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ARMORY – The Dawn Of Enlightenment (Armory 2007)

Armory - The Dawn Of Enlightenment
  1. The Tempest
  2. Faith In Steel
  3. Riding The Cosmic Winds
  4. Forever Triumphant
  5. Heart Of Dreams
  6. Warrior Forlorn
  7. Forged In Dragon Flames
  8. The Eyes Of Time
  9. Mystic Star
  10. The Dawn Of Enlightenment
  11. Flight Of Icarus (IRON MAIDEN cover) (bonus track)
  12. Dr. Wily ("Mega Man 2" game track) (bonus track)

ARMORY is an American Neoclassical/Power Metal band founded in 2001 by guitarists Joe Kurland and Chad Fischer. Adam Kurland, Thomas Preziosi joined along the way, since those positions still needed to be occupied. And so "The Dawn Of Enlightenment" came out in 2004, but didn't get enough promotion, which meant that in the period 2005-2007 the band re-recorded the album, now with the help of keyboardist Peter Rutcho, who played the keyboard lines for the album. On the original recordings those parts were programmed. "The Dawn Of Enlightenment" came out then on the 28th of December 2007. For the live performances the band needed a drummer and asked Tom Vieira to join them.

This review is long overdue, since I've had this album in my possession since several months, though due to other obligations and whatever more I had to postpone the review again and again. But now I finally found a hole in my agenda to work on it. And I can tell you, it was great fun, although it took a few listens to let the majesty of it all come out.

The album starts with a symphonic intro, pushed along by a marching rhythm, nicely followed by "Faith In Steel"'s uptempo Power Metal in vein of old EDGUY (think of the "Theater Of Salvation" album). Melody is key and in such a context it's good to have a clean, though with an epic touch, voice doing the singing. Kudos to Adam for his very good input. The melody not only is provided as standard element throughout the compositions, it's also present in the solos, offered by keyboards and guitars. And it must be said that the instrumental aspect takes up a bigger percentage in this song, which is - when well composed and executed - a lust for the ear. So far, one very good song done. And there's more where that came from.

"Riding The Cosmic Winds" quickens the pace, especially in its verses. There's a small drop in tempo in the chorus to avoid linearity. Keyboards continue to play an important role, here to add a more touching, emotional feel, although the guitars aren't any less present. Next to melody it's power that rules this track, certainly in the chorus. The solos are again very long, and with a playtime of about seven minutes and a half the band had enough room for them. But all things considered there's one word that can describe this song perfectly: epic!

"Forever Triumphant" is the song in which the accoustic guitar makes an appearance, backed by symphonic elements. Musically, or more specifically the melody, you can lay a link with MANOWAR's "Heart Of Steel" and especially the chorus ("Stand and fight..."). Adam sounds almost like Tobias Sammet (EDGUY), but the Tobias from so many years ago. Not only MANOWAR comes to mind in this epic ballad (which also contains some trumpet sounds), but the German Power Metal band FREEDOM CALL is another one can think of when hearing this song. The singing is guided by gentle piano work, although the guitars come into play later on, even adding a solo. ARMORY has so far provided very good Power Metal and even when there's a need to tone it down a bit, they also deliver the goods. Hats off for this.

Time for another increase in heaviness with another long and epic track: "Heart Of Dreams". This song nears the 8-minute marker and also offers an faster pace. The galopping rhythm is partly responsable for this. The keyboards provide the melody, as usual, although the guitars have that duty as well. Even during the solos the tempo remains high. I already said this is an epic song and somehow I can't deny that it's also touching, one way or another. The uptempo pace can also be found in "Warrior Forlorn", which reminded me of (old) EDGUY, CIRCLE II CIRCLE, SAVATAGE, and similar. This time it's the guitars that are in charge of the melodic aspect, while Peter's keyboards are condamned to the background. He does get his moment of glory during the solo moments.

With a title like "Forged In Dragon Flames", which is the shortest song ARMORY have composed (save for the intro), you can expect a serious piece of Metal. The pace is direct, fast, and the music is going straight for the kill! The guitarwork is absolutely of the best so far and that includes the solos. The song is fully instrumental, hence the great guitarwork, and yet quite diverse in rhythm and melody. How does it sound? Think of IRON MAIDEN, EDGUY, GAMMA RAY, FREEDOM CALL, ... I cannot stress this enough, this is one majestic piece of Metal!

Three more own songs to go, starting with the uptempo "The Eyes Of Time". The keyboards are again the main providers of melody and backing. Considering the additon of neoclassical elements (which were also present in "Faith In Steel"), that's not an oddity. As a change either Joe or Chad threw in a break in which the mandolin (is this correct?) would shine while Peter provided the right backing, all in preparation for the solos, which are nothing less than splendid! More uptempo is selected for "Mystic Star", where the guitars offer another entertaining, though vicious, blast for the ears. Keyboards deliver the melodic aspect, as usual. Like the many tracks preceding this one, ARMORY delivers quality. Last but not least we have the longest track of this re-recorded debut album, which is also the title track. I can be short about it: it's epic! Oh yes, and you can consider it a mix of EDGUY and ZANDELLE, one of the many other US Power Metal bands.

To make this re-released debut extra special - not that it's necessary, since the own material is already very much worth hearing - the band recorded two covers: "Flight Of Icarus", originally by IRON MAIDEN, and something from - and I quote - "the first stage in "Dr. Wily"'s level from the Nintendo game "Mega Man 2"." The IRON MAIDEN cover is well done, although I prefer the band's own material. That game track is something I've never heard of and I don't even know how Metal it sounds. Fact is that ARMORY's rendition has a lot in common with ZANDELLE's view on Power Metal. So, in other words, the result is very good.

I don't know how the original recordings sounded, but it is a fact and a good thing that ARMORY did it properly this time. The Melodic Power Metal these Americans bring on "The Dawn Of Enlightenment" sounds very familiar and strong. Anyone with a passion for this genre, that peaked around the end of the 1990s until some years into the 21st century is strongly advised to check out this band and album. For me personally, this is one of the best releases of 2007. ARMORY blends Traditional and Power Metal in such a way that you cannot deny the quality on offer. In fact, it helps to get a better idea of the music when you're into GAMMA RAY, ANGRA, RHAPSODY (not the OF FIRE version), SILENT FORCE, KENZINER, HELSTAR, and several other Power Metal bands. ARMORY is not signed (yet) and that's a shame, in a way, because that limits the access to certain funds to finance future recordings and touring, for example, especially on European soil, where such Power Metal is liked a lot. But until then, do not hesistate to order your copy via the band or several webshops.

More info at www.faithinsteel.com.

Line-up:
Adam Kurland - vocals
Joe Kurland - guitars
Chad Fischer - guitars
Peter Rutcho - keyboards
Thomas Preziosi - bass
Tom Vieira - drums


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VESANIA – Distractive Killusions (Napalm Records 2007)

Vesania - Distractive Killusions
  1. Narrenschyff
  2. The Dawnfall (Hamartia And Hybris)
  3. Infinity Horizon
  4. Rage Of Reason
  5. Of Bitterness And Clarity
  6. Silence Makes Noise (Eternity - The Mood)
  7. Hell Is For Children
  8. Aesthesis
  9. Distractive Cryscendo

What do you get when you mix Poland's best-known extreme Metal bands, BEHEMOTH and VADER? Indeed, VESANIA. It's precisely BEHEMOTH bassist Tomasz 'Orion' Wroblewski (guitars and vox here) and VADER drummer Darek 'Daray' Brzozowski who joined forces in 1997 to create a Symphonic Black Metal band. Ofcourse, they too experienced the typical line-up changes, but the core of the band remained intact. It was only in 2003 and 2004 that both musicians joined their respective other bands.

In 2003 they released their debut, "Firefrost Arcanum", which got lots of praise. The band got popular quite rapidly and two years later "God The Lux" was ready, showing what force this band is to reckon with. Needless to say that this increased their power and influence even more.

Keeping up with the two-years bridge, here's album no. 3: "Distractive Killusions". It came out on the 3rd of December, again via Napalm Records. Vesania seems to be Latin for madness or insanity and hearing the material on this newest release, it sure fits the description.

"Distractive Killusions" kicks off with an calm intro, but hell soon breaks loose, offering the typical ingredients of a Black Metal band: blastbeats, demonic growling (and in BEHEMOTH style - no shrieks here)... in short, an mix of great musicianship. To respect the meaning of the band name and inline with the figure on the cover there's a crazy/lunatic part almost in the middle of the song. This reminds me of what LE GRAND GUIGNOL did on their "The Grand Maddening" some months ago. Afterwards it's back to business as usual. The symphonic aspect plays a huge role throughout the tracklist and especially here you can say that the song comprises DIMMU BORGIR, BEHEMOTH and VADER. The Polish know also how to implement enough variation in a song.

"The Dawnfall (Hamartia and Hybris)", a title that says it all when you hear the music. The tempo is much slower here and Orion's vocals have been adapted to add to the dark and gloomy atmosphere. Halfway - again, and apparently an important section - things speed up as if the battle is reaching a peak. Brilliant stuff. On a sidenote, here's what Wikipedia had to say about Hamartia and Hybris:

Hamartia: "Hamartia is a word most famously used in Aristotle's Poetics, where it is usually translated as a mistake or error in judgment. In Greek, the word hamartia is rooted in the notion of missing the mark (hamartanein) and covers a broad spectrum that includes accident and mistake, as well as wrongdoing, error, or sin. In Nicomachean Ethics, hamartia is described by Aristotle as one of the three kinds of injuries that man can commit against another man. Hamartia is an injury committed in ignorance (when the person affected or the results are not what the agent supposed they were). In the Bible hamartia is the Greek word used to denote 'sin'."

Hybris: "Hubris or hybris, according to its modern usage, is exaggerated self pride or self-confidence (overbearing pride), often resulting in fatal retribution. In Ancient Greece, 'hubris' referred to actions taken in order to shame the victim, thereby making oneself seem superior. Hubris was a crime in classical Athens. It was considered the greatest sin of the ancient Greek world. The category of acts constituting hubris for the ancient Greeks apparently broadened from the original specific reference to molestation of a corpse, or a humiliation of a defeated foe, to molestation, or 'outrageous treatment', in general. The meaning was further generalized in its modern English usage to apply to any outrageous act or exhibition of pride or disregard for basic moral law. Such an act may be referred to as an 'act of hubris', or the person committing the act may be said to be hubristic. Ate, Greek for 'ruin, folly, delusion', is the action performed by the hero, usually because of his/her hubris, or great pride, that leads to his/her death or downfall."

With "Infinity Horizon" the tempo goes up again, with another strong injection of madness. The symphonic elements also play their role again. In the middle of the song, every bit of heaviness goes silent and agonizing violin accents claim their place then. Here as well, enough variety to tell the tale.

"Rage Of Reason" is another all-explaining title, as the storm doesn't cease, thanks to the guitars and drums. The keyboards provide the sad melodies to counter this. Near the end an icy wind blows it all away towards "Of Bitterness And Clarity" clear up the situation. There the keyboards once again dominate the melodic and atmospheric moments, while soon enough things get worse again (= not musically, but when trying to imagine a situation/scene for which this song would be fitting), as brutality takes over.

When the techno-sounds commence "Silence Makes Noise (Eternity - The Mood)", I started to worry, hoping this wouldn't be continued throughout the entire song. And after some ten seconds, it's pure Metal again, even though the keyboards do intervene with electronic sounds. The tempo is again a mix of fast and slow, especially when the keyboards have to create a doomy atmosphere. Personally I find this a weaker song. The compositions are entwined in a way that it's hard to see a straight line and distinguish every part. The overall result is quite chaotic. If that was the intention, then they surely succeeded. Else... no, thanks.

For a Black Metal band, they sure know how to ridicule hell, hahaha. See "Hell Is For Children". Unless this is to be interpreted differently. All melody and atmosphere comes again from the keyboards, while the guitars are used to add some powerful accents and keep the flow intact. The tempo is much slower again, since there was a lot to hear and experience in "Silence Makes Noise". To further intensify the bombastic touch, you can here trumpets at specific moments. Overall, a very nice result.

With "Aesthesis" VESANIA opted for something BEHEMOTH/VADER-ish. The blasts sound harder than before and musically you get reminded of these two bands, except that here the use of keyboards (incl. piano) is more clear. While for extreme drumming it's convenient to have triggers, it also depends how well you make 'em sound and the clicking sound - as can be found on my other albums - can become a bit annoying after a while, making you long for a more normal kickdrumsound. The song itself is of the best on "Distractive Killusions".

"Distractive Cryscendo" closes the curtain. This is an instrumental track, very atmospheric with lots of clocks ticking...until... they stop. An open ending, for you to fill in.

"God The Lux" (2005) was a very good album, for what I heard and "Distractive Killusions" continues in that vein. No interludes, though, only full songs. From start to finish the band offers a nice and varied album full of the typical ingredients that one can expect from a Symphonic Black Metal band. Sure, the comparisons with BEHEMOTH, VADER, DIMMU BORGIR and the likes cannot be underestimated or neglected (and help to indicate if this meets your taste), but VESANIA manage to put their own stamp on the material to not be a simple clone of these bands. This is definitely recommended material for anyone into this kind of extreme Metal and any of the three albums is good enough to get to know the band. Personally I'd recommend to start with either "God The Lux" or this new one, "Distractive Killusions".

More info at www.vesania.pl.

Line-up:
Orion - vocals, guitars
Valeo - guitars
Siegmar - keyboards
Heinrich - bass
Daray - drums


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DEEP IN HATE – Only The Strong Survive (Deadsun Records 2007)

Deep In Hate - Only The Strong Survive
  1. Intro
  2. Payback Time
  3. Abortion In Progress
  4. Status: IDLE
  5. Hopeless Addiction
  6. Sphere Of Handling
  7. Traffic Insanity
  8. Execration Need

DEEP IN HATE is a French band, active since 2003 and plays brutal Death Metal comparable to DEICIDE, CANNIBAL CORPSE, ABORTED, and others. In 2004 their first effort came out: the "No Remorse" EP, containing and intro and three full songs. Anno 2007 the band is ready to unleash its first album onto the masses with a title that fits the band name and their Metal: "Only The Strong Survive". The date was set at 28/11, via Deadsun Records.

The "Intro" is vocalist David saying a couple of unintelligible words, as if a monster/beast is talking. Then all belts break, as the brutal sounds have broken out. A big wall of guitarviolence, fierce growling to even squealing (I think you can best compare him with e.g. Glen Benton from DEICIDE), in a way, and the skull-crushing drums. The latter instrument is sadly triggered and you can hear it. Well, sadly? I understand that when you play extreme Metal, triggers are a useful tool, as long as you use it wisely and not overdo it...which is the case here.

Most of the songs do contain breaks and hooks to keep some variation intact, although for the biggest part the brutality - mainly via the guitars - is one big jelly. And that only enforces the monotony, even more so through the vocals. Boredom sets in sooner than you think.

The production is certainly not top notch and also contributes to finding the album monontonous after a while. Picking a song that stands out? Not easy, although these French did add some good ideas per song. "Sphere Of Handling" is the one I thought had the better compositions, making you more able to listen to it more than once or twice.

The lyrics are a mix of French and English, in every song. Not that I mind, because you can't understand a word of what David is growling. But looking closer and reading the lyrics, I think there's enough room for improvement, too.

For a debut and then mainly for those who like brutal Death Metal, I'd say "Only The Strong Survive" is a good album, but nothing more. From a more critical or broader point of view, I'd say it's best to wait for the follow-up to see if anything changed, how the guys evolved, etc.

More info at www.deepinhate.com.

Line-up:
David - vocals
Ludovic - guitars
Vincent - guitars
Stéphane - bass
Nicolaas - drums


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NECROMANTIA – The Sound Of Lucifer Storming Heaven (Dockyard 1 2007)

Necromantia - The Sound Of Lucifer Storming Heaven
  1. The Sound Of Lucifer Storming Heaven
  2. Order Of The Black Sphinx
  3. For The Elder Magi: I - Eibon The Necromancer
  4. Architecture Of Exquisite Madness
  5. Knights Of The Black And White Eagle
  6. The Invisible Empire
  7. HellSeher
  8. Les Litanies De Satan - Act II: From Hell

NECROMANTIA was formed back in 1989 and is one of Greece's oldest Black Metal bands. Only two members are responsable for the diabolical sounds: The Magus (bass/vocals) and Baron Blood (8-string bass) - The Magus being one of the bosses of Black Lotus Records, which had to close its books many months ago. The other positions are filled with session musicians. What is so original about this band or their Black Metal is that they've replaced the electric guitar (the 6-string) with an 8-string bass, which gives the songs a totally different feel. This ofcourse made them special, as they put their own stamp on the songs.

According to the press text, "the band members have been involved into various forms of the Dark Arts, practically and theoretically, and although in their lyrics they use fantasy and symbolic elements the essence of their writings remains real." Ok, to each his own, but it seems they're as dedicated as the guys from e.g. ENTHRONED, GORGOROTH and other bands.

Until now, NECROMANTIA have made 3 albums, 4 including their newest, "The Sound Of Lucifer Storming Heaven" (out since 26/11):

Crossing The Fiery Path (1993)
Scarlet Evil,Witching Black (1995)
IV:Malice (2000)
The Sound Of Lucifer Storming Heaven (2007)

Hearing the samples from their other albums on their MySpace page, I noticed that I didn't really need to change my opinion about their music. Kudos to them for being around for so long and still staying true to their roots, though.

"The Sound Of Lucifer Storming Heaven" starts with a hellish attack, where you hear a sample of a fighting/village conquering or something like that and various things being set on fire, after which the brutal, yet orchestral Black Metal bursts loose. Lucifer is storming Heaven. It's only in the next songs that the full instrumentation comes alive, with the typical demonic shrieks, the blastbeats combined with more normal drumming implemented via different tempos, the 'dangerous' atmosphere created by the orchestral elements and the harsh riffs... via the bass guitar.

Because of the orchestrations and a break every now and then, I can't help but think of e.g. SUMMONING. So that's at least one good aspect of this ingredient. A downside is that the song might sound as a mix of two songs. One and clearest example is "For The Elder Magi: I - Eibon The Necromancer".

Overall, as much as I like Black Metal (only to a certain extent, although I do appreciate the work that goes into making this music), I can't be that enthusiastic about NECROMANTIA and "The Sound Of Lucifer Storming Heaven". Most of the songs, especially the middle-section, are rather boring. Now, the compositions play a role, but so does the production. This latter is... raw, thin and you can only hear the music properly if you turn up the volume. Mainly the drums suffer as they sound too thin, too weak, too pushed back. Sure, you don't have to go as bombastic as e.g. DIMMU BORGIR, but don't try to be as kvlt by keeping it as suppressed like it is now and actually has been on the previous albums as well.

To end I have to admit I've heard better Black Metal before (be it raw or more melodic/symphonic), and seeing this is a new album from a band that has been in the league since very long, my expectations were high, but sadly not fulfilled. NECROMANTIA is very underground and will have its fanbase, who likes it like that (including the sound). Anyone with a more open mind should best look elsewhere, unless you're open-minded concerning Black Metal itself.

More info at www.myspace.com/necromantiaband.

Line-up:
The Magus - vocals, bass, keyboards
Baron Blood - 8-string bass, bass solos, keyboards
Fotis Benardo - drums


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VENGEANCE – Same/Same... But Different (Metal Heaven 2007)

Vengeance - Same/Same... But Different
  1. Take It Or Leave It (1987 - Take It Or Leave It)
  2. Back in the Ring (2006 - Back In The Ring)
  3. No Mercy (2006 - Back In The Ring)
  4. May Heaven Strike Me Down (1986 - We Have Ways to Make You Rock)
  5. Dream World (1986 - We Have Ways to Make You Rock)
  6. Take Me to The Limit (1987 - Take It Or Leave It)
  7. Bad Boy For Love (1989 - Arabia)
  8. She's The Woman (1986 - We Have Ways to Make You Rock)
  9. Rock 'n' Roll Shower (1987 - Take It Or Leave It)
  10. Arabia (1989 - Arabia)

Hard Rock has been around for a veeeery long time, with bands like AC/DC, MOTÖRHEAD, THUNDER, AEROSMITH, THIN LIZZY, THE SCORPIONS, WHITESNAKE, DEEP PURPLE, UFO, Y&T, and many more. One of the bands (and there are many) that are celebrating their 25th anniversary this year is the Dutch band VENGEANCE. I got in touch with their music via the promo of their latest (live) release, "Same/Same...But Different", which has been available since the 23rd of November via Metal Heaven.

The band was formed back in 1982 and released its debut two years later: "Vengeance". This was the start of a very extensive discography and a long rocking trip, experiencing the usual line-up changes, sharing the stage with many bands and acquiring a solid fan base. All this combined and fast-forwarding to 2006-2007 - the come-back, so to speak, being last year - it's a fact that VENGEANCE is a big band that deserves as much respect as the other masters I mentioned here and in other reviews.

So after all this time and shortly after their last album, "Back In The Ring", the band decided to release a sort of 'best of/live' album, consisting of material from 3 albums from the '80s and two songs from the comeback album: "Back In The Ring" is a midtempo AC/DC-ish song, with a drum break that the Australians also used in some of their tracks. Leon even goes for some sharp slashes like Brian Johnson (AC/DC) and Steven Tyler (AEROSMITH). "No Mercy" cranks up the pace and is a full-on rock song and reminds of AC/DC's "Whole Lotta Rosie". In short, great stuff!

In between the songs you've got the audience screaming and applauding and cheering. This helps to increase the live-feel, but at the same time you want to focus on the music and sort of mute the audience part.

"Take It Or Leave It" sets the tone for a good 45 minutes of solid Hard Rock, brought via uptempo rockers (e.g. "Bad Boy For Love" - see also THIN LIZZY's "Don't Believe A Word"), midtempo songs (e.g. "May Heaven Strike Me Down"), and a touch of slower Bluesy stuff (e.g. "Dream World" - see also "She's Got The Jack" by AC/DC - with a nice twin guitarsolo).

Sure, I didn't mention every song, although they are classics in VENGEANCE's repertoire. It's a live album and meant to give a general view on the band's music.

First acquaintance with this Hard Rock giant and immediately a good one. For someone unfamiliar with VENGEANCE I find "Same/Same... But Different" a more than very good start, since you get a 'compact' "Best Of" album AND a live impression to hear how the band translates their songs from CD to the stage. Everyone's doing a splendid job: vox, guitarwork, drums - simply top class. The sound is good and realistic, although perhaps a bit less on the drums. But I'm nitpicking, unnecessarily! The point is: "Same/Same... But Different" is simply a must for anyone in love with (every time AND/OR):

1) the pureness of Hard Rock
2) the Bluesyness of this great music
3) people that love the live sound/feel that comes with it.

To end, I'd like to congratulate the band with their 25th anniversay and cheers to many more years. Go for 30 or more! ;-)

More info at www.vengeanceonline.nl.

Line-up:
Leon Goewie - vocals
Jan Somers - guitars
Peter Bourbon - guitars
Barend Courbois - bass
Hans in 't Zandt - drums


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HELSTAR – Sins Of The Past (AFM Records 2007)

Helstar - Sins Of The Past
  1. Burning Star (1984 - Burning Star)
  2. Suicidal Nightmare (1986 - Remnants Of War)
  3. The King Is Dead (1988 - A Distant Thunder)
  4. Evil Reign (1986 - Remnants Of War)
  5. Baptised In Blood (1989 - Nosferatu)
  6. Witch's Eye (1984 - Burning Star)
  7. Tyrannicide (1988 - A Distant Thunder)
  8. Harker's Tale (1989 - Nosferatu)
  9. Angel Of Deathe (1986 - Remnants Of War)
  10. Dracula's Castle (1984 - Burning Star)
  11. Face The Wicked One (1986 - Remnants Of War)
  12. Tormentor
  13. Caress Of The Dead

HELSTAR is one of those US Power Metal bands that started around the same time as when Thrash came out of the ground: 1982. That year EXODUS made its first demo, SODOM and DESTRUCTION got formed, and in the Bay Area LAAZ ROCKIT came to existence. Of course, more bands were founded and demos and albums were recorded/released, like e.g. METALLICA's "Metal Up Your Ass" and "No Life 'till Leather". But we're talking about HELSTAR here.

In the 1980s the band released four albums that got lots of positive comments and made HELSTAR an important band in the Speed/Power Metal genre. The band broke up in the early '90s, but vocalist James Rivera continued to sing elsewhere (e;g. SEVEN WITCHES, VIGILANTE, NEW EDEN, ...) before reuniting for the "Multiples in Back" album (1995). Then another split took place, but also lasted longer. James joined DISTANT THUNDER, KILLING MACHINE and even VICIOUS RUMORS.

Since last year HELSTAR is back, with James on vox, naturally. The band also signed a deal with AFM Records earlier this year and the first result is a sort of 'best of' album, consisting of re-recorded songs off their first four albums plus two brand new songs. This collection was appropriately titled "Sins Of The Past" and came out on the 23rd of November.

You could say the choice of old songs was nicely divided (2 per album), but "Burning Star" (3) and "Remnants Of War" (4) seemed to have been the most important releases. If you're not familiar with the band or their works, I think "Sins Of The Past" is a good way to start. The re-recording certainly came out strong and shows James and co. still know their Metal. The overall choice is also pretty good, ranging from midtempo songs to speed boosters, always keeping variety and skills in mind.

James's voice has very much stood the test of time and his high-pitched screams to accentuate certain parts certainly are a proof of that. The guitarduo (Larry and Rob) does a splendid job at reviving the old material and injecting it with renewed power and ferocity, because of the new production the guitars sound very crunchy (at times like a grinding machine), the solos even sharper and this without neglecting the '80s feel. Russel's drumming is also very commendable as he switches to toms and back like it's a piece of cake. Great stuff, I must say. Plus, it also avoids playing a monotonous pattern and leaving it all to James or the guitars to make the songs more interesting. Jerry (bass) cannot be ignored, and forms a great duo with Russel.

Although I'm very general in this review, there are a couple of songs that stood out for me:

"Suicidal Nightmare", reminding me of LAAZ ROCKIT, SEVEN WITCHES, ICED EARTH.
"The King Is Dead" with James's vicious vocals and the excellent guitarwork.
The 'evil' "Baptised In Blood", which made me think of old SAVATAGE, mainly regarding the atmosphere. Russel's input is very important here.
"Witch's Eye", a song that is perfect for Ronnie James Dio's voice.
"Tyrannicide", starting peacefully (accoustic guitar), after which the extremer guitars take over. Simply amazing!
"Harker's Tale", again the guitar- and drumwork being the most important factors.
and last, but not least, "Angel Of Deathe" and "Dracula's Castle".

The new songs, "Tormentor" and "Caress Of The Dead", fit in perfectly, although you can hear and feel they are new songs and the band tried to make the result in the same vein as the re-recorded material. If the forthcoming album (due in 2008) will be anything like these two new songs, then be sure to get a copy!

So, first acquaintance with another classic band, but I'm glad I got to know them. If it weren't for this promo, I guess I would never have heard a HELSTAR song. I can therefore only highly recommend this to the fans of the band and anyone into US Power Metal. HELSTAR adds some Thrashy spices to confuse you, but they remain in the Power Metal genre. Yet, it's heavier than the more melodic variant that is extremely well-liked in Europe. But who cares, it's qualitative Power Metal, so go to the shop and buy yourself a copy of "Sins Of The Past".

More info at www.helstar.com.

Line-up:
James Rivera - vocals
Larry Barragan - guitars
Rob Trevino - guitars
Jerry Abarca - bass
Russel DeLeon - drums


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EMPIRE – Chasing Shadows (Metal Heaven 2007)

Empire - Chasing Shadows
  1. Chasing Shadows
  2. The Alter
  3. Mother Father Holy Ghost
  4. Sail Away
  5. Child Of The Light
  6. Tahigwan Nights
  7. Manic Messiah
  8. Angel And The Gambler
  9. A Story Told
  10. The Rulers Of The World

EMPIRE is the brainchild of guitarist Rolf Munkes and plays Rock that fits into the Hard Rock as well as the Heavy Metal category. Doogie White (YNGWIE MALMSTEEN, CORNERSTONE, ex-RAINBOW) joined as the new vocalist, replacing Tony Martin. On bass there's still Neil Murray (ex-GARY MOORE, ex-BLACK SABBATH, ex-WHITESNAKE) takes care of the bass duties, while drumming beast Mike Terrana (ex-RAGE, MASTERPLAN, SAVAGE CIRCUS, AXEL RUDI PELL, ex-KIKO LOUREIRO, and many others) treats the skins with a 'soft' touch. He replaced André Hilgers, who took the drumseat in RAGE, but also plays in SILENT FORCE and AXXIS. The band was founded in 2001 and has so far, including the new album "Chasing Shadows" (out since 23/11), released 4 albums:

Hypnotica (2001)
Trading Souls (2003)
The Raven Ride (2006)
Chasing Shadows (2007)

I was so unfamiliar with EMPIRE and their works, that I went to the shop last month to have an impression of an older album, which was "Trading Souls", before focussing on the newborn one. "Trading Souls" didn't please me as much as "Chasing Shadows", mainly because of the production, which was good regarding the guitars (obviously!), but the drums were too thin. So, no, I didn't buy it.

The new release starts off with a slow track - "Chasing Shadows" -, which shines because of the guitarwork. And it only gets better by the song. New vocalist Doogie White is a very decent replacement for Tony Martin. Mike Terrana's hits on the skins are quite simplistic, especially considering Mike has tens of years of experience. Sure, it doesn't have to be übertechnical, as we're not dealing with a Prog band here, but here and there he could have added some fillings to make you more interested. The ending of the song is copy-paste from "Tears Of A Mandrake" from EDGUY: ta-ta-tatatatatata...ta-ta-tatatatatata. Uninspired or do they like EDGUY's work? ;-)

"The Alter" cranks up the pace and features faster riffing. You'd expect to have speedy drumming, but nope. Mike opted for a galopping kind of playing. The guitar sounds extra heavy and full, which is a delight for the ear. The drumming goes into a pounding direction in the chorus. Musically and partly because of Doogie's singing, I hear some SAXON here. Other small references can be linked to AT VANCE and THUNDER. Neil in the meantime keeps it all stable and in line. Rolf's solowork is another element that is not be underestimated.

With "Mother Father Holy Ghost" the tempo goes down again, although the pace is midtempo-ish. The SAXON atmsophere is again present, particularly in the verses and pre-chorus. Biff Byford would fit well here. The chorus itself is a bit whiney, so to speak. But the song is catchy, though. If I can refer to other bands again, I'd choose ASTRAL DOORS and perhaps LION'S SHARE. The guitar solo is once again the cherry on the cake. I'm not familiar with Rolf's works or input in other bands, but the solos fit in time and time again and not one of those is ordinary/boring/monontonous/... All in all, quality stuff.

Going even slower, a little darker because of the start-stop riffing and backing atmospheric keyboards, the guys "Sail Away". The guitar has been tuned a bit more down, to enforce the heaviness of the situation. This is the first ballad on the album.

In "Child Of The Light" the tension gets built up in the intro, dominated and completely occupated by Rolf's guitar. At 0:45 the rest of the instrumentation is added and the song has found its normal flow. Doogie comes out very clear here, melodic and powerful. The tempo is still not too high. Keyboards give the song a mysterious backing again and Mike's drumming is more varied and interesting. Around 03:30 his drumming is more to the point, also because it's solo time.

Time to push that pedal more down again and inject a shot of energy with "Tahigwan Nights". Double bass rules here, although not too fast. The drumming is more dynamic and the riffing the pushing factor in the verses and chorus. Melody plays a big role here, and one top of that Doogie's voice is doubled, which makes it all sound fuller. The guitar solo is flawless, absolutely no question about that.

In "Manic Messiah" the tempo goes down again and I can't help but think of MASTERPLAN's slower songs. In general, a nice song, but it could get a bit boring after a while. The drumming is again not that varied, although the compositions don't require it. Still, Mike tries to keep it heavy and different with a few more snare hits or the china, although he follows Rolf too much. The 5 minutes are a bit too much, since the attention can fade in the last two minutes.

One song that will certainly do well live - not that the others won't, though - is "Angel And The Gambler". The tempo is still slow, although the melodies and leads are easier to digest than in "Manic Messiah". The rock-factor is more present again, and that can only be good. Again bands like SAXON, THUNDER, SHAKRA and the likes come to mind.

Ballad no. 2 has arrived: "A Story Told". Atmospheric keyboards and guitar chords define the melody. All is peaceful, although short heavy riffing is gently added in the first verses. The chorus is ofcourse more powerful, quite melancholic even. AT VANCE comes to mind. Around 02:50 Mike tries some tribal drumming with the normal pattern, while Rolf show his skills in another beautifully constructed solo, executed via the wah-wah pedal. Amazing stuff what that guy does with a six-string. The song itself is nice, yes. Give it enough time and play it at the right moment.

"The Rulers Of The World" finishes the album. Pounding stop-start riffing, bone-hard drumming. Everyone's doing a top job, once more and the song is heavy, melodic and catchy enough, not only for the album, but live this will crush. SAXON anyone? Biff Byford should have made a guest appearance on "Chasing Shadows". Lots of songs seem to have been written with such a voice in mind. The solo - need I say it still? - is pure awesomeness.

Album no. 4 is out since a few days and I don't think I'll be too far off when I say this is their best to date. Sure, the band has made great stuff in the recent past, but if I compare it with that one album I heard, "Trading Souls", then "Chasing Shadows" easily tops it. Fans of melodic Hard Rock / Heavy Metal should seriously check out EMPIRE and their newest release, or their older stuff, depending where you want to start. SAXON, AT VANCE, THUNDER, SHAKRA, SCORPIONS, MASTERPLAN, ASTRAL DOORS, ... if you like any of these bands, you'll like EMPIRE. If I may end with two (small) complaints: more uptempo songs (3 is a good number) and adapted drumming from Mike, because he is capable of adding speed and interesting fills for that purpose.

More info at www.empire-rock.com.

Line-up:
Doogie White - vocals
Rolf Munkes - guitars
Neil Murray - bass
Mike Terrana - drums


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ANCIENT CREATION – Evolution Bound (Melissa Records 2007)

Ancient Creation - Evolution Bound
  1. The Brotherhood
  2. Taste Of Mortality
  3. Carrion - The horde
  4. Bringer Of Evil
  5. Spirit Of Darkness
  6. Heritage
  7. Lost Angels
  8. Sphere
  9. Evolution Bound

Like its colleagues from BEYOND FALLEN, SEVENTH CALLING, and 3HM, the new Dutch label Melissa Records also took ANCIENT CREATION under its wings, in its quest to promote US Heavy/Power Metal bands. The band was founded by guitarist Peter Nisenkier, who was soon joined by bassist Andy Critz, with whom Peter played in SATIVA. Guitarist Jason Johnson was the next to take a position, while drummer Mike Burns was hard to find during a couple of months. Writing music was one thing, having someone sing the lyrics another, so Steve Bentley closed the ranks, coming over from DARKSIDE.

They have opened for several national bands such as STRAPPING YOUNG LAD, BODY COUNT, HELSTAR, LACUNA COIL, CAGE and most recently METAL CHURCH, CELLADOR, MELIAH RAGE and look forward to opening for many more. The band has released one demo's worth of material and continue to write and perform.

US Power Metal contains usually more shredding than its European equivalent. Right from the start, with "The Brotherhood", this is very clear. Comparable bands at this point would be HELSTAR, SEVEN WITCHES, and similar. Steve's voice is rough, yet quite melodic and fits in almost flawlessly.

In "Taste Of Mortality" the tempo goes down. Now, the biggest problem on this album is the production. Yes, it's rough on the guitars, but the drums really suffer from it. More specifically the kick/bass drums: they hardly come through with their light clicking sound. In this song (and others they're also played double with a speed increase and then it really is... I can't say 'crap', because that's too extreme. But it comes close.

More vicious riffing can be heard in "Carrion - The Horde". A slow- to midtempo song with the crappy kickdrum sound. I've said it many times before, that drums are my favourite instrument, so logically I'm more critical about that instrument, which is a key part of Metal. Compromising there can severly damage a song. And here the production, as rough as it is, isn't really generous, in general. In fact, it's a bit hard to keep your attention vivid here. The first less good song. It's not bad, but not really super either. Not even the guitarsolos can lift the song higher, despite the virtuosity (incl. tapping).

With "Bringer Of Evil" we've got another midtempo track, with Steve's greasy/'evil' voice coming out very well. The drums are played in a more technical and complex pattern and that makes the song more interesting, although musically it's not always a hit. The guys also put so much variation into this song that one can wonder if it was really necessary. The problems with the production are known, so no need to make it a point here either.

"Spirit Of Darkness" continues in the same tempo, although you get a few speed increases, and fast riffing. The vocals are a mix of clean/rough and growling, which is a nice element, although more appropriate for bands like BEHEMOTH, BELPHEGOR, ... As positive I want to be, I find it hard to stay focused. Mainly due to ... yes, that. But the melodies and riffs play a role as well.

So after all this guitar violence, it's time to cool down. "Heritage" is a song that serves to bring tranquillity at this stage. And it succeeds...for barely one minute. Heaviness comes bursting in and personally, I'd rather they kept it accoustic and built further basing on the intro. The growling vocals make their entrance again. Regarding the compositions: no, sorry, boring. Even the guitarsolos contain a few false notes. This shows the honesty of the recordings, but it's something that could have been solved by just replaying that specific part. Still, the solos themselves sound more like Peter and Jason are just improvising something without really knowing where to take it.

Three more songs, almost finished. "Lost Angels" is another song that is worth listening to. Everything's so much better than before, the material is more consistent and everything connects better. Finally! "Sphere" continues in the same spirit, but the production ruins it. The song is good, though, and with a better sound the real power would be unfolded.

The title track was set as last. With its playing time of 6 minutes, the guys can add a lot of variation here. Melody plays a bigger role here, with interesting leads. Also worth some kudos is the tempo increase in a Thrashy manner. The electric guitars even get company from their accoustic cousin at a certain moment. Overall, a decent song.

ANCIENT CREATION deserves credit for the ideas its members show on this debut album, "Evolution Bound" (out since 23/11). Fans of US Heavy/Power Metal will like what is to be found on the album, although there's still a long way to go for our Americans. Not only is the production the 'evil' element on this record, but the (long) compositions as well lack some stickiness, so you want to play another song. The guitarwork is in general good, although in certain songs the solos have an improvising nature, which doesn't always fit and makes it hard to make the transition back to the chorus or next verse. Other reviews give high scores and personal taste cannot be ignored, but since I'm (too?) critical (even for old school material), I can't praise ANCIENT CREATION as much as other sites and magazines. If you simply swallow everything that sounds reasonably well or just want stuff that 'kicks ass' - so to speak - then check out the band and "Evolution Bound". Anyone else I advise to listen before you buy and wait until the follow-up is ready.

More info at www.ancientcreation.net.

Line-up:
Steve Bentley - vocals
Peter Nisenkier - guitars
Jason Johnson - guitars
Andy Critz - bass
Mike Burns - drums


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3 HEADED MONSTER – Three Headed Monster (Melissa Records 2007)

3 Headed Monster - Three Headed Monster
  1. Varan
  2. Perfect Plex
  3. The Beast Of Odo Island
  4. Ultimate Rage
  5. Bloodbath II
  6. Ides Of March
  7. Bitter End
  8. Engines Of AKI

3 HEADED MONSTER is another US Metal band that is signed to the Dutch label Melissa Records. The others are ANCIENT CREATION, BEYOND FALLEN and SEVENTH CALLING. The band was formed in 2001 and at that time known as BAPTISMAL BY FIRE, but they soon switched to 3 HEADED MONSTER.

What makes 3HM so special is the lack of a vocalist. So it's just 2 guitars, 1 bass and the drums, leaving all options open to select a certain style: Power, Heavy, Thrash, Death, Progressive.... it's all possible. The band's first release immediately shows what to expect, but also that they've worked hard on this: "Three Headed Monster", out since 23/11.

It all starts with "Varan", a Progressive song filled with shredding, arpeggios, great leads, heavy riffing that would make you believe we're dealing with a Progressive Death Metal band here. AK45 even added a couple of blastbeats for that. The double bass is also present in "Perfect Plex". Double bass, heavy rhythms AND accoustic moments, which form a beautiful contrast with the electric guitar parts. You can hear the drums are triggered, but it's doesn't really affect the end result. Everything comes out strong enough. At a given moment Chris and Chris take turns to add a solo or 'vocal' melody.

The accoustic guitar is used to kick off "The Beast Of Odo Island". Heaviness soon takes over in a slow, sludgey manner so you can accurately headbang along. Here we've got something more pure Heavy Metal, with double leads. Very nice work, to say the least. Again the accoustic guitar is breaking the wall of electric guitar violence. During this break, Chris (Kessaris or Cecchini) lets himself go on his 6-string and finishes the song.

The tension gets slowly built up in "Ultimate Rage". Part two commences with tapping, while the melody from the intro comes back. Around 02:10 eveything is unfolded and the train is leaving the station. ;-) Arpeggios form an important element in this song. The tempo is kept slow by AK45 and Paul, although around 03:40 there are signs they're going to speed it up and few seconds later they've entered the (melodic) Thrash zone. To avoid being stuck in a vicious circle, the slow tempo comes back to re-energize for another speedy outburst and the solos. The song fades out, but quite rapidly, as if someone turned the button too fast to get to the next song asap.

And so "Bloodbath II" sets in, with the guitars predicting a fast adventure. The drums come fading in and then it's full speed ahead! Power/Speed Metal. A guitar delight that knows no end and AK45 keeps his sticks dead to intensify certain guitar accents. Like in "Varan" and "Ultimate Rage" the band used samples from a film, but don't ask which one, for I don't know. Progressiveness is the determining factor: breaks, different tempos, a variety of melodies divided over the many parts this song has. With a running time of 07:12, 3HM have plenty of time to make the result as diverse as they want.

With a title like "Bitter End" you'd expect a ballad, but nope. Mid- to uptempo grooviness is what comes out of the oven, although the band added some accoustic spices to balance it all. The leading/main riff in the second part of the song is simply awesome, and considering Chris and Chris play it together, the result is even more tasteful.

The last song, "Engines Of AKI" - whatever those may be -, start with midtempo drumming and AK45 determining the pace and keeping it like that. He also shows his abilities to add interesting fills and not make it sound as if a drumcomputer was used. Switching between single and double bass is nothing to worry about, as the transition happens very smoothly. Here as well, guitarsoloing like they've done all their lives, so to speak, but not forgetting to shred from time to time. With 6 ½ minutes long, you get another heavy load of instrumental Metal.

Eight songs providing a running time of little over 40 minutes, resulting in an average time of 5 minutes per song. While instrumental songs are a rarity with many bands, some add one on one of their albums and some bands do (of did) it completely instrumental: JOE SATRIANI, STEVE VAI, KIKO LOUREIRO, APOCALYPTICA, NEST, etc... 3 HEADED MONSTER is a more recent band that decided to follow that course. Even though there's room for a vocalist, the guys prefer not to have one and I can't really blame them. It provides them with more opportunities to change style, to implement different elements from different genres and still do your own thing. This offered also more room for the mix, to let each instrument come out strong enough. "Three Headed Monster" is full of Instrumental Metal that should please anyone interested in this side of our beloved music. Chris, Chris, Paul and AK45 opted for a very diverse mix, although still keeping the songs in connection with each other. No matter if you're a fan of:

* Progressive
* Power
* Heavy
* Melodic Thrash
* Melodic Death

3 HEADED MONSTER has material accustomed to your taste.

More info at www.myspace.com/3headedmonster.

Line-up:
Chris Kessaris - guitars
Chris Cecchini - guitars
Paul Muise - bass
AK45 - drums


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COLOSSEUM – Chapter 1: Delirium (Firebox Records 2007)

Colosseum - Chapter 1: Delirium
  1. The Gate Of Adar
  2. Corridors Of Desolation
  3. Wheathered
  4. Saturnine Vastness
  5. Aesthetics Of The Grotesque
  6. Delirium

COLOSSEUM is a new band/project formed from the mind of YEARNING vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Juhani Palomäki and this since 2006, the year when a 3-track demo was released. The songs are available on the band's website, by the way, and can be found on the debut album, "Chapter 1: Delirium" (out since 19/11), as well. Although there's a small difference in playtime, I'm not sure if there's really something different in terms of compositions. Perhaps a few pieces that have been stretched a bit.

As stated in the press text, COLOSSEUM is "a project with the aim to create the most bleak and funereal atmospheres through music. Darkest hymns for a forlorn souls, diving into the deepest abyss of mind. Drones of delirium and doom are taking their caustic form and the conjurations for the debut album are being prepared. Dark waters stir... The Gate of Adar has been opened and there's no turning back...."

And that's exactly how it feels: no way back. During a voyage of over 60 minutes Juhani and co. let you travel through a dark world, where happiness is eradicated in no time. Past "The Gate Of Adar", which is the first and long stage - making sure your mind is prepared to get used to the surrounding atmospheres - you pass through the "Corridors Of Desolation". There you spend a little less time, although the psychological impact won't decrease, as you'll want to escape as soon as possible. The eversad melodies, assisted by atmospheric backings, tr to keep you under hypnosis to prevent you from offering any resistance. Ghostly chanting carry you further along the way. Juhani's monstrous, agonizing growling totally fit in this dark setting.

Two stages done, which leave - or soon will - you "Weathered". Here the journey is a bit more varied, less floating. A music box-like input enforces the feeling of delirium, of depression, of utter madness. Darkness has you in its tight grip, draining you of every bit of joy you still had until then. Although "Weathered" demands 13 minutes of your life, it feels like it twice as much.

In "Saturnine Vastness" atmosphere is again more important, whereas the guitars are the intensifying element. Drumwise everything's still as hypnotising and slow as since the start of this depressing adventure. The title itself explains it well enough, as you're stuck in a melancholic force field. A break little over halfway gives you time to rest a bit. Everything's very peaceful and relaxing, no worries at all. Yet the ride goes on. See it as if you're in a small boat, floating through dark caverns without any sign of an exit and everything's controlled by a mystical force. There's nothing you can do, except giving yourself over, as any resistance will only give this force more power.

Before going through for the full package regarding depression, madness and anything related, another moment of rest is given in the first part of "Aesthetics Of The Grotesque". The whole concept slowly unfolds, as bit by bit is revealed and constructed. No music box here, it's the guitars that twist your mind with pinpointed attacks. Symphonic keyboard interventions form a brilliant contrast with those grinding 6-strings, of which one even takes the lead halfway. A little while later, it's all about the symphonics, while the guitars gently fade in and out. If this doesn't touch you right in the middle of your heart... outstanding work here! Juhani's low growling really is a crucial ingredient. The melody goes on and on, assisted by the guitars and towards the last part even a noth higher, with clearer outcoming of the violins.

The accoustic guitar makes you think this mind-destroying trip will end in the same way as the various stages have been so far, but nothing is less true. The intro is a bit spacey, but soon the worst has come: "Delirium". Any sense for reality has been totally erased, your mind is infected with cruel images, gruesome thoughts, you can't think straight anymore. The 6-strings have been given a strong injection of brutality, while the drums sound harder than ever. No peaceful surroundings or moments of rest here, only total annihilation of every joy, every emotion that might get you back on your feet. The beast, the dark entity - whatever you want to call it - is using you as a toy, with its fangs and claws. You want to break out, but you can't. Every solution you think of drives you further insane, making the only outcome from your part...suicide. And that's how the last part of "Delirium" can be imagined: since the beginning bit by bit you were sucked dry, drained from your positive emotions, from joyful memories, losing every contact and thought you had about reality, everything you knew that existed. All this comes to a final end - dominated by atmospheric, symphonic sphere of sounds - as you're lying there, your throat sliced open, your mind cannot be untwisted again and you did the only thing possible to escape the madness, the insanity, the "Delirium": suicide. Your spirit is free, yet your body is food for vultures.

Perhaps I exaggerated a bit with the way I wrote the review, but it's not always easy to describe Funeral Doom Metal, especially not when the atmospheric aspect is so important as here. Imagining a certain (dark) setting or situation does help from time to time and with "Chapter 1: Delirium", you could even make a film of it. To cut things short: if you are info slow, agonizing and foremost depressing music, then I highly suggest you check out this album. Even if Funeral Doom is your cup of tea, go to the store and buy "Chapter 1: Delirium". The mix described below worked out extremely well and there is not one bad song here, only pure quality that requires time to fully unfold, which is also why I'm a bit late with this review. COLOSSEUM's debut is without question my no. 1 Doom Metal album of 2007. EVOKEN's "A Caress Of The Void" follows very closely. Regarding the horror-effect, not that many bands come to mind, although the French ROSA CRUX certainly is a very tough candidate.

To be complete, I'm adding the rest of the press-release too: "Mixture of darkest kind of Funeral Doom Metal with the strong influences from both Dark Ambient and Orchestral Works melted together from the very first beginning. The idea was to mix together the rich and colourful chord progressions of classical music,the soundscapes of Ambient and total darkness and heaviness of extreme Doom Metal. Dauntless slowness and power of Funeral Doom genre mixed with influences from such acts as DEAD CAN DANCE, LUSTMORD, etc.

New songs began to take their form quite easily and finally the compositions were finalized with the lyrics wandering in the realms of suicidal depression, delirium, Sumerian/Lovecraftian myths and ghastly depths evoked by the dismal atmosphere of the music."


More info at www.colosseumdoom.com.

Line-up:
Juhani Palomäki - vocals, guitars
Olli Haaranen - guitars
Janne Rämö - bass
Sameli Köykkä - drums


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CRYSTAL BALL – Secrets (AFM Records 2007)

Crystal Ball - Secrets
  1. Moondance
  2. I Will Drag You Down
  3. Minor Key
  4. It's Not Love
  5. Time Has Come
  6. Secrets
  7. Wings Of Fire
  8. Dreaming Of You
  9. Destiny
  10. I'll Be Waiting
  11. Face The Truth

CRYSTAL BALL is just like GOTTHARD, SHAKRA and THE ORDER a Swiss Hard Rock band, but one that has been active since more than 10 years. To my shame I have to admit that the promo of their newest release, "Secrets" (out since 16/11), is the first time I hear anything from and by them. The band was formed in 1995, but it wasn't until 1999 that their debut album came out, fittingly titled "In The Beginning". After that they sure didn't sit still, as album after album was released without too much time in between (2 years maximum). Their hard work got them on tour or sharing the stage with DORO, U.D.O., GOTTHARD, PRETTY MAIDS, DOKKEN, ...

"Secrets" is the beginning of a new and sixth chapter in the band's history and also the first release via their deal with AFM Records, being signed to Nuclear Blast until now. The new album takes off with a countdown sample from the space shuttle launches before the music takes over. "Moondance" is a midtempo rocker, very decent and specifically the guitar solos form a highlight. "I Will Drag You Down" is next and it's a bit funny to see such a title after "Moondance". First they go up, then they're dragged down again. Here as well, the music is good, Mark's rough/greasy vocals fit in flawlessly and I can't help but think of SHAKRA and THE SCORPIONS. Once again, the guitar solos are an important element.

The tempo goes down with every song and that's not always a good thing. "Minor Key" does the title justice: it's a 'minor' song, not to say it's actually quite boring, in my opinion. There are some gentle grooves and keyboard accents and the whole sounds very ballad-ish. Even though ballads are common in Hard Rock, not all of them are good enough. Same thing thus for "Minor Key".Luckily there's an increase of heavier guitarwork with "It's Not Love", although the tempo remains on the slow side. Melody prevails again, but the production is too light, even if it's never to be like in e.g. Power Metal.

"Time Has Come"... time has come indeed to present some better songs. This one surely fulfills this wish. The material reminds once more of SHAKRA, but we've got a tempo increase and very direct playing. Finally! With "Secrets", our Swiss musicians crank it up a little more, adding fast double bass and making the song fiercer. That's what I'm talking about. More of this!

Sadly, no more of that. "Wings Of Fire" is piano-driven in the intro, but the entire band soon joins and takes over. This is another ballad, but so much better than "Minor Key". And while they're on that road, why not add one more... "Dreaming Of You". The title itself already indicates what kind of song you have to expect. Here heaviness has no place, it's all about atmosphere and emotions. Although not necessarily to be dissed, it's not really that 'attractive' either. This is, as usual, a matter of taste, but I've heard better ballads before.

As if they're doing it on purpose: "Destiny", another slow song... I'm sorry, but this is truly boring stuff. I don't question the band members' skills, not at all. It's the song itself, the compositions, that don't reach the level of the previous tracks.

"I'll Be Waiting" erases all that and presents you with another direct rocksong, just like "Time Has Come" and "Secrets". Those are songs in which the band shines, not the slow, really slow and - sorry for the word, but I find it fitting somehow - whiney type of songs. "Face The Truth" continues in about the same vein as "I'll Be Waiting", with the organ being quite important. Overall pretty mediocre, though.

I don't really know what to think of CRYSTAL BALL's sixth album. Sure, the sound is good, the mix as well (done by Achim Köhler (PRIMAL FEAR, BAINSTORM, ...). But for me personally, only 5 songs are worth the attention, of which 3 really stand out. The others (or majority) are just not interesting enough, lack power, lack drive, so to speak. Give me these 5 songs and I'll be happy to write a very positive review of this EP:

Moondance
I Will Drag You Down
Time Has Come
Secrets
I'll Be Waiting

This new release, "Secrets", doesn't really encourage me to check out the band's back catalogue, although I'll probably find more interesting material there. If you liked CRYSTAL BALL's work in the (recent) past, then I don't think you'll pass for "Secrets". Anyone else I can advise to check the works of SHAKRA, THE SCORPIONS, AT VANCE, THUNDER, and others. Or just check the previous CRYSTAL BALLS albums if you're critical, but still want CRYSTAL BALL to be part of your collection.

More info at www.crystal-ball.ch.

Line-up:
Mark Sweeney - vocals
Scott Leach - guitars
Hungi Berglas - guitars
Sven Sieber - bass
Philipp Meier - keyboards
Marcel Sardella - drums


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AXXIS – Doom Of Destiny (AFM Records 2007)

Axxis - Doom Of Destiny
  1. Voices Of Destiny
  2. Doom Of Destiny (Arabia)
  3. Better Fate
  4. Bloodangel
  5. I Hear You Cry
  6. The Fire Still Burns
  7. Father, Father
  8. Revolutions
  9. She Got Nine Lifes
  10. Devilish Belle
  11. Astoria

The German Hard Rock/Heavy Metal band AXXIS released its ninth album, "Paradise In Flames", last year in January. This release got positive and less positive comments and for me, although my first acquaintance with the band and their music, this wasn't much to write home about, although there were a few good songs. Now, 22 months later, nr. 10 is out since the 16th of November: "Doom Of Destiny".

This new album also presents a new chapter for the band: a new guitarist (Marco Wriedt replacing Guido Wehmeyer) and going on tour with HELLOWEEN and GAMMA RAY in support of this new release. Once again, the same team worked on this album: Bernhard Weiß and Harry Oellers for the production, Dennis Ward for the mixing and Jürgen Lusky doing the mastering, as he has always done for AXXIS. The cover art was in the hands of Derek Gores. The story behind the album title is, according to singer Bernhard Weiß: "Like on "Paradise In Flames" our idea was that you should find all the songs of the album on its cover artwork in a very imaginative atmosphere, to unite them. For "Doom Of Destiny" we wanted to find out how belief and superstition influence on our destiny. How do both affect life positive and negative? Is destiny in the end just accident or predetermined? Is the war of cultures that we witness nowadays made by the people themselves or are the old prophecies true, saying this was to foresee, destiny...?"

"Doom Of Destiny" starts with an intro, "Voices Of Destiny", which can be compared, in a way, with "Oh Fortuna". Not bad ofcourse, but it's not as enjoyable as a full song...logically. The title track comes bursting in, with its heavy guitarwork and André's thunderous drumwork. His work in SILENT FORCE and RAGE certainly has its impact on his style. The keyboards define the melody, while Marco's guitarwork serves more for the power aspect. André even adds automatic fire in between via his kickdrums. On all levels this is truly a magnificent song and yes, even the vocals are free from criticism, despite my disliking of them on the previous album. Bernhard once again is assisted by Lakonia.

In "Better Fate" the guitar sounds even heavier, backed by slower drumming and double bass. The vocals are annoying here, be it Bernhard or Lakonia. Especially the higher notes are an obstacle for them. I mean, they can just reach 'em, but then their voices aren't that much of a pleasure to listen to. The pre-chorus is really boring and whiney, even though musically it's quite alright.

Time for another power injection: "Bloodangel". Again the keyboards provide the melody, the guitars the power. The pounding drums come out very well and André adds enough variation to show his skills. Musically very nice. Obviously this song has SILENT FORCE influences, but also some STRATOVARIUS ones. The vocals are a little better and overall the song is worth the attention.

Without the keyboards, "I Hear You Cry" wouldn't be as good, because Marco can't carry the song by himself. Also, the melodic aspect would be lost for a great part, making the song less attractive. The duo Bernhard-Lakonia is again present and their singing is again better, but not perfect, even though perfection does not exist. Musically everything's alright, including the guitarsolos.

Wow, I'm liking the new material better than before. If this was "Paradise In Flames II", I'd have written more less positive comments by now.

Piano, a saxophone (only shortly in the beginning) and the accoustic guitar, those are key ingredients in "The Fire Still Burns". We've got a ballad, ladies and gentlemen. Our vocal duo takes care of the lyrics again. When the chorus kicks in, the electric guitar has taken over. Meanwhile André carries on playing the same pattern. No special fills like in the energetic songs. The saxophone comes into play a bit further in the song. It's nice and original to have this spice things a bit more. Overall, not a bad track, but it could get boring after two listens.

Angelic vocals in the intro of "Father, Father", backed by the piano and then *bam*... Power Metal like HELLOWEEN, GAMMA RAY, STRATOVARIUS and the likes. Keyboards keeping the melody flowing, guitars and drums pushing the song forward. For this purpose the whole contains a good dose of bombast. Flawless song! Except for the vocals, when they go for the higher notes. The guitar solo comes in, as expected, but also takes turns with the keyboards. Once again, masterful drumming, as is key in such a kind of song.

A little more dancy stuff now, but with a uptempo attitude: "Revolutions". The accoustic guitar dominates the verses, its electric brother the chorus. The piano and keyboard get their chance for the basic melody throughout the song. Marco is given all freedom with his six-string. A very nice and wild song that offers an enjoyable change.

"She Got Nine Lifes" reminds a bit of NENA, although it's still Metal. I was thinking of "Anyplace, Anywhere, Anytime", but it's not that song. Anyhow, "She Got Nine Lifes" is a very direct song, but rather monotonous and not that interesting due to - indeed - the vocals. Musically it's alright, but nothing more.

"Devilish Belle" reminds a bit of the recent, more rocking songs of NIGHTWISH. Again very direct playing, with the keyboards serving as backing. Overall an ok song, but nothing spectacular. The chorus is good, though. At a given moment the bass and keyboards have their moment and keep the tension high, which results in a more than alright part.

"Astoria" closes the album. Symphonics occupy the intro, business as usual takes over after less than a minute. Uptempo playing, although not as fast as "Bloodangel" or "Father, Father". Still, the double bass drums are there, so are the heavy, vicious riffs. A very nice song to end a decent Power Metal album.

AXXIS has a long career so far, but despite that it hasn't reached the level of their colleagues yet, as can be seen on their tour history. Again they have to fulfill a support role, while HELLOWEEN and GAMMA RAY have played many headliner shows. Regarding albums, I think it's fair to say that "Doom Of Destiny" is a very decent release, especially since their previous one, "Paradise In Flames". The band opted for more Power Metal to fight the fierce competition (HELLOWEEN, SILENT FORCE, GAMMA RAY, RAGE, ....), as can be heard through André's drumming and Marco's heavy riffing. Such a move can only be applauded, although the result in certain songs isn't always a hit. For me, 5-6 songs stand out, which is more than before. The element that causes the most doubt - to use this word - is Bernhard's voice, even though he's an important person for AXXIS's music. Going after the higher notes isn't exactly his best effort and the sound of his vocals is of the "love 'm or hate 'm" kind. In the uptempo tracks, It's fine in the uptempo tracks, in the slower tracks he tends to nag a bit more. Musically the band has made improvements, that's for sure. For the fans of the band, all is well. For those that like the mentioned bands and are out for something new, "Doom Of Destiny" will quench your thirst.

More info at www.axxis.de.

Line-up:
Bernhard Weiss - vocals
Marco Wriedt - guitars
Rob Schomaker - bass
Harry Oellers - keyboards
Andre Hilgers - drums


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TOURETTES – Treason Songs (Armageddon Music 2007)

Tourettes - Treason Songs
  1. Clean
  2. Diatribe
  3. Seasoned In Destruction
  4. Miss Misogyny
  5. Rivers
  6. Ghost Parade
  7. D.N.A.
  8. Trinity
  9. Johnny Wad
  10. Hope Springs Eternal
  11. 3am Quarter

The Australian band TOURETTES, last year known as TOURETTES SYNDROME, has recently (14/11) released its newest album under the title "Treason Songs". The cover reflects what is/was done with traitors down under: they're hanged. Last year the band released "Sick Sense", my first encounter with their music and as you can read in the review, I wasn't too excited about it, due to the monotonous riffs and Michele's very rough vocals.

Having seen the band then last September at Meadow Fest in Wachtebeke, Belgium, my opinion changed immensely. Live they put on a wild show and you don't get bored one minute, at least based on the songs they played. In addition, the interview I had minutes before the show als helped to get acquainted with the people behind the band (mainly Michele and Ashley, since I didn't have talks with Ross and Michael) and more or less understand how driven they are. So yes, all my prejudices faded away.

A couple of weeks ago I then received my promo copy of "Treason Songs": something I looked forward to since their great performance the 1st of September. So once it's there you start listening to it and ofcourse, the sound is different on CD than on stage.

Although "Clean" is put as first song, there is an intro (sort of confession for her - Michele's? - sins) preceding it. The brutality that bursts loose soon afterwards catches you by surprise and you're confronted with Ash's suffocating riffs and Michael's skull-crushing drums. Michele's demonic vocals are a dangerous competitor for Angela Gossow's growls and screams. Still, the best is yet to come. With "Diatribe" the tempo goes up and Michele sings more often here.

The best is to be found in the next songs, starting with "Seasoned In Destruction". This is without question one of the best tracks on the album. Uptempo, extremely brutal and vicious and a great lyric: "Life is nothing but death on speed. The deeper you cut, the more you breath. The more you breath, the better it feels. (...)". Also in this song are some great leads. The chorus is a little less attractive, in my opinion, as Michele's voice has effects and the whole has a doomy glow.

Things get even more interesting: "Miss Misogyny" is another pounding song, with great drum interventions and danger-announcing guitarwork. There's just so much variation in this song, while the level of brutality is maintained. Especially the part where Michele growls "She drives me crazy!", backed by Michael's crazy drumming. Awesome stuff. Ash even adds a solo and not just any solo. Solos are a must, as far as I'm concerned and here they really make the song more interesting and kick-ass.

Rain in the intro, as a metaphore for the title, "Rivers". Less pounding drums, but still not stuck in a simple pattern. The tempo is a little slower in the verses, but in between you get enough energetic bursts. This song's also a bit Thrashy. What else do I have to add? Ok, I prefer the previous two songs more, but this is still a good song.

Thrash/Melodic Death riffing and drumming is key in "Ghost Parade". Michele again switch to more singing and sounds like a mix of Rob Flynn (MACHINE HEAD) and Phil Anselmo (ex-PANTERA, DOWN). It suits her, although she'll never have a good enough voice to really sing melodic stuff. Her throat is too rough/hoarse for that and I wonder if in the short term she won't suffer from al the growling. The song, right... thumbs up, oh yes.

"D.N.A." is where the tempo once more goes down a bit, to not have all the speedier songs following after each other. Here too, decent work on all levels. As far as my taste goes, "Trinity" is another step up. Very direct and to the point. Ash's leads play an important role, Michele sounds as good as ever. Fast double bass in the chorus, which is very melodic, to say the least. Around 01:45 the song gets a little spiced with a guitarsolo. A somewhat suprising, yet refreshing element.

"Johnny Wad" cranks up the pace, the riffing is short, but powerful and so are the drums. When the flow is a little broken, MACHINE HEAD influences come to mind. The solo somewhere in the middle of the song prooves to be a very important addition and also divides the song into two musical halfs. The tension slowly rises to an extreme and that's the end of "Johnny Wad". The transition to "Hope Springs Eternal" is smooth. Blastbeats occupy the intro, while what follows is first good for cruising, although this moment gets disturbed by more pounding drumming. There's nothing superhappy about the song here, the atmosphere predicts even lethal happenings. A poisonous song, I'd say, with everyone being on top of their skills again.

The last song, "3am Quarter", is slow, much slower than the others. First band that comes to mind is PANTERA, musically and vocally. Not bad, but not really that interesting either. You sort of get a wall of guitarviolence on one hand and an annoying main riff on the other. Even the guitar solo cannot improve the situation. Michele's reporter-ish voice is something I would cut instantly. no seriously, the music drags itself forward, uninspired and waiting for the end (or the phone) to finish the suffering.

As said before, my impression of the band and their music has improved a lot since a couple of months and "Treason Songs" is certainly a big step forward. The music contains an enormous quantity of extreme riffing, extreme vocals and extreme drumming. With all this Metal violence I forgot to commend Ross, who also did a very good job on bass. The implementation of guitarsolos here and there really makes the songs more interesting, although the compositions foremost are responsable for that. Biggest evidence are the songs 'in the middle', so to speak. That's where the best material is to be found and you're taken on a wonderful voyage through the darker side of life, well expressed in these songs, with lots of them reaching a peak far above 0. Too bad the album's ending is rather monotonous and boring. Otherwise I'd give a higher rating (in theory, since I never rate albums in my reviews). To cut things short: "Sick Sense" was 'not my cup of tea', "Treason Songs" is something completely different - in a positive way, of course. You could call it Melodic Death, as it comes closest to this subgenre, but it's not really another INSOMNIUM, ARCH NEMY, DARK TRANQUILLITY, ... It's a little different, more groovy. Anyhow, see the band live, then get the album (or get it first and do go see the band perform), for that's the best way to appreciate the music and passion these Australians have.

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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MORTAL SIN – An Absence Of Faith (Armageddon Music 2007)

Mortal Sin - An Absence Of Faith
  1. Out Of The Darkness
  2. Deadman Walking
  3. Tears Of Redemption
  4. Before The Bough Breaks
  5. Rise Or Fall
  6. My Nightmare
  7. Say Your Prayers
  8. Lost Within
  9. Eye In The Sky
  10. Broken Promises

The Australian scene not only has bands like BLACK MAJESTY, VANISHING POINT, DUNGEON, LORD, diSEMBOWELMENT, TOURETTES, BE'LAKOR, PEGAZUS and whatever more. Thrash is another genre that has a place there and one of those bands, who play it more melodically, is MORTAL SIN, also one of the oldest Thrash bands of the Australian Metal scene. Strangely enough, for me at least, this band has been thrashing since 1986 - a wonderful year for Thrash, by the way. While I'm thus so not familiar with their works, I'm glad that Armageddon Music decided to sign them, so the band would get more recognition on European soil and maybe even beyond.

The first result of this collaboration is the band's fourth full-album, "An Absence Of Faith", which saw the light of day on the 14th of November. On this album you'll also find two live videos, shot while playing at Wacken Open Air in Germany last year: "Blood Death Hatred" and "Mayhemic Destruction". Both songs are typical uptempo Thrash, which is a bit hard to find on the new album.

Musically the band's songs are said to be comparable (and they are) with ANTHRAX, MEGADETH, METALLICA, TESTAMENT, EXODUS (see "Force Of Habit") and the likes, ofcourse. Mat's voice is greasy, but rough when needed and therefore reminds of e.g. James Hetfield's days of "Metallica" (the Black Album).

Most of the songs never go for the full Thrash attack, but instead the flow is kept in the midtempo range. And so the album kicks off with "Out Of The Darkness", which is a pretty good title for the first song. Here the EXODUS-elements are easy to detect. This is not a bad song, but it doesn't make you super enthusiastic either. The production is good, though. Heavy on the drums and the riffs also have a low, pressing sound. Little after the second minute there's a speed increase, but only for a short moment. The tempo stays the same, roughly, and has something METALLICA-ish, more specifically the "...And Justice For All" period.

"Tears Of Redemption" is the longest track with almost 9 minutes. No lack of epicness, but again I don't feel anything that makes me super enthusiastic. And I love Thrash. The tempo is a little higher here, with the typical Punkish kind of drumming. Next to the Bay Area bands, I would refer to DEARLY BEHEADED here. Especially their album "Temptation" comes close to what MORTAL SIN presents with "Tears...". Or vice versa, to be more precise.

"Before The Bough Breaks" starts gently to build up the tension before the real power is unfolded. The drums keep the punch in the song and thanks to the switching between single and double kicks it's interesting on that level. The riffs are, to be honest, boring. So is the chorus. Really, the drums are the most active and attention-demanding instrument. Overall the song doesn't do me much. You've got a wall of guitarviolence, but rather monotonous violence.

The shredding that starts "Rise Or Fall" definitely sounds more promising and the tempo is also higher. Finally a song that makes listening to this album worthwile. With the chorus, the guys wanted to keep it catchy so the crowd could sing along during the gigs. The guitarsolo is also well done.

Next to all the shredding and drum attacks, why not let the bass be heard for a while? And so it happens, with Andy playing an important and opening role in "My Nightmare". Sadly the vocals annoy quite rapidly, but so does the music. Things get a bit more energetic in the bridge or pre-chorus, but this soon slows down when the chorus is there. In general this isn't really bad, but nothing super either.

A title like "Say Your Prayers" should deliver something very vicious, no? Indeed...not. The tempo is again not too high, except in the powerful chorus. The wall of guitars is present once again and that's the biggest issue on the album: it's too much of the same and it's feels like they playing a goo of riffs. The solo isn't bad, but the blastbeats little over halfway are an interesting addition and so different from the normal flow of the song. Nope, I can't praise this song so much. Boredom sets in too many times.

"Lost Within" comes as a saviour, as it's more direct and contains better riffing and the drumming is also a pleasure to listen to. The tempo goes down right before the solo. Another good song, so I have nothing further to add. Good job, lads. Can this good result be continued in "Eye In The Sky"? You've got the band going wild and working towards the normal pace of this song, while two reporters comment on a news item. Since Mat doesn't have much range - at least, based on his input on "An Absence Of Faith" - he seems stuck in a certain kind of singing. We've got another midtempo song, although with double kickdrumming and a nice break with tribal-ish drums while the solo has set in. The overall result is certainly not as good as "Lost Within", but I like this song better than the first few.

Bass and drum set in the last song - "Broken Promises" -, which breaks loose soon enough and that's ofcourse good news. Finally another song with balls and one that gets your heart pumping again. All points here. Next time more of this.

Many line-ups, reunions and three albums later, MORTAL SIN has returned to unleash album no. 4 upon the masses, upon the unbelievers, with a fitting title "An Absence Of Faith". Melodic Thrash is what they play, but there's just not enough variety (tempo, riffing, vocals, ...) or interesting songs here, except for the three I was (very) positive about. I know that Melodic Thrash isn't like old school Thrash, but it must be possible to make something more exciting than this? I've got the impression the album title also represents what the band is experiencing now or was experiencing at the time of the songwriting. Although I don't know how their back catalogue sound, I do think that material will be better to start with if one wants to know MORTAL SIN's music. Fans of the band won't have much problems with "An Absence Of Faith", I think.

More info at www.mortalsin.com.au.

Line-up:
Mat Maurer - vocals
Mick Sultana - guitars
Nathan Shea - guitars
Andy Eftichiou - bass
Luke Cook - drums


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DARK THE SUNS – In Darkness Comes Beauty (Firebox Records 2007)

Dark The Suns - In Darkness Comes Beauty
  1. Reflections
  2. The Sleeping Beauty
  3. Black Sun
  4. Alone
  5. A Darkness To Drown In
  6. Angel Soul
  7. Drama For Gods
  8. Ghost Bridges
  9. Like Angels And Demons
  10. Away

The last couple of months Finland exported a lot of Doom Metal, but Gothic Rock/Metal is another of their successful styles. The latest example is DARK THE SUNS, whose debut album came out on 14/11. Back in 2005 Mikko Ojala (vox, guitars) founded this solo project, as this is what it first was conceived as. He recorded a first demo, "The Sleeping Beauty". One year later he moved to Jyväskylä, where he found Juha (keyboards), Inka (bass) and drummer Markus. In August of that year the four entered the studio for a second demo, "In Darkness Comes Beauty", of which the title got taken for the first album now, as well.

A key instrument in Gothic Rock/Metal songs is the piano (or keyboards in general). This is the case in "Reflections", which wouldn't be the same without the piano, as it's the leading instrument. The vocals are a mix of sighing/whispering in the verses and growling in the chorus. In general, and partly because of the growling, I get a DARK TRANQUILLITY impression, except that this band is still different.

"The Sleeping Beauty" might make you think of a sleeping beauty and thus musically quite soft and slow. None of that, as the tempo even gets a serious boost here. Again, the piano is the dominant instrument, while the guitarwork serves to intensify the power. Around 02:14 there's a nice, but short piano break, after which the tempo gets built up again and this melody continues with a faster pace, before the normal chorusmelody takes over again.

The riffing in "Black Sun" is a tad heavier and more shocking (litterally), while the piano only comes in with pinpoint accents. The guitar is the more dominant instrument here, even though the piano accents play the basic melody. Still, the importance of it less, as the guitars could perfectly carry the song. Around 02:23 there's an emotional, midtempo piano break. The guitar solo joins afterwards, while the melody just continues. The overall result of "Black Sun" is, like the previous one, but here a little more, simply awesome. Can I refer to DARK TRANQUILLITY again?

The atmospheric keyboards have been around since a while, but in the intro of "Alone" they come out better, as the keyboards have all the space. Gentle piano-touches here as well, to express the sentiment of the song. Heaviness kicks in not long after that. In the verses Mikko again goes for a whispering approach, while he growls in the chorus. Here there's something PARADISE LOST-ish lingering. Another qualitative song, no question about that.

Building up the tension, a mysterious mist covers it all. You're in a desolate place, alone with all your feelings and emotions. Just look at the title and you'll be able to envision the situation: "A Darkness To Drown In". A touching piano-melody in one part, a heavier, slow part with Mikko's growls in the next part. A characteristic throughout the entire album is that Markus uses his crash cymbal a lot to ride on, instead of the hi-hat or riding cymbal itself. Not that I mind and it's probably a typical aspect of this music.

The tempo goes up again in "Angel Soul". The piano and atmospheric keyboards have not been excluded, just limited in their presence. There's a time when the guitars dominate, right before the chorus. Then the keys reclaim their place. Overall, not a bad song, but not as attractive as the previous ones. The break is something they apply in all of their songs and it helps to better appreciate the song. But I still prefer the first couple of songs.

Guitarpicking backed by atmospheric symphonics... before heaviness bursts loose. No crushing heaviness in the verses, though, this to form a contrast with the chorus. "Drama For Gods" is growling all the way, almost overkill. LACRIMAS PROFUNDERE comes to mind, concerning the music. Very nice is the tribal-ish drumming around 02:30. That is one interesting element and more than welcome. other than that, the song suffers a bit from monotony for the majority of the playtime.

"Ghost Bridges" continues in the same spirit, although slower and they keyboards gently in the back. Around the third minute, the break comes in and that too is a valuable moment to revive or intensify the listener's attention. It's a decent song, but I guess at this stage it would be best to listen to other Metal and then come back to DARK THE SUNS.

"Like Angels And Demons" cranks up the pace and will, like most other songs, do well on stage. The piano dominates, as usual, and Markus is hugging his crash cymbal again in the chorus. Good stuff, nothing more to add, except for the very nice guitarsolo.

Double bass and dramatic piano melodies are what define the first part of the last song, "Away". The heavy guitar forms a huge contrast with the soft piano accents, although it helps to enforce the dark, melancholic aspect. The guitarleads in between are an extra touch on this all. All in all, a wonderful song to end a more than recommended first album.

For a debut album, I have to say that "In Darkness Comes Beauty" has turned out to be a diamond in the rough, that is has been polished already, but still isn't full-grown yet. If you know that the album was recorded by Juha Kokkonen at Nightmare Workshop and Arttu Sarvanne at Studio Watercastle (where the mixing was done, too), and the mastering in the hands of Mika Jussila at Finnvox Studios, then it needs no explanation how well this beauty sounds. I can't add anything else, but highly recommend this to any fan of Gothic Rock and/or Metal. Contact your local shop or buy it online, but don't miss "In Darkness Comes Beauty" and be sure to keep an eye on DARK THE SUNS's next release(s).

More info at www.darkthesuns.com.

Line-up:
Mikko Ojala - vocals, guitars
Inka Tuomaala - bass
Juha Kokkonen - keyboards
Markus Lehtinen - drums


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PLANET STORM – Alone (Planet Storm 2007)

Planet Storm - Alone
  1. Beyond The Horizon
  2. Alone
  3. Universe Rising
  4. Alone (accoustic version)

PLANET STORM is a project that was created by guitarists Ronny Blylod (DESTYNATION) and Johannes Forsberg (ex-AMETHYST), although the initial idea for this started many years ago. Being mainly guitarists, both guys thus needed session musicians to play the other instruments and speeden up the recording process as a consequence. While DESTYNATION (previously known as ETERNIA) plays Heavy/Power Metal, our duo opted for something Progressive this time.

The first release is the "Alone" EP, which was released on the 12th of November and only as a (paid) download. This EP contains four songs. Actually, three, since the last song ("Alone") is the same as the second one, but in accoustic version. These four total a playtime of little less than 20 minutes.

Involved musicians so far for this project - the ones with a * helped with the recordings of "Alone":

Vocals - Anders Zackrisson (ex-NOCTURNAL RITES, ex-GOTHAM CITY) *
Guest Vocals - Andy Haggkvist (DESTYNATION) *
Guitars - Ronny Blylod (DESTYNATION, ex-ETERNAI ex-NYPON&BLYLOD) *
Guitars - Johannes Forsberg (ex-AMETHYST) *
Drums - Fredrik Haake (MOA, BADGE, ex-MELDRUM)
Drums - Samuel Andersson (MALEFICENT, SOLBJÖRN) *
Drums - Daniel Tiger (MEADOWS END, ex-AMETHYST)
Bass - David Lindegren (WAR EMPIRE, ex-AMETHYST) *
Keyboard - Daniel Nitsche *

So we're dealing with a Progressive project here. It starts with "Beyond The Horizon", where the keyboards/piano are a very dominant instrument and the guitars provide the required backing. Comparable bands are EVERGREY, SYMPHONY X, VANDEN PLAS and anything similar of course. The drums sound quite thin, though, and Ronny told me there were some problems during the mixing. You can hear they're triggered and like I've said several times before: it can be useful to have them, especially when playing extremer stuff, but I'm getting more and more annoyed as many producers make 'em sound very clicking and the realistic/more natural sound of a drum is - as a consequence - almost nowhere to be found. The vocals are good, clear and fit in, although Anders isn't always hitting the right notes. Now, if he had a bit more fullness, more 'power' so to speak, then this would make song all the more interesting.

"Alone" starts accoustically with atmospheric/ambient backing. Gently the organ comes in. Little after one minute the chorus is there and the rest of the instrumentation is added: drums, guitars and keyboards. We're dealing with a ballad here. The solo comes through in a powerful way (due to the mixing) and although the drums still sound too weak, in my humble opinion, it's less of a problem here.

"Universe Rising" is a vocal-less song. The instruments do the talking here. The rhythm guitars sound much stronger, the drums a little fiercer. The lead guitar and keyboards take turns to take the main role, while the piano keeps on playing another melody in the back. This song is composed in pure Progressive style and would sound so much better with a better production. The accoustic version of "Alone" isn't bad, but Anders's accent comes through much clearer and that's an element to work on, to be honest. Also, musically it's not bad, also thanks to the symphonic backing...BUT!... it lacks power, feel, passion. Personally speaking, I find this just a song, nothing more. The electric version had more impact, if one can use this word.

Several years in the making - the project, that is - and now the first four (sorry, three) songs are ready. While Ronny does a very good job in DESTYNATION, he shows he and Johannes, of course, have good ideas to play Progressive-influenced Rock/Metal. I think they still lack a bit of experience, but foremost a bigger budget to give the songs a much better and powerful sound where needed. So, for a start and as a whole, the "Alone" EP is good. PLANET STORM itself is still far from entering stardom and I hope they'll practise a lot, try out several things to improve the compositions and grow to be able to compete (in time) with the mentioned bands.

You can obtain a copy of this EP via the band's website, where the links of the various download-websites are (see the Shop section).

More info at www.planetstorm.se.

Line-up:
Ronny Blylod - guitars
Johannes Forsberg - guitars


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PAGAN'S MIND – God's Equation (Limb Music Products 2007)

Pagan's Mind - God's Equation
  1. The Conception
  2. God's Equation
  3. United Alliance
  4. Atomic Firelight
  5. Hallo Spaceboy (DAVID BOWIE cover)
  6. Evolution Exceed
  7. Alien Kamikaze
  8. Painted Skies
  9. Spirit Starcruiser
  10. Farewell
  11. Osiris' Triumphant Return

As usual, a little intro: Norway is very famous for its Black and Gothic Metal, but since a good seven years the ProgPower band PAGAN'S MIND prooves they can be successful too. Previously you had bands like CONCEPTION and TNT that waved the flag.

In 2000 PAGAN'S MIND released its debut, "Infinity Divine", which was produced by TNT guitarist Ronny Le Tekro. Although a debut, it clearly showed this was a band to reckon with and two years later they signed a deal with Limb Music Products, which housed bands like RHAPSODY, SHADOW KEEP, IVORY TOWER, MOB RULES, KENZINER, and other Power Metal acts. The first release via that label was their very succesfull "Celestial Entrance" album, which was mixed by Fredrik Nordström (DREAM EVIL, HAMMERFALL, ARCH ENEMY, DIMMU BORGIR, IN FLAMES, ...). From start to finish a pure masterpiece from a band that had grown and whose members had improved their skills.

Due to great demand, the debut album was re-released in 2004 and remixed by Tommy Hansen (PRETTY MAIDS, MANTICORA, ...). Of course the similarities with e.g. DREAM THEATER were very obvious, but since PAGAN'S MIND makes its music more spacey, they did manage to put an own stamp on the compositions. The third album, "Enigmatic: Calling" saw the light out day in 2005 and was, so to speak, part 3 in the 'concept story' about extraterrestrial life and other related matters, partly based on the works of authors like Erich von Dänichen. On this album the band added more melody, but at the same time more heaviness. Again Fredrik Nordström took care of the mix.

Little by little the successes accumulated and the band played at many festivals, e.g. ProgPower Europe, Sweden Rock, Norwegian Rock, ... Between this and the new album, Jørn (guitar) and Steinar (bass) spent some time in BEAUTIFUL SIN, Stian drummed in FIREWIND and Nils (vocals) took the mic in EIDOLON.

And now, anno 2007, on the 9th of November, album #4 is out: "God's Equation". The cover art reveals quite a lot, but will be less when the album comes out in the US. What the songs are about this time can be read below, taken from the interview LordsOfMetal.nl had with Nils. The space factor, one of the band's trademarks, is again present - on the cover and in the music.

"Partly a concept album - that is, not telling a story from A to B, but dealing generally about the same topics. It deals not only with origins of mankind but the origin of EVERYTHING. It's a most enchanting two words - first off was Albert Einstein talking about and releasing the "God's Equation" though in the 1930's - his theory about the ever expanding universe which was "God's Equation", he later declined his theory until recently scientists have proof that he was right. It's mathematics, physics and religion all together. You know, everything in life is really mathematics - numbers and equations - which sows everything together. "God's Equation" is also a real equation that explains the formula that everything organic and alive in the universe are built upon. Really true - and it really makes you think, because when knowing that all living things have an equal factor - that specific formula - how can you say that it is all coincidental? In addition, we think it's cool and kind of provocative when the album title is "God's Equation", a manly entity grammar wise, but showing a FEMALE as a goddess!? The "Mother Goddess" was what the old Pagan religions believed in long before the great religions of today. Nature people have always believed in mother earth, the nature and the universe. All that is represented in the Goddess on the front cover. She is holding several known religious symbols in her Shiva-inspired arm pairs, to illustrate that everything comes from the same source - the energy of life, which you can call God, Vishnu, or whatever. The same, original equal divine source..."

PAGAN'S MIND is one of my favourite bands and in such a case it's not always easy to write a review, since it brings extra stress along. For their fourth album the band decided to work with Stefan Glaumann for the mixing. Stefan is known for his work with RAMMSTEIN. This gives the new songs a more commercial feel, easier to swallow, so to speak, although there's still enough technicality to be found on the album.

Like with the first two albums, "God's Equation" commences with an intro, something that was left out on "Enigmatic: Calling". The concept is slowly being developped, and it's with the title track that everything is really starting to unfold. The thick guitarwall, provided by Jørn, has his signature, although it's not exactly the same as on the previous works. Stian's drumming sounds a little harder, tighter, but still recognizable. Lots of different time signatures and tempo changes are again present and make the new material extra interesting. Nils sounds better than ever and prooves he's actually a very good singer. The spaceyness is not only delivered through the keyboards, but also the effects on Nils's vocals. Overall result: awesome. A typical PAGAN'S MIND song, although with a smoother, more polished feel and lots of attention for melody.

Keyboards start "United Alliance", where the space-feel is even more present. Heaviness comes in soon enough, but is left silent in the first part of the verses. The guitar's the driving element, while Ronny provides the right atmospheric backing. I've said before, but Nils's input is really amazing and probably his best to date. Steinar assists Jørn in setting up a fat wall. If you practise well, you'll be able to sing the chorus along very soon. Also apparent is Stian's love for the China-cymbal, which he uses quite often, in other songs as well.

Up next is the song for which the Norwegians made a video: "Atomic Firelight". Effects on Nils's vocals in the verses and further in the song, but then he can express himself full on. The guitars and drums really play a very important role: a very energetic and bonehard kind of drumming, while the guitar delivers the necessary brutality. Around 02:45 there's a break to pave the way for the screaming solo. A splendid song, with a good dose of catchiness and nice hooks.

"Hallo Spaceboy" is a DAVID BOWIE song and you can clearly hear the style, the compositions aren't carrying the PAGAN'S MIND stamp. Although I'm not familiar with the original song and DAVID BOWIE not really my thing is, I do have to complement the band for this 'Metal' rendition. Personally, I don't find it that fitting here, amongst the other songs. Oh well, to each his own, right? It's only because some of the lads like DAVID BOWIE's work that this song made it onto the album.

The first guitartones of "Evolution Exceed" make it quite clear that it's PAGAN'S MIND time again, for which I'm very grateful. Keyboards and effects on Nils's voice in the pre-chorus or bridge and pure heaviness there as well. The chorus focusses on melody and atmosphere and forms a nice contrast with the heavy basis of the song. Stian's drum violence has been turned up a few notches, as he uses more double bass, the China, and the crash cymbal. The piano break around the 4th minute is a welcome addition, as it breaks the heavy riffing. Slowly the tempo and tension get built up again. What follows via the keyboards reminds of ROB ZOMBIE's "Hellbilly Deluxe" album. All in all a nice song, but one that either needs time to fully show its secrets or just is a little less attractive as the first couple of songs.

"Alien Kamikaze" is a straight-forward rocker, with pounding drums and the fat, yet heavy guitarriffing. Nils sings again at full power. Before halfway the drilling guitar dominates and violent drumming soon joins, all this before the solos are added. In all this Progressiveness, it's good to have something more direct. But is this a result of choosing for a slightly more commercial approach?

"Painted Skies" as a title doesn't need too much explanation. This is a slow song, with the normal quantity of heaviness, but here the piano is the dominating instrument. Again the chorus was written with catchiness in mind. You could say we're dealing with a powerballad here. The result is simply breathtaking. Further in the song we get a screamy guitarsolo, of which a portion reminds of an older PAGAN'S MIND song (I've forgotten the title, sorry), but here it's played a little different. Without question one of the best songs on "God's Equation"

Ready for more action again? "Spirit Starcruiser" will increase your blood pulse one more time. Very rocking in the verses, while going a little slower and more melodic in the chorus. Again a very nice contrast between the two. Stian plays a vital role and prooves he's part of the PAGAN'S MIND sound and song structure. With another drummer it would not be the same. My impression is that he has been listening to and watching DREAM THEATER drummer Mike Portnoy quite a lot the last couple of years, as his drumming on this album is pretty similar to what Mike would do in such a case. Not that I mind, not at all. Mike has more baggage and knowledge to show who's the master. But let it be clear that Stian is one very fine drummer, too, oh yes.

Time for Nils to take a brake and let the instruments do the talking in "Farewell". This is a job for the piano and guitar only. The piano melody again reminds of older PAGAN'S MIND work, but so does the guitarwork at times. Not that this is so important, because the song is damn beautiful! And a little too short!

Like before, the band has written long songs, also for this new release. The longest one was kept for last: "Osiris' Triumphant Return". First part is fully instrumental and slowly clears the road for a more energetic second and more parts. The focus lies on melody and atmosphere, with the heavy riffing playing its role as supposed to, but not so much in the foreground. Considering the length of 08:44, a lot of diversity is to be expected, but also lots of room for instrumentalism. The guitar leading one time, the keyboards another. Around 06:35 there's a nice keyboard break, where the part 07:15 reminds of EVERGREY's "When The Walls Go Down" and so the song fades out with the ending unknown and for the listener to create one. All in all, a true masterpiece.

With Stefan Glaumann having done the mix, it's a normal consequence that PAGAN'S MIND's sound is more polished, smoother with which they try to appeal to a broader audience. If you listen to the compositions, they are inline with their decision to work with Stefan, although the typical elements are still there. It must be said that the band has gained a lot of experience the last couple of years and has thus matured a lot. "God's Equation" is a very good album and the Norwegians can be proud of it, for sure. Fans of the band will surely like this and anyone into Progressive Metal with a good injection of Power Metal that hasn't checked out PAGAN'S MIND, should do so now. For me personally, as much as I like the band and their newest release, their best (and more technical) work still is to be found on the first three albums.

More info at www.pagansmind.com.

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


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AUGER BANE – On Wings Of Fallen Rock (Negative Earth 2007)

Auger Bane - On Wings Of Fallen Rock
  1. Dragonfly
  2. Black Wine
  3. Wolf On The River
  4. Furious Woman
  5. Keep Us Strong
  6. The Long Walk
  7. Thuggernaut
  8. House Of The Scorpion
  9. Skynful
  10. Black Eyes & Burdens
  11. On Wings Of Fallen Rock

AUGER BANE hails from Mitchan, UK, and was founded two years ago by lead guitarist Darren Beasley. Drummer Chris Mee, bass player Ross McLeod and second guitarist Shane Carpenter had played together for some time in CONSPIRACY and BLEND with Darren, so it's was a logical decision to have them in AUGER BANE as well. In that very same year a 4-track demo was recorded, containing the songs "Dragonfly", "Black Wine", "The Long Walk" and "Keep Us Strong". Around the end of 2006 the 4-track EP "House Of The Scorpion" was released as a pre-taste of the band's debut album, "On Wings Of Fallen Rock", which came out only a few days ago (07/11) via Negative Earth. Between the EP and the recording of the album some line-up changes took place: Ross Macleod (bass) was replaced by Max Torres and guitarist Shane Carpenter's place was left unfilled, resulting in a 4-piece line-up.

AUGER BANE plays Hard Rock inspired by bands like BLACK SABBATH, LED ZEPPELIN, BLACK LABEL SOCIETY, METALLICA, and others, but of course the guys try to put their own stamp on the songs. The guitars in e.g. "Dragonfly" have been tuned heavily, to make the rough riffing come out strong enough. The mix was in the advantage of the drums and bass, as these two are very prominent. "Black Wine" sees Dan getting on the forefront a little more and singing a little more hoarse, while heaviness makes room for melodicness and more radio-friendly compositions.

Speaking of the mix again, as this was done differently per song, so it seems. "Wolf On The River" adds more heaviness again, more the whole sounds a bit more Stoner-ish. And in the chorus I can't help but think of the Australian Metallers TOURETTES, as Dan sings more viciously/greasier like Michele does in the specific song(s) of her band. "Wolf On The River" adds also more punch and has a great overall Rock feel. The production is done so that every instrument sounds powerful enough, but also rough (or pure) enough. And that is a big pluspoint amongst all those polished, sometimes plastic-sounding albums.

The tempo goes down a lot in "Furious Woman", where the guitars sort of represent that woman. It's a slow song, but heavy nonetheless. Personally I find it not such an interesting or exciting song, although there are a couple of good instrumental moments. So after this drink-break, time to get it rocking again and with "Keep Us Strong" AUGER BANE has a very catchy and energetic song in their discography. Rock 'n' Roll, baby, oh yeah!! Do notice the bass and guitar moment around halfway. Very nice work.

Time to recharge the batteries with the half-accoustic "The Long Walk", featuring nice guitarwork and fitting, varied drumwork. Dan's vocals are clean and I must say he does a good job here. Another good song.

As was to be expected and with a title like that, it's no surprise heaviness returns with "Thuggernaut" which has some AC/DC influences, "Thunderstruck" era. At least at first, then things get a bit more pounding and banging. Here the drumming changes style at least 3 times in the first 2 minutes. Like in the majority of the songs, Darren and co. left enough space for instrumental attention.

Another band that can be referred to, especially in "House Of The Scorpion", is THE CURSED. Musically you get something more sleazy. Overall not bad and as usual well played, but mainly the chorus gets boring quite rapidly and curiously it's also due to the vocals. The tempo is again lower and guitar has a little more distortion.

"Skynful" starts with a playful melody, while the rest of the instrumentation is added in steps. First the drums and bass, then the guitar and we're off for another uptempo song, a bit like "Keep Us Strong". Need I say more? More of this! Songs like these are also very much qualified for live playing.

Going more sleazy again in "Black Eyes & Burdens". The tempo is lower again, with an occasional speed increase here than there. Definitely a better track than "House Of The Scorpion", although the chorus here as well nearly loses my attention as well. That faster moment is very welcome then. Dan's singing is here as well not always a hit, as shown in the peaceful moment around the third minute.

The title track ends this debut album and with a playtime of 08:25 minutes, the band won't go for something monotonous. The first accoustic is half-accoustic and quite relaxed with some Jazzy influences. Around 06:30 there's a speed increase and a heavier input from Darren (guitars), which comes at the right time.

Apart from the less good songs (in my opinion) - and there are only.. how many? 3 or 4? - the majority of the songs is definitely worth hearing and if you're open-minded enough, you won't mind those 3-4 songs. Who knows, you might even like them, if they suit your taste. The fact remains that, although "On Wings Of Fallen Rock" is no superalbum, it does quench the thirst of a Hard Rock lover to a certain, decent extent. So check these guys out and if you're not convinced of the debut album, the follow-up will probably show improvement to make you more interested anyhow.

More info at augerbane.com.

Line-up:
Dan 'Halen' Shepard - vocals
Darren 'Beazle' Beasley - guitars
Max Torres - bass
Chris Mee - drums


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LIVARKAHIL – No Cure For The Fools (Livarkahil 2007)

Livarkahil - No Cure For The Fools
  1. Be My Plastic Queen
  2. Your Thin Line
  3. For Everything You're Not

LIVARKAHIL hails from France, consists of five members and is basically the 'child' of frontman and mainman Herr Krauss, who conceived the band/project in 2006. Musically the music can be catalogued under Deathcore, mixing the brutality of Death Metal and the energy of Hardcore. Or as the guys like to call it: Power Death Metal. It's something different from the standard names like Progressive Power Metal, Blackened Death Metal, Progressive Death Metal, ...

A first release was made a couple of months ago and came out early November under the title "No Cure For The Fools". This is the band's first EP, self-released, and contains 3 songs, which can also be heard on their MySpace page: www.myspace.com/livarkahil.

It starts with the instantly crushing drums and suffocating riffs of "Be My Plastic Queen". You hear triggers were used on the drums, mainly the kickdrums, but these French play it extreme, which - in a way - explains the need for those. Straight-forward playing, pounding beats with the guitars and drums perfectly alined. Herr Krauss's growls/grunts are good and what can be expected in this style. Over halfway the music makes a twist and vocal effects come in, to replace the guitar solo, which wouldn't not have been a bad decision. Drumwise there are a few tempo changes, although the brutal pounding remains present.

"Your Thin Line" is next and it seems - when looking at the other titles - Herr Krauss is singing about his (ex-?) girlfriend or about having (had) a girlfriend in general. ;-) "Your Thin Line" would then have to be about her body, right? Considering the brutality on this EP, this song might have a shorter playtime, but it doesn't mean that you get less of everything. On the contrary. The machine-gun kickdrums coming in now and then, the groovy riffing, xNi using his China cymbal quite a lot to add accents, ... and Herr Krauss's rough and mean vocals to top it. Still, there is one thing that is left out: the 'break' that can be found in the other two songs.

"For Everything You're Not" is a bit in the vein of IN-QUEST, DECAPITATED, although they are more Death Metal than a mix with Hardcore. This is very groovy stuff, a bit FEAR FACTORY-ish, one might say. PANTERA also comes to mind. No brutal pounding or blast beats here, but the drums still are a vicious killing force. Not too far off the end, we get something different on a melodic level. It's not quite a solo, but a substitute lead. Again, directness plays a role - not only the music, but especially in the lyrics.

For a pre-taste of the forthcoming 13-track debut album, "First Act Of Violence", this EP, "No Cure For The Fools", offers a good impression of what to expect from LIVARKAHIL and their PowerDeath Metal (aka Deathcore). They are far from the finish line, but they're on the right track. If you want to obtain a copy, just contact the band via their website or MySpace page. The album itself will be recorded in May 2008 with Jerome Turblin, who worked on the demo, and Stephane Buriez, known for his work with LOUDBLAST, BLACK BOMB A, and others.

More info at www.livarkahil.com.

Line-up:
Herr Krauss - vocals
Kaiin - guitars
Träume - guitars
Krank - bass
xNi AmorX - drums


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SYRACH – Days Of Wrath (Napalm Records 2007)

Syrach - Days Of Wrath
  1. Are You Able To Breath Fire?
  2. Semper Ardens
  3. The Firm Grip Of Death
  4. Stigma Diabolikum
  5. Come Daemons
  6. Nine Fallen Men
  7. A Death Tear
  8. The Twilight Enigma

Not all Doom comes from Sweden or Finland these days. No, Norway also has its bands and while SYRACH may be new to many people, including me, they have been making Doom Metal since 1993. There were two demos before the band finally got to record a full album, "Silent Seas", in 1996 with Autonomy Production from Germany releasing it in 1997. So far SYRACH got positive response from the fans of Doom Metal and so they carried on. Again, a demo or two was recorded and in the summer of 2006 the Norwegian Doomsters started the recordings of their second full album, "Days Of Wrath", which was first released in March via 8-Ball's own label, but since the Austrian label Napalm Records showed interest in the band, they made the album available on an international level and this on the 5th of November.

"Days Of Wrath" is my first encounter with this band and their Death/Doom and after looking on www.doom-metal.com I was surprised to see how long this Norwegian band has been into existance. I don't know if any of their previous releases, and more specifically "Silent Seas", is still available, but I guess the second album is a nice way to start as well.

The start is very direct, with the dark "Are You Able To Breathe Fire?". The vocals are of the growling kind, but in a greasy way. It's only later in the song that the tempo goes down and you get a more doomy atmosphere. Despite being a Death/Doom band, there are even some CANDLEMASS influences noticable.

The midtempo continues in "Semper Ardens". In this song OCTAVIA SPERATI vocalist Silje Wergeland can be heard for a first time. Her role comes quite unexpected and needs a couple of listens to like it. She also has a certain sound that is a bit harder to digest than e.g. Simone Simons, Sharon Den Adel, Melissa Ferlaak, ... But things improve quite rapidly. Ripper is still the main vocalist. Next to Silje, Grutle Kjellson from ENSLAVED also makes a guest appearance. The screamy guitarsolos are a welcome element, since the playtime is perhaps a bit too long and the compositions don't make you hang on long enough.

"The Firm Grip Of Death" is not only longer, but also of a different calibre. Bell chims, rainfall and the music slowly fading in as if to prolong the agony you're experiencing. And the playing is slow, indeed. Ripper's vocals are - and I forgot to mention it earlier - somewhat reminiscent of those of Johan Lindstrand (ex-THE CROWN, ONE MAN ARMY AND THE UNDEAD QUARTET), although his are far greasier and deeper. Musically you might think "The Firm Grip Of Death" is monotonous, but around 06:20 it's time for change and something a little faster. With a playtime of 14 minutes the song is nicely divided into several parts, with slowness coming back after the faster breakpoint. The leads and solo make it even sadder in the before-last part. After 11 minutes there's another speed increase, a bit MAIDEN-style. Very qualitative material here.

Drums play a key role in "Stigma Diabolikum", as they not only start the song, but also offer plenty of variation to keep up with the requirements with regards to the title. Again there's a clear difference between the two halfs of the song: the first being slow, while the other adding a bit more speed and at the same time offering nice guitarwork, especially the leads. Around the 6th minute you'll hear a burning pire and a sort of priest speeching while the witches are burning.

"Come Daemons" also starts slow and the band takes its time to really take off, which happens with blunt riffing, assisted by the drums. Around 01:40, for about half a minute, a nice dual-lead guitarpart follows. Ripper's vocals are perfect for this dark, atmospheric and hellish setting. There's a certain guitarmelody that only makes you feel more uncomfortable. Needless to say that this is another quality song.

In "Nine Fallen Men" the hopelessness factor is very prominent. The break around 02:25 is not only a very nice piece, but also very important for the tale told through the lyrics. And sadness also plays a role in "A Death Tear", even if the guitars are again of a massive heaviness. The drums and whispers make things even more interesting and luring. Like before you get quite a varied song, with changing speed, leads and vocals.

"The Twilight Enigma" ends the "Days Of Wrath". It's the second longest song (10:16), after "The Firm Grip Of Death". Silje makes another appearance, this time being better timed and better sung. Or in other words, it's more appropriate here. The fast, rolling riffing gives the song a more thunderous feel. Like "The Firm Grip..." you have to take your time to absorb everything. Give it a rest and pick it up again later, because there's a lot to discover.

All in all, the Norwegians of SYRACH have done very decent job with "Days Of Wrath". I can't compare it with their demos or even the first album, "Silent Seas", though. For Death/Doom fans, this is an enjoyable album, but it must be said that there are better bands out there: e.g. EVOKEN, MOURNING BELOVETH, RUNEMAGICK, diSEMBOWELMENT (sadly disbanded since long), OFFICIUM TRISTE. I'll give SYRACH the benefit of doubt, as their newest release takes time to grow. Several listens, though not always in one take, should open more doors. The competition is fierce, though. If you're new to Death/Doom, then SYRACH is a good start.

More info at www.syrach.com.

Line-up:
Ripper Olson - vocals
8-Ball - guitars
Noralf Venås - guitars
Ørjan Svetnik - bass
Adam Suleiman - drums


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SVARTSOT – Ravnenes Saga (Napalm Records 2007)

Svartsot - Ravnenes Saga
  1. Gravøllet
  2. Tvende Ravne
  3. Nidvisen
  4. Jotunheimsfærden
  5. Bersærkegang
  6. Hedens Døtre
  7. Festen
  8. Spillemandens Dåse
  9. Skovens Kælling
  10. Skønne Møer
  11. Brages Bæger
  12. Havets Plage

A new Folk Metal band has risen from under the soil of Denmark: SVARTSOT. Formed in 2005, it was their goal to merge thundering Metal with elements from Nordic Folk music. In that same year they got to play some gigs and also added a flute/bodhran player to the line-up to make the Folk aspect come out stronger. With a complete line-up now the band recorded a first demo, titled "Svundne Tider", meaning something like "Bygone Ages". One year later SVARTSOT got promoted to sharing the stage with ILLDISPOSED, MERCENARY and VOLBEAT. Later another demo was released: "Tvende Ravne" ("Two Ravens"). This one was recorded by ex-HATESPHERE vocalist Jacob Bredahl at his Smart n' Hard studio. Both demos got playtime on BBC and P3's, a popular Danish radio station.

Earlier this year then the band signed a deal with Napalm Records, after having undergone another line-up change. The (first?) result is ready to be unleashed upon the masses on the 5th of November and was given the title "Ravnenes Saga", or "Saga Of The Ravens". This title refers to Odin's two ravens, Hugin and Munin (Thought and Memory), who would fly out over the world each day to return every evening to relate what they had seen. The theme fits the collection of songs on the album, which tell tales of courageous feats and battles, feasts, creatures of the murky realms of folklore, and the art of womanizing. The album was recorded by Jacob Hansen, while the mastering was in the hands of Peter In de Betou at Tailormaid in Sweden.

Below is the English tracklisting. At least, those are the result that www.gramtrans.com provided me:

01. Funeral Feast
02. Two Ravens
03. The Satirical Song
04. Travelling In/To Jotunheim (??)
05. Berserkers' March
06. The Heathen's Daughter
07. Party / Celebrations
08. The Fiddler's Laze
09. Bitch Of The Forest
10. Beautiful Virgins
11. Thunder Cup (??) / Crashed, Thundered Baker (??)
12. Plague Of The Sea

So, Folk Metal it is. Right from the start, with "Gravøllet", you get thundering drums (with a typical Jacob Hansen-sound and very comparable to what he did on DESTRUCTION's "Thrash Anthems"), heavy riffing and the flute that accompanies the guitars, while providing more melody. The vocals are pure growling in vein of FINNTROLL, AMON AMARTH, a bit of HAGGARD and alike. But there's plenty of room to let the instruments do the talking as well. "Tvende Ravne" continues the midtempo pace, with the flute being even more prominent and melody-defining. Vocals are both growling and more shrieky.

The tempo really goes up with the humpapa "Nidvisen". Here the guitars and flute again define the melody, although the flute only comes into play in the chorus. The growls fit very well, like in the other songs and the group 'hails' add more epic touch to it. While the band tried to add catchy melodies over the entire album, "Jotumheimsfærden" is the first one that has a really sticky flute melody. Here again it's the guitars that dominate and let the flute join in in the chorus. The double-kicked drumming keeps the swing in the song and goes well with the guitars.

"Bersærkegang" is a battle song, I think, when you see the word 'berserker' in the title. To start you get a short piece of percussion before the kickdrum comes in and the guitars set in soon after. The slow drumming and crunchy riffing makes you think of a marching army and therefore I think the title means something like "Berserkers' March".

"Hedens Døtre" is an instrumental song, although Claus's growling comes in at a few given moments, more to enforce the atmosphere than really say something. Here the instruments are in charge and especially the flute. The guitarparts are filled with heavy bursts and gentle accoustic leads.

The tempo gets another major speed injection in "Festen", which needs no explanation, right? It's a party song, indeed. Double bass add more power and the growls are as good as ever. It must be said, though, that the introducing riffing was courtesy of AMON AMARTH. No, it wasn't, but it sure was an almost exact copy. Guitars rule here and Stewart, who's responsable for the flute parts, is given some rest.

After this party or festival, it's time to visit "The Fiddler's Laze" ("Spillemandens Dåse"). And there's the flute again, but only in the chorus. Around 01:30 you get a nice twist, which again has a bit of an AMON AMARTH stamp. The same goes for "Skovens Kælling", although the resemblances with TÝR are more appropriate. This song rocks more and only lets the flute come in when there's a need for it. The group singing sounds pretty good for some teambuilding, when you have to work on/build something together and encourage each other. But upon seeking the meanings of the titles (if I googled right), I think those epic chants served for something else, hahaha.

After the bitch, why not seek something more fresh, like "Beautiful Virgins" ("Skønne Møer")? Here the tempo is not so high either, but still enough to get you going. "Brages Bæger" is another very fine and uplifting Folk song of which the playstyle has similarities with FINNTROLL. Claus's growling only enforces this. Everything is just splendid: the guitarwork, the drumming, the melodies, the heavier parts, ... they form a tight unity.

"Havets Plage" ends the saga in the typical humpapa-style. Accoustic interventions (incl. percussion) offer nice interruptions of the heavy flow. Another remarkable song, but very short. Around 01:40 you only hear the rain and thunder. The wind floats over the sea until you can no longer hear it.

After the two demos SVARTSOT finally can be more than proud of their debut album, "Ravnenes Saga". Pure qualitative Folk Metal with a good sniff of epicness. There are no flaws on this album - although, depending on your taste, you'll like one song better than the other - and although the similarities with other bands cannot be ignored, our Danish do manage to put an own stamp on the compositions, be it via the vocals or the instrumentation (e.g. use of a tambourine and a bodhran). Anyone into Folk or quite simply into bands like (= there's more out there) TÝR, FINNTROLL, SUIDAKRA and KORPIKLAANI should find something tasteful in SVARTSOT.

More info at www.svartsot.dk.

Line-up:
Claus B. Gnudtzmann - vocals
Cris J.S. Frederiksen - guitars, mandolin
Michael L. Andersen - guitars
Martin Kielland-Brandt - bass
Stewart C. Lewis - whistles, bodhran
Niels P. Thøgersen - drums


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SINAMORE – Seven Sins A Second (Napalm Records 2007)

Sinamore - Seven Sins A Second
  1. Outro
  2. Better Alone
  3. Silence So Loud
  4. Dressed In White
  5. Frozen Mile
  6. The Burning Frame
  7. Everything Ends
  8. Unbreakable Calm
  9. Far From A Dream
  10. Eyes Of May

SINAMORE was founded around the end of the 1990's and have been building on their career with careful steps, taking their time and releasing a couple of demos - released under the HALFLIFE monniker - before the debut, A New Day, saw the light, thanks to signing with Napalm Records. More and the a year and a half the successor is ready and will be available on the 5th of November. "Seven Sins A Second" is its title and features quite a varied dish of Gothicness.

Strangely enough the band decided to start the album with an outro. One can only speculate why or if this outro was part of another song. The sins really burst loose with "Better Alone". The drums really come out strong, so do the guitars, but the most remarkable sound comes from the bass guitar, which really plays a prominent role, even in a rather monotonous manner. Mikko's vocals are clean, yet dark enough and meets the requirements for the Gothic Rock genre.

"Silence So Loud" is another heavy song, with a very catchy and melodic chorus. There are some similarities with what PARADISE LOST did on their "Icon" and "Shades Of God" albums. "Dressed In White" takes a slower approach, with the focus on melody, bitterness and melancholy. All in all very nice work.

"Frozen Mile" forms a sort of resting point, as heaviness comes in later and the tempo is really slow. It's the ballad of "Seven Sins A Second" and once again, all is well executed and the sound is really good. The atmosphere contains nothing but sadness, melancholy and more of that. The soft female voice is a very nice addition.

"The Burning Frame" cranks up the pace in a sudden way, but still manages to keep it dark and very heavy (with very nice riffing). While the majority of the songs is midtempo or slower here and there, this faster song is a great song and a perfect one for this album.

Another song where PARADISE LOST influences can be heard is "Everything Ends", again with quite a sad melody. The heavy riffing enforces this even more. Around 03:25 there's a nice accoustic moment, beautifully played and perfectly implemented.

The accoustic elements also form the start and basis of "Unbreakable Calm" and this shows that the band could easily make accoustic versions of their songs and they would still contain a strong level of sadness. Ofcourse, adding heavier guitars and more powerful drums create a better setting. But it depends on what the band wants to accomplish with the song, what purpose it has.

In the before-last song, "Far From A Dream" heaviness takes over again. No keyboards on the entire album, yet Mikko and Tommy do a perfect job at creating a dark atmosphere with sad melodies and depressing singing. In "Eyes Of May" heaviness realy comes into play in the final minutes, but overall this song is not really of the same level as the previous ones, which is sad.

"Seven Sins A Second" is all things considered an album to be proud of, as there are practically no flaws here, except for the less good "Eyes Of May", which doesn't stick as much as the others. Fans of Gothic Rock however have no reason not to check out SINAMORE and their newest release, for this is one of the better of 2007, in its genre ofcourse.

More info at www.sinamore.com.

Line-up:
Mikko Heikkilä - vocals, guitars
Tommy Muhli - guitars
Jarno Uski - bass
Miika Hostikka - drums


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HOUSE OF GAMES – Rise And Shine (RAM Music 2007)

House Of Games - Rise And Shine
  1. My Child
  2. 24
  3. Hunter
  4. Ave Maria
  5. Evil In Needle
  6. Friend
  7. Spanish Man
  8. Sugar And Spice
  9. Schizophrenia
  10. Dreamin'
  11. Rise And Shine

It's good and, to be honest, a little surprising to see that Estonia also had decent (Hard) Rockbands next to the Eurovision Song Festival stuff. One of these bands is HOUSE OF GAMES, which is not to be confused with HOUSE OF LORDS (USA), HOUSE OF SHAKIRA (SWE), or HOUSE OF MIRRORS (FIN). The band was formed back in 1994, but it has taken them quite a while to release their debut, "Rise And Shine", which was released on the 5th of November via RAM Music.

Musically you can hear influences from THUNDER, THE RASMUS and other Rock bands, including the Classic ones. This means the songs aren't only for those with a pure Rock heart, but also are 'soft' enough for some playtime on the radio. Perhaps this is the case in Estonia, and I hope, with this release, that other countries will do so too.

While we're dealing with a Melodic Rockband here, it's very clear that the keyboards are a key instrument in the compositions. Jevgeni's role is vital for the melodies and atmospheric input, as Kalle's guitarwork cannot carry or accomplish it by itself.

There's a clear indication: the Rock element is spread over the entire album and not limited to the first couple of songs, so to speak. Midtempo is key and the tone is set in "My Child". Things get a little heavier in "24" and "Ave Maria" - two very nice songs, by the way -, while melody takes control again in the next tracks. "Evil In Needle" is the uptempo song here, with a catchy chorus. "Sugar And Spice" can be given about the same commenting, except for the catchiness. The second part of the tracklisting contains enough Rock and softer parts if you need variation.

"Friend" breaks it all by introducing accoustic guitars and being the ballad on "Rise And Shine". Not a bad song, but not really exciting either. "Rise And Shine" (the song) is another ballad, but a little heavier and with more symphonics. Here as well, a decent result, and a little better than "Friend", although it gets stretched a bit too much.

My promo copy contained two extra tracks, of which I don't know the titles. No. 12 is less than a minute, while no. 13 does not reach the 4-minutes-marker. The first is a sort of intro, while the last one is spacey rocker, with drumming or something like that to simulate a train on speed.

All in all these Estonians have written a very decent Melodic Rock album, with enough variation and interesting songs for whatever occasion you want to play them. At least, the ones where you find Melodic Rock fitting. Definitely worth checking out, although I think the best is yet to come. Still, after 13 years, how far do they have to go or how long do they need for that? It doesn't matter, they have risen and they're shining.

One side note: the line-up below is the one that recorded the album. Since spring 2007 the line-up consists of:

Erik Meremaa - vocals
Kalle Vilpuu - guitars
Mart Veski - bass
Ian Mikael Kirss - drums

More info at www.houseofgames.org.

Line-up:
Erik Meremaa - vocals
Kalle Vilpuu - guitars
Jevgeni Babkin - keyboards
Henno Kelp - bass
Andrus Lillepea - drums


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SEVEN WITCHES – Deadly Sins (Locomotive Records 2007)

Seven Witches - Deadly Sins
  1. Deadly Sins
  2. Science
  3. Commerce
  4. Worship
  5. Knowledge
  6. Pleasure
  7. Wealth
  8. Man Of The Millennium
  9. Politics
  10. The Answer

SEVEN WITCHES, the Heavy/Power Metal band from the USA, released their DVD "Years Of The Witch" earlier this year via Locomotive Records. As this was my first real encounter with the band's music, I decided to go and buy at least one album. A few weeks ago I saw "Passage To The Other Side" (2003) in the store and as this one was covered on the DVD, I took a listen and liked it, so now it's part of my collection.

I also had the chance to listen to "Amped", the band's last album. Biggest difference is the sound and heaviness. Overall it's a very decent album, but I've got other bands to look out for first. A couple of weeks ago I received a promo copy of SEVEN WITCHES's newest release "Deadly Sins", which was released on the 2nd of November.

This new release features again Alan Tecchio on vox, Jack Frost on guitar (duh!), Joey Vera on bass. The trio got the help of bassists Clint Arent (PAIN MUSEUM) and Kevin Bolembach (ex-NON FICTION) and drummer Troll, which is a nickname. The production is a little less rough and more polished than before and this is beneficial to just about everything.

The guitars sounds very crunchy, the drums more pounding than before (especially the bass/kick drums are very prominent, but less clicky than on "Amped"), Alan's voice is in my opinion better than on the previous album and even reminds me a bit of THE ORDER/PURE INC. vocalist Gianni Pontillo and a bit of Dimitri Liapakis (MYSTIC PROPHECY).

"Deadly Sins" is based on the "7 Sins Of Mahatma Ghandi": link 1 / link 2

Wealth without Work
Pleasure without Conscience
Science without Humanity
Knowledge without Character
Politics without Principle
Commerce without Morality
Worship without Sacrifice

The albums opens with the title track, which clearly shows what to expect from SEVEN WITCHES anno 2007. The real outbursts come in "Science", "Wealth" and "Knowledge", where the drums come thundering out the speakers. This is deadly material. Musically there are some similarities with "Never-Ending" album of MYSTIC PROPHECY, incl. vocal-wise.

But it's not full speed all the time, as the slower (incl. midtempo) - but therefore not less aggressive - songs like "Commerce", "Worship" (containing a battle cry-ish "worship...worship..."), "Pleasure", "Man Of The Millennium" (divided into two parts: one calm, the other heavier with just "Maaaaan...of the millenniuuuum" on repeat), "Politics" and "The Answer", which is a very nice cruising song.

Jack Frost himself stated: "(...) truly the best work of my career". From what I've heard so far, concerning the SEVEN WITCHES repertoire, I can't say I disagree. Anno 2007 the band sounds heavier, tighter and more passionate/driven - Heavy/Power Metal with balls. There's no real weak song here and due to this slightly increased heaviness and amount of power, references to other bands (at least, those I've heard so far) start popping up. I already mentioned MYSTIC PROPHECY, but PANTERA is another band where Jack (probably) drew inspiration from. Certain leads, drumparts and even Alan's vocals remind of Dimebag, Vinnie and Phil. To cut things short: if you're new to SEVEN WITCHES, this is a very good record to start with. Fans of the band will have no problems with "Deadly Sins" and when you have the text of each sin (see the links), your insight will increase. You can feel Jack and the others have worked hard on this new album and after all these years they deserve more recognition than ever.

More info at www.sevenwitches.net.

Line-up:
Alan Tecchio - vocals
Jack Frost - guitars
Joey Vera - bass
Troll - drums


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STEVE CONE – In My Bones (Steve Cone 2007)

Steve Cone - In My Bones
  1. In My Bones
  2. Killing Machine
  3. Your Eyes
  4. Dead Like Me
  5. Get Down
  6. Nothing That I Can Do
  7. Like The Dog I Am
  8. Inside Your Head
  9. Euphoria
  10. Trapped
  11. Crazy Like Me

About two weeks ago I received the new album of guitarist/vocalist Steve Cone, an American musician with the heart on the right place, especially regarding qualitative Hard Rock/Heavy Metal. The man hails from New York and releases his music under his own name. Prior to his solo career, he spent some time in other bands to gather experience and improve his skills.

I thought that his new release, "In My Bones" (out since 29/10), was his debut or perhaps second album. Great was my surprise when I visited his website and Metal-Archives.com to see that Steve is one busy Metalhead:

Steve Cone (1998)
Solitary (1999)
Man On A Mission (2000)
One Man Band (2000)
Demo Listen (Demo, 2001)
Five (2001)
Stop The World I Wanna Get Off (2002)
Killing Time (2004)
So.Lo (2005)
Distortion (2006)
In My Bones (2007)

I haven't heard anything he released before, but thanks to the YouTube videos and samples on his website you can get a good impression of what to expect. And the new album is just inline with that, just better produced, although the previous albums sounded pretty good as well.

"In My Bones" starts with the title track and it's full power from the beginning. Catchiness, heavy grooves, Steve's raspy voice and pounding drums. A first class song! The tempo goes down a little more the next songs, although the rock factor is still very much present and there certainly is no cutting back on power. "Your Eyes" for example has stop-start riffing, and this also lets the bass guitar come through a bit more. What's clear about this song and practically all songs is that you can clearly hear what Steve is singing. The instruments aren't drowning his voice at all and this is a very important and interesting aspect of the album, as the booklet doesn't contain the lyrics. The only criticism I have so far is that perhaps the chorus, in "Your Eyes" in this case, is repeated a bit too much.

In "Dead Like Me" Steve goes for a sleazier approach. Not a bad result, but not as attractive as the others, as far as my taste goes. It's the next song that get my heart and blood pumping again: "Get Down". Pure Rock 'n' Roll, baby, oh yeah! Bang the head that doesn't bang! Great grooves, great riffing, great drumming, great all the way! More of this, I tells ya, more.

The tempo goes down again in "Nothing I Can Do", which overall is an enjoyable song and offers a nice 'break' after the energetic "Get Down". "Like The Dog I Am" brings back some punch and here you have the bass playing a key role again. Here the same problem pops up: too much repetition of the chorus, or the song title, that is.

Time for a little Blues now: "Inside Your Head". Again the bass is very prominent, but there's also enough room for instrumental moments and Steve will only add the required heaviness when the time is right. This is another very nice song, hands down. While Steve's music reminds for a big part of BLACK SABBATH (with Dio) and DIO and anything else in that vein, AC/DC is another inspirational band, as shown in "Euphoria", which contains AC/DC-ish leads.

Since Steve is primarily a guitarplayer, the addition of an instrumental track sure is a welcome element. "Trapped" is the title and features 3 kinds of guitars: an accoustic one, an electric one and one I don't know, but it seems like something in between, although more accoustic. All this builds up very nicely and little by little the other guitars join in. A very nice result, to say the least.

"Crazy Like Me" sounds like the title says: crazy. This is one chaotic rocksong, where the chaos is controlled, don't worry. ;-) Steve doesn't use friendly words, but speaks his mind, not caring about your feelings. This is another energetic song and fits perfectly in the pattern of the tracklisting.

Steve has been rocking 'solo' since almost ten years now and if he didn't know how to write a rock/metal song today, he would never know. I guess you can say that he has grown and evolved on each album, but sticking to the pureness that Hard Rock and Heavy Metal have to offer. On "In My Bones", his 10th album, you get a nice mix of different tempos, lots of grooves, great leads, crazy solos and not to forget the drumwork provided by Erik Fehrenbach, because he did a very good job. I can do nothing else but recommend this to any Hard Rock/Heavy Metal fan who loves it pure and uncompromised. The production is also good enough to keep the instruments real and not as digital/plastic/... as on other bands' albums. If you don't find the album in the shop, check cdbaby.com or just go to Steve's MySpace page or website to obtain a copy.

More info at www.stevecone.net.

Line-up:
Steve Cone - vocals, guitars, bass
Erik Fehrenbach - drums


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ICARUS WITCH – Songs For The Lost (Cruz Del Sur Music 2007)

Icarus Witch - Songs For The Lost
  1. Out For Blood
  2. Written In The Stars
  3. The Sky Is Falling
  4. Nature Of The Beast
  5. Mirror Mirror
  6. Queen Of Lies
  7. Devil's Hour
  8. House Of Usher
  9. Afterlife
  10. Smoke And Mirrors

Last year the American Heavy Metal band ICARUS WITCH released its debut record, "Capture The Magic", which was well received in the press. The music was pure '80s Metal with influences from bands like QUEENSRYCHE, IRON MAIDEN, OZZY OSBOURNE, and similar-styled acts, incl. the Hard Rock from the '70s.

One year, many gigs and unpleasant experiences (i.e. gear stolen recently, line-up change) later, the band is ready so present their "Songs For The Lost" (to be released at the end of October), this time via Cruz Del Sur Music, which also houses IGNITOR, SLOUGH FEG and other US bands. Next to the label change, the band also saw guitarist Steve Pollick leave the band, but welcomed Quinn Lukas as his replacement. On drums the spot was given to Chris Batton, since Jere Jameson left as well.

The biggest criticism last year was that the material was a bit too much of the same, tempo-wise. There weren't any real speed boosters and the majority stayed in the midtempo range. The production was good and made the instruments come out well enough. This year it isn't any different, as the sound is again very good and the songs very nostalgic, with which I absolutely have no problem. Overall you could say that this time the band went for a marriage of IRON MAIDEN and HAMMERFALL. Not only the music is the obvious proof, but Matthew also seems to have listened to Joacim Cans (HAMMERFALL vocalist) more than once.

The first song, "Out For Blood" - not an ARCH ENEMY cover, no ;-) - sets the right pace for a starter: very energetic and kick-ass, with an extra catchy chorus ("Out....for....blood"). The tempo goes down a little in "Written In The Stars", but the biggest remark concerns the mix, which is well done to let the bass guitar get through clear enough. Musically you get a good dose of present HAMMERFALL here.

"The Sky Is Falling" starts with an accoustic intro and, although I don't know if the guys from ICARUS WITCH are familiar with RHAPSODY OF FIRE's (previously known as RHAPSODY) work, it's funny to hear similarities with a part of the intro of "Gargoyles, Angels Of Darkness", the last song on the "Power Of The Dragonflame" album (2002). The rest of the band soon joins in, with the bass and drums playing the leading role in the verses. Quinn pushes through for the chorus. This is another slower song, but very very nice, mainly thanks to the accoustic guitar that comes back in the verses.

IRON MAIDEN returns in "Nature Of The Beast" and yes, it's easy to make it "Number Of The Beast". Musically as well there are tangent places, so to speak. The vocals remind again of Joacim Cans, but also a bit of Tobias Sammet (EDGUY), when he was younger. Needless to say, ICARUS WITCH did another very fine job here, with the calmer verses and heavier chorus.

Like on "Capture The Magic" there's a guest appearance on "Songs For The Lost": Joe Lynn Turner sings on "Mirror Mirror", a very nice Hard Rock song, for which the production has been adapted to perfectly reflect on the older days. Very melodic, and very catchy, especially the chorus. Everything about this song is just first class. Playing this live - if possible with Joe himself - will be awesome for both the band and the audience.

"Queen Of Lies" brings us back to ICARUS WITCH's normal kind of playing. Midtempo, rocking, but not that special. If played through a playlist with other bands' songs, then all is well. Here it just isn't attractive enough. One interesting element is that Chris plays with the riding cymbal in the chorus and that adds a nice touch to the song.

"Devil's Hour" has something EDGUY-ish and the whole rocks a bit more, But the tempo is still (slow) midtempo and the compositions don't really make you overly excited. Again, if played in a list of other Rock/Metal songs, then it might have a chance. Here it's filler to me.

And it can get even slower: "House Of Usher". The intro is really slow, but then the pedal is pushed down a little, just a little more. The sound of the guitar and drumpattern can remind you of CANDLEMASS, but it's clear ICARUS WITCH are far from being a Doom Metal band. ;-) The IRON MAIDEN influences are also present. In general it's a decent song, but will probably come out stronger on stage.

Stubbornly our American Metalles refuse to crank up the pace. Slow- to midtempo is what they know best, so why change? It's all well executed in "Afterlife", and again HAMMERFALL comes to mind. But it just doesn't stick.It's like an ordinary meal, without spices or tasty sauce.

Will "Smoke And Mirrors" then be the saviour? Clearly not. This is accoustic all the way with a couple of nice violin interventions. But nothing to keep you awake, which is sad, to be honest.

"Songs For The Lost" is a rather sad title and normally the songs should also sound like that, but the band took about the same direction as on "Capture The Magic". The Metal is still reminiscent of IRON MAIDEN and other Heavy Metal bands of the '80s. But not all is well. The first half of this new album is good to very good, with some interesting moments. The second half is where things go downhill, especially the last few tracks, although track 6 and 7 will sound better when played occasionally and not while listening to "Songs For The Lost" in one take. For fans of '80s Metal this new release will be a nice addition to the collection. For the more critical Metalhead (like me) there are too many less good (and in a way boring) songs, which should have been replaced by faster ones.

More info at www.icaruswitch.com.

Line-up:
Matthew Bizilia - vocals
Quinn Lukas - guitars
Jason Myers - bass, keyboards
Chris Batton - drums


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SHATTER MESSIAH – God Burns Like Flesh (Dockyard 1 2007)

Shatter Messiah - God Burns Like Flesh
  1. Idolater
  2. God Burns Like Flesh I
  3. God Burns Like Flesh II
  4. Pathway
  5. Stripped Of Faith
  6. Dirge Of The Christ
  7. Buried In Black
  8. This Is The Day
  9. Tomorrow Immortal

Last year the newly-formed Thrash band SHATTER MESSIAH released its debut, "Never To Play The Servant" and got a lot of praise for that. The many gigs afterwards also prooved very successful and convinced many people of this band's skills. Needless to say that its members aren't beginners, as founder and guitarist Curran Murphy gathered experience in NEVERMORE and ANNIHILATOR, with this last band also being an intermediate band for drummer Robert Falzano. Vocalist Greg Warner had bands like BREAKER and ARCHETYPE as training for his pipes.

Earlier this year the band built the loud room to record the drums. The second album is now ready and once again the title isn't all that friendly (dito for the cover art): "God Burns Like Flesh". The release date is set for October 29, again via the German label Dockyard 1.

The start of "Idolater" doesn't lie: prepare for another load of brutal, but heavy (especially the drums), pounding Metal. Very vicious riffing, only fit for dark surroundings. Greg sounds a bit lighter than before, although he hasn't lost his versatality. The song also offers enough space for some nice guitarfills.

The tempo goes up a little more in part 1 of "God Burns Like Flesh" (the song), with the main riffs still sounding very crunching. Robert assists with the double bass and a couple of blastbeats. Very rough singing in the verses, more melodic in the chorus. The transition to part 2 is very smooth. Here the tempo is slower, and the focus lies more on the overall feel and atmosphere (thanks to background chanting) than the sheer brutality. Greg also goes for the higher screams here, which fit in perfectly. This song seems to contain a pattern the other songs also have: normal playing for a while and then before the second part or the next verses, you get a short guitarsolo moment. Here the solo is a preparation for the second part, which is a bit faster and more ferocious. The NEVERMORE-influences cannot be ignored, although SHATTER MESSIAH put their own stamp on it.

"Pathway" really cranks up the pace: pure Thrash it is, with a riff that has been taken from PAGAN'S MIND "Entrance: Stargate" from the "Celestial Entrance" album (2002). Ofcourse Curran and/or Dusty changed it a little. Great harmonies here too. For the verses and chorus, the drumming is less fast, to clearly differentiate the parts of the song. So far, no complaints. The band has grown in that one year between the new and the previous album.

"Stripped Of Faith" shows another influence regarding the guitarsound and perhaps the riffing as well: the Canadian Death Metal band KATAKLYSM and more specifically their last album "In The Arms Of Devastation". Another midtempo track, heavy, pounding and nerve-wrecking. In short: two thumbs up on all levels, be it the vocals, the guitars or the drums.

The guitars sound even more endangering in "Dirge Of The Christ". Slow, very heavy and Greg souding very diabolic. The chorus is sang in a chanting manner and this adds to the atmosphere. Robert's uncommon drumming helps in keeping the song hypnotizing. Very nice work again.

Blasting (returns here and there) starts the dark and MACHINE HEAD-like "Buried In Black". The guitars and drums perfectly assist each other, although I would have liked it a bit faster. Robert is very capable of that, but I have the impression Curran and co. prefer a more pounding way of playing instead of offering a mix of e.g. mid- and uptempo tracks. It must be said that there's never a decrease of aggressiveness. On the contrary even, as there's not much room for something softer. The lack of uptempo tracks doesn't mean things get boring, not at all.

And with "This Is The Day" the album is almost coming to an end, in a fast way. At least, that's what the intro makes you think. The normal flow of the song is a little faster than normally done, that's true. There's also more melody here. The chorus is extremely heavy, not just the chugga-riffing, but also the perfect hits on the drum.

"Tomorrow Immortal" then really closes the album. Setting the knob for a more polished kind of heaviness in the intro. The verses are accoustic and remind very much of NEVERMORE. While so far all was very vicious and powerful, expect something more dramatic and depressing in this last song. It's something I didn't think they'd do, but they succeeded. O yes, they did.

"God Burns Like Flesh" is a more than worthy successor of "Never To Play The Servant". The band has improved their skills, their craftsmanship and created an album to be damn proud of, even more than with their debut. Fans of pounding, more extreme Metal have no other choice but to check out SHATTER MESSIAH and their newest album. Very much recommended material!

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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VOYAGER – Univers (Dockyard 1 2007)

Voyager - Univers
  1. Higher Existence
  2. Deep Weeds
  3. Everwaiting
  4. Between The Sheets
  5. Sober
  6. Cross The Line
  7. Pulse 04
  8. Falling
  9. What I Need
  10. One More Time
  11. White Shadow

VOYAGER hails from Perth, Western Australia, and can be catalogued under Progressive Metal, but not the Progressive of bands like DREAM THEATER, SYMPHONY X, VANDEN PLAS, and similar. Nope, these Australians take an approach that is more comparable to KAMELOT, VANISHING POINT, ... The band took form in 2000 and have been working hard on own material. The first result was "Element V", self-released in 2003, and got a lot of positive response. Their live palmares so far includes two big entries: support for STEVE VAI and ProgPower Europe 2006.With their newest album, "Univers" (to be released on the 26th October), they should be able to get more support slots and even play more gigs on the European mainland, since they're signed to Dockyard 1.

Right from the start - "Higher Existence" - the Progressiveness really comes flowing out of your speakers. Diversity also comes from the vocals, being a mix of clean and growling, which is definitely a good choice. However, the most interesting instrument are the drums, for Mark doesn't just follow a standard pattern. Instead, he'll hit whatever he can to make the song more alive. Next to the keyboards the band also used (through the keyboards as well?) and accordion, which I found a bit strange, but at the same time a nice addition.

"Deeper Weeds" is a little slower and less heavy. The singing is also completely void of anything aggressive. Daniel sings even purer than before, also because the focus lies on melody, brought by the guitars and keyboards. While the song is more Progressive-influenced, this song has a Gothic feel about it. Although everything is well played, I have to say that I found it rather hard to stay awake.

The introducing leads of "Everwaiting" sound very promising, especially after "Deep Weeds" and when the drums set in, hope increases, although the tempo goes down as soon as the vocals are added. The chorus is where the tempo goes up again and you hear something that could have been composed by VANISHING POINT. Again the Australians deliver quality, but I can't tell if it's the production or Daniel's input (which plays an important role) that is making this song less attractive as well. However, the result is better than "Deep Weeds", but still...

"Between The Sheets" starts gently with the accoustic guitar and atmospheric keyboards, taking you to higher spheres. Around 01:20 the descent is quite direct. I can really be short about this song: "Back To Sleep" would be a better title. Sorry, but this just doesn't do it for me.

Things improve with "Sober", which contains a very nice chorus. The melodies and the heavier guitars are the stronger elements here, the vocals are still love-'em-or-hate-'em. Once again the material has a light Gothic touch. Another positive aspect of this song are the solos, with the guitars and keyboards taking turns. Thumbs up for the first good song on "Univers".

While the intro of "Cross The Line" made me think otherwise, the pace is a bit faster than midtempo. There's a familiar feeling about and melody in this song, with references to more poppier stuff, but I can't put my finger on it. Still, this is another decent track containing a good dose of Progressiveness. Around this time I'm wondering why all of a sudden you get good songs, especially after the first 4, which didn't really reach the standard obtained later on.

"Pulse 04" is another proof of the right direction, with more pushing drums while the guitars and keyboards take care of the melodic lines. "Falling" is the resting point on "Univers". Here you have a ballad, but nothing heavy about it, yet quite emotional. although these kind of songs aren't fit for every day play, I didn't find anything flawing here. The Bluesy elements are a more than welcome addition and references to the calmer material of EVERGREY might come to mind if you pay attention to them.

Since VOYAGER likes to put their songs in a spacey canvas, you should hear that in the music too. This is primarily the case in "What I Need" where the keyboards are responsable for the extraterrestrial input, a bit like Arjen Lucassen does on his AYREON albums. The tempo has also been increased again, especially in the chorus, whereas the verses are slower for the sake of contrast. Here the keyboards are master of the moment, while the guitars are left silent.

In "One More Time" the accoustic guitar makes its return, although it gets the company of its electric brother after a while. Both play side-by-side without ever going into extremes. Neither do the drums and vocals. "One More Time" is not the best song, but this isn't a bad one either. The best however seems to have been kept for last: "White Shadow", where the guitars reign again and the drums are solid enough for a wilder type of playing. Bombast has been added as an extra spice and everything combined the thought of VIRGIN STEELE cannot be ignored. Hell, even David DeFeis's voice would fit extremely well on this song. I just love it! The song, I mean.

VOYAGER's debut, "Element V", received good comments from the press and public and I think this will be the case with "Univers" as well. However, out of 11 songs you can already strike out the first 1/3 and enjoy what is left, because that's where the goodies can be found. All in all, "Univers" is a solid record for fans of melodic/progressive Metal, but with the focus on melody and feel. If you want something heavier, then this is not the band you need to keep an eye on. Like I said above, think bands like KAMELOT and VANISHING POINT.

More info at www.voyager-australia.com.

Line-up:
Daniel Estrin - vocals, keyboards
Mark De Vattimo - guitar
Simone Dow - guitar
Melissa Fiocco - bass
Mark Boeijen - drums


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STEVE GRIMMETT BAND – Personal Crisis (Metal Heaven 2007)

Steve Grimmett Band - Personal Crisis
  1. Karma
  2. Wait For Ever
  3. Freedom
  4. Lonely
  5. Afterglow
  6. Enemy
  7. Promises
  8. Invincible
  9. Strength
  10. Wrath Of The Ripper
  11. Fallen

Steve Grimmett has a long history of activity in the world of Hard Rock and Metal: GRIM REAPER, the Thrash band ONSLAUGHT ("In Search Of Sanity"), LIONSHEART, MEDUSA and CHATEAUX. Since 2006 a new band has been added to this list: (THE) STEVE GRIMMETT BAND - just STEVE GRIMMETT on this first album, "Personal Crisis", which will see the light of day on the 26th of October. It was thus last year that Steve recruited guitarist Ian Nash (Steve's mate in LIONSHEART), bassist Rich Walker (Ian's mate in SEVEN DEADLY SINS) and drummer Pete Newdeck (PAUL DI'ANNO, KILLERS, GRIM REAPER, EDEN'S CURSE) for his self-named band. They started doing lots of gigs, playing material from LIONSHEART and GRIM REAPER. This inspired them to write new material, not connected to any of these bands, and for that something new had be founded.

PINK CREAM 69 bassist Dennis Ward (ANGRA, SILENT FORCE, ...) handled the mixing and mastering, while Pete Newdeck took care of the production. Since he's very experienced as far as Melodic Rock/Metal goes, it's very obvious why Steve and co. opted for him. "Personal Crisis" also features some guest appearances: Eric Rango (JEFF SCOTT SOTO) on keyboards, Bob Daisley (OZZY, RAINBOW) on bass, Carsten Schulz (ex-DOMAIN, EVIDENCE ONE) on backing vocals and dito regarding Tony Mills (SHY, TNT).

"Karma" is the opener, containing interesting lyrics. This song floats between Hard Rock and Heavy Metal due to the specific riffing and galopping drums in the chorus. Interesting as well is the kid at the end as a sort of prophet, talking about bad karma, that sending out hate and anger, it will return to you. It's without question one of the best songs on the album and an excellent starter.

With "Wait For Ever" you'll have a nice time cruising on the highway or out in the open areas. Steve adds more power to his singing so it sounds fuller, more passionate. The guitarsolos are not only a classic element, but also very important in this and other songs, as these would be less interesting if you'd take those away. The tempo was a bit slower now and this is also the case in "Freedom", where the drums are the most varied instrument, thanks to Pete's fills. The downside is that boredom lurks around the corner after a while.

Eric Rango's input can be heard for the first time in the (piano-)intro of "Lonely", before heaviness takes over. To fit the title (or the other way around) you get a ballad here and in general quite nice. Influences from THUNDER and AT VANCE can be detected here and there. The bluesy solo moment around 03:30 is a big highlight, not only that part itself, but also because it serves as a breaker before things get back to normal... for too long, in my opinion, as the song clocks in at +/- 6 minutes. Boredom has come closer this time.

Luckily enough the "Afterglow" brings back the Rock in STEVE GRIMMETT's "Personal Crisis" and you cannot imagine how welcome this is. Steve sings with a lower, rougher voice, which suits him quite well. This song's at least as good as "Karma". "Enemy" - as the title already indicates - cranks up the pace even more and Steve gets the company of a female vocalist, who sounds rather poppish, but does a very decent job nevertheless. The screamy guitar solo is the cherry on the cake. More of this (i.e. the song), I say.

Eric's second intervention comes next: "Promises". The difference with "Love" is that "Promises" has more balls and Ian's guitar is everywhere to be found - contrary to "Lonely", where they were of more importance in the chorus. Steve himself gives his all again, on a melodic level. Quality song, to cut it short.

All is well in the verses of "Invincible", but once the bridge is there, I can't help but cringe a little when Steve tries to reach the higher notes. His attempts aren't exactly the most successful. It's always on the edge of 'acceptable' and 'overdone'. The playtime of this grooving rocker is just right. If it were a couple of minutes longer, you could throw it away.

"Strength" is another speed-decreaser, but has start-stop riffing as the basis of the song. This time Pete uses his riding cymbal more, although the hi-hat plays the leading role in the chorus. This is nice for a change, as the hi-hat is one of the most used elements of a drumkit. "Strength" is another cruise-song, like "Wait For Ever". No real complaints here.

Any inspiration from JUDAS PRIEST? At least, you could think so when seeing the title of the next song: "Wrath Of The Ripper". The pedal has been pushed down again and make you think of the faster work of Y&T, AT VANCE, DIO and alike. Once again, Steve and co. deliver pure quality. But they can certainly take it further, as "Fallen" prooves. Uptempo indeed and without question did they save the best for last. The keyboards (organ here) add the melodic layer, while Ian's guitarwork is a powerful entity. The solos are top notch and take this song to a higher level. There's only one letdown: the running time of +/- 03:45.

After all his experience throughout the years, you have to admit that Steve knows his Hard Rock very well. Although I'm only familiar with his work on that one ONSLAUGHT album - where he did a fairly good job, but had a too melodic voice for this kind of Metal - it's actually nice to see him in what I believe to be his 'real' environment. Contrary to his other bands, of which it's unknown to me if he'll make an album with them again, I hope this time he will go for the long run with (THE) STEVE GRIMMETT BAND. "Personal Crisis" might be autobiographical, but the guys created a very decent debut album, with a couple of outstanding songs, although it's not perfect over the entire line. It's just a start, but if they keep it up, then the follow-up should show an even better STEVE GRIMMETT BAND. For now I'd consider the album very decent, although not really a must-have for those unfamiliar with Steve's other works. Those who have followed his doings and liked them won't have much problems with "Personal Crisis".

More info at stevegrimmett.co.uk.

Line-up:
Steve Grimmett - vocals
Ian Nash - guitar
Rich Walker - bass
Pete Newdeck - drums


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ROAD TO RUIN – Road To Ruin (Metal Heaven 2007)

Road To Ruin - Road To Ruin
  1. The Only One
  2. Pale Rider
  3. Face Of An Angel
  4. Pleasure And Pain
  5. For Your Soul
  6. Walk The Line
  7. Thorn In My Side
  8. Crawling
  9. Until I See The Sun

Guitarist Lars Chriss and bassist/keyboardist Sampo Axelsson also form the core of LION'S SHARE, who released their newest album, "Emotional Coma", earlier this year. Scroll down for the review. But since they don't just wait for the next LION'S SHARE album, and considering they grew up with the Hard Rock of WHITESNAKE, THIN LIZZY, RAINBOW, BLACK SABBATH and others, they couldn't just throw away what didn't fit in the LION'S SHARE schedule. That's when they founded ROAD TO RUIN, the band where they could freely express themselves in the Hard Rock-style of the old masters.

Writing the music was one thing, finding the right musicians for the other positions another. Thomas Broman - completely unknown to me, but he has played or still plays in ELECTRIC BOYS, GLENN HUGHES, AUDIOVISION, JOHN NORUM, etc...; quite a list if you ask me, but I guess he must be good - was asked to add some drumming that would make the songs come out strong enough. After those recordings were done, the guys still needed someone to sing the lyrics. Matti Alfonzetti (SKINTRADE, JAGGED EDGE, ALFONZETTI - again bands I so not familiar with) was contacted to help and put the last hand on the songs. Only a few months ago was everything about the album ready.

This first release, logically self-titled and to be released in a couple of days (26/10), kicks off with an energetic song: "The Only One". First you get a spacey intro, but then it's pure Rock 'n' Roll. Oh yeah! From the first drumhit you can clearly hear the very clear production, giving each instrument the right sound. The organ gives the songs a warmer, more passionate touch. Songs, as this instrument is used quite a few times. Matti's vocals are clean, with a thing rough edge. He's no Ronnie James Dio or David Coverdale or Jorn Lande or anyone else in this vein, but he does a more than good job.

"Pale Rider" drags the tempo down a bit, although it's doesn't rock any less. Here you can detect a more Bluesy input, which is also the case in "For Your Soul". The organ taking the intro for its account and still lingering on afterwards, while heaviness soon sets in, thus also pushing the Rock pedal more down in "Face Of An Angel". It's particularly in the chorus that the guitars are more prominent. This song has a SHAKRA feel, although they too were inspired by the Classic Rock bands. One last word about the chorus: catchy! This song is one of those that will do well on stage.

Everything's going very well so far and "Pleasure And Pain" is only a confirmation of that...partly. The verses are more than ok, but the chorus is slower, sludgier. Personally speaking, I'm not so fond of it. This slowing down really breaks the song and it's less easy to accept the re-acceleration for the next verse. Around 02:10 you do get a nice drumbreak, in preparation for the next half of the song. Towards the end you get some guitarmadness, where Lars is massacrating his instrument.

And so after another Bluesier song ("For Your Soul"), we get the best song on this album - well, it's my favourite one and 'best' isn't really the right word, but still... get ready to "Walk The Line", to go crazy and let it all out. Uptempo drumming (although a bit predictable and still room for some filling), faster riffing, it all fits. Those are the kind of songs that lift you up (again). Pure awesomeness! More of this, I say.

The following song is heavily influenced by Tony Iommi's riffing, but mainly THIN LIZZY's "Still In Love With You" seemed to have served as a basis. It's not identical, far from it, but the peaceful verses simply breathe THIN LIZZY. Things get a little heavier, more IOMMI-ish, in the chorus. All in all not bad and Lars's soloing makes the song extra spicey.

The main riff of "Crawling", as strange as it may be, reminds me of the main riff of SAVATAGE's "Skraggy's Tomb" ("Edge Of Thorns" album), but then much slower, ofcourse, since "Crawling" describes perfectly the speed of this song.. Especially now I felt that Lars was playing something familiar, but I just couldn't guess the song or band at first. A short search led me to "Skraggy's Tomb". Not that I mind, though. SAVATAGE is one of my favourite bands and also a band I grew up with. Then again, perhaps Criss Oliva was also influenced by the older Hard Rock. ;-)

And right when you think the "Road To Ruin" will end with an energetic push/punch... keep hoping, for the song is crawling forward, just like the previous one. Although everything is well played, this seems to be more of a filler. There is an organ solo in the second half of the song, and it's a nice one, but not strong enough to make song worthwhile. That's somewhat sad, considering the majority of the material on this debut being good to very good.

Heavy/Power Metal with LION'S SHARE, a softer, more classic approach with ROAD TO RUIN and also a 'tribute' to bands like RAINBOW, BLACK SABBATH, THIN LIZZY, WHITESNAKE, DIO and others of that era. This four-piece has nothing to proove anymore individually, and together they also form a tight group that is able to make solid Hard Rock. As said earlier, Matti isn't Dio or Coverdale, but despite this lack of roughness he does a very commendable job. The guitarwork is as it should be with such music and the organ really helps to create the perfect atmosphere. What about the drums? Refined and flawless, although Thomas did leave blank spots here and there where he could have used more cymbals or toms. Although this is more a matter of taste, it would not have damaged the specific songs. "Road To Ruin" is directed at any fan of the mentioned bands or classic Hard Rock in general, although I'm pretty sure the next album will top it. That is, if Lars, Sampo and co. hold on to this sound quality and add a few more songs in the vein of "Walk The Line".

More info at www.roadtoruin.org.

Line-up:
Matti Alfonzetti - vocals
Lars Chriss - guitars
Sampo Axelsson - bass, keyboards
Thomas Broman - drums


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BURNED IN EFFIGY – Burned In Effigy (Burned In Effigy 2007)

Burned In Effigy - Burned In Effigy
  1. Juggernaut
  2. Six Days
  3. One
  4. Rise
  5. 27
  6. War Inside
  7. Dirty
  8. Messiah
  9. Violent Season
  10. Return
  11. Break The Light
  12. Without Eyes
  13. Suffocating
  14. Suffer The Fall
  15. Running Over Nails
  16. Juggernaut (End)

Around the end of January 2008 I received a package from BURNED IN EFFIGY, a new Metal band from the USA. Professional in that the CD was put in a black, glossy folder with business cards and a bio. This was of course a pleasant surprise, as one wouldn't expect such a form of promotion. Naturally, the music is most important, although one can't ignore the band put in putting it all together. I'm writing this early March 2008. Considering the album was self-released in October 2007 I found it best to put the review here.

BURNED IN EFFIGY was formed in 2005, led by the Meekhoff brothers, both guitarists with Jared also taking on the vocals. They claim to be inspired by bands like METALLICA and ALICE IN CHAINS, although after hearing what their self-titled debut has to offer, one cannot ignore the thought of bands like MACHINE HEAD, PANTERA and alike. BURNED IN EFFIGY incorporate a lot of groove in their guitarwork. Jared handles two types of singing: clean and rough/screams.

The intro, "Juggernaut", announces a pleasant Hard Rock-ish start and continuation, but "Six Days" shows that much rougher material will dominate throughout the entire 60 minutes. Blunt riffs in every song form the battle axes of BURNED IN EFFIGY. Remorseless they behead, leaving you to die in everlasting pain. The pounding drums, driven by Zak, even add to this brutality. Although the playing sounds quite simple (especially the main riffing), I do hope that's just my ears fooling me. Fact is that the four guys managed to add enough interesting hooks to keep you attentive.

This excellent start continues in "One" - where the drums and guitars are on one line and an interesting speed increase follows around 01:50. Next stop is "Rise", with its wonderful rhythm, sadly countered by a less good chorus, for there reigns the breakdown. In "27" everyhing is more straight-forward orientated, with another tempo boost, being more a Hard Rock kind of song than the Groove Thrash that BURNED IN EFFIGY wants to be known for. Jared sounds a little better as well, with his clean singing. Only the screams still are a disturbing factor, in my opinion. Musically all is well, with some nice melodies to counter the heavy guitars.

"War Inside", probably partly inspired by Jared's service in the Middle-East, takes on a more Slude approach, which prevents from having the same kind of songs. At least, that's what the intro is about. Afterwards it's back to the blunt riffs, but presented in another tastey manner. The PANTERA influences (incl. Phil Anselmo-like singing) cannot be ignored, but that is far from a bad move. Around the third minute there's a total flipover, giving attention to the guitarsolo, less heaviness, more rumba-ish playing, ... In short: a boring interlude, so to speak. This really does not fit with what you got before and does more bad than good, if any.

With "Dirty" we've come to the first absolutely crappy song. It starts with something that could have been taken from a LIMP BIZKIT song, probably that "Mission: Impossible" song or maybe from RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS' "Californication", although the comparison with LIMP BIZKIT is better. The drums are the main element and indication. The usual ingredients follow soon and although the pace is again higher, the overall result just is disposable. Luckily "Messiah" can turn the tide in a more than positive direction, with its MACHINE HEAD references and here and there interesting drumfills, for it is Zak who has to add the spices to the song. The screams and singing overall form the least interesting aspects.

Part 2 starts nice with the very groovy "Violent Season", where Jared and Alex implemented decent guitar-played pieces, although - once again - the singing becomes annoying when the chorus kicks in. And that drags (at least) my attention down. "Return" isn't exactly a return to the first couple of songs. The guitars sound a little more polished, although the rolling riffing is a positive element. The chorus contains more melody, but here too the monotony lingers. Luckily the guitarsolo kicks in little over halfway and that sure kicks back some life into the song. Other than that, I can't really be enthusiastic.

The start of "Break The Light" is promising and what follows can also be catalogued under 'enjoyable', as it's more or less a mix of what has passed since the beginning. It's not a super song, but it IS decent. Time for some lighter material, else it will be hard to stay focused. "Without Eyes" starts at least in this way, calm, relaxing and also continues like that, but there's just a bit too much that reminds of the other songs. The guitars are a tad less heavy, less crushing, heading again in the direction of Hard Rock, bit the core remains intact. I kind of expected something else, something that would really offer a resting point, because the album does count 16 tracks, totalling more than 60 minutes of brutality, be it via the guitars and drums or Jared's screams, which are more than often a difficult element.

The Hard Rock direction is kept in "Suffocating", where double bass clears the path in the chorus. The simplicity of the riffs comes through very clearly and overall this is another less good song. Crap it is not, for BURNED IN EFFIGY have shown they can write good songs or at least use interesting ideas. "Suffer The Fall" is a more dancy song and I have the impression we're dealing with a cover song here, although I can't put my finger on who the original artist is. IF it's a cover, of course. All in all, not bad to add this lighter song.

Before the outro (which is a repetition of the intro) ends this first album, we've got "Running Over Nails" showing the power of BURNED IN EFFIGY once more. Dual vocals, midtempo, blunt grooves... the classic ingredients for this band. Again PANTERA comes to mind.

BURNED IN EFFIGY were quite professional in the promotion of their first album, but they didn't quite copy this for the album itself. Or perhaps they were too eager to do a good job and decided that value/music for money was a standard to follow, hence the 16 tracks and little more than one hour of Metal. I'm going to go with what I read in another review: the four guys offer a nice view on what they or their music is about, which bands inspired them, and so on. But there are indeed too many songs on this album and the sad thing is that the second part is the least interesting. "Burned In Effigy" starts very nicely and continues for almost the entire first half thanks to the sticking rhythms and catchy hooks. The compositions in the second part never reach that level, it never gets that enjoyable anymore, despite some good ideas. Ideas, not songs. Take away the last 9 songs and you've got an album that has everything to push the band into bigger territories and into the sight of labels that know how to deal with this mixture of Groove Thrash and Hard Rock. Now it's a little harder, although they can surely make it. For the future I'd like to advise Jared to not overuse the screams like was the case on this album.

More info at www.burnedineffigy.com.

Line-up:
Jared Meekhoff - vocals, guitars
Alex Meekhoff - guitars
Luke Mason - bass
Zak Begin - drums


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IGNITOR – Road Of Bones (Cruz Del Sur Music 2007)

Ignitor - Road Of Bones
  1. Death On The Road
  2. Road Of Bones
  3. Scarlet Enigma
  4. March To The Guillotine
  5. Wings Of The Blackheart
  6. Hymn Of Erin
  7. Phoenix
  8. Broken Glass
  9. Castle In The Clouds
  10. God Of Vengeance
  11. Reinheitsgebot

With all the extremer Metal bands popping up (i.e. Melodic Death-inspired or in other words, Modern Metal), it's always nice to see bands that still wave the Old School flag. And even in that context there are newer bands (by which I mean young musicians) opting for this kind of playing (Heavy, Thrash, Death, ...). One of the newer bands, but with people who have been 'Metalling' since quite a while. The Texan IGNITOR is one of those. Since their founding in 2003 they've released one album, called "Take To The Sky", which got some good press reviews. The gigs are more important to spread the word and increase their 'popularity'. The small Italian label Cruz Del Sur certainly found enough potential in the band to sign them.

"Road Of Bones" (cover art by Joe Petagno, who also worked with MOTÖRHEAD) came out on the 11th of October in Europe, one month earlier in the USA. Two women fight for their Metal rights: vocalist Erika Swinnich (ex-AUTUMN TEARS) and guitarist Annah Moore. Ex-AGONY COLMN guitarist Stuart Laurence is the other half of the guitar axis, while bassist Brendon Bigelow and drummer Pat Doyle make sure the rhythm section forms a good basis. Regarding Erika: if I tell you she also sings in the IRON MAIDEN cover band DRIFTER, there's no need to tell you what to expect, right? Indeed, a female version of Bruce Dickinson, although not 100% ofcourse. When she goes for some high screams, the result isn't always that good or appropriate. Other than that, she does a fine job.

IGNITOR is one of the many bands in the States fighting for recognition, but it seems in Europe, particularly in Germany, they seem to have already some popularity. Their appearance at Keep It True in 2005 certainly helped. On "Road Of Bones" you'll find Old School Metal, between Heavy and Power (the US-style), with influences from IRON MAIDEN, JUDAS PRIEST, VICIOUS RUMORS, MANOWAR and other bands that play(ed) this kind of Metal back in the 1980s.

The intro "Death On The Road" is no song, but like settling a debt or something. You can hear something being said in Russian/Polish/... (let's keep it at Eastern Europe) after which a gun is fired. Then heaviness breaks loose with the title track and this goes on for the rest of the album. It's also pretty obvious that in this kind of music, there's a good dose of catchiness and the compositions are written with live performances in mind. Songs that stand out for that are the majority. I could name them, but since they're also in the tracklist above, I see no point in that. Ok, I'll name some examples anyway: "Road Of Bones", "Scarlet Enigma", "Hymn Of Erin" (one of the better songs), "Phoenix" (slow start, but then the power kicks in!) and "Reinheitsgebot (Metal Is The Law)" (yes, sung in German). Those are the more energetic/faster paced songs that have, in my opinion, better riffs/melodies/vocal lines/..., but that doesn't mean that the rest is bad or boring. Not at all. They're just good, not very good.

All things considered, IGNITOR have delivered a decent piece of Metal for a debut. Fans of the above mentioned bands or '80s Metal will have a nice treat with IGNITOR. The music is 1980s-inspired, which is good, for it doesn't have to be Modern Metal nowadays. Old School still prevails, proven by the many oldies still being around and newer bands continuing this legacy. Next to Erika's higher screams there's another problem: the production. It's clear that IGNITOR don't have a multi-million dollar budget, and although the outcome is 'true' enough, "Road Of Bones" would sound much better and powerful if the band had the extra money and time to pick a producer who could give them that sound without going for something superpolished.

More info at www.ignitor.org.

Line-up:
Erika Swinnich - vocals
Annah Moore - guitar
Stuart Laurence - guitar
Brendon Bigelow - bass
Pat Doyle - drums


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LA-VENTURA – A New Beginning (La-Ventura 2007)

La-Ventura - A New Beginning
  1. Deadline
  2. Memoria
  3. Only Love Will Find Its Way
  4. Trefoil
  5. Remind You
  6. Cry
  7. Messed Up
  8. A New Beginning
  9. The Hunter
  10. Right & Righteousness

Several years ago you had ORPHANAGE, the Dutch Gothic Metal band that thrived mainly on grooves. Dual vocals outed the words in a soft or hard way, depending on who sang them. The band managed to gather a pretty large fanbase, although they weren't as popular (I think, so correct me if I'm wrong) as e.g. WITHIN TEMPTATION, AFTER FOREVER, EPICA, ... Two years ago, when solutions to certain problems couldn't be found anymore, the members decided to pursue other endeavours. Together with Carla Douw, drummer Erwin Polderman founded LA-VENTURA. The others soon joined the fold: Mike Saffrie on bass, Saz Kondic on guitar and Marco Van Boven on keyboards.

Working hard on their first songs, the band soon got picked up by the American label Razar Ice Records. While working on their debut the La-Venturians played gigs to pre-emptively get their name out and make people warm for the album. The release of "A New Beginning" - a very fitting title, after the split of ORPHANAGE - was first set in late spring, early summer. Due to a.o. release date issues the band was forced to take matters into own hands and finance and arrange the production, mixing and mastering themselves or at least, find the right people for this. The final result is now available for the public since the 6th of October via the band's MySpace page: www.myspace.com/laventura.

But let's focus on the music. Live they stand their ground, as you could read in my report of Meadow Fest II. It was only around the end of September that I received my review copy of "A New Beginning" and needless to say, I was very excited. The first listens left a positive impression, but it was also necessary to give it a rest to not let it become boring.

Musically you still get Gothic(-ish) Metal, still groovy and comparable with bands like LACUNA COIL, EVANESCENCE and others. The start of "Deadline" is a bit mysterious/Eastern, also thanks to the keyboards - those play a very important role throughout the entire album and are actually a key instrument for the songs - after which heaviness kicks in, delivered by Saz's musical axe. Erwin's drumming is fitting, yet simple, so to speak. Mike's role is free of any comment, as he does a very good job. Carla sings the words with a clean, but charismatic voice. She's not your typical operatic vocalist, just like LACUNA COIL's Cristina Scabbia. At times she also has something from Sharon Den Adel (WITHIN TEMPTATION) in her singing.

"Memoria" comes next and is not only one of the best, but also one of the catchiest songs. Mainly its chorus contains this ingredient. The guitar and keyboards show what a compatible duo they are. The symphonic element in the chorus increases the emotional/sentimental level. Although overall Mike's input is good, there are some moments where his playing comes out a little clearer. Like in "Only Love Will Find Its Way", for example. There are a few breaks in this song, which could fool you in thinking the song has ended. A clever idea and although this can be considered as disturbing, it does have a function.

"Trefoil" is one of their most popular songs on their MySpace page, but live as well it comes out strong enough. Saz's riffs sound heavier again, while Carla is the source of almost all melody, backed by Saz and Marco. Little over the second minute there is a break, EVANESCENCE style, before taking off again. Although the length of the song is limited, I did have the impression it lasted longer than expected, which can be said of more songs on this first release.

Next to the heavier songs there's also room for a couple of ballads. The first being "Remind You", in which the center of attention are vocals and piano backing. Be sure to have that handkerchief ready, because you won't get happy from this song of which the result is just amazing! Around 01:41 I can't help but think of SAVATAGE, even if the specific moment is very short.

A title like "Cry" might indicate another ballad, but that's a little too soon. Nope, this one cranks up the pace and heaviness again. Carla sings more gently, but also with full power and comparisons with Sharon Den Adel (WITHIN TEMPTATION) aren't misplaced. While this is another good song, there is still something missing. A guitar solo perhaps? Even heavier outbursts can be found in "Messed Up", a title that fits well for a heavy song. Once again the role of the keyboards is not to be underestimated, since without them the song would lose lots of feel and substance. Around the third minute a sign regarding a possible guitar solo pops up, but to no avail. Sad but true.

This brings us to the title track, where the vocals and piano are the main instruments one more time. The rest of the band joins after the first minute. Guitarwise you'll find a great deal of EVANESCENCE in here and although this band does have a few good songs (personal opinion), I hope LA-VENTURA will go its own way.

"The Hunter" gives the album a final push. From the first minute you just know this is another hit. The symphonic elements, together with the normal keyboard touches forms a big contrast with Saz's heavy guitar grooves, which is an interesting aspect here and confirms the La-Venturians aren't beginners. The closing "Right & Righteousness" follows neatly afterwards. I did notice that the production here is a little different, still good, but a bit more muffled. Yet the song contains enough power and tempo to make you move or bang your head along.

To conclude I can say that: For a first release the result is more than good and quite promising, to be honest. The band preferred to write compact songs without sacrificing content, heaviness, melody and foremost passion. Yet, there are still - for me, at least - a bit too many EVANESCENCE influences. I don't mind that much about LACUNA COIL's. ;-) One other point of criticism would be that, despite the compactness of the material, the addition of guitar solos would certainly not be a bad choice. On the contrary even, as they could be the missing spice or the cherry on the cake. For a self-release the sound is quite good, even if the band didn't have a big budget. LA-VENTURA is on the right path, but should (in my opinion) take certain tackled points into account. "A New Beginning" contains practically no flaws - only small things that can be corrected over time - and I can therefore recommend the album not only in general, but also to anyone into the mentioned bands or people who like their Gothic(-ish) Metal less operatic.

More info at www.la-ventura.com.

Line-up:
Carla Douw - vocals
Saz Kondic - guitars
Mike Saffrie - bass
Marco Van Boven - keyboards
Erwin Polderman - drums


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WOLFPACK UNLEASHED – Anthems Of Resistance (Napalm Records 2007)

Wolfpack Unleashed - Anthems Of Resistance
  1. Last Dance Of A Dying King
  2. Next Victim
  3. Killing Fields
  4. Disgrace Erased
  5. Warzone
  6. To Challenge Death
  7. Eroica
  8. Wolfpack Unleashed
  9. Religion Of Control

WOLFPACK UNLEASHED is one of Austria's first Thrash bands (are they really the only?), formed in 1995 by guitarist Wops Koch. For the vocals it seemed Günther was the ideal man, due to his melodic voice, also because for the music Wops and co. drew inspiration from the melodic sides of METALLICA, EXODUS, TESTAMENT, MEGADETH, ... And so it's only natural that you'll find these elements on the band's debut, "Anthems Of Resistance", out on the 1st October via their national label Napalm Records. But all these comparisons aside, I find the most similar band to be ABANDONED, also vocally.

Tackled subjects on this release include anti-war stuff, religious extremism, Beethoven's last moments ("Eroica"), abuse/abortion and personal loss. Or in other words, typical Thrash items. ;-)

Here's some interesting info I found on the band's website:

Q: What's the difference between "Anthems Of Resistance" and "The Art Of Resistance"?
A: "Anthems..." consists of the songs from "The Art..." plus "Disgrace Erased", and all songs were completely re-recorded. It also features changes in the lyrics, a completely new booklet and - of course - a far better sound. The song "Winter Leaves" from the demo was replaced by "Disgrace Erased" and now will be only available as a bonustrack.

Q: What is the idea behind the cover artwork?
A: The cover artwork of "Anthems Of Resistance" shows what WPU stands for. You see a man, half crippled, alone in a vast landscape, probably scarred and unable to breath normally from confrontations that happened before. The question is how did he look before - probably just another uniformed conformist without his own opinion, brainwashed by media and modern trends. Now this guy has refused to go with the masses, developed his own opinion, removed his old badge from the uniform and replaced it with a WPU-badge, to show to anybody, that he is not a controlled puppet anymore. Standing true to his own emotions, beliefs and taste is getting harder and harder in this world controlled by multinational cooperations and dependent media, trying to sell people bullshit as "new trend" and "lifestyle", therefore manipulating weak people's opinions. And this guy's own strenght has cost him much on the outside (his hand, maybe his skin, sight, etc.), but mentally he kept strong. In short - he, just like WPU, gives a shit about trends, prefabricated and uneducated opinions and brainwashing. And as you can see in the background, there are more people just like him. On the demo "The Art Of Resistance", you see him, back at the point where he finds himself in uniform like millions of others, but still all alone.

Q: Why does "Religion Of Control" start with a prayer?
A: "Religion Of Control" is a story about young, poor and uneducated men being corrupted and brainwashed by their religious leaders. It was written under the influence of the killings during 9/11 and the following wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, with religious extremists killing not only innocent people, but also killing their own people and brothers in faith. It demonstrates perfectly how a peaceful religion can be perverted by extremists. While we are all but anti-religious, fanatism, no matter in which religion, is considered a threat to all we stand for.

So Thrash it is, yet with a more melodic touch. No need to say you get a variety of tempos. It starts very well with the uptempo "Last Dance Of A Dying King". But the band never goes for the same speed all the time, as they go from ultrafast to midtempo back to something speedier. This pattern is woven into every song and helps to keep the attention alive and provide the listener with a lot of music in only a couple of minutes.

Other examples of faster (incl. stomping) tracks are: "Religion Of Control" (even reminding a bit of RECKLESS TIDE), "Killing Fields" (no, not a SLAYER cover), "Disgrace Erased", "Warzone" and "Wolfpack Unleashed". These songs really put a smile on your face, re-energize you for whatever challenge awaits you. Daniel's very energetic and variable drumming certainly has a big role in this.

When you want something slower, but still heavy, the rest of the material ("Next Victim", "Eroica", "To Challenge Death") will satisfy your needs.

To conclude I can happily say that WOLFPACK UNLEASHED may not be anything new or original, but they do deliver the goods if you're into the old school Bay Area Thrash bands or just simply for those who like their Thrash a bit more melodic. "Anthems Of Resistance" is a title that lives up to the expectations and I don't see why any self-respecting Thrash fan would not buy this release. You can also hear that many of the songs were written for live performances, where I think the real power will be unleashed.

More info at www.wolfpackunleashed.com.

Line-up:
Günther Writh - vocals, bass
Wolf Koch - guitar
Karl Preininger - guitar
Daniel Haberl - drums


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ENTHRONED – Tetra Karcist (Napalm Records 2007)

Enthroned - Tetra Karcist
  1. Ingressus Regnum Spiritus
  2. Pray
  3. Tellum Scorpionis
  4. Deviant Nerve Angelus
  5. The Burning Dawn
  6. Through The Cortex
  7. The Seven Ensigns Of Creation
  8. Nox
  9. Vermin
  10. Antares

ENTHRONED is one of Belgium's oldest Black Metal bands, being founded in 1993 by Sabathan and Cernunnos. Soon enough the rest of the line-up was completed. Throughout their entire career they faced many line-up changes, but all of those were solved flawlessly. The last changes being Sabathan leaving the band and a new drummer behind the kit, Ahephaim. Old drummer Alsvid helped the band for the recordings of their seventh album, "Tetra Karcist", available since the 1st of October.

Touring-wise the band played with big acts like DARK FUNERAL, USURPER, HECATE ENTHRONED, ... Needless to say that the band spends more time on the road than in the studio.

This is my first 'real' encounter with ENTHRONED's music, as I have only heard short mp3s on their website in the past. Back then I couldn't stand Black Metal. So I decdided to go back, check the mp3s that are now the website and listened to their previous album, "XES Haereticum". I liked it quite a bit. Qualitative Black Metal, if I may say so. Vocals, guitars, drums... it all fitted, especially with a heavy/rough production.

Now, with the previous vocalist Sabathan out of the band, guitarist Nornagest stepped up and took his place. The biggest difference is that Sabathan shrieks and Nornagest has a more growling voice. This makes you think a bit of Shagrath from DIMMU BORGIR, although this latter still has his own distinctive voice.

Expectations were high, with another new line-up and doing at least as good as on "XES Haereticum". "Tetra Karcist" starts very nice, with light Gregorian chants in "Ingressus Regnum Spiritus". Then hell breaks loose in "Pray", with the bestial Nornagest unleashing his power. The production here is good, clean, but perhaps a bit too clean or thin. This has the biggest influence on the drums.

On the cover you see a scorpion and this creature plays its role in "Tellum Scorpionis", another blastsong that shows the musical quality that ENTHRONED has been portraying ever since. Dual vocals have been used here between Nornagest and Phorgath or Nguaroth, since these last two also fulfill this role.

The brutality is broken by the instrumental "Deviant Nerve Angelus". A nice change that surely is very welcome. The transition to "The Burning Dawn" is inexistant, as the songs starts immediately after the instrumental break, which didn't get the chance to end properly. This time Nornagest gives his throat a rest, to let one other two vocalists take over. This is not for the weak of mind, with the extreme playing. The vocals aren't bad, but it's not Sabathan or Nornagest. Instrumentally the result is pretty flawless.

Same thing counts for "Through The Cortex". The triggered bass drums sound a bit too clicky and light. Other than that, this is drumming of a high level. The Gregorian chants return in this song, giving it a special touch and atmosphere. It reminds me a bit of the last album of the Doom Metal band FUNERAL, "From These Wounds". The guitarsolo is well-played, but more inline with the melody than a real solo, which comes next.

The intro of "The Seven Ensigns Of Creation" is slow, but good, very good even. Building up the tension, you expect something fast again, but that would be overkill. Slow to midpaced playing with different vocals, shrieky and growling. Here and there you get extra spices like the chanting. This is without question one of the best songs on this newest release. Awesome work!

And yes, our Gregorians are still around ("Nox"). What is their role on this album? Why is this kind of chanting so important? Chord picking, chanting, brutal riffing, pounding drums... a varied package. Again, the dual vocals (shrieks, growls) fulfill their roles flawlessly. The deep growling sometimes reminding of Karl Willets from UK Death Metallers BOLT THROWER.

With "Vermin" the Belgian Black Metallers recorded the album's longest track, stopping after 06:17. All the others are 3-4 minutes long, except for the two less-than-two-minutes songs: "Deviant Nerve Angelus" and "Antares". "Vermin" cranks up the pace again and you better still have some energy left to endure this one. Around 03:50 the tempo goes down and the speedy brutality gets broken again in favour of spoken parts, growling, shrieking in the back, and hailing some sort of god. The main riffing continues in a very hypnotizing manner, while the leads add a more exotic touch.

"Tetra Karcist" ends with an instrumental track, that is all about mystery, darkness, creepiness (is that a word?) and in the back tribal drumming. You feel like you're on another planet, away from anything civilization-related and you have to fear for your life constantly.

To conclude I can say that anyone into Black Metal should certainly check out ENTHRONED, for they are indeed a very good band in this genre. "XES Haereticum" was very good and so is "Tetra Karcist", although with Sabathan gone and the production a bit lighter, the result is a bit less, in my opinion. But that could change overtime, after more listens. To cut it short: ENTHRONED can be proud of this new album and I think they can even top it next time.

More info at www.enthroned-horde.com.

Line-up:
Nornagest - vocals, guitar
Nguaroth - guitar, vocals
Phorgath - bass, vocals
Alsvid - drums


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BLACK CRUCIFIXION – Promethean Gift (Soulseller Records 2007)

Black Crucifixion - Promethean Gift
  1. Promethean Gift
  2. Serpent Of Your Holy Garden
  3. Journey Into Myself (Through A Ritual)
  4. Flowing Downwards
  5. Suomi Finland Saatana (studio track 1996)
  6. Black Crucifixion (demo 1991)
  7. Death water (demo 1993)
  8. Flowing Downwards (live 1993)

BLACK CRUCIFIXION hails from Lappland, the most northern area in Scandinavia. The band started back in the early nineties and released a few records (demo, MCDs, and one album in 2006). "The Fallen One of Flames" was a very successful release in 1999, and even the re-release was sold out very rapidly. But now the other MCD, "Promethean Gift", also is available again for the Black Metallers amongst us and this since the end of September.

You get the original songs plus one new track, two demo versions of older songs and one live rendition. The title track commences with a doom-announcing piano part. The heaviness kicks in, but the tempo goes from slow to more uptempo stuff. The sound of the guitars and the whole atmosphere makes you catalogue this more under Black/Doom than pure Black. The vocals are more spoken than the singing/shrieking/growling you would expect. There's something CANDLEMASS-ish about this song. The production is rough enough and realistic enough and this can only be commended.

In "Serpent Of Your Holy Garden" the backing keyboards give the song an extra dark atmosphere. The vocals, especially in the chorus, are done in a hypnotizing way. Even the normal singing sounds as if Forn is in a trance. Musically it's still slow, even slower than before. The atmospheric keyboards make their entry again further in the song. Quality material, overall. If you're into doomy Black Metal, then BLACK CRUCIFIXION is something for you.

Aha, a resting point ("Journey Into Myself (Through A Ritual)"). The accoustic guitar dominates the intro, backed by the keyboards. Forn is now really going into a trance, especially if you look at the title. The electric guitar gently joins, just to stress the dark and mysterious journey. "Flowing Downwards" continues with the tandem 'accoustic guitar-keyboards', probably because this song is just the sequel of what was started in "Journey". Around 01:25 the journey gets rougher and more dangerous, accentuated by the drums, heavy riffs and keyboards. Forn soon sets in his singing, around 02:50. Here as well, the overall result is nice, although perhaps a bit too monotonous in the heavy part. I prefer the first two tracks. Around the fourth minute there's a guitar solo that sort of breaks the monontous/hypnotizing Metal, but its effect is only small.

Let's see for the bonus tracks:

"Sumoi Finland Saatana" is a more Dark Metal kind of song, less Black Metal. There's a more prominent role for the bass guitar. The guitar plays its role very gently, just like the drums. The vocals still are still low and raw (i.e., not melodic). The basic melody is played throughout the entire song and here again it becomes a bit monotonous, even if the drums add more punch later on.

The two demo tracks are only for the die-hard fans, because they are just too rough, raw and noisy to properly listen to. The live rendition of "Flowing Downwards" is good, although you get a demo-like sound. Again, for purists only.

Conclusion: for the EP alone, I'd say: go get it asap, because it's indeed very qualitative material. Anyone into Black Metal (e.g. CELTIC FROST, BATHORY, BLASPHEMY - as the band names as influences) or specifically Black meets Doom, buy "Promethean Gift" asap. This is stuff for you, guys. Regarding the extra material: this is really for the true fans of BLACK CRUCIFIXION, or anyone who likes to hear raw demo material. To cut it short: this re-release is definitely worth getting, if you want to have an as complete as possible picture (together with the other releases, ofcourse) of this band's works.

More info at www.paasto.com/bc.

Line-up:
Forn - vocals
E. Henrik - bass, keyboards
Blacksoul - guitars, keyboards
Sodomatic Slaughter - drums


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SOMRAK – The Abhorred Blessings (Decadence Through Ruination Records 2007)

Somrak - The Abhorred Blessings
  1. Trumpets Of Malevolence
  2. Banished Into The Void
  3. Murmurs Of Diseased Tongues
  4. Glorification In Loss And Misery
  5. Lux Nova
  6. Howls From The Devil...
  7. Crowning Of The Morbid King
  8. The Abhor Bless

Earlier this year I was contacted by the Slovenian Black Metal band MOR ZABOTH to make a review of their album "Towards The Darkest Dawn". Little time later, another Black Metal band from Slovenia contacted me for the same thing. SOMRAK is this second band and they recently signed a deal with Decadence Through Ruination Records to release their debut album, "The Abhorred Blessings", around the end of September. This review should have been online several weeks ago, but due to various circumstances it took me a bit longer.

SOMRAK was founded back in 2001 and has undergone quite some line-up changes since then. The red line in the band is that 3 members came over from SKORBUT, another...you guessed it, Black Metal band. Seems like Slovenia has specific scene for that. And like MOR ZABOTH the guys in SOMRAK are slowly working on their career in this totally unmainstream kind of music.

Before this first album, the band recorded three demos (in 2002, 2003 and 2005) and one split release (in 2005) with the American Black Metal band AESTHENIA.

"The Abhorred Blessings" is full of dark, mind-ripping Metal. The title alone gives you a clear indication of this. Naturally, to stay true to the genre, you don't have to expect a polished recording, although the sound is good. The result is very pure and honest. J.D. has a voice like Shagrath (DIMMU BORGIR) and perhaps a bit of Emperor Magus Caligula (Masse Broberg - DARK FUNERAL), although I've heard the latter one only once. And if you go a little further in time, why not think of Cronos from VENOM. Still, J.D. sounds harsher, rawer, as if affected by diabolic influences.

The guitar- and drumwork are as can be expected from a classic Black Metal band, although these musicians tend to add a more Thrashy touch every now and then. Blastbeats are intertwined with more normal drumming, with both ways being executed quite well. Faster playing can be found on the majority of the compositions, while the sad (is Black Metal ever happy? ;-)) "Glorification In Loss And Misery" serves as a sort of breaking point, where the playing is more midtempo and even reminds me a bit of BENEDICTION's "Subconscious Terror" chorus at a given moment.

For this first longplayer it was important for our Slovenians to have songs that have a certain stickiness, not only to do the titles justice, but also make you listen to the music, as the variation-element pops up a couple of times. In short: an average running time of 4-5 minutes, with the closing track, "The Abhor Bless", clocking in after a good 07:40. All this combined offers a playtime of over 42 minutes.

Six years after the founding and three demos later, SOMRAK shows they have the will to take this far, although the road is very long at this point. It does seem that they spent time working on the quality of their songs, the sound and even getting a record deal. This should spread the word about the band on a larger scale. "The Abhorred Blessings" is - all things considered - a heavy record, by which I mean: on a physic/mental level. You really have to be in the mood, unless ofcourse Black Metal is one of your favourite kinds of Metal, which means you have a big lead on me. Comparable bands could be HORNA and AZAGHAL. For now, SOMRAK are worth checking out, but as far as I see it, the best is yet to come.

More info at www.myspace.com/abhorbless.

Line-up:
J.D. - vocals
A.D. - guitar
J.P. - bass
M.C. - drums


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MAEDER – Maeder (Locomotive Records 2007)

Maeder - Maeder
  1. Never Last
  2. Another Thing Comin'
  3. Future Story
  4. No Grass Is Greener Than Your Own
  5. Business In Me
  6. Night And Day
  7. You're A Freak
  8. You Make Me Die
  9. It's All Good
  10. Piece Of Me
  11. White Pillow
  12. Give Away

The MAEDER band was started by the brothers...Maeder. From the press text I learned that they were raised a bit everywhere, from Melbourne to Switzerland, to even some stops in Los Angeles. Their self-released EP apparently was quite successful, with appearances on MTV and similar.

But let's fast-forward to 2007, more specifically the 28th September, the day the band's debut album will come out: "Maeder", a title that is well-chosen for a debut. Musically it's a mix of AC/DC-like Hard Rock, some Grunge and the contemporary American Poprock bands that get massive playtime on the radio and stations like MTV.

The start is good, with AC/DC's "Stiff Upperlip" riff, or a part of that. "Never Last" is also one of the few really good songs here. "Another Thing Comin'" isn't bad, even reminds a bit of METALLICA's "Load" and "Reload" albums. The rest is too radio/TV friendly and/or not exciting enough, with Nicholas' voice being the weaker/st link, also due to his quite American accent. Musically there are some good things, though, if you like the more commercial (Hard) Rock.

With "You Make Me Die", MAEDER is moving back towards the right track. This is another Bluesy AC/DC-ish song. The vocals are still not that much to brag about (personal opinion here), but it's a decent song. Same thing goes for the uptempo "It's All Good", which has some SHAKRA, OVERLOADED, ... influences. Rock 'n' Roll of a very good quality. "Piece Of Me" also contains some Bluesiness and it's therefore another good song, except for...yes, the vocals. Too much so-called attitude that doesn't fit here.

The best songs are clearly the ones that sound close to AC/DC. Now, there's no real need for a second AC/DC, unless that particular heir/'clone' is really that good to continue making similar Hard Rock. MAEDER's debut isn't bad, but - as far as I'm concerned - nothing super either. Like I said, if you like the more Grunge type of bands and/or the American Poprock artists of today, then MAEDER is something you will like. If you like your Hard Rock a bit heavier, then you better skip these Australians.

More info at www.maederonline.com.

Line-up:
Nicholas Maeder - vocals, guitar
Sebastian V. Maeder - guitar
Kit Riley - bass
Travis Tragani - drums


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DEPRESSED MODE – Ghosts Of Devotion (Firedoom Records 2007)

Depressed Mode - Ghosts Of Devotion
  1. Alone
  2. So Long
  3. Words Of Silence
  4. Suffer In Darkness
  5. Ghosts Of Devotion
  6. The Sun Is Dead
  7. Fallen Angel
  8. Dunkelheit (BURZUM cover)
  9. Cold

A new Melodic Doom band has risen from the darkness: DEPRESSED MODE. The name itself already indicates you shouldn't expect happy flower-power, birds and bees songs. It's also very easy to say the band 'stole' their name from DEPECHE MODE. But that is either a coincidence or Ossy (vocals, synths) likes that band.

DEPRESSED MODE lost happiness in 2005 and soon gathered enough people for a line-up. In the beginning of 2006, when having a couple of songs ready, there were no signs of guitars, since Ossy didn't find them necessary. But reactions from the outside world did force him to add that instrument after all.

Natalie Koskinen (vocals) from SHAPE OF DESPAIR soon joined Ossy and Tomppa (guitars) and together with session musicians they worked on the band's debut album, "Ghosts Of Devotion", which was released on the 17th September. Marko Tommila sat behind the drums, Jani Lamminpää held the bass, Jori Haukio added the cello parts and Marissa Marjamäki offered her skills for the backing vocals.

Since Ossy is the creator of the band and songs (or at least for the biggest part), it's no wonder that the keyboards play a key role. So much even that they are in charge of not only the melodies, but also the atmospheric backing and the bombast. The guitars wrap it all together.

Ossy's growling is not just growling like in many Death Metal bands, but it's compatible with the depressing atmospheres, as he outs himself in a sighing manner, thus contributing to the dark setting. Melodic Doom is a large term, and I think it's better if for comparisons when call it gothic/funeral doom. In fact, SHAPE OF DESPAIR is only one of the bands to compare with.

In "So Long" you can hear Marissa 'duetting' with Ossy, not only one of the best songs on this album, but it also sounds like there's never a take off or find a decent end. But if you let it come to you, you'll like what these guys have recorded.

Natalie joins Ossy in "Words Of Silence", another splendid song offering very recognizable keyboard melodies. The droning guitars give the song more power, and are therefore a very important element. The title is well chosen, because this is not for the weak of mind. Ossy's sighing growls bubbling up from the deepest, darkest abyss, backed by a whole battery of depression inducing instrumentation. Simply stunning. Actually the same can be said of "Suffer In Darkness", except for the keyboards, who are less 'sticky'.

Aah, a peaceful river with some implosions in the back. But beware, as things change very rapidly. Slow, agonizing drumming, gentle piano touches, angel chanting and the demon himself, Ossy. Danger approaches as Tomppa fires away loads of ultraheavy riffs. You're not in heaven, maybe not even in hell. This is an attack on your emotions, on your very soul. The mysterious atmosphere will affect your thinking even more when you're trying to escape. The "Ghosts Of Devotion" don't let go of their prey that easily.

Once you did find a way out and hoped to see the light, your sorrow will only continue for a while longer when you dwell in those dark areas. "The Sun Is Dead" is a song that can only make you weep, because your suffering isn't over yet. This time Ossy added some hypnotizing singing, next to his growling. The piano breaks enforce the feeling something unknown is lurking behind every corner, tree, ... The 'chaos' is complete with some more dramatic keyboards and double-bass outbursts.

The intro of "Fallen Angel" contains not only female chanting, but also drumsamples, a bit like LINKIN PARK (at least, that's the first band that comes to mind. And I really dislike 'em). I'm no fan of those. But the situation improves soon enough, with Marko's intervention. While the atmosphere and melodies are still not of the happiest, the guitars again enforce this and cannot be missed. Well, they can, but the effect will be much less. And speaking of this, around 03:30 they lead the way, while the soft piano melody is pushed to the back. Overall, this is another very commendable result. Natalie's singing fits in really well.

BURZUM is a band I only know by name, so I can't compare DEPRESSED MODE's version of "Dunkelheit" with the original. Still, it's well executed and seems to fit in with the other songs in terms of atmosphere. Musically DEPRESSED MODE's own songs still are different.

The closing "Cold" introduces the cello, assisted by the piano. Sadness and sorrow are key here and just the intro alone is very touching. After a good two minutes the rest of the band joins in and continues the wonderful setting with more power. Nothing different from the other songs, which means top quality.

Finland is scoring a lot in the Doom competition the last few years: SHAPE OF DESPAIR, SWALLOW THE SUN, TERHEN and now DEPRESSED MODE. The deal with Firebox counts for two albums, of which "Ghosts Of Devotion" is the first. Melodic Doom, or a mix of Gothic and Funeral Doom, of a high quality. Sure, DEPRESSED MODE bring nothing new to the league, but are a welcome addition if you ask me. Like with TERHEN's "Eyes Unfolded", you have to take your time with the "Ghosts Of Devotion", for they will happily lead you around in the depressing areas of the dark. Let it be known that the services (producing, mixing, mastering) of ex-MORS PRINCIPIUM EST guitarist Jori Haukio contributed a great deal to this first album.

More info at www.depressedmode.net.

Line-up:
Ossy Salonen - vocals, synths
Tomppa Turpeinen - guitars, bass
Natalie Koskinen - vocals


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ASTRAL DOORS – New Revelation (Locomotive Records 2007)

Astral Doors - New Revelation
  1. New Revelation
  2. Freedom War
  3. Pentecostal Bound
  4. Bastard Son
  5. Waiting For The Master
  6. Planet Earth
  7. Quisling
  8. Cold War Survivor
  9. The Gates Of Light
  10. Shores Of Solitude
  11. Mercenary Man

Swedish Heavy/Power Metal band ASTRAL DOORS have very recently (14th September) released their fourth full album: "New Revelation". Since 2003, the year of their debut "Of The Son And The Father", the band have been very consistent in composing new material. Not only have they been on Locomotive Records since ever, but HYPOCRISY/PAIN vocalist/guitarist Peter Tägtgren has been like the seventh member of the band, as he has mixed every album, including this new one.

Gigs with GRAVE DIGGER, DORO, BLIND GUARDIAN and slots at Wacken Open Air, Sweden Rock festival and Decibel 2000 were important for the band's image and fame. With the material on "New Revelation" you can be sure they'll hit the stages soon enough. The sole question is: with whom?

I got the promo of "New Revelation" a couple of weeks ago, but since I didn't own any ASTRAL DOORS albums, I rushed to the shop, listened to "Evil Is Forever" and bought it. Not just because I found it very good, but also to expand my knowledge and have some comparative material. If all goes well, I'll probably buy the previous one, "Astralism", as well. But that's of course a budgettary issue. ;-)

If there's one, well, two comparisons I can immediately make with "Evil Is Forever": the drums sound lighter and Nils also goes for a cleaner way of singing at times.

Someone who's very important in the band, is vocalist Nils Patrik Johansson. He's not only known as the voice of ASTRAL DOORS, but the last 12 months he's been active in WUTHERING HEIGHTS ("The Shadow Cabinet", October 2006) and more recently LION'S SHARE ("Emotional Coma", June 2007). With his typical voice, you directly know it's him. He's such a good singer that comparisons with Jorn Lande, Ronnie James Dio and others aren't misplaced. And although he's a very busy musician, I can't find any flaws on "New Revelation".

The start is very direct: sharp riffing, bombastic keyboards, pounding drums and Nils' very melodic voice. The keyboards proove to be very important for the melody, especially in the chorus. "Freedom War" is a midtempo track, with less heaviness and Nils singing very clean here, although he adds a small touch of roughness in the chorus. The verses sound quite weak, especially compared to the heavier, groovier chorus. Things improve greatly with the uptempo "Pentecostal Bound", one of the best tracks. Nils' singing like a happy kid, with lots of passion. The keyboards have an organish backing sound and this only adds more power. The guitarsolos another very nice element and this song would not be as good without them.

To break the tempo, the band also added a resting point: "Bastard Son". Calm, soft verses, contrasted by a heavy chorus. Nils has something Dio-ish about his voice and this song also comes close as a DIO-song, one that could have come off "Killing The Dragon" or "Master Of The Moon". Only, DIO only has one guitarist and the guitarwork is still different.

Continuing the faster pace, "Waiting For The Master" is next. Its intro is very peaceful and accoustic, but that doesn't last long, for heaviness kicks in soon. Double bass, keyboard backing and guitars taking the lead. Pluspoints go this time to the drums - not that the other members did a bad job, on the contrary -, for they are quite varied, with here and there some nice fills. "Planet Earth" even goes further: more aggressive guitarwork, more bombast, more energetic singing. Splendid work. The main riffing even reminds a bit of FIREWIND's "Allegiance". To make the title even more fitting, samples of the space shuttle launch were added ("5, 4, 3, 2, 1, ...").

With "Quisling" the focus lies again on melody and overall feeling instead of tempo. Although midtempo, faster drums wouldn't hurt in the least, especially in the chorus. The keyboards never have a key role, but offer assistance from the back and that's also how they are in the mix: in the back. Anything stronger would jeapordize the guitars' leading role and make the whole result less good. The tempo does return in "Cold War Survivor", where Nils sings like Dio, once again (mainly when doubled), although he does add enough change to still be Nils Patrik Johansson. ;-) The dual leads are very well executed and really make this song great to listen to.

And with the more melodic parts of the previous songs, it's time for another tempo boost, sharper riffing and the keyboards pushing through a little more. What else is there to say about "The Gates Of Light" that's so good and flawless? I do can say that in the next song, "Shores Of Solitude" that the keyboards are lighter, spacier and the drums also have a lost some heaviness. The melody is also more Heavy than Power. A bit like the slower tracks of ACCEPT and U.D.O.. The guitarwork is very commendable, but this is simply excellent on the entire album. "Shores Of Solitude" is a less good song, like "Freedom War". Those two are the least attractive ones.

The last track, "Mercenary Man", starts with an instrumental part. Just the organ, nothing more. Little before the second minute, the entire band comes in. The tempo is again slow-midtempo, the singing very hymnic, although you'd expect something aggressive. All in all, a decent song. I would have put an uptempo one here, or at least a song with more punch.

Since I can only compare with "Evil Is Forever", I find it a very close call. Both are equally good and it just depends on the moment or song that makes one album better than the other. Fact is that "New Revelation" is an album to proud of. The sound, the musicianship, the compositions, and whatever else... it all fits. Sure, there are two less good songs (in my opinion), but those don't have the impact to tear this album down. If you're into DIO, BLIND GUARDIAN, HAMMERFALL, or just simply Heavy/Power Metal, then you cannot ignore ASTRAL DOORS. This should be their breakthrough album. That is, if "Evil Is Forever" or "Astralism" didn't take that title already.

More info at www.astraldoors.com.

Line-up:
Nils Patrik Johansson - vocals
Joachim Nordlund - guitars
Martin Haglund - guitars
Jocke Roberg - keyboards
Mika Itäranta - bass
Johan Lindstedt - drums


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ZONARIA – Infamy And The Breed (Pivotal Rockordings 2007)

Zonaria - Infamy And The Breed
  1. Infamy (intro)
  2. The Last Endeavour
  3. Pandemic Assault
  4. The Armageddon Anthem
  5. Rendered In Vain
  6. Image Of Myself
  7. Evolution Overdose
  8. Attending Annihilation
  9. Descend Into Chaos
  10. Ravage The Breed
  11. The Black Omen
  12. Everything Is Wasteland

ZONARIA are seen as the heirs of the Swedish Death Metal legacy. This is a very young band that was formed in 2002. In 2004 they released a demo called "Evolution Overdose". Of course, even ZONARIA had to undergo line-up changes. Two years ago, the definitive line-up was reality. Last year the band recorded the EP "Rendered In Vain", which was mixed and mastered by Jonas Kjellgren (SCAR SYMMETRY, ex-CARNAL FORGE) at Black Lodge Studios with the addition of guest vocals by Christian Älvestam (SCAR SYMMETRY, UNMOORED) on the track "Attending Annihilation." The lyrics were about the apocalypse, armageddon, and the inevitable demise of humanity.

Last November (2006) Pivotal Rockordings signed the band and soon afterwards ZONARIA entered the Kabyss Studios with Per Nilsson (SCAR SYMMETRY) and Jonas Kjellgren (SCAR SYMMETRY) at Black Lodge to begin the recording of their debut album. This will come out in a couple of days (7th September) under the title "Infamy And The Breed".

Musically you get a mix of HYPOCRISY, ARCH ENEMY and the dark atmospheres of DIMMU BORGIR. Those are the three biggest influences, although you can easily lay a link to similar-styled bands. Twelve tracks offering a total playtime of a good 46 minutes. After the intro "The Last Endeavour" breaks loose. Brutal groovy riffing, pounding drums, dark and gloomy atmospheric keyboard backing and Simon's demonic voice. On this "Last Endeavour" you experience a "Pandemic Assault", which serves as an inspiration for "The Armageddon Anthem". Just go down the tracklisting and you can come up with a own story. :-)

There are no real uptempo songs (full songs, I mean, not portions) here, but that doesn't mean this is a boring album. Melody, harmonies, heaviness... it all forms a solid unity. If you read the posted reviews on the band's website, you can read that these young Swedish have delivered a solid album. But as much as I like Melodic Death (ARCH ENEMY, INSOMNIUM, AMON AMARTH, MORS PRINCIPIUM EST, ENSIFERUM, and others) I can't help but add a few points of criticism:

* the drums that sound quite plastic, digital - something of the modern times, yes.
* the overuse of backing keyboards - I understand keyboards can help create a fitting atmosphere or melody, but must you use them in the same way in EVERY (or the majority of) the songs?
* the previous element and the continuous (yes, there are hooks and breaks, but that's not the point) extreme blasting (fast double bass seems to be a very important aspect for this band) almost make you think you're listening to the same song over and over again.

Since we're dealing with a debut album, I find "Infamy And The Breed" a fine piece of Metal. One that can compete with the bigger bands and immediately shows these Swedes mean business. Now, if they would work on their compositions (mainly less keyboards and only when really necessary) and sound (yes, those drums) it would be even better than it already is. Some praise is deserved, indeed. ZONARIA, a band that anyone into the above-mentioned (or similar) bands should check and keep an eye on.

More info at www.zonaria.com.

Line-up:
Simon Berglund - vocals, guitars
Emil Nyström - guitars
Markus Åkebo - bass
Emanuel Isaksson - drums


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7TH ANGEL – In Your Face (HQ Records 2007)

7th Angel - In Your Face
  1. Born To Rock
  2. Live For Love
  3. Free
  4. Illegal Business
  5. Cause I'm Me
  6. Found
  7. Fuck The State
  8. NWO
  9. Only Sixteen
  10. Heat Of The Night

7TH ANGEL or SEVENTH ANGEL is a Hard Rock band from Slovenia. And yes, this one is also new to me, but I'm glad they contacted me for a review. Although their album, "In Your Face", came out in September 2007 (I'm writing this in March 2008), it's only in January 2008 that I got the request by e-mail. The previous Slovenian acts whose album I reviewed were SOMRAK and MOR ZABOTH, both Black Metal bands.

Although the band was formed back in 1999, it wasn't until 2003 that things really took off, although they made a few demos in between. Guitarist Mike and vocalist Axl are the sole surivors of the original line-up. It seems that the band, or at least Mike (guitar), is endorsed by some foreign companies like:

DEAN GUITARS (www.deanguitars.com/7thangel.php)
FRAMUS (www.framus.de)
T-REX (www.t-rex-engineering.com)
JIM DUNLOP (www.jimdunlop.com)

"In Your Face" contains 10 Hard Rock songs, reminding heavily of THE SCORPIONS, THUNDER, and the likes. Here and there you might notice influences from bands like IRON MAIDEN as well. Among the pure rockers like "Born To Rock", "Free" (with its catchy chorus and great harmonies), "Illegal Business" (not that bad, but I find it the least good one), "Fuck The State" (quite a fun, uptempo song), "NWO" (again implementing a good portion of melody) and "Only Sixteen" (heavy guitarwork, catchy chorus and overall reminding of the 80s), 7TH ANGEL also thought of the more relaxing songs, so to speak. The ballads included, if you want to use that term, even though it doesn't fit everywhere.

The songs to be put under that banner are "Live For Love" (here too, a catchy chorus), "Cause I'm Me", "Found" (THE SCORPIONS, anyone? A very nice song, though) and "Heat Of The Night" (slow tempo, calm verses and the rock element in the chorus).

What is very clear here is that these Slovenians show great passion for Hard Rock. The music is as honest as can be, the input as real as can be and the production true to how it should be, even though this is a young band without the means of THE SCORPIONS, THUNDER, AC/DC, UFO, Y&T and so on. The compositions aren't complicated, but it doesn't always have to be like that to make good music. Complexity isn't what Hard Rock is about and 7TH ANGEL have understood that. The material on "In Your Face" might require you to listen a couple of times to hear it all - the singing, the guitarwork, the drums, the melodies, ... - but know that this is an album that will experience lots of playtime, when the circumstances ask for it.

So, in short: you like Hard Rock and want to know other bands besides the obvious names? Then visit 7TH ANGEL's website or MySpace page and order the album.

More info at www.seventh-angel.com.

Line-up:
Axl - vocals
Mike - guitars
Tweety - bass
Simmy - drums


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MEHIDA – Blood And Water (Napalm Records 2007)

Mehida - Blood And Water
  1. Unchanging
  2. Wings Of Dove
  3. Burning Earth
  4. Multitude
  5. Stronghold
  6. Guilty
  7. A Letter From Home
  8. Dry Bones
  9. Lost Ones
  10. Grace
  11. Outro-End Of The World

MEHIDA is the new band of ex-SONATA ARCTICA/ex-WINGDOM keyboardist Mikko Harkin and DIVINEFIRE guitarist Jani Stefanovic, although the basis was formed by Mikko, drummer Markus Niemispelto and bassist Jarno Raitio. On vocals they have ex-CANDLEMASS/THERION singer Thomas Vikström. While or because they've had most experience in Melodic Metal (be it Power, Progressive or similar), the style of MEHIDA is nothing different and can be catalogued under Progressive. The first release has been given the title "Blood And Water" and came out at the end of August and 3rd of September for the rest of Europe.

If you look at the line-up you see people that know how to make good music, Metal in this case. The bands they played in are also a proof of that: DIVINEFIRE, SONATA ARCTICA, KOTIPELTO, CANDLEMASS, ... But being successful in one band doesn't necessarily mean things are going to work out equally well in other projects.

MEHIDA, like most Progressive bands, plays no simple music (listening more than once is recommended) and the songs that shows that the most is the first one, "Unchanging". Tempo changes, complex drum pattern, Jani providing the heaviness, while Mikko takes the melodies for his account. Most material that follows is either slow or midtempo. I know, it's Progressive, not Power Metal, but an album with different tempos would make it better, in my opinion.

The biggest problem for me, however, is Thomas Vikström's voice. Throughout the entire album he sings high, on one song more than the other. There's some growling in the intro of "Multitude", which sounds really good (the growling), but is soon ended. All this clean singing tends to get annoying after a few songs and it's only here and there that his input is good - but never more than that. He's got little range and signs of roughness are far to seek. One of the consequences is a big contrast with Jani's heavy guitarwork. Examples of where things don't go well, in my opinion: "Wings Of Dove", "Multitude" and "A Letter From Home" (actually a very mediocre song). Three out of eleven isn't much, you might think. Those three are the 'worst'.

But let's also mention the songs where Thomas does do a good (i.e. better than those three other songs) job: "Unchanging", "Burning Earth", "Guilty", "Dry Bones", "Lost Ones" and "Grace". Also because those songs are musically the better ones on "Blood And Water", with the obvious influences from STRATOVARIUS, KOTIPELTO, SONATA ARCTICA, DIVINEFIRE and the likes.

The guys show there's great musicianship on this album, but the different elements aren't always working together. Overall, there are also only a few songs that stand out. MEHIDA won't win any prizes at the moment, as the competition is hard in Progland. For a starting album, I'd call it average. So I'll give them the benefit of the doubt for the follow-up. If Progressive Metal (here with some modern influences) really is your kind of music, then I think MEHIDA might satisfy your taste. Else you better listen a few times before buying.

More info at www.mehida.com.

Line-up:
Thomas Vikström - vocals
Jani Stefanovic - guitars
Mikko Harkin - keyboards
Jarno Raitio - bass
Markus Niemispelto - drums


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HURTLOCKER – Embrace The Fall (Napalm Records 2007)

Hurtlocker - Embrace The Fall
  1. I Am Napalm
  2. They
  3. At Last
  4. Let Them Die
  5. Disgust
  6. Outside Are The Dogs
  7. Release Of Rin
  8. Destroying Bliss
  9. Deserving
  10. Embrace The Fall

Chicago's Thrash Metal outfit HURTLOCKER was founded in 2000 and soon came with a demo ("Autumnal") in 2001. This got them some support slots with OBITUARY, TURMOIL and GORGUTS. In 2002 they recorded the "Suicide" demo, which resulted in stage sharing with KING DIAMOND, AGNOSTIC FRONT and slots at many festivals. Also that year the "Murder" demo came out. And still the band could spit out material: "Empty" (2003?). In 2004 "Reflection Of Desperation" was recorded and the band played alongside ANTHRAX, DYING FETUS and LAMB OF GOD.

The Austrian label Napalm Records soon signed the band and last year their debut album came out: "Fear In A Handful Of Dust". That record was one brutal assault from start to finish, with compact songs to make the blast even more powerful and direct. Musically it was a mix of Thrash and Metalcore and that is also one of the reasons why I didn't review it (the Metalcore part - you'll see in the reviews of RINGWORM, BURY YOUR DEAD and a few others that this isn't exactly my cup of tea.).

Lots of gigs and hard work provided the band then with enough material for the follow-up, which came out last week in Germany and Scandinavia and today (3rd September) in the rest of Europe. Titled "Embrace The Fall" and a cover that forecasts something more than a storm, you know HURTLOCKER didn't soften their Metal.

From the starting song, "I Am Napalm" (a tribute to Napalm Records? ;-)), you better hold on tight for this raging typhoon. The band left most of the Metalcore elements behind and focussed on Thrash. The sound and material is a bit like what KREATOR did on "Enemy Of God". So psread over the tracklisting you'll find more Thrash-songs than Metal/Hardcore stuff, although that is still present - not only through the guitars, but mainly Grant's vocals.

There aren't any bad songs on this, but I do want to add that it starts well, then there are a few small dips and from "Disgust" the band really are on the right track. Songs that stand out are - and I'll try not to add them all ;-) - "I Am Napalm", "Disgust", "Release Of Sin", "Destroying Bliss" and "Deserving" (going more Death Metal here). Tony sure knows how to hit the skins and spice the songs with some blastbeats ("Disgust", "Outside Are The Dogs" and "Deserving"). The guitar tandem Tim-Justin even added some SLAYER-like playing to the new album. Just listen to "Outside Are The Dogs".

To cut things short: Brutal Thrash (still incorporating Hardcore elements) from start to finish again. Quality musicianship, short and functional solos and definitely a commendable release. If you liked "Fear In A Handful Of Dust", you'll certainly like "Embrace The Fall". HURTLOCKER are well on their way to become one of the top bands in their genre, if they aren't yet. One point of criticism that must be mentioned: the drums that sound heavy, but actually a bit too light to counter the guitars. But I guess that's modern production, right? Something many releases suffer from, with (mainly) the drums sounding too thin, too plastic, too digital. Although it's not such a big deal here, it would do the material good.

More info at www.hurtlocker.biz.

Line-up:
Grant Belcher - vocals
Tim Moe - guitars
Justin Jurgevich - guitars
Chris Djuricic - bass
Tony Bettenhausen - drums


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TANKARD – Best Case Scenario: 25 Years In Beers (AFM Records 2007)

Tankard - Best Case Scenario: 25 Years In Beers
  1. Zombie Attack
  2. Maniac Forces
  3. (Empty) Tankard
  4. Don't Panic
  5. Chemical Invasion
  6. The Morning After
  7. Alien
  8. 666 Packs
  9. Beermuda
  10. Space Beer
  11. Medley (Alcohol, Puke, Mon Cheri, Wonderful Life)
  12. Freibier
  13. Nation Over Nation
  14. Two-Faced
  15. Minds On The Moon

TANKARD, the kings of Beer Thrash, celebrate their 25th birthday this year and what better way to do so than with a Best Of album? Like DESTRUCTION did early this year ("Thrash Anthems"), the band has re-recorded several songs from their albums made from 1986 to 1995, so you have a good idea of what to expect if you're planning on buying them. They fittingly titled it "Best Case Scenario: 25 Years In Beers" and this tankard will be drinkable from the 31st August on. Here's the tracklisting and off which albums the songs come:

01. Zombie Attack (Zombie Attack, 1986)
02. Maniac Forces (Zombie Attack, 1986)
03. (Empty) Tankard (Zombie Attack, 1986)
04. Don't Panic (Chemical Invasion, 1987)
05. Chemical Invasion (Chemical Invasion, 1987)
06. The Morning After (The Morning After, 1988)
07. Alien (Alien, 1989)
08. 666 Packs (Alien, 1989)
09. Beermuda (The Meaning Of Life, 1990)
10. Space Beer (The Meaning Of Life, 1990)
11. Medley (Alcohol, Puke, Mon Cheri, Wonderful Life) (Zombie Attack, 1986 - Chemical Invasion, 1987 - The Morning After, 1988 - The Meaning Of Life, 1990)
12. Freibier (Stone Cold Sober, 1992)
13. Nation Over Nation (Two-Faced, 1994)
14. Two-Faced (Two-Faced, 1994)
15. Minds On The Moon (The Tankard, 1995)

The Limited Edition contains a "Tribute" cd, on which other bands play TANKARD songs.

01. ABANDONED - Face Of The Enemy (Disco Destroyer, 1998)
02. COURAGEOUS - The Morning After (The Morning After, 1988)
03. DOPPELBLOCK - Freibier (Stone Cold Sober, 1992)
04. FATAL EMBRACE - Acid Death (Zombie Attack, 1986)
05. F.K.Ü. - Space Beer (The Meaning Of Life, 1990)
06. FREEZEEBEE - Poison (Zombie Attack, 1986)
07. HATEWORK - Live To Die (Alien, 1989)
08. HYADES - Alien (Alien, 1989)
09. IRREVERENCE - Beermuda (The Meaning Of Life, 1990)
10. MANTICORA - Total Addiction (Chemical Invasion, 1987)
11. ODIUM - Sunscars (B-Day, 2002)
12. PARADOX - Zombie Attack (Zombie Attack, 1986)
13. PARAGON - Two-Faced (Two-Faced, 1994)
14. SACRED STEEL - (Empty) Tankard (Zombie Attack, 1986)
15. SCORNAGE - Away (Disco Destroyer, 1998)
16. SOLICITUDE - http://www.Planetwide-Suicide.com (Disco Destroyer, 1998)
17. TASTE OF DOOM - Rectifier (B-Day, 2002)
18. TORMENT - Chemical Invasion (Chemical Invasion, 1987)

It's ofcourse still Thrash and the TANKARD boys have chosen for a speedy album, where you'll get thrashed from one side of the room to the other and back. Andy Classen's has once again done a more than splendid job with the production, mixing and mastering. A couple of weeks ago he did the same with SPELLBOUND's newest, "Nemesis 2665". The tracklisting is chronologically ordered and you can hear a difference in playing, although the typical TANKARD ingredients were used: the first half of the list is really kick-in-the-nuts Thrash, while for the second half you'll hear a bit more groove and less pure, direct Thrash in favour of more midtempo stuff, although the quantity of speed is preserved. In the bottom half the band uses different tempos and when you think the tempo will remain stable, a speed injection is added instantly.

The "Tribute" CD is also a cool addition, seeing Thrash, Power and Punk (e.g. DOPPELBLOCK) bands cover TANKARD's repertoire. That way you get an impression of how these bands sound (although not everyone recorded it at the studio they 'usually' use, but still...) and then perhaps get interested to check these bands' discography.

It's not always easy to really review a Best Of, but you can simply go no wrong with the purchase of "Best Case Scenario: 25 Years In Beers". It's a very decent and actually must-have double album for:

* anyone who's into Thrash
* any fan of TANKARD
* anyone wanting to buy one or more TANKARD album, but undecisive of which to choose
* any Metalhead, in fact

So what are you waiting for?

More info at www.tankard.org.

Line-up:
Andreas Geremia - vocals
Andy Gutjahr - guitars
Frank Thorwath - bass
Olaf Zissel - drums


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VANISHING POINT – The Fourth Season (Dockyard 1 2007)

Vanishing Point - The Fourth Season
  1. Embodiment
  2. Tyranny Of Distance
  3. Surrender
  4. Hope Among The Heartless
  5. Gaia
  6. I Within I
  7. Behind The Open Door
  8. Ashen Sky
  9. One Foot In Both Worlds
  10. Wake Me
  11. A Day Of Difference

The Australian Progmetallers VANISHING POINT haven't sit still since the transfer to Dockyard 1 and releasing their third album "Embrace The Silence" in 2005. Next to the gigs in their homeland (supporting GAMMA RAY, DRAGONFORCE, ...) and coming over to Europe for Wacken Open Air, they worked on new songs and had to cope with two line-up changes: bass and drum. With every release this band has grown and their 2005 album was truly a very important in the band's history. Without question you could consider it VANISHING POINT's best to date. Now, since the 27th August, album #4 is ready and fittingly titled "The Fourth Season".

Topping "Embrace The Silence" would be a hard nut to crack, that's for sure. Many will certainly accuse the Australians of 'stealing' the idea for the cover from KAMELOT's "Ghost Opera" album, since there too there's a character, blind-folded and playing the violin.

While the first two albums had a playtime of a rough 40-50 minutes and more recently over 79 minutes, I wondered if "The Fourth Season" would come close to that again, but no. We're back at little less than 50 minutes. There was a gap of five years between "Tangled In Dream" and "Embrace The Silence" and this probably played a role in creating their last masterpiece. With now only two years...

It's pretty obvious that I really liked and still like "Embrace The Silence", with great songs like "Hollow", "If Only I", "Embraced", "Seasons Of Sunday", and more. With "The Fourth Season" the band has continued what they started in 2005, but going for a heavier guitar sound and more/different keyboard parts. The start is almost like before, with the energetic "Embodiment". The tone is set for the other songs, with a couple of tempo changes, the keyboards that dominate and lead and heavy, chugging guitars. New drummer Christian Nativo is really doing a very nice job: double bass, changing tempo, silences, .... Vocalist and frontman Silvio Massaro proves once again what a great vocalist he is by adding the right touch of emotion, how deep his lyrics are and even adds a very nice suprise by singing a short piece in Italian ("Hope Among The Heartless").

The cover was one element that could make you think of KAMELOT, but musically both bands also connect:

* in "Hope Among The Heartless", around 03:30 and further
* in "I Within I", which could have come from the "Ghost Opera" album
* in "Ashen Sky", particularly its chorus

But that doesn't mean VANISHING POINT is copying KAMELOT. The two bands still have their own musical identity. EVERGREY is another band that perhaps served as source of inspiration: just listen to "Ashen Sky" and "One Foot In Both Worlds", which has a very nice Jazzy break. Both songs are also of the best on the new album.

Like before, VANISHING POINT put the emphasis on melody and atmosphere, not so much on harshness/roughness or speed, although the new songs are quite varied, starting uptempo, going slower/midtempo towards the middle and bursting out one more crunchy song at the end, before closing with a wonderful atmospheric song - "A Day Of Difference" - featuring only the keyboards, Silvio and a spoken sample about life and society. Not only the music is well composed, but the lyrics also play a big role: they make you think about what is said/sung.

VANISHING POINT has grown and has implemented the line-up changes without problems, if there were any at all. The material is very good and once again recommended, but for me personally, "The Fourth Season" did not top "Embrace The Silence", although it does come close. The latter one still stands strong as being the band's best so far. So if you liked what the band released in 2005, you'll definitely like this follow-up. You'll like it even more if EVERGREY and KAMELOT are among your favourite bands.

More info at www.vanishing-point.com.au.

Line-up:
Silvio Massaro - vocals
Tommy Vucur - guitars
Chris Porcianko - guitars
Leonard Kopilas - keyboards (MANIC OPERA)
Adrian Alimic - bass
Christian Nativo - drums


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THE ORDER – Metal Casino (Dockyard 1 2007)

THE ORDER - Metal Casino
  1. Welcome To The Metal Casino
  2. Mama, I Love Rock 'N' Roll
  3. Satisfaction
  4. Bridges Burning
  5. My Last Goodbye
  6. In The Heat Of The Lonely Night
  7. Let The Good Times Roll
  8. Down With The Rain
  9. Forever
  10. Broken Days
  11. Little Wings

THE ORDER, formed by ex-members from GURD and PURE INC. frontman Gianni Pontillo, released its first album last year. Titled "Son Of Armageddon", the result was good and received overall positive criticism. The band showed a healthy mix of Hard Rock and more modern Metal. But there was still something missing or the final product wasn't perfect yet.

About one year and a half later the four-piece has returned and gambled at the "Metal Casino" to improve their craft, to be unleashed once again on the 27th August. It starts with Gianni welcoming everyone at the "Casino", after which the tone is set with the rocking "Mama, I Love Rock 'N' Roll". Hard Rock of the finest quality, as shown previously by DIO, SHAKRA, and JORN. "Satisfaction" is not a ROLLING STONES cover, but still pure and honest Hard Rock, although at a slower tempo and containing more groove.

AC/DC is another of the band's influences, as clearly shown in "Bridges Burning", again pushing the pedal more down. Let yourself go and shake off or bang away your troubles and have a great time. First part of Rock is over, time for something softer with "My Last Goodbye", where the intro reminds of MEGADETH and even more of PANTERA's "Cemetery Gates". The leads afterwards only reinforce the sadness and melancholy. With this song the band shows they can do more than uptempo and more aggressive material.

To have a nice transition to the second part of the tracklisting, Bruno found it better to have a gentle intro and then let things burst loose. "In The Heat Of The Lonely Night" has calm verses and a heavy, catchy chorus with Gianni sounding quite like Jorn Lande, especially when singing/outing the words "In The Heeeaaat Of The Lonely Niiiiight".

If you want to have another boost, "Let The Good Times Roll" needs no explanation, right? Feel free to sing along with the chorus, as it's not really more than a repetition of the title. "Down" is a very important word in "Down With Tha Rain", as it tells you to not expect something superfast. Slow, heavy, groovy guitar and a screamy Gianni. Not a bad song, but the screams can get annoying quite rapidly. Around the second minute there's a nice break in preparation for the guitar solo. And this break (incl. solo) is the best part of the song.

In "Forever" you can hear some ICED EARTH-ish riffing and Mauro found the acceleration pedal again, although it's not Thrash-fast, more faster midtempo. The chorus is again well written. And with "Broken Days" it seems THE ORDER saved the best for (before) last. This 3-minute song is absolutely one of the best Hard Rock song I've heard and it simply moves you, cheers you up, makes you want to experience this live and you'll still crave for more. But I guess they wanted to keep things compact or as exciting as possible, even in this short time span. Again the ICED EARTH-ish riffing, and overall the song is like a typical uptempo SHAKRA song (one of their specialities), thanks to the single bass drum. Everything just sounds perfect and every instrument comes out like it should. Seriously, "Broken Days" is first class Rock/Metal, even though the previous songs were also quite good.

On "Little Wings" the band flies to the end of the album. It's a slow, ballad-ish song, focussing on atmosphere and perfectly mixing calmer and heavier parts (incl. chorus) to let the power come out at the right time. Include the break in the middle and the song is finished. A very nice ending for a more than worthy follow-up to "Son Of Armageddon".

"Metal Casino" is an album I liked from the start, also because now the band has focussed on the Hard Rock part and left most (Heavy) Metal elements out. With influences from SHAKRA, AC/DC, JORN and DIO you cannot ignore this well-crafted album, especially if you're into the mentioned bands. THE ORDER are on the right path now, although they'll probably go more Metal again on the next record. But that remains to be seen, ofcourse.

More info at www.theorder.ch.

Line-up:
Gianni Pontillo - vocals
Bruno Spring - guitars
Andrej Abplanalp - bass
Mauro Casciero - drums


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MEKONG DELTA – Lurking Fear (AFM Records 2007)

Mekong Delta - Lurking Fear
  1. Society In Dissolution
  2. Purification
  3. Immortal Hate
  4. Allegro Furioso
  5. Rules Of Corruption
  6. Ratters
  7. Moderato
  8. Defenders Of The Faith
  9. Symphony Of Agony
  10. Allegro

German Thrashers MEKONG DELTA may have been making Metal since the 1980s, with the usual line-up changes and even a split in 1997, but what can be heard on their newest release, "Lurking Fear", really makes you wonder what went wrong now. The band signed a deal with AFM Records and the release of "Lurking Fear" is set for the 24th of August. The limited edition will contain a bonus DVD with the recordings of their performance in 1991, titled "Live In Frankfurt / Batschkapp", featuring the following tracklisting:

01. The Curse
02. Transgressor
03. True Believer
04. Night On A Bare Moutain
05. Memories Of Tomorrow
06. Dances Of Death
07. The Hut Of Baba Yaga
08. Heroes Grief
09. Toccata
10. True Lies

I took only a couple of listens to find out that this album will surely arrive on my "Worst of 2007" list. Progressive Thrash is what the band plays. Uli Kusch (ex-HELLOWEEN, ex-MASTERPLAN, BEAUTIFUL SIN, RIDE THE SKY) is back behind the kit after a short appearance in the '80s. And on this record he shows what a great drummer he is and what technique he possesses. Sadly enough, the sound is so damn awful that you can't enjoy this album like any other Thrash album. I could go as far and say that even DESTRUCTION's "Infernal Overkill" or KREATOR's "Pleasure To Kill" sound rawer, but it's more enjoyable.

Mainly the drums, although well played (but that's not the point here), have an almost Midi-ish sound. The guitars also suffer from the bad production. I'm not saying there's some bad guitar playing. And then we have the vocals: sorry, but those are just annoying, since Leo sings high and there's little roughness in his voice. I checked some older material (from "Dances Of Death (And Other Walking Shadows", 1990) and with that I have much less problems, as the instrumentation sounds much better. And no, I didn't really mention (or notice) any noteworthy songs on "Lurking Fear", because they are only very few in number.

MEKONG DELTA might have been a special band several years ago, and in the '80s, but anno 2007 they sounds rather crappy. Also, the song material is not really super that it would make you give the album some extra spins, even if the sound was much better. Therefore I would only recommend (if that word is well-chosen here) it to the fans, to people who are acquainted with MEKONG DELTA's older material. The bonus DVD is, in my opinion, a nice addition, although most likely just serving as a bait to increase sales of a hyped return, no? I'll check the previous albums in time to maybe adjust my opinion about the band's music. Since I like Thrash a lot and if the sound and material was better back then, it shouldn't be much a problem, right?

More info at www.mekongdelta.eu.

Line-up:
Leo Szpigiel - vocals
Ralph Hubert - guitars, bass
Peter Lake - guitars
Uli Kusch - drums


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LE GRAND GUIGNOL – The Great Maddening (Maddening Media 2007)

Le Grand Guignol - The Great Maddening
  1. Cirqus L.
  2. Degenesis (Amor & Seuche)
  3. Dimension: Canvas
  4. Mens Insana In Corpore Insano
  5. Madness And Her Thousand Young
  6. The Healing Process
  7. Finis Coronat Opus
  8. I, Who Brought Forth Myself
  9. Alsuntia
  10. Lucilinburhuc
  11. In, Beyond Or Through

LE GRAND GUIGNOL, formerly known as DREGOTH, then VINDSVAL, hails from Luxembourg and were formed back in 1996. Catalogued under Symphonic Extreme Metal, most members have gained experience, or still do so, in bands like FALKENBACH, ISENHEIM, ORDO DRACONIS, ABSTRACT RAPTURE, RIVENDELL, and others. In other words: they know their Metal. With VINDSVAL the guys wanted to do something special: preserving the harshness of extreme metal, yet adding wickedly catchy tunes, symptomizing in deep-felt emotions and thus creating gloomy atmospheres, which the band refers to as "grotesque metal". A first result is their (re-released) debut "Imperium Grotesque" (1999). But when opting for a specific course, a name change had to happen and thus LE GRAND GUIGNOL was born in 2006.

Early this year the band signed with Maddening Media and the first album has been out since the 24th of August under the title "The Great Maddening" with cover art by the Belgian artist Kris Verwimp (MANEGARM, THYRFING, CROM, SUIDAKRA, ...). Just like its namesake (a French genre-theatre around the blade-crossing of the 19th and 20th century), LE GRAND GUIGNOL are ready to rise the curtain in order to let the public partake in their enrapturing tales of madness. The mastering of the album was done at Galaxy Studios in Belgium, who also worked for bands like MANOWAR, RAMMSTEIN, RHAPSODY (OF FIRE), and many others.

It's not easy to comment on/discuss each song as the band has put a lot of diversity in the majority of the 11 tracks. "Cirqus L." is a bombastic, orchestral track serving as introduction to the play, since that's how this album should be seen: a play, but without the visuals. It's up to the listener to imagine what's going on. If you've heard one or both parts of MANTICORA's "The Black Circus", you sort of know how "Cirqus L." sounds.

"Degenesis (Amor & Seuche)" clocks in just before 9 minutes and offers a nice mix of harsh vocals, great orchestrations, very diverse melodies coming from the keyboards (be it a piano, an accordion, violin, ...), heavy riffs, different kinds of drumming (metal, folkish, ...), topped with a sauce of pure madness, as found on other tracks too. The diversity also comes out via the different parts of the song: you get an introduction with horses arriving, the heaviness kicks in and right when you think this is the course for a certain time, all this falls away for something more peaceful, brought by the piano and bird samples. After this 'down' moment, it's back to before. And so the flow of the song goes up and down, with each part interlocking flawlessly with the next, presenting you the various stages in the play.

Orchestrations play a big role and the violin and piano even more in "Dimension: Canvas", where the atmosphere is a quite mysterious. The vocal parts make this play even more alive, be it harsh, clean or screamy. The many side-steps are just amazingly implemented: a heavy part, a softer one (flute, violin), something atmospheric and then plunging into a dramatic piece. The guitar helps to make the song fuller. The result is very well-executed and very Progressive. The heavier parts, where the piano defines the melody, remind of the "Nexus Polaris" album from COVENANT.

"Mens Insana In Corpore Insano" starts with a ghostly, sighing sung part, backed by a music box and orchestral elements., as if the person has really gone mad. Looking at the title, it's only logical. Slowly the tension is being built, before total madness breaks loose through the guitar and violin. This song has moments that remind of the theatrical songs of LACRIMOSA. Tillo Wolf should have made a guest appearance here. ;-) Heavy parts are perfectly interwined with symphonic, operatic pieces. This is pure theatrical Metal and the music box from the beginning is still here.

Lots of crazy laughter and a Japanese-sounding musicbox form the start of "Madness And Her Young". Female operatic vocals set in the backing vocals, as Philip screams his lungs out. The basic symphony meets Metal reminds a bit of RHAPSODY's "Dawn Of Victory" album (2000), but we're not dealing with a Power Metal album here. Next to the screaming, Philip also goes for an operatic-like approach, going slightly dement. An organ is added to stress the gloominess of the atmosphere. The drumming is always a key element in Progressive Metal, as the pattern changes many times. Here too, Michel has his hands and feet full changing tempo, grooves, one or double kickdrumming and more. Another top job.

"The Healing Process" starts accoustically and its first part is even very peaceful/relaxing. Soon enough the tempo goes up and Symphonic Death/Black Metal takes over. After the Progressive tracks, it's time for something more normal, so to speak, although the Luxembourgians made sure the song would be monotonous. Around the third minute there's a trumpet break to pave the way for the solo, which bursts loose in a maniacal manner.

""Finis Coronat Opus" gets built up very slowly: a soft, operatic piece and a hapsychord, heaviness kicking in and then it's power all the way. Shrieks during the verses, female operatic vocals in between and even a few spoken female parts. An accoustic break serves to let the story-telling come through, before the rest of the song takes over.

Fast drumming with double kicks, shrieky vocals and chugga-riffs are the ingredients for "I, Who Brought Forth Myself". Another 'normal song, with here the violin and flute being the spices that make this song more attractive and interesting. Without these two elements, it would be pretty standard stuff, although there's nothing wrong with that.

A Celtic/Folkish with orchestral support intro for "Alsuntia". All instrumental and in the vein of the latest SUMMONING works. This song actually forms the intro to "Lucilinburhuc", which has the same basis, but then with the guitars and blastbeating drums making it Metal. Later in the song, a Folkish singing moment follows. Here too, the trumpets play a vital role. Add the shrieky vocals and you can obviously again refer to SUMMONING, to name one example, since SUMMONING is still quite different, but there are tangent places.

"In, Beyond Or Through" ends the mad play. It's not even two minutes long, so you could, in a way, consider it an outro. Fully instrumental, like "Alsuntia", but the orchestral aspect dominates all the way through, although it does get assistance from the guitars and drums in the last tens of seconds. A very outro, even if more could be done with it.

The band members themselves call their music Grotesque Metal, but you could just call it Theatrical Metal. Ok, easier put: take HAGGARD, LACRIMOSA, THERION, DIMMU BORGIR (or any other similar band), a sniff of Power Metal, a bit of Folk (e.g. FALKENBACH). Blend it all together and you should come pretty close to what LE GRAND GUIGNOL has accomplished with "The Great Maddening". Symphony meets Extreme Metal, prefectly composed and executed. You have to take your time with this album, since you won't hear it all the first time. Once you're drawn into this 'play', this musical piece of theater, the transition to the real world won't be so easy. Very recommended material, to say the least.

More info at www.legrandguignol.com.

Line-up:
Philip Breuer - vocals
Patrick Damiani - guitar, bass
Ingo Merten - (live) bass
Yves Blaschette - keyboards
Michel Spithoven - drums


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EDEN'S CURSE – Eden's Curse (AFM Records 2007)

Eden's Curse - Eden's Curse
  1. Book Of Life (intro)
  2. Judgement Day
  3. Eyes Of The World
  4. Stronger Than The Flame
  5. The Voice Inside
  6. After The Love Is Gone
  7. Fly Away
  8. What Are You Waiting For
  9. Eden's Curse
  10. Don't Bring Me down
  11. Heaven Touch Me
  12. The Bruce (intro)
  13. The Fallen King
  14. We All Die Young

EDEN'S CURSE was founded last year by bassist Paul Logue (CRY HAVOC) and vocalist Michael Eden (hence EDEN'S CURSE). Drummer Pete Newdeck (STEVE GRIMMETT BAND) soon joined them. CODE OF PERFECTION filled the guitar spot soon enough once his manager Carsten Schulz (ex-DOMAIN, EVIDENCE ONE) brought EDEN'S CURSE to his attention. And so the four started making music and writing songs, also with the help of Carsten Schulz, who gave one of EVIDENCE ONE's leftovers: "Eyes Of The World". The whole is self-titled and available since the 24th of August.

Musically you get Melodic Metal, mostly in midtempo, but the band added some more rocking tunes so that Pete could keep the swing in them. This is all nicely spread over the tracklisting. Needless to say you will hear similarities with bands like DOMAIN, EVIDENCE ONE, EVERGREY (mainly the piano in "The Voice Inside", which reminds of "Waking Up Blind"), even a bit of KAMELOT (see "Fly Away") and yes, even the almighty DIO served as an inspiration if you listen to very rocking "Don't Bring Me Down". I could also add AT VANCE, but that's just in the second or third song.

Since the similarities with EVIDENCE ONE and DOMAIN stand out, here are a few songs as proof: "Stronger Than The Flame", "Eden's Curse" and "Heaven Touch Me". These are also the more rocking songs. Now, a Melodic Metal album wouldn't be complete without a ballad and for this the band wrote "The Voice Inside". There are ballads and there are ballads, meaning you've got good ones and not-so-good-ones (not to say bad ones). In EDEN'S CURSE's case we can speak of a bad one. The music is not bad, but nothing awe-inspiring either. The biggest problem - and it's not just this song - is Michael's voice. It's too nasal or something, too often too high. I know, it's Melodic Metal, mainly like the mentioned two bands, but if Michael would add a bit of roughness to his singing, it would make the songs more interesting.

Interesting ending is "We All Die Young", which doesn't sound Metal at all, or not as the other songs. You get something more Jazzy here, and although the connection with the rest of the tracklisting is perhaps not that easy to make, this is one very nice song, just like the majority on this debut album.

The Limited Edition contains a bonus track: "What Are you Waiting For" (Alt. Mix, featuring David Readman, Doogie White and Carsten Lizard Schulz).

EDEN'S CURSE's "Eden's Curse" sounds very clean and polished, thanks to Dennis Ward's button-playing and doing everything regarding the sound (producing, engineering, mixing and mastering). Paul Logue and Michael Eden co-produced this first album. Not only musically do you get nice Metal, also visually, with another beautiful artwork by one of the best graphical artists of the last years: Thomas Ewerhard.

If it's not clear by now: this is a decent album, although it's not perfect (Michael's voice, the sometimes plastic drums, the much-too-obvious references to EVIDENCE ONE and DOMAIN and one tip for Pete: use your toms more). If you're into these bands, you can't go wrong here. Even if you haven't heard of them, you can also give EDEN'S CURSE a try.

More info at www.edenscurse.com.

Line-up:
Michael Eden - vocals
Thorsten Koehne - guitars
Paul Logue - bass
Ferdy Doernberg - keyboards
Pete Newdeck - drums


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VANVETTIGAND – The Popara Code (Vanvettigand 2007)

Vanvettigand - The Popara Code
  1. With Allah On Our Side
  2. The Ghost Rider Of Catatonic Schizophrenia
  3. Battlestar: Shakira In The Beginning
  4. Popara Ist Krieg!
  5. Nude Trolls Castle Party
  6. Casino Royale
  7. American Idol
  8. Epic Tale Of Mighty Sons Of Epic Gays And Stainless Steel Warriors Of The True Metal Brotherhood Of Wild Wolves Of Lead
  9. Thunderlyaka (Odin's Prom Night)
  10. Bards On Booze

VANVETTIGAND, one of the many Internet-formed projects... this one being led and founded by a Bulgarian caling himself Riddermark. He handles the vocals and accoustic guitas, while Friedrig (formerly known as Zdravsteen) is responsable for the electric guitars and backing vocals. The other guitarist is Ricardo, hailing from Portugal.

VANVETTIGAND is a relatively new project/band, as it was first known as CATATONIC SCHIZOPHRENIA, featuring a different line-up. Due to unknown reasons this band was put to rest and Riddermark decided to continue anyhow, under a new name, taken from old Swedish (literally meaning Insane Duck).

"The Popara Code" is thus the first release under the new name and if you want to know what Popara is, follow this link.

Now, on to the album... For this new work of exquisite art Riddermark and co. opted for diverse themes to tackle: from the war on terrorism to fantasy stuff (a troll party, for example).

"With Allah On Our Side" features some of the most sharp and ferocious riffs you have ever heard. It's not a long song, but to the point with imminent impact of the 'bombings'... by the priest. It really gets indoctrinating in "The Ghost Rider of Catatonic Schizophrenia", which features Marco Schomas (FINSTERFORST) and Anthrax (FROZEN INFINITY) on vocals. A very brutal and mind-numbing song, to say the least.

Paying tribute to a popstar? Seems like our 'wild ducks' have a bone for Shakira: "Battlestar: Shakira in The Beginning". Accoustic melodies combined with some rapping, all done by Friedrig. And after this butt-kissing...

...comes a song with a title that says it all: "Popara Ist Krieg!". In pure Black Metal style, this song is about a national specialty: Popara, something you can eat. For more info, see the link above. According to the liner notes, the musical inspiration comes from DARKTHRONE's "Black Victory Of Death".

Time for something more loose: "Nude Trolls Castle Party". Can you imagine this? The best party you'll ever have gone to, no? :-) This needs no further text, does it? It's a bit Folk-ish, though.

Shakira passed by, Agent 007 is another popular figure to be covered. Logically a title of one of the films was chosen and the man himself even introduces the song: "Casino Royale". It's basically the same melody as the original, except some 'evil' vocals have been added, following the melody, and adding some shrieks towards the end.

George W. Bush Jr. also has the honour to be on this new album, once again talking about the war on terrorism. But the title tells a totally different tale, one that has invaded many homes through TV: "American Idol". This is just a song to ridicule Bush and any USA-lead war.

Every album needs a ballad and this one has a title of NANOWAR or BAL-SAGOTH proportions: "Epic Tale of Mighty Sons of Epic Gays and Stainless Steel Warriors of the True Metal Brotherhood of Wild Wolves of Lead". For this our trio was inspired by RHAPSODY OF FIRE's "Son Of Pain"...before the exorcism. Our character is being eaten alive (metaphorically speaking), so it seems. He's going through one hell of an agony.

Another tribute this time, to Odin. "Thunderlyaka (Odin's Prom Night)" is more like a battle song, probably Odin trying to conquer his queen-to-be. Wild melodies, pumping beat... it's a wild dance, oh yes. Along those lines and roughly in the same context - as there's also booze on a prom night - the "Bards On Booze" is in the style of bands like KORPIKLAANI, CRUACHAN, SKYCLAD, but foremost SILLY WIZARD (as the band states as inspiration). Gues appearances by Chocho (guitars) and Alexian (vocals).

So this is it. Ten songs, little more than ten minutes of playtime. The material is kept short and direct, but also keeping variation in mind, to make the songs keep their power. Anything longer would have made the entire album weaker and less interesting. Riddermark is the mainman here, as he puts it all together. The insane ducks - Riddermark, Friedrig and Ricardo - put so much passion into their work, taking elements from Pop(ara), Folk, Metal and more and making something new with it. Support these fine musicians and music lovers and get your copy of the album via the band's website. Hail!

More info at www.vanvettigand.info.

Line-up:
Riddermark - vocals, accoustic guitars
Ricardo - guitars
Friedrig - guitars, backing vocals


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TERHEN – Eyes Unfolded (Firebox Records 2007)

Terhn - Eyes Unfolded
  1. Influences
  2. Six Months
  3. Last Moments
  4. What Truly Is Real
  5. Wandering

FINLAND has a rich and very extensive Metalscene. Mainly known for its Power and Melodic Death Metal, the country also houses more obscure bands, active in Black and Doom Metal atmospheres. One of the biggest examples of the last couple of years is SWALLOW THE SUN, who earlier this year released their third album, "Hope". One of the labels that is specialized in Doom is Firebox, which also has a sublabel called Firedoom.

TERHEN can be seen as one of the bands that were severely influenced by SWALLOW THE SUN. The bad was formed in 2004 under the name THAMUZ and until now has released two demos: "Self Crusifixion MMV" (2005) and "Subdue" (2005, promo). The music was described as Black/Death Metal. Once the deal with Firebox was made, the band changed its name to TERHEN. On their debut, "Eyes Unfolded" (released on the 20th of August), the band added the three songs from their "Self Crusifixion MMV" demo. For this release the band decided to work with Mikko Suuronen again, as he helped with the particular demo. Producer Risto Ylönen helped with the recordings of the album.

Even though the Doom is very melodic. TERHEN is not a clone of the above mentioned band, although they play quite similar (atmospheric) death/doom. Everything comes out very strong and especially the drums have been given more attention. Especially soundwise, as it's this instrument that has to add extra touches, put the stress on certain bits and pieces... in short: Joni has huge responsability. But he fulfills his task like a good drummer: multiple snare and tom hits, double bass parts, silence when needed and more.

Marianne takes care of the melodies and atmospheric backing. She too has a heavy burden on her shoulders. Markus and Jarmo make sure the material is loaded with the right amount of heaviness, with Markus' guitar playing a more droning role.

Jyri's growls fit in very well and give the songs a nice and dark touch, while Elisa is supposed to counter it with her soft and light voice. And here we have the biggest problem: the lightness of Elisa's voice. In "Last Moments" she sounds indeed light, perhaps too light. The contrast with the droning guitar and emotional melodies is big. Either it's the production, or Elisa's voice isn't full enough. She can sing, and I think it's not easy to counter lead-heavy tones with a light voice. But it must be said that her efforts in "Wandering" are more successful.

Also worth noting are the atmospheric, almost meditational (is that a word?), minutes-long moments in "What Truly Is Real" and "Wandering", before heaviness kicks back in. Those parts are keyboards only and it's simply amazing and breathtaking what Marianne produces with her instrument.

Doom Metal isn't easy to absorb, especially if the focus lies on atmosphere and melody, rather than technicality. And that's the case here. Also, make sure you have no suicide-feelings, because this ain't FREEDOM CALL, EDGUY or MAMBO KURT. Play "Eyes Unfolded" when you have nothing to worry about, empty your head and be in a quiet, peaceful place without any interference from passing cars or people or... let nothing come between you and the music and let the latter carry you away. I swear that this is just stunning. I don't think it would work that well live, since you would be there with many more people, seeing the band play, etcetera etcetera, but the magic would be less.

Perhaps I'm exaggerating, because TERHEN sure isn't the best Doom band on the planet and "Eyes Unfolded" not the best Doom album in its category, but the Finnish did make a very nice album. If you're a fan of SWALLOW THE SUN, DRACONIAN, SHAPE OF DESPAIR and anything similar, TERHEN also deserves a place in your collection.

More info at www.terhenband.com.

Line-up:
Jyri Pylvänäinen - vocals
Elisa Pellinen - vocals
Markus Mieskolainen - guitars
Jarmo Leikas - bass
Marianne Mieskolainen - violin, keyboards
Joni Romo - drums


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FALL OF THE LEAFE – Aerolithe (Firebox Records 2007)

Fall Of The Leafe - Aerolithe
  1. Opening
  2. All The Good Faith
  3. Drawing Worry
  4. Lithe
  5. At A Breath's Pace
  6. Graceful Retreat
  7. Sink Teeth Here
  8. Minor Nuisance
  9. Especially By Stealth
  10. Look Into Me
  11. Closure

FALL OF THE LEAFE will soon release its sixth full-length album via Firebox Records. Titled "Aerolithe" this will be in the shops on the 20th August. Going back in time it seems the band played Melodic Death Metal but changed towards more Gothic-inspired Rock. The many line-up changes also had their influence and around 2002 guitarist Kaj Gustafsson made his re-entry in the band he left in 1999. 2002 was also the year the musical change really took off. "Volvere" and "Vantage" were important releases in the band's present history and the direction they haven taken since a couple of years.

I've heard a couple of songs from "Vantage" and it's clear that "Aerolithe" is a continuation of that, only with the guitars being more present and the drums sounding less good and thinner than on the previous record. You've got the in- and outro and in between no signs of their past, i.e. Melodic Death Metal. Nope, you get guitar-driven Gothic(-inspired) Rock, which reminds sometimes of e.g. LACRIMAS PROFUNDERE. This band went from Doom Metal to Gothic Rock.

There are some 'heavy' (by which I mean the guitars) tracks here, but no real speedy ones, and all in all the material is also good for mainstream radio play. Songs that stand out: not that much, but for example "Graceful Retreat". There the drums pound, the piano sets in the melody after which the guitars take over and a few times they use the accoustic guitar. There was one time that I got reminded of the Estonian Eurovision winners of BRAINSTORM (not to be confused with the German Powermetal band). But that didn't last long. Another good song would be "Minor Nuisance", which also brings back some heaviness after the poppy "Sink Teeth Here". "Look Into Me" contains growls and could be considered a left-over from the past. But it's good to hear this and definitely makes the song better.

I do have some problems with this album, and more so than with what I heard from "Vantage": the production is thin, mainly on the drums. Seriously, what's the use? Sure, it doesn't have to be like a Thrash or Death Metal record, but you do want this instrument to sound good, right?. The second element that makes my hair stand upright is Tuomas's voice. It's clean, but he doesn't sing in a low kind of way, like Christopher from LACRIMAS PROFUNDERE, for example. When I said a few lines ago that one of the songs made me think of BRAINSTORM, it was also because of the vocals. Sure, they're not the same, but still comparable. When things get rough and Tuomas has to adjust his voice, all is well. Examples of some 'problem' songs: "All The Good Faith", "Drawing Worry", "Lithe" and "Especially At Stealth".

All in all is "Aerolithe" a good album, but nothing really awe-inspiring. It's a step back compared to "Vantage", which had a better production, more songs that made you tap your foot (or just move your head) and actually no annoying singing. If I were to give a score, but I normally don't because numbers don't say anything, then "Vantage" would be 8 and "Aerolithe" 7 (maximum).

More info at www.falloftheleafe.com.

Line-up:
Tuomas Tuominen - voice
Jussi Hänninen - guitars
Kaj Gustafsson - guitars
Petri Hannuniemi - keyboards
Miska Lehtivuori - bass
Matias Aaltonen - drums


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VENDETTA – Hate (Metal Axe Records 2007)

Vendetta - Hate
  1. Hannibal
  2. Lying Society
  3. Guerilla
  4. Hate
  5. Prepare Yourself For Hostility
  6. Mother
  7. Rise For Revolution
  8. Dead People Are Cool

Last month (July, see lower) I reviewed the re-release of VENDETTA's "Brain Damage". A new album was in the making, which also was a reason to re-release the first two albums. The band still knows how to Thrash after having done so in the 1980s, but this time they opted for a more modern production and influences from at least one other band: DEARLY BEHEADED. Last time it was more DESTRUCTION, KREATOR, EXODUS, ... that were the biggest influences.

The new album is called "Hate" and logically came out via Metal Axe Records on the 17th of August. The biggest disappointment comes from the short playtime: you'll have heard all eight songs in less than 30 minutes, which means every song has a running time of 3-4 minutes, one longer than the other. And to be honest, it's quite ok here, because the material just isn't right for more minutes. VENDETTA anno 2007 kept things to the point, but still Thrash. One other point of remark is the cover: just look at KREATOR's "Coma Of Souls", "Violent Revolution" or "Enemy Of God" and you'll see what I mean.

Be it uptempo like "Hannibal", "Lying Society" and "Guerilla" (only one part of the song) or the more midtempo ones like "Prepare Yourself For Hostility" and "Mother"... you get a nice mix of different tempos, where guitars rule like no other and although they're not always very technical (just listen to "Prepare Yourself For Hostility"), they do get you in a certain mood and hungry for more Thrash.

The tracklisting is closed with what is I think a re-recorded song off the 2003 demo "Dead People Are Cool". Overall, not a bad song and one of the better here, but sadly quite short.

The re-release of "Go And Live... Stay And Die" and "Brain Damage" was a good choice and the album itself was very much worth adding to your collection. VENDETTA's newest child, "Hate", shows the band still has the fire burning. Apparently they liked what DEARLY BEHEADED did in the '90s, as at least I can't help but hear similarities. Still, "Hate" is - and it must be said - not as good as the first two releases, although it will still your hunger if you're in need of Thrash.

More info at www.vendetta-band.de.

Line-up:
Mario - vocals
Frank Schölch - guitars
Klaus Ullrich (Heiner) - bass
Thomas Lubber - drums


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ANUBIS GATE – Andromeda Unchained (Locomotive Records 2007)

Anubis Gate - Andromeda Unchained
  1. Freak Storm At Post Zeta...One Child Missing...
  2. Snowbound
  3. Waking Hour
  4. Andromeda Unchained
  5. Banished From Sector Q
  6. Beyond Redemption
  7. Resurrection Time
  8. Escape Pod
  9. This White Storm Through My Mind
  10. The Final Overture
  11. Take Me Home
  12. Point Of No Concern
  13. The End Of Millenium Road
  14. The Stars Of Canis Minor
  15. The Final Overture (radio edit)

Two years after their masterpiece called "A Perfect Forever", the Danish ProgPower band is back with another qualitative album. Jacob Hansen was again in charge of the production, mxing and mastering - like on the previous two records - but additionally he has become the band's new vocalist, since Torben Askholm had to quit due to health/vocal problems. Now that was a big change: Torben has/had more roughness in his voice, while Jacob goes for cleaner, more melodic singing. I had to give the album multiple spins to adjust to the new voice, but also because the music is again multi-layered that you can't hear it all the first time. Similar-styled vocalists (but it's not 100%, obviously) could be e.g. Thierry Lebourg from the French Power Metal band DYSLESIA and Stu Block from the Progressive/Melodic Death Metallers INTO ETERNTIY.

"Purification" and "A Perfect Forever" were inspired by Ancient Egypt, but for this new record the guys chose a different path, more futuristic. "Andromeda Unchained" is the title, available on the 17th of August, and this is what Henrik said in the interview with the Russian webzine ProgScan regarding the subject: "Andromeda is a star and there's a war going on to unchain it from those who had possessed it (very briefly put)." Henrik also sings in "Take Me Home".

While keyboards played quite an important role on "A Perfect Forever", it's the guitars that reign here, although the keys do come through for the atmospheric aspect or some interesting twists. This is clearly shown in the magnificent "Snowbound" (after the spacey and mysterious intro that is "Freak Storm At Post Zeta...One Child Missing..."), where heavy riffs and thundering drums reign, but also step back or fall silent in favour of more peaceful, accoustic interventions, accompanied by great percussion (congas?). The Egyptian influence is still minimally present through this percussion and the use of a flute.

"Waking Hour" cranks up the pace, with a very catchy and touching chorus (incl. double bass). This is one of the few, if not only, speedy songs here. Jacob's voice is simply perfect for the new songs. Another highlight in this song are the solos: guitars duelling, with the keyboards also gving it a go. The transition to "Andromeda Unchained" is flawless as all is peaceful until the bombast breaks loose. Chuggish guitars dominate in the title track, while keyboards offer a nice backing. This is another great song, but requires a few spins to grasp it all. The further you go down the tracklisting, the less catchy the material gets.

In the next interlude/intro our characters are "Banished From Sector Q" (accoustic guitars, percussion and industrial sounds), to go "Beyond Redemption", where the tension is slowly being built before the entire band kicks in. This is another great song with yet again a good dose of catchiness in the chorus. Heavy, crunchy riffs are a key element in the verses. Around 02:35 there a nice peaceful break with just the guitars, keyboards and afterwards the melody is repeated but in a heavier way. Choirish singing is introduced to add to the atmosphere. But not for long, as the chorus comes bursting out of the speakers again. Then at 04:30 the band hits a sideroad, with heavy guitars and atmospheric backing...

...flowing into "Resurrection Time", where the music comes fading in. Midtempo, like in most songs and Jacob reaching the higher notes quite often. But it's mainly his singing in the chorus that isn't my cup of tea. The pop-border lies closer than you think here. As the music faded in, so it fades out. All in all not a bad song, but it's the least good one. There's only quality on this album, but here the curve takes its first (and only) dive.

Entering the ambient/atmospheric "Escape Pod" to go through to "This White Storm Through My Mind", which is one of the two long tracks, together with "The End Of Millenium Road", this one lasting over 10 minutes. The vocals carry the song and I can't resist referring to INTO ETERNITY, mainly regarding Jacob's voice. The guitars take a break in the verses, but do come through in short bursts. Lots of tempo changes, breaks and twists during the "Storm", especially around 03:45. and then we get a beautiful instrumental part, dominated by the keyboards with the guitars assisting, before going back to what came before. For the last few minutes you get served part 2 of the instrumental portion.

"The Final Overture" has a certain lead in the first part (around the 32nd second) that could be partly taken from MANTICORA's "Forever Carousel" intro, when the lead starts at the 9th second in that song. But ANUBIS GATE's piece is slower. Yes, nitpicking and perhaps enormously trivial, but I can't help it when I recognize something. ;-) Melody plays again an important role here and Jacob is doing one hell of a job here, vocally. Ofcourse the others are also making this a great song, let that be clear. Where the first 3 minutes focused on melody, what comes next focuses on heaviness, while adding the guitarsolos.

Time to get out the accoustic guitar again and let it play a bigger role: "Take Me Home", a ballad and as said a couple of blocks higher, sung by bassist Henrik. Twinkling keyboardsounds provide backing and assistance. The drums have been replaced by samples. Around the second minute the entire band is playing and things get electric again, but the accoustic guitar is still very much present and the combination or contrast with the electric one lifts the song to a higher level. In the last minute the keyboards come more to the forefront. Overall this is quite an emotional song. Pure perfection here!

Is the "Point Of No Concern" considered the "Home"? Or just something regarding the battle, something that is not to worry about anymore? Fact is that heaviness prevails here again with powerful and uneven drumming. And yes, the faster drumming returns around 03:40 for the solos, where spacey keyboards and guitars take turns. "Point Of No Concern" is a song that concerns multiple listens, so you enjoy this musical masterpiece to the fullest.

And so we have arrived at "The End Of Millenium Road", the longest track on "Andromeda Unchained". Got it? Road - track? :-) Here too the song is divided into several parts: a normal, quite heavy one at first. Around 04:30 there's an atmospheric break, sounding abit creepy. When the rest of the instrumentation comes into play again, they're slowly rebuilding the song and taking off again two minutes later. Further in the song, towards the end your ears get caressed with very nice leads and a speed increase soon after that. Needless to say how good this song is, right? But here as well, listen carefully and more than once.

With "The Stars Of Canis Minor", the futuristic spatial event takes an end - or - the battlefield (Andromeda) is left behind. It's an outro with just the keyboards, delivering an atmospheric and spacey finish. It's short and not to be played seperately, but should be seen as part of the story.

The promo - and I guess the release version too - has a radio edit of "The Final Overture", but that's not worth mentioning. Why do you add a shorter version of a great song? If there's a shorter version, why did you make the long one in the first place? And I'm not only talking about ANUBIS GATE's song, but in general.

Is "Andromeda Unchained" worth the purchase? Well, is it even necesarry to ask this question, especially if you're into Progressive Power Metal, or in this specific case, Melodic/Progressive Metal (since the Power-aspect was more present on "A Perfect Forever")? These Danish have once again surpassed themselves, although it's a close call with "A Perfect Forever", in my opinion. Jacob Hansen's input is a very important element in the process, be it as a singer or a producer. Take your time with this release and it will show its secrets soon enough. ANUBIS GATE has managed to rise to the level of bands that deliver pure quality. One of the gems of 2007, no doubt about that.

More info at www.anubisgate.com.

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


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UNHOLY RITUAL – Promo '07 (Unholy Ritual 2007)

Unholy Ritual - Promo '07
  1. Killer Instinct
  2. Vae Victus
  3. Childish Fears
  4. Whatever Lies Beneath

Black Metal has never been gone and it never will be. But I do have the impression that the last couple of years there are more and more bands popping up. It could also be that I start paying a bit more attention to what is available today. MySpace is one of those tools and UNHOLY RITUAL one of those bands that use this tool to spread the word and make people known with their Symphonic Black Metal.

The basis to form a band was done some 10 years ago, by Erevos (vocals) and Bertram (drums). As is common in Metal, the band underwent several line-up changes to come to form, which happened three years later with the addition of Q_Snc (keyboards), Drakhon (guitar), Ianos (guitar) and Gareth (bass). Together they recorded the "Denial From Heaven" demo in 2001. The consequences were not small, as they got to share the stage with bigger acts like MAYHEM, MARDUK, SATYRICON and GOD DETHRONED next to a few headlining slots. More recently the band had to seek two new axemen and a drummer: Trauma and Nykterion replaced respectively Ianos and Gareth, while Blastphemer took the place of Bertram. This means that Erevos and Q_Snc are the sole survivors of the original line-up.

While the band is hard at work on their debut album, "Rex Mundi" (to come out in early 2008 via JordanRiver Ent), they released a promo mid August: four songs, totalling a playtime of 22 minutes. From the first song, "Killer Instinct", on you get a great mix of melody, bombast and brutality. The keyboards are very important - pretty obvious considering the symphonic aspect of the songs -, although most input comes from the guitars. The keyboards set in gently, but the killing starts sooner than you think. Blastbeats, demonic vocals (Erevos undergoing a transformation for this), throat-slicing riffs, ... everything's there. Variation is a key aspect of the songs, be it the melody, drumming or atmosphere. One change that needs mentioning is the one around 02:55, which reminded me of an INNER FEAR song. Now, I don't know the band, but I do know of Marthus, the drummer: click here to see him play the song that contains the melodic part that I heard in UNHOLY RITUAL's composition. This specific part is simply great and so different from the normal flow of this song. You get another side-step around 04:30, which is Blastphemer's moment.

"Vae Victus" is next and for this song the band shot a video, which they burnt on the accompanying DVD, but can also be seen on their Myspace page. There's no time to rest before the start of this second track and the pace has been fastened a few levels, while a pinch of violence has been added as well. Musically you compare it with KEEP OF KALESSIN and DIMMU BORGIR. The symbiosis of heavy guitars and symphonic elements works extremely well and makes this song more than worthwhile to listen to. The keyboards's role has been expanded a bit, with more attention for the piano portion.

"Childish Fears" starts with a mysterious, creepy intro (which returns around halfway, accompanied by a child's laughter) before the guitars and drums set in. The pace is slow at first, but there's never a sacrifice of heaviness. Erevos's input shows similarities with the shrieks of Dani Filth (CRADLE OF FILTH), to name just him. The whole atmosphere of this song is very sad and depressing. Around 02:45 the Greeks go more Progressive, in the vein of DREAM THEATER, VANDEN PLAS and the likes. When the band is ready for the final part of the song, you can be sure there's no need to think of sweet, playful dreams. This is dark and depressing music, an attack on your mind. To focus on the "Childish" element and put an end to the "Fears", the band used a music box. Now that's what I call original (although it's probably been done before), since this is a very appropriate object here.

The closing "What Lies Beneath" must be much more vicious and ferocious again, which leaves you with the question "What kind of beast is this?", for its power and velocity are not to be mocked. Direct target-acquiring, instant killing. The shrieks and brutal instrumentation form the musical equivalent of the beast or an army of monstrous soldiers. You can easily imagine a battle between two or more tribes, although I'm not sure if this is the band's intention with this song, hahaha. But know that the song is another proof of UNHOLY RITUAL's skills.

Despite this "Promo '07" containing only four songs, UNHOLY RITUAL shows what potential they have in making interesting and varied Black Metal. The musicianship is remarkable and this comes out very well with the clean, but powerful production. On a musical level one should consider the band a marriage between (old) EMPEROR and (new) DIMMU BORGIR. The vocals are inline with those of Shagrath, Ihsahn and alike. To all fans of Symphonic Black Metal: surf to the band's MySpace page and put money aside for when "Rex Mundi" comes out next year.

More info at www.myspace.com/unholyritual.

Line-up:
Erevos - vocals
Trauma - guitar
Q_Snc - keyboards
Drakhon - bass
Blastphemer - drums


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SPELLBOUND – Nemesis 2665 (Armageddon Music 2007)

Spellbound - Nemesis 2665
  1. Pernicious Alliance
  2. Demons Deadly Sins
  3. Unsacred
  4. Through The Wall
  5. In Mourning
  6. Mindfucked
  7. The Sharks' Voracity
  8. Back In The Thrash
  9. Celestial Death / The Nemesis
  10. And Then There Were None (bonus track - EXODUS cover)

Two years ago - well, almost if you want to be precise - the German Thrash band SPELLBOUND released their debut, "Incoming Destiny", which dealt with the theme of secrecy and withheld information. This was just a pre-taste of what to expect. And the production by Andy Classen (Stage One Studio) was a big part of that, giving the band a rough and pure Thrash sound. Since a couple of days (10th August) the band has unleashed the follow-up, "Nemesis 2665", and again used the services of Andy Classen. The result is better songs, although there wasn't much wrong with the previous album, and a more mature sound.

Lots of gigs, lots of hard work for the new album and two new band members: bassist/vocalist Lennart Vocke and drummer Kai Lohwasser (founding member of the band) have been replaced by respectively Hannes Jäger and Andy Flache. The reason for this might be the classic "musical differences" or perhaps it's something deeper (maybe less time). Whatever it is, it sure didn't hurt having two new members. Guitarist Dave Maier is again handling the vocals (like he did in the early years of the band). Although I've never heard him sing, I do have to admit I was stunned when hearing "Pernicious Alliance", the first track off "Nemesis 2665". Dave's voice is rougher and more powerful than Lennart's, at least based on the two albums. In a way you could compare him to EXODUS vocalist Rob Dukes - it's up to ou to decide if it's a good or bad thing, but this is just to show a somewhat similar style. Other possible comparisons could be Steve Zetro Souza (ex-EXODUS, DUBLIN DEATH PATROL) and Mille Metrozza (KREATOR).

Needless to say that "Nemesis 2665" is not only a hellish title, but it also indicates what to expect on a musical level. The cover art (by RECKLESS TIDE drummer Kai Swillus) serves as a reinforcing factor.

I had a comment regarding the drums last time, saying they were a bit too much of the same. But it's Thrash, so yeah... Anyhow, I can't say the same of Andy's input, although he might have played by David's guidelines. ;-) In every song he adjusts his playing, changing tempo from fast to mid to slow and back. Everything starts with the skullcrushing "Pernicious Alliance". A short intro, then *kaboom* a Thrash storm and Dave's gutteral raging vocals. "Demons Deadly Sins" comes in with an explosion, but here Andy plays in a more normal kind of way (no humpapa-Thrashing). The sharp riffing does make up for it. And here you get a clear example of the Rob Dukes in Dave. Around 01:30 the drums get more extreme for a short moment. This song has more a KREATOR-feeling to it.

"Uncsacred" (yes, that's a typo on the backsleeve of the album and should be "Unsacred") is another vicious song. But the intro is really great, especially with Andy putting stress on it via the China type clash cymbal. This part will come back soon enough. Then it's typical Thrash, but the guys take back some steps, too. Around 03:45 you get a great acceleration and more towards the end nice interruptions with just the drums continuing.

For "Through The Wall" Dave and co. have listened very carefully to EXODUS's "Black List" and "Shudder To Think". The song almost sounds identical to those. Still, the execution is well done and the result is flawless.

For the sake of variety and also due to the story behind the title you get an acoustic interlude (with rainy backing): In Mourning. This prepares you when you're going to be "Mindfucked" for a good 7 minutes. And this song has it all: sharp and deadly riffs, different tempos, nice drumfills, and melody.

Although the title might indicate otherwise, the tempo in "The Sharks' Voracity" is quite slow, but still pounding. Dave even dares to tread on Death Metal grounds by adding some growling in the chorus. Around halfway you get a nice twist, with the tempo being dragged down even further. If you compare it with what to expect normally from SPELLBOUND then this might be less appealing, but let it sink and play it again later. Although not as Thrashy as say "Pernicious Alliance" or the next song, "Back In Thrash" (no explanation needed, right?), it's is a good song.

The two-part song "Celestial Death / The Nemesis" starts with a midtempo piece and has a dose of sadness engulfing it. Is this about alien invasions or something in that vein? It certainly involves the destruction/demise of mankind. Dave certainly sounds even harsher than before, almost as if he's ready to throw up (as strange as this may sound, hahaha :-)). Not even halfway, but the tempo get cranked up and more aggression is added for the "The Nemesis" part. Lots of double bass, duelling guitarsolos, and interesting turns. All this for almost 10 minutes. In the last couple of minutes the "Celestial Death" portion returns.

As last track there's EXODUS's "And Then There Were None", here mentioned as "And Then There Were Non". Another typo? The song itself is a classic and when covering a song, one must always make sure the result is as good as the original, else what's the use? SPELLBOUND does a very good job here and that's all that needs to be said.

Two years later and SPELLBOUND have grown, indeed. The line-up change didn't hurt in the least, the band is still Thrashing like the masters and Dave has proven to be a great vocalist for the band and Thrash in general. Andy Classen's work (production/mixing/mastering) is also first class. "Nemesis 2665" offers sharp riffing, skullcrushing songs, pounding drums (pay close attention to the various tempos and fills), deadly vocals, interesting breaks and turns and I even forgot the solos, but you can be sure David and Daniel know how it's done. Fans of KREATOR, EXODUS, SLAYER, and the likes in search of a band who will continue the legacy: SPELLBOUND should be on your list.

More info at www.spellboundalliance.de.

Line-up:
David Maier - vocals, guitar
Daniel Tschoepe - guitar
Hannes Jäger - bass
Andy Flache - drums


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BLITZKRIEG – Theatre Of The Damned (Armageddon Music 2007)

Blitzkrieg - Theatre Of The Damned
  1. Theatre Of The Damned
  2. The Phantom
  3. Devil's Spawn
  4. My Life Is My Own
  5. Spirit Of The Legend
  6. The Passing
  7. Into The Light
  8. Tortured Souls
  9. Together We Are Strong
  10. Night Stalker
  11. Armageddon (bonus track)
  12. Blitzkrieg (bonus track)
  13. Escape From The Village (video - MPG/MP4)
  14. I'm Not Insane (video - MPG/MP4)

BLITZKRIEG is another big name in the history of NWOBHM, together with SAVAGE, SWEET SAVAGE, DIAMOND HEAD, SAXON, SAMSON and many others. Formed in 1980 they've been going strong for 27 years now, although they too experienced the classic ups and downs. If you're not familiar with the band, you might remember (and I really do :-)) METALLICA's rendition of the song "Blitzkrieg" (to be found on the "Creeping Death" EP), which originally appeared on "A Time Of Changes" (1985).

But it took BLITZKRIEG many years to come up with new material and in 1995 they really took off, with an album each two-three years and since 2002 every year, their last being "Sins & Greed" (2005).

Back in the '90s I saw some of BLITZKRIEG's material in the shop, but never thought of buying anything. I just found it cool to see something from this legendary band. A few years back I then saw them on a poster for a festival in The Netherlands, which I sadly couldn't attend. And only a few weeks back I received the promo of their latest album, "Theatre Of The Damned", which is set for release for the 10th of August and... co-produced by SAXON frontman Biff Byford.

The album starts with an intro almost similar to that of KAMELOT's "The Black Halo": a woman entering a hall where the play will be held and asking info about the place. A strange character tells her it's the theatre of the damned. What follows musically sounds very clear, but still holding on to the pureness of Heavy Metal. I also noticed some DREAM THEATER influences. All things considered this is one of the best tracks on the album. Everything comes out very strong: vocals, guitars, drums and yes, the bass guitar too.

"The Phantom" adds more power and punch and will certainly do well live. Brian's voice is still intact, whether it's for low or high singing. Around 02:25 there's a nice lead-break, after which the solo kicks in, nicely divided between Ken and Guy. Pure quality. The drums too sound quite realistic, not as plastic/digital as on many contemporary albums.

"Devil's Spawn" continues in the same vein and reminds of SAXON and perhaps a heavier THIN LIZZY. Heavy riffing, dynamic drumming, great leads, and a turnaround at the second minute. The double leads also make me thing a bit of the German Powermetallers BRAINSTORM. Great stuff here, I cannot stress this enough, although I haven't done so far, have I? This is another killer live, for sure.

I'm listening to the album with my headphones and because the sound is so good, also thanks to the great production, it feels as if the band is playing their songs in a shed or something similar. You know, a small room, well-isolated and you're sitting closeby seeing them play. Wonderful! The song "My Life Is My Own", too.

And there it finally is: a fast track with lots of double bass ("Spirit Of The Legend"). Like the others and perhaps some more, the result is simply outstanding! The competition for the Best Of 2007 list is fierce and the choice is enormous. But this is another proof that 2007 is another great year for Metal.

"The Passing"fulfills the expectations: it passes by, preparing the listener for "Into The Light". The first part is quite peaceful with chord picking, but then heaviness kicks in for the chorus. Not a bad song, truly not, but it takes a few listens to get into it. "Tortured Souls" has less problems to draw the attention, since the heavy riffing prevails again and the drums add another punchy touch.

"Together We Are Strong" pushes the pedal down a little more, with the re-entrance of the double bass bursts. Nothing particular about this song, just pure Heavy Metal quality. Oh yes, they used some keyboards in this song to assist the lead guitar. Or was it a transformed guitarsound?

The closing track, "Night Stalker", is another song where you clearly hear the bass guitar. I do have the impression Brian isn't the only one doing the vocals on the album. A few songs ago there was another song where the vocals sounded a little different. I don't know who it is, perhaps bassist Paul Brewis (since he also had a mic in the videos). But it's a decent song, nevertheless.

For this album the band re-recorded two of their oldies: "Armageddon" (of which the riff seems to be taken from THIN LIZZY's "Are You Ready?") and the classic "Blitzkrieg", which still sounds as good as ever, only a little more powerful now perhaps, due to the more modern production. Two videos complete the album, both available in MPG- and MP4-version and recorded at the Sweden Rock festival. A very nice of how they sound live.

Pure Heavy Metal, not surrendering to trends or mass taste, and still showing how it's done: BLITZKRIEG is one of the overlooked NWOBHM bands, I think, as far as I know ofcourse. They never were as big as e.g. IRON MAIDEN, SAXON, DIAMOND HEAD, ... but since they've just released a very strong new album, it's pretty clear that they don't need all the fame and money to make great music. Fans of the band and Heavy Metal in general have absolutely no reason (besides budget) to not get this album or any other BLITZKRIEG release. Without question is "Theatre Of The Damned" one of the best releases of 2007.

More info at www.blitzed-alive.com.

Line-up:
Brian Ross - vocals
Ken Johnson - guitars
Guy Laverick - guitars
Paul Brewis - bass
Phil Brewis - drums


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VANVETTIGAND – The Popara Code (Vanvettigand 2007)

Vanvettigand - The Popara Code
  1. With Allah On Our Side
  2. The Ghost Rider Of Catatonic Schizophrenia
  3. Battlestar: Shakira In The Beginning
  4. Popara Ist Krieg!
  5. Nude Trolls Castle Party
  6. Casino Royale
  7. American Idol
  8. Epic Tale Of Mighty Sons Of Epic Gays And Stainless Steel Warriors Of The True Metal Brotherhood Of Wild Wolves Of Lead
  9. Thunderlyaka (Odin's Prom Night)
  10. Bards On Booze

VANVETTIGAND, one of the many Internet-formed projects... this one being led and founded by a Bulgarian caling himself Riddermark. He handles the vocals and accoustic guitas, while Friedrig (formerly known as Zdravsteen) is responsable for the electric guitars and backing vocals. The other guitarist is Ricardo, hailing from Portugal.

VANVETTIGAND is a relatively new project/band, as it was first known as CATATONIC SCHIZOPHRENIA, featuring a different line-up. Due to unknown reasons this band was put to rest and Riddermark decided to continue anyhow, under a new name, taken from old Swedish (literally meaning Insane Duck).

"The Popara Code" is thus the first release under the new name and if you want to know what Popara is, follow this link.

Now, on to the album... For this new work of exquisite art Riddermark and co. opted for diverse themes to tackle: from the war on terrorism to fantasy stuff (a troll party, for example).

"With Allah On Our Side" features some of the most sharp and ferocious riffs you have ever heard. It's not a long song, but to the point with imminent impact of the 'bombings'... by the priest. It really gets indoctrinating in "The Ghost Rider of Catatonic Schizophrenia", which features Marco Schomas (FINSTERFORST) and Anthrax (FROZEN INFINITY) on vocals. A very brutal and mind-numbing song, to say the least.

Paying tribute to a popstar? Seems like our 'wild ducks' have a bone for Shakira: "Battlestar: Shakira in The Beginning". Accoustic melodies combined with some rapping, all done by Friedrig. And after this butt-kissing...

...comes a song with a title that says it all: "Popara Ist Krieg!". In pure Black Metal style, this song is about a national specialty: Popara, something you can eat. For more info, see the link above. According to the liner notes, the musical inspiration comes from DARKTHRONE's "Black Victory Of Death".

Time for something more loose: "Nude Trolls Castle Party". Can you imagine this? The best party you'll ever have gone to, no? :-) This needs no further text, does it? It's a bit Folk-ish, though.

Shakira passed by, Agent 007 is another popular figure to be covered. Logically a title of one of the films was chosen and the man himself even introduces the song: "Casino Royale". It's basically the same melody as the original, except some 'evil' vocals have been added, following the melody, and adding some shrieks towards the end.

George W. Bush Jr. also has the honour to be on this new album, once again talking about the war on terrorism. But the title tells a totally different tale, one that has invaded many homes through TV: "American Idol". This is just a song to ridicule Bush and any USA-lead war.

Every album needs a ballad and this one has a title of NANOWAR or BAL-SAGOTH proportions: "Epic Tale of Mighty Sons of Epic Gays and Stainless Steel Warriors of the True Metal Brotherhood of Wild Wolves of Lead". For this our trio was inspired by RHAPSODY OF FIRE's "Son Of Pain"...before the exorcism. Our character is being eaten alive (metaphorically speaking), so it seems. He's going through one hell of an agony.

Another tribute this time, to Odin. "Thunderlyaka (Odin's Prom Night)" is more like a battle song, probably Odin trying to conquer his queen-to-be. Wild melodies, pumping beat... it's a wild dance, oh yes. Along those lines and roughly in the same context - as there's also booze on a prom night - the "Bards On Booze" is in the style of bands like KORPIKLAANI, CRUACHAN, SKYCLAD, but foremost SILLY WIZARD (as the band states as inspiration). Gues appearances by Chocho (guitars) and Alexian (vocals).

So this is it. Ten songs, little more than ten minutes of playtime. The material is kept short and direct, but also keeping variation in mind, to make the songs keep their power. Anything longer would have made the entire album weaker and less interesting. Riddermark is the mainman here, as he puts it all together. The insane ducks - Riddermark, Friedrig and Ricardo - put so much passion into their work, taking elements from Pop(ara), Folk, Metal and more and making something new with it. Support these fine musicians and music lovers and get your copy of the album via the band's website. Hail!

More info at www.vanvettigand.info.

Line-up:
Riddermark - vocals, accoustic guitars
Ricardo - guitars
Friedrig - guitars, backing vocals


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OVERLOADED – Regeneration (Overloaded 2007)

Overloaded - Regeneration
  1. What's In There
  2. Obviously Envious
  3. Feeling Overloaded
  4. Presidents Day
  5. Ride That Feeling
  6. Why Don't You Love Me Anymore?
  7. Don't Leave This Way
  8. Flashy Girl
  9. Try This On For Size

Athough OVERLOADED is still unsigned, they are doing really fine. Starting in 2004, working hard on writing good songs and releasing a very fine debut one year later: "Hail The Kingdom". In that same year, a couple of months later (November), the "Hellfire" EP came out and was basically a continuation (or left-overs? ;-)) of "Hail The Kingdom". A series of gigs followed and the band soon acquired a good fan base.

We're two years later now, since the first album, and the follow-up just came out (3rd of August): "Regeneration". For this they went to Midwest Studios again, for the entire process. Last time the mastering was done by Morrisound Studios. Probably a bit costly then, which could be the reason why they styed at Midwest. Whatever the reason, it sure didn't damage anything, as everything still comes out well enough and the power of the songs is preserved.

It all starts with the very rocking "What's In There". No intro or anything, simply straight-forward Hard Rock and energetic drumming. Chris has improved over the years and sounds very good: melodic, but with an aggressive touch. His screamy singing is a trademark, but one can only wonder if he can also sing in a different way. Still, the music is almost pushing him to keep the aggressive touch active.

"Obviously Envious" is next and a bit more Rock 'n' Roll-ish, with Lorenzo adding nice grooves. In the chorus Chris sings "Don't you wish you were the nice guy", but if you don't pay attention, you might hear "Don't you wish you were the night sky". It took me a few listens to figure that one out, though, before checking the lyrics, ofcourse. :-) But all is going fine so far.

Since this is considered as one of the band's classics, even in their early history, the band decided to re-record "Feeling Overloaded". Lorenzo uses his riding cymbal instead of the crash and adds more bass drumming. Chris sings the lyrics in a slightly different way, also because it's not the first time he sings it, so he can a small touch of humour in his accent. I still prefer the original for the most part. The biggest problem with the new version is the hi-hat sounding to loud in the verses and the backing "Yeah!", which gets repeated a couple of times, sounds like a small group of barking dogs. No offence, guys. ;-)

"Presidents Day" sounds again lighter, but still rocking and also more playful. And here we have an example of Chris screaming a bit less. Solos are well executed, just like in the other songs. Very nice stuff here. Around 02:20 you get a nice twist before the chorus kicks back in.

Up next is one of the best songs OVERLOADED have written so far - "Ride That Feeling" - and particularly because of the pounding chorus. The pounding is provided mainly by Lorenzo. Verses are uptempo and a nice energy booster. Michael's bass comes through very clear and he's busting his ass off here. Around 02:10 the guitars slowlyfade out and Lorenzo's drumming also sounds softer, but still uptempo. It's just Michael who's best hearable. In this part the guitars come bursting through in portions and Chris sounds as active and aggressive as before. You could compare this song to "King Of The Landfill", which can be found on the band's first release, "Hail The Kingdom".

Going very bluesy, here's "Why Don't You Love Me Anymore?", another great track. The soloing is once again very fitting and shows Erik knows his guitar and how to play a good solo. "Don't Leave This Way" takes a heavier approach, with great hooks. Yes, it's another speedy song and no matter which song of theirs you pick, every time it's a hit. This song is comparable to "Heavy Metal Highway", off the "Hellfire" EP.

"Flashy Girl" is another Rock 'n' Roll track like "Presidents Day". Not bad, but nothing outstanding either, although everything is well played. The previous songs are just more appealing, in my opinion. But like most, if not all, of the songs, it could do well on stage.

The closing "Try This On For Size" starts with drumrolls before kicking off with a faster beat. The verses are slow, with some very nice drumwork by Lorenzo. Michael's bass comes through here as well. Chris's rough vocals, the guitartandem Erik-John (taking turns for the soloing) and the rhythm-section by Michael and Lorenzo... it fits unbelievably well and thus makes this a great song to finish "Regeneration".

As a conclusion I can only say that OVERLOADED is a band to keep an eye on, because they keep getting better, even if the start was already good. While they played on the edge between Hard Rock and Heavy Metal at first, the Hard Rock factor is more present this time, but that doesn't mean the music is less rocking. On the contrary. OVERLOADED is full of fire and it looks like (read: I hope) the flame will burn for a long time to come. The "Regeneration" title is therefore well chosen. Check 'em out on MySpace and while you're at it, contact the band to buy your copy or get it via CDBaby.com or iTunes.

More info at www.overloadedmusic.com.

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


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VENDETTA – Brain Damage (Metal Axe Records 2007)

Vendetta - Brain Damage
  1. War
  2. Brain Damage
  3. Conversation
  4. Precious Existence
  5. Never Die
  6. Love Song
  7. Fade To Insanity
  8. Dominance Of Violence
  9. Metal Law
  10. War (Live)

VENDETTA is one of the many Thrash bands from the 1980s, who released two albums: "Go And Live... Stay And Die" in 1987 and "Brain Damage" in 1988, both via Noise Records. Prior to these releases and between the two there were two demos and a split LP. The band was formed in 1985, but after this short discography - and I don't really know in what year it happened - they decided to call it quits. 17 years after their founding the band got back together and recorded a demo in 2003, which seemed to have been renamed then - dixt Metal-Archives.com - to "Dead People Are Cool".

Both full albums have been re-released this year via Metal Axe Records, with whom VENDETTA signed a deal. I received a copy of "Brain Damage". The artwork is of course not of today's standards, but still quite nostalgic. These re-releases (Amazon.de tells me it was on the 20th of July, while Amazon.com gives two other dates: one in May, one in August. Wonderful, don't you think? Hell, if even the band's or label's website doesn't give a date, where else to look then? Oh yes, their MySpace page) have been remastered (+ one bonustrack has been added) and I think that's for the better, as the instruments come out really well, without spoiling the atmosphere of old school Thrash.

The line-up of 1988 is below, but here's what it looks like now:

Mario - vocals
Frank Schölch - guitars
Klaus Ullrich (Heiner) - bass
Thomas Lubber - drums

And this line-up also recorded the band's third full album, "Hate", which came out around the end of April OR still has to be unleashed, which would be on the 17th of August. Even the band is contradicting themselves in their MySpace blog.

So what does (or better, did) VENDETTA sound like? Think a mix of DESTRUCTION, KREATOR, METALLICA ("Kill 'Em All") and perhaps some EXODUS. Harris Johns (see this link) did his best back then regarding the album's production and mix. Thrash from start to finish, with the rough vocals and with here and there a nice role for the bass guitar. Breaks and hooks are also well implemented. For example in the title track, with great twists, which makes it one of the best songs on this album.

But the band also decelerates. Examples of this are "Precious Existence", which mixes peaceful and heavy parts very well, and "Love Song", repeating the same lyric again and again, but leaving room for the instruments, of course. In the intro of "Fade To Insanity" Klaus plays a well-known tune, but I can't remember the name. But after +/- 1 minute the Thrash comes blasting through. No vocals here, though. And that's quite refreshing for a change.

The live bonus track sounds quite good, but not really live, unless it's 'live in the studio'. Oh wait, there's is an audience. Yes, it's not in the studio. Could this be one of the songs they played since their return?

Well, it's good to know that an 'oldie' has come back to kick the asses of the new bands, to show them how it's done. Anyone who's into old school Thrash should not ignore VENDETTA's "Brain Damage" (or "Go And Live... Stay And Die"), because this is one fine album and brings back quite some memories, especially for those who experienced that era. Anyone who's new to old school Thrash should actually also check out this band's two releases, together with those of KREATOR, DESTRUCTION, EXODUS, and the many others. Hail and welcome back, guys! Let's hope their new album, "Hate", is also worth the investment and that it contains quite some old school elements.

More info at www.vendetta-band.de.

Line-up:
Achim Hömerlein (Daxx) - vocals, guitars
Michael Wehner (Micky) - vocals, guitars
Klaus Ullrich (Heiner) - bass
Andreas Samonil (Samson) - drums


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REAPERS – World In Chains (Deadsun Records 2007)

Reapers - World In Chains
  1. Anywhere But Here
  2. Mordred
  3. Execution
  4. The Rising Will
  5. Cut His Head
  6. Last Days On Earth
  7. Hellbreaker
  8. Fading Away

REAPERS is an Italian Heavy/Thrash band, formed in 2002, and started as a METALLICA cover band, founded by Luca (vox/guitar) and Francesco (bass). The band also made a demo, "Metalness", containing 5 songs. The usual line-up changes happened and one year later REAPERS followed their own path, with the addition of Stefano on guitars. He came over from a STEVE VAI tribute band. And so the work on the first album, also called "Metalness", had commenced. The album later came out via Deadsun Records. Last year drummer Dario Pittarello left the band and got replaced by Giacomo Sandon. The new line-up created a new album, "World In Chains", which came out in July (which day?), again via Deadsun Records.

A mix of Thrash and Heavy is the right description, although it never gets as Thrashy as e.g. KREATOR, EXODUS, FORBIDDEN, and the likes.

The production is quite good, although there's definitely room for improvement here. But since they probably didn't have a bigger budget, they had to compromise somewhere. Songwise it's not too bad, but nothing super either. The material is comparable to bands like MEGADETH, early 90s EXODUS, maybe METALLICA, although as a METALLICA fan myself, I found it hard to match both bands. There aren't enough uptempo songs to really make you excited.

With "Execution" REAPERS even tries to use a path e.g. DREAM THEATER has followed, as there's something Progressive about this song. As good as the intentions and ideas are, it just doesn't grasp me. "The Rising Will" shows influences from KANSAS's "Dust In The Wind": the melody, the accoustic guitar. But the result is, sorry to say, boring. Just like the MEGADETH meets early 90s EXODUS song "Mordred". It's slow, quite melodic, with stop-start riffing trying to hold the attention of the listener.

If I look at the songs that stand out, or in other words, are 'better' than the others, I can only sum up three: 1) "Anywhere But Here", 2) "Cut His Head" and 3) "Fading Away".

The first is a midtempo, groovy song, reminding me slightly of ABANDONED. "Cut His Head" also made it, because of its melodicness, guitarwork and the varied drumming, while for "Fading Away" the 'Rock' factor plays a big role there.

All things considered, I can't really recommend "World In Chains". Only three songs from the eight stand out, but compared to other, similar bands, they're mediocre. REAPERS still have work to do regarding the compositions, making their material stick and more varied.

More info at www.reapers.net.

Line-up:
Luca Calegaro - vocals
Stefano Crivellari - guitars
Francesco Lilla - bass
Giacomo Sandon - drums


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BLOOD STAIN CHILD – Mozaiq (Dockyard 1 2007)

Blood Stain Child - Mozaiq
  1. Exotic-6-Cordinator
  2. Cyber Green
  3. Freedom
  4. Energy Blast
  5. Pitch Black Room
  6. Another Dimension
  7. Metropolice
  8. C.E.0079
  9. Innocence
  10. Peacemaker
  11. Neo-Gothic-Romance
  12. Cosmic Highway (bonus track)

Last year the Japanese band BLOOD STAIN CHILD released their third album, "Idolator", on the 4th of December. It seems this was liked very much with several people, but for me... I've got other bands to fulfill my taste regarding Melodic Death Metal (e.g. CHILDREN OF BODOM, AMON AMARTH, ARCH ENEMY, SADHARA, NORTHER, etc...). The screamo factor was really annoying (seemed more like pig squealing), plus the LINKIN PARK and KORN (to name just these) influences didn't really help either. But it seems the use of electronics is a characteristic of this band's music.

And on the 18th of July, the follow-up will be available: "Mozaiq". Tue Madsen did again the mixing and mastering. Musically you still get the similarities with CHILDREN OF BODOM and others, but it seems this time the band really took IN FLAMES as an example as you can hear influences from "Soundtrack To Your Escape" and/or "Come Clarity". Songs that contain these are e.g. "Exotic-6-Cordinator", "Freedom", "Metropolice". And since the use of electronics is very important for the band, the second half of the tracklisting - no, wait, the ENTIRE album - is FULL of them. It just gets worse the further you go: "Energy Blast" (I guess the title plays a role), "Pitch Black Room", "Another Dimension", ... and here the worst part starts: "C.E.0079" (LINKIN PARK drumming, a break to focus on the electronic interlude in Trance vein or something like that. I'm not home in that music), "Peacemaker" (this is simply... there are no words for this. Horrible! What do you mean, Metal?), "Neo-Gothic-Romance" (I found nothing Gothic about this song) and even the last song ("Cosmic Highway") suffers from the overuse of electronics, beats, samples. LUCA TURILLI and STAR ONE also made cosmic-related songs, but those are less flooded by beats, samples and whatever more.

I have to say that I did like the first couple of songs...musically. The vocals still annoy like hell, despite adding an extra vocalist who's in charge of the clean and growling vocal lines. Ryo's screams and Sadew's clean interventions (well, they both did clean parts) do the songs more harm than good. The overuse of the electronic stuff makes me even less interested in the band or their music. NIGHTWISH also has a beat-song, "Wish I Had An Angel", and I'm not that fond of it either. Cut away the beats and it will still be as good as before.

BLOOD STAIN CHILD will never be in my list of favourites, but I know lots of people like what they play. I personally got bored very quickly after the first couple of songs, so I played MANOWAR's "Gods Of War Live" album, which isn't Melodic Death but still great Metal. For pure Melodic Death I can only recommend you to seek your music elsewhere. If you like your Metal flavoured with screams (squeals), beats, samples, electronics, and whatever more as a sauce, I think BLOOD STAIN CHILD and their latest album, "Mozaiq", might still your hunger. For me this is another disc that will collect dust. Why did I review this album, even when not really liking it? I got the promo in the mail and besides, one can't like everything, right?

More info at www.bloodstainchild.com.

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


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WIDOW – Nightlife (Cruz Del Sur Music 2007)

Widow - Nightlife
  1. First Born
  2. We Will Meet Again
  3. Beware The Night
  4. Teachers Pet
  5. Cult Of Life
  6. I'll Make You A Star
  7. At The End
  8. Beauty Queen
  9. Night Life
  10. Ain't Talking Bout Love (VAN HALEN cover)
  11. I Stole Your Love (KISS cover)

WIDOW recently released its third full album, "Nightlife", on the 16th of July. This is their second release on Cruz Del Sur Music, after 2005's "On Fire". Early in their young career the band apparently implemented the Melodic Death Metal modernity with the Hard Rock/Heavy Metal style they play.

To be honest, I don't really hear anything Melodic Death Metal related in the songs, except for the rough vocals of Chris Bennett and Joshua Pantke. Peter Lemieux and John E. Wooten IV take care of the cleaner vocal lines.

The sound on "Nightlife" is rough, but quite realistic. It's not as digital or polished as lots of other releases. From start to finish you get rocking songs, one more than the other. The real boosters in this case are "We Will Meet Again", "Beware The Night" (great dual guitarwork here!) and "I'll Make You A Star".

"Teachers Pet", which drags the tempo down (so does e.g. "At The End"), has a very American sound. If you listen to the poprock bands that frequently pass by on MTV and the likes, you'll notice quite a similarity. The rough vocals here, but also in the other songs, are the least attractive aspect. It's ok if you want to use dual vocals and create a contrast, but it's just not rough enough. Is it Chris or Joshua? Whoever it is, his voice lacks power. The screaming is - how to say this? - 'flat'. It should be fuller, so to speak.

And there's also a ballad-ish song here: "Cult Of Life". Musically quite alright, but vocally... I don't know. Perhaps it's the American accent (although I don't dislike American vocalists). The rougher vocals remind me - and I'll probably cause some eye-blinking or eyebrow-raising - of MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE and similar bands. Sure, WIDOW is no emo band, it's just that this song sounds somewhat like what those other bands play.

There are also two cover songs on this album: "Ain't Talking Bout Love", originally by VAN HALEN, and "I Stole Your Love", a song from KISS's repertoire. The first is not bad, but I think the original sounds better. The vocals ruin it for me. The second one is quite good too and very energetic. But here as well, the rougher vocals simply destroy the vibe.

Overall this is quite a rocking album, with a good dose of Rock 'n' Roll, nice guitar work and accustomed drumming (done by Chris Bennett, not Peter Lemieux). All this without neglecting the American roots. If you liked "On Fire", I guess you'll have no problems with "Nightlife". But mainly the (death) vocals leave a bad mark. The cleaner singing is quite alright. So if I were to buy this album, it would be for the music, not the vocals.

More info at www.burning-village.com.

Line-up:
Chris Bennett - death vocals, guitar
John E. Wooten IV - clean vocals, guitars
Joshua Pantke - bass, grind backing vocals
Peter Lemieux - drums, clean backing vocals


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OVERTURES – Beyond The Waterfall (VideoRadio - Linea Alternativa 2007)

Overtures - Beyond The Waterfall
  1. Beyond The Waterfall
  2. Toy
  3. Faded Dream
  4. Town Of Desolation
  5. Silent Observer
  6. The Self-Pitier
  7. A Time Of My Life
  8. Hideout

OVERTURES is a young Italian band that plays Melodic (Hard)rock. Think THIN LIZZY, AC/DC and the likes. Every member was (or still is?) a student at the Roland Music School in Gorizia. In 2003 Marco Falanga (guitar), Daniele Piccolo (guitar), Luka (bass) and Marko Klanjscek (drums) decided to join forces. The singer's position was filled soon after that, as they asked Michele Guaitoli to complete the line-up. Three months later, in September, the band played its first concert. And so things began to evolve, with more gigs in local pubs, at squares, etc... and even on local festivals and competitions. The video of their performace in the final Pagella Rock shows the songs come out very well on stage. Just check their website's Media page.

Michele was even named "Best Male Singer" in 2005 and when listening to the band's just-released debut "Beyond The Waterfall" I have to confirm his singing skills, but there is still some work to be done. In that same year, 2005, the band recorded a three-track demo, of which "Town Of Desolation" and "Silent Observer" were used for the "Beyond The Waterfall" album.

The demo also made it to several radio stations, who gladly played the tunes. And that's also a characteristic of OVERTURES' music: radio-friendly. Well... music is usually as radio-friendly as the will of the stations to play the songs, right? But it turned out very well for these Italians.

Last year "Beyond The Waterfall" was recorded and it's only since May that the band signed a contract with VideoRadio - Linea Alternativa to have the album released in July and in Italy only. There are no plans (yet?) for an international release, but iTunes will have the album very soon.

The album kicks off with the midtempo title track and that's only an indication of things to come. There are no real speedy songs speed increases, although "Silent Observer", "The Self-Pitier" (probably the most rocking song of the bunch and great to headbang to) and the closing track "Hideout" can be considered the more direct songs, to the point, adding more punch to the whole. Just a few thoughts on two of these three songs: The part after the intro of "Silent Observer" seems to be directly taken from the intro of "Heathen Song" (HEATHEN). Listen carefully and you'll clearly hear the similarity. I don't know if the guys know this great Thrash band, but if they 'copied' on purpose I don't blame them. It means they know their Metal (although OVERTURES plays hardrock). In "Hideout" the band incorporated elements from AC/DC or at least they were inspired by the grooviness of the Australians. At one point Michele adds a scream and this instantly made me frown. What's the purpose of this? It doesn't add anything to the song, it's even better if he would have hold his peace. Nothing personal, of course, but don't scream for the sake of screaming. Other than that "Hideout" is a great song and one of the best on the album, also because of the flow in heaviness. Around the third minute you get a break and a turnaround in melody as it's time for the guitarsolos. Daniele and Marco, each taking turns to play his part. Luca also gets his portion of the solo when the guitars are silent. Now that is what I call a highlight and it makes the song all the more interesting.

DIAMOND HEAD's "Am I Evil?" also was an influence, apparently. The guitarwork in "Faded Dream" can be directly compared to DIAMOND HEAD's classic, back in the day covered by METALLICA (and probably other bands as well). Again, very well done, and luckily the guys give it a twist so it does become an OVERTURES song. ;-) The rhythm is quite boogie-ish and overall this is another thumbs-up song.

THIN LIZZY continues to have an impact on today's musicians, as "Town Of Desolation" could have been one of their songs, although perhaps one that was not good enough to make it onto an album. That doesn't mean the result is crap. On the contrary, as Marko (drums) is one active litle bee. Compared with the vocal and guitarwork, the drums are played with more energy and change instead of hanging on to a standard pattern. And that's of course a good thing.

It's not all heavy, though. The accoustic guitar is used a few times, but for the most part you'll hear it in "A Time Of My Life", which is a ballad or at least sounds like one. The chorus is electric, though, but this forms a nice contrast with the calmer, more peaceful verses. One song that I didn't like very much is the second one, "Toy". This is a slow song, but Michele's voice and the melody - well, the song in general - is quite sleep inducing.

OVERTURES is one of the gazillion bands on MySpace trying to promote themselves and this is also how I got to know their music and album. Everything was recorded at the band's own studio and for a debut the sound is quite alright, also because the melodic hardrock they play doesn't need a big, polished sound. But it would do the (future) songs much good if they could be recorded and produced in a more advanced studio. The songs are still radio-friendly, but show the band has put a lot of effort in creating the album and therefore deserve all the attention they can get. However, they still have a long way to go, particularly Michele. He's not at the top of his abilities yet. He's perfect for this kind of music, but the sound of his voice is still too limited. Things can only get better and I have good hopes for the next album. So, in short: "Beyond The Waterfall" is a more than ok album (just decent rock, nothing awe-inspiring, though) and nice to have for a change in style.

More info at www.overtures.it.

Line-up:
Michele Guaitoli - vocals
Daniele Piccolo - guitars
Marco Falanga - guitars
Luca Klanjscek - bass
Marko Klanjscek - drums


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SLOUGH FEG – Hardworlder (Cruz Del Sur Music 2007)

Slough Feg - Hardworlder
  1. The Return Of Dr. Universe
  2. Tiger! Tiger!
  3. The Sea Wolf
  4. Hardworlder
  5. The Spoils
  6. Frankfurt-Hahn Airport Blues
  7. Galactic Nomad
  8. Dearg Doom (HORSLIPS cover)
  9. Insomnia
  10. Poisoned Treasures
  11. Karma-Kazee
  12. Whirling Vortex
  13. Street Jammer (MANILLA ROAD cover)

SLOUGH FEG, formerly known as THE LORD WEIRD SLOUGH FEG, has in the beginning of this month (i.e. 5th of July) released their sixth full album - "Hardworlder" -, once again via the Italian label Cruz Del Sur Music, just like their very nice 2005 release "Atavism". This record contained great riffs and grooves, in the spirit of the '70s, influenced by Irish rockers THIN LIZZY (?), but also some contemporary material from e.g. QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE, although it could be other way around. ;-)

The bands's self-titled debut contained quite some Folk influences and the overall result turned out quite well, although I found - and that's the second album I heard from them - "Atavism" more interesting, as it was more pure Hard Rock. True, the Folkishness had been left aside since a couple of years then, but who knows... perhaps they'll use some of that again in the future.

I had heard of SLOUGH FEG in the past (they have been alive since 1990, but it took them a couple of years to release their debut), but never heard anything they had made (or I might have, but without taking notice of who and what), so in a way it was a pleasant surprise to see the promo of "Hardworlder" in the mail. The two records mentioned above were checked at the shop, to get to know the material a little more. Chances are big that I'll add "Atavism" to my collection sometime this year, but there are other releases that have a higher priority for me.

The playtime of the band's songs is never long, with a maximum of +/- 6 minutes as exceptions. The majority is around +/- 3 minutes long. And on the new disc nothing changes. "Karma-Kazee" is the only one that jumps out with its 05:22. With 13 songs this results in a playtime of 42:56 minutes, which is a little longer than the two albums I heard before: "The Lord Weird Slough Feg" and "Atavism", both under 40 minutes.

Musically there's the sequel of "Atavism", heavily influenced by the classic rock from the '70s (check out "Galactic Nomad" - great track!). The accoustic guitar also makes its entrance and you could say there are small touches of Folkishness (not because of the accousitc guitar, but the melody and the way things are played), as shown in "The Sea Wolf". I didn't find anything of that in the other songs, though. Because the songs are so short (well, radio-friendly short) they pass by very quickly and if you don't pay attention - like I was doing - you wouldn't think you've reached the second half of the tracklisting. And don't think that this is because the songs are boring. no, not in the least. But there does come a moment when you think: "Oh, that's all?".

As an extra there are also two cover songs: "Dearg Doom", originally by HORSLIPS (who? Never heard of/about them, sorry.) and "Street Jammer", originally by MANILLA ROAD (now here's a band I know... by name). SLOUGH FEG's renditions are actually quite good. To continue in the comparison situation: the riffing (and a little bit of the melody) in "Insomnia" reminded me instantly of HAMMERFALL's "Threshold" (the song). A striking resemblance. Perhaps a coincidence or Michael or 'Don' Angelo must have listened to this record when writing the material for "Hardworlder". Regarding the singing in "Poisoned Treasures", try to listne to Nils Patrik Johansson in WUTHERING HEIGHTS' song "Faith - Apathy Divine Part I", starting at 06:25.

It took me a couple of listenings to get into the material. I still like "Atavism" a little better, but "Hardworlder" comes pretty close as second. The sound is slightly different than on the previous album, but it's still decent Hard Rock/Heavy Metal. Nope, I didn't hear any Power Metal or at least, not the Power Metal I'm used to hearing. SLOUGH FEG have now been around for 17 years and they're still going strong, let that be clear. Fans should really like this and anyone who hasn't checked out the band and their discography, I highly recommend you to do this asap.

More info at www.sloughfeg.com and their MySpace page.

Line-up:
Michael Scalzi - vocals, guitars
'Don' Angelo Tringali - guitars
Adrian Maestas - bass
Antoine Reuben-Diavola - drums


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KORPIKLAANI – Tervaskanto (Napalm Records 2007)

Korpiklaani - Tervaskanto
  1. Let's Drink
  2. Tervaskanto
  3. Viima
  4. Veriset Äpärät
  5. Running With The Wolves
  6. Liekkiön Isku
  7. Palovana
  8. Karhunkaatolaulu
  9. Misty Fields
  10. Vesilahden Veräjillä
  11. Nordic Feast

Finnish Folk Metal band KORPIKLAANI released their last album, "Tales Along This Road", last year and kind of disturbed the 2-year procedure: 2003 = "Spirit Of The Forest", 2005 = "Voice Of Wilderness", 2006 = "Tales Along This Road" and in a couple of weeks (2nd of July) we'll have the band's fourth album, "Tervaskanto". From two years between each album to one year. From what I've understood this is also the band's last on Napalm Records. At least, that's what Jonne said in the interview with the Metal-Cast.com.

The debut was a good start, but there were still many things to improve or adjust and it took the band only two years to come with a more than good follow-up: "Voice Of Wilderness". Last year's release naturally contained the typical Folk elements and KORPIKLAANI stamp, but the appeal was less. Sure, there were good songs on that album, but also mediocre ones and overall perhaps too much of the same. Although you know with a Folk Metal album you have to stay true to certain rules.

So now all ears are focussed on the band's newest result of their brainstorming. "Tervaskanto" is the title, with a cover that again features the man from the woods from "Tales Along This Road". Or it could be someone else, as the two figures are not the same in terms of looks. The translations between () are added by me. Not that Finnish is a language I'm good at, not at all, but these are the translations that appeared in Winamp.

The tone is set with the joyful "Let's Drink". Folk and beer seem to be an inseperate couple, as the band also sung in "Beer Beer" and "Happy Little Boozer". The violin and flute play a very important role, while the guitars bring the solid basis. Needless to say how great this song is, right? :-) It's not humppa, but stil very enjoyable. The title track ("Resinous Stump") does you make more active, though, since here it's humppa all the way. The flute and accordion play the melodic key role here. This is another proof that KORPIKLAANI has refound the required inspiration.

"Viima" ("Icy Wind") commences with a radio-effect, but then the slower hummpa-tempo bursts loose and there's Jone singing with a lower voice. This is a less good song. It's not bad, but it's not as energetic and uplifting as the previous tracks. And the tempo goes down a little more in the first part of "Veriset Äpärät" ("Bloody Bastars Children"), but once the entire band is playing at full power you get an increase that eventually results in the humppa-tempo. Again the accordion and violin are key instruments.

Jonne decides to remain silent and put the instruments in the spotlights: "Running With The Wolves" (yes, a fast song), is therefore an instrumental song. A very nice addition and the song in general is also well composed. Thumbs up, again. My attention is far more present than when I had to review "Tales Along This Road".

Still have energy left? Hit the dancefloor then for "Liekkion Isku" ("The Revenge Of Liekkio"). Or just bang the head that doesn't bang. ;-) Both will do. The violin makes its return, but the accordion takes over in the chorus. The score is still very positive, as this is also a very qualitative song, with the slower verses and speedy chorus forming a nice mix. And it doesn't stop here. "Palovana" ("Inner Fire") is the longest track, clocking in after 5 minutes. Lots of variation here too: slower/midtempo moments, double bass drums in galopping style and building up toward the humppa-ish chorus.

"Karhunkaatolaulu" ("Bear Hunt Song") has tribal-ish drumming in the intro, with the violing/accordion duo providing the melody. Jonne joins soon enough and after 30 seconds... you better be ready! Great melody and rhythm, that really lift you up and the tribal breaks are well chosen. The purpose is not only to repeat a certain part and express a certain atmosphere, but also keep you attention vivid, so you don't get overwhelmed by the stream of melody and heavy guitartunes.

More normal drumming in "Misty Fields" makes you think the band has put the characteristic humppa-playing aside, but that illusion is soon gone, as it is very much present in the chorus. The melody in general (coming from the accordion and violin) is very nice and I have to say that, when the band plays in a normal manner, it gives the song a lot of appeal. This is simply great stuff! Jonne and co. have done a very nice job here.

The accoustic guitar and tribal drumming start "Vesilahden Veräjillä" ("At The Gates Of Vesilahti"), and the drums' role is to set the correct pace. Slow it is, single bass and no heavy guitars in the verses. This makes it really refreshing to listen to. Of course, every bandmember plays his role in the chorus. Lots of attention went to the instrumental parts, so the listener could dream away and create his/her own setting. Do I have to say how much I like this pre-last song? ;-)

Well, after all this wild dancing, headbanging, drinking and what-not, what better way to end than with a feast? In short, more of the above. ;-) It's not a fast one, yet it contains again the humppa-kind of playing and is in fact a nice song to end the evening before you go home to recharge your batteries for the next day.

If you say KORPIKLAANI, you know what to expect and that's qualitative Folk Metal. Full stop. I feared the band would not pay that much attention to this new record, but have they proven me wrong! I am so glad they got back on track and made an album to be damn proud of. "Tervaskanto" is at least as good as "Voice Of Wilderness", if not better. It's is different, though, as it's only on the last two albums (incl. this new record) that the use of the accordion has decreased and this time for the better. The compositions are well thought of, the breaks dito, the melodies, ... Another thing that is also great about "Tervaskanto" is that the length of the songs is around 3 minutes, sometimes a little more. This way, the effect doesn't get lost and you can enjoy the songs over and over again. Cliché as it may sound, I do want to recommend KORPIPKLAANI's latest album to any Folk Metal fan, and anyone who still has not heard this band. They haven't made one bad album, but #2 and #4 certainly stick out the most, in my opinion. And while you can, go for the Limited Edition with the bonus DVD, containing the band's performance at Wacken Open Air.

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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IRON FIRE – Blade Of Triumph (Napalm Records 2007)

IRON FIRE - Blade Of Triumph
  1. Dragonheart
  2. Bloodbath Of Knights
  3. Dawn Of Victory
  4. Lord Of The Labyrinth
  5. Bridges Will Burn
  6. Follow The Sign
  7. Steel Invaders
  8. Jackal's Eye
  9. Legend Of The Magic Sword
  10. Gladiator's Path
  11. Blade Of Triumph

Danish Powermetallers IRON FIRE have not wasted too much time to make a new album. Little more than a year after the release of "Revenge", the follow-up will soon be unleashed upon mankind under the fitting title "Blade Of Triumph" and more specifically on the 2nd of July. For their previous record the band did as many concerts as possible to make the name IRON FIRE known (again?) among many Metalheads. The album itself was overall decent, but never highly remarkable. The influences of GAMMA RAY and FREEDOM CALL, to name just these, make it clear for whom the Danish are making their Metal.

With "Blade Of Triumph" they plan to conquer the souls of the fans of another very successful Metalband: HAMMERFALL. The sound on the new album leaves no doubt in such a case. Just listen to e.g. "Chapter V: Unbound, Unbowed, Unbroken" and "Threshold".

To start the album in the right way, you get a typical (title and music) Powermetal track: "Dragonheart". This is at the same time one of the best songs here. "Bloodbath Of Knights" continues the chosen path, although a bit slower. Heavy and calmer, melodic moments change times perfectly, with of course the chorus being the fiercest part. All is going well so far, no real problems worth mentioning.

"Dawn Of Victory" was one of RHAPSODY (OF FIRE)'s best albums and songs, but IRON FIRE's song has nothing to do with RHAPSODY (OF FIRE). It's in fact much slower and less furious, although you do get chuggish riffs. Overall the execution is good, but things could get a little boring after a while. Although the guitars in the intro of "Lord Of The Labyrinth" sound promising, the song itself is slow, but with heavy support of course. A bit too light for my taste and not as attention-keeping as the previous ones.

"Bridges Will Burn" on the other hand cranks up the pace again, which can only be applauded! Faster than "Dragonheart", but at least as good, if not better. Again HAMMERFALL, FREEDOM CALL, etc... come to mind, but IRON FIRE's did a good job here. Just listen to Jens going wild on his kit in the pre-chorus. This will obviously be a must to play live.

The tempo decreases again in "Follow The Sign", which is more hymnic and quite epic. The guitar- and drumwork are quite commpatible and the whole is also a success. Compared to "Revenge" Martin and co. seem to have taken more time for the new material and cosnidering the line-up is the same as before, they should be a more solid block now.

Can I make another comparison? "Steel Invaders" is a title that pretty much describes it all. No, not uptempo, but still enough power and balls to keep you glued to your speakers. Musically and lyrically it's a combination of HAMMERFALL and MANOWAR. The result is here as well commendable. Ok, you've got lots of cheese here, but aside from that the members in the band know their Metal.

"Jackal's Eye" contains some light symphonic backing, and once more there's less speed. Everything dwells in ballad-ish atmospheres. Speaking of symphonics, "Legend Of The Magic Sword" clearly has them. No electric guitars here, they are replaced by accoustic ones. Martin is trying his best, but he's better in more powerful songs, not accoustic ballads. Musically it's not a failure, not at all. But I would listen to it as background music and advise Martin not to sing that much in such a song. Sometimes it's better to let the instruments to the talking, especially in atmospheric songs.

Back to business as usual with "Gladiator's Path", a midtempo song that has also been well worked out. I am positively surprised. The last track, "Blade Of Triumph", is a faster song, exactly what you expect with such a title and following the pattern on the album. Rolling double bass in the chorus, very melodic overall and uptempo verses. IRON FIRE made a very nice first song and they fortunately ended with a similar one. The majority wins here.

IRON FIRE sure have progressed a lot in one year. The new line-up, the gigs following the release of "Revenge" and whatever more sure had positive influences on the songwriting process. I had some doubts about the band's abilities after the last record, but IRON FIRE has proven me wrong with "Blade Of Triumph", which should really help in setting the band on the map and open more doors for the band. Everything is upped (guitars, drums, melodies, ... yes, Martin has improved a little as well ;-)) - thanks to producer Fredrik Nordström -, so the band is better prepared for the battle to gain more fans and specifically those into HAMMERFALL, GAMMA RAY, FREEDOM CALL, GALLOGLASS and similar bands. If you want more, there will be a Limited Edition digipack with two extra songs.

More info at www.ironfire.dk.

Line-up:
Martin Steene - vocals
Kirk Backarach - guitars
Jobbe J. - guitars
Martin Lund - bass
Jens Berglid - drums


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SEVENTH CALLING – Monuments (Melissa Records 2007)

Seventh Calling - Monuments
  1. Dark Angel
  2. Silent Screams
  3. Faces Of Deception
  4. Fight For your Life
  5. Dead Mind's Eye
  6. Invasion
  7. Mercyless
    - The Damnation Creation -
  8. The Process
  9. Awakening
  10. Insanity
  11. Immortality?
  12. My Blood...Your Veins

SEVENTH CALLING is another US Metal band on the new Dutch label Melissa Records. The other band being BEYOND FALLEN. The basis of SEVENTH CALLING is the duo Lance C. Lange - Steve Handel, both sharing the vocal duties on this debut album and both also handling the guitarwork. The bass and drums positions are filled in by Michael Poplees and Jamie Strobach. At the end of June (29th) the band will release their debut, "Monuments".

Like BEYOND FALLEN, SEVENTH CALLING bring powerful Heavy Metal with Progressive touches, either coming from the keyboards or just the way of playing. Keyboards play an important role in "Dark Angel", particularly to create the right atmosphere. I get the idea, but it's a bit messy when the chorus comes into focus. "Silent Screams" is the territory of the guitars and although this also has Progressive influences, you never miss the keyboards.

While the first two songs dwelled too much in the midtempo style, things get a little more interesting in "Faces Of Deception", although there isn't any speed increase here either. Luckily the instrumentation is varied enough to make this song worthwhile. The singing skills of Lance and/or Steve are good, but there's still some work to be done to improve. It's rough, which fits the songs, but when they attempt to scream... mnah, better to hold your peace then.

A title like "Fight For Your Life" would suggest something more aggressive and whatever more. The start is pretty slow, though, and I was fearing for another midtempo track. It's after the first part that the flower pops open. Vicious riffing, thundering drums, the whole being very energetic and one of the best tracks on the album. "Dead Mind's Eye" continues the thundering drumming (in the verses), but soon everything falls back to midtempo for the chorus. The vocals are also a little darker, more aggressive.

And so it goes on, although midtempo is king on "Monuments". Did I almost fall asleep now, when "Invasion" was playing? "Mercyless" brings me back to conscienceness with its aggressive riffing. But it's going to take something more to keep me awake. Let's see if the quintology "The Damnation Creation" has the right elements.

"The Process" certainly is quite melodic with a good dose of Progressiveness. The guitars are still the core and bassis and the tempo... well, nevermind. Vocals are a mix of clean and rough. "Awakening" is all about the keyboards creating a dark setting and preparing the listener for some "Insanity". Chuggish riffs backing the keyboards, which add a couple of symphonic elements. The vocals are clean, high-pitched and although you don't need a grunter here, the result isn't always a hit. But it's a debut, so things can only improve. Musically Steve and Lance managed to create a beautiful song here, yes indeed. "Immortality?" is the next instrumental interlude, bringing the violin and accoustic guitar into play. Heartbeats form the bridge with "My Blood...Your Veins". No big changes compared to "Insanity" or the previous songs.

Here we have another new American band that stays true to solid Heavy Metal with the attention for melody and dark settings. "Monuments" is the band's debut and in general you have to give the guys credit for it, but it's not a record that will make you jump out of your chair and run to the shops, as far as I'm concerned. You get varied songs, but not a varied tracklisting. there's too much midtempo, while at least two uptempo songs would have made the record much more interesting. The production is good for a debut, so no real worries here. Vocally Steve and Lance still have some work. Reaching for the higher notes is not the strongest aspect of their voices. when it comes to normal singing, be it with a certain roughness, then all is well. Quote from the press text/biography: "The determined four-piece that is now SEVENTH CALLING and based in Minneapolis, MN, promises to deliver the goods with a full-on metal assault - be prepared, metalhead!" - I personally think this is a bit exaggerated. On CD the band sounds ok for now, but could it be that the real power comes out on stage?

More info at www.myspace.com/seventhcalling (their own website - www.seventhcalling.com - seems to be down).

Line-up:
Lance C. Lange - vocals, guitars
Steve Handel - vocals, guitars
Michael Poplees - bass
Jamie Strobach - drums, programming


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PARAGON – Forgotten Prophecies (Remedy Records 2007)

Paragon - Forgotten Prophecies
  1. Hammer Of The Gods
  2. Arise
  3. Face Of Death
  4. Halls Of Doom
  5. Revelations
  6. Forgotten Prophecies
  7. Agony
  8. Souleaters
  9. Gangland
  10. Wargods
  11. Deny The Cross (OVERKILL cover)

German Heavy/Powermetallers PARAGON are back with a new album. "Forgotten Prophecies" is its title and this will see the light of day on the 29th June, again via Remedy Records. It was long unsure where the band would sign, after having been on this label for 4 albums. Two years ago, the band's first albums were re-released: the 2CD "World Of Sin"/"Chalice Of Steel" and "The Final Command", which got the "Into The Black" EP as a bonus. That way these albums got available again for those who wished to complete their collection and wanted to know how the band sounded in its earlier days.

Over the years PARAGON have released very solid material and each album was worth purchasing. Needless to say that the influence and help from IRON SAVIOR mainman Piet Sielck also helped a lot. "Steelbound" (2001), "Law Of The Blade" (2002), "The Dark Legacy" (2003) and finally "Revenge" (2005) were recorded, produced, mixed and mastered by Piet at his well-known Powerhouse Studios. You can already guess that the sound was pretty much similar on those albums and that PARAGON slowly became a copy/clone of IRON SAVIOR.

So for their 8th album Martin and co. found the time right to seek another studio and producer. This new location was the studios of Metalbash Roadkill tourtechs Steve Quellmalz and Arne Wachtmann. They gave the band again a much rawer sound, a roughness the band has never had so far. The first albums were rough/raw, yes, but that was different. With Piet more bombast was added, but also more polishing. Therefore you'll be surprised to hear what power "Forgotten Prophecies" can have.

The artwork was done by Dirk Illing, who did also the artworks of "The Law Of The Blade" and "The Dark Legacy". For "Revenge" the band appealed to Argentinian artist Valgorth. I've noticed that on this cover you won't find the characteristic shield and 2 axes. It wasn't there on "Law Of The Blade" either, but it did feature on the other albums' covers.

Working on the new album didn't go that smooth, as drummer Markus Corby had to leave because of health problems. Earlier this year long-time bassist Jan Bünning as well left due to the classical "musical differences". Replacements were found in respectively Christian Gripp and Dirk Seifert.

Musically you get the classic stuff, what PARAGON have brought since ever. The rawness of the guitars stands out throughout the entire album and really fits the band's music a lot. Pure, throat-slicing riffs and pounding drums (although less bombastic than before and now more 'real') delivered via "Hammer Of The Gods" (with its hymnic chorus), "Arise" (not a SEPULTURA cover ;-)), "Face Of Death" (Andreas roaring even more than in the other songs), "Forgotten Prophecies" (a great song it is, indeed) and "Wargods" (the title says it all). "Gangland" (the original title for the album) can be added too and while it overall is a decent song, there's one aspect that is not so well worked out: the chorus. How lame it is. Musically the song is very much alright, though, without a doubt. The guitarsolos definitely are a vital element and for that you also get uptempo drumming. A very enjoyable moment and you only wish it could last longer. The riffing afterwards - what do you mean, "copied from"? No, they're only "influenced by" this and other bands - can originally be found in DEMONS AND WIZARDS' "Dorian". It's fine by me and nice to hear how PARAGON mix their elements with that of other very fine Metal bands.

Amongst all this heaviness the band also thought about more melodic input and a speed decrease. Songs to check for that are "Halls Of Doom" (not a bad song, but it could get dull after a while), the instrumental "Revelations", where the drums-guitar combo reminds a lot of the intro of DIAMOND HEAD's "Am I Evil?" and "Souleaters", with again roaring Andreas in the front.

So there are the faster songs and the slower ones, but the longest one ("Agony") deserves a special mention: the first part is of course slow. Well, the slowness is not an evidence, but that's the way it is. Good to hear for a change and also a bit reminiscent of U.D.O. and mainly MANOWAR's "Heart Of Steel" (see "Stand and fight, live by your heart, ..."), but once the 03:20 marker is passed, things really get interesting. The drums stop for a short moment and the guitars announce a painful second part. Heaviness breaks loose! The riffs are here too similar to those of another band. In this case, old SEPULTURA, the "Arise" era. Not that I mind, because PARAGON made a very fine song here.

"Law Of The Blade" had SAXON's "To Hell And Back Again", "Revenge" contained MANOWAR's "The Gods Made Heavy Metal" and "Forgotten Prophecies" ends with OVERKILL's "Deny The Cross". I'm not familiar with the original version, but like with the other cover songs, PARAGON's rendition is well done.

Album #8 will soon be available and shows our Germans have not lost the craft of writing solid Metalsongs. They still deliver the goods and with "Forgotten Prophecies" they mark another important release in the band's history, going back to a rougher/rawer sound and regaining their identity. Everything is still pure and honest PARAGON with vocalist Andreas Babuschkin roaring even more than before. The new members, Christian and Dirk, have well integrated and pumped new blood in the band for years to come. If you care about Limited Editions: there will be a bonus DVD with live footage recorded at the Metal Bash Open Air 2005 and Metal Bash Road Kill Tour in Hamburg (Markthalle) in 2005.

More info at www.paragon-metal.com.

Line-up:
Andreas Babuschkin - vocals
Martin Christian - guitars
Günny Kruse - guitars
Dirk Seifert - bass
Christian Gripp - drums


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MELIAH RAGE – The Deep And Dreamless Sleep (Locomotive Records 2007)

Meliah Rage - The Deep And Dreamless Sleep
  1. Permanently Damaged
  2. God And Man
  3. Undefeated
  4. The Deep And Dreamless Sleep
  5. Twisted Wreck
  6. Curse
  7. Last Of The Wanted
  8. Take What You Want

MELIAH RAGE... anyone familiar with this band? Founded back in 1987, they play a sort of Thrash/Power Metal with influences from AC/DC, MEGADETH, METALLICA, JUDAS PRIEST, RIOT, IRON MAIDEN, ... MTV was also kind enough to play their video for "Beginning Of The End". The Grunge period was not good for the band, as they were dropped by their label, Epic. The band underwent some line-up changes, hoping for improvement, but to no avail. The reunion in 1995 did appear to have a positive impact and would be important for the future. Then in 2003, after having released some B-Sides and other releases, the original (as much as possible) line-up got back together and recorded "Barely Human". MELIAH RAGE was back on track.

Last year the band released their latest album, "The Deep And Dreamless Sleep" via Screaming Ferret Wreckords. Since the 29th of June, this album is now also available in Europe, thanks to a deal with Locomotive Records. Since I'm so not familiar with MELIAH RAGE - it's thanks to this promo that I got to know them, or at least, their music - I can't compare with the older works. But let's see what this new has to offer.

The tone is set with a vicious intro in "Permanently Damaged". A catchy chorus helps to memorize this song. The singing is clean, but with balls. Musically it's indeed Thrash, but in a groovy kind of manner. "God And Man" takes down the tempo and shows a more Sleazy playing. Not bad, especially the heavy, earth-shaking guitars dominate throughout the song as if to represent something like this. "Undefeated" features again sharper playing, with an important focus on the chorus. Around 02:44 there's a nice break before the soloing kicks in.

The title track is another heavy booster and in general quite alright, with occasional double bass attacks, but the chorus is rather boring and keeps on droning on. "Twisted Wreck" has some SLAYER influences - singing-wise -, especially in the chorus. But the yelling becomes annoying after two minutes and then we're nearly halfway the song. Around the last minute things get calmer, but it's so different from the first part, as if they didn't know how to end the song.

"Curse" cranks up the pace again and features influences from DESTRUCTION, ANTHRAX and similar. But my attention has drained a bit after the first four songs. "Curse" is one of the better tracks, though. "Last Of The Wanted" - and there is a pattern in the tracklisting - takes it slower and honestly - yes, I'm aware of different tastes - I'll just hit the button for the next and last song, which is - yes, you guessed it - again more energetic and also one of the better tracks on this album, only thanks to its first part.

All in all, I'd say almost half of the album is good, the other is...well, dull, really. I'm not enthusiastic about this release and consider it more an in-between album than something that surprises you and gives you something more with each listen. Could it be that the previous release(s) were better? That's something to find out later.

More info at www.meliahrage.com.

Line-up:
Paul Souza - vocals
Anthony Nichols - guitars
Jim Koury - guitars
Darren Lourie - bass
Stu Dowie - drums


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MAMBO KURT – Spiel Heimorgel Spiel (Armageddon Music 2007)

Mambo Kurt - Spiel Heimorgel Spiel
  1. Spiel Heimorgel Spiel (intro)
  2. Red Flag (BILLY TALENT)
  3. Last Nite (THE STROKES)
  4. Killing In The Name (RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE)
  5. Smells Like Teen Spirit (NIRVANA)
  6. Private Dancer (TINA TURNER)
  7. Ein Kompliment (SPORTFREUNDE STILLER)
  8. Dancing Queen (ABBA)
  9. Sing Hallelujah (DR. ALBAN)
  10. God Save The Queen (SEX PISTOLS)
  11. South Of Heaven (SLAYER)
  12. Ohne Dich (RAMMSTEIN)
  13. Caravan Of Love (HOUSEMARTINS)
  14. Jump (live video - VAN HALEN)
  15. Final Countdown (live video - EUROPE)
  16. Alien 5 (video - MAMBO KURT)

MAMBO KURT is one special character as he covers many artists, but uses his organ to do so and thus giving the songs a funny twist. Lots of you will know him for his performances at Wacken Open Air each year and the videos on the new album, "Spiel Heimorgel Spiel" (released on the 29th of June), only prove that Kurt can add a positive atmosphere to a festival by playing something without the use of heavy guitars or blasting drums.

"Spiel Heimorgel Spiel" is already his sixth album in 9 years or so, since his debut, "The Return Of Alleinunterhalter", came out in 1999. MAMBO KURT is all about cover songs, on an organ. And this can be anything: from Pop to Metal, from Jazz to Dance. Kurt can do it all. Of course, the success also depends on the song. ;-)

For his newest release bands like RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE, the Thrashing SLAYER or even the Industrial RAMMSTEIN (albeit one of their ballads) were part of Kurt's cover process. To make things more interesting he added classics from DR. ALBAN, SEX PISTOLS, TINA TURNER, and ABBA. I didn't find everything a success, but his rendition of RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE, NIRVANA, TINA TURNER (hi-la-ri-ous!!), ABBA (great stuff!) and DR. ALBAN (omg, I couldn't stop laughing :-)) were the best ones. SLAYER's and RAMMSTEIN's songs were very nice as well.

But all this should not be taken seriously, since it's more about fun and atmosphere. So yes, this album is worth buying for its fun-factor, when you're in dire need for a laugh and brainless fun. But don't play this like you would with any regular album or the magic won't come out.

If you want to see MAMBO KURT at work, go to Wacken Open Air this year, because it seems he'll perform more than once.

More info at www.mambo-kurt.de.

Line-up:
Mambo Kurt - vocals, organ


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LILLIAN AXE – Waters Rising (Locomotive Records 2007)

Lillian Axe - Waters Rising
  1. Waters Rising
  2. Antarctica
  3. Become A Monster
  4. Quarantine
  5. I Have To Die Goodbye
  6. Fear Of Time
  7. Until The End Of The World
  8. Fields Of Yesterday
  9. Thirst
  10. The 2nd Of May
  11. Deep In The Black
  12. 5

Hard Rock band LILLIAN AXE has been active since the early or mid '80s, but went on a hiatus/split up for several years until very recently, when the guys decided to regroup. The (first?) result is "Waters Rising", which came out on the 29th of June via the Spanish label Locomotive Records. The name LILLIAN AXE rang a bell, but it's the first time I hear their music.

I'm clueless what the songs are about, but most song titles sure are 'mysterious' enough to spark my curiosity: "Become A Monster", "I Have To Die Goodbye", "Fields Of Yesterday", "The 2nd Of May", "5", to name just these, but they all contain someting interesting, I think. Perhaps the global warming, wars in general - or in short: the world's problems - form the basis for the lyrics.

Groove and melody are key elements and the guys clearly show they haven't forgotten that. The songs are very guitar-driven and most times it's all electric. Particularly the first four songs don't step away from that, but you do get enough change: from really groovy to bluesy.

"I Have To Die Goodbye" and "Until The End Of The World" sort of form a break, as you get a splendid fusion of the accoustic and electric guitar. Bongos or congas (I'm not sure about this) spice things up in the first of these two songs. The second one has a great guitarsolo part. But then it's back to business as usual with the heavy, groovy riffing of "Fear Of Time". The drums do come out very strong here - in the other songs, too, though - and still have quite a realistic sound. I do like the bass drum's sound. It's not as plastic or clicking as on many other albums, but - like I said - quite realistic.

So far I think this is a very nice record, but it gets even better. "Fields Of Yesterday" also features the accoustic guitar and that specific part - which comes after the dark and dramatic cello-intro - is simply stunning, beautiful, overwhelmingly splendid. Just the accoustic guitar, bass and drums... wow! Then Derrick joins in and this too is perfect. The chorus is all about the heavy guitars, but it forms a great contrast with the calmer basis of the song. Later another layer is added through symphonic elements via the keyboards and there's even room for a (sad) solo. Remarkable song! For this alone I would buy the record. But I'll buy it anyway.

More heaviness comes from "Thirst", which is more straight-forward, although there are nice breaks and hooks here. "Deep In The Black" puts the bass in the spotlights in the first part, then things get more energetic, but the tempo remains slow. The drums also sound a bit different, less powerful. But I guess that's done to fit the dark character of the song. "5" has sharper, rougher guitars. The drums too sound clearer again, but not as 'analog' as on the first half of the tracklisting. It's as if Ken played on an electronic kit. There are also effects on the guitarsound here and there. No vocals, though. The instruments do the talking.

Oh yes, "The 2nd Of May" also has a role for the accoustic guitar. That makes it the fourth song putting the accoustic and electric guitar together. The drums are more playful here and the piano helps to give melody a small push.

My first encounter with LILLIAN AXE's music turns out to be a hit: I'm very pleased with what the guys have made since their return, despite the last two tracks needing more playtime to get into them. Great melodies, nice grooves and very realistic drums. The singing too fits like no other. I can only recommend "Waters Rising" to anyone who wants qualitative Hard Rock and anyone who was looking out for new LILLIAN AXE material. This album should find a place in many Best Of 2007 lists, although the competition is severe. But congratulations to the guys. Welcome back!

More info at www.lillianaxe.com.

Line-up:
Derrick LeFevre - vocals
Steve Blaze - guitar
Sam Poitevent - guitar, vocals
Eric Morris - bass
Ken Koudelka - drums


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BEYOND FALLEN – Mindfire (Melissa Records 2007)

Beyond Fallen - Mindfire
  1. Act Of War
  2. Blood On The Ice
  3. Enemy Of An Open Mind
  4. Closer To The End
  5. Fields Of Honor
  6. Mindfire
  7. The Dominance
  8. Sniper
  9. Illusion Of Life
  10. Bomb Inside Your Head

BEYOND FALLEN is a Heavy Metal band from Northeastern Pennsylvania (USA). Founded in 2001 by guitarist Steve Jasuilewicz in 2001, it wasn't until 2003 that the band's line-up was complete and BEYOND FALLEN was a fact. Over the years they've worked hard on their material and in the same year the band was formed a four-song EP came out. Two years later they had enough songs for a full album and thus was "Lost In The Shadows" a logical consequence. Like the EP this was a self-release.

To promote the band and their music, they played lots of gigs and could also get support slots for OVERKILL, W.A.S.P. and BELLADONNA. Apparently the public liked the tunes a lot and this encouraged BEYOND FALLEN to go on, inspired for the next album(s).

And here it is: "Mindfire", to be released on the 29th of June via the Dutch label Melissa Records, who have so far four bands under their wings. What you immediately notice is the pureness of the music and the guitartandem that pushes the songs forward. "Act Of War" is a first example of this. Great uptempo Metal that certainly will do good live, as is the case for the other songs too. Joe's vocals are clean, but with a rough edge and can sometimes remind of a much lighter version of Mille Petrozza (KREATOR), Gerd Hanssens (THE DIFFERENCE), Bruce Dickinson (IRON MAIDEN) and a bit of Udo Dirkschneider (U.D.O.). Sure, you'll probably raise your eyebrows, but dare to compare. Of course Joe is not an exact copy of the mentioned singers, but I, for one, did hear their influences.

Musically you get neckbreaking riffing and very energetic drumming, as you can discover in the rest of the songs and more specifically "Blood On The Ice", "Enemy Of An Open Mind", "Mindfire", "The Dominance", "Illusion Of Life".

Slower, but therefore not less direct, material was used for "Closer To The End". The instrumental "Fields Of Honor" also fits that description, although this song is more of the Progressive kind and if you listen carefully you can distinguish three parts. Changing melody, drumpattern and riffing is done in the blink of an eye, without failures, and shows BEYOND FALLEN can do more than pure Heavy Metal. The ending forms the bridge to "Mindfire", where particularly the drums play an important role and ofcourse the tempo is upped again.

And that's another pluspoint: different tempos per song, i.e. start slow, build up towards uptempo and somewhere in the middle a total change. Mostly this is done for the solo part, which makes the change predictable, but this is still well executed and really benefits the music. "Mindfire" is one example, but you can hear it more clearly in "Sniper".

And if that wasn't enough, check out the closing "Bomb Inside Your Head", because this is not something they quickly wrote to have a last song. Fast riffing, dito drumming (single bass, tough) and Joe vigorously behind the mic. Solos too are top notch. Flawless song, like most of the pack here.

It took me a couple of listenings to fully appreciate BEYOND FALLEN's tunes, and I can't say I regretted, because there's so much on this album. Each time you can focus on another element: the twin guitars, the drumming, the vocals, melodies, Progressiveness, .... When your mind is on fire, it wouldn't be right to just sit down and relax, right? "Mindfire" probably means something different, but for me it comes close to how I think it relates to the music. Names I can think of as comparison could be CRUSADER, THE DIFFERENCE, BRAINSTORM, (present) SAXON, some ICED EARTH, U.D.O. and naturally IRON MAIDEN. But BEYOND FALLEN makes its own Metal and put their own stamp on things. All things considered, I find "Mindfire" a record that deserves much attention. Their appearance at the Headbangers Open Air festival in Germany is a good start. Let's hope Melissa Records can distribute it widely enough. I do have one negative remark and that concerns the production: I know that you can't have it big from the start and I don't want that, but mainly the sound of the bass drums is a little too thin, too 'ticking'. It's a detail on such a good record, but a detail that - if corrected - can only be an advantage for the future albums.

More info at www.beyondfallen.com.

Line-up:
Joe Karavis - vocals
Steve Jasuilewicz - guitars
Mike Johnson - guitars
Chuck Donahue - bass
Tom Carden - drums


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AT VANCE – VII (AFM Records 2007)

At Vance - VII
  1. Breaking The Night
  2. Shiver
  3. Cold As Ice
  4. Victory
  5. Friendly Fire
  6. Golden Leaves
  7. Answer Me
  8. Shine
  9. Truth
  10. Lost In Your Love

AT VANCE is one of the Metalbands that have one man as mastermind and having gone through different line-ups, just like MEGADETH, SAVATAGE, OZZY, HELLOWEEN and so on. Combining Power Metal and Hardrock with and '80s sauce has been the band's (or in this case, Olaf Lenk's) trademark for years. I got to know them - or at least, the music - with their very strong album "Only Human". Oliver Hartmann's warm voice was one of the highlights, but more importantly Olaf's guitarwork and compositions. He knows how to write emotional songs, again and again. But of course, not everything is a hit, although the misses (not the ladies ;-)) are less in number than the stronger songs.

One year later I bought the follow-up, "Evil In You". Oliver had been replaced by Mats Levén, whose voice sounded almost like Oliver's. But I didn't play that album much, although there were a couple of very nice songs on it. "Chained" was something I let pass by, because as long as Mats would sing, it wouldn't get much playtime in my stereo. That doesn't mean that I find him a bad singer. On the contrary, as I like his work in THERION a lot, also because he sings (or sang, since he quit the band some months ago) differently in that band. I didn't know he had quit AT VANCE when there was news that a new album would come out this year.

Rick Altzi from TREASURE LAND now handles the vocal lines and I have to say he's a very fine choice. Warm voice, charisma, ... and also singing in the same way as Oliver Hartmann and Mats Levén did. It seems this is a very important condition if you want to be the singer in AT VANCE. One thing that immediately catches the eye is the line-up, or lack thereof. On "Only Human" you had:

Oliver Hartmann - vocals
Olaf Lenk - guitars
Rainald König - guitars
Ulli Müller - keyboards
Jochen Schnur - bass
Jürgen Lucas - drums

The line-up of "Evil In You" looked like this:

Mats Levén - vocals
Olaf Lenk - guitars, keyboards
Rainald König - guitars
Sascha Feldmann - bass
Jürgen Lucas - drums

"Chained"'s line-up was something very different:

Mats Levén - vocals
Olaf Lenk - guitars, keyboards
John 'ABC' Smith - bass
Mark Cross - drums

And now it's just:

Rick Altzi - vocals
Olaf Lenk - guitars, keyboards

So who played the bass and drumparts then? Was it again John and Mark or were they too busy with their other bands? Did Olaf use a drumcomputer? I doubt it, but still remain curious. If we focus on the new album, "VII", since it's the seventh one and out since the 29th of June, then you can only say Olaf has done it again. The sound comes out strong, once again, the production is top notch and there are more than enough songs that makes this album worthwhile.

There's a pattern of more energetic, uptempo songs taking turns with the softer, more emotional ones: "Breaking The Night", "Golden Leaves" (lightning-fast with a great melody and you can't help but drum along with your feet. Well, I can't.), "Shine" (beautiful chorus here. Reminds of "Fallen Angel", but a little slower.), and "Truth" (in the vein of of "Right Or Wrong", and perhaps with some light MASTEPRLAN touches) are the speed-boosters and each song is simply great.

The speed gets broken by the 'slower', more emotional songs like "Victory" (although 'fast' midtempo and in vein of MASTERPLAN or JORN), "Answer Me" (the midtempo parts being influenced by AC/DC), "Lost In Your Love" (accoustic ballad, and a very fine one.). "Shiver" is a bit boring for me, although it does fit in the album's context. But it's not as bad as the more energetic "Cold As Ice", which I really can't listen to a lot. I mean, everything's well executed and it sounds good, but the song doesn't do me anything. Another less good song, but still the better of the few least good ones, is "Friendly Fire". Slow, but nothing that sticks here. Not the melody, not the vocals, nothing.

Despite the line-up changes, the core of AT VANCE is never harmed: Olaf stands tall and keeps on writing good songs. Also less good ones, but they are too few in number to drag this album down. The four fast songs show Olaf could very easily make a solid Powermetal album, if he wanted to. Yet his intrests also lie in slower, more feelings-based songs and '80s Hardrock, which he manages to mix with a good portion of Metal to have an own sound and characteristic elements that make it AT VANCE. New vocalist Rick Altzi does a very fine job, replacing Mats Levén and blends in very well. I don't really know how good "Chained" was, but that doesn't matter, since "VII" will find a place in most AT VANCE fans' collection and anyone into Hardrock meets Metal, all trend-free and honest.

More info at www.at-vance.com.

Line-up:
Rick Altzi - vocals
Olaf Lenk - guitars, keyboards
?? - guitars
?? - bass
?? - drums


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EYEFEAR – A World Full Of Grey (Dockyard 1 2007)

Eyefear - RA World Full Of Grey
  1. Searching For Forgiveness
  2. A World Full Of Grey
  3. Changes
  4. Lost Within
  5. Moments
  6. The Eyes Tell No Lies
  7. Whispers Of The Soul
  8. Haunted Memories
  9. Breathe Again
  10. Searching For Forgiveness (radio edit)

Is it me or are there more and more Australian bands getting into the spotlights? What I've heard (of) so far are VANISHING POINT, BLACK MAJESTY, ROSE TATTOO, DUNGEON (no longer active), PEGAZUS, ... and now ProgPower Metallers EYEFEAR are presented to European Metalfans. Thanks to Dockyard 1, the band has recently (25th of June) released its third album since their founding in 1994. And again, it is a band who was until now unknown to me.

You can guess who produced the album. I'll give you two other examples of bands the man has worked with: BLACK MAJESTY and VANISHING POINT. As is a natural phase for any band, members come and go. It wasn't until 1998 that the guys decided to add a keyboardist to the line-up, to make better arrangements on a musical level. Vocalist Danny came over from PEGAZUS in 2000. More bio info can be found on the band's website. So far the band has made three full albums:

Edge Of Existence (1996)
9 Elements Of Inner Vision (2005)
A World Full Of Grey (2007)

Like with "9 Elements Of Inner Vision", the mixing and mastering of "A World Full Of Grey" was done by Andy LaRocque (KING DIAMOND, FORCE OF EVIL). A new album and a new record deal. The previous record was released via Massacre Records, and now they're under the wings of Dockyar 1, who's been very active since its founding a couple of years ago.

Musically you can compare EYEFEAR with e.g. IRON MAIDEN, BALANCE OF POWER (very much here), QUEENSRYCHE, FATES WARNING and so on. Yet they do manage to put their own stamp on things. Everything sounds very good on "A World Full Of Grey" and the record isn't as depressing as the title may express. Tempo changes, breaks, hooks, .... practically all Progressive elements are there. The keyboards however are very dominant, no matter which song. Not that the guitar(s) don't come out strong or anything, but without the keyboards, most songs would not be complete.

Danny's singing is a mix of Bruce Dickinson (IRON MAIDEN) and Marco Hietala (NIGHTWISH, TAROT) and especially when he goes for the rougher singing, that's when he's at his best, in my opinion. Sometimes it's like he's trying to sing like Nils Patrik Johansson (WUTHERING HEIGHTS, LION'S SHARE, ASTRAL DOORS), but the two remain of course different singers.. While I would have wished for more variation - no, not all songs are the same, but still... - there are songs that stand out, mainly for adding power to the album and the guitars are quite dominant: "Searching For Forgiveness" (heavy, yet melodic and catchy chorus. The song also includes a nice piano-break.), "Lost Within", "Whispers Of The Soul" (probably the most aggressive song but very nice.) and "Breathe Again".

"Haunted Memories" is a ballad, piano and vocals only in the first part and reminds of EVERGREY's "The Inner Circle" album. The guitars and drums crank up the pace then and that's only for the better. The slower chuggish riffing shortly after, together with the piano, has something SAVATAGE-ish, which is nice to hear. But it's the EVERGREY-influences that push through the most.

The title track is good, but it bores soon because of the chorus. Danny sings quite aggressive, but once it's replaced by the cleaner, high-pitched side of his voice... no thanks. The hairs in my neck stand upright from annoyance. The keyboards provide melody and atmosphere here, the guitars the heavy backing. Zain's drumming makes the song more interesting, though.

One song I don't really get - at least why it's there - is "Moments". Atmospheric keyboards and Danny saying "The eyes tell no lies" in repeat and then *bam*, the end. "The Eyes Tell No Lies" (quite poetic, no?) starts then, but the two songs aren't smoothly connected. But overall this is another less good song and Danny sounds really annoying here. No, I'm serious.

On an instrumental level you can be sure that the others know their instrument very well and this results in very well executed riffing, solos, melodies and intricate drumwork. The arrangements are in general also well thought of, although that's never easy in this genre.

But is "A World Full Of Grey" a must for fans of Progressive Metal? If this is your favourite genre, then you won't really be let-down by this release. If you're a fan of the mentioned bands and seek something new, why not? But as good as it is (and there are good songs on this disc) you never have the desire to play the record again and again. Pick it up once in a while and you'll be fine. The third album is mostly the most important album, but in EYEFEAR's case I think they can only get better and their best time hasn't come yet.

More info at www.ozzyfrank.com/eyefear.

Line-up:
Danny Cecati - vocals
Con Papazoglou - guitars
Sam Giacotto - keyboards
Rob Gorham - bass
Zain Kimmie - drums


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SEVEN WITCHES – Years Of The Witch (Locomotive Records 2007)

Seven Witches - Years Of The Witch
  1. Open
  2. Dance With the Dead
  3. Apocalyptic Dreams
  4. Metal Tyrant
  5. The Answer
  6. Johnny
  7. Jam Session
  8. Can't Find My Way
  9. Incubus
  10. Metal Asylum
  11. Warmth of Winter
  12. Camelot
  13. Natures Wrath
  14. Cries of the Living
  15. Passage to the Other Side
  16. Mental Messiah
Bonus:
  • Story Of The Witch
  • Interview with Jack and Mark
  • The Man Behind The Music
  • Journey Through Camelot
  • Archived Concert Footage

SEVEN WITCHES, the Heavy/Power Metal band from the USA, is (surprise, surprise) another one I only knew by name and perhaps a few songs I heard in the past. This year they've come up with a DVD called "Years Of The Witch", out since the 22nd of June. The cover is divided into four parts, referring to four albums:

* Second War In Heaven (1999)
* Xiled To Infinity And One (2002)
* Passage To The Other Side (2003)
* Year of the Witch (2004)

Next to the several songs played during this gig, the Jam Session around the middle is really nice. Not Metal, well, a little bit, more more Bluesy stuff and all instrumental. Great stuff. This whole gig is also interesting to see how SEVEN WITCHES pulls it off live, especially in small clubs, but there is one problem: the sound is somewhat muffled, as if you're standing just outside the room and hear the band playing. You don't have the feeling you're inside listening and viewing the band, unless perhaps from very far away. That is basically the only problem I have regarding the concert.

There's also some bonus material:

* Story of the Witch (about the history of the band, how they got together and whatever more. One nice example: to know that Jack Frost got this nickname from his pleasure of being out in the snow, in the cold and his mum saying: come inside or you'll look like Jack Frost. :-) Also how Jack decided to do something else after FROST BITE. The name SEVEN WITCHES was the idea of Bobby Lucas: it takes 7 witches to make a coven, positive energy and things like that. And so it goes on, telling about the different albums, how they got to tour with bigger bands such as MANOWAR, etc...etc... How they got a deal with Noise Records, ... Well, you know, historical info and that makes it a great addition to this DVD.)

* Interview with Jack and Mark (from BW&BK, who's been with the band since ever, written bios, etc...)

* The Man Behind the Music (Jack having a chat with producer Don Sternecker, about the sound, ProTools vs analogue tapes, etc...)

* Journey Through Camelot (gig footage of this song over the years)

* Archived Concert Footage

As I said, the only problem is the muffled sound regarding the concert. But other than that, it's great to have this in my collection - even if it's just the promo - because it offers a nice impression of the band in a small club and the bonus stuff makes it even more interesting. This is definitely a must-have for the fans and anyone new to SEVEN WITCHES.

More info at www.sevenwitches.net.

Line-up:
Alan Tecchio - vocals
Jack Frost - guitars
Kevin Bolembach - bass
Jeff Curenton - drums


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PITIFUL REIGN – D.I.V.E. (Pitiful Reign 2007)

Pitiful Reign - D.I.V.E.
  1. Pushed To Prime
  2. D.I.V.E.
  3. Fatality
  4. Video Overkill

PITIFUL REIGN have set themselves the goal to bring back the missing Thrash in UK's Metal scene. The band was founded in 2003 (then known as METALEGION) and worked hard on their skills and songwriting. Needless to say they played many gigs to spread the word and despite a small line-up change, they managed to record a first demo in 2005: "24 Litre Killer", which got good praise from the public. Later that year the band alongside bigger bands like INTENSE, WARCHILD, CONQUEST OF STEEL, and others. One year later PITIFUL REIGN conquered some stages on European soil.

In that same year our young Thrashers made a second CD, "Toxic Choke", for which they got the help of INFOBIA's Alan Pashby. This also received lots of praise and resulted in a support slot for ONSLAUGHT and XENTRIX (two other great UK Thrash bands). Bloodstock Open Air booked them too, next to EDGUY, STRATOVARIUS and METAL CHURCH.

2007 is only halfway and PITIFUL REIGN has added SKYCLAD and RECKLESS TIDE to their list of bands they supported. But again fate struck and guitarist Tom Britton left his place for Alan Pashby, which meant that Josh put his instrument aside and concentrated on vocals. The bass position was filled by Neville Britton. This new line-up recorded the band's latest demo: "D.I.V.E.". And this precious little thing came out on the 22nd of June. Recently the band signed a contract with Punishment 18, and the first album is expected to be released early 2008.

Although the sound is of course very rough, you can hear much potential and good, yet classic, ideas. "Pushed To Prime" contains influences from masters like EXODUS and DESTRUCTION (mainly the vocals, when reaching for the higher notes). Although Thrash is pretty straight-forward, you do get a couple of twists here, mainly coming from the drums. And that is good thing. Solos are also something Neville and Alan know how to play, and here you get a nice duel.

For the title track they listened to another great British band - DIAMOND HEAD (who also inspired METALLICA) - after the intro. MEGADETH also comes to mind in this song. But all these influences are very normal, since these bands did it all before PITIFUL REIGN and many other new Thrash bands. Still, no snare-bass drum-snare-bass drum style of drumming here, this is more of a midtempo booster. Around 02:34 you get a slow headbanging part, in preparation for the solo.

Since I'm naming influences, let's add METALLICA's "Kill 'Em All" as well. The rough riffing from the record continues in "Fatality", or so it seems. Everything sounds sharper and typical Thrash again (by this I mean the drumming, too). The real highlight are the guitarsolos. Very well done here and perhaps the best on this demo.

The last song, "Video Overkill", starts with a spoken part, probably taken from a film/cartoon. But it sounds quite funny. And then you get pure Thrash in the vein of KREATOR and HEATHEN. And at a certain time I also noticed something that ABANDONED did in "Too Blind Too See". Sorry for the many name-droppings, but these can also help to know what to expect. But since it's old school Thrash, there's no need to compare with the many '80s bands, since it's perfectly clear how old school Thrash sounds. About the song: quality, tout court. It's not as if PITIFUL REIGN copy-pastes stuff from the bigger bands... they do put their own stamp on the songs.

After hearing this 20-minutes demo I understand why PITIFUL REIGN gets so many positive comments from fans and media, because they are on the right path (it's still a long way, though) towards UK domination. Not one filler song here and their call to arms has only just begun. Just a couple of tweakings here and there to build a well-oiled Thrash machine. The future is secured for when the existing Thrash leaders (XENTRIX, ONSLAUGHT, SABBAT, ... hm, seems like there aren't that many or my knowledge is rather limited regarding UK's Thrash) will lay down their arms one day. The signing with Punishment 18 should help to give their career a serious boost, also on international level. So, while awaiting the band's forthcoming full-on assault, contact the band to find out how you can obtain this "D.I.V.E." demo, for it could become a valued item over time.

More info at www.pitifulreign.net and www.myspace.com/pitifulreign.

Line-up:
Josh Callis-Smith - vocals
Neville Britton - guitar
Alan Pashby - guitar
Matt Walker - bass
Tom Small - drums


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EVIDENCE ONE – The Sky Is The Limit (AFM Records 2007)

Evidence One - The Sky Is The Limit
  1. The Sky Is The Limit
  2. Mr. Madness
  3. The Luxury Of Losing Hope
  4. Won't Sleep Alone
  5. Propaganda
  6. Can't Fight The Past
  7. Gallery Of Broken Glass
  8. Rain Road
  9. Mindmines
  10. Raging Winds

EVIDENCE ONE, the German hardrock/melodic Metal band, have only recently (22nd of June, to be precise) made their third album available to the masses. Titled "The Sky Is The Limit", this album is the follow-up to 2004's "Tattooed Heart", which got lots of positive reviews. Until now I was only familiar with their name, not the music.

On the cover of "The Sky Is The Limit" you can see on the first two cards elements of the first two EVIDENCE ONE albums: "Criticize The Truth" (to be re-released later this year, on the 6th of July) and "Tattooed Heart". How the Joker connects with "The Sky Is The Limit" is a question to me, but there's probably a viable reason.

Guitarist/keyboardist Robby Böbel and vocalist Carsten Schulz are the band's mainmen and when listening to a few minutes of the new album, I was thinking: isn't the new DOMAIN album coming out a bit fast? A bit logical, since Carsten has been DOMAIN's vocalist for many years, incl. last year's "Stardawn", which was a remarkable album. Like many singers he can put a stamp on the music and the band. Robby apparently stepped aside to let Jörg Wartmann take his place for the other guitar position and specifically for the live performances, as Robby still is a member of the band, but solely for studio recordings and songwriting.

So far EVIDENCE ONE has three albums and each time they had to find another label home for this: first Point Music, then Nuclear Blast and this year it's AFM Records that picked them up. Where will they go next? Or has AFM offered them a multiple-albums contract?

The songs on "The Sky Is The Limit" are what can be expected of a decent Hardrock/Metal band. You'll mainly hear midtempo stuff, but don't worry about a couple of speed increases. Examples of that are "Mr. Madness" (which is a great song to cruise to, when you're on the highway, for example) and "Gallery Of Broken Glass" (great melodies here and a catchy chorus). Those two stand out in this case. The riffs, grooves, screamy solos and leads... all examples of high-class musicianship. The drums too, although I've heard better. The production does sound a bit thin (or plastic) on this instrument, which in general plays a very important role.

The rest of the tracklisting is slower. Musical comparisons with DOMAIN and AT VANCE are easily made, mainly because the guitarplaying and certain melodies sound almost as if they were written by either of these two bands. But it helps to know in which pond the band is swimming, so to speak.

Since Carsten put his stamp on DOMAIN's songs, and therefore confused me a bit, you can hear he doesn't compromise on his singing. DOMAIN or EVIDENCE ONE, for both parties did he add enough passion and feel to the songs in his easily recognizable style. For this kind of Rock (or Metal) he surely is one of the better vocalists.

Overall the music is quite enjoyable and the band can be proud of "The Sky Is The Limit", but there was one song in particular that I found rather sleep inducing and the link with the title is just a coincidence: "Won't Sleep Alone". Perhaps if I listened to it a couple of times that my opinion would change or it could put me to sleep instantly. Time will tell.

In short: recommended for the fans of Melodic Metal and anyone into bands like DOMAIN and AT VANCE (who will soon release their new album, "VII", on the 29th of June). For those who like Limited Editions: you'll get two extra songs, i.e. "Into The Depths" and "My Soul". I can't tell what they sound like, since they weren't on the promodisc. But I'm pretty confident they will fit with the original tracklisting.

More info at www.evidenceone.de.

Line-up:
Carsten Schulz - vocals
Jörg Wartmann - guitar
Wolfgang Schimmer - guitar
Robby Böbel - guitar, keyboards (studio)
Thomas Bauer - bass
Rami Ali - drums


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DANZIG – The Lost Tracks Of Danzig (Evil 2007)

Danzig - The Lost Tracks Of Danzig CD 1:
  1. Pain Is Like An Animal
  2. When Death Had No Name
  3. Angel Of The 7th Dawn
  4. You Should Be Dying
  5. Cold, Cold Rain
  6. Buick McKane
  7. When Death Had No Name
  8. Satan's Crucifiction
  9. The Mandrake's Cry
  10. White Devil Rise
  11. Come To Silver (accoustic)
  12. Deep
  13. Warlok
CD 2:
  1. Lick The Blood Off My Hands
  2. Crawl Accross Your Killing Floor
  3. I know Your Lie
  4. Caught In My Eye
  5. Cat People
  6. Bound By Blood
  7. Who Claims The Soulless
  8. Malefical
  9. Soul Eater
  10. Dying Seraph
  11. Lady Lucifera
  12. Under Belly Of The Beast
  13. Unspeakable Shango Mix

And here we have something extra and unreleased from the well-known rocker Glenn Danzig (see also the MISFITS). Danzig (or the band DANZIG) is one of the best known bands in the history of rock, although I have to say that I'm not familiar with their songs. The promo of this special release came thus as a surprise, but at the same time it's a welcome acquaintance with the band and the music.

DANZIG has released a great deal of albums since they started in the late 1980s. The last real album dates from 2006: "Black Aria II". This year, on the 20th of June, they decided to bring out a double-disc album containing unreleased material and special versions of existing songs (e.g. remixes, demos, ...).

It's doomy, sleazy and quite rocking... almost like what METALLICA did on "Load" and "Reload". Since I can't compare with the already released albums, I'm going have to form an opinion on this special material, which can be nice for a change. Musically things are not bad and quite alright at times, but it's mostly Glenn's voice I have to get used to.

Disc one starts well, but the chorus of "Pain Is Like An Animal" makes my hair stand upright. The rest of the song is good, though. And so it goes on, with mainly the more rocking ones (both versions of "When Death Had No Name", "You Should Be Dying" and "The Mandrake's Cry") standing out. Musically I found the material alright, except for some parts here and there: e.g. the chorus in "Satan's Crucifiction", Glenn's vocals in the majority of the songs, the samples in "Deep" and the song "Warlok" (simply annoying).

Disc two starts in CATHEDRAL-style, Stoner-ish, but the result is boooooring. The better tracks here are "Crawl Accross Your Killing Floor" (quite peaceful with heavy parts intervening and forming a nice mix), "I Know Your Lie" (Glenn sounds awful when screaming it out, but his normal singing reminds of ELUSIVE's vocalist), "Bound By Blood", "Who Claims The Soulless" and "Soul Eater" (heavy, crynchy guitars). The others are either not good enough, or just boring and ready for the trash can.

All in all is "The Lost Tracks Of Danzig" an interesting release to hear (with only a few good songs, in my opinion), but I would not recommend it to anyone, except the (diehard) fans who don't have these unreleased songs yet. If you want to get to know DANZIG's music, it's better to go for the normal albums.

More info at www.danzig-verotik.com.

Line-up:
Glenn Danzig (Glen Allen Anzalone) - vocals, keyboards
Kenny Hickey - guitar
Steve Zing - bass
Johnny Kelly - drums


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LION'S SHARE – Emotional Coma (AFM Records 2007)

Lion's Share - Emotional Coma
  1. Cult Of Denial
  2. The Arsonist
  3. Emotional coma
  4. Clones Of Fate
  5. The Edge Of The Razor
  6. Toxication Rave
  7. Trafficking
  8. Bloodstained Soil
  9. Soultaker
  10. Hatred's My Fuel
  11. Sorcerers (ANGEL WITCH cover)

Swedish Melodic/Heavy Metal band LION'S SHARE has recently (15th of June) released its fifth full album and this after a six-year break. "Emotional Coma" is the follow-up to 2001's "Entrance", which took less long to be released, but apparently everyone was too busy with their other bands to brainstorm about new LION'S SHARE material.

For this new record they knocked at AFM's door and were let in as AFM was aware of the band's potential delivered by four fine musicians: singer Patrik Johansson (ASTRAL DOORS, WUTHERING HEIGHTS) and bassist Sampo Axelsson (ex-GLENN HUGHES) alongside band mastermind Lars Chriss (guitar) and session/non-touring drummer Richard Evensand (ex-CHIMAIRA, ex-SOILWORK, ex-THERION).

Despite being active since 1987-88, the band's debut came out much later, in 1995 and so it went on, including several line-up changes. Just the position of guitarist Lars Chriss remained untouched. The band got to play with SAXON, U.D.O., ICED EARTH, NEVERMORE and more, either in numerous venues or on festival stages. This time it won't be any different.

I can't compare with previous releases, as "Emotional Coma" is the first album I get acquainted with. It seems the guys have gone basic and left the keyboards for that they are/were. So just vocals, guitars and drums is what you'll get. The "Coma" starts in the "Cult Of Denial", a midtempo track. But as soon as "The Arsonist" comes in, you know you're in for a treat: double-bassed pounding Metal with a melodic chorus. Patrik is doing a very good job here describing what's happening. Singing rough or melodic, he's the man for it. Guitarsolos are a must of course and although not that long, they are of the right length and add that little extra to the song.

Once you're in the "Emotional Coma" (featuring Glen Drover of MEGADETH and EIDOLON) you can't help but (partly) think of CANDLEMASS, SOLITUDE AETURNUS and similar. In other words: slow, chuggish riffing assisted by slow drumming, naturally, and in vein of the mentioned Doom Metal bands. Not that I mind, because the result is very good.

The next uptempo song is "Clones Of Fate", with a short but catchy chorus. Patrik's aggressive, yet melodic voice is simply amazing and fits more than 100%. Truly a great vocalist and comparable to a fiercer version of Ronnie James Dio. Lars also comes into the spotlights with a screamy solo, but in the chorus the guitar then too is very much present. Wonderful song!

There's a certain pattern in the tracklisting, which means that "The Edge Of The Razor" (featuring Bruce Kulick of KISS) is taking the tempo down again, just like "Bloodstained Soil". Best part is the chorus: heavy, yet very melodic. In the verses there's no room for distorted guitars and that forms a nice contrast with the chorus. Things get more energetic again in "Toxication Rave", where particularly the bass guitar and drums play key roles. The song also reminds of the Thrash that MEGADETH plays. But AFTER ALL also comes to mind.

"Trafficking" and "Hatred's My Fuel" are the two most direct songs on the album. With the first everything's alright, except for the chorus, which breaks the directness of the general riffing due to its melodic multi-layered vocals. "Hatred's My Fuel" cranks up the tempo some more again and is nothing less that splendid music. "Soultaker" is a fast midtempo song, in a galopping way spiced with Lars' sharp soloing.

The closing ANGEL WITCH cover, "Sorcerers", is not bad, even though I'm totally not familiar with ANGEL WITCH's repertoire. But one should consider the song as a taster for the original, although my focus lies elsewhere and there are still many other bands and albums to check.

I already knew Patrik's singng skills from the fantastic record he made with WUTHERING HEIGHTS last year ("The Shadow Cabinet") and here he outshines as much as in WUTHERING HEIGHTS. I still have to check ASTRAL DOORS for a full comparison, hahaha. ;-) But regarding LION'S SHARE and "Emotional Coma": this is a very fine piece of Metal. Everything is well tweaked and the symbiosis has worked out very well: Patrik's voice, Lars' sharp and intricate guitarwork, backed by Sampo's and Richard pounding instrumentation. The six-year break paid off, so to speak.

More info at www.lionsshare.org.

Line-up:
Nils Patrik Johansson - vocals
Lars Chriss - guitars
Sampo Axelsson - bass
Richard Evensand - drums


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SILVER FIST – Tears Of Blood (Avispa Music 2007)

Silver Fist - Tears Of Blood
  1. The Fear
  2. Flight Of The Phoenix
  3. Martyr
  4. I'm Sorry
  5. Natural Born Killers
  6. Tears Of Blood
  7. I Still Believe In You
  8. I'll Wait For you In Hell
  9. Encouraged
  10. Torment
  11. Balls To The Wall (ACCEPT cover)

Spanish Powermetallers SILVER FIST have recently (14/06 according to their website, 13/07 according to Amazon, Large/EMP, ...) released the English version of their second album "Lagrimas De Sangre", which came out last year around October-November. In English this translates into "Tears Of Blood". Two years ago I reviewed the band's debut, "Ave Fénix" (2004) and back then I found it quite a decent album, showing the band had (and still has) great potential. You could also feel the passion with which the album was made and I can tell you it isn't any different with "Tears Of Blood". The passion here is even stronger. And one of the reasons why the band made a big step forward, at least soundwise, is because they appealed to Fredrik Nordström and Hendrik Udd for the mixing of the album.

The tone is set with "The Fear", where you are confronted with heavy sounding guitars and skull-crushing drumming. Silverio sounds better than before and still sings with enormous passion and hunger for this great music. Of course, no Powermetal without the speedier songs. And that's when Ivan really shines: "Flight Of The Phoenix" (with its fierce double-bass attacks and screamy guitars), the Thrashy "Martyr" (wonderful guitar and double-bass bursts in the first part), "Natural Born Killers" (again an important role for the drums. Keyboards provide "ooo-aaa-ooo" background sounds in the bridge), "Tears Of Blood" (now this is one skull-crushing song! Awesome music), and not in the least "Torment" (a great deal of catchiness here). But that doesn't mean that the 'slower' (what is slow here?) "I'm Sorry", "I'll Wait For You In Hell" and "Encouraged" are less good. On the contrary even.

Also worth mentioning, and these really jump out amongst the heavy-riffed tracks, are "I Still Believe In You" and the ACCEPT cover "Balls To The Wall". SILVER FIST added a bonus disc previously, containing nothing but cover songs from SLAYER, SAXON, TWISTED SISTER, BLACK SABBATH, SAVATAGE and DEEP PURPLE. Particularly with SLAYER, SAXON and TWISTED SISTER were the results very good. Covering ACCEPT would then also be a fitting choice. So yes, SILVER FIST deserves kudos for its rendition of this Heavy Metal classic.

The second song, "I Still Believe In You", is a ballad. But oh so beautiful, it just makes me cry. Sure, Silverio has an accent and English is not his mother tongue, but that's no reason for shooting the song down. It adds a special and very honest touch to this piece of music. The start is gentle, with just the piano (by David Martinez, who produced and mastered the album) and Silverio, singing in a cleaner way. The accoustic guitar comes in smoothly. Just that first part alone is enough to trigger the right emotion. And then - when the chorus is there - heavy guitars and drums join as if to cause an explosion of sentiment. All the while the piano is further playing the core melody. Breaks are included to give focus to every aspect of the song, like e.g. when the guitarsolo is to be played. Superb material, I can not stress this enough!

Important characteristics of "Tears Of Blood" are the skull-crushing guitars (let's not forget the solos, in one or dual version), pounding drums (Iván can stand his ground, that's for sure.) - assisted by an inexhaustible José - and Silverio singing with such an amount of passion you can't have anything but respect for it. There is not one bad song here, although I would say that some might need a couple of listenings. But the majority is very nice. Personally speaking, I would recommended the album to any Power Metal fan, especially if (s)he likes it rough. Do note that this English version is more of a promotional effort to make the band known in other countries besides Spain. I, for one, think everything glues better when sung in Spanish. And then they could add the English translation in the booklet.

Some extra info: guitarist Nacho Ruiz left shortly after the recordings and has since then be replaced by Pablo Fernandez. Filtho (ex-AMSET) has joined the band to fill the position of keyboardist.

More info at www.silverfistmetal.com.

Line-up:
Silverio Solórzano - vocals
Diego López - guitars
Nacho Ruiz - guitars
José M. Pérez - bass
Iván Manzano - drums


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STORMRIDER – Lucifer Rising (Aural Offerings Records 2007)

Stormrider - Lucifer Rising
  1. Jesus Christ Dismembered
  2. Conflictual Insanity (Gott Mos)
  3. Return Of The Beast
  4. Total Extinction
  5. Psychic Vampire
  6. Sons Of The North
  7. Lucifer Rising
  8. Dead Love Of Mine Pt. 3
  9. Dead Love Of Mine Pt. 4 (Last Words)

Another CD I received and which was released via the French label Aural Offerings Records, is that of the Swedish Black/Death Metal band STORMRIDER, which was founded in 1999 by YX (vocals) and Strampan (guitars). Titled "Lucifer Rising", this is their second full album after 2003's "First Battle Won". Prior to this debut the Swedes recorded three demos: "Born Of Chaos" (1999, remastered version in 2000), "God Is Dead" (2000) and "...Into Battle..." (2001). "First Battle Won" was recorded with Tommy Tägtgren in the Abyss Studios and apparently got some positive remarks. Successor "Lucifer Rising" has been out since the 11th of June and was produced by Sverker Widgren and the band. The recordings took plance at Necromorbus Studio (Stockholm) in July and October 2005. for the mixing were the same people responable, but for the mastering they appealed to Peter In De Betou from Tailor Maid Production, who worked with bands like HYPOCRISY and AMON AMARTH.

When I first saw the cover, I thought it would be a Power Metal band. There aren't any elements that refer to a Black/Death Metal band, except then when you insert the disc into your stereo. I asked my Black Metal god Marcus for some insight, since my speciality is in the less extreme genres. Musically you can compare STORMRIDER to BELPHEGOR and (older) DISSECTION.

The start of the band's second epos is spooky, atmospheric and you have to turn up the volume a bit to hear it. Then the blasts take over instantly and you know the band will give you an entertaining 40 minutes of Hellish, apocalyptic Metal.

YX's singing consists of growling in a sighing way and shrieking, especially in the choruses. The brutal riffs and very well played drums, or just simply what the entire band delivers is a delight to the ear of the extreme Metal fans. STORMRIDER manages to keep the attention vivid for a very long time, all thanks to the great musicianship and well-composed material.

The titles also indicate you don't have to expect happy music here, as it's raw and ruthless. "Jesus Christ Dismembered" offers a perfect start, while "Conflictual Insanity (Gott Mos)" follows very quickly. In this latter song you'll hear Björn even adding some blastbeats. Around 02:45 the situation starts to calm down before taking off again after this short intermezzo.

Although everything is guitar-driven, it must be said that the drums are equally vital, if not more. The variable drumming in "Return Of The Beast" is a clear example of that. Musically you can compare it with the uptempo stuff from the last few CENTINEX records, where the drums also had that clicky sound.

"Total Extinction" is a title that needs no explanation at all. Brutal, powerful, but foremost an awesome song! One of the best on this album, no question about that. The tempo decreases (which is normal, if all is extinct and there's nothing left to have a storm rush by) in "Psychic Vampire", but that doesn't mean it's a ballad. It's only in "Sons Of The North", around the middle, that you get some extreme Metal again with blastbeats and those hellish shrieks. Here too you can hear the importance of the drums.

And so the time has come to hear "Lucifer Rising". Starting slow and building up the pace before *kaboom* an enormous power breaks loose. Another songs that lives up to the expections, with again a title that says it all.

On "First Battle Won" there were the two parts of "Dead Love Of Mine". It's hard to compare or situate the other two parts, which are on this new album, in this storyline if you haven't heard them yet. But anyhow, "Part 3" is a peaceful intro/interlude, so to speak, while "Part 4" contains the heavier elements. But you don't get ferocious drumming or throat-slicing riffs. Or perhaps you do, regarding the riffs, as this final song is slow, agonizingly slow. It's not as what some Funeral Doom bands play, but it comes close.

Well, another Black/Death band for my collection and although these Swedes aren't BELPHEGOR, BEHEMOTH, DISSECTION or anyone else in that league, they clearly show they're a force to reckon with. Their musicianship certainly is a very important aspect. "Lucifer Rising" is a qualitative extreme Metal album that should please any fan of this type of music. You can pre-listen some songs on their Myspace page if you want to know what you'll buy next.

More info at www.stormrider.se.

Line-up:
YX - vocals
Mikael 'Strampan' Strandberg - guitar
Henrik Larsén - guitar
Morgan Ramstedt - bass
Björn Jonsson - drums


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FATAL INJURY – Fatal Injury (Aural Offerings Records 2007)

Fatal Injury - Fatal Injury
  1. Fear Against Fear
  2. My Only Chance
  3. Nothing Returns
  4. Don't Do anything For Me
  5. I'll Attend At My Burial
  6. Fatal Injury
  7. Not Stronger Than Reality
  8. A Piece Of Us
  9. The Truth Of The Lie
  10. We Are All Gonna Burn
  11. Lost

FATAL INJURY is a Spanish Metal band that incorporates a mixture of Thrash, Death and Heavy Metal. Despite some line-up changes since the band's founding in 1997-98, they managed to get a stable line-up to get ready for a full album. This bears the title "Fatal Injury", which is a cliché, but obvious choice, as we're dealing with a debut album here. In 2005 (the band's website states 2002, so it's unclear if this is a typo or not) the four guys recorded a demo, which was well-received and inspired them to go for the real thing. The French label Aural Offerings Records decided to sign FATAL INJURY and thus make them more known accross the European continent. This album came out on the 11th of June.

As I said in the beginning, they play a mix of Thrash, Death and Heavy Metal. Right from the start you get speedy riffing and ferocious drumming. Manuel's throat seems capable enough to add the typical growling, although he still seems to miss some range or power. Since this is a band with young players, time is on their side.

The brutal playing is omni-present, at least for the majority of the songs. This is usually well-executed, but can become boring after a while. However, the band tries to counter that by changing the tempo and melody after a few minutes to pave the way for some solos, which are also quite good, yet never memorable.

Despite the extreme character of the name and music, you also get one instrumental song, "A Piece Of Us". Here it's just the guitars playing a rather sad melody. It's almost as if they listened to KALEDON's "The Angel", which is also such an instrumental song. But it's obvious both bands play something different and in a different way.

Songs that stand out, for me at least, are "Fear Against Fear", "My Only Chance", "Don't Do Anything For Me" and "The Truth Of The Lie".

For a debut album this is fairly enjoyable, but the band still has a long way ahead of them. The sound isn't like on bigger budget productions, but it's relatively fitting for this kind of Metal. The four "Fatal Injured" show they have good ideas, although the songs as a whole seem to sound too much alike. Is this album then recommended? No, not at all. But if you want to have something new from time to time, give FATAL INJURY a chance, check 'm out on their MySpace page and if you like what they've made so far, I don't see why you shouldn't support these guys.

More info at www.fatal-injury.com.

Line-up:
Manuel - vocals, guitar
Raul - guitar
Fidel - bass
Oscar - drums


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IRON SAVIOR – Megatropolis (Dockyard 1 2007)

Iron Savior - Megatropolis
  1. Running Riot
  2. The Omega Men
  3. Flesh
  4. Megatropolis
  5. Cybernatic Queen
  6. Cyber Hero
  7. A Tale From Down Below
  8. Still I Believe
  9. Farewell And Good Bye

German Heavy/Powermetallers IRON SAVIOR have finally returned with a new album. "Megatropolis" is the title and the follow-up to 2004's "Battering Ram". With this new release, the band has now six albums in its portfolio. 1997 was the year of their self-titled debut and showed this was a band with great potential, offering solid Heavy/Power Metal tunes that would stand the test of time. Well, Metal does anyhow, no matter the genre. The following albums pushed the band to higher levels and things got better with each release. Every one of them is worth having if you like this kind of Metal. "Battering Ram" was a little less, but still very decent.

"Megatropolis" was originally planned for June 2006, but Piet also had his hands full with the label, Dockyard 1, and producing other bands' works, among which were the colleagues from PARAGON, PERSUADER and SAVAGE CIRCUS, where Piet also plays guitar. Add the gigs for this last band and you'll see that there wasn't that much time to really concentrate on a new IRON SAVIOR record.

And so album nr. 6 comes out a year later, on the 4th June. Via the label that Piet helped setting up, Dockyard 1, which has released many great albums so far from lots of bands. It didn't take the label too much time to sign bands.

But back to IRON SAVIOR's "Megatropolis". The sound is still typically Piet Sielck, or in other words, Powerhouse Studios. The drums in particular have undergone a change in sound. Still pounding, but the toms sound more pure and hollow. "Running Riot" sets the pace for some uptempo playing and perfect for headbanging. There's still a small dose of catchiness, but the song is - in my opinion - second rate for IRON SAVIOR standards. "The Omega Men" isn't any better. Here we've got a 'fast' midtempo track, where the biggest problem are the vocals. They lack in power and backing, and that would have done the song more good than what it is like now.

One song I really don't like, or at least its chorus, is "Flesh". It's dull, boring and uninspired. The riffing in between is however quite nice to listen to, especially with headphones. This song also features also some blastings in between. Not blastbeats, but explosions.

Another song that is worth checking out and one that deserves many points is "Megatropolis". You probably guessed it, because yes, it's uptempo, lots of fast riffing, Thomas' pounding drumwork (an underestimated drummer, if you ask me) and in general a classic IRON SAVIOR song.

"Cybernatic Queen" is a midtempo rocker, with a more melodic touch, but all in all quite a boring song. "Cyber Hero" on the other hand is another step in the right direction. Not quite there, but it's got potential. The song also reminds of "Iron Savior". The chorus is a plus, quite melodic and a nice change amongst the heavy riffs.

With "A Tale From Down Below" the tempo goes down again and the guitars are more low-profile in the verses. Again it's nothing spectacular, but it's an ok song, nothing more. "Still I Believe" adds another injection of rock attitude, but at the same time the '80s feel cannot be denied. Did Piet have the debut album in mind? The chorus here as well deserves kudos: melodic and very nice how the band captured the feeling and atmosphere of before.

The city of "Megatropolis" is left behind with "Farewell And Good Bye". Double bass, uptempo to start with, then Thomas plays a bit with his pedals. Despite the faster playing, the song overall can't really hold my interest for a long time. It's good to hear every x months, but it's just not good enough to be called a classic or superb song. This one, too, does not comply with IRON SAVIOR standards.

IRON SAVIOR's latest work contains a couple of good songs, but not a lot. Especially compared with the last three albums, it's quite a let-down. Either there was too much pressure to finally finish/release the album or Piet and co. didn't have enough ideas, and therefore played a bit with leftovers or anything they could come up with. But I guess you could - in a way - forgive the band this sidestep, because they are capable of striking back with another set of solid Powermetal albums. Every band has its bad moments. All in all, I would not really recommend this to people who are new to IRON SAVIOR, but if you've known the band since a couple of years or since the start, I guess you will be either very critical and skip this album or add it to enjoy some newer material every now and then and complete your collection.

More info at www.iron-savior.com.

Line-up:
Piet Sielck - vocals, guitars
Joachim 'Piesel' Küstner - guitars
Yenz Leonhardt - bass
Thomas Nack - drums


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ABANDONED – Thrash You! (Dockyard 1 2007)

Abandoned - Thrash You!
  1. Incantation
  2. Visions Of Death
  3. We Are In Hell
  4. Disorder
  5. Die In Dignity
  6. Sands Of Time
  7. Feel The Fire
  8. Damned For All Time
  9. This Is The End
  10. Repentance
  11. Too Blind To See
  12. In Search Of Sanity
  13. Trapped
  14. V.O.D. Reprise

German Thrashers ABANDONED have been working hard, very hard, the past year: gigs, promoting their last album "Thrash Notes" and working on the successor. Now the time has come to unleash an even more ferocious album, fittingly titled "Thrash You!" and available on the 4th June. While for the previous album different sounds were used for the guitars and drums, they've stuck to one choice this time. And how did it turn out?

While the intro was sort of glued to or part of the first track ("The Oncoming Storm") on "Thrash Notes", this time you get a seperate intro that slowly builds up the tension before you get overwhelmed by a vicious riff, sharper than a razorblade. Drums more crushing than a hammer and short double-bass bursts compliment this start. The vocals also have improved greatly, as the live experience did Kalli a lot of good. Little over halfway there's a very nice break that leads us to the solos. And I cannot stress this enough: splendid!

"We Are Hell" starts directly after "Visions Of Death" and continues the uptempo, slaying Thrash. Here as well the band have implemented catchy hooks and interesting breaks to re-energize you. "We're alive, but not so well. Now I know this is Hell.". And if that wasn't enough, prepare for more speed and neckbreaking riffs with "Disorder", which is one of the best songs on this new album. "Evil is my nature, Confusion is my game, I live my life in Chaos, Disorder is my name." Be sure to remember that when they play this one live. :-)

And the battle rages on. "Die In Dignity" will not give you a second's rest, although it's not as direct as "Disorder". You do get the usual Thrash-style of playing, but the drums also take a more midtempo and normal kind of playing approach. Melody is also a bit more important here. "Sands Of Time" also contains the neckbreaking drumming and riffing, but here too - and more than before - the drums are not as fast in the chorus, but that doesn't make it a less good song. On the contrary.

Lots of bands have a song that hails the wonderful music called Metal. ABANDONED also made one in a Thrash-jacket. "Feel The Fire" is one dangerous, lethal track. It reminds a bit of ANNIHILATOR's "Schizo Deluxe" album. Highlight is the break in the middle, where the guitars recharge/accelerate for the solo-blasts, like a motorcycle or car. Screamy solos that form the cherry on this cake. Homour is also no stranger to these guys, which is proven at the end: "Ah, fuck off, man!". You should hear it to understand it. It's a bit like EDGUY's "Catch Of The Century", where Tobi goes out of his mind and producer Sacha Paeth tries to calm him down and making him stop. :-)

Pounding start in "Damned For All Time", but soon it's full-on Thrash with that great riffing and typical drumming, which comes back in the second part of the verses. Otherwise it's more midtempo playing, but Konrad plays entertains enough with his snare and bass drums.

And if you thought the guys would be going slower... Thrash is NOT slow! And "This Is The End" certainly does not mean it's the last song on the album nor the end of the band (I hope ;-)). Double-bass attacks, raging guitars, an angry Kalli and Günter forming a great partner for Konrad. Solos too are flawless.

I guess something more peaceful would be welcome now. "Repentance" is a short guitar interlude (electric + accoustic), but very nice. This could be a good basis to write a new song. Who knows, perhaps on the next album they'll build something from this.

"Too Blind To See" has again midtempo drums, and a melodic chorus. The double voices work very well. That it's not a fast track makes it even more interesting, since it would just be the same like the others. Oh wait, things get faster from halfway on for a short while. The last 30 seconds, thus starting from the 5th minute, are very similar to BUDGIE's "Breadfan", which was covered by METALLICA in the 1980s. I'm going to be picky, because I like that riff a lot. :-)

More headbanging pleasure is delivered with "In Search Of Sanity", another great song. There simply are no fillers here. With "Trapped" the band seem to have saved the best for last, although that depends on your taste. Our Germans had some extra energy left and even added more speed to their already fast repertoire. The guitars sound very dark and dangerous. Konrad shows he can also play Death Metal - if the guys would let him ;-) - by adding a few blastbeats. The drumming reminds me of late CENTINEX. World-class song here, 10/10!

"Thrash You!" ends with another guitar piece, in the vein of "Repentance": "V.O.D. Reprise". This is a more peaceful version of the chorus of "Visions Of Death". Sort of like there's a story connected to the album.

Last year, ABANDONED showed they had great Thrash potential, but the sound on the record was at times too rough and not consistent. With "Thrash You!" they've solved those problems and gone beyond that to create what could be one of the best Thrash albums of 2007. There are similarities with DESTRUCTION, EXODUS, TESTAMENT, and others - naturally - but these guys maange to put their on stamp on it and make a huge step towards the throne. DESTRUCTION released very nice "Thrash Anthems" earlier this year, but I think I'll have to give ABANDONED more praise. "Thrash You!" is very recommended material for any Thrash fan and the battle will be hard to claim the title for this year. I'm curious how SPELLBOUND and DELIRIOUS will respond. ;-)

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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SVARTAHRID – Sadness And Wrath (Soulseller Records 2007)

Svartahrid - Sadness And Wrath
  1. Intro
  2. Svartahrid
  3. Død
  4. Awake Or Vanish
  5. Sadness And Wrath
  6. Cross Of Pain
  7. Intensjon: Krig
  8. Iron Minded
  9. Framsyn

Norwegian Black Metal...it's almost a genre in itself. This country has spawned some great names in the history of Black Metal: IMMORTAL, EMPEROR, MAYHEM, DARKTHRONE, DIMMU BORGIR, 1349, CARPATHIAN FOREST, BURZUM, GORGOROTH, ISENGARD, KAMPFAR, KEEP OF KALESSIN, etc...etc... and most of those - if not all - are/were very well known internationally. But of course there's also a lot of underground stuff. One of those is SVARTAHRID.

The band was formed little some 13 years ago by Istar (guitars, vocals) and Forn (drums). Two years later Björn (keyboards) and Ilvastar (bass) joined them. Three years after the completion of the line-up the band released their debut, "Forthcoming Storm", which came out via Napalm Records. Shortly after the recordings it seemed that keyboardist Björn had left the band. And so the other continued as a trio. It wasn't until their third album, "Sadness And Wrath" that Frank Iberg joined on bass (replacing Ilvastar) in 2003. He also left not long after that and was in 2004 replaced by Nidgrim, who is still in the band. Luckily for SVARTAHRID they can now release this album, which was completed since 4 years. On the 1st of June Soulseller Records decided to bring this album to the masses, so that the band can continue on follow-up material.

Although the tracklisting only has eight songs, don't be fooled by your CD-player or mediaplayer, because there is a 1 ½ minute intro. Darkness, a grimm atmosphere and more luring you into the woods on the cover. Then the band's song bursts loose, changing between faster and more midtempo parts. All the while maintaining a grimm character and typical rough sound. "Død" takes it a bit slower and groovier as a basis, but soon the blasts come in. Istar's growls fit very well and the sound of it all is very clear. "Awake Or Vanish"? If you want to stay with the demons in the intro, then I'd say "Awake". Heaviness soon breaks out and you're in for a wild night. Black Metal isn't really my favourite genre, although I can appreciate it every now and then. Death Metal has more appeal to me, although I'd say that Black Metal can - depending on the artist, the songs and whatever more - paint a good image of a certain setting.

The title track is another fast one, although I would call it more atmospheric than the others. Same goes for "Cross Of Pain", to a certain extent, because this song offers lots of variety with uptempo stuff and a few twists. Without question the best song on the album. "Intensjon: Krig" features DARKTHRONE's Nocturno Culto on shrieks. It's not a bad song, has some atmospheric keyboards, but I prefer SVARTAHRID's own vocalist: Istar. So it does feel good to hear him again in the next song, "Iron Minded". The closing track, "Framsyn", has a more powerful guitarsound. The tempo is again down (with occasional outbursts), but it's more about the atmosphere, not how fast the song should be.

SVARTAHRID's third release, although in the fridge since 2003, is now available for all who are into Black Metal. "Sadness And Wrath" is a good title for this album, since the music is pure, cold, grimm... just like the green cover shows you. Enter these woods and you will certainly have trouble getting out alive. Personally speaking, it's not my cup of tea, although I do like the majority of the songs. The guys can be proud of the result, which should give them inspiration for the future.

More info at www.myspace.com/svartahrid.

Line-up:
Istar - vocals, guitars
Frank Iberg - bass
Forn - drums


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BLACK MAJESTY – Tomorrowland (Limb Music Products 2007)

Black Majesty - Tomorrowland
  1. Forever Damned
  2. Into The Black
  3. Evil In Your Eyes
  4. Tomorrowland
  5. Soldier Of Fortune (DEEP PURPLE cover)
  6. Bleeding World
  7. Faces Of War
  8. Wings To Fly
  9. Another Dawn
  10. Scars

Australian Powermetallers BLACK MAJESTY have so far released three albums and each time they have respected a two-year gap between each release. 2003 was the year of "Sands Of Time", which was a good album, but not perfect yet. In 2005 the band made a big step forward with "Silent Company", which was a recommended album for any fan of Melodic Powermetal. And now, since the 1st of June, album #3 is out: "Tomorrowland".

Buttons-man Endel Rivers (a.o. VANISHING POINT) has been very important for the band's sound since the debut and obviously BLACK MAJESTY appealed to his services once again for the new album. Like on "Sands Of Time", the backing vocals were done by VANISHING POINT vocalist Silvio Massaro. The artwork was again the work of Dirk Illing, who also handled this for "Silent Company".

When you know it's Melodic Power Metal, there's not much need to tell what to expect, right? "Forever Damned" will give you a good taste of how well BLACK MAJESTY masters the craft of making catchy and solid Power Metal. Double bass, great guitarmelodies and John's clean vocals. Add the keyboards for a melodic backing and the song is complete. The same receipe is used for e.g. "Tomorrowland", "Bleeding World" (at least in the chorus), "Wings To Fly", "Another Dawn" and "Scars". Every single one of them offers a very nice result. These songs also show how important and wonderful it is to have guitarsolos, because on that front too the guitarists know what/when/where/how.

Amongst the speedy stuff there's naturally also room for calmer moments and it's just DEEP PURPLE's "Soldier Of Fortune" that is responsable for that. Here you get a slower song, a bit powerballad-ish, and although I don't find the song that special, it does offer a nice break.

The rest of the tracklisting either offers a more Progressive approach ("Into The Black", which is not a CIRCLE II CIRCLE cover ;-)), something midtempo ("Evil In Your Eyes" where the guitarsolos make this song more interesting) or something less speedy, but still quite energetic, as shown in "Faces Of War".

BLACK MAJESTY is one of Australian's finest Metal bands and have shown once again why they earned that contract with LMP and why they get to play some important gigs on the European mainland. "Tomorrowland" is a more than worthy successor of "Silent Company", which was also a joy to listen to. This new release should really make the band more known with more Metalheads and especially those that like Melodic Power Metal, as the band offers anything to satisfy your taste. Here as well, there's a digipack version of the album containing two bonus tracks: "Kingdoms" and "Memories". I'll be ordering mine as soon as possible.

More info at www.blackmajesty.com.

Line-up:
John Cavaliere - vocals
Stevie Janevski - guitar
Hanny Mohamed - guitar, keyboards
Pavel Konvalinka - drums


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BURN – Global Warning (Formula One Records 2007)

Burn - Global Warning
  1. Shadow Of The Satellites
  2. Dangerous Times
  3. Forgive Me
  4. Down In Flames
  5. Meltdown
  6. Made That Way
  7. Pray For Rain
  8. In Another Lifetime
  9. Weight Of Expectation
  10. I Don't Mind
  11. Give Me Tonight

BURN is a British Melodic/Hard Rock band, formed in 1991 and really taking the time to build on their career. Their debut album, "So Far, So Bad", was released in 1993 and apparently got positive comments from magazines like Metal Hammer. Working hard on new songs, the follow-up, "Spark To A Flame", was the light of day two years later (1995). Luck wasn't always on their side, as in 2001 drummer Karl Bee was killed in a motorcycle accident. Robbie 'Vom' Morris from CRAZYHEAD took the free spot behind the drums. Guitarist Rab Devenney on the other hand had enough of it and quit the band. In 2004 the line-up was changed once more with the addition of two guitarists: Julian Nicholas and Phil Hammond. Since Robbie didn't plan to stay in the band for a very long time, Benjy Reid III (TED NUGENT/PRAYING MANTIS/DEBBY BONHAM) was found as replacement.

With all the changes, problems, evolutions and more done, BURN was ready to complete the work on their third album. Titled "Global Warning", it came out on the 28th of May, again via Formula One Records. Lyrically this new album deals with the whole subject of who we are, who we trust, and why, in these dangerous times.

From the first guitar touch it's clear BURN are a Hard Rock/Melodic Rock band, in vein of e.g. THUNDER, Y&T, EVIDENCE ONE, DOMAIN, and others. "Global Warning" (not "Warming", although both refer to being attentive, albeit on a different level) is packed with 11 songs, totalling a playtime of little over 50 minutes. The song material is also put together that you can divide the album into two halfs: one with the better/best songs, the other with the less good/attractive ones.

Most songs are midtempo, with here and there some faster moments. The good half consists of the first 5 songs. "Shadow Of The Satellites" has references to EVIDENCE ONE and THUNDER, despite the first one being formed later than BURN. Still, it shows BURN makes qualitative Hard Rock. Jeff Ogden is a vocalist whose voice really fits the music: it's melodic, yet rough(er) where needed and it's all very well sung and well-timed. If you want, you can sing along with the chorus: "There ain't no hiding in the shadow of the satellites, we're all living on the outside".

"Dangerous Times" is another remarkable song. The tempo is a bit slower, the drums not too technical so that the guitars can really shine. The solos show Julian Nicholas is one who knows what a good Hard Rock song needs in terms of that. somehow I can't suppress the thought of LED ZEPPELIN's "Kashmir" song, when hearing the melody in the back. Not that I mind, it's just a nice thought.

"Forgive Me" is a love song, with the pedal pushed down a little bit more again. This is very guitar-driven, although the keyboards increase the power and melody in the chorus. After two minutes the song gets a bigger 'Rock' injection, also shown in the dual solos. Brilliant stuff!

Going "Down In Flames" then, where the keyboards have a Japanese-like sound, with Barney constantly adding accents for the main melody. In the verses it's just vocals, bass and drums. The chorus of course features the entire band and instrumentation to make it clear what's the verse and what's the chorus. Overall, a decent song with very nice musicianship.

The "Meltdown" that follows cranks up the pace, and makes sure the guitars keep it rocking, although everything slows down in the chorus. But once again it's a song to which you can't really sit still, even though tapping with your feet or so is enough to make you do something. The similarities with EVIDENCE ONE pop up here as well. After 3 minutes it's time for the solos, where the guitars and keyboards take turns. It's advised to put the volume a bit higher to enjoy this moment even more. About 1 and ½ minutes later there's a short piano break to prepare for the final part of the song, which starts with the chorus.

With "Made That Way" we've come to the second half of the album, meaning the 'bad' half. This song has less heavy riffing, less powerful drums. It's as if something went wrong in the mixing process or something, with almost no bass and really going for something 'light'. There are some good moments, but overall I, personally, can't listen too long to this, since I'm not "Made That Way".

Can "Pray For Rain" improve the situation? Not really, although the slow tempo and melodies indicate we've got a ballad here. It's definitely better than "Made That Way", but unless Melodic Rock is your thing, then you'll have to admit that boredom sets in quite rapidly. "In Another Lifetime" on the other hand starts in a spacey way, although that soon fades once the guitars and drums set in. Slow tempo here as well, but the heavy riffing is back and that's a good thing. Vocally things are also alright, although the focus lies on melody here, less on adding that bit of roughness. Musically this is really an improvement, although overall it's not as attractive or sticking as the first 4 songs.

"Weight Of Expactation" brings back some hope and is the best song of the second half of the tracklisting. This one's uptempo and has very enjoying rhythms, melody-increasing keyboards in the chorus and screamy guitarsolos, albeit short bu effective. Quality stuff, tout court.

But alas, the last two songs take things down again. "I Don't Mind" might have heavier riffing and grooves, the overall result is too mediocre to rejoice. "Give Me Tonight" really hints at radio play, as it sounds too mainstreamish. The guitars lack power, the drums don't push through hard enough, etc...etc...

BURN's third and newest release, "Global Warning", shows they make quality Melodic Rock, although they also know how to make a varied album: songs that stick out (little more than half of them) and songs that make you want to relisten to those better ones. I can't compare with the first two albums, though. Personally, I think this is one of those bands that sound great live, where even the less good songs come out as they should. Still, one must remain positive as the musicianship is very good (vocals, guitarwork, drums, keys). That cannot be denied. So I can recommend it to those that already have one of or both first albums and those that are into bands like THUNDER, EVIDENCE ONE, Y&T, ROAD TO RUIN, WHITESNAKE and similar. On the other hand, only half of "Global Warning" is really worth the attention (imho), so that doesn't make the album that much of a must-have. I'm therefore half-satisfied. BURN is a band to check out, yes, while their newest release is for those who really have a bone for anything Melodic Rock.

More info at www.burn.uk.com.

Line-up:
Jeff Ogden - vocals
Phil Hammond - guitars
Julian Nicholas - guitars
Marc Stackhouse - bass
Barney Stackhouse - keyboards
Benjy Reid - drums


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VISIONS OF ATLANTIS – Trinity (Napalm Records 2007)

Visions Of Atlantis - Trinity
  1. At The Back Of Beyond
  2. The Secret
  3. Passing Dead End
  4. The Poem
  5. Nothing Left
  6. My Dark Side Home
  7. Wing-Shaped Heart
  8. Return To You
  9. Through My Eyes
  10. Flow This Desert
  11. Seven Seas

VISIONS OF ATLANTIS, Austria's NIGHTWISH, has so far released two albums: "Eternal Endless Infinity" and "Cast Away". Both albums were made with a different line-up, especially for the vocals and keyboards. Both albums were good, but nothing really breathtaking, in my opinion. Particularly the voice of Nicole Bogner could not please me.

But for "Trinity", the band's third album (released on the 25th May), she got replaced by soprano Melissa Ferlaak (ex-AESMA DAEVA) and guitarist Werner Fiedler's place also got taken by Wolf K.. Keyboardist Miro Holly also left the previous line-up and his position was soon filled by Martin Harb.

Where the band was trying to be NIGHTWISH on their first albums, you can now safely say they preserve the sound of NIGHTWISH until "Century Child". This can be easily heard in the first track, "At The Back Of Beyond". The more rocking "The Secret" and "Passing Dead End" go a little further.

The powerballad "The Poem" is a resting point, with its gentle piano interventions. Like in NIGHTWISH you also get the symphonic elements. One thing is sure, though: Melissa does a far better job than Nicole.

Things get more to the point again with "Nothing Left", overall a nice song with breaks to put the spots on Melissa. Melissa and Mario are compatible singers, but the big difference with other Gothic bands is that Mario doesn't grunt. Clean singing is his trademark, but he can however add a little roughness where needed.

The piano plays a very important throughout the album, in every song. Be it gentle or providing the melody. And it's in "My Dark Side Home" that Mario uses the rougher side of his vocal chords. I could be wrong, but there's some LACUNA COIL here through the heavy riffing and overall musically.

A title like "Wing-Shaped Heart" made me think it was another ballad-like song, but it's in fact more energetic. The keyboards provide the melody, but it's still the guitar that dominate. The duo Melissa-Mario does a very good job and the song itself is also quite enjoyable. At 02:30 there's a nice break for let the symphonic elements come through and Wolf do some soloing.

"Return To You" is the second resting point. Just Melissa and the piano - ok, the drums set in a little later, but still very softly - and musically... LUCA TURILLI's "Altitudes". A very beautiful song and what a voice! What else is there to say about such a composition? O yes, around the third minute the entire band is playing then. Why? It was perfect with just Melissa, the piano and the drums. Add the guitars and whatever more and the song loses its majesty, its mystic appeal. There are already enough guitar parts on this album, so for once let them hold their peace!

Danger approaching in "Through My Eyes". At least, the intro gives that impression. When heaviness bursts loose, you get a typical NIGHTWISH song with Tarja and Marco - Melissa and Mario in this case. Symphonic, fast midtempo, you name it. Not that it's a bad song, not in the least. Just that the comparisons are too obvious.

The little Eastern atmosphere in the intro of "Flow The Desert" is a welcome addition, but what follows is again 'standard' material, resulting in a song that will bore after a while. Unless you don't play it too often.

I was going to say that the closing "Seven Seals" (isn't that from PRIMAL FEAR? ;-)), eh, "Seven Seas" leaves the heavy guitar parts aside, but they soon set in after Melissa's piano-backed moment. Slow, symphonic, dual vocals, ... and again very NIGHTWISH-like.

"Trinity" could be the band's best album so far as they've progressed on all levels, but the damn similarities with NIGHTWISH are becoming annoying. VISIONS OF ATLANTIS is NIGHTWISH II. For those NIGHTWISH fans who think "Once" was a step too far/different and like to hold on to the music before that album, check out VISIONS OF ATLANTIS and their newest album, "Trinity". But all comparisons aside, it's a decent album, with a few really good songs. The rest is just too ordinary - personal opinion here - to be really enthusiastic about it.

More info at www.visionsofatlantis.com.

Line-up:
Melissa Ferlaak - vocals
Mario Plank - vocals
Wolf K - guitars
Martin Harb - keyboards
Mike Koren - bass
Thomas Caser - drums


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THE CURSED – Room Full Of Sinners (Locomotive Records 2007)

The Cursed - Room Full Of Sinners
  1. Sweeter
  2. Evil, In The Bag
  3. Wij Leven Als God In Frankrijk
  4. Breaking Her Down
  5. Best Of The Worst
  6. Native Tongue
  7. Serpentine Slither
  8. All's Right
  9. One Time
  10. Queen Of The Down
  11. Generate Her

THE CURSED was formed by two people who have been Thrashing since the '80s: guitarist Dan Lorenzo (HADES) and vocalist Bobby Ellsworth (OVERKILL). The other positions are occupied by NON-FICTION drummer Mike Cristi and MURDER 1 bassist Job the Raver. But now they're not going down that fast path in favour of a more Sleazy kind of Rock/Metal. Think of the material METALLICA did on "Load" and the first disc of "Garage Inc." or perhaps the slower material of PANTERA. MOTÖRHEAD also comes to mind. And yes, even CATHEDRAL has been an inspiration, apparently. Just listen to "Queen Of The Down".

The band's first effort is titled "Room Full Of Sinners" and will be available on the 25th May via Locomotive Records in Europe and Screaming Ferret Wreckords in the US. There seems to be a small difference in the tracklisting, as the European copy has "Wij Leven Als God In Frankrijk" as #3, while on the band's website it's on the 8th place.

So no Thrash here, but still heavy stuff that somehow makes you think of a dark pub, sitting at the bar with a beer while the band is playing on a little stage. And everything is alright, nothing to worry about. No super-technical stuff here, just songs that are easy to listen to and make you have a nice time.

The band have also made it easier by writing short songs and not add layers of guitars, vocals, etc... But they did add extra instruments like a saxophone ("Evil, In The Bag") to give the songs an interesting twist. It's also nice to hear Bobby singing some Dutch in "Wij Leven Als God In Frankrijk", although he's got an accent. But with the right exercise he could speak it very well, although I think that typical English "r" will be hard to get rid off. ;-)

Most of the songs are slow (with a bit of Jazz in "Generate Her") or midtempo and a fat guitarsound. Bobby's voice fits with this music, as it's rough and smokey. There are no real songs that stand out, in my opinion, but the whole album is fairly enjoyable and offers a nice change in style when you usually listen to any other kind of Rock or Metal.

More info at www.the-cursed.net.

Line-up:
Bobby 'Blitz' Ellsworth - vocals
Dan Lorenzo - guitar
Job the Raver - bass
Mike Cristi - drums


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RIEFENSTAHL – Instinkt (Rude Records 2007)

Riefenstahl - Instinkt
  1. Es Ist Vorbei
  2. Augen Auf
  3. Ein Wort Von Dir
  4. Venusschrei
  5. Mit Brennender Wut
  6. Die Zeit Heilt Nicht Alle Wunden
  7. Wenn Ich Wiederkomm
  8. Es Tut So Weh
  9. Lass Mich Nich Allein (War For Peace)
  10. (Ich) Halt Dich Fest
  11. Kalter Traum
  12. Dein Weg

RIEFENSTAHL is a German Rockband, whose music relies on Jens' rough vocals and Ralph's fat guitargrooves. These two people also happen to be the founders of the band, which came to existence in 2002. Two years later they released their first album, "Seelenschmerz". At that time only available in Germany, but one year later the rest of the world could purchase it via LR/Twilight. The samples I heard sounded good, but I have the feeling the successor, "Instinkt" (released on the 25th May), is much stronger.

It all starts with "Es Ist Vorbei", a midtempo track that immediately shows what to expect from these Germans. Rough vocals, grooy guitars, but mainly a very nice break around halfway. Jens continues his roaring vocals throughout the entire album, but there are also moments where he chooses a cleaner way of singing. The verses in "Augen Auf" are a clear example of that. The chorus is 100% power with a nice dose of catchiness.

The pattern 'clean in verses - rough in chorus' is also applied to the beautiful ballad "Ein Wort Von Dir". Pure, honest rock that sometimes reminds of LACRIMOSA. The atmospheric backing helps a lot in completing the songs. In this song and also thanks to Jens' vocals, I can't help but think of (old) THERAPY?.

"Venusschrei" adds more rock attitude to the album. Especially when things get heavy it's great to hear. The light vocal effects in the first part of the verses don't do the song much good, to be honest. But other than that, I've got no complaints. Seems like something very agonising Jens is singing about. The spacey keyboards help in creating a mystic atmosphere.

The intro of "Mit Brennender Wut" slowly builds up the tension, after which heaviness breaks loose, backed by atmospheric keyboards. No distorted guitars in the verses, but all the more in the chorus. You won't get happy from this song. I think a couple of spins are needed to appreciate it. Make no mistake, it's an ok song, but not really among the best on the album.

Short guitar bursts backed by (fast) midtempo drumming in "Der Zeit Heilt Nicht Alle Wunden". A welcome addition after the midtempo and slower material of before. For the chorus Ralph's guitarwork sounds more melodic. Again keyboards help in adding melody, while the guitars can focus on the heavy assisting. Around the second minute there a nice full-on part, before the calm sets in again for a more jazzy piece. Not for long, as the entire band continues like before.

Rolling riffs, slow drums and again peaceful moments switched with harder tunes are key ingredients in "Wenn Ich Wiederkom". Again, this is not a happy song. Every track is full of emotions, represented thorugh the intruments, vocals and lyrics. I guess love is one subject that is tackled, but perhaps other elements like friendship and similar are dealt with as well.

Keyboards play a bigger melodic/backing role in "Es Tut So Weh". Jens sings the lyrics with lots of passion, almost as if the material is autobiographical. How the band translates this all into songs, deserves much kudos. This is again a slower song.

"Lass Mich Nicht Allein (War For Peace)" starts with an audio fragment from an American army officer or anyone along those lines, after which the band sets in with their typical sound. Since the type of Rock these guys play is quite emotional, melancholic, dark, ... it makes you wonder if they really are such characters. ;-) But again they don't disappoint, since this is another strong song.

Peaceful start, with just guitar plucking, atmospheric/exotic backing and the drums that set in little later. Jens joins the other also few seconds later. "(Ich) Lass Dich Nicht Los" is one hell of a song and perfect all the way. Everything comes out strong and even the drums don't sound as digitalized as on many other rock records. I'm more than sure that this song will be amazing to experience live. I can't say which is my favourite track on the album, but this one comes very close!

Groovy, midtempo playing - to change your mood for the better, I guess ;-) - comes with "Kalter Traum". There are even some RAMMSTEIN similarities. No, not because of the German lyrics, but on a musical level. Melancholy and dark thoughts are also key here and it's like our character is slowly going mad because of the bad dream he's having. Yes, another song where the band didn't go wrong anywhere.

"Dein Weg" ends this dark, emotional and what-not album with a classic pattern of peaceful (i.e. verses) and rough parts (i.e. chorus). The piano once again fulfills its role on a melodic level. "Dein Weg" is not a super song, but it's nice to hear as background music. Overall, there's nothing wrong here.

RIEFENSTAHL, another unknown band to me, has definitely convinced me of their skills and musical abilities. "Instinkt" is a very solid album that will definitely please the people who liked "Seelenschmerz". If you're not afraid of the language barrier - unless you understand German - and you're looking for something new and fresh for your Rock collection, then do check out RIEFENSTAHL, because they know perfectly how to use music to express (or tackle subjects like) sorrow, sadness, melancholy, etc...

More info at www.riefenstahl-music.com.

Line-up:
Jens Esch 'Die Schabe' - vocals
Ralph Laskowski - guitars
Daniel Peschel - bass
Sven Petersen - drums


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TME – Worlds Collide (Aphotic Records 2007)

TME - Worlds Collide
  1. The Worlds Collide
  2. Flesh And Blood
  3. Blank Infinity
  4. Mankinds Last Cleansing
  5. Away From Decay
  6. TME
  7. Piece By Piece
  8. Face The Fist
  9. Hell Incarnated
  10. Superiour

TME is actually VINTERSORG without Vintersorg and the first band on the new label Aphotic Records. The singer in this case is called Andreas Stenlund, not Andreas Hedlund. Besides him you get VINTERSORG guitarist Mattias Marklund, bassist Johan Lindgren and drummer Benny Hägglund. Man, lots of people's names end with lund there. ;-) But this is more than just VINTERSORG without Vintersorg. No Folk stuff here, not in the least. Nope, you get uncompromised, straight-in-your-face, more-vicious-than-[insert object or wild animal] Death/Thrash Metal.

Like Andreas Hedlund, Andreas Stenlund knows how to use the brutal side of his voice. He's supported by a brutal trio, or at least a trio that knows how to bring brutal music. I'm not going to detail every song, as the recipe is overall the same. Spread over this debut, called "Worlds Collide" and available on the 15th of May, the mix of Death Metal vocals and drums, Thrash Metal riffs and drums and occasionally some Black Metal grooves result in a stew that many fans of this music will love.

The fantastic production, the variety in guitar- and especially drumwork (check those tom rolls and double bass violence) and not in the least the passion of these mucisians makes this album a joy to listen. Its sheer brutality comes in handy for the times you need to vent your anger or need extra energy to face new 'dangers' at work or in school or any other situation.

Songs that stand out: all of them, but particularly "The Worlds Collide", "Flesh And Blood" (has some GOD DETHRONED influences), "Mankinds Last Cleansing", "Piece By Piece" and "Face The Fist" (fast double-bass part reminds of MACHINE HEAD's "None But My Own", which I like a lot!).

Want to hear the lethal side of VINTERSORG? TME will gladly show you. This is more than one collision of worlds, it's an unstoppable chainreaction.

More info at www.generation666.com.

Line-up:
Andreas Stenlund - vocals, guitars
Mattias Marklund - guitars
Johan Lindgren - bass
Benny Hägglund - drums


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MANTICORA – The Black Circus Part 2 - Disclosure (Locomotive Records 2007)

Manticora - The Black Circus Part 2 - Disclosure
  1. Entrance
  2. Beauty Will Fade
  3. Gypsies' Dance - Part 2
  4. Ituneric V
  5. Haita Di Lupi
  6. When The Soulreapers Cry
  7. Ituneric VI
  8. All That Remain
  9. Ituneric VII
  10. Of Madness In Its Purity

After "Part 1" comes "Part 2", but also final part of this concept story about a travelling 19th century circus. "Disclosure" came out on the 15th May, which is almost 8 months later. What is remarkable is that the band and their label Massacre Records have parted ways and so Locomotive Records got the deal for this release.

On this album you can hear the following guest musicians, although I don't know in which songs they appear - save for Jacob Hansen ("Ituneric VII"):

Jacob Hansen (INVOCATOR, ANUBIS GATE) on vocals
Teddy Möller (LOCH VOSTOK, WUTHERING HEIGHTS) on growls
Finn Zierler (BEYOND TWILIGHT) doing a keyboard solo
Andreas Lindahl (WUTHERING HEIGHTS, ex-PLATITUDE) doing some keyboard leads and solos

While the first album was a short of look of what happened backstage, the second part is about the circus and the show itself. Starting with "Entrance", the people are welcomed into the tent to see a magical show.

Once inside the tent, "Beauty Will Fade" bursts loose, with dark riffs and Mads's pounding drumming. This is still no happy Metal, but you do get treated again with the typical MANTICORA ingredients. I'm sure I'll understand more what's going on when I have the lyrics with me. In this song it's also quite clear that the band have decided to give more attention to the instruments, let the music speak. This results in more instrumental parts and long solo moments, backed by atmospheric keyboards. Always a pleasure with these Danish.

While "Gypsies' Dance - Part 1" was uptempo and wild, "Part 2" shows a more downtempo side, more Bluesy and Lars sings in a more dramatic way. But the song clocks in after almost 8 and ½ minutes, so this means a lot can happen. And it does: around 2:50 Mads entertains the crowd and listener with a nice drumsolo, assisted by accoustic/flamenco guitars, after which it's Metal full-on. Damn, I have so many images in my head of what could fit this instrumental part. And yes, keyboard solo here, but only short since Lars soon takes over again. Kasper also gets his 15 seconds of fame with a nice bass intervention and this really adds some extra spices to the song. The second part of the dance started in a slow, dramatic way and that's also how it ends.

"Ituneric V" is very mysterious, a bit Westernish with again the atmospheric keyboards. The growling wolf at the end introduces also the instrumental and überfantastic "Haita Di Lupi". A pure Metal delight. Guitarsolos, keyboard solos, drumming that will crush your skull, ferocious riffs... More of this, please! And that returning accoustic guitar part. Great stuff. Sadly everything comes to a halt after 2 minutes and ½.

But the wild show goes on with "When The Soulreapers Cry". Again quite Progressive with the a variety of guitar work, drumwork, and what not. Bombast is a word that surely describes things very well. The chorus is very melodic and reminds of "8 Deadly Sins". This song is again a step in the right direction in describing what's happening in the story. Imagine when they play this live.

After this brutal event, it's time to relax a bit. The symphonic "Ituneric VI" is a welcome interlude. Of course this also contains the right dose of mystery. Must I say how "All That Remain" sounds? ;-) What makes this song, and the others where this was done, so nice are the background vocals, as they add more melody and epicness. The guitarsolos are pretty flawless and indispensable. Since this is a non-stop wild song, it could get a little annoying, especially since the other full songs are also of this kind.

And there we have Jacob Hansen on vocals. He seems like a mix of Kai Hansen and Glenn Hughes. ;-) But it's nice to hear him sing and for the sake of variety, it's good that Lars gets some rest. No guitars or drums here, just keyboards and vocals.

Kasper and Mads have the honour to start the final song, "Of Madness In Its Purity". Like before this is another uptempo song, but luckily melody and singing are key here and the ferocity has been dammed a bit more. To be honest, I'm not that fond of this song. Perhaps because it's a bit overdone, because there are too many songs of the same type: aggressive, uptempo, wild, vicious, etc.. Sure, if it's in the interest of the story, I have no problems with it. But still..

"The Black Circus Part 1 - Letters" took some time to digest, "Disclosure" was easier to get into because there are more complete songs. There's more aggressiveness on this album, more action and I have to say the "Ituneric"s offer a nice break/resting point. The new album is no less a must-have for the fans than the previous releases, but our Danish could have made it a lot easier - story and budgetwise - when the two discs were combined into one package. Just like AYREON did with his "Into The Electric Castle" and "The Human Equation" albums, to name just these.

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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VINTERSORG – Solens Rötter (Napalm Records 2007)

Vintersorg - Solens Rötter
  1. Döpt I En Jökelsjö
  2. Perfektionisten
  3. Spirar Och Gror
  4. Kosmosaik
  5. Idémplet
  6. Naturens Mystär
  7. Att Bygga En Ruin
  8. Strålar
  9. Från Materia Till Ande
  10. Vad Aftonvindens Andning Viskar

Swedish Viking/Folk Metallers VINTERSORG have returned with a new album (released on 30th April) and for this they decided to go back to their roots as much as possible. I'm not that familiar with VINTERSORG, but the biography on Napalm Records's website is quite detailed regarding the releases before "Solens Rötter". So if you want to know more about those, just head over to www.napalmrecords.com to read it.

The Folk/Viking direction was very clear on the debut album. Hymnic singing forming a combo with grunts. You could in way compare this album with what SUIDAKRA plays. "Till Fjälls" is a very much recommended album, no doubt about that. The follow-up apparently continued in the same spirit. The next record, "Cosmic Genesis" - for which guitarist Mattias Marklund had joined the band - was the first VINTERSORG album I heard, which was some months ago at the shop and I thought it was quite good - it was also my first encounter with the band's music - but the clean vocals didn't convince me and I found them not really fitting. Perhaps I should relisten to this album, when I'll see it again and then my opinion might change. But that's for later. Lyrically, the album philosophically explores thoughts, questions, and observations regarding the essential forces of the infinite cosmos. Theories influenced by Copernicus, Galileo, and Kepler are a recurring theme and create a contrast between the harsh and the beautiful, the cold and the warm, the spiritual and the physical, and the earthly and unearthly.

"Visions From The Spiral Generator" came out two years later and apparently this was their most experimental album, going more Progressive and leaving the Folk road behind. Lyrically, this release continues to touch upon the concepts of science and faith, the search for the formulas that create us and the universe, and the never-ending journey through mathematics and philosophy. I haven't heard it (yet), and chances are small that I will later.

It has been three years, since "The Focusing Blur", that another VINTERSORG album saw the light of day. On this last album - the second one I listened to more in depth -, the lyrics deal with the essence of Man and the complex connection between science and fate. Musically there's a greater use of the accoustic guitar and certain compositions make me think of DEMONS & WIZARDS. The singing certainly isn't as epic as before and overall you could compare this album with AYREON, STAR ONE, etc... It's Progressive Rock/Metal, with a spacey touch. The Folk/Viking elements of before are gone and this is actually not a good move, especially if you connect VINTERSORG to that kind of music.

Anno 2007 the band have used their native language again for all songs and even the album title: "Solens Rötter", which means "The Origin of the Sun". . And you get more Folk Metal again, although the Progressive elements from before are still present. But as long as the goal is to really get back to what they did on "Till Fjälls", then I will support them very much. ;-)

The use of the accoustic guitar is spread over the entire album and for this you can also see a pattern. It's not in every song, but at least every other song. This breaks with the heavier parts, which are extremely well done, also with the aggressive vocals this is simply amazing. But of course you also get clean, more epic singing, in both cases. I'm not VINTERSORG's biggest fan, nor is this band among my favourites, so that kind of influences my taste and opinion, but about those clean vocals: they work for a lot of songs, yet on this record it's in most cases not a hit. One example is "Perfektionisten". I mean, clean vocals okay, but it's the sound I'm talking about. If they would be a bit fuller or warmer (what's the term here? I hope you understand what I'm trying to say.), then I would be more cheerful about it. The rough version is - needless to say - flawless and that's also the side of this band's music that I like best. Songs that support this are e.g. "Kosmosaik", "Idémplet", "Att Bygga En Ruin" and "Från Materia Till Ande".

Andreas, Mattias, Johan and Benny have added enough variation with their respective instruments, be it by certain riffs, creating the folkish atmosphere, breaks or adding a drumfill to spice things up a little. The material is also so well composed that it will no doubt be great to witness on stage. And the interchange of soft and harder passages also keeps your attention vivid. Listen carefully and you'll hear the beauty of it all.

For the fans "Solens Rötter" will be a very good to great album. I personally like it (despite the clean vocals, which I think will always be a difficult and personal issue), but still prefer their first, "Till Fjälls". The latter shows how VINTERSORG started, had more Folk and less Progressive or spacey twists. But going back to "Solens Rötter": Any Folk Metal fan that hasn't heard VINTERSORG so far will add a nice album to his/her collection, also because VINTERSORG is so different from bands like KORPIKLAANI, ENSIFERUM, TÝR, ...

More info at www.vintersorganic.com.

Line-up:
Vintersorg (Andreas Hedlund) - vocals, guitars, keyboards
Mattias Marklund - guitars
Johan Lindgren - bass
Benny Hägglund - drums


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SERENITY – Words Untold & Dreams Unlived (Napalm Records 2007)

Serenity - Words Untold & Dreams Unlived
  1. Canopus 3
  2. Reduced To Nothingness
  3. Words Untold (instrumental)
  4. Circle Of My 2nd Life
  5. Engraved Within
  6. Forever
  7. Dreams Unlived (instrumental)
  8. Dead Man Walking
  9. From Where The Dark Is Born
  10. Thriven

Austria's SERENITY - who play Progressive Melodic Metal, or ProgPower as they claim it to be - was formed in 2001 and were soon confronted with the classic line-up changes. But that didn't stop them from continuing and so they recorded some demos and two years ago, they started working on their first album, which was released via Napalm Records on April 30, titled "Words Untold & Dreams Unlived". The album was recorded at Dreamscape Studios, Munich, as well as at home in Austria, mixed and mastered at Finnvox Studios, Helsinki, while orchestral parts were produced in Czech Republic and the whole artwork was done by Seth-Design in Athens, Greece.

"Words Untold & Dreams Unlived" starts with an eastern intro, after which progressive heaviness kicks in. Immediately it becomes clear that SERENITY have invested lots of effort to come up with nice melodies, hooks, breaks, but moreover the sound. Crystal clear, but not compromising on the heaviness aspect. "Canopus 3" is one of the few very nice songs on the album, to cut it short. Keyboards play a vital role in this and most other songs, to provide melody and atmospheric backing whenever required.

"Reduced To Nothingness" adds a bit more velocity, although there are calm breaks in the verses. The bridge however brings us a more than welcome epic, dark moment. Again melody is key here.

The similarities with SONATA ARCTICA, STRATOVARIUS and other bands in this perspective are not to be neglected. Georg's voice and that of Tony Kakko (SONATA ARCTICA) are also quite identical and although that can be nice, it does become boring after a couple of songs. If only Georg could add more roughness in his singing, referring to Tony would become less necessary.

There are - next to the heavier, midtempo songs - also two accoustic, instrumental breaks: "Words Untold" and - yes, you guessed it - "Dreams Unlived". Both are short, less than a minute, and you need to listen to the album a couple of times to understand why they were added. Musically it's not bad, but in my opinion not really necessary.

"Circle Of My 2nd Life" is a more energetic song that would do well on stage, with some nice guitarwork. Symphonic elements and the accoustic guitar make the song more interesting, to avoid going heavy all the way. But now - as I said above - the Tony Kakko voice is becoming annoying, no matter how good Georg can sing.

SAVATAGE is another band that can be used as an influence. The piano, atmospheric backing and guitar interventions in "Engraved Within" - just how everything is put together - can make you think of the "Gutter Ballet" or "Edge Of Thorns" album. But once the entire band is playing at full speed, you can't help but think this could have been a SONATA ARCTICA song. Rolling double bass and crunching guitars are key. Around the fourth minute there's an instrumental, epic moment: horns, drums, guitars. Slowly building up the pace, after which the obligate guitarsolo kicks in. Note that these solos - no matter which song - is always a welcome addition. It's a bit sad you never get solos that last for some minutes, but remain short, like the musicians in question either didn't think of a longer solo, or didn't want to prolong things or just... aren't good enough yet to take it a few steps further.

Midtempo, melodic song again: "Forever". But the tone is a bit depressing here. Are we dealing with a love song here? The chorus sounds good, but is nothing special. I understand that you couldn't sing about this in a fast way, but the first tunes did sort of indicate the pace would be fast, or at least faster than what it is now.

"Dead Man Walking" sounds quite groovy, again quite slow - hello, variety? At least one fast song would take this album to a higher level. Not that it's badly executed, but the music sounds quite tiresome. Ok, next.

In "From Where The Dark Is Born" the piano makes it entrance again and despite the rolling riffs and double bass, there's still no speed increase. Yes, it's heavy and the keyboards add more bombast and everything you want, but still... the tempo breaks don't help much either. Guys, crank up the pace. If you're so convinced you play Power Metal, why do you keep on clinging on to midtempo? Sure, Power Metal isn't about speed all the way, but faster songs are however a must, if you ask me.

Do I have to say how "Thriven" sounds, compared to the rest of the songs?

For a debut album, the whole sounds very well produced, the sound is absolutely top (mixed and mastered at Finnvox Studios in Helsinki, Finland), but... the album lacks variety, lacks speed, lacks originality. Although the band was inspired by several Progressive and more Melodic Metal bands, you - or at least, I - can't help but think that SERENITY is a more Progressive version of SONATA ARCTICA. The music and especially the vocals play a huge role in this.

When I heard the short samples, I was quite opitimistic about the band and their album. Yesterday I listened to it in the train and my opinion changed, but in the opposite direction and now I'm pretty positive about the Austrian's debut, but never 100%. SERENITY will need to work on their sound, on adding a personal stamp, since there are many ProgPower bands that were inspired by SONATA ARCTICA, STRATOVARIUS, and other bands in this genre. So all in all, it's a nice start, but I expect something more refreshing next time. And with at least one or two speedy songs.

More info at www.serenity-band.com.

Line-up:
Georg Neuhauser - vocals
Thomas Buchberger - guitars
Mario Hirzinger - keyboards
Simon Holzknecht - bass
Andreas Schipflinger - drums


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MOTHERNIGHT – Mothernight (Locomotive Records 2007)

Mothernight - Mothernight
  1. My Pain
  2. Someone To Feed On
  3. Another Chance?
  4. Ilumination
  5. Shadowsblack
  6. Resurrect Me
  7. Waiting To Die
  8. Don't Wanna Listen
  9. Infect Your Soul
  10. Hunger
  11. The Dawn
  12. Hello (bonus track, SHAKESPEARE'S SISTERS cover)

MOTHERNIGHT hails from Poland and combine rock, metal, industrial, cold wave and gothic sounds with a female vocal in the center. They started in 2000, born from the minds of guitarist Deimos and bass player Gabriel. Berith and Freya joined in respectively 2003 and 2004, when the band saw the advertisement of Freya, who was seeking a band. So one things leads to another and there you go, MOTHERNIGHT is complete.

First of all, if a band has an official website, then why is it so hard to find sufficient info on the band, who plays what, etc... This is another case of having a non-informative website. Luckily the band has a MySpace page where the who-plays-what aspect is shown more clearly.

The band's debut album - wich will come out on the 27th April - is indeed quite rocking and they offer a good mix of heavy tunes, but spiced with accoustic interventions and some samples that make the band go for a more Industrial approach. In the first song there are breaks where the guitar is kept silent to add more mystery and a dark atmosphere to the song. But the song drags itself forward at a slow rate and Freya's raspy voice becomes monotonous very rapidly.

Vocally you couldn't say that Freya has an angelic voice, because she hasn't. It has a certain roughness, like she's a smoker and there's also the accent. Of course, that's something that can improve over the years, but the voice itself won't ever be of the soft, more melodic kind. It's too raspy to make the change. Therefore after some songs you'll tend to push the Stop button and pick another CD.

"Someone To Feed On" continues the heavy-laden pace, but in "Another Chance?" the accoustic guitar makes its appearance. This is so far the better of the first three songs. In "Shadowsblack" the band has added some samples to make sure the atmosphere in general is cold and even a bit creepy. Again you have breaks to keep the guitar silent. And so it goes on, emphasis on the heavy, groovy guitar with here and there some Industrial-ish and accoustic elements. Concerning the tempo: it's never speedy at all. Hell, not even midtempo. The material drags itself on and on and on, but there's not really a song that makes me wild enthusiastic about MOTHERNIGHT. Every instrument comes out very well, but there are no guitar solos or anything solo-related at all to make the songs more alive, to make you really play the album another time. After a couple of songs it actually gets quite boring and the 19 minutes running "Hello" - where the music comes in at the last six minutes - certainly doesn't help either.

So, all in all... MOTHERNIGHT's first album is cold, is dark, is depressing. But so depressing you're in desperate need for some Death Metal, Power Metal or Thrash Metal. There are Funeral or Drone Doom bands that make more interesting material than this, although MOTHERNIGHT plays in a totally different league. In other words, I can't really recommend this album, unless you're going through an emo-period, want to end your so-called sucky life, etc...

More info at www.mothernight.eu.

Line-up:
Freya - vocals
Deimos - guitars
Gabriel - bass
Berith - drums


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THEE ORAKLE – Secret (Thee Orakle 2007)

Thee Orakle - Secret
  1. At The Gates Of Orakle
  2. Emptyness
  3. Queen Of Creation
  4. Secret
  5. Moment Of Eternity
  6. Sea Of Life
  7. Secret (radio edit - bonus track)

THEE ORAKLE is a Portuguese Metal band that plays a mix of Gothic/Death/Doom, or Gothic Doom meets Death/Doom. The band was formed in late 2004 by Fred and Romeu (both cousins), Luis and Pedro. In 2005 they entered the studio for a first demo, consisting of 5 songs, three of which made it onto the band's last release, the "Secret" EP, which came out in April - I don't know the exact date, though.. I got a copy to review in April 2008. THEE ORAKLE begins to receive positive comments from e.g. Breakthru Radio in the USA, the website Live4Metal.com and make a name thanks to national competitions. Last year was even better for the band as Metal Team UK and Metal-Observer.com write praising reviews about the EP. And the rest is history (more gigs, more radio play, ...).

The latest news about the band regards the recordings of their debut album, which is set for an early 2009 release. THEE ORAKLE will enter the studio in the summer of 2008 to start the recordings. The music will be slightly different: Progressive Death/Doom. Also, Daniel Almeida has replaced Vitor on bass.

But let's go back in time and focus on "Secret". Seven songs, actually six, since "Secret" appears twice, in a short and longer version. The intro, "At The Gates Of Orakle", consists of samples of winds, pages being turned and a dark sounding cello. Violins join in later, accompanied by drumsamples to build up the tension, to create the right atmosphere/setting. More and more layers are added via the drums, keyboards and samples until everything comes to a halt and "Emptyness" takes over. This is a pure Gothic Metal track, with the guitars playing a very important role. Keyboards serve as backing. Mika's chanting vocals are assisted by violins as a short bridge towards the brutal power (Black Metal-ish) that comes bursting out. Pedro's grunting comes as a surprise, I must say. Not that I expected other types of vocals, but he falls in very suddenly. Mika's clean, high-pitched singing is reserved for the chorus. It's supposed to be angelic, but it's far from the operatic kind of singing of many other Gothic bands. PARADISE LOST is one of the bands that come to mind in this song.

"My Queen Of Creation" has a certain melody, which returns in the chorus, that makes this song very recognisable and distinguish itself from the others. Again there are the beauty and the beast vocals together with the music sounding like PARADISE LOST meets LACUNA COIL. Mika's role is more important now, as she gets a more leading vocal role. Pedro's grunts are reserved for the chorus and post-chorus or however you wish to call it, as it's not one of the normal verses, nor is it a chorus. It does form a bridge to the next musical part, where things get more tranquil and psychedelic. Slowly the tempo and heaviness are rebuilt for the guitar solo leading the way towards the end, while not forgettting that distinguishable melody. A job well done, I must admit.

Symphonics play a bigger role in "Secret", although it's only briefly at first, in the intro. They return in the chorus. The verses are dominated by the piano/keyboard, whereas the guitar adds gentle touches and Mika has the honour to sing the first lyrics. Pedro takes over for the second part and bridge, where heaviness is the dominating factor. The transition to Mika's tranquil verses happens very smoothly and the contrast between the two is well executed. Around 04:30 a new part begins, dominated by atmospheric keyboards and gentle guitar- and drumwork. About one minute later the engine starts to roll again. Church bells announce the ending.

Something more punchy is desired at this point. The drums certainly fulfill this expectation in "Moment Of Eternity", although the speed doesn't make you work faster or anything. Still, it is what this is needed after the slower "Secret", also because the guitars and drums are the instruments being accentuated. Mika and Pedro sing together in the chorus, while each has his/her own parts to sing elsewhere in the song. The keyboards do come through, although in a subtle manner.

"Sea Of Life" continues this punchy kind of Metal and the production helps to maintain the raw power of the guitars. Since melody is still needed, the keyboards/piano step forward between the verses and bridge or chorus to step back and provide atmospheric backing. Little over halfway there's a nice part where it's just about those atmospheric keyboards and the drums, as all else is kept silent. The slowdown later is a bit of a tough moment, as it makes the song being dragged forward. Mika's chanting in the last minute or so only increases that and as good as she sings in the other songs, what she does here is nerve-wrecking and should be avoided at all cost. Not because it doesn't fit with the music, but because Mika's tone isn't right. When you put an operatic voice instead, then we might discuss again. So, overall, a pretty decent song, but the second half contains the downfall, so to speak. I did notice something EVERGREY-ish in that second part, mainly from "In The Wake Of The Weary", I think.

First a demo, now an EP and a certain number of months from now (June 2008) a full album, talk about not wasting time. THEE ORAKLE bring their Gothic meet Death/Doom with great passion and reminiscent of bands like PARADISE LOST, to name the biggest example. I could add DRACONIAN as well, but they still are a little different. "Secret" is a good pre-taste of things to come, but there is a sort of flow on this EP: the first few songs are good to very good, with catchy melodies, but my interest faded as the other songs passed by one by one, especially with "Sea Of Life". The production isn't always helpful to let out all the power and melodies, but for a self-release it's decent enough. If you want to get one of the remaining copies, just contact the band via their website. Or you could also wait for the full album to decide, because these Portuguese deserve to go further and improve along the way.

More info at www.theeorakle.com.

Line-up:
Pedrão - vocals
Mika - vocals
Romeu - guitars
Ricardo - guitars, vocals
Luis - keyboards, samplers
Vitor - bass
Fred - drums


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BLACK KNIGHT – The Beast Inside (Black Knight 2007)

Black Knight - The Beast Inside
  1. Intro
  2. Like To Ride
  3. Creatures
  4. Dreamer
  5. Screaming
  6. Prisoner
  7. Metal Sonny
  8. Who I Am

Little more than a month ago (I'm writing this on the 24th of February 2008) I received a mail from Rudolf P. Plooy, drummer of the Dutch Heavy Metal band BLACK KNIGHT, in which he asks for a review of his band's latest album, "The Beast Inside". Since I had never heard of them, I looked around a bit and found a website, but also references to PROFOUND, that Dutch Progressive band whose album "A World Of My Own Making" I reviewed in 2007 (see lower). Looking back at that review I saw that a few members had played in BLACK KNIGHT, but I never thought the latter would still be active.

Anyhow, a short trip back in time: Formed as CAPTURE in 1981, the band recorded two demos - "Demo 1" (1986) and "Excavated" (1992) - before changing their name into BLACK KNIGHT. It takes the band several line-up changes (see a.o. PROFOUND) and gigs (incl. support for ANNIHILATOR) to start writing their first album, "Tales From The Darkside", which came out in 1998 via Neon Records. Gigs remain the band's priority and 9 years later, album no. 2 is ready. I don't know when "The Beast Inside" came out, but my guess is April-May 2007, hence its position on this page.

Heavy Metal it is and this since more than 20 years. Seeing their discography is very small, it seems BLACK KNIGHT is more of a hobby thing than a real occupation, compared to other bands that have been playing Metal so long (IRON MAIDEN, JUDAS PRIEST, KILLER, SAXON, DIAMOND HEAD, METALLICA, ...).

The album kicks off with an intro: rain, howling winds, a man walking towards a warehouse? Then an operatic piece follows and litle by little we hear motor sounds, swords clashing, horses (the motored horse ;-)). "Like To Ride" is a logical next song, as our character (the knight) has hit the road with his monster. Ballsy vocals, rough riffing, rolling drums. JUDAS PRIEST anyone? The music is entirely in 80's style, which is a great thing amongst all the brutal works released the last couple of years. Little further in this song, around 04:20, the lead guitar plays a piece from ICED EARTH's "Jekyll & Hyde" ("Horror Show" album). Probably not on purpose, but it's a nice addition.

The tempo goes down a little in "Creatures", where the atmosphere is much darker and our character must be vigilant for any danger. Marcel adds some high-pitched screams (Rob Halford-style) to increase the contrast between the goodness of our knight and the evil of the danger he's encountering. When the screamy guitarsolos kick in, Rudolf also increases the tempo of his drumming. A very decent song, although it surely comes to life in a live setting. Musically you can compare it with DIO, MANOWAR, and the likes.

"Dreamer" starts calmy, with some chord picking. The tension gets slowly built up via the drums mainly. when everything stops and the main riff takes over, we've got the "Jekyll & Hyde" influence again, although not completely. Again the two vocal types are present, but the rougher one prevails. The tempo is not that high, but more important is that the song pounds. The production is good to very good and very realistic (and I absolutely hail that), but somehow something is missing to give the song that extra punch. This is a perfect example of how important or beneficial gigs can be, for I think "Dreamer" is another song of which the real power will come out on stage. Composition-wise this is a very varied track: heavy parts, breaks to prepare for the next assault, dreamy interludes, ... Very well done.

And we're off again for something faster: "Screaming", a title that needs little explanation. The drumming is to the point again, and an utmost welcome element after the slower songs. Marcel hits the high notes at the end of every phrase, the riffing is much more ferocious once more and the overall result gives you more energy to battle whatever there is to battle. I just love the pureness of the recordings. No plastic sound, no effects, no samples, no triggers, just pure and honest Heavy Metal! More of this!

In "Prisoner" the guitars sound meaner, angrier and the tempo remains high(er). This also counts for the rest of the album. Marcel adapted his voice accordingly, although he'll sound like Halford (no, not the high-pitched singing this time) or perhaps Freddy Persson from NOSTRADAMEUS in "Metal Sonny". When "Who I Am" (about being a Metalhead/fan) is there, he (Marcel) isn't the same as before. This song requires someone with a more powerful voice, which Marcel lacks. He tries to compensate that by singing clean and as 'full' as possible, but it has a reversed effect. It doesn't do the song any good.

While the first part of "The Beast Inside" is good and quite enjoyable, the second half is little less than that. I'm not talking about the execution, because that's flawless. It's just that our Dutch Heavy Metallers want to incorporate lots of different ideas in terms of riffs, drumming, tempos that it interrupts the flow of the songs. You get some guitar or drum breaks all of a sudden and when you think they'll accelerate again... you're wrong, for they go another way. Also, there's not that much that keeps sticking in your head regarding riffs, solos, or anything. "Like To Ride" and maybe "Dreamer" are the only exceptions.

I greatly value the realness of the recordings and the passion and drive these guys have, all being positive and important aspects of "The Beast Inside". My guess is that you need to see the band on stage to experience the songs the right way, although if they'd work the compositions, it would help a lot. BLACK KNIGHT do a decent job, even after all those years, at keeping the old school Heavy Metal spirit alive and fans of IRON MAIDEN, JUDAS PRIEST, SAXON and the likes shouldn't have much problems with this band and their music.

More info at www.blackknight.nl.

Line-up:
Marcel van der Haven - vocals
Bernie G. Flapper - guitars
Melvyn Christiaan - guitars
Hans P. Heider - bass
Rudolf P. Plooy - drums


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PROFOUND – A World Of My Own Making (Profound 2007)

Profound - A World Of My Own Making
  1. 0000
  2. When Silence Falls
  3. A Little Paradise
  4. Blossom
  5. Hidden Treasure
  6. Star Gazer
  7. Blinded
  8. Away Of Life
  9. The Land Of Dreams
  10. The Places I've Been

PROFOUND hail from Amsterdam, The Netherlands and play a Progressive kind of Rock. In fact, the band is a result of the demise of BLACK KNIGHT (I don't know why or if it's just a name change), who recorded one album: "Tales From The Darkside" (2000). Three years later, and with a new name, "Deep And Sincere" came out. Based on the audio samples on the band's website, you can tell there's quality in the band and most songs are quite rocking, with a few slower pieces.

The follow-up, "A World Of My Own Making" came out last month (26/04) and was mastered by Attie Bauw (a.o. HALFORD) at Studio Bauwhaus. Again the album commences with an instrumental intro, creating a nice atmosphere. "When Silence Falls" says it all: full power comes next, in midtempo style. Musically there are some similarities with the German Progressive Metalband ATMOSFEAR in terms of melody, clean/high-pitched vocals, .... Not that it's a problem, not at all. The song's Progressive in a way, but most importantly: it's actually quite catchy, which helps to get into the music. Everything comes out strong enough, but I think the material will be even better on stage.

"A Little Paradise" continues the midpaced tempo, but adds more breaks for the guitars. That way, the bass and drums come out better and this gives the song a nice feel. Pieter's voice is something to get used to, you either like it or you don't. But it does fit this kind of music. Around the fifth minute things get more to the point, no more breaks and you finally get a song in the vein of the previous record, although I have the impression "A World Of My Own Making" isn't as rocking as "Deep And Sincere".

Time for some rest and relaxation with the beautiful "Blossom". Gentle guitar plucking, atmospheric keyboard/piano backing. Damn, this is such a great song, it almost makes me cry. No, not going emo here, just acknowledging the quality of the music.

Accoustic and electric guitar going hand in hand, backed by bass and drums in "Hidden Treasure". They start off slow, but shortly before the 1st minute marker, there's a small power injection, after which Pieter joins his mates. Musically there are again the references to DREAM THEATER, JOE SATRIANI, some VANDEN PLAS. Around halfway over the third minute it's solo time. Jazzy drumming assisting the axemen, a result that should be great to see live. Unfortunately this part is too short. At 04:45 another similar piece follows and it's just great when the instruments take over. No disrespect to Pieter, not in the least, but his performance here is less interesting. He doesn't really add anything to the song, particularly in the second half.

In "Stargazer" Pieter agains goes for a a chanting approach, although the DREAM THEATER influences cannot be ignored. Everything is back on track here, musically and vocally. Gertjan and Richard are doing a splendid job on guitar. The drums too are not following a standard pattern, since Bas adds enough change to strenghten the listener's attention. Together with "When Silence Falls" this is one of the best tracks on the album.

And finally there's a song where the tempo really gets up:"Blinded". The guitars too sound a little heavier and this adds more balls to the whole. Another one that stands out.

The longest playtime is for "Away Of Life", where the bass and drums set the pace and tone. The tempo has decreased again. I do have the feeling that Pieter's voice is a bit too light here, especially during the heavier moments. The bass guitar remains a dominating and very important instrument. Around 04:00 the guitar solo kicks in and like in most other songs, this aspect is very important. Let the music do the talking is sometimes better and especially in Progressive music this is often the case.

"The Land Of Dreams" is a gentle song, of course with heavy interventions from Gertjan and Richard, but overall it's not such a great song. Pieter's input too is not that interesting. Luckily the JOE SATRIANI-ish "The Places I've Been" form a beautiful ending for the band's second release. The link with JOE SATRIANI is not only made because of the guitarparts, but also because we've got another intrumental song here. And what a song! Splendid material, I say. Great stuff.

"A World Of My Own Making", which is a self-release, and an album in which the band has put a lot of effort, is definitely worth checking out by anyone who likes melodic rock, Progressive rock/metal or just anyone who likes decent music. Everything sounds strong, well produced and whatever more. But not all is perfect - perfection doesn't exist, but still - since Pieter's voice is the element that I'm struggling most with. Sure, he can sing, let that be clear. When he reaches for the higher notes, that's when things get a little less good. Perhaps it is just a matter of taste or time, but I would recommend him to work on that, because it doesn't always go well with the music.

More info at www.profound.nu.

Line-up:
Pieter Bas Borger - vocals
Gertjan Vis - guitars
Richard Tseng - guitars
Ron Haykens - bass
Bas Moerbeek - drums


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KOTIPELTO – Serenity (AFM Records 2007)

Kotipelto - Serenity
  1. Once Upon A Time
  2. Sleep Well
  3. Serenity
  4. City Of Mysteries
  5. King Anti-Midas
  6. Angels Will Cry
  7. After The Rain
  8. Mr. Know-It-All
  9. Dreams And Reality
  10. Last Defender

STRATOVARIUS vocalist Timo Kotipelto has been pursuing a solo career since a couple of years and also started his own label High And Loud a couple of years ago. His first solo album "Waiting For The Dawn" came out in 2002 and was a mix of Hardrock and Powermetal. "Coldness" followed in 2004 and put the focus even more on Hardrock, without forgetting some touches of Powermetal like in STRATOVARIUS. And now, since STRATOVARIUS's new album is still in the process of being recorded, album number three is ready and will be in the shops on the 20th of April. The title: "Serenity". The lyrics on "Coldness" reflected a hard time in his life and its lyrics gave insight into the dark side of his personality, but on the new record the texts deal with how a Finnish man thinks about his life.

Timo Kotipelto is one of the best vocalists in Metal and show this not only on the studio albums, but live too he's very capable of giving the songs more power through his voice. So if you haven't seen him with his other band, i.e. under his own name, go and see for yourself and have a great evening. ;-)

But on to the new album, "Serenity". It all starts with the uptempo, keyboard-dominated and STRATOVARIUS-inspired "Once Upon A Time". And there you have him, Timo Kotipelto. After the dark "Coldness" this song sounds very happy and energizing. Also props for the different solos: guitar, keyboards and bass.

"Sleep Well" is a lot slower and more of a powerballad. Overall not bad, but the chorus could sound a bit annoying after a while. Don't play this song several times after another. ;-) The titletrack is next and cranks up the pace a little more, with a more groovy guitar. The midtempo continues in "City Of Mysteries". Perhaps for a reason, but I guess something faster would have made the flow more interesting. The chorus however is very beautiful, with multiple vocals. The solos also help in lifting this song to a higher level and overall this song could be a joy to experience live. Perhaps a bit complex and tricky to let the keyboards and guitars not disable the other, if you know what I mean.

"King Anti-Midas" is more to-the-point, but still very melodic thanks to the keyboards, which are a valuable instrument. This is clearly shown in the solo. "Angels Will Cry" is not as I expected - balladish. It's in fact quite an energy booster, but with a single bass drum in the verses, double in the chorus. This is another highlight on Timo's third album. "After The Rain" does fulfill the expectations. It's accoustic, not that bad, but actually nothing special either.

"Mr. Know-It-All" again adds more heaviness to the tracklisting and also is quite to-the-point. Janne's keyboard organ gives it a nice jazzy touch. Tuomas lets himself go on his guitar, making sure you're spoiled with fat riffing and brain-splitting solos.

The last two songs follow the pattern and we first get a slower/midtempo song: "Dreams And Reality". I wonder what the lyrics in this song are about, what Timo is trying to say considering the story of our Finnish man reflects on his life. Is this a more spiritual/religion-inspired song? Or about a relationship?

The last song is another accoustic one and somehow reminds of STRATOVARIUS' "Forever" off the "Episode" album (1996), at least for the first part. Around 01:30 the electric guitar and drums come in, backed by symphonic backing from the keyboards. Great riffs, wonderful melodies, gentle violin touches, epicness, ... this one has it all. Of the slower songs on this album, "Last Defender" is the best, or at least the second best and also a great song to end an overall very enjoyable album on which the songs do justice to the title.

Timo Kotipelto can be proud of his third album and has shown what a great musician he is. In fact, none of his albums suck or are to be ignored. Sure, they are not the best in their Powermetal meets Hardrock 'genre', but they are qualitative pieces of heavy music. "Serenity" is another proof of that.

More info at www.kotipelto.com.

Line-up:
Timo Kotipelto - vocals
Tuomas Wäinölä - guitars
Lauri Porra - bass
Janne Wirman - keyboards
Mirka Rantanen - drums


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ELDRITCH – Blackenday (Limb Music Products 2007)

Eldritch - Blackenday
  1. Silent Flame
  2. The Deep Sleep
  3. The Blackened Day
  4. Why
  5. Black Rain
  6. Broken Road
  7. Rumors
  8. Frozen
  9. The Child That Never Smiles
  10. The Fire
  11. Shallow Water Flood
  12. Never Dawn

Italy's ELDRITCH was formed back in 1991, the year of METALLICA's self-titled album, SOLITUDE AETURNUS's "Into The Depths Of Sorrow", ATHEIST's "Unquestionable Presence", DEATH's "Human", SEPULTURA's "Arise", SAVATAGE's "Streets", etc... Just to say that 1991 was a great year for Metal.

Playing mainly Progressive influenced Metal, the band got the attention of LMP founder Limb Schnoor, who helped the band release their debut "Seeds Of Rage" in 1995. Apparently this was quite a success and 1997's "Headquake" did even better, and ELDRITCH got to tour with Brazilian Progressive Powermetallers ANGRA.

One year later they added more Thrashy elements to their music, which can be heard on "El Nino". And along the road they progressed towards more Thrash than Progressive, but they never left out the Progressive pattern. Basically you could say ELDRITCH = Progressive Metal with Thrash influences.

And so it goes on. The only album I had heard by this band was 2004's "Portrait Of The Abyss Within" and I didn't find it that interesting. Perhaps I should also have checked out their older material, but well... maybe some other time.

But now the Italians are back with their seventh album, "Blackenday", and this one as well will soon be released via LMP (on April 20). It's very obvious, after listening to the new record that ELDRITCH is moving more towards a MACHINE HEAD/PANTERA/EIDOLON/... kind of sound and songs. Examples of that can be heard in... almost every song. But those that sound the closest and thus less Progressive are "Black Rain", "Frozen", "The Child That Never Smiles" and "The Fire".

In the other songs there is still enough melody and change to be categorized under Progressive Metal. Even the ballad "Broken Road" is well done. I have to say that "Blackenday" cetainly is much better than "Portrait Of The Abyss Within". It probably would be better to compare with last years "Neighbourhell", but since I don't know how that one sounds...

Pluspoints go to the decent musicianship (nice guitar work, incl. solos, quite varied drumwork, ...), and the mix (again done by R.D. Liapakis), which made every instrument come out very well. Yes, even the bass guitar.

To conclude it's easy to say that ELDRITCH dwell between Progressive Metal and the more groovy Thrash kind like MACHINE HEAD and PANTERA. With "Blackenday" the band has made a very decent album that should please fans of the mentioned bands and I'm pretty sure its own fans too. For me, it's not a super album that makes me crave for it, but the result is commendable.

More info at www.eldritchweb.com.

Line-up:
Terence Holler - vocals
Eugene Simone - guitars
Roberto 'Peck' Proietti - guitars
John Crystal - bass
Dave Simeone - drums


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DELPHIAN – Unravel (Lion Music 2007)

Delphian - Unravel
  1. Starting To Unravel
  2. Creation
  3. Sleepless Lullaby
  4. Focus On Acid
  5. Black & Blue
  6. Hidden
  7. Undone
  8. Air

DELPHIAN, another Progressive Metalband I had never heard of if it wasn't for drummer Roel van Helden (see also SUN CAGED). Well, perhaps I would have seen their albums at the shop, but someone or something has to give a first puch, right? ;-) Anyhow, this is not like any other Progressive band. The biggest difference is Aniek Janssen. In other words, we're dealing with a female vocalist here and one who sure as hell can sing. Although it takes some time to adjust to her voice. Comparisons? Hm.. perhaps a lighter version of EPICA singer Simone Simons, or maybe something along the lines of Maria Breon (HOLYHELL), although Aniek's voice lies closer to that of Simone.

DELPHIAN was formed some seven years ago by guitarist Coert Bouten and drummer Roel van Helden, who completed the line-up by adding the others along the way until every position was filled. This search lasted until the summer of 2003. One year later, a first DemoCD is recorded and results in a deal with Lion Music, which also houses SUN CAGED, NIGHTSCAPE, METAL MAJESTY, MIND'S EYE, HOUSE OF SHAKIRA and many others.

In 2005 the band's first album, "Oracle", was released upon the public and received quite good remarks. On this album the band was very much Progressive. They haven't abandoned this genre on the new record, "Unravel" - which came out on the 20th April -, but did decide to opt for a more melodic (Hard)rock orientated style

"Starting To Unravel" is a great opening track: heavy, crunchy guitars that dominate throughout the entire playtime, varied drumming and a guitar melody they 'borrowed' from METALLICA's "Fade To Black". More specifically the part that sets in the chorus.

While Aniek sounded like a light-version of Simone Simons on the debut, she now completely erased the connection, as she sings more in a normal way (not soprano or anything operatic).

Wait.. is that Beyoncé Knowles? Nooo! In "Creation" you could mistake Aniek for Beyoncé. Perhaps not 100%, but still. Strange, but personally I don't like it. Double bass assists the guitars in the second half of the song and this adds more power. Roel also gets his 15 seconds of fame (well, a little more ;-)) to add some crazy drumfills. The song itself is not bad, but nothing super either. But who knows, it might come out very strong on stage.

The music does the title "Sleepless Lullaby" lots of justice, as you get calm, relaxing compositions with gentle percussion and Aniek dwelling through the playing. To be honest, this would make a nice instrumental song as well. But heaviness kicks in at around 02:30 for almost 2 minutes, before the starting calmer part returns to take its place and end the song.

The same crunchy guitars come back in "Focus On Acid", but this time it's Aniek and her flute that determine the melody right before the verses. The bridge is much calmer, but the guitars remain active, albeit in a subtle manner. "Black & Blue" starts in a Jazzy manner, before continuing in Hardrock style. Here you also get some solotime, but once Aniek opens her mouth again... sorry to say, but it was better when it was shut. At that moment she just sings too high and since it sounds quite sharp, so to speak, this doesn't really match the melody that comes from the guitars.

"Hidden" starts heavy, showing it's got balls. Very melodic, Aniek sounding better again - if you try not to think in the direction of Beyoncé, although it's not always like this, fortunately. Mainly when she sings "I Don't Know Why, I Don't Know How I'm Gonna Keep You Out" - and the rhythm is also well chosen. Around 02:30 there's a nice Jazzy moment.

Going for a more direct approach in "Undone", the guitars and drumming sound very much to the point, while Aniek's voice has some effects over it. No use of keyboards on the entire album, all comes from the guitars and awkward or not, but this works extremely well as the guitars fulfill the part of - duh - the guitars, but also the keyboards. Aniek playing the flute also helps.

Oh wait, forget that. There are keys, although it probably is a real piano, played by no one else but Rene Kroon (SUN CAGED). This is in the long and closing song "Air". The first part if Aniek backed by the piano, but the piano remains very important throughout the song. Very nice, I must say and no traces of any Pop or R'n'B singer. ;-) After two minutes, in comes the voice of Leon Brouwer of THE BARSTOOL PHILOSOPHERS (thank you, Google). Nice to hear a duet here, but to be honest Leon isn't the world's best vocalist either. I think someone like Gerd Hanssens (THE DIFFERENCE), Silvio Massaro (VANISHING POINT) or maybe Marco Hietala (NIGHTWISH, TAROT) would fit in better. Around 07:45 the entire band kicks in, our two vocalists of course continue their duet, but then it's time for the obligate guitar solo. And how welcome it is.

Conclusion: With "Oracle" it was not easy to get into the songs, but once some small obstacles were conquered, you were treated with nice female-fronted, Progressive Metal with here and there a song with more balls than the other. On "Unravel" you still get heavy music, with the typical ingredients as tempo changes, (at times) touching melodies and Aniek's slightly changed voice, where she should pay attention to possible Pop or R'n'B comparisons. But overall, she's proven again what a great voice she has, although perhaps some tweakings wouldn't hurt. ;-) "Unravel" is however also a change towards more melodic (Hard)rock, and thus indicating they have found a style that suits them best - doing the title justice, right?

More info at www.delphian-metal.nl.

Line-up:
Aniek Janssen - vocals, flute
Coert Bouten - guitar
Marcel Volleberg - guitar
Sjoerd Hoeijmakers - bass
Roel van Helden - drums, percussion


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INTENSE – As Our Army Grows (Napalm Records 2007)

Intense - As Our Army Grows
  1. Anger Of The Ancients
  2. Mirror Shroud
  3. Our Last Hope
  4. You Die Today
  5. Insanity's Call
  6. Temptress
  7. Fear Is Not Enough
    - Chronicles Of The New Flesh (Trilogy) -
  8. Trojan Transmission
  9. Strange New World
  10. Long Live The New Flesh

INTENSE is a British Heavy/Power Metal band that has been in existence since the early '90s and it has taken them quite some demos and an EP in 1997 ("Dark Season") before making their first full album, "Second Sight", which came out in 2004. I remember having listenend to it in the shop last year, but the material didn't give me much superenergizing feelings, although it was pretty decent.

INTENSE are compared to the likes of ICED EARTH and NEVERMORE, although the first is heavier and I consider NEVERMORE more Thrashy than Power Metal. On their MySpace page the band even added IRON MAIDEN, DREAM THEATER, KAMELOT and BLIND GUARDIAN, but I wouldn't go that far. Especially not regarding KAMELOT and DREAM THEATER. IRON MAIDEN and BLIND GUARDIAN could count as similar bands, but those links aren't easily made. You really need to be acquainted with those bands' discography. If I may add one band with whom I - in a way - at certain moments compare INTENSE's newest work ("As Our Army Grows", released on April 2) with: VANISHING POINT and more specifically the vocals and certain melodies and/or choruses.

Like with the debut, the band again asked for the guidance of THRESHOLD guitarist Karl Groom in his Thin Ice Studios, together with band mate Richard West. It's only since January that INTENSE managed to get a contract with the Austrian label Napalm Records. but this should make the band more known in Europe and perhaps around the world as well.

Most songs on this new record dwell in the midtempo zone, but enough attention was paid to add some speed boosters, although it never reaches the speed of e.g. DRAGONFORCE's, GAMMA RAY's, IRON SAVIOR's, DIVINEFIRE's, etc... material. But you get the idea.

Because of the multiple layers, it is advised to listen to the album several times to fully grasp it all, because the disc contains some very nice Metal. Perfect examples of that are not only in the musicianship, the instrumental skills, but more specifically in following examples:

"Anger Of The Ancients" - quite aggressive and will do splendid on stage
"Mirror Shroud" - a little slower, but not at all lighter
"Our Last Hope" - very epic and Progressive, but with uptempo drumming
"You Die Today" - great riffs with atmospheric backing via the keyboards. Neil's footwork also deserves credit. The chorus is also worth mentioning. And how dare I forget the amazing solos? Amazing stuff.

Oops, I'm going down the tracklisting, hahaha. :-) But these songs are definitely solid material. "Insanity's Call" is more of a resting point with its accoustic guitars in the intro and calmer way of playing in the rest of the song. More like a power ballad. "Temptress" is a less good song, so let's go to "Fear Is Not Enough", which is again a bit more Progressive. Here too the guitar work is really thumbs-up and I'd love to see Dave and Nick do it live. Uptempo drumming gives your attention some more liveliness again, but beware of the slower chorus. Too much repetition can make it dull and tiresome, but the song ends with an aggressive drum and guitar intervention, so no worries here.

After these seven songs, there's the "Chronicles Of The New Flesh" trilogy, with the very solid "Trojan Transmission" as a start. Part 2, "Strange New World", is slower and pretty boring, if I may say so. Luckily "Long Live The New Flesh" is a more active, more energetic song with galopping bass drums. The chorus is slow, melodic, and the keyboards play another important role here.

"Second Sight" was good, but never spectacular. With "As Our Army Grows" I think these British Metallers have made some progress and most of the album is indeed quite decent and luckily keeps it on a satisfying level. The guys surely put a lot of effort in making this album and if I were to give it a score - I'm no score lover, as numbers don't tell anything about an album - I'd say between 7 and 7.5/10. Higher is more suited for their live performances, I think, where a lot of the new material will come out very strong. So all in all, "As Our Army Grows" is a nice record to listen to.

More info at www.intense-uk.com.

Line-up:
Sean Hetherington - vocals
Nick Palmer - guitars
Dave Peak - guitars
Stephen Brine - bass
Neil Ablard - drums


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BURDEN OF GRIEF – Death End Road (Remedy Records 2007)

Burden Of Grief - Death End Road
  1. Death End Road
  2. Vita Reducta
  3. Swallow The Sun
  4. The Game
  5. Running Scared
  6. The Killer In Me
  7. Drown In Sorrow
  8. Schizophrenic
  9. Passion Of The Night
  10. Road Of Visions
  11. Smashed To Pieces '07 (bonus track)
  12. Immense Infinity '07 (bonus track)

BURDEN OF GRIEF is a German Melodic Death/Thrash band that will release its newest album, "Death End Road", on the 30th of March via Remedy Records. Prior to this new release the band made the following records, next to a couple of appearances on tribute albums:

"Fields Of Salvation" (2004 - Remedy Records / Soulfood)
"On Darker Trails" (2001 - Massacre Records / Connected)
"Haunting Requiems" (2000 - Grind Syndicate Media / Point Music)
"Above Twilight Wings" (1997 - selfproduced Demo MCD)
"A Duet Of Thoughts" (1996 - selfproduced Demo Tape)

BURDEN OF GRIEF was formed in late summer of 1994 nd have so far released two demos and including the forthcoming one, four albums. It seems like a typical characteristic when starting a band, but BURDEN OF GRIEF also knew some line-up changes. More about that can of course be found on the band's website.

This is again a band that's new to me, except for the name. "Death End Road" starts with an intro, but is nothing compared to the heaviness that comes through with "Vita Reducta", where similarities with CHILDREN OF BODOM are certainly well-placed. Musically heavy parts are mixed with a slower, melodic chorus. The (low) screams are quite good, but could be annoying after a while. "Swallow The Sun" promises to be better, at least the intro sounds very nice. Then the pace is set, with the pedal down, but again taking back some speed for the chorus. Variation is key here, to keep the attention vivid, although I would have preferred to see more uptempo parts.

"The Game" starts in midtempo style and you'd think it will continue like this, but then a short drumroll and off they go. If you listen well enough you can hear similarities with CONTRADICTION, and their "The Warchitect" (2006). All in all "The Game" is quite a good song.

"Running Scared" features great drumming, uptempo, vicious, instantly taking you by the throat. Mike's harsh vocals don't seem to suffer from this kind of singing. And here we have another thumbs up song. Sure, it's nothing original and nothing groundbreaking or whatever, but it's just very solid.

After the intro, a not so bad "Victa Reducta" and two quite solid songs, it seems the band found the right spirit to continue, which is again proven by the very nice and absolutely killer "The Killer In Me". Brutality reigns thanks to the riffing, but also the splendid drumming. Musically, especially in the verses, you could think of ONE MAN ARMY AND THE UNDEAD QUARTET's debut "21st Century Killing Machine", and more specifically the uptempo songs.

The fast pace is even set forth with "Drown In Sorrow", although a bit slower than before. Still, it contains all the necessary ingredients to get you pumped up, to channel your rage, to upset your neighbours/teachers/colleagues. And if this wasn't enough... BURDEN OF GRIEF just keeps on going. Just listen to "Schizophrenic"Another aggressive track with uptempo at well-chosen moments. And those moments are sheer bliss. *drools* Here I can't help but refer to SCORNAGE, CONTRADICTION, and more contemporary Thrash bands.

Thundering drums and scratching riffs are used in a first midtempo part of "Passion Of The Night", after which there's a tempo increase. Needless to say this does the song a lot of good. Something a little faster would be welcome, but then it would be monotonous after the last couple of tracks of speed. Still there's a nice division between slower, melodic and faster moments. Another solid song, but I prefer the previous ones.

"Road Of Visions", which closes the normal tracklisting, leaves the heavy guitars away in the verses, but they do return for the bridge and chorus. This is probably the slowest song on the album and to be honest, I'm not that fond of it. I like slower songs, but here it doesn't work that well.

Now for the bonustracks, which are apparently re-recorded older songs: "Smashed To Pieces" is - as the title explains - a to the bone uptemop Thrash song and o so great. And the same counts for "Immense Infinity", although you do get some breakdowns here and there. But those extra songs sure are well-chosen and even make this album more interesting.

BURDEN OF GRIEF has made quite a good record with "Death End Road", filled with overall very nice melodic Thrash songs that any fan of this music should love. This is also a good medicine for stressy days or when you like to get more energy, ready for whatever task awaits you.

More info at www.burdenofgrief.de.

Line-up:
Mike - vocals
Joe - guitars
Philipp - guitars
Florian - bass
Robb - drums


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MOONLIGHT AGONY – Silent Waters (Dockyard 1 2007)

Moonlight Agony - Silent Waters
  1. Leaving Solitude
  2. You Betrayed Me
  3. Soulless
  4. Through The Desert Storm
  5. The Dark Era
  6. I'm Alive
  7. Room 101
  8. Differnt Stories
  9. The Blood Red Sails
  10. Solemn Waters

MOONLGHT AGONY is stationed in Sweden and has been active since 1999, at a time when they played Melodic Powermetal in the vain of HELLOWEEN and BLIND GUARDIAN. If you read their biography, you'll notice that the curse of line-up changes affected them as well. MOONLIGHT AGONY released a couple of demos before working on their debut "Echoes Of A Nightmare", which came out in 2004 and had Chity Sompala on vocals. Pretty soon, the band parted ways with him due to geographical reason. Another band where Chity didn't stay, see also AVALON, FIREWIND, FARO and COURT JESTER. He's now active in RED CIRCUIT, DOMAIN and CIVILIZATION ONE.

Now, three years later, the Swedes are back with a new album called "Silent Waters" - which came out on March 26 - and sound very strong, perhaps stronger than ever. I'm still wondering why I haven't bought their "Echoes Of A Nightmare" yet, as it's actually quite a good album, at least based on those few samples on their website. The sound is very powerful and the guitars come out great, all thanks to EVERGREY mainman Tom S. Englund and producer Arnold Lindgren.

"Silent Waters" has these great, somewhat blunt sounding guitars and quite powerful drumwork. New singer David Åkesson does a more than outstanding job and fits in very well with the melodies. From the first song, "Leaving Solitude", you can hear clear resemblances with SYMPHONY X, DREAM THEATER and perhaps some PAGAN's MIND. This not in the least because of the riffs and mainly keyboards.

The mystical intro of "You Betrayed Me" announces something's great about to come out of the speakers. Tens of seconds later, a heavy outburst is there, with the rolling drums backing it. Since we're dealing with a Progressive band here you get the obvious, but damn well executed and thought of tempo changes and epic breaks. After this, around the third minute, it's solo time. Needless to say how great this sounds and how majestic the drumming is. There are some very complex parts in the pattern Robert plays.

Chuggish guitars and radio-effects in the first parts of "Soulless", which is much slower and more dramatic. Pretty much like some of EVERGREY's songs, who also served as inspiration for the calmer moments. Keyboards for the atmosphere and gently playing in the back, while the guitars and double bass drums are more in front for the sake of power. David shows he's got quite a throat for his, be it more melodic tunes or heavier interventions.

And the ride goes on "Through The Desert Storm" into "The Dark Era", where pounding riffs and thundering drums come blasting out of the speakers. The solo time contains great chuggish riffs and the keyboards taking turns like in PAGAN'S MIND "Dreamscape Lucidity". Awesome part! Without question is "The Dark Era" one of the best tracks on "Silent Waters".

And so it goes on - I'm not going to tackle every song since the recipe is overall the same -, heavy riffs, very diverse and complex drumming and atmospheric (symphonic even) keyboard parts. Everything is so well executed, incl. the different tempo and mood changes, and despite the average running time of 4 minutes per song, you have the impression it's much longer. These Swedes have put so much into every song, you need to listen to the album a couple of times to hear and grasp it all.

I cannot conclude anything else but recommending this to any fan of Progressive Metal and Progressive Powermetal. Do you like SYMPHONY X, PAGAN'S MIND, DREAM THEATER and whoever else plays in this league, then MOONLIGHT AGONY is a name to remember and "Silent Waters" an album to have in your collection.

More info at www.moonlightagony.com.

Line-up:
David Åkesson - vocals
Kalle Landin - guitars
Rickard Petersson - guitars
Martin Mellström - keyboards
Christer 'Zigge' Pedersen - bass
Robert Willstedt - drums


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SUN CAGED – Artemisia (Lion Music 2007)

Sun Caged - Artemisia
  1. Lyre's Harmony
  2. A Fair Trade
  3. Unborn
  4. Boodlines
  5. Painted Eyes
  6. Engelbert The Inchworm
  7. Afraid To Fly
  8. Dialogue
  9. Departing Words
  10. Doldrums

Dutch Progressive Metalband SUN CAGED was formed in the spring of 1999 and soon became a full-time band when guitarist Marcel Coenen's other band LEMUR VOICE broke up in 2000. As usual, the band recorded some demos, got a record deal with Lion Music and found AYREON mainman Arjen Lucassen willingly enough to mix their debut album, which came out in 2003.

Lots of gigs and some line-up changes later - Marcel Coenen seems to be the only original member left - SUN CAGED is ready to show the world their second album, "Artemisia", which was released on March 23. Prior to this release, Marcel Coenen released his second solo album last year under the title "Colour Journey", for which he got help from several guest musicians. See here for more info.

But back to SUN CAGED. Before drummer Roel van Helden sent me a copy for this review, I only knew the band by name, but I do have Marcel Coenen's "Colour Journey". On this record you can really hear what Marcel has in him, what guitar skills he has and although on this album he follows several directions, it does give you a good impression of what to expect from SUN CAGED.

You get Progressive Metal like SYMPHONY X, VANDEN PLAS, ATMOSFEAR, EVERGREY and more. Of course, each band adds its own stamp so they aren't considered as clones from the others. "Artemisia" has a running time of some 70 minutes, which isn't abnormal as you get lots of variety, tempo changes, great arrangements and whatever more.

This isn't different with SUN CAGED. Considering the long playtime (average of 6-7 minutes per song) and thus many layers and changes, it's hard to discuss every song. Heaviness rules of course, but along the way the band adds calmer parts, more exotic passages (e.g. some salsa, a trip to India and the use of a xylophone in "Departing Words").

Rene, who replaces Joost van den Broek (AFTER FOREVER), does a more than good job in creating the right atmosphere and knows when the song needs a more mystic turn to lure the listener inside the compositions. The American vocalist Paul Adrian Villareal is another new member, replacing André Vuurboom. The latter apparently is not to be underestimated, but Paul is doing a very nice job, too. His clean, melodic and in a way warm voice suits the music splendidly. Bass player Roel's input also deserves credit, as he gets the chance for some jazzy touches and a couple of solo-ish interventions. Marcel's guitarwork is - needless to say, in fact - superb and makes you long for more. Great riffing, even some shredding, very useful and fitting solos. But when the music requires more peaceful parts, Marcel is ready for those as well. Drummer Roel van Helden at last is also very capable of playing the Progressive Metal that SUN CAGED provides. Tempo changes, breaks, grooves... he can play it all.

Not tackling every song here, but songs that stood out for me - and now I have to watch out that I don't list every song ;-) - are the following:

"Lyre's Harmony", "A Fair Trade", "Unborn" (great chorus), "Bloodlines", "Engelbert The Inchworm" (breathtaking drumwork and melodies. Lots of attention for instrumental parts) and "Departing Words".

To conclude I can tell you this: what an amazing album! Perhaps a bit boring after a first listen, but that's normal. You get a good 70 minutes playtime, with lots of music in each song - yes, even the 'short' ones like "Painted Eyes" and "Engelbert The Inchworm", who are only 4 and ½ minutes long. The trick is to give this album multiple spins, because then its beauty will come flowing out of the speakers. Also, free your mind from clutter and whatever more, because this is not easy-listening stuff. Great rhythms, complex arrangements, beautiful melodies, amazing drumwork... anything even the bigger Progressive bands offer. SUN CAGED is on the right path and any Progressive fan should check out "Artemisia".

More info at www.suncaged.com.

Line-up:
Paul Adrian Villerreal - vocals, acoustic guitar
Marcel Coenen - guitars
Roel Vink - bass
Rene Kroon - keyboards
Roel van Helden - drums, percussion


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KILL THE ROMANCE – Take Another Life (Locomotive Records 2007)

Kill The Romance - Take Another Life
  1. I'm Alive
  2. Prey
  3. Ghost White Coma
  4. Inner Cell
  5. Trespasser
  6. Friend
  7. Pulse Of Negative
  8. Breath
  9. Wordlwide Destruction
  10. My Sweetest Enemy
  11. Dark Filth Water

What do you get when you put IN FLAMES, SOILWORK, CHILDREN OF BODOM, ARCH ENEMY and AMON AMARTH in a blender? Yes, you still get Melodic Death Metal, but usually you can easily distinct one band from the other. With the mix of the above, you hear all the characteristics of these bands, and this can be found on the debut album of the new Finnish Melodic Death Metal band KILL THE ROMANCE.

KILL THE ROMANCE was founded three years ago, in 2004, and soon recorded their first (self-titled) MCD. RiseStar thought it would be good to further promote the band and offered them a one-year contract. After 2005's EP "Logical Killing Project", the five guys wrote one more EP, "Cyanide", and in 2006 Locomotive Records decided to sign them. The first result of this collaboration is "Take Another Life", which saw the light of day only a couple of days ago (23/03).

Ville's growls and screams are well executed and he has paid careful attention to Alexi Laiho and Johan Hegg, to name just these. But he can also go for a cleaner approach. Unfortunately this doesn't work so well, as the choruses of e.g. "Ghost White Coma" and "Inner Cell" demonstrate. But also in the majority of the other songs, Ville's clean vocals are not to be kept silent. But like I said, it all sounds much better when Ville's rougher side comes to life.

Musically this is however great headbanging material with lots of Thrashy playing: "I'm Alive", "Prey", "Trespasser", (the list goes on)... The riffs are razor-sharp and the drums are silent killers. Well.. silent? Guitar solos are also present and mostly functional, but nevertheless well done.

"Take Another Life" is a vicious album and perfect for the occasions where you are pissed at someone for whatever reason and you need a way out, something to vent your anger. Just put on this disc, but make sure you're not in an area where you can hurt people or break things. ;-) It's not something original - just look at the referred bands - but it's good for a change. These Finns can only get better.

More info at www.killtheromance.com.

Line-up:
Ville Hovi - vocals
Antti Kokkonen - guitars
Tomi Luoma - guitars
Raimo Posti - bass
Mika Tanttu - drums


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GUTBUCKET – Gutbucket (Armageddon Music 2007)

Gutbucket - Gutbucket
  1. Short Goodbye
  2. Show
  3. Burn The Radio
  4. Light Your Fire
  5. Your Finger
  6. Ink sukka
  7. Aint Got Time
  8. Gimme Some Action
  9. Engine Burning
  10. Body Go Whooo
  11. You Never
  12. It Started Off Bad

GUTBUCKET hails from Germany, playing straight-forward rock. Founded in 1998, the band has so far released three albums - "Skyrider" (2000), "Bullfight Blues" (2003), "Gutbucket" (2007) - and that thus includes their latest self-titled effort, which came out a week ago (23/03) via Armageddon Music. I haven't heard their previous records, so a comparison can't be made. Recently the band did tour with ROSE TATTOO and SAXON, so that should give them lots of promotion and recognition.

Peter has a greasy voice with a certain light roughness that suits this music style a lot, but he's not exactly the world's best vocalist either. The songs contains lots of groove and will do good on stage. The short running times (average of 3 minutes) also help in keeping the attention vivid. 1-2 minutes longer and it could get boring.

The material is very radio-friendly, but the strange thing is: you never hear those bands on the radio. At least not here in Belgium. I think that the German radio stations are a bit more open to this kind of rock. One band I can compare GUTBUCKET with, at least based on Peter's voice, is PURE INC. from Switzerland. But there are plenty of other bands out there that play in the same league.

All in all this is a not-so-bad record, but it won't win any awards. One last note: this is something from the press text: "You're into real rock bands with no frills, are sick of boring tempo or guitar riffs that make your eyes fall shut?". My answer to that is: yes, but GUTBUCKET's songs - not all of them, ofcourse - contain boring tempos and dito riffs. In my opinion, this self-titled release is really (!) part of the "once in a while" list. Unless you are into those kind of rockbands.

More info at www.gutbucket.de.

Line-up:
Peter - vocals
Dr. Uwe - guitars
Battermann - bass
Schröderone - drums


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EMERALD SUN – Escape From Twilight (Limb Music Products 2007)

Emerald Sun - Escape From Twilight
  1. Sunrise
  2. Scream Out Loud
  3. High In The Sky
  4. The Traveller
  5. Sword Of Light
  6. Eyes Of Prophecy
  7. Escape From Twilight
  8. Emerald Sun
  9. H.M.
  10. The Story Begins
  11. Not Alone

EMERALD SUN seems to be Greece's new hope in the Powermetal genre. The band was formed in 1998, but it's only now that they managed to release their debut, "Escape From Twilight", and this on March 23 via Limb Music Products. The album was mixed and mastered by R.D. Liapakis, who seems to be LMP's first choice for its bands nowadays. In 2003 and 2004 the band did release two demos: "Sword Of Light" and "High In The Sky".

Where do I start? It's Melodic Powermetal like it's been done countless times before. Just listen to HELLOWEEN, GAMMA RAY, SONATA ARCTICA, STRATOVARIUS, (old) EDGUY, GALLOGLASS, HEAVENLY, RHAPSODY... Jimmy's high-pitched voice, very clean like Michael Kiske and Ben Sotto (HEAVENLY) and perhaps a bit of Claudio Conti (KALEDON) is one typical characteristic of the genre. Next to that the melodies, the riffing, the double-basss drumming, the epic themes. The whole package, in fact.

So, is it really necessary to describe each song? Indeed not. The sound is not killer (R.D. Liapakis has done better in the past), but it will please the avid Powermetal fans who can't get enough of this music. For the more citical Metalhead there's better material on the market, but "Escape From Twilight" will be nice to listen to every [insert number] months. But EMERALD SUN being Greece's new Powermetal hope? Hardly.

More info at www.emeraldsun.gr.

Line-up:
Jimmy Santrazami - vocals
Teo Savage - guitars
Johnny Athanasiadi - guitars
Fotis 'Sheriff' Toumanides - bass
Jim Tsakirides - keyboards
B-Wicked - drums


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BE'LAKOR – The Frail Tide (Be'Lakor 2007)

Be'Lakor - The Frail Tide
  1. Neither Shape Nor Shadow
  2. The Desolation Of Ares
  3. Tre'Aste
  4. A Natural Apostasy
  5. Paths
  6. Sanguinary

BE'LAKOR is a new Australian Metal band, musically situated in the Melodic Death Metal category. The band was founded a few years ago and since March this year their first release is ready: "The Frail Tide". Lyrically BE'LAKOR is inspired by - and I quote - "the grandeur in nature, the ideals of paganism and the drive to recapture true spiritualism and heroism in an age of materialism and religious sterility".

"Neither Shape Nor Shadow" kicks off this first album. Wonderful leads and harmonies and AMON AMARTH-like growling. The song is neatly divided into different parts: a midtempo one, yet heavy. An accoustic break follows to prepare the listener for the full attack, which is pure Thrashy Melodic Death Metal. The keyboards play a very important role, not just as an 'emotional' instrument, but also to increase the 'melodic' aspect. There is simply nothing wrong with this song, all elements are perfectly connected. Even the vocals are really high-quality. Hell, they could ask AMON AMARTH's Johan Hegg or HAGGARD's Asis for a guest appearance on their next album, to sing/growl one song himself or do a duet with George. The last part also plays on the emotions with the atmospheric, symphonic keyboards.

The guitars (fade-out, fade-in) form the bridge with "The Desolation Of Ares". Drums assist and give the intro a dark and evil character. No uptempo parts here, but still heavy and really getting to you. You get sucked in and there are no means to escape. The sad piano melodies and dito lead guitarparts sure add to the sorrowful feeling that is created here. Little over halfway the accoustic guitar comes back into play as an intermediate part, after which the next, touching part comes long. Heaviness soon takes over again, with the thundering drums. With all these changes - and more is to come afterwards - I think BE'LAKOR isn't just a Melodic Death Metal band, as the regular bands don't incorporate so much different melodies, riffs, drum patterns, ... This is very qualitative Progressive Melodic Death Metal.

"Tre'Aste" cranks up the pace a little more and due to the piano and melodies, I can't help but think of some Gothic Rock bands, one example being LACRIMOSA, although that is still a very different band. Yet there are similar moments. These are completely erased when things get more Thrashy and punchy. Biggest player responsable for this: guitar solo. Simply wow! Again the whole package is just first class. After 03:30 it's time for a resting point (piano break), after which the band slowly builds up the tension again. Still no signs of happiness to be found, unless you get a smile on your face because of the quality of the compositions.

The start of "A Natural Apostasy" is really peaceful and one could fill an entire song with this. But the calmness is soon broken by the heavy burst. Although in general the comparisons with AMON AMARTH cannot be ignored, it does become very clear here. This song might be less catchy than the first two, but it's of an equal quality and diversity (incl. an uptempo part, important little role for the piano, ...). No BE'LAKOR song without breaks and hooks and the moment around 05:30 really jumps out, also because the band added a flute, assisted by the guitar. Fantastic material.

In "Paths" you won't hear 'Metal' instruments or vocals, as George was given time to regain his strength and lung volume to give his all again in "Sanguinary". "Paths" is all about the piano and keyboards: dark and yet so powerful. No because Steven presses the keys in a hard way - not at all - but due to the melodies. This is really, if everything is well-aligned (or in other words, if the moment is right), a very touching piece of music. Well, f*** the moment, this is - and yes, I'm repeating myself - breathtaking! I even had to restrain myself from shedding a tear at a certain moment, no kidding.

The guitars and drums make their comeback in the last song, "Sanguinary", which also starts accoustically. The atmospheric keyboards and the drums join in a subtle way. The take-off is set for after 01:30 and then you get a huge load of energetic Metal. It feels like everyone's happy again to be part of the playing process. That's the feeling I have after "Paths". Although the closing song is far from the FREEDOM CALL Metal, it does have a re-energized feel. The uptempo playing certainly helps to out this.

What more can I say, about such a debut release? This is really, really amazing and - if I may say so, because that's how I feel about it (obviously :p) - very original. I am very happy to have come accross this band on MySpace (it does seem to have its advantages). BE'LAKOR is one of the underground pearls of Australia and it's a shame that there's so much crap put out these days and that upcoming talents like BE'LAKOR have to do it all themselves (incl. the very nice booklet). For a self-release the sound is very good and almost on par with what's recorded using bigger budgets. The musicianship is another element that should not be questioned. Fans of later AMON AMARTH or quality Melodic Death Metal simply have no reason to let BE'LAKOR pass them by, since they'll be missing out on something extraordinary. "The Frail Tide" is without question one of the best albums of 2007. The only question for me is: where will I put it on my list?

More info at www.belakor.net.

Line-up:
George Kosmas - vocals, rhythm guitars, accoustic guitar, bouzouki
Shaun Sykes - rhythm, lead and accoustic guitars
John Richardson - bass
Steven Merry - keyboards
Jimmy Vanden Broeck - drums


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SADHARA – To Hell, With Sympathy (Sadhara 2007)

Sadhara - To Hell, With Sympathy
  1. To Hell, With Sympathy
  2. My Kingdom Pain
  3. Architect Of Reprise
  4. Twilight Ushers The Maddened
  5. The Ill Tempered Stratocaster
  6. Bliss
  7. Beauty Etched Into Sunset
  8. Immortalized In Ash
  9. From Saint To Cinders

Sadhara is Sanskrit for "Inner Spiritual Worship" and is pronounced sa-DAR-ah. The music is a mix of European, Swedish and melodic death/black metal with female banshee screams and gothic clean singing. Lyrically, the subject matter ranges from the romantic and seductive to the dark and destructive, with a consistent poetic delivery.

SADHARA was born from the mind of vocalist/guitarist Katherine Burke and recorded its first demo in 2003. Five songs were to be found on this first release. Katherine was of course responsable for everything, especially the vocals and guitar work. For the drums she used a drumcomputer.

Three years later she got in touch with Dutch drummer Iwan Hendrikx, who found this project interesting enough to offer his services. This of course is always a good thing, as long as the drummer is capable enough. So for the band's first full album, "To Hell, With Sympathy" (released in March), there were two people involved, although Katherine still has written it all. But together with Iwan, she recorded, produced and mixed the album. For the mastering, they appealed to Larry DeVivo from Silverstone Mastering. The sound is very pure, very rough, but certainly very honest and for that alone I really like this album.

Since a couple of weeks (months?), Katherine has managed to attract another guitarist (Ray Russell) and a bass guitarist (Tom Barber) for future live performances and studio recordings. None of the new members ring a bell with me, but I hope they are capable enough to preserve the atmosphere and power of the music.

On "To Hell, With Sympathy" Katherine brings a scala of vicious riffs, brutal sounds coming from the speakers, backed by Iwan's ever-slicing and headcrushing drums. He is indeed a valuable addition for the songs and it's good to have a real drummer instead of having to rely on a drumcomputer.

Vocally Katherine is capable of handling any type of singing, be it clean, soft and angelic or demonic screams. Angela Gossow, eat your heart out. ;-) Ok, Angela is still better, in my opinion, but Katherine can switch from clean to rough in a split second. And afterwards, the clean vocals still sound as pure as before.

From the first tunes you can hear Katherine listened very carefully to other bands to come up with fitting harmonies and rhythm guitar parts. Multi-layered vocals draw you near until you're can't escape anymore from her grip. There's something peculiar about her voice, especially the clean version. It's... sympathetic, although that's probably not what she had in mind when she was singing the lyrics. Her singing also sounds like a goodbye, which would also explain the title in a way. Musically the riffs are so damn catchy they could get stuck inside your head for the entire day. And this doesn't apply to just this first song.

"My Kingdom Pain" comes blasting in and it seems this time there are quite some demons to fight, hence the Black Metal-ish screams and razor-sharp, ferocious riffs. It's a short song, but o so great. You might even think of AMON AMARTH here. While "Architect Of Reprise" may start with a peaceful melody on the accoustic guitar, it doesn't prepare you for what follows: Indeed, a good blast of Death Metal, but the tempo remains in the midtempo zone, although the pedal goes down a bit more at cetain times. There are enough breaks and twists to keep the attention vivid. The interesting thing is also that both Katherine and Iwan added enough catchiness, throughout the entire album. I would however adivse Iwan to close his hi-hat next time. ;-)

Everything sounds calm and peaceful coming from the few powerchords Katherine uses in the intro of "Twilight Ushers The Maddened". It is indeed a more down-to-earth song than the previous ones, with more angelic singing and soft speaking, which adds a special touch, if I may say so. Like I said before, there's something attractive about her voice. Needless to say she also uses the rough side of it. Around 03:25 there's a break in favour of more melody, making the bass more hearable, after which it's back to business as usual.

For the next song, "The Ill Tempered Stratocaster", I think she used this kind of guitar and probably had some problems with it during the recording or songwriting process, or she used to have such a guitar in the past. The song is fully instrumental, with the right tempo changes and double bass attacks. Very harmonic, great melodies and another song where Katherine shows her skills. The galopping rhythm is also quite catchy and is in fact the basis for this song. One point of criticism, and this can be applied to some of the other songs too: the ending, which is perhaps a bit too abrupt. Sometimes a fade-out is better or she could have added one or two more minutes to really go towards a proper ending.

"Bliss" again features the combo clean-rough kind of vocals. Lyrically it's quite... dark. Shall we way suicide or at least murder/killing. You can really detect the contrast of the clean, somewhat whining voice, and the rough screams that represent the evil side that urges the character to cut, kill, destroy. The ending comes via the accoustic guitar that could be heard previously.

What would "Beauty Etched Into Sunset" be about? The title makes me think about watching the sunset with your (girl/boy)friend, but the subject probably is something different, more doomy, sadder. Sadly enough the lyrics weren't added with the CD and Katherine's screams aren't always as clear to understand. The soft background 'chanting' is however a very nice element here. Musically it's of course very melodic Death Metal, but with a touch of sadness.

Iwan starts "Immortalized In Ash" with some disc (hi-hat, cymbals) solos and short double bass outbursts, after which guitars and vocals come into play. Again the vocals are layered here: screams, clean and background chants. No real uptempo stuff here, but this would not have been compatible with the lyrics and theme of the song. I guess love plays a role here, seeing a beloved being departed or a couple having committed suicide to be together for all time? Or is she talking about the general ending: ashes to ashes, dust to dust? The drums are very much in the forefront, with Katherine's soft and gentle guitarwork more in the back. Not that I mind, but perhaps it would be better if that could be solved next time. Although it's nice to have a sort of drumsolo in this song. ;-)

The last track, "From Saint To Cinders", features again the double bass attacks and vicious riffs. Needless to say, this is another great song to headbang to, like most of the others. Screams, chants and whispers fulfill the vocals duties here. On a melodic level, this song is not really of the happy kind. The screams and chants don't help either. But it surely rocks. Personally I'm not so fond of this song. You could say it's a filler, but on the other hand, it's got potential, so I'm giving it the benefit of the doubt.

After the demo in 2003, here's the first full album of SADHARA. You can hear this wasn't recorded using a big budget and whatever more, but the sound is very honest, rough where needed and Katherine and Iwan deserve all the praise they can get. No, I'm not butt-kissing. Well, maybe a little bit. The combination of Thrash, Melodic Death and Black Metal (although only the screams, I'd say) is very well done here. Bands to compare with could be DEATH, ATHEIST, AMON AMARTH, (some) ARCH ENEMY and more such bands. But let's end this review by saying that this disc contains great Metal, with a good dose of catchiness and how many times do you come accross a band that has a woman that can sing in clean way, switch to screams in the blink of an eye AND can play solid (melodic) Death Metal? Hail, I say, Hail! Now go their MySpace page and order this album.

More info at www.sadhara.com.

Line-up:
Katherine Burke - vocals, guitars, bass
Iwan Hendrikx - drums


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DEBAUCHERY – Back In Blood (AFM Records 2007)

Debauchery - Back In Blood
  1. Lords Of Battle
  2. Baptise This World In Blood
  3. Praise The Blood God
  4. Back In Blood
  5. Masters Of The Killing Art
  6. Butcher Of Bitches
  7. Death Metal Maniac
  8. Manhunting
  9. Alcohol Fueled Brutality
  10. True To The Skull Throne (And Bound To Kill)
  11. Storm Of Iron

DEBAUCHERY was formed 7 years ago, in 2000 and have been building up their career along the way. This has so far lead to - next to several members swapping positions - four studio albums. Their newest, "Back In Blood", will be slaughtered on the 23rd of March. DEBAUCHERY play Death Metal, but with lots of melodic touches. I'm not familiar with their previous works, but it seems blood is an important part of their image and this is not only shown in the new album title, but the guys too love to cover themselves with this liquid.

"Back In Blood" features eleven new tracks, plus a bonus CD with cover versions of classics from RAMMSTEIN, MANOWAR, GENESIS, THE BEATLES and others. It was recorded at the House Of Music studio, where bands like PRIMAL FEAR and BRAINSTORM have recorded one or more albums before.

The tracklisting of the bonus disc is as follows:

01. I Can't Dance (GENESIS)
02. Weisses Fleisch (RAMMSTEIN)
03. 8 Days A Week (THE BEATLES)
04. Heavy Duty (JUDAS PRIEST)
05. Kings Of Metal (MANOWAR)
06. You Got Me Rocking (THE ROLLING STONES)
07. War Is Coming (Chill Out Version) (SIX FEET UNDER)

It's Death Metal, so you have heavy-as-lead riffing with some grooves, actually quite a light drumsound, and the obligate cookie monster vocals, in a greasy version. Now, if only you understood what Thomas is growling. Next to that, despite fitting, it becomes monotonous after a while. The whole album is also blood-themed. for the cover they seems to have taken inspiration from PERZONAL WAR's "When Times Turn Red".

METALLICA also played a role in the songwriting process: the riff in "Butcher Of Bitches" sounds very similar to that of METALLICA's "Slither" (from the "Reload" album, 1997).

The music doesn't do the song "Death Metal Maniac" any justice. This is more a heavier AC/DC groove song. Far from Death Metal is you ask me. but things do improve and become very aggressive and pounding in "Man Hunting", which is also one of the better tracks on the album. But then the Death Metal influence decreases again, although there's a small uprise in "True To The Skull Throne (And Bound To Kill)", which in reality is a heavy groove-laden song. "Storm Of Iron" is another nice song.

My promo copy had three of the seven cover songs. "I Can't Dance" (GENESIS) is the first and eh.. next! RAMMSTEIN's "Weisses Fleisch" is on the contrary well done. Still, the original prevails. And the last one, of THE BEATLES, just plainly sucks. What a waste of disc space.

DEBAUCHERY is directly connected to Death Metal, but what I hear on "Back In Black", eh, "Blood", isn't that much Death Metal. It sounds close to Melodic Death Metal, but the songs are very groovy and could be described more as a heavier version of e.g. AC/DC's songs. But not every song sounds the same, as further in the tracklisting you'll come accross some more pounding stuff. One thing that doesn't change at all are Thomas's growls. Pick a song and you can add his voice. No, no need to adjust it for the melody or anything else. And this is also one of the reasons why I'm not that thrilled about the album (only a couple of good songs) or DEBAUCHERY in general. I guess this will please the fans and perhaps people in search of something new for their collection. I can't really comment about the covers, but the idea is nice and on the other hand I have the impression this is done to draw the attention away of their own songs. No, just think of it as a nice extra. ;-)

More info at www.debauchery.de.

Line-up:
Thomas - vocals
Simon - guitars
Joshi - guitars
Marc - bass
Oli - drums


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HJALLARHORN – New Wave Of Classic Heavy Metal (Hjallarhorn 2007)

Hjallarhorn - New Wave Of Classic Heavy Metal
  1. The Changeling
  2. Murder
  3. Eye Of The Storm
  4. Blood And Black Lace (bonus track - 2004, remastered)
  5. Iron Clad Soldier (bonus track - 2006, remastered)

HJALLARHORN hails from Oslo, Norway and for a change don't play Black or Gothic Metal. Nope, Dani and co. opted for the pureness of Classic Heavy Metal, in the vein of the bands from the '80s. See it as a mix of NWOBHM and the Bay Area Thrash Metal.

The first demo, "Six Track Metal Attack" came out in 2004, the follow-up in 2006, under the title "Trilogy Of Lightning". For their third demo - "New Wave Of Classic Heavy Metal" (released on the 19th March) -, our Norwegians chose two extra tracks, one from each demo and this in remastered form.

MySpace seems to be very important for them, and others as well, otherwise I would never have known of HJALLARHORN's existence or perhaps only once they would have a record deal and their albums would be available in different metal stores.

Based on the two bonus tracks I can agree with the positive comments the band received, because already at that time they showed that they have the right kind of Metal blood for this music. Sure, the material doesn't sound as polished as the new songs, but the remastering did help. "Blood And Black Lace" comes straight from the Bay Area and can be compared to what METALLICA played on "Kill 'Em All" and more particularly their classic "Hit The Lights". "Iron Clad Soldier" is more Heavy Metal than Thrash, but the band still kept some Thrash elements. Two very nice songs indeed, but luckily HJALLARHORN found enough financial ressources to improve their sound even more and record their best demo so far: "New Wave Of Classic Heavy Metal".

"The Changeling" already shows a more polished sound. The song is consists of two parts: one heavy, midtempo with a speed increase in the chorus. Solos too are well executed. The other part, which sets in directly after the guitar solo, is totally he opposite: accoustic guitars reign here. And so the rest of the song is played and that's also how it ends.

"Murder" continues the midtempo pace. At the end of each verse, the guitars sound a bit like how Jon Schaffer (ICED EARTH) plays his. The riffing reminds me (in a way) of GAMMA RAY, something from the "No World Order" album. Not that I mind, not in the least, for "Murder" is a very nice song. And while I'm at it, CRUSADER (a Belgian Heavy Metal band) is another band that comes to mind. HJALLARHORN apparently write their music with live performances in mind, because all their songs would sound very strong on stage as well.

"Eye Of The Storm" is the last new song and also the longest one, clocking in after a good nine minutes. It starts with a piano part, gentle drumsweeps, Dani letting his softer side loose, ... But things get back to normal after 1 ½ minute. Great headbang Metal, but still not forgetting about the melody. The second part is a joy to listen to and you know what's also great? The guitar solo sounds like back in the day. Applause! And Martin (or is it Dani) keeps on going. Lots of bands only implement short solos, but here it has a more important role and makes the song even more interesting. And when you think the song has ended, because all heaviness suddenly stops... guess again. "Eye Of The Storm" ends in the exact same way as it started: piano, drumsweeps, accoustic guitar and Dani's soft side. A three-part song: the calm before the storm, the storm and after the storm. Wonderful result!

HJALLARHORN, although a young band, is one that deserves all the support they can get. Preserving the sound and feel of the '80s and making sure every song is a hit. This demo never bores and even the long track turned out very well. The bonus tracks are nice additions that give an impression of how HJALLARHORN sounded before, and how they evolved. So I cannot add anything else but recommend "New Wave Of Classic Heavy Metal" to anyone that likes pure Heavy Metal and Bay Area Thrash, although the Thrash elements were more present in their older songs. So contact the band to know who you can obtain your copy. Any label that gives these guys a deal should bare in mind that they are to be treated well, because they are not one of a kind, but still a band that stays true to the roots - so to speak.

More info at www.hjallarhorn.com.

Line-up:
Dani Nilsen - vocals, guitars
Martin Krogh - guitars
Kristoffer Berg Haugan - bass
Kjetil Krogvold - drums


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EXCALION – Waterlines (Limb Music Products 2007)

Excalion - Waterlines
  1. The Wingman
  2. Life On Fire
  3. Losing Time
  4. Ivory Tower
  5. I Failed You
  6. Arriving As The Dark
  7. Streams Of Madness
  8. Delta Sunrise
  9. Between The Lines
  10. Soaking Ground
  11. Yövartio (Finnish version of Arriving As The Dark)

Finnish Powermetallers EXCALION released their debut two years ago, via Sound Riot Records. The band worked hard to improve their skills and tried to go for a mix of Hardrock and Metal. It seemed the follow-up to "Primal Exhale" would also be released via Sound Riot Records and this in October/November 2006, but due to whatever reason this was postponed and outsourced to Limb Music Products, who scheduled it for release on March 2.

With Tero Vaaja having taken over the bass from Timo Sahlberg (who quit his position as bass player, but remains active for external tasks like photography), the band had plenty of time to work on this new arrangement, despite having now only one guitarist: Vesa Nupponen. And this has turned out quite well.

"Waterlines" is the title of the Finns second album and as is custom with LMP, the record was mastered by R.D. Liapakis & Christian Schmid. Producer was Arttu Sarvanne and these changes were for the better. The sound is more powerful, the drums come out better (that wasn't so much the case on "Primal Exhale").

From the first song "The Wingman", you can hear the material is more solid, more powerful and lies better in the ear. Jarmo also has greatly improved his vocals and I guess the live performances really helped in this case. He can get far if he keeps up this pace. Musically there are of course still influences from STRATOVARIUS, NIGHTWISH, etc... like was the case with "Primal Exhale", but this time it's less apparent. The heavy pace continues in "Hearts On Fire", eh, "Life On Fire". This is a very nice midtempo-paced Hardrockish song. Jarmo's keyboards provide atmospheric backing, and it's Vesa's guitarwork that is really important here. Great harmonies here as well with the combo guitar-keyboards.

"Losing Time" is a slower song and the video has been available since many months, so no need to describe it further. This was however one of the two songs I got to listen to last year, when they were only roughly mixed. The reason was the radio-effect on the intro. This was also applied to "Arriving As The Dark", where that effect apparently didn't get the green light, although I found it more fitting there than on "Losing Time". Speaking of "Arriving As The Dark": this is more to the point and one of the best songs on "Waterlines". I've listened countless times to the sample back then. Top class songwriting here. And I bet this could be heavenly live as well.

Back to "Ivory Tower", which is also a more energetic song. The keyboards play a key role by providing the melody and atmosphere. Vesa's guitarwork assists on certain moments, but usually makes up for the heavy element. The guitarsolo is also very nice and really well done. Jarmo can't stay behind and one short keyboard solo was a must. Perhaps a little too short?

"I Failed You" is the obligatory ballad, but it's quite a nice one and much better than "Heart & Home". "Streams Of Madness" really puts the keyboards in the spotlight with classical pieces, piano, atmospheric stuff... and thus the guitar has to turn its heavy riffing a bit down. The song isn't really spectacular, but nevertheless very decent.

And here we have perhaps the least good song of "Waterlines": "Delta Sunrise". It's another ballad, accoustic in the verses, electric in the chorus but the guitar sounds very light. Sorry lads, but please... Luckily things improve with the aggressive "Between The Lines".

"Soaking Ground" also sees the use of the accoustic guitar in the first part, assisted by Jarmo's piano. Then it's electric all the way, but with a slow pace. Quite Progressive this one, but it doesn't stick. You listen to it, you forget it. But that doesn't mean it's not well played, on the contrary.

The bonus track "Yövartio" is a nice extra and here you can hear how "Arriving As The Dark" sounds in Finnish. Not as smooth as in English, but it's interesting to hear the alternative version.

So there you have it, EXCALION's second album. Definitely better than their debut and much of the problems have been solved, mainly thus on the sound level. The new material also sounds more tight and more of their own. The many gigs last and this year have been and will be good for their instrumental skills and stage experience. "Waterlines" is definitely one of the better albums in its genre and also of 2007, but like with 2006 I fear the competition will be tough to conquer a place in my Top 10.

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


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ALMAH – Almah (AFM Records 2007)

Almah - Almah
  1. King
  2. Take Your Soul Back
  3. Forgotten Land
  4. Scary Zone
  5. Children Of Lies
  6. Break All The Welds
  7. Golden Empire
  8. Primitive Chaos
  9. Breathe
  10. Box Of Illusion
  11. Almah

One from the website:

"The project is called ALMAH and it relies not only on Edu's talents as a singer, songwriter, arranger and producer but also on the likes of drummer Casey Grillo (KAMELOT), guitarist Emppu Vuorinen (NIGHTWISH) and bassist Lauri Porra (STRATOVARIUS). Many other special guests shall appear on "Almah", like Mike Stone (QUEENSRYCHE), Edu Ardanuy (DR. SIN), National Brazilian Gospel Choir, etc. The whole album is going to be mixed in Brazil by Adriano Daga, responsible for the production of many important brazilian artists and also worked with some international artists like SILVERCHAIR, LENNY KRAVITZ, etc..."

What do you think when you see those other names? Right, quality musicianship, killer sound, etc... The guest musicians do their best and you get what you want. The mix is done by Adriano Daga who worked with SILVERCHAIR, LENNY KRAVITZ, ... What the hell? Adriano, you're dealing with a METAL band here. And the National Brazilian Gospel Choir? Where?

The concept behind the album (see the website) sounds very promising and interesting, but when you listen to the songs... at least I don't feel much of it. I mean, there are some good songs like the uptempo rockers "King" and "Take Back Your Soul" (which has some ANGRA influences) and more midtempo songs like "Forgotten Land" and the Progressive "Children Of Lies".

You can see a clear division: the first songs are heavy, the second half is more based on accoustic and/or piano-driven songs. And although I can appreciate more peaceful songs, it's kind of an overload here. In addition, Edu's singing is good, but not at the same level as his input in ANGRA, where he sings much rougher. In fact, when he sings in a very clean way, I can't help but go to the next song or even stop the CD and pop in another.

I'm not going to elaborate any further, because I'm kind of disappointed. Edu wants to develop certain skills like songwriting, musicianship, producing, but I think he still has a (long?) way to go, particularly when it comes to recording drums. Especially with that instrument, things went quite wrong. The bass drum sounds synthetic/artificial and where are the cymbals? I really have to put my ears against the speakers to hear when Casey hits those 'discs'. Drums, next to guitars, are an essential instrument in Metal and I agree that the sound doesn't have to be as powerful as on lots of Thrash or Death Metal albums, but that doesn't mean you have to adjust the sound to mainstream/poprock standards.

Songwise there a couple of good songs - like I said above - but they're not enough in number to make this self-titled album really worth the investment. If you're an Edu-fan or very dedicated ANGRA fan, you might want to check out ALMAH/"Almah" and perhaps even the Limited Edition with its two bonus tracks. Anyone else, stick to ANGRA or at least listen first before you decide to empty your wallet for "Almah", which is available via AFM Records since the 2nd of March.

More info at www.almah.com.br.

Line-up:
Edu Falaschi - vocals, keyboards
Emppu Vuorinen - guitars
Lauri Porra - bass
Casey Grillo - drums


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WALTARI – Release Date (Dockyard 1 2007)

Waltari - Release Date
  1. Get Stamped
  2. Big Sleep
  3. Let's Puke Together
  4. Cityshaamani
    a) Night Flight
    b) Morning
    c) Colgate Country Showdown
    d) The Incarnation Party
    e) Sympathy
  5. Hype
  6. THD (Lehtinen)
  7. Sex In The Beergarden
  8. Wish I Could Heal
  9. Spokebone (bonus track)

Finnish rock/Metalband WALTARI seems not only to be creative with music, but also hard workers, as the follow-up to 2006's "Blood Sample" has been released only a couple of weeks ago, on the 26th of February. I was not that fond of "Blood Sample" and therefore kind of sceptic of how "Release Date" - now thàt's an original title :-) - would sound. Seems like my prayers have been answered, although WALTARI will never end up in my favourites list.

So yes, the album is already available since a couple of weeks, but I somehow didn't manage to write my findings about it on paper. It's now Saturday morning and I'm listening to "Release Date" and... I like it! It's unbelievable, as I didn't really expect any improvements. This time the guys have put the focus on the Rock/Metal aspects again and this can only be applauded. :-)

The album kicks off with the great "Get Stamped", continues on a more melodic Rockish way with "Big Sleep", but watch out for the 'brutal' "Let's Puke Together", where groovy Thrash and blastbeats blend in flawlessly. Kärtsy's voice is a bit annoying in the verses, but you get used to it quite rapidly and things improve when the chorus is there. Here Kärtsy adds some atmospheric keyboard sounds to fill that gap. Musically this is really great stuff.

Up next is the 'pentalogy' (or 'quintology') "Cityshamaani", commencing with "Night Flight". This song offers a nice mix of heavy pounding riffs and melodic lines in the verses. Kärtsy also adds some rougher vocals. Keyboards help create the right atmosphere. Quite a modern approach here. Towards the end of the song you've got some piano chaos. Immediately after heaviness is shut down and there's only gently playing with a heavier outburst now and then, before heaviness takes over again entirely. "Good Morning" is part 2 here and although there's probably some humour involved, with the various playing and not so serious singing, I did prefer the first part. "Colgate Country Showdown" goes for a more poppy approach and yes, it's to skip and Kärtsy really sounds boring here. The heavier moments in this part certainly are better than the poppy, melodic tunes. Electronic samples introduce us to "The Incarnation Party", where the guitars and drums take over soon. This is a more Industrial Rock song. Needless to say this is a good turnaround. But wait... little over halfway you get beats and a stupid electronic drumkit sound, together with some bass-fiddling of course. "Sympathy" ends this big album part. It's a gently, accoustic ballad. So, all in all, a very diverse pentalogy. Most points go to the heavier parts of course.

"Hype" then continues the tracklisting again, but it's pop that prevails here. Quite a funky song, but also quite mediocre. Bores rapidly, unless you like poprock. There are some small RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS similarities, but RHCP still sounds different and much better. "THD (Lehtinen)" is to-the-point rock, but WALTARI puts more tempo in it. Not bad at all, this one here.

"Sex In The Beergarden" increases the level of heaviness, but Kärtsy's screams are the least interesting aspect. The chorus is melodic and Kärtsy's voice is adjusted to it. Around 2:20 there's a nice part with the drums and guitars. Kärtsy decided to growl here, probably with effects.

Going more pop and alternative again, here is "Wish I Could Heal". The song has a running time of 7:37, yet it ends at 5:30. Very strange. Anyhow, "Spokebone" (with the band VÄRTTINÄ) end this variated album in a dancy/Industrial way. Too mmany beats and drumsamples are not my taste, but the band adds some violins and chants and other things so you still could give them some kudos. Still, I miss the emotion, the feeling, the atmosphere of the more Rock-orientated songs.

All in all, "Release Date" is certainly better than the previous "Blood Sample" and particularly the first part of the album gets a lot of thumbs up from me. The second half sees more keyboards, more pop stuff and more electronics, but it's not as bad as before. So I'm going to end by saying it's a decent album and I hope the band goes on this way, but by putting the focus mainly on Rock, not dance or electronics.

More info at www.waltarimusic.com.

Line-up:
Kärtsy Hatakka - vocals, bass, keyboards
Jariot Lehtinen - guitars, vocals
Sami Yli-Sirniö - guitars, vocals
Ville Vehviläinen - drums


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BATTLELORE – Evernight (Napalm Records 2007)

Battlelore - Evernight
  1. House Of Heroes
  2. Ocean's Elysium
  3. Summon The Wolves
  4. We Are The Legions
  5. Into The New World
  6. Longing Horizon
  7. Mask Of Flies
  8. The Cloak And The Dagger
  9. Beneath The Waves

Finnish Epic Metal band BATTLELORE was founded in 1999 by Jyri Vahvanen (guitars) and Miika Kokkola (bass) and in that same year they released their first promo CD "Warrior's Tale". Although it received much praise, it wasn't after the release of their second demo "Dark Fantasy" in 2000 that Napalm Reords showed interest. Only one year alive and already some changes in the line-up took place, but it wouldn't be the last ones. More about that can be read on the band's website.

Two years later the band's debut album, "...Where the Shadows Lie" came out. Nothing too powerful, but it did make for a nice reocrd, easy to listen to and quite relaxing after a hard day's work. The follow-up, "Sword's Song" (2003), took the music to an even higher level with more power, more bombast and thus got a lot of positive comments from press and public.

Before writing and recording their third studio album, BATTLELORE recorded a DVD, "The Journey" - featuring the energetic live show at Tavastia club -, which saw the light of day in early 2004.

While the first two albums sounded quite rough, the band took some more steps to work on the sound. The result on their third album, "Third Age of the Sun" (2005), was a more polished sound and even more digital. More polished isn't always good and I guess this was one of the reasons why the album didn't get a whole lot of positive reviews, at least those I came accross. The band also chose to work wih another producer: instead of Miitri Aaltonen, they went into the Sound Suite Studios where Terje Refsnes is in charge of the buttons. The guitars sounded very heavy and the drums barely had power to compete with them. Still, the songs in general were good and should appeal to any BATTLELORE fan.

And it's as if the band knew they achieved their best results with producer Miitri Aaltonen. For their newest and fourth album, he stepped back into the spotlights to produce "Evernight", which came out on February 26. And I can honestly say they did well to choose him again. From the first song it's quite clear, as "House Of Heroes" sounds powerful, very melodic (with a catchy guitar diddle) and the drums have moved more to the forefront again. The piano is there for the counter melody and makes this song more complete.

In "Ocean's Elysium", there's more bombast and the keyboards add a nice atmosperic touch to express the right emotions (not exactly happiness, if you ask me, but still very nice). Of course it's not heaviness and bombast all the way, as there's also room for calmer interventions or even a small speed increase. We're only two songs far and you can hear the band worked quite hard on this new record and Miitri has outdone himself, I think. ;-) At least regarding his work with BATTLELORE.

Tomi's grunts aren't always a hit and at times you think he's running out of roughness. "Summon The Wolves", although containing great musicianship (check those drums!), is one example. Someone with a deeper growl would also fit. Maybe Tomi has reached his limits and is growling, but then really low, too much to ask. Oh well, it's not really dramatic, I tend to exaggerate a bit sometimes.

Up next is AMON AMARTH and "We Are The Legions". No, they're not on this album, but the first part of this song does remind a bit of "Asator", which can be found on the Swedes last album "With Oden On Our Side". But "We Are The Legions" is one heavy track, with the real outburst coming in the last part of the song. There are even some blastbeats to spice things up.

A calm start leading "Into The New World", after which heaviness kicks in and the bombastic sounds are released upon your ears. what is very nice is that the guitars are left silent in the verses, where it's just the piano, drums, bass and Kaisa. The drums then sound very clear and the drumpattern is very well chosen. The guitars do come back, but in a very gentle way. "Into The New World" is truly a great song. The previous ones are very good too, but this one here has it a little more.

Accoustic guitars and drums in a tribal way back Kaisa in "Longing Horizon". Damn.. if I could see them perform this live. *drools* Unfortunately the electric guitars, keyboards and Tomi's grunts come into play once the play is 1:20 far. But then the accoustic part is back again. It's good that they want to break it with a heavy part, but personally I think they could thought about it a little more, about how the heavy part should have sounded so it would not disturb the flow of the accoustic part. But things improve once the song is at normal speed. Come to think of it, it was particularly Tomi's voice that didn't quite fit there. Sorry, mate, nothing personal. ;-)

Bringing back some more power again is "Mask Of Flies", where the violin parts play a very important role. And here Tomi does sound right, inline with the guitars. Tempo breaks here as well, to stress the guitars or just bring some rest. Thumbs up for this song, too. Very nice work.

"The Cloak And The Dagger" seems a vicious title, right? Well, you do get a heavy, pounding song, but with good dose of Folk at a certain point. Tomi's grunts, be it in normal parts or more special ones, aren't well chosen and for me he's again the weakest link. You need a growler here (I don't care if it is AMON AMARTH's Johan Hegg, NILE's Karl Sanders or any other Death Metal vocalist). Tomi's voice is too light for those parts.

Keyboards defining the melody and atmosphere again, this time in the closing "Beneath The Waves". Very varied drumming, quite some speed and a very nice melody. Vocally nothing to criticise... except... it is very obvious, no? But musically I am very pleased with it.

Ok, the conclusion: the first two albums were good and showed a band with potential. Then came "Third Age Of The Sun" where BATTLELORE tried to make their best record, hired a different studio and producer and didn't really succeed in their goals. You can't have a clearer proof of that then by listening to their newest album "Evernight": it's again their first producer who sat behind the desk and therefore the saying "Never change a winning team" showed you better follow that rule when things do indeed go right. "Evernight" is perhaps the band's best album, or does that title fit better for "...Where The Shadows Lie"? Nevertheless, this is a major step forward for the band and deserves all the credit and kudos it can get. But perhaps they should consider replacing Tomi by a better grunter. ;-)

More info at www.battlelore.net.

Line-up:
Kaisa Jouhki - vocals
Tomi Mykkänen - vocals
Jussi Rautio - guitars
Jyri Vahvanen - guitars
Timo Honkanen - bass
Maria - keyboards, flute
Henri Vahvanen - drums


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TWISTED TOWER DIRE – Netherworlds (Remedy Records 2007)

TWISTED TOWER DIRE - Netherworlds
  1. Starshine
  2. Dire Wolf
  3. Fortress
  4. Killing Kind
  5. Netherworlds
  6. Casualty Of Cruel Times
  7. Tales Of Submission
  8. No One Left To Blame
  9. Firebird

TWISTED TOWER DIRE is an American Heavy Metal band, but of the classic type, not hinting at Power Metal. I think you could compare them in a way with their German colleagues of AXXIS, AXEL RUDI PELL, ... They've been around for quite some time (since 1995), but this is my first encounter with their music. Apparently the band also underwent some line-up changes, especially in the vocal department and I have to say mainly this department is the weakest link in this Heavy Metal structure.

I'm going to be short about "Netherworlds", which will come out on the 23rd of February. Musically you get some good to very nice Metal, which would do very well in a live setting too. Riffs, solos, atmosphere, the feeling, the appropriate drumwork... TWISTED TOWER DIRE delivers the goods. Except for the vocals. where it's still Tony Taylor (recently replaced by Johnny Aune) who can be heard on the album. His voice is clean and high-pitched and when he reaches the higher notes I can't help but shiver. Think Joacim Cans (HAMMERFALL), but back when "Glory To The Brave" came out. We're talking 1997. No wait, it's even worse. I mean, Joacim is a good singer, but back then he sang very high. Johnny does it even more. Another name that comes to mind is the frontman of Canadian Metallers IVORY KNIGHT: John Devadasan Perinbam. When he reaches for the higher notes, you also feel the need to slap him to sing lower again.

But anyhow, about "Netherworlds", TWISTED TOWER DIRE's fourth studio album: it's a good Metal record, musically. Most of the songs can get you in the right mood when you're on the road to a gig or festival or party. Sadly the vocals aren't powerful and rough enough to give the songs some extra power.

If you want to check out something else besides the usual Power Metal and/or if you wonder if there are still bands that play the classic stuff, TWISTED TOWER DIRE is at least one band that should be on your list.

More info at www.twistedtowerdire.com.

Line-up:
Tony Taylor - vocals
Dave Boyd - guitars
Scott Waldrop - guitars
Jim Hunter - bass
Marc Stauffer - drums


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REBELLION - Miklagard (Massacre Records 2007)

Rebellion - Miklagard
  1. Vi Seglar Mot Miklagard
  2. Sweden
  3. Free (The Saga Begins)
  4. On The Edge Of Life
  5. Ulfberth
  6. The Rus
  7. Kiew
  8. Aifur
  9. Taste Of Steel
  10. God Of Thunder
  11. Our Backs To The Wind
  12. Miklagard
  13. The Uprising (Miklagard II)

German Heavy/Powermetal band REBELLION, featuring two ex-GRAVE DIGGER members (Uwe Lulis, guitars and Tomi Göttlich, bass), has released three albums so far: "Shakespeare's Macbeth - A Tragedy In Steel" (2002), "Born A Rebel" (2003) and the first part of the Viking trilogy: "Sagas Of Iceland" (2005). "Miklagard", their latest (released on 23/02), is part 2 of this trilogy, entitled "The History Of The Vikings", for which the band didn't just write songs, but did some serious research and poured their findings into a fictitious story.

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

The biggest change compared to Part 1 is that guitarist Björn Eilen was replaced in November 2005 by Simone Wenzel, this because of health problems of Björn.

The story of "Miklagard", which can be followed in the pdf on the band's website:

Based on historical facts the band tells a fictitious story about Swedish Vikings who journey for trade to Miklagard (Byzantium). Starting off from Uppsalla in Sweden the journey leads via the commercial centres Haithabu and Dorestadt through the Baltic Sea and the icy Neva to Ladoga and onwards to Kiew. From there the last part of the journey takes them down the Dnjepr into the black sea and finally to Miklagard. On their journey the daredevil Vikings meet among others the Urgofins and the Rus (ancestors of the Russians with Swedish descent) and visit the medieval Kiev. They have to fight numerous engagements to defend their valuable goods until finally after endless dangers and strains they gaze upon the famous city of stone which seems to them like a world miracle. Franconian swords, amber and northern furs are strongly desired here and sell for astronomical prices, in return the Norsemen buy the goods treasured in their home countries such as glass, jewellery, spices and silk. In the end the heroes are pulled into the palace revolution of the Varangian guard, they help Harald Hadrade (leader of the Varangian guard) to gain the victory and finally embark heavily loaded on their dangerous and risky journey home.

Now on to the album: "Miklagard" starts with a spoken intro, done by MORGANA LEFAY vocalist Charles Rytkönen and this of course in Swedish. The story starts in Sweden, as the song "Sweden" clearly shows, and continues towards Russia. The combination of Michael's rough voice, the pounding drums and cutting riffs result in a perfect crafted song and excellent to start the journey. You can immediately hear Uwe Lulis has done a great production job. The sound is rougher, but also more powerful. "Free (The Saga Begins)" is slower, but still heavy enough. The slower tempo can be linked to the fact that our characters are at sea and can safely continue their quest. Michael can probably sing in a clean way, but he's at his best in a rough version. This obviously also fits the Viking theme more.

"On The Edge Of Life" starts with light doomy choir sounds, after which the gallopping drums and chugging guitars kick in. The chorus is slower but quite epic and has a good sing-along vibe. This is without question one of the songs to be played live. Little over halfway there's break with again the choirish singing to tell the listener the Vikings are entering a dangerous area, if I follow the story right.

"Ulfberth" tells of a set-up: our characters wanted to trade, yet were suddenly surrounded by warriors. This is translated into again pounding drums and slicing riffs. Michael does a very good job here, his voice is really remarkable. Not that the previous songs were less good, on the contrary. But the vocal lines here and the lyrics make this a pleasure to listen to. Musically as well this is one killer song with nice guitarsolos.

After the bloody 'trade', the Vikings arrive in Russia, hence "The Rus" as next song. Epic singing, very heavy guitars and almost machine-like double bass are key ingredients. Again I have nothing really negative to say and can only applaud for this great piece of Metal. On "Sagas Of Iceland" there were songs that I didn't like that much, but so far REBELLION has greatly improved their songwriting.

Some lines ago I said that Michael could sing in a cleaner way and in "Kiev" the moment is there. But in the chorus it's back to business as usual. Musically it's more midtempo. I haven't paid much attention to it, but it seems Simone stands her ground as guitarist.

Ah, splendid, more fast-paced material again. "Aifur" seems to be the most difficult current to tame and when reading that part of the story you'll see that the characters have to guide the boat through the water, but not without small injuries. The fast drums are done so for the role of the current and how wild and difficult it was to go through it.

Faster than the speed of light, Gerd hits the skins and bass drums to tell about another ambush. The group has to fight off attacks by the Petschenegans. These latter warriors would be given a "Taste Of Steel", as they decided to unmount from their horses and continue the battle on foot. This is actually very handy, having a story to follow and then link it to the music. This is perhaps the most aggressive song on "Miklagard". And suprise surprise, Simone shows her skills with a solo.

Time to cool down again, as the group reaches a place to offer a sacrifice to Thor, asking for guidance and goodwill for the rest of the journey. This is translated into a calmer song, but with scratching guitars. Vocally this is again well-done. Uwe's solos are naturally spotless.

Can a title like "Our Backs To The Wind" be any clearer? what are the consequences of this, like when you're running or cycling? Indeed, you go faster and that's how this song goes as well. Our Vikings are approaching Miklagard (Constantinople). Little after two minutes there's a break with gentle guitarplaying and dito drumming. It's like the men stand in awe of seeing the wonderful city. Their dreams are becoming reality. Keyboard sounds help to further express these emotions. Then an increase of aggressiveness comes back into play as if to tell that the boat is sailing faster again to reach the city as soon as possible.

The titletrack starts gently with the melody, drums and vocals join in very soon. And then it's full power. Midtempo with a great, crunchy riff and melody and here as well a good level of singing-along mentality. This will for sure be played live and hearing the crowd singing the chorus must be amazing. This is a homage to Miklagard and its divine splendor. A perfect song in any way.

"The Uprising (Miklagard II)" tells about our group meeting fellow Norsemen who served in the famous Varangian Guard of the emperor. The first could eventually trade their goods, but due to fights couldn't head back home. So they decided to fight their way out and dethrone the emperor with the help of their friends in the Varangian Guard. Fast midtempo with rolling bass drums in this song, who come out very strong as if to fulfill the role of the Vikings attacking the ruler of the city. Here Simone and Uwe neatly split the guitarsolos. The song ends with accoustic guitars and sea gulls in the back, indicating our warriors are heading back home safely.

I don't know if it was really necessary to describe each song or not, but I feel a better connection between the songs and the story. I can't say I've heard one bad song on "Miklagard". It is a VERY GOOD and RECOMMENDED album, to say the least. Not only because of its role in the trilogy, but also for a musical reason: the production is much better and rougher than on "Sagas Of Iceland", there are more aggressive song, more uptempo stuff, the solos are very nice, Michael's voice is simply amazing. In short: the whole package, the whole expression/telling of the story through the music worked out extremely well. Therefore "Miklagard" should find a place in any Heavy/Powermetal fan's collection. The only question I still have: how will they pull it off live?

More info at www.rebellion.st.

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


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MASTERPLAN – MK II (AFM Records 2007)

Masterplan - MKII
  1. Phoenix Rising
  2. Warriors Cry
  3. Lost And Gone
  4. Keeps Me Burning
  5. Take Me Over
  6. I'm Gonna Win
  7. Watching The World
  8. Call The Gypsy
  9. Trust In You
  10. Masterplan
  11. Enemy
  12. Heart Of Darkness

MASTERPLAN, the band revolving around ex-HELLOWEEN members Roland Grapow (guitars) and Uli Kusch (drums) will release their third album on the 23rd of February. But before all was done and recorded, some serious changes took place last year. Vocalist extraordinaire Jorn Lande left the band due to the classical musical differences and to concentrate on his solo career. See "The Duke", which came out in the Spring last year. So the band had to seek a new vocalist, but still had to finish some shows with Lande. Mike DiMeo from RIOT and THE LIZARDS was contacted and informed about the vacant position in MASTERPLAN. This happened in August and one month later the deal was made. You would think that now the recordings could be finished, but then in the last weeks of 2006 co-founder Uli Kusch found it better to invest his time in BEAUTIFUL SIN and MEKONG DELTA. Again musical differences played a role, but it seriously damaged the relation between Roland and Uli, contrary to the understandings between Roland and Jorn.

Fellow Powermetalband RAGE also saw its longtime drummer Mike Terrana pursue other endeavors. It didn't take long before he could join MASTERPLAN, as Roland and Mike are friends and have known each other since Roland's solo album "Kaleidoscope" in 1999. With this new line-up the Germans are back and ready to show they are still sailing the same course.

A debut is usually self-titled and with serious changes there usually is also an appropriate title. "MK II" is therefore a logical choice. Another big chances took place studio-wise: no longer the Crazy Cat, but the Grapow Studios. Roland has moved to another city, has been building a new house, which includes a studio. Luckily this last one was ready in time for the new album. Andy Sneap only offered advice, but the production was entirely by the hands of Roland Grapow himself. Mixing and mastering took again place at Finnvox Studios.

While the previous two albums started directly with a full song, "Phoenix Rising" is the first intro in the band's discography. Keyboards only and slowy fading in, building up the tension. Symphony all the way. Very nice, very touching. But then hell breaks loose: "Warriors Cry". Fast double bass and thundering drums. Riffs as heavy as on the debut. Uli and Roland said the new material would be a return to the stuff on "Masterplan" (the album). Mike DiMeo's voice fits this music very well, to be honest. Sure, he's no Jorn Lande, but you could conside him as a lighter version. Great melodic backing and shredding like never before. Mike's drumskills are a very valuable addition to the songs, as he has been hitting the skins since many many years.

Taking back some speed in favour of more melody and emotional playing, "Lost And Gone" can be compared with "Back For My Life", which appeared on 2005's "Aeronautics". "Keeps Me Burning" relies heavily on the keyboards for the melody, with Roland's riffs taking care of the heavier backing. The chorus has been given the right amount of catchiness, a catchiness that was also present on the other albums and is typical for the band's music.

Heavily tuned guitars in the verses, going more melodic in the bridge and chorus of "Take Me Over". To be honest, I'm not that fond of this song. It's good and has crunching guitarriffs, yet it's like it wants to take off, but is being held back by some unknown force. Around 3:10 there's a calmer piano moment with short guitar and drum interventions. About this I can be quite positive. The rest of the song is just the rest of the song. Nothing really interesting, in my opinion.

In your face, Uli, because "I'm gonna win". This could have been the reason for the song, after the battling between the two founders of the band. ;-) It's slower, but very catchy and will do very well live. Mike's voice sure needs some multiple listenings, because you have to give him credit for singing some heavier melodic stuff. In this song I noticed some references to "Headbanger's Ballroom", although the songs are not 100% alike.

Woohoo! Uptempo! "Watching The World" starts with a mysterious intro, then in comes the entire band. Axel provides the right melody and atmospheric backing, while Roland keeps the machine rolling, assisted by Mike's pounding. Did you hear the solos? 10 points more from the Belgian jury.

"Call The Gypsy" is more to the point, where the guitar rules and keyboards make the song more complete. Great chorus, by the way, very well done and sung in a way that can be applied to future songs as well. Roland tears up those snares while soloing towards the end of the song.

"Trust In You" leaves the brutal riffs and thundering drums aside, in favour of a more paino-dirven apporach. At least in the first part, because once the chorus is there the guitar and drums are added and the song continues its slowtempo. Although Mike does a good job, I would have preferred Jorn Lande here. But that doesn't mean it's a bad song, au contraire. Thumbs up.

"Masterplan" - no, not an EVERGREY cover ;-) - brings back more Metal with vicious guitar shredding and drums that slay all who stands in the way. Here you definitely needs a singer with a rough voice. Mike does his best, but Jorn would simply destroy him. Great chorus too, which is written for a live audience to scream along "Ma-ster-plan". Around 2:50 there is a heavy, life-threatening part which makes your heart beat faster out of joy. World class song!

"Enemy" also features heavy guitars, but is not as fast as "Masterplan" or "Warriors Cry". The keyboards also come in for the bridge and chorus. Midtempo rules here, but Mike adds enough variation on his drums to make the song interesting enough. Roland has also worked hard on his soloing, as is shown throughout the album.

"Heart Of Darkness" - and here too, it's not an ARCH ENEMY cover ;-) - starts with choirish keyboards (that come back later in the song) to provide the right bombast. No tempo boosts here, more slowness. The song drags itself forward. The chorus is sung in an epic manner, in a style you could compare with HAMMERFALL's slower songs. "Treasure World" comes to mind. This was the bonus track on "Aeronautics" and sounds also a bit like this, although a tiny bit faster.

I'm going to conclude by saying that "Masterplan" and "Aeronautics" still are better, but I would not be telling the whole truth. The new material can be considered as a mix of the first two album, with more attention for the Metal aspect. In other words, "MK II" contains very heavy songs, some of which are the heaviest over all three albums. But the new album needs several spins to get into the songs, to get used to Mike DiMeo's voice. Drumwise things are like before: nothing to worry about. Don't draw conclusions straight away. Listen to this album a couple of times, let it rest then, and pop it back into your stereo and then you can say whether "MK II" is among the best of this year or not, hehehe. ;-)

Roland doesn't have to worry about his production skills, they are more than alright. Sure, he's no Andy Sneap, but he has a done a very decent job. Overall, fans of MASTERPLAN and melodic (power)metal should not really have to worry. I'm more excited to see how they will pull it off live, with the new line-up.

Line-up:
Mike DiMeo - vocals
Roland Grapow - guitars
Jan S. Eckert - bass
Axel Mackenrott - keyboards
Mike Terrana - drums


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SILENT FORCE – Walk The Earth (AFM Records 2007)

Silent Force - Walk The Earth
  1. Man & Machine
  2. Walk The Earth
  3. Point Of No Return
  4. In From The Dark
  5. The King Of Fools
  6. The Child Within
  7. Goodbye My Ghost
  8. Save Me From Myself
  9. My Indepence Day
  10. Blind Leading The Blind
  11. Running Through The Fire
  12. Picture Of A Shadow

Although I was very pleased with SILENT FORCE's last record, "Worlds Apart", I did kind of rush the review when thinking back of it. Then again, it was also one of my first reviews. I had heard the first two albums - "The Empire Of Future" and "Infatuator" - in the shop, and there was a very significant sound difference between those two, with the latter being more powerful and an indication of the following albums.

Three years after "Worlds Apart" the follow-up is ready and for sale (since 16/02): "Walk The Earth". For this record the band again chose to work with top producer Dennis Ward and der Dennis again gave the album a very good sound, although maybe a bit too tight or too polished. Especially the drums suffer from this when you compare them with the result on the previous album. I mean, André knows how to play his kit and all, but if Dennis just gave a little more power, more balls, a more killer sound to that instrument it would have made the songs much better. Now the oh-so beloved drums have been given a muffled sound and it just doesn't do the songs any good.

There are some titles that might have been taken from other bands: "Man & Machine" (U.D.O. or SAXON) or "The King Of Fools" (EDGUY, "King Of Fools"), "Blind Leading The Blind" (AXENSTAR) and others maybe as well.

Of course, the album starts well with the kick-ass "Man & Machine", where you instantly hear that DC Cooper still is one of the best vocalists in this genre and perhaps very underestimated by many. The titletrack is a little slower, but is chorus is very beautiful and epic. There's also a very nice piano-piece in the first part of the song, but returns around the fourth minute before heaviness takes over again. One of the better SILENT FORCE songs, without question.

Time for some acceleration then with the equally majestic "Point Of No Return", which should do well on stage. Here you could see/hear similarities with "Death Comes In Disguise" from the "Worlds Apart" album. "In From The Dark" is another proof that the band continues what they started on the previous album.

Up next is an accoustic song - "The King Of Fools" -, but with Indian elements like the tabla and the sitar, if I'm not mistaken. At least, that was the intro. What follows is standard SILENT FORCE material: heavy, melodic, nice grooves and André having fun behind the kit. ;-) Halfway there's a resting point, where the keyboards dominate the melody and atmosphere and slowly the tension is being built up for Alex's solowork. Another flawless song, with another sing-along chorus.

"The Child Within" rocks a great deal, but somehow it doesn't do me as much as the other songs. This one is more Hardrock-influenced instead of the melodic Powermetal the band is known for. In my humble opinion, it could have been shortened with one or one and a half minute, no?

"Goodbye My Ghost" has something Gothic-ish with that typical piano-melody and a clean, low voice in the chorus. Bands that could serve as comparison: LACRIMAS PROFUNDERE, ELUSIVE, ... After this 'alternative' moment, time for some accoustic again with "Save Me From Myself". This is not a bad song, but it doesn't send shivers down my spine either.

Aha, a mystic symphonic start for "My Indepence Day", soon followed by heavy, chuggy riffing and relaxed drumming. No real speed booster, as this song advances quite slow, but again the chorus stands out. Kudos to the fine guitarwork, which is actually quite flawless over the entire album. And Thorsten is also in the spotlights with a keyboard solo...for a change. ;-) Alex soon takes over, though.

Was that George Bush making a guest appearance? "You know, it'll take time to restore chaos, but we're, but we will." Yep, and they're still trying. But wait, aren't they supposed to restore peace? So yes, you guessed it, this is politically charged song. Lyrically this is kind of repeating what many already think of the Iraq and similar situation, with Bush and other political leaders deceiving the people, trying to convince them it's not them who are at fault and vice versa. On a musical level it's a bit too soft, for me at least. KREATOR for example has also done such songs, and there such 'rants' fit in more, as Thrash is heavier, punch-in-the-face, more aggressive.

The piano makes it entrance again in "Running Through The Fire", which is quite an epic song and with some practise you could easily learn the lyrics. The tempo is quite playful and in general this song should also sound good on stage. When looking at the lyrics, could DC's job as a fireman have had any influence?

And last, but certainly not the least but for me the best song on "Walk The Earth": "Picture Of A Shadow", sheer uptempo powermetal. Awesome! If only there were at least two more of these instead of the midtempo stuff.

With this great ending, I surely recommend "Walk The Earth" to anyone who likes Melodic Powermetal and liked the previous effort(s) of the band. Although it's still early, this is however one of the better (best?) releases in its genre this year. SILENT FORCE aren't an revolutionary band, but do deliver the goods and fulfill the promises. Add the great musicianship (isn't e.g. Alex Beyrodt underestimated?) and you'll have another worthwhile album in your collection. One thing I'm not satisfied about is the sound of the recordings and more specifically the drumsound. It's too damn muffled. Everyone knows André Hilgers can hit the skins however he wants to, but the power of his hits don't come out like they should. Dennis Ward has produced so many bands, but his work on "Walk The Earth" certainly could have been better, considering "Worlds Apart" did have a better drumsound.

More info at www.silent-force.rocks.de.

Line-up:
DC Cooper - vocals
Alexander Beyrodt - guitars
Torsten Röhre - keyboards
Jürgen Steinmetz - bass
André Hilgers - drums


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RUDE AWAKENING – A Tribute To Thin Lizzy (Nidus Music Productions 2007)

Rude Awakening - A Tribute To Thin Lizzy
  1. Jailbreak
  2. Don't Believe A Word
  3. Hollywood
  4. Wild One
  5. Johnny The Fox
  6. Cowboy Song
  7. Boys Are Back In Town
  8. Emerald
  9. Still In Love With You
  10. Massacre
  11. It's Only Money
  12. Sha La La
  13. Warrior

Who doesn't know THIN LIZZY, the classic rockband from the '70s, and their famous frontman/bassist Phil Lynott? I got to know them musically back in 2001, when the line-up consisting of John Sykes (vocals, guitar), Scott Gorham (Guitar), Darren Wharton (keyboards), Marco Mendoza (bass) and Tommy Aldridge (drums) did some gigs and recorded the "Live - One Night Only" CD (2001). And what a CD it is! There's something special about, not just musically (Classic Rock rules!), but also the atmosphere. It makes you want to see these guys live, preferrably in a venue. The songs as well are also quite moving: "Jailbreak", "Don't Believe A Word", "The Sun Goes Down", "Suicide", the immensely beautiful "Still In Love With You" (without a doubt one of the best ballads ever!) and of course the duo "Cowboy Song" and "Boys Are Back In Town" (did you hear that twin-guitar solo? Awesome material!).

Needless to say that this is one of my favourite live albums. In addition, these guys give you a sort of push to check out the original songs...which I will do one of the coming weeks. Next to all those Power, Thrash, Death, Doom and other Metal records, there's definitely room for some more classic stuff.

RUDE AWAKENING is a rock/metal bands from the USA, who have been playing this music since sometime around 1986, judging by their album "An Act Of God". So far the band has made 6 albums and 1 live album, before concentrating on dedicating their newest to one of the best classic rockbands of all time: THIN LIZZY. They got in touch with Philomena Lynott, Phil's mother, to perform some THIN LIZZY songs on several memorial events. This year the band will again travel to Dublin, Ireland for the 2nd Annual Philip Lynott Statue Memorial Celebration and this on the 18th August.

The album is logically titled "A Tribute To Thin Lizzy" (released mid-February) and features songs from five albums:

Nightlife (1974)
Fighting (1975)
Jailbreak (1976)
Johnny The Fox (1976)
Renegade (1981)

It starts with the classic - well, most of them are classics - "Jailbreak", where you can hear the band tried to capture a classic sounding production and thus maintaining the spirit of old. Mitch has a soft and clean voice, a bit like Phil Lynott himself. Tight playing, lots of soul in it... no wonder Phil's mom likes the band. "Don't Believe A Word" is next and of course, this ain't live, so a comparison with the live album (see first paragraph) should not be made. But here too the execution is spotless. Turn up the volume for some great rock!

"Hollywood" is a song I don't know, but it sounds very rocking, too. The solos too are damn well played. If you didn't know any better, you'd say it's THIN LIZZY II.

Time for a more relaxing song: "Wild One". In comes the accoustic guitar to assist the electric one. There's nothing wild about this song, though. ;-) It does have a nice drumroll-fill-something before the chorus. The lead guitar sounds awesome, not only the sound, but the melody too. "Johnny The Fox" is another song I didn't know, but it cranks up the rocking level again. Not a bad song, but I'm not that fond of it. Perhaps if I would see it live, my opinion could change.

And yes, a song I do like a lot: "Cowboy Song". The live version (see above) sounds fucking awesome, naturally. :-) RUDE AWAKENING's version sounds a bit slower - probably because the original is also like this. Quite a nice version, but John Sykes and co. still do it better. Again a logical thought, since some of the present line-up were part of the old THIN LIZZY.

No "Cowboy Song" without "Boys Are Back In Town". And yes, here the band does hit the nail on the head. Great work, guys. :-) Oh my, what's this? "Emerald" is another (slow rocking) song that is not much of my liking. At least not as much as the others. It does have a catchy guitarmelody. But overall the vocals aren't that good and the guitarsolos are quite annoying. Let's go to the amazing "Still In Love With You", which brings tears to my eyes every time I hear it, i.e. the live version. Mitch is doing his best, but he's too fast in the chorus. John Sykes - yes, him again - beats Mitch. Musically it's quite alright. But yes, I prefer that live version. There it sounds simply... wow!.

"Massacre" goes back to more rock, and like most others, this song would do very well on stage. Nice job, here. "It's Only Money" is a bit slower, with quite nice breaks and hooks. "Sha La La" will make you shake that booty and get you moving. Or at least some light headbanging, hahaha. :-) "Warrior" sounds boring to me, both vocally and musically. No, thanks. This really makes me want to play some Death or Thrash.

So, how good is this "Tribute To Thin Lizzy"? It's a sort of compilation, performed by another band. From that perspective, it's worth the money, as you get to know some of the old material without bying a cat in a bag (Dtuch saying). In other words, if you don't know which album to buy. I would of course recommend "Live - One Night Only", but RUDE AWAKENING's effort is also commendable and should not miss in any THIN LIZZY fan's collection. The band managed to stay true to the old sound, the atmosphere and feel. Hell, even the cover is like "Chinatown", but you get a fish here instead of the dragon. There are a few songs that aren't that good, but I guess it's just a matter of taste. This album definitely sparked my intrest in THIN LIZZY again. It's an album of which even Phil Lynott would be proud. Ok, perhaps too much praise, but it's nevertheless a decent record.

More info at www.nidusprod.com.

Line-up:
Mitch Urban - vocals
Bill Sablan - guitars
John 'Gumby' Goodwin - guitars
Robert Ryder - bass
Kai Ballard - drums


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REBEL MEETS REBEL – Rebel Meets Rebel (Locomotive Records 2007)

Rebel Meets Rebel - Rebel Meets Rebel
  1. Nothin' To Lose
  2. Rebel Meets Rebel
  3. Cowboys Do More Dope
  4. Panfilo
  5. Heart Worn Highway
  6. One Nite Stand
  7. Arizona Rivers
  8. Get Outta My Life
  9. Cherokee Cry
  10. Time
  11. No Compromise
  12. N.Y.C. Streets

REBEL MEETS REBEL is said to be the last work of PANTERA/DAMAGEPLAN guitarist/founder Dimebag Darrell, who died early December 2004. In short it's PANTERA going country, but here we have Country legend David Allen Coe on vocals, instead of Phil Anselmo.

I'm not much of a Country fan, but I was quite curious of how the combination with heavy guitars would turn out. And the self-titled album does start very good with the to-the-point rocking song "Nothin' To Lose" , where the Country influence is lightly hearable. More Country stuff can be found in "Rebel Meets Rebel" , with the typical violin and melodies that make up for a great party. In the bridge you can hear some organ sounds. Vinnie's pounding drumwork gives the song more balls.

Like I said, it's basically PANTERA, as the other heavier tracks - "One Nite Stand" , "Get Outta My Life" (a great Fuck You! song, with extra percussion) - clearly testify.

But the band also goes for more laid-back songs like "Cowboys Do More Dope" - with an important role for the piano, but also with a very lame chorus - and "Heart Worn Highway" (very nice song, this one).

Things aren't always a success, as clearly proven by "Cherokee Cry" (are they serious or laughing with these people?), the chaotic "No Compromise" and the accoustic, yet very dreadful "N.Y.C. Streets". Awful song, that last one.

Naturally, guitar solos are also present and Dimebag sure is having great fun, especially in the more rocking songs. But unfortunately they do not make this record more interesting.

Overall, this is not such a bad record, but "Rebel Meets Rebel" isn't exactly a must-have either. And if this is the last work of Dimebag... Still, if you want to know how Country Metal sounds (or can sound), then you could see some value in this album.

On a sidenote: this is a re-release via Locomotive Records (on 16/02), as it originally came out last year (2006) via Big Vin Records.

More info at www.rebelmeetsrebel.com.

Line-up:
David Allen Coe - vocals
Diamond 'Dimebag' Darrell - guitars
Rex Brown - bass
Vinnie Paul - drums


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NIKKI PUPPET – Militant Mother (Armageddon Music 2007)

Nikki Puppet - Militant Mother
  1. Lost In Time
  2. Militant Mother
  3. We Didn't Start The Fire (BILLY JOEL cover)
  4. Open Up Your Mind
  5. Words
  6. Turning In Circles
  7. If (You Can't Have Me)
  8. Lights Are Out
  9. Paralized
  10. Paltry
  11. I Don't Know

The German rockband NIKKI PUPPET released their debut "Puppet On A String" two years ago in November. When you check back the review I made, you'll see I was quite positive about that album. And listening to it again after many months - yes, my taste lies mainly elsewhere - my opinion hasn't changed. Last week, on the 16th of February, the band released the follow-up: "Militant Mother". A title that should describe it all and I think it refers to singer Nicky Gronewold, who still has that charismatic voice that instantly makes you think about NIKKI PUPPET. But it's also the great guitarwork of Christos Mamalitsidis, who has outdone himself this time and improved a lot since the first album.

"Puppet On A String" was produced by Herman Frank, who's well-known for his work with VICTORY and ACCEPT. For "Militant Mother" it was again him who pushed and switched the right buttons. NIKKI PUPPET and Hermann Frank: a great combo! Again the songs have a running time of 3-4 minutes, which also seems to be a typical trademark of the band. Longer songs aren't their cup of tea, I think, and I would also make an album quite boring. No, to-the-point and catchy is what NIKKI PUPPET is about and they do it very well.

I haven't followed the band like I do with other bands, so I don't know what happened between the release of the debut and the release of this new album, although I think the biggest change was that Florentin Adolf replaced Michael Wolpers on the drums, for whatever reason. Fact is that it probably had a significant influence on the songwriting. Isn't Florentin more rock- or Hardrock-minded than Michael? Next to that, the band of course played the required gigs with MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP and also got a spot on last year's Wacken Open Air.

The similarities with GUANO APES still holds, but NIKKI PUPPET also managed to go for a more rocking approach and even injecting some Punkishness. They also decided to add a cover of BILLY JOEL's "We Didn't Start The Fire". How they managed to give this song a new life is really amazing. Sure, it's just a rock-version, but it sounds so... strong. Covers don't always work out well, depending on the song, but Nicky and co. have done a very good job.

I'm not going to discuss the songs further, but you can be sure that "Militant Mother" should really catapult the band into stardom. On this new album you can hear that NIKKI PUPPET has progressed a lot and deserve all the attention they can get. Great to-the-point (Hard)rocksongs (hinting a bit at ACCEPT and similar ;-)) with improved guitarwork and effective drumming. Needless to say that Nicky's voice also has evolved a bit, in the good way. There's not one bad song here, they're all a hit. Well, maybe "Paltry" is discussable, with its dancy beats, and the rather mediocre "I Don't Know". The competition is tough, but I think it will do the band a lot of good if they ended in many Best Of 2007 lists. I could go on, but I will close with the cliché but justified word: RECOMMENDED!

More info at www.nikkipuppet.de.

Line-up:
Nicky Gronewold - vocals
Christos Mamalitsidis - guitar
Anke Sobek - bass
Florentin Adolf - drums


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GENIUS – Episode 3: The Final Surprise (Frontier Records 2007)

Genius - Episode 3: The Final Surprise
  1. Toy Warehouse
  2. No More Chances
  3. Save Me From My Destiny
  4. Alive And Safe
  5. Jump Off This Train
  6. Let Me Live
  7. Inside These Memories
  8. I Die
  9. Back To Life Again
  10. Dream In Liberty
  11. The Final Surprise

To start off, this intro is the same as the one I wrote for "Episode 2: In Search Of The Little Prince" (2004) and this for the sake of clarity and linking. Here we go. It's August 2010 when I'm writing this, as I received this album earlier this year. GENIUS is the brainchild of Daniele Liverani (guitarist, keyboardist), who also plays in TWINSPIRITS, who wrote the story behind the albums himself. In total there are three albums:

Episode 1: A Human Into Dreams' World (2002)
Episode 2: In Search Of The Little Prince (2004)
Episode 3: The Final Surprise (2007, released on the 16th February)

As the first album is nowadays hard to find, I got the other two from Daniele himself. I knew GENIUS by name, but never took the time to check the albums. GENIUS is a (Progressive) Rock/Metal Opera like AYREON and AVANTASIA, to name the biggest two. One composer and several guests to sing the respective vocal lines of the different characters in the story. What the story exactly is about is this: "the whole storyconcept refers to a dream experienced by the main character Genius that lasts only 10 minutes! It's known that dreams are often creating a time-stretch effect in our minds, so that a 10 minutes long dream can be remembered as a day long story. In fact, these 10 minutes of Genius' dream has been described in 4 hour of music!". The totality of the three discs is about 4 hours of music. To find out more about the story, go to www.geniusrockopera.com.

The line-up of GENIUS consists of two people: Daniele Liverani on guitars, bass and keyboards, and Dario Ciccioni (HARTMANN, EMPYRIOS, ...) on drums. Oliver Hartmann handled all choir parts. The cast of lead vocalists has changed a bit. Mark Boals made way for DC Cooper. Gone are Russel Allen, Liv Kristine, Johnny Gioeli and Roberto Tiranti, also because their characters don't play a role in this last part of the trilogy. The guests and their respective roles on this album are:

DC Cooper (SILENT FORCE): Genius
Daniel Gildenlöw (PAIN OF SALVATION): Twinspirit N. 32
Jørn Lande (JORN, MASTERPLAN): Apikor
Andrea Dätwyler (LUNATICA): Kokeshi doll
Toby Hitchcock (PRIDE OF LIONS): Senator Jeramus
Eric Martin (MR. BIG): Mr. Niko
Philip Bynoe (RING OF FIRE): Storyteller

As it goes with operas and a story, you need a storyteller. And so Philip fulfills his role at the end of each (!) track. Yep, you never get two songs that flow into each other for the sake of letting the songs do the talking. No, each time Philip gives you an update. This is of course nice and helpful, generally speaking, but it also hurts the listening experience if you just want to hear the songs, one after another. But when you buy this album, you know what to expect, so accepting it will make the voyage all the more smooth. On the previous album I found his input quite helpful, but on "Episode 3: The Final Surprise" I had the impression he sounded less present, as if he thought "let's get this over with, because I've got other things to do.", which might sound strange, but that's how I feel about it.

This third and last episode starts thus with "Toy Warehouse" and its spoken intro. With each of these parts, spacey backing sounds help bring the story to life. The music does indeed make it a Metal opera, especially with the choir vocals. In this track DC Cooper and Daniel Gildenlöw take up the mic. Musically you get Jazzy Prog with organ leads in the verses, while the bridge and chorus sound more funky. The vocals stand high in the mix, that is very clear. At some point there's an instrumental break in vein of DREAM THEATER with keyboards and guitar solos. Let it be known that this is of course of pure quality. You even hear a kid laughing, which made me wonder if it's the little prince or the Kokeshi doll, which is featured in "Save Me From My Destiny". Either way, this first track is very well done.

Apikor (played by Jørn Lande) begins "No More Chances". Pounding Metal (again with organ leads) follows. Apikor is the commander who's to destroy Twinspirit 32. Logically the vocal input is fierce and powerful making Jørn's voice sound close to that of Nils Patrik Johansson (ASTRAL DOORS, WUTHERING HEIGHTS, LION'S SHARE). From start to finish you get powerful Metal with the obligatory solo and varied drumming, a pluspoint. "Save Me From My Destiny" sounds like a ballad at first because of the gentle piano leads and atmospheric backing. It made me think of TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA. Lead vocals are for Andrea Dätwyler (Kokeshi doll), DC Cooper (Genius) and Daniel Gildenlöw (Twinspirit 32). Full vocal power is activated in the chorus. After the solo and chorus, all stops as Philip Bynoe comes in for an update in the story. After this intermezzo choir singing and symphonic backing (with strings, brass and wooden instruments) make another TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA reference before Philip gives a final update.

Mr. Niko aka Eric Martin (MR. BIG) can be heard in "Alive And Safe", which is a slow, Proggy song. Keyboards lead, while guitars and drums provide the rhythmic aspect. This flows over into midtempo, straight-forward verses with key roles for both guitar and keyboards. The vocal input is stronger in the chorus, as Mr. Niko gets assistance from the European Senators choir. No, Daniele didn't forget to add a solo. All in all this is another good song, yet in my opinion less than the previous ones. "Jump Off The Train" is the song where Genius is to take the disc with memories (from Twinspirit 32) to the European Senators. The dialogue between both characters and the imagined scene made me think of a scene in the game "Medal Of Honor: Allied Assault", where one has to jump ON the train to escape the Germans after having planted bombs in the complex. Here it's the other way around: Genius has to jump OFF the train to accomplish the mission. As you would expect, the music sounds furious and mighty. Uptempo verses with organ leads provide a very entertaining listening experience. It must be said, though, that the verses sound suppressed in order to let out the power and fullness in the bridge and chorus, which has a hymnic character. The solo is not a joyful one, as Genius and Twinspirit have to part ways. But as Genius is hard-headed, the music turns furious again as Twinspirit 32 becomes mad at Genius and insults him as a tactic to convince Genius of the importance of the mission to bring the disc to the Senators. A job very well done. The song, I mean. No complaints whatsoever.

As the train rolls on, it seems Apikor (sent out to destroy Twinspirit 32) is close to accomplishing the goal, as he is the train conductor, hence Twinspirit 32's plea to be left alive in "Let Me Live". Here you get midtempo Rock with atmospheric backing. Jørn sounds more normal, calmer here, at least in the verses. Twinspirit 32 is also present. At some point there's an emotional moment as Twinspirit 32 is looking death in the eyes. What follows is firm Prog Rock with, as expected, the guitar solo. "Inside These Memories" starts with keyboards while guitars and drums add accents, all in order to build the tension, transcending into calm verses, later into the hymnic chorus where vocal power is strengthened through the choir voices. Vocals are a key element in this track. This is also the song where Genius is to present the disc to the Senators. One of those is Senator Jeramus, played by Toby Hitchcock. All is well here: the music, the choir singing, ... especially the choir singing. While Oliver Hartmann is a very good singer and his input was put to good use and more specifically the vocal lines, the melodies. Very nice piece of work. The guitar solo is this time not of the sad kind, but brings hope. All in all, the music isn't as variable as before. I mean, I didn't hear significant differences between verses, chorus, ... even if all is well played and produced.

PARADISE LOST has "As I Die", Daniele kept it at "I Die" for GENIUS. This is a ballad, but a sad one and it's all about Twinspirit 32 who's still looking death in the eyes and will soon be no more. The piano and symphonic backing emphasize the sadness and drama of it all. The guitar solo near the end joins the club. A solid result, though nothing more. But there need not be anything more, as it's perfectly clear what's happening and how it should sound. "Back To Life Again" brings us back to Senator Jeramus, where drums set the song in with a positive vibe. Happy Progressive / Hard Rock with keyboard leads follows. I don't know if Happy Prog Rock exists, but it's a fitting term to describe the music. Happy Power Metal does exist, one well-know example being FREEDOM CALL. But that's a different story. Anyway, in "Back To Life Again" the importance is to give a sense of hope, considering the context of the story. All in all, another decent song, but to me the whole lacked power and intensity to stay focused (as a listener).

In "Dream In Liberty" Senator Jeramus and Apikor sing the lead vocals. The song starts with guitar leads and keyboards and building drums, advancing towards the verses. The rhythm is a highlight, but in this song it's the vocals that are thé element to distinguish verses from chorus. The music doesn't offer much help in this context, sadly enough. Solos come from guitar and keyboards. All in all... not bad, but to me this song sounded too long, too stretched. Luckily there is "The Final Surprise" to end the story and dream in style. It starts with the piano and keyboards, sounding quite happy and funky. Dario's drumwork builds the tension. The difference between the rocking verses and bridge and chorus is now very clear. In other words, the music does show you which is what. Vocally Genius and Twinspirit 32 meet one last time (Twinspirit 32 apparently tricked Apikor), before Genius wakes up from this 10-minute dream.

"Episode 2: In Search Of The Little Prince" was - the same counts for this final part and I copy-paste - like listening to the audio version of a theatrical play or perhaps a musical. In the booklet you can easily follow along with the lyrics and story. The production is good, the guests are all skilled people and if you're into Progressive Rock/Metal (examples enough!), then by all means, check out GENIUS. Now, is "Episode 3: The Final Surprise" as good as "Episode 2: In Search Of The Little Prince"? Well, to be honest, no. It is a solid album, that is without question, but when comparing both releases in terms of compositions, vocalists, production and so forth... "Episode 2: In Search Of The Little Prince" is the better of the two. But get all three albums to enjoy a very nice Rock/Metal Opera. You cannot go wrong with any of them.

More info at www.geniusrockopera.com.

Line-up:
Daniele Liverani - guitar, bass, keyboards
Dario Ciccioni - drums


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DRED – A Path To Extinction (Dred 2007)

Dred - A Path To Extinction
  1. Absent From Entity
  2. Animal, Man...Machine
  3. Sea To Summit
  4. Edifice Of Tyranny

As I'm writing this in September 2008, it's a 2007 release we're dealing with here. According to the band, early 2007 (February, to be more precise). That band is called DRED, hails from down under (Australia) and plays Death/Thrash of a very qualitative kind. The band was formed in 2001 as Denis Vlachiotis and Michael Conti (bass/vocals) joined forces to create some fierce Metal. The line-up steadily took shape over the years as Mikhail Okrugin (rhythm/lead guitar) and drummer David Horgan joined the duo. Bass and vocals seemed a tough job, so Evgeny Linnik was attracted in late 2005 to hold the mic. Guitarist and co-founder Denis Vlachiotis decided in 2007 to pursue a solo career, so Chris Jones was asked to fill the empty spot. And that's the current line-up, even though the band's first effort, "A Path To Extinction", was recorded with Denis still in the band.

"A Path To Extinction" consists of four tracks, each containing elements and sound that bonds them together without making you feel you're listening to the same song within almost 23 and ½ minutes. Each of the four has elements that define the characteristics. With extreme Metal it's obvious that the guitars are heavy and drums as devastating as possible, or at least, for the biggest part. Vocals can be clean, but it's advised to grunt or growl and that's what Evgeny does and he does it very well!

"Absent From Entity" contains polyrhytmic drumming and with that you'll score a lot of points with me, hehehe. But seriously, the drums are high in the mix, but everything is well balanced and this decision certainly doesn't impact the power of the vocals or guitars at all. While Evgeny has his role, the band also chose to let the instruments do the talking for a large part of the song.

I had the impression that the riffing was sharper in "Animal, Man...Machine", which is also the chorus and easy to remember and growl along. The tempo is higher than in the first track and overall the music is more straight-forward, even though the polyrhythmic drums are present as well. Bonus point go to the guitarsolo, which leads to the end. So far so very good and extremely tastey.

Since the pedal has been pushed down some more, why not go a little further? "Sea To Summit" is what came out of it. Another direct song and you better not stand in the way of this devastating force. The solo in the beginning is a great way to lure you in and another one follows later on, after the slowdown at about 03:00, while slowly rebuilding the pace to be unleashed one last time at 04:45. Pure quality!

To spare Evgeny's throat and put the instruments in the spotlight, the first two minutes of "Edifice Of Tyranny" are fully instrumental and varied in tempo and rhythm. Everyone continues to deliver the goods and flood your mind with catchy Metal. The references to, for example, GOD DETHRONED or BOLT THROWER are not out of place. Evgeny's growls sound very pure and in a way I would compare them with Johan Hegg's (AMON AMARTH), but much lower. Fact is that I cannot find anything to complain about here either.

Australia has been putting lots of great Metal on the map over the past x years, but in terms of self-releases I still remember and recommend what BE'LAKOR and RED DESCENDING put out. DRED is another name to remember and keep an eye on, for "A Path To Extinction" is a pure Death/Thrash gem! On this EP you'll find power, brutality, passion and drive that is dangerously attractive. "A Path To Extinction" is heavily recommended for anyone into Extreme Metal and particularly into bands like BEYOND THE FLESH, BENEDICTION, MEGADETH, (old) METALLICA, VOMITORY, DEATH, GOD DETHRONED and similar. Go to the band's website to get your copy. Now! And keep an eye on their debut album.

More info at www.dred.com.au.

Line-up:
Evgeny Linnik - vocals
Chris Jones - guitars
Mikhail Okrugin - guitars
Michael Conti - bass
David Horgan - drums


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DRONE – Head-On Collision (Armageddon Music 2007)

DRONE - Head-On Collision
  1. Theproactical
  2. Welcome In The Pit
  3. Stampmark
  4. Chainsaw Symphony
  5. Jericho
  6. In The End
  7. High Octane
  8. Intimidation
  9. Life Of Riley
  10. Carnophile
  11. One In A Million

DRONE is a new Thrash Metal band, and founded in Celle, Germany in 2005. Their participation at the Metal Battle Contest at Wacken Open Air showed what potential the four guys have and Armageddon Music soon offered them a contract. "Head-On Collision" is the first result of this collaboration.

For their debut, the guys went into the Stage One Studios where Andy Classen is master of it all. This all happened at the end of 2006. Only a couple months later and now little more than a week ago (16/02), "Head-On Collision" is available for the public. As a bonus you get two videoclips, both in .mp4 and .mpg format: "Welcome To The Pit" and "Theopractical".

"Theopractical" is the start of a brutal debut album, but melody is also present, particularly in the chorus. Not really uptempo, but still vicious. Things really start rolling with "Welcome To The Pit", which has an EXODUS-like riffing. Mutz's voice can be compared to other vocalists in the Thrash or extreme genre, but I can't put the finger on it. But this shows he does have the voice for it: rough, but not growling rough. Towards the end Felix buys us some blastbeats.

Cooling down again with "Stampmark"... Well, not exactly, it's still aggressive and good for headbanging, but the tempo is slower, especially in the chorus. During the verses you could badly hurt your neck. ;-) One point of criticism: the production. Sure, it's the same as the other songs and yes, it's another job well done, but the riffs can sometimes sound messy and I think it's also typical for Andy's productions. They're rough and fit in well, but it's not always 100% alright.

And for the sake of using a pattern, let's add some more brutality and tempo again: "Chainsaw Symphony", which starts with someone switching on a chainsaw. This will kill when performed live, just like "Welcome To The Pit". Wasn't this a TESTAMENT song? O right, they had "Into The Pit". If you use your imagination, you can link the riffs and double bassdrums to the sound of a chainsaw.

And here we have a first less good song: "Jericho". Mutz decides to sing in a clean way, which doesn't fit the song or him. But that doesn't last long, as the screams pop up soon enough. This is another brutal song, but boring after like.. 2 minutes. "In The End" also sees/hears Mutz using a clean voice and here as well it doesn't fit. The guitars are just too heavy for it. When he adds some roughness, then it's better. But the song overall isn't that attractive. Add a boring chorus and you know they have a hard time trying to keep the song interesting enough.

Can "High Octane" improve the situation? It's got the heavy riffs, and around the 35th second, we're off on other humpapa-styled verses. The bridge and chorus are slower, melodic and to be honest, it's the typical Thrash-playing that makes it interesting. Now it's more like MACHINE HEAD and NEVERMORE, if you know what I mean. I'm not saying that MACHINE HEAD and NEVERMORE are bad/sucky bands. On the contrary. There is still some old school Thrash in a couple of songs, but the most is modern Thrash. Yeah, that's evolution, but I still prefer old school Thrash.

And so it goes on. "Head-On Collision" is a brutal album, to say the least, but brutality must also be contained and at times chaos tends to intervene and I've noticed this has to do with Andy Classen's way of producing. There are times when he can really get a great result, but the last albums I heard that were produced by him all have this same 'problem'. Sure, you know what you get and Andy knows his job, but depending on the band, you get a good or less good sound.

Still, the band is of course the first element in this whole procedure of making an album. And like I said, it's a good start for an album, but that's all. There's not really anything superinteresting about DRONE or "Head-On Collision". The focus lies on modern Thrash with melodic choruses that in some songs flirt for airplay, and only a few songs have old school elements. If you're a fan of '80s Thrash, avoid DRONE at all costs. If you more of an open-minded (i.e. modern) Thrash fan and want to see what's new, DRONE could be a worthy band on your list.

More info at www.droneband.de.

Line-up:
Mutz Hempel - vocals, guitars
Marcelo Vasquez - guitar
MArtin Froese - bass
Felix Hoffmeyer - drums


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INFEST – Feel The Rage (Hurricane Entertainment 2006)

Infest - Feel The Rage
  1. The False
  2. Diablo
  3. The Enemy
  4. Urban Guerilla
  5. Like A Stray Dog
  6. Oxido
  7. Liberacion
  8. Feel The Rage
  9. Ojos Negros
  10. Furisio
  11. Immortal Code

From the Basque country, more specifically Baiona, a new band has emerged from the depths of the abyss: INFEST. Founded in 2003, this band consists of four musicians who play a mix of Death Metal, Grind- and Hardcore. Their first work was a four-track demo that came out in January 2005 and is downloadable on their website.

Two years later, or at least in 2006 first, the band manages to get a record deal with Hurricane Entertainment and only a few days ago (9th February) the debut album, "Feel The Rage", saw the light of day. What you get is a digipack with the CD, on which you will find 11 songs and a live videoclip of the song "Oxido", which was recorded on May 12, 2006.

It's a brutal record from start to finish with actually lots of screaming, or better said, squealing. And that can be annoying after a couple of songs. If Bard would switch to growling, it would make the album and particularly those songs more interesting. Also, the use of guitar solos has been limited to the absolute minimum. And I start to wonder if there even are solos. You do get some spoken samples of, for example, a political speech or just a Brit doing a statement (does this come from a film? If so, which one?)

Regarding the playtime, it's under 30 minutes. Not that the songs need more minutes, because that would surely do the result no good. But the guys are keeping it to the point and this is after all their debut, so let's give them the benefit of the doubt. The sophomore album will be more decisive.

For now, I will cautiously say that it won't hurt to check this band and their first album "Feel The Rage", but do be open-minded. It's a start, so one should wait for the next record(s) to draw a conclusion.

More info at www.infest-metal.com.

Line-up:
Bard - vocals
Flow - guitars
Pat - bass
Sbeu - drums


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TRAIL OF TEARS – Existentia (Napalm Records 2007)

Trail Of Tears - Existentia
  1. Deceptive Mirrors
  2. My Comfort
  3. Venom Inside My Veins
  4. Decadence Becomes Me
  5. She Weaves Shadows
  6. The Closing Walls
  7. Empty Room
  8. Poisonous Tongues
  9. As It Penetrates
  10. Shades Of Yesterday

Norwegian Gothic Metallers TRAIL OF TEARS will release its newest album "Existentia" around the end of January, more specifically on the 29th. But this release marks the end of the line-up that included Jonathan Perez (drums), Kjell Hagen (bass), Runar Hansen (guitar) and Kjetil Nordhus (vocals) who collectively decided to call it quits in November 2006. They even stated the band had ceased to exist, yet this was without the consent and knowledge of vocalist Ronny Thorsen and keyboardist Frank Roald Hagen, who countered this statement by saying it ain't over yet and that he (Ronny) plans to continue with a new line-up.

What I've heard by TRAIL OF TEARS are the last two albums: "A New Dimension Of Might" (2002) and "Free Fall Into Fear" (2005). Melody and atmosphere is important in this band and it's no different on these two and the new one, "Existentia". "A New Dimension Of Might" was very brutal, not just because of the vocals but also the riffs. Occacionally there were Black Metal elements via the keyboards and the blastbeats on the drums. Most of the stuff on "Free Fall Into Fear" contained more Melodic Death influences, but not forgetting the few blastbeats. The band also spiced things up with Progressive touches. The combo Ronny-Kjetil works very fine with rough, demonic growling on one side and a cleaner, almost epic kind of singing on the other side. In short: both albums are definitely worth the purchase.

Let's see if "Existentia" can fulfill the expectations and do as good as the previous works. It certainly starts energetic with "Deceptive Mirrors", which has great choirish keyboards. Ronny's growling is present throughout the whole album of course, next to Kjetil's more operatic-like singing. Here and there a female voice (from Emmanuelle Zoldan, a French singer) comes in between and that is mostly on the calmer moments, where heaviness is left silent. In the first song, and especially here, it's obvious she can sing, but lacks warmth, melody and more things that would make a female voice attractive. She also makes an appearance in "My Comfort" and it's even less good than in "Deceptive Mirrors". Personally I think it would have been better to have those moments either instrumental or have Kjetil sing something.

The guitars sound less brutal as on "A New Dimension Of Might", for example. It's like all is more polished, in favour of more melody instead of heaviness. Make no mistake, the riffs are still heavy, but less. And if we're gonna talk about the drums: yes, powerful, but due to digital technology a bit thin, especially the bass drums.

Like on the previous two albums you'll find some blastbeats here as well with "Venom Inside My Veins" being the first song. But the blasts aren't that fast and don't last very long until a normal kind of playing takes over. Another noticeable element are the keyboards and more specifically the piano-option, used for the dramatic touches. This can be heard very good in "Decadence Becomes Me". The song's chorus reminds me in a way of CANDLEMASS. After a good 2:30 Emmanuelle makes another appearance and sorry, but she gives me the shivers. Not that it makes any difference with or without her, as "Decadence Becomes Me" is listenable, but nothing spectacular.

"She Weaves Shadows" makes it better, with a nice chorus and mysterious keyboard melodies. Ronny's growling fits in very well and doesn't seem to bore at any occasion. Kudos to him for a great performance. "The Closing Walls" even adds more aggression, byt means of guitars and Ronny. The symphonic backing makes it more complete. The French vocalist Emmanuelle Zoldan is also present in this song and yes, it's a calmer moment dominated by samples. Heaviness reclaims its place soon after her intervention.

Aah, a ballad, titled "Empty Room". And a not so bad one. And yes, it's a duet, BUT! this time all is well and there's nothing annoying about her voice. Luckily Kjetil sings with her in the chorus, so that helps in covering tiny detailish issues. ;-)

Time for brutality again and a title like "Poisonous Tongues" is quite clear. Ronny also takes the leading vocals again. Kjetil adds more emotion to the chorus. Must there really be a sampled interlude with - again - Emmanuelle in the spotlights? Afterwards the piano adds the appropriate mystery. Even an operatic kind of singing won't help. Basically, she ruins the whole song. Nothing personal, but there's something about her voice that makes me want to push the 'next' button asap. Or I might need more time to get used to her voice.

"As It Penetrates" continues the midtempo heaviness and sounds more promising than "Poisonous Tongues", but after multiple listenings, boredom starts to kick in. Luckily "Shades Of Yesterday" is of a better quality, but not outstanding either. This makes it seem like the first half of the songs is good and towards the end the band is having some trouble keeping the attention vivid.

Like I said, the previous two albums definitely are worth the purchase and "Existentia" is too. But mainly Emmanuelle's vocals form an obstacle for me and the digital sound, although to a much lesser extent. TRAIL OF TEARS' newest is a decent release and one that should please the fans and anyone who likes his Gothic rough. But for me, "A New Dimension Of Might" and "Free Fall Into Fear" stand a few steps higher on the ladder. ;-)

More info at www.trailoftears.no.

Line-up:
Ronny Thorsen - rough vocals
Kjetil Nordhus - clean vocals
Runar Hansen - guitars
Kjell Rune Hagen - bass
Frank Roald Hagen - keyboards
Jonathan Perez - drums


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HEAVENLY – Virus (AFM Records 2007)

Heavenly - Virus
  1. The Dark Memories
  2. Spill Blood On Fire
  3. Virus
  4. The Power & Fury
  5. Wasted Time
  6. Bravery In The Field
  7. Liberty
  8. When The Rain Begins To Fall
  9. The Prince Of The World

French Melodic Powermetal band HEAVENLY has released its fourth full album only a few days ago, on the 27th of January. But this is in a way a re-release, now aimed at the rest of the world. It originally came out last year in November in France and Japan.

Founded in 1994, the band first released a demo in 1998 ("Coming From The Sky"). The debut had the same title and descended in 2000, with the producing help of Piet Sielck (IRON SAVIOR, SAVAGE CIRCUS) and a guest appearance by GAMMA RAY mainman/guitarist Kai Hansen. Tours with SYMPHONY X, STRATOVARIUS and SILENT FORCE followed and gave the band the necessary experience and inspiration for the follow-up, which was ready only one year later: "Sign Of The Winner". This time Ben Sotto and co. appealed to the services of producer Tommy Hansen. Again a strong release for these hardworking musicians. To promote this album they travelled with EDGUY and also eneded playing at the famous Wacken Open Air festival.

The last album to appear via Noise Records was 2004's "Dust To Dust". Growing with every album, this prooved to be their best so far. A very brutal and powerful production that would simply destroy everything in its path. In short: the force of a bulldozer, but with a serious speed increase.

For "Virus", Philip Colodetti again helped out with the producing and mixing. The mastering was left in the hands of master of the art Mika Jussila at Finnvox Studios.

Before the work on the new record "Virus" could be started, the entire band - except vocalist/keyboardist Ben Sotto and guitarist Charley Corbiaux - decided to seek other interests. In other words: Maxence Pilo (drums), Frédéric Leclercq (guitars - now playing bass in DRAGONFORCE, at least for the touring) and Pierre-Emmanuel Pélisson (bass) have been replaced by respectively Thomas Das Neves, Olivier Lapauze and Matthieu Plana. Strange enough, Ben is nog longer credited as the keyboardist and nowhere in the booklet is there a note of who played them this time. But I take it Ben is still responsible for that department.

Once again there are some guest appearances: Tony Kakko (SONATA ARCTICA, vocals) on "Wasted Time", Kevin Codfert (ADAGIO, keyboards) on "Bravery In The Field" and Tanja (LULLACRY, vocals) on "When The Rain Begins To Fall".

Thinking "Dust To Dust" would be the start of a new sound turned out... not as expected. The sound on the new album is more in the vain of "Sign Of The Winner", but despite the big line-up changes Ben and Charley haven't forgotten how powerful HEAVENLY is supposed to sound. Like before there have been some bombastic injections to spice things up.

It all starts with "The Dark Memories", a vicious and sharp-edged dark-themed song. Rob Halford comes fading in and then hell breaks loose. Sorry, it's not Rob, it's Ben. ;-) The song probably is about something else, but I guess it's applicable to the leaving of Maxence, Frédéric and Pierre-Emmanuel. The new members do a more than fine job in playing the material. The first bombast comes into play in the intro of "Spill Blood On Fire", of which a video was shot and also put on the Limited Edition of the album. The melodies give the song an '80s feeling. On the other hand, the bridge, chorus and keyboard melodies refer to one of the best songs on the previous album, i.e. "Lust For Life".

The title track commences with a techno beat, like NIGHTWISH did with "I Wish I Had An Angel". Luckily this doesn't take too long, although the beat fits much better in this song than what NIGHTWISH tried on their last album, "Once". Although still melodic, bombastic Powermetal, I can't help but refer to Dave Mustaine and MEGADETH, especially in the verses. The bridge and chorus are of course a totally different story. The bombast continues with "The Power & Fury". In addition some serious speed increases have bene used here. But the title explains it all, right? Despite a somewhat less powerful production, HEAVENLY are on the right path towards genre domination, so to speak. The deal with AFM Records should definitely give the band more recognition and international appeal.

After the constant exhaust of energetic riffs and pounding drums, it's time for a softer song. "Wasted Time" at least igeves that impression, until little before the first minute-marker. Backing the verses are swirling keyboard melodies. Tony Kakko's vocals fit in very well and should Ben ever consider focussing on the keyboards, he can always ask Tony to join the band, next to his place in SONATA ARCTICA. ;-) The guitar solos are remarkable and really stand out, like the 'delicious' heavy riffs. :-)

Harpsichord sounds, bombast and a right dose of epicness are key ingredients for "Bravery In The Field". Keyboards determine the melody here, the guitars back things up and Thomas switches gears several times behind his drums. Every now and then he interrupts his playing to stress the power of the song. Meanwhile Charley and Olivier, and Kevin from ADAGIO, let themselves go on their instrument. Simply breathtaking and very enjoyable moments.

"Liberty" for all, a great thought and not in the least a great song. Slowly building up the tension in the verses, exploding into bombast and powerful speed when the chorus is on. At that time Ben is reaching for the highest possible note, as he has done many times before and it seems time does not have any effect on this.

"When The Rain Begins To Fall" should be known by everyone, even if you don't know who originally wrote that song. It was Jerman Jackson and Pia Zadora. I didn't know either, but luckily it is printed in the booklet. Google would also have helped of course. Here Tanja from LULLACRY can be heard singing with Ben, who leaves his high-pitched for what it is and uses a lower timbre. The heavier rendition is not easy, but HEAVENLY has done a splendid job (!!).

The "Virus" is exterminated by "The Prince Of The World". Or at least, he tried to do so. ;-) Powermetal all the way. And like the rest of the songs, or the majority of them, worldclass!

Some rules ago I said that "Dust To Dust" was their best album so far. The band has been improving with every release and "Dust To Dust" is still a top album, but what they present on their latest release is simply A-MA-ZING! From start to finish this is alsmost pure perfection. I don't really know how to end this review, except that I will try my best to add this to my Best Of 2007 list. Predictions last year weren't always succesful, so I hope they'll come true this year, hahaha. :-) Cliché as it sounds, "Virus" is indeed a virus, one that won't stop bothering you until you're sick and tired of HEAVENLY. Recommended material for ANY Powermetal fan. SONATA ARCTICA, STRATOVARIUS and related: beware of some serious competition.

More info at www.heavenly.fr.

Line-up:
Ben Sotto - vocals
Charley Corbiaux - guitars
Olivier Lapauze - guitars
Matthieu Plana - bass
Thomas Das Neves - drums


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NOSTRADAMEUS – Pathway (AFM Records 2007)

Nostradameus - Pathway
  1. Welcome To Living
  2. Wall Of Anger
  3. Until The End
  4. Demon Voices
  5. MDCC A.D. Pt. I
  6. MDCC A.D. Pt. II
  7. P.I.R.
  8. No Trace Of Madness
  9. Not Only Women Bleed
  10. Death By My Side
  11. The Untouchables

Swedish melodic Powermetallers NOSTRADAMEUS are still alive, despite little to no updates the past year - at least, before the band entered the studio to record the new songs. These Swedes released their debut "Words Of Nostradameus" back in 2000 and were very productive after that with the follow-up called "The Prophet Of Evil" coming out in 2001. Of course, a band has to play gigs and whatever more, so this gave them experience and time to work on their third album. "The Third Prophecy" then was released upon mankind in 2003. Their last release, "Hellbound", was again rapidly available: one year later, i.e. 2004. Claimed as their heaviest to date and that was partly true. In that year the first three albums also were released together as "Words Of The Prophet", in a nice slipcase. And this for the price of one CD.

AFM Records is one of those labels that give bands a chance to grow and develop themselves. And it seems that trust is still alive, as the band's newest collection of songs will also come out via AFM, which makes this the band's fifth album on this label. Kind of like HAMMERFALL getting neverending support from Nuclear Blast.

What's very remarkable throughout the entire discography, is how the band evolves and particularly in sound. Let me give you a short (?) rundown on things to clarify what I mean:

* "Words Of Nostradameus" (2000): rough sound, but lots of power and speed. In short, a very nice album.

Producing: Jake Fredén, Freddy Persson
Mixing: Finnvox, Mikko Marmila
Mastering: Finnvox, Mika Jussila
Recording studio: Gain Studios, Magnus Lundbäck

Freddy Persson - vocals, bass
Jake Fredén - guitars, keyboards
Erik Söderman - guitars
Gustav Nahlin - drums

* "The Prophet Of Evil" (2001): Same team as before, so the speed factor is still present. The sound has improved and is more tight. Not all songs are fast, there's also attention for something that's a bit slower.

Producing: Jake Fredén, Freddy Persson
Mixing: Finnvox, Mikko Marmila
Mastering: Finnvox, Mika Jussila
Recording studio: Gain Studios, Magnus Lundbäck

Freddy Persson - vocals
Jake Fredén - guitars
Michael Åberg - guitars
Thomas Antonsson - bass
Jesse Lindskog - drums

* "The Third Prophecy" (2003): A change in Recording studio, the Mixing and Mastering process. This leads to a different sound, still powerful but not as strong as before. In addition, Esko has replaced Jesse on drums and he clearly has a different style. Gone are the speedy songs that were a trademark for the band, in favour of more 'rolling' songs (so to speak). There's less speed and another kind of playing with occasional uptempo moments.

Producing: Jake Fredén, Freddy Persson
Mixing: Fredman Studio, Fredrik Nordström
Mastering: The Mastering Room, Goran Finnberg
Recording studio: KEG-House Studio, T. Lidebo and K. Gunér

Freddy Persson - vocals
Jake Fredén - guitars
Michael Åberg - guitars
Thomas Antonsson - bass
Esko Salow - drums

* "Hellbound" (2004): The songs sound heavy indeed thanks to the guitars, but the drums are given a thinner sound. And here as well, no real speedy songs like they played on the first two albums. notice also that Freddy and Jake have 'outsourced' it all to Anders Theander and again booked a different studio. Sad really, because if the band handled it like in the beginning, then the songs would have come out much better. This is NOSTRADAMEUS' least good album.

Producing: Anders 'Theo' Theander
Mixing: Anders 'Theo' Theander
Mastering: Anders 'Theo' Theander
Recording studio: Roasting House Studio

Freddy Persson - vocals
Jake Fredén - guitars
Michael Åberg - guitars
Thomas Antonsson - bass
Esko Salow - drums

As you can see, the band started well and even improved themselves (= second album). But the change of studio and technical personnel didn't do them or the songs much good, with the hardest blow on the head being their last album, "Hellbound". And now the follow-up is ready and will be in the shop on the 26th of January. Titled "Pathway", I guess they got off the "Hellbound" road and took the a nearby one that would lead them in a better direction. The expectations were high and fingers crossed it wouldn't be a "Hellbound II".

Luckily Nostradamus forsaw things and told NOSTRADAMEUS to indeed change their course a little. And they did. Due to this alteration, Michael Åberg found it better to choose his own direction and thus he left. Lennart Specht is the new axeman now. Like on the previous album, the band booked the Roasting House studio to record, mix and master "Pathway". This time, a new musical technician had been appointed: Pontus Lindmark. Unknown to me, perhaps known to you. Fact is that he was in charge of bringing back the power and epicness in the band. After only one spin of the disc, I can tell you that he suceeded.

It starts with an instrumental intro, bearing an appropriate title: "Welcome...". And then you can rejoice with the fierce "Wall Of Anger". Freddy's typical timbre is still dominant, although over the years he seems to have lost some roughness, but only a tiny little bit. The song itself is among the best on the album and you can clearly hear the four (five with Lennart) have gained much experience. "Wall Of Anger" is also a song that should really well on stage. One particular highlight that should be mentioned is the great guitar break with heavy cuts.

Although not exactly faster, "Until The End" does add some extra touches of aggressiveness and Esko implemented some breaks with the hi-hat and bass drum to make those song parts come out powerful enough. Catchiness is key in "Demon Voices" and musically I can't help but think of their German colleagues from GALLOGLASS, by which I mean nothing negative. Again the drums play an important role by adding certain accents.

There were ballads on the first couple of albums - and those weren't really masterpieces - and there's one on the new album as well: "MDCC A.D. Pt. I", if you can call it a ballad. It's more gently chord picking, backing Freddy's soft singing. The real ballad comes later: "Not Only Women Bleed". And yet again, the result is questionable. "MDCC A.D. Pt. II" comes into play flawlessly and is naturally much heavier. The tempo gets built up slowly and once the ball is rolling, there's no stopping. Tempo changes make the song very interesting.

Whatever the letters in "P.I.R." may stand for, the song definitely is superb. Yes, uptempo, great for some headbanging and to the point. Finally Esko has found his speed reserves and uses them as much as he can. This is another must-play on stage. But it wouldn't be a continuation of the new direction if things didn't slow down again. "No Trace Of Madness" is musically alright, but the vocals are not alright, especially in the chorus. One word: boring. The guitar solo makes the song worth hearing, but Freddy can do better.

After the questionable ballad comes "Death On My Side", which could remind you of MEGADETH. Not the Thrash songs, the groovier ones. The result is heavy and epic and all in all quite enjoyable. "The Untouchables" could be description of NOSTRADAMEUS, since they have done it again. This closing song, which has GRAVE DIGGER influences, confirms it and ends the band's fifth studio album in splendor. :-)

With "Hellbound" the band jumped on the wrong train and luckily they were guided by Pontus Lindmark to jump on another one, which would take them back to glorious days. It's as clear as water that "Pathway" is a big step forward, in songwriting and in sound. "Words Of Nostradameus" and "The Prophet Of Evil" still are my favourites, but "Pathway" completes the Top 3, in no particular order. NOSTRADAMEUS won't win prizes for originality, but they do make nice Powermetal and deserve more attention. Any open-minded Powermetal fan should give the new album a chance.

More info at www.nostradameus.com

Line-up:
Freddy Persson - vocals
Jake Fredén - guitars
Lennart Specht - guitars
Thomas Antonsson - bass
Esko Salow - drums


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LEICHENWETTER – Klage (Metal Axe Records 2007)

Leichenwetter - Klage
  1. Altes Lied
  2. Klage
  3. Allerseelen
  4. Schwanenlied
  5. Sehnsucht
  6. Und Die Hörner Des Sommers Verstummten
  7. Requiem
  8. Menschliches Elende
  9. Gesang Der Geister Über Den Wassern
  10. An Einem Grabe
  11. Requiem (Noise RMX)
  12. Klage (Clubmix)

LEICHENWETTER is a German Industrial Metalband, but with some Gothic touches. Think of (next to other bands in both genres) RAMMSTEIN meets ELUSIVE, LACRIMOSA, ... The used language is also in German and fits this music quite well. It adds a darker, more emotional touch. Two months ago (26/01) the band released their fourth album, "Klage", via Metal Axe Records.

The artwork shows a dramatic and very sad picture, not only of the character, but also of the 'world' in the background. This could have fitted on a Gothic or Doom Metal record as well, as it's fairly indicative of what to expect. No, no happy Powermetal. ;-) But music as in the above mentioned mix.

LEICHENWETTER is in the first place a rocking band, and this is clearly shown in songs like "Klage", "Allerseelen" (which has an Eastern sung intro, but especially the chorus is very nice and in the vain of RAMMSTEIN) to name a few examples. But most is played in a slow or midtempo style with heavier outbursts in the chorus and also via Numen's rougher voice, which at times reminds me of that of Dutch entertainer Youp Van 't Hek.

With "Requiem" the band found a resting point... in its chorus. The similarities with RAMMSTEIN are also quite clear here, thanks to the rhythm, the riffs and the tempo. "Menschliches Elende" contains the more sorrowful path. Not that there are any happy songs, all dwell in this pool of sorrow and melancholy.

"Gesang Der Geister Über Den Wassern" adds more heaviness again, although the tempo goes down in the chorus and melody takes over from the heavy riffs.

The two last songs, "Requiem" (Noise RMX) and "Klage" (Clubmix), are not of my taste at all. Too much electronics and you absolutely do not get the melody and atmosphere of the original tracks. Sad that the band is trying to make easy money like this.

Aside from the two last redundant songs, the rest of the songs are actually very nice and at the right time a joy to listen to. Joy is not the right word to describe the lyrics, but let's say the music sounds very good. Fans of Gothic Rock should have little problems with LEICHENWETTER's "Klage". If you're an (open-minded) RAMMSTEIN fan, then LEICHENWETTER shall also please you, although it's definitely less heavy.

More info at www.leichenwetter.de.

Line-up:
Numen - vocals
Dawe - guitars
Cpt. Loft - bass
Rudiator - electronics
Rawen - drums


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DREAMLAND – Eye For An Eye (Dockyard 1 2007)

Dreamland - Eye For An Eye
  1. Eye For An Eye
  2. Carousel Of Pain
  3. Reverse Deny
  4. Secret Signs
  5. Chosen Ones
  6. Spread Your Wings
  7. Shadows Of The Night
  8. Heavenly Designed
  9. Children Of Tomorrow
  10. Forever And Ever
  11. Revolution In Paradise

DREAMLAND, Joacim Cans' (HAMMERFALL) protégé, will release the follow-up to its 2005 debut "Future's Calling", which contained much HAMMERFALL influences. Overall the result was fairly good, but nothing awe-inspiring. And it's no different on album number two: "Eye For An Eye", which features a quite attractive girl on the cover. The release is scheduled for the 26th of January.

But let's focus on the music. Again Joacim Cans took care of the production of the vocals, while Andy LaRocque did the same for the instruments. The result is more powerful than before and songwise there are also quite some improvements. The guitars sound heavier, crunchier and the solos have also gotten better and more interesting. Extra attention goes to the new drummer, Jesse Lindskog, who played on the first two albums of Swedish colleagues NOSTRADAMEUS. This gives the DREAMLAND material more power and bombast, which is the best thing that happened to the band.

Joacim's (is Jake E an artist name or the new singer?) vocals are still - it must be said - annoying. The sound is at times nasal and the higher notes are reached more often than wanted, more often than is good for the songs. What DREAMLAND needs is someone with a rougher voice, still clean but rougher. Someone who's does not depend on higher notes. That way the vocalist would complement the guitars more.

Songwise there are no real tempo boosters, although "Carousel Of Pain", "Secret Signs" and "Children Of Tomorrow" are the best songs to listen to when it comes to energetic and powerful playing. The rest dwells between mid- and slowtempo.

Next to the vocals, the second biggest problem - in my opinion - is the similarities with HAMMERFALL, especially in "Carousel Of Pain", "Secret Signs", "Forever And Ever" (epic, anthem-ish) and "Revolution In Paradise" (slow, but nice). Similarities can be good, but here you might as well say DREAMLAND = future HAMMERFALL, but so far they aren't there yet.

"Eye For An Eye" is certainly a better album than "Future's Calling" and the new songs will do fine live, but the similarities with HAMMERFALL are becoming more and more apparent and Joacim is still the weakest link and most annoying aspect of the band (nothing personal, though, just the voice). Please get yourselves a singer with a more powerful voice, one that has some roughness in his voice and who doesn't reach for the higher notes. Musically things are pretty good and the addition of Jesse Lindskog has helped a lot. So, fans of the band can be satisfied. Newcomers should listen first as most of this can be found in other bands and of course HAMMERFALL.

More info at www.dream-land.nu.

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


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THE POODLES – Metal Will Stand Tall (AFM Records 2007)

The Poodles - Metal Will Stand Tall
  1. Echoes From The Past
  2. Metal Will Stand Tall
  3. Night Of Passion
  4. Song For You
  5. Shadows
  6. Lie To Me
  7. Rockstar
  8. Dancing With Tears In My Eyes
  9. Don't Give Up On Love
  10. Number One
  11. Kingdom Of Heaven
  12. Crying

THE POODLES have recently released their debut, "Metal Will Stand Tall", via AFM Records on the 19th of January. But this is more a re-release, as this album originally came out last year in May, and only in Sweden and Finland. Success was there very quickly and THE POODLES can be considered as one Swedens hottest bands of the moment. Sounds trendy, no? ;-)

The band is currently on tour with AFM labelmates KROKUS and Swedish colleagues HAMMERFALL. The band members also seem to have build up quite a curriculum vitae, since they have worked with big names like MOTÖRHEAD, WHITESNAKE, ALICE COOPER, THIN LIZZY and Swedish colleagues like EUROPE and CANDLEMASS. The album features songs by some of the most well known songwriters in the world such as Holly Knight (TINA TURNER, AEROSMITH, KISS, etc) and others. Each of the members were part of different acts like TALISMAN, MIDNIGHTS SUN, LION'S SHARE or ZAN CLAN. The band has existed for a few years doing quite a bit of touring. In the fall of 2005 the current line-up was completed and in the spring of 2006 THE POODLES competed in the Swedish version of the "Eurovision Song Contest", with very good results.

Musically THE POODLES play Hardrock, but you could say it's a mix of AOR and Glam. So this is a whole change when you've just listened to DESTRUCTION's "Thrash Anthems", hahaha. :-) Still, things start very good with the groovy, but sharp riffs from "Echoes From The Past". Things get more uptempo, upbeat with "Metal Will Stand Tall", which features a guest appearace by Tess, member of the disco group ALCAZAR, who sings in the duet with Jakob and is also featured in the videoclip. This is one of the best songs, especially the cheesy chorus: "Made Of Steel, We Fly, Like An Eagle In The Sky" reminds of Powermetallers FREEDOM CALL and GAMMA RAY. Tess' input is good, but nothing spectacular and shows again that making a popsinger sing a Hardrock song isn't always an easy job. Luckily Jakob sings with her and thus makes the song more attractive.

In "Night Of Passion" - of which there was also a very succesful single -, is another song that has a catchy chorus, and it's very obvious what the song is about. THE SCORPIONS have done it many times before. Going slower, more careful with peaceful moments is the emotional "Song For You". To be honest, maybe the lyrics and intentions are good, but this is more a popsong with a clear wink to boybands and songs like those of JAMES BLUNT and the likes. Now where's that button to go to the next song?

"Shadows" contains again heavier guitars, but also symphonic elements. The verses are slow, but for the chorus the band is willing to increase the speed a bit. "Lie To Me" has the bass guitar very high in the mix and either this wasn't so in the previous songs or I didn't pay too much attention to it. But it fits very well. Here too, calmer verses and a to the point chorus which makes this all in all very enjoyable.

"Rockstar" reminds of PRINCE's "Diamonds And Pearls". Not bad, but a bit too poppy and cheesy for my taste. "Dancing With Tears In My Eyes" is an ULTRAVOX cover, but quite well performed, although I would have made the guitars sound heavier. That way it would really be a Rock (!) rendition.

"Don't Give Up On Love" again pumps more Rock into the album, but melody still prevails with keyboards and samples being added for that aspect. Jakob's voice stands out, as this music is made for him. Anything heavier would be a bridge too far. "Number One" is a very nice rocking song, especially in the verses, while the chorus goes the same way as "Don't Give Up On Love". Meaning more melody, sing-along character and the guitars drown a little in the singing. The solo on the other hand is a welcome addition.

The last two songs then: "Kingdom Of Heaven" is at least more energetic than the previous couple of songs. Again, sing-along if you feel like it. References to other songs by other artists are perfectly normal, if only I can think of those titles and names. ;-) "Crying" revolves around the piano, with jazzy drumming and symphonic backing. Needless to say it's an emotional ballad. This could let some tears be shed on certain occasions. A very nice song and a very good ending of "Metal Will Stand Tall".

So here it is, the first album of this new band. A couple of good songs with heavy basis, others go for a softer approach to please a broader audience and that's where I draw the line. Those softer songs are good to hear once every x months, at least in my case. But nevertheless, THE POODLES are back to reckon with as they have a released - all things considered - a strong album. Anyone with a broad taste in Rock or Hardrock should find "Metal Will Stand Tall" a pleasure to listen to, even though THE POODLES aren't really Metal. ;-)

More info at www.poodles.se.

Line-up:
Jakob Samuel - vocals
Pontus Norgren - guitars
Pontus Egberg - bass
Christian Lundqvist - drums


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DESTRUCTION – Thrash Anthems (AFM Records 2007)

Destruction - Thrash Anthems
  1. Bestial Invasion
  2. Profanity
  3. Release From Agony
  4. Mad Butcher
  5. Reject Emotions
  6. Death Trap
  7. Cracked Brain
  8. Life Without Sense
  9. Total Desaster
  10. Deposition (Your Heads Will Roll)
  11. Invincible Force
  12. Sign Of Fear
  13. Tormentor
  14. Unconscious Ruins
  15. Curse The Gods

Germany's Thrash veterans DESTRUCTION will soon (19/01) release a 'Best Of' of their albums from the 1980s under the title "Thrash Anthems", which neeeds no explanation. But this is no ordinary release, no. The band carefully picked the songs that would fit very well and show a good overview of their works of that period. Plus they re-recorded those songs and injected them with new energy. Asking Jacob Hansen to do the mix made the result complete. In addition he and former guitar player Harry Wilkens contributed with some extra guitar parts. While the original versions sounded very rough - and that's logical - Jacob's magical fingers provided the new version with a superb Thrash sound, without messing with DESTRUCTION's identity.

An overview of the re-recorded songs and on which releases they originally appeared:

"Sentence Of Death" (1984): "Total Desaster"

"Infernal Overkill" (1985): "Bestial Invasion" - "Death Trap" - "Invincible Force" - "Tormentor"

"Eternal Devastation" (1986): "Reject Emotions" - "Life Without Sense" - "Curse The Gods" - "Eternal Ban"

"Mad Butcher" (1987): "Mad Butcher"

"Release From Agony" (1989): "Release From Agony" - "Sign Of Fear" - "Unconscious Ruins"

"Cracked Brain" (1990): "Cracked Brain"

The track listing on the promo is as above, but it seems the song order is different on the definitive release:

01. Deposition (Your Heads Will Roll)
02. Invincible Force
03. Release From Agony
04. Mad Butcher
05. Sign Of Fear
06. Death Trap
07. Life Without Sense
08. Total Desaster
09. Bestial Invasion
10. Reject Emotions
11. Tormentor
12. Unconscious Ruins
13. Curse The Gods
14. Cracked Brain
15. Profanity
16. Eternal Ban (Bonus Track)

As is known, Schmier wasn't in the band anymore when "Cracked Brain" was recorded and released, so now they added the title track of this album to show that he too is very capable of singing those lyrics. The new album also contains two new songs: "Profanity" and "Depostition (Your Heads Will Roll)". Do they need comments? To be honest, absolutely not. Both are unmistakebly DESTRUCTION, with slicing riffs and rolling, thundering drums which will make your blood run faster and get you excited and re-energized. But in short: the first is a typical Thrash song, as they've done so many times. The second is a more 'normal' song, less speedy. The chorus is features multiple vocals and needs some time to digest.

Two years ago, in the summer of 2005, the band released the successor of 2003's "Metal Discharge", titled "Inventor Of Evil". This was again a big step forward and confirmation that DESTRUCTION still haven't forgotten the music that made them famous. HYPOCRISY mainman Peter Tägtgren was responsible for the buttons and gave the album a solid and rough sound. Overall "Inventor Of Evil" was a very decent release, although not their best. If I compare it with "Thrash Anthems", then I have to admit that I still like "Inventor Of Evil", but it's different, also because the new album contains already known songs which makes it easier to appreciate.

It's easy to conclude that this is not just a re-release of old songs, but a clear proof that these songs still can sound fresh and energetic after all those years and that DESTRUCTION is still a top Thrash band. Therefore this album is not only a must-have for the fans, but also for any Thrash fan or people who want to get acquainted with the band's classics.

More info at www.destruction.de.

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


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MOR ZABOTH – Towards The Darkest Dawn (Mor Zaboth 2007)

Mor Zaboth - Towards The Darkest Dawn
  1. Intro
  2. Towards The Darkest Dawn
  3. The Spectre
  4. Battle With The Gods
  5. Frozen Blood

Slovenia isn't exactly the biggest Metal country, but since Metal is a wide-spread music genre, there are people there who pplay it as well, although very underground. My knowledge of the Slovenian Metal scene is actually non-existant, but this problem was solved a tiny little bit by an e-mail from an atmospheric Black Metal band called MOR ZABOTH. This band consists of five enthusiastic young musicians who seem to be fans of this kind of Metal. If you want a couple of extra bands, Metal-Observer.com has some reviews of those in its lists.

MOR ZABOTH - can anyone tell what this name means? - was formed two years ago and even after their first tries to bring their music to the masses, they had to look for a new bass player. After all this was solved, they managed to do some gigs and work on their first demo/MCD, "Towards The Darkest Dawn", which was released on January 18. As they put in their own words: "(We) are inspired by darkness, mysticism and the everlasting beauty of nature." Kind of like the opposite of LUCA TURILLI's last album "The Infinite Wonders Of Creation", where everything revolves around nature and the light. But it's a bit wrong to compare such a young band to a great artist like Luca Turilli. No disrespect meant here, since both play in a different league and the latter has much more experience than our new Black Metallers.

I'm slowly getting to know more Black Metal bands, but to draw comparisons with other bands whenever I have to review a Black Metal album I'm still a little dependant on the knowledge of my Brazilian friend and expert Marcus. According to him, MOR ZABOTH's material is influenced by (at least) old DIMMU BORGIR melodies and also some GRAVELAND ones.

"Towards The Darkest Dawn" starts with a hellish intro, coming from the deepest, darkest abyss (quoting RHAPSODY (OF FIRE) and their song "The Dark Tower Of Abyss" ;-)) and then hell breaks loose. Very much guitar-driven with gentle keyboard interventions to add more melody and create a fitting atmosphere. Myotis's screams sound very appropriate and Tuthir even tries to add blastbeats. They're not as fast as those of George Kollias, Tony Laureano, Nick Barker, Hellhammer or any other extreme Metal drummer, but it's a start. Faster and slower moments take turns and with those the melody also changes. The focus lies on instrumental parts and the growls and screams mainly come in for the bridge and chorus.

Euthera plays a bigger role in "The Spectre", although the guitars still dominate. This song is even more brutal in the heavier parts than the titletrack. The Slovenians show they have good ideas, but their skills are still quite basic and this is an aspect that cannot be denied or ignored.

The darkest song is without question "Battle With The Gods", where guitars and drums rule. Myotis's screams are - it must be said - well executed. Around 02:40 there's a nice uptempo moment, which makes the song more interesting. In the last track, "Frozen Blood", things really become interesting after 3 minutes, where the keyboards come in and the rest of the song sounds more epic. Before that it was all about the guitars.

MOR ZABOTH first effort has a running time of almost 20 minutes and shows a young band that has the potential to make it. But they're still a very long way from world domination. Things to work on are the instrumental skills and the songwriting (having a good start and dito end). Two of the most important aspects for a band. With "Towards The Darkest Dawn" they've created a demo on which they can further build the rest of their career and that should remind them of what to avoid, what to keep, etc...

If you're an enormous fan of Black Metal and are eager to check out new bands (be them beginners or experts), I guess you could support the Slovenians from MOR ZABOTH by buying this demo via their website. For 5 EUR you won't be fooled, as the sound is pretty good.

More info at www.mor-zaboth.com.

Line-up:
Myotis (Matija Bobicic) - vocals, guitars
Sornaal (Vid Milojkovic) - guitars
Olfjor (Oliver Cepek) - bass
Euthera (Jana Praper) - keyboards
Tuthir (Saso Corso) - drums


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HEADSPLOSION – Rock On Dudes! (Headsplosion 2007)

Headsplosion - Rock On dudes!
  1. Intro
  2. Burp!
  3. Circle Of Fire
  4. Revenge
  5. The Silent Man
  6. King Of Nowhere
  7. Immigrant Song (LED ZEPPELIN cover)

HEADSPLOSION is one of the many bands that try to spread the word via MySpace. They hail from Italy and have been building up their skills and musicianship since 2000. Naturally there were the typical line-up changes that made evolution a difficult matter. But despite this they managed to record two demos which came out in 2001 and 2003. There was even a split of the band when bass player Simo moved to Germany in 2005. One year later, a reunion took place and around the end of last year (2006) they went into the Head Studio to record their newest work and that one recently became available to the public: "Rock On Dudes!". How clear should a title be, right? The band name also refers to the studio, in a subtle manner. ;-)

Seven songs, totalling a playtime of almost 25 minutes. It starts with the intro where someone is on the streets, entering a building (you can hear the keys). He lights a cigarette, gets himself a beer and in the back you hear a saxophone trying to create a jazzy atmosphere. Our character burps and then "Burp!" takes off: heavy, crunchy guitar riffs like PANTERA used to use to much. The drums also sound quite powerful and you really wouldn't say this is a demo. Quality sound over the entire disc, just stunning and at the same time nice to hear. Lorenzo has a clean, yet melodic voice with a certain (light) roughness that fits this music very well.

"Circle Of Fire" starts with a fire/bombardment alarm like in BLACK SABBATH's "War Pigs", but then the band comes intoplay. Easy music in the verses with gentle melodies from the guitar and the bass playing a counter-melody. Slowly the tension is being built up towards the chorus where the band really comes to life. Not that they're silent in the verses, those are very relaxing and peaceful but with the right attention for the right emotions. It's also in the chorus that similarities with the album "Unholy" (1998) from the German Powermetal band BRAINSTORM can be heard, especially Lorenzo's voice (with backing) and that of Marcus Jürgens's, who was replaced by Andy Franck afterwards.

Ferocious drums and killing riffs dominate the melodic, yet heavy "Revenge". The vocal similarities with Marcus still linger on here. And here we have a guitar solo, and not that bad to be honest. HEADSPLOSION have great ideas and know how to translate them into songs with the right amount of heaviness, solos (not too technical, more functional), some bass grooves and very nice drumming.

"The Silent Man" has something MANTICORA-ish about the melodic, calm verses and more specifically when you hear Lars singing on the band's "Hyperion" album (2002, re-release in 2005). But once heaviness kicks in, it's back to HEADSPLOSION. A very rocking midtempo song but some nice grooves. Here the vocals - particularly when all three of them are singing - don't sound well synchronized. But it's not that disturbing. Can these guys make a bad song? Ok, I don't find this the best of the pack, but it's certainly a very decent result.

And again a small touch of PANTERA has been poured over the next song, "King Of Nowhere". At the same time the riffs are in vain of IRON MAIDEN. The tempo is a bit up, but it's Lorenzo who's having some difficulties keeping up or not really following the rhythm. Ok, yes, it's a self-recorded demo/MCD, but at least it shows the points on which this trio has to work a little more. Muscially things are quite alright.

To round it off, let's hear how they handle the LED ZEPPELIN classic "Immigrant Song", which has been covered by many bands. One of them being DEMONS & WIZARDS, whose version was not that bad, but nothing spectacular either. HEADSPLOSION's impression is definitely worth crediting, but the result isn't that good. Mainly because it lacks spirit and feel, in my opinion.

All in all, this Italian Hardrock/Metal band certainly is on the right track and gives a clear indication of their musical ideas and skills. Plus they worked hard on this, I suppose ;-), to get a good result by combining their ideas and making sure the whole was given a powerful and amazing sound. HEADSPLOSION is a name to remember and I hope they will grow in their playing and composing and eventually get a good record deal to improve their sound even more. Check these guys out on their MySpace page and buy "Rock On Dudes!". I assure you, this won't be wasted money.

More info at www.myspace.com/headsplosion.

Line-up:
Lorenzo Dini - vocals
Steve Paloscia - guitars
Simo - bass, drums


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EMPYRIOS – ...And The Rest Is Silence (Burning Star Records 2007)

EMPYRIOS - ...And The Rest Is Silence
  1. Wreckage
  2. Tort
  3. The Ruiner
  4. Unbalanced Equilibrium
  5. Psycho Terrorism
  6. Prelude To The Sleepless Tragedy
  7. Insomnia
  8. Eal
  9. Perseverance
  10. Losing Myself In The Downward Spiral
  11. Failure Of Eye
  12. FarCry

EMPYRIOS is an Italian Progressive Powermetal band and for the most part comparable to their American equivalents SYMPHONY X. some will already wonder about EMPYRIOS being a clone or whatever, but that's not true. They manage to add some more heaviness, more power to the songs with a couple resting points to keep the attention vivid.

EMPYRIOS didn't instantly ring a bell, although they did contribute to the PANTERA-tribute on MoshpitCulture.it with a cover of PANTERA's classic "Cowboys From Hell". An almost exact copy of the original. You can also hear this PANTERA-influence in some of the songs on "...And The Rest Is Silence", which came out on the 16th of January via the Greek label Burning Star Records.

This debut album was recorded in the Fear Studio, where EMPYRIOS mastermind Simone Mularoni works. Of course, this makes things much easier as you don't have to look for an other studio or external producer. The result can easily be considered amazing, since this appears to be Simone's first love: sound engineering. Let's see for the album.

"...And The Rest Is Silence" starts with an instrumental intro, after which the brutal riffing of "Tort" comes into play, together with the technical drumming. The first part of the song could have been written by PANTERA. Heavy parts get switched with calmer verses, but since the guys made it a Progressive band the chorus is dominated by the melody and atmosphere of the keyboards, with Simone assisting with his riffs. Meanwhile Matteo takes care of the solid drumming and great tempo changes. During the solos (keyboard and guitar) you can hear similarities with SYMPHONY X and DREAM THEATER. Nothing wrong with that, as it fits in very neatly.

Other bands have also served as a source of inspiration: in the verses of "The Ruiner" the riffing reminds of NIGHTWISH (album: "Once") and the chorus can be linked to MASTERPLAN. Matteo makes good use of his bass drums, with an occasional roll. Other highlight is after 4 minutes: an orchestral/film score-ish arrangement. This breaks the heaviness and adds a fresh and exciting touch to an already great song.

"Unbalanced Equilibrium" simply screams SYMPHONY X, but like I said before: I don't care, as EMPYRIOS is not SYMPHONY X, although they could ask Russell Allen to make a guest appearance on their next album. ;-)

Next to the typical ProgPower songs, there are more peaceful and/or epic moments under the form of e.g. orchestral arrangements/passages. Examples of these changes can be found in "Prelude To The Sleepless Tragedy", "Eal" - where Silvio doesn't sound that good and actually only the chorus is worth hearing -, and "Losing Myself In The Downward Spiral", which sounds a bit like the Dutch percussion band SLAGERIJ VAN KAMPEN. Very nice intermezzo.

After the calmer interludes, where you could relax and prepare for the next load of thundering drums and crushing riffs, here's "Perseverance". This song of course has the typical ingredients, but again a comparison must be made: when Silvio aims for the higher notes, it's almost as if André Matos (ex-ANGRA, ex-SHAAMAN) is singing, which is meant as a compliment.

EMPYRIOS ends the album in an accoustic way: "Farcry". No, not the PC game. ;-) All you hear is a gentle accoustic guitar for the counter-melody, backed by atmospheric keyboard sounds, while that same instrument is responsible for the melody.

Fans of solid and thundering Progressive Powermetal can rejoice, as their collection can be expanded with another superb disc: "...And The Rest Is Silence" by the upcoming Italians from EMPYRIOS. Well, not exactly upcoming, as most of them were and still are active in other bands like DGM, so these guys know how to play. But their debut surely deserves lots of attention, even if it lies close to SYMPHONY X, DREAM THEATER, EVERGREY and other similar bands. And it's not just the songs or the influences from other bands, it's also the quality musicianship, particularly shown via the guitars, keyboards and not in the least the drums. Silvio does a good to very good job on vocals, despite him having an untrained voice. It makes you wonder how he could use and further develop his voice if he did take some lessons. ;-) Now go out and buy this album.

More info at www.empyrios.it.

Line-up:
Silvio Mancini - vocals
Simone Mularoni - guitars
Simone Bertozzi - bass
Emanuele Casali - keyboards
Matteo Mastroianni - drums


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GRAVE DIGGER – Liberty Or Death (Locomotive Records 2007)

Grave Digger - Liberty Or Death
  1. Liberty Or Death
  2. Ocean Of Blood
  3. Highland Tears
  4. The Terrible One
  5. Until The Last King Died
  6. March Of The Innocent
  7. Silent Revolution
  8. Shadowland
  9. Forecourt To Hell
  10. Massada
  11. Ship Of Hope (bonus track)

German veteran Heavy/Power Metalband GRAVE DIGGER released an EP titled "Yesterday" last year in September as an appetizer for their new record "Liberty Or Death", which will be/is available since the 12th January. While I'm not very familiar with the band's repertoire, I did hear their last two albums: "Rheingold", which I thought was very good (to the point, uptempo, not dragging itself forward) and the sadly flawed "Last Supper", which was too monotonous and totally not attractive.

Finding shelter under the wings of the Spanish label Locomotive Records, this should give the guys new energy and power to come up with a strong follow-up and show the world GRAVE DIGGER still has it. "Yesterday" was a first release, "Liberty Or Death" is the next and now we can really start talking. The cover art sure looks awesome and promising.

It commences with the title track, a midtempo song with an epic, sing-along chorus. Keyboards provide the right (sad) atmospheric sounds. Around the fourth minute there's the obligatory solo moment, which doesn't help in providing an uplifting feeling, but all is well executed. The grooves in the last part of the song remind a bit of ROBERT PLANT's "Kashmir".

Uplifting is a good word for what comes next: "Ocean Of Blood". Needless to say uptempo rules here - except in the chorus -, and this fits GRAVE DIGGER very very well. They should write more suchsongs instead of the slower, midtempo ones. Double bass is a typical characteristic in Powermetal and sometimes overused, but if done properly, then the result can be great. "Ocean Of Blood" is one of my favourite songs here and yes, the drums play a role. ;-)

Highland means Scotland means bagpipes and that's how the intro is made. Soon the heavy riffs come rushing in, yet the drums don't follow the same speed. Maybe because two faster songs after another would be monotonous? Not to me, though. Again, epicness has been implemented, but it's not really a positive song. Chris' vocals still sound very pure and rough, as if time has has no influence on them.

Choir chants slowly introduce you to "The Terrible One". Chris takes over with a rough voice. This is one of the double-bass songs that will do really well in a live setting and make those heads banging, especially the bridge and chorus. Great guitarwork here as well and lots of room for the solo/instrumental portion.

"Until The Last Kind Died" makes me think of REBELLION and their "Sagas Of Iceland" album (2005). Not so abnormal, as this band features two ex-GRAVE DIGGER members: Uwe Lulis, guitars and Tomi Göttlich, bass. Tempo has been turned down again, unless in the verses. The riffs also come out stronger, giving the song more balls. The guitarsolo is a great addition and spices things up.

Atmospheric background sounds in "March Of The Innocent", the accoustic guitar replacing its electric variant... at first, then the latter one takes over again. Both do come into play together in the verses. Electric for what's happening in the 'story', the accoustic one adding pinches for the emotions.

"Silent Revolution" is a midtempo rocker, but rather mediocre. It's not bad, but it lacks the stickiness of other songs. "Shadowland" throws in more aggressiveness again and the train is moving faster again, so to speak, to avoid sleepiness from "Silent Revolution". "Shadowland" is another song that would do very well on stage and since the band is coming to Belgium on the 20th January, I hope they'll meet the/my expectations. ;-)

A title like "Forecourt To Hell" predicts fast riffing, rolling and pounding drums, but it's not as 'brutal' as I thought. Again midtempo occupies the song, except in the chorus, although it's not really uptempo. But you could add this song to the best on "Liberty Or Death".

Although "Massada" sounds violent as a title, musically it's quite relaxing and somewhat Eastern. Another of those slower songs that drag themselves forward. Well played and all that you want, but there's a bit too much of these songs on this album, in my opinion.

My promo copy contained an extra song, and this is the bonustrack that will appear on the digipack version of the album. A ballad, so it seems. Title: "Ship Of Hope". To be honest, it's not really that interesting.

GRAVE DIGGER's newest album sure is better than and a couple steps forward compared to "The Last Supper" and all in all a very decent album. However, more uptempo songs, more to the point stuff would be very welcome and the bandmembers are more than capable to play this. It's only a matter of willing. Fans can sleep on both ears concerning this release.

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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MOURNING DAWN – Mourning Dawn (Totalrust Music 2007)

Mourning Dawn - Mourning Dawn
  1. Intro
  2. From The Torrent & The Fountain
  3. Grey Flood
  4. Interlude
  5. When The Sky Seems To Be A Flag
  6. Innocence Leaves
  7. As The Ocean...
  8. Verdun

MOURNING DAWN was created in 2002 by vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Laurent (INBORN SUFFERING), who seems to have bone for the dark side of music. He quickly transformed his ideas into songs and recorded a couple of demos and an EP so far. All this was solo work, of course, but after some year he found extra musicians to help him out for the songwriting, recording and gigs.

The "Mourning Dawn" demo (2002) contained very raw Black Metal, with the typical screams and shrieks. Laurent was responsable for everything, but since he's no drummer, he had to use a drumcomputer. This happened on the next demos as well. The sound was ofcourse very rough and the drumcomputer more than once annoyed the hell out of me. You can hear for yourself, as there are still some mp3s available on the website. For the last demo/EP, "The Freezing Hand Of Reason", the music has changed a lot, going more towards Doom. But it certainly isn't for those expecting easy-listening music. It's dark, depressing and be sure to have other Metal lying around to get you out of that hole again. ;-)

On this first full self-titled album, the music comes dangerously fading in, setting the right tone. Dark, mysterious and perfect for a horror film. On the press release there were mentions of a full line-up, but I still have my doubts about the drums, as they sound like it was a drumcomputer. The "Intro" is a bit long, for an intro: Three minutes. But it certainly creates a dark, evil kind of atmosphere. Towards the end, the music fades out and keyboards take over for "From The Torrent & The Fountain", which clocks in after 14 minutes. Or you could say: next room/dungeon/woods you have entered. Suddenly the growls come bursting out and if you're not prepared, this could give a little shock. Nothing happy here, all dark, gloomy, life-threatening and more of this. Like I said, perfect for a horror film. Laurent sure knows how to translate his thoughts into music.

And so it goes on, at times going for more Black Metal, then more Doom, a spoken part and more that will give you shivers running down your spine. Overall playtime nears 60 minutes, with three songs of at least ten minutes. The mix of Black Metal and Doom, aka Black/Doom, is so damn well composed - if only the drums were more real. The harsh guitars, the dark and atmospheric keyboard sounds, the growls and shrieks, ... Not for anyone who wants to try something new. Well, it is of course also for those wanting something new, but you better be acquainted with Black and Doom Metal, or at least like the more extreme kind of Metal. Note: do not play this everyday, or you'll lose the will to live. ;-)

So kudos to Laurent for having the patience and perseverance to continue to grow and develop his skills and eventually make a very solid debut album. "Mourning Dawn" came out on the 10th January and was apparently limited to 1000 copies, so you better hope there are still some left. Visit the band's MySpace page for samples and order info.

More info at www.gutsofdarkness.com/mourningdawn.

Line-up:
Laurent - vocals, guitars
Fabien - guitars
Toxine - bass
Thomas - drums


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Reviews 2007

On this page
3 HEADED MONSTER -
Three Headed
Monster
ABANDONED -
Thrash You
ALMAH -
Almah
ANCIENT CREATION -
Evolution Bound
ANUBIS GATE -
Andromeda
Unchained
ARMORY -
The Dawn Of
Enlightenment
ASTRAL DOORS -
New Revelation
AT VANCE -
VII
AUGER BANE -
On Wings Of
Fallen Rock
AXXIS -
Doom Of Destiny
BATTLELORE -
Evernight
BE'LAKOR -
The Frail Tide
BEYOND FALLEN -
Mindfire
BLACK CRUCIFIXION -
Promethean Gift
BLACK KNIGHT -
The Beast Inside
BLACK MAJESTY -
Tomorrowland
BLITZKRIEG -
Theatre Of
The Damned
BLOOD STAIN
CHILD -
Mozaiq
BURDEN OF GRIEF -
Death End Road
BURN -
Global Warning
BURNED IN EFFIGY -
Burned In
Effigy
COLOSSEUM -
Chapter 1:
Delirium
CRYSTAL BALL -
Secrets
DANZIG -
The Lost Tracks
Of Danzig
DARK THE SUNS -
In Darkness
Comes Beauty
DEBAUCHERY -
Back In Blood
DEEP IN HATE -
Only The Strong
Survive
DELPHIAN -
Unravel
DEPRESSED MODE -
Ghosts Of Devotion
DESTRUCTION -
Thrash Anthems
DREAMLAND -
Eye For An Eye
DRED -
A Path To
Extinction
DRONE -
Head-On Collision
EDEN'S CURSE -
Eden's Curse
ELDRITCH -
Blackenday
EMERALD SUN -
Escape From Twilight
EMPIRE -
Chasing Shadows
EMPYRIOS -
...And The Rest
Is Silence
ENTHRONED -
Tetra Karcist
EVIDENCE ONE -
The Sky Is
The Limit
EXCALION -
Waterlines
EYEFEAR -
A World Full
Of Grey
FALL OF THE LEAFE -
Aerolithe
FATAL INJURY -
Fatal Injury
GENIUS -
Episode 3:
The Final Surprise
GRAVE DIGGER -
Liberty Or Death
GUTBUCKET -
Gutbucket
HEADSPLOSION -
Rock On Dudes!
HEAVENLY -
Virus
HELSTAR -
Sins Of The Past
HJALLARHORN -
New Wave Of
Classic Heavy Metal
HOUSE OF GAMES -
Rise And Shine
HURTLOCKER -
Embrace The Fall
ICARUS WITCH -
Songs For
The Lost
IGNITOR -
Road Of Bones
INFEST -
Feel The Rage
INTENSE -
As Our Army Grows
IRON FIRE -
Blade Of Triumph
IRON SAVIOR -
Megatropolis
KILL THE ROMANCE -
Take Another Life
KORPIKLAANI -
Tervaskanto
KOTIPELTO -
Serenity
LA-VENTURA -
A New
Beginning
LE GRAND GUIGNOL -
The Great
Maddening
LEICHENWETTER -
Klage
LILLIAN AXE -
Waters Rising
LION'S SHARE -
Emotional Coma
LIVARKAHIL -
No Cure For
The Fools
MAEDER -
Maeder
MAMBO KURT -
Spiel Heimorgel Spiel
MANTICORA -
The Black Circus
Part 2 - Disclosure
MASTERPLAN -
MK II
MEHIDA -
Blood And Water
MEKONG DELTA -
Lurking Fear
MELIAH RAGE -
The Deep And
Dreamless Sleep
MOONLIGHT AGONY -
Silent Waters
MOR ZABOTH -
Towards The
Darkest Dawn
MORTAL SIN -
An Absence Of Faith
MOTHERNIGHT -
Mothernight
MOURNING DAWN -
Mourning Dawn
NECROMANTIA -
The Sound Of
Lucifer Storming
Heaven
NIKKI PUPPET -
Militant Mother
NOSTRADAMEUS -
Pathway
OVERLOADED -
Regeneration
OVERTURES -
Beyond The
Waterfall
PAGAN'S MIND -
God's Equation
PARAGON -
Forgotten
Prophecies
PITIFUL REIGN -
D.I.V.E.
PLANET STORM -
Alone
PROFOUND -
A World Of
My Own Making
REAPERS -
World In Chains
REBEL MEETS REBEL -
Rebel Meets Rebel
REBELLION -
Miklagard
RIEFENSTAHL -
Instinkt
ROAD TO RUIN -
Road To Ruin
RUDE AWAKENING -
A Tribute To
Thin Lizzy
SADHARA -
To Hell,
With Sympathy
SERENITY -
Words Untold &
Dreams Unlived
SEVEN WITCHES -
Years Of The Witch
SEVEN WITCHES -
Deadly Sins
7TH ANGEL -
In Your Face
SEVENTH CALLING -
Monuments
SHATTER MESSIAH -
God Burns
Like Flesh
SILENT FORCE -
Walk The Earth
SILVER FIST -
Tears Of Blood
SINAMORE -
Seven Sins A Second
SLOUGH FEG -
Hardworlder
SOMRAK -
The Abhorred
Blessings
SPELLBOUND -
Nemesis 2665
STEVE CONE -
In My Bones
STEVE GRIMMETT
BAND -
Personal Crisis
STORMRIDER -
Lucifer Rising
SUN CAGED -
Artemisia
SVARTAHRID -
Sadness And Wrath
SVARTSOT -
Ravnenes Saga
SYRACH -
Days Of Wrath
TANKARD -
Best Case Scenario:
25 Years In Beers
TERHEN -
Eyes Unfolded
THE CURSED -
Room Full Of Sinners
THE ORDER -
Metal Casino
THE POODLES -
Metal Will Stand Tall
THEE ORAKLE -
Secret
TME -
Worlds Collide
TOURETTES -
Treason Songs
TRAIL OF TEARS -
Existentia
TWISTED TOWER
DIRE -
Netherworlds
UNHOLY RITUAL -
Promo '07
VANISHING POINT -
The Fourth Season
VANVETTIGAND -
The Popara Code
VENDETTA -
Brain Damage
VENDETTA -
Hate
VENGEANCE -
Same/Same...
But Different
VESANIA -
Distractive Killusions
VINTERSORG -
Solens Rötter
VISIONS OF
ATLANTIS -
Trinity
VOYAGER -
Univers
WALTARI -
Release Date
WIDOW -
Nightlife
WOLFPACK
UNLEASHED -
Anthems Of
Resistance
ZONARIA -
Infamy And
The Breed