 1 2006)

Blood Stain Child - Idolator
  1. Hyper Sonic
  2. Truth
  3. Final Sky
  4. Live Inside
  5. Ag2o
  6. Embrace Me
  7. Trial Spiral
  8. Void
  9. Type-N
  10. True Blue
  11. Truth (bonus video)

BLOOD STAIN CHILD, originally starting as VISIONQUEST and hailing from Japan, has just released its third album, "Idolator". Prior to this one the band released "Silence Of Northern Hell" (2002) and "Mystic Your Heart" (2004). Musically their style is described as Melodic Death Metal with some Thrash influences. Their MySpace page also mentions New Wave and Screamo.

BLOOD STAIN CHILD called upon the producing services of Tue Madsen and Anssi Kipo at Finnvox Studios in Helsinki. Tue also did the mixing and mastering, which can be heard very easily as the sound is clear and powerful.

So Melodic Death Metal... think IN FLAMES, CHILDREN OF BODOM, NORTHER and similar of course. The thing is: I like Melodic Death, but what BLOOD STAIN CHILD present on their latest release is not really something to be wild about. Sure, it sounds good (thanks to Tue and Anssi) and there are similarities with the European 'masters' (so to say), but what bugs me the most is this:

* screaming vocals that remind more of a squealing pig
* what exactly does Ryo scream? And even when he's not screaming for a moment, what's he saying? I guess it's English, although I have my doubts.
* the emo-factor. Simply annoying.
* the use of electronics and samples remind of e.g. LINKIN PARK and KORN - what do you mean, Melodic Death Metal?
* Too much of the same, musically. Uptempo, speed, ... all the way I can't seem to find out why. It's like they're blasting it out without really having decent compositions and songs.

Melodic Screamo Death/Thrash Metal from Japan, oh goody. Sorry, but no thanks. But do know that Japan has better bands than BLOOD STAIN CHILD.

And to say that this album came onto the European market on my birthday: the 4th December.

More info at www.bloodstainchild.com.

Line-up:
Ryo - vocals, bass
Ryu - guitars
Shiromassa - guitars
Aki - keyboards
Violator - drums


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STORMENTAL – Stormental (Stormental 2006)

Stormental - Stormental
  1. The Conquer
  2. Rising
  3. Stormental
  4. Sun Child
  5. The Fury
  6. First Ray Of Light
  7. Auke
  8. Introducing The End

STORMENTAL is a Brazilian Metalband and their music can be described a raw Progressive Metal. what you hear is a mix of Heavy, Power and Progressive. Formed little more than a year ago (i.e. January 2006), the members - who had already gathered experience in previous projects/bands - quickly put their heads together to write a couple of songs for a first record. A few months later (March/April) the band entered the studio to record it all.

During August and September the band embarked on their European Tour 2006 passing through 9 countries, playing the total of 11 gigs in Germany, Belgium, Holland, Spain, Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia. In this last one they were in the cast of one of the biggest open airs in Europe called More Than Fest, among great metal names like GAMMA RAY, PRIMAL FEAR and MARDUK.

The self-titled CD was entirely recorded and produced by the band and you can hear they didn't cheat on anything. Pure class musicianship is what you get. The sound is very pure, very real and not filled with useless samples or keyboards. The latter might have fitted on certain parts, but on the other hand it would have made the songs sound crowded. STORMENTAL chose to keep it simple and this works extremely well.

From the first song, "The Conquer" to the speedy "Auke"... it's Progressive all the way. I want to comment on each song, but the band just made this record so interesting I can't find the right words to tackle each song. Important to know is that Alexei has a clean voice, but a very enjoyable one that will do great on stage as well. No special mixes or anything here to make it sound good. Pure quality. The same counts for Andrei, his brother, who plays the bass like a madman. This is also very clear on the album, where the bass comes out extremely well and you're left breathless of how Andrei handles the snares. Thumbs up, man. He, Rafael (guitar) and Marcos are a great instrumental team and everything connects very smoothly.

My favourite member is of course Marcos. His drumming is absolutely outstanding, mindblowing and what not. Every time I hear him play, I'm going crazy, jealousy overtakes me. Yes, I'm sucking up, but Marcos has a great timing and this is very much needed on this album. You will need to listen to the album multiple times to discover it all. They can start with a certain rhythm and/or melody and then suddenly twist and turn it around, add more speed or go slower in the blink of an eye. Rafael's guitarwork is also determining for these changes.

Of course, it's not all super. There's not one bad song, but "Introducing The End" seems to have a lighter sound. The guitar, drums and bass don't come out as strong as with the other songs, but this can be linked to the fact that keyboards have been added for a symphonic injection. While the song itself is not that bad, it's nothing spectacular either and sort of doesn't fit with the furious riffs and drumming of what came before. Still, no need to make a big fuss about it.

One extra remark: I've seen the band live in September, when they came to Belgium, and I can guarantee you: go see them when they're playing near you. You'll have a great time!

STORMENTAL's debut is - and I cannot stress this enough - very much recommended! What's even more, the band has offered it for free on their website, so you can listen for yourself what potential they have. I personally hope they will carry on this way and not start adding samples or keyboards where these are not necessary. With their 'simple' instrumentation (vox, guitars, bass, drums), they're kind of unique and adding keyboards would somehow make them like any other Progressive band.

More info at www.stormental.com.

Line-up:
Alexei Leão - vocals
Rafael Scopel - guitars
Andrei Leão - bass
Marcos Feminella - drums


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SARATOGA – The Fighting Clan (Avispa Music 2006)

Saratoga - The Fightng Clan
  1. The Fighting Clan
  2. Enlightened Angel
  3. Ivory And White
  4. Inside Your Evil Heart
  5. Disappointment
  6. Far From The Time Wheel
  7. A New World
  8. If The Sun Rose
  9. No
  10. Your Name Is My Destiny
  11. Maybe The Sun Will Not Come
  12. Saint Telmo 1940
  13. Asking For Forgiveness

Spanish Heavy/Powermetallers released their last studio effort last year, in 2005, under the title "Tierra De Lobos". This was a fine record, but it was mostly Leo's high-pitched screams that prevented me from being overly excited about the album. A couple of years ago (2004, to be precise) they released "El Clan De La Lucha". Probably requested by the label, Avispa Music, the band decided to release an English version and on the 1st of December "The Fighting Clan" was reality.

What is immediately noticable are of course the vocals, but also a different sound. Vocally there are less high screams and the singing is more controlled, fits the songs more. The riffing also sounds more tight, but still has the typical heaviness.

"The Fighting Clan" starts with an mysterious intro, after which Metal kicks in. Uptempo and somewhat in the vain of "Who Dares Wins" by the French Powermetal band DYSLESIA. Quite a nice song and shows what to expect on this new version. "Ivory And White" continues the fast pace and adds even more speed. A reference to old ANGRA (i.e. with André Matos) is not out of place here.

"Inside Your Evil Heart" is more emotionally laden - especially in the beautiful chorus -, but still played at a relatively high speed. Leo also chooses the higher notes more often, but it's never a problem. The guitar solos are also impeccable and great to hear.

"Disappointment" is a slower, almost balladish, but with heavily pounding guitars. Could have been a second- or third-rate EDGUY song. The guitarsolo makes the song certainly more worthwhile. With a playtime of 5:17 it could perhaps sound too long, especially live, but it doesn't hurt the song. Next stop is back to more tight Metal, here very melodic grooves. Quality song.

"A New World" incorporates more aggressiveness, more focus on the heavy guitars. The drums are very variated, be it just normal playing in the easy-going melodic chorus or more fierce in the verses.

Time to sit back, close your eyes and enjoy "If The Sun Rose", at least on a musical level. Leo's gentle singing sounds quite... gay, so to speak. He has a very light voice, almost Michael Jackson-ish, which doesn't fit here. He's far better in the heavier songs, not in accoustic ballads. But like I said, musically this is very nice stuff. Keyboards or samples make the song more complete. The electric guitars come in around the third minute and this of course is a positive evolution. Thumbs up here.

Fast riffing and short tom-hits indicate an aggressive song again and after a short while, we're off on a wild ride ("No"). Classic Powermetal like GAMMA RAY and the likes. No need to say more about such songs, as you know what they sound like and how good it is to have them bursting out of the speakers during a concert or out of your stereo or in your car, while on your way to a gig or work or coming from work or whatever.

"Your Name Is My Destiny" is not of the fast kind, but still quite aggressive, with short guitar bursts in the verses. Not that bad, but Leo apparently couldn't keep himself silent any longer and thus this songs marks the return of the high-pitched screams. Hm... return? This is after all a re-release, so they have been present before. Anyhow, you know what I mean. "Your Name Is My Destiny" is a less good song. Perhaps it will be much more interesting to see it performed live, but on CD it's not really super.

The slow, killing riffs from "Maybe The Sun Will Not Come" hits your attention again. The drums add more pounding via the double bass and occasional tom-hits, especially in the bridge. The solo is again well performed and a very welcome element. Come to think of it: this song reminds me of KAMELOT's "Epica" or "The Black Halo" album, both very good album of course.

The last two songs, "Saint Telmo 1940" and "Asking For Forgiveness", differ very much. The first one being very Metal, with heavy riffs and drums, but going very melodic at certain moments. The latter chooses the path of brutal Powermetal. Fast, double bass drumming, speeding riffs and definitely a song that will kill live! Great ending of a very good album. More of this!

"Tierra De Lobos" was good, but I consider "The Fighting Clan" even better. It leans more towards Classic Heavy Metal with a good portion of Powermetal. The singing is also better. Maybe I should edit my Best Of 2006 again, but then I would have to do that for many other records. In short: "The Fighting Clan" is simply recommended material for the fans and for Metalheads who have a weakness for Powermetal. Hopefully this band will open some eyes in Europe, so that these guys can tour outside of Spain.

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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SACHTA – Anosognosie (Deadsun Records 2006)

Saratoga - anosognosie
  1. Passenger
  2. Rostrum
  3. Worry
  4. Quiet On The Lies
  5. Bury Me
  6. Mass Grave Of Ghastly Dolls
  7. Apologize Our Heroes
  8. Tox Bless
  9. Thou Shalt Not Kill
  10. The Golden Young Wild Boar
  11. Brain Lifting
  12. Hail
  13. Brutal Renegade
  14. Anosognosie

SACHTA, founded in 2001, is a Hardcore band from Switzerland, with tendencies towards Metalcore. On Metal-Archives.com I read these guys play Death Metal. So I was excited to hear how they pull it off. This debut - which is in fact a re-release or something by Deadsun Records / Hurricane Entertainment on the 1st of December, as it originally came out in 2005 by the band itself - sure has a good deal of brutal riffing and bone-crushing drumming.

But that's only one good aspect of the album: the brutality. The growls and screams are annoying after a while, as most of the songs sound quite alike. The growls are better than the screams, in my opinion. Musically it's Hard/Metalcore and not the Death Metal that Metal-Archives says it is, despite some blastbeats. Comparisons with other Hard/Metalcore bands can be made to no end, as you can see on the bands MySpace page: www.myspace.com/sachta.

And just when you think the album will end in a brutal way, just like it started, think again: you get an annoying rap moment, with just the drums and bass guitar backing things up. You're just happy with the heavy riffing and killing drums and in the end you get rap. What the f***? Rap is even worse for me than Metalcore. Sorry, but you can't like everything, right?

On this album there's also a special bonus section, which includes 2 videos, photos and website links.

I'm not going add much words to this review, as you can read in a couple of other reviews I'm not so fond of Metalcore. "Anosognosie" is a good album for those occasions when you need some brutal music without thinking about what? and how?. Other than that, this is more a record for the fans of this kind of music. If you want Death Metal, look for NILE, DECAPITATED, SPAWN OF POSSESSION, BEHEMOTH, CANNIBAL CORPSE, BOLT THROWER, BENEDICTION, KRISIUN, KATAKLYSM, ANATA, and many more.

More info at www.sachta.com.

Line-up:
Ben - vocals
Flip - vocals
Jerem - guitars
Yoann - bass
Lorette - machines/programming
Sylvain - drums


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NAMELESS CRIME – Law And Persecution (Powerzone Records 2006)

Nameless Crime - Law And Persecution
  1. Mr. Stone
  2. Octopus Eye
  3. Wish To Fly Away
  4. Communication Crimes
  5. French Kiss
  6. Before The Storm
  7. Law And Persecution
  8. Backdraft
  9. Sons Of Liberty
  10. Roadside Bison
  11. Vesuvius LXXIX A.D.

NAMELESS CRIME is an Italian band and have been around since 2000 (1998 according to Metal-Archives.com and bnrmetal.com), with Raffaele Lanzuise (bass), Alessandro Tuccillo (rhythm guitar), Marco Ruggiero (lead and rhythm guitar) and Dario Graziano (drums) and singer Fabio Manda, who completed the band. After a couple of demos the band got a record deal with Nocturnal Music and also contributed to a MANOWAR tribute album, which was released by Northwind Records. The chosen track was the classic "Hail And Kill", off the "Kings Of Metal" album.

The self-titled debut came out in 2003 and it seems lots of magazines liked what NAMELESS CRIME had to offer. One year later the EP "Backdraft" came out and in that year the drummer's seat was taken by Peppe Iovine, who replaced Dario Graziano. Between 2005 and 2006 the band recorded their second full-length, mixed and mastered in the Fear Studio by Gabriele Ravaglia.

Musically the band can be catalogued under Thrash, but they play it in a groovy kind of way. To make things even more confusing (or interesting) is that on this new album, "Law And Persecution" (released on the 27th of November), they also managed to pour certain songs in a nice Progressive context. Vocally there are some similarities with André Matos (ex-ANGRA, ex-SHAAMAN) and Gianni Pontillo (PURE INC., THE ORDER), which means clear and sometimes reaching for the higher notes, but also containing a rough undertone.

NAMELESS CRIME show on their new album why they deserved a contract. Just listen and let yourself go on the heavy tunes of "Mr. Stone", "Wish To Fly Away", "Communication Crimes" (very Thrashy!) and "Backdraft", or go for a more 'laid back' approach with "Octopus Eye", "Before The Storm" and so on, without forgetting the very nice and very Progressive "Vesuvius LXXIX A.D.". By the way, did you notice the bass intermezzo in "French Kiss"?

I could perhaps have written a longer review, but I don't really see the need for that. NAMELESS CRIME is a name to remember and "Law And Persecution" is an album to have in your collection. Particularly if you like a groovy kind of Power/Thrash.

More info at www.namelesscrime.com.

Line-up:
Fabio Manda - vocals
Alessandro Tuccillo - guitars
Marco Ruggiero - guitars
Raffaele Lanzuise - bass
Peppe Iovine - drums


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FAIRYLAND – The Fall Of An Empire (Napalm Records 2006)

Fairyland - The Fall Of An Empire
  1. Endgame
  2. The Fall Of An Empire
  3. Lost In The Dark Lands
  4. Slaves Forlorn
  5. The Awakening
  6. Eldanie Uellë
  7. Clanner Of The Light
  8. To The Havenrod
  9. The Walls Of Laemnil
  10. Anmorhenta
  11. In Duna
  12. The Story Remains
  13. Look Into Lost Years
  14. Across The Endless Sea (bonustrack)

FAIRYLAND, the French Symphonic Powermetallers, have returned with a new album. Being the follow-up to 2003's "Of Wars In Osyrhia", "The Fall Of An Empire" - released only a few days ago, 27/11 - also is a new start with a new label, Napalm Records, who usually houses Gothic, Doom and Black Metal bands. Napalm will also re-release the debut "Of Wars In Osyrhia" later.

There were for a large time no updates on a new album and line-up change, until this year, or maybe the second part of 2005. DREAMAKER and ex-DARK MOOR vocalist Elisa C. handled the mic on the first album, while for this second album a new vocalist was found, next to a new guitarist, drummer, etc... So out Elisa, in comes Max Leclercq. The male vocals fit in much better, but still he misses power compared to powermetal vocalists who have a fuller voice. But the result is definitely better.

The production has been upped a few levels as well and everything comes out stronger, even the drums. And those were very weak and artificial on the debut album. Still, things could still use some improvements for the future. Yes, I'm critical, mainly because I like Symphonic Powermetal, but when the whole sounds too digital and not 'real' enough, then you've lost my interest.

Typical for FAIRYLAND is the similarity with RHAPSODY (OF FIRE), except that FAIRYLAND has more uptempo songs and overdoes the symphonics and choirs, by which I mean that the symphonics dominate all so that the rest of the instrumentation doesn't come out strong enough and the choirs sound too sampled. I don't have the feeling that real people stood behind the microphone(s) and sang their parts.

If you like Symphonic Powermetal like RHAPSODY (OF FIRE), THY MAJESTIE, and others, then FAIRYLAND might fulfill your needs. For me, although "The Fall Of An Empire" is a far better album than "Of Wars In Osyrhia", it's not something I am wildly enthusiastic about and therefore won't spend much time in my stereo.

More info at www.fairyland-metal.com.

Line-up:
Max Leclerqc - vocals
Anthony Parker - guitars
Thomas Cesario - guitars, bass
Philippe Giordana - keyboards
Pierre-Emmanuel Desfray - drums


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ELIS – Griefshire (Napalm Records 2006)

Elis - Griefshire
  1. Tales From Heaven Or Hell
  2. Die Stadt
  3. Show Me The Way
  4. Brothers
  5. Seit Dem Anbeginn Der Zeit
  6. Remember The Promise
  7. Phoenix From The Ashes
  8. How Long
  9. Innocent Hearts
  10. Forgotten Love
  11. The Burning
  12. A New Decade

ELIS's third album, "Griefshire" - released on the 27th of November -, is one to for the history books, more specifically because it's the last one with vocalist Sabine Dünser. During the bands rehearsal on Friday the 7th of July, Sabine suffered a cerebral haemorrhage from which she died a day later at the hospital.

The Liechtenstein formation ELIS originally started as ERBEN DER SCHÖPFUNG, and under this name they released in 2001 a single "Elis" and one album called "Twilight", showing a new Gothic band had arrived.

Following their split with Oliver Falk, Sabine Dünser and co. re-emerged in 2003 under the new alias ELIS. for their albums they chose the Mastersound Studio, owned by Alexander Krull (ATROCITY). "God's Silence, Devil's Temptation" was the band's debut, which clearly showed what power the music had. It was clearly Gothic with the usual extra ingredients like classical music and some electronic. After this 2003 release, album number two "Dark Clouds In A Perfect Sky" made its appearance very rapidly, i.e. in 2004. This second record sounded even stronger than the previous one.

I listened to both in the shop, to know whether I should buy them or not. Alas, although some songs were of my liking, the whole was not convincing enough for me. I mean, buying them would perhaps be good for the band's income, but the albums would actually only collect dust on my shelves. The biggest problem was... Sabine's vocals. She can sing, that's not the issue. The sound of her voice makes me curl my toes, so does Liv Kristine's.

So now the third album is out: "Griefshire". This work - and the story behind it - was very dear to Sabine. The vocal tracks were barely recorded or the tragic event took place (see above). Since Sabine worked very hard on this concept, the rest of the band decided it would be best to release the material after all.

The tracks on Griefshire form part of a concept album that tells the story of two brothers, their religious fanaticism, their search for salvation, and their longing for eternal truth and love. This concept is reinforced graphically by the CDs artwork and musically by the use of classical arrangements in the form of strings, harps, and choirs.

"Griefshire" starts bombastically, with a song whose title needs no explaining. Choirs, heavy, fat riffs and pounding drums. A very good start, to be honest. This is my second time listening to the album and my impression is a little better. Sabine said in an interview some years ago that she's not really into Metal, that it's the other members who are responsible for the heavier aspect of the music. This is somewhat comparable with Tarja and NIGHTWISH. The result is that during e.g. "Die Stadt" you can hear this. If it wasn't for the crushing guitars, the song would do well as a popsong.

"Show Me The Way" cranks up the energy level again and is a faster midtempo song, with a nice chorus. In the middle of the song there's a nice and heavy break, which adds more aggressiveness. It could be the weather, but the first time I heard the album I was actually very negative. So far, everything is going really well and I'm enjoying the music.

"Brothers" takes a slower approach and has this great chunky riffs. The violins add more atmosphere and melody and make this song more complete. Next to Sabine's angelic voice a contrast is formed with additional grunts.

Eatern sounds draw you inside "Seit Dem Anbeginn Der Zeit", where again classical elements prevail. The song sounds very dark and depressing. Musically there are good moments, but now Sabine's voice does start to irritate me.

Aha, shake those legs and bang your head on the uptempo tunes of "Remember The Promise". A very nice song and Sabine's singing is again much better.

A very relaxing intro at first, but then things get more brutal (can one use this word for a Gothic band?) while the rising of the "Phoenix From The Ashes" occurs. This is another great song on "Griefshire". All melodies come from the classical elements, like in most of the songs, while the guitars garantee a solid backing.

Solo time for Sabine in "How Long", assisted by the piano and drums. The electric guitars are left aside, except for the solos. This ensures a better outcome of the vocals and to be honest, the result is quite good. Although again there's a certain popishness attached to this. I sense some SPICE GIRLS' influence. "Forgotten Love" is the other resting point, where Sabine is again in the spotlight, backed by the piano, violin and drums. This time the song is more appealing, in my opinion.

Back to business as usual with the entire line-up and thus a heavier pace again. Musically things sound very nice and you'd expect a rougher voice here, yet it's still Sabine and I can't help but think she's too soft this time. After the other ballad, "Forgotten Love", more brutality is coming your way with "The Burning". Grunts make their appearance again, together with more pounding drumming and the necessary heavy riffs. Not that Sabine does a bad job, but again a more powerful (read: rougher) voice would be more welcome. Around 1:50 and 2:50 there's a slower and melodically strange moment, which kind of destroys the natural flow of the song. All is well when it's to the point, other than that... no thanks.

The last song, "A New Decade", is another midtempo track and a typical ELIS song. Not bad, but not special either.

As conclusion it's clear that ELIS has made a very good album again and showed they moved to another level in terms of maturity. Musically there are very good songs and moments, especially for the heavier approaches. Sabine's voice fits in most of those songs, but there are still occasions where she's too light and the song tends to go for a poppier direction. Fans of the band will of course buy this. Gothic fans in general can also check this out as there's a lot for their taste.

More info at www.elis.li.

Line-up:
Sabine Dünser - vocals
Pete Streit - guitars
Christian Gruber - guitars
Tom Saxer - bass
Max Näscher - drums


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WETO – Das 2weite Ich (FAME Recordings 2006)

Weto - Das 2weite Ich
  1. Tief
  2. Phantasie
  3. Wieder Allein
  4. Das 2weite Ich
  5. Koma
  6. Flucht '06
  7. Ein Lächeln Lang
  8. Irrlicht
  9. Das Tier
  10. Wolfsherz
  11. In Unserer Mitte '06 (bonustrack)

WETO, a German rockband consisting of members from SCHANDMAUL and REGICIDE (also on FAME Recordings), has just (24/11) released its newest album, titled "Das 2weite Ich". Lyrically subjects like rape, murder, drugs and related are tackled on this album. It turned out to be a dramatic album where melody and hard rock come together. In the press text the band states that everything starts with the lyrics, after which appropriate music is composed to fit those lyrics. Not every song is new, as some date from the beginning period of the band.

Apparently the band has been alive since 1993 and first played rebellic Punkrock. Now there's nothing left from this Punk period. Musically there are times when comparisons with bands like RAMMSTEIN ("Das Tier"), SISTERS OF MERCY ("Flucht '06") and EVANESCENCE ("Koma") pop up, but that's only on certain moments, not entire songs.

The first song, "Tief", is slow and even a bit Gothic. Does it have to be said that all lyrics are in German? "Phantasie" cranks up the heaviness and has a darker atmosphere. Lots of drama and melancholy can be found in "Wieder Allein". Next to the few rocksongs with fat, groovy guitars, there are also - for the most part - songs where the piano is dominant and strange or not, those are the best.

Songs like "Das 2weite Ich", "Ein Lächeln Lang", "Irrlicht", "Das Tier" and "Wolfsherz" all have the piano/keyboards as the dominant instrument for the melody and atmosphere, with the guitars gently - so to speak - back things up. There the feelings and emotions are best expressed and everything sounds very smooth and has more depth. Contrary to the heavier songs where the guitars reign and the result is in my opinion not that super.

All in all you can not go wrong with this album and band... for now, at least, since you don't know what the next albums will be like. ;-) WETO brings very decent dark melodic rock and although it's all in German, this is never a problem. In addition, the pronunciation of the words is also very clear, so you know what Thomas sings.

Below you can read what the songs are about. Originally in German (by vocalist Thomas Lindner), translation by me:

"Das Zweite Ich": This is a horrorstory in the style of Stephen King. Someone's been murdered. Why? Does the killer change into a madman once a month or is he schizohrenic?

"Wieder Allein": A realistic relationship's history from the "Süddeutschen Zeitung", that shook me completely. A pregnant woman wants to divorce from her husband, who ultimately kills her and then himself.

"Phantasie": Cutting your wrists is the theme here. The protagonist is sitting in the bathtub and is considering suicide. In the end it stays with cuts. I've known someone close to me who's been in the same situation and that's how I got the idea for the song.

"Tief": Raping a woman. Since then she is a broken soul, that can't cope with this pain. Should this song prevent only one woman to be raped, then the song is a success.

"Koma": I try to imagine having an accident, consequently being deaf, dumb and blind. All I notice is time passing by. A horrifying and fearful thought.

"Flucht": First it was thought to be a love affair, but the real affaire revolves around heroin. We know the problem, since a friend of the band was a junky/addict.

"Ein Lächeln Lang": A ballad as a musical resting point. It's about a relationship, in which you pump so much time and energy there's no time left for other things. At this point one should pull the emergency brake, because the last sparks of energy should be for yourself.

"Irrlicht": Uninitiated/incompetent people can't help pathological depressed people. The song tells about people who were mistaken in themselves.

"Das Tier": In the discussion between head and stomach/gut there's this big question: what's better? It's about an escapade and enticement, although you're having a wonderful relationship. The animal in you won't find peace until it has tried this side-step.

"Wolfsherz": Based on the tale "Wolfsherz" by Wolfgang Hohlbein. In Croatia there's a tale about a myth that there are wolves who kidnap children. Hohlbein has updated the history, which makes his book a recommended read.

"In Unserer Mitte": A death scene. A friend of ours has tried to jump from one flat building onto another. He didn't make it and fell in the depth beneath him. On the balcony of one the flats his father saw it all happen... including the death of his son.

More info at www.wetomusic.de.

Line-up:
Thomas Lindner - vocals
Martin Duckstein - guitars
Matthias Richter - bass
Heiner Jaspers - keyboards
Stefan Brunner - drums


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SYCRONOMICA – Gate (Armageddon Music 2006)

Sycronomica - Gate
  1. Preludium II
  2. Beyond The Gate Of Life
  3. Für Die Ewigkeit
  4. In The Distance...
  5. Von Ende Und Anfang
  6. To The Rivers End
  7. Farewell Olden World
  8. Unleashed From Ancient Chains
  9. Nachtwanderung
  10. The Nightly Forces

SYCRONOMICA, a German melodic/symphonic Black Metalband has just (17/11) released its newest album, "Gate", via Armageddon Music. "Gate" is the follow-up to 2004's "Paths". It seems they thought well of choosing appropriate titles, as paths lead to gates and so it goes on.

Some biographical info: The band was founded back in 1996, and at that time the first members , Florian Winter and Christian Metz, focused their work on covering songs from bands like KATATONIA, SAMAEL, SATYRICON and DIMMU BORGIR. But after a short while, the band started to compose their own material which even then could be categorised as melodic Black Metal. SYCRONOMICA's first output was therefore the Demo-CD "Durch Das Geäst" which was released in 1998. Due to continuous problems with forming a proper line-up, the band just existed of three members and the drums had to be added by a drumcomputer. In autumn 1999, the band recruited Michael Bayer to handle real drums. Oliver Walther soon joined to occupy the vocalist position. But once again a change occured: When the third member of the old line up quit, the new vacant position for the bass-player was filled by Max Marquardt. The new line-up practised enough to record two new demos, which came out in 2000 and 2002. Two years later the time was right to enter the studio and record the debut album, "Paths". All this under the guidance of Seref Alexander Badir (THE HELIONS), Rene Berthiaume (EQUILIBRIUM) and Tommy Hermann (DARKSEED). Once the new album was released, a second guitarist by the name of Johannes Jüde joined the fold.

So now, album number two is available in the shops and shows that the six-piece has not been resting and actively working to improve their skills. "Gate" starts with an intro of which the title comes close to the one on the debut album: "Preludium II" in this case. You're entering a mysterious and creepy place. The tension is rising.... the dark riffs come flying towards you. Demonic vocals welcome you in this new world. Welcome "Beyond The Gate Of Life" (or is it Light?). Similarities with DIMMU BORGIR sure are correct. Chaos and darkness rule and blastbeats are added to further enforce this.

There are some questionable mistakes in the tracklisting: song no. 2 "Beyond The Gate Of Life" is on the band's website "Beyond The Gate Of Light", song no. 10 "The Nighly Forces" is in the press-release "The Nightly Forces". Now, which are the correct titles?

Violins playing a large role in the next track "Für Die Ewigkeit" ("For Eternity"), as well as more joyous piano-lines when the heavy guitars are silent. Harsh vocals throughout the entire song, while the growls are left aside. Tempo changes also have been implemented. The drums here are very variated, which is always good instead of a monotonous fixed pattern. The German lyrics sound quite good here and give the song that extra compared to English-sung lyrics.

Ah, a nice piece of classical music (violin + cello) here to start "In The Distance...", with some light backing choirs to add a darker touch. Then the guitars take over and further increase the depressing mood before the drums and keyboards again take a leading role and commence "Von Ende Und Anfgang", which comes into play in a brutal manner. Beware the beast. The end is near. "Von Ende Und Anfang" could do well for a horror movie. A minute and a half before the end there's a very nice instrumental part.

"To The Rivers End" could be one of those sad Gothic songs. No blasting here, but calmer drumming and groovier guitars. Further in the song there's a nice pianomoment like on COVENANT's "Nexus Polaris" album. Overall, a beautiful song.

But after this sad, slow moment, "Farewell Olden World" brings back the typical brutality with the hellish vocals. But it's not all blastbeats or anything along those lines. The band also implemented more melody and midtempo playing, as well as some welcome breaks.

An unleashed creature or force is neither peaceful nor calm, right? Then I guess you know what you'll get with "Unleashed From Ancient Chaines". But, among the storming blasts there's room for breaks and adjust the drumming to what's happening in the context of the story.

You play dark music and at night it's dark and if you don't know what to do but sleep, let's go for a walk then. That's "Nachtwanderung". I know and understand quite some German, but what Oliver hurls out of his throat is very hard to understand. The song is again calmer, more sad and not as good as "To The Rivers End". In fact, boredom starts to pop up. Now, where did I put DRAGONFORCE's "Inhuman Rampage" album?

Last song for today then: "The Nighly Forces" (or is it Nightly?). Same as usual, but more slow midtempo. Shagrath-like vocals, occasional tempo increase, dramatic symphonics in the back. You know the drill.

When first hearing SYCRONOMICA's newest release, I was quite enthusiastic, but upon multiple listenings it gets clear that the band still has things to work on, although overall the album is pretty decent. The music should appeal to fans of bands like DIMMU BORGIR, SATYRICON and others in this genre. So all you Symphonic Black Metal fans, here's something new to keep an eye on.

More info at www.sycronomica.de.

Line-up:
Oliver Walther - vocals
Christian Metz - guitars
Johannes Jüde - guitars
Florian Winter - keyboards
Maximilian Marquardt - bass
Michael Bayer - drums


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SUIDAKRA – Caledonia (Armageddon Music 2006)

Suidakra - Caledonia
  1. Highland Hills
  2. A Blackened Shield
  3. The Ember Deid (Part II)
  4. Evoke The Demon
  5. Forth-Clyde
  6. Ramble
  7. Dawning Tempest
  8. The Distant Call
  9. On Torrid Sand
  10. The IXth Legion
  11. Farewell

Germany's Folkish Death/Black Metalband SUIDAKRA has returned quite rapidly with a new studio album, after last year's "Command To Charge". Titled "Caledonia", it's available since last week (17/11). That's the third album that Armageddon Music released that day, next to CONTRADICTION and SYCRONOMICA.

I've only heard "Lupine Essence" (1997), "The Arcanum" (2000) and "Command To Charge" (2005) so far. "Lupine Essence" sounded very rough, being more death/black with the vocals still being raw, but mostly sharp. The Folkish atmosphere was present, but the emphasis was put on the Metal aspect. "The Arcanum", which came out three years later, came with an increase of heaviness, as it was better produced, by no one less than Andy Classen, with whom SUIDAKRA worked for four albums. The main themes were Celtic mythology and the individual power of imagination. For the first time in the band's history, they recorded a cover song: SKYCLAD's "The One Piece Puzzle". The result is absolutely wonderful. After the release of "The Arcanum", Marcel announced his departure from the band, reducing his activities to a mere consultant role in writing the lyrics and taking part in the songwriting. The vocals of Arkadius also had improved greatly in terms of roughness, edging more towards growling. Keyboards were added for the melodies and atmosphere. Of course, for the sake of variety and also context, the use of accoustic guitars was not be forgotten. When hearing it again, I have to say that the new album, "Caledonia", does have similarities with "The Arcanum". For "Command To Charge", the band kind of left the Folk behind for a large part in favour of a more brutal approach, although the bagpipes were kept. The increase in heaviness and the better production were also thanks to PERZONAL WAR drummer Martin Buchwalter, who also handled the buttons for "Caledonia" and recently SQUEALER A.D.'s "Confrontation Street".

In September 2005 long time former band member Marcel Schoenen rejoined the band after a number of years. Marcel, being mainly responsible for the lyrics and clean vocals, brought back much of the folk influence heard on the previous albums that are an integral part of the SUIDAKRA sound. So the line-up of "Emprise To Avalon" (2002) and "Signs for the Fallen" (2003) is complete again, despite the changes over the years since Marcel left. This also means that the band is making music again like before, with the usual ingredients of melodic Death Metal, Folk, great harmonies, dual vocals (rough and clean) and not to forget a good dose of catchiness, so that they once again stand apart from the rest of the pack.

"Caledonia" is about the fierce ancient Scottish highlands and more specifically the mystical side of the tribe of the Picts (the natives of ancient Scotland), their war against the attacking Roman Empire and the co-existence of two completely different worlds. The story's main focus is the spiritual and cultural aspects when these two worlds collide. Of course the bagpipes were not forgotten, especially not in this context.

Well-known Belgian artist Kris Verwimp (ARCH ENEMY, IMMORTAL, THYRFING, etc.) once again managed to suitably capture the essence of the storyline with an amazing artwork design.

It all starts with a hymnic intro of "Highland Hills", before heaviness kicks in. Lots of double bass with some blastbeats is used to indicate things weren't very peaceful. The singing is divided between the rough vocals, a more cleaner and hymnic touch and calmer moments where tension is steadily increasing before again throwing oneself into battle. At 5:15 there's a very catchy and beautiful instrumental part which you could play over and over again without it ever becoming annoying. "Highland Hills" is the longest track with 8 minutes, but there's so much to hear and discover it remains interesting for the entire playtime.

With "A Blackened Shield", things start ferociously. The hoarse throat of Arkadius is perfect to express the rage and anger, while Marcel counters it with a more melodic sound. Like on the previous albums, there's also an accoustic/medieval song: "The Ember Deid (Part II)". A very beautiful song by the way, yet with a sad undertone. But things improve/get back to normal soon again with "Evoke The Demon". Hymnic singing to start with, backed by heavy, pounding backing, after which the entire band continues the full-on way. Marcel gets a dominant role, while Arkadius can concentrate on his guitar.

Aha, here's the first of the two songs of which a video was shot: "Forth-Clyde". A very heavy and destructive song. Most important elements, besides the riffs: Arkadius growling even more aggressive than before and Lars giving his all on the drums. Again, for the more calmer moments it's Marcel who provides the hymnic singing. A first class song, which clearly shows how underestimated SUIDAKRA is.

The next resting point comes with "Ramble", an instrumental, accoustic song. One of those songs that will always satisfy the listener and fits every occasion, especially when you're in need of a peaceful moment.

Winds announcing a bad time, evil is in the air... and then breaks loose in a "Dawning Tempest". Heavy, killer riffs with a earth-shaking rhythm section. Uptempo playing, taking back some speed to put more emphasis on the vocals and adding melody through the bagpipes. Or even letting the bass guitar come through for a short while. The dynamic drumming also helps create an imaginary picture of the battle. Now, if only there was a film based on this album.

Seawaves carry "The Distant Call", which features a combo of accoustic and electric guitars, with the latter providing the melody. Marcel is again in charge of the vocal department. With 3:33 it's another short song, while the electric ones are always longer. Is it easier that way, or would a longer accoustic song become somewhat boring? Neveretheless, it's good music and I don't have any complaints.

"On Torrid Sand" cranks up the heaviness level and Arkadius takes over again on vocals, except for the chorus where he's assisted by Marcel. Keyboards come into play with symphonic backing, creating a emotional atmosphere. Lars adds some blasting for the last part of the song to describe whatever rough event is occuring in the story.

More blasting can be heard in one of the roughest songs on "Caledonia": "The IXth Legion". This is also the second song for which a video was shot. Both videos are of course available at the band's website. The bagpipes fit in very very well and also lift this song a couple of levels higher. Dual vocals offer a nice contrast with Arkadius' throat not showing any sign of usage.

"Farewell" ends the story in an instrumental way, again accoustic guitars instead of their electric variants. While it has a running time of 1:13, the music stops after 0:50. Maybe this was done deliberately to make you come back to reality after the fierce battling, but other than that I find it quite odd.

With now eight studio albums up their sleeves and still being underestimated, "Caledonia" should give their popularity and career a serious boost. Fans of the band will be glad with the reunited line-up and more Folk influence again, plus Marcel's clean vocals that are responsable for it. If you didn't know the band before, now's the time to act. Any fan of melodic Death/Black with a Folkish sauce simply must check out this or SUIDAKRA's older albums. The band has again delivered a great record with a lots of songs that will provide a very nice setting on stage.

More info at www.suidakra.com.

Line-up:
Arkadius - aggressive vocals, guitars, keyboards
Marcel - clean vocals, guitars
Marcus - bass
Lars - drums


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CRUACHAN – The Morrigan's Call (AFM Records 2006)

Cruachan - The Morrigan's Call
  1. Shelob
  2. The Brown Bull Of Cooley
  3. Coffin Ships
  4. The Great Hunger
  5. The Old Woman In The Woods
  6. Ungoliant
  7. The Morrigan's Call
  8. Téir Abhaile Riü
  9. Wolfe Tone
  10. The Very Wild Rover
  11. Cuchulainn
  12. Diarmuid And Grainne

Ireland's Folk Metalband CRUACHAN have been around since 1992, rising from the ashes of MINAS TIRITH. In 1995 "Tuatha Na Gael" was released. A very rough Black Metal album with already some Folk influences present, like the flute, violin, etc... Vocals were very rough and that even gave the songs a Viking/Black Metal-ish flavour. I don't know what "The Middle Kingdom" sounded like, but my guess is that things improved on many (?) levels. The band's third album, "Folk-Lore" (2001), sounded of course even better than when the band started. It's even more Folk than in the beginning, the band has progressed a lot. Karen's voice sounds very mature and fits the music quite well. 2004's "Pagan" showed an even bigger evolution, with a better production and more power.

2006 (17/11) is the year of CRUACHAN's fourth full album, "The Morrigan's Call". Normally the band was to release this album via the Greek label Black Lotus Records, but considering the demise of this label it's a good thing AFM Records were kind enough to sign CRUACHAN and so the work was not for nothing.

Again the dual vocals are present and production has again matured, with more polishing here and there. Uptempo rules in the first two songs, but although musically things are quite nice, it's the vocals department that seems to obstruct the fluid stream of music. More specifically Karen's voice annoys me the most: it sounds too severe, while a more melodic, softer voice would be more compatible with the music.

But like before, it's not all riffs and humpa-playing. "Coffin Ships" and "The Morrigan's Call" offer resting points where the focus lies on ocean waves, the flute or some accoustic playing with dual vocals. "Ungoliant" then seems to have some frictions between the violin and the clavecimble keyboards. When both are played at the same time, it just doesn't sound good.

Like TÝR, CRUACHAN also decided to cover "The Wild Rover", but added some speed and called it "The Very Wild Rover". The result is - to be honest - not that good. It lacks spontanity, it's sounds too forced.

"Cuchulainn" is the most rocking song of the bunch and here Karen shows her voice is fit for a more Hardrock-ish approach. During the other songs, like I said, it tends to annoy more, especially when she tries to hit the higher tones or open her entire throat.

It's pretty obvious that fans of the band will surely like this album, as it sounds quite impeccable. If you like Folk Metal, then I guess you'll also find something interesting in what CRUACHAN plays. For me it's an ok record... musically.

More info at www.cruachan.cjb.net.

Line-up:
Karen Gilligan - vocals
Keith Fay - vocals, guitars, keyboards, bouzouki, mandolin, banjo
John Clohessy - bass, aldrotube
John Ryan - fiddle, violin, mandocello, bowed bass, banjo, grunts on "Shelob"
Joe Farrell - drums, percussion


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CONTRADICTION – The Warchitect (Armageddon Music 2006)

Contradiction - The Warchitect
  1. Your God
  2. The Warchitect
  3. The End Of All Things To Come
  4. Thunderstorm
  5. Shadowsoul
  6. Tunes Of War
  7. The Heritage
  8. Thrash Metal
  9. Peacemaker
  10. Godsend
  11. What Am I
  12. Rock 'N' Roll

Woha! Look out for this ferocious record. Thrash to the bone. German Thrashers CONTRADICTION will release their newest album soon (17/11) under the all-explaining title "The Warchitect". The cover as well indicates what to expect.

This is another new band for me and apparently the previous release, "The Voice Of Hatred", was killer. "The Warchitect" then certainly continues the same path.

It starts directly with the punch-in-the-face "Your God". Oliver's rough vocals are very fitting, very angry and show you better not mess with him, although he's probably a nice guy, hahaha. The titletrack is next and although the speed is a little less, this is still kick-in-the-teeth Thrash. The great production also makes the ferocity come out very strong.

The uptempo verses in "The End Of All Things To Come" are in the same vain as (old) EXODUS, while the chorus is played a lot slower. A bit sad (or is it?) is that you hear the German accent, but it's no big deal. The solos here, although maybe not conventional, add a touch of emotion to be inline with the title.

Speaking of emotional moments, be surprised by the intro of "Thunderstorm". The calm before the storm, you could say, which commences a minute later. No real uptempo here, more midtempo, but therefore not less brutal. In the chorus you could make a comparison with KREATOR's last opus "Enemy Of God". The song ends like it started. A nice way for completion.

After the absence of speed (for a large part) in the previous two songs, CONTRADICTION have refound the acceleration pedal and are ready to strike again, although midtempo dominates. These are the kind of songs that cheer you up and should destroy the place when played live. Oliver has this kind of determination and voice comparable to Gus Chambers from SQUEALER A.D. and previously in GRIP INC.

And the wild ride continues again, like with "Your God", but now it's under the title "Tunes Of War". When Oliver roars out the chorus, either he's too loud or some effects were applied as you hear some noise (cracking sounds). Musically everything is very well executed. This is definitely not for the weak-minded.

While you might not have noticed in the previous songs, this time - "The Heritage" - the bass guitar is put more forward in the mix. Again, midtempo here, yet quite epic as well. Not bad, and it's more thanks to the rhythm guitar and drums that the song deserves credit. The guitarsolos could have been better as they sound a bit simplistic.

Up next is - cheesy or not - a homage to the great Metalgenre called Thrash Metal. Logically the song bares the same title. Of course, the typical elements are present, including speed and brutality. Awesome!

For "Peacemaker" you don't have to expect neck-breaking speeds or riffs, as this is a rather 'calm' song, also where the bass guitar is prominent, especially in the verses. The chorus is very melodic and actually quite a contrast compared with the previous, vicious compositions. The only real 'danger' in this song is vocalist/guitarist Oliver with his rough throat. Overall, not a bad song, but nothing special either. It could however be more attractive on stage.

Back to business as usual with "Godsend". The intro is fast, what follows does have a little less speed and especially the bridge and chorus are again played in midtempo, with the singing in a cleaner manner. Overall the songs is an improvement after "Peacemaker", which could be in a way considered a resting point. Great highlight is the solo-moment, with a temporary outbreak of the drums, and the ending.

Haven't heard enough yet? Still got energy left? It does seem like the guys have sort of ran out of it with "What Am I", since again midtempo and even slower prevails, yet the heaviness remains in place. But this song should also do well on stage. Oh wait, there's the wanted tempo increase - around the third minute -, although for a short while. Then the rather boring chorus comes back. Musically all is well, of course.

I don't know if the last song is a cover, but it does seem like it. Originally by MOTÖRHEAD, I guess. And although CONTRADICTION's interpretation is not bad, they're better with their own music.

With "The Warchitect", CONTRADICTION have secured a place on the Thrash map and this should give them more recognition and fame. Any Thrash fan should not avoid this band and album. Concerning very good Thrash records this year, you can edit your list and add "The Warchitect".

More info at www.contradiction.de.

Line-up:
Oliver Lux - vocals, guitars
Oliver Kämper - guitars
Karsten Heyn - bass
Tim Obernyer - drums


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BLACK MESSIAH – Of Myths And Legends (AFM Records 2006)

Black Messiah - Of Myths And Legends
  1. In Remembrance
  2. Of Myths And Legends
  3. Irminsul
  4. Father Of War
  5. Sauflied
  6. Howl Of The Wolves
  7. Erik, Der Rote
  8. Loki's Tanz
  9. Die Sühne Des Feuerbringers
  10. Moskau
  11. The Bestial Hunt Of The Fenrizwolf

BLACK MESSIAH will release its second album, "Of Myths And Legends", on the 17th November via AFM Records. While "The Oath Of A Warrior" had a strong focus on Black Metal itself, this time the choice for a more Folk/Pagan orientated approach was applied.

It starts with the instrumental "In Remembrance", which comes out very good. The titletrack is of course true to the Black Metal of BLACK MESSIAH and features the typical blastbeats, together with more folkish elements and classical influences. The vocals are - how else could it be? - of the raw kind, but fit in very very well and make the music more acceptable.

The most important instrument that helps to give the songs a more folkloric appeal is of course the violin and the first song where it plays a major role is "Irminsul", which is a more epic kind of song. BLACK MESSIAH is a German band, so naturally some lyrics are in the native language.

"Father Of War" is a title that already tells what kind of music to expect: bombast in the intro, but then the expected blast does not follow. Instead you get a slow song with an occasional tempo increase, but it goes maximum to midtempo. A nice addition is the Buzuki guitar, a typical Greek accoustic guitar. That is, IF they used it. It seems that for the theme of the song the band searched for inspiration on the albums of Faroese colleagues TYR, who named themselves after that god. So yes, the song is about the wargod Týr.

The violin makes another appearance in "Sauflied" ("The Booze Song"), and is accompanied by the flute. Again sung in German, this song is similar to what TANKARD and KORPIKLAANI have released in the (recent) past. So, in short it suffices to say this is a very appropriate party song. ;-)

Going for the Black Metal option again with "Howl Of The Wolves", where the tempo is set high and symphonic elements provide the melody and bombast. This is one of the best songs on the album. Not that the previous ones were less good, on the contrary, because BLACK MESSIAH has done a very good job so far.

And then, again copying from TYR (just kidding ;-)): here's "Eric The Red" or "Erik, Der Rote", once again telling the tale in the native - German here - language. The drums kick off this song in grand style before pushing the pedal to the floor. Symphonic elements play an important role again for the melody, while the guitars add the brutal parts.

With "Loki's Tanz" you could indeed ask your partner/girlfriend to join forces and bring this dance to life. It's instrumental, folkish and the violin is the most important instrument.

After this peaceful break it's time to choose a more vicious song again and this time "Die Sühne Des Feuerbringers" is chosen for this. The violin and guitars share the solotime and all is played extremely well and flawless.

"Moskau" has some similarities in the verses (before the tempo increase) with American Powermetallers VIRGIN STEELE. The chorus is more uptempo and overall you could say the atmosphere is a lot like "Sauflied".

The journey through various myths and legends is ended with "The Bestial Hunt Of The Fenrizwolf", where the vicious Black Metal reigns again, which took a while because for this album the band chose to add more Folk/Pagan stuff. Is this a sign of things to come? More Folk for the future?

BLACK MESSIAH's new album, although a concept one, is a great release with lots of variation and very nice to see how they tackled these myths and legends. I don't know what else to add, but the usual recommendations. Black Metal with more Folk-elements, something different compared to the many pure Black Metal and overcrowded subgenre of Symphonic Black Metal.

More info at www.blackmessiah.de.

Line-up:
Zagan - vocals, guitars, violin
Zoran - guitars
Meldric - guitars
Hrym - keyboards
Garm - bass
Surthur - drums


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BEREAVED – The Spirit Driven By Hate (Konklav Records 2006)

Bereaved - The Spirit Driven By Hate
  1. Apparition
  2. Eruption Of Violence
  3. Spectral Visitation
  4. Our Time Apart
  5. Unquenchable Thirst
  6. Redemption Of Pain
  7. Your Agony's Birth
  8. Captive Body, Captive Soul
  9. The Storm Master
  10. Wake With The Moon
  11. Enigma Of The Crone

BEREAVED hails from Japan and plays a mix of Thrash and Death Metal, but in a very brutal way. As they tend to put it on their website: "BEREAVED promises that you will be upset, disturbed, disgusted and completely hooked by new one. Forget what you know. The shit hits the fans all over the world!!!" I'll get back at that later.

The band was founded in 1997 and has released three works so far: "Reclaim" (2001, demo), "What The Wolf Brings" (2004, EP) and now their debut album, available since the 15th of November, "The Spirit Driven By Hate". It's thank to the deal with the French label Deadsun Records that BEREAVED will get some international promotion.

"Apparition" starts the album and is like you're dwelling in a dark place, surrounded by demons awaiting to feast on your soul. Brutality and sharp-edged riffs come in with "Eruption Of Violence", which actually describes it very well. Blastbeats, screamy/harsh vocals, all played in a Thrashy style.

About the vocals: that's the main 'problem' with BEREAVED and perhaps with any other extreme Japanese Metalband. It's like Tetsu is in extreme agony and it's very difficult to understand even one word of what he screams. The sound of his voice is also not as 'attractive' as e.g. the European and American growlers/screamers. It must be a throat thing. You know, the shape, the thickness, the vocal chords and whatever more that takes care of the different sounds one can produce.

Musically things are allright to very nice.... in moments. Uptempo is key, be it in typical Thrash style, or a more groovy kind of playing. Keyboards would however do most of the songs a lot of good, whereas now it is all about riffs. The guitar solos are nothing spectacular. It's good to have them, but on that level there is still room for much improvement.

No need to further elaborate on things, as I come back to the quote from the beginning: "BEREAVED promises that you will be upset, disturbed, disgusted and completely hooked by new one. Forget what you know. The shit hits the fans all over the world!!!".

* Upset? Well, the songs sound so monotonous after a while you could get upset when you're forced to listen to them and not be able to pop in something else in the stereo.
* Disturbed? Yes, mainly because of the vocals. For me, this is just screaming into the mic, like he doesn't know what he's doing.
* Disgusted? Yes, again the vocals are responsible for that. They even remind me of some Metalcore bands.
* Hooked? Just a bit, as there are some cool riffs and drumming here and there.

Overall, this is - like they say - a brutal beast, very brutal.... from start to finish. Now while I like a lot of Death Metal and Thrash Metal and a mix of both, variety is also a good thing. Here it's not really present, despite the good moments. Also, like I said above: keyboards would do the songs much good. Just some short interventions, not as the dominating instrument. But is "The Spirit Driven By Hate" a good record? Yes, but there is still much work to be done on all levels.

More info at www.bereaved.jp.

Line-up:
Tetsu Haramura - vocals
Ken Kubo - guitars
Nori 'Tahke' Takenaka - guitars
Bill Jokela - bass
Leo Wakiya - drums


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OUTWORLD – Outworld (Replica Records 2006)

Outworld - Outworld
  1. Raise Hell
  2. Riders
  3. War Cry
  4. Outworld
  5. City Of The Dead
  6. The Never
  7. Prelude To Madness
  8. Grey Tide
  9. I, Thanatos

OUTWORLD hails from Houston, Texas in the US of A and on a musical level they can be put in the category of Progressive Powermetal, with influences ranging from neoclassical and progressive metal heroes such as SYMPHONY X and DREAM THEATER, to more modern bands like PANTERA and MESHUGGAH. The band was founded by guitarist Rusty Cooley and former drummer Darren Davis. Soon afterwards keyboardist Bobby Williamson joined them. Vocalist Kelly Sundown Carpenter (ex-BEYOND TWILIGHT) was an old-time friend of Rusty and having him behind the mic seemed logical.

In the spring of 2004 Outworld concluded their search for the ultimate line-up, as they integrated bassist Shawn Kascak (ex-CAULDRON BORN). The line-up on the album is different than the one that's active now: Kelly's constant changing of band made OUTWORLD look for a full-time vocalist, known by the name of Carlos Zema (ex-HEAVENS GUARDIAN/VOUGAN). The drums were recorded by Mike Lewis, but it was known that this would be a short collaboration, thus Matt McKenna was asked to join as definite drummer. With the new line-up the band has already started working on their second album and touring should happen in spring 2007.

But let's go back to the album. Released in Europe by the French label Replica Records on the 13th of November. "Raise Hell" sets the brutal tone of the multi-layered guitar parts and vicious drums. Kelly's screams also add to the savage atmosphere. Keyboards form a breaking element among the riffs by adding more melody.

"Riders" continues in a more melodic manner and a series of arpeggios makes this song very interesting and attractive. Kelly leaves his screams for what they are and sings instead. The tempo changes help in adding variation. The brutal grooves take a more dominant position in "War Cry" and little by little the songs advances, starting with a slow first part and then really taking off. Less singing again, more screams take up their place again in the vocal department. This could annoy after a while, though. Luckily the chorus is more melodic and Kelly has no other choice but to sing. Screaming would not have suited here. So far, this is not for people who like a more lighter variant of Powermetal. The solos as well are very well executed and there's no doubt about Rusty's capabilities.

It can't all be heavy, to-the-bone riffing, right? The start of "Outworld" does sound promising. Alas, around the 50th second, the illusion is over and heaviness kicks in with the usual screaming and rougher singing. Tempo changes here as well, but never really advancing like the previous songs. One interesting moment is around the third minute with a jazzy kind of playing and mainly the bass guitar being the center of attention.

Atmospheric keyboard sounds introduce "City Of The Dead". Rusty's riffs take over soon and so it goes on with Bobby trying to push through with his keys. No need to say how the vocals sound, right? ;-) Kelly is also trying his best to express the agony and whatever more that's going on. Drumwise lots of change. So far all is going well to very well. OUTWORLD sure are a nice addition to the scene.

Mysterious start for "The Never", slowly building up the tension. Drums come in at specific times and after a minute hell breaks loose, although not in a wild manner. Kelly singing "City Of The Dead" makes me wonder if the tracklisting has undergone alterations or not, since that was the previous song. Midtempo is key here with - and this seems to be a characteristic of the band's music - lots of room for instrumental parts. With the spoken parts is seems the band has listened carefully to Norwegian colleagues PAGAN'S MIND.

Time for some non-vocals moment: "Prelude To Madness". Piano and guitar only, with the first forming the basis and the latter soloing away and thus expressing the right emotions and mental state before madness sets in.

The madness comes in a brutal way, like before. "Grey Tide" has uptempo on specific occasions. The drums here sure are variable: from midtempo with a slight speed increase to more dancy. This song is the longest on the album, clocking in after a good 9 minutes, so you better listen a couple of times to grasp it all. "I, Thanatos" doesn't help either, with its playtime of almost 9 minutes. Here the low notes of the keyboards/piano play a important, dark role. Otherwise the keys are used for atmospheric backing. Kelly's screams again fit in, but after the many other songs this starts to annoy.

One thing is sure: OUTWORLD is one brutal Progressive beast, eh, band. And their debut sure is a very neat record, to say the least. The only negative aspects I can think of are: Kelly's screams that annoy after a while and perhaps the playtime of the songs. But the material sure deserves multiple listenings to hear it all. With a running time of almost 60 minutes with just 9 songs, you get a lot of music for your money. Any fan of Progressive Powermetal has no reason not to check out OUTWORLD.

More info at www.outworldband.com.

Line-up:
Carlos Zuma - vocals
Rusty Cooley - guitars
Bobby Williamson - keyboards
Shawn Kascak - bass
Matt McKenna - drums


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ZANDELLE – Vengeance Rising (Limb Music Products 2006)

Zandelle - Vengeance Rising
  1. Blood Red Shores
  2. Dragon's Hoard
  3. Invitation
  4. Queen Anne's Revenge
  5. The Final Hour
  6. The Beowulf Trilogy
    I. Awakening
  7. II. Vengeance Rising
  8. III. Ancient Tale Of Valor
  9. Cry For Vengeance
  10. Prophecy
  11. Necromancer

ZANDELLE is an American Power/Speed Metal band who plays a mixture of US and Euro Powermetal with references to HAMMERFALL, IRON MAIDEN, and others, with an '80s touch. "Vengeance Rising" is the title of their second album that's coming out on LMP on the 10th November. Prior to this they released "Twilight On Humanity" in 2002, when LMP released other great albums too (RHAPSODY, LUCA TURILLI, PAGAN'S MIND, ...). So now ZANDELLE is back and have improved their skills a lot.

Vocals are clean and high-pitched, which in short means: you like 'em or you don't. But if you do some effort, you'll learn to appreciate them and see that they also are part of ZANDELLE's sound.

Musically it's speed all the way, at least for the largest part. The riffs sometimes remind of Jon Schaffer's (ICED EARTH). "Vengeance Rising" kicks off with the mid- to uptempo "Blood Red Shores" where the guitarsolos are reminiscent of IRON MAIDEN. The tempo gets an increase in "Dragon's Hoard", which could be another ZANDELLE hymn. Here as well - and in lots of other songs - there was much attention given to solos. Needless to say this is all very welcome and obviously well-executed.

In "Invitation" there's no heaviness, just (mainly) George singing multiple lyrics which are layered. You know, he starts with one text, then another text is sung and is played when the first gets repeated again and again and so it goes on. No real speed when "Queen Anne's Revenge" is on and this is also a less good song. Problem here is mainly the playtime, being perhaps too long to hold the attention. The guitarsolos are a welcome element, together with the uptempo drums.

And yes, since speed is a key characteristic of ZANDELLE, it's no surprise that "The Final Hour" sounds like it's supposed to. Simply put, this is a great song and pure kick-ass Heavy/Power Metal.

To add something different to the usual stack of speedy songs, why not go for a trilogy? Entitled "The Beowulf Trilogy", this comprises "Awakening" - a calm song with gentle snare-picking and George in announcing-style. The drums set in a little later. Musically you could think of ICED EARTH when Matt Barlow was the vocalist) -, the titletrack "Vengeance Rising" - of course uptempo, and probalby the fastest song on the album - and last but not least "Ancient Tale Of Valor", which takes an epic start and tempo get slowly built up until the normal pace of playing is established. Drums are very varied and playful and certainly not the standard pattern. Lots of room for instrumental moments as well, which can be long, but that's never a problem or annoyance. ZANDELLE know how to deal with it and they do it in a splendid manner.

Most important highlight in the typical ZANDELLE-ish "Cry For Vengeance" is the use of demonic vocals in the chorus. But the band also put a lot of music into this song, making it more attractive by adding hooks and breaks where applicable. These guys can't do anything wrong with their music. Tempo changes (and not just one or two) and also much instrumental time keep you focused and energized during the 5 minutes of "Prophecy".

"Vengeance Rising" ends in style with a song called "Necromancer" which reminds of old EDGUY, "Theater Of Salvation" era.

ZANDELLE is one of the many US underground Powermetal bands and one of those rare gems that really deserve as much support as possible. ZANDELLE = Metal for the love of Metal. Music played from the heart, not lead by trends or anything similar. Pure Heavy/Powermetal that makes you long for one of their gigs. A band to keep an eye on and hope they will continue doing this for a long time to come.

More info at www.zandelle.net.

Line-up:
George Tsalakis - vocals
Anthony Maglio - guitars
Joe Hartoularos - bass
Jofu Cardillo - drums


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CRYSTAL EYES – Dead City Dreaming (Heavy Fidelity 2006)

Crystal Eyes - Dead City Dreaming
  1. Dead City Dreaming
  2. Into The Light
  3. The Narrow Mind
  4. Wall Of Stars
  5. Battlefield
  6. The Quest Remains
  7. Dawn Dancer
  8. Roads Of Loneliness
  9. Temple Of Immortal Shame
  10. The Halls Of Valhalla

The Swedish Melodic (Power) Metalband CRYSTAL EYES have worked hard on the follow-up of 2005's "Confessions Of The Maker". And since the beginning of November, the 3rd to be precise, the album is available for sale and is titled "Dead City Dreaming". The title and artwork are based on H.P. Lovecraft's "The Call Of Chtulhu".

The biggest changes concern the line-up and producer. In the first case, Daniel Heiman left the band and after many singers applied for the vacant position of vocalist, it was clear that Nico Adamsen had the most fitting voice. In the second case they apparently had a large enough budget to hire Fredrik Nordström to give the songs the necessary powerboost. And it helped, a lot even. Of course, the sound is comparable with DREAM EVIL, (old) HAMMERFALL and other bands where Fredrik had a hand in. So it's a big difference with the sound of "Confessions Of The Maker" which sounded more like Swedish colleagues NOSTRADAMEUS.

The album starts with the midtempo and somewhat hymnic titletrack and instantly shows what potential the new vocalist has and what extra power the songs have been given. The next two songs are played at the next level and add some speed as well, next to more bite, if you know what I mean. The guitarsolos as well show a progression.

There are of course also some calmer moments (not songs, just portions of songs), like "Wall Of Stars" - an accoustic intro followed by electric playing for the rest of the song - and "Dawn Dancer", which also has and accoustic portion in the intro, recurring further in the song, while the rest is electric and even contains more aggressiveness than the other songs. If you can use that term here, considering they play a light kind of Powermetal, like FREEDOM CALL for example.

Uptempo highlights are "Battlefield", "Dawn Dancer" and "Roads Of Loneliness".

It's strange to see a title like "The Halls Of Valhalla" with a band like CRYSTAL EYES. If it were TÝR, AMON AMARTH or MANOWAR, then I'd agree more. But perhaps it's part of the story of the album.

All in all it's safe to say that CRYSTAL EYES have made a very good record. Perhaps a bit light compared to other bands, but the result is qualitative melodic powermetal which deserves good remarks and dito support. Fans of the band need not worry, Powermetal fans in general have an extra album to add to their collection.

More info at www.crystaleyes.net.

Line-up:
Nico Adamsen - vocals
Mikael Dahl - guitars
Niclas Karlsson - guitars
Claes Wikander - bass
Stefan Svantesson - drums


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KROSSBREED – Enjoy The Rage (Krossbreed 2006)

Krossbreed - Enjoy The Rage
  1. Again
  2. Down To The Core
  3. True Identity
  4. Come Closer
  5. Bloodline

"Enjoy The Rage" is KROSSBREED second demo, after "Down To The Core" (2005). The band itself was formed back in 2003, but since then the line-up has undergone a few changes: drummer Tom replaced Evelyn and Stef replaced Warre on bass, after previously playing the guitar. That way, the other guitar position could be filled by Hendrik. The band first started playing covers of METALLICA and SEPULTURA before choosing to go their own way.

"Down To The Core" was the first result and was to be catalogued under Metalcore. Not really my kind of genre, though. It did seem to get positive reviews, so that gave the band new inspiration and energy to go and work on a second demo, titled "Enjoy The Rage". The rage would be unleashed on the 31st October. I got my copy around April-May of 2007.

On this second demo you'll find five songs, incl. a spoken intro in "Again" about rage, what rage is, etc.. of course with effects on the voice. To be honest, this intro is a bit laughable. Nothing personal, though. Then heaviness kicks in. Musically it's between Thrash and Hardcore and in a way it reminds of MACHINE HEAD, although there are still enough differences. Michel sounds very angry, the lyrics aren't exactly happy flower-power, but fit in perfectly with the theme 'Rage'. The guitars dominate and Tom is doing his best to get through that thick wall. This is howaver a good song to headbang too, if you feel like it. Somewhere over halfway there's a nice break for the soloing, before the raging continues.

"Down To The Core" starts with screaming guitars. The drums soon set in and overall there's a nice rocking feel about this song. The chorus is quite simple and "Down To The Core" is one of those lines the public can cheer. Not a bad song, but it's particularly the drums that make it somewhat interesting. I guess this is sort of a no-brainer, right?

"True Identity" starts peaceful and gently, again referring to MACHINE HEAD in a way. Michel's light growling (it's not Death Metal growling) is present everywhere. Are the songs autobiographical? He seems to have gone - or still going - through lots of agony. The amount of rage in the songs is really unbelievable. The tempo increase after the third minute is a nice change and avoids the song to become monotonous.

KROSSBREED made a video for "Come Closer", so the band put this on the demo as well. Rolling bass drums and crushing riffing are key here. Comparisons? Especially SEPULTURA and SOULFLY. This is perhaps the best song on the demo.

"Bloodline" is the last song and in the first part, when the band is buidling up the pattern, you can hear that Tom has some small difficulties with the change of snare to cymbals. But after that he even tries some blastbeats. The guitarwall still is there and so is Michel's vicious throat. You don't wanna mess with him.

All in all, the band can be proud of "Enjoy The Rage". Not every song is hit for me, but the result is in general alright and should form a good basis for future works. KROSSBREED also won the Metal Battle 2007, which means they play at one of the biggest Metal festivals in Europe: Wacken Open Air. If you have the chance and time to see them, go and give them some support. If not, but still want to enjoy their music, get in touch with Michel via the band's website.

More info at www.krossbreed.be.

Line-up:
Michel Vermoens - vocals, guitars
Hendrik - guitars
Stef - bass
Tom - drums


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HYDROGYN – Bombshell (DA Records 2006)

Hydrogyn - Bombshell
  1. Vesper's Song
  2. Blind
  3. Look Away S.P.
  4. Breaking Me Down
  5. I've Been Waiting
  6. Confession
  7. Love Spoke
  8. Back In Black (AC/DC cover)
  9. The Sand
  10. Whisper
  11. Circle
  12. Book Of Names
  13. Come Back To Me
  14. Mutilated Mind

HYDROGYN is a new Hardrock band from the States and fronted by female vocalist Julie. Judging by the cover, I think you can tell in which business she's active. ;-) Unless that's just an image thing. Anyhow, the band was formed in 2004 by guitarists Jeff Boggs and Jeff Westlake (is it a coincidence that they both have the same first name?). According to the biographical info, Julie has a multi-octave range. Hm... let's see about that.

I only received the CD and a card, so looking up the required info about the band was kinda hard, since the band's website doesn't offer that much, their MySpace page a little more. Is it logical that one has to try several websites to find any interesting and relevant info about a band, when all this should be on the band's website itself?

The band's debut, "Bombshell", was released on October 31, but I received the promo copy only in February 2007. Musically you get light Hardrock and more Poprock like the GUANO APES and anything else in that genre. Julie has a very clean, but very melodic voice and proves she can sing. The production is very good and every instrument comes out very well.

The album contains a mix of more lighter melodic songs ("Vesper's Song", "Breaking Me Down", "Come Back To Me", ...) and some heavier approaches like "Blind", "Look Away S.P.", "Book Of Names", etc... I don't know why, perhaps to increase sales, but there's also a cover of the AC/DC classic "Back In Black". As usual, if you cover something, know what you're doing. HYDROGYN's version isn't bad, but it's not exactly super either. It misses the atmosphere, the power, the roughness of the original. And using a soft voice like Julie's where you'd expect someone like Brian Johnson is a dangerous choice.

HYDROGYN's music is very radio-friendly and completely harmless. It's a nice record for those moments when you've had an overload of earth-splitting Metal and need to cool down a bit. Just like the GUANO APES and the likes.

More info at www.hydrogyn.com.

Line-up:
Julie - vocals
Jeff Boggs - guitars
Jeff Westlake - guitars
Chris Sammons - bass
Josh Kitchen - drums


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CELESTY – Mortal Mind Creation (Dockyard 1 2006)

Celesty - Mortal Mind Creation
  1. Lord Of Mortals
  2. Unreality
  3. Demon Inside
  4. War Creations
  5. Empty Room
  6. Among The Dreams
  7. Back In Time
  8. Arrival
  9. Last Sacrifice

Finnish Powermetallers CELESTY are back with a new album, after "Reign Of Elements" and the successor "Legacy Of Hate", entitled "Mortal Mind Creation". This is the third installment of the concept story that unites the three albums. I'm not familiar with the debut album, but I found "Legacy Of Hate" quite good. Nothing original in the overcrowded genre, but still a decent album.

Album number three came out at the end of October (30/10) and shows a great improvement compared to previous efforts right from the start. "Lord Of Mortals" starts aggressively. Keyboards dominate in the melodic department and double-bass come thundering out of the speakers during the chorus. To spice things up, symphonic elements are added to build up the tension during the breaks. A very emotional song, especially in the last part. Antti's vocals are clean and clear, but "Lord Of Mortals" is expressed with in a rougher way.

Bombast and power continue in "Unreality", and Antti also adds more aggression to his singing. The bridge is - contrary to the verses - slower and more emotional/sentimental. The chorus is sung with normal, clean vocals and is also again played with the pedal pushed down a little more. For the solos bombast and velocity are key.

And there we have it: speed, electronic sounds, double bass.... all this makes a great intro for "Demon Inside". Verses are calm and slow at first, later more aggressive, and more energy is added for the bridge and chorus. References to SONATA ARCTICA are easily made. On a melodic level, things are very nice with guitar- and keyboard solos, which do the song a lot of good. The last part of the song is clear of heavy riffs and drums and features only an accoustic guitar, vocals and symphonic backing. Why oh why? This is very different from the heaviness of before.

A title like "War Creations" should stand for an uptempo track, right? Well...no. It's heavy and in that manner the title is done justice. But the tempo is slow and little by little Antti's voice becomes annoying. The chorus is decent and fairly easy to sing along. Around the third minute there's an accoustic moment, which sounds weak to me, although it's quite normal in this lyrical context.

"Empty Room" adds more tempo and heaviness again to the menu, at least as a starting point. The bridge is very nice, though. Symphonics take the emotional role. The chorus is again more energetic, but Antti's voice really starts to annoy and overall SONATA ARCTICA seems to appear on the album cover.

Aha, a resting point: "Among The Dreams". This accoustic song really is a great addition and comes just in time to make attentive again for the band and its music. Surprise or not, but this... could have been one of the best songs on the album, were it not for the floating electric guitars that were added. The first part is very nice and just when you prepare for a beautiful (accoustic) chorus, you get a - sorry for the word - lame wanky continuation of the song.

Ok, let's get back to business as usual, right? "Back In Time" is of the midtempo kind with an occasional double-bass implementation. The riffs are aggressive enough for this kind of Metal. Keyboards again provide the melody and atmospheric backing. Musically everything is alright and enough variation is added, but Antti's voice really starts to annoy.

Oh my, even more aggressive riffing? Wait, that's uptempo! Yes, finally. Nothing to say here, sheer perfection and Antti has refound some rougher aspects of his vocal capabilities. "Arrival" is without a doubt the best song of "Mortal Mind Creation". Even the solos are better than before. More of this!

"Last Sacrifice" is the ending song and the fast riffing that start it indicate another uptempo song. And so it happens. Seems like they saved the best 'till last. :-) Another very good song. And a little more aggressive than "Arrival". The breaks in the middle garantee enough change to keep you tied to the speakers or headphones.

"Mortal Mind Creation" does sound very good, very good production and all and musically the largest part is more than ok to awesome. The biggest problem however is Antti, who in my opinion sounds too weak or lame (to use extreme words) for most of the time. When it's time for more aggressive and uptempo moments, then I hear a different Antti. Things would improve greatly if he applied a more rougher kind of singing since he's capable of doing so and makes the songs more attractive.

Fans of the band can buy this without problems. Others may find the similarities with SONATA ARCTICA and STRATOVARIUS some kind of obstruction, but if you like melodic (power)metal, CELESTY is worth supporting.

More info at www.celesty.net.

Line-up:
Antti Railio - vocals
Tapani Kangas - guitars
Teemu Koskela - guitars
Juha Mäenpää - keyboards
Ari Katajamäki - bass
Jere Luokkamäki - drums


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WUTHERING HEIGHTS – The Shadow Cabinet (Locomotive Records 2006)

Wuthering Heights - The Shadow Cabinet
  1. Demon Desire
  2. Beautifool
  3. The Raven
  4. Faith - Apathy Divine Part I
  5. Envy
  6. Snow - Apathy Divine Part II
  7. Sleep
  8. I Shall Not Yield
  9. Reason...?
  10. Carpe Noctem - Seize The Night
  11. Midnight Song (bonustrack)

The Danish Progressive Powermetal band WUTHERING HEIGHTS seems to have been founded a long time ago, more specifically at the end of the 1980s, when looking at the line-up changes. In 1992 they made a first demo and continued until 1997. Two years later they finally got a contract and released their debut "Within". 2002 was the year of the successor, "To Travel For Evermore". Another two years later the band again combined its members' forces and "Far From The Madding Crowd" was the result, a very good record that released lots of praise from press and Metalfans.

Now, respecting the two-years period, a new full album is available to you all, since the 27th of October: "The Shadow Cabinet". I liked "Far From The Madding Crowd", but when I heard this new album the first time I was amazed like never before. There are many albums and bands that I like, but it's been a while that I really had the chance of listening to an album that truly made me gasp in awe. The power, the melodies, the compositions, the expressions of different emotions.... simply brilliant.

Typical characteristics are power, melody, tempo changes and so much more, and not to forget bombast. It starts with the catchy "Demon Desire", also greatly brought forward by Nils' remarkable voice (Nils also sings in ASTRAL DOORS): rough, melodic and very fitting for a band like WUTHERING HEIGHTS. The change in tempo works very well and everything forms a well-oiled machine. The powerful production thanks to Tommy Hansen also deserves much credit.

Next to the Power and Progressive elements, you'll also hear some Folk in the more peaceful moments. At times, they'll also leave heaviness aside in favour of a solo or some symphonics.

"Beautifool" continues the wonderful journey of bombastic ProgPower. Nils' singing here is coming close to Ronnie James Dio's rougher moments and if you can achieve this, you know you're a great vocalist. The solos as well sound very compatible with the rest of the instrumentation and it is simply stunning that one can put so much music into one song.

Quality musicianship is another element that can describe WUTHERING HEIGHTS, although this is applicable to many bands. What the guys present here with their fourth album is sheer perfection and I bet their live performances are a time you won't forget very soon.

Let's continue with the other songs. "The Raven" lacks the speed from the other songs, yet does have a more uptempo moment in the vain of HAMMERFALL with some "ooooh-ooooh-ooooh" choir. When the solos come in, Morten Gade Sørensen can't sit still and must vent all the excess of energy his body contains. In this song, and more towards the end, symphonic elements add that extra bit of melody and atmosphere.

A violin starts "Faith" and adds a more Folkish touch. During the verses, no heavy riffs but accoustic variants. And when it's time for the uptempo chorus... *moment of ecstacy* "Oh Apathy Divine, forget it all in time, no more darkness no more light, no more battles left to fight", catchy to say the least. Here a little more, but like the others an amazing piece of music. The last part is accoustic and Folk and reminds me of the commercial of "Mama Miracoli", spaghetti sauce. Hahaha ;-)

Symphonics providing melody in "Envy" together with the violin, while the riffs back things up. No speed here yet, until the bridge come into play. Little after the second minute, you can't really sit still and fell the need to move your legs with the drums or just start a moment of headbanging. Guitarsolos are then also present, even in dual-form. And yes, the bombast of before - was it ever away? - is not forgotten either.

Playful piano-sounds fading in and heaviness follows immediately. Lots of double bass too of course, It's Powermetal after all. Here as well, different tempos are played throughout the song to start a new part regarding whatever the song "Snow" is about. Apart from all the bombast and speedier playing, the guys also know when to cool down and go for a calmer approach, which is around 3:30 for about half a minute. ADHD seems to have affected most of the bandmembers as it doesn't take long before another speed increase occurs. ;-)

Ok, change can be good, but I was not prepared for what comes next: "Sleep". This is only Nils doing his thing, but more like Annie Lennox did with her song for "Lord Of The Rings". The rest of the band joins soon enough, but all is calm and peaceful with an occasional addition of more roughness, without leaving the boundaries of the peaceful playing. At 2:50 it gets more epic, heavier and faster.

Horns introducing "I Shall Not Yield", which is again typical WUTHERING HEIGHTS: bombastic, heavy, crunchy, epic. Flawless song and the solotime is split between guitars and keyboards.

Before the whole instrumentation in "Carpe Noctem - Seize The Night" comes at you, Nils starts off by holding a monologue. The verses are electric guitars-free, with just drums, bass and accoustic guitars, and atmospheric keyboards. The electric guitars do come in for the second part of the verses. Prepare again for a long night. Needless to say what to expect in this song, right?

For Europe there's a bonustrack titled "Midnight Song", probably chosen because the title sounds similar to the previous track. No heavy riffing here, nor a gazillion tempo changes, nor bombast, nor whatever else is typical for the other songs. Nope, "Midnight Song" is a ballad and since at night all is calm I think this reflects things much better. For the melody and atosphere the symphonic elements made a comeback.

Well, well. Lots of music for your money, I can tell you that. Every song on this record is an amazing piece of musical brilliance and I cannot stress this enough. Every fan of Progressive Powermetal should at least check this album and band out and then buy the album if you like it. Words like wow, amazing, stunning don't suffice to describe it. Although mindblowing can be added as well. ;-)

More info at www.wuthering-heights.dk.

Line-up:
Nils Patrik Johansson - vocals
Erik Ravn - guitars, keyboards, mandolin, narration
Martin Arendal - guitars
Andreas Lindahl - keyboards
Teddy Möller - bass
Morten Gade Sørensen - drums, percussion


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SCORNAGE – Pure Motorized Instinct (Remedy Records 2006)

Scornage - Pure Motorized Instinct
  1. Scared To Be
  2. Pure Motorized Instinct
  3. Blood Splattered Banner
  4. I Am Your Fear
  5. Keep It To Yourself
  6. Higher
  7. Ahead Of The Pack
  8. Abgrund
  9. Ship Of Fools
  10. The Ancient One
  11. The End Of The Foodchain
  12. When There Is No More Room In Hell

The German label Remedy Records will release SCORNAGE's new album, "Pure Motorized Instinct", on the 27th of October. This will be the second album of this Thrash Metal-outfit, after the 2004 debut "Sick Of Being Human". SCORNAGE play Thrash Metal in the vain of KREATOR, added with some touches of Hardcore. The similarity with KREATOR comes out very clearly in the song "Keep It To Yourself", for which these guys listened closely to "People Of The Lie". Nothing wrong with that, but the masters cannot be copied. ;-)

"Pure Motorized Instinct" starts in a direct manner, no time for warm-ups. "Scared To Be" is really a punch-in-the-face kind of song and of course, throughout the album you hear the obligatory guitar solos passing by. In the first it's more a question of necessity, but then in the negative sense, since the solo is better left out or replaced by a better one.

The uptempo, humppapa-playing continues in the titletrack, especially in the chorus. Overall a decent song, yet Tom (drums) plays his crash or splash cymbal too much instead of using the hi-hat. With "Blood Splattered Banner" things improve greatly and the pedal is pushed down even more. Buckle up for this one! The guitar solos have been implemented flawlessly. That's how it should be.

The 'evil' "I Am Your Fear" is again typical Thrash with occasionally some blastbeats. The start of the album was not 100% but it's getting better. :-)

To avoid monotonous Thrashing, SCORNAGE also knows when to decrease the speed level, as shown with the KREATOR-ish song. But of course, Thrash is speed and you can't let that egg under the pedal stay there too long, else it will break with all this energy. "Higher" is the result of not being able to hold it a little longer. This has a side-effect: in/around the middle of the song things tend to sound a bit messy, less synchronized.

But the guys correct their mistakes very quickly and "Ahead Of The Pack" - with a superb chorus - demonstrates their assertivity, in true Thrash style. Here as well the solos are well done.

"Blood Splattered Banner" was the fasted song so far, but that wasn't enough apparently. "Abgrund" is also played at a higher speed and sung in their native language, which is nice and is an example of Deutsche Gründlichkeit. ;-)

"Ship Of Fools" is a more calmer song again. Well... calmer? At least in the first part of the song, because then SCORNAGE give their all again and that's what they do best. The last couple of songs are in the same style, so no need to mention it again. ;-)

My first acquaintance with this band and it's a positive one. Thrash from start to finish, although the production could have used a bit more power. Still, it's a very nice album and the music does the title justice. Not much variation since the typical hummpapa-kind of playing prevails, but that's not really something to worry about, since it's a typical characteristic. Anyhow, to cut it short: you like Thrash? Check out SCORNAGE.

More info at www.scornage.com.

Line-up:
Guido Grawe - vocals
Volker Rahn - guitars
Achim Sankul - guitars
Markus Breuer - bass
Tom Freyer - drums


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VIOLENT STORM – Storm Warning (Gold Storm Records 2006)

Violent Storm - Storm Warning
  1. War No More
  2. Fire In The Unknown
  3. Deceiver
  4. Pain
  5. Alimentary Fable
  6. Screaming In Your Face
  7. You Don't Care
  8. Owning You
  9. Empty Hope
  10. Storm

VIOLENT STORM is a new band, but consists of musicians who've been playing music since quite some time. More specifically, it was the idea of world-renowned bassist Mick Cervino to start this band. Mick has gathered the necessary experience by performing on the G3 2003 tour, as well as with Yngwie Malmsteen and Ritchie Blackmore. With VIOLENT STORM he plans to unleash a unity of ripping guitars, rough and in-your-face vocals, pounding drums and bass... in short: pure killer Hardrock.

The new album, "Storm Warning" (released on 23/10) has been Executive Produced by KK Downing of JUDAS PRIEST. With his long fantastic career in the Rock industry , KK has contributed his inimitable guitar playing on two of the tracks on the album, in addition to his production skills. In addition to KK Downing, who played guitar on the tracks "War No More" and "Deceiver", other guitar duties are taken up by Yngwie Malmsteen, who contributed to the tracks "Fire In The Unknown" and "Pain". The album was also mixed by world renowned producer Roy Z, who can also be heard on two songs.

"Storm Warning" is a fitting title for an album full of to-the-point songs (and this ain't it). The intro of "War No More" consists of storm sounds, after which heaviness kicks in with fast shredding. A real energy-booster, although Matt's vocals are not as rough as claimed in the press release. ;-) I would even say he lacks roughness, which can be found with vocalists like Gus Chambers (SQUEALER A.D.), Greg Wagner (SHATTER MESSIAH), Dave Padden (ANNIHILATOR), Chris Gillen (OVERLOADED), and many others.

The songs are short and all range between 3 and 4 minutes, which again confirms the directness of the material. This can be good, but in some cases you feel like something's missing.

"Fire In The Unknown" pushed the acceleration pedal down some more. Quite a nice song, with a nice chorus that includes a certain sing-along flavour. Time to take back some energy now with "Deceiver", where the bass guitar is more dominant. A slow song, but nothing remarkable. "Pain" is more interesting, with a nice groove and bass/drumwork.

"Alimentary Fable" adds the accoustic guitars and is also a lot slower than the others. The similarity with another poprock song cannot be denied, only I can't put my finger on the other song, but my guess goes to something from the Belgian band DEUS. Anyhow, it's not bad and if VIOLENT STORM aspires for radio playtime, this should do fine.

"Screaming In Your Face" is again a step towards heavier Hardrock, without losing focus on melody and grooviness. Quite an interesting song, with variated drumming and nice shredding.

The bass and electric guitar spit out short bursts in "You Don't Care" and Matt even found the power to add roughness to his singing, especially in the chorus. Very well done. One of the best songs on the album, no question about it. Even the solos are a good element and give the song that extra touch.

In "Owning You" you can clearly hear the bass guitar, with the electric guitar gently playing next to it. Perhaps too much use of the crash cymbal in the chorus, as this sounds... boring. The song overall as well isn't exactly 'wow'. Not even the guitarsolo can lift it up.

Let's see for the last two songs: "Empty Hope" and "Storm". The first starts good, uptempo and joyful. This continues for the rest of the song, which makes this definitely worthwhile. It's very bluesy as well. The second one, "Storm", doesn't do the title justice. It's danceable, and more light rock which again seems to go for radio playtime.

Experienced musicians forming a new band and bringing out a first album: VIOLENT STORM's "Storm Warning" doesn't sound like a typhoon is going to blow away your belongings, although a couple of songs are a hit. Overall there's not enough variation and if you listen to the album in its entirety, you'll want to skip to another disc from another band. Maybe I'm expecting too much, but despite the input of big names like KK Downing, Roy Z and Yngwie Malmsteen, I find the material mediocre and only useful for in between. Fingers crossed for the follow-up.

More info at www.violentstorm.net.

Line-up:
Matt Reardon - vocals
Mick Cervino - bass, guitars, rhythm guitar, backing vocals, guitar synth
Mike Sorrentino - drums


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ARTRACH – ...And In Fate We Rest (Midas Productions 2006)

Artrach - ...And In Fate We Rest
  1. Screenchild
  2. ...And in Fate We Rest
  3. The Path Towards Revenge
  4. The Mission
  5. The One (Revisited)

Respecting the two-years-between-every-release procedure here's demo number three: "...And In Fate We Rest". Like before ARTRACH invaded the Midas studio in Lokeren under guidance of - yes, once again - producer Tony De Block. And after having grown with every demo, it's obvious that the expectations were high. Also, because previous vocalist Glenn Devos left the band in March 2005 and a replacement needed to be found. The new guy goes through life by the name of Piet Overstijns and at least live he does a very good job. In the past he also sang in a band called BATTALION from January 1984 to the same month four years later, 1988.

ARTRACH spent the required time in the studio in July and August and tried to prepare it all for an October release. On the 21st, the moment of truth had arrived, few weeks before their gig in Heule, Belgium, with SAVAGE CIRCUS and EVERGREY

The biggest issue on the previous demos was certainly vocalist Glenn, who did improve on the second demo. Due to whatever reason he needed to be replaced and it seems it was for the better. Piet's voice is melodic and rough where needed and seems to be more in line with the music.

From the heavy, pounding start called "Screenchild" the evidence is there. Production-wise too you can easily notice a better sound. The keyboards still have a modest role. For "...And In Fate We Rest" (song) there's a slower approach where the song at times drags itself forward. The intro reminds of SAVATAGE. The sluggish playing is only in the verses, while the chorus is the moment for a small speed increase. Around 2:50 it's going more Thrashy concerning the tempo (something left over from the period in ANESTHESY? ;-)). The solos that follow after that are of course, like on the previous demos, free from criticism.

An exotic/eastern intro was written for "The Path Towards Revenge". A nice, atmospheric addition for a more Progressive, guitar-driven song. It's the longest track on the demo (little over 7 minutes) and also features a long time of solos, which is always good and regarding spending much time on solos: UK Powermetallers DRAGONFORCE are masters at that, so it seems Guy must have listened very carefully to Herman and Sam. ;-)

With "The Mission" we're going back to the same style as in "Screenchild", since the tempo and drumstyle are a clear match. Speaking of the drums, they play a more important role now. Keyboards add an out-of-the-usual melody and again provide a nice backing. New vocalist Piet was doing good to very good in the previous songs, but in "The Mission" he's having some problems to keep his voice strong enough. The rather boring chorus doesn't help either. Boring might be too extreme, but it's not really a hit either. Perhaps multiple listenings can help, but I do will give it credit as background music. The guitarsolos are naturally a vital part and very welcome. Hell, there's even a keyboardsolo!

"The One (Revisited)" is a re-recorded song, which comes off the first demo "Through Archways Of Dark". They probably took that song to hear if Piet is also capable of handling softer material. ;-) But he succeeds and even sings it a little better than Glenn.

On an evolutionary level ARTRACH again raised the bar a couple of levels and have grown thus some more. The addition of Piet on vocals sure is a positive change. Live he also stands his ground, as was proven on Saturday the 4th November. But there's always room for improvement. Fact is that so far the band has come up with enough quality material to convince labels to give these guys a contract so they can record full, kick-ass albums like their colleagues of IN-QUEST, AFTER ALL, AXAMENTA, etc...

More info at www.artrach.com.

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


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SQUEALER A.D. – Confrontation Street (AFM Records 2006)

SQUEALER A.D. - Confrontation Street
  1. Black Tongue
  2. Infanticide
  3. Devils Backbone
  4. Kamikaze Nation
  5. Punishment Of Luxury
  6. Eat My Sin
  7. Blood Red Halo
  8. New Sun Rising
  9. Left Bleeding (By Love)
  10. Faith Or Fury
  11. Silent Mandarin (Unit 731)

German Thrashers SQUEALER saw their frontman/guitarist and AFM Records boss Andy 'Henner' Allendörfer sadly pass away after a tragic accident. Devastated the band wanted to call it quits, but because of the immense support of friends and fans the ending was postponed for an indefinite time. But now the band still needed a new vocalist, which they found in the very friendly and down-to-earth British GRIP INC. singer Gus Chambers. Because his band didn't really progress and he the only member was who kept it alive, it was better to put GRIP INC. to rest and seek new opportunities. With SQUEALER A.D. (new vocalist, new era, thus new name) Gus will not have to fear for inactivity. He joined the band around May and put his influence to work for the lyrics and even musical arrangements for the songs.

The result is "Confrontation Street" (out since 20/10) and is the follow-up to the last album with Andy, "Under The Cross". It's only logcial that the new songs continue the path that was chosen with "Under The Cross", where the band opted for a more groovy kind of Thrash. Since SQUEALER has been alive since the late 1980s and Andy a very important and well-known member was, Gus has an enormous responsibility now and big shoes to fill.

What is very noticeable here is the energy coming from Gus. His rough vocals clearly express a sort of anger (also because of the lyrics), but at the same time a kind of joy for being able to do again what he loves to do being a singer. It's like he is reborn. Musically it's not always Thrash to the bone, as the grooves still claim their place. The bass guitar also has been put a little more up front in the mix.

"Confrontation Street" starts with the ferocious "Black Tongue" featuring Gus' known screams, heavy riffs and thundering drums. At least in the first part, then it goes a more midtempo way. But that was just a warm-up, as "Infanticide" is where the real brutality lies. Compareble with EXODUS' "Shovel Headed Kill Machine" (the song), anger and frustration are thrown out at an insane rate. Great song.

Pounding drums, killing riffs in "Devils Backbone", where there's also some clean singing. Not a bad song, but the bridge tends to annoy. "Kamikaze Nation" is a song with more attention to melody instead of heaviness, but the guys still rock it at a fast midtempo pace. Here you can hear what Gus sings about: frustration about wars, involving kids, and related stuff. Gus' clean vocals also have their moment of glory in the chorus. Another top song. Seems like Gus' arrival was a hit. ;-)

You might think that after all this rage and angry kind of playing there will be a break, a point of rest, but no-ho. Although "Punishment Of Luxury" starts calm, things get uplifted pretty soon after the intro. Needless to say the band is doing a more than good job. Some guitar abuse in the bridge (or chorus?) of "Eat My Sin" among the for the rest slow progression. After 2:40 things get more interesting.

"Blood Red Halo" chooses a more melodic and groovy path again, which isn't bad, but not exactly outstanding either. The bass guitar comes out too strong, which makes it annoying, and what those effects on the drums are supposed to add, is beyond me. The song ends with gus speeching about violence, war, terrorism, politics, ...

Luckily the band finds the right path very soon and continues the Thrash-journey with another great song: "New Sun Rising", a song of which there should be more. This is one of the best songs here, no question about it. The raging fury continues in "Left Bleeding (By Love)". Only bad moment is the chorus, going for a softer approach and clean singing. This is - for me at least - quite a lame moment. The rest of the song is good, though.

I think "Faith Or Fury" needs no explanation content-wise. Especially the chorus stands out, with Gus screaming his lungs out about about religion and its negative effects. Gus' throat simply does not disappoint. For the atmosphere you can hear some oriental sounds, referring to the Islam. Dangerous area SQUALER A.D. is trespassing there. ;-)

The last track, "Silent Mandarin (Unit 731)" where Gus' vocals sound like an astronaut. It's a slow song where the band goes abit too much the melodic/groovy way. So the ending is quite boring, despite some good moments.

Overall you can say without doubting that the first collaboration between SQUEALER and Gus Chambers, aka SQUEALER A.D., turned out to be a good symbiosys, but still leaving room for improvements. Since Gus already started working on the successor, indicating it would be more Thrash again, you just know this will kill and the members will know each other better and certain automatisms will blossom. SQUEALER (A.D.) is back. :-)

More info at www.squealer.de.

Line-up:
Gus Chambers - vocals
Lars Döring - guitars
Michael Schiel - guitars
Michael Kaspar - bass
Martin Buchwalter - drums


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EISBRECHER – Antikörper (AFM Records 2006)

Eisbrecher - Antikörper
  1. Der Anfang
  2. Adrenalin
  3. Leider
  4. Antikörper
  5. Entlassen
  6. Ohne Dich
  7. Phosphor
  8. Kein Mitleid
  9. Kinder Der Nacht
  10. Vergissmeinnicht
  11. Für Immer
  12. Wie Tief?
  13. Das Ende

EISBRECHER was started in 2002 by Alexx Wesselsky (lyrics/vocals) and Noel Pix (composition/keyboards, guitars, programming); both having already been successful before EISBRECHER with the rock group MEGAHERZ not only in the German-speaking world, but also abroad (above all in the USA). They wanted something new anf thus EISBRECHER was born. Musically this can be catalogued under modern, electronic rock. "Antikörper" is harder than its predecessor, apparently. In their lyrics, EISBRECHER go on a journey through private and interpersonal states of feeling in a world growing cold. It's about the 'me' and 'you' as we're in the here and now; it's about what you make of it.

The band released a couple of club singles - "Mein Blut" and "Fanatica" (both 2003) - that came off the debut album (2004). Live-performances were plenty and the band's success increased.

But let's see what they came up with now: "Antikörper" - which came out on the 20th October - is as said above electro-rock. To simplify things - for themselves - the lyrics are in German. Musically you can easily draw references to RAMMSTEIN, GARDEN OF DELIGHT and ELUSIVE, although EISBRECHER puts more emphasis on the electronics, whereas the others more on the guitars. Vocally I sometimes get reminded of SISTERS OF MERCY.

Although there's a drummer in the band, in a lot of songs it's the drumcomputer that claims that position.

"Antikörper" has exactly four songs that I kind of like: "Leider" (which could have been from RAMMSTEIN), "Kein Mitleid" (also RAMMSTEIN-ish, comparable with songs on the "Herzeleid" album), "Vergissmeinnicht" (SISTERS OF MERCY-like) and "Wie Tief?". All the rest is too average or just crap. The overuse of electronics and accompanied flat drumcomputer annoys more than it does entertain.

"Antikörper" is a fans-only release or for those who like the bands I mentioned in the beginning. If you're into electro-rock, you might want to check this out. But if you're more of a guitarfan you have nothing to look for here. Save your money for other bands.

More info at www.eis-brecher.com.

Line-up:
Alexx - vocals
Noel Pix - guitars, programming
Felix - guitars
Maximator - keyboards, programming
Miguel - bass
Renee - drums


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TOURETTES SYNDROME – Sick Sense (Armageddon Music 2006)

Tourettes Syndrome - Sick Sense
  1. Good Morning
  2. Nola
  3. Fracture
  4. Gear
  5. Clad
  6. R.F.S.
  7. Rail
  8. Circus
  9. Small Enemy
  10. Longtime
  11. Novena

TOURETTES SYNDROME, a Metalband from down under, Australia. Tourette Syndrome (see more at Wikipedia) is a disorder with onset in childhood and when I heard the band's new album "Sick Sense", I kinda think the name is well chosen.

The history of the band dates back to 1999, when they were still called TOURETTES. Due to copyright problems in Europe, they added SYNDROME.

"Sick Sense" is the band's second album and will be released on the 13th October. Another female-fronted band, but not a Gothic one. Michele's voice is also far from the angelic voices that are typical in the Gothic genre. You could actually say she's the female equivalent of MACHINE HEAD frontman/guitarist Rob Flynn. Here and there she grunts and the connection with ARCH ENEMY gruntmachine Angela Gossow is easily made, although Angela remains far better... naturally. ;-)

The songs are guitar-driven, but keyboards/samples are used to add more melody, create a suiting atmosphere or else. The earlier mentioning of Rob Flynn should be easy to put the link to his band MACHINE HEAD, as TOURETTES SYNDROME in a lot of songs sound alike.

But it's not all Thrashy, yet it's got balls. Even some QUEENS OF THE STONEAGE-like riffing comes along in "Rail". A Doomier approach comes with the last track "Novena". Since I'm referring to other bands, let's throw in some ANTHRAX as well: this can be heard in "Fracture", when heaviness kicks in. But I can't help but feel that the original bands still sound much better.

Michele has a rough and raspy voice, so normal singing is totally not done, even though she tries to do so now and then. Fact is that she never convinces me, except for maybe "Circus", which is a short Death/Thrash song and the best on "Sick Sense"... except for that awful scream in the last part of the song. Leave that away and you've got at least one very good song.

For the other songs, Michele's range is just not big enough and for example in "Gear" she 'sings' like she is stoned or drunk. And that works off-putting.

In general "Sick Sense" simply did not convince me. Most of the songs are just too average, too monotonous, and not something that makes you get enthusiastic about. Maybe if I was drunk and didn't care about musicianship and skills, then I might say TOURETTES SYNDROME is worth checking out. For now, no thank you. Give it a listen first before you buy, unless you like it because it's heavy and 'uncompromised'.

More info at www.tourettes.com.au.

Line-up:
Michele Madden - vocals
Ashley Manning - guitars
Ross Empson - bass
Michael Quigley - drums


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RECKLESS TIDE – Helleraser (Armageddon Music 2006)

Reckless Tide - Helleraser
  1. Vicious Circle - Chapter I
  2. The Preacher
  3. Corrupted
  4. Evolution
  5. Madness Within
  6. Symbiont (Welcome To My World) - Chapter II
  7. Kleemähendeäbte
  8. House Of Cards
  9. Extesterone
  10. Helleraser - Final Chapter
  11. C.H.A.O.S. (bonustrack)

RECKLESS TIDE - alive since 2000 - is a Thrash band from Germany, but does not play the variant of their colleagues and masters DESTRUCTION, KREATOR, SODOM, ... No, it's more and mainly like ANNIHILATOR, TESTAMENT and similar. Especially in sound and style the similarities with Jeff Waters' band is crystal clear. Also, Jeff makes a guest appearance for the second time, like he did on the previous album, which I don't have in my possession and therefore cannot refer to it for changes or anything in that context. Hendrik Bache from DEW SCENTED was also asked to contribute.

"Helleraser", which came out on the 13th of October, is quite a good title, considering the heavy kind of Thrash. To add more variation, the band has two vocalists, both of them growlers. Andrew for the pure low rough growling, and Kjell for a more melodic intervention. Next to that the riffs are razorsharp and come off the guitars of Susanne (yes, a woman ;-)) and Oliver. The fire department (not in the meaning of firemen extinguishing burning buildings and alike) is in the hands of Henning and Kai.

The album kicks off directly with the vicious "Vicious Circle - Chapter I", where the drums build up the tempo step by step before blasting away in an unstoppable manner. There are some great tempo changes and hooks that make you stay attentive for the entire song.

The typical uptempo Thrash-playing is present in most of the songs and the faster songs happend to be the band's best. It's practically Thrash from start to finish, but it's not always a hit. Other songs that stand out are e.g. "Corrupted", "Madness Within" (fast midtempo), "Symbiont (Welcome To My World) - Chapter II" and "Helleraser".

"Kleemähendeäbte" - an uptempo song with some blastbeats and some folkish influences - should be taken with a touch of humour, but like many other reviewers I can't detect it and also feel that this song is rotten apple among the other songs.

The rest of the songs is just too mediocre to be enthusiastic about. The first couple of listenings were very positive, but from then on it gets monotonous and the catchiness loses its grip on me. Mind you, there are a couple of very nice songs that could re-energize you and for me it would have been better if they made an EP of those songs. But then you have too much of the same, which again leads to annoyance. The variation here comes with melody, slower songs and the dual vocals, although not even these elements can lift the album to a higher level.

"Helleraser" is a nice album - nothing original, though - for the fans and people who like bands like ANNIHILATOR, TESTAMENT and similar, although those bands of course do a much better job at making enough interesting songs to fill an album and still keep the listener's attention after many spins in the cd-player. But to play something in between, RECKLESS TIDE are worth considering.

More info at www.recklesstide.de.

Line-up:
Andrew Troth - vocals
Kjell Hallgreen - vocals
Susanne Swillus - guitars
Oliver Jaath - guitars
Henning Pfeiffer - bass
Kai Swillus - drums


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MENNEN – Freakalive (Armageddon Music 2006)

Mennen - Freakalive
  1. Intro
  2. Bob
  3. The World Stopped Turning
  4. Down
  5. School
  6. Secrets And Lies
  7. Rain
  8. Freakazoid
  9. These Good Times
  10. Two Sides Of Love
  11. Wicked White

Active since 1992 - yeah, times does fly, doesn't it? - the Dutch (hard)rockband MENNEN have released four albums so far, with "Freakazoid" being their last. "Freakalive" is a second live-album from these guys and for this they decided to record one of the gigs they did for their USA tour. Naturally most of the songs come off the "Freakazoid" album; while "School" and "Two Sides Of Love" are originally by SUPERTRAMP and ZINATRA, vocalist Joss Mennen's previous band before he founded MENNEN.

"Freakalive" was recorded at The Poison Room in Cincinnati on the 8th of November 2005 and mixed/mastered by Erwin Musper at Studio The Bamboo Room where MENNEN also is/was recording the successor to "Freakazoid", entitled "Planet Black", which is scheduled for release for early 2007. The release of this live album was last week, on the 13th of October.

MENNEN play melodic rock to hardrock where for a large part Joss' voice stands out, while assisted by his fellow bandmembers, who fulfill their duty flawlessly. The quality of the live recordings is not top notch, but good enough to give an impression how the band is live. The crowd sure had a good time that evening, as you can really hear them cheer and applaud and encouraging the band to go on.

If you're not familiar with the band and their music, this is a good introduction, even though you're probably better off buying "Freakazoid". ;-) Nevertheless, this is a pretty decent release and stills the hunger while awaiting "Planet Black".

More info at www.mennen.net.

Line-up:
Joss Mennen - vocals
Eric van de Kerkhof - guitars
Alex Jansen - bass
Fon Janssen - drums


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DOMAIN – Stardawn (Limb Music Products 2006)

Domain - Stardawn
  1. All In The Name Of Fire
  2. Temple Of The Earth
  3. Don't Pay The Ferryman
  4. I Ain't No Hero
  5. Headfirst Into Desaster
  6. Stardawn
  7. Crystal Stone Island (Warpath Pt. II)
  8. Help Me Through The Storm
  9. Shadowhall
    - Chapter I: Gathering Of The Damned
    - Chapter II: Under The Bloodmoon
    - Chapter III: Open The Gates
    - Chapter IV: Shadowhall
    - Chapter V: Vampire's Ball
    - Chapter VI: Hell Dimension
    - Chapter VII: Love Under Ice

With "Stardawn" being recently released (13/10), the German Melodic Metallers can look back at a long career in this music genre. After "Crack In The Wall" in 1991, it seems there was a crack in the band as well and it lasted for ten years. Then DOMAIN came back with a new album, "One Million Lightyears From Home" (2001) and kept creating new ones almost non-stop.

Musically it's a mix of Progressive, Symphonics and melodic Metal and they do a pretty good job, if you ask me. Sadly, I only know their album "Our Kingdom" (1988) and it's been a long while since I last heared it. But let's catch up later.

"Stardawn" starts in Powermetal-style with the catchy - and this is so for other songs as well on this album - "All In The Name Of Fire" which sets the tone of what to expect on the vocal and instrumental level. In other words: quality.

Then things go a bit slower. The next track "Temple Of The Earth" has a wonderful, touching chorus with a great choir in the chorus, backed by symphonic elements. After this a new power injection is required and with a Metallized version of Chris de Burgh's "Don't Pay The Ferryman", this is a job more than well done.

Keep those tissues close-by, for the ballad "I Ain't No Hero" is on next. Very touching. Carsten's voice is perfect for this.

Ok, let's get more joyous again and go "Headfirst Into Desaster", an pumped-up song with lots of blues influences. A very melodic and great backing choir give this song more feel. Oh yeah!

Next stop - the titletrack - is one that requires your attention a lot, as the running time isn't over until after 9:20. Midtempo, Proggy Metal with a nice instrumental interlude around 5:35, slowly building up the heaviness. Majestic. Should be awesome to see live.

"Crystal Stone Island (Warpath Pt. II)" is another pure Melodic Powermetal song. Shake that booty, eh, bang that head. :-) "Help Me Through The Storm" is again some speedsteps back and is for me a less good song, especially after the previous very good tracks.

The 25-minutes long epic "Shadowhall" closes the album in a splendid manner. Divided into seven chapters, you get a nice mixture of different melodies and heavinesses.

If you like your Metal Progressive and/or Symphonic and/or Melodic, DOMAIN is a band that delivers the goods. The album however does require a couple of listenings before grasping it all, before having heard what the band created. You'll discover more if you take your time and come to the conclusion this is nothing less than great music.

More info at www.domainband.de.

Line-up:
Carsten Lizard Schulz - vocals
Axel Ritt - guitars
Erdmann Lange - keyboards
Jochen Mayer - bass
Stefan Köllner - drums


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CIRCLE II CIRCLE – Burden Of Truth (AFM Records 2006)

CIRCLE II CIRCLE - Burden Of Truth
  1. Who Am I To Be?
  2. A Matter Of Time
  3. Heal You
  4. Revelations
  5. Your Reality
  6. Evermore
  7. The Black
  8. Messiah
  9. Sentenced
  10. Burden Of Truth
  11. Live As One
  12. Burden Of Truth (accoustic version) (bonustrack)

CIRCLE II CIRCLE, the band of ex-SAVATAGE vocalist Zak Stevens, has released its third album a couple of days ago (13/10), again via AFM Records. Coincidence or not, but JON OLIVA'S PAIN is also on this label since a couple of months. ;-) Maybe they'll tour together one day.

CIRCLE II CIRCLE's first album, "Waiting In Silence", had a lot of SAVAGAGE about it: Zak's voice, the melodies, the structures, the help of Jon Oliva, the production, ... With "Middle Of Nowhere" things changed: a new line-up, since the other guys found it better to work with Jon Oliva, and an altered sound. Sure, the songs were still CIRCLE II CIRCLE, but the mainly the production was responsable for a less attractive album.

But now, with "Burden Of Truth", they seem to have really brainstormed and improved themselves a great deal, as - for me, at least - it is their best album by far. The concept story is based on the books "The DaVinci Code" and "Holy Blood Holy Grail".

Most of the songs (from calm and accoustic to heavy rockers) are of the midtempo sort, with a couple of slower parts to better express the related emotions. Speaking of which, Zak's voice is perfect for this and the discussed theme. He's good for lots of different styles, from sad to more powerful singing. There's also a lot of catchiness, be it the chorus in e.g. "Heal You", "Revelations", and "The Black", or the melodies of "Who Am I To Be?" or "A Matter Of Time", for example.

Next to the more melodic songs, there's also attention for a heavier course: "Revelations", "Evermore", "Messiah" to name a few. These are combined with songs where the piano and accoustic guitar are more prominent. Guitar solos are also implemented, ofcourse, but I find it hard to indicate which are easy to remember. They're all well-played and a welcome element in the songs, though.

The references to SAVATAGE are still present (e.g. "Live As One", one of the best songs on the album), though not so strong anymore as CIRCLE II CIRCLE has become a more mature band, going for their own sound and identity.

"Burden Of Truth" turns out to be a major progression for Zak and his mates. The songs sound very strong and touching because of the melodies and how Zak expresses the right emotions in a perfect manner, showing his skills as one of Metal's best vocalists ever. He can really carry a song, even in the accoustic version of the title track, which was added as a bonus track on the limited edition. I cannot say or do anything else but highly recommend CIRCLE II CIRCLE's newest creation. Definitely among the best of this year.

More info at www.circle2circle.net.

Line-up:
Zak Stevens - vocals
Andrew Lee - guitars
Evan Christopher - guitars
Paul Michael Stewart - bass
Robert T. Drennan - drums


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AGRO – Ritual 6 (Armageddon Music 2006)

Agro - Ritual 6
  1. Thukutela
  2. Carpe Diem
  3. 10 x Over
  4. Time Heals Old Wounds
  5. B.D.F.P.
  6. C7511
  7. Whizzdel
  8. TR333
  9. The Crimson Sea
  10. Willowmore
  11. A Place Of Healing

AGRO is a South-African Thrash Metal band, active since 1992 and so far they have released six full albums, of which the newest one is (logically) called "Ritual 6" and will be released by Armageddon Music on the 13th October. Despite their many years of activity, I guess "Ritual 6" is the album that should start their international career.

Already from the first riffs it's clear where the five members got their inspiration: mainly (old) SEPULTURA, SOULFLY and TESTAMENT. The vocals too sound similar to those of Max Cavalera and sometimes Chuck Billy. But when vocalist Cliff is going for a more melodic moment, then the similarity with Thorsten Kohlrausch from DARK AT DAWN cannot be denied. There's no need to search for originality here, it's all been done before.

Next to the SEPULTURA/SOULFY-ish riffing, AGRO has an additional instrument to supply the melody: keyboards, used of course for the melody and atmosphere.

"Ritual 6" starts directly in the required heavy manner. Variation comes with "Time Heals Old Wounds", which is a ballad. Cliff's whispering and the not-so-interesting piano-moment during the entire song make this a song to forget, even when heaviness kicks in. The whispering kind of singing is even nerve-wrecking. Prior to this song, the wilder "10 xs Over"'s biggest problem are the background vocals, which should either be left out or better produced to make them sound like they should, since now they don't blend in well enough.

Again the keyboards play an important role now, and more specifically in the intro to build up towards the real start of "B.D.F.P.", whatever the letters may stand for. All in all, this is one of the better tracks on the album.

Continuing the decent playing, "C7511" can also add the guitar solos to the list of positive points. "Whizzdel" could have been a SEPULTURA song, but then it would also have been much better. Still, the solos make this song worthwhile.

Like I said, it's been done before and even the tribal drums in the intro of "TR333" remind of one of KIKO LOUREIRO's songs from his album "No Gravity" (2005). All is peaceful here until halfway between the first and second minute when heaviness takes over. This is really a bad move and destroys the nice music and atmosphere that was created at first. Luckily things do get back to the peaceful setting, but the drums are added. Good job. Now if only the would have made it longer than 2:30.

After a couple of good songs, it's time for less good song again, entitled "The Crimson Sea". Here the verses are fairly good, but the chorus is completely not done and sounds lame, in my opinion, musically and vocally. It doesn't improve when "Willowmore" is on. Here the keyboards dominate and the guitars support. This is an in general weak song with annoying talking. *pushes the >> button*

AGRO did find the right inspiration again - in time! - to end their sixth release. "A Place Of Healing" is Thrashy, full of fast guitar playing and uptempo 'countertime' drumming. What else to say but 'thumbs up'?

This South-African band's new album is a good album. Never spectacular for those already acquainted with big names like TESTAMENT and SEPULTURA, but you could say this is second or third rate. For the locals it probably is a very interesting band. So is "Ritual 6" worth buying? Mixed feelings here, since to me there aren't enough songs that make you stand in awe, but give it a listen first. Perhaps it will convince you and avoid a mispurchase.

More info at www.agro-metal.com.

Line-up:
Cliff Crabb - vocals
Shane Penicott - guitars
Nick Vassilev - keyboards
Robert Riebler - bass
Grant Merricks - drums


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DRACONIAN – The Burning Halo (Napalm Records 2006)

Draconian - The Burning Halo
  1. She Dies
  2. Through Infectious Waters (A Sickness Elegy)
  3. The Dying
  4. Serenade Of Sorrow
  5. The Morningstar
  6. The Gothic Embrace
  7. On Sunday They Will Kill The World
  8. Forever My Queen

Last year, Swedish Doomsters DRACONIAN released their second full-album, "Arcane Rain Fell". But most remarkably this record was a stunning piece of Gothic Doom Metal and a must-have for any fan of this kind of Metal. Now they're back with a 'new' album, but it's not really all new, as this is a kind of bonus album based on fans' request. The real third album will be released later (2007?).

"The Burning Halo", which is scheduled for the 29th September or 2nd October, contains three new songs, three re-recorded songs from the "The Closed Eyes Of Paradise" demo (1999) and two cover songs (originally by EKSEPTION and PENTAGRAM).

The three first songs are the new ones and continue in about the same vain as the songs on "Arcane Rain Fell", except they sound a bit more powerful. The production also made this possible. Needless to say how good they are, as they show how very competent DRACONIAN is.

"She Dies" has the keyboards taking care of the dark, sad atmosphere. The contrast of Anders' beasty growls and Lisa's soft, divine vocals simply leaves you without words. In general, a brilliant song. The intro of "Through Infectious Waters (A Sickness Elegy)" features tribal drums, the keyboards and guitars, for about a minute. then the whole band is at play.Here and there you can hear some NIGHTWISH-similarities, although DRACONIAN is of course a different band and genre. This song as well is hard to describe and I can only repeat it again and again: amazing, stunning, breathtaking, and more along those lines. "The Dying" takes a much slower approach to emphasize the 'Doom' aspect, although the title itself also gives an indication of what to expect. This is the the longest of the three, clocking in after 9 minutes. Lisa is again very present and again underlines how well she can sing. At around 3:56 you get a beautiful bombastic/symphonic piece. The other highlight comes around 5:27, which leaves the heaviness aside and brings in the piano, a violin, so Lisa has this part all to herself.

If those three songs are an indication of what the real new album will sound like, I'll be among the first in line to buy it.

The reworked demosongs sound as good as the new ones, but of course they're a little different musically. Symphonics play a more important role here and there are more Death Metal-influences, with a short moment of blastbeats in "The Morningstar". "The Gothic Embrace" could have been a THERION-song, at least starting from the fifth minute. But all in all the new versions are well done and sound of course better than the originals on the demo.

Last tracks are covers, respectively by the Dutch band EKSEPTION and well-known Doomsters PENTAGRAM. "On Sunday They Will Kill The World" is overall a job well done, but "Forever My Queen" is more Rock 'n' Roll-ish and of course different from the standard DRACONIAN songs, but this is the song I like the least on "The Burning Halo".

To conclude it suffices to say that this is obligated material for the fans, as it is more a fans' album. If you want to know how DRACONIAN sounded a number of years ago, then this is also an album to check out. In expectation of the new album, "The Burning Halo" is a nice thirst quencher.



The band posted a track-by-track explination of "The Burning Halo" on their website:

"She Dies"

"She Dies" is one of the latest efforts of Draconian and also chosen to be the opening track for the new album. You can expect profound, evocative and deeply mournful soundscapes combined with a heart-rending love story, which tells the tale of two souls who are forced to part from one another. It's a romantically despondent gothic/doom creation and without any doubt; one of the most tear-filled moments of Draconian history.

"Through Infectious Waters (A Sickness Elegy)"

This is an elegy about a world sick, distorted and corrupt; our world in a possible future. With this new song we have tried to create a scenery of collapse and revulsion as mankind finally is forced to recognize their downfall. In the midst of this, a lost soul wander the earth, in hope for the absolute deliverance from human depravity.

"Through Infectious Waters (A Sickness Elegy)" is a song which speaks for itself and is unlike any other Draconian effort. The character is apocalyptic, cold and desolate and it's built upon a field of belligerence and disaster.

"The Dying"

"The Dying" is quite close to "Through Infectious Waters" in topic, but refers more to the world as a terrifying spiritual struggle - alienation, as if you were stranded on a distant shore, far from home without a possibility to leave. Only death would set you free... and all around you the world is falling apart.

This grim effort of "The Burning Halo" is the most doom-oriented of the three new songs - releasing dejection and gloom alongside strong feelings of wrath and dismay. The soaring and beautiful vocals of Lisa creates a bittersweet contrast in the stern blackness and broadens the song to a higher level.

"Serenade of Sorrow"

The song originally hailing from the never officially released luciferian theme demo "The Closed Eyes of Paradise".

"Serenade of Sorrow" is perhaps the one and only true DRACONIAN classic and used to be the opening act of live shows. The sound is much closer to gothic metal than doom and was the first track out on the - above mentioned - 1999 demo. The song assembles a symphonic atmosphere within a distinctive metal setting and with an intense growl versus angelic vocal manifestation.

In sound it replicates pure anguish and innovative darkness in a tumultuous scenery, right before the rebel angels suffered bitter defeat. Within this heart-rending chaos we can still find astonishing beauty, originated from the tender vocal cord of Miss Lisa Johansson.

"Serenade of Sorrow" has been born again in a well-designed restoration, and at the same time very loyal and faithful to the old version.

"The Morningstar"

The song originally hailing from the never officially released luciferian theme demo "The Closed Eyes of Paradise".

"The Morningstar" is a versatile song with a strong epic feel. It deals mainly with a doomy and gothic sound but proceeds into a more aggressive and hostile approach. This track is about how to resist divine oppression and how to break free from its bondage. The title refers to Lucifer, who pleads to the angels left in Heaven to oppose their chains and unite with him to find independence. This is what the Christian faith would call "the devils temptation", but in fact it's just a matter of freedom.

"The Morningstar" is Draconian's second epic (the first is "The Midwinter Sleep" back in 1995) before they progressed further into a doomier sound in year 2000. It was originally fashioned back in 1998 and to be recorded for "The Closed Eyes of Paradise" demo one year later. The song rapidly became a favourite among the fans.

"The Gothic Embrace"

The song originally hailing from the never officially released luciferian theme demo "The Closed Eyes of Paradise".

Highly expressive and amorously dark, "The Gothic Embrace" deals with graceful and poignant structures both in music and lyric. In this restoration we have dared to make some things somewhat different, still as the song remains fairly true to its original. This is a song mostly built upon pure sentiment, which surrounds its irreligious purpose, in order to find everlasting peace in the night... secluded from the blinding light of God. The fantastic vocals of Lisa blends together in symbiosis with the numinous keyboardstructure, preparing a vast spectrum of bitterness.

"The Gothic Embrace" is one of DRACONIAN's most treasured songs from the past... and it speaks primarily to those who favours the more gothic/romantic elevation of their sound.

"On Sunday They Will Kill the World"

In 1970 Dutch songwriter Rock van der Linden wrote a great apocalyptic rock song for his band EKSEPTION, assembled upon a prelude by the classical Russian composer Rachmaninov; In structure rather easy but very large in heaviness.

The band decided to both interpret this great bombastic tune and honour it by just being DRACONIAN; with a momentous spotlight on a doomy, vast and diverse sound. And it worked out very well alongside the old school rock sound and the fundament of classical music.

The 2006 version of "On Sunday They Will Kill the World" wears a dark shroud... and reflects a monumental piece of doom.

"Forever My Queen"

It's not every day Draconian decides to take on the mission to construe the heavy riffing art of Bobby Liebling and PENTAGRAM; one of the origins of doom metal in the ‘70s. PENTAGRAM has been a long-time influence and favourite band of songwriter Johan Ericson - which now is revealed by the dedication of DRACONIAN.

"Forever My Queen" is a quite deviating track if compared to the ordinary material of DRACONIAN even though the song is still vital when it comes to the DRACONIAN sound in broad-spectrum. Most of the members are big fans of the early ‘70s rock sound, so this is a salutation both to that and to the unyielding foundation of doom metal.



More info at www.draconian.se.

Line-up:
Anders Jacobsson - vocals
Lisa Johansson - vocals
Johan Ericson - guitars
Daniel Arvidsson - guitars
Fredrik Johansson - bass
Andreas Karlsson - keyboards & programming
Jerry Torstensson - drums


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AHAB – The Call Of The Wretched Sea (Napalm Records 2006)

Ahab - The Call Of The Wretched Sea
  1. Below The Sun
  2. The Pacific
  3. Old Thunder
  4. Of The Monstrous Pictures Of Whales
  5. The Sermon
  6. The Hunt
  7. Ahab's Oath

AHAB is a side-project of MIDNATTSOL members Christian Hector (guitars) and daniel Droste (vocals/keyboards/guitars), and former ENDZEIT-guitarist Stephan Adolf (bass, vocals).

(taken from the band's website) The odyssey of the ship Pequod and its captain, Ahab, is a well worn tale of bad omens and obsession. It begins with the prediction by a person deemed insane of the death of everyone signing onto the whaling vessel bound for Nantucket. None of the sailors realize the danger they are in until they are at sea, when Ahab - supported by his harpooner Fedallah - forces the men to swear to help him kill the whale known as Moby Dick, a creature that has left him scarred both physically and mentally. The oath is sealed with a strange old ritual, and from there disaster takes its course. Ahab lures his men on to their destruction. This story is a beloved classic, but no one could have anticipated the dark and ambient re-telling by the German funeral doom band AHAB. Their first EP, entitled "The Oath", is an interpretation of the sinister ceremony conducted by the fabled captain to gain the fealty of his crew, a dark soundscape that ever so slowly ties your guts into a knot and frays the nerves. Daniel D. uses the sheer power of his voice to deadly effect, the growls and striking choral arrangements ("The Hunt") creating a dreary musical soundscape accentuated by crushing distorted guitars.

And now their debut album is ready: "The Call Of The Wretched Sea", which will come on shore on the 29th of September. Expect Funeral Doom as on the EP (for those who have it). For the others, AHAB play Funeral Doom Metal, meaning slower than a snail, heavy as fuck and growling vocals with the emphasis on growling, more than pronunciation. This is not happy music and certainly not for the weak-hearted.

AHAB offer more than 67 minutes of dark, depressing music, spread over 7 tracks. That's an average of 9.5 minutes per song. The last two tracks come off the EP, with "Ahab's Oath" taking up the most space with over 15 minutes. "The Call Of The Wretched Sea" starts in a mysterious manner, immediately creating the right setting and atmosphere. When hell breaks loose, you're in for the full ride: straight-from-the-abyss growling, heavily distorted guitars and thundering drumming. Next to that, you've got the keyboards enforcing that dark, depressing mood, that creepy atmosphere. It goes on like that for the next songs with "The Pacific" being even more sad. "Of The Monstrous Pictures Of Whales" forms a resting point. This instrumental song features only the keyboards and samples. Afterwards it's back to the slow, doomish atmospheres at sea. "The Sermon" is an amazing song, mainly because it offers change. change in the way of a calm intermezzo around the 6th minute with extracts from the movie (dialogues, stormy winds, the sea). The last two tracks put more stress again on the distorted guitars and drums and also sound a tad different, but fit in very well.

Fans of Doom, and more specifically Funeral Doom, better not avoid AHAB and their debut "The Call Of The Wretched Sea", otherwise they'll miss a very beautiful pearl. From start to finish, the three men tell the story about Moby Dick in a dark, doomy and not in the least, heavy way. Musically this fits the requirements of the genre and considering the length of the songs, don't expect easy-listening music. AHAB will for sure end up in my Best Of 2006 list.

More info at www.ahab-doom.de.

Line-up:
Chris R. Hector - guitars
Daniel Droste - vocals, guitars, keyboards
Stephan Adolph - bass, guitars, vocals


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GRAVE DIGGER – Yesterday (Locomotive Records 2006)

Grave Digger - Yesterday
  1. Yesterday (2006)
  2. The Reapers Dance
  3. No Quarter
  4. Yesterday (orchestral version)

GRAVE DIGGER, the long-time running German Heavy/Power Metalband will release its new studio album in January 2007. But while waiting for that one, Locomotive Records - their new label home - will release an EP titled "Yesterday", coming out on the 29th September. The EP contains four songs and a bonus DVD with the band's performance at the Rock Machina festival in 2001.

The DVD has the following tracklisting:

01. Intro
02. Scotland United
03. The Dark Of The Sun
04. The Reaper
05. The Round Table
06. Excalibur
07. Circle Of Witches
08. Symphony Of Death
09. Lionheart
10. Morgane Lefay
11. Knights Of The Cross
12. Rebellion
13. Heavy Metal Breakdown

As a first track there's of course (a re-recorded version of) "Yesterday", a powerballad coming off the band's 1984 album "Heavy Metal Breakdown". The song is quite nice, despite the accent of vocalist Chris Boltendahl. "The Reapers Dance" is a to the point rock/metalsong. Heavy riffs, rough vocals, and powerful drumming. The best song on this EP, in my opinion. ;-)

"No Quarter" takes back some speed and also dwells in the atmospheres of ballads, offering a nice variation with the keyboards. This results in heavier and calmer moments to put one or more instruments in the spotlights. Thumbs up for this song as well.

As a little extra there's an orchestral version of "Yesterday", which all in all isn't bad, but I prefer the original, heavier version.

This EP is more a fan-thing, considering the short tracklisting. The bonus DVD certainly makes this release more attractive. The songs are definitely better than the band's last release, "The Last Supper" (2005).

More info at www.grave-digger.de.

Line-up:
Chris Boltendahl - vocals
Manni Schmidt - guitars
Jens Becker - bass
Hans Peter Katzenburg - keyboards
Stefan Arnold - drums


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DUSTSUCKER – Jack Knife Rendezvous (Limb Music Products 2006)

Dustsucker - Jack Knife Rendezvous
  1. Dead On Wheels
  2. Jack Knife Rendezvous
  3. Wasted Times
  4. Under The Hammer
  5. Bleed For My Strings
  6. Dust Is Rising
  7. Continental King
  8. Out For Blood
  9. Burning Glass
  10. Ten Feet High
  11. Witch Of Death
  12. Bigger Than Ever

DUSTSUCKER is a German Punk 'n' Roll band that's apparently been active for almost 14 years (since 1993), at least according to what's on Limb Music Products' website. Since the 29th September this four-piece has released its fifth or sixth full-album, entitled "Jack Knife Rendezvous". It's also their second on Limb Music Products, after 2004's "Rock 'n' Roll Sniper". This is my first encounter with this band and their music, so I can't refer to older works, but I'm guessing it's in the same vain as the newest release.

Since DUSTSUCKER - a name with balls and the necessary touch of humour, don't you think? ;-) - plays Rock 'n' Roll, but with a Punkish attitude, you already know what to expect. On "Jack Knife Rendezvous" the band shows how to have a great time and that Rock 'n' Roll still is a music genre that is perfect for those occasions.

Musically you can refer to bands like MOTÖRHEAD ("Dead On Wheels"), ROSE TATTOO, THE HELLACOPTERS, but also some ALICE COOPER (also "Dead On Wheels") and why not, IRON MAIDEN ("Under The Hammer", which is probably a cover song, although I haven't figured that out yet.). Furthermore, it seems the band has listened closely to METALLICA's version of DIAMOND HEAD's classic "Helpless", since "Wasted Times" sounds very much alike musically.

The rough vocals, the riffing, the melodies... it all fits the bill. But not only the musicianship and songwriting show what DUSTSUCKER can do, even solos are a piece of cake for them. Needless to say they're well played and are a helpful addition to the rest of the songs.

Most of the songs are uptempo, others more of a normal tempo, and really make you wanna headbang or 'move' along with the rhythm and enjoy the show. Speaking of enjoying the show: DUSTSUCKER's songs are written to be played in a live setting, it's something that so clear from the first riff.

R.D. Liapakis worked on TYSTNADEN's latest album, and prior to that many others, and now he's produced DUSTSUCKER's "Jack Knife Rendezvous". The result is outstanding and you can be sure this is a quality album. The only negative criticism I could add is that there are too many uptempo songs, which can lead to boredom very quickly. I do realize that this uptempo playing is typical for Punkish Rock 'n' Roll, so I suggest you play this album mixed among other rock/metal bands. If you consider the songs seperately, then everything's fine.

What else can I say? A great album to have a great time. One of those releases that can cheer you up again, plus the songs create the right atmosphere at a festival.

More info at www.dustsucker.de.

Line-up:
Max Count Farmer - vocals, guitars
Bill Salisbury - guitars
Danny Duster - bass
Marco Piermattei - drums


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WINGDOM – Reality (Dockyard 1 2006)

Wingdom - Reality
  1. Time
  2. Where Do We Go?
  3. Marionette
  4. A Sigh Of Despair
  5. The Essence
  6. Everyday
  7. Never Stop
  8. Tomorrow
  9. Lighthouse
  10. Lighthouse Pt. 2

The story of WINGDOM started back in 1998 when ex-SONATA ARCTICA member Mikko Harkin (keyboards) and Jukka Ruotsalainen (guitar) started to work on some fresh and inspiring song ideas. They were soon joined by Sami Asp (vocals), Markus Niemispelto (drums) and ex-RHAPSODY bass player Alessandro Lotta. During the recording process of the album WINGDOM catched the attention of Timo Kotipelto of STRATOVARIUS fame. He enjoyed the fresh and original appearance of the music and offered to release the album "Reality" through his own label High and Loud in Finland. So, in other words, now it's Dockyard 1's turn to release this album, which originally came ou in 2005. But I guess it was hard to find then. You should be able to find it again in stores since the 25th of September.

Since a couple of months, Alessandro Lotta is no longer in the band. He was replaced by Jarno Raitio. Strangely enough, there's no news on the band's website about Alessandro leaving the band or anything that shows he was in the band. Were things going that bad or don't they want to give a complete overview of the band's history?

"Reality" starts off with a midtempo rocker where lots of breaks have been implemented and keyboards take care of the atmosphere. "Where Do We Go?" is ballad-ish song with small references to ANGRA because of the percussion. For the piano-melody that is played at a certain time Mikko seems to have taken inspiration from SAVATAGE's "The Ocean", which can be found on the "The Wake Of Magellan" album (1997). Not a bad song at all, but the chorus could get boring after a while. "Marionette" cranks up the speed again, that is if you can really use that word here. There's never a serious uptempo song. For this you'll need to turn to Powermetal. You can also hear a female vocalist making a subtle entry now and then. I don't know who this is, but she's a welcome addition. ;-)

Mikko's previously played the keys in SONATA ARCTICA and naturally you'll hear similarities. The biggest one is without a doubt "A Sigh Of Despair". Everything - or almost everything - about this song could have come off a SONATA ARCTICA album: the rocking guitar(s), the keyboard solo. In other words, the musical aspect. ;-) One point of criticism: the sissing backgroundsounds. They're really annoying and make the song sound crowded.

For "The Essence" Mikko looked back at the '80s and see how he could bring that sound back but in a new jacket. The guitar(s) back things up with a solid wall. But it's all about Mikko, as Alessandro and Markus also get their moment of glory, more specifically in "Everyday" where respectively the bass guitar and drums are the most important instruments. The chorus also is played on a heavier level, yet has a certain cheesiness.

Sami's vocals got covered with a light blanket of effects in "Never Stop", but it doesn't really fit, in my opinion. The song itself is slow and drags itself forward with a lot of effort. Nothing special to find here. "Tomorrow" is better, more midtempo again, but it really is interesting when the occasional tempo increase shows up. Unfortunately it never stays this way for a long time. Needless to say that the keyboards reclaim their place on the throne, as well as in the next track, "Lighthouse". This song is divided into two parts: one that's good and the other being... mediocre, since I kinda hoped for a powerful outburst, to no avail.

While it all sounds promising, in reality it's never outstanding. Since it's melodic metal and not Powermetal, speed is not an issue here, although certain songs could seriously use such an injection. The atmosphere on the album is depressing, but not in a Gothic or Doom kind of manner. All in all, this is a good album for what it is worth. The points that need more tweaking or to be avoided:

1) the vocals - not varied enough, too much of the same. Here and there similarities with Toni Kakko (SONATA ARCTICA), so there goes your originality.
2) no uptempo songs

More info at www.wingdom.org.

Line-up:
Sami Asp - vocals
Jukka Ruotsalainen - guitars
Mikko Härkin - keyboards
Allesandro Lotta - bass
Markus Niemispelto - drums


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TÝR – Ragnarok (Napalm Records 2006)

TYR - Ragnarok
  1. The Beginning
  2. The Hammer Of Thor
  3. Envy
  4. Brothers Bane
  5. The Burning
  6. The Ride To Hel
  7. Torsteins Kvaedi
  8. Grímur Á Midalnesi
  9. Wings Of Time
  10. The Rage Of The Skullgaffer
  11. The Hunt
  12. Victory
  13. Lord Of Lies
  14. Gjallarhornid
  15. Ragnarok
  16. The End

Faroese Folk/Heavy Metal band, TÝR saw their succesful album "Eric The Red" re-released by Napalm Records in March of this year. For this new release, "Ragnarok", the band again entered the Jailhouse Studios under the watchful eye of producer Jacob Hansen. No need to explain how this record sounds, as it's quality all the way. The songs on this new release deal with the invasion by the Christians to convert the inhabitants of the Faroese islands. The successor of "Eric The Red" came out on the 25th of September, or roughly six months later.

To tell the stories, the band found it better to divide the album in different parts, eight in total:

I - "The Beginning", "The Hammer Of Thor"
II - "Envy", "Brothers Bane"
III - "The Burning", "The Ride To Hel"
IV - "Torsteins Kvaedi"
V - "Grímur Á Midalnesi", "Wings Of Time"
VI - "The Rage Of The Skullgaffer", "The Hunt"
VII - "Victory", "Lord Of Lies"
VIII - "Gjallarhornid", "Ragnarok", "The End"

Like on "Eric The Red" you'll find a couple of songs in the Faroese language. It's not only good to add change, but it's a language I like a lot, especially when it fits in the story. If only they would add the English translation in the booklet, hahaha. :-)

After the instrumental intro, the heavy guitars and pounding drums come into play. From the start you cannot deny the quality the songs have. Everything sounds folkloric, epic and powerful. Add the warm and melodic voice of Heri Joensen and you're set for a enjoyable long moment.

From the first song "The Beginning" you can hear the production is of high quality and the presence of a folky atmosphere. From start to finish, this re-release is one great piece of Metal. The musicianship is very good and the band managed to make this album very attractive and varied.

"Torsteins Kvaedi" is one (definitely not the only one) of those catchy songs - which they should play live! - where everything starts calm and the drums one step at a time gain in power and domination, from simple hits to full playing. The Faroese singing flawlessy continues in "Grímur Á Midalnesi", where the instruments are left aside and marching steps supports the singing, like an army does. Heaviness kicks back in with "Wings Of Time", where the Faroese singing also found a place and more particularly in the chorus, which is actually a repetition of "Grímur Á Midalnesi", but with instruments.

Another highlight is "The Rage Of The Skullgaffer" - an instrumental, dual guitar-only song with lots of riffing and showing-off ;-) -, and "The Hunt" - a more uptempo, very melodic track.

TYR manage to combine melody, heaviness and folk/viking elements in a splendid way. Slowly going towards a heavier level by starting calm, gentle snare-picking. Then adding the drums to stress a certain battle moment. Use Heri's at the right moments to express those joyful or - in this case - more sorrowful emotions. Touching it is, to say the least. Or leave heavy riffs aside in favour of a more drums-orientated intermezzo.

Like I said with the re-release of "Eric The Red", I can only recommend "Ragnarok" as well, also because I can't really say which is the best. They're complimentary. In addition, a lot of their songs sound like they were written to perform them live. So let's hope they are as good live as in the studio.

Be prepared when they come near you on their tour with WINTERSUN and AMON AMARTH.

More info at www.tyr.net.

Line-up:
Heri Joensen - vocals, guitars
Terji Skibenæs - guitars
Gunnar H. Thomsen - bass
Kári Streymoy - drums


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RICH FORTUNA – Heathen Machines (Rich Fortuna 2006)

Rich Fortuna - Heathen Machines
  1. Warbride
  2. Bloodtrails
  3. Throwdown
  4. Disciple
  5. Where Are You?
  6. Hessian Divisions
  7. Libido Unleashed
  8. Test Subjects
  9. Crooks n Demons *
  10. Spanish Devils
  11. Nasty Christians
  12. Hand Over Fist
  13. Sinister
  14. Alone

RICH FORTUNA, guitarist since long, contacted me around the end of 2007 for a review of his latest album, "Heathen Machines", which came out in September 2006. I didn't know his work, let alone his name before that day. But I checked some samples on his MySpace page and that already gave me a pretty good first impression. I was pleasantly surprised when I received the album, in digipack format with a DVD containing the video for "Test Subjects", featuring Rich Fortuna being in a mental hospital or something and the police (or a similar force) questioning him. Meanwhile there are the other patients 'dancing' to his music, as he performs with the band. It's strange, to say the least.

Anyhow, some bio info: Rich's influences include JUDAS PRIEST, METALLICA, IRON MAIDEN,PANTERA, LED ZEPPELIN and SEPULTURA. You can't accuse him of having bad taste, right? :-) At the age of 19 he played in two bands, TERMINAL REIGN and COALITION. At the beginning of the 21st century he started teaching guitar at the Carmen Caramanica Music Instruction Studios and still does so. Three years ago (2005, since I'm writing this in 2008) he started working on "Heathen Machines", to release it one year later.

On to the album then, which is fully instrumental. A total of 14 tracks resulting in a playtime of almost 53 minutes. It all starts with "Warbride", its intro filled with percussion only, creating a sort of tribal atmosphere, which is also used in "Bloodtrails" and "Hand Over Fist". As good as these intros are, the transition to the rest of the song isn't so natural. There's a short silence, a stop, before the guitars and drums take over and musically this gives an enormous contrast. Contrast can be good, as long as you see/hear a connection between the two parts, but here it's difficult to notice it.

Since Rich is a guitarist (and keyboardist) all of the songs are guitar-driven and considering his influences, you can really hear it here and there. For example, "Warbride" has the riffing/melodies of e.g. METALLICA's "Load" and/or "Reload" and SEPULTURA. "Throwdown" also has a touch of SEPULTURA, mainly via the screaminess that they did on "Chaos A.D.". What really makes this song recognizable is the accelerating sound of the guitars, as if to duplicate that of a F1 racecar.

PARADISE LOST also seems to have influenced Rich in the songwriting process, as can be heard in "Disciple", where the melody could have come off one of these albums: "Shades Of A God", "Gothic", "Draconian Times". The sound of the lead at a given moment brings thoughts of "The Sound Of Perseverance" by DEATH. And this is not the only song where the memory of Chuck Schuldiner appears. "Where Are You?", an accoustic track mainly with the electric guitar being added for some Bluesiness, also contains a touch of DEATH. The drums have a less important role and are therefore pushed to the back. Come to think of it, I don't think it would hurt if there were no drums at all, since the guitars are more than capable to carry the song by themselves.

One last comment about the songs: the last one, "Alone", features the combo accoustic/electric guitars as well, but the drums are assisted by Hip Hop-like beats, which was a suprise, especially when comparing with he previous songs. I like some experimenting now and then, and Rich manages to do that in various songs, but those beats don't really fit, in my humble opinion. Music is still a matter of taste, emotions, feelings, etc... but not everything can be considered compatible.

One can go on with the name-dropping, but the matter remains clear that Rich Fortuna has great potential, even though he's not playing like Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Kiko Loureiro and others. It's all about the songs, the feelings they express, not necessarily about solos and shredding. But who knows what he does next. "Heathen Machines" provides us with a versatile mix of Rock/Metal, with the spices coming from the drums, keyboards (although in a minor role) and the percussion. The guitars remain of course the central instruments, taking the music into Progressive zones on certain occasions. Anyone into instrumental Rock/Metal and in need of something new should check out Rich Fortuna's first instrumental album - the first in a series? Musically I have no real complaints, although there are two things that have to be dealt with for the next album:

1) vocals - some songs really need a vocalist, for the gap is too big for the instruments to close it.
2) the production - I like an honest sound and that's what you get here. But with a better production the material would come out better and certainly the drums would gain in power and strength. Plus, it would get rid of some noise/rubble that you hear now.

More info at www.richfortuna.com.

Line-up:
Rich Fortuna - guitars, bass, keyboards
Carmen Caramanica - accoustic guitar solo *
Jose Lopez - bass
Ben Saltzman - drums
David Snediker - drums, percussion


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DEADSTAR ASSEMBLY – Unsaved (Dockyard 1 2006)

Deadstar Assembly - Unsaved
  1. Unsaved PT.1
  2. Unsaved PT.2
  3. Killing Myself Again
  4. Dejected
  5. Naive
  6. And She Will Fall
  7. Showing Teeth
  8. Darker Now
  9. Pale Blue
  10. Bled
  11. Serial
  12. Insurrection
  13. At Both Ends
  14. Death Wish
  15. Perfectly Destroyed

DEADSTAR ASSEMBLY, an industrial rockband from Florida, USA, has recently (25/09) released its newest album on - at least - European shore. Entitled "Unsaved", the band plays a mix of death-pop and industrial rock. DEADSTAR ASSEMBLY saw the light of day in 2002 and started with singer Dearborn. Later the other members joined him to have a full line-up.

While I like Industrial Metal from time to time, DEADSTAR ASSEMBLY is far from Metal and closer to MARYLIN MANSON. Even the looks are similar. But Marylin's music is much better, even if I don't like it.

I can be short on this: there are some good songs when things get heavy and somewhat Thrashy (e.g. "Unsaved PT.1", "Insurrection"), but for the most part the overuse of samples is just killing the songs, like in "Naive" and certainly in "Showing Teeth", which is nothing but samples.

Next to that the vocals and lyrical subjects makes you think more of emo-music, which is always very interesting, don't you think?

Nope, DEADSTAR ASSEMBLY will never be my cup of tea. At most times the songs are either too crowded because of the samples, or they miss the required rocking push or Dearborn just does not have the rough vocals or the right tone to fit the music. For fans of the band only?

More info at www.deadstar.com.

Line-up:
Dearborn - vocals, guitars
Dreggs - guitars
Mubo - keyboards
The Dro - bass
Cyggy - drums


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BLACKSHINE – Lifeblood (Dockyard 1 2006)

Blackshine - Lifeblood
  1. Cure In The Shape Of Noise
  2. Born A Denier
  3. Lifeblood
  4. Stonefog
  5. Powerghoul
  6. Unbroken
  7. Burn The World
  8. Face The Bastard God
  9. Dwell In Black
  10. Second Rate Blasphemer
  11. Denial Of Pain

BLACKSHINE was founded in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1988 under the name of HETSHEADS with the mission to play Death Metal. In 1995 the band released one record, entitled "We Hail the Possessed". But it soon became obvious that the band was too much straying away from the brutal sounds that define Death Metal, and to avoid fans' bashing they changed their name to BLACKSHINE to concentrate more on a Rock 'n' Roll sound. This resulted in the 1997 release "Our Pain Is Your Pleasure" via Gun Records and five years later "Soulless & Proud" was added to their curriculum, this time via SPV/Steamhammer.

So a change in music style was rapidly done. Based on the samples on their website I think their first two albums were quite good Rock'n'Roll, with a very good vocalist behind the mic. For their newest and third release, entitled "Lifeblood" - released on the 25th September via Dockyard 1 -, I can say that musically there are some good to very nice moments where the guys used Death/Thrash-like riffs and put those into the Rock 'n' Roll stew. References to bands like e.g. COMMUNIC and AFTER ALL ("Sacraments For The Dead" song) make these songs more interesting. Needless to say that the vocals too are overall well done, although not always fitting.

The regular mixture of uptempo and slower songs offers on a musical level an easy to listen to package, but unfortunately - and unlike the previous albums (at least, based on the samples) - the drums here ruin every song. The sound is so thin and digital they might as well have used a drumcomputer. It really makes you wonder why a ROCKband decided to not make the drums have a more powerful sound. Yes, one shouldn't base his 'judgement' on one instrument, but alas, you can't ignore it, especially if drums are your favourite instrument.

"Lifeblood" is only recommended to the fans of BLACKSHINE or those who don't care much about as-true-as-possible sounds. Sorry, but for me, this record could have been much better, despite the good moments, especially the Thrashy ones.

More info at www.blackshine.nu.

Line-up:
Anders Strokirk - vocals, guitars
Joakim Stabel - guitars
Fredrik Holmberg - bass
Chris Barkensjö - drums
Stipen - drums (on this album)


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WARCRY – La Quinta Esencia (Avispa Music 2006)

Warcry - La Quinta Esencia
  1. ¡Que Vengan Ya!
  2. Ulises
  3. Tu Recuerdo Ma Bastará
  4. La Vieja Guardia
  5. Un Poco De Fe
  6. El Más Triste Adios
  7. Buscando Una Luz
  8. Ha Pasado Su Tiempo
  9. Redención
  10. Mirando Al Mar
  11. Más Allá

WARCRY is a Spanish Melodic Powermetal band that's been active since 2001, at least according to the biographical info on their website. What catches the eye immediately is the name García. Three members carry that name and either they are relatives (brothers, nephews, ...) or it's just a coincidence.

If you know Spanish, I'd recommend you read the entire overview per year that describes the band's most important career steps, but it's also good to know that WARCRY know their Metal and I'm pretty confident that their previous albums also are worthwile:

2002 - "WarCry"
2002 - "El Sello de los Tiempos"
2004 - "Alea Jacta Est"
2005 - "¿Dónde Está La Luz?"
2006 - "Directo A La Luz" (live)
2006 - "La Quinta Esencia"

Next to SILVER FIST, BASICO and DRAGONFLY - to name just these - WARCRY also is signed to the Spanish label Avispa Music. And again it seems Avispa Music knows who delivers the goods.

WARCRY's newest album, "La Quinta Esencia" (released back in September, on the 18th), is my first encounter with this band, although I had heard their live album "Directo A La Luz", to get an impression of their live performances as well. Result: a very good sound, very powerful, very cheerful and with the crowd singing along you really feel it must be a joy to go to one of the band's concerts. :-)

Victor's vocals are of the clean, yet rough, kind. You could compare it to Silverio Solórzano from SILVER FIST. Of course, Victor also sings in his native language and like the other band this works very well. I don't see any Belgian or Dutch band's vocalist singing in Dutch as I find this language not very fitting for Metal.

But let's go back to WARCRY's "La Quinta Esencia". Quinta = fifth and also is a logical title for the band's fifth studio release. For a Powermetal band, uptempo (double-bass) songs are essential and that's also how "¡Que Vengan Ya!" takes off. The drums perhaps sound a bit too light, not pounding enough, but this is not the heavier kind of Powermetal. Keyboards provide more depth, but the guitars remain the most important instrument. Solos are divided between the keys and guitars and sometimes even combined which gives a nice result.

Thunder, lightning and rain announce tragic and doomy happenings, but once the music kicks in, it's totally the opposite and even adds more cheerful melodies. But a bit further in the song it's obvious "Ulises" won't really cheer you up. Enough room for the solos, again well executed. And even for the more melancholic moments, Victor shows he has got the right voice. The songs ends with the piano and seawave sounds.

Something more uplifting now... eh, no, that will have to wait. "Tu Recuerdo Ma Bastará" continues to spread sad feelings. But it does sound nice and heavy with a speed increase by the drums in the chorus. The importance of the guitars is shown again, as the keyboards just provide an atmospheric backing.

A rather calm intro with gentle piano touches brings us to "La Vieja Guardia". Here things are indeed more uplifting and very melodic. Also a song that should do quite well on stage. It reminds me a bit of ANGRA and SHAAMAN. WARCRY's music in general should definitely appeal to fans of these Brazilian bands.

And after the guitar-dominated songs, it's time to sit back and relax with "Un Poco De Fe", where it's just vocals and piano. This is no song to actively listen to, but... forget that. After a good minute the guitars and drums are back and gone is the peaceful moment. :( This could have been great, yet instead the guys decided to make the whole band part of it. Not that this 'electric' version is bad, not at all, but just having Victor and Manuel would have broken the stream of heaviness. Little after the third minute, the peaceful comes back shortly. Anyhow, regardless if it's heavy or just peaceful, this song is one of the best on "La Quinta Esencia" without question!

Aaah, yes. I was wondering when the acoustic guitar would be used. And again I'm fooled, because it doesn't take long before the electric variants take over. Luckily they are kept silent during the verses where the vocals, bass, keyboards and drums prevail, after which the guitar do come into play with short streaks. Needless to say "El Más Triste Adios" is a slow song with the necessary sad undertone. I guess if I knew what the songs (or album) are about, I would better understand why there is so little shredding and uptempo drumming. Oh wait, there's Triste Adios in the title, meaning Sad Goodbye or something like that. Now things make more sense. But I'm still curious about the other songs.

Alrighty, time for more Powermetal again and some more push:"Buscando Una Luz" is a welcome heavy uptempo song that should instantly take away the sad feelings from before. Or you could listen to DRAGONFORCE if this is still a bit too slow for you. ;-) What can I say? A great song that gets you moving. "Ha Pasado Su Tiempo" takes back some speed again and can be considered a ballad, although in a heavy manner. The weeping keyboards in the chorus can touch you if you're not really in a happy mood. Like the previous songs this is again great stuff and makes you wonder if WARCRY actually does have bad (or less good) songs.

Cast aside the sadness and start getting positive again. The playful keyboard sounds in "Redención" sure help and the drums are played in a tight pattern so you cannot sit still. Certain Italian Powermetal bands also have songs in this vain, e.g. SECRET SPHERE, LABYRINTH, ... The before last song "Mirando Al Mar" is the longest with a running time of 7:18. Little by little the tension is building up and around the first minute the drums are setting and thus the song is advancing in a normal way. Slow to midtempo in the verses, uptempo and double-bass in the chorus. With such a lengthy playtime it's kind of obligatory to implement different tempos and calmer moments where either guitars or keyboards dominate. This is no different here, although the full band plays for most of the time.

"Más Allá" closes the album and the keyboards announce speedy times. This song won't break any records and isn't exactly thrashingly fast, but it has a good tempo. It's more of a safe way to end a very nice album.

What else is there to add? WARCRY make very decent Powermetal and on their fifth full-length album everything is simply great, from the first to the last minute, although it could take some time to swallow it all. This is just a must-have for Powermetal fans, as cliché as it sounds, but it's the truth. I'm still doubting whether I should add "La Quinta Esencia" to my Best Of 2006 list or not. ;-)

More info at www.warcry.as.

Line-up:
Victor García - vocals
Fernando Mon - guitars
Pablo García - guitars
Manuel Ramil - keyboards
Roberto García - bass
Alberto Ardines - drums


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KROKUS – Hellraiser (AFM Records 2006)

Krokus - Hellraiser
  1. Hellraiser
  2. Too Wired To Sleep
  3. Hangman
  4. Angel Of My Dreams
  5. Fight On
  6. So Long
  7. Spirit Of The Night
  8. Midnite Fantasy
  9. No Risk No Gain
  10. Turnin' Inside Out
  11. Take My Luv
  12. Justice
  13. Luv Will Surprise
  14. Rocks Off!

KROKUS, a long-time running Hardrock band from Switzerland, will release its 15th (right?) full album - "Hellraiser" - on the 15th of September via AFM Records. Since their founding back in 1974 there have been many line-up changes and as a result there's not one original member left nowadays.

Musically you could compare the band's music, and especially their latest release with bands like AC/DC, IOMMI, MOTÖRHEAD, and other similar (bluesy) bands.

The album starts with a song that could have been written by AC/DC. A great rocking song with foremost the vocals standing out for the comparison. "Too Wired To Sleep" continues in the same manner, but adds a bit more speed. The twin guitarsolos do this song a lot of good.

With "Hangman" the band takes a more laid-back approach, but never forget to inject the right amount of Rock. "Angel Of My Dreams" comes with more melody and as a whole this will be great to hear live. One element of criticism: the chorus is repeated a bit too much, but other than that the song is a job well-done.

"Fight On" is one of those rocktunes that could have come from IOMMI's last album, "Fused". Nothing to add, thus. ;-)

After the first couple of rocksongs, time for some softer music with the first ballad: "So Long". It's a ballad, so what's more to say? Let's go on with a serious tempo increase and touch the boundaries of Powermetal with "Spirit Of The Night", a song that reminds of the German masters PRIMAL FEAR - more specifically the song "Chainbreaker" - and GAMMA RAY. Needless to say this is one hell of a song!

After this great moment, it's time to go back to business as usual with a midtempo rocksong called "Midnite Fantasy". "No Risk No Gain" continues in the same vain, but adds more speed. The guitars come out very well and have that typical 'rockiness'.

"Turnin' Inside Out" is almost like "Midnite Fantasy", while "Take My Luv" is an even slower song and the second ballad. It's not bad, but not super either. The same can be said of "Luv Will Surprise".

Things get a little better with "Justice"where the heaviness kicks in after a calm intro, and "Rocks Off!", a good way to end a Hardrock album. Rock 'n' Roll, baby, yeah! ;-)

All in all KROKUS have done it again, I'd say, even though this is my first encounter with this legendary band's music. I enjoyed the record a lot, despite two less good songs. But what's two among fourteen? Exactly, peanuts. KROKUS thus still have it and any Hardrock fan should add "Hellraiser" to his/her collection.

More info at krokusonline.seven49.net.

Line-up:
Marc Storace - vocals
Mandy Meier - guitars
Dominique Favez - guitars
Tony Castell - bass
Stefan Schwarzmann - drums


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INBORN SUFFERING – Wordless Hope (Sound Riot Records 2006)

INBORN SUFFERING - Wordless Hope
  1. This Is Who We Are
  2. Inborn Suffering
  3. Monolith
  4. The Agony Within
  5. As I Close My Eyes
  6. Stygian Darkness
  7. Thorn Of Deceit
  8. The Affliction Corridor

Woohoo! Finally some Doom Metal! And immediately a new band: INBORN SUFFERING, from la douce France. Yes, this review stands quite low - well, what is low? - on the page, since I put the albums in order of release date (Z-A). And considering I only got the promo some weeks ago... we're talking January 2007, I'm writing this in February. "Wordless Hope" came out on the 15th September (date on the promo), but the date in the biography says the 13th October. Oh well...

Doom Metal is my third or so favourite genre, after Power Metal and Thrash. Favourite bands include CANDLEMASS, SOLITUDE AETURNUS, SWALLOW THE SUN, EVOKEN, MOURNING BELOVETH, MOURNFUL CONGREGATION, AHAB, DRACONIAN, (some) CATHEDRAL, SATURNUS, SPIRITUS MORTIS, and probably others as well, but these are the ones I own albums of or of which I have heard some songs.

INBORN SUFFERING thus hail from France and prior to this debut album, "Wordless Hope", they released one demo (2005), despite being founded in 2002 and building on the line-up along the way. Sound Riot Records saw the guys had potential and offered them a contract. And now the album is available to you all, except for those who have a hard time getting Metal CDs and only by import, which is a sad thing and something the labels and distributors and everyone else involved should think about tand adjust their policy. But that's another story. Let's focus on the band and their album.

Next to INBORN SUFFERING, France's Doom scene includes bands like ATARAXIE, LETHIAN DREAMS and NINGIZZIA. The band also made a slamm tour in France, Belgium and Holland/The Netherlands with ATARAXIE, SWALLOW THE SUN, BEFORE THE DAWN, MOURNING BELOVETH, SATURNUS, MAR DE GRISES, ...

The debut "Wordless Hope" has a total running time of almost 65 minutes spread over eight songs, which means you get a lot of music for your money. But Doom Metal isn't exactly the genre that has 3-minute songs. ;-)

The line-up problems were thought to be history, but not long after the release of the debut the band had to look for two new members: vocalist Frédéric Simon and guitarist Loic Courtete parted ways with the band, due to respectively personal and time problems. So in came Laurent (vocals) and no one else, really. They are probably still searching for the right axeman, but until then Stéphane will have to provide the riffs himself. Strange that the biography mentions Emmanuel, but his name isn't to be found in neither the line-up on the band's website, nor on their MySpace page.

INBORN SUFFERING also appeals to session musicians and those duties are fulfilled by:

Héloise - female vocals
Archtchréna - violin
Philippe - backing vocals
Diane - flute

It all starts very quietly and little by little the tension is being built up. Like the guys want to make a statement, they set "This Is Who We Are" as the first song, and it's immediately a difficult one to digest with its 11 minutes. Slow, heavy riffs with even slower drumming, backing the growling vocals. Around the fifth minute we get a tempo increase, but it still remains Doom, don't worry. You can hear, particularly in this song, that the band still has much room for improvement concerning the smoothness of playing. By this I mean that the drums are sometimes played a little too fast or too slow. Or it could be that the guitarists are having a sudden adrenaline increase. ;-) Things do improve and sound better aligned in the other songs.

The vocals are in the vain of MOURNING BELOVETH and SATURNUS at certain occasions. Like with SATURNUS, there are also passages where Frédéric talks. The piano and keyboards provides the right amount of sorrow and melancholy, backed by the accoustic guitar. Especially the second part of the album sees a greater role for the keyboards, where they are responsible for the weeping sounds, the dark atmosphere and show they make the songs more complete.

While drumming in Doom Metal is not fast or very technical, you do have to have a good ear and reflexes to adjust your playing to the rhythm. More power can be added via double bass, for instance. Short burts or longer playing, like is done in e.g. "Inborn Suffering" and "Monolith".

And if you managed to listen 'till the end of "Thorn Of Deceit", you can ease your mind with the instrumental and peaceful "The Affliction Corridor" where the heavy riffs are non-existant and it's just the piano, the accoustic guitar, the flute and the violin that can be heard. Very beautiful ending.

INBORN SUFFERING plays two kinds of Doom, or in other words, a mix of two genres: Death/Doom and Gothic Doom. "Wordless Hope" is an album for anyone who likes Death/Doom and/or Gothic Doom and bands like MOURNING BELOVETH, SATURNUS, SWALLOW THE SUN and similar bands. The production is rough, as it should be, and I cannot stress this enough: INBORN SUFFERING is a name to remember and "Wordless Hope" an album to have in your collection. I'm looking forward to the follow-up, which should really show what potential these guys have.

More info at www.inborn-suffering.com.

Line-up:
Frédéric Simon - vocals
Loic Courtete - guitars
Stéphane Peudupin - guitars
Sébastien Pierre - keyboards
Emmanuel Ribeiro - bass
Thomas Rugolino - drums


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DIONYSUS – Fairytales And Reality (AFM Records 2006)

Dionysus - Fairytales And Reality
  1. Illusion Of Life
  2. The Orb
  3. Blinded
  4. The World
  5. Spirit
  6. Queen Of Madness
  7. The Game
  8. True At Heart
  9. Tides Will Turn
  10. Dreamchaser
  11. The End

DIONYSUS, Olaf Hayer's other band, has returned with a new release, their third so far. "Sign Of Truth" was pretty average, but things improved over time, as the second album "Anima Mundi" had prooved. Still, this too lacked enough powerful and strong songs, despite being a big step forward. But now DIONYSUS have made their ultimate album and tops their previous releases without any problems. Behold... "Fairytales And Reality", now in stores since the 15th of September. :-)

Olaf is a great vocalist and one of Metal's best when it comes to epic and melodic songs. Having shown his skills in LORD BYRON and in more recent years LUCA TURILLI, he has been the voice of DIONYSUS for some four years now. People complaining about the few songs he sang on LUCA TURILLI's lastest album "The Infinite Wonders Of Creation" - also because Olaf suffered from a virus, preventing him from doing all songs - can now express their joy and happiness with DIONYSUS's newest record. Olaf is back, indeed.

The production has also greatly improved. The songs have more power, the solos are better too, overall the result is more mature than before.

"Fairytales And Reality" starts with the catchy "Illusion Of Life" and immediately the tone is set. "The Orb" stands a couple of steps higher on the stairs of speed. What a song! And what vocals!! Amazing stuff. Of course, for the sake of variation, the band have decided to not put two slow(er) or fast(er) songs after each other. As a result, "Blinded" lacks the speed of the previous musical pieces, but this song takes a more majestic approach.

Continuing the Metal way, "The World" is a faster midtempo track with the emphasis on melody, but rocking enough to kick ass live. "Spirit" is the same vain as "Blinded": slow and majestic. "Queen Of Madness" is slower than "The World", but nevertheless is a very decent song, switching the softer and heavier moments in a perfect way. The obligatory guitar solo does the song a lot of good and cannot be missed.

Atmospheric keyboards and symphonic-like guitar playing in the first part of "The Game". Then Olaf falls in, in a calmer moment, after which things get heavier and a beautiful unity of melody and heavy riffs simply silences you. Again lots of attention for the guitar solo, but it's all well-executed. The chorus feels a bit '80s-like and is the most important part of the song.

Fast picking and keyboards announce an uptempo continuation: "True At Heart". And yes, brace yourself. During the verses, things get rough and built up the pace for the double-bass, uptempo chorus. Epicness is key here. Great song, great melodies. A must to play live! Feel free to sing along. ;-)

Guitars starting the powerful "Tides Will Turn". The sound is so good that you would like this and other songs just for the guitars. A slower midtempo track, while overall quite decent, I find this one a bit less good, because Olaf seems to sing in a nagging way. At around 2:50 a calm interlude comes in, with the bass guitar having its moment of glory. But that doesn't take long, as the rest of the song comes soon after.

Keyboards are the key instrument in "Dreamchaser" to provide the melody and atmosphere where the guitars take over. Uptempo track with the chorus being the best part, next to the solos of course, which are always well-played and -chosen.

"Fairytales And Reality" does not only 'end' with a song baring that (end) title, but it's at the same time the longest on the album, clocking in just before the 8-minute marker.No epicness here, more a song about a realistic situation, about having a bad childhood and fighting against it. Not an easy song to swallow, but it is in fact very very good.

DIONYSUS have grown over the years and improved their skills a lot. All their efforts, live performances, etc... made them produce their best album (so far). With this third release, the battle in the Powermetal genre is a hard one, but the record is simply a must-have for any fan of this kind of Metal.In addition, it's also one of 2006's better records. Hesitate not, go for it.

More info at www.dionysus-powermetal.com.

Line-up:
Olaf Hayer - vocals
Johnny Öhlin - guitars
Kaspar Dahlqvist - keyboards
Nobby Noberg - bass
Ronny Milianowicz - drums


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ALCOHOLIKA LA CHRISTO – Toxicnology Part 1 & 2 (Locomotive Records 2006)

Alcoholika La Christo - Toxicnology Part 1 & 2
  1. Glamours Day Of Suicide
  2. Toxicnology
  3. Etienne
  4. Industrial Messiah
  5. Mi Sanre
  6. Desolation
  7. La Bestia
  8. Souffrir
  9. Crimelinks
  10. Dunkelheit
  11. Depression
  1. Tristezza
  2. Trance La Mort
  3. Raza De Bronce
  4. Desolate
  5. Nazischwein
  6. Penetration
  7. Hannibal
  8. Suenos
  9. Witchcraft
  10. Matador
  11. Hidden Track

ALCOHOLIKA LA CHRISTO, a Bolivian Industrial (Metal) band released their third album "Toxicnology" in two parts, but the promo combined them onto one disc, via Locomotive Records on the 15th of September. I have never heard of this band and having heard their last album now, I can say it's not really something to be amazed about.

So the album is divided into two parts and this also shows in the tracklisting on the promo, but also in the length of the songs. The second part contains the more longer ones, even if the difference is as small as one or two minutes.

Industrial is what best fits the music. It starts with a creepy, doomy song, but if you look at the title it's obvious this song sounds this way. The following song, "Toxicnology", is in the vain of SEPULTURA and CLAWFINGER, but then on a more Alternative Rock level. The snaredrum sounds too strong and the screams make it emo. It isn't until "Etienne" that we can speak use the term Industrial. Keyboards are naturally a key instrument here. This is a more Dance-related song, but contains a rather nice melody. "Industrial Messiah" is an uptempo Industrial (duh ;-)) song reminding of old RAMMSTEIN and ROB ZOMBIE. In other words, this is the first song that deserves a thumbs-up.

It continues in a good way with "Mi Sangre", which starts in an exotic manner. With "Desolation" the band uses some French lyrics, there's a duet with a female vocalist (who?). Of course it's a heavy song, but reminds of a popsong where some gay, nude singer is surrounded by many nude women in a white setting, singing about "Harmony". The balance is again not even.

It even gets worse with "La Bestia": a wild song, lots of samples, and although the guitar adds a positive note, it doesn't help for the improvement of the song. "Souffrir" is ... well, next! The second wild song, "Crimelink", this time is a hit and in the vain of PANTERA. Song number two that gets a tumbs-up from me.

"Depression" ends the first part in a dancy way, and that's dancy as in techno/dance/trance/.... or in other words: samples, samples, and more samples. No thank you. Prior to this dreadful ending "Dunkelheit" is the last positive element in "Part 1", thanks to the drums and the double bass.

Conclusion: three good songs or better said, not good enough.

Let's see if "Part 2" can change things. It takes a slow start with "Tristezza", baring a logical title. The keyboards/piano dominate. Then the band continues in a midtempo manner and even adds danciness here as well. "Desolate" is the only real positive element among the other 11 tracks. The end is truly something to react like "WTF?": the first minute is filled with music, then there's a huge gap of silence and around 5:46 you get screams and baby's cry until the end.

Conclusion: "Part 2" could not improve the situation started by "Part 1". It's even worse.

Overall conclusion: Sure, there are some good things, but overall this album really is for people who like it excentric. I don't even think that fans of Industrial Metal will like this, except for a couple of songs maybe. No, "Toxicnology" simply is not good enough to kill for it.

More info at www.alcoholika.com.

Line-up:
Viko Paredes - vocals, guitars
Cubi Romeu - keyboards
Vito Paredes - bass
Eduardo Jara - drums


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THE FROZEN – Blue Virtue (Transwaved 2006)

The Frozen - Blue Virtue
  1. Frozen
  2. Adore
  3. Opposite
  4. Carnival
  5. Straight To Hell
  6. Winter
  7. Reason To Feast
  8. Violet
  9. Jester
  10. Whore
  11. Night Of The Vampire
  12. Still Frozen

THE FROZEN, an 'alternative' rockband from Austria, will release its newest album on the 13th September and on the 2nd October in the Benelux. Of course, proud as they are, they claim this to be a masterpiece. Hm... well, it's pretty obvious it isn't. Prior to "Blue Virtue" - which seems to deal with love as in meeting a girl at a club (or a similar location), offering a drink and one thing leads to another, right? - the band released many demos/albums and videos and seem to play for the fun of playing, not caring about skills or decent songwriting.

Of course, THE FROZEN is not a famous band. Comparing with their previous works is useless as I've never heard of THE FROZEN before and I kinda bet it's in the same vain as "Blue Virtue".

But let's see for the music. It's definitely rocking, but with a certain groove and punkishness at times. What stands out - not in a positive way - are the vocals and the drums. The vocals are clean, sometimes deep, but quite amateuristic with even missing the tone now and then. The drums could also use improvement as they sound too thin and don't provide the songs with the necessary power.

Next to the rock aspect, with the heavy guitars, variation is offered by using the accoustic guitar. But still, that doesn't help to lift the songs to a higher level. To be honest, there are some fairly good parts spread over the album, but overall the result is quite average and mainly the vocals bore you rapidly.

THE FROZEN still have a lot of work to do to improve themselves on any level and not to mention getting a decent producer.

More info at www.thefrozen.net.

Line-up:
Dennis Panholzer - vocals, guitars
Thomas Koller - guitars
Gerhard Peter - bass
Thomas Zöchling - drums


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KALEDON – Chapter 4: Twilight Of The Gods (Hellion Records 2006)

Kaledon - Twilight Of The Gods
  1. Holy Water
  2. Hell On Earth
  3. War Plans
  4. Goodbye My Friend
  5. Clash Of The Titans
  6. Into The Fog
  7. Eyes Of Fire
  8. The Fury
  9. New King Of Kaledon
  10. The Prophecy
  11. Out Of The Ground

Well, this little band called KALEDON has done it again. I'm really amazed how these guys have improved their skills over the years. Their first two albums were not that good, especially due to a crappy production, but songwise they showed good ideas. With last year's "Chapter 3: The Way Of The Light" there was a huge change. STRATOVARIUS drummer Jörg Michael played the drums and the band found their way to the Outer Sound Studios and producer Giuseppe Orlando. Both changes proved to be very important, as the album was their best and also among the best Powermetal albums of 2005.

After some concerts, the band continued the work on the follow-up, "Chapter 4: Twilight Of The Gods". Before entering the studio, the contract with Steelborn Records was put to an end and a new home was soon found, also on Italian soil. But problems came along and KALEDON had to search for a new label. The American Universal Metal Productions was convinced of the material of these Italian Metallers and offered them a contract. Later this year a European deal was made with Hellion Records.

Next to these new steps, the band also found someone to design the cover for their new album: Jean-François Le Gac.

With the second album having been recorded at the Outer Sound Studios, the band managed to do even better than "Chapter 3: The Way Of The Light". So let's see...

"Chapter 4: Twilight Of The Gods" starts with a short dialogue between the king and his successor Daniel, after which the first uptempo song breaks loose. In "The Holy Water" speed is key, double bass rolling out of the speakers during the chorus and you can't help but move your legs like you're behind the kit yourself. Definitely one of the best KALEDON songs!! The drumming does have some similarities with Jörg Michael's (STRATOVARIUS). And since he played on the band's third album, I guess he also gave some tips to David Folchitto. Of course, a positive change as David can implement more variations. The guitar solo also fits in very well. And I would almost forget the heavy, but melodic interlude around the third minute.

Monstrous growling makes a connection to "Hell On Earth". In terms of riffing and rhythm it reminds of "Black Sun", which comes off the "Chapter 2: The King's Rescue" album, only here it's played a bit faster. No speed here until around 2:30, when the drums suddenly change and the solos kick in so Claudio can take a rest for the rest of the song. Superb ending, again very catchy.

In the 'making of' video, you could see a piece of the recording of "War Plans", with Claudio recording his vocal parts. A rather calm intro builds up the tempo and around 1:00 it's time: uptempo, but with single bass. Very melodic, somewhat '80s sounding, but catchy as hell. The special solos (guitar and keyboards, the latter in Mario Bros. style) make it easy to know which song it is. Definitely one of my favourite songs on "Chapter 4".

"Goodbye My Friend" is on next. This one might sound cheesy or something like that, but if you read the story you might understand it better. This is a sad song, with the keyboards delivering the melody and atmosphere. The obligatory guitar solo is well done and the song is actually quite touching. Overall, a decent song. The vocal performances of Claudio deserve a couple of thumbs up, since he does have a remarkable voice, which has improved since the last album. And even then he had already made a lot of progress.

After the shedding of tears, it seems the gods want to interfere with the fighting and to express this, what better title than "Clash Of The Titans"? Prepare for speed and one hell of a ride. Singing along is not prohibited, as the chorus is easy to remember. Superb material.

How about some NIGHTWISH, for a change? The intro by the keyboards certainly remind of this Finnish band. Then the rest of the band set in at midtempo. An tempo increase is made when the chorus shows up. "Into The Fog" is not a bad song, let that be clear. But it's certainly many times better than what they made with the first two albums.

"Eyes Of Fire" is another great song with again a nice load of catchiness. It starts in a dancy way and this is actually very nice to hear. But it doesn't remain dancy, as David can't control himself and feels the need to increase his drumming. ;-) The sing-along character of the chorus should do well in live situations. And it's really not hard to learn the words. Very nice solos here as well, being an essential part of the song.

Battle sounds form the intro of "The Fury", a balladesque song, totally not a furious song, as the title would imply. It's slower, more melodic, accoustic and electric guitars taking turns. Vocally it's truly amazing what Claudio pulls off, considering some nerve-wrecking interventions on previous songs. What's also positive: no high-pitched screams! The song shows the vocalist from a different side. Respect!

Continuing the pattern of fast, slow, fast, slow, "New King Of Kaledon" brings back the speed, naturally. The title also indicates it, as the people are crowning a new king (in the story), Daniel. So this is supposed to be happy event. Samples of a crowd applauding set the tone, after which the fast riffs and dito drums set in. The keyboards make it a bit more bombastic. Hands down for the fantastic heavy interlude, followed by the solos. And just when I thought Claudio had given up on his high-pitched voice, it makes its return for a couple of seconds. Luckily it's not that bad as before.

Spotlights on the keyboards/piano, as this forms the key instrument in "The Prophecy", assisting Claudio (vocals). When no other instruments are involved, it's easier for a singer to be criticized, but again it's a job well-done.

"Chapter 4: Twilight Of The Gods" started with an uptempo track and that's also how it ends. The circle is round. Musically and vocally (especially in the chorus), nothing but positive news.

Conclusion? This is a band to reckon with! Their previous album was among the best (in its genre) of 2005, and the new one is without the smallest doubt among the best of 2006. Claudio's singing has again greatly improved, the drumming is more furious with the basses sounding like machine-gun fire. Of course, the production has been upped a couple of levels, making everything come out very strong and powerful. The endorsements (a.o. S.I.T. Strings) are also part of the positive evolution, providing the band with better equipment.

Fans of KALEDON and Powermetal don't have to worry, this is a masterpiece and a must-have!

More info at www.kaledon.com.

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


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MANTICORA – The Black Circus Part 1 - Letters (Massacre Records 2006)

Manticora - The Black Circus Part 1 - Letters
  1. Enter The Carnival
  2. The Black Circus
  3. Ituneric I
  4. Enchanted Mind
  5. Ituneric II
  6. Forever Carousel
  7. Freakshow
  8. Gypsies' Dance - Part 1
  9. Ituneric III
  10. Wisdom
  11. Ituneric IV
  12. Disciples Of The Entities

As you might have read in the reviews of MANTICORA's previous albums, it's very clear that this is of of my favourite Power Metal bands. All of those albums took not too long to get commenting by me and I thought things would also go quite smooth with "The Black Circus Part 1 - Letters", which came out on the 8th September. I started writing... but nothing too positive. At that time (I'm writing this in May 2007) I thought it was their worst album, especially because of the "Ituneric" parts, which interrupted the flow of the songs. But since MANTICORA is a band that I love, or whose music I love, I felt very strange inside when I was about to upload my findings.

These Danish had released solid album after solid album, so it couldn't be that this time they would fail at that, right? I put the paper aside and decided to work on the review later. But I didn't think it would take me another six months. I soon forgot about it as more CDs were coming in and other reviews and interviews had to be done.

Once the news about "Part 2 - Disclosure" started being announced, I was reminded of "Letters" and decided to pick up the album again and really listen to it. Taking into account that it is part 1 of a 2-disc concept story and not a regular album like before. This means that "Letters" is indeed a grower and I'm glad I didn't upload any text about it back in September/October.

The story is about a man joining a travelling circus in the 19th century, where he discovers dark and cruel practices. The title "Letters" refers to the songs themselves and the fact that the lyrics are written in this way. Our character is trying to tell about his experiences through letters.

The album starts with our character telling that he arrived at the circus and that's about to travel accross the country. Then mysticism and magic takes over (violin, choirish background... prepare for a dark journey). The violins build up the tension, which bursts loose in "The Black Circus". A very aggressive song it is to say the least. you get of course the typical MANTICORA ingredients: Lars's like-it-or-don't voice (I like it ;-)), Mads's wild drumming, Kristian's vicious riffing and... look! It's Martin Arendal, the guitarist who also played on "Hyperion". Bassist Kasper is - needless to say - also busting his ass or bass off to provide some fitting low-end. The horns and violins help to create an atmosphere and setting that lure you into the tent to watch the circus.

Next to the regular songs (well, regular?) you get interludes ("Ituneric") that break the natural flow of the songs. These were my biggest problem for not liking the album, since they don't always come in at the right time. I understand it's part of the story, but they make it a little harder to enjoy the album to the fullest.

The first interlude is of the orchestral kind, with kettle drumming. Almost like on the soundtrack of "The Mummy (Returns)". It's nice, but I fail to see how it fits in the story. "Enchanted Mind" continues the aggressive pace again. Around the 2nd minute there's a nice break, with more playful instrumentation to prepare for the next part of the event that takes place then. The chanting that our Danish translate from the story is in fact the mindbender who has hypnotized a young woman, who will never be the same again afterwards. It's good to have the lyrics with you, so you can more easily understand what's going on.

The next song ("Forever Carousel") is really great and my favourite on this album. After the second "Ituneric" - which sounds even more mysterious and scary - the tempo get a major increase and you get a classic MANTICORA song: speed is key here, and the chorus is very catchy, at least on a musical level. I bet this is another topsong for live performances! Vicious riffing, double bass bursts from Mads and depressing keyboards backing things up in the verses... great stuff. And that chorus. *drools* The keyboard and guitar solos are naturally a valuable element.

"Freakshow" is a very sad song, no heaviness here. Lars sings in a soft, as hoarse as possible ;-), voice about the strange people/creatures: mutilated, disfigured, cut amputated and what not. The keyboards enforce the sadness a great deal. The accoustic guitar part is so damn beautiful, but short. Short and to the point, very fitting.

After this cruel moment, it's time to go back to business as usual with the "Gypsies' Dance - Part 1". Yes, you guessed it: another aggressive uptempo song, but also superbly executed. The choirish keyboards help give the song more power and content. Around the third minute there's a guitar and bass break, where you can hear Kasper thumping his snares. But Mads, Kristian and Martin take over soon again. Just listen to those crushing drumrolls!

It's good that "Ituneric III" is very relaxing. Orchestral sounds backing the operatic voice of Karin Borum, who only sings "aaaah", but it offers a nice break after the wild dance. "Wisdom" of course sounds as usual, but the verses lack aggressiveness. Contrary to the bridge and chorus where the whole band is at play. Karin makes her presence here as well. She seems to play the role of the woman that was with the mindbender in "Enchanted Mind". Her parts sound very nice and her voice fits in very smoothly.

Keyboards - well, flute sounds - with backing. Our character tells about the meeting in the tent of the gypsy that bends minds. Thunder and clavecimble provide the right sound for the mysterious atmosphere and setting. The violin enforces this a little more. "Disciples Of The Entities" ends "Part 1" in an aggressive and uptempo manner. The riffing and melody are reminiscent of "Darkness With Tales To Tell", which is a splendid album. "Disciples..." is a wonderful song that makes you long for more and also curious of how this will do live. Ferocious riffs, pounding drums, brutal double bass attacks - beware of this lean and mean Power Metal machine. Or circus, if you insist. ;-)

Well, after six, sorry, seven months I'm really starting to like this album and I have been playing the last few days, just to get into it again. And I have not regretted it. MANTICORA have done it again, as they have done before. But to be honest, my preference goes out to the regular albums. Yes, the "Ituneric"s are the biggest issue here, but I guess I could rip the normal songs and burn them onto a CD-R to have a more 'normal' album, hahaha. :-) Anyhow, congratulations to Lars and Co. for another very good album. Anyone who likes concept albums should check out "The Black Circus Part 1 - Letters". Fans of the band will already have this in their collection.

More info at www.manticora.dk.

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


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SYLVER MYST – Emotions Revealed (Sirenette Music Industries 2006)

Sylver Myst - Emotions Revealed
  1. Predestination
  2. A Life's Tale
  3. Lovtred
  4. Depth Of Illusion
  5. Strains Of Souls
  6. Escape From Reality
  7. Desire
  8. My Valentine
  9. As Heaven Blessed A Dying Rose
  10. Devoted Yet Unable
  11. Waiting For A New Day
  12. As The Circle Closes
  13. The Bleeding Snowlands (USA bonustrack)

"(...) fingers crossed for a full album soon." is what I said last year when these Dutch Gothic Metallers released their EP "Depths Of Illusions". Little more than a year later (5th September), the debut album, "Emotions Revealed", has become reality. SYLVER MYST also found a label home with Sirenette Music Industries.

For this first album the band decided to re-record a lot of songs and especially those off the EP, since the sound quality could have been better but due to financial reasons this was a hard objective. Live on the other hand it all sounds more powerful and much better. On this 13-tracks containing album you'll find almost the entire EP, the three songs off the "Strains Of Souls" demo (2003) and - for the U.S. release - the titletrack off the "The Bleeding Snowlands" demo (2001). Of course, it's not all about re-recorded songs as the band also managed to add 5 new songs.

"Predestination" might only be the (symphonic) intro, but even this shows how good this album sounds, although the improved production can be better demonstrated with the second track, "A Life's Tale", which clocks in after a long 8 minutes. Here the keyboards dominate in terms of melody and atmosphere, and the guitars back things up. Marc's drumming also comes out better and more powerful, even though he's no real skin-smasher. ;-) He plays in a more gentle kind of way. About halfway there's a calm piano interlude with a car crashing in the background - a bit like AYREON's "Day One: Vigil" off the "The Human Equation" album (2004). The soft guitar melodies join in flawlessly.

I mentioned it in the review of "Depths Of Illusions" and I'll say it again: Marjolein's voice has been upped a couple levels and is thus inline with the rest of the instrumentation. Everything sounds more mature.

"Lovtred", "Strains Of Souls" and "Waiting For A New Day" were originally found on the "Strains Of Souls" demo and re-recording them did those songs a lot of good.

The new versions of the EP songs - "Depth Of Illusions" (Depth and Illusion, not - as before - Depths and Illusions), "Escape From Reality", "Desire" and "As Heaven Blessed A Dying Rose" - also are more mature and you can feel the passion and efforts SYLVER MYST did to put more life into these compositions.

Typical throughout the album is a more important role for Martijn and his keyboards, even in the older songs. Not that it's a bad move, on the contrary. This provides more melody, power, symphonics and atmosphere. In short: thumbs up!

Next to "A Life's Tale", there's also the beautiful ballad "My Valentine". Here Marjolein is backed by the piano, a peaceful and heavenly piece of music. The guitars and drums are only allowed to join for the last minute and a half, roughly measured. "Devoted Yet Unable" pushes the keyboards into the background, where they have a hard time pushing through the wall of guitar riffs, with which I have no problem whatsoever. It's always good to have a straight-forward rocking song to counter the more emotional kind of playing, if you know what I mean. Here as well a calm interlude breaks the heavier moments and Marjolein switches from operatic to softer vocals. The accoustic guitar fits in perfectly and Martijn is permitted to crank up the volume of his keys. All this results in a very touching moment. "Devoted Yet Unable" is one the best SYLVER MYST songs and should be standard on their setlist when performing live.

The last new song, "As The Circle Closes", is keyboards-only and sounds too much like techno, in my opinion. So I'm not that eager to cheer for that. Luckily it's less than two minutes. But maybe they should have used something in the vain of "Predestination", then the title would have made more sense to me. Luckily I've got the USA version of the album, with "The Bleeding Snowlands", which - for me - ends "Emotions Revealed" in a more rocking manner. ;-)

Conclusion? "Emotions Revealed" is an album where these Dutch Metallers can be damn proud of as it lifted the older songs to a much higher level where everything comes out better, clearer, more powerful... more mature. The new songs show SYLVER MYST is on the right path towards world, eh, Benelux and (maybe some parts of) Europe domination. Start small, people. ;-) Anyhow, many congratulations with this splendid result and keep it up. Fans of the band can buy this unheard and Gothic fans in general have something new to add to their collection.

More info at www.sylvermyst.nl.

Line-up:
Marjolein Hüsken - vocals
Didier Roumen - guitar
Rob van Dijk - guitar
Martijn In 't Veld - keyboards
Marco Brugmans - bass
Marc Jaspers - drums


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JON OLIVA'S PAIN – Maniacal Renderings (AFM Records 2006)

Jon Oliva's Pain - Maniacal Renderings
  1. Through The Eyes Of The King
  2. Maniacal Renderings
  3. The Evil Beside You
  4. Time To Die
  5. The Answer
  6. Push It To The Limit
  7. Who's Playing God
  8. Timeless Flight
  9. Holes
  10. End Times
  11. Still I Pray For You Now
  12. Reality's Fool (bonustrack)

JON OLIVA'S PAIN, a sort-of follow-up to the legendary SAVATAGE, although it isn't really SAVATAGE - hence Jon Oliva's name in the band name. Jon Oliva needs no introduction anymore, as he's one of the gods of Metal, together with Ronnie James Dio, Rob Halford, Bruce Dickinson, Chuck Schuldiner, Criss Oliva, Biff Byford, Doro, and countless other great musicians that stand/stood for true straight-from-the-heart Metal. But you could also refer to him as the Mountain King. ;-)

SAVATAGE's last album, "Poets And Madmen", came out on SPV in 2001. This was also the album with Jon Oliva back on vocals, which hadn't happened since "Streets" (1991), after Zak Stevens left in favour of starting his own band CIRCLE II CIRCLE. After the release of this last album things got quiet. Chris Caffery pursued a solo career and released a couple of albums until now. Jon Oliva in the meantime also concentrated on releasing new songs, but had his hands full with TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA, which also includes a.o. Chris Caffery and drummer Jeff Plate.

And then, in 2004, Jon's first solo album "'Tage Mahal" was released upon mankind. References to SAVATAGE were clear since Jon Oliva = SAVATAGE. In need of other members, Jon found them in the people who previously worked with Zak Stevens' CIRCLE II CIRCLE and more precisely the debut "Watching In Silence" (2003), which also seemed very SAVATAGE-ish because of Jon Oliva's cooperation and ofcourse Zak's voice. That line-up didn't seem to work, so the others left CIRCLE II CIRCLE and joined Jon Oliva in his PAIN.

Many gigs, a small line-up change - Shane French joined to fill the second guitar spot - and a label change later, album number two is ready and came out on the 1st of September via AFM Records. Contrary to SPV, AFM is a much smaller label and focuses more on the artist and gives them time to grow.

For this new album, "Maniacal Renderings", Jon dug deep into the many boxes that filled his attic, stuffed with tapes and lots of other-non relevant things. On these tapes were old SAVATAGE, and more specifically Criss Oliva-recordings, never used but still good enough to use on a future album. So Jon worked with them a bit, presented the pieces to the other PAIN members and asked them how they could translate these '80s recordings into songs suited for a JON OLIVA'S PAIN release. And so it happened. Luckily the guys are skilled enough to make sure that the riffs and melodies still have that typical SAVATAGE-feel. Together with Jon's powerful and divine vocals, here's the album that comes closest to what SAVATAGE sounded like.

"Maniacal Renderings" came out in three versions: standard, limited digipack with the bonustrack "Reality's Fool" and a tin-case edition with the bonustrack "Only You", which was a song used for a movie and is a tribute to one of Jon Oliva's idols: John Lennon.

"Through The Eyes Of The King" kicks off this wonderful album and is set for a midtempo pace with nice breaks and solowork. Jon's typical short high-pitched scream also features in this song, which helps bridge the gap between PAIN and SAVATAGE. The titletrack is next and immediately at least 1 1/2 times longer. Singing along here sure is easy and should be great to do with the whole crowd when the band is performing. Lyrically this is again dark, but of high level. Keyboards determining the melody, guitars backing up and the drums providing the powerful foundation. Tempo and melody changes offer a nice setting.

The keyboards/piano also play an important role throughout the album, as this is Jon's main instrument, although John also play them and on this album you never really know who plays what. So where you see me mentioning keyboards or piano and Jon (Oliva), it's tierh Jon or John who played the instrument. ;-)

"The Evil Beside You" is the obligatory accoustic ballad and sounds a bit like "Handful Of Rain", at least the first part. The rest of the song continues in a more powerful manner, with breaks to put the stress on the guitars or Jon (vocals or keyboards). This could easily have been a SAVATAGE song. Simply brilliant!

"Time To Die" also sounds in the vain of old SAVATAGE and is simply a straight-through Metalsong with the typical double-voice talkative singing in the chorus. Taking back some speed, the guitars announce a doomier moment Then the pedal is pushed down a bit more again with the solos setting in. Perfect.

Lights out, spots on... piano and Jon Oliva, and some symphonic backing. If you listen carefully, you can hear "Back To A Reason", also a very beautiful ballad which brings tears to my eyes again and again. Of course, the rest of the band also joins after a while.

Ok, time to push back some energy in yourself with another SAVATAGE-like uptempo to-the-point Metalsong: "Push To The Limit". No, it's much faster than DIO's "Push". ;-) Bang the head that doesn't bang and enjoy this kick-ass uplifting song! After this slow midtempo is the chosen path with "Who's Playing God" where the keyboards playing a vital role again, not only for the melody, but also the organ solo. Some blues-influences add flavour and colour where appropriate.

"Timeless Flight" has something BEATLES-like in the verses because of the melody with the piano and Jon's clean vocals. Piano and symphonics brings peace and rest, the guitars provide a more counter-attack. And if you're not afraid of looking for similarity in other genre, I'd suggest you have a listen at German Gothic masters LACRIMOSA, although JON OLIVA'S PAIN is naturally more Heavy Metal orientated. ;-)

Going into darker atmospheres, eh, "Holes" where keyboards are left out or are trivial. Here guitars rule: heavy riffs, accoustic versions, solos, screams... it's all here. Overall this is also a quality song, although I find this not as good as the other songs, despite the tempo increase after the fourth minute. In "End Times" the accoustic guitar returns to the spotlights again, together with the piano. The heavy guitars are more in the background. Vocally this is a mix of clean singing with a rough undertone and a more screamish approach.

Album closer "Still I Pray For You" is fully accoustic and the drums have been silenced completely. Only guitars and keyboards determine the melody and course of the song. Not bad, but Jon has written better songs of this kind while in SAVATAGE. For this song Jon got the help of Tony Oliva (12 string guitar), Anthony Oliva (bass) and Christopher J. Oliva (accoustic guitar). The bonustrack on the digipack, "Reality's Fool", is a midtempo ballad-ish song with the necessary drama and grandeur like only one man can write. This song also features some guitarsoloing from Jon's nephew Christopher Jon Oliva.

Second chapter for Jon Oliva's 'solo' direction and immediately this is a huge improvement compared to "'Tage Mahal", although that wasn't a bad record, more an experiment. What makes "Maniacal Renderings" also superb is the use of old SAVATAGE-recordings, thus bringing back many memories. Nice memories, although SAVATAGE is a very unique band and hard to replace. JON OLIVA'S PAIN is a second best, you could say. Especially now. Definitely one of the best albums of this year and a must-have for (especially) SAVATAGE fans, while awaiting the final SAVATAGE release: a live CD/DVD which should be available around Summer next year. While you're at it, look out for CIRCLE II CIRCLE's third album "Burden Of Truth" if you long for more Zak Stevens material. :-)

More info at www.jonoliva.net.

Line-up:
Jon Oliva - vocals, piano, keyboards, guitars
Matt Laporte - guitar
Shane French - guitar
John Zahner - keyboards, organ, piano
Kevin Rothney - bass
Christopher Kinder drums, percussion


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DARK AT DAWN – Dark At Dawn (AFM Records 2006)

Dark At Dawn - Dark At Dawn
  1. The Alliance
  2. Dark And Dawn
  3. Avalon
  4. Crossbreed
  5. Roses Of Light
  6. Fearless
  7. The Passage
  8. The Ones With Fiery Eyes
  9. Glorious Duty
  10. Sons Of The Sea

DARK AT DAWN recently - the 1st September to be precise - released its newest and fifth album upon mankind, titled with the band's name. Apparently this band has been alive since 1993. Since then three demos preceded the band's debut "Baneful Skies" which came out in 1999. They too could not prevent the line-up changes and problems to record new albums and other related obstacles. You can check it all out in detail at the band's website.

So now they're back with their second release under the wings of AFM Records. "Dark At Dawn" at first didn't please me and I thought it was very average. Multiple listenings prooved me wrong. This album is a very nice piece of Heavy Metal, brought via a mixture of aggression and melancholy.

It starts perfectly with the uptempo "The Alliance". "Dark And Dawn" takes back a tiny bit of speed, but still remains great to headbang and shake that ass, eh, no... wrong album and genre, hehehe. ;-) A very decent Metalsong ofcourse.

With "Avalon" the first signs of melancholy are introduced. Drumrolls and flute sounds help give the song the required mood of sorrow, but also add a touch of epicness. Thorsten's rough, yet melodic vocals fit this kind of singing perfectly. Be it a fast, crushing Metalsong or a sad ballad, Thorsten can deal with it.

Time to re-inject some power into the songs, starting with "Crossbreed". Nothing special, but still pretty decent.

"Roses Of Light" is another step into the dark, sorrowful parts of the album. This song does keep it more rocking, though.

Thorsten can also use his voice in a more normal way as demonstrated in the intro of "Road To Eternity". Once the entire band has set in, the roughness takes the lead again. An epic song, which certainly does not stand out, but also can be considered as decent. Although I kind of fear this one could be one of those songs you want to hear once, maybe twice, but then prefer something else. Especially the chorus is responsible for this feeling.

"Fearless" makes you think something ferocious is coming up, but those wishes are not answered. You do get double bass and midtempo-played Metal. There are not a lot of fast songs on "Dark At Dawn" as the band relies more on creating the right atmosphere throughout the album and adding heaviness where needed.

In "The Passage" Thorsten leaves his rough side apart as much as possible for the second time. Symphonic elements in the background have been used to give the song more power. Multiple layers of riffs make the song fuller.

Focussing on the Metal aspect again, in comes "The Ones With Fiery Eyes". Definitely one of those songs that call to be played live.

Aha, at last, another speedy song. :-) "Glorious Duty" even sounds somewhat Thrashy. I understand if you want to put the emphasis on an atmosphere of sorrow and melancholy and whatever more along those lines, but please: songs like "Glorious Duty" or "The Alliance" should be more in number on an album like this. Killer track for a concert. Don't hesitate, just play!

The album closer "Sons Of The Sea" is again some steps away from the speed and ferocity of afore-mentioned songs and also fits well among the other, more sad and epic tunes.

Overall, DARK AT DAWN have done a good to very good job with their new self-titled album. You just cannot deny this. The band delivers, even though not every song is a hit. This album won't win any awards, but it will fulfill your needs if you seek decent Heavy Metal. The mastering by master-of-the-art Mika Jussila at Finnvox Studios also helps to bring out the right sound, power and feeling.

More info at www.dark-at-dawn.de.

Line-up:
Thorsten Kohlrausch - vocals
Torsten Sauerbrey - guitars, drums, keyboards
Michael Lowin - bass


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IKUINEN KAAMOS – The Forlorn (Descent Productions 2006)

Ikuinen Kaamos - The Forlorn
  1. Frailty
  2. Grace
  3. Delusion
  4. Ascent
  5. Fall

IKUINEN KAAMOS (if I googled well, meaning something like grim/gruesome/terrible/macabre/... eternity), hail from Finland. The band was formed in 1997 and very soon released their first demo "Pimeys Pohjolan Yllä". The following year another demo came out: "Tulivarjot". After that things cooled down severely and a split-up was the only remedy.

In 2003, one of the founding members of the band, Jarno Ruuskanen, wanted to bring IKUINEN KAAMOS back to life. The band's style began to take shape as Death, Doom and Progressive Metal had a major influence on the guys. With the help of new members the band commenced the writing process for new demos, which saw the light of day in 2003 and 2004, respectively entitled "So Rose The Dreadful Ghost" and "The Lands Of The Plague". The latter being more a promo in search of a contract.

And so it happened that in 2005 the band got their desired deal, the Dutch label Descent Productions being an interested party. The four-piece entered EastVoice-studio in august of that year to record their debut album "The Forlorn". Now, since the 31st August, the album is out. The lyrical concept is based upon a story of an old man who murdered his wife and child decades ago, and now he struggles with faith and guilt.

The album contains 5 lengthy songs with running times between 7 and 14 minutes, totalling a playtime of a good 50 minutes. Now that's what I call value for money! Yes, I know, quality above quantity, but if the quality is so good, even when it exceeds the standard of 3-4 minutes, then you can only be positive about this. ;-)

In the press text it says the band plays a mixture of melancholic Black/Doom/Death metal with a Progressive touch. That's not completely true, as the only Death Metal references are the growling/grunting and maybe the blastbeats, although you have those in Black Metal too. I think it's easier to say which bands you can compare IKUINEN KAAMOS with: THY SERPENT, but foremost Norwegian colleagues KAMPFAR, as the Finnish lads's music comes very close to what KAMPFAR plays. But the music remains melancholic and dramatic, that's for sure.

Lengthy songs also stand for "try to keep you attention for the entire playtime or as long as possible", and luckily a lot of those songs also qualify for background music, next to the active-listening approach.

"The Forlorn" starts accoustically - and you'll notice the band makes a lot of use of this guitar throughout the album - backed by symphonic elements, creating an atmosphere to dream away. But not for long, since three minutes later the blastbeats and speedy riffing come bursting out of the speakers... in true KAMPFAR-style. The Progressive touch is implemented by neatly changing between the heavier and calmer moments. Apart from the fast way of playing, there are times when the four guys take a more normal turn, again to keep the listener focused.

In the vocal department it's all growling, grunting and screaming. But! it never reaches the limits of annoyance. Henri does not have an original voice, but when he opens his throat, you're amazed at what he can do with it. The sound of his growls are somewhat similar to those of Jan-Chris de Koeijer (GOREFEST, but when he was a couple of years younger) and Asis Nasseri (HAGGARD).

Next to the expression of appropriate feelings and adding the right touch of melancholy and drama to the songs, the band also put a lot of effort in not overusing the vocals and giving more space to instrumental parts, which should be and were kept interesting and variated enough to not damage the flow of events.

Quality musicianship in every domain make this a worthwhile debut album and a must for fans of 1) melancholic music brought in a mix of Black/Viking in a Progressive kind of manner, but especially 2) fans of bands like KAMPFAR and THY SPERPENT.

More info at www.ikuinenkaamos.net.

Line-up:
Henri Villberg - vocals
Juhani Mikkonen - guitars
Jarno Ruuskanen - guitars, bass
Arttu Romo - drums


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GORATH – The Fourth Era (Descent Productions 2006)

Gorath - The Fourth Era
  1. Sagittarius
  2. Xibalba Be
  3. Create & Renew
  4. Descending The Realm
  5. The Fifth Birth
  6. Zenith Point
  7. Cosmogenesis
  8. The Astronaut Of Palenque
  9. The Precession or MAYHEM cover

GORATH is a one man's project by F. Dupont, but completed with the help of guest musicians. Like with labelmates IKUINEN KAAMOS' recent album, GORATH's second one, "The Fourth Era", was apparently already avilable since the 30th August, but Descent Productions brought it out on the 13th October. Being the successor to the debut "Elite" (2005), "The Fourth Era" is inspired by the Mayan calendar and 2012. On the band's website, and particulary this page you can read the lyrics and follow the story.

As said in the text on the back of the promo, GORATH plays a mixture of traditional and progressive Black Metal. Since the band's second album deals with the cosmos, the term Cosmological Black Metal is also there. Fact remains that this is dark music to better express the events that happen throughout the story.

The riffs are direct and not too technical. The drums are played according to what doom and chaos occurs at that particular moment. But it's not all blastbeats. Vocally the demonic growls prevail, although Filip also takes a cleaner approach, like in e.g. "The Fifth Birth".

Here and there more peaceful, accoustic moments have been implemented: e.g. "Create & Renew" - a very good song - and "The Astronaut Of Palenque", where the blasting reigns, but also takes a step down in favour of a more normal kind of playing.

One can be short about this: "The Fourth Era" is a hit! Amazingly good album. Everything sounds very pure and lots of attention was devoted to not make the album sound overcrowded. Pure music, no extra samples, so everything flows better. With a running time of 50 minutes you get a lot of music for your money.

I'm not sure about the last song, whether it's "The Precession", as mentioned on the band's website or a cover of MAYHEM, as I read in another review.

More info at gorath.blackmetal.be.

Line-up:
Filip Dupont - vocals, bass
Zahrim - guitars
Geert Devenster - guitars
Kevin De Leener - drums


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OBSCENE GESTURE – Straight Outta The Gutter (GutterThug Records 2006)

Obscene Gesture - Straight Outta The Gutter
  1. Do You Believe?
  2. Don't Matter
  3. Fallen
  4. Enough
  5. Killing Kids
  6. Lovely
  7. What You Gonna Do

OBSCENE GESTURE, is the brainchild of Chuck Profus (AGENT STEEL) and L.A. gutterTHUG Guy Green. Together with George Robb (AGENT STEEL, L.S.N., DETENTE) and Vince Dennis (STEEL PROPHET, BODY COUNT) they've brought old school thrash back to the general population..and its as sick and aggressive as it gets!!! .... says a statement on the band's website. What to expect? A mixture of Hardcore and Thrash.

The demo starts with a wonderful track with only talking, but in an angry way, talking about the most horrible things (corruption, ugliness, hate, ...). The great thing about this is the way it's spoken, because of the specific vocal sound, building up the anger from silent and obediant and humble to really convinced of the cause, thus ending with a fuck-you attitude.

"Don't Matter" is a short song, really short, but to the point. Who needs an in- or outro, right? Actually, you can't really call this a song, more a statement backed by heavy guitars and killing drums. And they also managed to add a guitar solo, which is good. It gives the song a little extra.

"Fallen" is the longest song with its running time of 2:23, even though 'long' could be anything. And here we have an intro, indeed. Building up the pace until at around 0:35 hell breaks loose. Nothing but anger, frustration and more of that. I just hope Guy hasn't destroyed his vocal chords yet. ;-) But that's what OBSCENE GESTURE is about: to-the-point songs that instantly take by the throat. No need for long playtimes, as the message wouldn't come accross and make the songs boring.

"Enough" commences with an instrumental first part after which - like in "Fallen" - the band continues at the uptempo, kick-in-the-face manner.

"Killing Kids", for which a video was shot, comes the closest to be called a song. Here too, a guitar solo is implemented. not exactly refined, but as rough as the message the band is spreading. Very fine piece of work, if I may say.

"Lovely" takes a slower approach, but maintains the same level of heaviness and aggression. Halfway the song, a short increase in speed is detected, but then it goes back to that sluggish way of playing.

The closing "What You Gonna Do" is similar to "Don't Matter": direct start and so 'till the end. There's no better way to end this demo.

OBSCENE GESTURE can be proud of this demo, although I find it a bit too short with just 10-11 minutes of music. Still, like I said before, this is typical for this kind of music where anger, frustration and aggression are key elements. I wouldn't recommend this for active playing, but just for those occasions where you feel fucked, when you've had a lousy day at work, when things don't go the way you'd like... in short: when you are in a fuck-you mood and want to vent your feelings about certain situations.

The band is also working on a full album, which will contain 21 tracks of material like on the demo. Not for pussies, in other words. ;-) In the meantime, you can order this demo by contacting George Robb.

More info at www.obscenegesture.net.

Line-up:
Guy Green - vocals, guitars
Vincent 'Vinsident' Dennis - guitars
George Robb - bass
Chuck Profus - drums


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WELTENBRAND – The End Of The Wizard (Napalm Records 2006)

Weltenbrand - The End Of The Wizard
  1. Bewitched Herds Boys
  2. The Ghosts Of New Year's Eve
  3. Question By The Night Ghost
  4. The French And The Wine
  5. The End Of The Wizard
  6. Among Them
  7. Foal In An Egg
  8. Overheard
  9. Gipsy Magic

WELTENBRAND will release its 5th full-album, "The End Of The Wizard", on the 28th of August via Napalm Records. The band's music can be described as Gothic Darkwave, but there's a big focus on classical instrumentation. Also because the band doesn't make use of electric guitars or heavy riffs. ORCHESTRAL MANOEUVRES IN THE DARK is one of the band I had to think of when hearing this new album.

WELTENBRAND hails from Liechtenstein and was formed in 1995 by keyboardist Oliver Falk, vocalist Richard Wenaweser and Simone Villamar (ex-STEINER). In that year the band recorded its debut "Das Rabenland" thanks to a deal with Witchhunt Records.

The following year the band signed to Oliver Falk's label - M.O.S. Records Ltd. - to record their second album, "Das Nachtvolk", which saw the light of day in 1997. This time the band added Daniela Nipp's violin skills to the songs.

In 1999 "Der Untergang Von Trisona" was released and for this record there were contributions of Liv Kristine (LEAVES' EYES, ex-THEATRE OF TRAGEDY) and Alexander Krull (ATROCITY). WELTENBRAND recieved much praise for this release, due to the songs' bombastic approach.

The last album that was released, until now, was 2002's "In Gottes oder des Teufels Namen". The album concentrated on featuring clear vocal arrangements and straightforward compositions without losing the uniqueness attributed to the band. As with every album, the lyrics always stem from Liechtenstein's myths and legends as told by Dr. Otto Seger.

With M.O.S. Records Ltd. having to close its books, WELTENBRAND signed with Napalm Records in the fall of 2002 and began working on their fifth record, "The End Of The Wizard". In the spring of 2005 two new members joined the band: Adrian Büchel on drums and Christian Sele on bass. At the end of last year Simone and Stefan Villamar left the band, but Dina Falk stepped in to handle the female vocals.

And the result is magnificent. It's a total change if you're used to heavy, supporting riffs and don't hear anything of that with WELTENBRAND. It's the keyboards and violin(s) that take care of the melody. This time too a real drummer - instead of samples - and bass are part of this musical project.

The drums have been given a more '80s sound and it does fit the songs, although a bit more power would not have hurt at all, on the contrary. Something more like with LACRIMAS PROFUNDERE. Ritchie's and Dina's vocals are quite compatible, although there are moments where Ritchie sounds somewhat annoying. It's like he's nagging, if you know/hear what I mean. Especially in "The French And The Wine" it is very clear.

Although there's no heaviness here, despite the bombastic touch and choir arrangements, it does remain special music, certainly to start the day or when you come home from a long day of work. Then WELTENBRAND can help to ease your senses, to calm down, to relax.

WELTENBRAND is a band you can't miss with, I think, although I've only heard this new album and "Der Untergang Von Trisona" and with both albums I'm positively suprised of the result. So, one more band to check out. Napalm Records is releasing many good albums this year and prooves again they have a keen eye/hear for this kind of music (in general, Gothic).

More info at www.weltenbrand.li.

Line-up:
Ritchie Wenaweser - vocals
Dina Falk - vocals
Oliver Falk - keyboard
Daniela Nipp - violin
Christian Sele - bass
Adrian Büchel - drums


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SHATTER MESSIAH – Never To Play The Servant (Dockyard 1 2006)

Shatter Messiah - Never To Play The Servant
  1. Never To Play
  2. Crucify Freedom
  3. Fratility
  4. Hatred Devine
  5. Fear To Succeed
  6. All Sainted Sinners
  7. Inflicted
  8. Drinking Joy
  9. Bad Blood
  10. Blasphemy Feeder
  11. Deny God
  12. Disillusion
  13. Bleed To Shadows
  14. New Kleen Killing Machine

SHATTER MESSIAH, another desecration of our beloved Jesus, is ex-NEVERMORE/ex-ANNIHILATOR guitarist Curran Murphy's own band. For the various positions he appealed to the services of drummmer Robert Falzano - with whom he played in ANNIHILATOR - who also brought bassist Ron Boisvert along, vocalist extra-ordinaire Greg Wagner (BREAKER, ex-ARCHETYPE) and for the rhythm guitar Dusty Holt joined the fold to complete the line-up. SHATTER MESSIAH's sound is a viciously intense mixture combining Curran's Metal roots with classic Thrash and Power Goth, resulting in compositions of over the top aggression and melodic skill. Your own band, a full line-up and a name that fits in perfectly among the other Thrash bands. Now the band's debut "Never To Play The Servent" is out on Dockyard 1 since the 28th August.

And it starts furiously. Heavy riffs, machine-gun drums, vicious solos and not in the least Greg's amazing vocals: rough, yet melodic. After the violent attack, the song ends in a calm manner.

Up next is truly a thunderous blast of dark, speedy riffs and uptempo drumming. Greg reaches the higher-pichted screams without a problem. Thrash to the bone, "Crucify Freedom" really kills. No vocalist could bring the message more convincingly. Superb song! All hail the new faith, all hail the new god.

"Fratility" takes back some speed, but is dominated by cutting riffs while Robert has some fun with the two hi-hats. Rough vocals in the verses, melodic and clean(er) in the chorus mixed with growling. But it's not all pure heaviness, a touch of Progressive makes the song even more interesting.

The next title needs no explanation as the words clearly state what to expect: a pounding, diabolic attack, yet not speeding at a hellish rate. Heavy verses reminding of UK Death Metallers BOLT THROWER, focussing on melody and more divine chants for the chorus. Not a bad song and the contrast between the verses and chorus is well thought of.

Pushing the pedal more down, brace yourself for this whiplash-causing ride under the title "Fear To Succeed". Another strong song with great drumming and I can't really sit still. No, I don't have a tic. ;-) Here too, BOLT THROWER is one of the first bands that come to mind. Kudos again to Greg.

In "All Sainted Sinners" Curran and Dusty offer some great breaks, with Robert hitting the skins like his life depends on it. Yes, I've already mentioned it, but Greg really is an extra-ordinary vocalist and deserves all the recognition he can get. Harsh, growling, melodic, angelic... there's no note he can't sing.

With "Inflicted" the band hits a more Punk-orientated road, which I can't really agree with. The solos too sound messy. They all seem to have a day off, except for drummonster Robert Falzano. Luckily things improve with "Drinking Joy". Melodic, calmer verses and heavy choruses switch places, not forgetting to give some space to the obligatory - but sublime - guitarsolos.

Crushing riffs and smashing drums are key in "Bad Blood", where Greg lets his demonic self out again. Effect on the vocals, when he's screaming/yelling, don't really do the song much good, but I understand it probably fits theme-wise. Nevertheless, one hell of a song.

Aha, I was already wondering when they would pass by. "Blasphemy Feeder" sounds like Curran's previous band NEVERMORE. A mix of fast mid- and uptempo with again a versatile Greg Wagner. The solos are not that good, a bit too forced, like they didn't know what to play as a solo and just played it to have something. The song itself is one of the lesser on "Never To Play The Servant". Sure, it's heavy and all, but it gets tiresome quite quickly.

"Deny God" starts with some snare-picking in a calm and melodic manner, like old IN FLAMES. What's this? It's still Greg, right? It could as well be MANTICORA vocalist Lars F. Larsen. But once Greg opens his throat you can be sure your ears deluded you, hahaha. :-) "Deny God" is one of the better tracks on the album, not in the least because of the second part of the song. Very good work, guys.

After ANNIHILATOR, NEVERMORE and BOLT THROWER, let's add another band: ICED EARTH. Yep, there are some resemblances with Jon Schaffer's band, mainly because of the short, cutting riffs. After the verses, "Disillusion" speeds things up for the chorus, then all comparisons fade. How Greg hasn't destroyed his vocal chords yet, says a lot about his capabilities. Switching between screams and normal, yet rough, singing is a piece of cake. Another job well done.

"Bleed To Shadows" also contains short, wobbling riffs. Rolling double-bass and uptempo drumming, mixed with splendid guitarsolos just make you stand/sit in awe. Like many previous song, this should be a feast in a live setting. No flaws here, everything is of a high level and fits perfectly.

A somewhat mysterious intro makes you think this is a bedtime song and you're not really prepared for what's to come, although based on the previous songs you know it's going to hit you in the face. And so it does, although speed is not the issue here, more the screams and heavy guitars. The bassdrums combined with the riding cymbal almost sound like a nailgun. "New Kleen Killing Machine" - Kleen as in Kleenex? ;-) - is a midtempo in which the band put a lot of variation: from the mysterious intro, to the ferocious verses, then silencing the guitars and drums to focus on Buddhistic meditation sounds (to me it kinda sounds like that, can't make any other comparison at the moment) and recommencing the use of heavy riffs an drums. The ending is really sudden, as if someone pulled the plug.

These guys aren't beginners anymore, that's for sure. All of them have played in top bands and combining their knowledge and skills can lead to dangerous things. A first consequence is a unity of crushing, slicing, killing, yet melodic, deep and dramatic... sounds with which the tone is set for the future. SHATTER MESSIAH has been put on the map and with enough luck and effort, they are in it for the long haul. Fans of the mentioned bands should certainly check out "Never To Play The Servant". Heck, any fan of Thrash and Thrashy Metal should have no problem at all with this album. The only criticism I could add is about the production: although powerful, it could use more depth. Maybe if someone like e.g. Andy Sneap or Tue Madsen would handle the buttons next time... But it remains a very solid release and I hope to see the band live sometime.

More info at www.shattermessiah.com.

Line-up:
Greg Wagner - vocals
Curran Murphy - guitars
Dusty Holt - guitars
Ron Boisvert - bass
Robert Falzano - drums


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REDKEY – Rage Of Fire (Dockyard 1 2006)

Redkey - Rage Of Fire
  1. Man 'n' Machine
  2. Rage Of Fire
  3. Be My Guide
  4. Gone Too Far
  5. Rebellion
  6. Peace & War
  7. Easy Way Out
  8. Obsession
  9. Metal Head
  10. Respectable
  11. The Fortune

Remember HEAVEN'S GATE, that great Powermetal band with Thomas Rettke (vocals) and guitarist Sascha Paeth? Sadly this band called it quits a couple of years ago and each went his own way with Sascha focussing on producing. In his portfolio you'll find bands like RHAPSODY (OF FIRE), EDGUY, EPICA, KAMELOT, ANGRA, AINA, LUCA TURILLI, etc... Thomas Rettke offered his services to various bands, including RHAPSODY OF FIRE, KAMELOT, MOB RULES, EDGUY and others. In between the split of HEAVEN'S GATE and the rise of a new band called REDKEY, Thomas and Sascha were active in the project AINA, where each did what he did best: Thomas on vocals, Sascha on guitars.

More than seven years after the last album with HEAVEN'S GATE, Thomas and Sascha combine forces again under the banner of REDKEY. The result came out at the end of August (28th) via Dockyard 1, entitled "Rage Of Fire". Says Rettke: "I had a lot of ideas for songwriting and eventually I met up with Sascha last year to let him hear what I was up to. He immediately offered to record some of the demos and also added most of the guitar arrangements. When I asked Sascha whether he'd be interested in us playing together once again it was the renaissance of our musical co-operation."

Another of their old friends was also ready and willing to once again start playing in a band, guitarist André Barowski, who used to be part of STEELTOWER - Rettke's and Paeth's band previous to HEAVEN'S GATE. Daniel Eichholz on drums and bassist Klemens Klarhorst joined REDKEY and together they recorded "Rage Of Fire".

Logically everything was recorded at Sascha's Gate Studios and the power of the sound also shows it. Although the intro "Man 'n' Machine" has no use to me and doesn't really add anything beneficial to the album, the album really kicks off with the titletrack, which is a slow midtempo where Thomas' typical vocals immediately show he's still got it. Musically the similarities with AINA cannot be ignored and this song could easily come from that album. "Be My Guide" starts slower and more mysteriously, yet it's got an enormous amount of energy and enthusiasm. It's also the second longest song with 7 minutes. There's a tempo increase between the verses and bridge/chorus. References to JUDAS PRIEST are not out of place, yet REDKEY is REDKEY and not a cloneband.

"Gone Too Far"is one of those great songs to headbang to and would be awesome to experience live. Power from the beating drums, rocking riffs and Thomas' rough, Halford-ish vocals turn this into a top song. The light tempo increase gives the song even more push at certain times.

For "Rebellion" Sascha and André interrupt their playing during the verses to put more focus on Thomas' vocals and the drums. Nothing bad to add, just a very decent song with some sing-along moments.

"Peace & War" is slow, with riffs that drag the song forward. Not as good as the other songs as annoyance is just around the corner. Luckily variation calls upon speed and this does make the song better... just in time. But musically - before the bridge and chorus - the copy-pasting from another song is just too true to be original. I just can't put the finger on it regarding the original song. "Easy Way Out" has KAMELOT-riffs ("Moonlight" song), i.e. short and powerful. A slow midtempo which also shines of brilliance and should also kill when played live. In fact, most of the songs seem to be written with live performances in mind.

For a Powermetal band there are a bit too much midtempo songs here. Something more speedy would be welcome again, but "Obsession" dwells in the same regions as the previous songs. It's a good song, a bit jazzy with again many references to JUDAS PRIEST, but for variation's sake more uptempo would have lifted the energylevel and regained the listener's attention.

And just when you think that with a title like "Metal Head" things will be furious... guess again. It's even a little slower than "Obsession" and to be honest, I prefer SAXON's "Metalhead" song. What REDKEY's doing here just is not good enough, but would be suitable for the very occasional playing. Other than that, annoyance has slipped closer and grabbed the song by the throat. Not even guitarsolos can turn things around.

Aha! More enthusiasm again, which is very "Respectable". Still no double-bass uptempo playing here. :( Let's see what the duet between Thomas Rettke and Tobias Sammet (EDGUY) in "The Fortune" can do to offer a solid ending to a very decent debut.

Atmospheric sounds, almost meditation music. You could also say it's like AYREON. After this wonderful first part, heaviness takes its place and Thomas and Tobias take turns. Tobias' contribution isn't bad, but he's clearly not at his best. Midtempo playing, which means the desired uptempo song will never come.

Thomas Rettke and Sascha Paeth playing the same band again brings back memories to HEAVEN'S GATE. REDKEY has made a very decent first album with very good musicianship and lots of kick-ass Heavy/Powermetal moments, but the biggest problems is variation. Too much midtempo songs give this album a kind of monotonous stamp. If you're a fan of HEAVEN'S GATE, Thomas Rettke and/or decent Heavy/Powermetal then "Rage Of Fire" sure is good buy. If you like speed from time to time you might want to wait for the next album and cross your fingers it will contain more of such songs.

More info at www.myspace.com/redkeymetal.

Line-up:
Thomas Rettke - vocals
Sascha Paeth - guitars
André Barowski - guitars
Klemens Klarhorst - bass
Daniel Eichholz - drums


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FRONTSIDE – Twilight Of The Gods - a first step to mental revolution (Dockyard 1 2006)

Frontside - Twilight Of The Gods
  1. Apocalypse Continues
  2. Burden Of Hell
  3. Messiah Syndrome
  4. We Are Destined To Burn
  5. Hurricane
  6. Appeal For Forgiveness
  7. Absolution Hour
  8. Embrace This Promise
  9. Shape Of Pain
  10. Redemption Symphony
  11. Exhaling Final Breath

Note: *(comments added by me)*

FRONTSIDE is described as Europe's answer to bands like BLEEDING THROUGH and KILLSWITCH ENGAGE. They achieved the title of one of the best Polish live acts and the award for being the most devastating band of the year 2003. Besides that FRONTSIDE received the Polish Grammy Award called "Fryderyk" in category "best Heavy Metal album of the year" for their album "...and Forgive Us Our Sins...". A year later they hit the foreign markets with an english version of "...and Forgive Us Our Sins.." for the first time. It received a lot of interest and positive feedback, represented by good and very good grades in the foreign media.

Now they are back with the next masterpiece (let's just keep the term 'album') "Twilight Of The Gods - a first step to mental revolution" - to be released on the 28th of August -, which is supposed to silence the voices of all the unbelievers and malcontents mercilessly (don't you just love this kind of marketing talk? ;-)). FRONTSIDE is an ultimate, ruthless killing machine in which the legacy of Thrash Metal aggression in vein of SLAYER, Death Metal heaviness of MORBID ANGEL, the Swedish melodies of DISMEMBER and the Hardcore temperament of the New York scene has been building up. (I'll stick to the originals, thank you) It's a volcano that will never cool down. (Oh my, can they really keep this up for tens of years?)

Seriously, when I read FRONTSIDE is a metalcore band - actually with such a bandname it's pretty obvious - I immediately knew what to expect. But it also said that the band plays Death Metal, so in a way I was giving them the benefit of the doubt.

Yes, FRONTSIDE's songs are heavy as fuck and kill easily, by manner of speech. There are indeed influences from Death and Thrash Metal, which make up for the good parts of the songs. But the metalcore aspect is too much present and the Death and Thrash elements can't mask the basis of the songs. The guitars sound distorted, but maybe even a little too distorted? Vocally the 'growls' - in the vain of KATAKLYSM and MACHINE HEAD - are like many other metalcore bands and not like a true Death or Thrash Metal band. I doubt if Auman can keep on (ab)using his vocal chords for a long time without suffering the consequences.

In terms of guitar solos... they are few in number, not long and most of the times don't really fit.

Fans of metalcore should like FRONTSIDE a lot, but I would recommend: get rid of the 'core', get another vocalist - someone who can do some proper growls and screams - and start playing real Death Metal or Death/Thrash. Then I might check out how you evolved. ;-) But anyone who wants to check out something new in the world of metalcore, don't let me stop you.

More info at www.frontsiderocks.com.

Line-up:
Auman - vocals
Demon - guitars
Daron - guitars
Novak - bass
Toma - drums


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VOODOOCAKE – Fetishist (Locomotive Records 2006)

Voodoocake - Fetishist
  1. The Saucier Of Paris
  2. Turboloser
  3. J.Q.X.Z. Are Missing
  4. Smile
  5. Banana Boy
  6. Domina
  7. Hellmex
  8. Après Ski
  9. Breathalyse Me
  10. Mollymook
  11. Hypnosis

VOODOOCAKE is like KROKUS, SHAKRA, PURE INC. and others from Switzerland, but don't play the Hardrock the other bands play. Nope, musically VOODOOCAKE has more in common with alternative rockers SONIC YOUTH and similar bands (a bit of MUSE too) that make it onto the radio with this kind of (pop)rock.

At first I didn't like this record, "Fetishist", which is actually a re-release that came out only recently on the 25th of August. According to the band's website, which hasn't been updated in a while, this album came out in 2004. Now it's available again, but extra songs were added - coming off the "Mollymook" EP (2002) - and the tracklisting looks a bit different too. Why this comes out again, is beyond me. But it might be because the band is working on a new album, right?

What is there to say about alternative rock? The vocals have been masked with effects from time to time, the bass guitar comes out very strong - which is typical for this music - and the guitars have a kind of Western sound. To add more melody and 'chaos', a keyboard/organ is a must, next to samples of crazy sounds.

Anyhow, the music is very listenable - more specifically as background music - and very fitting for an alternative rockstation like we have here in Belgium: Studio Brussel. Any radio station that plays this kind of rock should have no problem adding this to their playlist. Fans of SONIC YOUTH, MUSE (which are heavier), ABSYNTHE MINDED, and similar of these bands will like this band for sure.

More info at www.voodoocake.ch.

Line-up:
Michel - vocals, keyboards, samples
Lionel - guitars, organ
Léo - bass
Mark - drums


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B.IMPATIENT – Intensity (Locomotive Records 2006)

B.Impatient - Intensity
  1. In My Head
  2. Surrender
  3. Distance
  4. Beauty & Beast
  5. Susanna
  6. Fortune & Fate
  7. Too Much
  8. My Religion
  9. Enemy
  10. Didn't I
  11. Intensity
  12. Try & Error
  13. Lonely
  14. If

B.IMPATIENT is a German rockband that has just released its debut, "Intensity", via Locomotive Records, on the 18th August. Despite the frontwoman, it's no Gothic band. ;-) Musically the band delivers quite radio-friendly alternative rock in the vain of GUANO APES and THERAPY?, to name some of the biggest bands. Yes, GUANO APES has disbanded/put on hold, but the comparison remains.

Prior to "Intensity" the band released two demos: "Turn Of The Tide" in 1999, the year of their founding and "Cross-Section" in 2002. The self-titled EP in 2003 set the tone for the debut album, together with the extra songs that were recorded in 2004 for a demo to convince labels of their skills.

The mix of heavier rocksongs and more calmer ones on "Intensity" is well-done, and although it's more a poprock band, I still would have preferred a more powerful production and some more roughness in the vocals. But for what it's intended, all of this fits the requirements.

With a total playtime of some 50 minutes spread over 14 tracks, you know that improvisation is out of place here and thus not present. The songs have been made as compact as possible. Here and there B.IMPATIENT used keyboards to add more melody or create a certain atmosphere.

Although I can appreciate poprock/alternative rock from time to time, it has to be very good to be of my liking and especially the GUANO APES were among my favourites. B.IMPATIENT are sort of like the heirs and do a good job with their first full album, but it's not something to be extremely enthusiastic about, unless you are more into this kind of music. Then I can only recommend it. ;-)

More info at www.b-impatient.de.

Line-up:
Brigitte Berg - vocals
Markus Getta - guitars
Daniel Hoffmann - keyboards
Tom Müller - bass
Martin Wippich - drums


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MONKEY BUSINESS – The Noble Art Of Wasting Time (Powerzone Records 2006)

Monkey Business - The Noble Art Of Wasting Time
  1. Wake Up And Rock
  2. What The Fuck!?
  3. Time Out Of Joint
  4. I Smell The Perfume
  5. One Of A Kind
  6. No Love No Pain (Dedicated To...)
  7. Child Inside
  8. Waitin' By The Crossroad
  9. Kinda Love
  10. Seperate Ways
  11. Every Now And Then

MONKEY BUSINESS is an hard rock band from Caserta, Italy, and founded in 2001 by Yari Lanci (drums) and Dario Crocetta (guitar). Pretty soon the guys were joined by Valerio Sciascia (vocals), Lello Miele (guitar) and Attilio Barbato (bass), who previously acquired experience as session-men and live musicians. Two years ago MONKEY BUSINESS released its first demo, "Looking Back At Me". This release apparently is a hit, as the band gets many positive reviews and radioplay. In 2005 the band is also included in the compilation "Sintonie Rumorose" - a collection of best Italian new bands - with the song "One Of A Kind". Last February the band gets a record deal and signs with the Italian label Powerzone Records. Shortly after this happy event, the five-piece enters the studio to record their debut album, "The Noble Art Of Wasting Time".

And now it's been available since little more than a month, counting from the 13th August. As it said in the beginning, the band plays Hard Rock. But it's a lighter form of this music and thus very radio-friendly. The production is quite good and common in this genre. For a debut it's not bad and especially when the band plays their songs a bit heavier it's worth listening to.

Sadly - and that's nothing new for a starting band - "The Noble Art Of Wasting Time" has its flaws, mainly in the vocal department where Valerio still needs to work a lot on his singing, be it normal or screamy. At the moment he is the weakest link in the band and his voice never really convinces and does the songs more bad than good in most cases. Musically you get the typical mix of ballads and rougher songs with an '80s touch here and there, but in a way you can't help but think that the album title - extremely put - can be considered one of the possible conclusions of what these guys have come up with so far.

As much as I'd like to support the band, the record is very average and never reaches a level of incredible desire, by manner of speech. Sure, you can play it as background music, but then only when the time is right... but when is the timing right, ey? Since this is a first release, things can only get better, but they'll have to work on their skills. If you want a band to compare with: BASICO from Spain is one of the closest musically, only they do a much better job and rock harder.

More info at www.monkey-business.it.

Line-up:
Valerio Sciascia - vocals
Dario Crocetta - guitars
Lello Miele - guitars
Attilio Barbato - bass
Yari Lanci - drums


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ETHEREAL COLLAPSE – Breaching The Citadel (Ethereal Collapse 2006)

ETHEREAL COLLAPSE - reaching The Citadel
  1. A Tragedy Divine
  2. Undo Creation
  3. Walls Of Eternity
  4. As The Mighty Fall
  5. Breaching The Citadel
  6. The Eyes Of Solace
  7. The Nightmare Creature
  8. On The Reins Of Desire

ETHEREAL COLLAPSE is an American (hailing from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania) Melodic Death Metal band that was founded in 2004 and has since then made three releases: "Fallen Hope" (EP, 2004), "Breaching The Citadel" (album, 2006) and "Categories" (EP, 2008/2009). They are still unsigned, but somehow that has no influence on their music or the band's will to carry on. MySpace was the place that made me acquainted with this melodic formation and a few months ago (June 2008, I think) I received a CD-R with the last two releases on it: "Breaching The Citadel" and "Categories". You'll find the "Categories" review on the 2009 page.

The line-up that recorded both of these releases is back together with drummer Matt Rodriguez having rejoined the band in the beginning of this year (2009). In between there have been several candidates on bass and drums and the band even split before the release of "Breaching The Citadel", which was later put out by the band in August 2006, though it was planned to be issued via Innerstrength Records. According to Metal-Archives.com bassist Jimmy O'Malley has left the band, which leaves ETHEREAL COLLAPSE as a trio. True or not, I didn't find any change on the band's MySpace page.

As said before, ETHEREAL COLLAPSE plays Melodic Death Metal, or as the band themselves put it: "Blending the sounds of Bay Area Thrash with Swedish Melodic Death Metal". "Breaching The Citadel" kicks off in uptempo style with "A Tragedy Divine", where the music sounds like a fusion of Power and Melodic Death Metal. Midtempo verses, but a serious boost is added for the chorus and solos. The production is good, clear and honest. Ryan's vocals are rough, as expected in this genre, but he seems to sing in a "talking" way and that doesn't exactly ruin the song, but it's like "what's it gonna be: singing (harsh then) or rapping?". Still, it's only a small element in an otherwise very attractive song. You could compare it to, for example, (old) IN FLAMES and BEYOND THE FLESH, which was (since they disbanded in 2008) a less melodic band.

"Undo Creation" is next. The tension is built at midtempo, which already sounds very nice, but then the pedal goes down some more and the band isn't stopping for anyone. Melody is important, very important and the guitars deliver it with ease. Ryan's vocals are more singing now, though still very harsh and rough. Next to the usual vocals + instruments package, the band did implement lots of time for instrumental offerings. Overall, another very good track, reminding of (old) IN FLAMES and SUIDAKRA (also a bit because of the vocals). After creation is undone, the "Walls Of Eternity" are erected. Pounding Metal to start with, then finding the right form at fast midtempo. And that element changes quite often, as Matt (drums) tries a bit of everything, from slow to fast (especially during the solo part) and back. Ryan rough vocals seem to hide different layers, as this time he made me think of Udo Dirkschneider (ex-ACCEPT, U.D.O.), though Udo is Udo. There's only one. "Walls Of Eternity" is another track where ETHEREAL COLLAPSE succeed, though personally I found the preceding songs a little better.

"As The Mighty Fall" is another song from the second category, those that are good, but not very good, as the latter are what you can call the highlights. But that's of course also a bit subjective. There are no bad songs here, though I did detect two that didn't fit in the first or second category. Anyway, back to "As The Mighty Fall". Rolling midtempo Metal as starting point. The double bass rolls disappear once the verses are played and that's where Matt's drumwork advances with bumps and jolts, but flows more freely in the bridge and chorus. And although musically it's not that bad, the combination of rough and clean vocals doesn't work well. Or better said, the idea is good, the singing isn't. Especially the clean voice made me cringe. Nothing personal, though. Again the band dedicated much time to instrumentalism, which is something I have no complaints about. But the singing is the weakest element here, that is without question.

The situation improves greatly with the title track, "Breaching The Citadel". This is another song for the list of highlights. It starts with an extract of ex-president of the USA Ronald Reagan's speech ("Mister Gorbatsjov, tear down this wall!") from 1987 in Berlin, Germany. Pounding midtempo Melodic Death Metal then kicks in with Ryan adding his typical rough vocals. The musicianship is good to very good. To avoid monotony, the band implemented a slow moment for the solo (the speedier Metal comes back afterwards) and a part where the riffs go another way and instrumentalism plays a big role. All in all a very nice dish and one that calls for more. But it never continues into more. "The Eyes Of Solace" is an overall decent track, though, starting with some tempo building before the full outbreak of wild guitars playing the chorus part. It's a midtempo song with the solo after the chorus, when the song is really on the right track, is a very nice and welcome element. And maybe even the best part of this song. Musically it reminded me of old IN FLAMES and a bit of DARK TRANQUILLITY.

The last two songs, "The Nightmare Creature" and "On The Reins Of Desire", are neither part of the highlights nor of the good songs. "The Nightmare Creature" offers midtempo Melodic Death like done before. Melody plays another key role and a slab of sadness was injected in the chorus. This translates into adapted growling and music. The accoustic interlude is a breaking point, as after that the tempo goes down, up, down until the pedal is push to the floor. In between you are entertained with a guitar solo. This second part of the song has a lot of instrumental attention, but the band does return to the verses and chorus structure later on. The execution is very good, but overall I have to say that "The Nightmare Creature" isn't as interesting/attractive/... as the first few songs on the album. "On The Reins Of Desire" is a little better. The start is melodic, at a nice tempo and good riffing. The normal flow is set at high pace and at some point a breakdown comes along. Strange to hear it now when there had been none so far. You'll find an accoustic interlude here as well. The tempo drops and electric instrumentation demands spotlights, though Ryan's growling intervenes. All of a sudden the tempo increases and the Metal rolls more. Since this transition is a bit awkward, I wonder what the purpose of this change is. Later the solo part is played and the drums show more energy, more drive. This is a very nice moment, but it doesn't connect well with what preceded. Towards the end the guitars out a chugga-chugga rhythm and again, why? It's as if ETHEREAL COLLAPSE started to collapse in this last track, as not everything is compatible with each other.

The Melodic Death formation ETHEREAL COLLAPSE has pleasantly surprised me with this full album called "Breaching The Citadel". The similarities with (or influences from) IN FLAMES, DARK TRANQUILLITY and similar helps to better place the music. Everything is well executed and overall the musicianship is good to very good. But the road is still long and mainly in terms of production the band needs someone with the means to give the band an upgrade in that domain. On the other hand, the rough sound helps to keep the honesty and trueness intact. Time and practise are vital elements in the further growth, but anyone into Melodic Death Metal (with maybe a preference for the Swedish kind or Gothenburg kind) whose looking to add something new to his/her collection cannot really go wrong with ETHEREAL COLLAPSE. Just contact the band for a copy as "Breaching The Citadel" is a self-release.

More info at www.myspace.com/etherealcollapse.

Line-up:
Ryan Klubeck - vocals, guitars
Dave Kline - guitars
Jimmy O'Malley - bass
Matt Rodriguez - drums


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HEREGE – Bang Your Heads (Herege 2006)

Herege - Bang Your Heads
  1. Fall Of The Church/Die By My Hands
  2. Bang Your Heads
  3. Empty Minds
  4. Call Me Herege
  5. The Flag Of The Metal

HEREGE is a Brazilian Heavy Metal band that has been building its career since 2001. Since then they made three demos, so you can't accuse them of being lazy:

Rise Of The Fair, Fall Of The Church (2003)
Metal World, included a cover song: "Metal Gods" by JUDAS PRIEST (2004)
Bang Your Heads (2005)

Their last was called "Bang Your Heads" and also formed the basis for their first EP, bearing the same title and for which they included the two songs from the 2003 demo. Of course, HEREGE are a new band and actually very Metal, recording their stuff with a tight budget.

You can hear that they took great inspiration from bands like JUDAS PRIEST, IRON MAIDEN and the likes. Of course, the band also suffered from the typical line-up changes. So much that they decided to carry on with only one guitar player.

The EP consists of five songs, but also four live videos to show how the band sounds live. These are not shot with the best camera, yet are nice extras showing HEREGE is a band that wants to go far:

* Fall Of The Church/Die By My Hands
* Bang Your Heads
* Limit
* Metal World

The first song, "Fall Of The Church/Die By My Hands" is a midtempo one, as are most of the songs on this EP. The start is definitely quite epic with the tension slowly being built up. And then we're off. Tight riffing, drums coming out really strong (although not always tightly played), and Dennis's high-pitched voice. Damn.. those screams. Rob Halford can scream, but I guess it also took him some time to control it and use it at the right moments. So I'll forgive Dennis for now, as he still has plenty of time to grow. Or just leave those screamy parts behind. Guitar solos are of course a must and they are well executed. I love it how this instrument still sounds rough and not super-polished like on the bigger budget records. This is real Metal, people. ;-)

"Bang Your Heads" is next and this features Dennis's screams even more, so forgive me for not being überenthusiastic, because it's actually quite annoying. Musically this is midtempo as well, and the riffs even remind a bit of the first song. The drums come out stronger than the guitars here, but throughout the EP as well. You really have the impression the drums stand in front of you and after that you've got the guitars with the vocalist in between.

"Empty Minds" adds a bit more tempo and groove to the tracklisting and we've got a mix of Bruce Dickinson-like singing and Rob Halford-ish screaming. Musically the songs is very decent. Replace Dennis by someone with a fuller voice, perhaps Bruce himself or a Powermetal vocalist and the whole could sound even better. The solos make the song even more interesting. Lots of shredding here. Not perfect yet, but they're on the right path. :-)

"Call Me Herege" is the first song off the "Rise Of The Fair, Fall Of The Church" demo and I believe these songs were added like they sounded on that demo. The drums sounds a bit more damped, muffled, polished if you like. The singing is more controlled, less screamy and the tempo is excellent for headbanging, and cruising down the highway. A very nice song and probably the best of the pack so far.

And so we arrive at the last song of HEREGE's first EP: "The Flag Of The Metal". A title in true MANOWAR-style. You can clearly hear the Brazilian accent, but this is also something that can be tweaked over time. On the other hand, it adds an integer touch to the songs. This song as well deserves applause and praise, as it's true, uncompromised Heavy Metal. Very nice melodies, riffs and drums that push the song forward.

All in all, HEREGE are still young and can improve on many domains (mainly the screams). What they made so far sure is worth hearing and supporting. You can hear they made progression with every demo. On this newest release, the "Bang Your Heads" EP, the instruments sounds very powerful and the drums in particular couldn't be more realistic. The two last tracks are a clear indication of how ambitious these Brazilians are. This is not yet perfection and I'm looking forward to their first full album, which should come out in the spring or summer of 2007, especially because they're left with one guitar player only. But anyhow, listen for yourself and if you like what you hear, buy the EP since we're dealing with a diamond in the rough here.

More info at www.herege.com.

Line-up:
Dennis de Lima - vocals
Dalton Castro - guitars
Rui Pedroso - guitars
Rodrigo Dantas - bass
Maurício Velasco - drums


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GURD – Bang! (Dockyard 1 2006)

Gurd - Bang!
  1. The Grand Deception
  2. Bang!
  3. Spirit Of Rock
  4. Black Money
  5. Break The Ban
  6. Like A Man
  7. Wish
  8. Wise Up
  9. Children Of The Grave (BLACK SABBATH cover)
  10. Prelude
  11. The Storm

GURD, the Swiss Thrashers, are back with a new neck-breaking album: "Bang!". The title says it all, right? "Bang!" is the band's seventh release since their debut in 1995, if I counted well on their website. Most of you probably know what the band and their music is about, so you might as well skip this and wait until the album is available in the shops on the 31st of July.

GURD didn't ring a bell for me, except when I recalled the review of the album "Son Of Armageddon" by THE ORDER, the new band of ex-GURD guitarist Bruno Spring. Thanks to the text on the promo package I knew what to expect, but I didn't expect the resemblacnes to be thát clear! GURD can be compared with PRONG (unknown to me) and MACHINE HEAD (who doesn't know them? ;-)). The most striking thing about that is that V.O. Pulver's vocals are a mix of Rob Flynn (MACHINE HEAD vocalist/guitarist) and Phil Anselmo (ex-PANTERA, SUPERJOINT RITUAL, ....).

Musically "Bang!" starts extremely well with the speedy "The Grand Deception", which is also one of the best songs on the album. The next couple of songs are played a bit slower, but still have a high 'headbang' factor and are overall pretty good. The next highlight comes with "Break The Ban", thanks to its wonderful intro, but also because this could have been a MACHINE HEAD song. "Like A Man" continues the highlighting with a clear 'fuck you!' attitude. Superb!

With "Wish", the tempo gets another increase but goes a more Punkier way. "Seducer"'s intro is dominated by the bass guitar and drums, but it's two minutes before the end that the best part comes: solo time for a short time, but what follows is very decent. The next track, "Wise Up", is more average song. Nothing wrong with it, but it doesn't have the same feel or punch like the others.

Somehow I knew this could not be a GURD song because there was a little less power. GURD's interpretation of BLACK SABBATH's "Children Of The Grave" however is a job well done.

The "Prelude" seems a bit of a filler, but you could also consider it a resting point before "The Storm" which ends "Bang!" in a perfect manner: uptempo, speed, ... it takes you by the throat and forces you to bang the head that doesn't bang. The circle is round: starting with a speedy song and ending with a similar one.

GURD fans can buy this blindly. If you're knew to this Swiss band and you are into bands like MACHINE HEAD or Thrash in general, do not doubt and check (= buy) "Bang!".

More info at www.gurd.net.

Line-up:
V.O. Pulver - vocals, guitars
Pat Müller - guitars, vocals
Franky Winkelmann - bass, vocals
Mauro Casciero - drums


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AFTER ALL – This Violent Decline (Dockyard 1 2006)

After All - This Violent Decline
  1. Frozen Skin
  2. Violent Decline (Drawn To The Devil)
  3. Blackest Moon
  4. Sacraments For The Damned
  5. Without Reason
  6. Monolith #11
  7. Ruins Of Bones
  8. To Haunt You
  9. The Harlot
  10. Blind Euphoria 2006
  11. Second Time Around

AFTER ALL are Belgian and come from the same province where I live. And I didn't know that! For shame!! Yes, I confess, I don't keep up with he Belgian scene, although bands like AFTER ALL, IN-QUEST, AXAMENTA, CRUSADER, DOUBLE DIAMOND, DEDICTED, DISTORTED, CADUCITY and some others come to mind very quickly if just by their name.

But anyhow, AFTER ALL seem to have been active since more than 10 years, as they released their debut "Wonder" in 1995. Last year's "The Vermin Breed" was the first record via their new label home Dockyard 1. That album got many positive reviews and of course the band had to do at least as good for the follow-up. Although I haven't heard anything from my fellow Belgians yet, I do can tell the expectations have been more than fulfilled.

With the help of their live engineer Dee J., AFTER ALL recorded "This Violent Decline" at the Hype Studio in Mechelen, Belgium. Fredrik Nordström (IN FLAMES, ARCH ENEMY, SOILWORK, HAMMERFALL, ...) was asked to do the mixing in his Studio Fredman in Göteborg, Sweden, while Tue Madsen (THE HAUNTED, HATESPHERE, ...) took care of the mastering at Antfarm Studio in Aabyhoj, Denmark. "This Violent Decline", which will be available from the 31st of July, contains 11 tracks, including a re-recorded version of "Blind Euphoria" (from the 1992 EP "Dusk"). As a bonus track, the album features a video clip for the track "Frozen Skin".

Belgian Thrash Metal, but am I glad I finally got to know them. ;-) "This Violent Decline" kicks off in a logical way: uptempo, typical Thrash, double basses ("Frozen Skin"). Only the chorus is the slow(er) part of the song. The midtempo "Violent Decline (Drawn To The Devil)" shows a tempo increase during the bridge, with the double basses setting in in the chorus. A reference to ANTHRAX can be made without problems. Thumbs up for the nice guitarsolo.

Pushing the pedal more down again, "Blackest Moon" is on next and features a guitarmelody that comes back a couple of time as intro for the verses. Around 2:40, the slow shredding allows for a moment of headbanging pleasure.

The tension is being built up in the intro of "Sacraments For The Damned" and here you could say there's a certain SLAYER-influence. After that, it's full-on speed. A magnificent song and definitely one of the best on the album.

Taking back some power and ferocity, "Without Reason" is a welcome addition to the tracklisting. Although it's not a spectacular song, the solos do make it more attractive.

Vocalist Piet is given some rest to prepare for the rest of the songs. In the meantime the others spend some time on the instrumental "Monolith #11". Then it's back to business as usual: speed, uptempo, swtiching between single and double bass from time to time... "Ruins Of Bones" confirms the talent AFTER ALL possesses.

"To Haunt You" seems to be self-explaining as Kevin plays with his pedals here as well. The riffs also come out sharper and around 2:13 the guys make the ride (or hunt) wilder while adding the obligate, yet very nice guitarsolo.

"The Harlot" brings in more melody and similarities with the Power/Thrash band EIDOLON cannot be denied. A job well done, no matter what.

Before "Second Time Around" closes the album in a heavy way, but at a normal tempo, one gets blessed and taken by the neck with the whiplashing "Blind Euphoria 2006", that re-recorded song that originally comes from the 1992 EP "Dusk".

My first encounter with Belgian Thrashers AFTER ALL and I am very satisfied. So satisfied that I can't even think of any really negative aspects. Except for the playtime: 39 minutes. It should have been +/- 50. But "This Violent Decline" sure as hell is an album to be proud of. AFTER ALL have put Belgium a bit more in the spotlight and I feel kind of guilty for not having known them sooner. But I plan to catch up with that... in time. Definitely a candidate to be in many 'Best Of 2006' lists.

More info at www.afterall.be.

Line-up:
Piet Focroul - vocals
Dries Van Damme - guitars
Christophe Depree - guitars
Erwin Casier - bass
Kevin Strubbe - drums


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ADAGIO – Dominate (Locomotive Records 2006)

Adagio - Dominate
  1. Dominate
  2. Fire Forever
  3. Terror Jungle
  4. Children Of The Dead Lake
  5. R'lyeh The Dead
  6. The Darkitecht
  7. Kissing The Crow
  8. Fame

French Progressive Metallers ADAGIO will release their third record "Dominate" on the 28th of July via Locomotive Records. Prior to this new release, the band made two studio and one live album, respectively "Sanctus Ignis", "Underworld" and "A Band In Upperworld". Combining Progressive melodies with symphonic and operatic elements is one their specialities.

With "Dominate" the band has recorded its heaviest and darkest album, not only thanks to the riffs and dark melodies, but also Gus' input via the grunts he uses next to the clean singing.

Let's take a look at the songs:

"Dominate" is of course melodic, but also fast and offers some really amazing drumming. Next to that, the obligate yet beautiful solo virtuosity via the guitar and keyboards lifts this song to a higher level. At a certain time a switch towards Death/Black Metal is made with the implementation of blastbeats and grunts. Definitely a top song!

"Fire Forever" is a typical Progressive Powermetal song with its speedy tempo (mainly the chorus), double bass and not in the least, catchiness. You just can't sit still here. ;-)

"Terror Jungle" starts with a symphonic intro mixed with heavy outbursts, after which the rest of the band (except the vocals) sets in. Musically there are similarities with French Melodic Death/Black Metal band SYMBYOSIS and their "On The Wings Of Phoenix" album. The guitar solo is also present and that is always good.

In "Children Of The Dead Lake" the keyboards deliver a spooky atmosphere, backed by the drums. A guitarsolo joins later. Highlight of this song is unquestionably the chorus (and bridge): simply brilliant! At around 3:30 everything calms down with just the piano being the center of attention. Half a minute later it's back to heaviness with a tempo increase and solos. Apparently ANGRA is one of the favourite bands of ADAGIO, as you can hear some resemblances.

"R'lyeh The Dead" is played in a doomy, creepy and mystic setting, provided by the symphonic intro. At the second minute there is a first highlight: the combo heavy riffs + drums just makes your heart (at least mine ;-)) jump. Wonderful moment. About a minute later, when the entire band is playing, SYMBYOSIS again makes a small appearance, including the grunts. The band left a lot of room for the instrumental moments. "R'lyeh The Dead" is not as ferocious as the other songs, but it still is very good.

"The Darkitecht" also features the piano in the beginning of the song, which dwells in the same dark atmosphere of the other songs. Here the tempo is decreased and the band thus takes a slower approach, yet not losing the heaviness out of sight. The vocals are a bit less good than before, but one thing is very clear: Olaf Hayer's (LUCA TURILLI, DIONYSUS) voice would fit in like the song was written for his voice. Around 3:40 you can listen to a great instrumental part. The tempo is slowy being built up via the hi-hat and low tunes of the piano. Then the time has come to let the solos free once again.

"Kissing The Crow" is a balladesque song, and here too the piano dominates the song. Also vocally this is a more gentle song. Overall there's nothing special about this song, unless maybe when played on the right occasion.

The closing "Fame" is a cover of that well-known popsong. Personally I hope they just covered it for the fun of it, as it does so not fit amongst the other heavier, darker songs. They make an entire album of kick-ass songs, probably their best album so far and what do you get as 'dessert'? Quite sad, really.

As said above, "Dominate" is ADAGIO's darkest and heaviest album and offers a fantastic mixture of Progressive, Power and Death Metal. Fans of the band should get this anyhow, new fans have a great album to start with to get to know the band. Despite the lame cover song, the rest of the album is pure brilliance.

More info at www.adagio-online.com.

Line-up:
Gus Monsanto - vocals
Stephan Forté - guitars
Frank Hermanny - bass
Kevin Codfert - keyboards
Eric Lebailly - drums


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LACRIMAS PROFUNDERE – Filthy Notes For Frozen Hearts (Napalm Records 2006)

Lacrimas Profundere - Filthy Notes For Frozen Hearts
  1. My Velvet Little Darkness
  2. Again It's Over
  3. Not To Stay
  4. No Dear Hearts
  5. Short Glance
  6. Filthy Notes
  7. Sweet Caroline
  8. An Irresistible Fault
  9. To Love Her On Knees
  10. Sad Theme For A Marriage
  11. Should
  12. My Mescaline
  13. Shiver (bonus track)

LACRIMAS PROFUNDERE is back with a new album since they begun in 1993. Catalogued under Gothic Rock, the band keeps on creating quality music and with "Filthy Notes For Frozen Hearts" they keep up with their legacy. I only know "La Naissance D'Un Rêve" (1997) - where the music was 'calm' but also somewhat Death Metal-ish and they still used grunts - and "Fall, I Will Follow" (2002) - where they turned to low voices instead of the grunting and the music is more rocking. Both albums were of course very good, the former more raw/rough than the latter

And now, a new album is ready, since the 7th of July. Production-wise this is perfect, very clear and powerful when needed. Production was handled by John Fryer (HIM, NINE INCH NAILS, PARADISE LOST, ...). The mastering was done by Mikka Jussila at Finnvox Studios in Helsinki, Finland, which needs no comment. You know that when that man is involved, the sound will be crisp clear.

All songs range in the midtempo area. Occasionally double-bass is used to stress certain aspects of the song(s). Guitar-driven music, keyboards creating the right atmosphere and clear drumming with Christopher on vocals, everything simply fits. From time to time N joins Christopher. Musically it's SISTERS OF MERCY meet HIM meets DEPECHE MODE, or any other related Gothic band.

The songs offer enough variation to please anyone who likes Gothic Rock or rock in general. It's dark music yes, but here and there you can pick out enthusiastic pieces like in e.g. "No Dear Hearts" or "Again It's Over" or even "Sweet Caroline", which has a very rocking melody.

"An Irresistible Fault" is a somewhat less good song, especially because of the chorus. The rest of the song is alright, but musically (when it gets heavier) I can't help to think of an other song from an other band. Unfortunately I can't remember the name nor the title, but I am sure of my case. ;-)

"Sad Theme For A Marriage" lives up to the expectations. Nothing heavy here, just accoustic guitars and low singing, backed by the violin or cello. "Should" cranks up the volume and heaviness again.

All in all LACRIMAS PROFUNDERE have made another very good record and confirm their talent and reputation. This is without a doubt one of the best Gothic bands and deserve all the credit they can get. Fans of the band will of course already have this one (if not, hurry up!). If you like Gothic Rock, but like to expand your knowledge and collection, check out this band. You won't regret it.

More info at www.lacrimas.com.

Line-up:
Christopher - vocals
N - female vocals
Oliver Nikolas - guitars
Tony - guitars
Christian - keyboards
Daniel - bass
Korl - drums


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TRIGLAV – When The Sun Is Rising Above The Earth (CCP Records 2006)

Triglav - When The Sun Is Rising Above The Earth
  1. The Warrior Of Honour
  2. When The Sun Is Rising Above The Earth
  3. ...And The New Dawn Is Not For Everyone
  4. Through A Battle Of Life
  5. Battle Hymn
  6. Echoes Of The Past Victories
  7. Full Moon

TRIGLAV, a new Ukrainian Black Metal band, released its debut "When The Sun Is Rising Above The Earth" last month, on the 30th of June via CCP Records.

The idea to start a band came up at the end of 1999, as Arius, Morok and Paulus came together and made a preliminary version of the song called "The Warrior of Honour". They called themselves DANAPR. As Morok was busy with his bands SVARGA and FROZEN SCREAM, and Arius with SVYATOGOR and also with FROZEN SCREAM, all activities with DANAPR were suspended. Two years later Alafern (THUNDERKRAFT, SVYATOGOR and SVARGA) joined the project. This led to a new band name, TRIGLAV and work was restarted. Due to whatever reason, Paulus left shortly after. Another two years later, the band had finally finished the writing process and hit the audioALchemia studio in June 2005 to record their first album, "When The Sun Is Rising Above The Earth". A couple of months later, the Austrian label CCP Records offered the guys a contract for three albums.

So here it is then. Symphonic Black Metal. The emphasis lies on the keyboards to fill the songs with melodies and putting it all in a fitting atmosphere. What's also noticeable are the blastbeats. Logically, but here they are really omnipresent, in every song. But because of the (less than?) average production, the drums (computer?) don't come out powerful enough. When focussing on the guitar(s), you can't help but feel it should have sounded more powerful, less thin/flat. This makes it also difficult to remain concentrated, especially when you know most of the songs are at least 5 minutes long, with "Through A Battle Of Life" topping them all with its 11 minutes.

But it's not all bad. In general, there are some very nice ideas, but it seems like the guys wanted to put too much melodies and instruments into the songs. Next to the keyboards, drums and guitars, some change has been implemented by using a harpsichord, flutes and other medieval-like instrumentation. But to no avail.

Despite the good moments and flashes of epicness, although few in number, "When The Sun Is Rising Above The Earth" does not fulfill the expectations. Fingers crossed for the next album? On a sidenote, about the cover: it's like TRIGLAV are trying to follow KAMPFAR's example, as the latter ones have been using nature pictures since many years.

More info at www.triglav.ws.

Line-up:
Morok - vocals, guitars, bass, violin, keyboards
Arius - guitars
Alafern - guitars


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DAVY VAIN – In From Out Of Nowhere (Locomotive Records 2006)

Davy Vain - In From Out Of Nowhere
  1. Push Me Over
  2. Fly Again
  3. Yellow
  4. Electric
  5. Come On Now
  6. Sugar Shack
  7. Trinity
  8. In From Out Of Nowhere
  9. Not Your Space Man
  10. Capsule

Davy Vain, known as the vocalist of the band VAIN, released a solo album back in 2000, titled "In From Out Of Nowhere". Never available in Europe, this is about to change as Locomotive Records will release it on the 26th of June. Earlier this year, in February, the label also brought out VAIN's "On The Line" (review much lower on this page).

Of course, don't expect anything different on this solo album. It's in the vein of VAIN (vein...vain ;-)) or in other words: glam/sleazerock with some punkish influences together with a couple of bluesy licks. It's not all rock 'n' roll. The accoustic guitar also gets its moments. Bands that you might (might!) compare with: AEROSMITH, THE ROLLING STONES, ...

Technicality is not the issue here, atmosphere is. Furthermore, this is very radio-friendly music, like VAIN's, but with less heaviness (if you can use that word here). The songs offer a nice calmer alternative to have a break from the heavier bands. But nothing more. Davy's voice is also of the kind 'you like it or you don't'. Fans of VAIN will surely like Davy's solo stuff.

More info at davyvain.com.

Line-up:
Davy Vain - vocals
Jamie Scott - guitars
Craig Behrhorst - guitars
Ashley Mitchell - bass
Louie Senor - drums


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THE ORDER – Son Of Armageddon (Dockyard 1 2006)

THE ORDER - Son Of Armageddon
  1. Madmen With Loaded Guns
  2. Sons Of Armageddon
  3. On The Radio
  4. Sweet Stranger
  5. Love Died
  6. Not Satisfied
  7. As One Tonight
  8. Looser
  9. One Man

THE ORDER, who will release their debut "Son Of Armageddon" on the 26th of June, was born from the mind of ex-GURD guitarist Bruno Spring. With GURD he made two studio albums and one live CD/DVD and played many gigs all over Europe. Apparently he couldn't express himself enough in GURD or found that he was too limited there to do something else, like starting an own band. Andrej Abplanalp and Mauro Casciero, with whom Bruno played in the past, joined him later. The position of vocalist remained empty until they found an suitable candidate by the name of Gianni Pontillo, who handles the mic in Swiss Hardrock band PURE INC.

"Sons Of Armageddon" was recorded in October 2005 at Little Creek Studios in Gelterkinden under the watchful eye/ear of V.O. Pulver (GURD). Mastering was handled last April by Glenn Miller at Greenwood-Studios.

Musically, so it says in the press release, the band brings a mix of Hardrock and Metal in a more contemporary jacket. After some listenings, I can only confirm this. Gianni's voice is very recognizable and he shows he has a remarkable skill, especially when going more rough. I do have to admit that he does a far better job in his other band, PURE INC.

The riffs are heavy and float indeed between Hardrock and Metal, depending on the song. The drums too sound powerful, all thanks to the very good production.

While one cannot create something without sounding similar to other artists, the similarities here somehow sound very clear: in "Sons Of Armageddon" the riffs seem to be taken from RAMMSTEIN's "Asche Zu Asche". However, it's a pretty good song. The next one, "On The Radio", could have been a MEGADETH song as it sounds a lot like "Symphony Of Destruction". Those same kind of riffs return in a slower way in "Looser". "On The Radio" is nothing special, despite the MEGADETH riffs. It's good there is a guitar solo, but even this cannot make the song better.

"Sweet Stranger" sounds a bit like a mix of two songs. Furthermore, references to SAXON can be heard in the intro. One truly strange comparison can be made with the ballad "Love Died": at least I recognize something in this song from KELLY CLARKSON's "Behind These Hazel Eyes". I know, sounds strange, but either that or it's my imagination. Mind you, I'm not a fan of Kelly at all. But it's one of those songs that get played over and over again until you're so fed up with it, but somehow something gets stuck in your head. Luckily THE ORDER plays better music. ;-)

Another song that is among the better on the album is "Not Satisfied". An uptempo track with a very nice chorus. "As One Tonight" has AC/DC guitar picking in the intro, but the rest of the song is completely different. In general, thumbs up here. Last good song is "Looser", with the slower "Symphony Of Destruction" riffs. ;-) In the chorus of this song Gianni's rough vocals come out very good. Amazing stuff.

"Son Of Armageddon" is overall an average album, with only four really recommended tracks. The references to other bands are too obvious and you tend to think if this is done on purpose or just a coincidence. Fingers crossed for the follow-up I'd say, but will it really be THE ORDER? The sound is very good though and the guys play it very well, but I guess it takes some time to adjust to each other, to create automatisms.

More info at www.theorder.ch.

Line-up:
Gianni Pontillo - vocals
Bruno Spring - guitars
Andrej Abplanalp - bass
Mauro Casciero - drums


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MANNHAI – Hellroad Caravan (Dockyard 1 2006)

Mannhai - Hellroad Caravan
  1. Shellshock
  2. Fuzzmaster
  3. Spaceball
  4. Dambuster
  5. Better Hate Yesterday
  6. Back In Red
  7. Mojo Runner
  8. Overdaze
  9. Rock In A Cradle (Detroit)
  10. Hall Of Dead
  11. Downer

The Finnish band MANNHAI will release their fourth album "Hellroad Caravan" on the 26th of June via Dockyard 1. The band plays groovy stonerrock with rock'n'roll outbursts. The most important members are two ex-AMORPHIS members: vocalist Pasi Koskinen, who joined the band last year, and bass player Oppu Laine.

The new album was recorded in the Jive Studio and produced by Jukka Varmo and MANNHAI. The result can be described as BLACK SABBATH meets ALICE IN CHAINS, and MOTHER LOVE BONE mixed with KISS. The guys can play, that's for sure. But "Hellroad Caravan" could have been a lot better, in my opinion. What you get is monotonous (fat) riffs and most of the times annoying vocals.

I only recommend this to the true fans of the band and this kind of rock. If you want to play something different occasionally, then MANNHAI will fulfill your needs as well. Other than that, I think there's much better Stonerrock/Rock'n'Roll out there.

More info at www.mannhai.com.

Line-up:
Pasi Koskinen - vocals
Ile Laaksomaa - guitars
Oppu Laine - bass
Junior Pietinen - drums


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BISHOP OF HEXEN – The Nightmarish Compositions (CCP Records 2006)

BISHOP OF HEXEN - The Nightmarish Compositions
  1. Unveil the Curtain of Sanity
  2. Eyes Gaze to a Future Foreseen
  3. A Serpentine Crave
  4. Sleeping by Nightmares
  5. Self Loathing Orchestration
  6. Spiritual Soul Sunset
  7. The Somber Grounds of Truth
  8. Stride the Corridors of One's Mind
  9. Velvet Demise
  10. Dreaming...Dementia

BISHOP OF HEXEN, the Israelian Black Metal band, has finally released another album. The band was formed in late 1994, early 1995 in Ramat-Hasharon, Israel. In December 1995 they entered the studio to record the debut demo tape "Ancient Hymns of Legends & Lore". Two years later they got a deal with Hammerheart Records and released "Archives of an Enchanted Philosophy". Seven years later, new line-up changes were needed. New members were Lord Koder (vocals) and Ariel E. (guitars). In 2004, BISHOP OF HEXEN recorded a promo CD, entitled "Unveil the Curtain of Sanity". The promo contained 4 new tracks of Atmospheric Melodic Black-Metal, for promotional purposes only. (sound quite obvious to me ;-))

And now, thanks to a three-album deal with the Austrian metal label CCP-Records signed early last year - at a time when Seelenfolter (bass) joined the band - the Israelians have finished their second album "The Nightmarish Compositions" and released it on the 23rd of June.

The lyrics portrait approach to the bible, which has an abundance of small daily life drama stories entwined between the epic saga - the saga of the battle between good evil and the unknown, still lingers on. The band about their literary passions: "The majority of the people around the world has read the bible in translations and not in the original language - Hebrew, as we did. And when you read the original words you find different coded meanings that can reflect in our daily dirge on this ever turning pain-planet of ours. Mankind conceives the bible as being 'godly' in every aspect whereas there are footmarks of the 'unholy' evident in almost every passage. The 'unholy' is not the medieval cloven hoofed horned beast, It has not gills or fangs nor a human form as the Christian church made people believe for centuries, but it manifests itself in a far more familiar place...our mind and soul! Whilst our mundane dirge lingers, night by night, breath by breath, we generate good and evil thoughts and every day evil and dark decisions can conquer our minds and mostly, it does. Thus, we are Satan from time to time. Each song captures a different aspect of the internal turmoil in which we all wallow, but what lies beneath our curtain of sanity?"

As mentioned above, BISHOP OF HEXEN plays Atmospheric Melodic Black Metal. Keyboards are essential and blastbeats are omni-present. Unfortunately the production is quite light and mainly the drums suffer from that. They lack the power to let the blasts and rolls come out stronger. But it's atmospheric, I know. Still, this would have made the albums as a whole much better. "The Nightmarish Compositions" is decent, but there's better Atmospheric Black Metal out there. If you liked the band before, you'll most probably like their new album too. If you like to try something new and BISHOP OF HEXEN has not found a place in your collection yet, there might be a chance that you'll like them.

More info at www.bishopofhexen.com.

Line-up:
Lord Koder - vocals
Ariel E. - guitars
Seelenfolter - bass
Dimrost - keyboards, synths
Van Helsing - drums


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EMILIANO SICILIA – Devotion Materialize (Horus Music 2006)

EMILIANO SICILIA - Devotion Materialize
  1. Cyber Room
  2. Splatter On A Bluegrass
  3. Neurosaloon
  4. The New Reality Suite
  5. The Green Mirror
  6. 3000 Zombies
  7. Thermodynamic Hypothesis

Emiliano Sicilia is an Italian guitarist of whom I have never heard before and after hearing his album "Devotion Materialize" (which came out on the 15th June), I don't think I need to keep an eye on him for the future.

You can compare his solo career, or at least the attempt to have one, with that of masters of the art Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Kiko Loureiro and other renowned guitarists. I did not compare Emilio's skills with those of the mentioned musicians. I was merely pointing out that he's also on this road.

So you get instrumental guitarstuff, shredding, soloing like hell but not maintaining the required control. One song being more guitar-driven, the others more... techno or anything of this kind. With which I want to say: don't expect great drumwork, it's a computer. And the beats simply don't fit here at all. There are some songs with vocals too, which are grunts/growls like old SEPULTURA. There's one or two songs that even remind of this once great Brazilian band, but Emilio found it better to add beats to those songs - gabber beats. Need I go on?

In fact, why am I even bothering writing comments about "Devotion Materialize"? Oh sure, Emilio is probably very devoted, but the materialization is not a success.

In short: to avoid and add to the list of '2006 - The Bad Albums'.

More info at www.emilianosicilia.com.

Line-up:
Emilio Sicilia - guitars, programming
Cristiano Re - vocals (incl. growls)
Danilo Di Lorenzo - vocals, keyboards
Pamela Manzo - vocals
Alessandro Brambilla - keyboards, piano
Pier Paolo Balice - scream


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SADAKO – Bedtime Stories (Transwaved 2006)

Sadako - Bedtime Stories
  1. Midnight Madness
  2. Sinned
  3. Okinawa
  4. Maneater
  5. Man On Ether
  6. Drwoned Cliches
  7. The Four Horsemen
  8. Alice In Wonderland
  9. The Fallen
  10. Redhat
  11. Allein
  12. Tides
  13. Bullshit Stockings
  14. La Ultima Hora: Book I: Seed
    Genesis
  15. La Ultima Hora: Book I: Seed
    Blood For Existence
  16. La Ultima Hora: Book I: Seed
    Like Blurry Glass
  17. Absinthe Upgrade

SADAKO, another Austrian band, are also on the small Austrian label Transwaved, just like native colleagues THE FROZEN. Musically the band brings a mixture of Industrial, Metal and anything in the area of electronics. Apparently "Bedtime Stories" is a re-release (on the 15th June), as the band released this album on their own in 2005.

It's indeed a mixture as heavy songs and pure electronic/sampled stuff is switched every couple of songs. Sadly there's never a moment which makes you go wild and get enthusiastic about it. Sure, there are some nice moments, but repetition is key. The riffs sound the same in every song (or almost every song), the drums sound thin, and here as well the vocals are just not good enough.

The melting pot of heavy riffs, samples, flat drums, boring vocals leads to... yes, a record to avoid. Unless you're a special kind of music lover who likes it that way. And I guess such people exist, but I still don't recommend this album to anyone.

More info at www.sadakomusic.com.

Line-up:
Marx - vocals, samples, producing
Tom_Fu - guitars, programming (drums, synths)
Benji_D - bass, samples, sequencing, synths
Lei_Da - drums


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LUCA TURILLI'S DREAMQUEST – Lost Horizons (Magic Circle Music 2006)

Luca Turilli's Dreamquest - Lost Horizons
  1. Introspection
  2. Virus
  3. Dreamquest
  4. Black Rose
  5. Lost Horizons
  6. Sospiro Divino
  7. Shades Of Eternity
  8. Energy
  9. Frozen Star
  10. Too Late
  11. Dolphin's Heart
  12. Gothic Vision
  13. Kyoto's Romance

Since Luca seems to have an excess of ideas and eager to vent them, LUCA TURILLI'S DREAMQUEST was founded, in which he will play only the keyboards. History tells us that Luca had studied piano before starting the band RHAPSODY with keyboardist Alex Staropoli. But because RHAPSODY's successes cumulated very quickly and the band already had a keyboardist, there was no other choice for him to concentrate on the guitar.

As is stated in the press release, "Lost Horizons", which is scheduled for the 12th of June, introduces a new style and technique to Luca's already mighty repertoire, enriched by modern elements: new metal (I don't like the term, even if doesn't really refer to the crap that is nu-metal, because in the minds of many Metalfans, new or nu is the same), opera, techno-electronic music and gothic-symphonic atmospheres.

The music on "Lost Horizons" combines powerful metal instrumentation with angelic, operatic, female vocals to create a sound that might best be described as 'Symphonic Electro-Metal'. Luckily, the use of conventional instruments is still of high importance. And this means drums instead of beats. As a drumfan I can only cheer about this. ;-)

Some time ago, Luca explained what DREAMQUEST would sound like and mentioned influences like RAMMSTEIN and MADONNA. The horror! Never compare pop like MADONNA with the divine and splendor of the music created by a master like Luca. Unfortunately, it is true, although I like RAMMSTEIN. Particularly their first three albums.

"Lost Horizons" seems to have a start, except for the short chant intro, that is very closely related to "Prophet Of The Eclipse" as the electronic sounds are taken from that album. You can compare it with the song "Demonheart". Fronted by a female singer, the voice can make you doubt who's singing (unless you know the lady from elsewhere): Floor Janssen (AFTER FOREVER), Amanda Sommerville (although I doubt it), Bridget Fogle? The operatic vocals on "Virus" seems to cancel Bridget out, however. "Virus" is also the first single that will be released soon.Excellent chorus, by the way. It's very clear in this song that Luca isn't to be underestimated on keyboards and could maybe even compete with Alex Staropoli. How about a dual solo when performing with RHAPSODY or maybe Luca could make a guest performance on Alex's future solo album.

After the beautiful "Dreamquest", "Black Rose" starts with twinkling sounds, quickly followed by the rest of the band. The choirs in he chorus (yes, Luca knows how to make those parts attractive ;-)) are really stunning! Luckily the drums are real. A beat would have damaged the song severely.

Although it's probably a coincidence, but "Lost Horizons" (the song) has a lot in common with KAMELOT's "The Black Halo" album in terms of sound, the riffs, the drums, ... It's a very danceable song, almost tango-ish.

Taking a more operatic approach, without the heavy guitars and accustomed drumming, "Sospiro Divino" seems like an aria or anything of that kind and although well done, the singing can give you goose bumps. But it's certainly not the best song here.

Not only KAMELOT, but AINA as well seems to be on Luca's list of inspirational sources, as becomes obvious in "Shades Of Eternity". Effects were applied on the vocals and although I don't know what Luca wanted to accomplish, but it sure doesn't help. Away with the effects and hail the pureness of this wonderful voice.

Since electronics are important in Luca's work, it can get a little tricky to avoid the music becoming trance/techno. Especially "Energy" is a great example of close it can get. I'm totally not a dance/trance/techno/whatever fan and when hearing the sounds on "Energy", the hair in my neck stands upright and I have some trouble not pushing the 'next' button. Luckily the riffs and drums barely convince me to keep on listening.

How about adding another band to the list of influences? AFTER FOREVER, for example. The choir-intro on "Frozen Star" is proof of that. Combined with some more KAMELOT spices, you get a truly mouthwatering result making you long for more.

Fast violins kicking off "Too Late", followed by the guitar and drums. This one is a tad heavier than the other songs, and thus ending high on my ranking. Well, not only because it's heavier, the melodies count as well.

Like on "The Infinite Wonders Of Creation" and before, another resting point is set for "Dolphin's Heart", to which a story is connected. As Luca states: "The song entitled "Dolphin's Heart" tells about a fact that happened in Italy some time ago. A little dolphin saved a little child that was going to die in between the wild waves of an important italian gulf. A real miracle. From that moment the people of the town around this gulf decided to adopt him. They gave him a name and started loving the dolphin considering him like their little beloved brother. But some weeks later they found him between the rocks of the coast, dead, killed by some 'people' practicing illegal fishing. All town was desperate, everybody cried the death of that lovely creature,,, the action of those bastards (that I would like one day to face on my way) left a complete town in total desperation. Since when I read this new many years ago on a national magazine, I always wanted to write a song about this fact. Finally with DREAMQUEST I had this possibility and I can swear to you that every time I am listening to this song I feel like having one fist hitting my stomach. But this is the power of the music and the sensations that can come out from a song and a lyric written with passion and love." Cheesy as it sounds to some, I agree with Luca's beliefs and thoughts on this matter. Respect for animals is sometimes hard to find. Look at the projects e.g. WWF, IFAW, and Greenpeace work on. The song itself is very gentle, skipping the guitars and drums and putting the vocals in the spotlight.

And finally, but not in the least, "Gothic Vision" is (not) the end of the album. It is on the promo copy, but at the last moment, Luca told another song would be added: "Kyoto's Romance", which is a bombastic song full of opera choirs with lyrics close to the eastern world's concept of spirituality. Since the majority of the songs is as qualitative as the other works, I guess "Kyoto's Romance" will be splendid.

"Gothic Vision" cranks up the tempo again. Symphonics building up the tension, choirs again playing an important role. And yes, KAMELOT makes another entry in the riffing and drumming, before the song really sets off. Thumbs up for this brilliant song, which can be compared to earlier LUCA TURILLI and RHAPSODY songs. But.. what have we here? A guitar solo, NOT played by Luca. Well, not suprising actually, as it's something Luca hasn't done yet. But really ought to!

So, there we are. Two releases by Luca in not even a month's time. Two different releases too, as DREAMQUEST focuses more on the keyboards and electronics with little by little straying away from the Powermetal path, while LUCA TURILLI...tries to remain insides the boundaries of Powermetal. Symphonics and choirs are of course an essential part of both bands. I don't know which one I like more, since both are very good, but focus on different aspects of metal. Both are a good investment, but shouldn't be compared with each other. "The Infinite Wonders Of Creation" is LUCA TURILLI, "Lost Horizons" is LUCA TURILLI'S DREAMQUEST. Keep them together (in your collection), but seperated when discussing them. You don't compare Peter Tägtgren's HYPOCRISY with his side-project PAIN either, do you? Or Kiko Loureiro's solo album(s) with his work in ANGRA?

More info at www.dreamquest.it.

Line-up:
?? - vocals
Luca Turilli - keyboards
Dominique Leurquin - guitars
Sascha Paeth - bass
Robert Hunecke-Rizzo - drums


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THE PROWLERS – Devil's Bridge (Locomotive Records 2006)

THE PROWLERS - Devil's Bridge
  1. Alone In The Dark
  2. YTT
  3. The Invisible Prison
  4. A Last Gaze
  5. Fused
  6. Acid One
  7. Imagination Game
  8. Devil's Bridge - Prelude
  9. Devil's Bridge - Part 1
  10. Devil's Bridge - Part 2

THE PROWLERS, an Italian melodic Metal band playing mainly a mixture of Progressive and Power, was born in Rome in 1996. According to their biography, each member actively contributes to the writing and arrangement of every song.

Their first album, "A Descent into the Maelstrom", taking inspiration by the E.A. Poe novel, was recorded in 2000. Prior to this debut the band had recorded a demo CD. But since it didn't result in a contract, the band recorded another demo titled "Souls Thieves" and this time Northwind Records from Italy reached an agreement with THE PROWLERS.

The new album "Devil's Bridge" was released on the 9th of June and was mixed in the Jailhouse Studio's (Horsens, Danmark) during October 2005, under the guiding eyes of Tommy Hansen (HELLOWEEN, PRETTY MAIDS, TNT, BEYOND TWILIGHT, etc). The cover art was done by Mattias Norén.

Besides the mixture of Progressive and Power (a bit like MANTICORA), melody and atmosphere are important elements. Thanks to a clear production, the instruments come out very good and the compositions form a rather dark atmosphere. Mainly the keyboards are responsible for that. Solos are also present and it's especially the keyboard solos that outdo the guitar ones.

"Devil's Bridge" makes it a pleasant journey by switching the tempo depending on the song. Overall, there's not one bad song, but at least two stand out enormously: "Fused", which can be described as LIQUID TENSION EXPERIMENT with vocals, and "Acid One", which is a very nice uptempo song.

A touch of epicness is added with the "Devil's Bridge" trilogy.

The Italians of THE PROWLERS have done a very good job with their second album and brought it on a constant level without fillers or anything of that kind. The melody, the vocals (clean yet rough), the atmosphere... it all fits. The only 'negative' aspect I see, eh, hear, are the guitar solos which could be better. But "Devil's Bridge" remains worth purchasing.

More info at www.theprowlers.com.

Line-up:
Fabio Minchillo - vocals
Stefano D'Orazi - guitars
Fabio Schirato - guitars
Alessandro Vincis - bass
Massimiliano Destefano - keyboards
Claudio Cappabianca - drums


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LUCA TURILLI – The Infinite Wonders Of Creation (Magic Circle Music 2006)

Luca Turilli - The Infinite Wonders Of Creation
  1. Secrets Of Forgotten Ages
  2. Mother Nature
  3. Angels Of The Winter Dawn
  4. Altitudes
  5. The Miracle Of Life
  6. Silver Moon
  7. Cosmic Revelation
  8. Pyramids And Stargates
  9. Mystic And Divine
  10. The Infinite Wonders Of Creation

Let me first warn you, for this will be a big pile of text. ;-) Maybe a bit too much, but I like to have a as complete as possible overview whenever possible and since "The Infinite Wonders Of Creation" (to be released on the 29th of May) is the final part of the trilogy, going back in time could help refresh our minds about the first two albums.

Luca Turilli, one of the two masterminds of RHAPSODY, has - like many other musicians - many skills, which he can't use in RHAPSODY. Therefore, one goes solo or starts a second band. What better name to choose to become more known, than his own? Assisted by the three musketeers Sascha Paeth (bass, guitars), Michael 'Miro' Rodenberg (keyboards) and Robert Hunecke-Rizzo (drums), this has been a killer combo since "King Of The Nordic Twilight" in 1999. Add the amazing vocals of Olaf Hayer (DIONYSUS) and it's pure divinity!

Luca is a man of nature and spirituality, as is shown in the lyrics and those of RHAPSODY. For his solo project, he planned a trilogy, each album in its own setting/world. While the first album was lyrically and musically inspired by a fantasy tale created by Luca, the second album represented an evolution for Luca's typical sound. Lyrically, the album was influenced by one of his favorite sciencefiction movies: "Event Horizon", directed by Paul W.S. Anderson.

While the first album was still more Metal than 'electro-Metal' - which is one of the reasons for going solo - the use of those became more apparent/clear on "Prophet Of The Last Eclipse". The theme/setting also made this more appropriate. Luca using electronic sounds on an album was a suprise for many and opinions also varied, but the album got many positive reviews and was one of the best of 2002 and maybe of the last couple of years.

But even on his own, Luca didn't forget the symphonic instrumentation, as it's one of his trademarks. See also RHAPSODY. ;-) He is a master at combining symphony and Metal.

When RHAPSODY signed to Magic Circle Music + SPV/Steamhammer in 2003 (?), there were no mentions of Luca transferring his solo project as well. Somehow it would seem logic to end the trilogy with LMP. News about the third installment was very vague and the only thing that made the fans fantasize was an announcement on his website that the album would be released in the 'Nuclear Year 2004', with a picture of a nuclear explosion. So, rumours went the album was going to be heavy and probably dealing with the world's problems and things like that. Of course, that announcement made people excited. Who wouldn't be, after the fantastic "Prophet Of The Last Eclipse"?

Sadly, the album was postponed many times and updates were... non-existent, as Luca (and/or the label) likes to keep things secret as long as possible. But then news came about RHAPSODY's next album "Symphony Of Enchanted Lands II - The Dark Secret" and derived EP "The Dark Secret", which kept the fans busy again.

News about the final part of the trilogy finally came in little bits last year, but you might as well say nothing. Tracklisting and cover artwork were only announced a couple of months ago and after much complaining from the fans on RHAPSODY's forum, a press release was posted. So far, the only place to look for the artwork is on websites of... online shops. Not Luca's site, not Magic Circle Music's site, not SPV's site. Online shops. Any logics here? Samples, although very short ones, also were added to the website very late and also after much requests.

With "The Infinite Wonders of Creation", Luca composed a symphony dedicated to Mother Nature; a topic that has inspired and invigorated him musically and philosophically. A wide range of themes are covered: life, death, good, evil, the cosmos and philosophy.

Enough for the retrospect, let's talk music... Some changes occured compared to the last album: Luca now handles the keyboards instead of Miro (although he will probably have helped Luca in a way) and 'guest vocalist' Bridget Fogle, who has done background singing for RHAPSODY, sings quite a lot on the new album, while Olaf has to take some steps back and in turn is the real guest vocalist.

While the previous two albums commenced with choir chants and/or symphonics elements, "The Infinite Wonders Of Creation" leaves this away and you hear cheerful bird sounds, like you're in a forest. A few moments later, you do get the choirs with film score music. Up next is the wonderful "Mother Nature", which starts with twinkling sounds like on a xylophone, followed by the rest of the band. Here the link with "King Of The Nordic Twilight" is very clear. The most amazing part is the chorus. Simply breathtaking and maybe even tear-producing. Also notable is that Robert plays his drums more, switching between snare and toms even more than on "Prophet On The Last Eclipse". Bridget Fogle can sing, no doubt about that. In another review it's said that she's not fit for Metal. Somehow I agree, but on the other hand, you can't deny that her voice does suit certain songs. "Mother Nature" also features Luca's typical guitar solo, which can be found in slightly different variations on other songs and some of RHAPSODY. Although it's well done, I guess it would be better if he tried something else for a change, because we all know he is capable of that, but somehow refuses to do so.

"Angels Of The Winter Dawn", another great song, starts with a flute in the intro, followed by short, repeated riffs. With the piano and symphonics following, it sounds a bit messy ttrying to make everythng sound harmonious. But after a couple of listenings, you'll get into it. And hurrah!, there's mighty Olaf. Finally. But Bridget isn't far away. Here too, the chorus is pure class and very touching. Not only have the album titles improved, it seems Luca worked on his lyrical skills as well.

Track four contains a more relaxed song, titled "Altitudes", like "Zaephyr Skies' Theme" was on "Prophet Of The Last Eclipse". Opera vocals like on one of the previous RHAPSODY albums are present here too and Bridget then takes over. When at some point in the song she sings out of full chest, you better be resistant to such a voice, because you can only gasp at her skills. Needless to say, the song is high quality. If Ronnie James Dio is the God Of Metal, Luca surely is one of the Arch Angels.

Olaf is given another chance on "The Miracle Of Life", probably the best song on the album. And this is truly a song that fits him perfectly and vice versa. You can see it in a positive way or a negative one, but here too Olaf is not left alone as Bridget joins him (again). However, the result is very good, very melodic and free from criticism. Singing along here is also possible. Luca shows us his skills on the keyboards with a very nice solo. Seems like Miro isn't missed, although he has his style which can add something extra to the songs.

Taking back some heaviness again, "Silver Moon" is the second with a calmer approach in which the piano and guitar are the key instruments. Charged again for the following song, "Cosmic Revelation"" is an uptempo song where the electronic sounds prevail. The melody of the song sounds very familiar to me, but I can't link it to whatever artist made a similar-sounding song. The computerized backing vocals when Bridget sings don't add anything positive to the song and are better left out. Because of the repetition of the chorus and its choirs, it might become annoying. Of course, a guitar solo is always nice, but you can already guess how it sounds. Luca, please, try something else. Because right now, it's like you can only play this kind of solo. It almost feels like copy-paste.

Film score music with some eastern/Indian (no, not the Native Americans) influences introducing "Pyramids And Stargates", where Olaf takes his place behind the mic again. And Bridget backing him in the chorus. While the music is fairly good, the song overall is one of the least good among the pearls that came before this one.

Feel free to sing along in "Mystic And Divine", as Olaf and Bridget form a duet in the chorus. Key instruments here is the piano/keyboards. Quite a good song.

The title track then finally is one of bombast, epicness, majesty. Angel chants, so to speak, accompanied by symphonies and opera vocals. In a way, similarities with ENIGMA are not out of place here. Soon you are drawn inside the song like you're in a movie entering a new world, unlike anything on Earth. Paradise, as they say. A midtempo song with Bridget singing in lower tones, but very remarkable is the chorus and not because of its beauty and whatever more - well, it is well done, no question about that - but this could have been taken from EPICA's "Consign To Oblivion" album. Amazing how it sounds so alike.

Conclusion? Fans will of course have no problems with the third part of the trilogy. Luca has done it again. Worldclass masterpiece, just like before. "The Infinite Wonders Of Creation" has been Luca's ultimate album so far, I think, with better titles, lyrics, compostions, a great subject and more (e.g. the artwork by Karsten Vom Wege, the webmaster). One can also be happy with the result because it mixes "King Of The Nordic Twilight" with "Prophet Of The Last Eclipse" and takes it to a higher level. Questionable aspects are Olaf not being as present as on the previous albums, where he was master of the mic. Now he has to settle for a second place, seeing his throne conquered by Bridget Fogle. Furthermore, when Olaf gets his moment of glory, Bridget is not far to assist him or take over. However, she does a very good job, but when saying Luca Turilli, Olaf Hayer is a logical response, just like Messiah is CANDLEMASS's singer, like Fabio is the voice of RHAPSODY, Kai Hansen and GAMMA RAY, and so on. O yes, and Luca's typical solo. Time for something new, in my opinion.

"The Infinite Wonders Of Creation" is definitely one of the top albums of 2006 and I'm not only saying this because I'm a big fan of Luca's works, but also because the album is really good and gets better the more you listen to it, so you can comprehend the structures, the melodies, ... the whole package.

More info at www.lucaturilli.eu.

Line-up:
Olaf Hayer - vocals
Bridget Fogle - vocals
Luca Turilli - guitars, keyboards
Sascha Paeth - bass
Robert Hunecke-Rizzo - drums


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TIERRA SANTA – Mejor Morir En Pie (Locomotive Records 2006)

TIERRA SANTA - Mejor Morir En Pie
  1. Mejor Morir En Pie
  2. Un Grito En El Aire
  3. Magia
  4. La Impureza De La Amistad
  5. Otelo
  6. Si Tu Alma Has De Vender
  7. Hoy Vivo Por Ti
  8. Una Luz En La Oscuridad
  9. La Tentación
  10. Nunca Te Alejes De Mi
  11. Himmo A La Alegría

TIERRA SANTA, one of Spain's many bands, was founded in 1997 and released their debut "Medieval" in 1998. With "Mejor Morir En Pie", which was released on the 29th of May, the band has added their eighth album to their discography. Eight albums in about the same period in years, you can't accuse these Spanish of taking much time off. ;-)

TIERRA SANTA's website is also in Spanish, so unless you know the language, there's not much to look for. Internationally they seem to be well-known and I can hear why. Melodic Metal, but very qualitative. The keyboards provide the melody and make sure the right atmosphere is created.

It's not power metal and uptempo, speedy songs are also absent. This also means there are no double bass songs. The production is light, but good. Surprisingly the pronunciation of the vocalist is very clear. And that's ofcourse always a good thing.

Since this is my first encounter with the band's music, I can't refer to previous records or themes that are discussed, but TIERRA SANTA deliver the goods if you like melodic metal. "Mejor Morir En Pie" therefore is a very decent album.

More info at www.tierra-santa.net.

Line-up:
Angel - vocals, guitars
Arturo - guitars
Roberto - bass
Mikel - keyboards
Iñaki - drums


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BLUDGEON – World Controlled (Magic Circle Music 2006)

Bludgeon - World Controlled
  1. Carnage Begins
  2. Refuse The True
  3. Unholy Murder
  4. Hunt Or Be Hunted
  5. Awakening
  6. Out Of Reach
  7. Infidel
  8. Bitter Emptiness
  9. World Controlled
  10. Consumed
  11. Save Your Servant

BLUDGEON are from Chicago and the first band signed to Magic Circle Music. Their sophomore album, "World Controlled" can be described as a mix of Thrash and Hardcore.

When MANOWAR bassist and Magic Circle Music founder Joey DeMaio discovered the band, he agreed to produce their debut album, "Crucify The Priest" - an honour never before bestowed upon a band other than his own - and signed them to his label. DeMaio then introduced the band to Metal Blade Records CEO Brian Slagel, who recognized that the band had immense potential and agreed to distribute their debut album worldwide.

The BLUDGEON beast is no stranger to touring, having performed at the Metal Meltdown III in Asbury Park, NJ and as support act to the legendary MANOWAR on the "Warriors Of The World Tour 2002".

On the new album, "World Controlled", BLUDGEON further evolves the sound and attitude that helped them to make such an impressive start. Vocalist/guitarist Marc Duca explains, "I always write what I feel; half the record was written when I was going through pain and suffering. But I don't see that as a bad thing." Songs like "Carnage Begins" and "Consumed By Anger" illustrate the thoughts and feelings of a band that faces the challenges of everyday life with the aggression and persistence needed to come out on top. "You have to suffer to move forward. It's like you have to prove how faithful you are."

BLUDGEON has not only grown musically, but the lineup has also changed. This evolution was not an easy process, but it truly helped to shape the lyrics and themes of "World Controlled". "The band was going through personal problems with the lineup change when I was writing the lyrics," says Duca. "I felt like people were trying to control me and that is where the album title comes from. You might go through changes, but BLUDGEON will always stay true to metal."

"World Controlled" will see the light of day on the 29th of May.

My only confrontation with BLUDGEON was a short clip with the old line-up, which can be viewed on the band's website. Then I thought it was quite decent, but I didn't look further as to buying their album or even DVD, of which I knew nothing.

Then, some weeks ago, a promo copy of their second album lies in my (physical ;-)) mailbox, together with the two LUCA TURILLI albums, which of course makes me the happiest man on the planet.

So, a new chance to get to know BLUDGEON's music. Since the music is a mix of hardcore and Thrash, this leads to some interesting, but foremost kick-ass moments. Don't expect guitar solos, unfortunately. I don't know if this was already the case on "Crucify The Priest", but it's a fact that solos could make the songs better, more complete. And besides, there is plenty of room on the new material to add a solo here and there. Still, despite this little 'problem', "World Controlled" sounds very rhythmic, made possible by very nice riffs, the amazing bass sound, and last but certainly not least: the drums.

The Thrash-references do the songs much good and are the bringers of variety. Outstanding songs for that are: "Refuse The True", "Hunt Or Be Hunted", "Infidel" - with the stop-start option - and "World Controlled".

BLUDGEON may be unique, but what they do, has been done before. In other words, if you want a comparable band, I think PANTERA comes very close or vice versa. Yes, Dimebag's guitarplay is different, heavier, (more) passionate, etc.. but musically these two bands lie very close to each other.

To conclude, I can say that "World Controlled" is a job more than well done, despite the lack of solos. The production is top notch, heavy, Thrashy and more of that. The songs are also written in a way to meet live requirements, so in that setting, everything should go perfect.

What's very interesting and I think every band should either add this to their albums or put it on their website, is the video of the 'making of' of "World Controlled". You see Joey with the band discussing the music, the non-existing lyrics and dito titles. There are also moments where you see the three-piece play, have word fights about how a song should sound, how Duca should sing, etc... with next to that, the band explaining how the band works, the music, and more. A very nice addition to the songs. It makes you have more insight of how everything was done, how all the pieces fell together.

More info at www.bludgeon.tv.

Line-up:
Marc Duca - vocals, guitars
Carlos Alvarez - guitars
Chris Studtmann - bass
Ryan Blazek - drums


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TYSTNADEN – Sham Of Perfection (Limb Music Products 2006)

TYSTNADEN - Sham Of Perfection
  1. First Embrace
  2. Münchausen Syndrome
  3. Tystnaden
  4. Metaphora
  5. The Foolish Plan
  6. Hamlet
  7. The Joke
  8. Rewards
  9. The Vanishing
  10. Pride vs Intellect

TYSTNADEN, a new Italian band, released its debut on 26th of May. Prior to that, they had recorded two demos, which were downloadable via their website. I received this disc around May, but it's no use to force it if things aren't running smoothly. When I played the record for the first time, I was kind of sceptic and seeing which bands are in their 'favourites' list, I guess it was normal. Sure, not everyone can like the same bands, but I'm totally not fond of nu-metal (LIMP BIZKIT, KORN, SYSTEM OF A DOWN, LINKIN PARK). Luckily TYSTNADEN doesn't follow that path.

TYSTNADEN play melodic Metal with a dark undertone. You could say it's a mix of Heavy and Gothic, also because of the female vocals, although not of the operatic kind. A name like LACUNA COIL pops up very easily if you need something to compare with. Musically, the keyboards provide the melody, but mostly take care of the atmosphere. Of course, the heavy riffs aren't forgotten either and come out very powerful.

Next to his work on the keyboards, Lorenzo is in charge of the growls, which aren't bad, but satisfy for the music on "Sham Of Perfection". The combo Laura-Lorenzo is however a good match.

"Sham Of Perfection" offers enough variation. While most of the songs are heavy, midtempo with the occasional double-bass, more calmer moments are there to give the album/the songs more depth. Guitarsolos are few in number, but it's good to hear they were implemented a couple of times.

There's not one bad song on this album and thus it's hard to say which stand out, but let's see: "First Embrace", "Münchausen Syndrome" with the nice drumpart (3x bass, then snare, 3x bass, then snare), "Metaphora" and "Hamlet" (this one I like a lot).

To conclude, it's very obvious that TYSTNADEN have made a very decent record, also thanks to the mastering by R.D. Liapakis (MYSTIC PROPHECY). Furthermore, most of the songs contain a lot of catchiness. Laura can definitely sing, although she might want to work on her accent and the higher notes. Still, there's a certain charm in her voice. "Sham Of Perfection" is a perfect title for the album, as it's not perfect (yet). ;-)

More info at www.tystnaden.com.

Line-up:
Laura De Luca - vocals
Cesare Codispoti - guitars
Frederico Grassi - guitars
Marco Di Castri - bass
Lorenzo Franscaroli - keyboards, growls
Alberto Iezzi - drums


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TANKARD – The Beauty And The Beer (AFM Records 2006)

Tankard - The Beauty And The Beer
  1. Ice-Olation
  2. We Still Drink The Old Ways
  3. Forsaken World
  4. Rockstars No. 1
  5. The Beauty And The Beast
  6. Blue Rage - Black Redemption
  7. Frankfurt: We Need More Beer
  8. Metaltometal
  9. Dirty Digger
  10. Shaken Not Stirred

TANKARD, the German drinkers of Thrash who have been active since the early '80s are back with a new album. Being the follow-up to "Beast Of Bourbon", "The Beauty And The Beer" (out on the 26th of May) was again made in cooperation with Andy Classen, who produced the album.

Thrashing all the way, the album takes a direct start with the great "Ice-Olation", which features quite nice lyrics, without forgetting the fun-factor, which is a valuable aspect when making music. Hailing beer or at least, the way of drinking, is done in "We Still Drink The Old Ways". Nothing but quality here and so it goes on for the rest of the album.

There's not one bad song here, but of course there are always some that stand out. For example, "The Beauty And The Beast" because of the lyrics, "Blue Rage - Black Redemption" that has references to METALLICA's "Kill 'Em All" and some of DESTRUCTION's songs, "Metaltometal" about the greatness of this music compared to reggae/techno/hiphop/...

As this is my first TANKARD album - makes you, well, me wonder why it took me so long - I can tell it's in roughly the same vein as 2004's "Beast Of Bourbon", which I listened to at the store, but plan to buy later. That was a pretty good and solid album, however, I think "The Beauty And The Beer" is an improvement and can be considered as one of the best of this year. The quality of the recordings, the atmosphere, the drums, the riffs - and not to forget - the solos, all make TANKARD's newest a must-have for any Thrash fan. Fans of the band can of course buy this without worries.

When talking about German Thrash, it's always these three that get mentioned: DESTRUCTION, KREATOR and SODOM. Yet, after hearing "The Beauty And The Beer", I find that TANKARD also deserve to be on the list, also noting they're about as old as the mentioned masters of the art and also deliver quality. 2007 will be a special year, as the band will celebrate its 25th anniversary! Something to keep in mind.

More info at www.tankard.org.

Line-up:
Andreas Geremia - vocals
Andy Gutjahr - guitars
Frank Thorwath - bass
Olaf Zissel - drums


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INNERWISH – Inner Strength (Limb Music Products 2006)

Innerwish - The Beauty And The Beer
  1. Trivial
  2. Travellers In Time
  3. Far Away
  4. Lonely Lady
  5. Bleeding Soul
  6. Feel The Magic
  7. Eye Of The Storm
  8. Final Prophecy
  9. Never Let You Down
  10. Dreamer Of The Night
  11. Inner Strength
  12. Gates Of Fire

The Greek melodic powermetallers INNERWISH have just (26th of May) released their third album, "Inner Strength" via LMP. The album is the successor to 2004's "Silent Faces" and 1998's "Waiting For The Dawn".

I didn't think much of "Silent Faces" and INNERWISH isn't one of the best bands in Metal. But then again, many aren't. ;-) Fact is that they do deliver the goods. "Inner Strength" sounds powerful and melodic. Al this thanks to Dimitri Liapakis (MYSTIC PROPHECY, VALLEY'S EVE, ...), who handled the buttons in his The Prophecy and Music Factory Studios, where INNERWISH recorded their new album.

After the short intro "Trivial", things really take off with the uptempo "Travellers In Time". A beautiful song, mainly for its chorus and dual guitar solos. The other songs range between mid- and uptempo, not forgetting the balladish song "Never Let You Down", where the guitarsolos are a more than welcome element. This could have been a MYSTIC PROPHECY song (just like "Eye Of The Storm"), by which I mean nothing negative. ;-)

The next kick-in-the-butt comes with "Bleeding Soul", for me the best song on "Inner Strength". The titletrack also is played in a higher tempo.

The closing "Gates Of Fire" is more of an epic song, with very nice dual guitar solos. It's also the longest song on the album.

Of course, there are the obvious similarities with other bands, but I'm not going to specify much: VANISHING POINT, STEEL ATTACK ("Where Mankind Fails" album) and MYSTIC PROPHECY are the ones that first come to mind.

INNERWISH may be Greece's leading band, but what about a NIGHTFALL, WOLFCRY, MYSTIC PROPHECY, FIREWIND, etc...? Anyhow, "Inner Strength" is probably their best release so far and I hope they continue this way. They deserve to become more known. If you like decent Powermetal, INNERWISH may satisfy your needs. Yes, they're no FIREWIND or GAMMA RAY or any other big melodic Powermetal band, but they know their Metal. And thanks to the services of Dimitri Liapakis, checking out "Inner Strength" should be even less of a problem.

More info at www.innerwish.gr.

Line-up:
Babis Alexandropoulos - vocals
Thimios Krikos - guitars
Manolis Tsigos - guitars
Antonis Mazarakis - bass
Terry Moros - drums


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BEFORE THE DAWN – The Ghost (Locomotive Records 2006)

Before The Dawn - The Ghost
  1. Disappear
  2. Repentance
  3. Fade Away
  4. Scar
  5. Angel's Tombstone
  6. Black Dawn
  7. Enemy
  8. Stormbringer
  9. Ghost Town
  10. ...Nowhere

BEFORE THE DAWN, the solo project of vocalist/guitarist Tuomas Saukkonen, has released its third album "The Ghost" via Locomotive Records on the 26th of May. Prior to this new release, two other albums came out under the BEFORE THE DAWN name: "4:17 am" (2004) and "My Darkness" (2003). The usual line-up changes also happened and Tuomas saw it was better to keep it solo.

Since Tuomas is also active in a dozen other bands - just check his profile on the BEFORE THE DAWN website - one can only wonder where he gets the time and inspiration to create new music without taking a break or something like that.

Since this is the first time I hear what his solo project has to offer, no comparisons or references can be made. I do respect it a lot that he's a multi-instrumentalist: guitars, vocals (grunts, growls), keyboards/piano and drums. Yes, he played it all for this new album, except for the bass and clean vocals (Lars Eikind). Guitarist Juho Räihä apparently also makes a guest appearance by playing some solos. A lot of other musicians would use samples, if they can't find a drummer or keyboardist or guitarist.

BEFORE THE DAWN plays dark melodic metal, a mix of Gothic and Death Metal. The sound on "The Ghost" is spotless and very powerful. The atmosphere of course is dark, doomy, far from the happy "the sun is shining, let's go out for a picknick" setting. ;-)

Offering a mix of Death, Gothic and Thrash, Tuomas sure knows how to assemble the right ingredients and mix them to get a heavy, straight-from-the-heart collection of songs.

In general, "The Ghost" is a very good record and personally I thought the following songs stood out a little more than the others: "Repentance", "Fade Away", "Scar", "Angel's Tombstone", "Stormbringer", "...Nowhere".

If you already own (one or more) BEFORE THE DAWN record(s), then "The Ghost" should also be added to your collection. If you like ONE MAN ARMY AND THE UNDEAD QUARTET, IN FLAMES, maybe even ROB ZOMBIE, or just dark melodic metal, then you have no reason not to check out BEFORE THE DAWN.

More info at www.beforethedawn.com.

Line-up:
Tuomas Saukkonen - vocals (grunts, growls), guitars, keyboards, drums
Lars Eikind - bass, clean vocals


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SATURNUS – Veronika Decides To Die (Firebox Records 2006)

Saturnus - Veronika Decides To Die
  1. I Long
  2. Pretend
  3. Descending
  4. Rain Wash Me
  5. All Alone
  6. Embraced By Darkness
  7. To The Dreams
  8. Murky Waters

Some time ago, I received a copy of SATURNUS's latest album "Veronika Decides To Die" (to be released on the 22nd of May) in the mail. Thanks to the press release that came with it, I knew what to expect: Melodic Doom Metal. But I didn't need the text to know what music these guys play. ;-)

"Veronika Decides To Die" is the band's third full album, after the debut "Paradise Belongs To You" (1996), the EP "For The Loveless Lonely Nights" (1998) and "Martyre" (2000). As you can see, it took six years and some line-up changes to come up with new material. The title of the album is based upon the book wih the same title, by Paulo Coelho. I don't know this author or the book, so I can't make any references.

The man behind the buttons doing the producing, engineering and mixing is no one less than Flemming Rasmussen, renowned for his work with MORBID ANGEL and METALLICA. To keep it short, he's done an excellent job. It also seems logical to use his services again, as he also helped with the previous two releases.

As this is my first encounter with this band, I can't compare with the previous works, but that shouldn't be much of a problem as my first impression was very positive. Weeks later, I relistened again and again and although there might be some details that need tweaking, it's really not necessary and could damage the quality of the songs.

This is Doom Metal, not happy Powermetal or anything with a 'happy' approach. You won't get stimulated or be given a kick in the butt to give you new energy. No. instead, let SATURNUS take you on a journey of melody, emotions, ... in an atmosphere that is beyond everyday life.

I won't go into detail for every song as they form a unity that is hard to tear apart. The compositions are of high quality, as is the musicianship. Grunts and clean vocals (= talking) take turns to express the emotions, the feelings the character has, but especially the grunts are a valuable element and fit in like a blastbeat with a Death Metal act.

Musically everything's perfect, even when there are moments where it's just the piano or the (accoustic or electric) guitar or both or when everyone gets involved. Not one song can be criticised in a negative way, this is simply breathtaking material. Try to clear you head from worries, make sure you're in a peaceful environment - i.e. not in an office or on a train or anything like that - and listen to the album with (or without) headphones. You'll hear the craftmanship that was used to accomplish this result of one of the best Melodic Doom Metal records, in my opinion.

SATURNUS is a name to keep in mind and "Veronika Decides To Die" an album to buy and to cherish. Definitely worth of a place in everyone's Metal top 10 of 2006. Support talent, not products. Anyone who knows how good they are live? ;-)

On a sidenote, Michael Senner from FORCE OF EVIL plays a solo on "Descending". The cover art was done by Travis Smith, who worked with ANATHEMA, KATATONIA and others.

More info at www.saturnus.dk.

Line-up:
Thomas A.G. - vocals
Tais - guitars
Peter - guitars
Anders - keyboards
Lennart - bass
Nikolaj - drums


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UREAS – The Naked Truth (Locomotive Records 2006)

Ureas - The Naked Truth
  1. Intoxicated
  2. Bang Bang
  3. In My Life
  4. Colour Us Blind
  5. Survived
  6. Lost My Faith
  7. My Dearest One
  8. I Am Who I Am
  9. Spiritually Possessed
  10. Seven-Days Weekend

UREAS, a new Danish Powermetal band, has recently released its debut via Locomotive Records on the 19th of May. While Heidi and Per Johansson are the leaders of the band, it's probably bass player Kasper Gram who's the 'celebrity' of the band, as he is also active in Danish colleagues MANTICORA.

UREAS define their music as Power Metal, but it's not the Powermetal like GAMMA RAY, ANGRA, EDGUY or MANTICORA. The use of keyboards and the female vocals pushes it more into the Progressive area.

On "The Naked Truth", the songs come from compositions built up on a Korg Triton synthesiser, with the main emphasis on guitar, bass and and drums. And this is very true, as the riffs really cannot be missed. The album's got melody, heaviness and a certain freshness, which makes it differ from the normal Powermetal bands.

Musically, the band knows their stuff, but for me the vocals are the weak link. Neither Per nor Heidi can convince me. Maybe it's just something to get used too, but I'm afraid it won't work with me.

All in all, "The Naked Truth" is a decent album, but not super-de-luxe good. On a sidenote, three extra musicians offered their services: Frederik Hansen (guest guitarist in "My Dearest One" and "Spiritually Possessed"), Bjarne Holm (guest drummer in "Barrels Of Fun", the Asian bonus track) and Mattias Eklundh (guest guitarist in "Colour Us Blind" and "Seven-Days Weekend" (solo))

More info at www.ureas.dk.

Line-up:
Heidi Johansson - vocals, keyboards
Per Johansson - vocals, keyboards
Søren Hoff - guitars
Kasper Gram - bass
Mikael Skou Jørgensen - drums


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THE TRACEELORDS – The Ali Of Rock (AFM Records 2006)

The Traceelords - The Ali Of Rock
  1. My Evil Girlfriend
  2. Instead
  3. Room For Improvement
  4. Silver Lining *
  5. She's Back (And She's Mine)
  6. Mr. Marple
  7. Watch Me Run *
  8. Sunflower
  9. Tear Out My Own Heart
  10. Everything Is Just Perfect
  11. Lost
  12. Some People Are More Comfortable In Hell
  13. Too Demanding
  14. Christ Of Slick's Haandy

THE TRACEELORDS, a German rockband of whom I've never heard before and yet, "The Ali Of Rock" is their third release so far. Having released "Sex, Money, Rock´n Roll!" in 2001, followed by "Refuse To Kiss Ass" in 2004, the band didn't wait too long to make a new album. As before, the band did most of the work with the writing and producing, which is very good, very clear and makes the songs come out very well. "The Ali Of Rock", to be released on the 19th of May, also introduces a new member: guitarist Christof Leim.

Musically you get rock 'n' roll, which tends to sound poppish, then heavy, then punkish with here and there a groovy approach. Most of the songs definitely are radio-friendly. With 2 vocalists, Andy and bassist Slick, THE TRACEELORDS have added enough change to the album. While Andy is in charge of the more lighter songs, things get a little heavier when it's Slick's turn.

But it's not all about riffs, as "Mr. Marple" contains accordeon sounds and the band plays something totally different, more bluesy. The result is pretty good. Another thing that characterizes the album is the catchy choruses.

THE TRACEELORDS offer some nice rock 'n' roll music, very radio-friendly, and depending on the song, good enough when cruising on the road. "The Ali Of Rock" is a very decent effort, also if you want to hear something else amongst than the heavier forms of rock.

More info at www.traceelords.com.

Line-up:
Andy Brings - vocals, guitars
Christof Leim - guitars
Slick Prolidol - bass, vocals *
Haan Hartmann - drums


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GROUND ZERO SYSTEM – Newropa EP (Ground Zero System 2006)

GROUND ZERO SYSTEM - Newropa EP
  1. Hatestate
  2. Semper Fi
  3. Parasite
  4. 3 Second Silence

GROUND ZERO SYSTEM, a Norwegian Industrial Metalband, was formed in the fall/winter of 2004 and is the newborn result of the demise (sounds a bit extreme, ey? ;-)) of two local bands. This month (May) they released their first record, "Newropa EP", on their own.

The EP was recorded in the well respected DUB studio (TRAIL OF TEARS, BLOOD RED THRONE, GREEN CARNATION) with producer Endre Kirkesola. It turned out to be a good choice, because the sound is very good and professional.

The first band that comes to my mind when saying industrial, is RAMMSTEIN. But GROUND ZERO SYSTEM is so different from the Germans, more dedicated and really seeking something original. Other bands that can be referred to are HYPOCRISY and ONE MAN ARMY AND THE UNDEAD QUARTET, mainly because of the vocals and in a way the riffs.

GROUND ZERO SYSTEM really do their band name justice with the music they make. The atmosphere really is not cosey, on the contrary. To quote from the press-text: "The cold and sterile sound of synthetic landscapes and samples is masterfully combined with organic riffbased grooves." You can almost imagine how the world looks with this kind of music.

The Norwegians have done a very good job with this first release. GROUND ZERO SYSTEM is a band that should easily find a label home that knows how to deal with such pearls and also lets them grow and further develop their skills without having to compromise for the sake of commercialism.

More info at www.groundzerosystem.com.

Line-up:
Alf Magne Andersen - vocals
Kristian Speich Eide - guitars, programming, synths
Simen Høgdal Pedersen - bass
Anders Faret Haave - drums


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ICARUS WITCH – Capture The Magic (Remedy Records 2006)

Icarus Witch - Capture The Magic
  1. Storming The Castle
  2. Capture The Magic
  3. Soothsayer
  4. Forevermore
  5. The Ghost Of Xavior Holmes
  6. Darklands
  7. Nemeton Forest
  8. Awaken The Mountain Giants
  9. S.A.T.O. (OZZY cover)

ICARUS WITCH, an American band, was founded in 2004 to bring back some old school Heavy Metal into today's U.S. Metalscene. Their debut, "Capture The Magic", was recently (19th of May) released via Remedy Records, home of PARAGON, AIRBORN, STORMWARRIOR and others.

On this record there are some guest appearances by George Lynch (DOKKEN, LYNCH MOB) on "S.A.T.O." and Frank Aresti (FATES WARNING) on "The Ghost Of Xavior Holmes". The album cover was done by Rock Detector's Garry Sharpe-Young who also designed for QUEENSRYCHE and GRIM REAPER. Grim Reaper.

The cover song "S.A.T.O." (originally by Ozzy Osbourne) was added and dedicated to the memory of Randy Rhoads and the inspiration of the BLIZZARD OF OZZ band as much as to Ozzy himself.

Muscically "Capture The Magic" does sound like back in the days and you can clearly hear influences by IRON MAIDEN, BLACK SABBATH and JUDAS PRIEST, to name some big bands. No real speedy songs here, most of them range between slow(er) and midtempo, but the result is pretty nice. The production too is clear and vocals sound like the singers in the mentioned bands. Next to the typical riffs, the guitar solos are a nice addition.

Although the running time is pretty short (+/- 40 min.), the album overall is a nice start and fans of Heavy Metal, especially old school, should not have too many problems with this disc.

If you like limited editions, this one comes with a bonus disc feautring eight songs of which four are covers from ALICE COOPER (feat. Michael Romeo, SYMPHONY X), SCORPIONS, IRON MAIDEN and RUNNING WILD. Next to that, you get the video of the song "Capture The Magic".

More info at www.icaruswitch.com.

Line-up:
Matthew Bizilia - vocals
Steve Pollick - guitars, keyboards
Jason Myers - bass, keyboards
Jere Jameson - drums


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BEAUTIFUL SIN – The Unexpected (AFM Records 2006)

Beautiful Sin - The Unexpected
  1. Lost
  2. This Is Not The Original Dream
  3. Take Me Home
  4. I'm Real
  5. The Spark Of Ignition
  6. Closer To My Heart
  7. Give Up Once For All
  8. Brace For Impact
  9. Pechvogel (Unlucky Fellow)
  10. Metalwaves
  11. The Beautiful Sin

The collaboration between Belgian vocalist Magali Luyten and MASTERPLAN drummer Uli Kusch dates back from 2002, when Magali wanted to record an album with her band and Uli agreed to produce it. But it never gets released and nowadays the band has been defunct since a while. So Magali is free again and since Uli was also thinking of doing his own thing outside of MASTERPLAN, it became pretty obvious who to choose as a vocalist.

Next to those two - who are the masterminds of BEAUTIFUL SIN - it looks like Uli was jealous of Jorn's last albums with Jörn Viggo Lofstad on guitars that he also asked for his services. ;-) To make the PAGAN'S MIND influence a bit bigger, Steinar Krokmo was asked to handle the bass. MASTERPLAN keyboardist Axel Mackenrott is the provider of the melodic side of "The Unexpected". 19th May is D-Day.

The album has a direct start, with the typical Jörn-riffs/guitar sound. The similarities with JORN's "The Duke" are not to be underestimated, but here we have a female singer. And does she know how to sing! This is not your typical female-fronted band like all those Gothic ones. Magali can be put in the same category as a Doro, Veronica Freeman, and many more who sing from the throat.

"This Is Not The Original Dream" is a rather religiously inspired song, probably about escaping to another world, but I hope to have some clarity about it in an interview.

Continuing in an uptempo way, "Take Me Home" is next and you can just feel the passion, the emotion. Brilliant stuff! What we get next, could be a J-LO cover, but don't worry, as this is so much better. The riffs remind me of the CHILDREN OF BODOM song "Living Dead Beat". "I'm Real" is a doomy song, but very melodic. The chorus does get repeated quite often, maybe a bit too often.

The PAGAN'S MIND-like intro of "The Spark Of Ignition" is also thanks to Jörn, but it's of course Axel playing the keys, although the difference is still that in PAGAN'S MIND, it sounds more spacey. Here the reference to MASTERPLAN is more present. A bit further in the song there's a nice "OoOooOoh" part, which is followed afterwards by the solos.

The melody of the accoustic guitar in the intro of "Closer To My Heart" reminds me of Robert Miles' "Children", quite a nice song that one as well. Since Magali has a powerful voice and very suitable for the previous songs, it seems she can adapt very easily when things go softer, which is the case here.

"Give Up Once For All" has a doomy atmosphere created by Jörn's riffs, but is overall a quality song. Going more '80s thanks to the keyboards, "Brace for Impact" is an instrumental song, but one that gives a lot of attention to the bass guitar. Needless to say, this has a thumbs up result.

Since Magali is Belgian, I think it was her idea to use a commonly used word for someone who's unlucky: pechvogel. The song is of course in English, but it's quite funny to hear her sing "I'm a pechvogel". ;-)

And then comes a song with balls. Not that the other lacked them, but "Metalwaves" seems to have them a bit more. One can already guess what it's about, right? Anyhow, great song, with a very nice melodic chorus. The instrumental "The Beautiful Sin" closes the album. Keyboards and a small dose of accoustic guitar are the only instruments. It's not bad, but nothing refreshing either.

The conclusion can be short: if you liked JORN's last solo albums, you'll love BEAUTIFUL SIN. If you like melodic metal with 'rough' female vocals, join the club. If MASTERPLAN should ever cease to exist, BEAUTIFUL SIN is a worthy alternative. This should be one of the better/best melodic albums of this year, no question about it. And I bet their live performances will also be of high quality. :-)

More info at www.beautifulsin.de (still under construction) and www.ulikusch.de.

Line-up:
Magali Luyten - vocals
Jörn Viggo Lofstad - guitars
Axel Mackenrott - keyboards
Steinar Krokmo - bass
Uli Kusch - drums


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MANIGANCE – L'Ombre Et La Lumière (Replica Records 2006)

Manigance - L'Ombre Et La Lumière
  1. Abysse
  2. Envahisseur
  3. L'Ombre Et La Lumière
  4. Prison Dorée
  5. Prédateur
  6. Sang Millénaire
  7. Privilège
  8. La Force Des Souvenirs
  9. Sentinelle
  10. Miroir De La Vie
  11. Esclave
  12. Labyrinthe

MANIGANCE, one of France's best Powermetal bands, released its newest album on the 15th of May. Entitled "L'Ombre Et La Lumière" ("(The) Shadow And (The) Light" or "Darkness And Light"), this album is the follow up to 2004's masterpiece "D'Un Autre Sang" ("Of Other Blood").

MANIGANCE is one of those bands that release pure quality, album after album. Their debut, the MCD "Signe De Vie" ("Sign Of Life") was more a test-case, had a somewhat '80s sound - especially the drums - and was re-released in 2003 with a couple of bonus tracks. Among those tracks were two English-sung songs, from back in the day. Since English didn't suit them, they continued in French so they could better express themselves. This is also one of the strong points of this band and fits their music very much.

After that, album nr. 2 came out, in 2002, under the title "Ange Ou Démon" ("Angel Or Demon"). This was a huge leap forward and sort of showed what MANIGANCE would sound like from now on. Songwise things were much better and more power and melody made this a very good release.

So now these guys were ready to put France on the map in Powermetalland. And they did so with the incredible "D'Un Autre Sang", which was typically MANIGANCE, but again evolving in a positive way. A very powerful and clear production was a characteristic element. The album had many highlights like "Empire Virtuel", "Mourir En Héros", "Héritier", "Mémoire" or even the titletrack. All thanks to the great musicianship of the six members.

Last year then the band released a live album called "Mémoires...Live", which was recorded in Paris. On this disc you could hear how they pull it off live and the result is like in the studio: flawless! Well, not flawless, as perfection does not exist, but it's damn close and it just makes you want to attend one of their gigs and feel the great vibes.

Why am I telling this? Because I don't want to review the other albums. ;-) I don't have time for that anyhow, so it's better to give a short explanation. But know that every album is worth buying. You can't miss with this band.

And now, a new chapter begins with a new album. Like with the previous one, "L'Ombre Et La Lumière" was recorded in the band's own studio, which is also important for MANIGANCE own sound and feel. Musically, the songs continue in the same vain as was shown on "D'Un Autre Sang".

The album starts with an accoustic 'intro', followed by the predictable uptempo song "Envahisseur", which has a very catchy chorus. Like before, catchiness is woven into every song. The guitar solos are also impeccable.

Up next is the titletrack where the band even cranks it up a little more, with the real highlight coming at around 2:15 for a steady increase of tempo. Here too the solos are jaw-dropping, with first the guitars and then the combo guitars-keyboards. Sublime song.

"Prison Dorée" takes a slower approach and offers a mix of accoustic and electric guitars. The slower pace is not for long as "Prédateur" goes the fast way and adds more ferocity to the album.

"Sang Millénaire" is the most Progressive song here and for this one I needed more listenings to get into the melodies and compositions. Still, the result is very nice.

"Privilège" is, simply put, brilliant. An uptempo song again with great power, wonderful melody... and not to mention the guitar solos. Everything about this song is top!

After all this riffing and drumming violence, it's time to take a cool head and some 'rest'. "La Force Des Souvenirs" makes it possible, with just the keyboards, an accoustic guitar and Didier on vocals. Not only is his voice powerful and rich enough to sing heavy songs, the calmer ones make him use his soft/emotional side of his voice. Needless to say this is a job well-done. ;-)

And yes, things get heavier again, but MANIGANCE decided not to do this with a fast song, but more midtempo. "Sentinelle" is a fince choice indeed.

Things get heavier and faster again after "Miroir De La Vie" with its great chorus. "Esclave" is also one of the best songs on this album. Next to the usual MANIGANCE ingredients, the chorus is the real special part.

"L'Ombre Et La Lumière" end swith the intrumental "Labyrinthe", which puts the skills of guitarists François and Bruno more in the spotlight. A nice ending for a superb album.

MANIGANCE are one of my favourite bands and I consider them a precious gem in the world of Metal. They may not be original, but they have their own sound, bring the goods like no other and are very reliable in terms of making quality albums. This is proven again with their new masterpiece "L'Ombre Et La Lumière", an album every Powermetal fan should have in his/her collection. Fans of the band can of course buy this unheard. :-)

More info at www.manigance.net and Replica Records for some samples of this album.

Line-up:
Didier Delsaux - vocals
François Merle - guitars
Bruno Ramos - guitars
Marc Duffau - bass
Florent Taillandier - keyboards
Daniel Pouylau - drums


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TEARS – Emptiness (Tears 2006)

Tears - Emptiness
  1. Emptiness
  2. I Promise You
  3. I Can't Forgive What Both You've Done
  4. An Ending - A Grace (outro)

TEARS, an new Greek Progressive Powermetal band, released its second demo "Emptiness" in May. The main intention is to create songs representing strong emotional states, hence the logical band name, since crying is the main reaction of the human body to any strong emotion/feeling. Tears are the link between our body and soul. One can cry tears of sorrow, happiness, fright, excitement...

TEARS was founded by Yannis Matagos in early 1996. In that year there were other musicians to help form the band, but they've left the band a long time ago. In 1998 Kostas Korkidas (keyboards) joined the band and two years later, TEARS recorded its first 2-track demo. Then it was time to add some more songs to their repertoire and this resulted in their first EP, "Falling Certainty", which came out in 2002.

Now, four years later and with a stable line-up, release number two (or three, when counting the two-track demo) is out. Four tracks only, but it should give enough insight on the band's qualities.

"Emptiness" kicks off with the mid/uptempo titletrack, where clean vocals dominate, but are replaced by a bit rougher variant in the chorus. Despite the raw production, the song sounds pretty good. There's a total fall-out at around 3:15 with just the vocals remaining to stress a certain emotion, I suppose.

Then a total change in style is set with the calm "I Promise You", where the piano is the most important instrument and the presence of heavy riffs has been reduced to a minimum. This is a more balladesque song with quite a nice solo part, introduced by symphonics. But because of the demo-production, it doesn't sound so great. Mainly the drums show this. However, the part itself is well-played.

Heaviness completely aside and zeroed, in come the accoustic guitars. The drums too have been muted. "I Can't Forgive What Both You've Done" is short, maybe too short to get the message accross and it's not really something you get excited about, meaning the song itself, not what it's about. Same thing goes for the outro, which is only half a minute, piano-only, but somehow I don't see any connection with the other songs or the 'theme' of this demo.

As a conclusion you could say 2 good tracks, 2 - bluntly put - fillers. Still, "Emptiness" shows these Greek musicians have good ideas, but still need to work on it some more. The not-so-good production can be forgiven, but let's hope the next demo/EP/album (?) will show some (positive) evolution. The future remains bright. ;-)

More info at www.tearsband.org.

Line-up:
Stefanos Zafeiropoulos - vocals
Yannis Matagos - guitars, vocals, samples
George Politis - bass
Costandinos Corkidas - accoustic piano, keyboards
Tassos Deligiannis - drums


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PERSUADER – When Eden Burns (Dockyard 1 2006)

Persuader - When Eden Burns
  1. Twisted Eyes
  2. Slaves Of Labour
  3. Sending You Back
  4. R.S-Knights
  5. The Return
  6. When Eden Burns
  7. Judas Immortal
  8. Doomsday News
  9. Zion
  10. Enter Reality

Some copy-pasting from the review of "The Hunter":

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".

The above concerns last year. Now the band has very recently unleashed its newest demonic metalabum: "When Eden Burns". Originally scheduled for release in March, it's only come out about two weeks ago (15/05).

Vocalist Jens Carlsson is also handling the mic in Thomen Stauch's SAVAGE CIRCUS and did a great job on "Dreamland Manor". So, from this experience one can learn a lot and his voice does indeed sound more mature compared to "The Hunter" and "Evolution Purgatory". Furthermore, he also reaches higher notes and this makes you wonder how he takes care of his vocal chords, because it's not something to underestimate.

Apparently Jens also decided to focus on the singing instead of combining it with the guitar, so PERSUADER had to find a new member to fill the gap. They found somebody by the name of Daniel Sundbom, someone unknown to me.

For (at least) the drums of the new album, the guys went a.o. to the same studio as the one NOCTURNAL RITES used for its last album "Grand Illusion". Let it be known that the result, in NOCUTRNAL RITES's case, was pretty weak. Especially compared with an album like "Shadowland". Or in other words, no electronic drumkit.

Efraim used the same kit to record his parts for "When Eden Burns" and when I saw the short videoclips of the recordings, I felt pretty sad and somehow my fears partly came true. Sure, the production of the album is top notch and has improved a great deal compared to the previous works, but drum-wise it's not all super-duper-jippy-kayay. The sound is strong and powerful, yes, but (mainly) the bassdrums sound too artificial and not like when a conventional kit would have been used. Sad, really.

Song-wise things have also improved a lot. Ferocious riffing, demonic vocals, more melody in the songs, .... it's all there. The heavy riffs don't sound like with SAVAGE CIRCUS (for which Piet Sielck's Powerhouse Studios were used), but they still kick ass.

Right from the start, "When Eden Burns" takes you by the throat in a tight grip. "Twisted Eyes" offers powerful drums, dangerous riffs, great melody. The only less good part is the chorus with the high-pitched screams. The following songs continue in a variation of mid- and uptempo, not forgetting the melodic aspect. Keyboards are a great help here.

NOCTURNAL RITES was mentioned concerning the drums, but "Sending You Back" might as well have been one of their songs. Vocally and musically the similarities are clearly present.

Next to the heavy stuff, guitar solos come into play many times and are well executed. The doubling of Jens's vocals also contributes to the melodicness of the music. "When Eden Burns", logically or not, is one of the best tracks on the album and in the repertoire of PERSUADER. Uptempo and great for headbanging, as is "The Return". A title like "Judas Immortal" needs no explination. There's even a light change towards Thrash. Remarkable moment is around 2:50 with the accoustic guitar taking all the attention for some ten seconds, while the rest of the instrumentation (except the drums) is silent.

Let's add some more bands which can be referred to in one or the other way: ICED EARTH and EVERGREY in "Doomsday News". It's a calmer, yet heavy song, with the piano playing an important role. The guitarsolos do the song a lot of good.

Jens is given some rest - logically ;-) - and the others have their moment of glory in the instrumental "Zion". Here the guitars do the talking. But what a song! Strange thing here is the sudden ending. But that's only a detail.

"Enter Reality" closes the tracklisting. This is not just a song to have a final song. This one has balls, again featuring vicious riffs and thundering drums. Thumbs up! The keyboards provide the melody, like on most of the other songs.

After two good albums, "When Eden Burns" cranks it all up a couple of levels. A more mature production, more evil compositions and the expanding of the line-up result in the best PERSUADER album so far. Prepare to be blown away when they'll be performing in a town near you or when you enter the cd in your stereo system or car radio. This is a very good album, no doubt about it. Sadly enough - at least for me - I'm not 'super'happy because of the articiality of the drums. Next time, use a conventional one again. ;-)

More info at www.persuader.nu.

Line-up:
Jens Carlsson - vocals
Emil Norberg - guitars
Daniel Sundbom - guitars
Fredrik Hedström - bass
Efraim Juntunen - drums


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DEDICTED – The Judas Window (Dedicted 2006)

Dedicted - The Judas Window
  1. The Parade Of The Depraved
  2. As Usual
  3. Failure

DEDICTED, upcoming talent from Ostend, Belgium, released a new demo in May (or was it June? or maybe April?). The guys have started the band in 2004 or 2005, I guess, since their website isn't clear on this issue. Apparently there's a new line-up and together with that a new demo, "The Judas Window", as a promotional release to indicate which direction they're heading. Prior to the new disc, they released "The Things Beyond".

Having seen them last year at the Velorock festival in Ostend, I was quite surprised and convinced of their skills. Live they don't have to fear anyone, standing their ground with ease.

Let's see how they sound studio-wise. DEDICTED play Thrash Metal, but with a melodic edge and some Progressive influences, yet the music remains crushingly heavy, also thanks to Jason's beasty drumming. Vocally the screams/growls prevail, although Mehdi throws in some clean singing as well.

"The Parade Of The Depraved" starts ferocious and shows what DEDICTED has in store and what they're about. Simply a stunning song. Beware of the whiplash after the headbanging. ;-) Also worth mentioning is the fade-out with a short fade-in, like you unexpectedly get a punch in the face.

You could make some references to (old) IN FLAMES and alike, but surprisingly enough 3 DOORS DOWN also seems to have been a 'help' in the songwriting, particularly in "As Usual", during the chorus. There the vocals (and melody, in a way) are a match, although they remain clearly different. Around 3:00 you get a jaw-dropping heavy short-riffed instrumental part that makes it easy for you to recognize the song.

The third song, "Failure", is the most Progressive one, with more attention for the clean singing - although the hoarse screams aren't forgotten -, softer melodies switched with heavy parts and changes in tempo. Only negative criticism here is the sudden ending. Other than that... hands down.

DEDICTED's second recording, "The Judas Window", simply put... crushes, destroys, thrashes the place. Heavy riffs, amazing drumming, hoarse screaming (Mehdi hopefully took or is taking some coaching for that), and a demo-production that makes the music come out like it's supposed to come out. Although it could always get better with e.g. Fredrik Nordström and/or Tue Madsen and/or Andy Sneap behind the buttons. ;-)

Nevertheless, the Ostend Thrashers made a fantastic demo - despite the lack of guitar solos, but I hope they will work on this for the future, because it will make the songs even better - and if this does not get the attention of a respectable label, then something is very wrong with them (labels). Belgium has another great band, next to CRUSADER, AXAMENTA, IN-QUEST, OCEANS OF SADNESS, AFTER ALL, etc... Support talent and give these guys a contract so they can put out a couple of kick-ass albums.

More info at www.dedicted.com.

Line-up:
Mehdi - vocals
Svenne - guitars
Bene - guitars
Tim - bass
Jason - drums


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KAMPFAR – Kvass (Napalm Records 2006)

Kampfar - Kvass
  1. Lyktemenn
  2. Til Siste Mann
  3. Ravenheart
  4. Ildverden
  5. Hat Og Avind
  6. Gaman Av Drømmer

The first time and last time I got acquainted with KAMPFAR's Black Metal was in the early '90s with the self-titled MCD "Kampfar". I borrowed the disc from a friend and copied it onto cassette/tape. I liked it instantly, the music, the sound, the atmosphere. There was something really special about this band. Later I kind of forgot about the tape and thus about KAMPFAR. Some months ago, memories from that time came back and I didn't even know the band was going to release a new album. Getting their newest record "Kvass" - released on the 8th of May - in the mail was logically a positive suprise. ;-)

Lucikly "Mellom Skogkledde Aaser" (1997) and "Fra Underverdenen" (1999) have been re-released recently and "Fra Undervenen" will also contain the EP "Norse". So if you missed those, like me, now's the time to update your collection.

I'm happy the songs are still KAMPFAR, as is the sound. The production could in a way be described as demo-ish, because the drums tend to sound that way, but it shows this is honest music and I like it a lot. The atmosphere is amazing, cold, breathtaking... with folkish influences.

Dolk's throat is also an essential part of what makes KAMPFAR so particular. The shrieks fit in very well and bring the music and icy atmosphere to life. Nothing but respect.

With only six songs, there is no need to fear for a short running time as all of them last about 6-7 or even more minutes, totalling a time of some 46 minutes. Sung in Norwegian, this gives the songs of course more appeal. "Ravenheart" is the only English-sung song, but here as well, all goes well.

KAMPFAR are back with a very good album and this will hopefully give them again the deserved recognition and attention. It has taken them seven years, but they accomplished it.

More info at www.kampfar.com.

Line-up:
Dolk - vocals
Thomas - guitars
Jon - bass
II 13 - drums


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VIRON – NWOGHM (Sonic Age Records 2006)

VIRON - NWOGHM
  1. Sander
  2. Blow The Fuse
  3. Viron
  4. Bound To Die
  5. Winds Of Valhalla
  6. For Her Majesty
  7. Ride On
  8. Instrumetal
  9. Lucifer Arise
  10. Born Out Of Light
  11. Doomsday

CREMATORY drummer Markus Jüllich wanted to form a new band, which was of the 'true' kind and started looking for other members. The idea was to follow in the footsteps of HAMMERFALL and SONATA ARCTICA, seeing how much success they had.

First the band named itself SEDUCTION and released two albums, which got positive reviews. But the usual line-up changes were part of the demise of the band. So after a while, vocalist Alex and drummer Neudi met each other again and decided it was time to bring new life into SEDUCTION. All the members have a keen interest in bands that have been active for a long time, like METALLICA, SAXON, TWISTED SISTER, ...

In November 2004 VIRON entered the Kohlekeller Studio (CREMATORY, KILLER, AGATHODAIMON) to record their demo EP called "NWOGHM", which contained a cover of "Run For Tomorrow", originally recorded by US-Metal legends EXXPLORER. The EP resulted in a record deal with Sonic Age Records from Greece. And to complete the picture, they added another guitarist by the name of Roger Dequis (ex-ECONOMIST). The band's debut, "NWOGHM", was released on the 28th of April.

German Heavy Metal it is, as it's pretty clear for what the abbriviation in the album title stands for. ;-) The album starts with some sort of trick they're playing over the phone. Then the real thing starts with the fantastic "Blow The Fuse". An uptempo track, fast riffs, great interruptions that make the song even more powerful. The guitar solo is jaw-dropping as well.

The next couple of tracks are more of the midtempo sort, with an occasional tempo increase.

"Winds Of Valhalla" is the most peaceful song, with the accoustic guitar getting more exposure. The electric guitars and drums come in later. Not a bad songs, but nothing special either. Then it's back to business as usual with "For Her Majesty", in which Alex tries to reach the higher notes by screaming like Rob Halford (JUDAS PRIEST) and Ralf Scheepers (PRIMAL FEAR). The guitar solo copies the screaming and little over the sixth minute the pace gets faster.

"Blow The Fuse" was the first real kick-in-the-butt song, "Ride On" is the second, featuring a very nice guitar solo in the intro. But the song itself is also top notch. In "Instrumetal" the drums get their moment of glory in the intro, after which the rest, except the vocals, follows. Although the song is well played, it doesn't stick. You don't really remember much of it.

After the nice midtempo "Lucifer Arise", the uptempo "Born Out Of Light" has the double bass drums again, which are used from time to time. The guitar breaks, like in the second song, are present as well. Another song that stands out from the others. It seems VIRON are at their best in uptempo style.

The closing "Doomsday" could have been an ICED EARTH song, since the riffs remind a lot of Jon Schaffer's. Melodically as well, the similarities are not avoidable. Of course, this can only be positive. ;-) Around the third minute, it seems the band listened very close to METALLICA's "Orion", and particularly the calmer part of that song. All in all, a nice song to end with.

"NWOGHM" has its regularities, with very good and mediocre songs. It's a nice start, and all the members can play their instrument very well, but there aren't enough songs that make you really long for this album. Fans of 'true' Metal will find their likings here and if you want to check out new stuff, VIRON surely deserves it. Fingers crossed for the next album.

More info at www.viron1.com.

Line-up:
Alexx Stahl - vocals
Thilo Tillikainen - guitars
Roger Dequis - guitars
Ingmar Holzhauer - bass
Neudi - drums


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SUDDEN DEATH – Unpure Burial (Locomotive Records 2006)

SUDDEN DEATH - Unpure Burial
  1. Cold
  2. You Don't Give A Fuck
  3. L.I.E.F.E.
  4. Living And Dying
  5. Damn
  6. My Left Shoulder
  7. Unpure Burial
  8. Black Hearted Soul
  9. BTK
  10. Dethroned Disciple

SUDDEN DEATH, an American Metalband playing a mix of Death and Thrash, has just (or will) released their new album, "Unpure Burial". Musically there's some good stuff here, but nothing outstanding. SUDDEN DEATH won't rewrite history or add anything significant.

The band seems to be influenced by THE HAUNTED for the screams and PANTERA for the music, which is of course not bad at all, only the 'influencers' do a much better job at the respective musical performances.

The biggest problem on "Unpure Burial" are the vocals and more specifically the screams. For a Death/thrash band they are not really appropriate and make the band sound more like one out of the many Metalcore bands. Luckily the grunts fit the music better and what do you know... there's even some clean singing, on the tracks "My Left Shoulder" and "Black Hearted Soul". Neither kind of singing is awe-inspiring, but let's say the clean singing works best, the growling is second best, but the screams are better left out.

To conclude, "Unpure Burial", which is released here in Europe on the 28th of April (4th in USA), is rather average as a whole, even though there are some good things on a musical level.

More info at suddendeath.biz.

Line-up:
Jon Kaufman - vocals
Beau Brackett - guitars, vocals
Joe Hassett - guitars, vocals
Bill Smith - bass
Corey McLain - drums, vocals


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MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP – Tales Of Rock 'N' Roll - 25 Years Celebration (Armageddon Music 2006)

MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP - Tales Of Rock 'N' Roll - 25 Years Celebration
  1. The Ride
  2. Setting Sun
  3. Angel Of Avalon
  4. Dreams Inside
  5. Dust To Dust
  6. Voice Of My Heart
  7. Journey Man
  8. Big Deal
  9. St. Ann
  10. Shadow Lady
  11. Love Trade
  12. Human Child
  13. Bitter Sweet
  14. Blind Alley
  15. Freedom
  16. Life Vacation
  17. Rock 'N' Roll
  18. Tell A Story
  19. Life Goes On

As the title implies, renowned guitarist Michael Schenker has been active for many years under this band name. In a way this can be seen as a 'best of', but it's not. It does have the singers who have been doing their thing on the MSG's albums, with each vocalist singing his own tale of those 25 years, how they experienced it.

So, on this new album you get names like Kelly Keeling, Graham Bonnet, Leif Sundin, Robin McAuley, Chris Logan, Gary Barden and a new guy called Jari Tiura. Michael Schenker of course handles the guitar parts.

I've heard some MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP music in the past, but I didn't pay much attention to it or followed things up. Musically "Tales Of Rock 'N' Roll - 25 Years Celebration" is quite alright, although things - in my opinion - start getting better in the second half of the album. The first couple of songs sound rather average to me. The biggest 'problem' concerns the singers: sure, they can sing, but it's not never outstanding or breathtaking or anything else along those lines.

I can be short on this one: "Tales Of Rock 'N' Roll - 25 Years Celebration", released on the 28th of April, is a rather average Hardrock/Heavy Metal album, on which the guitarwork of Michael sure is to be respected, but the whole misses power, feeling, passion. If you're really into MSG, then I guess you will already have bought this or will do later. Otherwise, I think it's best to check out more older albums.

More info at www.michaelschenker.de and www.michaelschenkerhimself.com.

Line-up:
Jari Tiura - vocals
Kelly Keeling - vocals
Gary Barden - vocals
Graham Bonnet - vocals
Robin McAuley - vocals
Leif Sundin - vocals
Chris Logan - vocals
Michael Schenker - guitars
Wayne Findlay - guitars, keyboards
Pete Way - bass
Jeff Martin - drums


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KORPIKLAANI – Tales Along This Road (Napalm Records 2006)

Korpiklaani - Tales Along This Road
  1. Happy Little Boozer
  2. Väkirauta
  3. Midsummer Night
  4. Tuli Kokko
  5. Spring Dance
  6. Under The Sun
  7. Korpiklaani
  8. Rise
  9. Kirki
  10. Hide Your Richess

KORPIKLAANI, the Finnish Folkmetallers, seems to have worked very rapidly on their third album as there's only a year's difference with the previous release "Voice Of Wilderness" (2005). "Tales Along This Road", which could have been a title for a live album, saw the light of day on the 24th of April, again via Napalm Records.

From "Spirit Of The Forest" (2003), it became very clear what to expect from KORPIKLAANI, in terms of music. With every release, you notice some evolution. More fine-tuning of the instruments, better production, adding other instruments. Mainly this is what sets "Tales Along This Road" apart from "Voice Of Wilderness". The band knew some line-up changes and on the new album an accordion is used in certain songs. The violin also plays a more important role.

Riffs and drums are still of the humpa-kind and this is another aspect of "Tales Along This Road": most of the songs are uptempo with the drumpattern 'bass-snare-bass-snare-...'. The humpa-thingy is also typical for KORPIKLAANI's songs, but on the previous albums the band implemented more variation in the songs. But make no mistake, the new record is good, very good for the right occasions even. But because of the almost overuse of the humpa-type rhythms, things can get a bit annoying/dull/... (extremely put).

If you already have the first two albums, I see nothing standing in your way to add this third one to your collection. If you're new to KORPIKLAANI - not that I'm an expert of the band ;-) - I would recommend you first check out "Voice Of Wilderness", as I find this their best so far, with the outstanding songs like "Cottages And Saunas", "Journey Man", "Hunting Song", "Beer Beer", ...

Songs on "Tales Along This Road" that are worth mentioning: "Happy Little Boozer" (don't think, just grab a beer and get wild, do a dance ;-)), "Midsummer Night", "Spring Dance", "Kirki" and "Hide Your Richess"

"Tales Along This Road" contains some great sing-along songs, party-songs, but misses the atmosphere of "Voice Of Wilderness". Like I said, it's a good album, but it's not something (at least) I will be playing a lot, except for those particular songs.

More info at www.korpiklaani.com.

Line-up:
Jonne - vocals, guitars
Cane - guitars
Jarkko - bass
Hittavainen - violin, jouhikko, woodwinds
Juho - accordion
Matson - drums


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ASSAILANT – Nemesis Within (Dockyard 1 2006)

Assailant - Nemesis Within
  1. Lies
  2. Buried Alive
  3. Edge Of Forever
  4. Downward Spiral
  5. Until The End
  6. Eternal
  7. Mental State
  8. Shattered
  9. Tomorrow
  10. Vanity Unfolds
  11. My Awakening

ASSAILANT, a 'new' Swedish metalband formed in 2004 and playing melodic metal, has released its debut "Nemesis Within" on the 24th of April via Dockyard 1, the same label as PERSUADER and SAVAGE CIRCUS. The reason why these two bands are linked is because guitarist/founder of the band, Oskar Norberg, is the brother of PERSUADER/SAVAGE CIRCUS guitarist Emil Norberg and Nils Norberg, who plays in NOCTURNAL RITES. Not that this family connection plays much of a role. Well, in a way, it does, as it was Emil who presented ASSAILANT to Dockyard 1. When talking about guitar skills... that's something else.

As it says in the press-release: "their huge wall of sound with melodic paintings, a threatening atmosphere and an aggressive edge!" The 'aggressive' aspect is certainly present, with the heavy riffs and rough vocals. Add some mid- and uptempo drumming, the obligatory guitarsolos, the atmospheric keyboard sounds, the not-easy-to-distinguishable riffs and a rather mediocre production and that's what you get: a wall of sound in melodic form. A wall, that's right.

Nothing stands out here. Oh sure, you've got the three Norberg musketeers, but it's not like they make their appearance something to brag about as their sound mingles in with the rest of the wall.

Musically there are some good ideas, but the execution and album as a whole is never good enough to make you scream for more. And talking about screaming: vocalist Peder likes doing it... a lot. Frankly, a bit too much, and it doesn't always work in the majority of the songs he screams in. Furthermore, his clean singing as well is not on a decent level, as there are (although few) moments where he loses the tone.

For now, let's say that thing can only get better. Maybe they rushed into making an album and recording it. Maybe they haven't practised enough to be better musicians. Maybe... well, questions remain. Wait for the next album, as this probably won't get much playtime in your stereo.

More info at www.assailant.se.

Line-up:
Peder Sundquist - vocals
Oskar Norberg - guitars
Marcus Sundbom - guitars
Joakim Jonsson - bass
Peder Sandström - keyboards
Patrik Larsson - drums


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DESTYNATION – Rising Up (Sonic Age Records 2006)

Destynation - Rising Up
  1. Shadowgate
  2. Evil Tonight
  3. Back From The Dark
  4. Freedom
  5. Rising Up
  6. Threshold Of Pain
  7. The Shadows Remain
  8. The Tears I Cry
  9. Book Of Doom
  10. Spirits
  11. Signs
  12. Resign In Flames

DESTYNATION already had an album, "Tales Of Power", but under the ETERNIA banner. But that band is buried now, rising from the ashes comes DESTYNATION with a suitable title for their first album, which saw the light of day in April.

ETERNIA played Powermetal, DESTYNATION follows the same path with a more Heavy Metal oriented sound. Clean vocals with a good pronunciation are one of the pluspoints. Next to that, the production is quite good, but somehow the guitars lack power.

"Rising Up" kicks off with the nice midtempo song "Shadowgate", after which you are being misled by the title of the next song. "Evil Tonight" should normally stand for a ferocity and speed, but it's slower than that. Still, the result is good.

The first speediness comes with "Back From The Dark". Typically throughout the album and thus here as well are the very good guitarsolos. In every single song, they always sound perfect. In "Back From The Dark", the guys also played a piece of "Phantom Of The Opera".

The change between faster and slower tracks is well chosen as you won't hear two uptempo tracks after another. The midtempo "Freedom" and very nice titletrack "Rising Up" come next and especially the latter - being bit faster - should be great to experience in a live setting. The variable bassdrumming helps a lot. Of course, the guitarsolos are spotless.

DESTYNATION also used keyboards and mainly in "Threshold Of Pain" they come to the forefront more clearly, providing the right atmosphere. Then the guitars and drums follow. One point of criticism: the vocals, which can be annoying at a certain moment. At the end of the song, you get a high-pitched scream. Why?? It doesn't do the song any good, in my opinion.

"The Shadows Remain" is a less good song, as it's a bit too slow and seems to drag itself forward. Luckily "The Tears I Cry" contains more enthusiasm and the keyboards are present again with the right melody and atmosphere.

Where "Evil Tonight" didn't do the title justice, it's the other way around with "Book Of Doom", which I find one of the best tracks on the album. The intro sounds like you're in a dungeon. The song's chorus is very well done and cherry on the cake... yes, you guessed it, the solos. ;-)

"Spirits" takes a slower approach again, with atmospheric keyboards. Here too, the chorus is free from criticism.

Did DESTYNATION listen to EDGUY? It seems like it, since "Signs" sounds close to some EDGUY songs. A midtempo track with a nice chorus and good bassdrum work. Did I mention the guitarsolo?

The closing "Resign In Flames" lies between mid- and uptempo and shows similarities with German Hardrockers AXXIS, at least with their music. It's not bad, but nothing outstanding either.

"Rising Up" is a very decent record, all in all. Clean and clear vocals, good musicianship, very nice solos (hehe ;-)), ... Make the riffs sound more powerful and do a little tweaking on the drumsound (i.e. the snaredrum) and the next album will be many times better. If you're into Heavy Metal with a touch of Powermetal, DESYTNATION is worth checking out. They've got the right tools/skills to continue making great music.

More info at www.destynation.com.

Line-up:
Anders Häggkvist - vocals
Ronny Blylod - guitars, keyboards
Daniel Niemann - guitars
Patrik Nordendahl - bass
Magnus Larsson - drums


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MOTORJESUS – Deathrider (Locomotive Records 2006)

Motorjesus - Deathrider
  1. Legion Of Rock
  2. Destroyer
  3. 10 Feet Under Ground
  4. Deathrider
  5. Distortion Sleep
  6. The Howling
  7. The Undertaken
  8. Hellmachine
  9. Invisible Man
  10. Black Fuel Domination
  11. Death Hammer Overload
  12. The Evil

Previously known as THE SHITHEADZ (lol, what a name ;-)), the five guys from Mönchengladbach will release their brand new studio album "Deathrider" on 21st April under their new bandname MOTORJESUS.

MOTORJESUS, a sappy composition of Heavy Rock, Metal and classical rock influences of the five members. arising from the band THE SHITHEADZ, founded in 1992 by Guido Reuss (guitar),Mark Neschen (bass) and Oliver Beck (drums), the lineup rotation with Christoph Birx (vocals) and Andreas Peters (lead guitar) in 2000 led to a stylistic change from previously Hardcore Metal towards the current, powerful mixture of Metal and classical Rock. In spring 2004 the debut album "Dirty Pounding Gasoline" was released.

Mid 2005, they prepared for the second album, but also needed to change their name, since more and more factors such as international censorship and with the musical misunderstandings afflicted name made an international release impossible.

"Deathrider", the new album, sure is no hardcore, but groovy rock with a fat guitarsound, which can be compared (in a way) with that of PAGAN'S MIND/JORN/BEAUTIFUL SIN guitarist Jörn Viggo Lofstad. But here it's a lighter version, naturally.

Be it uptempo, midtempo, slower.. this album's got it all. Add the guitarsolos and Christoph's rough vocals, and you've got a very good and very rocking album. The guitarduo Guido-Andreas know their instrument well enough to give the songs the right sound and melody.

'Catchiness' is also a key word here, e.g. the uptempo "The Howling", of which the chorus is quite easy to sing-along.

But it's not all heaviness. The accoustic guitar is used in songs like "The Undertaken" and used to stress sad parts or build up the tension.

With this 'drastic' change of style, the music has also become radio-friendly, even though MOTORJESUS keeps it a couple of levels heavier.

MOTORJESUS, quite a name, changed their style and did a very good job with "Deathrider". A very good production, a fat and groovy guitarsound, some very nice solos, rough vocals to give the songs more power, ... I don't see why this shouldn't score. Furthermore, it offers a nice change among the harder rock/metal albums out there.

More info at www.shitheadz.de.

Line-up:
Christoph Birx - vocals
Andreas Peters - guitars
Guido Reuss - guitars
Mark Neschen - bass
Oliver Beck - drums


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DEZPERADOZ – The Legend And The Truth (AFM Records 2006)

Dezperadoz - The Legend And The Truth
  1. The Legend And The Truth
  2. Dus Of History
  3. First Blood
  4. Deadman Walkin'
  5. Rawhide
  6. Tombstone
  7. Hellbilly Square
  8. March To Destiny
  9. OK Corral
  10. Shootout
  11. Barrel Of A Gun
  12. Earp's Vendetta
  13. Friends Till The End
  14. Echoes Of Eternity
  15. Alex

The Legend: Wyatt Earp and his biography

Without any doubt Wyatt Earp, who is considered as the legendary Western hero today, knew how to survive. He proved himself as a farmer, saloon owner, horse thief and railway worker. Several times he tried to gain the honour of being a sheriff as well - and ended up running a saloon and a casino instead. Very quiet his life has never been. Rivalries with the Clanton/McLaury-group, a bunch of cattle thieves and stage coach bandits, have been the every day life of Wyatt and his clan. When on 31st March 1881 the legendary stage coach of Tombstone got robbed - 80.000 dollar got stolen and two men got shot - the Clantons and the Earps were suspecting each other of having done this. A fight that culminated in the well-known Gunfight at the O.K. Corral - Wyatt himself survived and was souring through the Wild West from then on without any aim. At the age of 80 he started telling his stories to the author Stuart N. Lake for the first time.

The Truth: Alex Kraft, the DEZPERADOZ and the concept album about Wyatt Earp

Without any doubt Alex Kraft (a.o. guitarist of the ONKEL TOM-liveband, ex-Jail-member and part of the AC/DC-coverband DIRTY DEEDS) is an artist who understands music as an adventure and with whom music can become an adventure. For several years something has been going on in him already. His vision is now given the wonderful name DEZPERADOZ and leads Heavy Metal into the Wild West. On to characters such as Wyatt Earp, who got dedicated the concept album "The Legend And The Truth".

Cradle of "The Legend And The Truth" is Heidelberg in Germany, where DEZPERADOZ-Sheriff Alex Kraft and his studio are placed. His fellows are Alex Weigand (DEAD ANYWAY, DIRTY DEEDS), Sascha Tilger (TOM ANGELRIPPER, TYRANT EYES) and Dennis Ward (a.o. PINK CREAM 69). Dennis plays guitar on the album and also worked on it as a producer of the House Of Audio-Studios in Karlsdorf/Germany.

A first forerunner for the "The Legend And The Truth"-showdown was already sent out in 1999 when the first album of the band "The Dawn Of Dying" was released. At that time Tom Angelripper (SODOM, ONKEL TOM) helped with his guest appearance to give birth to this fusion of hard rocking Metal and Western flair.

On 21st April 1881 the legendary stage coach robbery took place in Tombstone. On 21st April 2006, exactly 125 years later, this event will be alive again through "The Legend And The Truth"!

Since Dennis Ward produced it, you can be sure it's a job well done, which also is proven by the albums of other bands he worked with: ANGRA, SILENT FORCE, VANDEN PLAS, ...

"The Legend And The Truth" starts off with the typical harmonica sounds, plus there are symphonic samples that support the melody. And don't forget the accoustic guitar. This whole song just states 'country & western'.

"Dust Of History" is a more rocking song, but also very melodic and one of the best on the album. Also great is the part somewhere in the middle introducing some calm before rebuilding the tension. Rock 'n Roll, baby, yeah!

The next, "First Blood", takes a strange start: a baby's cries, accompanied by the accoustic guitar. Few moments later, heaviness kicks in, not forgetting the atmosphere that goes with the theme of the album.

Alex's vocals have a rough edge, but for "Deadman Walking" he puts that aside in favor of clean singing. The result is actually very good and fits the song perfectly. After this the pedal is pushed down a bit more, increasing the tempo, making "Rawhide" almost a party-song.

Alex is given a rest and thus are the instruments the center of attention in the accoustic and instrumental "Tombstone". But it won't be the only time the bands sees its singer not doing what he's supposed to do.

"Hellbilly Square" was put on the before-last spot on the tracklisting on my promo-copy, but it seems the it moved a few places on the cd, almost right in the middle. Gunshots, horses... music. Here too, uptempo sets the pace, with a catchy 'jeehaa' touch. Here, it seems dancing is the subject, trying to get everyone involved.

As the title indicates, "March To Destiny" starts with some marching drumrolls, backed by symphonics. The song has a gallopy rhythm, but remains free from any criticism.

Since "The Legend And The Truth" is a combo of Country & Western and Heavy Metal, with some rock 'n' roll spices, you can notice some similarities with NWOBHM legends SAXON, except for the Country & Western thing. ;-) "Ok Corral" has very nice riffs and sounds somewhat dommy during the verses, but going more rocking during the chorus. And that's where the SAXON-reference comes in.

Second time Alex steps down comes with "Shootout" and here too, gunfire is shot at the listener, but in a more powerful way than with "Hellbilly Square".

Although "Barrel Of A Gun" is quite a good song, I'm not so fond of the chorus. Luckily "Earp's Vendetta" is on next and this too has a gallopy rhythm.

Unfortunately, not all seems to be going as well as the previous songs. "Friends Till The End" tends to sounds poppish, especially the chorus. Thanks to the heavy riffs, worse is prevented.

In "Echoes Of Eternity" the piano takes a leading role and the only voices you hear aren't those of Alex singing, but more like the band took some dialogues from a movie. Not bad, but nothing spectacular either. I do think if you listen carefully, it would help to understand the context.

The closing "Alex" is also of the instrumental kind, but puts more focus on the symphonics. Because of its short playtime, you can consider this the outro. ;-)

When I first heard the album, I was quite positive, but not really convinced. Letting it rest for a few days and then picking it up again seems to have helped as I have to admit this is a very good album and the band has succeeded in blending the cowboy-atmosphere with decent Heavy Metal. Pluspoints go to the production and the vocals.

More info at www.dezperadoz.com.

Line-up:
Alex Kraft - vocals, guitars
Dennis Ward - guitars
Alex Weigand - bass
Sascha Tilger - drums


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MYLIDIAN – Birth Of The Prophet (Anvil Corp 2006)

Mylidian - Birth Of The Prophet
  1. Chaos Prophet
  2. Crystal Angel
  3. Lust With Succubus
  4. Pleasures Of Pain
  5. Litany
  6. Monastery Slaughter
  7. Prisoner Of My Dreams
  8. The Cursed Son:
    Part I: Betrayed By My Father
    Part II: Forbidden Love
    Part III: Birth Of The Prophet

The French Melodic/Progressive (Death) Metallers MYLIDIAN have been in existence since 1993, but only managed to release their debut in the spring of 2006, more exactly the 10th of April. The first years the band was known as PHOENIX and released a couple of demos and cassettes before getting picked up by Anvil Corp and changing their name to MYLIDIAN.

The first album of the trilogy "The Cursed Son" is called "Birth Of The Prophet". Part 2 and 3 will be "Seven Sons" and "Cosmogony". The release of those two parts is still unknown. The trilogy is in a Metal Opera format, like AYREON, AINA, AVANTASIA, etc... did before. But here it's just one band handling everything. The story is about a young character, called Antoine, who rejects parental authority as well as socio-religious taboos, who is drawn towards the supernatural and who’s got an unbridled sexuality.

Musically the keyboards provide the appropriate melodies and create the right setting/atmosphere. The guitars of course add the necessary heaviness and emotional influence. For this album, MYLIDIAN depended on a couple of extra musicians for the keyboards, extra guitars, choir, etc...

The compositions usually are of the uptempo, Thrashy kind or with a more Progressive approach. Occasional blastbeats have been added as well, next to grunts. Especially "Crystal Angel"'s chorus is quite catchy. Too much of the same would make it boring and since this is supposed to be a story-telling album, it's natural that the piano is used to break this.

Vocally is where things really are in great need of improvement. Armendar or Fabien's accent really is laughable, but so is his singing. Italians also suffer from this, but in most cases not as much as the vocalists of MYLIDIAN. It's like the British serie "'Allo 'Allo", except those actors of course had a better accent. Luckily the contrast is there with the addition of two female vocalists, who are better than their male opponents.

What MYLIDIAN has produced so far is nothing original and there are many other bands who do it better. Especially the vocals form a problem. Musically there are some good things with here and there a certain sniff of catchiness. But overall I think MYLIDIAN are not one of those bands that will gain the same interest like CRADLE OF FILTH, RHAPSODY OF FIRE, AYREON, OPETH and alikes.

Either the band underwent a complete line-up change or.... The line-up I mentioned is the one I found in the booklet. On their website this seems to be the current line-up:

Armendar - vocals
Elisabeth Bardel - vocals
Mortek - guitars
Nicolas Bourineau - bass
Franck Lesellier - drums

More info at www.mylidian.com.

Line-up:
Armendar - vocals
Mortek - guitars
Fabien Ternois - bass, clean vocals
Thomas Vincent - drums


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NOISE FOREST – Morbid Instincts (Armageddon Music 2006)

Noise Forest - Morbid Instincts
  1. Cramp
  2. Be At Peace
  3. Past Redemption
  4. Flag
  5. Dead From The Neck Up
  6. Morbid Instincts
  7. Tragedy
  8. Extortion Via Matrimony
  9. Impact
  10. Devil's Workshop
  11. Maltreatment
  12. Shame (Bonus Track)

NOISE FOREST, a German Deathcore band, releases its third full album as the follow-up to 2003's "Zero Existence". Recorded in the Lambda Base Studio in Kiel, "Morbid Instincts" is no record for pussies. It says 'Deathcore' in the press-release, but the similarities with old SEPULTURA are unavoidable.

Since their take-off back in 1992, NOISE FOREST have released some demos and it wasn't until 1999 that they could release their debut. Being a five-piece first, having the typical line-up changes a lot of bands face, and making their music more metal, they now seem to be in a comfortable position as a four-piece. More detailed biographical info can be found on their website.

From start to end, "Morbid Instincts"'s raging inferno of frustration and anger comes rolling out of the speakers, but done very well and what a sound! The production was handled by guitarist Ali Orhan, who gave the songs a clear, yet powerful sound.

The references to SEPULTURA also come out thanks to the heavy grooves, tribal-like drums and strong riffing. And not in the least the screamy/growling vocals of Boris Kronenberg.

I can't compare with their previous records, but I'm convinced of the material NOISE FOREST have put out with their latest deadly album aka "Morbid Instincts". If you like (old) SEPULTURA, but don't want keep on listening to their fist couple of records, then I think NOISE FOREST will please you.

More info at www.noiseforest.de.

Line-up:
Boris Kronenberg - vocals, bass
Owe Koch - vocals, guitars
Ali Orhan - guitars
Dennis Köhler - drums


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PRESIDENT EVIL – Trash 'N' Roll Asshole Show (AFM Records 2006)

PRESIDENT EVIL - Trash 'N' Roll Asshole Show
  1. The Electromagnetic Superstorm
  2. Boneless
  3. Demons Everywhere
  4. One Sick Bastard
  5. Deathcar Racer
  6. Trash 'N' Roll Asshole Show
  7. El Sadistico
  8. Action Express
  9. Riot Generator
  10. Ragin' Silence
  11. Star Destroyer
  12. Midnight Weedtrain
  13. Dead Man's Float

PRESIDENT EVIL, a name derived from the "Resident Evil" games? Anyhow, this newcomer act from Bremen, Germany was founded in 2002 and is a mixture of people who played in other bands before coming together and form PRESIDENT EVIL. The first result of this merger was a demo: "The Electromagnetic Superstorm".

Then AFM Records offers them a contract and this gives the band the opportunity to record their debut, "Trash 'N' Roll Asshole Show", which is to be released on the 7th April.

Now, music-wise I'm not going to comment on each song or pick out some that stand out from the rest. There's the word 'Trash' in the title, add the 'h' and you get 'Thrash'. Something that is also very noticable because Andy Classen was asked to handle the buttons, like he did with DEW SCENTED, HOLY MOSES, SPELLBOUND and others. PRESIDENT EVIL on the other hand is not just Thrash, but more a combo of Thrash, Rock 'n' Roll and even edging towards Metalcore. Either way, you won't find anything new or challenging here.

The production itself could have been better as it tends to sound messy, and we all know Andy can do much better. But the production is just a detail, the musicians also play a role and that's the reason for this record not being so good. One by one, the songs drone out of the speakers, variation is mostly far from present and the rough vocals are as monotonous as a technobeat. The switching between single and double bass might draw your attention a bit, but other than that this is an album to be forgotten. Also because there's nothing memorable on his album.

PRESIDENT EVIL may have won a competition and played on the same stage as EKTOMORF, FIREBALL MINISTRY, etc... but unless you just want your riffs and vocals rough without caring about variation, who's playing and what and how, I see no reason why "Trash 'N' Roll Asshole Show" should be in your collection.

More info at www.presidentevil.de.

Line-up:
Johnny Holze - vocals
Ace Renner - guitars
James Lars - guitars
Typhoon Tilsener - bass
Diamond Dennis - drums


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SUMMONING – Oath Bound (Napalm Records 2006)

Summoning - Oath Bound
  1. Bauglir
  2. Across The Streaming Tide
  3. Midautas Vras
  4. Might And Glory
  5. Beleriand
  6. Northward
  7. Menegroth
  8. Land Of The Dead

SUMMONING embarks once again on a musical journey based on the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien and his incomparable universe known as Middle Earth. "Oath Bound", the title of their latest release (out on 3rd of April), takes on "The Silmarillion", "The Unfinished Tales", as well as various myths and legends from "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit".

Moreover, the Austrian duo also reflect upon the Noldors' (an archaic Elven tribe) move to Middle Earth and their subsequent battle with Bauglir (better known as Morgoth) and Silmail, which ended in the defeat of the tyrants.

Protector has stated this about the new album:

"Actually this is one of the most obvious new things about "Oath Bound". We arranged the songs a bit different and always tried to bring one of the instruments on some parts into the front. therefore on this album you hear for the first time guitars in some parts totally alone, and also the drums for example take over the solo part for a short time in some songs. I simply think that this way it is more interesting and also focuses the listener to the different lines we use in the songs. "

SUMMONING formed in 1993 and soon released two demos ("Upon the Viking's Stallion" and "Anno Mortiri Domini 1959"), as well as their Napalm Records debut "Lugburz". These releases all shared the raw Black Metal sound typical of the era, and understandably so, as Silenius at that time was the vocalist and bass player of the legendary ABIGOR. Following the release of "Minas Morgul", the band's first fully Tolkien-inspired album, Protector and Silenius parted ways with drummer Trifixion (Alexander Trondl) and headed in a new direction: away from the Black Metal style in favor of a more orchestral and epic approach.

The full-length "Dol Guldur" and the E.P. "Nightshade Forests" were the resounding result of the transition, albeit both spartan in their guitar work. Since the 1999 release of "Stronghold", the varied, soundtrack-oriented style of SUMMONING, which elates in the use of choirs and atmospheric keyboards, has dominated the band's vision of Middle Earth.

As this is my first SUMMONING album, I can't really compare with previous works, but thanks to a Brazilian friend of mine (Marcus), I got an idea of how the band sounded up 'till now. Musically, "Oath Bound" continues the epic and atmospheric approach, which I can only applaud, as this kind of music really is of my liking. It's not necessary to discuss each song as they form a majestic whole of which they cannot be separated.

Production-wise is "Oath Bound" top quality. Every instrument comes out very well and is given its solomoment while the others are kept silent, which gives the songs more appeal and depth. The atmosphere that is created by doing so is just amazing. Of course, while the instruments are key, the hellish vocals are also present. Another pluspoint on the vocal aspect is the addition of choirs which make the songs even more complete. Especially "Land Of The Dead" is a song where the choirs have an important role.

The drums... are not real, of course. But as a SUMMONING-'noob', I thought they were done on an electronic kit, and I prefer a conventional kit. Nevertheless, electronic kit or drumcomputer, the result is top notch and very well chosen. No blastbeats, but a more folkish way of playing.

One remark about the track "Mirdautas Vras": it is completely sung in the black tongue of Mordor... A language that Gorthaur (the old Elven name for Sauron) developed for his subjects and the same language made recognizable by its most famous line "Ash nazg durbatulûk, ash nazg gimbatul, ash nazg thrakatulûk, agh burzum-ishi krimpatul" ("One ring to rule them all, one ring to find them, one ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them"). With "Mirdautas Vras", SUMMONING resurrects the unholy language, bringing it back into the world of the living:

Bhaash agh akûl, Nazgûl skoiz
Mirdautas Vras!
Karn ghaamp agh nût
Ghaur Manwe quiinubat gukh

Fire and ice, the Nazgul fly
A good day to kill!
Red is the earth and the sky
Even Manwe will bow

"Oath Bound" has a running time of some 70 minutes, which is quite a lot compared to the usual 40-50 minutes most band deliver. For this kind of music, it's blasphemy to cut into the songs and thus the running time. SUMMONING delivers a lot of music for your money, but not only the quantity, the quality as well is what makes this a masterpiece. "Oath Bound" will be well received by the fans and those who like epic, orchestral Metal and should easily be one of the best albums of 2006. I, for one, will surely check out their previous records, since their latest simply stunned me.

More info at www.summoning.info.

Line-up:
Silenius - vocals, bass, keyboards
Protector - vocals, guitars, keyboards


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TÝR – Eric The Red (Napalm Records 2006)

TYR - Eric The Red
  1. The Edge
  2. Regin Smiğur
  3. Dreams
  4. The Wild Rover
  5. Stýrisvølurin
  6. Ólavur Riddararós
  7. Rainbow Warrior
  8. Ramund Hin Unge
  9. Alive
  10. Eric the Red
  11. God Of War (Bonus Track)
  12. Hail To The Hammer (Bonus Track)

Faroese Folk Metal band, TÝR. "A thousand years ago, our people believed in gods such as Tórur, Óğin, and Loki," explains band mastermind Heri Joensen. "Another was named Týr." The one-armed God of War - the bravest of all - became the eponym of the nordic quartet. Yet Joensen points out that Týr (also known as the God of Justice) is also revered for first seeking the avenues of diplomacy - an attribute that does not take away from this god of war's drive.

TÝR scored high with "How Far To Asgaard" (2002) and "Eric The Red" (2003) and thanks to the record deal with Napalm Records, the latter one has recently been re-released (27/3) and was given new cover art.

"Eric The Red" follows the style dictated by the old religion. Almost every song is based on Faroese or Norwegian lore, and is revetted in the garb of the Folk Metal genre. Its approach unmistakenly creates a very true Viking Metal.

From the first song "The Edge" you can hear the production is of high quality and the presence of a folky atmosphere. From start to finish, this re-release is one great piece of Metal. The musicianship is very good and the band managed to make this album very attractive and varied.

Next to songs in English, the band also used the Faroese and/or Norwegian language a couple of times - "Regin Smiğur" (Regin, the Blacksmith), "Stýrisvølurin" (The Tiller), "Ólavur Riddararós"(Olaf, Knight of the Rose). Of course, this suits this kind of music very well and you just have to admit the result is stunning. Not only the melodic guitars, but also the vocals,the samples (e.g. ocean sounds on "Stýrisvølurin"), the choirs ("Ólavur Riddararós"), the breathtaking chorus of "Dreams", the drums... the whole package just adds up to a praise-worthy album.

Next to these songs, a cover of the Irish "The Wild Rover" blends in remarkably well and here too, TYR did a very good job.

"God Of War" and "Hail To The Hammer" were taken from the "How Far To Asgaard" album and have that demo-ish sound. Both are slower songs, but quite good.

One point of criticism though for the title song "Eric The Red", the second half (or last part) is at times not so good as the rest of the song.

Other than that, I remain very positive about this re-release. It's not Folk Metal like KORPIKLAANI or SKYCLAD or ... but it does create the right mood and atmosphere thanks to the elements mentioned above. This is an album one MUST have in one's collection. You can't go wrong here if you like your Metal melodic with a folkish sauce. ;-)

More info at www.tyr.net.

Line-up:
Heri Joensen - vocals, guitars
Terji Skibenæs - guitars
Gunnar H. Thomsen - bass
Kári Streymoy - drums


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IRON FIRE – Revenge (Napalm Records 2006)

IRON FIRE - Revenge
  1. Wings Of Rage
  2. Ironhead
  3. Metal Messiah
  4. Whirlwind Of Doom
  5. Savage Prophecy
  6. Fate Of Fire
  7. Stand As King
  8. Brotherhood Of The Brave
  9. Alone In The Dark
  10. Mindmachine
  11. Icecold Arion
  12. Break The Spell

Danish Powermetallers IRON FIRE are back with a new album - released on the 27th of March -, which took quite some time to come into existence. Titled "Revenge", this is the band's third album in their 10 years' career. Prior to this one, they released "Thunderstorm" (2000) and "On The Edge" (2001) via Noise Records. The debut wasn't that bad, but in the world of Powermetal, it's hard not to sound like others. I can't comment on the follow-up, as I haven't heard that one (yet?).

Throughout the years, a lot of musicians came and went and to this, vocalist Martin Steene remains the only original member. But despite all the problems - new members, "On The Edge" getting back reviews, not getting a new deal with Noise Records who weren't satisfied with the then new material - IRON FIRE found a new label home by the name of Napalm Records, who focus more on Gothic and Black Metal bands (and related).

With a title like "Revenge", the band is making a statement, that they deserve their place in the Powermetal genre, that they deserve(d) a new contract. So let's see how this new record sounds...

"Wings Of Rage" starts with a GAMMA RAY-like intro and continues in an uptempo manner. Add some very nice guitar solos and you have a more than good beginning. The slower "Ironhead" (alternative to Metalhead?) is one of those tracks that will do well in a live setting. In the bridge I even noticed some HIM-similarities. The next track takes it even slower: "Metal Messiah", a rather cliché title. Is the 'sluggishness' influenced by their Doom Metal period? ;-) Anyhow, the result is not bad, but I think it could have been a little better. Martin's singing reminded me of FREEDOM CALL.

"Whirlwind Of Doom", words that could have been taken from MANOWAR's "The Warrior's Prayer". Needless to say, this is a very good song and should be killer on stage.

Metal plays an important role apparently as the slower "Savage Prophecy" seems to be the second song gloryfying this music. As far as my interpretation goes, it's a song about bringing Metal to the people or something like that.

Hitting the nail on the head, ""Fate Of Fire" can also be added to the list of the better tracks of "Revenge". Heaviness, the bass getting more attention in an uptempo pace. The solos are also free from criticism.

And yes, one can't get enough of Metal as a subject: "Stand As King". Giving some rest to the guitars, this song revolves around the bass, the drums and the vocals. The bridge/chorus is the only moment when the electric guitars are allowed.

"Brotherhood Of The Brave", also a somewhat cliché title (nothing wrong with that, others do it too), and again I have the impression this could be about fighting mainstream. Or there's another meaning for it and maybe there's a certain theme throughout the album.

Not the game title, but a similar-titled song: "Alone In The Dark". Again, references to GAMMA RAY and FREEDOM CALL can be made, this time in the uptempo chorus. This is really a thumbs up track.

A song with even more balls than the others, here's "Mindmachine". While the verses are very well done, the chorus is a bit weaker.

In "Icecold Arion" samples have been used in the intro and the band also found it fitting to add some symphonic elements. The accoustic guitar is an important instrument here. While samples can be of use, it also depends which you use and how they sound. For "Icedcold Arion" the result isn't so good and mainly the drumsamples...well...suck, to put it in extremes.

The closing "Break The Spell" is back to business as usual, with real instruments. This is a more midtempo songwith the necessary heavy riffs, but the whole sounds rather melancholic and somehow boring.

"Revenge" starts well, has its down moments, but most of the songs are good enough to make this a pretty decent release and maybe even their best so far, which justifies the album title. It's a fact that Powermetal is a crowded genre, but everyone deserves a chance and IRON FIRE have done a decent job, considering the problems over the past couple of years. Since the line-up is now stable again, this should be positive for the next album(s).

More info at www.ironfire.dk.

Line-up:
Martin Steene - vocals
Kirk Backarach - guitars
J. J. - guitars
Martin Lund - bass
Jens Berglid - drums


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HEAVY LORD – From Cosmos To Chaos (Heavy Lord 2005)

HEAVY LORD - From Cosmos To Chaos
  1. Elephaunt
  2. Scorpion Sting
  3. The Ego Has Landed
  4. One Is A Billion
  5. While Empires Burn

While this album was self-released in the fall of 2005, the Russian label Solitude Prod. reached an agreement with HEAVY LORD and released it last March, on the 22nd.

HEAVY LORD was founded by guitarists Jeff and Wes Lee, both from Hellevoetsluis. Being fans of '90s Doom and BLACK SABBATH, they decided to have their own band and soon bass player Steve and drummer Wout joined the fold.

December 2004 saw the release of the first offering "The Holy Grail", which received positive comments from the scene. Doing more gigs and continuing the writing process for the follow-up, "From Cosmos To Chaos" saw the light of day little than a year later.

"From Cosmos To Chaos" features five songs, totalling a running time of at least 40 minutes. "Elephaunt" kick off and clocks in after 11 minutes, so brace yourself. One point of criticism: the repetition of the same riffs during quite some time, but I guess it's part of the thought behind the song.

The band also knows to increase the tempo a little and the very nice "Scorpion Thing" offers more activity, more liveliness. Towards the end of the song the demonic vocals take the upperhand.

"The Ego Has Landed", a copy of SAXON's "The Eagle Has Landed"? Not in terms of music, no, hehehe. This is another long song, over eight minutes, and does the genre justice as it advances really slowly. Around 3:20 there's a short calm moment with just the guitar. Around the fifth minute it's solo time and the drums are more active here. One minute later, the bass steps to the forefront with the drums and guitars keeping up the heaviness. But why do I hear similarities (riffs) with METALLICA's "Frantic"? The screaming vocals certainly should have been left silent, they don't fit here.

"One Is A Billion" takes a slow start, but advances a bit faster shortly after. Here too, but in the chorus, the screaming vocals have been implemented. And again, they don't do the song any good. The song itself is not really bad, but it seems to drag itself towards the end.

The last track, "While Empires Burn", sounds very peaceful for the first couple of minutes. No screams or yelling here, only normal singing. Then a load of heaviness is thrown at you in a somewhat chaotic way, but I guess that's the idea, when you look at the title. ;-) Shortly before the end, the guys kick down the pedal making everyone play faster for that short time, after which things turn to normal again.

The music is important here, mainly the instruments doing the 'talking'. The vocals are used to stress certain events/parts, not to tell whole stories. The production is quite good. Nothing professional or polished, but still very fitting for the band's playing. HEAVY LORD has got potential and deserves a lot more attention. If you like Doom Metal (in general or the slow kind), then I think you better have a look at and listen to this Dutch band.

More info at www.heavylord.nl.

Line-up:
Steve - vocals, bass
Jeff - guitars
Wes Lee - guitars, screams
Wout - drums


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THEATRE OF TRAGEDY – Storm (AFM Records 2006)

THEATRE OF TRAGEDY - Storm
  1. Storm
  2. Silence
  3. Ashes And Dreams
  4. Voices
  5. Fade
  6. Begin & End
  7. Senseless
  8. Exile
  9. Disintegration
  10. Debris

"Storm" is THEATRE OF TRAGEDY's latest offering, the sixth album from Norway's biggest and most influencing Gothic Rock-act. A interesting thing is the cover: it's like the Q from the first-person-shooter game "Quake II".

Even though Nell has been with the band for over two years now (coming over from THE CREST), this is the first album with her as the front-lady, together with Raymond and the rest of the band. And somehow the whole album is kind of a comeback.

THEATRE OF TRAGEDY made music history in the mid nineties with albums like "Velvet Darkness They Fear" and "Aegis". With "Musique" and "Assembly", the band incorporated more industrial/electronic atmospheres. "Assembly" was also the last album with ex-vocalist Liv Kristine (left in August 2003), who now has her hands full with LEAVES' EYES and LIV KRISTINE.

"Storm" has been produced and recorded by Rico Darum (e.g. ZEROMANCER, GOTHMINISTER, APOPTYGMA BERZERK) in the famous Toproom Studio in Norway (e.g. MAYHEM, TRISTANIA, EXTOL), and has been mixed and mastered in Canada's The Green Jacket Studio by Greg Reely (e.g. PARADISE LOST, FEAR FACTORY, FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY, SKINNY PUPPY).

Since this is the first time I hear THEATRE OF TRAGEDY, I can't compare with the previous albums with Liv Kristine on vocals. But I do have heard her sing in ATROCITY (and saw her live at Velorock last year) and some LEAVES' EYES songs, which I didn't like. To be honest, I think Nell's a very worthy replacement and has a beautiful voice that really fits this kind of music.

The dual vocal lines are very compatible and good for the story of the songs. Although Nell has no problems (or at least, very few) with an accent, Raymond sure does. Nothing wrong with that, because it also adds to the atmosphere of the music. Fact is that he reminds me in a way of one of the singers of SIN WITH SEBASTIAN ("Shut Up (And Sleep With Me)"), that dance-formation. ;-) No disrespect intended.

While the guitars take care of the rhythm section, samples, symphonics, piano take care of the melody and the combo Nell-symphonic (e.g. "Ashes And Dreams") is simply stunning. Just like the other songs, by the way. Heaviness (especially in the intro of "Begin & End") prevails over the more relaxed, calmer tunes in "Ashes And Dreams" and "Fade".

This isn't flat music. THEATRE OF TRAGEDY (there you've got the reason for the sad mood ;-)) did a very good job at finding a new vocalist and at the same time record a superb new album which should put them back at the top of the Gothic Rock/Metal genre. Touching melodies, intertwined with heavy riffs and spiced up with a sample here and there, spread over the ten songs. The limited edition will contain a bonustrack, "Highlights".

More info at www.theatreoftragedy.com.

Line-up:
Nell Sigland - vocals
Raymond I. Rohonyi - vocals
Vegard K. Thorsen - guitars
Frank Claussen - guitars
Lorentz Aspen - synth, piano
Hein Frode Hansen - drums


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DORO – Warrior Soul (AFM Records 2006)

DORO - Warrior Soul
  1. You're My Family
  2. Haunted Heart
  3. Strangers Yesterday
  4. Thunderspell
  5. Warrior Soul
  6. Heaven I See
  7. Creep Into My Brain
  8. Above The Ashes
  9. My Majesty
  10. In Liebe Und Freundschaft
  11. Ungebrochen
  12. Shine On

The Metal queen needs no introduction anymore, since she's been in the business for over 20 years. And still she's rocking and an example to many others.

The recording of the follow-up to 2002's "Fight" has lead her from the already familiar Yellohouse Studio in Wuppertal (Germany), the Atom-H-Studios and the cooperation with Chris Lietz and Torsten Sickert to the Switzerland where she worked together with Deezl Imhof (Foolpark Studios) and film director Luke Gasser. A great number of future hits have been developed on her journey as for example "Stranger's Yesterday", "Above The Ashes" or "You're My Family" which is dedicated to the many true DORO fans. With the Suiss Luke Gasser she already collaborated ahead of the album for a film production: "Anuk - Der Weg Des Kriegers" ("Anuk - The Warrior's Way") in which Doro can be seen in her first acting role and for which she sings the title song of the soundtrack "Warrior Soul". The album was finally mixed by Deezl and the new Yorker Metal Mike Goldberg who have put the finishing touches on it.

I'm not so familiar with Doro's works - I only have WARLOCK's "True As Steel", which I purchased a couple of weeks ago -, but I do respect for having been active in making this great music for a long time.

Fact is that there are indeed some hits on the new album and singing-along is very easy. Songs like "You're My Family", "Haunted Heart", "Strangers Yesterday" get stuck in your head quite easily and have a great rocking tune.

Doro's voice is also of the few which have a certain roughness like their male variants. Pure and honest. There are no real uptempo songs, except for "Ungebrochen" - which is probably a Punk cover, since the guitars sound totally different and the song also has a Punkish rhythm.

"Warrior Soul" starts with the ode to the Doro fans, after which the tempo goes up a little more. Also nice to hear in "Haunted Heart" are Doro's vocals during the verses, as they are softer then.

"Strangers Yesterday" is a more balladesque song in which symphonic sounds make their entry. This is also one of the best on the album.

In "Thunderspell" the bass gets a more prominent role. During the chorus, Doro gives her all and you can almost see her sing. This will be killer when performed live.

The title track begins with a calm intro and throughout the song, 'bombastic' and 'epic' are words that surely come to mind. Taking it a bit slower, "Heaven I See" is next. This seems to be a love song or something in that vein, but nevertheless a beautiful piece of touching music.

"Creeping Into My Brain" cranks up the heaviness again 'till "Above The Ashes" comes out of the speakers. Here too, a calm intro is set to start with, but soon the heavy, chunky guitar riffs come into play, backed by slow drumming. Thanks to the symphonic elements, the chorus is lifted to a higher level.

Forget what I said above, there is a more uptempo song: "My Majesty". ;-) Needless to say, this is also thumbs up.

"In Liebe Und Freundschaft" ("For Love and Friendship") is the only German song here and it does fit Doro's singing a lot (duh! :p). It's nice to hear her sing in her native language. After the 'punkish' "Ungebrochen" - which I didn't find that good - "Shine On", another slower, doomier song closes the tracklisting. In general, this is like the rest, very decent.

Another DORO release that should please the fans. No doubt about that. Doro still has it in her, still knows how to make a rocking record, although in my opinion the production could (should?) have been a bit more powerful.

If you're interested in limited editions, you'll find two extra songs and a videoclip.

More info at www.doropesch.com.

Line-up:
Doro Pesch - vocals
Joe Taylor - guitars
Nick Douglas - bass
Oliver Palotai - keyboards
Johnny Dee - drums


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WALTARI – Blood Sample (Dockyard 1 2006)

Waltari - Blood Sample Part 1:
  1. Helsinki
  2. Not Enough
  3. Too Much Emptiness
  4. Never
  5. New York
  6. I'm In Pain
  7. All Roads Will Lead To Rome
  8. Digging Inside
Part 2:
  1. Fly Into The Light
  2. Shades To Grace
  3. Aching Eyes
  4. Back To The Audio
  5. Pigeons
  6. Exterminator Warheads
  7. Darling Boy
  8. Wide Awake
  9. Julia

First time - like with many bands - that I listen to a WALTARI record, even though the name kinda rang a bell, or I must have confused them with another band.

Anyhow, these Finnish rockers have been active since 1986, which makes this their 20th anniversary album and what's more, it's released on the 20th of March. What do you mean, coincidence?

"Liberate your mind from musical preconditions!" (Kärtsy)

As it said in the press-release, the music is a mixture of rock with elements from other genres (punk, dance/techno, ...). I'm pretty open-minded, but one can't like everything. When it comes to Rock and Metal, I'm pretty classic, unless the result is really breathtaking, as only a few artists can achieve such a result (in my opinion).

On the band's website, Kärsty said the following about the theme and cover of "Blood Sample": "The place is not the issue. The theme of the album is Europe today, not politically but the general mood. The intention is to raise questions, not to give answers. On the cover we are wondering the same question - it could be the continent 1000 years ago as well as the future. Time itself is not so relevant.""

About the songs being connected to countries: ""Helsinki" is naturally Finland, "All Roads" is Germany (autobahns), ""Pigeons" is Spain, "Wide Awake" is France, "Julia" is England, "Aching Eyes" is about Nokia workers... and "Digging Inside" is in a way the key song of the whole idea. "New York" is about the relationship and connections between the 'new' and the 'old' world and about our different views on many things, the war on Iraq for example. In "Pigeons" I sing, and Hossni joins in arabic, in a way about all the Mediterranean countries, the whole historical heritage of Phoenicia - the Pigeons!"

"Helsinki" sure is about that country, tackling the life there, the landscape, etc. The more pop-rockish "Not Enough" reminds me of GARBAGE, the Irish (pop-)rockband. Usually I can stand this for a while, but here it tends to bore rather quickly (mainly the chorus). Luckily the heavy guitars add a positive note to the song.

Implementing some Punk-flavours, "Too Much Emptiness" is not a bad song and shows the band's versatality. Afterwards, a ringtone introduces "Never", after which the guitars continue the melody started by the ringtone. The result is well done, although the vocals here are the weakest link.

And then it gets really heavy, but also makes it one of the best songs on the album: "New York". A power/thrash song with some grunts, or in short: gimme more!! Sadly, the next song is totally different, slower, poppier. Furthermore, it includes some rap-like singing. O wait, rap...singing? Talking, indeed.

"All Roads Will Lead To Rome" picks up the speediness again and adds some scratching samples. Another positive thing here is that the drums keep on going. Amazing!

If "Digging Inside" is - as Kärsty said - the key song of the whole theme, then something might have gone wrong musically. Starting with samples and creating a doomy/creepy atmosphere throughout the song is nice in itself, but the song as a whole doesn't do me much and makes me push the 'next' button.

"Fly"ing "Into The Light" on a - sorry for the word - stupid beat, is a pretty annoying experience, and the rocking guitars won't help either. Open-minded, for this? Luckily things get back to normal with "Shades To Grace". Soft rock, but here too not all is positive. Mainly the atmosphere has a 'wanky' undertone.

What do the SISTERS OF MERCY have to do with WALTARI? At a certain moment in "Aching Eyes" this band is one of the first I think about. Quite a nice result, wih the keyboards playing an important role.

Drum 'n' Bass in the intro, being replaced after a good 4 minutes by real drums, after which the latter takes a step back and lets the former takes its place again. That's the most characteristic element of "Back To The Audio". Of course, there's melody as well.

I was already thinking why they didn't use it, but here it is: the accoustic guitar. "Pigeons" indeed has a Spanish/Latin atmosphere, and is quite a nice song. The guitar solo too is thumbs up.

When you thought it was gonna stay with this one song, guess again. Here - "Exterminator Warheads" - comes the beat again (almost gabber-ish), accompanied by Death Metal blastbeats and screams. After a while, things get normal again, well...more normal, but here I cannot help but think of SYSTEM OF A DOWN, *sigh*. Eh...next!

Some alternative rock then, that should be good. "Darling Boy" is a decent song and again the keyboards take care of the atmosphere. It's a soft song, but WALTARI didn't forget to add some heaviness as well.

And then finally a good song again and one of the few that are really worth listing to: "Wide Awake". The closing "Julia" sees the comeback of drum 'n' bass, but is a calm, accoustic guitar-dominated, song, resulting in an suiting end of "Blood Sample".

What can I say? WALTARI may be innovators, ployvalent, versatile in their music, but although this mix of rock with other genres can lead to beautiful songs, it can also get messy. "Blood Sample" has a very good production and should indeed appeal to (very) open-minded music fans. To me, there's not enough good songs to be in general positive about this album, which lasts for 79 minutes.

More info at www.waltarimusic.com.

Line-up:
Kärtsy Hatakka - vocals, bass
Jariot Lehtinen - guitars, vocals
Sami Yli-Sirniö - guitars, vocals
Ville Vehviläinen - drums


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VANISHING POINT – In Thought (Dockyard 1 2006)

Vanishing Point - In Thought
  1. The Only One
  2. Forgotten Self
  3. Dream Maker
  4. Vanishing Point
  5. Wind
  6. Company Of Darkness
  7. Sunlit Windows
  8. Blind
  9. A Memory
  10. Inner Peace (Bonus Track)

VANISHING POINT, Australia's biggest Prog band released a stunning album last year, titled "Embrace The Silence". Now, some 8 months later (20/03), their debut "In Thought" is also available again, even though it first was scheduled to be released in January. This re-release has been remixed and remastered and comes with not only a bonus track ("Inner Peace"), but also two videos ("Forgotten Self", "The Only One").

"Embrace The Silence" was for the best VANISHING POINT release so far and far better than "Tangled In Dream". And as one would normally think, the band gets better with every album, but I hadn't heard "In Thought" yet, so my judgement on that one was pure guessing, guessing it would be their 'least good'. But now that it's re-released, I have a better 'view' on the music.

The running time increased with each new record: 50:00 for "In Thought", 70:04 for "Tangled In Dream" and a smashing 79:26 for last year's "Embrace The Silence". Which makes you think: if a cd holds up to 80 minutes of music and "Embrace The Silence" filled about 79 and 1/2 minutes, how long will the new album be then, considering the increase over the years? How about a 2-CD album? ;-) But we'll see when it comes out.

After having heard this re-release of "In Thought", I can say and have to admit that this too is quite an album and maybe I've underestimated this great band. So maybe I'll have to check out "Tangled In Dream" again and change my opinion on that one as well.

On to the music then...with "The Only One" kicking off in a direct manner, no intro or anything, with the keyboards being the dominant instrument responsible for the melody and atmosphere. You can hear the remixing/remastering did the songs a lot of good, raising the quality bar a little higher.

"Forgotten Self" features some effects on Silvio's voice - which is probably done on purpose, but I prefer the normal singing -, but the song stands out for its very nice, crunchy riffs. EDGUY has "Deadmaker", VANISHING POINT has "Dream Maker", a more uptempo and very melodic song.

"Vanishing Point" takes a calmer approach, more midtempo, but has some great lyrics, like many other songs VANISHING POINT have in their repertoire.

The resting point seems to be splitting the tracklist in two parts, as "Wind" is an insturmental, keyboards-only song which is done very well, but maybe a bit too short. It does flow over into "Company Of Darkness", which is also free from criticism. Add some heavy chords and bingo!

Another great song, again the lyrics amaze me, is "Sunlit Windows". Going heavier, and even sounding a bit like PARADISE LOST's "Draconian Times"-era, "Blind" reflects back on history.

"A Memory" seems to be about having done something wrong, yet you cannot undo it. This time it's just keyboards and vocals, but what a combination. Very touching. Around 4:10 and 4:50 the drums and guitars are come into play, but they don't disturb the pace of the first part of the song.

"Inner Peace" closes the album with a heavier note. Keyboards just add a more melodic touch, while the guitars are key here.

I guess the question "Is "In Thought" worth the purchase?" is already answered. Yes, it's worth it. It might not be on the level of "Embrace The Silence", but it still is damn good melodic Metal.

More info at www.vanishing-point.com.au.

Line-up:
Silvio Massaro - vocals
Tommy Vucur - guitars
Chris Porcianko - guitars
Dan Olding - keyboards
Joe Del Mastro - bass
Jack Lukic - drums


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PURE INC. – A New Day's Dawn (AFM Records 2006)

PURE INC. - A New Day's Dawn
  1. Saviour
  2. Break Free
  3. Blvd. Jam
  4. I'm A Rolling Stone
  5. Burst
  6. Skinflint
  7. I'll Let You Know
  8. The Thing You Left On Me
  9. Sick As I Am
  10. Where's Your God
  11. Crawling
  12. New Day Dawns

AFM Records has got some very good Swiss hardrock bands on its roster: SHAKRA, who released their latest album "Fall" in... fall last year, and PURE INC., who just released (or are going to, on 17/03) their second album "A New Day's Dawn".

The first thing that stands out is the clear production - thanks to Tommy Vetterli at the Newsound Studios -, but also the vocals of Gianni Pontillo. PURE INC.'s music is very straight-forward and direct, without too much extra stuff, starting with "Saviour".

The next track, "Break Free" (no, not a QUEEN cover ;-)), gives more attention to the bass and drums. not sure about what the song is, but my guess is it's about finding yourself, knowing what you want in life.

The short, but instrumental "Blvd. Jam" (any explination for this title?) is a nice addition, although I'm a bit clueless about the reason for adding this. Choosing a more uptempo, grooving pace, "I'm A Rolling Stone" follows and is one of the better on this album.

A slow, heavy chorus drags "Burst" forward, but during the verses the pace is faster and especially the drums come out very clearly. Not that I mind, since that's my favourite instrument and Dave doesn't play a simple pattern, but really 'plays' with his kit, hitting the snare or toms when there's an empty space during the normal play.

The story behind "Skinflint" could be - derived from the lyrics - about being a fool, being naive, not thinking for yourself. Nevertheless, a fine song.

Going more poppy, "I'll Let You Know" is a calmer song, but still very nice and emotional. Also very nice lyrics on the heavier "The Thing You Left On Me", which starts in a calm way.

The next song reminded me of SKUNK ANANSIE's "Weak As I Am", but not only do the titles differ by one word, the music is also completely different. Overall, a decent song with a very nice guitarsolo.

The end of the world in connection with religion is tackled in "Where's Your God", which starts in a peaceful manner as well, with just a guitar and vocals.

After the rocking "Crawling", "New Day Dawns" closes the tracklisting. This is a full-on accoustic song, with just the electric guitar being added for the guitarsolo. I can only say: pure class!

"A New Day's Dawn" is a very good hardrock album with which PURE INC. have progressed in a large way. One could say - or maybe I'm exaggerating - PURE INC. is a diamond in the rough or something like that. Some songs are close to radio-friendly, but they better not become mainstream or else they're done, over, finished. Gone the great musicianship, the amazing vocals, the melodies, ...

Thumbs more than up for "A New Day's Dawn". Buy this record, you won't regret it. Should be one of the best of 2006 or at least an honourable mention. ;-)

More info at www.pureinc.net.

Line-up:
Gianni Pontillo - vocals
Sandro Pellegrini - guitars
Andreas Gentner - bass
Dave Preissel - drums


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GORILLA MONSOON – Damage King (Armageddon Music 2006)

GORILLA MONSOON - Damage King
  1. Declaration Of Damnation
  2. Delay Priest
  3. Night Of The Wolverine
  4. Damage King
  5. Final Salvation
  6. Down Song
  7. Death Revolution
  8. Law 'N Order
  9. War To The Wimps
  10. Heavier Than Europa

GORILLA MONSOON, a German Doom Metal band recently released (or are about to, 17/03) their debut album, "Damage King" via Armageddon Music. A huge gorilla features on the cover. 'Gorilla' and 'King'... King Kong? ;-)

Being big fans of BLACK SABBATH, this four-piece took great inspiration from their Doom ancestors and added their own sound to it.

Prior to this release, the band recorded two demos - "Deflowered World" (2001) and "...Demonstrating Heavieness" (2002) - and a split single in 2005 with WEED IN THE HEAD.

For the recording of "Damage King" GORILLA MONSOON wen tto the GCF-Laboratory Studio in Dresden, under the protection of Tino Benning, who took place behind the mixing desk. Finishing and fine-tuning happened at the Absurd Studio in Hamburg. In the meantime, Armageddon Music offered the band a contract, after having them seen perform at and win the Metal Battle at Wacken Open Air 2005.

Musically, Doom is the keyword, although Stoner is also fitting at times. The resemblances with BLACK SABBATH are present, obviously. Heaviness and slowness dominate throughout the songs, although some faster moments were added to make the record more attractive and create the right atmosphere. Together with nature-samples and other sounds, this makes it very good music.

To discuss song per song is a bit useless and most of the songs are all well done, so selecting those that stand out... just see the tracklisting. ;-)

Lyrically, there's some funny stuff, like in "Law 'N Order": "Mr. law machine, nice to meet you. Let me introduce you to my middle finger." Or at the beginning of "War To The Wimps": "How would you like to suck my butt?" said by a cartoon character (I believe it's from "South Park").

In general, this is a job well done. It's not perfect, but still a close call. The mix of the rough riffs, the atmosphere, the addition of cartoon characters, the clear production... thumbs up. Doom and BLACK SABBATH fans should find their likings in what GORILLA MONSOON has made so far.

More info at www.gorilla-monsoon.de.

Line-up:
Jack Sabbath - vocals, guitars
Phil - guitars
Chris - bass
Drumster - drums


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FATUM – Roto (Avispa Music 2006)

Fatum - Roto
  1. Luzbel
  2. Mortem
  3. Marginal
  4. Fe
  5. Como
  6. El Corazón De La Oscuridad
  7. Roto
  8. Modestia
  9. Camino
  10. Animalia
  11. Desfigúrame
  12. Tempo
  13. Club Social
  14. K3 1416

Some weeks ago (end of May) I received a couple of albums from Spanish bands, of whom I had never heard. Usually when you say Spain, DARK MOOR and MÄGO DE OZ are among the first bands that come to mind. But there's - like in many countries - a lot still underground and some are given a chance to seek higher places (i.e. above ground). FATUM is one of those bands and on the 15th of March, they released their newest album "Roto". This is their second album, after 2001's "Fatum". Prior to this self-titled debut, the band had a demo "Nekronomikon" and featured on two samplers: the April 2002 sampler of the magazine Rocksound and on the cd of the Viña Rock 2002 festival.

I can't compare "Roto" with their debut, but I don't think it is really necessary. Production-wise it's somehow obvious one shouldn't expect a super-de-luxe polished record like many (bigger) bands nowadays have. Not that it is always necessary, as a less good production can give the songs a better atmosphere, more power. Still, musicianship is also an important factor.

But the sound could have been better. Every song has the same low-tuned riffs which make you think of KORN very easily. And I'm certainly no nu-metal fan, on the contrary even. Variation is therefore sometimes hard to find. The drums too tend to refer to this band. Other parts of songs, like certain samples and the singing, sound like RAMMSTEIN, LACUNA COIL and even the German rockers GUANO APES.

There are some decent songs, though: "Mortem", "Marginal", "Roto", "Modestia" and "K3 1416". In "Modestia", for example, the accoustic guitar (with that typical Spanish/Latin sound) certainly does the song a lot of good. The rapping is certainly 'not done'. Luckily it doesn't come back on the other songs.

Since the electric guitars are only the low-tuned riffs, there has been no attention given to possible solos, which I find a must. The drumsolo-thingy in "K3 1416" is also worth mentioning.

To conclude, you could say this is a nice try, but not something that makes you long for more. The whole sounds a bit too nu-metallish to me and the average production doesn't help very much. There are however some good ideas and certain songs are worth the attention, but that's it. Remove the other songs and you've got a nice MCD. ;-)

More info at www.fatum.info. Unfortunately the website is only in Spanish, so if you know the language, you're lucky. ;-)

Line-up:
Verónica Donna - vocals
José Cabral - vocals
Antonio Garciá - guitars, samples
Enrique Ruiz - drums, percussion, samples


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DRAGONFLY – Domine (Avispa Music 2006)

Dragonfly - Domine
  1. Domine
  2. Sólo Depende De Ti
  3. Entre El Odio Y La Pasión
  4. Delirio Eterno
  5. Nuevo Judas
  6. Estrella
  7. Aries
  8. Regresa A Mi
  9. En Los Confines Del Infierno
  10. Guardá En Ti
  11. Paganini Suite
  12. Sin Salida
  13. Dragonfly

DRAGONFLY, a new Argentinian/Spanish Powermetal band, managed to release their debut album pretty fast, after only one demo. Founded in 2000, they released a 4-track demo titled "Dragonfly" three years later. Now, again three years later (on the 13th of March), their first album is a fact: "Domine". Next to the four tracks from the demo, another 9 were added to the list.

So another melodic/symphonic Powermetal band joins the already overflowing club of this genre. Nothing wrong with that, as long as it's decent and worth the attention. For a debut album, DRAGONFLY sure knows how to fill a disc as "Domine" ends after little less than 68 minutes. A lot of music for your money, no?

As is typical with Powermetal, the vocals are of the normal/clean type and well done. The album kick off with a mystical intro, followed by - again typical on most Powermetal albums - the uptempo song "Sólo Depende De Ti". This shows what to expect musically as melody is key. Thumbs up as well for the beautiful chorus. "Entre El Odio Y La Pasión" takes a more midtempo approach for the verses, but pushes the pedal a bit more down during the chorus.

Another very important element on "Domine" are the guitar solos. Sure, they are a must in Metal, but can at times also be either annoying or not necessary, depending on the song. Here they simply are part of DRAGONFLY's music and without the solos, a lot of the atmosphere and power would be lost. Ariel does a more than splendid job and really takes the time to play them well and add that little extra to the songs.

The keyboards in "Entre El Odio Y La Pasión" sound like a harpsichord and around 3:38 there's nice and calm interlude with just that and the bass guitar. In "Delirio Eterno" the keyboards take care of the melody and atmosphere in the intro, after which the rest of the band sets in. This is a calmer song, but giving setting the bass guitar more in the spotlight. It's overall not a bad song, but at least the guitar solo gives it more appeal.

With the drums commencing "Nuevo Judas", you can hear that the pace will be driven up again. Best part comes around 2:13, when it's solo time.

"Estrella" is a more Progressive kind of song, but very nice, although the choirs in the chorus sound somewhat... gay, and thus doesn't do the song much good. After that, most of the band is given some time off so Isauro can focus on his keyboards for "Aries", a ballad-like song spiced to touch the heart.

"Regresa A Mi" continues in the same vein, but now everyone is involved. The guitars play an important role, thanks to the switching between electric and accoustic variants.

"En Los Confines Del Infierno" goes back to business as usual: heavy, uptempo and wonderful duels between the guitar and keyboards.

Again a mystical intro is used and here keyboards play a bigger role than before. "Guárdame En Ti" ranges between mid- and uptempo, but sounds messy due to the multiple vocalists. Add the guitars and the keyboards, which can't improve the situation, and you've got a song that should have been removed from the album.

So, thanks to the 'next' button, one can enjoy the music again: "Paganini Suite" is the second instrumental song and is in general well done, also thanks to the variation in drumming and tempos.

The second more Progressive touch can be heard in the before last track "Sin Salida", which is nothing special, but still a good song.

The first half of "Domine" was good to very good, but towards the end it started to go down. Luckily DRAGONFLY have the right song to end in honour: "Dragonfly". Uptempo of course. ;-) And excellent way to pull the plug after this long ride.

Although the production is still viable for some polishing, it does give DRAGONFLY's debut album a special appeal and makes the music come out very strong. Despite the songs being in Spanish, the pronunciation is clear and the compositions are classful. The strongest aspect remain the guitarsolos, which are very important and give the songs more depth. DRAGONFLY can be proud with the result that's called "Domine" and should have a bright future ahead of them. Fans of melodic/symphonic Powermetal really need to check this album. If you want some, in a way, comparable bands: DARK MOOR, LABYRINTH, KALEDON, etc...

More info at www.webdragonfly.com. Unfortunately the website is only in Spanish, so you better understand the language. ;-)

Line-up:
Pablo Solano - vocals
Ariel Mittica - guitars
Juanba Nadal - bass
Isauro Aljaro - keyboards
Chris Scorna - drums


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THE ALIEN BLAKK – Modes Of Alienation (Black Lotus Records 2006)

THE ALIEN BLAKK - Modes Of Alienation
  1. Replihate
  2. For Max
  3. Sol Amente
  4. Twin, Twan Twung
  5. A Question
  6. The Thing
  7. In The Name Of
  8. The Audition
  9. Self
  10. Black Art

Joshua Craig is known as a songwriter, producer and session musician. His beginnings as a guitarist were in the projects' BLACK ART and FiNGeR (for which each situation involved three releases). Joshua composed, produced, sang and played guitar on all releases between 1994 and 1997. Having worked with the likes of Rob Halford, Coolio, Xzibit, Motograter, Christina Aguilera as well as with members of FEAR FACTORY, TESTAMENT, KISS, WHITE ZOMBIE, WHITESNAKE, MEGADETH, FLOTSAM & JETSAM to name a few, Joshua needed to begin making his own mark in music.

THE ALIEN BLAKK is a predominantly instrumental project that features many different facets of Joshua's many sides and styles of unfiltered creativity. The styles range from Metal, Latin-Jazz, Country, Rock, Classical then back to a wall of acoustically composed arrangements.

On this debut release, entitled "Modes Of Alienation", Joshua is assisted by by bassist David Ellefson (MEGADETH, KILLING MACHINE, etc.) and drummer Craig Nielsen (FLOTSAM & JETSAM). The album was released on the 6th of March.

On to the music then.. In "Replihate" the rhythm section is well done, and a second guitar is used for the 'vocal' lines. Thundering drums give the song the extra power. "For Max" starts accoustically, with the bass drum played at a faster rate. The heavy riffs only come into play during the chorus, the accoustic guitar dominates the verses. Notice the last 2 minutes before the end, when Joshua has a go on the accoustic guitar. In general, this is a nice song, but the use of different guitars and melodies can make it a bit messy towards the end.

"Sol Amente", a calmer track, would serve well as background music, and here too a 'special' ending was created: a couple of minutes before the song is over, you get some reggae-like drumming.

What comes next is really great and funny and puts a smile on your face whenever your down or just need a happy tune: "Twin, Twan Twung". This is far from Metal or Rock, but it's good to have this amongst the other songs. It's like the guys were just jamming without the intention of putting it on the album, without having a song in mind. David Ellefson does a very good job here on bass.

Since this is an instrumental album, putting the focus on the guitar, a comparison with masters of the art Satriani or Vai cannot be ignored. And it's those two people that come to mind when hearing the first notes of "A Question", only Joshua isn't as good (yet?) as them, in my opinion. But the comparison isn't so remarkable, since "Modes Of Alienation" was mixed in Vai's The Mothership studio. The bass is clearly present as well.

And then it gets a bit chaotic: "The Thing". Maybe it's supposed to sound like a mix of different melodies and riffs (doom, death, thrash), but I would not have put this on the album. The song has rumbling drums and dito riffs, and there are some similarities with (old) SEPULTURA and further in the song you might notice some RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE. Fact is, the faster part is the least good here. Overall, like I said, it sounds messy and the heavy riffs don't match the melody. The running of over seven minutes doesn't do the song any good either.

Luckily "In The Name Of" is a much better effort and again features an accoustic intro. Samples were also used and "The Audition" was given a more symphonic touch. The accoustic guitar and the piano are the key instruments here.

"Self", like "The Thing", has some resemblances to (old) SEPULTURA and like that other song, chaos is given much attention, kind of not letting melody get the upperhand. A sparkle of hope pops up when around 2:30 things get better, but soon it's back to normal, back to chaos. And it goes on for five minutes.

The last track, "Black Art", also isn't free from criticism, as the biggest problem here is the smoothness of playing the chords, which results in the accoustic and electric guitars not harmonising with each other.

An instrumental album is usually good to have, but also puts the instruments more in the spotlight than when you also have a vocalist. Overall, Joshua, David and Craig have done a good job and although Joshua isn't a master of the art yet, he does have some good ideas. It's just the execution is sometimes not (so) good. Luckily there's enough decent material on "Modes Of Alienation" to be positive about it and hope the next album will be as free as possible from the mentioned problems.

More info at www.thealienblakk.com.

Line-up:
Joshua Craig - guitars, arrangements, production, progression
David Ellefson - bass
Craig Nielsen - drums


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SPIRITUS MORTIS – Fallen (Black Lotus Records 2006)

SPIRITUS MORTIS - Fallen
  1. The Dawn
  2. New Age
  3. Leave Me
  4. Divine Wind
  5. Something Came And Killed
  6. Beware Of The Quiet One
  7. Sleeping Beneath The Lawn
  8. All The Words Were Spoken
  9. The Omen
  10. All This In The Name Of Love
  11. Wasteland
  12. Goodbye

SPIRITUS MORTIS was formed in 1987. The first band in Finland to be called a doom act. Founding members were brothers Teemu and Jussi Maijala. It took the band more than 10 years to release their debut as the '90s were a black period for them.

For a while in the late '90s Tomi Murtomaki was the band's lead singer, but when the original SPIRITUS MORTIS trio found Vesa Lampi to become the new vocalist, things started to roll again. Vesa replaced Tomi in the beginning of year 2000. SPIRITUS MORTIS went straight to studio to record Demo 2000. It got great reviews in various Metal magazines around the world. Somewhere at the end of 2000 Veli-Matti Yli-Mayry joined SPIRITUS MORTIS as drummer. VP changed to guitar. At the beginning of summer 2001 the band got their first offer to sign record deal. This deal disappeared in the air, not SPIRITUS MORTIS' fault. In January 2003 SPIRITUS MORTIS decided to go to studio to record their debut album without any clue if any label will ever release it. After the recordings Jarkko Seppala joined the band to replace Veli-Matti. Today's lineup was formed.

After sending some samples of metal to come, a couple of labels approached and two of them offered a record deal in the summer of 2003. SPIRITUS MORTIS decided to choose Rage of Achilles. Mistake number 2139 in SPIRITUS MORTIS' path. The label went down soon after releasing SPIRITUS MORTIS debut.

But luckily Black Lotus Records was there to help them release their second album, "Fallen", which happened on the 6th of March. Music-wise it's doom/stoner with references to DIO, CANDLEMASS, BLACK SABBATH, etc...

"The Dawn" forms the intro and can be described as 'sounds from the Abyss'. From the start of "New Age" you can hear the typical riffs, accompanied by rough, but clean vocals and a very good production. The slower "Leave Me" could have been a DIO song, as the riffs resemble those of Craig Goldy. The "Divine Wind" increases the tempo again and is in general a very decent song.

The band seemed to have implemented a certain pattern: 'uptempo' - slow(er) - upping the tempo - going slower - .... since "Something Came And Killed" starts slow (again, DIO comes to mind), but then the pace is driven up. Here it gets interrupted by the slow chorus. This is not a bad song, but it's nothing spectacular either.

Sweden's doomsters CANDLEMASS can be heard in the next song, "Beware Of The Quiet One", which is quite an 'active' song, so to speak. The organ sounds here make the song more complete.

"Sleeping Beneath The Lawn" takes a more midtempo approach and is begun with a mysterious piano-intro. The annoying part here is that the chorus gets repeated a bit too much for my liking. Luckily it gets better with the next track, "All The Words Were Spoken", having a jazzy intro, quickly followed by heavy riffs.

The bass gets a more prominent role in "The Omen", determining the melody. Heaviness sets in pretty soon after that. Pluspoints are for the tempo increase around 2:25. Very nice song.

Putting the stress on the 'doom' factor in a great way is done with "All This In The Name Of Love". Not only the way of playing indicates this, but also the atmosphere that is created. A job very well done.

"Wasteland" is a more 'normal' song again, with a slight tempo increase after the first minute. The closing "Goodbye" is a piano + vocals only song. When played on the right occasion, this could be killer. This prooves that SPIRITUS MORTIS can play more than heavy songs.

Active since many years, not being lucky in the '90s, but hopefully the 2000 years will provide them with the deserved recognition. "Fallen" surely is a good start (yes, it's their second, but considering the bad luck they had with the release of their debut...). Doom/Stoner fans should give SPIRITUS MORTIS a chance, these guys really are worth it.

More info at www.spiritusmortis.com.

Line-up:
Vesa Lampi - vocals
Jussi Maijala - guitars
Teemu Maijala - bass
VP Rapo - guitar-additional keyboards
Jarkko Seppala - drums


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JORN – The Duke (AFM Records 2006)

Jorn - The Duke
  1. We Brought The Angels Down
  2. Blacksong
  3. Stormcrow
  4. End Of Time
  5. Duke Of Love
  6. Burning Chains
  7. After The Dying
  8. Midnight Madness
  9. Are You Ready (THIN LIZZY cover)
  10. Starfire (new version)

Jorn Lande (ex-ARK, BEYOND TWILIGHT, MILLENIUM, THE SNAKES, ...), the busy vocalist of MASTERPLAN, has released his fourth solo album "The Duke". The title also referring to himself and the song "The Duke Of Love". "The Duke" is the follow-up to 2004's "Out To Every Nation", which was quite a good album in my opinion. And if you pay attention to the release dates, you notice that it's a switch between JORN and MASTERPLAN: one year a JORN album, the next a MASTERPLAN one, and now JORN again.

A lot of the songs were written during the tour with MASTERPLAN, and you also notice a difference between "Out To Every Nation" and "The Duke". Mainly because the line-up underwent some big changes: only guitarist Jörn Viggo Lofstad (PAGAN'S MIND) remained. Drummer Stian Kristoffersen (also in PAGAN'S MIND) is also featured on this album again, but only for three songs.

In comes a second guitarist under the name of Tore Moren (CARNIVORA), bassist Morty Black (TNT), who replaces Magnus Rosèn (HAMMERFALL) and drummer Willy Bendiksen (COMPANY OF SNAKES). On keyboards, Don Airey (OZZY, RAINBOW) fulfills his duty.

Among the new material, a newly recorded version of "Starfire" from Lande's debut album - also called "Starfire" (2000) - and a cover version of THIN LIZZY's "Are You Ready" were given a nice place on the new album.

"The Duke" was produced by Jorn and Jörn, but mixed by Tommy Hansen at Jailhouse Studios in Horsens, Denmark.

Because Jörn Viggo Lofstad's guitarsound is so typical and determining for his band PAGAN'S MIND, you also hear that same (or at least very similar) sound on this album, which could fool you in thinking it's a PAGAN'S MIND album. ;-) But when Jorn's voice comes roaring out of the speakers, you know it's another band. And speaking of his voice: from the first song it's very clear how good Jorn is. He IS good, very good even.

In the slow, but with balls, "We Brought The Angels Down", Jorn sings out of full force with a power and fullness many singers can learn a lesson from.

While most of the songs are in the mid- and slowtempo range, it does get a little faster and very groovy with the magnificent "Stormcrow". At the 2-minute marker, a blistering guitarsolo attack is fired at you, leaving you breathless. Stunning stuff.

"End Of Time" is another song that stands out, because of its slow, heavy riffs, but of course for its melodies and musicianship in general as well.

Commenting on every song is possible, but it's fair enough to say that each song has its own qualities and special moments and that there's no filler on this record. Even the THIN LIZZY cover is well done, with the powerful drumming of Stian Kristoffersen. The re-recorded "Starfire" fits very nicely with the rest of the songs.

While waiting for a third MASTERPLAN album, here's something that is simply amazing and puts Jorn's voice even more in the spotlight. Powerful vocals, not missing a note, groovy yet thunderous riffs and drums like no one else plays them result in an amazing album, which is certainly one of the best of this year. Support quality and get (= buy) this album. Fingers crossed for a tour! This should be awesome to witness.

More info at www.jornlande.com.

Line-up:
Jorn Lande - vocals
Jörn Viggo Lofstad - guitars
Tore Moren - guitars
Morty Black - bass
Don Airey - keyboards
Willy Bendiksen - drums


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MYSTIC CIRCLE – The Bloody Path Of God (Dockyard 1 2006)

Mystic Circle - The Bloody Path Of God
  1. Psalm Of The End (Intro)
  2. The Bloody Path Of God
  3. Doomsday Prophecy
  4. Nine Plagues Of Egypt
  5. The Grim Reaper
  6. Riders Of The Apocalypse
  7. Hellborn
  8. Church Of Sacrifice
  9. The Forgotten
  10. Unholy Terror
  11. Memento Mori (Outro)
  12. Circle Of The Tyrants (CELTIC FROST cover)

This has been one of the most difficult albums for me to review. I guess MYSTIC CIRCLE are known well enough to skip the introduction, although there are still people who - like me - don't know the band or just by name.

Musically they can be catalogued under Black Metal, although over the years the sound changed more towards Death Metal. So they're kinda in between. Founded back in 1992 by bassist/singer Beelzebub, the band first released three demos, after which their debut "Morgenröte" saw the light in 1997, thanks to the label Last Episode. And then a new album was made and released every year: "Drachenblut" in 1998 and "Infernal Satanic Verses" in 1999.

When Massacre Records offered MYSTIC CIRCLE a deal, more albums were the result of course, with the first being "The Great Beast", followed by an apparently successful "Damien" (2002) and "Open The Gates Of Hell" (2003), which was produced by Gerhard Magin. With the "Damien" album, a new drummer joined the band: Necrodemon aka Alex Koch.

As is usual when moving to another label, a 'best of' is released, here under the title "Unholy Chronicles 1992-2004".

Now the Germans are back with a new hellish record, not sparing Christianity: "The Bloody Path Of God", out now via Dockyard 1. The cover art also shows it and - if compared to the Danish cartoons - this could also cause a riot amongst fanatic Christians. ;-)

Right from the start MYSTIC CIRCLE were continously touring playing eight (!) European tours with bands like DIMMU BORGIR, MARDUK, CANNIBAL CORPSE, GORGOROTH, OLD MAN'S CHILD and IMMORTAL, so basically with every well-known band in the Death/Black metal genre.

Apart from the samples on the website, "The Bloody Path Of God" is the first time I hear what MYSTIC CIRCLE sounds like. Beginning with a spoken intro about the beasts rising from the depths of hell, Beelzebub's vocals (if that's him doing the intro) - and I mean no disrespect - tend to sound like McBain from "The Simpsons". In "Church Of Sacrifice" and "Unholy Terror" you can hear him speak like that as well. I see it as a funny element. ;-)

Alex Koch, who produced the album, had left the band as active member in autumn last year, but played the drum parts again and thus became Necrodemon once more. And he sure as hell can play and implement enough variation in his play. The new drummer will be announced very soon.

Compared to the previous record, some changes were made to go back to the old days: keyboards made their re-entry on songs like "Doomsday Prophecy", "Riders Of The Apocalypse", "The Forgotten" and "Unholy Terror". Vocalist/bassist Beelzebub has switched to screams again, but still grunts/growls in e.g. "Riders Of The Apocalypse" and personally I think he does a great job and should not give it up.

MYSTIC CIRCLE managed to mix calm and ferocious riffs and melodies to make this a very good album, and maybe one of their best so far. Ezpharess's riffs sound really heavy and raw, while the drums could have been given a more powerful sound, but they still fit in very well.

Very nice is the outro "Memento Mori", played fully instrumental on accoustic on guitar. When I first read the title, without listening to the song, I thought it was a KAMELOT-cover, coming off their "The Black Halo" album.

As a bonustrack, the band covered CELTIC FROST's "Circle Of Tyrants". A job very well done and the sound is also different, more Thrash orientated.

Again, MYSTIC CIRCLE will tour to promote the new album and festivals like Wacken-Open-Air and With Full Force Open Air have been scheduled in their agendas.

What else to say than 'congratulations!'? This is a very good Black Metal album with connections to Death and Thrash, which in my opinion makes it easier to get into it if you're not as much fan of the genre as those who are. Fans of the band and/or Black Metal can of course buy this without pre-listening. This is decent stuff.

More info at www.mystic-circle.de.

Line-up:
Beelzebub - vocals, bass
Ezpharess - guitars
Necrodemon - drums


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BASICO – Consentido (Avispa Music 2006)

Basico - Consentido
  1. Nada Sin Ti
  2. Mi Apagón
  3. Maldito Placer
  4. Tu Disfraz
  5. Jugando Con Fuego
  6. Dímelo
  7. Cuerpo De Mujer
  8. Bufón
  9. Malas Cartas
  10. Es Mejor
  11. Soñando
  12. Básicorock
  13. Sola (bonus track)

BASICO, another Spanish band of whom I received a copy of their latest album, has been around for 10 years, according to the biography on their site. In that time they released four cd's, te latest "Consentido" not included. But it wasn't until sometime in 2004 that they got a contract to release their official debut, "Sin Mirar Atras". So now number two is out since the end of February, if I have read it correctly on the site of Avispa Music.

The guys also makes it easy for you to know which music they play: just look at the url of their website. ;-) Rock it is, with some touches of Hardrock, but it never gets heavier. BASICO are good at what they play and their latest release, "Consentido", results in a very fine record. The music is also quite radio-friendly, although I doubt if they get airplay, except in rock programmes maybe. Like FATUM, they sing in their mother tongue as well, so if you don't know the language - like me ;-) - you won't have a clue what they're singing about. Or maybe you could pick out some words and try to guess.

BASICO also knows when to put more energy in the songs and examples of that can be found in "Nada Sin Ti", "Maldito Placer", "Bufón" and "Es Mejor". Around halfway, the ballad "Jugando Con Fuego" takes a calmer approach before everything gets back into the rocking mood. The bonus track "Sola" is also worth mentioning as it's just the vocals, piano and accoustic guitar. Really beautiful.

If you already know this group, I guess you won't have problems with "Consentido". Fans of Spanish artists or influenced music or quite simply if you like rock, I can only say: check out this album. A very decent album. There are samples on Avispa Music's website, at this location.

More info at www.basicorock.com. Unfortunately the website is only in Spanish, so if you know the language, you're lucky. ;-)

Line-up:
Arturo - vocals
Tito - vocals
Javi - guitars
Jose - guitars
Carlos - bass
Josete - drums


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REGICIDE – Break The Silence (FAME Recordings 2006)

Regicide - Break The Silence
  1. Plastic Dove
  2. The Hanger-On
  3. Pirates
  4. Nothing In Here
  5. Break The Silence
  6. A World Without Oceans
  7. This Unpredictable Life
  8. Forgotten Promises
  9. An Embracing Space Pt. III / Part III: Eclipsing Light
  10. Perfect Strings

REGICIDE newest creation was probably the hardest album to review. It was released on the 24th of February and almost 2 months later I finally made it to typing the text. It's very strange and I also don't know what prevented me from doing what had to be done. Maybe some strange force was at work.

Seven people form REGICIDE and each has its own favourite subgenre in Metal: one likes Progressive, the other Gothic, someone else nu-metal (oh wait, that's not really Metal, is it?), etc... And so it is pretty clear that with all these different tastes, a mix of those gernes is only logical.

You can also hear it: the guitars have a sound that is near to that of nu-metal, you have progressive stuff because of the keyboards and different tempos, then there's a bit of folk added by the violin, and so it goes on.

With so many people in the band, you'd wonder about the quality of the recording and whether each instrument has been given enough room to stand out. I can tell you, surprisingly enough, the result is stunning, as really évery bandmember can be heard, or at least their instrument.

The songs dwell between Gothic and Progressive. But not all is top notch, not every song is a hit. For example (and this is just one example, but one that stands out the most): in "Pirates", for me one of the lesser songs, mainly the chorus sounds very boring (sorry if I sound extreme), because of the two vocals combined and the melody. You can also hear the occasional accent that Frauke and Timo have. This combo isn't always succesful together either and there are moments throughout the album when you wish they either wouldn't sing or they'd have a more powerful voice.

I can't compare with the previous record "Viorus", which also seemed very good. But there is a connection between that one and "Break The Silence", mainly because of "An Embracing Space Pt. III / Part III: Eclipsing Light" of which Part I was (probably) on one of the demos.

Anyhow, despite the negative points I described, this is actually a very good album... musically. And with a sublime sound. Lyrically as well, there are some deep things being sung. So if you have and liked "Viorus", you'll certainly love "Break The Silence". I still have mixed feelings, mainly because of the vocals.

More info at www.regicide.net and you can have a look at the EPK that the band also burned on a promo DVD: click here.

Wow, that went pretty well. And thinking I had so much trouble writing about the album and commenting the songs the past 2 months.

Line-up:
Frauke Richter - vocals
Timo Südhoff - vocals
Jan Janssen - guitars
Heiner Japsers - keyboards/piano
Jonna - Wilms - violin
Malte Hunold - bass
Til Kasmann - drums


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ABANDONED – Thrash Notes (Dockyard 1 2006)

Abandoned - Thrash Notes
  1. The Oncoming Storm
  2. Return To One
  3. Take The Spell
  4. Holy Terror
  5. Breed Machine
  6. Phoenix Rise
  7. Pay The Dues
  8. Demonic
  9. Hell Is Home
  10. You're Going Down!
  11. Nightmares

It seems like Thrash is becoming popular again, at least in Germany: SPELLBOUND, DELIRIOUS, PERZONAL WAR (has Thrash elements) and now ABANDONED joins the new load of Thrash Metallers.

Picked up by Dockyard 1, home of SAVAGE CIRCUS, VANISHING POINT, MYSTIC CIRCLE, and many more, this new German Thrash band has released its debut very recently (20/02) with the fitting title "Thrash Notes".

For a debut album, the production is quite good, although for a Thrash album better is always a must. But the instruments still sound very clear and the not-top-but-still-good production also reminds of the old days, so to speak. Because, after all, ABANDONED play old school Thrash.

The song titles usually need no explination as to what to expect musically: uptempo drumming, killing and blistering riffs, and rough vocals. All of which are key ingredients.

There are some particularities on almost every song, but there are some songs that stand out:

02) "Return To One" (great as a whole with the uptempo drums, the hooks, the fast riffs...)
03) "Take The Spell" (change in drum pattern: bass-snare-bass-snare.... instead of double bass, which returns in a couple of the other songs)
04) "Holy Terror" (ripping solos reminding of DESTRUCTION, and the bass having its moment of glory)
05) "Breed Machine" (a bit of a party song, same drumpattern like "Take The Spell")
07) "Pay The Dues" (great headbanging song, but especially the variation in drumming is a big pluspoint)
08) "Demonic" (nice sing-along chorus, guitar solos adding a special atmosphere)
09) "Hell Is Home" (faster than before, almost DRAGONFORCE-like. Speedmetal with a capital S!)
11) "Nightmares" (great ending for a very good debut album, shredding like hell. Brilliant!)

ABANDONED have managed to create - in general - a stunning piece of (old school) Thrash and can be proud of this album, even though the production could have been a tad better to give the songs more power. This is for Thrash lovers, for Metalheads who like it pure (as in 'not superpolished'). Thumbs up for "Thrash Notes" and look out for "Thrash Notes, pt. 2". ;-)

More info at www.abandoned.info.

Line-up:
Eric Kaldschmidt - vocals, guitars
Holg Schnuller - guitars
Günter Auschrat - bass
Konrad Cartini - drums


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VAIN – On The Line (Locomotive Records 2006)

Vain - On The Line
  1. Running On Empty (mp3)
  2. So Free Now
  3. Drag Me
  4. Last Sin
  5. On The Line
  6. Turn To Sand
  7. Lie For Love
  8. Cover Me (One More Time)
  9. Slave
  10. Keep Shining On

VAIN, named after mainman Davy Vain, released their new album "On The Line" first in the US in August 2005, but thanks to Locomotive Records, it's now also available on the European continent, since a more than a week (17/02).

"On The Line" is the follow-up of the debut "No Respect", which apparently received positive reviews internationally. Since I've never heard of the band before, I can neither confirm nor deny this. ;-)

The music can be described as glamrock/sleaze rock, but nevermind that, because this is actually quality music. VAIN manage to mix groovy rock songs with calmer, emotional melodies. I'm not going to comment song per song, because it doesn't fit here.

Fact is that a lot of the songs will be very nice to hear in a live setting. The only problem I detected were the vocals. Not that Davy can't sing, but at times it sounds too 'nasal', so to speak, while musically all is well.

In a couple of songs, VAIN manage to really create the right atmosphere or express the right feelings. Examples: "So Free Now", "Drag Me" - which certainly fits as backgroundmusic in a pub or similar places, "Last Sin", "Turn To Sand" (very good!, a bit like COLDPLAY but so much better than this British band).

I'm pleasantly surprised with what I heard on "On The Line". Although I wouldn't listen to this every day, it's a nice record to relax and have a change in the playlist of Metal and Hardrock. This is a thumbs up release and on the other hand also very radio-friendly music, which is mostly a negative points when bands change their style for this. But VAIN play such music and it's good, unlike some other somewhat similar bands who are more 'products' than real musicians.

More info at davyvain.com.

Line-up:
Davy Vain - vocals
Jamie Scott - guitars
Danny West - guitars
Ashley Mitchell - bass
Louie Senor - drums


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DELIRIOUS – Made For The Violent Age (Armageddon Music 2006)

Delirious - Made For The Violent Age
  1. Intro
  2. Triple Six
  3. I Am The Enemy
  4. Call Me God
  5. Sleep In Peace
  6. Idiot Nation
  7. Blood Begins To Freeze
  8. Hate Trader
  9. My Friends
  10. Down On Myself
  11. The Sky Turns Red
  12. Ragers Elite
  13. In A Gadda Da Vida

DELIRIOUS were formed in the summer of 1990. Their style of uncompromising Thrash Metal was at the beginning built on bands such as TESTAMENT, FORBIDDEN and HEATHEN, mixed with the melodic elements of GAMMA RAY and BLIND GUARDIAN. In the years between 1992 and 1994, the first two demos were released and they finally signed to the Berlin label B. Mind Records. In the Autumn of 1997 the EP "Thoughtlessness" was released with the reworked songs from the second demo.

With the help of producer Victor Smolski (RAGE), the debut album "Time In Progress" was recorded a year later in the VPS-Studio in Hamm. A European tour as support for TESTAMENT and diverse festivals and club shows with the likes of OVERKILL and BLACKEND followed.

In 2001 they presented their second album "Designed By Violence", which also got positive comments from the press. They went on to present the song material from both albums and themselves at many headliner shows and support concerts with DEATH ANGEL, EKTOMORF, VINTERSORG, SKYCLAD and FINNTROLL. After a change in the line up (bass player Sascha Rachuba was replaced by Christian 'Spletty' Splettstößer), DELIRIOUS played at the Rock Hard festival and toured with DESASTER around eastern Europe, after which they returend to the studio to record their third album "Made For The Violent Age", which was released on the 17th of February.

So far for the history lesson, although - like SPELLBOUND - these guys deserve a lot more attention. This is my first encounter with the band's music, so I can't compare with the previous works. Nevertheless, one can clearly hear the TESTAMENT similarities, especially the vocals. It seems like Markus has been paying very good attention to how Chuck Billy uses his voice. ;-)

Next to TESTAMENT, other influences ban be heard as well: SODOM, KREATOR, ... Well, it's a Thrash record after all, so you know what to expect. Bay Area mixed with European Thrash.

Starting with a spoken intro, "Triple Six" follows very rapidly and bursts out of your speakers with great ferocity. The next couple of songs continue in the same vein, with some great riffs and uptempo drumming. Very noticable in "I Am The Enemy" is not only the mix of clean and growling vocals, but also the bass guitar (see also "Blood Begins To Freeze").

For the sake of variety, DELIRIOUS take it a bit calmer, but still heavy, with "Sleep In Peace". "Idiot Nation" is again an ass-kicker and when hearing the lyrics, I think you can form an idea what the song is about.

Going more brutal with "Hate Trader", this song also contains some surprises which you wouldn't expect from a Thrash band: around the fourth minute the guys step down a bit and take it easier, giving you time to 'relax'. But it's a minute later that the real suprise comes into play: symphonic elements. A bit strange amongst all these brutal riffs, but on the other hand, it adds a special touch to the song. Maybe the reason behind this is connected with the lyrics. After this intermezzo, it's back to business.

"My Friends" (the title made me think of a DOOMFOXX song) is a fully accoustic song - except for the electric guitarsolo - sung with clean vocals. And to be honest, this is a pretty nice song, with a great melody.

Before an instrumental song brings you back in a softer/calmer mood, you get another chance to liberate yourself from today's stress with "Down On Myself".

"The Sky Turns Red" is very nice: fully accoustic and instrumental. Should be great to hear live. The title of the next song says it all, which means back to brutality. :-)

A final exhaust of your wild energy and rage can be done by listening to "Ragers Elite", after which a cover version of IRON BUTTERFLY's "In A Gadda Da Vida". This is not bad, as they give their own interpretation to the song, but it's kinda out of place here.

Overall, "Made For The Violent Age" is a more than decent Thrash record. You can hear and feel these guys have put much energy and enthusiasm in this album. If you like TESTAMENT or Thrash in general, you should have no problem at all - at least, no big ones ;-) - with DELIRIOUS and their newest release. In my opinion, these guys deserve to become big like their influences, also because KREATOR, DESTRUCTION, SODOM, TESTAMENT, etc.. can't keep on doing this forever, even though they still know their Thrash today. Recommended material, I say!

More info at www.delirious.de.

Line-up:
Markus Bednarek - vocals
Andreas Supplie - guitars
Alex Cwiertnia - guitars
Christian 'Spletty' Splettstößer - bass
Markus Keller - drums


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ELVENKING – The Winter Wake (AFM Records 2006)

Elvenking - The Winter Wake
  1. Trow's Kind
  2. Swallostail
  3. The Winter Wake
  4. The Wanderer
  5. March Of Fools
  6. On The Morning Dew
  7. Devil's Carriage
  8. Rats Are Following
  9. Rouse Your Dream
  10. Neverending Nights
  11. Disillusion's Reel

The Italian Folkish Powermetallers ELVENKING are back with a new album, their third so far. Titled "The Winter Wake", this is the follow-up to 2004's "Wyrd". The band underwent some line-up changes before the release and making of this new record: Damnagoras returned as the band's vocalist and founding guitarist Jarpen left the band, due to 'musical differences', as was announced in February 2005.

For "The Winter Wake", DESTRUCTION frontman Schmier makes a guest appearance in the title track. To be honest, it's not bad, but he's doing a better job in his own band. The production - which is very good - was handled by Nino Laurenne (THUNDERSTONE, WINTERSUN). The final mastering was done by Mika Jussila at Finnvox in Helsinki. Cover artwork and booklet layout were designed by Hungarian artist Havancsák Gyula (ANNIHILATOR, GRAVE DIGGER) resulting in a stunning piece of art.

With one guitarist less, one could wonder if the band will have enough power left. Personally I prefer two guitarists. But it seems the band handled it quite well.

THe return of Damnagoras may please many fans, but in my opinion he's a bit overrated. But he can sing. ;-) However I do understand that for some he is 'the' voice of ELVENKING, as are many other singers for their respective bands.

Musically, "The Winter Wake" is an album with ups and downs. It starts 'up', but the title track is the first 'down'. The middle part of the tracklisting contains the best songs: the beautiful "The Wanderer", followed by the also great "March Of Fools" and the accoustic "On The Morning Dew" rounds it off. Then another 'down' follows: "Devil's Carriage". There's one 'up' left thanks to "Rouse Your Dream". "Neverending Nights" is also a nice song, but a bit too stretched, which doesn't do the song much good. The second accoustic song, titled "Disillusion's Reel" is - simply put - a filler and not so good either.

Despite the lesser songs, "The Winter Wake" is all in all a decent album, make no mistake. Fans Of ELVENKING will have no problems - or not that much - with it. If you're new to ELVENKING's music, I think this is a nice album to start with.

More info at www.elvenking.net.

Line-up:
Damnagoras - vocals
Aydan - guitars
Gorlan - bass
Elyghen - keyboards, violin
Zender - drums


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EDGUY – Rocket Ride (Nuclear Blast 2006)

Edguy - Rocket Ride
  1. Sacrifice
  2. Rocket Ride
  3. Wasted Time
  4. Matrix
  5. Return To The Tribe
  6. The Asylum
  7. Save Me
  8. Catch Of The Century
  9. Out Of Vogue
  10. Superheroes
  11. Trinidad
  12. Fucking With Fire (Hair Force One)
  13. Land Of The Miracle - live in Brazil (bonus track)

From teenagers releasing "Kingdom Of Madness", growing in musicianship and releasing great albums like "Theater Of Salvation" and "Mandrake", and evolving (well, it depends how you look at it) towards a more groovier sound. Again, Tobi is the brain behind it all, but this time I'm having a harder time getting into the album, even though I'm a big fan of these guys.

With the above mentioned albums, you knew it was EDGUY, you knew what to expect. Even "Hellfire Club" was very good, though "Mandrake" still remains their best for me. Then came last year's "Superheroes" EP and the sound was very different. Sure, recording it in Sascha Paeth's studio also played a role and you can hear it. The guitars sometimes resemble those of KAMELOT's "The Black Halo" album. But everything was recorded together, in the same room.

As Tobi puts it: "It was all recorded on analogue 2-inch tape and later on transferred to digital medium. That way we had the tape-machine's compression in order to get a warmer, but still powerful sound with depth. We've spent quite some time experimenting with sounds. In the past we recorded all songs in Fulda, flew the recordings to Finland and got them mixed there by someone else. This time we had the advantage of having Sascha supervising everything from start to finish and helping to arrange and record things the way they needed to be done to get the best possible sound. A few weeks into the production Sascha decided to expand and build a new studio next door with even better equipment just to mix and master. "Rocket Ride" is the first production to be mixed in his "Studio B" and listening to the results we believe Sascha will set new standards with this studio work. Recording and mixing each song individually instead of using one template or set-pattern for all tracks assures that each song is technically in the best possible shape and that a sound fits a specific song perfectly."

Let's see for the songs...

"Rocket Ride" starts in a calm way, with the piano, before everything runs at full power. Keyboards and symphonics play a big role on this new album, maybe even more than before. "Sacrifice" is a great rocking song with an equally great chorus. This is a song that should do well on stage.

The titletrack is next and with the tension building up intro, you await the wild ride. An amazing uptempo song, an EDGUY's speciality. Here too, the chorus as well is fantastic and singing along is almost a must. ;-) Definitely one of the best songs on this album.

For "Wasted Time", a role has been reserved for the accoustic guitar. This is a more midtempo song, and quite a good one even. The 'choir' element works very well in most of the songs.

Taking it a bit slower, "Matrix" has these low, chopping riffs that join in at every second verse and provide the song with a heavier touch.

Fast song nr. 1 has passed, nr. 2 coming up: "Return To The Tribe". While the intro with the combo keyboards-guitar are very similar to HELLOWEEN's "Mrs. God", what follows is totally different and much better. Uptempo songs are a must on and EDGUY album, else it's not EDGUY. Musically, this song also is a job very well done. A remarkable moment: the guitar solo between 3:50 and 4:10. Or is that Tobi messing with the microphone, but with a transformed voice? ;-)

The first accords of the accoustic guitar starting "The Asylum" remind me of the powerful "Nailed To The Wheel" ("Mandrake" album). This song can be divided into two parts: the first being calm and somewhat sad, the second more powerful and fierce. And in that second part, there's enough variation to lift the song to a higher level.

"Save Me" - not to confuse with the uptempo "Save Us Now" - is the obligatory ballad, but unfortunately it's not as good as "Land Of The Miracle" or "Forever" or any other EDGUY ballad. It sounds too poppy, which is a pity, especially if you know what great songs the band/Tobi has written so far.

Continuing in a rocking way, "Catch Of The Century" follows next. And that's what it is, a hardrock song... and at times also close to pop. What makes this song more memorable is Tobi style of acting: at the end of the song he goes on screaming in the mic, even when the music is fading, and Sascha asking him to stop ("Tobi, ist gut jetzt.") ;-)

"Out Of Vogue", another uptempo track (yes!), has this '80s like keyboard sound and this is very compatible with the guitars and drums, and the way of playing. Thumbs up. The single "Superheroes" is next, but that song also featured on the "Superheroes" EP, so nothing special to add here.

"Trinidad" is a somewhat 'exotic' lovesong, but the chorus is quite laughable with the "ratatatataaa" sung with a high-pichted voice in a humouristic manner. :-) The bonus track "Fucking With Fire (Hair Force One)" also chooses a more Hardrockish sound, but despite that, it's good, but average.

Final words? Like I said, they've strayed away from their earlier sound (going more towards Hardrock?), which I truly loved. "Rocket Ride" is far from a bad album, it's very good even, but definitely not their best. Switching the "Superheroes" EP songs with the lesser good on "Rocket Ride" would do this latter much good. :-) Anyhow, fans of the band will like this. If you're new to EDGUY, I recommend starting with an older album.

The limited edition also has a live version of "Land Of The Miracle", recorded in Brazil, and an extensive booklet with pictures and historical overview of the band.

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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RHAPSODY – Live In Canada 2005: The Dark Secret (Magic Circle Music/Steamhammer 2006)

Rhapsody - Live In Canada 2005: The Dark Secret
  1. The Dark Secret
  2. Unholy Warcry
  3. Wisdom Of The Kings
  4. The Village Of Dwarves
  5. Erian's Mystical Rhymes
  6. Dawn Of Victory
  7. Lamento Eroico
  8. Nightfall On The Grey Mountains
  9. The March Of The Swordmaster
  10. Emerald Sword
  11. Gran Finale

The masters of Symphonic Powermetal have finally released a live album. Recorded during their American tour with MANOWAR and HOLYHELL, the show in Montreal was chosen for this occasion. Since RHAPSODY didn't headline the tour, they didn't play 2 hours, so no double disc album (yet ;-)). And yes, I was sceptic too before the release, questioning the quality, the number of songs, etc... But then I finally got my hands on the album itself.

RHAPSODY's last album, "Symphony Of Enchanted Lands II: The Dark Secret" was released in 2004 and became an international success. Actor Christopher Lee was asked to do some narrations, and last year, the band released the single "The Magic Of The Wizard's Dream" with mr. Lee singing a duet with Fabio Lione, in 4 languages.

But a tour had to be done, although C. Lee couldn't join the band (it would be a bit expensive and not very practical, don't you think? ;-)), but luckily there are tapes. The intro is a little different than the one on "Symphony Of Enchanted Lands II: The Dark Secret", making it more appropriate for live situations.

As on the last album, "The Dark Secret" is the intro on the band's first live-album, followed by the great "Unholy Warcry". The crowd is clearly present and very happy to witness RHAPSODY on stage. Fabio addresses the crowd in French from time to time, gaining more sympathy from the people by doing so. And despite his accent, his French is quite good. ;-)

Not only is RHAPSODY promoting their last album, they do have an extensive back catalogue to play as well. The first song coming from their second album "Symphony Of Echanted Lands", "Wisdom Of The Kings" really makes the atmosphere explode, and the crowd enjoying the evening like never before.

The more balladesque "The Village Of Dwarves" - a great sing-along song - sounds equally beautiful in this live environment and prepares the crowd for the more bombastic "Erian's Mystical Rhymes", one of the greatest songs on "Symphony Of Enchanted Lands II: The Dark Secret".

Fabio has a unique and powerful voice, which you can hear on the albums, but live as well, his performance is truly amazing and is quite close to the studio version. Even his opera-like voice is used as easily as singing in a normal way.

Alex Holzwarth may not be a Thomen Stauch (ex-BLIND GUARDIAN, SAVAGE CIRCUS) or similar, but he sure knows how to play the drums and to me he's underestimated. At the end of "Erian's Mystical Rhymes", he entertains the fans with a very nice drumsolo.

One of RHAPSODY's best ballads is on the "Power Of The Dragonflame" album, their heaviest release so far. Titled "Lamento Eroico", this song is sung in Italian and live the pronunciation is a little better, but the atmosphere remains the same: mindblowing and very moving/touching. Prior to this song, the powerful "Dawn Of Victory" was played, and here you can easily hear it's not fake: Alex is handling the keyboards very well and a lot of symphonic (and other melodic) elements are played by him. The guitarists Luca and Dominique show they are very compatible and it's good to have a second guitarist on stage. The solos too are very well done.

Despite all the great songs and dito performance, there's one song that in my opinion should be removed from the setlist and replaced - at least for the next concerts - and it's the slower "Nightfall On The Grey Mountains". The song isn't that bad, but it's not among their better either. The performance is good, but it cuts a lesser good figure compared to the other songs. Something more uptempo would be better.

Luckily Fabio and co know how to continue and end with a more than positive note: "The March Of The Swordmaster" - again, sing-along if you want to ;-) - and the breathtaking and brilliant "Emerald Sword" with the wonderful chorus:

For the king, for the land, for the mountains
For the green valleys where dragons fly
For the glory, the power to win the black lord
I will search for the Emerald Sword

Having released - in general - amazing studio albums, one could wonder how they would pull it off live. Many fans witnessed it, last year and in the past, and they were more than positive. I have yet to see them live, but this "Live In Canada 2005: The Dark Secret" album is a more than a great sample of their talents. This is a must have for the fans, who can buy it without pre-listening as the level of quality is as high as on the studio albums, plus the cheering of the enthusiastic crowd, positive atmosphere, ... make this a nice piece of live music.

There's also a limited edition with DVD, featuring some preview footage of the band's performances and interviews with Luca Turilli and Alex Staropoli, and the whole concert in 5.1 mix (audio only). Later this year, a live DVD will be released.

Line-up:
Fabio Lione - vocals
Luca Turilli - guitars
Dominique Leurquin - guitars
Alex Staropoli - keyboards
Patrice Guers - bass
Alex Holzwarth - drums


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BENEDICTUM – Uncreation (Locomotive Records 2006)

Benedictum - Uncreation
  1. Uncreation
  2. Benedictum
  3. #4
  4. Misogyny
  5. Ashes To Ashes
  6. Wicca
  7. Heaven And Hell (BLACK SABBATH cover)
  8. Them
  9. Two Steps To The Sun
  10. Valkyrie Rising
  11. The Mob Rules (BLACK SABBATH cover)

After toiling away locally, BENEDICTUM, formerly known as BOUND, came to the attention of DIO guitarist Craig Goldy who was impressed enough with what he heard that he turned the group on to long-time friend and former bandmate, Jeff Pilson (ex-DOKKEN, DIO). Equally blown away by the band's raw talent and untapped potential, Pilson took on the role of producer and recorded BENEDICTUM at his Los Angeles area studio. The result of these first sessions are the 3 songs displayed on their myspace.com page.

BENEDICTUM are definitely not an act that will be denied for much longer. The band's forthcoming debut album, was due out in the fall, but will be/was released late January.

On to the music. The first time I played the cd, it became boring after three songs, because the band seems to play the same kind of tempo and low-sounding riffs. If I wouldn't know any better, I'd think it's a man singing.

"Uncreation" starts with demonic vocals, followed by heavy guitars played in a slow structure. A midtempo track and not that bad. This also gives you a taste of what's yet to come. The album is filled with those heavy guitars and almost everywhere the same kind of tempo - no real uptempo/speedy songs here - that it's hard to be focused all the time.

In "Benedictum" the chorus is really annoying because the "In nomine, in nomine, in nomine..." that gets repeated a couple of times. The verses are ok and guitar solos are also quite good.

"#4" is one of the best songs - and there aren't that many good ones - played slow, but heavy and melodic. In "Misogyny" Veronica also sings in a clearer way and this is really nice, suits the song and her very well. Her range is not so big, though.

"Heaven And Hell" is a cover from BLACK SABBATH's original version. And to be honest: no one can do it better than the holy Ronnie James Dio himself. Nice try, but you failed, BENEDICTUM. This version is just too heavy, too pounding and Veronica's voice can't match Dio's and therefore the atmosphere that Dio can create is not present here at all. This is just a song. When Dio sings it with his band, it's breathtaking!

While the first part of the tracklisting is far from spectacular, the ending is of the better kind. "Two Steps From The Sun" is probably the best song here, and "Valkyrie Rising" and "The Mob Rules" are worth hearing too.

BENEDICTUM... for a start, this is good, when you only take the last songs into account. The rest is average, and maybe not even that. 3-4 songs aren't enough to make a good album and messing with a Dio (not DIO, which is the band ;-)) song is dangerous. If you can't improve a song or create the right mood, then why do you even try? If US Powermetal is your thing, you could check the band out. If you care about good music, I advise you to listen a couple of times before you buy it.

More info at www.myspace.com/benedictum.

Line-up:
Veronica Freeman - vocals
Pete Wells - guitars
Jesse Wright - bass
Chris Morgan - keyboards
Blackie Sanchez - drums


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SEDUCED BY SUICIDE – Gothic Dream (Seduced By Suicide 2006)

Seduced By Suicide - Gothic Dream
  1. My Sweetest Choice
  2. The Death Of My Life
  3. Our Gothic Dream
  4. Hurt Me Plenty
  5. Just Another Thrill

SEDUCED BY SUICIDE is a (self-financed) side-project of the Brazilian vocalist Earth, who's also in the Doom Metal band BLOOD TEARS. I have never heard of either band, but thanks to some emails from Emanuel Seagal, who's in charge of press related matters for several bands, I received a copy of SEDUCED BY SUICIDE's first MCD. Actually, it came from Roger Fingle, who helped with the recording, mixing and mastering of "Gothic Dream".

While BLOOD TEARS plays Doom Metal, SEDUCED BY SUICIDE chooses the path of Gothic Rock. The music can be compared to similar bands like HIM, DEPECHE MODE (at least I recognize this band in the songs ;-)), TYPE O NEGATIVE, and more. The accompanied paper also mentiones MARYLIN MANSON, but that's a bit far-fetched I think. Besides, Earth makes better music and has a more beautiful voice. ;-)

In the 'booklet' it says that Earth handled everything himself, but I wonder what exactly he did play and what was done with the computer. In BLOOD TEARS, he's responable for the clean vocals, guitar, bass, keyboard and programming. Since he knows how to play a couple of instruments, I'm guessing the same way of working was applied to the MCD "Gothic Dream".

A typical characteristic about Earth is of course his voice: low, clean and with a sad undertone. This also is shown very clearly in the songs. "My Sweetest Choice" is a rather calm and sad song, while I think Earth should have sung it in a more enthusiastic way. It's like you're happy about something, but sing it in a sad way. Nevertheless, this is a beautiful song, with the piano determining the melody.

"The Death Of My Life" is next and the first band that comes to mind is HIM. Touching lyrics, great music. Earth really knows how to make a good song. Continuing with "Our Gothic Dream", this song has some resemblances wih GARBAGE and OMD (ORCHESTRAL MANOEUVRES IN THE DARK). Here, Earth chose to take it a bit faster.

Why I keep mentioning other bands? Because those are the ones I think about when hearing the songs. Not that there's anything wrong with similarities, because SEDUCED BY SUICIDE's first MCD is a great piece of music.

"Hurt Me Plenty" - great title, don't you think? ;-) - could have been a PARADISE LOST song ("Draconian Times" era or before), but here too the result is very good. Closing this MCD is the midtempo track "Just Another Thrill", where the keyboards are more dominant and melody plays a big role.

In a way, you could describe "Gothic Dream" as a compilation disc because of the many references to other bands, but the fact remains that this is the work of one man, Earth. Strong points are the vocals, the musicianship, the quality of the recordings, ... In fact, I'm surprised no label has signed him yet. If Gothic Rock is your thing, then you just have to check out SEDUCED BY SUICIDE.

More info at www.seducedbysuicide.com.

Line-up:
Earth - vocals, instruments


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AXXIS – Paradise In Flames (AFM Records 2006)

Axxis - Paradise In Flames
  1. Paradise In Flames (intro)
  2. Dance With The Dead
  3. Tales Of Glory Island
  4. Take My Hand
  5. Will God Remember Me
  6. Talisman
  7. Don't Leave Me
  8. Lady Moon
  9. Ice Wind
  10. Stay By Me
  11. Gods Of Rain
  12. Passion For Rock

AXXIS, the German Hardrock band that's been active for some 15 years have released their ninth album this month (January), titled "Paradise In Flames". This is my first encounter with the band and their music, so I can't really compare to the older works. Female singer Lakonia has been asked to make a guest appearance again. While she only did some choirs on "Time Machine", she now is even singing a couple of songs together with Bernhard. A fact that surely causes a nice fresh flavour that matches perfectly to the AXXIS-typical sound and even lifts it onto a new level.

For a couple of years the band has already been having their own Soundwoxx Studio, in which they write, arrange and record all of the songs. Again, keyboarder Harry Oellers and singer Bernhard Weiss have done the whole production on their own to achieve a self confident, charming album that could be forwarded to their old fellow and friend Dennis Ward (House Of Audio-Studios, Karlsdorf, a.o. PINK CREAM 69, ANGRA, ...) for mixing and mastering.

On to the music now.. "Dance With The Dead" has a great resemblance during the verses with GAMMA RAY's "Heaven Or Hell" song ("No World Order" album). The chorus is more bombastic. Overall, a nice song. The female vocals by Lakonia are a nice addition.

"Tales Of Glory Island" takes it more uptempo and is one of the best on "Paradise Of Flames". A very nice track. The following "Take My Hand" start with the vocal lines being shared by Lakonia and Bernhard. A very melodic song with the keyboards creating the atmosphere and determining the melody.

The keyboards also play an important role in "Will God Remember Me", backed by the heavy riffs. It has some NIGHTWISH-similarities in the first minute. This could be the first lesser good song as the chorus can get boring after a while. Things get better again with the uptempo "Talisman", which is a solid rocksong and even has some resemblances with GAMMA RAY (again).

The ballad "Don't Leave Me" also has dual vocals lines, and the result is pretty good, only Lakonia's vocals are more present, i.e. they are less pushed back like in the songs with the entire band playing at full power.

"Lady Moon" brings back the rock and here too, no real problems. Another solid song. It's getting more interesting again with another uptempo track, "Ice Wind", and here too: thumbs up. Should be great to hear live. ;-)

Going more eh.. 'poppy', so to speak - but it still remains hardrock ;-) -, is the slower "Stay Be Me". Not bad, but here too the chorus is the weakest link. "Gods Of Rain" again has the keyboards as leading instrument. A bit better than "Stay Be Me" and thank God for the guitar and keyboard solos, but other than that nothing special about "Gods Of Rain".

The last song says it all: "Passion For Rock". But this too isn't without flaws. The uptempo verses are ok, but the slower chorus drags the song down. A sad thing, really.

"Paradise In Flames" could have been a very good album. Now it's 'just good', nothing more. There are some very good songs, but they aren't enough to be enthusiastic about the entire album.

If you're interested in limited editions, it will contain 2 bonus tracks, a screensaver and a "making of" clip.

More info at www.axxis.de.

Line-up:
Bernhard Weiss - vocals
Guido Wehmeyer - guitars
Kuno Niemeyer - bass
Harry Oellers - keyboards
Andre Hilgers - drums


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DRAGONFORCE – Inhuman Rampage (Noise Records 2006)

Dragonforce - Inhuman Rampage
  1. Through The Fire And Flames
  2. Revolution Deathsquad
  3. Storming The Burning Fields
  4. Operation Ground And Pound
  5. Body Breakdown
  6. Cry For Eternity
  7. The Flame Of Youth
  8. Trail Of Broken Tears

The masters of extreme Powermetal seem to have an excess of energy as they've released another album (on the 9th January) filled with 'inhuman' speed. "Inhuman Rampage" is the band's third album, sucessing 2004's succesful "Sonic Firestorm".

Some technical details, which are always interesting ;-):

* Produced by Sam Totman, Herman Li and Vadim Pruzhanov
* Recorded at Thin Ice Studios in Surrey, UK and LamerLuser Studios in London, UK between March and September 2005
* Mixed at Thin Ice Studios by Karl Groom, Sam Totman, Herman Li and Vadim Pruzhanov
* Engineered by Karl Groom and Herman Li
* Mastered by Eberhard Köhler at Powerplay Mastering in Berlin, Germany
* Album cover by Chie Kimoto, Daniel Bérard and Herman Li

As before, renowned THRESHOLD guitarist Karl Groom helped with the mixing and recording and this time the songs sound even a bit heavier than on "Sonic Firestorm". I could also add 'warmer'.

DRAGONFORCE's key elements are very much present again: speed and melody, and certainly not forgetting the length of the songs, with "Cry For Eternity" hitting little over the 8-minute marker, which makes this the longest song on "Inhuman Rampage".

The album starts very nice with the accoustic guitar, immediately followed by the electric ones and the pounding drums creating a tsunami of Metal. Brilliant and amazing stuff.

I'm not going to comment on each song as the recipe is the same, although the band seem to have implemented more Progressive-like parts and let the instruments do the talking while giving ZP some rest. Needless to say, this is a good choice. No, I don't have anything against ZP at all. ;-) But it's a real lust for the ear to hear the solos and amazing drumwork. What makes it more beautiful are the calmer parts before taking off again at full speed.

While the resting point on "Sonic Firestorm" was in the middle of the tracklisting, this time it's at the end. If that was a good idea or not is food for discussion, but one could also think that this is the least good track here. Personally, I find "Dawn Over A New World" (on "Sonic Firestorm") better.

Powermetal to the limit, inhuman speed, a terrible velocity of guitarriffs and thundering drums... stunning work, one has to admit. One negative point though, and I also mentioned it in the "Sonic Firestorm" review: it might become boring to listen to the album in its entirety (after a while), so switch the disc with other bands's albums. However, if you've got too much energy and want let yourself go, DRAGONFORCE is a good medicine. ;-)

If you like your powermetal faster from time to time, "Inhuman Rampage" fulfills your needs. If you like fast drumming and/or shredding/soloing like hell, then this album will also be a great inspiration. DRAGONFORCE have improved themselves once again, getting better every album and it makes you wonder how the next one will sound. O yes, this is also an album for DRAGONFORCE fans, as if that wasn't clear yet. ;-)

There's also an enhanced part, featuring exclusive "behind the scenes" footage shot on tour including Japan and at 2005's European festivals, plus a Windows theme package.

More info at www.dragonforce.com.

Line-up:
ZP Theart - vocals
Herman Li - guitar
Sam Totman - guitar
Vadim Pruzhanov - keyboards
Adrian Lambert - bass
Dave Mackintosh - drums


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SENCIROW – Perception Of Fear (AFM Records 2006)

Sencirow - Perception Of Fear
  1. Intro
  2. Burn It Down
  3. Connection Of Evil
  4. Fear
  5. Incidious Dimensions
  6. Keeper Of Souls
  7. Wargames
  8. Secret Thoughts
  9. The Storm
  10. Dreamspace

The German label AFM Records is doing a very good job lately, releasing quality album after quality album: DESTRUCTION, U.D.O., SHAKRA, ANNIHILATOR, and more. Next to those 'oldies', they also give room and attention to upcoming talent. The latest release is the German Powermetal band SENCIROW, who will release (or have released, depending on when you read this ;-)) their third album in January.

SENCIROW was founded in the summer of 1996. The original line-up was:

Daniel Seifert (vocals, guitar)
Thorsten Ernst (guitar, vocals)
Oliver Bernshausen (bass)
Timo Schneider (drums).

For 3 years the band worked on their skills and music abilities to record their first album, titled "Dreamspace" and was completed in summer 1999.

After many excellent reviews, sales, and concerts, bass-player Oliver Bernshausen left the band in order to dedicate more time to his family. In the winter of 2000-2001 Holger Fischer joined the band, and he is still playing the bass today.

With the new line-up, the preparations for the second CD "Crown of Creation" were running at full blast, and SENCIROW entered the studio in July 2001 to record their 2nd album.

And now, number three is ready: "Perception Of Fear". Starting with a calm, accoustic intro, hell breaks loose with the speedy "Burn It Down", a socially-politically charged song. The raw/fat sound fits the music perfectly. Daniel Seifert's (is he related to Michael Seifert from REBELLION?) voice is rough, but also clear, so you understand what he sings. Together with Thorsten he forms the guitar-fronted battering ram.

The following "Connection Of Evil" takes back some speed, seems a bit simpler in structure, but is a very solid song. With "Fear" SENCIROW go even slower, but push the pedal to the floor shortly afterwards. The band also gives a lot of attention to instrumental parts, filling them with at times very nice guitar solos.

In "Incidious Dimensions", a midtempo track, the bass guitar is more present and you could speak of a little bass solo, coming back about 2 times during the song. A very nice one by the way and in my opinion one of the best.

"Keeper Of Souls" is more of a chill-song to me, really good as backgroundmusic, and I mean that in a positive way. Also worth mentioning is the beautiful accoustic/eletric interlude, giving the song more depth. A job well done.

Time for some more speed again, also for the sake of variety ;-): "Wargames". Nothing much to say, except that it's a great song and it reminds me a bit of Swedish Powermetallers NOSTRADAMEUS.

The last three songs continue the uptempo pace, be it a bit slower or faster. "Secret Thoughts" contains enough tempo changes to keep you focused on the song. With a title like "The Storm" you can hardly expect a relaxing song, right? This is another good song, which should do well in live situations. Another remarkable thing is that the bass gets its moment again during the solo part.

"Dreamspace" closes and has some influences from other melodic bands. Here as well, there's an accoustic, calmer part before it's back to heaviness.

What more is there to say then "amazing, great, I like it a lot"? SENCIROW, Powermetal with some Thrash influences (e.g. NEVERMORE), but done in a very good way. These guys are going to be big if they keep it up like that. Good production, nice tempo changes, thumbs up for the musicianship, ... This could be one of the best of 2006 (at least the first quarter or maybe half ;-)).

More info at www.sencirow.de.

Line-up:
Daniel Seifert - vocals, guitar
Thorsten Ernst - guitar
Holger Fischer - bass
Timo Schneider - drums


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MEDEA – Room XVII (Snakebite Records 2006)

Medea - Room XVII
  1. Room XVII
  2. Farewell?
  3. Endless Knot
  4. Maiden Journey
  5. My Dual Mind
  6. Dance Of The Deals
  7. Graveyard Island
  8. State Of Suspense
  9. Chaos Solution

MEDEA's, the rock opera project of CASUAL SILENCE keyboardist/guitarist Henry Meeuws, second album will be/has been released on the 6th of January, but was first scheduled for November 2005. The record company thought it better to release it later to better promote the album.

I hadn't heard of CASUAL SILENCE or even MEDEA before, so I can't compare with the first album or CASUAL SILENCE's music. The first MEDEA record, "Individual Unique" was released in 2003. The biggest difference with the new "Room XVII" seems to be a.o. real drums (by Fon Janssen who played with a.o. MENNEN, PROJECT FEAR, ...) and a big male choir, known as LAMBARDI (www.mannenkoor-lambardi.nl).

Next to that, plenty of native artists contributed. Here's a list:

Rob Laarhoven (CASUAL SILENCE, ex-DARWIN'S PRIDE)
Ernst le Cocq d'Armandville (CASUAL SILENCE)
Joss Mennen (MENNEN)
Edwin Balogh (AYREON, TAMAS, SUPERSONIC)
Sandra Peeters (V-MALE)
Nanda Philipse
Marjolein Husken (SYLVER MYST)
Maurice Fende (JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR)
Robbie van Stiphout (DAY SIX)
Eric Smits (CASUAL SILENCE)
Dirk van Helmond (QUEEN OF HEARTS)

The artwork was done by Erwin Munsters ("Once In A Blue Moon", "State Of Mind").

In this concept story where present and past, fiction and non-fiction are intertwined, the central theme of schizophrenia is backed by the Dutch history of the VOC and more specifically the voyage of the VOC ship Batavia.

Songwise this is a bit in the vein of AYREON, but different. It's more Proggy, no real uptempo songs as they all have a mixture of mid- and slow tempo. With 'only' nine songs, you'd expect a short running time, but Henry managed to put over 60 minutes of music on the disc. That's almost as good or even better than DRAGONFORCE, who don't play anything but long running songs. ;-)

Although not every song is as good as the other, the album as a whole really is a job well done and very qualitative music. Songs that stand out for me are "Dance Of The Deals", because of its melodicness and happy feeling, "Graveyard Island" for the a capella piece and the longest track "Chaos Solution" for its epicness, the violin, the rasp, the melody as well, ...

Progfans should find their likings in this album, as well as the people who know CASUAL SILENCE's music, which is also Progressive and Symphonic. Another positive point about "Room XVII" is not only the musicianship, but also the production. It's not as polished that it sounds like every bit of rawness has been eliminated, but mainly the drums, the guitars, ... - or the sound of them - make you aware of the genuineness of the music, that it's made by real people and not a computer programme.

More info at www.casualsilence.nl/medea.

Line-up:
(see guest list) - vocals
Sandra Peeters - accoustic guitar
Henry Meeuws - guitars
Rob Laarhoven - bass
Robbie van Stiphout - keyboards
Fon Janssen - drums


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Reviews 2006

On this page
ABANDONED -
Thrash Notes
ADAGIO -
Dominate
AFTER ALL -
This Violent Decline
AGRO -
Ritual 6
AHAB -
The Call Of
The Wretched Sea
ALCOHOLIKA
LA CHRISTO -
Toxicnology
Part 1 & 2
ARTRACH -
...And In Fate
We Rest
ASSAILANT -
Nemesis Within
AXXIS -
Paradise In Flames
B.IMPATIENT -
Intensity
BASICO -
Consentido
BEAUTIFUL SIN -
The Unexpected
BEFORE THE DAWN -
The Ghost
BENEDICTUM -
Uncreation
BEREAVED -
The Spirit Driven
By Hate
BISHOP OF HEXEN -
The Nightmarish
Compostions
BLACK MESSIAH -
Of Myths And
Legends
BLACKSHINE -
Lifeblood
BLOOD STAIN CHILD -
Idolator
BLUDGEON -
World Controlled
CELESTY -
Mortal Mind Creation
CIRCLE II CIRCLE -
Burden Of Truth
CONTRADICTION -
The Warchitect
CRUACHAN -
The Morrigan's Call
CRYSTAL EYES -
Dead City Dreaming
DARK AT DAWN -
Dark At Dawn
DEADSTAR ASSEMBLY -
Unsaved
DEDICTED -
The Judas Window
DELIRIOUS -
Made For The
Violent Age
DESTYNATION -
Rising Up
DEZPERADOZ -
The Legend
And The Truth
DIONYSUS -
Fairytales And Reality
DOMAIN -
Stardawn
DORO -
Warrior Soul
DRACONIAN -
The Burning Halo
DRAGONFLY -
Domine
DRAGONFORCE -
Inhuman Rampage
DUSTSUCKER -
Jack Knife
Rendezvous
EDGUY -
Rocket Ride
EISBRECHER -
Antikörper
ELIS -
Griefshire
ELVENKING -
The Winter Wake
ETHEREAL
COLLAPSE -
Breaching The Citadel
FAIRYLAND -
The Fall Of An Empire
FATUM -
Roto
FORTUNA, RICH -
Heathen Machines
FRONTSIDE -
Twilight Of The Gods
GORATH -
The Fourth Era
GORILLA MONSOON -
Damage King
GRAVE DIGGER -
Yesterday
GROUND ZERO
SYSTEM -
Newropa EP
GURD -
Bang!
HEAVY LORD -
From Cosmos
To Chaos
HEREGE -
Bang Your Heads
HYDROGYN -
Bombshell
ICARUS WITCH -
Capture The Magic
IKUINEN KAAMOS -
The Forlorn
INBORN SUFFERING -
Wordless Hope
INNERWISH -
Inner Strength
IRON FIRE -
Revenge
JON OLIVA'S PAIN -
Maniacal Renderings
JORN -
The Duke
KALEDON -
Chapter 4:
Twilight Of The Gods
KAMPFAR -
Kvass
KORPIKLAANI -
Tales Along This Road
KROKUS -
Hellraiser
KROSSBREED -
Enjoy The Rage
LACRIMAS
PROFUNDERE -
Filthy Notes For
Frozen Hearts
MAIN PAIN -
Food For Thoughts
MANIGANCE -
L'Ombre Et
La Lumière
MANNHAI -
Hellroad Caravan
MANTICORA -
The Black Circus
Part 1 - Letters
MEDEA -
Room XVII
MENNEN -
Freakalive
MONKEY BUSINESS -
The Noble Art Of
Wasting Time
MOTORJESUS -
Deathrider
MYLIDIAN -
Birth Of The Prophet
MYSTIC CIRCLE -
The Bloody Path
Of God
NAMELESS CRIME -
Law And Persecution
NOISE FOREST -
Morbid Instincts
OBSCENE GESTURE -
Straight Outta
The Gutter
OUTWORLD -
Outworld
PERSUADER -
When Eden Burns
PRESIDENT EVIL -
Trash 'N' Roll
Asshole Show
PURE INC. -
A New Day's Dawn
RECKLESS TIDE -
Helleraser
REDKEY -
Rage Of Fire
REGICIDE -
Break The Silence
RHAPSODY -
Live In Canada 2005 -
The Dark Secret
SACHTA -
Anosognosie
SADAKO -
Bedtime Stories
SARATOGA -
The Fighting Clan
SATURNUS -
Veronika Decides
To Die
MICHAEL SCHENKER
GROUP -
Tales Of Rock 'N' Roll -
25 Years Celebration
SCORNAGE -
Pure Motorized
Instinct
SEDUCED BY
SUICIDE -
Gothic Dream
SENCIROW -
Perception Of Fear
SHATTER MESSIAH -
Never To Play
The Servant
EMILIANO SICILIA -
Devotion Materialize
SPIRITUS MORTIS -
Fallen
SQUEALER A.D. -
Confrontation Street
STORMENTAL -
Stormental
SUDDEN DEATH -
Unpure Burial
SUIDAKRA -
Caledonia
SUMMONING -
Oath Bound
SYCRONOMICA -
Gate
SYLVER MYST -
Emotions Revealed
TANKARD -
The Beauty
And The Beer
TEARS -
Emptiness
THE ALIEN BLAKK -
Modes Of Alienation
THE FROZEN -
Blue Virtue
THE ORDER -
Son Of Armageddon
THE PROWLERS -
Devil's Bridge
THE TRACEELORDS -
The Ali Of Rock
THEATRE OF
TRAGEDY -
Storm
TIERRA SANTA -
Mejor Morir En Pie
TOURETTES
SYNDROME -
Sick Sense
TRIGLAV -
When The Sun Is
Rising Above
The Earth
LUCA TURILLI -
The Infinite Wonders
Of Creation
LUCA TURILLI'S
DREAMQUEST -
Lost Horizons
TÝR -
Eric The Red
TÝR -
Ragnarok
TYSTNADEN -
Sham Of Perfection
UREAS -
The Naked Truth
VAIN -
On The Line
DAVY VAIN -
In From Out Of
Nowhere
VANISHING POINT -
In Thought
VIOLENT STORM -
Storm Warning
VIRON -
NWOGHM
VOODOOCAKE -
Fetishist
WALTARI -
Blood Sample
WARCRY -
La Quinta Esencia
WELTENBRAND -
The End Of
The Wizard
WETO -
Das 2weite Ich
WINGDOM -
Reality
WUTHERING HEIGHTS -
The Shadow Cabinet
ZANDELLE -
Vengeance Rising