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.:CD Reviews:.

GROUND OF RUIN – Cloaked In Doctrine (Ground Of Ruin 2008)

Ground Of Ruin - Cloaked In Ruin
  1. Upon The 13th Hour
  2. Cloaked In Doctrine
  3. Burning The Olive Branch
  4. Beneath Contempt

GROUND OF RUIN is an Irish Metal band combining elements from Black, Death and Thrash Metal. In short this leads to Blackened Death/Thrash. Formed in 2003, the band has been putting a lot of effort in making their own tunes and getting out the word about them through gigs at festivals and elsewhere with big names like DESASTER, DESTRUCTION, MOURNING BELOVETH, ANATA, and several others.

Signed they are not, but that didn't stop them from creating a few releases: "Promo 2005", "Visions Of Obscenity" (EP, 2006), "Promo 2007" and their latest output, "Cloaked In Doctrine", the EP that came out on the 30th of December. The collaboration with Lugga Music Productions should help to get more promotion and gigs and maybe eventually lead to a label deal, so they can finally start making full albums.

"Cloaked In Doctrine" contains four tracks, totalling a playtime of almost 23 minutes. "Upon The 13th Hour" is an intro, starting with a soft "storm", followed by soft symphonics in a dark atmosphere. Carefully the accoustic guitar comes in, creating a nice atmosphere while offering a relaxing tune. But then all hell breaks loose with the title track. Thrash, pure and honest. The Black Metal elements are present via the vocals and the sound of the guitars, in a way. Interestingly the band knows how to keep the attention alive by slowing down at some point and adding more melody, to strike back with full force.

"Burning The Olive Branch" starts in a Doomy manner with double leads. The midtempo music of the verses transposes into something more pounding in the chorus, where Dave uses his throat to growl. Then the music falls back to the Doomy kind of before, after which it evolves to a mixture of Black and Thrash, with the typical humpapa rhythm. Overall this is another very nice song, but I did have the impression the band stretched it as if not knowing when to stop or what turn to take before putting an end to it.

Last but not least there's "Beneath Contempt". The Black Metal riffing plays a looped melody, the drums accentuate via the cymbals. Here as well, Thrash is what follows and how! The chorus is where the tempo drops a bit, to drop even more with the music going Doom again and releasing all anger in a Death/Thrash combo that made me think of CENTINEX, the Swedish Death Metallers. Much further in the song you also get a slow solo part to break the speed. But rest assured that the band hits the pedal again afterwards to end this EP in a splendid manner.

There are still lots of great underground acts that deserve more attention than they're getting. And that counts for bands from Belgium, Germany, France, Scandinavia, USA, Ireland and many other countries. One of the Irish formations has the chance to achieve more and that is GROUND OF RUIN. Releasing something each year is another reason to not doubt their determination, next to the quality Metal they bring. Even if it's only now that this band is brought to my attention, I can honestly say that "Cloaked In Doctrine" is an EP/MCD to check out if you're into the more extreme side of Metal that are Black, Death and Thrash. May these Irish be signed by a label that knows how to deal with this kind of band, so the means for full albums and tours can be made available.

More info at

Dave Hynes - vocals
Rob Chanders - guitars
Dom Brennan - guitars
Derek Gibson - bass
Francis Moran - drums

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TANKARD – Thirst (AFM Records 2008)

Tankard - Thirst
  1. Octane Warriors
  2. Deposit Pirates
  3. Stay Thirsty!
  4. Hyperthermia
  5. Echoes Of Fear
  6. When Daddy Comes To Play
  7. Zodiac Man
  8. G.A.L.O.W.
  9. Myevilfart
  10. Sexy Feet Under

TANKARD, the kings of Beer Thrash, celebrated their 25th birthday last year with a Best Of album containing a re-recorded selection from their back catalogue - sort of like DESTRUCTION did earlier the same year with their "Thrash Anthems" - and titled it "Best Case Scenario: 25 Years In Beers".

The band's last proper studio release was "The Beauty And The Beer", which was released in 2006 and was, all things considered, a very decent Thrash album, inline with what TANKARD has been doing all along. TANKARD is never mentioned when it comes to German Thrash. It's always KREATOR, SODOM and DESTRUCTION that occupy the throne and who can have anything against that? TANKARD on the other hand have been and still are about beer... and Thrash. Also, the production, once again handled by Andy Classen (KRISIUN, SPELLBOUND, HOLY MOSES, PRESIDENT EVIL, SENCIROW, LEGION OF THE DAMNED and many more), has never been about brutality like most other releases he/Andy worked on. Fun is an important factor in the compositions and the sound doesn't need to be like a thunderstorm (like KRISIUN's latest output), so keeping it Thrashy and at the same time polished is more than enough for these beerfans.

"Thirst" is the 13th album and their 5th via AFM Records. The release was set on the 19th December. Ten songs, totalling a playtime of almost 45 minutes of pure and straight-forward Thrash. The lads play a lot in high revs, as shown in songs like "Octane Warriors", "Deposit Pirates", "Stay Thirsty!" (although midtempo seems to dominate at first), "Hyperthermia", "Zodiac Man" and not in the least in "G.A.L.O.W." ("Gods And Legends Of War"), where the bass guitar plays a very important role. The pace is a bit slower in "Echoes Of Fear", even though Olaf increases the tempo later on, "When Daddy Comes To Play", which features a children's choir for a specific reason (see below), "Myevilfart" and the last track, "Sexy Feet Under".

Overall TANKARD present another load of decent Thrash, but somehow I cannot consider this a killer album. It's not, because there are a few filler songs. Personally, I thought the faster tracks were the better ones and those seems to be what TANKARD does best. At the same time you can be easily confused in terms of tempo. For example, a song starts slow, going to midtempo and you think this si the general pace with maybe a step on the gas in the chorus. But no, all of a sudden the pace is upped several levels and it's a bit hard to distinguish bridge from verses, so to speak. Fast Thrash, no problem - in fact, Thrash should be, no, is fast - but at least try to keep some structure in the songs.

Lyrically Gerre and co. opted for the following subjects: e.g. energy crisis and political involvement, foot fetish, Finland and saunas and last but not least, the pedophile case in Austria earlier this year. A man known as Fritzl had locked up his daughter for more than 15 years, abused her, had a few kids with her, etc...etc... without her ever letting leave the house, find a job, meet friends, and so on. Hence also the addition of a children's choir in the song. Why this choir re-appears at the end of "Sexy Feet Under" is a riddle to me.

So, all things considered, is "Thirst" worth buying? TANKARD fans need not worry and can buy this unheard. Thrash fans will also have a nice treat here, but if you're critical enough there's a chance you'll shift your attention to DESTRUCTION, KREATOR, HEXEN, maybe even LEGION OF THE DAMNED and others. Everything is well executed and the sound is good, but somehow it's a bit too much of the same after a while. Or in other words, TANKARD has been Thrashing since more than 25 years and you just know what you get. You like/love it or you don't. Heck, why change a winning formula?

More info at

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

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UNHOLY RITUAL – Rex Mundi (Emotion Art Music 2008)

Unholy Ritual - Rex Mundi
  1. Killer Instinct **
  2. Vae Victus **
  3. Exiled As A Serpent (Returned As A Wolf) *
  4. In Flagrante Delicto
  5. Consequences
  6. What Lies Beneath **
  7. Childish Fears **
  8. Where God's Light Is An Error *
  9. Subquantum
  10. Unholy Ritual

I got to know (about) the Greek Black Metal band UNHOLY RITUAL last year (2007) when they released "Promo '07" in order to reach a bigger audience and also make sure labels would find the band worthy to add to their roster. And so it happened, as Emotion Art Entertainment & Music Ltd. offered the guys a contract. The first release is the long-awaited debut album "Rex Mundi". At first the album was supposed to come out via JordanRiver Ent(ertainment?) early 2008, but after a few months it became clear UNHOLY RITUAL would have to find another label to do this. "Rex Mundi" came out eventually on the 17th December.

I already added a short biographical part in my review of "Promo '07", but there's a small update: guitarist Trauma left the band and has been replaced by two other guitarists: Åd Ventus ("Herald Of Unspoken Aeons") and A.Z ("Destroyer Of Eternities"). And if I'm correct, drummer Blastphemer also left and has been replaced by Talos ("Mechanical Blasphemy"), unless he just changed his name. Either way, the "Promo '07" line-up also finalized "Rex Mundi".

The new album consists of older and new songs. All songs from "Promo '07" (see **) made it onto this debut, as well as two from the "Denial From Heaven" demo (see *) from 2001. The track "Unholy Ritual" dates from 2004. The cover art is the same as before, but the band's logo has changed. As there are four tracks I already commented on, a first portion of the review is easily made.

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 (with "Promo '07"), 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.

"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 lyrics indicate something completely different. But know that the song is another proof of UNHOLY RITUAL's skills.

"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.

"Exiled As A Serpent (Returned As A Wolf)" is the first song that seperates the "Promo '07" songs from the new ones. Starting in a mysterious way with icy winds, the storm breaks loose and Erevos' demonic voice welcomes you. The music is dangerously aggressive and a threat to the mind, especially in the verses. The keyboards assist the guitars in the chorus where the pace is set at midtempo. Afterwards Q_Snc can continue with his melodic leads in symphonic format. This is another great song, but especially the vocal parts are mindblowing. Erevos' shrieks are demonic, bestial and whatever else that fits this context. It's as if his throat is being raped, so to speak.

The bridge towards "Consequences" is provided by the instrumental and bombastic interlude "In Flagrante Delicto", with a key role for the organ, backed by choirish keyboards. All in all quite a good track, as it also breaks the violent stream of sound UNHOLY RITUAL delivers.

"Consequences" shows once more that keyboards are a vital instrument in UNHOLY RITUAL's music. The typical Black Metal blasting flows out of the speakers together with Q_Snc's leads, while Erevos' icy vocals guide them further. In the verses the keyboards play a more atmospheric role, while the might and power comes from the guitars, pushed onwards by Blastphemer's mad drumwork. This aggressive part is cut off by a softer moment dominated by the piano and symphonic elements, after which the power is restored with inclusion of the demonic, icy vocals. And truth be told, they annoy a lot and even ruin the song to some extent. The music, on the other hand, is more than good. Towards the end you get a spacey keyboard solo while the Black Metal chuggs on before the final step on the gas. Everything ends with church choir chants and a melody that made think of QUEEN's "The Show Must Go On". Overall, a decent song, but the vocals are the weakest link.

And this brings us to the other old song, "Where God's Light Is An Error", that forms a barrier that blocks the passage to the last two new songs. It's a fast midtempo track where the blasting comes in once the right pace is found. The soft keyboard melodies contrast heavily with the powerful guitarwork. Around 01:45 there's a very nice rocking part before all falls silent and the tension is slowly being rebuilt. Sadly, Erevos' demonic vocals do annoy again. Maybe not if the song would be played apart among other bands' songs.

"Subquantum" is the last real new song, since "Unholy Ritual" dates from 2004. Cold winds, some thunder, evil undergrounds, tension rising... Are we in Mordor? Or worse? Danger approaches... whispers of evil calling upon the God of the Woods...

...after which it's best to be on your guard as the "Unholy Ritual" unfolds. Typical Black Metal sets in, with a demo-ish sound. Ingredients consists of shrieking vocals, varied tempos and rhythm and especially Blastphemer's input that stands out. This is a very good, but raw old school song, injected with piano accents and keybord soloing. And yes, the vocals effects of before are also applied here. The music - must it be said? - is as qualitative as the majority on "Rex Mundi". In short, "Unholy Ritual" is a great song to end a very good debut album. On a sidenote, Aphazel from ANCIENT provided the ghost vocals.

"Promo '07" was a very pleasing release for me, also because it convinced me of the potential of UNHOLY RITUAL. A copy-paste from the review: "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." And this logically counts for "Rex Mundi", which shows a powerful force that can get as big as its colleagues abroad and can help to put Greece on the (Black) Metal map. Pure quality is assured here and the variety or better, Progressiveness, makes UNHOLY RITUAL stand apart from other typical genre bands. The sole problem for me was the effect - the effect, not Erevos' input itself, which was very good - applied on Erevos' singing/shrieking, sounding like an icy cold wind. In practically each (!) song can you hear it. It might have its use, but sometimes it's better to let the music do the talking. I'll end in rougly the same way as before: To all fans of Symphonic (and Progressive!) Black Metal: surf to the band's MySpace page and empty your wallet for "Rex Mundi" or order it at your local shop or online.

More info at

Erevos - vocals
Trauma - guitar
Q_Snc - keyboards
Drakhon - bass
Blastphemer - drums

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VOODOO CIRCLE – Voodoo Circle (AFM Records 2008)

Voodoo Circle - Voodoo Circle
  1. Spewing Lies
  2. Desperate Heart
  3. Kingdom Of The Blind
  4. Man And Machine
  5. Master Of Illusion
  6. We'll Never Learn
  7. Dream Of Eden
  8. Heaven Can Wait
  9. Angels Will Cry
  10. Enter My World Of Darkness
  11. White Lady Requiem

A new band has risen: VOODOO CIRCLE. Mastermind behind this formation is guitarist Alex Beyrodt (SILENT FORCE, ex-PRIMAL FEAR, ex-SINNER, ...). This idea of forming a Hard Rock band that would add more guitar-driven music - reminiscent of bands like RAINBOW, BLACK SABBATH, YNGWIE MALMSTEEN, DEEP PURPLE and the likes - back on the market already came to existence in the spring of 2007, as I was told in the interview (click here) with him back then. Since he writes all the songs and it's sort of his band, the official name is ALEX BEYRODT'S VOODOO CIRCLE, a bit like LUCA TURILLI'S DREAMQUEST. Why and how VOODOO CIRCLE was founded can be read on the band's website by clicking here.

For this new band - it's not a studio project, as Alex wants to put the band on the road - Alex not only found qualitative musicians, but also succeeded in adding a few guest appearances. The line-up consists of David Readman (vocals, PINK CREAM 69), Mat Sinner (bass, PRIMAL FEAR, SINNER), Mel Gaynor on drums (SIMPLE MINDS, GARY MOORE, BRIAN MAY) and finally Jimmy Kresic on keyboards. Guests on this first album are Doogie White (ex-RAINBOW, ex-YNGWIE MALMSTEEN, EMPIRE), RUDY SARZO (DIO, OZZY, WHITESNAKE), Norifumu Shima (CONCERTO MOON) and Richard Andersson (MAJESTIC, SPACE ODYSSEY). The release date of this debut album was set on the 5th December.

The "Voodoo Circle" starts with "Spewing Lies", which immediately - well, after the mysterious intro - the high-standard quality that can be expected. The music is indeed very much guitar-driven and everything simply screams "ROCK!". Not just the riffs, but also Alex's solo moments - or is it Norifumi Shima, since he's the guest in this song? - are truly a treat to listen to. David's vocals fit perfectly in this kind of Hard Rock and I don't think a better vocalist could have been found. To complement the music, that is. The keyboards play an important role, too, as they're in charge of melody an atmospheric backing. All in all is "Spewing Lies" a good to very good song to start with.

"Desperate Heart" is a song that could easily be a single. The keyboards are more in the front now, especially in the intro, laying out the melodic carpet, but also making the song more complete later on. The pace is again set at midtempo, but at a lower rate. The guitarsection is filled with electric and accoustic moments, although the electric ones take the majority of the time. The quality is still high, but the chorus is the element that bothered me the most, or better said, the repeating of "My deserate heeaaart..." as start of every line in the chorus. Other than that, no complaints.

"Kingdom Of The Blind" is next, with its spacey intro and SILENT FORCE-like guitardoodle. What follows is again "ROCK!", in a direct manner. The song adds a lot of punch and drive to the album and features - what else? - awesome guitarwork. From the sound of it, this could easily have been a SILENT FORCE song, not only because Alex Beyrodt plays and composes for that band, too, but also because DC Cooper's voice would fit as well as David's. Next to the guitarsolos, Jimmy gets to show his skills with the keys. All of this combined results in one of the best songs on this first release. Truly masterful music!

And this increase in quality continues with "Man And Machine". U.D.O. has an album and song with this title and SILENT FORCE's last album, "Walk The Earth" (2007), started with a song with this title. But the VOODOO CIRCLE one isn't a copy of either of those songs. This version is uptempo, oh yes, and far more Bluesier. Once again (also the name of a SILENT FORCE song, off the "Worlds Apart" album from 2004) this is a song that is perfect for DC Cooper, too. But let it be clear that David Readman does an awesome job. "Man And Machine" is therefore also one of the best tracks here.

"Master Of Illusion" is the title of the latest POWER QUEST release, but here it stands for a slow(er) song, sort of like a powerballad. The guitars still dominate, obviously, while halfway there's a nice keyboard moment in a spacey form. Although it's not the best song ever or even on this album, the result can be considered as decent. Just like that other slow song, "Heaven Can Wait". When you google this title, you get references to GAMMA RAY, IRON MAIDEN, MEAT LOAF, a film and even MICHAEL JACKSON. The verses contain no heaviness, which is reserved for the chorus. Here as well there's a keyboardsolo over halfway.

But it doesn't take long before voodoo vibes are put back into the music, as the midtempo "We'll Never Learn" shows. Here the organ makes its entry and not in a minor role, but strong and fierceful. The music contains more punch and raises the quality level once again. As a result, this is one of the better tracks. The punch and pounding of the drums in "Dream Of Eden" is one of the key ingredients for that song. Its intro is creepy and each step something new is added: first the bass, then the guitars and drum accents. Musically Alex decided to take the Bluesy road again, but not comprimising on power. Focussing back on the guests, this is where Doogie White and David sing the vocal lines, while Rudy Sarzo adds his bass knowledge and Richard Andersson his keys skills. This unity of talent created something very much worth hearing.

Before the album closes with an instrumental track, there's time for one faster and one slower song. "Angels Will Cry" is where the tempo gets a serious increase and the instrumentation is more direct. Splendid guitarwork, as usual, and the music reminds of not only SILENT FORCE, but also - and not in the least - of AT VANCE. No real complaints here, as everyone does a top job. The slower song, "Enter My World Of Darkness", is one that refers to Alex's fame in Japan, as the intro is in Japanese style. Not only that, but since he's married to a Japanese, I guess she influenced him a little to implement that into his music. The drums are very important and Mel hits the skins hard but solid. It's a slow song, but you can put a big stamp on it that says "majestic!". Musically I couldn't suppress the thought of BLACK SABBATH (the period with Ronnie James Dio). The keyboards have the responsability to add sounds that can be described as "monstrous". I don't have another term for it, but that fits best, in my opinion. All in all, another decent song. There's nothing really wrong with it, but I didn't find it as attractive or interesting as the others.

The "Voodoo Circle" is closed with the instrumental "White Lady Requiem", that starts with the organ, after which the guitars, then the drums and so on are added, all in a mysterious atmosphere. Mel decided it would be best to use both pedals to add more power to the compositions and up the pace to fast midtempo, by manner of speech. One word here: guitargasm! This is obvious since we're dealing with a non-vocals song, so this is a highlight for all the guitarlovers out there. The keyboards add complementary melodicness and backing, but don't step to the front to claim all attention. It must be said that there are better instrumental songs out there, like with any kind of song, but what Alex composed is no less qualitative than what he has done since many years. So, generally speaking, "White Lady Requiem" is a good song to end with.

VOODOO CIRCLE, the name alone bares mystery. But after years of being in the shadows with SINNER and SILENT FORCE Alex Beyrodt now can show the world he's as good a guitarist as many others out there (Yngwie Malmsteen, Jeff Loomis, Chris Broderick, Luca Turilli, Ritchie Blackmore, Tony Iommi and more). Ok, there might be some exaggeration here, but if you hear what quality the man has put out so far and now with his "solo" release, there's no questioning his abilities and skills. Hailed as a god in Japan, he should be treated almost similarly in Europe. VOODOO CIRCLE is Hard Rock, of very high quality, and for everyone who not only likes this kind of music, but also those that miss guitar-driven Rock...with soloing, obviously. Highly recommend material? It depends. Recommended? It sure is!

More info at

David Readman - vocals
Alex Beyrodt - guitars
Jimmy Kresic - keyboards
Mat Sinner - bass
Mel Gaynor - drums

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CORPUS – The Rise (Corpus 2008)

Corpus - The Rise
  1. Captatio Benevolentiae
  2. Where I Am
  3. Sophie's World
  4. The Fatekeeper
  5. Where I Was (Reminiscences)
  6. Heartless I: Autumn Rain
  7. Heartless II: Stop Haunting Me
  8. Heartless III: Corridor Of Wolves
  9. Heartless IV: My Gift
  10. The Reason Why
  11. Disconnect
  12. Where She Is
  13. Losing The Shackles

CORPUS is a Belgian Progressive Rock/Metal band, formed in 2002. Taking their time to write songs, the band finally managed to produce a first full-length. "The Rise" is a good enough title for a debut, which came out on the 4th of December. In the context of a Belgian Metal Special for the MetalCast I managed to meet drummer Steve Vanderperren and obtain a copy of "The Rise". That was in the autumn of 2009 and as we're now March 2010, it's obvious this review is a bit overdue.

The band's line-up consists of four people: Benno Van Keulen (vocals, bass), Steve Vanderperren (drums), Tobias Vanderhenst (keyboards) and Wouter De Coster (guitar). Either Tobias joined the band later or he couldn't record his parts for some reason, but the booklet mentions Toon Noppen (IO) having done all keyboard parts. Benno handled most of the vocals on the album, though Steve also got his share and guests like Tim De Ridder (THE SEVENTH), Lio Meessen (IO) and Peter Meynckens (AXAMENTA) took the rest of the vocal parts. Since a few months CORPUS is looking for a new and permanent vocalist, as - if I recall correctly - the songs just needed vocals, hence Benno and the others stepping forward as Chinese volunteers.

"The Rise" starts with an orchestral intro called "Captatio Benevolentiae", which guides the Metal instrumentation that follows shortly. The pace is rather slow, but as is common with such intros, speed is never an issue. Anyway, this track alone is already worth checking out. "Where I Am" follows closely with a powerful, melodic start. Keyboards offer the leads, while guitar and drums are the providers of power. That soon changes to guitar-driven verses, though the keyboards sprinkle exotic/Eastern touches. The chorus is where Toon can be in the spotlights again with a.o. a harpsichord input. The rhythm is pretty good and the drums are varied, as Steve manages to add fills and accents where needed. Benno's clean vocals aren't the best, but they sound relatively good here. As varied as the drums are, it's in fact the keyboards that take the prize in that category. To conclude, Toon can show off a last time with a solo, before the chorus is done once more and the powerful intro comes back as outro.

"Sophie's World" is next and in my opinion the first of the good songs. "Where I Am" was very good, just to make a distinction. No rocking intro here, but a rather mysterious one, even Jazzy, judging by the way the piano leads are done. Midtempo Progressive Rock takes over with added atmospheric backing. A very nice part, including the piano accents. The verses sound very sobre, humble, though the clean singing is, to be honest, quite boring and sometimes misses a tone. Musically however, all is well and in a way you can feel/hear the band is holding the breaks. By which I mean, the result is already good, but it can get better. So, one less good song and that's mainly because of the vocals.

But then "The Fatekeeper" comes along. The guitar plays one melody, the keyboards counter with another. A contrast is created between the calm verses and the chorus, where the real and symphonic power can be found. This sounds marvellous! The guitar solo is backed, or spiced, by strange twinking keyboard sounds, in preparation for the keyboard solo. The chorus is sung with a second vocalist, i.e. Lio Meesen. All in all, another very decent song. "Where I Was (Reminiscences)" keeps the quality level high. This time it's Steve's turn to play the first bits. The combination of toms and sticks is not only well done and thought of, it's also very original. I can't remember hearing anything similar on any album I have in my collection (no matter which band or Metal genre). Oh sure, Mike Portnoy does something in roughly the same way in "Dance Of Eternity", but Steve beats him. I don't know who sings here (it's not Benno), but this kind of voice doesn't fit with the music. The instrumental roles are again as such: keyboards offer melodies and backing, the guitar and drums provide the power. In the last section of the song the vocals are kept silent and all attention goes to the humble, slow and sad instrumental input, which puts an end to it all.

The next four tracks belong together and form the "Heartless" tetralogy: "Autumn Rain", "Stop Haunting Me", "Corridor Of Wolves" and "My Gift". The "Autumn Rain" starts wit the kind of humming keyboards that can be found in several SUMMONING tracks. Once more the vocals are the weakest link and lack the power that is needed to properly convey what is to be conveyed or expressed. Drums are absent and the guitar lets out a faint whail, yet also throws in a lead. Overall, a pretty "meh" track. "Stop Haunting Me" is then a much better one, as it takes of in a direct manner, Rocking very much. Keyboards again in the melodic department and Tim De Ridder feeling like a (grunting) fish in the water in the heavy verses. The chorus is where the tempo drops and keyboards are the dominant instrument. Afterwards the band gives the music a spacey Prog Rock twist and hit the pedal for a powerful outbreak. All ends with an ambient/atmospheric outro, which is good, because...

..."Corridor Of Wolves" begins calm. The guitar, ambient backing and soft singing are the main ingredients. The piano falls in to support the guitar melody, followed by a powerful chorus. There is a keyboard solo, if you can call it that, which consists of a symphonic composition, followed by the piano. One more time the chorus is played before the piano closes the corridor. Last but not least, "My Gift"'s intro builds the tension through the guitar and strange backing (at least to my ears). Slow Rock kicks in and shfits into higher gear, making the music flow really well. Instrumentally I've got no complaints. Spaceyness is added here as well, in the verses, which sound rather calm and serene. The firmness of the chorus does contain a touch of sadness, but how good it sounds! The rocking part that comes after this - and I can only hail the band for doing this - is ended abruptly. All that is left then are the twinkling keyboards, paving the way for another cup of sadness. This last track is over 10 minutes long, which means more music is to come. And it comes with a Progressive outbreak, followed by the earlier Rocking part, turning into an uptempo aggressive composition. Peter Meynckes's screams are then a perfect example of what vocal type should be used here.

Back to the regular songs then. "The Reason Why" has the bass guitar as spotlighted instrument in its soft, ambient intro. The clean singing is high in the mix and this made me frown. Once the guitar and drums are added, all sounds much better. Power is reserved for the chorus, but sounds pretty sad, even if the lyrics reflect a more aggressive and angry mood. Steve not only adds the usual drumming parts, but also throws in percussion, which is for the better of the song and music. The solo moment (no, not the butter advertising ;-)) consists of the keyboards, assisted by wild Rock. This transcends into a Jazzy part, calm and soothing, before morphing back the powerful music that preceded it. There's ven room for a symphonic implementation. Overall, this is a rather dramatic and dark song.

Three more songs, two of which are highlights like several before the "Heartless" tetralogy. Those other two are "Disconnect" and "Losing The Shackles". The first one rocks a lot, even in its Prog Rock form. This is definitely one of the best songs on the album, no doubt about that. There is a calm break, but afterwards the power has to be let loose. As the tempo goes up for the solo, METALLICA came to mind. Either way, qualitative Metal here. "Losing The Shackles" starts in an 80's manner, rather strange and spacey, flowing over into calm verses, but the music sounds better at full power and volume. Keyboards are again a very important element here. Power and diversity is how this song can be described in short. But between these two you'll hear "Where She Is". This song has a symphonic, yet sad intro and based on that it seems the band wrote its first ballad, but the Rocking music over halfway easily erases that thought. Strangely enough the production is different than for the other tracks, with the music sounding similar to "The Fatekeeper". I found this song quite to very good, but I can't be as positive about "Where She Is". To me it's one of the least good/weakest songs on "The Rise".

My knowledge of the Belgian Metal scene grows little by little and it's sometimes staggering to learn how many good bands are left unsigned and unknown to the outside world that is the international community. CORPUS has currently been playing many gigs and will continue to do so anno 2010, while continuing the search for a proper vocalist. "The Rise" shows perfectly what potential these guys have and potential they have indeed. The music is solid, diverse and powerful where needed. Original and interesting accents and fills help give the band an own face and image. My only problem with "The Rise" are mainly the vocals, which are just not powerful enough for the music and do in many cases more bad than good.

More info at

Benno Van Keulen - vocals, bass
Wouter De Coster - guitars
Tobias Vanderhenst - keyboards
Steve Vanderperren - drums

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HEAVEN'S BASEMENT – Heaven's Basement (Heaven's Basement 2008)

Heaven's Basement - Heaven's Basement
  1. Tear Your Heart Out
  2. Executioner's Day
  3. Graduation
  4. Saint Routine
  5. Fear Of Getting Off
  6. Reign On My Parade

HEAVEN'S BASEMENT is a British Rock 'n' Roll band that saw the light of day some time ago. When exactly is unknown to me, also because I can't find any mention on the band's website or MySpace page. Only a few days ago (I'm writing this in January 2009) I received a copy of the self-titled EP, which came out early December 2008. It contains six tracks, all well composed, with a very good production and you can just hear and feel the passion for this music coming out of the speakers.

If you need comparative material, check out the following bands (the list is not limited to those): THUNDER, VOODOO SIX, THIN LIZZY, SAXON, OVERLOADED, LED ZEPPELIN, and maybe even some TENACIOUS D, etc...

The EP starts with the direct "Tear Your Heart Out". This is Rock 'n' Roll to the core with melody playing a modest, though important, role in the chorus and mainly via the singing. The bass has been put in the mix and this benefits the music a lot. Around 02:40 all falls silent - well, almost - to prepare the listener for the outburst that follows. Very good start, nothing more to add.

"Executioner's Day" is an even better song, as the band implemented some Blues influences and this gives the music a specific touch, it increases the listening pleasure. At least, in my opinion. Musically I had to think of AINA and Richie's singing reminded me of Thomas Rettke, if my ears didn't fool me. The guitar solo is simply outstanding. Here too there's a slow moment at around 02:40 to let the power come back and another solo take over. An absolutely great song!

"Graduation" is the song where the guitars were given a fatter sound, more groove. Musically the NWOBHM influences can be detected and the melodic chorus sounds like a marriage between a.o. AC/DC and IRON MAIDEN. Nothing wrong here, like in the other tracks.

Time for some more Bluesy Rock again, a bit like their native colleagues from THUNDER: "Saint Routine". But that's only for a part of the song and mainly the start. Radio-friendly is a term that can be easily be tagged onto this track, so it's one of the lighter moments on this disc. But have no fear, because around 03:15 you get a tempo increase and the Rock factor increases a lot, as if the band thought "All brakes loose!". And that does the song a lot of good.

With "Fear Of Getting Off" the pace is slow, slower than before, but the music still contains Bluesy elements and the bass gets another promiment role. While the verses are calm, so to speak, it's the chorus that holds the power. In general it's a good song, without a doubt, but it didn't do me much. Unlike what preceded.

And last but certainly not the least, there's "Reign On My Parade". This uptempo rocker closes the EP in an excellent manner, with the verses contrasting nicely with the slower chorus. Richie adapted his singing to a more dirty style. Before the guitarsolo kicks in, you get a sort of breakdown moment. Not too long after either Sid or Jonny finished the solo there's a calmer part where the drums and bass play a key role. The tension grows again and we're off for more soloing. No need to say more, except that this song once again shows the quality that is provided by HEAVEN'S BASEMENT.

A new Rock 'n' Roll band has stood up to show what it's all about and that you don't have to have played this music for tens of years to do it right. HEAVEN'S BASEMENT makes music that puts a smile on your face, that increases your level of joy, your lust for life (meaning, the will and desire to live, not kill ;-)). The quality is amazing, especially for a first release, as it sounds as if these guys have been playing together for more than 15 years. "Heaven's Basement" is - to my ears - one of the surprises of 2008 and a quote from frontman Richie says it all:"We're the band that will make you fall in love with Rock 'n' Roll all over again." And I couldn't agree more.

More info at

Richie Hevanz - vocals
Sid Glover - guitars
Jonny Rocker - guitars
Rob Randell - bass
Chris Rivers - drums

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THE MODERN AGE SLAVERY – Damned To Blindness (Napalm Records 2008)

The Modern Age Slavery - Damned To Blindness
  1. Progenies Of Ancient Slaves
  2. Red Lines Of Obsessions
  3. Damned To Blindness
  4. Drop By Drop
  5. A Desert To Die For
  6. Vile Mother Earth
  7. The Sublime Decadence Of An Era
  8. Shell Of Perversion
  9. Descent To Oblivion
  10. Purple
  11. The Modern Age Slavery
  12. Wolverine Blues (ENTOMBED cover)

THE MODERN AGE SLAVERY is a new band, founded last year by ex-members from what seemed to be a cult Hardcore band called BROWBEAT, a name that doesn't ring the tiniest bell for me. In December the line-up was completed by guitarist Simone Bertozzi, whose name did ring a bell. He plays the bass in EMPYRIOS, the Progressive Metal band that released its second album this year, "The Glorious Sickness". Whereas "...And The Rest Is Silence" was heavily influenced by SYMPHONY X, DREAM THEATER, EVERGREY and similar, the newest is groovier, Thrashier with some Industrial touches. But let's focus on THE MODERN AGE SLAVERY again.

Earlier this year a 4-track demo was released and this got the attention of a.o. Napalm Records, whose core-business is Gothic, Black and Folk. But since a certain while they're expanding and trying to book successes with other styles as well, like Power Metal, Progressive Metal to even Deathcore, as THE MODERN AGE SLAVERY's music is labeled. With four songs in the bag, the band wrote another eight to make the debut album, "Damned To Blindness", which Napalm Records released on the 28th of November.

The production was handled by Simone Mularoni (DGM, EMPYRIOS, GORY BLISTER), meaning a clear but powerful sound that quite simply rips your eardrums to shreds. The artwork was done by Dennis Sibeijn (JOB FOR A COWBOY, CHIMAIRA, SLAYER, LAMB OF GOD, KILLSWITCH ENGAGE, ...)

The first thing that welcomes you is a dark, mysterious, agonizing and industrial atmosphere ("Progenies Of Ancient Slaves"). Not just the sounds, but also hearing people being beaten by a slick whip and chains while somewhere something is bound to erupt, explode or anything along those lines. And it doesn't take that long before the "Red Lines Of Obsessions" come flooding out of the speakers with a devastating force that instantly takes your mind hostage. Screams, lightning-fast Death Metal with Hardcore influences that will offer you no rest. Ok, there's a slow moment in the middle before the full power is unleashed again. With its 02:42 minutes it might be a bit too short, or end too abruptly as it feels sort of incomplete.

The title track follows very rapidly and the blasts are even more ferocious. It's the drums that are the most variable instrument, from furious blastbeats to devastating breakdowns with the guitars. But those are also full of power and destructiveness. At some point it does have something CLAWFINGER-ish, more specifically from the "Do As I Say" song. A killer second song, to say the least. Ferocity from start to finish and excellent to vent your anger or frustrations or energy.

"Drop By Drop" also contains the full-on blasting, but is overall a songs in which the flow is important instead of going straight for the kill. Variability is key here, from crushing breakdowns to fast runs. But never does the level of brutality drop. Not for the weak of mind. Think THE HAUNTED meets DYING FETUS meets VOMITORY, to give an example.

And yes, more blasting, but this time ("A Desert To Die For") it's more Hardcore-inspired playing, as in Thrashy drumming and riffing. The awesome production makes everything comes out extremely strong and powerful, especially in the pounding moments. And there's also a guitarsolo to detect, though only briefly. How can this song be described musically? Hm... What would happen if you mix MACHINE HEAD with KRISIUN?

"A Desert To Die For" also ended a bit too soon or unexpected, if you ask me, especially since the fist notes and blasts - in short, the directness - of "Vile Mother Earth" takes over all of a sudden and you can hear it's not inline with the previous track. You get the usual blasting and breakdowns and evil guitar accents, but at this stage it's too much. Sure, the song is not a copy of the previous songs, but it's too much of the same, meaning something different than blasting and breakdowns would be very welcome. Also, its playtime of little more than 3 minutes is not enough. There's no proper ending and the song feels like a sample instead of a full one.

The start of "The Sublime Decadence Of An Era" is not as direct as the others, the tension gets built here before the right flow is found. Midtempo and a bit more at ease, so to speak, which is a very welcome change after the several stages of blasting. Giovanni still screams as if possessed, but decided to add growls too as a contrast of verses vs bridge and chorus. Nice to hear is the guitarpart in the middle. No real heaviness there, just melodic guitartunes as a sort of break from the brutal part. And brutal it gets more and more, especially in the last minutes of the track with the drums also having found an extra dose of energy... continue like before, i.e. fast, blasting and energetic playing in "Shell Of Perversion". Pluspoints go to the transition between slower and fast parts and surprising indeed, a dead moment for the drums with just Giovanni's screams and the guitar fulfilling their tasks, before this instrument strikes back hard. All in all a good song.

Yay! More Death Metal blasting and growling ("Descent To Oblivion"). Not to mention the viciously raging guitars backed by an ADHD kind of drumming. Giovanni has not be cured yet, so he too sounds like a madman, superbly mixing screams and growls. Everything combined actually makes this one of the better tracks on this album. And here the ending is good and on time.

The longest song is "Purple", clocking in shortly before 6 minutes. Slooow yet ultra-heavy Metal with screams that sort of don't really fit with the pace, save for th breakdown-ish moments. MACHINE HEAD going more brutal, you could say, but that is only a small portion of this hard block of Metal. The slow playing and non-fitting screams start working on my nerves at this point, especially due to the screams. Luckily the pace gets upped, but it must be said that compared to the shorter songs, this tempo upgrade isn't as good, but practise makes perfect, as they say. Overall, not bad, but I find it one of the least interesting tracks.

Aha, relief. The usual ingredients are back, the usual compositions have returned. "The Modern Age Slavery" is ofcourse a songs that blasts everything in its path off the map. The breakdowns are therefore also inline with a devastating power that makes your head crack. Giovanni's screams and growls now do fit the music again. The drums again offer a good deal of variability. I've got not much more to add than add this song to the list of highlights.

Last one then. "Wolverine Blues" is not a THE MODERN AGE SLAVERY song, but from ENTOMBED. You can hear the guitars and overall compositions sound different, as the guitars seem to have been tuned a bit differently or better said, they're less hard. Pounding midtempo grooving Death Metal is what can be found here. I don't know how the original sounds, but this rendition is well done, in my opinion.

So...Deathcore. It's not always easy to put these two genres together to create something that offers the best of both. THE MODERN AGE SLAVERY did more than a good job and thus succeeded in their mission. The passion, anger, frustration and musicianship clearly are etched into the music and the guys must have several reserves of energy to bring this to the stage. "Damned To Blindness" offers qualitative Death Metal spiced with Hardcore breakdowns and screams. At some point the music has elements from Technical Death Metal bands like ANATA, SPAWN OF POSSESSION and others. Then again, the brutality of formations like KRISIUN and KATAKLYSM have been important, too. And not in the least the energetic Thrashiness of THE HAUNTED. All these elements combined make THE MODERN AGE SLAVERY a violent force to reckon with and "Damned To Blindness" an album that get the lads far. I would advise to work on song endings and not always blast (to blast), but use blasts more wisely.

More info at

Giovanni Berselli - vocals
Luca Cocconi - guitars
Simone Bertozzi - guitars
Mirco Bennati - bass
Gregorio Ferrarese - drums

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STUCK MOJO – The Great Revival (Napalm Records 2008)

Stuck Mojo - The Great Revival
  1. Worshipping A False God
  2. 15 Minutes Of Fame
  3. Friends
  4. The Flood
  5. Now That You're All Alone
  6. There's A Doctor In Town
  7. The Fear
  8. There's A Miracle Comin'
  9. Country Road
  10. Invincible
  11. Superstar Part 1 (The Journey Begins)
  12. Superstar Part 2 (The World Of Egos And Thieves)

Early this year (end of February) the Rap Metal formation, or Crossover as they call it, STUCK MOJO released "Southern Born Killers", which was recorded with producer Andy Sneap (EXODUS, MACHINE HEAD, ARCH ENEMY, NEVERMORE, KREATOR, TESTAMENT, ONSLAUGHT, etc...). Now, 9 months later (28th November), the follow-up is ready: "The Great Revival". This is also the second album with the new vocalist Lord Nelson and once again the band appealed to the services of Andy Sneap and this time also Rick Beato. On the new album you won't find as much Metal as before, but there's still a certain level of it. Instead you get Southern Hard Rock with Rap and ofcourse Metal elements.

The line-up changed as well, as drummer Rodney Beauboeuf left and Steve 'Nailz' Underwood took over.

"Southern Born Killers" was my first proper encounter with STUCK MOJO and overall I wasn't too happy about it. For me the album contained only a few good songs. References to especially CLAWFINGER were often made en with the new album this band also can be mentioned again, together with METALLICA... in the first song, "15 Minutes Of Fame". This is also one of the best songs on this record. The start is direct and pounding. The tempo goes up as the chorus approaches, a very nice moment. The bridge is fat and groovy and neatly connects with the chorus. Curiosity: there are two kinds of singing, rapping and normal singing. The latter is done by Lord Nelson (I think, since there's no mention of e.g. Rich Ward doing this) and Christine Cook. She can be heard in a few other songs on "The Great Revival".

As you could read in my review of the previous album, I wasn't too excited about the vocals. Especially the rapping worked "enormously on my nerves" (to quote myself from the other review). This time it's not different and even worse. I tried to focus on the music, but got constant talking as disturbing factor. Ok, there is also a lot of clean singing, as said above, and that's a fresh and welcome aspect, even though it's nothing super either. But I like it a hell of a lot more than rapping. Christine Cook's input is nice, but you can tell she's no Rock or Metal vocalist as the music is even adapted to her voice.

One example is the Bluesy but radio-friendly "Friends", where Christine plays a very important role. Overall this is a mediocre song, but still better than the rest. Finding good moments is difficult, but, for example, "The Flood" may be the easiest to examine. It contains water drops in the beginning and at the end and a Japanese-inspired atmosphere, but the music and especially the rap elements quite simply are boring. The best part are the keyboard leads at some point, with the guitars and drums holding a heavy rhythm. The only song I'm also satisfied about for the largest part is "The Fear", for this is a pounding and aggressive bastard of a song. Ok, I'm referring to the music, since the vocal department doesn't really do much good, on any of the tracks.

Oh yes, "There's A Doctor In Town" and "There's A Miracle Comin'" are recordings of an Afro-American priest preaching, repeating the same damn line but not really telling anything, and the church goers applaud and go with the flow, believing whatever the man says about the miracle coming. In the second track the music comes in after 01:30, and continues in a slow manner. Needless to say you instantly start frowning what purpose these tracks have on this album, but there's a clear link with the album cover.

"Country Road" contains the well-known chorus from the "Take Me Home, Country Road" by John Denver. Originally not an uninteresting song, here its use is questionable, although the explanation can probably be found in the lyrics or theme of the album. Still, both vocals and music are uninteresting, as far as I'm concerned.

The remaining songs contain the usual ingredients of rap, Southern Rock, clean singing and some heavier moments. None of which makes "The Great Revival" more interesting or appealing.

I think STUCK MOJO fans will very much like "The Great Revival", but with this album the band also tries to reach Southern Rock fans, people who do like the mix of Rap and Rock/Metal (with the emphasis on Rap) and overall people with a very broad taste in music. As for me, I'll pass. Get rid of the annoying rapping and Rap elements and replace it by normal singing and I might check out this new material. If a preference is needed, I'll pick "Southern Born Killers", but like this one, "The Great Revival" is set to collect dust on my shelves.

More info at

Lord Nelson - vocals
Rich Ward - guitars
Mike Martin - guitars
Sean Delson - bass
Steve "Nailz" Underwood - drums

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GRAVE DIGGER – Pray (Napalm Records 2008)

Grave Digger - Pray
  1. Pray (extended version)
  2. Overkill (MOTÖRHEAD cover)
  3. My Blood Will Live Forever
  4. When The Sun Goes Down

The German Heavy/Power Metal band GRAVE DIGGER has been doing a very good job for over 25 years, not mentioning the DIGGER period when they went mainstream to try to earn more money, which didn't work out, hence continuing years later, after a split, as GRAVE DIGGER and making pure Metal. Needless to say that in this long timespan the band's discography is quite large, with albums and EPs. Logically the line-up changed a few times, but since several years it's been very stable.

Last year (January) the Germans released "Liberty Or Death", which was preceded by the "Yesterday" EP in 2006. "Liberty Or Death" was not exactly a fast album, but showed a better result than the weak album called "The Last Supper". To be able to make the new material, the follow-up to "Liberty Or Death", more powerful and the gigs heavier, ex-RUNNING WILD guitarist Thilo Hermann joined the fold as second guitarist. Earlier this year (2008) GRAVE DIGGER signed a deal with Napalm Records, who is really doing its best since several years. The stay at Locomotive Records was thus short-lived.

"Ballads Of A Hangman" is the title of the new album, but since it's coming out in January, I'm not going to talk about it much. The focus lies on the pre-taste that is the EP "Pray", released on the 28th November. The band entered the Principal Studio in Munster to record the new songs under the guidance of the Resetti brothers. That also counts for the four songs on this EP.

First stop is the title track, "Pray", in extended version. When reading this I thought the running time would be at least 6 minutes or so. It stops after 4 minutes. Four minutes. I wonder how the regular version sounds and how short it is. But anyway, "Pray" is a midtempo-paced straight-forward song. Chris sings as rough and raspy as ever. You know what to expect and that's a good thing. Musically it reminds me of what SAXON has been doing on its last few albums ("Killing Ground" to "Inner Sanctum"). Epic is a word that fits here. The chorus is very much sing-along, especially in the group chanting "PRAY!". The sound is killer and overall the song is pretty much flawless.

Next is the MOTÖRHEAD cover. "Overkill" is an energetic and pounding song. METALLICA covered it in 1996 or so and it also featured on their "Garage Inc." cover album and personally, I thought that was a pretty good version. GRAVE DIGGER also does a very good. The original doesn't have much cymbals, even if it's advised, while Lars (METALLICA) can't get enough of them, hahaha. But he does a better job then at accentuating certain parts. Stefan prefers to add snare and tom fills and then throw in those cymbals. Let's say, of the three, he's the most enthusiastic one in his playing. So, in short: well done.

The two other songs won't appear on "Ballads Of A Hangman". The starting riff of "My Blood Will Live Forever" reminds me of another song from another band, but I just can't put my finger on it. Nevertheless, it promises a very entertaining song, in true Metal spirit. The drums kick a lot of punch into the music and you just cannot sit still. The chorus is a little slower and almost hymnic. Everything is first class: the sound, the musicianship, the compositions, ... And I think it's a great help that Thilo Hermann is now the second axeman, so each can concentrate on his own parts. A very good song, in other words.

"When The Sun Goes Down" is a slower song, more cruising-like. Atmospheric keyboards can be heard in the back, but they're not really pushing through. They play a subtle role. Chris sounds fiercer than the music, which is kind of funny as it sounds like he wants things to go faster with more drive, more ferocity (by manner of speech), but the rest of the band plays on, thinking "Relax, Chris. We'll go faster later, in other songs." This is another good song, by the way.

GRAVE DIGGER is back on track you could say, after the good-but-not-outstanding "Liberty Or Death". "Pray" is a flawless EP and perfect pre-taste of "Ballads Of A Hangman". Everything just fits here, despite or maybe thanks to having a second guitarist. Must it be said that the Resetti brothers also had a big hand in this? And from the credits on their website it seems GRAVE DIGGER is one of the lifetime clients, as it's not the first time this collaboration is set up. Whatever. Fans of first class Heavy Metal know what to do. If you prefer to wait for the album, that's fine. If you're a collector, you cannot avoid "Pray".

More info at

Chris Boltendahl - vocals
Manni Schmidt - guitars
Thilo Hermann - guitars
Jens Becker - bass
Hans Peter Katzenburg - keyboards
Stefan Arnold - drums

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ASMEGIN – Arv (Napalm Records 2008)

Asmegin - Arv
  1. Fandens Mælkebøtte
  2. Hiertebrand
  3. Generalen Og Troldharen
  4. Arv
  5. Yndifall
  6. Gengangeren
  7. Prunkende, Stolt I Jokumsol
  8. En Myrmylne

Not all Folk Metal comes from Switserland, Finland, Sweden, ... Norway also has its bands and one of them is ÁSMEGIN. The band started in late 1998 as a Norwegian Viking Metal band. The usual line-up changes occured and the next year a first demo was ready, "Naar Rimkalkene Heves (As the Chalices Are Raised)". This demo was released through Marius' own label Valgalder Records. April 2000 was the time of the second demo, "Af Helvegum (On the Path to Helheim)", leaning more towards Folk, but unfortunately never released. At that time the band also was close to its demise, but Tomas and Marius gathered new blood to keep ÁSMEGIN alive.

Two years and other position changes later ÁSMEGIN finally started working on their debut album "Hin Vordende Sod & Sø (The Prospective Broth & Soup)" with Børge Finstad co-producing the recording effort. Lots of people had a hand in this album: Lars Fredrik Frøislie (WHITE WILLOW, WOBBLER) on keys, Lars Nedland (BORKNAGAR, SOLEFALD) on vocals, Sareeta (RAM-ZET) on fiddle and female chants, Anne Marie Hveding on additional female chants, Oddrun Hegge on the Norwegian zither, Gunhild Førland on the flute, and Anja Hegge Thorsen on the Jew's harp. Napalm Records released "Hin Vordende Sod & Sø" in 2003, after which another round of line-changes took place.

And then it was time to focus on a new album, "Arv" ("Heritage"), containing old and new material and out since the 28th November. Lasse Lammert (a.o. ALESTORM) took care of the mastering. And according to the bio text ÁSMEGIN has already started working on the follow-up "Tusind Tabte Siaeles Kakofoni", a double CD.

The "Heritage" starts with "Fandens Mælkebøtte", of which the music comes in with a slow/midtempo Folk loop, brought by the guitars and traditional instruments. Female chanting and male grunts take turns and the music is adapted accordingly: melody for the female vocals, focus on Metal for the grunts. Very nice is the violin-moment halfway, as it offers a sort of resting point, and ease of mind. The biggest problems, in my opinion, are the female singing (Anne Marie Hveding or Gunhild Hovden Kvangarsnes - I don't know) - it's nerve-wrecking - and the strange, muffled production. Particularly the drums suffer from this, as if a blanket or something was put over them. The grunts are good and go well with the music. No complaints about that aspect.

"Hiertebrand" is heavier, mainly on the guitars. The mix is well done, as the bass comes through very clearly. You cannot just hear it, but also feel it. Once again there is a division, melody when the female singing is heard, heaviness for the male grunts. While this (female singing) was a problem in the previous song, it's much better here and sounds close to Cristina Scabbia from LACUNA COIL. Once again, I don't know if it's Anne Marie Hveding or Gunhild Hovden Kvangarsnes, as the press text mentions both for the vocals department. The song is also darker, which explains the increased heaviness. The violin is the leading instrument, while the guitars remain in the rhythm zone, assisted by the drums. "Hiertebrand" is, all things considered, one of the tracks that stand out.

The accordion that starts "Generalen Og Troldharen" instantly gives you the impression you're listening to FINNTROLL or KORPIKLAANI, but once heaviness breaks loose, that thought fades away, despite some similarities still remaining intact. The pace and atmosphere give it a drinking song-touch. No female singing here, but grunts and clean male vocals. While firmly in the front at first, the accordion soon disappears to the back and you have to press your speakers into your ears to hear its melody. Guitars and drums are the dominant elements halfway and you would even wonder if there's going to be any melody at all. Yes, but that's when the guitars and drums are kept silent. This offers the accordion the chance to come back, but it's hard to stay there. Adding a little surprise is the piano at some point in the last minutes. The mix of compositions is good, the production isn't. It's too muffled, if you ask me.

Shortly before the first quarter has passed, the title track comes gently flowing out of the speakers via a violin melody. But that peaceful start is soon cut off by heavy, pounding Folkishness. The clean and raw vocals are represented again. The music very much guitar-driven, but the accordion and violin get the chance to come to the front. Around 03:40 the music suddenly changes, you get something totally different with a higher focus on Folk before the energy gets kicked back into the song. What follows after this Folk moment is much better than what preceded. The violin is much more active and there's more drive... until angelic chanting fills the last seconds of the song. Overall this song is a step forward again in the tracklisting.

So far, so good. Apart from the mediocre production and not-so-good female singing, the music is decent, though nothing that makes me listen in awe as if it were the best Folk release ever or at least this year. Because it is far from that. With "Yndifall" you could say that the best track lies here. It starts with directly with drums (toms) pounding and slowly building the tension with the guitars, including bass. Heaviness is key here and honesty obliges me to add that there's something AMON AMARTH-ish about it. shortly before the 1-minute mark the slow pace is found and Erik growls even lower than Johan Hegg (AMON AMARTH). Kudos for that. ;-) Next to that clean male vocals form a contrast in the bridge. Terms that could describe the music: dark, vicious, dirty. Around 02:25 a tranquil moment sets in, with a mysterious atmosphere. The outburst comes unexpected and throws the music into a time of gloom, as the music continues in a slow Doom-ish kind of manner, gently allowing melody to sip through and lead the music further on. with a playtime of over 7 minutes it's the longest song on "Arv", thus giving the band lots of time to give the song a Progressive character. Very cool is the Folk music around 04:40, first the accordion, then the drums and guitar are added before the slow heaviness takes over. Take your time here and listen a few times to properly discover the many layers. It's definitely worth the while.

Creating a sense of mystery is the first element in "Gengangeren", done via the piano. The guitars and drums are added afterwards, with a big contrast between the gentleness of the piano and the heaviness of the guitars and drums. Especially the drums don't follow a standard pattern, but Erik tries to make good use of his kit. The piano is the leading instrument, the guitar adds crazy touches or even goes through a soft moment as the rest of the instrumentation holds a break. Singing consists of growling and rough singing. Overall the comparisons with the colleagues from the Faroese Islands, TÝR, cannot be ignored. The violin takes over from the piano in the chorus. "Gengangeren" is, in general, well done, but the abrupt ending leaves you confused and I even thought "Prunkende, Stolt I Jokumsol" was also part of it, since there's only a very short silence between these two tracks.

Anne Marie Hveding or Gunhild Hovden Kvangarsnes - I don't know - makes another appearance for the shortest song (barely more than 2 ½ minutes) of the pack, "Prunkende, Stolt I Jokumsol". And it must be said that it's again well done. The music is also more relaxing, Jazzy somehow. You could see this as a moment of relaxation before the last track presents you with another load of heavy Folk Metal. This is so not comparable with what came before this song and you wouldn't even think this is an ÁSMEGIN song. But it's good.

So, last but not least and not the best, "En Myrmylne". This is, clocking in at 9 minutes, the longest song. Logically you would think it won't be a 3-4 minute song prolonged to reach the 9-minute marker, but as variable as "Yndifall". Well... it does bring back the usual ingredients of the other songs. Erik screams more and there's a bigger touch of danger in the verses and due to the keyboards more drama in the chorus. EPICA comes to mind, musically. It's a midtempo song with a jumpy chorus. In terms of non-Metal instrumentation you get a diverse offering: accordion, organ (makes it funky in a way), violin, ... The middle section is linear and the music drags itself forward for a while. The jumpy chorus then comes back and that's a good thing, not only for the sake of diversity. "En Myrmylne" is very listenable, but not really a highlight, in my opinion.

This last few years and especially this year there has been a booming offering of Folk Metal (new and older): ELUVEITIE, EQUILIBRIUM, MOONSORROW, TÝR, MÅNEGARM, KORPIKLAANI, ENSIFERUM, FOLKEARTH, ARKONA, WAYLANDER, FALCONER, ALESTORM, and more. Festival tours like Paganfest and Heidenfest certainly promoted this kind of Metal very much, both in Europe and the USA. In the wake of this, Napalm Records releases ÁSMEGIN's newest effort, "Arv". The band's debut seemed to have been hailed as a very good album, but I can only comment on "Arv". These Nordic warriors may have put a lot of effort in creating new material, but somehow I can't hail "Arv" as a must-have, though I have to give them credit for creating some interesting songs by injecting a touch of Progressiveness. If Folk Metal is your thing, then ÁSMEGIN is a band you have to check out in your quest for new material. Sporadic listeners would do well to give this album several listens, because even I had to change my opinion a few times (sometimes for the better, other times...not). I am however curious what the band will present and how they will sound on the follow-up, "Tusind Tabte Siaeles Kakofoni". But that's for another time (I hope).

More info at

Erik Fossan Rasmussen - vocals, drums
Raymond Håkenrud - guitars, bass, vocals, piano
Marius Olaussen - guitars, bass, mandolin, accordion, piano, mellotron
Lars Fredrik Frøislie - Hammond organ, piano, mellotron, mini-moog

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SHADOWKEEP – The Hourglass Effect (Melissa Records 2008)

Shadowkeep - The Hourglass Effect
  1. Shadow Keep
  2. Incisor
  3. Ten Shades Of Black
  4. Riot On Earth
  5. Six Billion Points Of Light
  6. Waiting For The Call
  7. As The Hourglass Falls
  8. Leviathan Rising
  9. Heart Shaped Stone
  10. With Force We Come
  11. How Many Times Have We Tried To Save The World

The UK ProgPower band SHADOWKEEP saw the light of day about 10 years ago, thanks to guitarists Chris Allen and Nikki Robson joining forces. Not too long afterwards the Belgian vocalist Rogue M. joined the fold and the trio entered Thin Ice Studios to record a six-track EP produced by THRESHOLD guitarist Karl Groom, featuring the opus "Dark Tower". This came to the attention of Limb Music Products (LMP in short) and a deal was made in 2000. The band signed for two albums, "Corruption Within" (2000) and "A Chaos Theory" (2002). I bought "Corruption Within" when it came out as the music was to my liking, even though Rogue's high-pitched singing wasn't always easy to overcome/get used to. This album contains several interesting and catchy tracks, but I have to admit that the last few years the album hasn't been played that much or at all, really. It wasn't until I got a review copy of the newest album, "The Hourglass Effect" (out since 21/11), that I took out the debut release again, which brought back a few memories. I could also buy the follow-up, "A Chaos Theory", but somehow I haven't done yet, either because of Rogue's voice or because I have/had a preference for other bands. The album might end up in my collection over time, but it's not a priority.

As usual, SHADOWKEEP also faced several line-up changes, with Rogue M. being replaced by Ronnie Stixx (DIVINE RUINS, VICIOUS RUMORS, ...), but that collaboration didn't last as long. The band had planned to release "The Hourglass Effect" in 2006 with Ronnie Stixx, but due to him having to leave the band and other things the release got postponed again and again. Furthermore, it's only much later that a new record deal was arranged, this time with the Dutch Melissa Records.

On the live front the band has shared the stage with bands like DIO, HALFORD, SYMPHONY X, DREAM EVIL, FLOTSAM AND JETSAM and played at Bloodstock, Headbangers Open Air, Bang Your Head, and more. during that period the first vocalist change occured. For "The Hourglass Effect", for which Richie Wicks wrote the lyrics for the dark and futuristic concept, SHADOWKEEP once again worked with Karl Groom and current vocalist Richie Wicks (ex-TYGERS OF PAN TANG, ex-ANGEL WITCH) soon joined the fold. Drumwise Omar Hayes took the then vacant place behind the kit. And more recently a new keyboardist was attracted: Scot Collins.

Now, after this short flashback, time to focus on the new album. The first song was bound to be made or the title to be chosen, "Shadow Keep". The intro is short, but mysterious in an atmospheric manner. Gentle guitarwork sets in while eerie sounds create a spooky and dark atmosphere. Little by little the tension is built by adding more guitar and drumpower before releasing the full Metalness. Dual leads form a great and ear caressing transition to let Richie's pipes tell the tale, assisted by very talented musicians. Midtempo is selected here, although the flow gets broken, or shall we say upgraded, with technical drumming. Omar knows when to add fills and which, that's for sure. The guitarsolos are top notch and absolutely a highlight in a song that very good itself.

After the warm-up it's time to change into a higher gear with "Incisor". This is Melodic Power Metal of excellent quality, let that be clear. Heavy, chuggy and pounding Metal in the verses, rolling on with a big injection of catchiness in the chorus. Sing along, drum along, bang your head, do something. You just cannot sit still here. Think BRAINSTORM, GAMMA RAY, PRIMAL FEAR, SYMPHONY X, HELSTAR and similar. Omar once again is an important link in the ProgPower chain, for "Incisor" is not your typical straight-forward Power Metal track, as Nikki and Chris added enough change to make it Progressive. Everyone does a more than great job, even Richie, whose voice really fits SHADOWKEEP's music.

Making the riffing a bit angrier, the drums more pounding while keeping the flow in a midtempo pace and giving Richie the liberty to reach for higher notes, gives the result that is called "Ten Shades Of Black". While Nikki and Chris keep a certain chuggy rhythm in the chorus, it's Omar's duty to add accents. Simple, but effective. Halfway there's a small tempo increase before the guitar solos set in. This reminds a bit of SILENT FORCE and DREAM THEATER, not in the least because Richie's singing can be (lightly though) compared to DC Cooper's (SILENT FORCE). The music is still first class, I have no complaints at all. Karl Groom's production skills play a big role in this.

"Riot On Earth" is a title that promises to hide an uptempo and aggressive song. Well, it starts with a movie sample (which movie, I don't know) where someone announces the end of the world ("(...) You're all going to burn in the fire from which you came."), after which the Metal comes crashing in. Midtempo is again chosen, but soon the drumming gets more direct and the guitarwork a bit Thrashy, in a melodic way. The melodicness is very important in the chorus, especially coming from the backing keyboards. And yes, I may be repeating it, but Omar's fills and accents do represent an added value. Without those the songs would clearly miss something. And then, when it's solo time, the tempo gets an enormous boost giving the drums more power and speed, while there's a small role for an organ-like keyboard intervention, after which the chorus comes in again. The song ends with people protesting, smashing windows, breaking things... a riot, in other words.

Aside from the heavy songs you'll also find two accoustic ones: "Six Billion Points Of Light" and "Heart Shaped Stone". The first is pretty much ok. Nothing spectacular - it's accoustic after all - but nothing bad either. The latter is about half as short, but a little better. Some will question the purpose of these songs, but when reading the lyrics it's probably best to have accoustic music to it. In addition, they offer a moment of rest and break the constant flow of heaviness, which makes the album more easily digestable.

So let's carry on with the Metal attack and "Waiting For The Call". Dual guitarbrilliance is the first thing you hear and once again the expectations may be for a fast track, but no, sadly it's not so. You do get the heavy, powerful riffing pushed onwards by Omar's pounding hits, especially in the chorus. The melody aspect is high again and not in the least in the vocal department, where Richie's voice has been doubled/layered and a soft backing atmospheric breeze has been added. The guitars also get their moment of fame, since it would be strange and un-SHADOWKEEP if this was not the case.

The guitars and thundering drums in "As The Hourglass Falls" announce total demolition and demise. The atmosphere is also more negative and a cry for help, so to speak. The tempo is quite slow in the verses, but for the bridge the pedal gets pushed down a bit more to make the music more to the point. The chorus also has this, with double bass, preceded by a determinded slow pounding of the drums, enforced by the guitars. Over halfway there's a nice chilling part, still heavy though. Slowly the tension gets build during the solo moment until all power is unleashed for a rapid trip. Short, but effective. Although I found this song a bit less attractive than the others, the result isn't any less good.

The accoustic guitar appeared in "Six Billion Points Of Light" and "Heart Shaped Stone", where it had a dominating role during the entire songs. Here, in "Leviathan Rising", its role is less big, but quite important nevertheless, for it forms the welcome part of the song. The electric instrumentation takes soon takes over. Tempo changes keep the activity level high and the song overall interesting. Once again I have BRAINSTORM in mind, not just because of the music, but Richie's singing in a way can be linked to Andy B. Frank's. Oh yes, I forgot, the accoustic guitar does come back over halfway for a relaxing interlude. Richie also adapted his singing and with the soft atmospheric backing, ICED EARTH is one of the first bands I think of.

"With Force We Come", another title that should unleash the fire of hell, by manner of speech. SHADOWKEEP clings on to slow/midtempo playing, but don't compromise on heaviness and epicness, for that's what this song can be best decribed as: epic! Not in the least is this obvious in the chorus, "With.Force.We.Come.", with the dots indicating a short stop, as if it's a warcry. In the verses Richie gives his all, but there's a second, growling voice. Perhaps it's Richie's with effects, I don't know. Maybe the booklet will tell. Atmospheric keyboards again create a fitting atmosphere and even assist in providing more melody. Guitarwise Nikki and Chris take turns for the leads and solos and even play together for a short while. Overall no complaints here either.

Ok, we've had accoustic stuff before, with the guitar being the central instrument. The ending track, "How Many Times Have We Tried To Save The World", has the piano to fulfill that role. Richie shows he can also sing soft stuff and the piano leading gives it a different feel and touch. Ofcourse, no emotional ballad without atmospheric backing. This song has something EVERGREY-ish, who also are good at making such songs, piano-driven.

After "Corruption Within" I didn't check up on SHADOWKEEP anymore, although I did notice the line-up had changed after "A Chaos Theory". "The Hourglass Effect" was supposed to be released at least two years ago, but the usual problems affected the work on this newest opus. SHADOWKEEP are indeed back and have really worked hard on this new album, as you can tell by the compositions, the technicality of the musicianship and the feel of the music. It's as if they are reborn, injected with new power and energy. Since I didn't detect any flaws and really liked the album that I've been playing it several times the past two weeks, I can highly recommend "The Hourglass Effect" to anyone into Power Metal with a Progressive touch. SHADOWKEEP isn't the best Power Metal band in the world, but they do a damn good job at keeping it real, honest and passionate.

More info at

Richie Wicks - vocals
Nikki Robson - guitars
Chris Allen - guitars
Stony Grantham - bass
Omar Hayes - drums

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X-VISION – So Close, So Far (Drakkar Records 2008)

X-Vision - So Close, So Far
  1. Paper Plane
  2. The Green Light
  3. Deadly Adornment
  4. Blow On Ashes
  5. The Sky Never Lies
  6. The Sky Was True
  7. And Now?
  8. Early Mental Release
  9. Cut Off
  10. Self-Abnegation
  11. Theater Of Appearances

X-VISION is the third band I got acquainted with via Dirty8. Founded in 1998 these French Metallers took an explosive start, sharing the stage with a.o. ANTHRAX, PRONG, GOJIRA, SLAYER, MEGADETH, SLIPKNOT, KORN, OOMPH! and several others like SEPULTURA and MINISTRY.

The first release, "So Close, So Far", originally came out last year in May via Dirty8, but this release too was included in the deal with Drakkar Entertainment resulting in a re-release on the 21st of November. Lyrically the album deals with topics such as pollution, animal massacre, loss of humanity... a bit like DESTRUCTION's "D.E.V.O.L.U.T.I.O.N." album earlier this year.

"So Close, So Far" consists of material that blends elements from Death Metal, Nu-Metal, Hardcore, Thrash and injecting the whole with a good dose of Groove. One example is where Death Metal and Groove à la PANTERA come together is "Paper Plane". The vocals are raw and very Metalcore-ish. You won't detect any growling, rather screaming and rough singing, if you can all it that. The drums are important to add accents in the linear flow of guitar grooves. There is certainly room for a Progressive twist or even solos, but even that has not been considered.

With "The Green Light" and "Blow On Ashes" you'll have the best two tracks on this album. The first takes a blasting start and is more vicious and uptempo, though not devastatingly fast. It's got more energy and drive, so to speak, with the blasts returning now and then. Here you do get a more varied dish as the second half of the song consists of slower material, but with a changing flow, ending in a sloooooow wave. The second one, "Blow On Ashes", starts with some drumrolls that continue with added heaviness via the guitars. The drums are an important element and serve to add accents and variety. Further down the flow breaks have been set to inject the missing brutality once again.

Other than that, there are only a few more songs that don't exactly stand out, but have good moments. "Deadly Adornment", again mixing Death Metal elements in a Metalcore plate, is the first. "The Sky Never Lies" is good for the first part, the short guitarbursts. Afterwards the flow is found, but it never gets as good anymore. Especially the vocals start to annoy a lot. "Cut Off" finishes the list.

Speaking of vocals: think THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN or similar. This kind can be of good use depending on the compositions. While Pierre did a good job in the first few songs, his input gets annoying in practically all of the second half songs. He doesn't change style, but his rough/raw screaming/'singing' doesn't always fit the music. Especially when he speaks in the interlude "And Now?" - which is sort of like what Phil Anselmo (DOWN, ex-PANTERA) did on "The Great Southern Trendkill" - it makes me want to trash the stereo.

The first listen I gave to "So Close, So Far" wasn't positive. Letting it rest for a number of days and then relistening helped a bit, especially for the first few songs, but my hopes were rapidly lost as I got to the middle and second half of the album. X-VISION has created a very brutal and sometimes catchy album, but as far as I'm concerned the music is a lot of the same, with the same kind of vocals (that don't always go well with the music) and leaves lots of room for solos and other twists, even though this might not be a characteristic of the style X-VISION plays (Metalcore meets Nu-Metal meets Extreme Metal in general). "So Close, So Far" is for people with a broad taste and more specifically those into GOJIRA, KORN, SLIPKNOT, THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN and similar.

More info at

Pierre Pauly - vocals
Christophe Edrich - guitars
Nicolas Seguin - guitars
Arnaud Marion - bass
Arnaud Ferveur - drums

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SIKH – One More Piece (Drakkar Records 2008)

Sikh - One More Piece
  1. The Quake
  2. 5 Seasons
  3. Halcyon Days
  4. Hollywood
  5. Hammering The Sun
  6. Ocean
  7. Ballad Of The Harmless
  8. Psychotro
  9. One More Piece
  10. Box My Balls
  11. Slaves Of The 70s (Wisky)

SIKH is the second Dirty8 band whose album I'm going to comment on (the other was DYSFUNCTIONAL BY CHOICE). This French formation was assembled in 2001 Nice, France. Two years later there was a complete line-up, consisting of Kallaghan (vocals + guitar), NicO (guitar), BoZ (bass) and Gaël (drums). Several gigs and another two years later the debut album, "Sikh", is ready. SIKH play a sort of Metal that is unlike what is available from other French bands. This release got the band a spot on the European tour with HED(PE) in 2006, which gave the lads inspiration for the follow-up release. "One More Piece" originally came out in November 2007 via Dirty8, but thanks to a deal with Drakkar Entertainment, it's available on a wider scale since the 21st November 2008.

Here the Hardcore-element is more present, but a good portion of Nu-Metal can also be found in the compositions. Examples of influences are KORN, SLIPKNOT, DISTURBED, ILL NINO and similar. SIHK mentioned KORN, MESHUGGAH, DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN, PANTERA, STRAPPING YOUNG LAD and PRIMUS on their MySpace page.

The album kicks off with a song - "The Quake" - that at first reminds of the Rock band LIVE, until the brutality breaks loose, influenced by SLIPKNOT, DISTURBED, CREED, PANTERA and similar. Screams, powerful singing and rolling double bass drums. Yes, there's some KORN as well, especially around the second minute. "The Quake" ends with a funky moment, something interesting.

Slow pounding Metal is in short what "5 Seasons" stands for... at first, though. Because then the pedal is pushed down more. The guitars hold their power before unleashing it in the chorus. Melody is very important, via the vocals, but foremost in the chorus. Speaking of the vocals, they're good and fit this kind of Modern Metal/Nu-Metal very well, but the whispering is very annoying and disrupts the listening pleasure, if there's any pleasure at all if this kind of Metal isn't exactly your favourite. Overall, I find "5 Seasons" less interesting than "The Quake". Everything is well executed and produced, but the compositions and vocals make it a whiney song. Not Emo, but still...

"Halcyon Days" injects the first serious amounts of Hardcore into the and album, even though the Nu-Metal influences aren't far. Clean singing, gently guitar heaviness in the verses, grooving in the chorus, all in a midtempo canvas. This is modern stuff, indeed. The bass guitar is very important and very high in the mix. This was also the case in the previous songs. The singing still has a sort of whiney character, but the luckily the music improves the situation more interesting and pounding. Around 02:40 a SLIPKNOT moment is programmed for about half a minute before continuing like before. Honesty obliges me to rate this song as one of the better on "One More Piece".

Oooh, Kal is angry in "Hollywood". At first I hear something CLAWFINGER-ish, which makes a transition into DISTURBED meets PANTERA and KORN and perhaps STRAPPING YOUNG LAD, although I'm not that familiar with this band's discography. Kal sings in a rapping manner. And once again the whiney/wanking touch is there, in the chorus, in contrast with the ballsy singing in the verses. I do have to add that the guitarwork is quite interesting, despite heavily depending on grooves.

"Hammering The Sun" starts calm, but rest assured that it won't continue like that. The level of energy is upped a lot as the music comes pounding out of the speakers. The drums, that follow the guitars are very important, especially the bass drums and the china cymbal to make the music more powerful. I'll probably say it again and again, but the (wanking) singing bores rapidly, especially in the second half of the song. But that's a characteristic of Modern Metal/Nu-Metal.

The tranquillizing chord picking of "Ocean" promises something entertaining and as you try to follow your hearing is blasted by heavy grooves that could make you think of MESHUGGAH, DEDICTED and even MACHINE HEAD. The vocals are covered with radio-effects in the verses and again the guitars hold their power in the verses before venting everything in the chorus. Total power and brutality is what you'll find on this field. And that's also the best part of the song. And yes, the singing is also rougher and angrier. Around 03:30 there's a calm break with the chord picking of the intro, followed by a slow building towards a more aggressive, though slow, piece. "Ocean" ends like it started, it retreats.

"Ballad Of The Harmless" reminds somehow of PANTERA's "10's", off the "The Great Southern Trendkill" album. At least, it's in that vein. This is again a bad - or less good, depending on your views/ears - song, as the instruments sound muffled, the soft singing does more bad than good and especially the percussion samples (if it's samples the band used, else the production on the drum is just yuk!) form a black stain on the music. It's hard to stay focused and find any listening pleasure here.

Back to business with the uptempo and violent "Psychotro", not in the least thanks to the pounding breakdowns. This is one of the better tracks and there's not as much wankery as before. If you want a modern Metal song with balls, this is one that should be on your list. Overall, a pretty good track, nothing more, nothing less. The rap-ish singing is one of the less attractive elements, in my opinion.

Midtempo pounding and aggressive vocals, those are the key ingredients of "One More Piece". Interesting enough percussion was added in the chorus. The grooving guitars and overall compositions remind of SLIPKNOT and particularly ILL NINO. Hold on to your horses, because there's a lot of anger and aggressivity to be found here. The violent breakdowns play their role, too. A song with a serious Fuck You!-attitude.

Two more to go, one fairly good, one not so good. "Box My Balls" isn't something that men like, unless they're into SM or get a kick from this. Kal growls or tries to and it's as if you're listening to soe tribal ceremony being executed. Once the drums fall in, the singing changes into clean with a wanky/sighing undertone. Annoying. The guitar add a peeping/screaming accent, as if to come over as an old radio where you had to look for the right frequency through turn buttons. That too annoys very rapidly. Once that is done and over with, the rest of the song isn't that bad at all. But again the vocals fail to keep things interesting or be interesting at all.

"Slaves Of The 70s (Wisky)" puts an end to "One More Piece". The music is direct in the chorus, yet the music is more in a waiting stance in the verses. Other than that you'll notice a guitar solo, though a screaming and raped one, for a short while. Compared to the other songs, this one is quite mediocre and bores from the start. Yes, this is also based on taste, and I didn't even have to compare with what preceded this track.

SIKH is not really a Hardcore band, but one that mixes modern Metal with Nu-Metal and a good slap of it, if I may say. If you're into Old School Metal, avoid SIKH at all costs. If modern Metal is your cup of tea, also depending on which music you grew up with, then SIKH is a band you cannot ignore. Everything is well executed, but as far as I'm concerned, there's a bit too much whiney-like singing and there are too many Nu-Metal influences. Briefly put, there are a few songs that were to my liking, though never 100%. Old school still prevails in my book, but it's interesting to hear other stuff and expand your knowledge.

More info at

Kal - vocals, guitars
Nico - guitars
Boz - bass
Gael - drums

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S-CORE – Gust Of Rage (Drakkar Records 2008)

S-Core - Gust Of Rage
  1. Greaser One
  2. Gust Of Rage
  3. Requiem For A Dying Race
  4. It Takes...
  5. Misanthropic And Mean
  6. Me And The World
  7. ...A Whole Life...
  8. Buried
  9. Rising Terror
  10. ...To Become A Man
  11. In Memoriam
  12. Worst Of All
  13. Pangenesis

S-CORE is the fourth Dirty8 band of which I got an album to review. This band was founded in 1998 out of two bands from Strasbourg, France. The first effort came out in 2001, the demo "Fatandwet". Line-up changes followed and the new fold made the track "Us" for the "Trapped In Yourself" compilation in November 2001. Gigs are a necessity for a band, so their schedule got filled quite rapidly. Another two years later the debut album was ready and titled "Riot... Process Engaged". This release got the band lots of success and promotion.

Anno 2007 the follow-up, "Gust Of Rage", saw the light of day, also via Dirty8. The deal with Drakkar Entertainment - yes, I'm repeating myself - makes this album available again, this time in several international countries. "Gust Of Rage" is also my first acquaintance with S-CORE. The bandname says a lot of what music to expect: Hardcore with a good touch of Metal. S-CORE is the most Hardcore band of the quartet I got to review. Must it be said that I find this release the best of the four?

"Gust Of Rage" is a title that says it all, but this is no gust that is blowing out of the speakers. It's a storm, a raging storm, louder than several herds of wildebeests or buffalos. Prepare for the ultimate attack. Words aren't enough to describe the level of anger, aggressiveness, brutality, ferocity and similar. Examples of songs that kick you in the nuts, tear out your intestins, crush your skull and bones are plenty. I'll name the best ones, or those I thought stood out: "Greaser One", "Me And The World" (uptempo, reminding in a way of PANTERA, MACHINE HEAD and similar with extremely dangerous drums), "Buried" (the music is perfect, the growling too, but the cleaner singing is unexpected and doesn't fit that well), "Rising Terror" (just look that the title - uptempo Hardcore with a few slower moments) and last but not least "Worst Of All", which certainly won't cure any headaches or seekers for peace of mind, since this track is short (+/- 01:30) but effective uptempo Hardcore, trashing, destroying and killing everything in its path.

Then there are the songs I still find good enough, though not exactly as much as the aforementioned. "Requiem For A Dying Race" is a song where the speed isn't important, rather the devastating impact it leaves behind and in that the band succeeds. "Misanthropic And Mean" has a MACHINE HEAD-like start, like the Americans did on their "Burn My Eyes" album. Drums once again offer a variety of tempos and fills, keeping the energy and drive at a high level. Rest isn't an option, it's full-on power until the batteries are dead. Somehow I couldn't help but detect a SLIPKNOT-like rhythm, even though S-CORE easily crushes them under them immense power. I hope you'll forgive me the name-dropping, as my knowledge of Hardcore is still very limited.

Something I didn't expect among the growling vocals was rapping. "Gust Of Rage", the title track, is even more ferocious than "Greaser One" and the music remains nicely brutal. But the rapping or singing in that way definitely is a no-go, in my opinion. It doesn't make the song more interesting, it takes interest away. Sure, I'm not fond of rapping, but if it doesn't fit, it doesn't fit. Other than that, I don't have any serious complaints.

Next to the good and less good songs, there are two of which I thought they didn't fit in either of the two above groups: "In Memoriam" and "Pangenesis". Why? Not only because of the compositions (midtempo with excruciating breakdowns) and constant brutality, but also because at this stage this flow of aggressive and pounding music becomes annoying and boring. The level of acceptance is reached and only rest of another kind of Metal is advised as antidote. Especially the 7 minutes of "Pangenesis" are hard to sit through. Well, sit? A lot of you will most likely not sit still, but move, even mosh.

Luckily the tracklisting contains 3 breaks, resting points, so to speak. All combined you get "It Takes A Whole Life To Become A Man". But the three interludes don't fit together, you can't connect them to make a full song. The first is a nice, groovy instrumental with a head and a tail. It doesn't flow over into "Misanthropic And Mean". The second takes a softer approach, namely accoustic. And this might make you think of SEPULTURA's "Kaiowas", but the accoustic guitars of S-CORE fly by at a faster speed. Nevertheless, it's a welcome piece of music after the storm that preceded it. The third interlude focuses back on Metal with a different production, more over the top leading to distortion. METALLICA's "Death Magnetic" album has distortion, here it's also very noticeable. The difference with "In Memoriam" is very obvious, with the latter having the better/best sound, like most other tracks.

What S-CORE have created with "Gust Of Rage" certainly shouldn't be taken lightly. This is Metal/Hardcore of high quality and I've played the album several times before finding time and inspiration to write something about it. Of course there's always the taste factor, but anyone into Hardcore should not have a problem with S-CORE and definitely check them out. Any Metalhead looking for brutal and agggressive music outside of the Death, Thrash and Black Metal box are also advised to look out for S-CORE. The only problem for me is the constant stream of the elements I just mentioned. Strangely enough, I don't have this (or less) with Death Metal. Pluspoints go naturally to the fantastic and extremely powerful production. S-CORE is a band we'll hear more from, rest assured.

More info at

Jean-Christophe Ketterer - vocals
Thomas Ketterer - guitars
Bertrand Champredonde - guitars
Christian Mouilleron - bass
Matthieu-Barthelemy Lienhard - drums

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DYSFUNCTIONAL BY CHOICE – Travelling In Travel (Drakkar Records 2008)

  1. Fog
  2. Alert
  3. Travelling In Travel (Out Of Trap)
  4. Optimum
  5. Sleep & Learn
  6. Feedback Disease
  7. Iced Bed
  8. Non Reached Lights
  9. Pimple
  10. C UT
  11. Gotham
  12. Underworld

In the second half of October this year I got a mail from Dirty8, which acts as a booking agency, management and a label, combining 7 bands: S-CORE, X-VISION, SIKH, HOUSEBOUND, DYSBY, and HOLLOW CORP from France, and also SUPERBUTT from Hungary. Next to DYSFUNCTIONAL BY CHOICE, I'll also review the last release of S-CORE, X-VISION and SIKH. Originally these albums came out in 2007, either via Ghandi's Revenge or Dirty8, but the company reached an agreement with Drakkar Entertainment to release these albums on a wider scale on the 21st November.

The four bands fall in the Hardcore category, one more than the other and especially DYSFUNCTIONAL BY CHOICE aims for radio playtime, making it more a modern Rock/Punk Rock kind of band. Although I don't listen to radio anymore, only sporadically to know what the masses have the hots for, I can only give the following names as comparable material - from what I've heard -: PARAMORE, NICKELBACK, GREEN DAY, FOO FIGHTERS, NIRVANA and similar. This makes the connection with Hardcore non-existent or at least, there's a very thin thread left over.

After four self-produced EPs, the band was ready for a full album, "Travelling In Travel". An Industrial/Electronic intro forms the "Fog", in which The computer voice reminds of U96's "Das Boot" and will come back a few times in other songs, too. After this the "Alert" sounds in the form of modern Rock with a sludgey touch. Vocals are also in that respect, rough-edged.

"Travelling In Travel (Out Of Trap)" starts with the toms building the song, creating a tension, helped by the guitars that increase their energy level once the right pace and directness is found. This song is so different from "Alert" as there's more Punkishness involved. The singing consists for a large part of screaming (in the chorus), but on the other hand I can't help but think of the Irish Rockers of THERAPY?, not just for the music, but also the vocals. Around the second minute there's a calmer moment before striking back loudly. All in all quite good, but the screaming becomes rapidly annoying. Still, the music is very radio-friendly, so you should be able to hear this band a lot on Alternative radio.

Full songs aside, DYSFUNCTIONAL BY CHOICE added interludes to keep the listener's attention alive. One of those three compositions is the atmospheric and spacey "Optimum". Not bad, good for meditational purposes. "Iced Bed" is even more suited, as its soft sounds take you to a world far away from everyday life. The organ (mini-moog?) comes fading in and plays alongside the esoteric melody. But be prepared for the energetic attack that is "Non Reached Lights", reminding of bands like GREEN DAY, PARAMORE, DEUS and similar. It's actually one of the better tracks on this release.

But let's go back to the two songs that come after "Optimum". "Sleep & Learn" starts with a riff that METALLICA used (in a slightly different way) for their "The Unnamed Feeling" song. Drums are added to give the music a pounding touch. The previously used vocal effects are used hre, too. Slow midtempo is the chosen pace and at first the song seems to drag itself forward. This is especially expressed via the guitars. This flow is countered by adding a piano melody, which isn't exactly fast either, but is good enough to be used stand-alone. There's a break around 02:54 before hitting back like before. Overall, this is more about instrumental violence than anything else, in my opinion. It's almost a jam session with the vocal effects being the biggest burden. Sorry, but next! "Feedback Disease" is a straight-forward Rocker. Think MUSE, THERAPY?, FOO FIGHTERS and the likes. Pounding in the verses, increase in energy and singing in the chorus. In general, another worthwile song, but the vocal effects bore after a while.

"Sleep & Learn" was the first song that in my opinion wasn't worth the time, "Pimple" is the other. The music is more extreme than before and while it's not exactly bad - it's nothing arousing either and at a given moment too chaotic -, it's the vocals that really annoy the hell out of me. Shouting, clean singing... all with effects. One would get ADHD and be candidate for a mental institute when listening to this all day long.

Time for interlude no. 3: "C UT". Why they put a space between C and UT is a mystery to me. The music is again atmospheric, dark even and indeed mysterious as if something evil or dramatic is bound to happen. The computer voice is also present here. In short: the music is ok, but overall this track is easily dismissable, unless its purpose is clear in the overall context.

"Gotham" brings back the Rock aspect of the music. Midtempo, very melodic and quite FOO FIGHTER-ish. The singing again is screaming for a big part and that bores rapidly. The music isn't exactly helpful either, although there is a slowdown to give you time to come back to your senses. What comes afterwards is like before, but with a more direct pace and fiercer input, which is - honestly - much better than the first part of the song. It's less noisy, less chaotic.

And with "Underworld" the travelling comes to an end. Clocking in after 07:45, you get a mix of slow and midtempo music, starting gently and coming to blossom little by little. The music is quite good, the rough vocals are ok. But the song is just too long, for my taste. Fans of radio Rock will have a nice treat with this, but this kind of music and long playtimes don't match, in my opinion.

DYSFUNCTIONAL BY CHOICE and Hardcore? Forget that, for the thin thread has been cut by "Travelling In Travel". It's modern, radio-friendly Rock that you get here. Just look at the mentioned bands (MUSE, THERAPY?, FOO FIGHTERS, ...) and you'll see this release isn't aimed at Metal heads nor Hardcore fans. But that doesn't mean the guys made bad music, not at all. If you like this kind of Rock and frequently listen to alternative radio, then I can recommend DYSFUNCTIONAL BY CHOICE and "Travelling In Travel" easily.

More info at

Julien C. - vocals
Vincent - guitars
Julien H. - guitars
Fabien - bass
Francis - drums

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ELDRITCH – Livequake (Limb Music Products 2008)

Eldritch - Livequake
    CD 1:
  1. In The House, In A Heartbeat
  2. Why?
  3. The Deep Sleep
  4. Save Me
  5. The Blackened Day
  6. The World Apart
  7. Reverse
  8. Standing Still
  9. Bless Me Now
  10. The Child That Never Smiles
  11. More Than Marylin
  12. This Everlasting Mind Disease
  13. Silent Flame
  14. Toil Of Mine
    CD 2:
  1. Fall From Grace
  2. No Direction Home
  3. Heretic Beholder
  4. Scar
  5. Bleed Mask Bleed
  6. From Dusk Till Dawn
  7. Nebula Surface
  8. Ghoulish Gift
  9. Lord Of An Empty Place
  10. Incurably Ill

The Italian Progressive Metal band ELDRITCH has so far 7 albums up its sleeves and this since 1991 (the year of formation) or better said 1995, the year of "Seeds Of Rage". Last year "Blackenday" came out, showing apparently a different kind of Metal than what the band played in the beginning. Or, in other words, they seemed to have moved from Progressive Power Metal to something more Groovy and Thrashy comparable to MACHINE HEAD, PANTERA, EIDOLON and others. "Blackenday" was my first proper encounter with the band's music, although I heard "Portrait Of The Abyss Within" at the shop, but it didn't really convince me, unlike "Blackenday".

After so many albums it clearly was time for a live album and DVD. "Livequake" was the most appropriate title (based on "Headquake"?) and the release was set for the 14th November. I don't know how the gig was, visually, but I did get the album version to review, which is more than fine for me. ELDRITCH selected songs from each album and with the following numbers:

Blackenday: 5
Neighbourhell: 5
Portrait Of The Abyss Within: 2
Reverse: 1
El Nino: 7
Headquake: 2
Seeds Of Rage: 1

The DVD holds the following:

01. Livequake Concert (complete CD 1 + CD 2)
02. Live in Chicago 2006 (Documentary)
03. Interview with Adriano Dal Canto
04. Interviwe With The Band At Terence's House
05. Videoclip: Lonesome Existence
06. Videoclip: Save Me
07. Videoclip: The Blackened Day

It's clear that "El Nino", which was re-released with demo tracks in 2007, played a very important role. Just look at the tracklisting of the second CD: seven successive songs, including the bonus track from the limited edition, "Nebula Surface". Aside from this album, the band's last two albums were the ones that were spotlighted the most, logically. "Headquake" and "Seeds Of Rage" were also re-released with bonus tracks (in 2006), but were of lesser importance, probably because of the change in style. But there's also a clear distinction between the two discs: #1 is based on the last releases, while #2 goes back to the band's earlier style, i.e. the first three albums.

And the songs do sound very different, Groove (MACHINE HEAD, PANTERA, etc...) is important in the first part, while melody and more riff-oriented guitarplaying is central in the second part. Melody maily because of the keyboards and ex-member Oleg Smirnoff. Now, about the first disc: this change in style wasn't such a bad move at all, especially when hearing the older songs. Midtempo is key, but here and there you get some outbursts to increase the level of power and create a sort of grinding machine. And my thoughts of the "Portrait Of The Abyss Within" album have been confirmed as "The World Apart" and "This Everlasting Mind Disease" are the weakest songs here. They are softer than the other ones and Terence also added more "whine" to his singing, especially in the chorus. The songs that really stand out, for me at least, are "Why?" (sounds a bit like OCEANS OF SADNESS in the chorus), "The Deep Sleep", "Bless Me Now", "The Child That Never Smiles" and "Toil Of Mine", surprisingly enough (or not) all from the last two albums, "Neighbourhell" and "Blackenday".

So, all things considered, I can say that disc 1 is very decent to good live Progressive/Groove Metal.

Disc 2 is unmistakebly Power Metal where melody plays a huge role and the compositions are laid out in a Progressive manner. The focus lies on the "El Nino" album with seven songs. The other three slots are taken by "Headquake" and "Seeds Of Rage", as if not to do injustice to them, as if the band's not proud of those albums. "El Nino" might have been a good album - I haven't heard it yet - but not every song is a hit. What does stand out are the following ones: "No Direction Home" (sounds a bit like ANGRA and SHAMAN), "Heretic Beholder" (especially the drums caught my attention) and "Scar" (overall quite alright). The others just are too mediocre to be enthusiastic about. Mainly "Bleed Mask Bleed", "From Dusk Till Dawn" and the boring ballad "Nebula Surface" suffer from this. In the first two of these three it's precisely Terrence's singing that is the weakest link and an overload of keyboards in "Bleed Mask Bleed". Asides from those two more tracks are worth checking out: "Ghoulish Gift" and "Incurably Ill" (despite the somewhat questionable singing).

Disc 2 is good in that it offers an ear on the band's old material, but in my opinion they should have divided the available slots (10 in this case) over the three first album in a better way and not focus on "El Nino" too much, even if it was re-released last year. But it could of course be that the songs I found least good are good on the studio release. I'll have to check that out, but on "Livequake" they're not the best chosen ones.

"Livequake", the first live release of ELDRITCH. This is of course a special happening, hence a DVD and 2CD version. The show was recorded in Pisa, Italy, obviously and it seemed more than enough people showed up for this event. Being active for more almost 15 years (when starting with the debut album) should have resulted in a strong fanbase already, no? Therefore it was also imperative to let each release be present on the setlist and show the evolution the band and music have undergone over the years. The modern ELDRITCH on one disc, the older on the other, which is a good choice. The atmosphere is good, although the audience isn't heard that often. The sound is also good, but it does have an influence on the older material in that it doesn't come out as it should, I think. And then I'm referring to the difference with the studio releases. Either way, "Livequake" is a very decent release and is in fact more a fan release than aimed at people unfamiliar with the band and their music, because this is not the best release to start with, even if you're seeking a sort of Best Of. As for me, and I repeat, the album is fine and gives a nice ear on ELDRITCH's live performance, but the song selection is a bit weak in certain places.

More info at

Terence Holler - vocals
Eugene Simone - guitars
Roberto 'Peck' Proietti - guitars
Oleg Smirnoff - keyboards
John Crystal - bass
Raffahell Dridge - drums

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HADES – Bootlegged In Boston 1988 (Cruz Del Sur Music 2008)

Hades - Bootlegged In Boston 1988
  1. Opinionate!
  2. The Leaders
  3. Diplomatic Immunity
  4. In The Meantime
  5. Aftermath Of Betrayal
  6. I Too Eye
  7. Nightstalker

The US Thrash band HADES came to the real world in 1978, under the lead of guitarist Dan Lorenzo. A few demos, a few singles and eventually in 1987 did the band manage to put out a debut album, "Resisting Success", followed by "If At First You Don't Succeed" in 1988. These releases seemed to be considered must-haves when it comes to adding HADES to your collection. I can't confirm neither deny it, as the only release I have is "The Downside" from 1999. Not exactly the band's best release and certainly not the Thrash of before, but more Doomy stuff. This influence is the result of Dan forming NON-FICTION, where he could use his "slow music" ideas.

After the two mentioned Thrash releases, the band broke up, which was in 1989, to reform about 10 years later. "DamNation" was the last album (2001) before HADES split again and each went his own way. Dan Lorenzo founded THE CURSED in 2006 with a.o. Bobby Ellsworth (OVERKILL) and has one album out so far, "Room Full Of Sinners" (2007). But going back in time, footage from the Boston show in 1988 was found and declared good enough to put it out on DVD, added with interviews and more. The title is plain and simple: "Bootlegged In Boston 1988". Cruz Del Sur Music released this DVD on the 8th November. The gig itself was part of the tour with NUCLEAR ASSAULT and MANOWAR.

The DVD contains three parts: the gig, the "Inside The Metal" documentary and a video of a DAN LORENZO song, it seems. Now, about the gig: the visual quality is far below what is offered today, also because at that time there were no means to do like in the 21st century and as the title says, it's a bootleg. The positive about this gig recording is that you get to see HADES at their best, which makes it nostalgic for the fans and interesting for those who aren't/weren't familiar with the old HADES. While nowadays recordings require several cameras, the bootleg is one camera only and shot from in the press pit, meaning right against the stage. This makes the experience all the more interesting, since the video guy shows it like you would have seen it if you were there. And yes, he doesn't stay at the same place. It's good to have the tracklisting with you, else it's hard to know what song they're playing. Fans of the band will of course have no problem at all with that. What you get is Thrash all the way, there's no stopping them. But at some point, I think it's around "In The Meantime" and "Aftermath Of Betrayal", there's a calmer moment, more Bluesy. Sadly, the lads are too pumped up to properly play this tune, so it doesn't feel as it should do... in my opinion. Time-wise the gig takes 30 minutes of your time and honestly, that more than enough, since it started to get a bit boring towards the end.

The "Inside The Metal" documentary is basically a mixture of interviews with the band members of that time - but many years later - and clips of live performances. Items tackled involve the albums, the band's past, the tours, the music, etc... In those interviews it's clear Dan Lorenzo is the leader, the boss. You do not only detect this in the statements from the others, but also the way Dan talks about everything. All in all, this is an interesting part of the DVD.

And last, the video. This appears to be one of Dan Lorenzo's own songs, "Frozen Planet" off the "Nice Being Alone" release (2003). The image quality is obviously much better than the bootlegged gig. The song is ok, though nothing special. And despite it being more Doomy, there's much better material out there. The song itself is good, nothing outstanding, though.

Fans of HADES will have a nice treat with "Bootlegged In Boston 1988", aminly because of the gig and the interviews. These are also the elements to pay attention to when purchasing this DVD. There's a big downside about the release: it feels like it's not complete. The gig and the biographical stuff go well together, but I personally think more footage or more historical info should have been added to give this DVD more value. All in all I would recommend this release to the fans of the band, the people that have followed it since the 1980s. Newcomers would do better to first check out the albums.

More info at

Alan Tecchio - vocals
Dan Lorenzo - guitars
Ed Fuhrman - guitars
Jimmy Schulman - bass
Tom Coombs - drums

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BIBLE OF THE DEVIL – Freedom Metal (Cruz Del Sur Music 2008)

Bible Of The Devil - Freedom Metal
  1. Hijack The Night
  2. Night Oath
  3. The Turning Stone
  4. Womanize
  5. Heat Feeler
  6. Ol' Girl
  7. Greek Fire
  8. 500 More

BIBLE OF THE DEVIL would indicate we're dealing with a Black Metal band here - just to keep the standard theme intact - but it's in fact a Stoner/Rock 'n' Roll/Metal kind of band. Formed in 1999 and hailing from Chicago, Il, USA, it seems the band has been specializing - so it is said - in anthemic, hell-raising anthems evoking images of human dementia, conquest, urban debauchery, and violence. The result being five albums so far, including the newest release, "Freedom Metal", released on the 8th November. The members' taste is directed towards the Hard Rock and Rock 'n' Roll of the 70s and 80s, yet with a modern twist. For their fifth full-length release the band worked with engineer and producer Sanford Parker (MINSK, NACHTMYSTIUM, LAIR OF THE MINOTAUR) to give the songs the perfect sound inline with what the oldies delivered back in the days. Or in other words, old school.

Vocalist and guitarist Mark Hoffmann describes the music as follows: "This is a true heavy guitar-lover's album. One for people who would rather actually plug a real Les Paul into a Marshall and just lay waste than those who would merely simulate shredding on their Playstation 3. Although, they too are invited to the party." About the band's name, he added that "We ain't talking about the perverse concept of 'Freedom' in Dubya's sense. We're talking about 'Freedom' in the purest, Hobbesian sense, 'a free man is he that is not hindered to do what he hath the will to do'. And Metal." I can agree with the first statement, as the music and playing feels very naturally and not as polished and fabricated like many other bands do. Regarding the second statement... who can have anything against that?

But let's focus on the music that is released as "Freedom Metal". The first thing you'll notice is the production and sound of it all. It's pure, honest and certainly not as plastic, overpolished and sometimes forced as many other releases. Take "Hijack The Night". It starts gently in order to prepare you for the Rock 'n' Roll feast that is bound to break loose and once this happens, there's no stopping. You get transported at least 20-30 years back in time, when acts like THIN LIZZY, MOtÖRHEAD and SAXON ruled the scene. Mark may not be the best vocalist on the planet, but at least he has the right vibe in his throat that fits perfectly with the music and atmosphere. Top song, if I may say so.

Then there's "Night Oath", where the bass and drum take the first seconds before the guitars kick in as well. Musically it's direct and straight-forward midtempo Rock, with a Stoner touch thanks to Mark's singing. The chorus is played in a galopping manner, while overall the THIN LIZZY influence cannot be hidden. Needless to say that the lads have done a great job with "Night Oath", too.

The high level of quality continues in "The Turning Stone", which sounds darker and dirtier. Melody plays a big role in the chorus. Overall, this song is still true to what several Classic Rock bands did so many years ago. What BIBLE OF THE DEVIL presents can only be applauded for. Oh yes, did I mention THIN LIZZY? Or look for a similar band, it doesn't matter.

Other tracks that stand out as much as the first three are "Heat Feeler" and "Ol' Girl", which truly could have been a THIN LIZZY song, no kidding. This reference is absolutely justified with this song. It's groovy, Bluesy and quite direct, but also contains elements that can link back to SAXON and even DUSTUCKER. Now, about "Heat Feeler": this is a special song, as it consists of two almost identical parts. The first is semi-accoustic and when the bass and drums kick in, it really feels like a trip back in time. Not only that, it's actually refreshing to hear this kind of old school Bluesiness among the heavy guitarriffs of today. And that's what the second part brings, the same pattern but with the guitarsound of the other songs. These two parts connect neatly and everything is well played, but as far as my taste goes, I wouldn't have mind if they continued like in the first part of the song.

But then there's a song that's a little less interesting: "Womanize". No, not BRITNEY SPEARS's "Womanizer". Heaven forbid! The reason why I rated it lower is ironically because of the vocals. Mark doesn't have the right tone or sound, or better said, his singing doesn't flow well with the music. And that's the best part of the song, the music. Luckily the four musicians also realized that and implemented enough room for instrumentalism, which makes the song very interesting from that perspective. Make this a non-vocals song and it would be in the list with the above ones.

The last two tracks are, in my opinion, the least good ones. "Greek Fire" is very much Stoner Rock, as it also has a dirtier sound. About the playing I have no complaints, but the cymbal is used too often, which is disturbing and the singing annoys after a while. "500 More" is kind of like an epic track and brings back the Rock 'n' Roll, even with its midtempo pace. But the song drags itself forward in an uninspiring manner that it bores quite rapidly.

Eight songs, five outstanding, one less and two don't. In other words, there's a majority that makes this album worth purchasing, although it's a close call. Anyway, BIBLE OF THE DEVIL has now at least five releases up their sleeves, so it would be strange if they produced bad music. This is certainly not the case here, as "Freedom Metal" is an album that is enjoyable when you're on the road or maybe even at work, depending on the rules. Anyone into Rock 'n' Roll with a Stoner touch - or quite simply into THIN LIZZY, SAXON, MOTÖRHEAD and similar - should check out BIBLE OF THE DEVIL. It's not the best band in this genre or in the world, but they do a very fine job at keeping it real and honest. It's all about the vibe. ;-)

More info at

Mark Hoffmann - vocals, guitars
Nate Perry - guitars
Darren Amaya - bass
Greg Spalding - drums

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DOOM:VS – Dead Words Speak (Firebox Records 2008)

DOOM:VS - Dead Words Speak
  1. Half Light
  2. Dead Words Speak
  3. The Lachrymal Sleep
  4. Upon The Cataract
  5. Leaden Winged Burden
  6. Threnode

DOOM:VS is the one-man project of DRACONIAN guitarist Johan Ericson, who has released nothing but sheer qualitative Gothic/Doom Metal with this band. The last few years and thanks to Napalm Records DRACONIAN's popularity has increased a lot. But since Johan likes Doom Metal a lot and cannot implement all of his ideas into DRACONIAN's music, something new was needed, hence DOOM:VS. You could read it as Doom:Versus or just VS or... Doom Us, as Johan explained in an interview with While DRACONIAN focuses on melody, DOOM:VS is about heaviness.

"Empire of the Fallen" was the first result. This demo came out in 2004 and sort of lead to a record deal with Firebox Records. The first output then was "Aeternus Vale" in 2006. This debut album got lots of praise from both press and Doom fans, which was more tha just as Johan presented an outstanding Death/Doom album that made you wonder how he would top it. Since DRACONIAN took a lot more of his time, the follow-up took a while, but since the 20th October "Dead Words Speak" is out for those who seek tunes of misery and despair.

"Aeternus Vale" wasn't an album for the mentally instable. Even the pictures in the booklet were an indication of that. Ok, some exaggeration here. With "Dead Words Speak" Johan continues the journey through the dark, offering a view on how not enjoying life anymore, being plagued by ghosts, dead souls. One look at the cover and you know it's not Disneyland you're visiting. All these feelings of anxiety, disgust, fear and being lost have been translated into 6 songs, each containing the classic ingredients of a Death/Doom Metal band.

Heaviness and weeping melodies are perfectly intertwined/ Heaviness coming from the guitars, melodies being delivered for the biggest part by keyboards and samples. Johan's vocal capabilities have also improved and he even gave them a double role: growling for the pain and madness, clean for the fear and weeping. Perfect examples of this symbiosis are 1) "Half Light", where even brass instrumentation adds a creepy touch to the music and symphonic softness carrying the character away into oblivion; 2) "Dead Words Speak", where the character is haunted by dead souls. The guitarsolo at the end is the cherry on the Doomed cake; and 3) "The Lachrymal Sleep" or "Tears Producing Sleep" where the link with DRACONIAN is quite obvious, since it wouldn't be bad to e.g. let Lisa sing the chorus. Gentle piano touches increase the feeling of despair and sadness.

Next to those there's "Upon The Cataract". Cataract means you don't have a clear sight anymore, a sort of clouding appears before the lens. There's a disturbance in your eyes and this is expressed via a noise-like sound in the intro before the dark and doomy music sets in. Of course, you won't feel at ease when you don't see clear, making you weaker and thus increasing your feelings of anxiety. The music fits very well here. Around halfway there's a break and it's unclear what to expect, except for... downfall, as madness takes control.

"Leaden Winged Burden" has an even slower tempo and an even spookier atmosphere. This song is almost like a big cry of despair, wanting help to be released from this awkward situation. It's as if all lust for life has vanished and the only thin to do is seeking peace of mind, eternal rest. The pace is slow, very slow and it's like a stream that carries you away into darkness, free from all worries. Or so you think.

And last but not least, there's "Threnode". As the title says, this song is about self-pity and once again about dispising life as it is and not wanting to be part of it anymore. The song starts with gentle chord picking, after which this melody continues, in a first stage, under the cover of heaviness before the normal flow is set. And thus the journey through dark environments of sadness and despair come to an end.

It is very obvious that Johan has delivered a very good Doom album, especially for those who loved "Aeternus Vale" and like the works of DRACONIAN, MOURNING BELOVETH, SHAPE OF DESPAIR and similar. "Dead Words Speak" is one of the best Doom releases of this year, though not the best. Still, everything has been upped a few levels, from compositions over vocals to the production. In short, recommended material for all the miserable souls.

More info at

Johan Ericson - vocals, instruments

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EXOTERIK – Don't Swallow (Holier Than Thou Records 2008)

Exoterik - Don't Swallow
  1. The Catalyst
  2. Salvation
  3. Watch You Bleed
  4. Complicity
  5. Are You Alive?
  6. Alone
  7. Forever Watching
  8. Preservation
  9. Humanity Inc.
  10. Raping The Reverie
  11. Find A Cure (To Save Yourself)

When I first read the name EXOTERIK, I instantly thought of the Funeral Doomsters ESOTERIC as it's pretty easy to misread. Upon the first listen it's clear we're not dealing with a Doom band here. EXOTERIK is an Anglo-Irish quartet that plays female-fronted Rock. In this digital era this is also one of the bands that has everything in their own hands when it comes to copyright and ownership of material.

EXOTERIK saw the light of day five years ago (2003) with having a stable line-up in 2005. They already have supported EPICA and shared the stage with, for example, THERAPY? and REUBEN. For their debut album the band stayed in Finland and Latvia, where they recorded "Don't Swallow" under the guidance of producer John Frye, who previously worked with CRADLE OF FILTH, DEPECHE MODE, HIM, NINE INCH NAILS and others. The mastering was done at the Red Room Studios in Norway. The release was scheduled for the 18th October.

"Don't Swallow" consists of 11 tracks, filled with lots of guitar-driven Rock. The tempo is mostly slow to medium, but there are a few injections to speeden things up, like in "Are You Alive?" and "Humanity Inc.". Both these songs also have a different sound, a bit more Industrial-ish, almost (present) RAMMSTEIN-like.

The influences range from GARBAGE, FAITH NO MORE and (old) ANOUK to LACUNA COIL, for example. This is apparent in songs like "Salvation" (heavy, no keyboards, but underneath quite radio-friendly overall) and "Alone" (mysterious intro, dito for first part. Later on it's business as usual with a keyboard 'solo' at some point. This latter song isn't bad, but it can bore after a few listens. Contrary to "Salvation", which is one of the better on this album.

Earlier I mentioned the sound and tempo connection between "Are You Alive?" and "Humanity Inc.", but there are more on this album. The Industrial aspect can also be found in "Raping The Reverie" (the intro, the creepy atmosphere at first) and "Find A Cure (To Save Yourself)" (also the intro). Both songs also have a slow tempo, while the first contains symphonic backing and is the longest track (more than 7 minutes).

Another link is that between "Watch You Bleed" and "Forever Watching", both for having a varied drumpattern that keeps the songs alive and listener focused. The first has a nice rhythm and later on the keyboards are added as electronic backing. In the second song the tempo first is slow, then it goes up, reminding a bit of NIGHTWISH. But it doesn't stay that way as there are ups and downs. Both songs are also among the better/best.

The last connection exists between "Complicity" and "Preservation", both for being sad and melancholic songs, one more than the other. In "Complicity" it's guitar-driven business and heaviness after a good 2 minutes, after the soft first part where piano, violin and bass dominated. "Preservation" made me think of LA-VENTURA, the Dutch Gothic Rock band. This song neatly follows after "Forever Watching". Of these two, it's "Preservation" that wins a place among the highlights.

That just leaves the starting track, "The Catalyst". Here slow and midtempo take turns and the keyboards do play a very important role, more than before and particularly in an atmospheric version. Anneka sings with a more bitchy tone. Not bad, but she does a much better performance in the majority of the other songs. The keyboards' sound/melodies, when coming to the front, are actually very annoying. The calm verses and heavier chorus are each other's opposites in terms of heaviness. Guitar, bass and drums are aligned, with the last adding a funky touch to the compositions. All in all a fairly good start, but definitely one of the least interesting songs.

It doesn't happen everyday that I listen to contemporary Rock, let alone female-fronted, that can be compared with GARBAGE, LACUNA COIL, FAITH NO MORE, GUANO APES and similar. Also note that there are a few Nu-Metal influences - not exactly something I love. Trying to stay open-minded I can conclude that EXOTERIK has done a good job with "Don't Swallow", especially with only three less good/interesting songs. Anneka has a clean voice that does fit this kind of music and she's one of the strengths of this band. The songs are written to get radio play, that's for sure. If you're into the mentioned bands, or similar, check out EXOTERIK, for I don't doubt they can quench your thirst.

More info at

Anneka Latta - vocals, keyboards
Tom Fay - guitars
Dave Parry - bass
Steve Riley - drums

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HUMAN ZOO – Precious Time (Bob Media 2008)

Human Zoo - Precious Time
  1. Cosmopolitan Scene Part I
  2. Raise Your Hands
  3. Taste Like Sugar
  4. Hold The Line
  5. In The Rain
  6. Let Me Be
  7. To The Limit
  8. N.Y. Subchord
  9. Keep On Rockin'
  10. Give It Up
  11. Crowd's On Fire
  12. Straight On The Road (live)
  13. In The Rain (accoustic version)
  14. Taste Like Sugar (video)

HUMAN ZOO is a German Hard Rock band that saw the light of day in 2004. In November of that year the single "Straight On The Road" came out. It was produced by Dennis Ward (PINK CREAM 69, ANGRA, SILENT FORCE, DEZPERADOZ, and many more). One year later the band's line-up was completed and the guys used the time to go out and gig. Hooking up with Dennis Ward again, HUMAN ZOO worked on its debut album, "Precious Time", which was released in 2006. This album got the band a deal with AOR Heaven, who would release "Over The Horizon", the follow-up of "Precious Time". Prior to this fact, the German group shared the stage with a.o. BONFIRE, Y&T and GOTTHARD.

Now, on the 8th of October 2008, Bob Media (whose releases are distributed in the Benelux via Rock Inc.) has acquired the rights to re-release "Precious Time". Thirteen songs and one video ("Taste Like Sugar"). The clock starts tiocking with the orchestral intro that is "Cosmopolitan Part I", after which the 80s-influenced Hard Rock fills the room. "Raise Your Hands" contains all the classic elements from this glorious period: clean vocals with a bit of roughness (macho-like), choir-ish singing in the bridge and/or chorus and keyboard backing. Think of DOKKEN, THE SCORPIONS, and similar. But what makes HUMAN ZOO's music extra interesting is the addition of the saxophone, which nowadays isn't used anymore. At least not in Metal.

The start of "Taste Like Sugar" sounds as if it comes off DREAM THEATER's "Images & Words" album. The tempo is slower here, but the music still rocks and here as well the chorus is where catchiness lies. With "Hold The Line" we're entering a warzone, indicated by the added samples. Musically this is something that could have been written by DIO or THE SCORPIONS. The tempo is even slower here, but guitars and bass dominate. The organ is another classic instrument here and makes the memory more alive. Easily one of the best songs on "Precious Time".

As it can't be Heavy Rock all the time, a ballad is needed: "In The Rain". Piano and symphonic backing are key ingredients. Thomas' singing isn't exactly super here, but once he adds more volume it flows really well with the music. Later one the entire band sings the chorus and although it sounds boyband-like, this is a very touching song, especially when the moment is right. The saxophone input comes out really well. Wonderful work here.

After this resting point, let's continue with more Rock! "Let Me Be" certainly cranks up the pace and power again. Great guitarwork, a heavy bass basis and more active singing. The chorus sounds very familiar, as if I've heard in another song before (from another band, obviously). The organ is present again as well. So far so good and no complaints at all. Oh yes, the bass gets its 15 seconds of fame here, right before the guitar solo. Dennis Ward has done a marvellous job with the mixing.

ACEEPT has "Up To The Limit", JON OLIVA'S PAIN "Push It To The Limit" and HUMAN ZOO "To The Limit". This is a powerful track where the guitars are the dominating factor, with the drums, while the keyboards get through the barrier at specific occasions. It's almost like Y&T's "Mean Streak". Here as well, no complaints from my part, for this is another enjoyable song.

"Keep On Rockin'" is a title that explains it all, being a midtempo rocker with the saxophone offering accents again. That same saxophone also formed the intro as "N.Y. Subchord". More, although slower, listening pleasure is offerd in "Give It Up", which starts with the exact same melody as EDGUY's "King Of Fools". In fact, it could have been a slightly altered version of "King Of Fools". Nevertheless, it's a good song, since I like EDGUY's, too. Ok, to like =/= be good, but you get the idea.

"Crowd's On Fire" cranks it up some more. This is one of the songs that put back the energy in you when you're going through a down moment. A positive vibe, that's the main idea here. Truly a kick-ass song and one that can be repeated several times without losing its power. The guitarwork clearly contributes to this. Need a comparison? I'd say SHAKRA.

As extras, so to speak, there are two bonus tracks: a live version of "Straight On The Road", which is a slow midtempo rocker and like the other tracks pure quality. It works quite well in a live setting, although I prefer the more powerful songs, where you'll find more balls. The other one, "In The Rain" (accoustic version), is good and well played, but it lacks the feel and passion of the electric version.

The video of "Taste Like Sugar" is based on a live performance, but with the album sound. I would have preferred the live sound, for that would have fit best with seeing the band on stage.

HUMAN ZOO's debut album is, all things considered, nothing less but recommended material for all those who enjoy(ed) 80s Rock and Metal, particularly if bands like THE SCORPIONS, DOKKEN, Y&T, SAXON, DIO, EUROPE and the likes were on your list. "Precious Time" is a trip back in time, but with the sound of today. With all the modern Rock and Metal that is nowadays available it's great to see there are bands that keep the legacy alive. The saxophone makes it all the more attractive. Plus, this is a great way to show that this music not only is timeless, but also a great opportunity to check it out if you aren't familiar with the style and don't want to dig and dig to know which band to start with.

More info at

Thomas Seeburger - vocals
Ingolf Engler - guitars
Boris Matakovic - saxophone
Zarko Mestrovic - keyboards
Markus Ratheiser - bass
Tommy Strobel - drums

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WILLIE BASSE – The Money Grind (New Empire Media 2008)

Willie Basse - The Money Grind
  1. Guitargasm
  2. (Love So) Far Away
  3. The Money Grind
  4. U Can't Have It All
  5. Po' Boy
  6. It's Over
  7. Yesterday
  8. Reasons
  9. Danger Zone
  10. Unloveable
  11. Avarie
  12. Don't Waste My Time
  13. Immortal
  14. You're Not There

Willie Basse, ex-member of BLACK SHEEP, a band that also consisted of Slash (ex-GUNS 'N' ROSES), Paul Gilbert (ex-MR. BIG), Randy Castillo and James Kottak at various times. BLACK SHEEP appeared to have been a very important band in the 1980s. Willie later sold the band name to a Rap act, set up a successful recording studio and a real estate company. While I have no knowledge about BLACK SHEEP and only know Slash and Paul Gilbert, it was a total surprise for me when I got Willie Basse's solo album to review.

After many years Willie tries to work on new material to see if he would also gain success under his own name. "The Money Grind" is the title, the European release was set for the 6th October via Willie's own label, New Empire Media. Musically it's inline with what he has always done, Hard Rock with an 80's feel.

The album starts with an instrumental intro in which Willie only has to concentrate on his bass parts, while Mitch goes insane with leads and solos, hence "Guitargasm". Or is it Geoff? Nevertheless, this is a crazy and energetic piece to start with, although the ending is a bit abrupt.

What follows is an entertaining trip a good 20 years back, filled with Hard Rock and Heavy Metal. It's possible to categorize the songs according to taste and what stands out in that context. Starting with the best, the following songs are highly recommended:

* (Love So) Far Away - Bluesy Hard Rock like THIN LIZZY, DIO, MSG and others.
* U Can't Have It All - see "(Love So) Far Away", but with a rougher edge. This is a direct song where everything is simply outstanding, from the rhythm to the solos.
* It's Over - Hard Rock like AEROSMITH, AC/DC, Y&T, THIN LIZZY, ... the guitar soloing is the cherry on this delicious cake.
* Yesterday - more punch, but also more Bluesy. Very 80s-like with great guitarwork.
* Reasons - heavy, straight-forward and a different production with a warmer, more bassy sound.
* Danger Zone - another heavy track with an adapted production, giving the music more balls.

"Po' Boy" and "Immortal" form the second category, thus the second best songs. The first for neatly combining Reggae (verses) and Heavy Metal (chorus). Not that Reggae is my favourite genre, far from even, but what the band presents here is quality that cannot be denied. The second song is the other instrumental, aside from the intro, containing a nice rhythm and putting the bass guitar in the spotlights. Very well done.

The next ones in line are "Guitargasm" and "The Money Grind", the albums title track. The latter starts with percussion after the normal instrumentation takes over, i.e. Hard Rock/Heavy Metal. The music is comparable with DIO, BLACK SABBATH and even (old) MANOWAR. Willie also sounds more macho, but throws in some Halford screams now and then.

The four remaining songs aren't exactly bad, rather less interesting or attractive. "Unloveable" may have something LENNY KRAVITZ-ish (when he still rocked) at some point, and everything is well executed, but there's something missing that makes you (or me, in this case) long for more. "Avarie" is an accoustic, Southern Rock kind of song. There's an electric solo much later, but the whole is mediocre. "Don't Waste My Time" cranks up the level of heaviness again with an honest and pure production. The tempo is slow and the music reminds of e.g. BLACK SABBATH. The verses are the best part, but it's the chorus that is boring. And finally the accoustic "You're Not There", which has percussion instead of drums. The music is ok, but here the vocals or singing in general doesn't lift the song to a higher level. In my opinion it would have been better just let the instruments do the talking and leave the singing for other songs.

When counting the songs that stand out, it's at least 50-60%, even 70% when including the third category. This is for a certain part based on personal taste, that's correct. On the other hand, I cannot deny that, with different productions here and there to fit the increase/change in heaviness or Bluesiness, "The Money Grind" is a qualitative album that spans both the Hard Rock and Heavy Metal genres. WILLIE BASSE (the band) can in general be proud of this, after all those years. Fans of the music and mentioned bands will certainly find a nice treat here, even though it's not the best material around. The quality is there and that's what matters.

More info at

Willie Basse - vocals, bass
Mitch Perry - guitars
Geoff Nichols - guitars, keyboards
Bobby Rondinelli - drums

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THE END OF ALL REASON – Fragmented (I For Us Records 2008)

The End Of All Reason - Fragmented
  1. Chariots From The Beyond
  2. Ascending The Throne Once More
  3. Aeons In The Void
  4. Redemption (Chariots From The Beyond Part 2)
  5. Barbara

The Belgian scene consists mainly of Death and Black Metal bands, although there are Heavy, Doom and Thrash acts as well, next to the flood of Metalcore formations. One of the new bands in the Extreme Metal category is THE END OF ALL REASON, from Brussels. This 5-piece band was formed in 2004 and soon started working on own material, resulting in a split CD with A TRAIL OF HORROR in 2006.

Four years later a record deal is signed and a first release is out (since the 1st October): "Fragmented". This EP consists of five songs, each packed with skull-crushing Metal, spiced with some Hardcore elements. Sven Janssens from the Belgian Death/Grinders ABORTED helped with the recordings, the mixing and mastering took place at Hertz Studios in Poland. Bands like DECAPITATED, VADER, KRONOS and others also made use of the material and knowledge at those studios.

Five tracks, about 28 minutes of brutal devastation. Icy winds, explosions, computer sounds... welcome in this Science Fiction atmosphere or how Earth could be like in a far future. And then the ruthless storm breaks loose. Pounding drums, monstrous vocals, slithering riffing and destructive breakdowns. Behold the "Chariots From The Beyond". It's easy to think of bands like SUFFOCATION, SPAWN OF POSSESSION, DECAPITATED and similar.

Demonic vocals are the first element you hear in "Ascending The Throne Once More". Screams and growls once again form the bringers of the message, with growling taking the largest part. What you get on a musical level is Thrashy Death Metal with moments of melody as the lead guitar comes to the front. Pure qualitative destruction and certainly not for the weak of heart or mind. As a contrast the song ends with gentle guitarwork as if recorded in the period before WWII. But be sure to hold on, as the terror doesn't stop.

"Aeons In The Void" is about the destruction of Earth, about everything being wiped away, stripped away in an agonizing manner, taking no prisoners. Darkness takes a pleasure at blowing it all away. The usual elements, including breakdowns, are present while the overall result is relatively similar to ONE MAN ARMY AND THE UNDEAD QUARTET. It's interesting to detect the change as the verses are full-on humpapa, the chorus galopping/blasting. Around halfway there's a technical piece with lots of attention for melodic leads before coming to a halt in terms of storming the battlefield. This moment and the soloing afterwards have something IN FLAMES-like, the new IN FLAMES. Slowly the right rhythm and pace is sought again. This is one of the songs where Progressiveness is important.

As the last few minutes of the previous song weren't exactly blasting, the start of "Redemption" is very much so. Out of the way, for you won't find any sleep yet. The fast guitarwork adds touches of danger in this stream of aggressivity. This is definitely a top class song. The technicality and Progressiveness have been merged very well. As before there is a moment, a break, of simplicity where melody plays another important role, contrasting brilliantly with the unstoppable force of evil coming from the rhythm guitars and drums. The excellent sound is the cherry on the cake.

The last track, "Barbara", starts with a movie sample: "They're coming to get you, Barbara.". I'll have to search what movie it's from, though. The music is slower than before, and the flow is also adjusted to that, but it doesn't mean there's a decrease in terms of pounding moments. "Barbara" is very different from the rest, not just because of the tempo, but also because of the compositions. Speed was very important previously, but the band chose to work on the flow here and offer something extreme and extremely diverse. One time it's pure heaviness that is king, another time melody occupies the throne. One time the drums push the song onwards, another time they sort of back away and let the listener get into the music better without being overwhelmed by fast playing. As a result you get a playtime of over seven minutes. And this is more than enough to show that THE END OF ALL REASON is more than fast Death Metal.

At the first listen of "Fragmented" I was very sceptical, not believing the EP is in fact a very worthwhile release. Furthermore the band name didn't really help as it has something Metalcore-like. Why, I don't know, but in several cases you can tell from the name what to expect. But after more thorough listens my doubts were immediately erased. THE END OF ALL REASON is a surprise in the Belgian scene and should be able to gain success abroad as well. The surprise is the young age of these guys, being all about 20 years old. And having made such stunning material, Extreme Metal you can expect from any bigger band like DECAPITATED, SUFFOCATION, SPAWN OF POSSESSION and others. The Hardcore elements make the music more interesting, spicey, aggressive and powerful without turning the band into a Deathcore one, for there is far more technicality and Progressive input to make the comparison with aforementioned bands justified. So, all things considered: highly recommended for any Technical/Progressive Death Metal fan.

More info at

Vincent Boedt - vocals
Tom Sergeant - guitars
Thadde Mahmourian - guitars
Thomas Swalens - bass
Jonas Sanders - drums

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PITIFUL REIGN – Visual Violence (Punishent 18 Records 2008)

Pitiful Reign - Visual Violence
  1. Visual Violence
  2. Human Coleslaw
  3. D.I.V.E.
  4. Fatality
  5. Malevolence Of The Butcher
  6. Raid Deployment
  7. Pushed To Prime
  8. Thrash, Boobs And Zombies

Last year the UK Thrashers of PITIFUL REIGN released their second demo, "D.I.V.E.". This was my first encounter with their music. Preceding this demo was the "24 Litre Killer" demo in 2005, followed by the debut album (self-released) "Toxic Choke".

The deal with the Italian label Punishment 18 was signed already last year, not too long after the release of the "D.I.V.E." demo. "Visual Violence" is the title of PITIFUL REIGN's real debut. The release was originally set for May, but this had to be postponed and finally the 30th September was chosen as release date. I got a promo copy (burned CD-R) in late October.

"Visual Violence" contains eight songs, of which three were taken from the "D.I.V.E." demo: "D.I.V.E.", "Fatality" and "Pushed To Prime". I'm not going to comment on them again, save that 1) I thought the guitar solo in "D.I.V.E." seemed a bit too long, 2) the bass is quite high in the mix in "Fatality" - not that I mind - and 3) "Pushed To Prime" contains an awesome rhythm.

The rest of the songs starts with the title track. And it's clear from start 'till finish, this is Thrash! Direct and at a midtempo pace it reminds of EXODUS, EVILE, KREATOR, LAAZ ROCKIT and more. Pure quality, in other words. "Human Coleslaw", for which a video was made and this one being banned on some channels, is even more violent and the pace is also higher. Josh adapts his singing accordingly. The chorus is short and to the point. Musically you can see this as EXODUS meets TANKARD. Again the lads did a very good job.

"Malevolence Of The Butcher" is by far one of the best tracks on "Visual Violence". With a playtime of over 7 minutes it's not only the longest song, but also offers quite diverse moments. The start is calm, but gradually heaviness comes pounding in. While the chorus is set in midtempo, the verses are played with odd-time pounding Thrash. Josh's singing is again adapted to the faster pace and musically bands like EXODUS and DESTRUCTION formed an influence. About halfway there's a nice bass moment, which reminded me of Jason Newsted (ex-METALLICA, ex-FLOTSAM AND JETSAM) on the "Live Shit, Binge & Purge" video cassette/DVD. Afterwards you get a Bluesy solo part that changes back towards Thrash under the form of a fast solo part during which the tempo also increases heavily. Excellent material!

One word for "Raid Deployment": violent, aggressive, ... Ok, at least two words. And that's only based on the start, that is slow, building the pace. Eventually (slow) midtempo is selected. There are a few tempo boosts, but not enough to be exstatic about this element. Overall this is from being a bad song, but it's not exactly outstanding either. The final song, "Thrash, Boobs And Zombies" corrects this mistake by cranking up the pace and containing a sort of galopping rhythm. All things considered I have no remarks about the ending track. Decent Thrash, nothing more, nothing less.

I would like to add a final remark about the sound of this album. Steve DiGiorgio (SADUS, ex-TESTAMENT, ex-ICED EARTH, ...) produced it and of course this will help to get PITIFUL REIGN the necessary attention and promotion, but the band's budget seemed not exactly high or high enough, something that's not to be surprised about, since not all bands have or get support like EXODUS, DESTRUCTION, KREATOR and others. Anyhow, "D.I.V.E." had a rough sound that fit Thrash and PITIFUL REIGN's music very good. The sound of "Visual Violence" is more polished, but at the same time more compact and less powerful. I hope that for one of the next releases producers like Andy Sneap, Jacob Hansen or maybe Peter Tägtgren can be asked or maybe Andy Classen. Each of them has a trademark sound, so it depends on one's taste which fits best.

Last year I was pleasantly surprised by the "D.I.V.E." demo, as it showed PITIFUL REIGN has the potential lead the charge of a next UK Thrash assault. But with four songs it was a bit short. "Visual Violence" quenches the thirst for Thrash a lot more thanks to having eight songs, of which three were re-recorded. The band still has time to further develop their skills and create the ultimate Thrash album, or at least PITIFUL REIGN Thrash album, and while doing so they can be very proud of their work so far. All they need now is gigs, not only in the UK.

More info at

Josh Callis-Smith - vocals
Neville Britton - guitar
Alan Pashby - guitar
Matt Walker - bass
Tom Small - drums

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REFLECTION – When Shadows Fall (Cruz Del Sur Music 2008)

Reflection - When Shadows Fall
  1. Entering The Sea...
  2. Mistress Of Sea
  3. Ghost Ship
  4. When Shadows Fall
  5. Whispers Of The Lost...
  6. Lost
  7. Desert Land
  8. Soul Salvation
  9. Eyes Of The Night
  10. Serpent's eye
  11. Kingdom Of Fire
  12. Mistress Of Sea (orchestral version)

The Greek Heavy/Doom Metal band REFLECTION was founded about 17 years ago and have been working hard on own material. Several releases, like the demos "Before The End" (1992) and "When Immortals. Die!" (1993), but also the "Sire Of The Storm" 7" EP Single (1995) and "The Fire Still Burns" CD (1999) were the result. Two years later the split-CD with INNERWISH, "Realms Of The Night" (2001), came out, That same year Secret Port Records released "The Fire Still Burns-2001 Edition" as well as the concept album "Odyssey" (2003). As usual, a band must undergo line-up changes if it wants to survive. 2006 was the start of a new era: Leo Stivala, singer of the Maltese veteran Doomsters FORSAKEN, was the new man behind the mic, while John Litinakis occupied the bass position and Iraklis Loukakis the keyboards one. Together they worked on the new album, "When Shadows Fall", out since the 26th September.

Live REFLECTION has already shared the stage with SOLITUDE AETURNUS, DEMON, PAUL DI'ANNO, WOTAN and more. In their own country the band has also performed at several festivals, and even headlined some of them.

Before the Metal kicks in, you're welcomed by an accoustic intro, in Greek style. The mix of slow Heavy Metal and the epicness of Doom makes the band comparable with bigger names like CANDLEMASS, BLACK SABBATH, SOLITUDE AETURNUS, CONCEPT OF GOD and others. This is clear in, for example, "Mistress Of Sea", where you'll also find keyboards that serve as enforcer for the melodic aspect.The clean vocals form a big contrast with the heavy riffs and although that can work well, it's exactly this element (not entirely, but still) that forms a brake on the band's career. Leo's singing lacks power and roughness that is needed in these kind of songs. The orchestral version at the end of the tracklisting is alright. The heavy instrumentation is entirely replaced by the orchestral elements and a choir. Although the result is listenable, this version is just a nice extra, nothing more.

Overall the tempo is slow and while the compositions can counter that to make the songs more interesting, it must be said that a tempo increase is more than welcome. But there are songs that sort of stand out, in my opinion, and then mainly thanks to the music: "Ghost Ship", "When Shadows Fall" (which has something Progressive, almost DREAM THEATER-like), "Desert Land" (has a short punchy piece, but slows down soon. It's the drums that keep the song alive), "Serpent's Eye" (again more punchy. Vocals are better than before, but still too weak) and last but not least, "Kingdom Of Fire" (it's heavy, crushing, grinding and one of the best here).

The other few songs are just too mediocre, despite having some good instrumental parts. Just one remark about "Lost": wouldn't the chorus sound much better and be more enjoyable (to listen to) when played faster? Sure, in Doom, it's supposed to be slow, but if it benefits the music/song, then I don't see why it shouldn't be applied, or at least tried.

Combining Heavy and Doom is nice and both styles fit together, but there are bands that do it better, or, make their material more interesting. If REFLECTION want to compose their music this way, fine, but (personal opinion here) get another singer and I think it will be a step forward. Fans of the band might think otherwise and really appreciate "When Shadows Fall". Anyhow, regarding "When Shadows Fall", pluspoints go to the sound and about 50% of the songs, while the following elements prevent a higher score or a rise in popularity or attractiveness: vocals (clean and too weak to complement the instruments), the other songs and overall being too much of the same. I can't really recommend this release but to the band's fans only.

More info at

Leo Stivala - vocals
Stathis Pavlantis - guitars
Iraklis Loukakis - keyboards
John Litinakis - bass
George Pavlantis - drums

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NIKKI PUPPET – Power Seeker (Artist Station Records 2008)

Nikki Puppet - Power Seeker
  1. Destroy This Toy
  2. I Can Dream
  3. Power Seeker
  4. Pricks
  5. Falling In 2 Pieces
  6. 300 Warriors
  7. Yia Sou Saloniki
  8. I Spy
  9. Come Back
  10. Blind Race Of Ice
  11. Daddy Yells
  12. Scream
  13. Turn Back Time

The female-fronted Rock band NIKKI PUPPET is a formation of hardworking musicians. Two albums so far, "Puppet On A String" (2005) and "Militant Mother" (2007). Both albums were very entertaining and showed this band has potential to keep it going for a long while. These first two albums came out via Armageddon Music (later renamed to Wacken Records). Thanks to this deal the band also got to play on, for example, Wacken Open Air. Musically the band improved quite a lot, although keeping their own identity in terms of sound and feel. This was for a large part thanks to producer Herman Frank (ACCEPT, VICTORY, ...), who sat behind the buttons this time as well. Since the 26th September album no. 3 is ready: "Power Seeker".

Last time the similarities with o.a. GUANO APES were still apparent, but NIKKI PUPPET also added some Punkishness and edged towards ACCEPT territory. With "Power Seeker" the usual ingredients are in the package and the sound has been kept compact and dry. Playtime per song is once again kept to the normal 3-4 minutes, in most cases. The influences this time range from ALICE COOPER over SCORPIONS to DIO. Proof of that can be found in the midtempo rocker "Destroy This Toy", "I Can Dream" (radio-friendly, but with a clear contrast between Nicky's voice and the heaviness of the guitar), the punchy "Falling In 2 Pieces" (where the chorus reminds of AC/DC, SCORPIONS, ACCEPT and similar), and last but not least "I Spy" and "Come Back". The first being a fast song in vein of SAXON and ACCEPT, featuring a wild solo, which affects the drums as well. Great material! The latter is a much slower song, reminding of DIO and even METALLICA ("Load"-"Reload" era), due to its Bluesiness. Overall it's a decent song, though radio-friendly as well. The rest of the thumbs up goes to the punchy and great-chorus-containing "Blind Race Of Ice" and the uptempo "Scream".

But there's also slower material, like "Pricks", where the guitar heaviness mainly is found in the chorus. Nicky's singing is also more energetic. However, it's that other slow Rocker that takes away the prize: "300 Warriors". It's slow, heavy and epic. This time it's DIO, BLACK SABBATH ("Heaven And Hell" verse melody) and CANDLEMASS that come to mind. Excellent stuff!

In the middle you'll find an instrumental track, rather short, but it offers a nice change: "Yia Sou Saloniki". Basically it's Christos Mamalitsidis going nuts on the accoustic guitar. No real complaints here, even though the song's not really a highlight. And to name 'em all, the Bluesy, midtempo and funky "Daddy Yells" is, generally speaking, not really bad, rather mediocre.

Speaking of least good, or better said, boring songs, the remaining tracks fall in this category. "Power Seeker" for being very simplistic - NIKKI PUPPET has never been about technicality, but the compositions in the other songs are far better - and not being able to hold the listener's attention. The compressed sound also is an obstacle. And what to say about the accoustic closing song, "Turn Back Time"? This one, roughly put, is sleep-inducing. Seriously, if you must add a ballad, this is not the path to follow.

As much as I liked "Puppet On A String" and "Militant Mother", I have to admit that NIKKI PUPPET's newest, "Power Seeker", isn't as good as the preceding releases, despite the new influences. Sure, the majority of the songs is good and worth hearing. But there's a large portion, too large in fact, that just wouldn't justify a higher score or more praise. "Militant Mother" only had two less good/interesting songs, in my opinion. "Power Seeker" has five. You make the calculation. Situation so far: two good albums, one less good. That's in general no big deal, as every band sooner or later makes such a release. However, I guess this album will very much please those into female-fronted Rock that appeals to a broad audience (read: mainstream). Let's hope Nicky and co. refind the inspiration of before to make a kick-ass follow-up.

More info at

Nicky Gronewold - vocals
Christos Mamalitsidis - guitar
Anke Sobek - bass
Florentin Adolf - drums

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KAMPFAR – Heimgang (Napalm Records 2008)

Kampfar - Heimgang
  1. Vantro
  2. Inferno
  3. Dødens Vee
  4. Skogens Dyp
  5. Antvort
  6. Vansinn
  7. Mareham
  8. Feigdarvarsel
  9. Vettekult
  10. Vandring

It's been two years since KAMPFAR's last release, "Kvass". The Norwegian Pagan/Black Metallers have since then worked very hard by doing several gigs and getting inspiration for the new album, "Heimgang". My review of "Kvass" was very general, even though I liked the album a lot, since it showed a great step forward compared to the first releases. Or perhaps it's best described as being a successful comeback, since KAMPFAR has only released quality so far. The analog sound was more than helpful and perfect for the cold atmosphere, indicated by the winter landscape on the cover. I now wonder why I didn't add it to my list of 2006, since it's a very qualitative album if you're willing to take the time to listen to it.

That year "Mellom Skogkledde Aaser" (1997) and "Fra Underverdenen" (1999) were re-released, with "Fra Undervenen" containing the EP "Norse". I still have to get those, though. Anyhow, there's not only a gap of two years between "Kvass" and "Heimgang" (out since the 26th of September), but also four more songs on the latter, resulting in a playtime of little more than 47 minutes, or an addition of barely one minute. In other words: the songs are shorter.

The first thing that jumps out is the sound. KAMPFAR has managed to create an own sound/identity right from the start. Dolk's characteristic voice is still a key element in the compositions and the trademark for the band's recognition. Compared to "Kvass" I'd say the instrumentation sounds more digital, but it's still has the KAMPFAR stamp. "Kvass" was more analog to my ears.

The entrance into the underworld, as told in Nordic myths and legends, is provided via "Vantro", an intro full of mystery with a constant melody, enforced by the full instrumentation. Once inside, the "Inferno" awaits you. Tempo changes are key, but the drums really push this song onwards. Dolk's typical shrieks welcome you for a first time and will continue to do so in each song, guiding you as you advance in this dark and cruel environment.

"Dødens Vee"... something dead here? Perhaps it's "The Way Of The Dead"? In any case, "Vee" is the Dutch translation for "cattle", but I doubt there are cows involved here. The tempo is slower, the drumming more simple, although it's precisely this instrument that provides necessary accents to keep the music alive. Also note-worthy is the subtle Folk influence, although you won't hear any flute or accordion or violin or anything similar. It's in the melodies and the way things are played. In addition, the song is divided into two parts, whereas the first is like a sandwich for the second, in the middle. A change that's very well implemented and this adds to making "Dødens Vee" one of the best songs here.

In "Skogens Dyp", the deep forest (if I googled well), the first signs of agony arise and this is expressed via Dolk's shrieks, too. The music is played at midtempo, rolling on on double bass. Here too drum accents are provided as the guitar keeps on playing. Further on there's a guitar break before the power is unleashed again. The agonizing atmosphere continues in "Antvort", which can be easily considered as a normal KAMPFAR song. Uptempo, over 5 minutes long (longer than the first few songs, which ended at around 3 minutes) and close to what was common on the previous albums. However, the atmosphere is quite depressing and dark and it feels as if you're being tormented to no end.

Another Folk-injection can be found in "Vansinn" (deformed?), where the tempo is slower, but the music more flowing, and not in the least by II 13's input. But then there's "Mareham" to speed things up, in true Rock 'n' Roll style and without touching KAMPFAR's Black Metal compositions. When "Feigdarvarsel" comes storming out of your speakers, it's time to move aside, unless you want to make that trip to the underworld. Dolk's demonic vocals might make the start easier by luring you in. Somewhere around the middle or past that point there's a nice drumbreak, adding accents in preparation of the rest of the storm. You could say that break is the eye of the storm, indeed.

"Vettekult" hold the tempo of before, yet allows for a decrease for the chorus. Here as well you'll find a guitar and bass moment (quite interesting, as this doesn't happen often, at least not for the bass) while the drums play the same pattern just to keep the music going. The mood of this song can be described as depressing. And this sure doesn't improve in the Doom-ish "Vandring", where the melody also comes out sad atmospheres. Musically this reminds heavily of EMPYRIUM, of their older releases. Dolk also sounds like a tormented soul, like an old person decaying and having just enough breath to say his last words. But it's all well done and deserves lots of applause.

KAMPFAR said this new album, "Heimgang", would be "KAMPFAR through and through". It's crystal clear that this is the case. The fact remains that - all things considered - each release by this Norwegian Pagan/Black Metal band is worth purchasing. Even today Dolk and co. show that the fire is still burning, perhaps more than ever. "Kvass" was a very good come-back album, "Heimgang" is a very worthy follow-up and quite simply recommended for the fans and anyone else into pure, qualitative Black Metal.

More info at

Dolk - vocals
Thomas - guitars
Jon - bass
II 13 - drums

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HELSTAR – The King Of Hell (AFM Records 2008)

Helstar - The King Of Hell
  1. The King Of Hell
  2. The Plague Called Man
  3. Tormentor
  4. When Empires Fall
  5. Wicked Disposition
  6. Caress Of The Dead
  7. Pain Will Be Thy Name
  8. In My Darkness
  9. The Garden Of Temptation

Last year the veteran US Power/Thrash band HELSTAR released an album of re-recorded old material, taking 2 per album with "Burning Star" (3) and "Remnants Of War" (4) taking the biggest part of the cake. In addition the band added two new songs, which fit in perfectly with the old material.

Now, almost one year later (26th September), the band's first real new album is ready: "The King Of Hell". It's been since 1995's "Multiples In Black" that HELSTAR made a studio album with new songs. HELSTAR, "The King Of Hell", you can see a connection here and I think they refound the power of old with "Sins Of The Past", making sure the new release would be killer as well and true to their legacy.

It's the king himself that welcomes you. Or better said, his female assistant lures you into the creepy atmosphere and you just feel something's bound to happen, especially when the guitars and drums come into play. James's typical screamy vocals instantly attack your hearing system. Later he gets more vicious. The music is heavy, doomy and energetic. Over halfway there's a pounding moment, as if Satan approaches you with big steps, followed by a Thrashy part and guitar solo. All in all a qualitative song to start with.

"The Plague Called Man" is where the real feast is to be found. It's Thrashy, it's got raging guitars, thundering drums and James singing in a more hymnic manner. To make things more interesting you'll find some tempo changes before the rage continues. Think LAAZ ROCKIT, TESTAMENT, DESTRUCTION, some PARADOX and similar. A pure delight to the ears! The song doesn't really end, as the guitars fade out and immediately connect with "Tormentor", which is one of the new songs off "Sins Of The Past" - here in a shorter version. This one rolls on like a tank, in pure Power Metal style. Midtempo is the pace. The chorus is also sung in a hymnic way. Musically the link with MYSTIC PROPHECY is easily made. In the middle of the song you'll find an entertaining solo moment, the first part being backed by heavy outbursts (guitar and drums) while in the second the music rolls on again.

To show how important drums are in Metal and in HELSTAR's compositions, listen to "When Empires Fall", where it's this instrument that announces the disaster (in the lyrical context). Tempo or speed is not important here, rather atmosphere. You do get violent attacks and flashy guitarwork, backed by a Doomy rhythm guitar, as if to show the devastation, the destruction.

With all these midtempo songs it would be nice to have something faster and furious again. In comes "Wicked Disposition", of which the start certainly clears all doubt about Thrashiness. Sadly enough this part never returns, as the rest of the songs is heavy, crushing, pounding and more. More speed would be very welcome, although the song itself is actually very good. James fronting the formation in a wicked manner. The whole (music and vocals) made me think of BENEDICTUM at some point. Halfway there's a different piece, rougher and more brutal, followed by a Jazzy twist to result in a continuation of the chorus.

"Caress Of The Dead" is the other song that was recorded for "Sins Of The Past". Here its playtime only differs with two seconds. Vicious Power/Thrash is what this song exhales, with a stress on Power - not only in terms of style but also the sound. It also has more punch than "Wicked Disposition". It's great to hear the tempo building via the drums around the middle of the track, after which *bam* the music pounds on and you get a solo as bonus. Welcome to the underworld!

And just when you think the pace will stay like this (i.e. only two Thrashy songs), guess again. "Pain Will Be Thy Name" is very much welcome at this point, like the water you need when having a dry throat, the steak when you're hungry, ... There's a big Thrash injection here and James sounds as if he's possessed, for he screams again and the whole sounds very wicked, evil and mad. The double bass attacks in the bridge are a great addition to the heaviness. Here too you'll find screamy guitarsolos that are the cherry on the cake. "Pain Will Be Thy Name" is without question one of the several pearls on this album.

"In My Darkness" stands out because of its accoustic start, with James singing softly before hell breaks loose. To be honest, James has a powerful voice, but when it comes to gentler parts he doesn't have it to express sad and depressed feelings. I understand one wants to create diverse songs, but on the other hand if something doesn't work, don't do it or consider getting someone else to do it. The tempo is slow, perhaps the slowest so far. And this gives space to the drums to do their thing and play a vital role in making this song as dynamic or variable as possible. It's an ok song, though nothing special.

Last but not least, "Garden Of Temptation". The intro consists of something eastern, Arabic, if you will. Imagine belly-dancers and everything around it. The atmospheric tunes neatly flow over into the heavy outburst of Metal. Slow and just flowing on, it's the next step before the usual viciousness surrounds you. Musically quite alright, but the vocal lines are something to get used too, as James seems to sing in a talky way, something I'm not that fond of, even if it's for the good of the song. But like I said, the music is more than alright and there's enough change in riffing and tempo to stay focused.

In my review of "Sins Of The Past" I said about the new songs: "If the forthcoming album (due in 2008) will be anything like these two new songs, then be sure to get a copy!". I can only confirm what I said last year and am saying now: "The King Of Hell" is a qualitative release filled with powerful and killer US Power Metal. Inline with the old material, but with the sound of today. Add some Thrash elements here and there and it's complete. That doesn't mean I wouldn't mind a bit more speed, which would make the album even more interesting (in my opinion). All in all, HELSTAR still is one of the recommended bands in this league, no matter how many new bands pop up. If you're fast, get your hands on the first pressing, which comes with the bonus track "White Witch", next to those two other tracks, and the "Sins Of The Past" album.

More info at

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

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BATTLELORE – The Last Alliance (Napalm Records 2008)

Battlelore - The Last Alliance
  1. Third Immortal
  2. Guardians
  3. The Great Gathering
  4. Voice Of The Fallen
  5. Exile The Daystar
  6. Daughter Of The Sun
  7. Green Dragon
  8. Awakening
  9. Epic Dreams
  10. Moontower
  11. The Star Of High Hope

Last year the Finnish Epic Metal band BATTLELORE released its fourth album, "Evernight". In that review I added some bio and albums info, so no need to repeat that aspect again. Right from the start, or the first album, "...Where the Shadows Lie", the band showed its potential and Napalm Records noticed that as well, even in their demos already. Each release was a step forward, although the production was the elements to keep in mind the most, as it wasn't that good (= too light, too digital) on "Third Age of the Sun" (2005). The situation was much better on the follow-up, "Evernight".

Many gigs and lots of inspiration later, album no. 5 is ready and this since the 26th September. BATTLELORE's lyrics are inspired by the works of J.R.R. Tolkien and this isn't any different on "The Last Alliance". I liked the previous album and was somehow looking forward to this new one, hoping it would be even better, maybe heavier.

Melody is something the songs heavily thrive on and without Maria's input it just wouldn't be the same. The power would still be there, thanks to Jussi, Jyri, Timo and Henri (respectively guitar, guitar, bass and drums), but you would clearly hear the songs lacking something vital.

The sound had greatly improved on "Evernight" and it's at least as good on "The Last Alliance". Furthermore, the mix is absolutely top and the first sign of this is not only the balance between the heaviness of the guitars and drums vs the melody and orchestrations of the keyboards, but also Kaisa's voice. You can very clearly what she sings and in the past this used to be covered a bit by the instruments.

BATTLELORE and midtempo is a successful marriage and has been since several years. That is also a problem, as it would be nice to have some speed boosters to diversify the material. But let's first mention that "Third Immortal" is a perfect starter. Very melodic, quite catchy and you're instantly drawn into the song, into the musical world that these Finnish present through the song. "Guardians" adds a Folky touch with the violin, gentle guitarwork and tribal drumming. The first part might make you think it's a ballad, but once the full power is activated, any thoughts of this are erased. The tempo increase further on is a welcome change, as the song seems to flow a bit better, but that doesn't mean the first part isn't good. On the contrary. This is very qualitative stuff.

Now, about the uptempo and speed: you'll find these parameters in "The Great Gathering". Again I'm reminded of AMON AMARTH, just like last year's "We Are The Legions". The drums add more power, more punch and the guitarwork works in the same way. Later on, Henri even spices things up with blastbeats and together with the fast guitars that creates a bit of a Black Metal vibe, which is a very interesting change and surely makes the music even more interesting. Tomi has a leading role here, while Kaisa's gentle voice takes care of the chorus. She has a solo moment towards the end, after the blast part. Fact is that this song is one of the best here, thanks to the whole package: epicness, melodies, symphonic elements, instrumentation, ... The next track, "Voice Of The Fallen", has the roles switched: Tomi in the chorus and Kaisa in the verses, although they come together at some point. Henri once more keeps the pace high enough and also makes his drumming very variable. The keyboards are the key instrument here, while the guitars add the power.

"Exile The Daystar" is another highlight. The tension is built in a Doomy atmosphere. The lyrics are once again divided between the Tomi and Kaisa, who contrast each other not only in singing, but also in the musical compositions. Tomi in the fuller, dramatic parts, Kaisa in the more gentle moments. The orchestration also helps to create this sad and dramatic feel and contributes to the different compositions flowing neatly into each other. Add a slow tempo and everything is there to make this a good song. "Awakening" is another sad/emotional, but beautiful, track, switches to midtempo later on.

What comes next really moved me: "Daughter Of The Sun". This song is divided into two parts, a peaceful one and a more brutal one. The first is occupied by Kaisa, accompanied by gentle instrumentation and melody being very important. All is well and you hope it lasts until the end. Sheer perfection you could call it. But then heaviness takes over, Tomi comes in and the atmosphere is more emotional. You cannot ignore the contrast that appears here and although that can work in various songs, the heavier part is too sudden, too aggressive. Let me clarify: "Daughter Of The Sun" is a very nice song and very well composed and more. That's fine, but you're listening to a calm piece of music when all of a sudden this moment of tranquillity is disturbed by a vandal. Maybe it's supposed to be like this when you read the lyrics, but when not taking this context into account, I find this transition too blunt.

"Green Dragon" is like "Third Immortal" and brings back some tempo into the music, also thanks to the rolling bass drums. Furthermore, the chorus is absolutely jaw-dropping, mainly because of Kaisa's input and the drums. Metalwise there's enough change between direct pieces (at some point Tomi + music = ICED EARTH with Matt Barlow) and more flowing ones. The same can be said about "Epic Dreams", a title that indicates what to expect: more energetic, revigorated music. "Moontower" keeps the pedal down enough, as the music rolls on like a tank on the loose. Here too you'll find a contrast between the melodic parts with Kaisa and the direct, aggressive parts with Tomi. Plus, the guitars also show their lighter side from time to time, keeping things exciting at all times. Last but not least, "The Star Of High Hope". Its start is guitar and gentle riding cymbal touches. Soon the flute comes in. It's almost as if METALLICA's "The Call Of Ktulu" is merged with the flutes of NIGHTWISH's "Two For Tragedy" in an EMPYRIUM kind of atmosphere. The build-up is very nice and even at some point seems to bring back elements from "House Of Heroes". Tranquil, tribal parts on one side, heavier interventions on the other, each taking turns to create the ultimate listening pleasure.

As good as the first few albums were, I thought "Evernight" was a reasonable step forward, especially compared to "Third Age Of The Sun". The expectations for "The Last Alliance" were even higher, hoping it would be as good as "Evernight". BATTLELORE isn't among my favourite bands and they probably never will, but I have to admit that I've been playing this newest release (or the promo) a lot since I got it to review. Fans of the band might speak otherwise, but personally I find this the best BATTLELORE album to date. The songs flow better, melody and heaviness are better adjusted and lots of catchiness is the cherry on the cake. I'm still not fond of Tomi's grunts, but I can appreciate them more now. His clean(er) singing is pretty good, too. Too many words here. Just go to the shop and buy "The Last Alliance", with DVD ("Live at Female Metal Voices Festival 2007").

More info at

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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ARTAS – The Healing (Napalm Records 2008)

Artas - The Healing
  1. Barbossa
  2. Bastardo
  3. Gangsta's Paradise (COOLIO cover)
  4. The Healing
  5. Fick Das Fett
  6. Rhågenfels
  7. Through Dark Gates
  8. Blut
  9. The Butcher's Guilt
  10. Kontrol
  11. From Dirt We'll Rise
  12. I Am Your Judgement Day
  13. A Song Of Ice And Fire

Although modern Metal (referring mainly to Metalcore and similar) is something I'm not that fond of, here and there some bands did manage to catch my interest, due to using old school influences and giving them a modern touch. I was already fearing that ARTAS would be another Metalcore band as it said Modern Metal on the promo. But after a first listen it was clear my fears were unjustified, even though it's a very close call regarding the Metalcore aspect.

ARTAS hails from Austria and was born in 2006, although its previous name was STAUB & SCHATTEN. Before focusing on ARTAS, the band members gathered experience in other projects. Once ARTAS, or STAUB & SCHATTEN, was ready to start their quest (in 2005) the line-up changed not too long after: bassist David was replaced by Radek. Musically the band plays a mix of Thrash, Death and Hardcore. The vocal lines are divided between Obimahan (screams and clean?) and guitarist Hannes (growls).

Thanks to winning the Metalchamp 2007 competition ARTAS got a record deal with Napalm Records. "The Healing" came out on the 26th September. The album was recorded in the band's own studio, where the process span three months. One of the special aspects of ARTAS and their music is that three languages are used: English, German and Spanish. This of course gives the respective songs a different character. Jacob Hansen mixed the album and you can really feel it's like a wild group of wildebeests that come running out of your speakers. Dennis Sibejin's (JOB FOR A COWBOY, CHIMAIRA) took care of the artwork.

Like I said above, musically you get a mix of Thrash, Death and Hardcore. And this is perfectly shown in each song, starting with the devastating "Barbossa". Ultra heavy Death Metal riffing, pounding drums and Obi's vocals giving it a Hardcore touch. His vocals are most remniscent of this genre and would ultimately fit best there. More of this, and even more violent, can be found in "Bastardo", which has an awesome sing-along chorus "Viva, viva Bastardo". This part made me think of DEARLY BEHEADED's album "Temptation". "Bastardo" is also one of the best tracks on "The Healing" and an excellent energy booster.

The title track offers something more from the Death/Thrash pond. Again the vocals play an important role to vent the enormous amount of energy. Musically it's like DESTRUCTION meets HATE SQUAD (or similar 'marriages'). The more melodic singing (still rough, though) made me think of SUIDAKRA. Caution is advised, as with the mentality here you better not stand in the way.

One of the other songs that stand out is "Through Dark Gates", where vocal change is a key element: from clean over rougher/greasier to screaming. Melody is also an important aspect, which makes the song less brutal than the previous ones. In a way, at least from my perception, it's got something IN FLAMES-like. The present IN FLAMES, not that of the early to mid 1990s. "Through Dark Gates" may stand out here, but it's due to the compositions and different vocals, not the IN FLAMES references.

"Blut", like "Fick Das Fett" sung in German, is a welcome song at this stage, since it brings back the Hardcore power. "The Butcher's Guilt" follows and not illogically as blood and butchers are closely related. This is once more qualitative Death/Thrash with Hardcore vocals. "Kontrol" on the other hand doesn't offer anything different from the other songs, but it must be said that the "lalalala" moments are a strange component and seem very much out of place here. Obi and/or Hannes even do some "Oowa-a-a-a" screaming like David Draiman from DISTURBED did in the song "Down With The Sickness". Nice try, guys, but it's not that well done and doesn't fit here.

Since we're dealing with a Modern Metal band here, it's hard not to notice influences from e.g. MACHINE HEAD. "From Dirt We'll Rise" is proof of that. It's a midtempo pounder and in general one of the better tracks, although the screamy vocals might annoy quite rapidly, depending what your preferences are. And finally, it's "Your Judgement Day" and "A Song Of Ice And Fire" that get the last nominations for being highlights on this first album. Speed is not important in either of the songs, but both contain very lethal drumwork, next to the usual ingredients.

Oh yes, before I forget: You probably noticed "Gangsta's Paradise" in the tracklisting? That's indeed a cover of COOLIO's hit, but ARTAS managed to rework it into a brutal, crushing song. The result is good, but you can hear it's based on another song, as it doesn't flow as well as the band's own songs. But it's a nice try.

In terms of Modern Metal there aren't many bands in my collection and not even ARTAS will be added (at least, not at this moment), but I have to admit I was surprised by the quality and passion presented here. "The Healing" didn't heal me, but it did blow me away on several occasions. ARTAS is a name to remember, for they are a devastating force that should be big(ger) in the coming years. Anyone into Hardcore-influenced Death/Thrash Metal with a modern upgrade is advised to at least check out "The Healing". Buying depends on your taste and budget.

More info at

Obi - vocals
Hannes - guitars, vocals
Sid - guitars
Radek - bass
Chris - drums

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RANDY PIPER'S ANIMAL – Virus (Locomotive Records 2008)

Randy Piper's Animal - Virus
  1. Cardiac Arrest
  2. Can't Stop
  3. Don't Wanna Die
  4. Crying Eagle
  5. Unnatural High
  6. Judgement Day
  7. Who's Next?
  8. Zombie (THE CRANBERRIES cover)
  9. Shoot To Kill
  10. L.U.S.T.

I'm not really familiar with W.A.S.P. (heard a few songs, though, over the past couple of years), nor with Randy Piper's solo material. Randy was one of the founding members of W.A.S.P., but since a few years has he focused on building a solo career, with a first album called "Violent New Breed", released in 2006. Oh yes, there was also a demo in 2002, "900 Lb. Steam". since the 26th of September the second album is ready: "Virus". The production was in the hands of Chris Laney (guitars). The recordings took place at Platform Studio and the legendary Polar Music Studios (LED ZEPPELIN, GENESIS, ABBA).

Lyrically it seems ANIMAL's songs are about real-life issues, about dangerous habits, about working like hell, about society, about murderers and about one's self. Songs to listen to in these cases are: "Can't Stop", "Unnatural High", "Cardiac Arrest" and the very nice cover "Zombie" (original by THE CRANBERRIES, upped in tempo and given a somewhat happier feel by ANIMAL).

Since Randy played a mix of Hard Rock and Heavy Metal with W.A.S.P., he won't go Death or Thrash now. The musical direction is clear from the start with "Cardiac Arrest", a midtempo Rocker in which loads of energetic and highly enjoyable guitarwork are thrown at you. Add Rich's perfectly fitting voice (with a bit of a greasy edge) and you've got the perfect song to start with in this context. And it only gets better. From "Crying Eagle" onwards it goes up and down, but the downs are never bad, just that the highlights really are that, highlights.

"Crying Eagle" is a pearl of a song, starting with sounds of an eagle (obviously) after which heaviness kicks in. Midtempo also rules here, but the overall compositions and pounding moments make you crave for more. This is also the case in "Judgement Day", which sounds like some shots of anger were injected here. The guitars also have a lower sound, as if tuned differently. But it just is so tastey that you might wonder why there aren't any more songs like this on the album.

Other songs in the list 4-10 worth checking out or standing out because of some element: "Unnatural High". This is a semi-accoustic song with atmospheric backing here and there. You can hear the accoustic guitar deeper in the layers, for the electric guitars come out stronger. Very nice melodies and harmonies, also via the piano, turn this track into a lust for the ear, so to speak. The accoustic guitar returns in the ballad "Who's Next?" and in the uptempo "L.U.S.T.", another absolutely recommended song. The preceding one, "Shoot To Kill", is quite simply a decent Rocker. Nothing special, but more easy-going with once more qualitative guitarwork.

But the two tracks that just didn't cut it, at least for me, are "Can't Stop" and "Don't Wanna Die". The first for its chorus coming over as annoying after a while. The guitarsolo is well done, but is not enough to make this song better. The second also has accoustic elements, but the song is too radio-friendly and also tires after a certain (not that long) time. Here too the guitarsolo offers an interesting moment, but lacks the power and majesty to take the song to new heights. But what are two songs on a total of ten?

My first encounter with Randy Piper's solo material and I have to say I'm pleasantly surprised. "Virus" has turned out to be an enjoyable and entertaining mix of Hard Rock and Heavy Metal, and should appeal to anyone into JORN, JUDAS PRIEST, HARTMANN, and maybe even ALICE COOPER or THIN LIZZY or indeed, W.A.S.P.. Also if you're seeking something that might remind you of the 80s, ANIMAL is the band to check. The sound is very good, the compositions inline with the great musicianship while the whole emanates passion and drive.

More info at

Rich Lewis - vocals
Randy Piper - guitars
Chris Laney - guitars
Nalle 'Grizzly' Pahlsson - bass
Johan Koleberg - drums

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TALETELLERS – Detonator (Hammersound 2008)

Taletellers - Detonator
  1. Rock 'n' Roll Detonator
  2. Kings Of Death
  3. Ride The Peril
  4. Mean Machine
  5. Vendetta (Riding The Devil)
  6. Bad Motherfucker
  7. Whore Of Wrath
  8. Bring You Down
  9. Destroy
  10. Götterdämmerung

The German Rockers from TALETELLERS got together in 2005 to form a band, rising from the ashes of TALETELLERS SOULSELLERS. Did they have to sell their soul to keep it going? One year later a first release was ready: the EP "The Missiles of Mercy". This showed instantly what to expect: pure and honest music in a mix of Rock 'n' Roll, Hard Rock and Heavy Metal. Influenced by the positive comments the band started working on a full album. In this case "Detonator", which saw the light of day on the 24th of September. This time some sniffs of Thrash Metal were added to the compositions, to give the songs a rougher character and more drive. The label Hammersound saw great potential in TALETELLERS and offered them a contract.

Musically you'll hear stuff that will make you think of METALLICA, MEGADETH, SAXON, JUDAS PRIEST, IRON MAIDEN, MOTÖRHEAD and anything similar. It seemed that for the cover art Mark Wilkinson was offered the job. He previously worked on the cover of JUDAS PRIEST's "Painkiller" and "Nostradamus". In January and February of 2009 TALETELLERS will hit the road with GRAVE DIGGER and ALESTORM.

"Detonator" is basically one of those albums that contain nothing more or less than a pure and honest mix of Hard Rock and Heavy Metal. Midtempo is chosen the most, although there songs where the pedal is pushed down some more. The first track, "Rock 'n' Roll Detonator", offers a nice first impression of what to expect from this band. Raw energy comes flowing out of the speakers and hits you straight in the heart. So do "Ride The Peril" (made me think of SAXON, STEVE CONE, and similar), "Mean Machine" (keep that head banging!), and "Whore Of Wrath" (doesn't differ that much from "Ride The Peril" - lack of ideas?). The last tempo injection comes from "Destroy", even though there's a slowdown in the chorus.

That was one group. The other consists of songs that are a bit slower, but still rock to no end: "Kings Of Death" (à la METALLICA, SINNER, ...), "Bad Motherfucker" and "Götterdämmerung", the least good song as far as I'm concerned. It's less attractive, although it does have enjoyable guitarwork, which sadly enough is based on the same type of riffing as most of the others.

Oh yes, there's still "Vendetta (Riding The Devil)", the longest song here. I could have put it with the first group, but those tracks are less long (3-5) and "Vendetta (Riding The Devil)" manages to offer the same listening pleasure in a longer time span. On top of that, it's also one of the best songs, offering a short break reasonably over the middle and continuing with a flashy guitarsolo. Straight-forward guitar-driven Hard Rock, what more could you ask for? Something Bluesy perhaps, since that's what "Bring You Down" has to offer. Needless to say it reminds of AC/DC and that's a good thing, especially in terms of variation. This is a welcome song.

TALETELLERS's debut album is, all things considered, an enjoyable release. Especially when you're into the pure and energetic Hard Rock-meets-Heavy Metal mixture, with some Thrash influences - or just see the mentioned bands - then you have no reason not to check out this German band. The sound is of today, powerful, lets the instruments breath when needed while the vibe is of the 80s. The instrumental skills are unquestionably good to very good. The vocals on the other hand... I'll give props to Alan for his drive and passion, but his voice (or the tone/sound) doesn't always fit the music. Time and practise should help him improve this aspect. Luckily the intruments get a lot of talking time, so my criticism is not that big then. But like I said, do check this band out, for they deserve it.

More info at

Alan Costa - vocals, guitars
Stefan Kuhn - guitars
Pascal Louis - bass
Sebastian Berg - drums

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SINNER – Crash & Burn (AFM Records 2008)

Sinner - Crash & Burn
  1. Crash & Burn
  2. Break The Silence
  3. The Dog
  4. Heart Of Darkness
  5. Revolution
  6. Unbreakable
  7. Fist To Face
  8. Until It Hurts
  9. Little Head
  10. Connection
  11. Like A Rock

Mat Sinner (bassist) has been playing Hard Rock and Heavy Metal since the early 1980s, under the name SINNER. Or in other words, looooooong before PRIMAL FEAR saw the light of day. Needless to say that over the years many musicians have been in SINNER, but it seems that this time there's (another) stable line-up. Fifteen albums so far, each with varied success, of which I only have "There Will Be Execution" (2003) in my possession. I can't compare with the many preceding SINNER albums to find out if the music has changed a lot or if Mat has kept riding the same course and just improving the sound as new technology became available. The fact remains that, although SINNER is not PRIMAL FEAR, there are similarities in each band's music.

PRIMAL FEAR is one of my favourite bands and I have no real complaints regarding the music. SINNER albums came oout at a regular pace, with two years or a little more in between, but especially the last few years was there a lot less time for the solo direction, as PRIMAL FEAR gathered rapid successes. Last year "Mask Of Sanity" came out and since the 19th of September the follow-up (= album no. 15) is available: "Crash & Burn". Also worth noting is that Mat has signed with different labels over the course of those 26 years now (Nuclear Blast, MTM, AFM Records, Noise Records, Koch, ...). This time it's AFM Records who signed the band.

On this newest release there's a sort of tempo pattern: a midtempo song followed by something more direct followed by another booster. Then all slows down to rebuild again towards a song with balls. This is something you might not pay attention to, but it isn't until you properly listen and/or write down some things that this becomes clear.

The title track kicks life into the album and is a midtempo rocker. Mat's singing sounds a bit forced, and even though he's never been Metal's best vocalist, his voice does suit the music. Not only in this song, but the rest or majority of the pack as well. "Crash & Burn" made me think a bit of AT VANCE and their "Fly To The Rainbow" song ("Only Human" album, 2002). "Break The Silence" is next and that's when things start to get more direct, straight-forward. It's heavier and at the same time darker. The guitarsolo is the cherry on the cake, although I thought that towards the end the chorus gets repeated a bit too much.

Time for a speed boost: "The Dog". I don't know what kind of dog it is, but I like it. Musically this reminds me of SHAKRA, the Swiss Hard Rock band. Here you'll find an increase in power, for this song has the required balls. Must be a big dog then. ;-) And yes, the solo once more is a shining element in the compositions. And here the first pattern ends.

The second pattern as mentioned above begins with "Heart Of Darkness", which is not an ARCH ENEMY cover. Melody plays a key role here and although the tempo is slower, the song does advance at a reasonable pace. You could say we're dealing with a powerballad here. What follows is food for radio stations: "Revolution". This sounds quite funky, so to speak, and has those bells for the drums, if you know what I mean. A tambourine, containing zils, which are small metal jingles. This instrument can also be heard in "Little Head", the other radio-friendly song, mainly due to its chorus. Here the verses are heavy and direct, which is a good choice. At some point the drumpattern is similar to that of HOLLENTHON's "Son Of Perdition". Just look on to see/hear what I mean. All in all, "Little Head" is not a bad song, it's just less attractive as the others.

"Unbreakable" brings back the Rock in "Crash & Burn". The compositions make this a nice song to cruise to when you're out with the convertible. Pluspoints also go to the chorus and the solo. What's next? A faster song, indeed. The title, "Fist To Face", is one indication, the music clearly the other. I had to think of SAXON, in a way, which is a good thing, and I can only say: more of this, Mat. More! Absolutely a killer track.

A resting point can be found in "Until It Hurts", which is a semi-accoustic ballad. Overall quite nice, but not super. and if you're done relaxing, you'll highly enjoy "Connection". This before-last song is pure Heavy Metal, THIN LIZZY-style. In fact, you could say it's a faster version of the Irish band's classic hit "Jailbreak". Ok, it's not a cover, just the music and mainly (flashy) guitarwork is reminiscent of this song.

"Like A Rock" may announce something ballsy again, but that's partly the case. It's a midtempo track, which is lifted to a higher level by the guitarsolo. The music overall is quite to very good and in my shortlist it's one of the best songs on "Crash & Burn", together with the title track, "The Dog", "Unbreakable", "Fist To Face" and "Connection".

I relistened to "There Will Be Execution" this weekend. It's a good album, filled with very decent Hard Rock and Heavy Metal tunes. "Crash & Burn" is different in terms of sound, but that doesn't mean that the songs are less good. On the contrary even, because this 15th album is nothing less but recommended material for anyone into the pure Hard Rock and/or Heavy Metal. Although not a necessity, being a fan of PRIMAL FEAR will help to appreciate this album (more). On a sidenote, there are guest appearances by Dirty Sanchez (percussion), Dennis Ward (backing vocals and percussion) and Nena (backing vocals). The Limited Edition digipack will contain two bonus tracks - "One Night Only" (written by Mat Sinner and Magnus Karlsson) and "Fast Decision 2008" - and the videoclip for "Revolution".

More info at

Mat Sinner - vocals, bass
Henny Wolter - guitars
Christof Leim - guitars
Klaus Sperling - drums

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HAUK – To Hear The Trumpets Call (Hauk 2008)

Hauk - To Hear The Trumpets Call
  1. To Hear The Trumpets Call
  2. Love Song #4 (Burn Rome)
  3. Lamentation
  4. Raven Wings (Thrashing Ravens remix)

HAUK is an American Heathen Metal band, of which the name is taken from its frontman, Hauk. Chris Dooly fills the drumspot, after having played together with Hauk in MYTHREAL. Duke Dubeau was added to add majestic melodies via keyboards, while Boyd Evin is a reinforcement on guitar (bass and lead).

The band has been around for a few years now and presents its fourth release, the "To Hear The Trumpets Call" EP, out since the 19th September. Preceding releases were "Love Songs, Lamentations And Lifthrasir" (2005), "Hard Lemonade" (EP, 2006) and "No Mercy For The Slain" (2008). HAUK is another new band for me, so I can't compare the newest EP with the previous efforts. "To Hear The Trumpets Call"" contains two new songs, a re-recorded Metal version of "Lamentation" and a remix of "Raving Wings".

The title track is loosely based on verse 54 of the Voluspa, from the poetic Edda, translated by James Chisholm. It's about a part of the battle at Ragnarok, told from the perspective of Vidar, one of Odin's sons. Musically the song commences its march via tribal drumming (which comes back a few times) and doomy guitars. It doesn't take that long before the chorus sets in, when the entire instrumentation shows itself. Hauk's clean singing has something hymnic. Think LUNARIUM, TÝR, AMON AMARTH, maybe MOONSORROW and MÅNEGARM and similar. Production-wise it's not that bad. Well, it's not like most demos, because it sounds muffled and you have to crank up the volume to hear all instrumentation. Not even headphones can help, unless there's no interference from outside. Anyway, it could be better, much better. The compositions are good, but the production doesn't let them come out like they should.

Then there's "Love Song #4 (Burn Rome)", which is about Ragnar Lothbrok, a Danish warrior. Hauk wondered what he would do to show his love to a woman. This is a ballad, piano-driven. The keyboards give it a more emotional touch later on. The weak drumticking indicates the beat. Later the guitars are added and this gives the song a bit more push, makes it flow better. But again, the bad/muffled/compressed production isn't helpful. Hauk's singing also suffers from this, as if recorded in a tiny room or something. Here too, the music is very nice, though.

"Lamentation" is a Doomy song at first, becomes more energetic when the chorus comes into play. The atmospheric keyboards reinforce the Doominess, especially in combination with the heavy guitars. Again the singing has something hymnic. Little over halfway there's an accoustic guitar break, wich fits in very well. Lyrically this song's about Odin mourning his fallen son Baldur and what he would do to

The remix of "Raven Wings" is quite nice. It's a direct song, with a nice lead. This has something METALLICA-like, mixed with IRON MAIDEN. Kristy Hanson assists Hauk for the chorus. Melody plays a very important role here, as this is very much guitar-driven and a pleasure to listen to. It would be more if the production were better. The instruments also have more to say here.

HAUK has made an EP of which they can be very proud of. The four songs are Epic Heathen Metal of very good quality. Not the best available, but nevertheless worth checking out. "To Hear The Trumpets Call" offers material for anyone into the above mentioned bands and pure Heavy Metal. The songs are well composed to create the right atmosphere and images in your mind. Sadly it's often hard to hear the trumpets call, or better said, to enjoy the music. The production, I repeat, is too muffled, too compressed to let out the full power that is to be found here. And that's the only downside of this EP.

More info at

Hauk - vocals, guitar, bass
Duke Dubeau - keyboards
Boyd Ervin - bass, guitar
Chris Dooly - drums

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SQUEALER – The Circle Shuts (AFM Records 2008)

SQUEALER - The Circle Shuts
  1. The Sources Of Ignition
  2. Mask Of The Betrayer
  3. New Saviour
  4. Grey
  5. Godlike
  6. These Urges
  7. Thrasher
  8. Martyrs Of The Half Moon
  9. I Came For You
  10. Once Fallen
  11. The Circle Shuts

The German Thrash band SQUEALER has been active since the mid 1980s and released several albums, one more succesful than the other. Several years ago I had the chance to listen to "The Prophecy" and "Under The Cross". As far as I remember those weren't bad releases and one of them was actually worth buying, but somehow I spent my money on something else. Three years ago their frontman/guitarist and AFM Records boss Andy 'Henner' Allendörfer sadly passed away (this will be referred to until the band has ceased all activity, I think), so a new vocalist was needed. Ex-GRIP INC. frontman Gus Chambers took the chance and together the renewed line-up made "Confrontation Street" and renamed the band to SQUEALER A.D. to announce a new start. Musically there was much more Groove than on the previous albums and it seems this is the new direction that will be followed for a while, as even the new release, "The Circle Shuts" (the band's 7th album), has it even more.

"Confrontation Street" wasn't SQUEALER's best album, but still had some decent Thrash songs with a great Gus behind the mic. Since it was all very new, there was enough room for improvement and further adjusting. Gus even told me the follow-up would be more Thrash (and thus less Groovy) again. Sadly, the sympathetic vocalist had to leave the band after less than a year. One can only wonder if it were because of personal or musical reasons. Having listened to "The Circle Shuts", out since the 12th September, for a first time, I guess it's the second one. So, Gus out, and in comes Norbert Vornam, who's very much unknown to me.

While Gus has a rough voice, very suited for anger and hatred, Norbert takes a melodic approach - that made me think of Andy B. Franck, Warrel Dane and similar - and that ofcourse affects the songwriting a great deal. In other words: very unlikely to end up with a ferocious kick-in-the-nuts Thrash album. I'll cut to the chase, as there are only a few real or close enough Thrash songs: "The Sources Of Ignition", "These Urges" and "Thrasher". The rest of the songs aren't less heavy, but speed isn't an issue here.

Let it be clear that the sound is very good, powerful and more (production by drummer Martin Buchwalter (ELVENKING, PERZONAL WAR, SUIDAKRA, ... and mastering by Mikka Jussila at Finnvox studios), so that's not an issue. The biggest problem for me is the melodic aspect and more specifically the choruses. Es, indeed, plural. You've got ballsy verses and all of a sudden this turns into wool by the clean-sung (wanky, if you will) choruses. It's almost IN FLAMES-like. This kind of singing has a big influence on the compositions and it's not just in the chorus of "The Sources Of Ignition" or the other Thrash songs. The following tracks are also infected: "Martyrs Of The Half Moon", "I Came For You" and "The Circle Shuts".

Usually it are just the specific parts that make the respective songs less interesting, but there are two songs that are, in their totallity, boring. There's no other word for it, no matter how hard the band worked on this new album. "New Saviour" and "Once Fallen" are guilty as charged. The first for being an example of modern Metal (it's not Thrash, yet quite groovy and MTV-oriented), the second for the spacey accents, the long playtime - well, it's not that long, but for what it contains it should be shorter - and the melodic singing.

Aside from what bothered me, let's add a positive note. The majority of the songs is good and quite enjoyable in general. I already mentioned the three Thrash tracks, but next to that there's, for example, "Godlike" which reminds of REBELLION's last works and that's a good thing in my book. "Grey" has something PARADISE LOST in the guitarlines, while "I Came For You" cranks up the roughness level, adding ferocity to the tracklisting after the not-so-good "Martyrs Of The Half Moon", which did contain some good elements. The closing title track has sharper riffing, but the solo can't save it overall.

Personal taste plays a role and although I try not to let it dominate, I just can't be positive about these two changes: vocals, compositions (i.e. modern influences). Was Gus too dominant in the writing process? I was looking forward to his ideas. Having a more melodic singer means you have to cut back on sharpness, on viciousness and the like. The result that is "The Circle Shuts" is not what I hoped it to be, but perhaps the fans may have a different opinion, since they should be more familiar with SQUEALER's works. All in all this is a mediocre release, in my opinion. If you're into PERZONAL WAR, METALLICA, MACHINE HEAD, (modern) IN FLAMES, etc... there's a chance you'll like SQUEALER's newest album. Else, listen before you buy and maybe even go back to the older releases to find out about this band's music. For the die-hards: the first edition contains the full "Human Traces" EP from 1989 (out of print since a long time and available on CD for the first time ever) as a bonus.

More info at

Norbert Vornam - vocals
Lars Döring - guitars
Michael Schiel - guitars
Michael Kaspar - bass
Martin Buchwalter - drums

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SERENITY – Fallen Sanctuary (Napalm Records 2008)

Serenity - Fallen Sanctuary
  1. All Lights Reversed
  2. Rust Of Coming Ages
  3. Coldness Kills
  4. To Stone She Turned
  5. Fairytales
  6. The Heartless Symphony
  7. Velatum
  8. Derelict
  9. Sheltered (By The Obscure)
  10. Oceans Of Ruby

The Austrian ProgPower band SERENITY released its debut album, "Words Untold & Dreams Unlived", last year in April and this after several years of hard work (since 2001). Many of the songs were in the midtempo range and the similarities with bands like STRATOVARIUS, SONATA ARCTICA (including the vocals), a bit of DREAM THEATER and anything else in this category could not be denied. Not that that was a problem, as it helps to recognize the style and see/hear if it suits your taste. The album was recorded at Dreamscape Studios, Munich, and in Austria. Mixing and mastering took place at Finnvox Studios, Helsinki, while orchestral parts were produced in Czech Republic and the whole artwork was done by Seth-Design in Athens, Greece.

That same year (2007), SERENITY toured through Europe with MORGANA LEFAY, SACRED STEEL, THRESHOLD, COMMUNIC, MACHINE MEN, as well as KAMELOT and ADAGIO.

Now, 16 months later (29th August), the follow-up is ready: "Fallen Sanctuary". Not only is there an increase in heaviness, but the input from several other people helped to take SERENITY's music to a new level:

* EDENBRIDGE's Lanvall helped with the vocal arrangements and recordings
* Drums and bass were recorded once again at Dreamscape Studios by Jan Vacik, who was also involved in the arrangements.
* Sandra Schleret from ELIS appears as a guest vocalist and is the first female vocalist on a SERENITY release.
* Jacob Hansen was given the task to mix and master the album.
* The cover art was done this time by Gustavo Sazes from Brazil.

The biggest problem with the debut album was that it lacked speed, as midtempo ruled the tracklisting. The first notes of "All Lights Reversed" didn't show any sign of change, as the start is ballad-ish. This composition also ends the song. Georg backed by symphonics and the piano. But as soon as heaviness kicks in, you just know that this is a major step forward. The guitars are in front and don't just deliver the power. The keyboards have been pushed a bit to the back, although the symphonic accents do get through to accentuate the melodies. Georg's voice sounds more powerful, even though the similarity with Tony Kakko remains untouched. But I don't mind anymore, because what SERENITY shows here is very qualitative. With Jacob Hansen doing the mix you can be sure the drums will come out strong, especially the kicks and those help to enforce the heavy riffs.

"Rust Of Coming Ages" also starts with the keyboards before the power of Metal is added. This piece reminds a bit of, for example, FIREWIND. Fact is that the symphonic/orchestral aspect is much greater here and makes the song fuller. It's almost NIGHTWISH-like. Further on you get a bit of DREAM THEATER as well. The vocal department consists of Georg's clean singing and gutteral growling by Maggo Wenzel (TRISTWOOD, INZEST). The last few minutes of this song are filled by the orchestral elements, with particularly the piano being spotlighted. All in all another great track, full of heaviness and bombast.

A gloomy atmosphere, violins and percussion paint a cold environment in "Coldness Kills". The beginning has something Folk-ish and it sure adds to the diversity in SERENITY's compositions. When the rest of the band joins in, everything sounds more powerful and bombastic and is simply a lust for the ears. The tempo is a little slower than before. Next to the electric guitar the accoustic guitar is added to add more warmth. Hearing the chorus, where melody is extremely important and the orchestral elements really help, I think this would be excellent for nature documentaries, especially those where the helicopter/aeroplane flies over wide landscapes, mountains, rivers and more. Furthermore, the compositions really go straight through the heart, as Dio would say. Electric and accoustic, or heavy and soft, arrangements are nicely divided over the 5 and a half minutes.

Time for more ferocity now, with "To Stone She Turned", where the sharp riffs announce a deadly wave of sounds. Keyboards continue to deliver melodies and bombast, but let's rejoice again for the metallic power this song puts out. The higher tempo and the double bass drums add to the intensity of the music and also contribute to the listening pleasure. This is some of the Melodic Power Metal that I love! Everything comes to rest in the last few minutes: tempo goes down and the orchestral input puts this song to sleep.

"Fairytales" brings peace and calmness via the piano leads and symphonic backing. The melody of the chorus reminds heavily of the NIGHTWISH song "Bless The Child" and specifically the part "Think of me long enough to make a memory". This is a nice resting point and an excellent song when you're overworked and in need of something softer. Sandra Schleret's performance also helps here. She doesn't sing high, like many Gothic vocalists, rather lower and that's actually a very welcome aspect. The first part of the song is devoid of guitars and drums, but the second half sets in with those instruments, keeping the pace slow enough, just giving the melody more power. Gentle piano touches and symphonic backing, like in the intro, form the tail.

When you're all relaxed, your mind should be ready for something happier again, something catchy. That's where "The Heartblood Symphony" comes in, pumping back some energy into the album and venting large waves of melodic sounds, mainly the chorus lines. Georg's singing in the verses are at first covered with an effect, making his voice sound a bit like Christopher Schmid or Rob Vicatta's efforts in LACRIMAS PROFUNDERE. But it's only a short moment, for the regular Georg comes out afterwards. The previous song reminded of NIGHTWISH, but here too I would like to add a band as comparison, but I just can't find its name. Mainly the chorus melody (or Georg's lines) refer to the 1980s, which is of course nice to hear. Little over halfway a piano-break splits the song in two, after which a screamy guitarsolo comes into play. The "Symphony" ends with the piano and accoustic guitar touches. And this is another gem on this fabulous release.

"Velatum" can be considered the second ballad. Its start certainly indicates this. Lyrically the song appears to deal with old Roman archaeological findings. Heaviness and orchestral bombast come in quite rapidly. When the full power of the chorus is unleashed, all thoughts of a ballad vanish. There's something AXXIS about the song, partly vocals, partly music. Instead of ending with the piano, it's all a capella this time. A video for this song was shot several months ago and can be viewed on It's a nice song, but I don't find it as attractive and powerful as the majority that preceded it.

And once more, the piano paves the way for this next song: "Derelict". And once more the contrast couldn't be bigger when heaviness is added. Midtempo, rolling kickdrums and orchestral instrumentation, turning SERENITY into a force to reckon with. But don't worry, the guitar(s) are the dominant factor here. Diversity was an important criterium when writing this song, as there is a nice balance between heavy outbursts and calmer, melodic moments. Choir-ish singing adds vocal power, but somehow it doesn't feel natural, but a bit forced. The guitarsolo is a welcome addition. "Derelict" is a song that needs several listens and even then it's up to your mood and taste. I have no real problems with this track, but it's harder to swallow than the others.

There was something Folk-ish about "Coldness Kills" and this also counts for "Sheltered (By The Obscure)", where the violins are replaced by the flute. Assisting are the piano, snarerolls and symphonic backing. The heavy guitar and pounding drums are essential ingredients to push this song onwards. The verses are again devoid of heaviness, while the piano leads the way. The keyboards are present in electronic form and this generates an enormous contrast with the rest of the compositions. But they only come in at specific times. The music is more emotional this time. SERENITY has injected this album with lots of symphonic layers and to further stress this a special break was implemented in the second half of "Sheltered".

Last but not least, on "Oceans Of Ruby" the "Fallen Sanctuary" is left behind. A very dynamic and energetic song featuring the two vocal types again: clean and growling. In a way you could say a good shot of epicness was injected here and it's not only the choir-ish chorus that shows this. Oh yes, this song also contains a piano break. I mean, it wouldn't be SERENITY without this, right? ;-) But enough about pianos. "Oceans Of Ruby" ends the album in style, just like it began.

"Words Untold & Dreams Unlived" lacked mainly speed, and while "Fallen Sanctuary" isn't exactly a fast album, it does have more energetic material and better orchestral arrangements that help give the songs bombast and power. This second album is a very big step forward and all things considered pretty much flawless. It's like a completely new SERENITY, but keeping their identity intact. I still wish there were +/- 2 songs that would really give the music a boost, but I'm very happy with the result as it is. I can't or won't add anything else but highly recommend this album to anyone into bands like SONATA ARCTICA, DREAM THEATER, NIGHTWISH, KAMELOT and more, or Symphony meets Progressive meets Power.

More info at

Georg Neuhauser - vocals
Thomas Buchberger - guitars
Mario Hirzinger - keyboards
Simon Holzknecht - bass
Andreas Schipflinger - drums

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KATRA – Beast Within (Napalm Records 2008)

Katra - Beast Within
  1. Grail Of Sahara
  2. Forgotten Bride
  3. Beast Within
  4. Fade To Gray
  5. Swear
  6. Promise Me Everything
  7. Mystery
  8. Flow
  9. Scars In My Heart
  10. Storm Rider
  11. Mist Of Dawn
  12. Kuunpoika (MECANO cover)

Gothic Metal and Scandinavia, but also The Netherlands, have always formed a perfect and successful marriage, especially in Norway and Finland. One of the biggest names in Finland's history is NIGHTWISH, although it's food for discussion if they are a Gothic or Power Metal band. Let's keep it at a mix of both. They influenced many after them and are still going strong. One of those newer bands is KATRA. This band revolves around vocalist Katra Solopuro, hence KATRA. Some of the musicians in the band have been active in Pop, Rock, Metal, Jazz, ... so there is certainly no lack of experience and various influences. Founded in 2006, the band has been working hard to create the first release, the self-titled debut that came out in February 2007.

On a sidenote, KATRA also participated in the pre-selections of the Eurovision song contest to represent Finland in 2007. They didn't go through, as we all know. But Finland did win the contest in 2006, as LORDI crushed all competition, hehehe.

At the time of the debut album new material was also being written and that would feature on the follow-up. "Beast Within" is the title and the album came out on the 29th August via Napalm Records, who signed the band early 2008.

Musically it's hard not to think of especially NIGHTWISH and WITHIN TEMPTATION. Katra's vocals play a big role, reminding of NIGHTWISH-with-Tarja Turunen period, although Katra is far from a Tarja clone, even though she's a classically trained singer. Melody is very important in KATRA's songs, as is clear in the majority of the tracks. Keyboards are the responsable instrument for that, not just with symphonic arrangements, but also adding some eastern spices. Examples of this input can be found in "Grail Of Sahara" and "Promise Me Everything".

Since Metal is at its base a guitar-oriented kind of music, it would ofcourse be nice to have songs that put sheer heaviness in the spotlights. That's where "Flow" and "Storm Rider" come in. While the first still contains strings accents, it's the core of the music that is the dominant factor. The overall result makes this one of the best songs on the album. The second one is a faster song and around that time in the tracklisting this is a very good move. Sadly enough you'll encounter some samples along the track's path, but they don't endanger the rest of the song.

Among this mix of heaviness and melodies Katra and co. took the time to write something softer aka ballads. Not one, but three: "Promise Me Everything", "Scars In My Heart" and "Mist Of Dawn". The first is musically very decent, but it's the vocal department that knows a few problems. It doesn't sound as good, as well integrated as in some of the previous songs. "Scars In My Heart" is just average, nothing bad, but nothing special either. "Mist Of Dawn" is the best (third time, best time?), which could be due to the symphonic arrangements.

To come back to the melody aspect: there are solos, mostly guitar ones, but here and there the keyboards also get their moments of glory and that makes the album more interesting.

Although "Beast Within" is in general a good and solid release, there are a few tracks that are below the level of the others. "Mystery" contains your typical Gothic-ish keyboards/piano melodies. The heaviness is to be found in the chorus, but both the vocals and chorus disappoint. The band fails to satisfy, since the result is nothing more but boring, in my opinion. The Finnish cover of "Hijo de la Luna" (MECANO), "Kuunpoika", is a nice attempt, but here too the result fails to catch my interest.

As filled as the Gothic Metal genre is, there's always room for one more. KATRA has created a very decent "Beast Within", offering anything you could ask for within the boundaries of this style. Pluspoints go to the very good production, Katra's voice in most songs, the compositions and keeping the legacy of old NIGHTWISH alive. ;-) Yes, I find that a good thing. Less points or points deducted for the ballads (even though they're not really bad), Katra's voice in other cases and certain musical choices. Anyone into NIGHTWISH, WITHIN TEMPTATION and similar is advised to check out KATRA and their "Beast Within".

More info at

Katra Solopuro - vocals
Kristian Kangasniemi - guitars
Jani Wilund - keyboards
Johannes Tolonen - bass
Jaakko Järvensivu - drums

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DIGNITY – Project Destiny (Napalm Records 2008)

Dignity - Project Destiny
  1. Project Destiny
  2. Arrogance And Rapture
  3. Cry In Despair
  4. Dreams Never Die
  5. Icarus
  6. Inner Circle Sympathy
  7. The Edge Of The Blade
  8. Inner Demons
  9. Don't Pay The Ferryman (CHRIS DE BURGH cover)

DIGNITY was formed in 2006 by drummer Roland Navratil (ex-EDENBRIDGE) and keyboardist Frank Pitters. Martin Mayr and John Boy, having played together in INVICTUS, joined soon afterwards to work on demo material. The following year everything was arranged to focus on the debut album, "Project Destiny". One spot was still empty: the vocalist. Several auditions didn't result in anything concrete, so DIGNITY kept searching and found DREAMLAND singer Jake E. willing enough to front the band. His entrance happend in October 2007, while the vocal recordings took place in February 2008, at the end of which Jonas Kjellgren (CENTINEX, SCAR SYMMETRY, ZONARIA, ...) started the mixing process. The mastering afterwards was in the hands of Mikka Jussila (Finnvox Studios).

So, everything done on a musical level and for the visual aspect, the Columbian artist Felipe Machado was contacted to design the artwork for "Project Destiny". Napalm Records released the record on the 29th August.

On a musical level it's Melodic Hard Rock that is on offer here. "Project Destiny" starts off directly with a sort of choir-ish welcome, while the instrumentation leads the way, shall we say, up the stairs (see the album cover). Midtempo is chosen the most, here and the majority of the tracks. No worries about heaviness, as the guitar(s) provide enough power, but also can be silent to let the melodies and vocals come out better. Jake's input sounds very good, very sincere and quite passionate. Since Hard Rock isn't as technical as Heavy or Power Metal, it's good to see Roland's experience being put to good use, as he certainly doesn't use a standard pattern, but tries to keep things interesting via tempo changes and fills. Over halfway it's solo time and there's even an epic piano piece before continuing at full force again. A very nice opener and a perfect reflection of the music DIGNITY makes.

The guitar power is certainly present in "Arrogance And Rapture", but it's the keyboards that take up the momst important role. Jake shows he can also sing in a more gentle manner. Jonas Kjellgren has done a very good job at putting the drums reasonably well to the front, as this instrument does a lot of good to the songs. The tempo is lower, though, but it's the way Roland uses his kit and empty spots in the compositions. The contrast between the verses and chorus is also not to be taken lightly, since the latter one contains the power and passion. For some Jake's clean vocals might be a problem, but after a few listens you'll easily get used to them. Personally I think he does a very good job.

Also kicking off with full guitar power is "Cry In Despair" and as the seconds pass by you have the impression it's going to be a speedier song, which would be a great move. But sadly this isn't the case. However, there's is another nice contrast between the calmer, melodic verses and heavier outbursts in between. Furthermore, the situation improves when the bridge and chorus come in and those are the parts where the full instrumentation is to be sought. The tempo also increases at that point and drumwise it's quite dynamic. "Cry In Despair" is comparable to the later incarnation of SAVATAGE and/or JON OLIVA'S PAIN or in other words: pure quality!

Time for a bit more punch again, although the overall melodies aren't exactly happy, more hopeful: "Dreams Never Die". Entirely guitar-driven, this midtempo rocker is another pearl on this wonderful album. The gentle recurring piano touches give the song a more emotional touch (no, not Emo-like, don't worry) and at the same time it has something Gothic-ish, like LACRIMOSA, LACRIMAS PROFUNDERE, some DEPECHE MODE, and similar. But it's just that specific part. Around 03:25 it's solotime, announced by the synths before adapting the canvas for the guitarsolo.

With "Icarus" (no, it's not ANGRA's song) DIGNITY have composed one of the best songs I have ever heard and especially the chorus is simply perfect, epic, hymnic, powerful and so much more. The calm start and heavy outburst is a recurring pattern, but this is not a problem at all, as all songs are shining diamonds. Anyhow, calm start thus, just Jake, the guitar and soft symphonic backing. The power and melody come to life in the bridge, but even more in the chorus. The verses contain no heavy guitars (at first), although this instrument is present. Roland plays a less diverse pattern here, at least compared to his input in the first few songs. The tempo is also not that high. With its 04:40 minutes of playtime you'd think it's enough, but the song fades out on a repetition of the chorus and this makes the song sound incomplete. At least two or three minutes should have been added for a solo, an interlude, extra verses. But that chorus... *drools*

"Inner Circle Sympathy" is sort of a powerballad, until the small speed increase kicks in for the chorus and guitarsolo much later. Guitarpower and keyboard melodies are the basis and overall this song is quite radio-friendly. As good as it is, however, I must say that is the least interesting track, although the keyboard leads over halfway are a nice element.

Hard Rock is what is needed, so "The Edge Of The Blade" kicks back some energy into the album. The basic ingredients have been used in large quantities, which means lots of melody and the keyboards' role being bigger again, while the guitar(s) come out less heavy. Roland's drumwork has changed for the better, resulting in a variable kind of playing: tempo changes, breaks, double bass, well thought-of fills. "The Edge Of The Blade" is also one of the better songs on "Project Destiny".

And before the "Project" is ended with a cover, "Inner Demons" offers another happy, dynamic song full of melody, hymnic singing and a feel-good mood. The keyboard-flute is a perfect ingredient to achieve this. The double-bass drumming keeps the pace high enough, also to inject the compositions with power. Diversity once more is important, to keep your ears attentive.

Last but not least there's the CHRIS DE BURGH cover "Don't Pay The Ferryman". All in all, DIGNITY covered it quite well, but I enjoyed DOMAIN's rendition (on their "Stardawn" album) more.

For a debut album it's more than obvious that "Project Destiny" is very recommended material for any Hard Rock and/or Melodic Metal fan. The sound is very good, the compositions are more than standard Hard Rock, due to the use of keyboards. Despite my finding "Inner Circle Sympathy" the only song that's not as attractive and catchy as the others, there's is really not one weak track to be found. DIGNITY will have a hard time topping this one, but since its members already have gathered lots of experience (one more than the other), this shouldn't be a problem. Strange enough, I found Jake E's efforts here in DIGNITY much better than what he has done so far with DREAMLAND. Is it natural evolution? In any case, kudos to him for improving his singing. To cut things short: DIGNITY = high quality Hard Rock and if you're into this music, you have no reason not to buy "Project Destiny". Definitely one of the highlights of 2008.

More info at

Jake E. - vocals
Martin Mayr - guitars
Frank Pitters - keyboards
John Boy Bastard - bass
Roland Navratil - drums

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DESTRUCTION – D.E.V.O.L.U.T.I.O.N. (AFM Records 2008)

Destruction - D.E.V.O.L.U.T.I.O.N.
  1. Devolution
  2. Elevator To Hell
  3. Vicious Circle - The Seven Deadly Sins
  4. Offenders Of The Throne
  5. Last Desperate Scream
  6. Urge (The Greed Of Gain)
  7. The Violation Of Morality
  8. Inner Indulgence
  9. Odyssey Of Frustration
  10. No One Shall Survive

DESTRUCTION have been teaching Thrash since the early 1980s and after all these years they sure don't need anyone telling them how it's to be done. Thrash is pure, aggressive, raw and uncompromised power. That was certainly true for DESTRUCTION back in the 80s: the rawness. Back then the means were lacking to have a sound like today's standards, but that was also one of the charmes of the music. In those past 25 years (the band is celebrating its anniversary this year) there was a split with vocalist/bassist Schmier around 1990. Guitarist Mike carried on, making three releases which aren't counted as official discography material according to a message on the band's website. How they sounded... only the people that have these releases can tell, but I reckon it's not as Thrashy as before. The reunion then in 1999, with a strong effort called "All Hell Breaks Loose". A much heavier "The Antichrist" followed, but things also steadily got less good. Just listen to "Metal Discharge", where not only the production, but also certain songs weren't exactly masterpieces.

DESTRUCTION fought back in this new line-up, with Marc Reign on drums. Especially that position has known many occupants over the years. The trio also signed to AFM Records, thus leaving Nuclear Blast. The first release was 2005's "Inventor Of Evil", for which the band worked with HYPOCRISY/PAIN mainman Peter Tägtgren, offering production-wise a much better result than before. The majority of the songs also made this a very decent effort and showed the war isn't over yet, not by a long shot. Although the band's oldest albums are still available, Schmier, Mike and Marc decided to re-record several of their songs and even add a few new ones that would not appear on the follow-up of "Inventor Of Evil". And so it happened: "Thrash Anthems" was born. Mixed by Jacob Hansen, the old songs were given new found power and shone like never before.

Because of this successful collaboration, the Thrash veterans decided to book studio time with Jacob for their newest album, "D.E.V.O.L.U.T.I.O.N.", which is scheduled for the 29th of August. Each letter in the title stands for the first letter of each song. The new release is also a special one, as the band celebrates its 25th anniversary anno 2008. To stress this fact DESTRUCTION will make a big tour later this year.

Focusing on the new songs, it's clear that the guys still have the will and energy to keep on producing the music that made them big. The new album kicks off with an accoustic intro. And then all hell breaks loose as Schmier's screams it out and heaviness bursts out: fast riffs, devastating drums and an angry Schmier. What more do you want? And it's not only "Devolution", but the following songs also keep the level of aggression and anger high enough to make this album even more enjoyable than "Inventor Of Evil":

* "Vicious Circle - The Seven Deadly Sins" - slow, doomish start with choir singing, "In nomine patris, ..." and then pedal to the metal with lots of double bass attacks.
* "Last Desperate Scream" - heavy riffing and foremost pounding drums. It's not speed that matters here, but the music is more direct. Schmier's vocals are more inline with the music and all things combined make this a very good song.
* "Urge (The Greed Of Gain)" - another speed booster where Marc is responsable for the artillery with a stamina that would make many of today's drummers extremely jealous. Outstanding work! There's also more melody to be found here and although DESTRUCTION isn't exactly a band that relies heavily on melody, the result is well thought of.
* "Odyssey Of Frustration" - ferocious and dangerous, what DESTRUCTION does best. Could be a classic-to-be.
* "No One Shall Survive" - the closing song, again with those pounding drums. Reminds a bit of PARADOX, but that doesn't make it less good. On the contrary even, as both bands are masters of their art.

Next to these vicious assaults, you'll find songs where the band slows down a little to look at the situation a bit better: "Elevator To Hell", where midtempo rules and the real power comes out in the chorus. Schmier certainly doesn't calm down at all. Somewhere in/around the middle a dark part dwells and the tempo level has decreased enormously. It's as if the elevator is going down through a shaft and once arrived in hell you'll feel the power again, expressed via a crazy solo. compared to previous efforts, I have the impression Mike has practised on making his solos a little different, perhaps to better fit the lyrical theme or atmosphere. They certainly are not what you'd expect, but everything's well executed and forms a sort of fresh kind of input. Still, "Elevator To Hell" is - in my opinion - an average song. It's good, but it just doesn't strike you like the other ones.

"The Violation Of Morality" also can be put in this category, although the situation is better. Midtempo also reigns here and Marc adds his typical bass attacks to go for full power after some three minutes, when the guitarsolo is due. I didn't count it with the shortlist above, even though it's also one of the better songs on "D.E.V.O.L.U.T.I.O.N.".

And so we have come to the tracks that form a sort of black stain: "Offenders Of The Throne" and "Inner Indulgence". The problem with the first is not exactly the speed, even though it's a slow song. Schmier tries to sound angry and whatever more, but this doesn't work with the music. Also, in the chorus he sounds as if he's whining. When you compare this to his input in "The Defiance Will Remain" or "Metal Discharge", for example, he's turned into an Emo here. Don't take this personally, because I'm only referring to the way he sings in this and the other songs. Even Mike's solo cannot bring this song to higher levels. "Inner Indulgence" also has a slower tempo. Despite the few speed increases, via Marc, I find this a less good song. Not exactly bad, just not as sticking, as killer as the others. You expect at some point the Thrash button will be pushed, but it's like waiting for Godot. Like with "Offenders Of The Throne" the chorus is the weakest moment.

25 years of DESTRUCTION, who would have thought that in the 1990s? The comeback was great and anno 2008 Schmier and Mike show once more the band's time is far from over. As good as "Inventor Of Evil" was, personally I think that "D.E.V.O.L.U.T.I.O.N." is another (or better) step in the right direction. The sound is different than on the previous albums, since Jacob Hansen sat behind the desk this time, like with the excellent "Thrash Anthems" last year. On a sidenote: guitarist Vinnie Moore (UFO) plays in "Devolution", while Jeff Waters (ANNIHILATOR) can be heard in "Urge (The Greed Of Gain)". DESTRUCTION is still one of the leading Thrash bands and can still kick upcoming bands' asses. Despite the few bad songs, this is an album for the fans and for Thrash fans in general. Here's to another 25 years: cheers!

More info at

Schmier - vocals, bass
Mike Siffringer - guitars
Marc Reign - drums

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ROSS THE BOSS – New Metal Leader (AFM Records 2008)

Ross The Boss - New Metal Leader
  1. I.L.H.
  2. Blood Of Knives
  3. I Got The Right
  4. Death & Glory
  5. Plague Of Lies
  6. God Of Dying
  7. May The Gods Be With You
  8. Constantine's Sword
  9. We Will Kill
  10. Matador
  11. Immortal Son

Ross The Boss, highly famed for his work in MANOWAR in the 1980s. Almost single-handedly - well, bassist Joey DeMaio, vocalist Eric Adams and drummer Scott Columbus also played their part - did he shape the music of MANOWAR's classic albums, from "Battle Hymns" in 1982 until and including 1988's "Kings Of Metal".

As the band he co-founded changed their line-up as years passed by and more concerts were to be played and albums to be written/recorded, Ross played in other bands then, including THE DICTATORS, a Punk band. But his past helped to get his name out and made him one of the most famous Metal guitarists. Not wanting to re-join MANOWAR (small chance Karl Logan would be kicked out or the band playing with two guitarists) Ross decided to form a band around himself. For that he got in touch with some of the members of the German band IVORY NIGHT, a name that doesn't ring any bells with me. I know an IVORY KNIGHT from Canada and the German IVORY TOWER, but that's it.

Musically it's very easy to guess what Ross and co. play: Heavy Metal, perhaps with the occasional flirt with Power Metal. Or if you want band comparisons: MANOWAR and HAMMERFALL have joined in marriage. Ofcourse, similar sounding bands can be mentioned as well.

The album was titled "New Metal Leader", released on the 22nd August and with this I think Ross is trying to get back at his former band mates, who call themselves the Kings of Metal. Anyhow, this title might give the members inspiration and drive to carry on, but they sure aren't leaders (yet?).

The album starts with the intro that is "I.L.H.", an abbreviation of which I don't know what it stands for. It's "Blood Of Knives" that shows us the first elements of Ross's view on Metal today. Midtempo is key here. The drums, although not very technical, have a pounding role, and the guitars were given a fat and heavy sound. Patrick's vocals are clean, but contain that touch of roughness that is important in this kind of music. You could, in a way, lay links with - even though they aren't similar or even identical - Joacim Cans, Eric Adams, Tobias Sammet, ... Luckily Ross still knows how to play solos and this certainly adds points to the song, even though in general it's quite average what the ROSS THE BOSS band brings here.

"I Got The Right" starts in a hymnic manner, which made me think of HAMMERFALL's "Last Man Standing". When the Metal kicks in, it suffices to think of HAMMERFALL, PARAGON, MOB RULES, and similar. Slow midtempo is the pace and although all in all this is a reasonable good song, it doesn't get me excited. Maybe it would have worked back in the 80s. Luckily Ross's soloing makes the song a bit more interesting. The ending is annoying, though: a repetition of the chorus with guitar wankery in the back.

But there must be material that makes you glued to the speakers, right? Ross has been pplaying Heavy Metal for many years, writing classic MANOWAR songs and more, so it can't be that he has lost that talent? Well, no, with "Death & Glory" he sure hasn't. Finally something speedy and very welcome, I must say. There's also a bit more aggression to be found here. Everything fits and even the leads are quite entertaining. This is a true highlight on the album and there should be more like this.

"Plague Of Lies" continues the right direction, although it's a midtempo rocker here, reminding heavily of the 80s. The main rhythm is looped, but the solo later on is very delicious, I'll tell you that. So, track number two that puts a smile on my face. Keep it up!

Among the heavy tracks there's also room for something softer, ballad-ish: "God Of Dying". Patrick's voice doesn't work very well with the music or this kind of song. He's backed by gentle organ sounds, like has been done by MANOWAR in several of their songs. Later the entire band comes into play and the level of heaviness then increases as well. Not really a bad song, but it's nothing special either.

Although "May The Gods Be With You" kicks back the Rock in the music, I find it hard to stay focused. Is it taste-related? The old MANOWAR interests me more than what Ross and co. present here, even though there are similarities. Or is it because there's an abundance of Metal nowadays that made me more critical of what's available today? The execution is very good, the sound is very good, but somehow I can't consider it one of the highlights.

The situation improves a little with "Constantine's Swords", where the pounding drums and guitars remind in a way of MARILYN MANSON's "The Beautiful People". The verses aren't that interesting, but the chorus is where the beauty lies. Sadly, a chorus alone can't carry a song nor can it save a song if the other parts aren't of the same quality level.

Two recommended songs so far, any more? Yes, "We Will Kill". For this title I think Ross looked at the lyrics of "Kill With Power", where this phrase can be found. This song has got more punch, it's more powerful than the previous ones. Even the MANOWAR-ish warcry in the chorus increases this feeling.

After this interesting third highlight, it's back to the level Average. "Matador"'s problems are the boring chorus and the annoying screams, even though the music is much heavier than before and this one clearly shows it's got balls! And to close there's "Immortal Son". The start is accoustic and overall it's a slow, hymnic song. Sadly enough, this one really is the least good, not to say the worst, song on the album.

Ross The Boss has created qualitative material in the past and although he tries to keep the legacy alive here - kudos and respect for that and the music does have something 80s from time to time - there are only a few highlights (4), in my opinion, even though the sound is good and the material overall is quite listenable. I'll repeat what I said a few lines higher: is it because there's an abundance of Metal nowadays resulting in becoming more critical? The idea behind "New Metal Leader" was good, but there are still many battles to be fought to be the leader. Fans of especially MANOWAR will like this and anyone into (present) HAMMERFALL and similar could also find this an interesting release. But personally I think the songs will only do good every once in a while. Fingers crossed for the follow-up.

More info at

Patrick Fuchs - vocals
Ross The Boss - guitars
Carsten Ketterling - bass
Matthias Mayer - drums

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CIVIL CHAOS – Live It Up (Holier Than Thou Records 2008)

Civil Chaos - Live It Up
  1. Live It Up

CIVIL CHAOS is a Hard Rock band from the UK. The band was founded in 2006 as SIDEWINDER. From the start they worked hard to get the name out, to even create own material. In a time span of two years the obvious line-up changes happened and because of this the new formation found it better to get a new name: CIVIL CHAOS. The plan is to release more own material via internet, radio and gigs. At least, that's what the press release said. So, CDs? LPs? Yay for mp3s... not. I did get the download single "Live It Up" (available since the 18th August) on a CD-R, so I shouldn't complain, hahaha.

Recently the band signed with Holier Than Thou Records for their upcoming album and single releases. "Live It Up" is the first, downloadable from sites like eMusic, iTunes, ... There's also a "Live It Up" EP, which has (obviously) more songs.

Since I got the download single, there's only one song to comment on. It's like people that review books get to comment on one chapter. Anyway, "Live It Up" is a midtempo rocker, in Classic Rock style. Think DIO, THUNDER, Y&T, AC/DC and similar. Nick's got a greasy, venomous voice that fits this music perfectly. The sound is quite good and as expected when you hear the term Classic Rock. The chorus is catchy and should get the crowd to sing-along. In this little more than 4 minutes track you get qualitative guitarwork (plus solos, yes) and musicianship overall and even a break before coming back to life again. I want more!

CIVIL CHAOS have shown with just this song they can continue to keep Classic Rock alive in case most of the biggies call it quits. This one song is a clear proof of that. I would like to hear the other songs that are on the "Live It Up" EP or even the (upcoming) album, but if it's paid downloads only, I'll pass. It's not the same as when you buy a CD in the stores with better audio quality, booklet, etc... the whole package in fact. But about CIVIL CHAOS: recommended band for anyone into Hard Rock and the mentioned bands.

More info at

Nick Robinson - vocals, guitars
Lee Kitson - guitars
'Dirty Berry' Burton - bass
Chris Robinson - drums

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SYMPHONITY – Voice From The Silence (Limb Music Products 2008)

Symphonity - Voice From The Silence
  1. La Morale Dell' Immorale (instrumental)
  2. Give Me Your Helping Hand
  3. Gates Of Fantasy
  4. Bring Us The Light
  5. Salvation Dance
  6. The Silence - Memories (Part I)
  7. The Silence - In Silence Forsaken (Part II)
  8. The Silence - Relief Reverie (Part III)
  9. Searching You
  10. Evening Star
  11. Afterlife (instrumental)

Power Metal has long been my favourite style and it still is, but these days it's hard to find bands as qualitative as those that became big in the first years of the 21st century. Melodic Power Metal the last few years meant lots of melody, less and less power. But then there's a band in the Czech Republic, SYMPHONITY, that wants to bring back some life into the "power" aspect of this wonderful genre, while keeping it melodic, unlike the US-style that relies heavily on the guitars and heavy riffing. The band was formerly known as NEMESIS and before that OTTER, when starting in 1994. Over the years the band steadily got more members and a first album, "Goddess Of Revenge", came out in 2003. But as is tradition, the line-up got changed a few times until it wasn't really NEMESIS anymore. This lead to the change to SYMPHONITY and with Olaf Hayer (DIONYSUS, LUCA TURILLI, ...) on vocals the band was/is ready to conquer the world. Limb Music Products could be very helpful in that quest.

So, new line-up and a new album, "Voice From The Silence", to become available on the 15th August. Guitarist Libor Krivak handled the production, while famed Sascha Paeth (AT VANCE, ANGRA, KAMELOT, RHAPSODY (OF FIRE), LUCA TURILLI, EPICA, EDGUY, AVANTASIA, SHAMAN, AINA and many more) did the mixing. And he did a very good job, I must say. Perhaps a little too good, as the bass can sometimes be heard better than the guitars. And if I may, I found the cymbals a bit too silent, too far in the back, while the snare comes out clear enough.

On "Voice From The Silence" you'll notice the influences from mainly great bands like STRATOVARIUS, ANGRA, RHAPSODY, LUCA TURILLI and even DIVINEFIRE. The Czechs even put a lot of focus on letting the instruments do the talking, despite having a great vocalist on board. The guitar certainly does not play a secondary role, as it provides the power and even in many cases the melodies. Also for the solos this instrument is indispensable.

The album has an intro and outro, both instrumental and one more bombastic than the other. The intro, "La Morale Dell' Immorale", has all the power and elements of a full orchestra, including the percussion, while the outro, "Afterlife", is just a piano moment, but a very nice one. And surprise, there's a hidden song on the last track, too. I didn't know that, as it's nowhere written, but my CD-player kept going on past the 1-minute marker, while the outro has already stopped then. So I fast-forwarded and heard "Irgendwie, Irgendwo, Irgendwann", the hit single by Nena and Kim Wilde so many years ago. That really made me frown, but I guess it's to be taken with a grain of salt. The rendition is nice and Olaf sings the German parts, while I-don't-know-who takes care of the English ones.

From the intro it's straight to "Give Me Your Helping Hand", one of the finer songs here. Uptempo, double bass and of course lots of melody. Needless to say that this is only one of the songs that contains the right dose of catchiness, especially in the chorus. Interesting enough, the band also incorporated a special piece in the middle, a bit Progressive-like and close to DREAM THEATER. "Give Me Your Helping Hand" is one majestic song combining elements from STRATOVARIUS and DREAM THEATER in a splendid manner.

And the situation even improves with what could be the best song on the album: "Gates Of Fantasy". The influences from ANGRA, STRATOVARIUS and DIVINEFIRE make this a very epic track. For the, in my opinion, touching but uptempo chorus there's no better vocalist than Olaf Hayer, who's one of the best Melodic (Power) Metal singers, to express certain emotions and with a certain warmth. Here as well there's a piece in the middle that totally different than what preceded or will follow. This time you can hear Eastern elements, the music is also calmer and Jazzy. The connection with the chorus afterwards is well done.

Before going uptempo again, a sniff of spacey keyboards announces "Bring Us The Light", a nice fast midtempo track in vein of old STRATOVARIUS and RHAPSODY's "Legendary Tales" era. Olaf added a bit more power/balls to his singing for certain moments. Feel free to sing along to the chorus, for it's one that will hit you if you're open for it. The bass is again very audible, but that's no real problem, despite my earlier mention. The keyboards did get an important role, especially as harpsichord. Solos are flawless and very much welcome. Overall, this is one of the songs that will do absolutely great on stage.

And then we've got our third uptempo track, "Salvation Dance", and that's something these Czechs are very good at. Guitar and keyboard show the way and the bass also can stand in front. Little after halfway another special part comes along: midtempo and it's like the guys are jamming. But it's all well done. No complaints here. Musically I couldn't help thinking of LUCA TURILLI's "King Of The Nordic Twilight" album, together with some STRATOVARIUS and a sniff of ANGRA.

Tracks 6, 7 and 8 form a trilogy. Due to their running times, the first and third part form a sort of in- and outro, while "In Silence Forsaken" holds all the beauty and majesty. "The Silence" begins with soft winds in the back while gentle piano and keyboard elements do their work. Twinkling sounds as from a xylophone lead you into the second part, after which the Metal instrumentation falls in, inline with the melody and overall keeping it bombastic. Everything falls silent after a minute and a half, when Olaf is to sing his parts, joined by the accoustic guitar. The entire instrumentation soon takes over again, though. The chorus keeps that bombast intact and reminds of STRATOVARIUS. Few minutes before the end there's a beautiful instrumental moment dominated by the harpsichord and drums, while the guitars steadily increase their melodicness and more orchestral elements are added to form one big powerful whole of symphonic Metal. A job very well done, that cannot be denied. "Relief Reverie" is a title that surely doesn't stand for powerful riffs and pounding drums. The piano plays a very important role here. Atmosphere is another indispensable aspect. The lyrics are short and spoken by one of the musicians, I think, because the man has an accent and I don't think it's Olaf. Confirmation needed here. But it's a nice closure of an even nicer trilogy.

"Searching You" stands apart from the other songs, in that its compositions and melodies are different. The focus on Metal is greater. It's a more direct, very rocking midtempo song. While the first part of the verses come over as Jazzy, the second part is very much Metal and in general I need to lay a link to present AVANTASIA so you can imagine what it sounds like. "Searching You" has a certain epicness, but as a whole it's not as attractive as the other songs, although it's well produced and the parts are all well executed. The solos are vital and make the song more interesting, in my opinion.

"Evening Star", finally, is the longest song of the pack, ending at about 08:40. This is another shining diamond, just like "Gates Of Fantasy", for example. You thus get the classic uptempo Melodic Power Metal of before and like several big bands have delivered in the past. The symphonics again provide the melody. The tempo slows down in the bridge, where you'll find a nice amount of bombast, while everything increases again for the chorus. Need comparable stuff? STRATOVARIUS, LUCA TURILLI, ANGRA. Anyhow, around halfway it's solotime, be it the guitar or keyboards. Bass and drums follow neatly and there are even a couple of tempo changes, all succeeding flawlessly. At a given moment silence takes over to let the strings shine in the spotlights, after which other orchestral instruments (e.g. bassoon, I think) are added. Few minutes before the ending of the song it's back to business as usual, but this part is simply thrown at you, for it comes in very sudden. There's nothing to negatively comment on, it's - like I said - another great song.

As with other bands whose release(s) I had the chance to review I'm not familiar with SYMPHONITY's older sound/songs, but I do know that what they present on "Voice From The Silence" is qualitative Melodic Power Metal, with symphonic arrangements, of course. The name-dropping served as indicator of what to expect and fulfill your taste if you are looking for bands who continue where these bands left off. SYMPHONITY and "Voice From The Silence" could be the Power Metal surprise of the year, although I may be exaggerating a bit (much). Either way, quality is assured here. Now keep an eye on the release of this album.

More info at

Olaf Hayer - vocals
Libor Krivak - guitars
Ivo Hofmann - keyboards
Tomas Celechovsky - bass
Martin Skaroupka - drums

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IVAN MIHALJEVIC – Sandcastle (Attic Room 2008)

Ivan Mihaljevic - Sandcastle
  1. Sandcastle
  2. Cascading Mirrors
  3. Distant World
  4. Bulldozer
  5. Questions In My Mind (Part I)
  6. Hi-Tech Orient
  7. Questions In My Mind (Part II)
  8. Spring
  9. Empathy
  10. Macedonian War Song
  11. Friend
  12. Shimmering Karma
  13. The Road To Nowhere
  14. Raindrops

Ivan Mihaljevic is a Croatian guitarist (°16/08/1986), who started his career in 2004 or around that period, at least to He started playing the guitar at the age of 14 (he also took singing and piano lessons) and has played many gigs so far, even had his own band (FORSAKEN) at some point. Four years ago he played at Wacken Open Air with HARD TIME, said to be Croatia's no. 1 Heavy Metal band. Truth be told, until now I had never heard of either Ivan or HARD TIME. It's thanks to the devoted fan Paola (last name unknown to me) from the Ivan Mihaljevic Street Team (MySpace page) I obtained a copy of Ivan's "Sandcastle" release, which came out on the 23rd of July. It's October 2009 when I'm writing this, as I received the CD in the summer of 2009. Despite his young age, he has already achieved quite a lot, including playing gigs with Paul Gilbert and recording songs for a JOHN DENNER album in 2008, featuring Billy Sheehan, Brett Garsed, Phil Hilborne, Jamie Humphries, Owen Edwards, Danny Gill, ... Most names unknown to me, but I think they are known in whatever category JOHN DENNER's music fits. And last but not least, Ivan played on stage with Les Paul during that period. Next to his time in HARD TIME (gigging and working on a new album), Ivan is a guitar instructor and the plans for his next solo album, "Destination Unknown", are unfolding rapidly.

But on to the received album, "Sandcastle". It has 14 tracks, 8 of which are instrumentals. Since I'm a fan of instrumental music, that's at least one good aspect of this album. Several guitarists have done like Ivan, only going instrumental the whole album. Some examples are Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Kiko Loureiro, Jeff Loomis, Paul Gilbert (one of Ivan's favourite players), Steve Morse, Eric Johnson, Jeff Beck and so on. Ivan gets help from Majkl Jagunic on bass and Craig Devine on drums, but the album also features a few guest musicians: John Denner (solo in "Bulldozer"), Igor Tatarevic (harpsichord solo in "Empathy" and keyboards in "Raindrops") and Taher Sanuri (vocals in "Empathy").

Fourteen tracks with a small majority (8) being instrumental. It starts with "Sandcastle". Sounding like OVERLOADED in the beginning, the music soon turns into something more Jazzy in vein of KIKO LOUREIRO and JOE SATRIANI. The production is quite clear and the guitar is high in the mix, which is of course a logical decision. The title track is a midtempo one, though has an uptempo outbreak. A good move, if you ask me, as it's for the benefit of the song. The guitarwork is obviously very good. Keyoards offer backing in a mechanical manner. Kettle drums put the song to an end. They sound fake and that's a pity after such a good ride. I mean, surely there are better orchestral samples than this?

"Cascading Mirrors" is an even better song. Also having a Jazzy start, things sound very suitable to cruise to in your convertible. Again the comparison with KIKO LOUREIRO and JOE SATRIANI (and similar) can be made. Ivan gave this song a more 80's feel. The more rocking can be detected in the chorus. The guitarwork is once again of exquisite quality and quite touching at some point. To make this all come out as good as possible, several layers were created and for the better. "Bulldozer", as the title indicates, starts with the sound of such a machine/vehicle. Slow Rock follows, but the pace soon quickens. This is the third instrumental on the album and it rocks!! Rock, Jazz and more, all in one and neatly changing from one style to another.

But then fate struck and we get the first crappy song: "Hi-Tech Orient". It contains drumsamples in a Techno/Spacey jacket and at rapid pace. The guitarwork is good, but it just doesn't not fit with such drum... shit. Sorry for the term, but don't make an instrumental guitar-oriented album and then add computersounds for the drumparts. It just doesn't work. Add some spacey keyboards and the mess is complete. Good guitarwork surrounded by the wrong elements. Sad but true. The VIVALDI cover "Spring" makes up for this and can be added to the shortlist of highlights. The same thing counts for the energetic and uptempo "Macedonian War Song". Solid piece of work. And while I'm at it, the excellent and rocking "Shimmering Karma" with its accoustic break (incl. piano) and album closer "Raindrops" (a very relaxing and soothing song, I must say) are the final diamonds to be remembered.

The instrumental portion of "Sandcastle" is obviously very good, save for that one ugly duckling that is "Hi-Tech Orient". The other six tracks all contain vocals and are of a different style. And although it's nice to not hear the same stuff every time, changing styles on one album can be dangerous and disrupt the cohesion. The first example of the style change is the Poppy "Distant World". The accoustic guitar is featured, with a R'n'B-like drumbeat (that alone made me frown) and there's even a violin. It sounds so out of place after the first two instrumental tracks. Overall, it's an ok song, but personally, I find it boring very rapidly. "Questions In My Mind (Part I)" was better, with its midtempo Rock. The chorus added extra melody to the song and the guitarsolo was a welcome element. But here too, it's not Ivan's best work.

The same counts for the EXTREME-like ballad-ish Pop Rock song "Questions In My Mind (Part II)". The percussion is a nice element, though, and works well with the accoustic environment. But it's not all bad, as "Empathy" shows. An accoustic start that flows over into the Jazzy Rock that was present in the instrumental songs. But this time Ivan added vocals, sung by Taher Sanuri. In general, an ok song and the best of the sung ones. Two songs left, "Friend" and "The Road To Nowhere". The first starts accoustically, yet Ivan's vocals sound very whiney and emo. Backing comes from spacey/electronic keyboards. The violin makes a return in the chorus. Overall the music isn't bad, but luckily Ivan added a guitar solo to try to turn the song into a better direction. The other one starts with a traffic jam. Look at the title and it seems like a logical decision. This is a Rocksong, no doubt about that. But the radio-friendliness almost litterally flows out of the speakers. Especially the chorus is outright boring. Once again, no comments on Ivan's guitarwork, as it's good.

Ivan Mihaljevic is a fresh addition to the scene of guitarists that make instrumental albums. It's great to see such talent at such a young age. His music is similar to that of - I've mentioned them enough, I guess - Paul Gilbert, Kiko Loureiro, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, and similar. Enough examples of excellent guitarists out there. Ivan had accomplished quite a lot already for being a solo artist and his debut album, "Sandcastle", is a clear example of his skills and insight into music. It is a fact, though, that the album feels more like a compilation than a coherent release. Personally I would advise him to put the songs with vocals, which are also of a different style, on a seperate album and leave the instrumental ones together. Anyway, the quality is there and it comes out best in the instrumental tracks.

More info at

Dave Hynes - vocals, guitars, keyboards, programming, percussion
Majkl Jagunic - bass
Craig Devine - drums

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CANOBLISS – Psychothermia (Canobliss 2008)

Canobliss - Psychothermia
  1. Notorious
  2. Psychothermia
  3. Convicted Again
  4. Adios
  5. Take Vics
  6. Slingshot
  7. Pangea
  8. Convicted Again (radio edit)

CANOBLISS is an American Rock/Metal band influenced by big acts like METALLICA and MEGADETH, but also by lots of nu-metal bands like DISTURBED, SYSTEM OF A DOWN, SLIPKNOT and others. The band was formed in 1997 and have been focussing on gigs rather than releases. The several line-up changes also were obstacles that prevented an easy progress. A first album came out in 1998, "Wicked Necessary". It took CANOBLISS then 6 years to have a follow-up ready: "Demon Angel" (2004). Three later years "Liberation Of Dissonance" came out, which apparently got them lots of radio play and increased success.

Anno 2008 a new release is ready and this since the 19th July: "Psychothermia". This 7-track EP is, like the previous releases entirely done by the band: producing, editing, mixing, artwork (assembling), and ofcourse the release itself. CANOBLISS describes its music as Progressive Hard Rock/Metal. Nu-Metal is also part of the compositions, else the comparisons with such bands wouldn't happen.

The mix of Progressive and Hard Rock can be found in the first song, "Notorious". This is a pounding song, in vein of METALLICA and more contemporary Rock. The use of two types of vocals works quite well and forms a nice contrast: clean and rough (shouting, if you will). Next to that guitarsolos are a vital ingredient to give the songs that extra spice. All in all a very nice song to start with.

The title track commences with a tension-building intro by the guitars and drums before the rage breaks out. That's before the verses. This raging piece doesn't come back until much later and even then it's very short. The verses themselves lack heaviness, but it's the drums that keep things interesting. At this stage I get the impression I'm listening to LIVE. Midtempo is key here, as is melody. The chorus is overall quite good. Last but not least, there's a very enjoyable heavy part before the solos and that's one devastating force! A job well done.

"Convicted Again" is another very nice song and one of the best on this EP. Musically you can think of CIRCLE II CIRCLE meets DISTURBED, while vocally you could speak of a marriage between James Hetfield (METALLICA) and Zak Stevens (ex-SAVATAGE, CIRCLE II CIRCLE). Ok, and a bit of David Draiman. Once again the musicianship is of high quality.

And there's a love song as well: "Adios". I don't know if it's a love song, but that's the impression I have when listening to the lyrics. Clean vocals (is that John, too?), slow tempo, but quite rhythmic. The guitarsolos top it. The melody of the chorus is so damn catchy that in combination with the rhythm guitar you cannot do nothing. Either you humm along, move your feet or whatever.

Wait, Jazz? The verses of "Take Vics" certainly are Jazzy and that's a nice move. But once the energy breaks loose, with John's shouting vocals, it's back to business as usual and you can just feel the music has an American feel and touch. All in all, not bad, but nothing really special, to be honest. This time the guitarsolos can't lift the song to a higher level.

The nu-metal influence is really present now as the crazy and wild "Slingshot" could have been a DISTURBED song. Even John's singing is like David's, with some rapping rhythm. But on the other hand I cannot deny I somewhat like it, also because DISTURBED is the only nu-metal band I can appreciate and even then it depends on the moment.

More DISTURBED-influences can be found in "Pangea". Pounding, not as crazy as the previous track, very rhythmic and last, variable singing: clean with a rough undertone to clean with some screaming in the chorus. An ok song, but it bores quite rapidly. The guitar- and drumwork is very well executed, let that be clear. But the overall compositions and especially the specific kind of singing in rap-style is just... no thanks.

CANOBLISS can be (very) happy with "Psychothermia". There's not really one bad song here, if you're very open-minded and especially if you're into Nu-Metal, which I'm not. The term Progressive Hard Rock/Metal is very misleading and here it doesn't remind of SYMPHONY X, DREAM THEATER, VANDEN PLAS, SERENITY, CIRCUS MAXIMUS, WUTHERING HEIGHTS or any other such band for that matter. Why not just call it Modern Rock/Metal? Then it's easy to find out how the songs sound and that also fits the song better. But despite this (important) detail, I did enjoy some songs (particularly the first half) and must acknowledge the great musicianship that is part of CANOBLISS. And not to forget that most is done by the band, including the very good sound. To make a long story short: Anyone into Progressive Hard Rock or Metal, seek your material elsewhere. Anyone into Modern Rock/Metal, do check out CANOBLISS, because I have no doubt they will quench your thirst.

More info at

John Maldonado - vocals
Samson Pedroza - guitars
Jon Russo - guitars
Chenzo Vidalez - bass
Mike Russo - drums

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BLAZE BAYLEY – The Man Who Would Not Die (Blaze Bayley Recordings 2008)

Blaze Bayley - The Man Who Would Not Die
  1. The Man Who Would Not Die
  2. Blackmailer
  3. Smile Back At Death
  4. While You Were Gone
  5. Samurai
  6. Crack In The System
  7. Robot
  8. At The End Of The Day
  9. Waiting For My Life To Begin
  10. Voices From The Past
  11. The Truth Is One
  12. Serpent Hearted Man

Blaze Bayley, the man, needs no introduction anymore, does he? But I'm going to add something anyway. He's been the vocalist for WOLFSBANE, a Heavy Metal group formed in 1984 and having ceased activities in 2001 or some time later. They did reform for some gigs in 2007, but since then the band is on hold. In the 90s Blaze joined IRON MAIDEN to replace Bruce Dickinson and two albums were the result: "The X-Factor" (1995) and "Virtual XI" (1998). Both releases were for the biggest part considered as "quantité négligeable" or not the best albums in IRON MAIDEN's discography, since they were musically different from the Bruce Dickinson material. Anyway, Blaze and MAIDEN parted ways and the first started his own band, BLAZE, in 1999. Under that name four releases came out: "Silicon Messiah" (2000), "Tenth Dimension" (2002), "As Live As It Gets" (2003, Live) and "Blood and Belief" (2004).

Over the years the band became a revolving door of musicians coming and going. In 2005 a steady line-up was put together, but conflicts with Blaze's management resulted in Blaze having to seek new members once again. That same year a name change occured and BLAZE BAYLEY was born. This would also be the name of Blaze's own label, Blaze Bayley Recordings. Under BLAZE BAYLEY the first release was the "Alive In Poland" from 2007, via Metal Mind Productions. The following releases were next and via Blaze's label: "The Best Of Blaze Bayley" (2008), "Robot" (single, 2008) and "The Man Who Would Not Die" (2008).

Although I never kept an eye on BLAZE's releases, I decided to briefly check out the albums at the shop (didn't buy them, because I had other releases on my list), since I got "The Man Who Would Not Die" to review. "Silicon Messiah" sounded to me like IRON MAIDEN meets METALLICA (the "Black Album" era). Most of the tracks are decent and solid Heavy Metal. "Tenth Dimension" is more melodic, less heavy, but it's still pure Heavy Metal. "Blood And Belief" brought back some balls to the Metal and sounded more modern. Overall, a very worthwhile album and one I'll most likely add to my collection in due time. Come to think of it, it seems that Blaze is like a fish in the water with his own band, since what the man and his mates present on the latest studio offering, "The Man Who Would Not Die", is even better than anything he made under the BLAZE banner. Not that the old material is bad, far from it even.

But back to 2008 for the first studio album, "The Man Who Would Not Die" (out since early August), via Blaze Bayley Recordings. It starts with the heavy and ballsy midtempo title track. The first thing you'll notice is the production, which screams "POWER!". The songs aren't superpolished and that is a good thing, as it lets the roughness of the sound add to the listening experience . It's better than ever. Blaze sings with his typical clean voice, though with an added rough edge. You might compare his input here with a mix of Bruce Dickinson (IRON MAIDEN) and Messiah Marcolin (ex-CANDLEMASS). In between the different parts the Metal comes pounding out of the speakers. To make the listening even more interesting, guitarists Nicolas and Jay take turns to play solos.

One very good song done, one very good song next: "Blackmailer". It starts with firm IRON MAIDEN-like midtempo with Lawrence offering a tight and pretty standard Heavy Metal drum pattern (even in the chorus). That's the verses' music. The tempo goes up for the chorus: double bass, great guitar and drumwork and sing-along lyrics. All of this also reminding somehow of, for example, GAMMA RAY and SAXON. What more do you need? The awesome rhythm is a lust for the ear, as standard as it may be. The solos are once again flawless and well integrated. Only one point of criticism, but it's trivial: the standard drumming, but here it's more than ok to play like this. Any extra fills via toms or cymbals, for example, would disturb the flow. So, I'm more than satisfied with the outcome. Other songs I thought being very much highlights are "Samurai", "Waiting For My Life To Begin", "Voices From The Past", "The Truth Is One" and "Serpent Hearted Man".

Starting with "Samurai". This track begins with a bass intro, but it sounds so similar to DREAM THEATER's "Panic Attack" ("Octavarium" album, 2005). It also starts with the bass and then the Metal comes bursting in (guitars and drums). What follows then is crunchy, straight-forward Heavy Metal. Again the sing-along aspect is very much present in the chorus ("Die, willing to die, Samura-a-ai"...) and musically this would not have misstood with IRON MAIDEN or SAXON. Everybody's contributions make this a true highlight. One minor element, though: Blaze singing "ooooh oooh oh", followed by the solo. The solo is more than fine, very good even, but this particular singing moment wasn't really necessary. It's not exactly a problem, but somehow I don't think the song would be less good without it. "Waiting For My Life To Begin" starts at the hospital. Sharp and furious Metal breaks out and you better buckle up for a wild ride. Tempo isn't key, but the sound and melody are. Aggressive in the verses, melodic in the chorus, where the tempo lies a bit lower to, compared to the firm paced verses. The soloing is very nice to listen to, sadly too short. The chugging riffing that follows directly after could have been taken from an ICED EARTH song. Interesting and well-chosen move. guitars play a very important role here, be it rhythm-wise or solos.

Tension is created and meanwhile the tempo also rises in "Voices From The Past". This is a midtempo song with the focus on instrumentalism. The full power is to be found in the chorus as opposed to the verses that are devoid of heaviness interms of riffing, until the chorus comes in sight. That's when the guitars awaken. The instrumental parts are very well done here. At some point, and quite suprisingly so, a devastating tempo outburst occurs, followed by the obligatory solo. Once again, no complaints from my part. Even the heavy riffing part that occupies the last part of the song fits in well and sounds tasteful, too. "The Truth Is One" is foremost recommended because of the serious tempo boost it gives to the album, especially this far in the tracklist. The guitars have been given a grinding sort of sound here and Blaze sings with passion, especially in the chorus. The pace is set at midtempo there, but with determination. Once the solo moment comes along the tempo quickly increases. Nothing more to say here, it's a killer song. Last but certainly not least is the closing track, "Serpent Hearted Man". It starts calm, with a radio effect. Blaze's voice comes in and the atmosphere turns spooky, suspicious. This specific composition is not only the intro, it also serves as outro. The Metal instrumentation takes over in short bursts, including marching drums and flows neatly into a pounding midtempo powerball. The verses hold the power, the chorus is of the hymnic kind and slower. Special about this last song is the solo part, as it is quite diverse: normal pace, faster, melodic, wild, ... The listening experience sure is one to never forget.

The first and last songs consist of the best material, in my humble opinion. That's where the jewels are hiding. Does that mean the middle section is bad, not as interesting, filler? Nope, not at all. Reviews will always contain a touch of personal taste, which is why I seperated the best from the (good to very good) rest. There is not one bad or filler song here, let that be clear. So, 7 songs done, 5 more to go: "Smile Back At Death", "While You Were Gone", "Crack In The System", "Robot" and "At The End Of The Day". The first of this shortlist is "Smile Back At Death", which sounds like a rolling thunderball, has an epic feel, but at the same time there's a feeling of sadness and sorrow. The title indicates it, but you can also hear it in the chorus. Due to the song's length (more than 7 minutes) and considering the musical compositions, the result is quite hymnic even. At some point a break of sadness sets in, devoid of heaviness. Chord picking, toms and vocals, the basic elements at work here. But then the guitars come in and take over, leaving the atmosphere of sadness and epicness intact, before spitting out a solo. Such a long song also requires an effort to listen and not go over it lightly. The reward is worth it.

"While You Were Gone" is divided into two parts: a slow one with a calm start, which also is used for the outro/ending of the song, and a faster one later on. The slow part does contain the required Metal power, but sounds quite sad overall. Again the title tells you what to expect. At the end of this first stage my impression was that it's not a bad song, but certainly not the best Blaze has done either. And that's when the tempo increase takes place, offering fiercer music consisting of dual leads (awesome change!) and a great rhythm. Instruments demand all attention and Blaze is obliged to let his throat rest. The slow part of before returns afterwards, but it's the speedier one in between that makes this song worth listening to. "Crack In The System" made me think of SAVATAGE's "Complaint in the System" ("The Wake Of Magellan" album, 1998), but the music is entirely different. The beginning rolls and instantly introduces melody. A steady drumbeat and heavy guitars occupy the verse, while the chorus is rather simple to sing: it's the song title. Whereas "While You Were Gone" was partly less interesting, "Crack In The System" is entirely less interesting/least attractive/etc... Worst song so far, or better, least good, depending on how you like your Heavy Metal. But even if I try to remain objective, it's hard to be as positive as before.

Two more songs to complete the talk about the middle-section: "Robot" and "At The End Of The Day". The first is a rapid one, Thrashy even. It includes the typical humpapa-rhythm. This attempt go try something different is good as idea and the execution isn't that bad at all either. Blaze sings in a rather hymnic manner, but since I'm not used to him (I haven't heard him or not that much since he left MAIDEN), I take it that's his normal way of expressing thoughts and feelings? Either way, the song is overall good. Not super, but it's good. "At The End Of The Day" starts calm and I made the mistake of thinking it was a ballad. Once the Heavy Metal button is activated, the music reminds me of SAVATAGE's "He Carves His Stone" ("Edge Of Thorns" album, 1993). Not everything, just the verses. The chorus is slow and the guitars are a bit more prominent. Not only SAVATAGE comes to mind, but also - and logically - IRON MAIDEN and SAXON. Or similar, if you wish. Here as well, it's an very decent song, but doesn't reach the level of the seven highlights, for example.

"The Man Who Would Not Die" is my first proper encounter with Blaze Bayley's solo material. His IRON MAIDEN adventure wasn't his best and when I have to compare with his solo releases, it's obvious which band produced the better albums with him on vocals. Exactly: BLAZE BAYLEY, formerly known as BLAZE. "The Man Who Would Not Die" is his heaviest/crunchiest to date. The fact that the production isn't superpolished helps to keep a high level of roughness intact and make the album/music more honest. The musicianship is very good, from Blaze's singing to Lawrence's determined and solid hits on the drums. Did I mention the excellent guitarwork? Seriously, anyone into Heavy Metal is recommended to get this album. No Blaze fan at the time or IRON MAIDEN? Better listen again at what BLAZE BAYLEY have created and be prepared to adjust your opinion.

More info at

Blaze Bayley - vocals
Nicolas Bermudez - guitars
Jay Walsh - guitars
David Bermudez - bass
Lawrence Paterson - drums

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LACRIMAS PROFUNDERE – Songs For The Last View (Napalm Records 2008)

Lacrimas Profundere - Songs For The Last View
  1. The Last View
  2. A Pearl
  3. The Shadow I Once Kissed
  4. Veins
  5. We Shouldn't Be Here
  6. And God's Ocean
  7. Suicide Sun
  8. Dear Army
  9. A Dead Man
  10. Sacrificial Lamb
  11. Lullaby For A Weeping Girl
  12. While

Two years ago the German Gothic Rock band LACRIMAS PROFUNDERE released its fourth album, "Filthy Notes For Frozen Hearts", which got them lots of praise and many gigs. From the Gothic/Doom in the beginning (for 2-3 albums) slowly evolving/changing towards pure Gothic Rock since a few album ago, the line-up underwent a change in the vocal department. Christopher Schmid decided to step down (due to not being able to combine the music with his personal life anymore) and let Rob Vicatta do the singing. Christopher will continue as a lyricist and songwriter for the band.

It's been almost two years since the previous album came out and after lots of gigs (incl. with LEAVES' EYES) and that smalle change in the line-up the band re-signed with Napalm Records for "Songs For The Last View", which came out on the 27th June. Last time there also was a single/EP ("Again It's Over") preceding the album, which also had a few bonus tracks. The limited edition of "Songs For The Last View" has 4 bonus tracks and a DVD with video and live footage and more. For the production of the new release John Fryer (HIM, NINE INCH NAILS, PARADISE LOST, ...) was once more the man in charge. The mastering was done by Roger Lian from Masterdisk Studios (NIRVANA, AEROSMITH, PANTERA, ...).

"Songs For The Last View" starts with a heartbeat, hospital equipment and several background noises (child crying, war sounds, ...) and finally our character's heart stopping with pumping. Hear any similarity with, for example, MANTICORA's "8 Deadly Sins"? The music sets in with "A Pearl", which reminds of "Again It's Over" musically. The new vocalist stands out, as he also sings low, but with more roughness. I have the impression that it takes more effort from him than what Christopher did. It's also a bit less clear what he's singing, but that could be due to the mixing. As good as "Again It's Over" was, it's obvious that "A Pearl" is as good, or almost. The sound was crystal clear on "Filthy Notes For Frozen Hearts", since Mika Jussila did the mastering. Here there's more roughness, a bit less polished on the guitars.

"The Shadow I Once Kissed" is the first where the piano has an important role and yes, female vocals in the chorus. There wasn't any mention of this in the press text, which made me think N had also left the band. At least, I hope it's N. This dual singing is where the problem lies. both may be good singers, but they're not compatible, not like her and Christopher. About one minute before the end, there's a slow part, breakdown if you like, which is reserved for the filthy solo. "The Shadow" is an ok song, but nothing more.

And it can even get slower: "Veins". Gentle heaviness in the verses, full power in the chorus. Rob's clean vocals aren't bad, but it's as if he has an accent and his voice would fit more with a modern Rock band. The piano is present again and keyboard accents are added to broaden the melodic structure. All efforts considered, this is not such an interesting track and even the hardest to swallow.

More directness and a heavier approach can be found in "We Shouldn't Be Here", although it started with Techno-like keyboards. Those keyboards (not Techno now) stay in the back, providing melody in a gentle manner, letting the guitars and drums fight the battle. All in all, you can put it in the same box as "A Pearl".

With "And God's Ocean" we have a ballad, ladies and gentlemen. Sadness all over the place, gentle piano/keyboard melodies and dito vocals. Korl's drums sound too loud, too hard for this kind of music. Violin accents increase the gloom aspect, the feeling of being lost, being rejected. Sadly enough, Rob's input isn't the most appropriate and that's because of his tone. How to say this? The sound of his voice is the problem. I don't think that Christopher's would fit either. So whose voice would be good enough? I don't know. but in my opinion why not let someone like N, Lisa Johansson (DRACONIAN) or similar sing the lyrics? In the second part the guitars come in to add more power, but I once again have to disagree with this decision. It totally destroys the atmosphere built in the first part. Nice try, but the song is no complete success.

"Suicide Sun" puts you back with your feet on the ground: heavy guitars, simply, yet effective drums and piano touches. Rob using his lower voice again. Musically I had to think a bit of "My Velvet Little Darkness", which can be found on the band's previous release, "Filthy Notes For Frozen Hearts". Lots of bands re-use elements and LACRIMAS PROFUNDERE is no exception. That doesn't mean it's a bad move, as it helps to recognize the music and the band you're dealing with. However, it can get annoying after a while, seeing the same kind of songs on different albums. ;-) Still, you might find that on lots of Black and Death Metal albums, too, so it would be hypocrital to complain here, also because it's a very good song.

What Rob does in "Dear Amy" (the back of the promo said "Dear Army") is so different from before and here he shows his more modern Rock voice. The guitarwork is also inline with this, heavier and darker than before. The singing is rawer, hoarser. It depends on your taste whether this song fits on the album or not, but I have to admit it's nice to hear something different.

"And God's Ocean" was the first soft song, "A Dead Man" is the second. The piano is again the leading instrument, while Rob sounds like a dead/broken man. The violins come in in a very smooth manner and are neatly woven into the song structure, complementing the piano in a splendid manner. Outstanding stuff, no doubt about that. Hell, it's even better than "And God's Ocean", at least that song's second part.

The beginning of "Sacrificial Lamb" is calm, dreamy thanks to the guitars, but foremost the drums. The full power comes out when the chorus sets in. Rob does a good job, yet his accent when singing "Laaamb" is a (very small) black mark, in my opinion. Musically everything's very much alright, slow and heavy.

After all this sad- and slowness, it would be highly appreciated if something more uptempo came along. And so thought the band, too, as "Lullaby For A Weeping Girl" comes falling in, instantly awakening you, freeing you from the depressed atmosphere you were engulfed by. What else do I need to say than that it's one of the best songs on the album, just like the previous direct songs. Surprisingly enough - and I had that with certain other songs here, as well - it's over before you know it. Sure, most of the time the playtime is around three minutes, but that couldn't be the reason, could it?

"While" offers a "Last View" on the album. Starting gently via the guitars and bass, Rob falls in soon enough. Little by little other elements are added, such as the symphonic backing. You get the impression this is ballad no. 3, but once the entire band comes alive, mainly in the chorus, that thought is erased. War samples make their return, like you could hear them in "Last View". Korl's drumming also reflects that via the kickdrums. Sadness, tristesse and anything similar are key ingredients. Mixed with the instrumentation and yes, Rob's voice, the result is breathtakingly beautiful. In the end our patient's heart still beats or it could be that the previous songs were a flashback and he actually dies in hospital.

LACRIMAS PROFUNDERE have been releasing qualitative Rock/Metal since their debut release, although one album stood out more than the other. "Filthy Notes For Frozen Hearts" was a very decent Gothic Rock release and one that should please fans of DEPECHE MODE, H.I.M., SISTERS OF MERCY and alike. "Songs For The Last View" takes it further, even makes the band sound a bit rougher again, both musically and vocally. The new vocalist, Rob Vitacca, increases the diversity a bit, although the music still comes from the hands of (mainly) Oliver Nikolas and Christopher. It took me some time and I cannot dismiss the new album, as the Germans show that they're not intending of quitting or giving up the battle for the throne, having made one of the better albums of 2008. This is a recommended release and if you're fast enough, get your hands on the limited CD/DVD.

More info at

Rob - vocals
N - female vocals
Oliver Nikolas - guitars
Tony - guitars
Christian - keyboards
Daniel - bass
Korl - drums

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GRENOUER – Lifelong Days (Locomotive Records 2008)

Grenouer - Lifelong Days
  1. Indecent Loyalty
  2. Addicted To You
  3. Taken Off The List
  4. With No Concern
  5. Away From Now
  6. Finding The One
  7. Off The Back Of Others
  8. The Unexpected
  9. Employed Beggar
  10. Re-Active
  11. Patience

What do we have here? Seriously, what kind of band is GRENOUER? From what I've read they started as a Death Metal band, in the early 1990s, but seemed to change their music in a more Industrial direction, which was a bad move for certain people/fans. This Russian band is quite unknown outside of Russia, but with the help of Locomotive Records, that problem should be solved over the course of the coming months. GRENOUER's first album on this label and in total their sixth, if I'm correct, is given the title "Lifelong Days" and saw the light of day on the 20th June. For the recordings they booked the Astia Studio under the guidance of Anssi Kippo, who has worked with CHILDREN OF BODOM, NORTHER, IMPALED NAZARENE, LULLACRY and others.

"Lifelong Days" is my first acquaintance with the band's music and I can assure this hasn't been an easy listening experience. Brutal guitars, polyrhythmic drums, shouting vocals with a spacier variant here and there... oh yes, and lots of Groove. The band mentions MESHUGGAH, PANTERA, CLAWFINGER, KORN, DEFTONES, FEAR FACTORY and other, similar bands as influences. This is correct, as far as my knowledge on these bands' repertoire helps me.

I noticed CLAWFINGER elements in "Employed Beggar", KORN came along in "With No Concern" and "Finding The One", etc... you get the idea. It must be said that the Industrial Metal stamp isn't that big and not even the few electronic touches mean you're an Industrial band. No, there's just too much Nu-Metal involved here, way too much for my taste. The only Nu-Metal band (or one of the very few) I can appreciate is DISTURBED, but not all of it. Anyhow, problem areas for me are 1) the groovy but ultra-heavy guitars, which could have been looped in several songs, 2) the annoying vocals (shouting here, shouting there, let's use some space-effect in the chorus, ... it all just doesn't sound or feel right) and 3) compositions that sometimes don't match at all, like in "Indecent Loyalty", for example, where the beginning and ending are two different things, but there's a certain coherence missing.

Mind you, there are some good musical ideas to be found, but most of the material just doesn't cut it for me. It's hard, heavy, brutal and more, but it's also empty and soulless, in my opinion. However, there is ONE song that stand out - well, one and a half -: "The Unexpected" and "Employed Beggar". The first because it's the most direct song on the album and also the most normal one, so to speak. Even Ind's vocals sound very much alright. I had to think of DEDICTED's latest album, "Argonauts", for a moment. "Employed Beggar" is only half good, mainly because of CLAWFINGER influences (not the vocals, though).

Oh right, I forgot. There is a more gentle song at the end: "Patience". Either they're drumsamples or Grave played on an electronic kit. Whatever it is, the contrast with the previous songs couldn't be bigger. The rhythm is also Rap-ish and Ind uses a cleaner voice. Once the chorus kicks in the music also increases in heaviness, yet not like before. Still, this isn't so good either.

Changing your style is one thing, but not really succeeding after the metamorphosis is another. GRENOUER will never be my favourite band and they will have to change again to appeal to more people, I think. Brutal, polyrhythmic (kudos to the drummer, though, for certain types of input) and nerve-wreckingly annoying. This just isn't my cup of tea. If you're wondering, I got a review copy, that's why I wrote this text. And we can't all like everything or accept everything, even when keeping our mind as open as possible. Will "Lifelong Days" appeal to fans of Industrial Metal? I have my doubts. Fans of Nu-Metal, however, could be treated well here. Maybe if these Russians went back to making Death Metal, would that be a good move?

More info at

Ind - vocals
Motor - guitars
Rt - guitars
Slavij - bass
Grave - drums

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TRUSTGAME – Trustgame (Limited Access Records 2008)

Trustgame - Trustgame
  1. Whatever You Say
  2. Break Us Down
  3. Dickcheeze
  4. Just Some Words
  5. Notorious
  6. Good-Bye Harbour
  7. Vacuum
  8. My Satellite
  9. Tired Man
  10. DNA
  11. Sometimes

From Limited Access Records I've reviewed so far: DAVIDIAN and THE MYSTERY, both clearly Metal. TRUSTGAME is far from being Metal and can easily be put in the Emo/Altrock category. This German band was formed some years ago. When, I don't know, for the website doesn't disclose much info. Considering the EP in 2002, I take it they got together around that year. Then a demo came out in 2006 and since the 13th June the band's debut album is ready: "Trustgame".

The songs contain influences from Punk Rock, Nu-Metal, Grunge topped with an Emo sauce and wrapped in a modern production. The eleven songs total a playtime of a good 45 minutes. Now, don't let the Nu-Metal aspect fool you or anything, because - like I said - you won't find any Metal here. Each song has been composed and produced to demand radioplay, mainstream radioplay, hence Altrock. I used to like such bands back in the 1990s, but since many years Metal is no. 1 for me. As far as radio goes, I hardly even listen to it anymore, due to the fact that there has been lots of bad stuff, crap even, on the air and lots of artists are being hyped beyond credibility. Especially the Emo kind of music is one of those trends that still gets lots of people clinging to the radio speakers. My point is: getting such an album, like "Trustgame", to review came as a really big surprise, also because this is a Metal site.

Since TRUSTGAME is signed to Limited Access Records and this label also houses Metal bands, I guess it's logical that promos are send together with those of Metal releases. Getting to know more bands is good for one's knowledge and maybe can broaden someone's taste. The sound of "Trustgame" is very clear and very well polished and that can affect the power of the songs, but for mainstream appeal all is well. The songs are well composed in terms of heaviness vs softer parts and Thorsten's quite capable of singing, but he just sounds too emo. There's too much wankery in his singing, and yes, he screams too. But that's only in "Vacuum", which has calm verses, but let's the power out in the chorus. The keyboards, be it as piano or in electronic version, play a role in "Break Us Down", "My Satellite", which also contains some violin accents and "DNA".

I'll cut to the chase: the songs I thought that stood out are very few in number and it's not that this is a bad release overall. Not at all. So, noteworthy songs are the Punkish "Dickcheeze", of which I enjoyed the guitar and drumwork quite a lot. The heavy rocker "Notorious" also deserves more points, for it's a decent song. And last but not least, the ballad-ish "My Satellite". Special points go to "Sometimes", the closing song. It's a slow song and Thorsten even sings with a lower voice, making everything sounding close to what the Gothic Rockband LACRIMAS PROFUNDERE has created recently. The rest of the material has references to QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE, SIMPLE PLAN, some BUSH, 3 DOORS DOWN in a heavier version and perhaps some SOUNDGARDEN. Oh right, do I need to mention a band like MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE?

Like Metalcore, this isn't my cup of tea, despite the few songs I mentioned. TRUSTGAME does a good job at playing Emo-inspired Altrock, and should therefore attract many people who are into this kind of music. Anyone seeking Metal here is wasting his/her time. This is mainstream music, people, the stuff you frequently hear on the radio. TRUSTGAME should have little to no problems to get that, radioplay.

More info at

Thorsten Schwesinger - vocals, guitars
Florian Hegemann - guitars
Kai Schumacher - piano, electronics
Thomas Kennel - bass
Beray Habip - drums

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SOTAJUMALA – Teloitus (Woodcut Records 2008)

Sotajumala - Teloitus
  1. Tappaja Ja Tapettu
  2. Arkku Vailla Vainajaa
  3. Kuolinjulistus
  4. Riistetty Viattomuus
  5. Verella Kirjoitettu
  6. Oikeutus
  7. Kidutus
  8. Teloitus

To start off, these song titles really are a hard nut to crack, although e.g. MOONSORROW also has Finnish titles, yet those 'sound' more normal. SOTAJUMALA's have something direct and violent. The translation on should explain why:

01. The Killer And The Killed
02. A Coffin With No Dead
03. Celebration of Death
04. Taken Innocence
05. Written In Blood
06. Justification
07. Torture
08. Execution

Finland and Death Metal, it's not exactly the best or best-known combination, except in the Melodic Death Metal department: CHILDREN OF BODOM, MORS PRINCIPIUM EST, INSOMNIUM, NORTHER, ENSIFERUM, OMNIUM GATHERUM, KALMAH, WINTERSUN, etc...etc... Overall it's a undeniable fact that Finland is very active in the world of Metal, in practically each main genre. But let's focus again on the Death Metal aspect of this country's bands. And by that I mean the stuff that relies on heavy, brutal riffs, skull-crushing drumming and growling, demonic vocals. Thinking of Death Metal summons bands like CANNIBAL CORPSE, BOLT THROWER, NILE, VOMITORY, IMMOLATION, KATAKLYSM, VADER, DECAPITATED, GOREFEST, and many many more. Finland lacks such bands, as far as I know. But there is upcoming talent ready to fill that gap. One of them is SOTAJUMALA.

SOTAJUMALA, which means Wargod, has been active for almost 10 years and have one full album so far - next to a demo, EP, Split and Single. The band's debut, "Death Metal Finland", came out in 2004 and got quite some positive response, judging from the comments on the Net. When hearing that one song on their MySpace page, I have to agree that this brutal and unstoppable assault is quite qualitative. That makes the expectations for the new album, "Teloitus" (released on the 13th June), very high. On a sidenote: the distribution is done via the Dutch Displeased Records.

And they are met, even if it took me several listens. The conditions weren't always favourable, which can influence your opinion a great deal, from finding the record mediocre to overrated to very much recommended. The production is clear and polished, but without forgetting we're dealing with a Death Metal band here. The midtempo "Tappaja Ja Tapettu" is the first to give the people around you a first blow to the head. Vicious riffs with pounding drums (including the occasional blastbeats) and Mynni's raspy growling are the main ingredients for the entire 39 minute-course.

And the killing spree continues in an even more ferocious way with "Arkku Vailla Vainajaa" as there's a steady build-up towards the destructive blasting. The bridge or chorus is where the drumming is toned down in terms of blasting in favour of something more flowing. The short guitarsolo accentuates the craziness of the events. The stress clearly lies on the brutal riffing and devastating drums. If this were, for example, a NILE song, the solos would be much longer and divised over Karl and Dallas. But so far I have no complaints. It's better to have a short and good solo than something long and without real direction.

"Kuolinjulistus", while increasing the ferocity or at least keeping it at a high level, reminded me a lot of VOMITORY and especially PANZERCHRIST, two very good bands in this genre. The kickdrums keep the machine gun fire going, while the snare pumps out an occasional granade, so to speak. The guitarsolo is a bit longer and more normal, i.e. less crazy flippering like in "Arkku Vailla Vainajaa" and has been split over 2 parts. The name dropping instantly tells you what kind of Death Metal to expect and to check out if you like these or what SOTAJUMALA presents here.

"Riistetty Viattomuus" is a sort of resting point, as the tempo is slow, but the aggressivity not less. The guitars are more chugga-ish. Timo's drumming is once again quite varied: rolling on in the verses, less kickdrumming in the more all-round stuff chorus. Thankfully these Finns show that they can write slow(er) songs, too, since blasting all the way would be boring. The flow in general so far is also well chosen, as it lets you easier digest the material.

But fear not, for the blast attacks take over in "Verella Kirjoitettu", one of the best songs, if not THE best song on "Teloitus". The verses are in midtempo, the blasts implemented in between and in the chorus, but Timo manages to vary his playing in the blink of an eye without disturbing the tempo, rhythm, flow in any way. Respect! Everything is well proportioned, the growls/grunts fit, the production is very good. But it's the overall compositions and especially the drumming, indeed, that satisfied me a great deal.

Time for another slow track: "Oikeutus". The crazy guitarwork pops up again, in a greater quantity than before to add a little of spice to this bitter soup. The drums are a mix of everything and thus once more varied: flowing in the verses, faster and more dangerous in the chorus. The rolling kickdrums provide a continuous assault so Timo can focus on the snare and toms for some small fills.

With "Kidutus" you should expect another violent attack on the mind... considering it means "Torture". There's a slow build-up where the drums add to the excitement. Variability plays a big role, mainly via the toms, snare and cymbals, since the kickdrums roll on and on, save for some interruptions here and there, but they are few in number. Like in many songs here you could easily put the kickdrums on automatic and have Timo just play the snare, toms and cymbals. As typical as double bass drums and blasts are in Death Metal, it can get annoying and give you a fake impression of what the drummer's playing. That doesn't mean that "Kidutus" is a bad song, not at all. It's all well composed and executed, like the whole album, in fact. Also worth noting is the crazy guitarsolo, something you can also find with DYING FETUS. If you want similar Death Metal, it's PANZERCHRIST and even ANATA that come to mind.

The title track puts an end to the "Execution" of it all. A slow, but ultra-heavy start is only the first step in this demonic and almost Doomy song. Think NOVEMBERS DOOM, maybe some RUNEMAGICK or perhaps MY SHAMEFUL, of course with the emphasis on Metal and not so much the creepy and bleak atmosphere of Doom. Here it's the guitars that have the spotlights on them, although Timo tries to add some accents as well. The kickdrums are once again on automatic. "Teloitus" is also the longest song, clocking in after a god seven minutes. Little over halfway the snare is the center of attention to prepare for an increase in intensity and power. The slowness comes back afterwards, although things are played a bit faster and the guitars' input is enhanced with sort of 'panic' accents. Long, slower tha before and certainly not as direct as the previous, more brutal tracks.

Finland and Death Metal... seems like it works after all, although the music is similar to other non-Finnish bands. SOTAJUMALA is not the biggest Death Metal band in Finland or the neighbouring countries, but what they present here, on their second full album "Teloitus", sure is something to be proud of. The songs are solid, heavy, brutal and aggressive and meet the requirements of (modern) Death Metal. But like I said, there are similarities with others, which I recommend to check as well: VOMITORY, PANZERCHRIST, ANATA, NILE (in a way), BOLT THROWER, some BENEDICTION, etc... "Teloitus" might be in Finnish, but let that stop you from checking it out or even buying it. Fingers crossed for English translations in the booklet.

More info at

Mynni Luukkainen - vocals
Kosti Orbinski - guitars
Pete Lapio - guitars
Tomi Otsala - bass
Timo Häkkinen - drums

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GARCHAROT – Core Of Despair (Suffer Productions 2008)

Garcharot - Core Of Despair
  1. Bringer Of The Plague
  2. With Fear And Chaos
  3. Broken Trust
  4. Deny The Weak
  5. Shape Of Carnage
  6. Doomed To Fail
  7. Core Of Despair
  8. Distorted Reality
  9. Darkened Light
  10. Black Star
  11. Unsatisfied Internal Pleasure *
  12. The Art Of Dark Desires *
  13. Butchered Orgies *
  14. Carvings Of The Carnals *
  15. Blessedness *
  16. Holy Communions Perversities +
  17. Graveyard Rats +
  18. By The Grace Of God +
  19. When The Death Is Real +
  20. Holy Communions Perversities -

Not much is known about the following band, save that they started in 1990 and play old school Death Metal, as it was custom to do back then. Think of DEICIDE, MORBID ANGEL, DEATH, BENEDICTION, SEPULTURA and others. The band in question is GARCHAROT, of which it is said it's the oldest Death Metal band in Finland. In terms of releases not many lines of text can be written:

Cradle Of Sorrow (demo, 1994)
The Art Of Dark Desires (demo, 1994)
Sometimes Death Is Better (compilation, 1995)
Core Of Despair (album, 2008)

Next to that and thanks to, the band also made two rehearsal tapes in 1993 and a promo tape in 1997, though these aren't considered official releases. The focus lies of course on the debut album that is "Core Of Despair". It contains 10 new songs and the songs off the two demos and compilation. The result is 20 songs and a total playtime of almost 77 minutes, released on the 12th June. The last time I saw that many (or almost as many) tracks on one disc was on ICED EARTH's "Framing Armageddon" and "The Crucible Of Man" albums.

The ten new songs that form "Core Of Despair" are true and true old school, also in terms of sound. It's rough, unpolished and the compositions certainly don't make you think about anything modern Death Metal-ish. From start to finish you get mostly midtempo songs, but as was common back in the day you also get variety. And by that I mean in terms of tempo and speed, where the drums play a crucial role. It must be said, though, that this midtempo playing does make the songs look alike, but vocals and drums make sure this isn't the case, despite the lack of guitarsolos. Examples of this variety are "Broken Trust", "Doomed To Fail", "Core Of Despair" (with some devastating outbreaks!) or even "Black Star", which has something VADER-ish. But all things considered I can't say "Core Of Despair" is a bad album. Old school is so damn tastey... but guitarsolos would make the new material perfect.

The following tracks, with a *, come off the "The Art Of Dark Desires" and sound like back in 1994. They're demo songs, so it's only normal that the sound is according to the standards. And since it's old school, the memories of that period - even if I was very young then - are great! Midtempo still prevails, the vocals sound very demonic - or, you don't understand a word of it - and the running time of each song is about as long as the new ones. The drum variation stands out in "The Art Of Dark Desires" and "Butchered Orgies". "Carvings Of The Carnals" is pure and rock-solid pounding Death Metal, no questions asked, while "Blessedness" adds a good touch of blasting before giving way for a midtempo pace. So, this one as well, a solid piece of Death Metal. The production is something you have to accept. If you're not into old school, it's your loss. ;-)

Must it be said that the "Cradle Of Sorrow" demo songs, with a +, sound even more old school? The vocals are now more growling/grunting and relatively close to what Lasse does on the new songs. The production is less good, but still as can be expected. Yet everything sounds more silent or more in the back, so to speak, but that could be due to the conversion from cassette to CD. The running time per song is also much longer than the other tracks. At least 5 minutes is the standard, but in this setting this is far from a problem. Especially "Graveyard Rats" stands out, not only because of the number of minutes, but more because of the music. In a way you could even stick the term "Progressive" to it, even though the Death Metal path is never left.

"Holy Communions Perversities", the last song, is basically the same as no. 16, but with the production of the "The Art Of Dark Desires" demo, meaning a fatter sound, so to speak. And that's for the better.

20 songs, 77 minutes of pure old school Death Metal and in fact the entire discography of GARCHAROT on one disc, this is a gift not many bands offer. This is made possible thanks to not only the generosity of the band, but also Suffer Productions, to make this album available on a wider scale. "Core Of Despair" may not be the best Death Metal release, but it sure is one for those who long back to the times when Death Metal was big, dark, dangerous and uncompromised. Old school still reigns and I really don't see what some reviewers have against this. So, anyone seeking old school material in vein of DEICIDE, MORBID ANGEL, BENEDICTION, CANNIBAL CORPSE, UNLEASHED, VADER, (old) SEPULTURA and even (old) DEATH, don't just sit there. Go to the band's MySpace page or that of Suffer Productions and order this release.

More info at

Lasse heinonen - vocals
Janne Korkeakoski - guitars
Markus Franssi - guitars
Ville Koiviola - bass
Ville Rissanen - drums

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AUVERNIA – Towards Eternity (Auvernia 2008)

Auvernia - Towards Eternity
  1. A New World Is Born
  2. A Little Of Lust
  3. How Cruel Is Destiny
  4. You Will Come
  5. Interludio No. 1
  6. Inherent Rage
  7. Running On The Road
  8. The Master Throne
  9. The Successor
  10. Blue Blood (X-JAPAN cover) (bonus track)
  11. The Show Must Go On (QUEEN cover) (bonus track)

AUVERNIA is an Argentinian Metal band that mixes several styles in a unique way without creating any disturbance between these various influences. You have to go back to 1999, the year when Fernando H. Varela (vocals, guitar) and Juan P. Verni (drums) joined forces, accompanied by bassist Guido Quaranta. This line-up didn't stay together very long, as the next year Pablo Lurbe was the new bassist and Sebastián Olivera occupied the rhythm guitar spot while Eric Roldan joined as the new keyboardist. And so it goes on: Pablo Lurbe and Eric Roldan leave, although the latter continues to contribute to the band's music. Finally in 2006 a new bass player is found: Leonardo Boan. The group is ready for their first release, an EP entitled "You Will Come". Last year Maximiliano Vaccaro conquered the empty keyboards spot. AUVERNIA is now complete again and the work on the first full album has started.

Titled "Towards Eternity", the release was scheduled for the 10th June. This year, too, Maximiliano Vaccaro let the band due to various reasons, but he did get to contribute with intros and outros as well as solos. The rest of the keyboard parts were done by Eric Roldan. The music, as said above, is a mix of Power Metal, Death Metal, Black Metal, Progressive Metal and more, spiced with classical arrangements. Not one style per song, no, several styles per song and that makes it so interesting and at the same time complex.

I could make it easy and name some bands that came to my mind when listening to "Towards Eternity": AFTER FOREVER, ANGRA, AYREON, CHILDREN OF BODOM, CIRCUS MAXIMUS, DARK MOOR, DIVINEFIRE, DRAGONFORCE, DREAM THEATER, EMPYRIOS, FAIRYLAND, GAMMA RAY, HELLOWEEN, IRON SAVIOR, KALEDON, RHAPSODY OF FIRE, SECRET SPHERE, SYMPHONY X, SONATA ARCTICA, DIMMU BORGIR and more ofcourse. But that's only a tiny percentage of the review and far too easy. Applying this procedure would speeden things up enormously, but what about satisfaction then?

Already in the first song, "A New World Is Born", can you detect a variety of influences. The pace is for the biggest part set at uptempo with raging guitars and exotic keyboard layers, giving the song at some point a Techno and later a Black Metal atmosphere. Change is found in the riffs, melodies and ofcourse the tempo. Also keep your ears open for the great rhythm that dominates here. One word to top it: epic!

The midtempo start of "A Little Of Lust" might fool you, but the speed injection isn't far away. This track is guitar-driven with occasional keyboard interventions and accents. Technicality is the keyword here, especially in the drum department. Musically this song is closely related to Italian Power Metal and bands like ANGRA. Pure quality!

"How Cruel Is Destiny"? Judging by the heavier riffing, I wouldn't call it cruel, for it's a delight for the ears. ;-) Well, it's on the guitars that a "scratching" effect was applied, as weird as that may sound. Luckily this is only for very short connecting moments. The symhonic arrangements are nicely woven into the different compositions, one time as subtle backing, other times as leads. Pace-wise things go faster in the chorus. Interestingly enough the song ends with an organ, in MANOWAR-style. The organ is very important in several MANOWAR songs and it seems the guys from AUVERNIA too have understood that this instrument can be an added value.

The majority of the songs are Power Metal with ofcourse lots of Progressive twists and other influences. And it's in "You Will Come" that these other influences are a bit more apparent. Power meets Melodic Black with a vital role for symphonics and keyboards. You could compare it somehow with the Belgian Progressive Death/Black Metallers OCEANS OF SADNESS. Further in the song they get married to RHAPSODY (OF FIRE). At least, that's what my ears and thoughts told me. For the second time - first was in "A New World Is Born" - you also get two vocal types, clean and grunts, which is also an aspect of the Belgian band's music. Juan's technical drumming is once more an extremely important element, offering lots of diversity in tempo, beats, the pattern in general. Another highlight is the piano break before the keyboard solo and heavy, chuggy guitar. To cut things short: "You Will Come" offers so much that one can write a few paragraphs about it. Fact remains that AUVERNIA handles it with so much precision and ease it's unbelievable. I just have one little remark and that concerns Fernando's clean singing: there are times that a grunting voice suits the music much better or at least a clean voice with a certain level of roughness.

Time for a resting point. Gentle guitarwork is what you get in "Interludio No. 1". The result is a relaxing melody, one you can create an entire song with. Meaning longer than the measly two minutes it is now. So buckle up for part two of the wild ride.

This next part makes you instantly aware you're alive. The thunderous Metal, contrasted by the harpsichord, of "Inherent Rage" comes blasting out of the speakers and into your ears. Once again Power meets Melodic Black. The grunting is in a way comparable to BEHEMOTH, although the clean parts (and that's also when the tempo goes up many paces and the harpsichord going exstatic) remind very much of SONATA ARCTICA and their "Wolf And Raven" song, not only the vocal lines but also the music. The Argentinians also spent lots of time thinking of ways to give more freedom to the instruments and let them do the talking. Something I have nothing against. This one is easily one of the best songs on "Towards Eternity".

The fast pace isn't continued when the Doomy "Running On The Road" starts its first tunes, slowly building the tension and pace until... yes, the knob is turned fully open and the pedal pushed to the metal, DIVINEFIRE-style. To break the flow a bit, the bouzouki (I'm not sure, though) comes interfering a few times. A refreshing element to keep your attention vivid. Later on there's a piano moment during the breakdown before continuing in a pounding manner backed by keyboard-choirs. Oh yes, there are solos, of both guitars and keyboards. This is almost DIMMU BORGIR goes (Symphonic) Power Metal. The bouzouki (I think) also puts this song to bed.

The AUVERNIA guys are very fond of fast Metal, Power Metal in particular, and "The Master Throne" is another clear indication of this. RHAPSODY on speed, with a bit more technical twists and a DREAM THEATER or SYMPHONY X-like pattern. The pounding uptempo moment with grunts is again similar to DIVINEFIRE. But here too you'll find lots of change in atmosphere (Black Metal-ish), tempo, riffing, melodies. A combination that makes you sit/stand/lie in awe. How they will pull it off live... I don't know. Pure craftsmanship, I tells ya.

Ooooh, be silent, be afraid, for you're entering the dark and horrific cave to become "The Successor". That's at least how the intro makes it sound like. The organ is used to stress that atmosphere, later taken over by the keyboards assisted by the guitars. Once the right pace is found, there's no doubt that DIMMU BORGIR have had a huge influence. Not only regarding the atmosphere, but the music as well. But it's not like this all the way, since the Power Metal path is taken soon enough. You do get Dani Filth-like grunting/shrieking at some point, but it's the clean singing that occupies the majority of the lyrics. Solo-wise it's all for the guitar (a.o. arpeggios), but the keyboards provide the right backing for the fullness of it all.

Besides the normal tracks and own material, there are also two bonus tracks, both covers. I'm not familiar at all with X-JAPAN's music - I rapidly checked on YouTube -, but I have to say AUVERNIA's rendition of "Blue Blood" is very very good. Covers are usually a sensitive issue, but if it's done well, what's to complain about? Now, I do am familiar with QUEEN's music and here AUVERNIA had better not chosen this song, for the result is actually weak. DIVINEFIRE also covered "The Show Must Go On" (one of QUEEN's best songs) on their "Hero" album. Their impression was one hell of an effort.

Melodic Power Metal spiced with herbes from Black and Death Metal, in a Progressive layout and a symphonic dressing. In other words, a dish that would even put the restaurants with several Michelin stars to shame. Ok, I'm exaggerating and making a strange comparison. But truth be told that this Argentinian band called AUVERNIA has made an album that instantly attacks the bigger names and shows one doesn't have to be signed to a (big) label to be able to create pure masterpieces, although that might help to get recognition in other parts of the world and even get to tour every now and then. "Towards Eternity" is one of the jewels of 2008 and highly recommended not only for Power or Progressive Metal fans (see the mentioned bands above), but also for those that have given up on this great Metal genre, considering most of the recent releases have been soft or promoted as Power Metal but being closer to Hard Rock. So go to the band's website and order your copy now!

More info at

Fernando Héctor Varela - vocals, guitars
Leonardo G. Boan Adam - bass
Juan P. Verni - drums

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SVARTAHRID – Malicious Pride (Soulseller Records 2008)

Svartahrid - Malicious Pride
  1. Sons Of Mine
  2. Death To All!
  3. Malicious Pride
  4. The Coven
  5. Hellbound
  6. Kvestet
  7. Freezing Sorrow
  8. Nivlheim
  9. Scorched
  10. Likbaal

The Norwegian Black Metal band SVARTAHRID released its third album, "Sadness And Wrath", last year via Soulseller Records. It took them a long while to properly release it, as everything was done several years ago. The weakest link in the line-up has been the bass - lots of changes there -, as Istar aka Finn Tore Kjaersgaard (guitars, vocals) and Forn aka Runar Bratsberg (drums) have been the core of the band since 14 years or so. And yes, for the newest album, "Malocious Pride" (released in June), a new bassist was attracted: Nidgrim aka Stig York, replacing Frank Iberg. Forn also took care of the keyboards and extra guitarwork for this new album, according to the press release.

As is common/custom in Black Metal the lyrics are in Norwegian and English, with the second one being the dominant one. Last year Nocturno Culto (DARKTHRONE) made a guest appearance and also wrote the lyrics for "Intensjon: Krig". On "Malicious Pride" it's SVARTAHRID all the way, which is good because I wasn't too fond of Nocturno's input, since it was too shrieky for the music.

The album takes you through the cold and desolate environment in ten steps, beginning with the uptempo "Sons Of Mine". Istar's raw vocals welcome you and make you feel at home, in this cold environment. The music is typical Black Metal, with lots of ferocious outbursts in a setting that certainly doesn't remind you of a warm summer's day on the grass. Take a look at the cover and you know that it's up north you need to seek.

The first half of the tracklisting is very promising, with highlights in the assault that is called "Death To All!". Still, the flow is quite diverse, thanks to a calmer piece somewhere in the second half while Istar continues to spit his wrath. "Malicious Pride" is even less remorseful. The backing keyboards add to the atmosphere, but lack a bit of power to create a proper image. The tempo changes from Forn's part prevent monotony and the way they're executed neatly connects the different parts.

The keyboards finally get a more important role in "The Coven"". Well, the title says it all, right? Demonic vocals in a creepy and agonizing atmosphere. Drumwise you get the classic blasts, which intensify the music to make you see it as if your heart is ready to give up and tries to pump your blood with its last powers. Istar sounds even more dangerous and bestial than before. Sure, shrieking is one thing, but it's another to be able to take it a step further. And yes, there's even a short guitarsolo, something that was hard to find (if ever) in the previous tracks. Agony, pain, suffering are just a few terms that fit here.

With a title like "Hellbound" you might expect the same, but I was surprised that it's less heavy, less rough, so to speak. Sure, it's not flower power here and the atmosphere is an attack on your mind, for thou art not in a holy place. Mainly Istar is responsable for the ferocity in this song, although he's assisted by the guitars while the keyboards keep it a bit doomy.

And so it goes on. But SVARTAHRID is still a Norwegian bands and therefore you expect them to write lyrics in their mother tongue. That is the case in two songs: "Kvestet" and "Nivlheim". While the first has all the classic elements, it's "Nivlheim" that stands out because of its intro, delivered by the keyboards and creating an atmosphere of doom, hell, agony, demons... in a theatrical way. Afterwards, when the Metal does break loose, it's business as usual. As much effort this trio has invested in writing and composing, it does get boring towards the end. Or it could just be my taste.

One final comment about "Likbaal". This one is neatly divided into two parts: a slow/midtempo one going on for a couple of minutes, while the other cranks up the speed as if epo was injected into the instruments, or better said, Istar, Forn and Nidgrim. Overall a nice song, but nothing spectacular.

2008 has been quite a Black Metal year so far - speaking for myself, there was ALGHAZANTH, GORATH, CARACH ANGREN, COR SCORPII, KLUDDE and now SVARTAHRID. Of course, there's more to come, as I've got a few more in the To Do-list. As good as "Sadness And Wrath" was, "Malicious Pride" takes it even further, being more Black Metal, since the previous album flirted with Death Metal. SVARTAHRID is a band that deserves to get far, for once more they've released a qualitative album. As far as I'm concerned, things get a bit boring (as in too much of the same) in the second half, but picking out the songs for a playlist will provide more appreciation. Don't let that stop you, for "Malicious Pride" is recommended material for anyone into this dark kind of music.

More info at

Istar - vocals, guitars
Nidgrim - bass
Forn - drums, keyboards, guitars

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RED DESCENDING – Where Dreams Come To Die (Red Descending 2008)

Red Descending - Where Dreams Come To Die
  1. Building My Weakness
  2. Century
  3. The Grand Memory
  4. Slaughter Falls
  5. Descend
  6. Fragile Nation
  7. Deceived Again
  8. Departure
  9. Valhalla
  10. Landscape

RED DESCENDING is an Australian Melodic Death Metal band that combines the heaviness of Metal with the melodies and atmosphere of an orchestra. See it like a more melodic version of DARK TRANQUILLITY or the Australian equivalent of HOLLENTHON, the Austrian Melodic Death band who recently released their newest album, "Opus Magnum". The band released its debut, "Where Dreams Come To Die", on the 7th June.

Every step of the production, apart from the mastering process, was handled by a member of the band. The album was recorded, engineered and mixed by RED DESCENDING guitarist Ian Binet. The music videos featured on the album were filmed and edited by RED DESCENDING vocalist and bass player Bernard Shaw and drummer Jeremy Taylor. The album artwork was handled by Tristan Chambers who has performed second guitar duties for the band live. To add the final polish to their album, RED DESCENDING appealed to Peter In de Betou (DARK TRANQUILLITY, DIMMU BORGIR, ...) for the mastering.

"Where Dreams Come To Die" consists of 10 songs, totalling a playtime of about 47 minutes. "Building My Weakness" starts with a midtempo piece lead by the symphonic elements, while the guitars form a sort of contrast. You get a nice atmospheric intro here, with the melodies not exactly being of the happy kind. The production is very good and I especially like the sound of (the bell of) the ride cymbal, since it's been long that I heard it like that: pure, crisp clear and very realistic. About 45 seconds later the real power is unleashed as the symphonics suddenly come to a halt and the drums/guitars combo prepare you for the attack: double bass drums, heavy riff artillery and the keyboards providing the melodies - in between also assisted by the guitar -, which make the song a bit softer, but also fuller. Bernard's grunts are dirty, in a way, and remind of Henri Sattler (GOD DETHRONED) and it's not just in this first song. While "Building My Weakness" lasts for 5 minutes, it never gets boring due to the excellent compositions, the mix of melody and heaviness.

"Century" adds a bit more bombast, especially via the guitars and galopping drums. The symphonics play another big role, as if to replace the lead guitar, even though Ian (guitars) fulfills both roles very well. The atmosphere is overwhelming, also adding some sadness via the symphonics. The guitarsolo is well done, with the trumpets following in the back, but it's just too short. The focus lies heavily on the keyboards/symphonics. While the end result is very good, we're still dealing with a Metal band here and I have the impression that aspect plays a secondary role.

It seems that the situation improves, as the first sounds of "The Grand Memory" clearly show: Thrashy, straight-forward Metal. Very catchy, but sadly very short, since the keyboards soon set in as well once the verses have arrived. The Thrashy part does return in between, but I still would have liked it to have a more important role. Mind you, this is another great song and perhaps my favourite here. Musically it's another lust for the ear. In the chorus Bernard forms a duo with Rebecca, who does a good job, even though female vocals in a Melodic Death band aren't that common. The guitar now has a bigger role than just providing heavy power to back up the symphonics. Leads, solos, ... it's all there. An outstanding piece of Metal, no question about that. The same can be said about "Deceived Again", which is another more direct and Thrash-inspired song. No Rebecca here, though. And yes, melody is still an important element.

Time for some IN FLAMES then. "Slaughter Falls" has an accoustic intro, but the riffs that follow sound so much like what IN FLAMES did on their older albums (e.g. "Whoracle", "The Jester Race"). The tempo is a little slower again, back to midtempo. Guitars and keyboards take the lead, coming out very strong. During the verses the keyboards fulfill an atmospheric role, while the guitar is the center of attention. Half a minute before the middle of the song Rebecca comes in to add some angelic chanting, after which we get a nice heavy piece. Jeremy is also an important member, as he neatly announces each different part by changing tempo or using the toms. And then there's that ride cymbal. Sure, it's just a cymbal, but its sound does get through very well and keeps you attentive. I don't know what the song is about, but there are a few spoken samples from priests from I-don't-know-which-movie. The atmospheric keyboards form a thin bridge to "Descend", which is without question one of the best songs here. You can clearly distinguish each part not only because of the melodies, but mainly because of the specific drumming that is set for each part.

But not all is perfect. "Valhalla" offers a welcome return to a fuller, warmer sound after the Industrial trip. Plus, it's an instrumental track, which means that the music does the talking. The symphonics lay out the main melody, the guitar shoots out a different one, while the drums push everything onwards. All in all quite nice, but somehow not as attractive as the first few songs. Furthermore, it seems to be/sound incomplete, especially when the first notes of "Landscape" are heard. Although not as memorable as the first half of the tracklisting, this last song not only closes the album, it's adds the last doses of fierceness to this debut release.

RED DESCENDING aren't just combining Melodic Death and symphonics, but also try to spice things differently with Industrial elements. Two songs were created in this perspective: "Fragile Nation" and "Departure". The first has a sort of AMON AMARTH feel in terms of heaviness and sound, even though the Swedes aren't active in the Industrial sector. The symphonic backing really is in the back, whiile the Industrial elements are allowed to get through the guitar barrier now and then. "Fragile Nation" is one of the more straight-forward songs on the album. "Departure" deserves the Industrial stamp even more, as electronics play a bigger role. The production was adapted accordingly, giving e.g. the drums a very mechanical sound. But all things considered, this second song stands very much apart from the Melodic Death ones and is, in my opinion, the least attractive, not to say the worst, on the album. It's ok if you want to try different directions, but it's very clear that RED DESCENDING = Symphony-injected Melodic Death Metal, at which they're very good.

There are many Melodic Death Metal bands and there are such bands that try not to be a clone of e.g. DARK TRANQUILLITY, IN FLAMES, ARCH ENEMY or AMON AMARTH. Why not add symphonic elements? It works for Black Metal and Power Metal and especially the Austrian band HOLLENTHON has proven since a couple of years that it works for Melodic Death as well. RED DESCENDING thought the same and created "Where Dreams Come To Die", which could be one of the best albums of this year, if it weren't for those two Industrial songs that sound misplaced here. Last year BE'LAKOR impressed the world with "The Frail Tide" (which got them a deal with Descent Productions) and this year it's up to RED DESCENDING to offer serious competition. The excellent production is the cherry on the cake. If you're into Symphony meets Metal, but want something heavier than what you get with Power Metal bands, then I highly recommend you to check out "Where Dreams Come To Die".

More info at

Bernard Shaw - vocals, bass
Rebecca Brennan - vocals
Ian Binet - guitars
James McGregor - keyboards
Jeremy Taylor - drums

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HAK-ED DAMM – Black Tortured Metal (Hak-Ed Damm 2008)

Hak-Ed Damm - Black Tortured Metal
  1. Slit The Wrists
  2. Militia Pestis
  3. Gathering Of The Slutz
  4. Cut The Flesh Before It Ages
  5. HeadCrusher
  6. Grimmer Than Murder
  7. Die In Silence, Fucker!
  8. Maiming The Virgin

Canadian Black Metal. I must say I am not familiar with the Black Metal scene of Canada, but when ZokvisT (vocals) mailed me for a review, I can say I know at least one band now, hehehe. HAK-ED DAMM was founded in 2007 by ZoKvisT and drummer SilenceR. Guitarist VikkeR and bassist ZurhosiS joined later on to fulfill the common goal of creating a "noisy machine of war". Lyrical themes would include suicide, religion, war, violence, physical and mental torture and especially sex. The four got together, practised a lot and eventually came up with a first release: "Black Tortured Metal". This CDemo came out early June (6th) and is a self-release, since the band is currently unsigned and therefore had to finance it all by themselves.

About the band name: Hak-Ed Damm is the Hebrew name for a place in Jerusalem associated with Judas Iscariot, one of the followers of Jesus. In Old-Hebrew, Hak-Ed Damm signifies "field of blood".

The MCD contains a total of 8 tracks. Well, 6 if you don't count the in- and outro. Black Metal it surely is, as the guitarriffs are very clear on that. You get the classic stuff, including the blast beats, the screamy vocals, etc... and that leads to some nice songs. "Black Tortured Metal" commences with drum rolls, in marching style, while gregorian chants neatly join the rhythm. The atmosphere is dark and gloomy and you can feel something's bound to break loose.

And so it does, with "Milita Pestis". What you notice instantly is the poor production. The drums sound way too thin as the snare is barely audible and that counts for all songs. The bass can be heard, but here too you might have to put your ear against the speakers. This means that the guitar and screams have been put the most forward in the mix. Also a problem with the first song is that there's a sort of noise line that can be heard throughout the entire song and I think that has got to do with the bass guitar, as if it's too distorted, but not like you would expect (e.g. electric guitar-ish). Fortunately this problem is gone in the rest of the songs.

Personally two songs stand out for me: "Gathering Of The Slutz" and "Cut The Flesh Before It Ages". The first because of the music and varied drumming (not always blasting, but giving attention to something more normal too). The vocals do get annoying after a while and not just in this song. "Cut The Flesh Before It Ages" is, in my opinion, the best track, as it made me think of old BENEDICTION and especially their "Subconscious Terror" release. So yes, it's more Death Metal-ish than the other songs. Very nice stuff. Another song that deserves a mention is "Grimmer Than Murder". Here the tempo is slow and Doomy, but the band avoids monotony by adding some uptempo outbreaks. Again, nice work.

"Maiming The Virgin" is the closing track, but it's basically a looped organ melody without any real changes that would express a certain kind of event inline with the title. There's nothing dangerous to be found here. But it's sort of compatible with the intro and both tracks make it clear there's a head and a tail on "Black Tortured Metal".

HAK-ED DAMM have produced quite a decent effort, if you look underneath the bad production and sometimes annoying screams. If they wanted to keep it raw and True Kvlt and all of that, fine by me, but "Black Tortured Metal" isn't something you can play if there are other sounds interfering (office, pub, living room, car, ...). Only a few songs stand out, and there are some good ideas, but I wouldn't exactly recommend it to anyone but the people that absolutely don't care about sound quality and like their material pure, raw and uncompromised. Although it seems some compromises were made. But it's a demo, so things can only get better for the future. If you need comparable bands - useful for some - I'd say BELPHEGOR, (depending on the album) TAAKE and similar.

More info at

ZoKvisT - vocals
VikkeR - guitars
ZurhosiS - bass
SilenceR - drums

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ALGHAZANTH – Wreath Of Thevetat (Woodcut Records 2008)

Alghazanth - Wreath Of Thevetat
  1. Moving Mountains
  2. The Kings To Come
  3. The Phosphorescent
  4. On Blackening Soil
  5. Rain Of Stars
  6. Twice-Born
  7. Future Made Flesh
  8. As Nothing Consumes Everything

Not so long ago I reviewed one of the other bands on Woodcut Records, SOTAJUMALA, a qualitative Death Metal band. This time it's a Black Metal band that is served here: ALGHAZANTH. This Finnish bands has been blackening the world since 1995, or some 13 years now. The traditional issue of line-up changes also struck them, mainly in the bass department, but in the more recent years the band had to look for a new keyboardist, vocalist and lead guitarist. Two demos, a promotape and a split preceded ALGHAZANTH's debut album, "Thy Aeons Envenomed Sanity", which came out in 1998 and was the start of a new career, with a new release almost each year. After 2004's "The Polarity Axiom" the band's activity was decreased, also because its members had obligations with the other bands they played in and the line-up changes I just mentioned also played a significant role.

And surprise, surprise - even if I didn't really notice until checking the band's line-up to see where else they play - it's Mikko Kotamäki from SWALLOW THE SUN (melodic Death/Doom) on vocals ànd bass. SWALLOW THE SUN will release an EP in a few months, plus a new album early 2009. Considering the last album, "Hope", came out in 2007, Mikko had more time to join another band, a bit more extreme in this case. And the first release with him is ALGHAZANTH's fifth album: "Wreath Of Thevetat", released on the 6th June. If you google a bit, you'll find the following text: "An ancient king of one of the divisions of Atlantis, the submerged continental system of the fourth root-race (SD 2:222). He is instanced as one of the natural born adept-magicians who neither learned nor acquired knowledge, but who knew all without being initiated. "Under the evil insinuations of their demon, Thevetat, the Atlantis-race became a nation of wicked magicians" (IU 1:593)."

Reading the titles I guess they will deal with Atlantis and related, but I can't make that out from Mikko's screams and growls, not do I have the lyrics with me. But musically it is Black Metal, as the first notes and thundering drums of "Moving Mountains" clearly indicate. Furthermore, keyboards play a significant role to create a haunting atmosphere and/or add backing symphonics. Goat Tormentor's screams are well executed and totally fit with the music. The second half of the song contains an accoustic break after which there's a slow continuation (with keyboards adding a sniff of drama) towards the final outburst.

Things get even better in "The Kings To Come", where midtempo rules for the largest part and the keyboards are an instrument that cannot be missed, increasing the melodic aspect so the guitars don't have to do it all and focus on the harsher parts. Interesting is that the drums don't follow a standard pattern, even though the classic elements are there. Tempo changes, blastbeats, normal (flowing) drumming... it's all there and makes this song very much worth hearing, in collaboration with the rest of the instrumentation, obviously. Shortly before halfway there's a calmer moment, with a drop in tempo and a looped guitarmelody with the keyboards threading more to the front. You could call this a dramatic piece in vein of SWALLOW THE SUN, somehow. But don't worry, the blasting returns after that. All things considered I have to say that "The Kings To Come" is one of the best songs on the album and that's mainly due to its diversity.

"The Phosphorescent" continues in a ferocious manner, with a bombardment delivered by the drums. The screams are outed in an agonizing way, even bestial to some extent and the riffing contains too much danger for one to cope with. The melody is the responsability of the keyboards. Diversity is crucial again and that's for the largest part because of the drums, although the accents by the keyboards give the song more flavour. Composition-wise this is another beauty, implementing slower parts between the devastating outbursts.

More doom and gloom can be found in "On Blackening Soil". Goat Tormentor screams as if it's his last breath. If you seek comparable stuff, look at MOONSORROW (e.g. "Suden Uni") and perhaps some (older) DIMMU BORGIR, although I'm not so familiar with their older stuff. But there are points of contact, similar musical moments and atmosphere. The keyboards once more provide the melody and atmospheric ingredients, at some point assisted by the lead guitar. Around the 4th minute a semi-accoustic moment sets in as a sort of resting point before hell unleashes another time. Great stuff, I can't say it enough. The double bass drums come out very powerfully, and that's just one sign of a very good production.

ALGHAZANTH presents you with classic Black Metal in "Rain Of Stars", yet the keyboards provide choir singing to enforce the creepy atmosphere. At first I had the impression the drums didn't come out as strong as before, but I had to change a little my opinion when there were no other sounds interfering, which can be very annoying. Still, they are well executed and whatever more, but it's as if the guitars and keyboards are drowning them a bit. The effect isn't that big on the final result, but a bit more power (or better said, a bit more in the front in the mix) would not have hurt. For the sake of variety the band opted for a piano break around 04:15, in vein of COVENANT's "Nexus Polaris" album. Like before the music continues its devastating trail, although the lead guitar and screams add to the dramatic atmosphere.

"Twice-Born" adds a serious tempo increase to the album, with even more bombastic and dramatic symphonic keyboards, enforced by Mikko's screams. The keyboards really come to the front many times, giving the guitars a secondary role, although their power and harshness is very much needed, and Gorath Moonthorn doing everything in his power to blast them all to the back, so he can be heard a bit better. And he succeeds at several occasions, even adding double bass attacks to make it clear he's an important element in the compositions. Despite the increased presence of Ekholm's input, I can't say it's a bad song, but it would be nicer though if the guitars would be more important again.

The production is a little different in "Future Made Flesh", as the atmosphere is much darker and the guitars rawer. The song starts in a midtempo, yet thundering way with the keyboards adding a haunting, doomier atmosphere, while the guitars keep on flowing and the drums rolling like a tank. The drums this time are a bit more in the front. Mikko's screams are doubled and sond very bestial. The guitars can be properly heard when the keyboards hold their peace or add soft symphonics. About halfway you can hear piano accents as Mikko holds a sort of speech. The overall tempo is quite slow compared to the blasting and ferocity of before. Atmosphere is very important here, not so much brutality or anything like that. That's why there's a little less variety, there's like one sort of flow. While the combination of it all can be good to escape from the busy music that occupies the largest part of the album and give you something 'easier' to listen to, it's also - in my opinion - the least interesting song of the pack. But it doesn't form a black spot on the album, not at all.

And "As Nothing Consumes Everything" puts an end to the "Wreath Of Thevetat". Midtempo at first, yet very crushing, also thanks to the rolling double bass. The hellish screams tell the tale. Around 01:40 things get semi-accoustic with, yes, symphonic backing before the continuation of doomish events. Around halfway Gorath even adds some blastbeats. The dual leads that come next are very nice, but the epic moment afterwards is even better and is very much reminiscent of MOONSORROW. And that means: more of this! Absolutely tasteful stuff. The accoustic guitar plays a more prominent role for another brief moment right before the last minute, after which the chorus kicks in again leading the way towards the end. Excellent song, although you need to take your time with it, to hear it all.

In other reviews I often read DIMMU BORGIR as influence. ALGHAZANTH is in my opinion a totally different band and there might be similarities, but those are few in number and not identical. I prefer to lay links to, for example, KEEP OF KALESSIN, COVENANT, MOONSORROW and perhaps a bit of BEHEMOTH. In any case, ALGHAZANTH stands on its own, clearly shown by the pearl that is "Wreath Of Thevetat". Everything quite simply fits: vocals, riffing, varied drumming, atmosphere and melodies, and last but not least the production. Therefore it's safe to say that this is a band to check out and keep an eye on and "Wreath Of Thevetat" an album to have in your collection.

More info at

Goat Tormentor - vocals, bass
Grimort - guitars
Thasmorg - guitars
Ekholm - keyboards
Gorath Moonthorn - drums

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TÝR – Land (Napalm Records 2008)

TYR - Land
  1. Gandksvædi Tróndar
  2. Sinklars Vísa
  3. Gátu Ríma
  4. Brennivín
  5. Ocean
  6. Fípan Fagra
  7. Valkyrjan
  8. Lokka Táttur
  9. Land
  10. Hail To The Hammer (2008 version)

Two years since the re-release of "Eric The Red" and almost two years since their last album, "Ragnarok", the Faroese Folk/Heavy Metal band TÝR has set the sails to conquer/look for new "Land", which they found on the 30th of May. Again they set up camp at the Hansen Studios, owned by Jacob Hansen, one of the most asked producers the past 12 months (DESTRUCTION, ANUBIS GATE, PARADOX, COMMUNIC, SVARTSOT, and many more).

The previous two releases resulted in a tour on European and American soil, with bands like WINTERSUN, AMON AMARTH, DIE APOKALYPTISCHEN REITER and more. The last two years the name TÝR has been promoted and new legions of fans have gathered at the various stops the band made. Some of the last journeys were made with the Paganfest ensemble, also housing MOONSORROW, ELUVEITIE, ENSIFERUM, TURISAS, KORPIKLAANI, ...

"Land" is by far the band's longest album, clocking in after 68 minutes, beating "Ragnarok" and "Eric The Red" with 8 minutes. As usual, the lyrics are in English and Faeroese, Icelandic, Norwegian, which fits the songs and atmosphere better. "Ragnarok" had a long instrumental intro, which you could consider as a full song. This is also the case here, with "Gandksvædi Tróndar", yet here the story-telling factor is of importance, backed by a looped violin-melody. Around 02:40 the typical TÝR Metal kicks in, with drumrolls as a starter. Midtempo is key and the guitars repeat the violin melody of before, while Kári develops his drumming to something more pounding.

It is clear that the overall pace on "Land" is slow to midtempo. There are no fast songs to detect, not unlike the variety there was on the previous two albums. To counter that, Heri and co. decided to shift the focus onto the melodies and taking the time to go from the first note to the last. As a result, but that was also the case before, you'll find a couple of catchy songs, starting with "Sinklars Vísa". The catchy element is of course the chorus. Not that that is a logical thing, but in most cases songs are remembered by that part. The same thing can be said about "Gátu Ríma", where the pace is upped little bit. It's also one of my favourites here. "Ocean", the first long song, stands out mainly because of the diversity in the drumming: slow, humpapa-like, a moment of double bass, and so on. The whole also has something Progressive.

When composing music, you can go far and there will be times that comparisons/similarities with other songs will pop up. It depends on personal interpretation, that's right, but if you listen carefully you'll find at least two songs in this category and both times it's the intro:

"Brennivín" = "Dyer's Eve" (METALLICA)
"Valkyrjan" = "Forever" (KAMELOT) --> A correction is needed: I simply compared it to KAMELOT's song, yet it seems the melody (that TÝR used) comes from Edvard Grieg's "Peer Gynt Suite", as mentioned in the booklet of "Land", yet this review is based on the promo. But credit where credit is due. I'll need to properly check out Grieg's work(s). ;-)

The first has two characteristics: 1) two languages, English in the verses, Faroese in the chorus. 2) dark, slow verses vs humpapa-like chorus. The special aspect about "Valkyrjan" is the use of the acoustic guitar at first, with the electric one taking over in a later stage.

As good and/or familiar the material is so far, this slowdown compared to the previous albums can be nerve-wrecking at some point and there has to be at least one song that spoils the fun, if any. That 'privilege' is for "Fípan Fagra". The build-up is slow, with the drumpace going up and down and here too there's a sniff of catchiness in the melodies. The chorus is slow, but the whole song is - in my opinion - hard to swallow as there's no predetermined flow. You get slow moments, a bit faster ones and stuff that fits in the middle, but you really have to make an effort to stay focused. I would say Kári is one of the guilty members, because he plays what he thinks is the right way, the right time to add speed or play at odd times, or whatever. You could compare it to a car that has difficulties to accelerate in a linear way, yet does it with hops and breaks, if you understand what I'm trying to say. The production is like the rest of the album: flawless. But "Fípan Fagra" certainly spoils the listening pleasure. "Lokka Táttur" is the second song of which I'm not that fond, due to the slow pace, but also the droning drumming. Or is it the guitars?

The situation improves enormously with the title track, which is the second long song, clocking in after a good 16 minutes. Needless to say that the Progressive stamp is present. Our Faroese Metallers created a very epic and diverse song here and I can't add much else than finding it very good and most likely the best track on "Land". Sit back, relax, and enjoy the voyage.

"Hail To The Hammer" closes the album. This is a classic TÝR song, played live many times and even appeared as bonus track on the re-release of "Eric The Red", albeit in its original version. On "Land" you get the re-recorded version. It's a good song, which doesn't need more words.

To conclude I want to say that I was looking forward to "Land", since I enjoyed what preceded this release. There are songs that I like, mainly the first 3-4 and the title track. The others are also good, save for the two I mentioned, yet that's not the biggest problem. "Eric The Red" and "Ragnarok" had more diversity in the compositions and the albums were solid as a whole. "Land" has flaws in terms of speed and tempos, which can cause boredom to set in quite fast. Like I said earlier, the production is flawless, I have no complaints at all about that. However, if you want to get to know TÝR's music, this is not the album to start with. "Land" is their longest album, but also the hardest to digest at the moment. Perhaps they should have selected 5 songs or so and have an excellent EP and use the other songs for the next album(s). Mixed feelings thus, but my preference still goes to the previous releases. If you're fast enough, you might want to get your hands on the Limited Edition, which has a bonus DVD with the band's Wacken Open Air 2007 performance.

More info at

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

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THE MYSTERY – Soulcatcher (Limited Access Records 2008)

The Mystery - Soulcatcher
  1. Ascending Souls
  2. Take Me To The Light
  3. Judas Betrayed
  4. The Catchers Prelude
  5. Soulcatcher
  6. Turn Into Stone
  7. My Heart Lies Bleeding
  8. Suicidal Thoughts
  9. Heaven At War
  10. World Downfall
  11. Coming Home
  12. Fire Keeps On Burning
  13. Faithless
  14. Angel
  15. Unready To Die

THE MYSTERY, formed in 1996 and catalogued as Female-Fronted Melodic Metal - it's basically pure Heavy Metal with a female singer, since Melodic Metal can be Power, Black, Death, Progressive, Doom, Gothic, and so on. There's melody in (almost) any genre - has recently released its fourth studio album, "Soulcatcher" (30th May). Vocally you don't need to expect anything like lots of Gothic bands, just think of LITA FORD, DORO, BENEDICTUM (though Veronica sings a lot rougher) and more like this. Also because the music is somewhat '80s inspired. Although it took THE MYSTERY 6 years to complete their debut album "Where The Wind Blows Freedom" (2002, self-released), the line-up did undergo several changes, leaving guitarist Alex Martin as sole survivor at that time. Longtime vocalist Denise Olbrich was replaced by Korry Schadwell in November 2006 and she is still behind the mic.

Over the years THE MYSTERY has shared the stage with bands like SUBWAY TO SALLY, DIE HAPPY, DIE APOKALYPTISCHEN REITER, MAJESTY, REBELLION, TANKARD, POWERWOLF, CHINCHILLA and many more. With the new album, "Soulcatcher", I'm sure the list will only get bigger.

Something funny, at least to me, just came to my mind: the titles, not all but still, remind me other bands' songs. Some examples:

Take Me To The Light - The Way Of The Light (KALEDON), Into The Light (KENZINER)
Judas Betrayed - Judas Rising (JUDAS PRIEST)
My Heart Lies Bleeding - The Dragon Lies Bleeding (HAMMERFALL)
World Downfall - Jehova's Downfall (INQUISITOR)
Coming Home - Welcome Home (Sanitarium) (METALLICA)
Angel - The Angel (KALEDON)

I know, you can go far in this and look up many titles that have the same key words, but those were just a thought. Anyhow, let's continue with THE MYSTERY and "Soulcatcher".

The album starts with an intro, guitars and drums only, slowly building the tension. You might think everything will connect smoothly with "Take Me To The Light", but no. It has its ending and the song has its beginning. It would have been better if the intro flowed over into the first song, whereas now it's a seperate track and at least I don't hear or feel a link with what will come.

"Take Me To The Light" starts well, reminding me of KALEDON's "The Inexorable Light", which had almost the exact same riff. Uptempo is key throughout the song, with a good dose of catchiness, especially in the chorus. Korry's voice sounds clean, but has a certain roughness, a crossover between Veronica Freeman (BENEDICTUM) and Doro Pesch (DORO, ex-WARLOCK). No keyboards here, just pure and straight-forward Heavy Metal, the way it should be. I do have the impression that the solo doesn't get through, sounds a bit broken, probably due to the production, which is good, but perhaps a wee little bit too compressed.

Taking it a bit slower (midtempo), but still containing enough punch is "Judas Betrayed". Mainly the drums stand out because of the changing time in the beginning and in the connecting parts. Korry sounds a bit rougher here, as if to express a certain anger, something for which she luckily doesn't scream, for that wouldn't do the music any good at all. Due to those changing drums (and stop-start riffing in the verses) it kind of makes you nod along or use your feet. The music is not too technical and therefore easier to follow and listen to. Less is more, as they say, and with this kind of Metal it's not necessary to try to alter the classic patterns.

Before kicking off the title track a nice piano interlude paves the way: "The Catchers Prelude". The "Soulcatcher" itself is a midtempo rocker, with a tempo increase during the solo moment and in the last 30 seconds where the drums pound on until the end. Korry does a good job and even sound a bit more vicious at first, while going a bit softer in the very melodic chorus, where atmospheric backing (choir-ish) is implemented. It reminds a bit of those slow MANOWAR songs. Here as well, simple doesn't mean weak, as it's one of the best songs on the album.

When listening to "Turn Into Stone" it seems like THE MYSTERY looked for inspiration with (amongst others) IRON MAIDEN. The pace is set at fast midtempo, with the drums pounding like hell in the chorus. There's a tranquil, emotional DORO moment over halfway, with all heaviness falling away. Slowly everything gets rebuilt afterwards to unleash the last bits of power. Well executed, lots of power, but somehow the song isn't as attractive as the previous ones.

The situation improves a little with "My Heart Lies Bleeding", which is another midtempo rocker, hinting a bit at HAMMERFALL's "Glory To The Brave" era. The biggest 'issue' I have is when Korry sings "Tonight" in the chorus, since her voice gets doubled or something, but the result doesn't sound that fluent, I find it a bit forced. I understand they wanted to add some fullness to her singing, but the idea didn't work out that well. Besides this little detail, I have no complaints.

We continue the midtempo rocking in "Suicidal Thoughts", which is accoustic in the verses, but heaviness takes over once the chorus is in sight. All in all a nice to cruise on, but other than that nothing particularly outstanding. Korry also sings a bit more sensual. Just my impression, though. ;-) The guitarsolo is a predictable element, but very welcome.

Time for some heaviness and a power increase, for it's very much needed at this stage. "Heaven At War" is not only a good title, the music also kicks back some life into the tracklisting. The drums are more pounding, the guitars are tuned heavier and the tempo is increased a little in the chorus. This is also a song that will do well on stage, no doubt about that.

And while they're at it, let's take it even further. The intro of "World Downfall" certainly makes your blood pump faster with this tempo increase. The guitars also have more balls and Korry adjusts her singing to equal the instrumentation. Now she's entering Veronica Freeman-territory, hehehe. ;-) The chorus is slower, but the guitars and drums keep it active and energetic. "World Downfall" surely is one of the best tracks on "Soulcatcher" and an excellent one for live performances. Bang those heads, people. Of course you get some nice shredding here, too, and the solo also is long enough to enjoy.

After these fast(er) rides it's best to calm down again and regain powers for the last few songs, starting with "Coming Home". This is a slow(er) song, but quite heavy. Compare it to METALLICA's "The Thing That Should Not Be" - in terms of slower and ultra-heavy -, only a few gears higher. Midtempo, ok? Except for the chorus. The verses contain the powerriffs, the chorus keeps it more flowing. Another solo completes the compositions and another qualitative song is done. Let's go on. :-)

And the "Fire Keeps On Burning", that's right. Pounding Metal, choirish keyboards, sharp riffing and... wanking vocals in the chorus. What a difference with what preceded. The music's very much alright - particularly the verses - and well executed, although I have to say that the bridge and chorus are quite boring and not just because of Korry's input. Well, there are 15 songs and if all would be super, then both thumbs up and all the kudos in the world. No worries needed, as it's the first bad track so far.

The sharpness and speed increase of "Faithless" are more than welcome, for it will positively affect your mood. At least it did with mine. Straight-forward rocking, no fuss, just Metal. Well, it does get slower once the normal flow is found, even in the chorus. Only in between do you get the direct playing of the beginning. "Faithless" is sort of a hymnic song. Quite enjoyable, I must say, although the chorus could be a bit too repetitive in the second half. And as the music fades out... Korry starts the first lyric of "Angel". Depending on your CD-player the transition may be smooth or there's an interruption and you'll be surprised at first. The cutting was badly done, I have to add. It would have been best if everything of "Angel" was on one track, which brings me back to the intro, "Ascending Souls". That one was one track, no transition to "Take Me To The Light". Where DO you find a transition? Right where it should NOT be. Because what if you take out "Faithless", because you want to add it to a playlist with other songs? Sure, you can cut a piece of the ripped song or mp3, but otherwise you get "Don't you" right before another song is picked. Again, bad cut and pasting here. I hope this doesn't occur on the next album.

So, "Angel". This does have the desired speed increase that gets your heart pumping and your head banging again. Oh yes, and it starts with "think there is an angel", for the first part is in the last seconds of "Faithless". But I digress. "Angel" is one hell of a song, outstanding piece of uptempo Metal. Catchy, sing-along chorus, you can't sit still here, unless you enjoy the music without feeling the need to move something (head, feet, hands for the guitars or drums, ...). More of this, please! and I want to see/hear this live, too. And the solo... keep it going, Alex. Ok, it's nothing superspecial, but it fits in the spirit of the music and especially that 80's feel. This song is the perfect medicine when you're feeling down.

Closing up is "Unready To Die", the longest song here with 6 and ½ minutes. Accoustic at first, with Korry coming in very gently. The melody is quite touching. Beware if you're feeling down, for this may produce a tear or two. Soft snarerolls join in after a short while, before heaviness takes over around the 2nd minute. Compare it in a way with METALLICA's "The Unforgiven" or EDGUY's "Land Of The Miracle". Symphonic accents can be heard little over halfway. Past the fourth minute another accoustic moment takes over until everything is silent. About half a minute later, a soft and low sounding guitarmelody can be heard. Thunder rages shortly in the back, while burts and screams of heavy guitars take over until silence swallows everything once more. And then Korry awakes from the dreadful dream with a scream. That was surprising, but in my opinion unnecessary for this very beautiful ballad.

Heavy Metal has always been a fantastic genre, mainly because of the many NWOBHM bands. Even now there are many bands that keep that flame burning by keeping it pure, but also adding some power. The 80s were a great period for Metal and THE MYSTERY has understood that this legacy should be kept alive. Therefore they worked hard on their fourth album. Neither efforts nor time nor money were saved to give the songs a full and powerful sound that would be up-to-date with today's standards. I don't really know how their previous albums sounded, but "Soulcatcher" certainly was a positive experience for me and despite a few trivial mistakes, I can highly recommend this album to anyone into the pureness of Heavy Metal and perhaps nostalgic for the 1980s. THE MYSTERY is a band that keeps the 1980s alive while not sounding outdated, and that deserves lots of respect. Go catch the "Soulcatcher" or let it catch you, that's all I want to add.

More info at

Korry Schadwell - vocals
Alex "Thunder" Martin - guitars
Christian J. Rüther - bass
Daniel Kahn - drums

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HOLLENTHON – Opus Magnum (Napalm Records 2008)

Hollenthon - Opus Magnum
  1. On The Wings Of A Dove
  2. To Fabled Lands
  3. Son Of Perdition
  4. Ars Moriendi
  5. Once We Were Kings
  6. Of Splendid Worlds
  7. Dying Embers
  8. Misterium Babel

HOLLENTHON's founding dates back to 1994, when the band was known as VUZEM, playing Black Metal. When signing to Napalm Records a few years later, the band is renamed to HOLLENTHON and unleashes its debut album, "Domus Mundi", in 1999. Two years later, "With Vilest Of Worms To Dwell" comes out and shows lots of improvement regarding soundtrack-like production and the atmosphere that is created by the splendid mix of heavy guitars, drums and orchestral and choir elements.

HOLLENTHON masterfully combines orchestral elements with the beaviness of Death Metal, albeit that this Death Metal is toned down a bit in favour of more melody and less brutality like SUFFOCATION, NILE, VOMITORY and others. Orchestral or symphonic implementations can mostly be found with bands that are active in Gothic Metal, Power Metal, Black Metal and Progressive Metal. Mixing it with the ferocity of Death Metal is rare, at least to my knowledge.

"Opus Magnum" is the band's third album - released on the 30th May - and with each album they progressed and sharpened their skills. "On The Wings Of A Dove" is the opener and immediately sets the tone: pounding orchestral elements (brass instruments with choir-ish singing taking over as the Metal gets sharper) with raging guitars and devastating drums. The excellent production is definitely a helpful aspect. Marcus's grunting isn't exactly Death Metal-ish, rather more between Death and Black. In a way you can compare "On The Wings Of A Dove" to THERION - as the mix of orchestra and Metal is what made them big and very much appreciated - but then in a heavier version.

The tempo goes down and the guitars drag the song forward in "To Fabled Lands". Martin's voice still sounds as greasy and dirty as before and that fits the music very much. Any clean singing would severely contrast with this fantastic musical blend. There's more Metal than orchestral input here, though, although the choir does play an important role as well. Ok, it seems there is some clean(er) singing after all and indeed, it doesn't fit that well. But that doesn't mean it's not well executed.

Strings and brass instruments once more claim a leading role: "Son Of Perdition". Heavy start-stop riffing is key, as well as the looped snare and tom hits. Later on the playing gets normal and at the break gentle female singing (Elena Schirenc) can be heard, with string and bouzouki (I think) accents in the back. Clearly one of the best songs on the album.

With "Ars Moriendi" there's a serious increase in ferocity and bombast, from all parties: the band and the orchestral and choir parts. From Wikipedia (Click here to read more): "Ars moriendi ("The Art of Dying") is the name of two related Latin texts dating from about 1415 and 1450 which offer advice on the protocols and procedures of a good death and on how to "die well", according to Christian precepts of the late Middle Ages." Martin's grunting voice therefore fits very well here. This time it's again the guitars that lead the charge and this results in some destructive moments. The choir in the last part, later replaced by violin and piano accents, adds to this grim and morbide aspect before the whirlwind comes back.

The band changed course a little for the intro and melodies of "Once We Were Kings" as they implemented some eastern elements (Turkish, I'd say). The violins' melody is also proof of that. This song has "epic" written all over it. Martin shares the vocal parts with Elena again, though he takes on most of it. The tempo is slower again and the orchestral input is raised again. The changing rhythms are a nice addition in terms of diversity, as overall the band has put a lot of music in this song, even though it ends shortly before the 5-minute mark.

"Of Splendid Worlds" starts directly with attacks of cymbals and twisted guitarlicks, after which the air raid is executed, meaning the bombast and ferocity similar to "Ars Moriendi" is unleashed. Although this isn't a fast song, it certainly isn't slow either, let alone calm. Guitars and orchestra (+ choir) each go for their own melody and this combination is simply outstanding. It does get slower after this first part, and the band takes over, yet letting the orchestral elements and choir come back in the chorus. When the solo kicks in little over halfway, the drums also get more active. A crazy, theatrical piano piece follows with Martin telling the tale and the strings and brass instruments making things scarier.

After all this bombast meets heaviness meets ferocity and whatever more, you might wonder if there's a sort of resting point before ending the album in style. The beginning of "Dying Embers" certainly makes you think that way, as it's a bit ballad-ish. But once the 40th second is there, it's business as usual with lots of attention for the orchestral and choir elements. The brass instruments remain in the back in the verses, inline with the guitars, whereas in the previous songs they usually came in to add some accents or take turns with the normal instrumentation. Musically the band can perfectly do without the symphonic/orchestral extras, but on the other hand it makes the music more interesting. In some cases on this album, it wouldn't hurt to go just for Metal. The calmer part around 03:35 reminded me in a way of what ARCH ENEMY did in "Nemesis". After that hell breaks loose with a screaming guitar solo and devastating brass instruments assisting. The choir also comes to lend a voice. As good as the idea is, the solo doesn't quite match with what preceded. The transition is a bit forced, although the song in general is quite good.

With "Misterium Babel" we've come at the end of this "Opus Magnum" and for this last chapter the band took their time to create an epic and bombastic musical piece, clocking at 08:30. It begins with eastern chanting, done by a girl (or is it Elena again?), backed by atmospheric keyboards, after which the guitars and drums are added in a hypnotizing way, as the singing continues. Slowly the next part comes in sight. The guitars fall silent, Martin sings gently, atmospheric keyboards in the back and percussion assisting the drums. For the bridge it's full power: trumpets (as if to represent the danger that has been unleashed), guitars and grunts. The chorus is Metal only, yet not to be taken lightly as the sharp riffing is as deadly as can be. Little over halfway things get more violent and energetic via the drums and guitars. Particularly the first is responsable for a great dose of variety as Mike sure doesn't follow a standard pattern, but changes tempo, rhythms and tries to make good use of what he has at his disposal. The eastern singing returns now and then and the final part of the "Misterium" is filled with flute and another flute-like instrument, again something Turkish or so, but I can't put my finger on it. Fact is that this last song is one very nice piece of exotic Metal, so to speak. Give it a few spins to discover the many layers.

"Opus Magnum" is my first encounter with HOLLENTHON and their Orchestral/Symphonic/Melodic Death Metal and I can't say it displeased me. Not at all. In fact, it took me by surprise and hasn't disappointed me and I don't think it ever will. Based on what I've heard of previous material on their MySpace page I have to say that this band hasn't released one bad/less good album, although that can genuinely be said once you've heard all three, of course. Still, I can only recommend "Opus Magnum" to anyone into Orchestral Metal and/or Melodic Death Metal that isn't like most of the pack. It might help, depending on your taste, if you think of THERION (the stuff before "Gothic Kaballah") and make the Metal aspect heavier. For me personally, this is one of the best albums of 2008... so far.

More info at

Martin Schirenc - vocals, guitars
Martin Arzberger - guitars
Gregor Marboe - bass, vocals
Mike Gröger - drums

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PERZONAL WAR – Bloodline (AFM Records 2008)

Perzonal War - Bloodline
  1. Evolution
  2. Utopia
  3. All Sides Black
  4. Dead Meaning
  5. Two Borders
  6. Shred
  7. Infected Choice
  8. Dying Face
  9. New Confidence
  10. More Than A Day
  11. Same Blood

PERZONAL WAR's last album, "When Times Turn Red", came out three years ago and although the band played quite some gigs (incl. a tour with DESTRUCTION and CANDLEMASS) it was long silent around this band. Still, drummer Martin Buchwalter was occupied with production duties for SUIDAKRA and playing with SQUEALER.

Moving away from the METALLICA-comparisons and putting their own stamp on their music, although drawing inspiration from e.g. NEVERMORE, PERZONAL WAR are a force to reckon with and not just their previous album made that clear. Because of this long period Metti and co. had lots of time to write new stuff, blending old school Thrash elements with a more modern approach of the situation. The line-up changes (bassist Sven leaving the fold, yet Björn Kluth came to the rescue for the recordings and live performances, and recently guitarist Sascha Kerschgens also quitting) certainly didn't help to make the writing process more flowing. Still, perhaps this is the beginning of something new, something that will benefit the band's career. Daniel (RENISION, PAUL DI'ANNO) is for now PERZONAL WAR's second guitarist.

On to the music on the new album, "Bloodline", which came out on the 30th May. Thrash and more modern Metal are mixed extremely well here. It starts with guitars fading in, mixing aggressiveness and melody. Martin adds riding cymbal accents, toms and kickdrums to increase the tension and then all hell breaks loose: "Evolution". The playstyle is set. Metti's aggressive vocals fit in very well, in the verses and the melodic chorus, where he logically sings in a more melodic way. Around halfway, I guess, there's a nice melodic but heavy interlude before setting in the chorus again and ending the song like it started.

"Utopia" is all about blasting it out, no thrills, no frills, just straight-forward Metal. At least, that's the start. The verses are slow and melodic, with Metti singing in a clean way. Musically the IN FLAMES influences cannot be ignored, even in the bridge or chorus, which consists of that blasting part. Fast drumming, mainly the double bassdrums. Heavy riffing meets melodic leads, backed by gentle keyboards (or samples). Modern Metal on a qualitative Metal, despite the IN FLAMES references. I'll take PERZONAL WAR any day over what IN FLAMES does nowadays. On a sidenote: RAGE guitarist Victor Smolski made a guest appearance on this.

The brutality increases in "All Sides Black", with slow, pounding drums at first. Soon Martin lets out a powerful ball of energy and this translates into violent hits on the skins. Overall, this song also offers pure headbang pleasure, thanks to the ferocious riffing and thunderous drumming. Metti sounds angry and you better not stand in his way, hehehe. Among all this heaviness it's nice to hear the guitarsolos, which are on many occasions too short, too functional with many bands' albums.

Spacey samples simplify the entrance for the guitars and drums to come and deliver "Dead Meaning". The pace is slow/midtempo and radio effects have been put over Metti's vocals. Melody is key, with especially the groovy guitars being responsable for that. Martin keeps things interesting, or tries to, with his double kickdrums. The spacey samples are woven into the structure of the song and although "Dead Meaning""is a sort of resting point after the fast(er) songs of before, it does sound whiney, despite the execution being very good. For me this is for the biggest part uninteresting.

"Two Borders" brings back the Thrash and the appearances of DESTRUCTION/HEADHUNTER frontman/bassist Schmier and SACRED REICH guitarist Wiley Amett (who plays the distorted solo, I think) certainly play a role. Definitely one of the best songs on the album. Fast, brutal, diverse and frightening for the masses... just like it should be. Top job!

A title like "Shred" says it all. Gus Chambers is the one whose voice was deemed most fit, as there's also something Punkish about the song. The ex-vocalist from GRIP INC. and SQUEALER A.D. does a perfect job and it's great to hear him again. The rolling kickdrums and riffs sounds extremely great to the ear. Gus's aggressive approach blends in nicely with the music, but Metti also got his vocal lines, i.e. in the chorus. The guitarsolo is off the hands of GRAVE DIGGER guitarist Manni Schmidt.

"Infected Choice", not to confuse with SEPULTURA's "Infected Voice", is another Thrashy song, with the classic humpapa rhythm. The singing doesn't seem to be inline with that, it's as if Metti is singing to totally diffent music. Melody and a small decrease in tempo play an important role in the chorus, whereas the main riff in the verses keeps on droning on and on. Later on the guitarsolo comes along and contributes to the chaos that is to be found here. The different layers and compositions certainly make you listen a few times to dissect it all. Overall, however, this is another less good song, in my opinion.

All you IN FLAMES/SOILWORK lovers will be pleased with "Dying Face". Midtempo, double bass, clean singing in the verses. Luckily Metti goes for something rougher for the bridge. The chorus is... weak. And if you listen close, you might detect something along the lines of "Feeeeed the woooorld, let them know it's Christmas time...", especially the first part of this famous chorus. Sorry, but NEXT!

This is what I'm talking about: THRASH! The guys have found "New Confidence", so to speak. Fast, Thrashy riffing and drumming to start with and returning in the bridge. Toms dominate in the verses and the first part of the chorus. Both sections also contains the most melody. On an instrumental level, there's quite enough to discover, guitar-wise and via the drums. In short, it's another highlight on "Bloodline".

The positive curve continues in the midtempo "More Than A Day". Double, pounding kickdrums in the verses, something battlecry-ish in the chorus, where catchiness was implemented. This will do well on stage, also getting the crowd on your side, singing along. With the small tempo increase via the drums and the short guitarsolo accompanying it, the part after that reminds of DESTRUCTION, including Metti's vocal lines. Quite an epic track, this one.

The "Bloodline" reaches its end with "Same Blood". No heaviness here yet, for it's accoustic guitar that dominates, that demands all attention. Metti falls in after half a minute or so, with clean vocals, obviously as the music doesn't demand for roughness. Everything sounds so gentle compared to what was played before. The chorus on the other hand injects the song with the heavy elements coming from the guitars and drums. This powerballad is, compared to "Dying Face", so much better, so much more beautiful. Very good ending song, I cannot deny that.

When looking back, I count three less good songs. They're not exactly bad, so I prefer to use 'less good' or 'less interesting'. That leaves 8/11 that did pass, which is a good 72-73%. "When Times Turn Red" left a good impression on me, back in 2005. "Bloodline" also succeeds in this, although I'm not that fond of the IN FLAMES/SOILWORK influences or the more modern Metal in general. Luckily PERZONAL WAR have added enough material that should please old school fans, too. It took them three years - actually two, since the album has been ready since almost a year, but AFM's release schedule was too full then - and what the band presents on "Bloodline" is quality, lots of quality: Thrash meets melody, with the latter having a large impact on the compositions.

More info at

Matthias "Metti" Zimmer - vocals, guitar
Björn Kluth - bass
Martin Buchwalter - drums

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KALEDON – Chapter 5: A New Era Begins (Hellion Records 2008)

Kaledon - A New Era Begins
  1. A New Man
  2. Wounded Friend
  3. Mozul
  4. Undeads Again
  5. The End Of The Green Power
  6. A Flash In The Sky
  7. Great Mighty Light
  8. Greatest Heart
  9. The God Beyond The Man
  10. Return To Kaledon
  11. Neon Knights (BLACK SABBATH cover - Japanese bonus track)
  12. We Will Rock You (QUEEN cover, speed version - Japanese bonus track)

It was with great anticipation that I looked forward to KALEDON's newest creation, titled "Chapter 5: A New Era Begins", for which the release was set around the end of May, beginning of June. The title can be interpreted in two ways: 1) Story-wise, Daeniel is now the new king of Kaledon. To know more, just go to the band's website (click here), and 2) Claudio Conti (vocals) was replaced by Marco Palazzi. Claudio was known for his high-pitched singing, which was a recurring 'problem', so to speak, yet he improved his singing with every album, especially with "Chapter 3: The Way Of The Light" and "Chapter 4: Twilight Of The Gods".

This was another reason for me to look forward to "Chapter 5", to hear if he would be as good as on the last album, or improve even more. Mainly his high-pitched screams were the weak spot, yet he used them less with each release. Sadly, in a way and the characteristic differences aside, Alex and co. found it better to look for someone else, with a voice that could handle a broader range of songs. Marco Palazzi was chosen, after several candidatures. His voice is indeed very different from Claudio's: melodic, but with a rougher edge and that fits very much on the new album. Oh, I forgot, there is a third interpretation of the title: KALEDON was formed in 1998, so in a way you could consider "A New Era Begins" as an anniversary album.

As I've said in previous reviews, the band has improved a lot with each release, especially since "The Way Of The Light" in 2005 and doing perhaps even better one year later with the fast "Twilight Of The Gods", where fast Melodic/Symphonic Power Metal ruled and dominated. The production also bettered, thanks to Giuseppe Orlando. This is now the band's third album under his watchful ear and this helps to get the band better and adjust the sound in a specific direction.

Let's focus on KALEDON anno 2008. In the last interview with Alex Mele, he told me the music would be less Power Metal, more Hard Rock. This is actually very common nowadays, that Power Metal bands switch to Hard Rock after x albums or x years. Two big examples are EDGUY and AVANTASIA. Even HAMMERFALL have lessened their speed since a few years. Now, I feared that KALEDON would also 'disappoint', but after hearing the new material, I have to admit that the result is actually good. Considering Alex is a big QUEEN fan (and more specifically of Brian May), the musical change is not that much of a surprise.

There are still samples to make the story come to life: crowds, cheering, horses, winds, etcetera. "A New Man" is the start of this new era, the new king, the new musical direction. It's a typical instrument in certain Hard Rock bands, yet our Italians hadn't used it before - as far as I know/remember: the organ, Marco's responsability. This to add melodic power or inject some accents here and there. In this midtempo Rocker Marco feels like a fish in the water and his rough-edged voice carries the melody without problems. The guitars are heavy, but never overwhelming and David's drumming has been limited to more simple stuff, although he was free enough to keep the music active and diverse enough. Around 03:14 Daniele can go his way with an organ solo, which is followed by that on the guitar.

Right after this 'welcoming', we get the first ballad, "Wounded Friend". You can perfectly follow the tracklisting with the happenings in the story, by the way. "Wounded Friend" introduces the compatibility between the accoustic and electric guitars. No organ here, but a piano, which fits better in ballads. Catchiness is an important ingredient here, especially in the chorus, where there's symphonic backing. As cheesy as it is for some, I did find the end result beautiful and touching, somehow. Solos between the keyboards and guitar play another role of importance, practically anywhere on the album.

Evil characters also play a role in the story, so "Mozul" had to be written. This one commences with a symphonic intro, after which the Rock/Metal breaks loose via rolling kickdrumming and guitarriffing inline with that. The chorus is more normal, more melodic, a little faster, although everything remains in the midtempo structure. The keyboard/guitar duel sets in at around 02:22 and as usual cannot be missed, else that would certainly be seen as a lack in the compositions.

Water bubbling, dragon growling... that's how "Undeads Again" kicks off. David has the honour to be the first to set the pace, and slowly built up the tempo. The rest of the instrumentation falls in shortly after, with a proper speed increase around the first minute, dominated by symphonics. After that the tempo falls back a bit to midtempo, yet there's more punch than before. The drums get another moment of glory, with lots of tom use, in the chorus, when the keyboards lead. I think this is that specific drumpart: click here. One of the highlights of this song comes around 03:25. It's the solo moment, indeed. Towards the end the tempo drops, heaviness increases, there's another keyboards vs guitar solo and David's drumming changes to something more thundering. All in all, one of the best songs here.

Howling winds carry "The End Of The Green Power" aka the dragon to the heavens. Due to this sad event, the music is adapted to fit the mood and you might have the impression another ballad is on offer. Until the first minute marker is reached, then all hell breaks loose and the music gets revigorated, the power of the dragon entering the body of Daeniel. The drums are also inline with this sudden change and provide the necessary accents and variability. There are two solo moments, a fast(er) one and a slow(er) one. The organ of before makes its entry again. Catchiness is key in the melodies and chorus.

Firebolt-like explosions appropriately express the "Flash In The Sky", where the music Rocks with a capital R!! The organ is here, too, to add some melodic touches. Midtempo is the pace, although it does have a faster feel. Daniele has lots of work to do, as he also is in charge of spacey accents in the verses and filling the solo moment with synthesizer and piano melodies. At that time the tempo is increased and the guitars also show their power a little more. All the elements combined result in another great song, extending the shortlist of the best on "Chapter 5".

And if that wasn't enough - you're probably wondering where the Power Metal of before is hiding - there's a great and diverse instrumental that follows: "Great Mighty Light". While "Black Telepathy" on "Chapter 3" was fast all the way, "Great Mighty Light" starts fast and melodic, after which midtempo takes over. As usual the keyboards provide the melodies and backing. The ending is the same as the start, so the head and tail are there.

The howling winds return - aren't they being overused, not to say abused? - to pave the way for "Greatest Heart", which has a threatening feel. This is expressed by the keyboards and pounding drums. The dark verses stand in great contrast with the more uplifting chorus. Around 01:50 the speed increases, the guitarsolo is set in and the general riffing sounds much sharper. This also forms the bridge with the second part, or third if you like, of the song. KALEDON did the same with "Hell On Earth" on "Twilight Of The Gods". But another difference is that the dark verses return later in the second part, whereas "Hell On Earth" consisted of two different parts.

And yes, winds once more. It must have been quite a period, with all these winds. And you can also link that to the album title, as in a new wind that blows over the land. Anyhow, Daeniel screams it out that he's the chosen one. And this is the start of the first song that our Italians made a studo video for and released onto the masses: "The God Beyond The Man". Catchiness has also been applied here, mainly for the chorus. It's is interesting to hear the piano kicking off the melodies and increasing the playfulness, the synthesizer taking over, or better said, joining in, together with the guitars and drums. The verses contain no heaviness, it's gentle keyboardwork that provides the counter melody, though. The catchy and sing-along chorus features lots of layered, not just for the vocals, but also the keyboards with the organ included. The joyful piano melody returns around the third minute when the synth solo also commences. The guitarsolo takes over, but without keyboard interfence and connects neatly with the chorus afterwards.

Ah, horses. Finally something else than those winds. They ride for the "Return To Kaledon", which also shows that Alex and company haven't forgotten that they're still a Power Metal band. Uptempo drums, double bass, an epic chorus, diverse sections (incl. tempo changes) and yes, the classic solos. A very enjoyable song and a perfect closer of this new chapter.

The Japanese version features some extras, including two bonus tracks: "Neon Knights", a classic in the BLACK SABBATH discography, and QUEEN's hit "We Will Rock You"... in a speedier version. The first is actually quite good, although it's hard to 'copy' Dio. KALEDON didn't have the intention to copy 1/1, but just made it as entertaining as their own songs, without ruining the original. The fast QUEEN cover is original, if I may say so, as covers usually aren't done this way. On a sidenote: MOONSORROW's cover of METALLICA's classic "For Whom The Bell Tolls" was MOONSORROW-ised enough to make it very much worth hearing. What KALEDON did deserves kudos, as they put their own stamp on this great Rock song. My impression is that they just wanted to show that Hard Rock/Heavy Metal is a great music style and that fun is still a factor that should not be neglected. In my opinion, they succeeded in this mission.

In previous reviews I wrote that the band grew with each album and although they've sort of stepped back in terms of 'difficulty'/technicality on the musical ladder (Power Metal --> Hard Rock), they did not forget their history and kept a certain level of Power Metal intact. I can't tell if "Chapter 5: A New Era Begins" is better than "Chapter 4: Twilight Of The Gods", because both albums are too different in speed, compositions, vocals, etc... Some will find the music cheesy, but once again I have to congratulate this fast growing band with their latest achievement. There's not one bad song here and the compositions provide enough change and diversity, despite the level of Hard Rock being very high. I hope for a return to the Melodic/Symphonic Power Metal of the previous two albums, but on the other hand I cannot deny that I like the 'new' KALEDON. This album is for any open-minded Power Metal fan. The sole question that remains to be answered: will they make it into my year's Top 10 for the third time in a row?

More info at

Marco Palazzi - vocals
Alex Mele - guitar
Tommy Nemesio - guitar
Daniele Fuligni - keyboards
Paolo Lezziroli - bass
David Folchitto - drums

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X-WORLD/5 – New Universal Order (AFM Records 2008)

X-World/5 - New Universal Order
  1. Cyberchrist
  2. Man Machine
  3. Charge To War
  4. Stand Up
  5. A Cryptic Message
  6. Crocked Cross
  7. Lunar Voyage
  8. Argonaut
  9. New Eden

Last year bassist Magnus Rosén left HAMMERFALL to focus on other endeavours (musical and other), like X-WORLD/5. With this new band he can show his skills in the world of Space Metal - a bit like Arjen Lucassen did with STAR ONE - to present their view of Metal anno 3006. Musically this Sci-Fi Metal leans close to Heavy/Power Metal, but there are of course the 'spacey'/Industrial elements that have to bring this music to life and create a totally new world of heaviness. Assisting Magnus in his quest are Swedish drummer/programmer/engineer Big Swede, PAGAN'S MIND/EIDOLON vocalist Nils K. Rue (who already has experience with Space-influenced Metal), producer/guitarist Andy La Rocque (KING DIAMOND) and Reeves Gabrels, who handles the other guitar position.

Apparently X-WORLD/5 was founded in 2005, but now they're ready to undertake their voyage into the future. The first effort is "New Universal Order", released on the 16th of May via AFM Records.

The expectations were reasonably high, but weren't 100% met. The take-off is good, with the midtempo "Cyberchrist". Nils's voice is as you can expect. Just listen to PAGAN'S MIND's albums and you'll know that over the years he has improved a lot. The keyboards remain the most important instrument for the spacey/industrial elements, melodies and atmospheric backing. Also very tastey about this song is the ultra-heavy rhythm guitar. The effects on Nils's voice later in the song are an obstacle, as far as I'm concerned. Sure, we've got Space Metal here, which means technology, computers, Star Trek, etc... which means it's a necessity if you want to bring the music/setting to life. As far as listening pleasure goes, I mostly pass in such cases. But the impact on the song isn't that big that it interferes with the music, not at all.

"Man Machine" increases the use of electronics and darkens the atmopshere a bit. The drums take on a pounding rhythm and the singing is almost warcry-ish. The spacey guitarsolo causes the drums to add some speed and double bass. Musically this is a step back, or at least, regarding listening pleasure. This slower tempo goes back up in "Charge To War", a title that sounds very promising.

Sadly, this is not the case. The DIMMU BORGIR-ish effects on Nils's vocals sound annoying. The music is very much 'Industrialized', while the guitars don't come out as strong as before, due to not being high in the mix. The best part of "Charge To War" is its chorus: Power Metal! The melody, the drums, the guitarsolo.... so different from the verses and so damn good.

"Stand Up" is by far the least good song on "New Universal Order". The instrumentation sounds rawer than before, those vocal effects are still present, but overall the compositions are bundled into something that sounds very chaotic, which makes it hard to stay focused.

The situation improves only a little in "A Cryptic Message", where the music would suit singers/bands like (those of) Marylin Manson and Alice Cooper. The bass is very audible, so are the drums. Minus points go to, yes, the voice effects, plus the whiney chorus. Musically the Industrial aspect prevails once more. Overall this is another less good song, but luckily it's the last part of the listening pleasure being spoilt.

"Crocked Cross" is where X-WORLD/5 has found renewed inspiration: pounding Metal! Despite the disliked singing, the chorus is again the best part of the song, although the music in general is quite enjoyable, too. The chorus is more 'normal', so to speak, and with the pounding aspect this result in a delight for the ears.

In "Lunar Voyage" you get welcomed by galactic explosions, which come back further in the song. The tempo of the music is slow, with the production being - mainly on the drums - dryer, heavier. On almost each song the production is a little different. The verses have a psychedelic touch, whereas the chorus dwells more in normal surroundings. The solo moment is well executed and srves to complement the spaceyness, the atmosphere of it all and not the sake of adding a solo.

"Argonaut" is where the Metal conquers the throne. Although the electronic/industrial ingredients are still present, the music resembles that of (old) HAMMERFALL, PRIMAL FEAR, some PAGAN'S MIND and even MANOWAR. I can't add anything else but say that this is definitely one of the best songs on "New Universal Order". And it seems Magnus and co. saved the best for last: "New Eden", where the music sounds more threatening, via the keyboards, guitars and drums. You do get a message first, like from a log book. The music is simply outstanding and the contrast between the verses and bridge/chorus is very clear: in the first there's plenty of Metal to be found, in the second it's the melodies that take that place and push the Metal to the background.

A new band, a new injection for Power Metal and Space Metal in general, for which there aren't that many bands (yet?), as far as my knowledge goes at the moment. X-WORLD/5 certainly is a promising collective of experienced musicians, combining their knowledge and skills to create a "New Universal Order". Since a review always contains personal taste, one should also try to remain objective. In general I would say this is a decent effort that can please any open-minded Power Metalfan, who doesn't think it's all about RHAPSODY (OF FIRE), STRATOVARIUS, EDGUY, HAMMERFALL, SONATA ARCTICA, and others. Fans of STAR ONE will also find a treat here. Personally then, I find this decent, but there aren't enough songs to persuade me to buy the album. It is clear, though, that the best songs are in the second part of the tracklisting, and that totals 3, maximum 4 songs. Add the first and you've got the highlights of this first album. Less effects on the vocals would already do a lot of good - something to keep in mind for the follow-up.

More info at

Nils K. Rue - vocals
Andy La Rocque - guitars
Reeves Gabrels - guitars
Magnus Rosén - bass
Big Swede - drums, programming

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QUADRIVIUM – Adversus (Soulseller Records 2008)

Quadrivium - Adversus
  1. A Sophic Fire
  2. Works Of Glory
  3. Svartamaal
  4. Haust
  5. Principal Cognizance
  6. Nordover
  7. Into The Void
  8. Is
  9. Ettertid

Time for some more Norwegian Black Metal with QUADRIVIUM, who sees it Avantgarde-ish. The band was formed in 2005 by Erlend Antonsen (keyboards, guitars, drums) and Lars Jensen (vocals) in order to create keyboards-oriented Black Metal. One year after the forming the self-released EP "Origo" was ready, containing three songs. At that time both members were active in respectively NATTSOL and MYRKGRAV. Also in 2006 Svein-Ivar Sarassen aka Decepticon joined to fill the bass spot. As these three started working on the debut album, "Adversus" (out since the 16th May), Bjornar E. Nilsen (VULTURE INDUSTRIES, BLACK HOLE GENERATOR) was asked to do some guest vocals. For "Adversus" and two more to follow albums they signed with the Dutch label Soulseller Records, which also houses SVARTAHRID, BLACK CRUCIFIXION and a few others.

About the band name, here's what Wikipedia had to say (and look at the album cover): "The quadrivium comprised the four subjects, or arts, taught in medieval universities after the trivium. The word is Latin, meaning "the four ways" or "the four roads": the completion of the liberal arts. It was developed by Martianus Capella. The quadrivium consisted of arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy. These followed the preparatory work of the trivium made up of grammar, logic (or dialectic, as it was called at the times), and rhetoric. In turn, the quadrivium was considered preparatory work for the serious study of philosophy and theology."

"Adversus" is filled with keyboards-oriented Black Metal, emphasizing on a dark and creepy atmosphere. The typical shrieky vocals are also a vital element in this context. The music sometimes reminded me of bands like THE COVENANT, GORATH, DIMMU BORGIR, ROSA CRUX, etc... This results into songs like "A Sophic Fire" and "Works Of Glory", where the drums keep the tempo high enough, but the guitars' power is just enough to get through the keyboards barrier.

"Svartamaal" takes the tempo down, but contains the same ingredients as before. Symphonic influences were chosen to increase the melodic aspect and dominance of the Erlend in the compositions. It's nice, however, to hear some epic, choir-ish singing, reminding of bands like FALKENBACH, TÝR and similar.

Before the raging storm (yes, there are blastbeats as well on this album) continues in "Principal Cognizance", which contains some clean sung parts (much to my surprise), the bombastic and überfast "Nordover", and "Into The Void", there are three tracks that also deserve a mention: 1) "Haust", fully instrumental with a rather haunting atmosphere, 2) "Is", which is one of the calmer tracks and focuses on atmosphere instead of heaviness, and 3) "Ettertid", which is all about... silence. Well, turn up the volume and you'll hear nightly sounds, a river, thunder and lightning. Something to relax to, in other words.

I can appreciate Black Metal from time to time and especially in a Folk/Viking context this can lead to beautiful songs/albums, in my opinion. My personal Metal taste lies of course elsewhere, but I have a broad taste, so no worries... in general. What QUADRIVIUM brings with "Adversus" isn't really something to get high from, so to speak, unless you really are into Avantgarde Black Metal or Black Metal in general. The album contains good ideas and overall everything is well executed. Let me put it this way: listening to the album in one time can be sleep-inducing and that's not a good sign, but there are other albums from other genres that also suffer from this. So, variation in the playlist is important. Another aspect that didn't make me exstatic is the production. I know, it's always tricky in Black Metal's case, but let's be honest: it's flat and that also contributes to the sometimes boring moments. Recommended? Not really, except for the diehard Black Metal fans, who have a weakness for keyboards.

More info at

Lars Jensen - vocals
Erlend Antonsen - keyboards, guitars, drums
Svein-Ivar Sarassen - bass

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GORATH – Misotheism (Descent Productions 2008)

Gorath - Misotheism
  1. Gnosis
  2. Apophasis
  3. Abufihamet
  4. Sophia
  5. Metempsychosis
  6. Abraxas
  7. Sicarii

Two years ago the Belgian Black Metal formation GORATH released its second album, "The Fourth Era", which dealt with the Mayan calendar and 2012. On that album, mainman/bassist Filip Dupont created a mixture of traditional and progressive Black Metal. For the gigs he got help from his mates Zahrim (guitar) - since May replaced by Bart Put -, Geert Devenster (guitars) and Kevin De Leener (drums). This line-up (well, according to the website it was just Filip and Kevin) also created the follow-up to this highly-praised release and titled it "Misotheism". This third album is a concept about heresy throughout history, mythology, legend and lore. On this page you'll find the lyrics and liner notes about each song. Jurgen S. from THEUDHO (where Filip also used to play in) wrote the lyrics and introduction. Soundwise the famous Dan Swanö (EDGE OF SANITY, NIGHTINGALE, BLOODBATH, and many other bands) took care of the mastering. The release was set on the 16th May.

With the use of real drums the songs feel of course different, fuller, rawer and more brutal. Right from the start of "Gnosis" you get instantly attacked by the blasts and slicing riffs. You can clearly hear the drums are real as Kevin sometimes has to give his all to keep up with the guitars, but that only contributes to the realness and honesty of this human input. This is the first part of the song. The second one offers a great contrast and is something totally unexpected, yet wonderfully implemented and fits in the concept without any problems: gregorian chanting introducing a very peaceful accoustic-guitar-driven interlude. This last for a few tens of second, after which the ferocious assault continues. Filip's vocals aren't as shrieking as one would expect, but he grunts more. The screaming is saved for later, when the music is flowing more. The accoustic guitar returns around 05:40 to complement the heaviness that still goes on. One minute later there's a dead part, at least the guitars and drums fall silent in favour of a creepy atmsophere, windy as if entering a new state of consciousness. It's like a passage to the midtempo heaviness that comes afterwards, where the lyrics are spoken in a grunting manner, backed by the music that leads the way towards the end.

"Apophasis" is a tad different, in that the music comes over as Black 'n' Roll in a way. Filip again focuses on grunts, which are well done and fit the music quite well. Shrieks could be good, too, but the hoarse grunts just feel better. The chorus has a mix of grunts and clean singing, almost chanting, while a looped guitarmelody forms the main melody. Over halfway there's a drop in tempo, rebuilding towards something more direct, straight-forward. Kevin also tried to add some touches via the ride cymbal until all of a sudden the music stops. Just like that and there is still one good minute to go. In "Gnosis" the parts were connected and the transition was very smooth, while here you're faced with a gap of a few seconds, which could make you think that "Abufihamet" commences after that. The difference in heaviness and melody is enormous, the atmosphere has also been adapted to this tranquil and semi-accoustic minute of relaxation.

But fear not, as the battle rages on, under the watchful eye of Baphomet? Just see the lyrics page to see what this song is about. It could be my hearing, but I have the impression the drums have been pushed a bit to the back, as the snare sounds a bit muffled/subdued and the kickdrums have been triggered, something that wasn't so noticeable before. Grunts in the verses, grunts and clean in the chorus. Kevin also uses his cymbals a lot (crash, ride, china, ...). Although here as well Filip tried to compose a song with fluctuations between harsh, blasting parts and slower, flowing ones, "Abufihamet" is difficult to swallow, the stay focused. You could say it's because of the music itself, but I fear the production also plays a role. There's lots of aggression and violent stuff here, but it just isn't as interesting as the previous two songs. In my opinion.

"Sophia" is the shortest track, with its 2 and a half minutes. No heavy guitars, no blasting drums, no grunts or shrieks. Instead you get a dark and mysterious atmosphere with drumsamples like heartbeats, increasing in loudness. A computerized voice speaks the words of destruction, of obliteration and annihilation. You can't really say it's a song, so as listening material it doesn't have much value. In the context of "Misotheism" its role is of course clearer. Somehow this reminded me of similar interludes like GAMMA RAY's "Induction" and DRACONIAN's "Expostulation".

Speaking of the battle, "Metempsychosis" is a song where this expression fits better when you read the description on GORATH's website (see link above). No specific blasting at first, but normal drumming, although Kevin does make it as diverse as possible by adding accents and playing with the tempo. The typical blasting cannot be forgotten, especially not in such a song. Filip's voice sounds as if in agony or possessed. Although the song lasts for almost six minutes, it's over before you know it. Still, this is another step in the right direction, and things improve particularly in the last two tracks.

"Abraxas" is about the god of good and evil, of creation and destruction, in short, of balance. The song commences with chanting and screams to build up the tension. Midtempo Black Metal is what you get, but the elements of sadness, depression, feeling lost are definitely present. The harsh vocals also contribute to this kind of mental state. Add some cleaner vocals from someone who seems to go crazy and the picture is complete. Around 04:20 everything falls silent with just the bass guitar left. Tom accents and gentle guitarwork sets in soon after that, evolving into an accoustic Jazzy piece. Surprising, but very nice. Little by little Kevin's drumming increases in power and the whole atmosphere of devastating madness, sadness, tristesse fills the room once more. Musically I did for a moment think of NOVEMBERS DOOM "Not The Strong", off the band's "To Welcome The Fade" album.

The last tale to be told is that of the "Sicarii", a political activist group operating in Judea in the first century whose task it was to get rid of the Roman occupation. The song also deals with how Jesus was betrayed by Judas Iscariot, a members of the Sicarii. This is the shortest (08:14) of the 3 long songs, which are at least 8 minutes long. The beginning is an instant blast asault. Everything about this song screams aggression, violence, hatred, betrayal and more. Think BEHEMOTH, KEEP OF KALESSIN and similar, which is nothing but pure quality. If my short-term memory doesn't fail me, then this is the fastest song on this album. Filip still grunts, but vocally also screams/yells, which justifies the comparison with KEEP OF KALESSIN even more. Samples of knights and activists fighting help bring the story to life. The production is very good, leaving a very realistic sound on the instruments and especially on the drums. The flow of the music is very well composed: furious, calmer but still aggressive and back to raging as the fighting and betrayal are taking place. This is outstanding work and without any doubt one of the best, if not the best, song on "Misotheism".

One of the great things about Metal is not only the music, obviously, but also the intelligence of the musicians themselves and their interests in history. There have been many bands on whose releases Metal was used to educate people (REBELLION, STORMWARRIOR, AMASEFFER, NILE, CRYSTALLION, JUDAS PRIEST, ICED EARTH, etc...). GORATH also contributed with "The Fourth Era" (Mayas and 2012), which was a very good and highly praised album. This time mastermind Filip Dupont tackled a new subject (with the help of Jurgen S.) and successfully implemented the material into the music. If you want qualitative ànd intelligent Black Metal (I'm not saying Black Metal contains no intelligence, just that it doesn't always have to be about the cliché themes), then I highly recommend "Misotheism", for this Belgian band has made another big step forward.

More info at

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

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CRYSTALLION – Hattin (Dockyard 1 2008)

Crystallion - Hattin
  1. The Ambush
  2. Wings Of Thunder
  3. Vanishing Glory
  4. Under Siege
  5. The Battle - Onward
  6. The Battle - Higher Than The Sky
  7. The Battle - Saracen Ascension
  8. Preach With An Iron Tongue

Power Metal knew a huge success in the late 1990s and first years of 2000, thanks to LABYRINTH, STRATOVARIUS, RHAPSODY, HAMMERFALL, SONATA ARCTICA, EDGUY, BLIND GUARDIAN, GAMMA RAY, HELLOWEEN, PRIMAL FEAR and others, which led to a spawn of countless copy-cats and similar-styled bands, some of which still active, but very much underground. Amongst those other bands that were formed are HEAVENLY, MOB RULES, CELESTY, KALEDON, PERSUADER, STEEL ATTACK and the list goes on and on.

CRYSTALLION is also one of those bands that fought to find a place and managed to convince Dockyard 1 to give them a contract. The band was formed in 2003, which was a good to very good year for Power Metal, and needed 3 years to complete their debut album, "A Dark Enchanted Crystal Night". This got the band positive reviews, including from Rock Hard, so that helped to get signed. Two years later the band's second album is ready and this since the 14th of May: "Hattin".

From the press text: ""Hattin" is based on the Templar myth. The Battle Of Hattin took place on the 4th of July, 1187 and was the biggest military defeat of the crusaders. The lost big parts of the Crusader states, incl. the Kingdom Of Jerusalem, to the Muslims. This led to the third Crusade, but thatwas the beginning of the end, as the Christian authority was forced into defense, unable to stop the downfall. The "Outremer" vanished in 1291 with the loss of the last remaining town and the stronghold of Akkon. Only the kingdom of Cyprus and Little Armenia remained in the hands of the Christian authority."

Let's cut to the chase, as the music is the most important element. You're teleported back in time via the orchestral intro that paves the way for the band to guide you. Spoken text is added to make the transition easier and prepare you for what's to come. On "Wings Of Thunder" you're flying swiftly through the heavy riffs, uptempo drumming and layered melodies (guitars and keyboards). Thomas's voice reminds of Carsten Frank's (ex-GALLOGLASS, HUMAN FORTRESS), although it's not identical at all, since Thomas sings in a more nasal way. The guitars and keyboards provide you with enjoyable solos further in the song. The thing that bothers me the most is the production: it's all very polished, cutting away roughness from the guitars and power from the drums, mainly the snare and toms, which sound quite flat now. Sure, CRYSTALLION isn't a Thrash or Death Metal band, but this does put the band immediately in the category of Soft(er) Power Metal. Soft because of the sound, yet Power Metal in spirit.

"Vanishing Glory" is a title that announces a moment of sadness, of reflection, and how to bring back the good times. Therefore the music has been toned down to even silenced, except for atmospheric keyboards and vocals. The power returns not that much later, midtempo at first, 'humpapa' afterwards. The chorus is of course uptempo with rolling double bass. Thomas carries the melody. In the first minutes of the second half of 7-minutes long song the solo moment is there: keyboards setting in, guitars following and taking over. The mixing is well done, as the bass guitar is also very audible. Could that be a reason why the production is so polished? Nevertheless, "Vanishing Glory" is a good song, no doubt about that.

Time for something fiercer, more aggressive, you might think. Eh well... no. "Under Siege" is even Hard Rock-ish (a direction certain big bands have chosen nowadays). You might think of KOTIPELTO, a bit of EDGUY or AVANTASIA, REDKEY, and similar when hearing this. It's not bad, just quite different from what preceded and what will follow.

Tracks 5, 6 and 7 form a trilogy, although there's no proper title to combine these three songs. "Onward" is not an interlude, but a fierce uptempo melodic Power Metal song, pushed onwards by the guitars and drums, while the keyboards provide the melodies. I don't know if it's done on purpose, but this could have been a GALLOGLASS song and come off this band's "Heavenseeker" album, for example. Needless to say that this is a song with a good dose of epicness and also one of the best on "Hattin". It most likely sounds much better, more powerful on stage, since the production isn't that helpful here, save for the double bass drums.

Gentle, orchestral keyboards lay out a carpet, a path in "Higher Than The Sky". But the moment you think this peacefulness will continue, you're shot back to the battlefield via the ferocious riffing and pounding drums. And it's a long battle, lasting about eight minutes. The song's inline with "Onward", so no complaints here either. After a good four minutes a slow, pounding moment is set, serving as preparation for the solos to come - first guitar, then keyboards. And that's when a more ballsy production would be excellent, because the power of the drums is very important.

Logically the third part, "Saracen Ascension", doesn't sound too different from the previous two, except that the piano suddenly is used for melodic accents. First you get a slow build-up via the keyboards and guitars (and drums, yes, obviously), after which the power comes bursting out. The bridge is slow, saving the attack for the chorus. Around the sixth minute there's a piano highlight, for which all heaviness is silenced. All in all, this is a very entertaining and enjoyable trilogy, despite the three parts not being connected properly. It's three seperate tracks.

"Preach With An Iron Tongue" ends this story. The gentle orchestral backing makes its return. Accoustic touches are added to assist Thomas, who does a very good job in this first part. After two minutes the Metal comes breaking in, continuing in IRON MAIDEN-style. The keyboards are once more important for the melody, whereas the guitars help the drums. The song is also divided into different parts: gentle at first, then more powerful and around the fifth minute all heaviness falls away in favour of gentle guitars for about a minute and a half. Midtempo heaviness comes in after that, bringing along the guitar solo. The preaching is ended with soft guitarwork and dito singing, with atmospheric backing. Everything considered... kudos to the band for this epic tale.

CRYSTALLION are doing a very good job, improving their music as the years pass by. Based on the samples I heard, I have to admit that "A Dark Enchanted Crystal Night" was good and "Hattin" maybe even better. It's certainly interesting in terms of chosen concept, since that's what Metal also makes attractive: the educational aspect (see also REBELLION, AMASEFFER, NILE, STORMWARRIOR and others). The last few years I haven't seen/heard much solid (melodic) Power Metal - I'm not referring to the big names, but the bands that are supposed to be the new heroes of the genre. There's too much weak stuff, too many copy-cats. What CRYSTALLION brings is to be applauded for, even though/when it reminds of, for example, GALLOGLASS, STRATOVARIUS and SONATA ARCTICA. The polished production, however, is an aspect to work on, for there are demos that sound better/more aggressive than this. The guitars and mainly the drums really suffer and produce a soft/weak/flat sound while one should be able to feel the power of those instruments. So, all in all, "Hattin" is recommended material for Power Metal fans, who like it hard and sometimes soft(er), like in this case. The follow-up of this new release will be decisive for the band.

More info at

Thomas Strübler - vocals
Patrick Juhász - guitars
Florian Ramsauer - guitars
Manuel Schallinger - keyboards
Stefa Gimpl - bass
Martin Herzinger - drums

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DUSTSUCKER – Diabolo Domination (Limb Music Products 2008)

Dustsucker - Diabolo Domination
  1. Lost And Forgotten
  2. Dig Your Own Grave
  3. Live In Sin
  4. Land Of The King
  5. Long Gone
  6. Ignite To Burn
  7. Right Time
  8. Loaded And Ready
  9. Kill On The First Date
  10. Can't Escape The Fire
  11. Learn To Crawl
  12. Let The Good Times Roll

The German Rock 'n' Rollers from DUSTSUCKER recently released a new album, "Diabolo Domination", on the 2nd of May. It's the follow-up to 2006's "Jack Knife Rendezvous", which I found a very satisfying release. The influences of MOTÖRHEAD, ROSE TATTOO, THE HELLACOPTERS, etc... are still very much present on this new record. DIAMOND HEAD's classic "Helpless", since "Wasted Times" sounds very much alike musically.

While R.D. Liapakis produced "Jack Knife Rendezvous", DUSTSUCKER this time booked studio time with REBELLION guitarist Uwe Lulis, who did an even better job than Dimitri Liapakis, if you ask me. The sound is even clearer, more powerful, but of course it's also up to the band to write good songs. I could basically copy-paste the review of "Jack Knife Rendezvous" and add a few extra superlatives. ;-) Uwe Lulis also played the bass parts on this new release, as the band had to replace its bassist Danny Buster and guitarist Bill Salisbury.

Right from the start the pace is set with "Lost And Forgotten", which simply breathes MOTÖRHEAD. Max's voice also sounds a bit like Lemmy's, although his is dirtier, more worn out, while Max puts more energy to it. The musicianship is outstanding, the hooks are also well chosen, and it's in short a qualitative song.

"Dig Your Own Grave" is a bit slower and Punkier, reminding in a way of THE DICTATORS, PETER AND THE TEST TUBE BABIES, etc... The drums have been given a more important role in the verses via the toms. Catchiness is very much present on "Diabolo Domination" and the chorus here is only one example of that.

With "Live In Sin" we've come at the first Happy Rock 'n' Roll song. This is one of those songs that really can improve your mood. The music is quite radio-friendly, although I doubt it will be played, unless by radio stations that support pure and qualitative Rock and Metal and not the commercial/mainstream variant. Around the second minute there's a break after which the energy level rises again to let the guitarsolo set in. Flawless song, truly.

"Land Of The King" increases the amount of heaviness, starting with a hymnic/marching intro. Once the entire band is plugged in, you're presented with a more Metalized kind of Rock 'n' Roll. And I have absolutely no complaints about that. The atmosphere is also a bit darker, if I may say so. ANNIHILATOR mainman/guitarist Jeff Waters made a contribution via a guitarsolo, which blends in perfectly.

Time for something straight-forward again: "Long Gone". Things get a little more Punk again, but I also detected a sniff of AC/DC. The chorus is of course where the most catchiness can be found.

While "Wasted Times" on the "Jack Knife Rendezvous" album showed great similarities with DIAMOND HEAD's "Helpless", DUSTSUCKER found it alright to write another song in that style: "Ignite To Burn". But you could also think of BUDGIE's classic "Breadfan", another song covered by METALLICA in the late 1980s. Especially the verses are evidence of this comparison, with the fast riffing. The drums change to pounding in the chorus, which tends to annoy, but that's mainly the case if you listen to this album in its entirety. A problem that existed on the previous album, too. The guitarsolo also requires you to be in the mood for it - one time it's rough, then more polished.

After several times clining on to rather uptempo songs, the midtempo and groovy "Right Time" is there to bring change. Stop-start guitarwork in the verses, later played without stops. The radio-friendly stamp can also be applied here. Minus points go to Max's singing in the chorus, which is, in my opinion, less 'interesting' than before, less listenable, despite it being well executed. Overall, "Right Time" is a decent song, but not on the same level as the first few ones.

The situation improves enormously with "Loaded And Ready", which reminds heavily of MOTÖRHEAD's "Ace Of Spades". In short: good job, lads! And as decent as "Kill On The First Date" may be, it's as you can expect it based on the previous material, but this time boredom really starts to increase. Advice: listen to this seperately, not after having been through the previous songs in a row.

The cowbell in the intro of "Can't Escape The Fire" is an interesting and refreshing element on this album, but also in this midtempo song, which is less strong compared to the others. But fear not, for the last two songs make it more than up for the less good ones DUSTSUCKER has created.

"Learn To Crawl" brings back another load of heaviness and an increase in tempo. The riffing also sounds much sharper. Quality, I tells ya, quality! The other Happy Rock 'n' Roll song is "Let The Good Times Roll", a title for which such music was written. Although uptempo, it does have some light Blues influences. Band influences would come from, for example, IRON MAIDEN and THIN LIZZY. No further commenting needed, as it's a great song and a very good one to end a very good album.

DUSTSUCKER pleasantly surprised me back in 2006 and they even surprised me more with "Diabolo Domination". The dedication, energy and pleasure these guys have in creating Punkish Rock 'n' Roll is unbelievable and can only be hailed and respected. I can therefore safely say that the band has created a very good album, perhaps their best to date, although I really need to check out their older works to confirm this. Still, to all Rock 'n' Roll fans: order this beauty at once!

More info at

Max Count Farmer - vocals, guitars
H.U. Vanya Drost - bass
Marco Piermattei - drums

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MASS EXTINCTION – Creations Undoing (Underground Movement 2008)

Mass Extinction - Creations Undoing
  1. Bodies For The Slaughter
  2. Manipulating Evolution
  3. Global Assassin
  4. Kill On Command (VIO-LENCE cover)

MASS EXTINCTION is an Irish Thrash band, formed in 2003. From the start they've been working hard to get the band on the rails and keep the train riding. Two years it took them to come up with a first release, the 4-track demo "D.B.A.T.". This seemed to attract many Thrash Metal fans and so the band's fanbase began to grow little by little. Even EXODUS guitarist and mastermind Gary Holt is one of them. Obviously MASS EXTINCTION then got the chance to play a support slot for EXODUS. Other bands on the Irish palmares: NUCLEAR ASSAULT, SODOM, DESTRUCTION and ONSLAUGHT. Not too long ago the band featured on a compilation of Irish Metalbands, called "Thrash 'n' Burn". MASS EXTINCTION chose VIO-LENCE's "Kill On Command", which can also be found on the band's newest CD "Creations Undoing", released via Underground Movement on the 30th of April.

So old school Thrash it is, what one should expect. Only four songs (again), including the VIO-LENCE cover. "Bodies For The Slaughter" is a song based on the battles on the beaches. Half of the riff has something SEPULTURA-ish, the "Beneath The Remains" era. That's a nice implementation, but Adam and/or Brian rapidly change to something of their own, although one cannot ignore the similarity with their British colleagues from EVILE, who again searched for inspiration with a.o. Bay Area bands like EXODUS. Obviously MASS EXTINCTION also has those influences implemented and I don't blame 'em at all. Kudos to them for keeping old school intact. This first song is a fast one, especially in the verses and the pounding chorus, yet a slowdown takes place in the bridge. Sam has an important role to fulfill behind his drumkit and he succeeds without question. In addition to the standard pattern, the man adds a couple of rolls and clever fills for the sake of variety and keeping the song going. The guitarwork is very good as well.

"Manipulating Evolution" and "Global Assassin" are religion-inspired songs, whereas the first one cranks up the tempo even more. Adam and Brian also play a tad faster, although everything drops to midtempo for the guitarsolo. Bassist Simon is the one who gets a more important role as his instrument comes through quite clearly, or more as before, at least. The second and last song is another fast blaster, in German Thrash style (DESTRUCTION, KREATOR, SODOM, ...). Around 01:45 Sam slows his playing to increase again about 20 seconds later, before the solo kicks in. Quality Thrash, what more can I say?

The VIO-LENCE cover is - as far as I know - well executed and most likely as good as the original, although I have to say that my knowledge of VIO-LENCE's discography is limited to zero. And yet, covers like these make you look for the specific band and the albums that were made under that name. The production is a little different, though, less good, I would say. "Kill On Command" is a title that says it all and the song is (musically) perfectly inline with the band's own material.

Several contemporary bands mix old school Thrash with modern elements, which usually works out quite well. But then there are bands like, for example, PITIFUL REIGN, EVILE and this Irish one, MASS EXTINCTION, that prefer to keep the old school vibe and spirit alive, without modern interference. "Creations Undoing" is therefore a release you can't go wrong with at all, as it also shows the potential for live performances. So, when you've got some Euros to spend and you're in dire need of something new for your Thrash taste, contact the band for a copy of this Demo CD.

More info at

Tom Cunningham - vocals
Adam Shortt - guitars
Brian Brennan - guitars
Simon Caffrey - bass
Sam Lambert - drums

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POWER QUEST – Master Of Illusion (Napalm Records 2008)

Power Quest - Master Of Illusion
  1. Cemetary Gates
  2. Human Machine
  3. Civilised?
  4. Kings Of Eternity
  5. Master Of Illusion
  6. The Vigil
  7. Save The World
  8. Hearts And Voices
  9. I Don't Believe In Friends Forever
  10. Never Again

Back in 2002, on my quest for more Power Metal, I stumbled upon something titled "Wings Of Forever" by a band called POWER QUEST. The logo and cover art certainly drew my attention and it was obvious that it wouldn't be an Extreme Metal I band I would listen to. At that time I was very much into happy Power Metal - unlike now, where my taste has shifted to heavier, more brutal stuff - and although "Wings Of Forever" wasn't the best release I had heard, it did have lots of catchy melodies, choruses, etc... It was more a fun record to put on when the time asks for it. Even today that is still the case: when times asks for it. Or my mood, at least. It has however been a while since I last listened to the album, I must admit.

After that I lost focus of POWER QUEST, yet knew they had released a second and third album. Even at the shop I noticed both, but didn't take the time to check 'em out. Even today I haven't done so, although I heard a few bits and pieces online. Now, 6 years since the debut release, album no. 4 is out since the 28th of April: "Master Of Illusion". Last year the British Power Metallers signed a deal with Napalm Records, with this new album being a first fruit of that collaboration.

POWER QUEST was formed by ex-DRAGONHEART keyboardist Steve Williams, who recently joined DAVID SHANKLE GROUP, and has over the years undergone a few line-up changes. Now the band is complete again, but the music has always remained the same: light Power Metal. Biggest difference now is that vocalist Alessio Garavello has picked up the guitar, so Andrea Martongelli doesn't have to fulfill that task by himself.

Music then. Again the keyboards play a huge role, delivering the melodies and atmospheric backings. "Cemetary Gates" (no, not the PANTERA classic) kicks off the new release in true uptempo Power Metal style. Keyboards rule, guitars (well done, I have to say, including the solo) come next, although the drums also want their piece of the cake. Alessio has greatly improved his singing and accent over the years, that is very clear. All things considered, this is a very enjoyable first track, with a light 80's feel.

"Human Machine" slows down the pace to midtempo, is overall more atmospheric than "Cemetary Gates", with more playful melodies. The verses are completely devoid of heaviness, yet the guitars come in for the bridge. Despite being not so heavy, I do have mixed feelings: on one hand I find it quite ok, on the other I find it becoming boring quite rapidly. Could "Civilised?" improve the situation? The first part certainly does so, as the drums pound along with the keys and guitars. The chorus is in fact the best part of the song, although the Hard Rock influences of before can also be heard here. But that's not a problem for me. Musically "Civilised?" is more than ok, but Alessio misses roughness in his voice and that would make the picture complete, if you ask me.

With "Kings Of Eternity" we travel back in time to present an uptempo Melodic Power Metal song like the band did from the start. Alessio also sings faster. Comparable bands would be HAMMERFALL (era 1997-1998) and FREEDOM CALL. What can I say? It's songs like this one that made me check out POWER QUEST, as gay they might be for some Metalheads. I do have to add that Alessio hits the high notes a bit too often, though. But I like the song, no question about it.

"Master Of Illusion" commences with spacey keyboards, while the guitars and drums take care of accents, later pushing the song forward. The guitars have also gained in power, which is good. As good as the intro was, so... disappointing (in a way) is the rest of the song, chorus included. It's the binding instrumental parts and the solo part halfway that house the better elements. Again Alessio's clean, high-pitched singing is somewhat a snuffer on the music.

More Rock! Yes! "The Vigil" certainly delivers this, with an increase in tempo. And Alessio even adds a few rougher parts. Wow! That's what I'm talking about, although I didn't mean him to sing that 'brutal', hahaha. Rough and melodic would have sufficed. The keyboards and guitars form once more a perfect tandem. No real complaints here. Good job, lads. Oh, I forgot the screamy guitarsolo. It's good.

For "Save The World" POWER QUEST took inspiration from LINKIN PARK, adding samples... No, I'm kidding. That would have been horrendous, LINKIN PARK as inspiration. Still, the samples are there, at least in the intro, and I don't like it. I'm no big fan of samples, at least not when it concerns drums. Heaviness has again been decreased in favour of more atmospheric elements and melodies. Despite a few good moments, I find this song just listenable and prefer the previous ones. Especially the chorus works on my nerves quite rapidly.

Time for some SONATA ARCTICA, which seems to have served as basis for "Hearts And Voices". The 80's feel has also been implemented here. Midtempo is key and the rough guitars stepped back to let the keyboards and melodies come out better. However, "Hearts And Voices" is one of the better tracks on "Master Of Illusion". "I Don't Believe In Friends Anymore" features ultra-heavy guitars in the intro, pounding drums and spacey keyboards, which are replaced by symphonics later on. The spices this time come from the drums, with Francesco exploring other sides of his drums. Musically the song is quite ok, but Alessio's singing annoys after a certain time and certainly the chorus is food for the discussion "gay or not". He even tries to add his Italian accent again, while that had vanished for the largest part in the previous songs. The heavy and symphonic intro, actually the best part of the song, makes its return as outro.

This of course affects my mood, in a bad way. There's a bit too much fluctuation between good and less good songs/parts. "Never Again" certainly puts a smile back on my face, as the tempo goes up again in this Melodic Power Metal song. Although... after hearing it for the third time, it's half a smile. Alessio's voice really annoys now, especially after having heard the album in its entirety and up to this song. The spacey keyboards don't change anything about that, although they are part of the 'good' parts of the song. Thus, musically everything is good (for the largest part), but the singing once more isn't that helpful to keep the standard high.

"Wings Of Forever" was a decent effort, "Master Of Illusion" is miles ahead in terms of growth and progression, although the POWER QUEST stamp is still present. The album will please anyone into Melodic Power Metal, albeit the lighter version. I was one of them a number of years ago and still partly am, but I'm having trouble finding decent material since a couple of years and thus my taste focuses on Metal that is heavier than what bands like POWER QUEST provide. I basically have found two negative points on this album: 1) Alessio's singing, which could use more roughness (e.g. Hansi Kursch, Tim Aymar, ...) and 2) the fluctuation between good and less good songs. There's no constant - you get a good one, you expect another good one (perhaps same style), but the tempo or heaviness drops and the music gets more melodic and softer (somehow). It's taste-related, but also vital to keep the focus intact when listening to the album in its entirety. But despite these little things, I cannot deny that "Master Of Illusion" is a decent release.

More info at

Alessio Garavello - vocals, guitars
Andrea Martongelli - guitars
Steve Scott - bass
Steve Williams - keyboards
Francesco Tresca - drums

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ELDORADO – En Busca De Eldorado (Eldorado 2008)

Eldorado - En Busca De Eldorado
  1. Abril
  2. El Final
  3. Un Mal Presentimiento
  4. Déjame Decirte
  5. En Busca De Eldorado
  6. El Jugador
  7. Mistreated (DEEP PURPLE cover)
  8. Identidad

ELDORADO is not only a brand for tinned fruit, but also the name of a Spanish Hard Rock band, formed in 2007 with one goal: to make music they like and how they like it. The line-up wasn't complete from the start, as the basis was created by Nano (guitars) and (bass). On vox there's (releated to Robert Trujillo from METALLICA?) while Alex Rada fills the drum spot.

For their debut album, "En Busca De Eldorado", the band managed to work with famed producer Richard Chycki, who previously worked with bands like AEROSMITH, MICK JAGGER, RUSH, SEAL, ... The mastering was in the hands of Mikka Jussila from the famed Finnvox Studios. All this resulted in an album with a powerful, but clear sound that makes each instrument come out really well while keeping the feeling of authentic Hard Rock intact. This debut release has been available in Spain since April, with Europe getting it a few months later.

The tracklisting contains a bit of everything, from Bluesy rockers to real ballsy songs. "Abril" is one of those midtempo rockers, although Jesús adds more power through his singing, one time raspy, another more in a clean manner. The Doomy-like riffing reminds of BLACK SABBATH and DIO, which shows the quality ELDORADO has on offer. Other songs where you'll find similar power: the semi-accoustic "En Busca De Eldorado" - with some nice drum grooves, but foremost a tastey chorus -, and the DIO and AC/DC-like "Identidad", which really cranks up the pace and gets you on your feet.

Next to those tracks, ELDORADO composed something more Blues-oriented: "Un Mal Presentimiento", which reminds a little of METALLICA's "Load"/"Reload" period. Then there's "El Jugador", not really a tempo booster, more a nice cruising song or something to relax too, in a way. Think DIO, AC/DC, THUNDER, THIN LIZZY and similar. Oh yes, and a bit of METALLICA. The guitarwork is nothing but perfect.

Completing the tracklisting is done by the radio-friendly "El Final", which is as good as the others, but I'm so not fond of the tambourine (with zils, which are small metal jingles), and "Déjame Decirte". SINNER's latest release, "Crash & Burn" (review) also has this instrument (tambourine) in two songs. In my opinion, it doesn't have an added value and even makes the song less ballsy. Since ELDORADO is inspired by DEEP PURPLE and other bands from that period, they decided to pay tribute and cover "Mistreated". This is a long song, clocking in after 8 minutes, so you better be ready for it, because we ain't dealing with e.g. MOONSORROW or a Doom band here. I'm just referring to these, since depending on your taste, you might need several listens to swallow it. But all in all it's a job well done.

To conclude, I have to say that "En Busca De Eldorado" is highly recommended material for anyone into classic Hard Rock like DIO, THUNDER, BLACK SABBATH, METALLICA (1996-1997), IOMMI and others. Personally, I don't think the Spanish-sung lyrics should form a problem, as this flows well with the music and adds a special touch to it. There's only positive stuff here (save for that tambourine element): musicianship, vocals, compositions, sound quality (!). This is definitely one of the best debut albums ever (yes, I'm butt-kissing, but I'm serious) and one of the highlights of 2008.

More info at

Jesús Trujillo - vocals
Nano - guitars
César Sanchez - bass
Alex Rada - drums

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EDENBRIDGE – MyEarthDream (Napalm Records 2008)

Edenbridge - MyEarthDream
  1. The Force Within
  2. Shadowplay
  3. Remember Me
  4. Paramount
  5. Adamantine
  6. Whale Rider
  7. Undying Devotion
  8. Fallen From Grace
  9. Place Of Higher Power
  10. MyEarthDream:
    I) The Road Ahead
    II) Pristine
    III) Agent Of Change
    IV) The Uninvited Guest
    V) The Last Card
    VI) Slumbers

The Austrian Symphonic (Power) Metal band EDENBRIDGE was formed in 1998 and since their debut, "Sunrise In Eden", in 2000 the band has been working hard to improve their skills and songwriting, acquiring new fans along the way. With the newest release, "MyEarthDream", out since the 28th of April EDENBRDIGE has now 6 studio albums up their sleeves. Last year a Best Of came out under the title "The Chronicles Of Eden".

While I have never kept an eye on the band's career, I did see them once live in 2005, I think. They were touring then with MANTICORA and ANGRA. MANTICORA were great! ANGRA was very good, too, but EDENBRIDGE didn't do me much and it was mainly the drummer that caught most of my attention. I though Sabine sounded weak, Lanvall's guitarwork mediocre, etc... So that didn't encourage me to check out their albums, also because the song material they played was too soft for my taste. The comparison with (mainly) NIGHTWISH also made me choose NIGHTWISH, since they had a better vocalist (Tarja) and the music was overall better, stronger, more powerful.

Having received a promo copy of "MyEarthDream", I was very surprised about that. Well, not only that, but also the progress the Austrians have made. "MyEarthDream" obliged me to correct my opinion about EDENBRIDGE, for this time the band got to work with a real orchestra: the Czech Film Orchestra, which had already done some work for Hollywood productions. Lyrically, the new album deals with the topic of earth. EDENBRIDGE worked together with Anthony Clarkson (BLIND GUARDIAN), who designed their album cover. From now on, not only the unreachable dreamscape of Eden remains as their focus but also earth, which opens itself for higher energies that are filtered through the human mind, symbolized by the spiral form. Karl Groom (THRESHOLD) mixed the album, while Mikka Jussila (Finnvox Studios) mastered it.

With an orchestra it's obvious the band is moving very much into Film Score Metal territory, a speciality of the Italian band RHAPSODY OF FIRE. The intro, "The Force Within", is the first indication of that. But once the outburst of Metal comes in "Shadowplay", the band takes you back to earth, to reality. NIGHTWISH again comes to mind, but I don't mind and even have the impression EDENBRIDGE finally tops this Finnish band. Sabine sings much better than before, less whiney, more inline with the melody, stronger, too. She too has improved her style. Especially in the bridge and epic chorus her singing is very good. Musically the band also added a few Eastern elements in the verses. Sabastian Lanser's drumming is quite dynamic and this makes the song truly better. The orchestra obviously is also present, yet only on specific moments, never in a leading role like e.g. the keyboards. The guitarwork, finally, is also of outstanding quality. On a sidenote: Karl Groom played the third solo.

The piano and orchestra in "Remember Me" give the music a bigger Gothic stamp. Comparable bands would be NIGHTWISH and LACUNA COIL, for example. The verses are rather slow, the bridge adds more heaviness and the full, melodic and touching power comes out in the chorus, which is absolutely a highlight. The musicianship is again without question. It's also good to hear that Lanvall made the guitars have a leading/dominating role and not just use that instrument for the power aspect of the music.

With "Paramount" EDENBRIDGE really slays NIGHTWISH. The use of electronics and samples - something I'm not fond of - made me in a way think of LUCA TURILLI'S DREAMQUEST, another qualitative band. The verses contain the most heaviness, while the melody and catchiness lie in the chorus. The symbiosis of Metal and orchestra worked out very well here and I cannot conclude anything else than this being one of the best songs on "MyEarthDream".

Guitars fade in in "Adamantine" and then all heaviness bursts loose. With Karl Groom having done the mix, the similarity with the last THRESHOLD material cannot be suppressed. But making the guitars sound heavier contributes to the attractiveness of the music and it makes the collaboration with the orchestration much better, in my opinion. They complement each other. The guitars are also the dominant instruments, while the keyboards and orchestra have very small roles. This also makes Sabine's voice comes through better and she does a very good job, here too. "Adamantine" is a song that requires a couple of listens to really grasp it. There's a lot to discover here and the contrast between the heavy first part and the second part, which goes for a more accoustic twist, adds to the digging you have to do, if you're willing to.

After all the bombast, it's time for something softer, more gentle: "Whale Rider". Flute and piano commence the song, the orchestra falls in shortly after. There are no guitars or drums here, just Sabine, the piano and gentle symphonic backing which gains in power in the bridge and chorus. This way it's obvious Sabine stands in the spotlights, singing with more confidence and feeling than before. At least, that's my impression. Brilliant song!

The band's power takes back its place in "Undying Devotion", which not only has the EVANESCENE-ish groove, but also Lanvall on Bouzouki, to give the song an exotic/oriental touch. The chorus, preceded by the powerful bridge, is slow, epic, choirish. Again you have to take the time to let the music engulf you, absorb you, or the other way around. Around 02:50 there's a symphonic interlude with an important role for the guitar before the chorus to come back.

"Fallen From Grace" is where the Metal takes over again and how! Sebastian also kicks down the pedal harder to push the song forward and even add double bass attacks. The orchestra only comes through in the bridge and chorus. The overall music reminds of another (Power or Gothic Metal?) band, but I can't put a name on it (LUCA TURILLI, AINA, ... ????). Still, the result is well done. "Fallen From Grace" is one of the more active songs on the new release, another time clearly proven by the middle section, where heavy riffs and pounding drums rule, but let the guitarsolo take some space, too.

Before the longest track is played, let's go to a "Place Of Higher Power": midtempo Metal, with orchestral interference in the bridge and chorus, as has been its role since the beginning. This first part is good, well executed, but lacks the catchiness or attractiveness of the previous songs. Around the third minute there's an interesting interlude, with Chinese elements. The guitars join in, following the melody of the violins, while the drums keep a certain steady beat. After that it's all about Metal again, with first the guitarsolo.

With the title track we've come at the end of the "Dream": odd-time drumming in the intro, ultra-heavy riffing and an orchestra determining the melody in similar way like DIMMU BORGIR's "Progenies Of The Last Apocalypse". Once the verses are there, the orchestra falls way, but the violins remain present in a minor role. The tempo is upped again and in se the orchestra isn't really necessary, except perhaps in the chorus, which has a strong resemblance with what RHAPSODY OF FIRE has done on "Symphony Of Enchanted Lands II: The Dark Secret" and "Triumph Or Agony". With an playtime of more than 12:30 minutes you know you'll get a song of epic proportions, in vein of the Italian masters, although there's also a touch of AFTER FOREVER and EPICA. Around 04:13 the orchestra demands all attention and you really feel like you're watching a film, Hollywood style. Slowly the band joins to increase the epicness again. After that we're off for the next Metal portion. Around the eighth minute things really get pumped up with fast riffing, fast drumming and a bombastic orchestra. Great stuff!! The odd-time drumming returns briefly, as it did earlier in the song. After the eleventh minute then - and thus the start of the final part of this long song -, all heaviness falls away to let Sabine shine once more, backed by the piano. This ballad-ish part forms a great contrast with what came before, but this one too is simply wonderful and breathtaking!

Without any doubt EDENBRIDGE has made its ultimate album, although "The Grand Design" was also a good one. Working with a real orchestra sure helped to bring the songs more to life, to create the right atmosphere and pictures in your head, for which the exquisite cover art made a contribution, too. The musicianship is - like said above - flawless and everyone has improved their skills, especially Sabine has taken several steps forward in her singing. While their previous albums were too soft for me, too mediocre (by manner of speech), the power and majesty found on "MyEarthDream" makes me change my opinion, for the Austrians are now, more than ever, a band to reckon with. "MyEarthDream" doesn't contain one bad song, everything is well executed and composed and the sound is super. Anyone into Symphonic Metal like RHAPSODY OF FIRE, VISIONS OF ATLANTIS, NIGHTWISH, THERION and similar simply MUST check out this new release and even has the obligation to purchase a copy.

More info at

Sabine Edelsbacher - vocals
(guest) Robby Valentine - backing vocals, choirs
(guest) Dennis Ward - backing vocals, choirs
Lanvall - guitars,keyboards, bouzouki, pipa
Brian Brennan - guitars
Frank Bindig - bass, growls
Max Pointner - drums
(guest) Sebastian Lanser - drums on this album

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ALWAYS FALLEN – See My Blood (Always Fallen 2008)

Always Fallen - See My Blood
  1. See My Blood
  2. Hail To Fire
  3. The Prophecy

ALWAYS FALLEN is a Belgian Thrash Metal band that try to keep old school alive, yet giving it a more modern touch. They "fell" in 2005 and a first demo was recorded in 2007 ("No Mercy For Sinners"). This apparently caused some divine intervention, for ALWAYS FALLEN then had the chance to support acts like SODOM, OPPRESSION, IMPERIOUS REX, AFTER ALL, KILLER, MAROON, NEAERA and AS WE FIGHT. In February of 2008 this 5-piece band recorded their newest 3-track release, "See My Blood", to come out on the 25th of April. Last month (May) they even made it to the final of the Wacken Metal Battle. I was there and I have to admit that this was my favourite band of the pack. Sadly enough, they didn't win, yet ended 2nd, which was a more than deserved place. The 'fight' with ACHYRONTHIA was tough, but it was this band that took victory and will represent Belgium at Europe's biggest Metal festival.

But back to ALWAYS FALLEN and their new MCDemo. The start of "See My Blood" is good, sharp and deadly. Midtempo is key and Kenny mixes clean singing with raw interventions spendidly. For the chorus the tempo goes down a little and a higher dose of melody is injected. For the guitarsolo the rhythm guitar takes a sharper approach and overall I can't suppress the thought of the old days of METALLICA, which of course is more than welcome.

"Hail To Fire" contains the typical humpapa kind of tempo, rhythm and riffing, which puts an even bigger smile on my face. Kenny's double-sided vocals come out very strong. Thibault, responsable for the brutal pounding of the drums, does a very good job at keeping the music powerful and diverse enough. The breakdowns are well executed and the battering guitar ram clearly indicates you better not stand in the band's way.

For "The Prophecy" the band even pushed down the pedal even more, thrashing like an unstoppable force, created in "Hail To Fire". As fast as the verses are, the chorus certainly is much slower and more melodic. Kenny sings in a cleaner way then and although I liked this double voice in the previous songs, I'm not that fond of his intervention in the chorus. The music is good to very good, that's beyond doubt. And that includes the solos. It's interesting to hear something HEATHEN-ish in the bridge, from "Heathen's Song", if I'm correct.

When you end 2nd in the Wacken Metal Battle final and already have played with/for big names in the league, then it's certain you've got quality that deserves to be shown and promoted. ALWAYS FALLEN can get far, but they need the right people and means to accomplish that mission. "See My Blood" is a very decent and solid release that should open the eyes of several labels to support these guys with the recording, releasing and distributing of their full-length debut album, that is planned for early 2009. Until then, this MCDemo is recommended material for any Thrash fan and mainly those that like the mix of old school and a modern touch to top it.

More info at

Kenny Devos - vocals
Jens Patteeuw - guitars
Mike Wage - guitars
Pieter Nyckees - bass
Thibault Coosemans - drums

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IMAGIKA – Feast For The Hated (Locomotive Records 2008)

Imagika - Feast For The Hated
  1. Waking A Dead Man
  2. Your Creator
  3. Bleed As One... Appease The Gods
  4. Behind Immoral Eyes
  5. Feast For The Hated
  6. Thinning Out The Herd
  7. The Sick Sense
  8. New Power Rises
  9. Held Beneath
  10. Succubus

The Bay Area band IMAGIKA has recently released its sixth album, "Feast For The Hated", on the 25th of April. Formed in 1993, this band has kept the flame burning, mixing Thrash with Power Metal. I remember seeing two of their albums, "And So It Burns" (2001) and "Devils On Both Sides" (2005) at the shop, but never thought of buying either of them or checking out the music properly. Even though the band also comes from the area that gave birth to bands like TESTAMENT, EXODUS, HEATHEN, LAAZ ROCKIT and more, they - or I could be mistaken - never were as big and famous. Perhaps because they chose this path or because of the many changes the band underwent throughout the years, therefore forming an obstacle in its growth. Whatever it is, IMAGIKA is still around and with fresh material.

The mix of Power Metal and Thrash Metal is very clear, right from the start with "Waking A Dead Man". Thrash prevails here, although it's not the EXODUS, DESTRUCTION, ... kind of style. What you get is a mix of mainly TESTAMENT (musically and vocally!), NEVERMORE and some ICED EARTH. The musicianship is outstanding, topped with tasty guitarsolos.

The ferocity continues and is reinforced in "Your Creator", where the TESTAMENT and NEVERMORE influences are hard to ignore, especially from the first band. Also good to hear is the change in tempo, taking things a bit slower to strike back at full power. A pure lust for the ear, oh yes. And that's not all, as track no. 3, "Bleed As One... Appease The Gods" starts with a calm guitar intro, after which the double bass attacks set in. Blastbeats are added soon and the whole outs its brutality in an unstoppable way. The chorus reminds me a bit of the Belgian Heavy Metal band CRUSADER, also because of Norman's vocals. The drums are very important here and the guitarwork is once again of high quality. Halfway the Metal sounds as if there's a train on the loose. Killer material!

"Behind Immoral Eyes" closes the first very good part. The tempo is slower, yet the guitarwork is still very ferocious, while the drums keep the rhythm rolling. Now and then Norman adds a high-pitched scream, like, for example, James Rivera (ex-SEVEN WITCHES, ex-VICIOUS RUMORS, HELSTAR, ...). Musically this is very much in vein of NEVERMORE.

Things get more Power Metal-influenced with "Feast For The Hated", "Thinning Out The Herd" and "The Sick Sense". The first is the heaviest of the three and reminds of MYSTIC PROPHECY, musically and vocally. Yes, it seems Norman Skinner is quite a singer, indeed. The second one has Norman singing in a heavier way, but also changing to clean singing now and then. Melody is key here, but the biggest problem, so to speak, is that the guitars sound too chaotic further in the song and not just for 2 seconds. Comparable bands here could be MYSTIC PROPHECY, NEVERMORE and ICED EARTH. Sure, it's both good and bad to name references, since every band wants to have their own sound, their own stamp on the compositions and IMAGIKA do that, yet you'll always hear things that you heard with other bands. The third then, "The Sick Sense", is a ballad-like song. Norman's singing is clean and somewhat whiney, if you ask me.

The middle section certainly isn't as good as what came before and what comes after, namely the last three songs, starting with "New Power Rises". This one contains all the great ingredients of before, yet with the focus on Power Metal. Overall, very decent material and instrumentalism. "Held Beneath" cranks up the energy level and the guitar-dominated compositions are a feast indeed, while the drums keep the pace at a steady level. No further comment needed. And finally, "Succubus", has bassist Elena, who quit the band afterwards and replaced by Jim Pegram, handling some vocal lines, also taking turns with Norman. At first the song is kind of ballad-ish, flowing over into something heavier. When the guitarsolo kicks in the band plays at full power and as the notes and riffing fly by, more brutality is added, while the drums make the material pound along. The last few minutes are dominated by fading out guitars, ending this, generally speaking, decent song and very enjoyable ""Feast For The Hated".

IMAGIKA have shown they still have the will and devotion to deliver a brutal assault of Power/Thrash Metal and this since 15 years. In a way you could see this new release, "Feast For The Hated", as an anniversary album and a work of Metal art to be proud of, despite a few less good songs. The production is of a very good quality, the musicianship is without question and that includes the vocals. It's not the best Power/Thrash album around, but it will provide lots of enjoyable moments for fans of this mixture and specifically those into the mentioned bands.

More info at

Norman Skinner - vocals
Steven Rice - guitars
Corey Krick - guitars
Elena Luciano - bass
Henry Moreno - drums

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DAVIDIAN – Hear Their Cries (Limited Access Records 2008)

Davidian - Hear Their Cries
  1. Judas Cross
  2. Count Your Breads
  3. The Prince
  4. Dark Lights
  5. Follow
  6. Little Man
  7. 40 Days
  8. Empty Gold
  9. Shadow

DAVIDIAN is a German band that combines Thrash and Hardcore, obviously resulting into Thrashcore. The band was formed little more than 10 years ago, but it took two more years to have a solid line-up. Its members started as a cover band, but slowly moved on towards Thrash Metal. As usual, the traditional line-up changes also happened. In terms of releases, there was a "Demo" in 1999 and another one, "...In Pain", the following year. Five years ago DAVDIAN had a first self-released album ready: "Abuse Of Power". This apparently got a lot of praise for both the music and lyrics. Gig-wise the Germans were then booked for several large festivals: UpFromTheGround, Kaltenbach Open Air, Hard Taste, Metallic Noise Festival and ZABBADUSCHDER Open Air (which is organized by DAVIDIAN).

Dave Hopkins is the newest member of the fold, as he joined in 2004. Early 2007 the new line-up entered the famed Stage One Studios to record "Hear Their Cries" with Andy Classen (HOLY MOSES, SPELLBOUND, LEGION OF THE DAMNED, KRISIUN, PRESIDENT EVIL, SENCIROW, ...). It has to be said: the man has done another very good job. In late 2007 Limited Access Records offered the band a contract for at least this new release, which came out on the 25th April.

Lyrically the songs seems to deal with religion, the Israelian people travelling through the desert after their exodus from Egypt in search for the promised land and related things. Thrashcore it most definitely is when listening to "Hear Their Cries". The album kicks off with the brutal "Judas Cross", which contains all the ingredients you would expect when putting Thrash and Hardcore together. The pounding, crushing drums with on top of that the devastating riffing and Dave's demonic vocals. An absolutely flawless song, like many others on this album.

"Count Your Beads" starts slow, as the tension gets built up. Shortly before the 1st minute marker this ball of energy explodes into your ears. Still, the tempo goes down for the bridge or chorus. Overall, I find this song a little less appealing/interesting/sticking. "The Prince" is there to kick back some speed and tempo into the music, making the whole sound like a sonic thunderstorm. Alex does a very good job at keeping his drumming varied, with even a few blastbeats. And yes, there's even a guitarsolo. Short, but it's there.

"Dark Lights" also commences in a slow way, where the riffing/melody of the first part reminds me of MACHINE HEAD's "Davidian", off the "Burn My Eyes" album (1994). Heaviness follows, but the tempo remains slow. One the 1st minute has passed the Thrashcore kicks in. And how! Truly a listening pleasure. The chorus does require the tempo to go down again, though.

With "Follow" we've reached a point that closes a very good first half, with once more a slow build up, but the outburst comes quicker. There's also a clear contrast between the fast verses and the slower chorus. Around 01:40 there's a nice breakdown, in preparation for the guitarsolo that comes later.

"Little Man" is a song I can't be satisfied with 100%, as I have mixed feelings. The intro is - do you see the pattern? - slow, yet heavy in a stop-start manner. The devastating riffs soon take over, although the drums don't really follow and keep it midtempo. Still, it's exactly this instrument that shines again due to its diversity in tempo, breaks, accents, etc... In the Thrashcore context this is a pretty decent song, but it's not as attractive as the others, in my opinion. Mind you, I have to add I prefer the uptempo tracks.

A song where those tempo changes are very important is "40 Days", which lets its power out after roughly one minute (like before, indeed). Midtempo ferocity is again the first step, although the speed increases as the seconds fly by. Overall, decent, but not outstanding. That is very much the case with "Empty Gold", which is one of the best songs on "Hear Their Cries". That is more than a certainty. This song kicks off directly with the typical skull-crushing drumming and throat-slicing riffing. Add Dave's rough, bestial throat and you've got the cherry on the cake. The music is truly a lust for the ear. Around 01:15 a beautiful midtempo instrumental is implemented in preparation for the next fast(er) part and the guitarsolo even later on. More of this, I tells ya, more!

In the "Shadow" the "Cries" come to an end. The pattern of a-slow-start-and-outburst-afterwards is also present here - why change a winning set of compositions? - but I've got no complaints at all, for "Shadow" too is a song to be counted among the best ones. Great rhythm, brutal vocals, pounding drums and the classical tempo/fill changes. What more do you want?

Nine tracks totalling a playtime of little more than 37 minutes, which is more than enough to bring you back to life when you're feeling tired after lunch or in the morning or any other moment. Fans of aggressive Metal simply MUST check out DAVIDIAN and "Hear Their Cries". You can like Thrash, but not Hardcore, or the other way around, although I think there are more Hardcore fans who like Thrash than the opposite. Whatever you like, one or both, go to the shop and get yourself a copy of "Hear Their Cries". Time will tell, but DAVIDIAN is a name to keep in mind.

More info at

Dave Hopkins - vocals
Alex Schniepp - guitars
Micha Weidler - guitars
Tim Hinderer - bass
Alex Scherf - drums

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DANTESCO – Pagano (Cruz Del Sur Music 2008)

Dantesco - Pagano
  1. Santa Croce Titulus
  2. La Ultima Visita De Grendel
  3. Por Tu Santo Amor
  4. Su Sangre Es Mia
  5. Exorcista
  6. De La Mano De La Muerte
  7. En El Bosque... Esta Noche
  8. Aguila De Sangre
  9. Anibal
  10. I Came From Hell (European bonus track)
  11. Gethsemane (European bonus track)

Several weeks ago I got a review copy of DANTESCO's newest release, "Pagano", which came out in April of this year. This band hails from Puerto Rico and is tobe catalogued under Heavy Metal, although it's more a blend of Heavy and Doom Metal, leaning towards CANDLEMASS, SOLITUDE AETURNUS, CONCEPT OF GOD and similar bands.

DANTESCO has been around for about six years and released their first album, "De La Mano De La Muerte", in 2006, which got them a spot at the Keep It True and Doom Shall Rise festivals. The lyrics on the new album, "Pagano", deal with historic and mythological events and figures like Beowulf, Anibal and the crusades, but also with Pagan themes.

I've listened to the album a few times and my first impression was good, but nothing more. The weeks that followed I was less attracted to pick it up again, until this week (in June). Honestly, I had good hopes, and also found a few good songs and more good ideas, but the more songs had to pass, the harder it got to stay focused and try to enjoy the music.

The vocals are described as operatic, although in my opinion they're not. It's a close call, but operatic is still different to my ears. Erico 'La Bestia' can be seen as the Messiah of DANTESCO, like his Swedish compadre has been the voice of CANDLEMASS for many years. The problem with Erico is that - although he can sing - his operatic lines are mostly the same, but there are moments where he goes for a rougher/rawer approach, like Silverio does in SILVER FIST. While that is good for the sake of change, it's the screams that in all but very few cases annoy a lot and do more harm than good.

Musically it's pure Heavy Metal with (Traditional) Doom influences and the tempo is never fast. Slow and midtempo rule, which is not that much of a problem, considering the Doomside of the music, although more faster stuff would have been welcome. It's strange, though, or a matter of taste, that a band like CANDLEMASS can keep things slow and interesting all the way, without the need to go for something more pushy. "Pagano" consists of 11 songs, including the two bonus tracks. As far as I'm concerned only half stands out, and not because of one element, but the songs as a whole:

* Santa Croce Titulus - see CANDLEMASS and CONCEPT OF GOD, for example. The solo is a nice addition and the calmer part afterwards s well done.
* La Ultima Visita De Grendel - this one is less, but still very much acceptable, thanks to the chugga-riffing and accoustic break.
* Su Sangre Es Mia - the peaceful start and contrast with the heavy, crushing guitars that take over. This song has CANDLEMASS all over it and even a hint at MANOWAR. The variety in singing (operatic, clean, rough) is well done and bonus points go to the long soloing.
* Exorcista - a semi-accoustic song and good because of the music, not the vocals, which tend to annoy again.
* En El Bosque... Esta Noche - fast midtempo here and an increase in aggressiveness, including a screamy guitarsolo in the beginning. Here it's the drums that keep the song interesting, due to the accents and fills.

The rest of the material just isn't good enough - it's even boring in some cases (personal opinion here) -, although there are good ideas (!) in almost each of them, like the accoustic break in "Anibal" or the guitarsolo in "Aguila De Sangre", but these can't rectify things on their own. The two bonustracks are a nice extra, and I do mean the gesture and not the songs. I don't know if something went wrong with the production (it's weak and so not like the other songs) and it seems as if a drumcomputer was used for the two songs, which makes them even less interesting. "I Came From Hell" has something MANOWAR-ish and is good, yet nothing more. "Gethsemane" on the other hand is one of those boring songs.

I was hoping for a good record, keeping in mind that South America has very good Metal to offer (without referring to the big names). DANTESCO has good ideas and they are sometimes translated into good to very good songs - take those 4-5 and release it as an EP -, but overall I can't recommend "Pagano", unless you're into Traditional/Epic Doom and seek something new. This is therefore one of the less good albums of 2008. The criterium "listen before you buy" is to be used here.

More info at

Erico La Bestia - vocals
Joel Carrasquillo - guitars
Dennis Torres - guitars
Ramon De Jesus - bass, accoustic guitar
Wampa - drums

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BATTLEROAR – To Death And Beyond... (Cruz Del Sur Music 2008)

Battleroar - To Death And Beyond
  1. The Wrathforge
  2. Dragonhelm
  3. Finis Mundi
  4. Metal From Hellas
  5. Hyrkanian Blades
  6. Oceans Of Pain
  7. Born In The 70's
  8. Warlord Of Mars
  9. Death Before Disgrace

It's been three years since the Greek Heavy Metalband BATTLEROAR released an album. 2005 was the year of "Age Of Chaos", the band's second full-length release and one that was well-received internationally, although there was still some work for the band to improve certain elements and aspects. The label at that time, Black Lotus Records, went bankrupt the year after that and for many bands it was a hard to find a new home. BATTLEROAR found it not too far from their home country: Cruz Del Sur Music from Italy.

"Age Of Chaos" was an album that showed the potential of this band, as there were some comparisons with, for example, MANOWAR. The problems I had with this release were the vocals (too monontonous after a while) and a lack of faster songs. This has been corrected with "To Death And Beyond...", the new and third album, which came out in April. Like before the cover art depicts a battlefield in medieval style.

"To Death And Beyond..." has one song less than "Age Of Chaos", but the playtime overall is a bit longer and very close to one hour. That means long songs, 3 of which are over 8 minutes long, one more than 10 while the rest is between 4 and 5 minutes. Also worth noting is that the band has improved their skills over the years, which is very obvious after having listened to their newest creation. Not just the instrumental skills, but also the songwriting.

The battle starts with the orchestral intro of "The Wrathforge", assisted by the heaviness of Metal, that in a pounding way builds up the tension during the first two minutes, after which the outburst follows. Galopping kickdrums push the song forward and this is not the only one where they're used. Marco has worked on his singing, that's more than obvious as the result here is very good. "Dragonhelm" increases the tempo and converts the guitar playing a bit, chugga-style. The galopping kickdrums are featured here as well. While you get Heavy Metal all the way, the Greeks found it good to speed things up even more for the chorus, which brings the Power Metal in the music to life. Around 02:30 the guitarsolo pops up and the tempo goes down a little for this. for the last part of the song it's back to business as usual. "Dragonhelm" is one of the best tracks so far.

Epicness is to be sought in "Finis Mundi", as mainly the chorus is filled to the top with it. Midtempo is key here, but that doesn't mean it rocks less. On the contrary! Interestingly enough, the band divided the song into several parts, with the accoustic melody of the introduction playing an important, recurring role, being the bridge towards the last heavy part of the song.

The title "Hyrkanian Blades" already indicates that this is a battle song and the music is very much inline. You can imagine the scene, while the music will guide you. Of course, this is free interpretation, as the battle can be different for this or that person. Here as well the galopping kickdrums are not to be dismissed, while midtempo is the pace that is chosen.

"Warlord Of Mars" and "Death Before Disgrace" are the last two songs where BATTLEROAR shows they're a band to reckon with, despite not belonging to the top of the world. The first one adds more ferocious power, with double bass in the chorus, while the second one starts accoustically, then transcends into slow Metal. The real speed booster is reserved for around 06:30 and that moment is simply divine! More of this is needed and not just in one song. This fast moment is mainly because the guitarsolo is being spotlighted, so to speak. "Death Before Disgrace" is long, yes, but has interesting and diverse moments that require you to listen a few times to grasp it all, but it's very much worth it.

Now, the less good songs. Let's start with "Metal From Hellas". It's ok to show that Greece has talent in Metalland, but to my ears the production sounded less strong and overall the song lacked some power. Furthermore, the chorus isn't that attractive. "Oceans Of Pain" is another slow/midtempo song, which gets boring after a while and especially the chorus suffers from this. The accoustic interlude is not bad, but can't make up for the rest of the song. Marco's singing in "Born In The 70's" needs more power. It's too clean and melodic. The drums, too, sound less strong, despite the execution being very good. Is this a cover song? Because it doesn't really fit with the rest of the tracks, as it's much lighter.

"Age Of Chaos" was a good album, but lacked speed, even though that wasn't so much of a problem. This has been rectified with "To Death And Beyond...", of which the majority of the songs has passed the hearing test. For me personally, that means 6/9, which is about 66-67%. That might not be a good score - scores don't mean anything, which is why I never add any to my reviews - but as a whole you can't really go wrong with BATTLEROAR and this new album. Fans of the band will like it, that's for sure. Anyone into Heavy Metal and not acquainted with this Greek band, now's the time to do so. It's not the best album in its genre, but it is well executed, well produced and fulfills the needs for those who like it pure.

More info at

Marco Congoreggi - vocals
Kostas Tzortzis - guitar
Manolis Karazeris - guitar
Kostas Makrikostas - bass
Nick Papadopoulos - drums

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PHARAOH – Be Gone (Cruz Del Sur Music 2008)

Pharaoh - Be Gone
  1. Speak to Me
  2. Dark New Life
  3. No Remains
  4. Red Honor
  5. Buried At Sea
  6. Rats And Rope
  7. Cover Your Eyes And Pray
  8. Telepath
  9. Be Gone

When I first read the press text that came with the promo copy, I thought I was dealing with a band from the 1970s, reading 1979 instead of 1997 as the starting year. A fast search brought me back to reality and confirmed 1997 as the year that the American Heavy/Power Metal band PHARAOH saw the light of day. It seems they did need a lot of time to bring out their debut album, "After The Fire", and that was in 2003. Three years later the follow-up was ready: "The Longest Night". And now, only two years in the making, here's album no. 3, "Be Gone", which came out on the 23rd of April. Hopefully the title isn't a sign of what the band's future beholds.

The reason for the title is this: "The band had already agreed on titling the album "Be Gone" several months before entering the studio, because a singular theme emerged early in the songwriting process. Songs such as the radiant "Speak to Me" and the bottomless epic "Buried at Sea" examine the inherent flaws of mankind, pitted hopelessly against the seemingly omniscient and unwavering power of nature. Similarly, the soaring strains of "Dark New Life" and sinister waves of "Telepath" offer narratives from a world where the human race is blazing paths to literal and emotional extinction. The inevitable disappearance of mankind is the overarching theme embodied in "Be Gone's" musical storytelling."

Hearing the samples on the band's MySpace page and comparing it to the new material, it's clear that PHARAOH hasn't changed its winning formula and thus continues - improved or not, I can't really tell, since I don't own any of the previous releases - the programmed direction.

"Speak To Me" kicks off this third undertaking with guitars and drumming fading in and bursting loose after little less than 10 seconds. The layered and melodic guitarlines are a lust for the ear, backed by the thumping drums. At first I didn't know who was singing, but he sure does a very good job at combining melody and roughness. Tim Aymar... I looked up the name and noticed he was the singer of CONTROL DENIED, the other band of DEATH vocalist/guitarist/mastermind Chuck Schuldiner. I'm not so familiar with that one album CONTROL DENIED made. I heard it once, though, at the birthday party of a friend of mine. And I liked what I heard, but never thought of buying the album. The song slowly advanced and thrives on the melody and harmonies of Matt's guitarwork. The solos too are top notch.

The tempo increases with the galopping "Dark New Life" and Tim sings more out of full chest. The riffing is also fiercer, sharper, while the drums keep the pace high enough. The bridge is one big highlight, mainly because of Tim's layered vocals. Top song, I tells ya! Somehow I had to think a bit of SILVER FIST, the Spanish Heavy/Power Metal band, not just because of the music, but because Tim's voice in a way sounds like that of Silverio, or the other way around. In any case, the musicianship is of pure quality and I can't find anything to diss. Not that that is the point of the review, it just shows - in my opinion - the guys have done a very good job.

And for "No Remains" Chris Black even pumps out some faster playing, while Matt is laying out the basis with fast riffing. Tim is unstoppable and really gives his all. The chorus is slower and sort of more hymnic. During the chorus I have SHATTER MESSIAH popping up, which isn't a problem for me. Both bands fulfill the expectations really well. Tim adds some pin-pointed David DeFeis-ish screams, too.

IRON MAIDEN also comes along, in "Red Honor". PHARAOH just makes the music a tad heavier, rougher. The Rock'n'Roll level is very high here and besides the British Heavy Metallers, I also have to add VIRGIN STEELE as comparison, both musically and vocally. Chris made his drumming a bit more playful by implementing snare rolls - well, more like a couple of fast single strokes - and hi-hat touches.

"Buried At Sea" is next and although it's more epic/hymnic, you really have to listen a few times to hear the beauty of it. The first time I thought it was quite average, but as you let the music grow on you, the song will proove to be one of the better/best tracks on "Be Gone". Change comes halfway, where melody takes over from heaviness and Chriss makes more use of the toms. Few tens of seconds the songs seems to fade out into silence before the final outburst is set. "Buried At Sea"'s power lies in its chorus and that becomes clear once more in the final part of the song.

After this sad side-step, it's time for another injection of full-on Heavy/Power Metal: "Rats And Rope". This is another song filled with awesome, raging guitarwork, thundering drumwork and Tim's powerful throat. On a musical level Matt and co. of course made sure that the raging moments get some time-off to let slower passages come to the front and prepare the listener for another load of what can be found in the first part of the song.

With "Cover Your Eyes And Pray" it's time for the accoustic guitar to have its moments of glory. This instrument starts the song, after which its electric cousin takes over, assisted by the drums. In a midtempo environment, Tim sounds the most powerful, as if he's trying his best while the others just play like it's any other song. The accoustic guitar comes back right before the verses set in again, and also form the tail of the song. The epic chorus shows a calmer, more modest side of Tim, although his typical timbre and rough stamp are still present.

More aggressive riffing, including the bass guitar, is needed keep the flame burning, but the melody seems to be grouped in the chorus of "Telepath". Not that the verses lack this element, not at all, but you clearly hear heavier backing there. After all those years, Tim's voice has probably never been so good. This is David DeFeis (VIRGIN STEELE) meets Eric Adams (MANOWAR). Matt's solowork is the cherry on the cake. Truly a very good guitarist, if I may say so. Towards the end there's an energetic injection to give their all one last time. The real ending consists of noise, like from a TV when there's no channel to be found.

The guitars build up "Be Gone", going from ultra-melodic leads to sharp and heavy riffing. The drums keep the slow pace going, while Matt adds some accents every x counts. This song simply screams "EPIC!". Single bass in the verses, double in the chorus, and all the while the pace remains the same. Around the 3rd minute the bass is the constant instrument, while the drums have their uplifting moments and the guitar keeps on leading. After a good minute everything slows down, gets silent to power up again for the chorus. Here too, the guitar started the song and it also ends the song, without the interference of bass, drums or vocals.

I had to listen to "Be Gone" (the album) a few times to fully get into the songs, because of all the layers, especially the vocals and guitars and that makes the material as interesting as enjoyable. To cut things short: PHARAOH is a band to check out and their latest epos "Be Gone" an album (without even one bad song) every self-respecting Heavy/Power Metalfan cannot afford to miss, as you get quality musicianship, excellent guitarwork, great singing (done with passion), a powerful rhythm section and Pure Metal with capital P! While you're at it, try to obtain the band's previous releases as well.

More info at

Tim Aymar - vocals
Matt Johnsen - guitars
Chris Kerns - bass
Chris Black - drums

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FIGURE OF SIX – Aion (Locomotive Records 2008)

Figure Of Six - Aion
  1. The Man With The Book And The Gun
  2. Warshow
  3. Ten Years Alone
  4. Akeldama (Bloody Field)
  5. Dark Side 5
  6. Morning Star
  7. The Hanged Man
  8. Pull The Trigger
  9. Hands Of Aion

I never thought I would have another Metalcore album to review. Alas, FIGURE OF SIX's latest album, "Aion", arrived in the mail a few weeks ago and from the looks of the cover I didn't expect it to be a Metalcore album, although the font of FIGURE OF SIX should have rang a little bell. When this Italian band was formed is unknown, but they did have an album in 2005: "Step One". Still, the new album, released on the 18th of April, is my first acquaintance with their music.

Tue Madsen mixed and mastered "Aion", giving the instruments a powerful, yet polished sound. The music is like you would expect on any Metalcore album, yet FIGURE OF SIX thrive heavily on keyboards and more specifically the symphonic option, although in the second half the electronics, samples are used more often and push the symphonics a bit to the back. The guitars play more the card of power, while the drums show they are used for more than just a standard pattern: uptempo, midtempo, tom-fills, variable kickdrumming, ... I've got no complaints about that.

What bothers me the most, next to certain compositions, are the vocals. The screaming annoys very rapidly and the clean singing just feels gay, wussy, whiney, emo. No matter which song you play, it's always the same recipe.

As far as songs standing out: not a lot, really. "Ten Years Alone", "Akeldama (Bloody Field)", "Dark Side 5" (an instrumental, with the first four parts appearing on the debut album) and "The Hanged Man" are the only ones, in my opinion. And this solely based on the music, as the vocals actually destroy a lot of the atmosphere and make at least me skip to the next song very rapidly.

The sound of "Aion" is very good, that is beyond doubt. Anyone into Metalcore will have a nice treat with what FIGURE OF SIX present here, also because of the clever use of the keyboards and if you like the new IN FLAMES, SONIC SYNDICATE, BULLET FOR MY VALENTINE and similar, I advise you to check out these Italians, too. Everyone else, steer clear from "Aion".

More info at

Giacomo Lavatiura - vocals
Peter Cadonici - guitars
Matteo Troiano - guitars
Michele Mingozzi - keyboards
Stefano Capuano - bass
Emanuele Pagani - drums

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CARACH ANGREN – Lammendam (Maddening Media 2008)

Carach Angren - Lammendam
  1. Het Spook Von De Leiffartshof
  2. A Strange Presence Near The Woods
  3. Haunting Echoes From The Seventeenth Century
  4. Phobic Shadows And Moonlit Meadows
  5. Hexed Melting Flesh
  6. The Carriage Wheel Murder
  7. Corpse In A Nebulous Creek
  8. Invisible Physic Entity
  9. Heretic Poltergeist Phenomena
  10. La Malédiction De La Madame Blanche

CARACH ANGREN is what you could call the Dutch DIMMU BORGIR/VESANIA/... as they also play in the league of Symphonic Black Metal. About DIMMU BORGIR (still) being Black Metal or not, many words have already been written. Anyhow, the three-piece band from The Netherlands have released their debut album, "Lammendam", last April (18/04) via Maddening Media. Two EPs preceded that album: "The Chase Vault Tragedy" and "Ethereal Veiled Existence". The "Lammendam" release tells about the Lammendam, a saga about the ghost of a lady in a white dress haunting the southern regions of the country.

The titles alone are enough to let you picture the drama itself: the woods, the ghost, the creek, the atmosphere, the darkness, the blood, the creepiness of it all. Combine that with the power and velocity of Black Metal and you know that no other music can offer such a haunting result. A story is being told, so the songs are connected musically, but also through interludes, in which Seregor speaks - depending on the song - in Dutch, French or even German.

As it starts with a character being haunted and followed by the ghost, the horror really comes alive with "A Strange Presence Near The Woods". Symphonic Black Metal(with lots of blastbeats and rolling kickdrums) with a very important role for the piano to add a touch of madness, helped by the violin accents. Seregor sounds quite a lot like Shagrath (DIMMU BORGIR), but at the same time it's not 100% identical. I would say he's even better than Shagrath.

"Haunting Echoes From The Seventeenth Century" continues the madness in a way that makes the song flow better, although the usual blastmoments also are very much present and come in at pinpointed intervals. Seregor's shrieks are less, since he growls more. The violin (keyboards) are the instrument that have to keep the creepiness alive, although the entire package (blasting drums, fast riffing, atmospheric keyboards, tempo changes, ...) also increases the adrenalin level in your body. Even the guitar is set in as assistant to the violins for a dancy part little over halfway, repeated with more ferocity afterwards. The 'singing' and spoken lines help to bring the story to life. The only thing that is missing are images, video footage. For it is clear that these Dutch have created a very fine album of Horror Metal (so to speak) that would fit very much if there was a film made about the theme.

Percussion is added to "Phobic Shadows And Moonlit Meadows", where the keyboards, in cooperation with the guitars provide you with another mad, theatrical blastfest. Especially the strings that started the song are a great addition to the creepy atmosphere. The violins come back many times, mainly to put accents at specific moments, when the guitars play the role of power instrument. Shortly before halfway there's a piano piece, with Seregor being the evil narrator - so to speak - and there's a build-up towards a sad, horrific play. There's so much in terms of compositions, changes that it's hard to talk about it all. But the result is simply outstanding!

"Hexed Melting Flesh" is sort of a resting point: no music, yet Seregor playing the narrator, telling the next step in this tale. Fear is just one aspect here. A house is set to fire, a woman screams, gasping for air while she's suffocating, you can just hear the fire arrows fly by and impact on the house.

It's in "Carriage Wheel Murder", the follow-up of what happened in the previous song, that the music sets in again, with a very important role for the strings, backed by the powerful thunder provided by the guitars and drums. Fast riffing, the usual blasting and choirish backing are key elements of what follows. The production and mix result is very well done, making each instrument get enough attention and the combination of each element results in a powerful symphonic masterpiece of which even classic composers would be jealous. DIMMU BORGIR, eat your heart out!

Although I could continue and tackle the other songs, I'm not going to, as the same recipe is used: blasting Black Metal in a superb collaboration with orchestral elements, each given lots of time (together and solo) to bring the horror to your ears, lead by Seregor's shrieky throat. And so the band continues to tell the tale, presenting it in a theatrical play kind of way, even though it's just the music and narrations you hear. Images would certainly complete the picture, although that is food for discussion. Would one be satisfied if there was a sort of 'film' that came with the album? Or is it better to let your own imagination do the work and give you a personal look on this story, so you can fill in the blanks?

To conclude I can only be positive about CARACH ANGREN and their multi-layered debut "Lammendam". This is qualitative Symphonic Black Metal that shows the band doesn't have to fear the bigger bands in this league. Personally I find CARACH ANGREN a bit more original, in that they have composed the songs in a way that really is almost film score-ish. It's not just the usual Black Metal, but this trio encourages you to add your own images to the story that is being told. If there was a book about the lammendam, it would only make things better. You could compare this with, for example, MANTICORA's "Hyperion" album, which was based on the first book of the "Hyperion" series by Dan Simmons. Sure, MANTICORA is Power Metal, but that's not the point. Being signed to Maddening Media also indicates a bit what to expect, as other bands on this roster have something theatrical in their music: LE GRAND GUIGNOL, UNINVITED GUEST, ... The similarities with DIMMU BORGIR (and others) cannot be denied, yet these Dutch here take a somewhat different approach for which you can only have the utmost respect.

More info at

Seregor - vocals, guitars
Ardek - keyboards
Namtar - drums

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DEDICTED – Argonauts (Shiver Records 2008)

Dedicted - Argonauts
  1. The Revenant
  2. Heretic
  3. Virgin Soil Epidemic
  4. Crystalline
  5. The Parthologically Grandious Megalomaniacs
  6. Rebirth
  7. A Darker Shape
  8. Argonauts

About three years ago I got to know about the Ostend Thrashers DEDICTED via the Velorock festival, where they left a good impression on me. One year later I got a copy of their 3-track demo "The Judas Window" for a review. That too left a more than good impression on me, as their Thrash was melodic and progressive, each song being a tad different. So they had enough choice of which direction to continue in. of course the necessary gigs followed and at a certain time in 2006 or 2007 there were some line-up problems, with Mehdi (and perhaps one of the guitarists, but about that I'm not sure) having left the band... to return a few months later. Anyhow, it was obvious that these Ostend Metalheads were determined to go on and were thus working their asses off to write enough material for a full album, which has seen the light of day since little more than a month (15/04).

The artwork certainly doesn't look very Metal, it could make you think you're dealing with a Pop band or something in that vein. Well, anything non-Metal. DEDICTED titled its first full-length "Argonauts", for which the following explanation exists: "The album title refers to the heroes in Greek mythology who set off on an epic journey on the Argo. At the same time, it refers to the Ship of Fools which is thought to have been sailing the waters of Europe at the end of the Middle Ages, carrying madmen away from the cities which could not longer deal with them."

I made the mistake of crediting Mehdi for all vocals on the "The Judas Window" demo, while it's in fact drummer Jason who handles the clean singing. I didn't pay much attention to that so many years ago, but their performance at the Midwinter Festival in Kuurne, last February, certainly made it very clear who sings what. This was also the second time that I would have the pleasure of seeing them play on stage.

But on to the music. This review should have been done a few weeks ago, but you know how it goes when you've got more on your mind than just this review and if you don't have a clear head... Musically the band still plays Thrash, but adds lots of Groove as well. You can find comparable material with bands like MESHUGGAH, GOJIRA, HACRIDE, ... Fact is that "Argonauts" is one and all brutality, of course with a very well thought of mixture of heavy and 'softer' moments, dominated by Jason's singing. The midtempo "The Revenant" is just one example of the variety that can be found throughout the tracklisting. Mehdi screams like never before, and I've got the impression Jason also improved his throat a bit. The riffing is hard, vicious and ruthless. The drumming is totally not standard, as Jason really plays with his kickdrums, implements tempo changes, but holds on to the China cymbal, something he considers as an alternative to the hi-hat or ride cymbal, if he even uses it at all.

"Heretic" starts with just the guitars, after which the drums and rest of the instrumentation fall in, slowly building up the tension before everything burts loose around the 30th second. This song is even more ferocious and progressive than "The Revenant", not just via the guitars and samples or Mehdi's screams/growls, but mainly via Jason's drumming (tempo changes, breaks, ...). This album really shows this, the importance of the drums. Speaking of singing: at first the contrast between Mehdi's screams and Jason's clean input might seem hard to overcome, but after a few listens you'll better hear why they did it.

The starting riffs of "Virgin Soil Epidemic" don't sound too different from the first songs, but it's around 00:35-40 that the real power is broken loose, with variable drumming, while it's the guitars that demand another dominant role. Still, the drums are there to add the spices. The fast parts are few in number and everything falls back to midtempo quite rapidly, which might fit the music better, but together with the riffing being similar (to the ear) to what came before, you're not really making the songs stand out from each other, in my opinion. The overuse of the China can be considered a trademark of DEDICTED, like the dual vocals, but this too can become a nuisance after a while. Oh yes, the first guitarsolo (albeit a short one) can be found here, too.

That changes in "Crystalline", where the hi-hat is used more. At least in the first part. Then it's back to business as usual, including the tempo, although when there's need for a faster moment, the hi-hat will be used again. Samples help to bring more melody to the compositios, since the guitars don't only sound very powerful (one big powerball), but not that variable, at least in terms of sound. It's as if the same two strings or so are being used. What's the word here? Repetitive, droning (not like e.g. Drone Doom, though). Mind you, the overall result is quite dynamic and diverse (tempo changes, melodies, breaks, ...), so that kind of makes up for that 'problem'. Still, a playtime of more than 6 minutes is perhaps a bit too much.

"The Parthologically Grandiose Megalomaniacs" take you to the deepest dungeons, close to hell almost, as the atmopshere there is cold, void of all common sense and nothing but the unexpected. Then the power erupts via the instrumentation and Mehdi's demonic screams/growls, while Jason counters it in the chorus. The drumming also cools down to something more normal, although the toms and cymbals are still used a lot. The guitars change their brutal riffing for more melodic leads. This is more than welcome at this stage: melody and less blunt heaviness. That's indeed the word for the riffing of before: blunt. But that plays a less significant role in "The Parthologically Grandiose Megalomaniacs", which stands out because of its melodicness. And it's done before you even know it, despite almost 5 minutes of playtime.

Peaceful guitarwork in the intro of "Rebirth", Jason's clean voice fits perfectly here. The atmosphere has something spacey, I must add. The lead guitar slowly adds more melody, while the soft atmospheric backing assists Jason. Around the 2nd minute marker the DEDICTED force has risen: uptempo Thrash and Mehdi back at the vocal helm. There is a tempo decrease for the bridge, but it's better when things are played faster. The chorus is also slow/midtempo. The China gets abused again. It does make the songs more powerful, more threatening. While the guitars played a more or less monotonous kind of pattern, I have to admit that now the situation is a lot different. While Jason applies a more pounding way of drumming, the axemen change from melodic parts to brutal and crushing interventions. The running time of over 6 minutes gives the band enough space to try something different and carefully positions the different parts.

"A Darker Shade" is very much like the first part of "Argonauts": midtempo, variable kickdrums, lots of China, the blunt riffs. In the chorus Mehdi and Jason take turns for the lyrics. Still, as hard to get through as I found a few of the earlier songs, I find this one to be among the better/best on the album. shortly over halfway the lead guitar demands attention and gets it, sadly for a short period of time, after which the usual brutality continues.

The melodic guitarlines of the intro of the title track made me fear for the worst, but the heavier part that follows luckily puts a smile on my face. Fact is, though, that backing samples and, indeed, more melodic guitar interventions break again with the usual elements. Composition-wise, "Argonauts" (the song) is a tough nut to crack, in my opinion. Not that it's a bad thing, but you might need several listens to hear it all, to better feel the symbiosis between the blunt axes, the melodies, the dual vocals, everything. Most attention was given to lighter compositions, although the typical riffing could not be forgotten. It was toned down a bit. As a result, the song isn't as heavy as the others, and more than a few spins are needed to grasp it all.

As much as I like DEDICTED, as much as I was hoping on something similar to "The Judas Window", I can't deny I have mixed feelings about "Argonauts". On one hand, I can only congratulate the band with this debut album, their determination to combine brutal riffing with melodic, contrasting elements and applying two types of singing, while keeping the music interesting enough, especially via the drums. On the other hand, however, there are many times that I feel like the band fished in the same pond, relying too much on the same tempos, same way of drumming, same kind of riffing (without much changes, but rolling on and on), and perhaps forgetting ingredients like guitarsolos, for example. Adrien Grosset from HACRIDE did lend a hand and a guitar to fill that hole. As a whole, I can recommend anyone into Post-Thrash, Progressive Thrash and in general technical Metal to check out DEDICTED and "Argonauts". When comparing the songs, there's too much of the same and it's hard for each song to stand out, have an own identity. Fingers crossed for the follow-up.

More info at

Mehdi - vocals
Sven - guitars
Yannick - guitars
Tim - bass
Jason VanAcker - drums, samples, clean vocals

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MY SHAMEFUL – Descend (Firebox Records 2008)

My shameful - Descend
  1. Allconsuming
  2. Deity Of Retribution
  3. This Hate
  4. Of Haunting
  5. Kill The Emptiness
  6. Unrepentant
  7. Self-Abuse

MY SHAMEFUL is a Finnish Death/Doom band, formed in 1999 and about ten years later they have four albums and three demos up their sleeves. The third demo, "To All I Hated", was even re-released via Nocturnal Music in 2001 and if you look well, you might find a copy. I did find it earlier this year, at a CD-stand at Paganfest. The two preceding demos, "Sown In Sadness" and "Your Dark Overwhelming", were found at other locations. Sadly enough those aren't available anymore, although it would be nice if both could be added on a re-release CD or maybe as bonus disc with one of the band's upcoming albums.

As common in Doom Metal, the music is slow with feelings of emptiness, despair, depression, feeling lost and having to endure agony to no end. These elements are mostly to be found in Death/Doom, Funeral Doom and Gothic Doom. Right from the start did Sami Rautio and Harri Jussila chose this kind of composing, making MY SHAMEFUL a Death/Doom band that flirts with Funeral influences. Since many years Harri isn't any longer in the band, making Sami the only survivor, but along the way finding new musicians to fill the empty spots, including that of the drums.

On each release was the MY SHAMEFUL stamp present: slow, dark, dirty and depressing. Of course not every albums sounds the same, as the production was different with each release. While Sami growled on the demos, he did add some screams on "To All I Hated". As they got to sign with Firebox in 2002, the band had more financial means, which means a bigger sound. The first outcome was "Of All The Wrong Things", which is considered a highlight in the band's career and Doom Metal's history of the 21st century. Haunting growls, massive guitarwall and mindnumbing drumming are key ingredients on this album. And not to forget the running time of each song, which is 7-8 minutes.

Two years later "...Of Dust" came out. The production was a bit more polished, although the sound was still quite realistic (i.e. not plastic or overpolished). Honesty obliges me to add that because of this (= polish) the music was easier to swallow. I mean, the atmosphere was different, less outerworld than "Of All The Wrong Things". The guitars had a more growling sound, too. "...Of Dust" contained more sighing, something Sami also incorporated in several songs on the predecessor, yet to a lesser extent. Here the sighing was put together with the growling. Pluspoints also go to moments of rest before the growling guitars take over again.

With "The Return To Nothing" (2006) the band has probably made its heaviest and darkest album to date. Very focused on the guitarwall and agonizing vocals, leaving the drums a bit in the shadows with - I can't call it thin, though - less full sound, less pounding, less massive, but sharper. The guitars also sound quite distorted (again), so that's a good thing. For the drums I would have liked the sound of "Of All The Wrong Things", but one can only be sure of this if that sound is applied and you hear the album afterwards. Musically it's out of this world and into the depths of darkness and psychological hell. In other words: recommended material, just like any album MY SHAMEFUL made thus far.

Ok, enough for the retrovision now. This time, with their fourth full-length "Descend", which is out since the 14th April, Sami and co. again used the classic ingredients and made another but different cocktail to make sure that no two albums are the same, like has been the case since the beginning. The distorted guitarwall is still present, but the drums sound more massive again, which was one of the less good elements on "The Return To Nothing". The start ("Allconsuming") certainly shows you don't need to expect happy flower-power music. A gentle and sad guitarloop welcomes you, but the distorted power soon forms a cloak around you, increasing your feelings of emptiness, of despair. Chanting follows, as the music takes a different turn, much slower than the intro. Jürgen is a very skilled drummer, as he firmly hits the skins to accentuate the harshness, the cold, the bluntness of the dark. The kickdrums have been given enough power to keep on thumping inside your head. You can hardly say this song isn't diverse, as the drums don't stick to a certain pattern, nor do the guitars, yet the wall remains present just like the deep, agonizing growls.

In "Deity Of Retribution" the music is more direct and straight-forward at first, with pounding accents on snare and floor tom, after which the kickdrums follow the guitars (tadada, tadada, ...) with occasional rolls. The vocals are a little different here: no growling, more (screamish) grunts, inline with the lead guitars. For the semi-spoken button is pushed. As said, the music is more direct, straight-forward and revolves for the biggest part around the chorus, which gets repeated a lot, whereas "Allconsuming" was far more diverse. Still, this is quite a catchy song, just like the first.

The tempo drops seriously in "This Hate", as the guitars start their weeping melody. Sami's rough vocals follow, crying about how life has deserted him, how it didn't turn out to be all positive. No, I'm just inventing this, because the lyrics aren't even in the booklet and the growling isn't always easy to decode. At about 1/3 there's a nice break and another low in the tempo to let the drums and bass come out before the guitars take over again. Steadily the tempo goes up again and more anger and sadness comes flowing out of the vocals and instruments. This is heavy stuff for the mind, let that be clear. Don't expect sweet words of love and passion.

Keeping the tradition alive, the songs on "Descend" are once again longer, up to about 9 minutes. Three songs are more than 8 minutes and depending on the compositions this can be a tough undertaking. "Of Haunting" is the second longest song and kudos if you've managed to stay focused until here without the desire to play, for example, Power Metal. Midtempo is key here and Sami growls something that a bit more understandable, yet you have to keep your ears wide open to decode the lyrics. The whispers are also implemented about halfway. And at that point, halfway, there's a drop in heaviness. A peaceful setting is created as if in a meditation, yet one guitar keeps producing the sound like in a hospital when someone's heart stopped beating: uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu (and so on). Then the painful growls set in a gain, together with the guitars and the drums, who at first don't play like before, yet the hits are harder and used as accents (cymbals, snare). Although not as catchy as "Allconsuming", "Of Haunting" is one of the better/best songs on this release.

"Kill The Emptiness" is the shortest of the pack, with its 5 minutes. Musically it reminds me of MOURNING BELOVETH, NOVEMBERS DOOM and similar. The tempo is set at (slow) midpace. The vocals are a mix of growls and grunts. Little over halfway the drums shift gears for something faster, something more solid, direct. Probably because of the shorter playtime this song isn't as variable as some preceding ones. That's ok, as it offers a broader view on the depressing music MY SHAMEFUL plays. You can't expect what to hear. Still, I find this song to be a less good one.

To break the flow of slow, agonizing and suicidal feelings, Sami and co. decided to add more activity, resulting in "Unrepentant". PARADISE LOST comes to mind here. And yes, there is diversity here, albeit coming from the drums (including blastbeats, surprise surprise) plus the riffing going faster in the second half, while keeping the atmosphere cold and bleak.

With "Self-Abuse" we come at the end of this "Descend"ing. But it's still a long 08:48 minutes to go. This is even more mind-crushing, heart-wrenching and soul-devouring than the other songs. A direct start, slow pounding drums and grunts. While one guitar provides the clouds on which you drift, the other accentuates the agony, tears and more of this. Sami's occasional whispering adds to the dark and killing atmosphere. The drums play once again a vital role by changing tempo or adding something special like snare rolls or even having a break. Fact is that these are of the hardest 9 minutes I had to endure. Certainly not advised for people who hae mental problems.

Four albums so far, each with an own character, an own identity, but oh so recognisable as MY SHAMEFUL. I have to be honest, though, and add that "Descend" is probably their heaviest album to date and at the same time the most difficult one to sit through. It doesn't mean it's a bad album, just that you need to take your time with it. Sure, Death/Doom isn't for the fans of 'happier' Metal, but MY SHAMEFUL takes it to another level than e.g. MOURNING BELOVETH, NOVEMBERS DOOM, and even EVOKEN, which is a band that also isn't afraid of going deep and providing the listener with a crushing atmosphere into the darkest realms of the earth. "Descend" is filthy, bleak, crushing, destructive, devastating and extremely dangerous for the human mind and emotions. I can actually only congratulate Sami, Mario, Twist and Jürgen with this creation, for staying true to their roots and making it food for discussion, even though my favourite album it is not. How they will manage to top this now that Sami has gone back to Finland - is he out of the band or not? - is something only time will tell.

More info at

Sami Rautio - vocals, guitars, keyboards
Mario Hahn - guitars
Twist - bass
Jürgen Fröhling - drums

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MAR DE GRISES – Draining The Waterheart (Firebox Records 2008)

Mar De Grises - Draining The Waterheart
  1. Sleep Just One Dawn
  2. Kilómetros De Nada
  3. Deep-Seeded Hope Avant-Garde
  4. Fantasía
  5. Wooden Woodpecker Conversion
  6. One Possessed
  7. Summon Me
  8. Liturgia: Convite Y Prefiguracón/Purgatorio/Diálogo Infierno

South America has lots of great Metal, in various styles: (for example) Death, Black, Gothic, Power, Progressive and even Doom. One of those bands is MAR DE GRISES (= Sea Of Grays), who are catalogued as Melodic Avant-Doom/Death, as they combine elements from Death and Doom Metal together with that of Progressive and Post Rock. After their self-titled demo in 2002, the band signed to Firebox Records for their debut album, "The Tatterdemalion Express", which saw the light of day in 2004 and led them to festivals like Doom Shall Rise III in Germany and gigs in Belgium, France, Italy, The Netherlands and Spain. The band obviously received many positive comments about their first album.

Now, four years later, the follow-up is ready: "Draining The Waterheart". The album was released on the 14th April, again via Firebox Records. Two members, Sergio and Rodrigo G., previously had another release coming out with MOURNERS LAMENT and this via Descent Productions.

This is my first MAR DE GRISES album and from the samples on MySpace it's clear that "Draining The Waterheart" is a different album than "The Tatterdemalion Express", but that doesn't mean it's bad. Not at all. There's a brilliant mix between heavy parts and more floating melodies in sometimes atmospheric environments, which can transfer you to a dreamier world.

The album, or dream if you like, starts (and ends) with some noise/distortion as if to indicate a transition is going on. I guess the title makes it easier to understand why the distortion is there: "Sleep Just One Dawn". The instrumentation is peaceful and dreamy, yet intensifies as the seconds pass by. Around the first minute and a half heaviness kicks in and the atmosphere is all of a sudden much more sad and gloomy, enforced by the keyboards and Juan's heartbroken grunts and whispers. The drums are the most variable element here. All of this comes to a halt at around 05:40, bringing our character back to the dreamy space for the last moments of rest.

The transition to "Kilómetros De Nada" goes smoothly and although there's no real intro, the music is even more depressing. guitars and piano form a perfect duo and Juan's soft grunts resemble a bit those of Mikko Kotamäki (SWALLOW THE SUN). The heaviness is also softer, so to speak. The focus lies on atmosphere, not specifically heaviness or technical guitarwork. Around the 4th minute the guitars head a different direction and in my opinion it doesn't fit that well with the rest of the compositions. It's even a annoying and out of tone, in a way. Not too long afterwards peacefulness takes over for about a minute. What follows is my favourite moment of this song and perhaps the album: the drums (and bass) that set in. Imagine gentle, atmospheric guitars and then drums being added. The mix is also well done in that this drumpart comes out really well. Truly outstanding piece of music. Sadly enough the music of before comes back. Not that I didn't like it, but this specific drum moment sure might have been a bit longer. Nevertheless, "Kilómetros De Nada" is a very nice song. Save for that annoying screamy guitar part.

The majority on "Draining The Waterheart" are long songs, meaning +/- 7-8 minutes. 20 minutes are gone so far and the next 8 and ½ are starting now: "Deep-Seeded Hope Avant-Garde". This one is more to the point, again reminding in a way of SWALLOW THE SUN (and similar) with a touch of PARADISE LOST. Relying heavily on keyboards with lead guitars following and drums keeping the tempo down, although there's a switch in cymbals, from crash to ride. Here too you'll find a peaceful interlude before rebuilding (little by little) towards the heaviness of before. Simply marvellous. Just put on your headphones and let the music carry you away.

"Fantasía" is the shortest of the pack, with its 3 minutes. Ironically it's also the least good song here. Distortion (like a transmission radio or something) is used once again, this time throughout the entire song. This one's fully instrumental and keyboards dominate all the way through. You could see it as an interlude, a bridge to the second half of the album, starting with "Wooden Woodpecker Conversion".

The music in "Wooden Woodpecker Conversion" comes fading in, but in an unordened manner, a bit chaotic even. But that portion soon makes way for a peaceful part - filled with atmospheric keyboards, drumrolls and whispering -, which in turn makes way for an increase in heavi- and loudness. Juan also adapts his singing to something rougher. The melodies still dwell in a depressive, sad flow. As before, tranquillity and more active moments are neatly intertwined and you're given the time to absorb the different elements to show you a different musical world.

"One Possessed" features all the best elements of what has passed by so far, with a dreamy atmosphere to start with. That alone makes this song very much worth hearing. Around the third minute the song is spiced with some heavy/ier guitarwork, yet without leaving the gloomy paths. The tempo is also not disturbed while the drums are played in a way that drags the song forward. Any accents (via toms or cymbals) don't sound violent or harsh, but carefully follow the music in terms of intensity. The guitarmelodies, assisted by piano and soft "aaa AAAA aa a aaa" singing, in the last minutes reminded me of SUMMONING's last album, "Oath Bound". Overall, great stuff, I can't stress it enough.

In "Summon Me" there's a slight increase in tempo and dramatic sounds. Juan growls again, to better complement the atmosphere and music. The softness of certain melodies and breaks makes this song somewhat convenient for meditation. But as soon as the drums get more active again, the guitars increase in viciousness and Juan's demonic returns, you know it's time to put on something else, like NEST. Keyboards enforce the sadness of the melodies and even though there's even more depressing Doom on the market, what MAR DE GRISES present here can already be enough for many ears that aren't used to this kind of wonderful music.

And last but not least: "Liturgia: Convite Y Prefiguracón/Purgatorio/Diálogo Infierno". Not only the longest title, but also the longest song on the album, clocking in after 13 and ½ minutes. This provides the Chileans with lots of time to carefully build up the compositions and melodies, going from mysterious in the intro to something fuller afterwards, in a very gentle manner. Guitars are added like a sauce being poured over the dish. It's not that easy to describe each part. Important to remember is that - as is common in Doom and especially the variability implemented here - you get ups and downs, all well proportioned and certainly not for the weak of heart or mind. Take your time with this last song, play it a few times to grasp it all, to see/hear the whole song.

To close this review I simply cannot deny that this is not the most conventional Melodic Death/Doom, as the guys made a stew of several influences, hard and soft, heavy and light, yet in a pot of gloom, depression and the likes, or in other words, emotions - happiness not included. Although you might not like all ingredients, overall it just tastes so good and for me it has been a delicious discovery. Naturally you may detect similarities with bands like PARADISE LOST, SWALLOW THE SUN, SATURNUS and others, but MAR DE GRISES is a different band in the end, since atmosphere is key. To cut things short: "Draining The Waterheart" is - pure and simply - recommended material for any open-minded Metalhead and especially for Doom fans. If you're fast, go for the limited A5-edition, since it contains a bonus CD with the 20 minutes long song "Unconscious Passenger".

More info at

Juan Escobar - vocals, keyboards
Sergio Álvarez - guitars
Rodrigo Morris - guitars
Rogrido Gálvez - bass
Alejandro Arce - drums

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THANATOSCHIZO – Zoom Code (My Kingdom Music 2008)

Thanatoschizo - Zoom Code
  1. Thick 'n' Blurry
  2. L.
  3. Hereafter Path
  4. (Un)bearable Certainty
  5. Pleasure Pursuit
  6. The Shift
  7. Last Of The Few
  8. Pale Blue Perishes
  9. Pervasive Healing
  10. Nothing As It Seems
  11. Awareness

THANATOSCHIZO is Portugese band that saw the light of day sometime in 1998. Working hard on the launch of their career, the band underwent changes in style and line-up. The detailed text/overview can be read on the band's MySpace page. Apparently the band took inspiration from Thrash, Black, Death and even Doom Metal, but a lot of that has vanished with the new release, "Zoom Code", which was released on the 11th of April through My Kingdom Music. THANATOSCHIZO previously put out "Schizo Level" (2001), "InsomniousNightLift" (2003) and "Turbulence" in 2004.

"Zoom Code" is the first album that presents THANATOSCHIZO to me and it took me a few listens to fully get into the music, even though the majority sounds very familiar. Familiar as in "this reminds me a lot of another band". And that other band is LACUNA COIL. This Italian Gothic band is very famous around the globe and especially in the USA. THANATOSCHIZO thus also plays this kind of Gothic Metal, with a good dose of Groove, but not in the least lots of melody. Power comes from the guitars and foremost the drums.

Midtempo is the general pace, although there are slowdowns and some tempo increases, but they are few in number and have a functional purpose. It starts with "Tick 'n' Blurry"'s mysterious intro after which heaviness comes pounding through as if it's the start of something amazing. And that's what you get: amazing grooving Gothic Metal and the first example of the LACUNA COIL influence. Keyboards provide melody and backing. On a vocal level Eduardo and Patricia take turns and join forces in the chorus. Everything is well executed and even the singing is very good, although I have to say that Eduardo's clean singing isn't always... well, Patricia does a better job. Not that her male counterpart isn't good, it's just that the sound of his voice isn't always the most fitting. But he can sing, yes. The drumfills are added via toms or congas, if I heard well.

This percussion element continues in "L.", where it occupies the starting position of the song. The guitars are added soon and then full power is set with a serious touch of eastern melodies, provided by the keyboards. "L." has more drive and push and that's more than a good thing. Instead of clean singing, Eduardo opts for grunts as he tackles the verses, while Patricia occupies the chorus. Interesting as well is the eastern break in the middle of the song, mainly delivered by a violin-like instrument. Or it could indeed be a violin, as this instrument can be heard long afterwards before the aforedelivered heaviness takes over again. Due to the way Patricia sings and the song is composed it was as if I was listening to the ProgPower band ARWEN. And that was quite entertaining, if I may say so.

One word can describe "Hereafter Path": power! The energy level is upped and once again both clean vocals are united, while grunts occupy the bridge, backed by the accordion. This is outstanding music! But the Portugese also drew influence from Jazz, as can be detected in the pauses, during which Patricia sings and the keyboards offer assistance, either as piano or as keyboard. Eduardo's clean voice also is present, of course.

"(Un)bearable Certainty" isn't heavy until halfway, but what you get is very good. Save for the drumsamples, something I'm not fond of at all, especially not when they remind of Pop music. Patricia adds an angelic touch to this first part, in which Eduardo is also present, and even when guitars and drums join in, it's easy-listening music. Once the heavier version takes over, LACUNA COIL comes to mind again. But this song is another highlight on "Zoom Code".

"Pleasure Pursuit" is the last track before things get less interesting. This is a more gentle song, midtempo paced. Keyboards deliver atmospheric accents and backing. The soft guitarbreak halfway makes the song more complete before full power is vented again.

Tracks 6 and 7, "The Shift" and "Last Of The Few", form a less interesting part in the tracklisting. The first for being an interlude composed of annoying drumsamples (even worse than two songs ago) and the electronic backing. This track is the worst, I really don't like it. The other one has an alarming characteristic, meaning it starts with an alarm via the guitar, but this aspect is interwoven in the rest of the song, in the back. The music is heavy, groovy and you get the three vocals: Patricia, and Eduardo's clean and grunts. All is well played, but somehow it isn't as catchy as the first five songs.

The situation improves again with "Pale Blue Perishes", where Jazz plays an important part again. The start is in this style and the drums play a big role here. Midtempo heaviness with rolling double bass follows for a while before changing to the normal flow. New element presented is the organ, which does have its purpose and not just for accents.

"Pervasive Healing" starts with sharp riffing and I'm hoping it stays that way, because it would inject the album with another outstanding song. Sadly it isn't so, since slow midtempo is what follows with the keyboards creating a dark atmosphere. All in all not bad, but this should have been a more Thrashy song.

"Nothing As It Seems" is where it's time to buckle up again. The music is pounding and the road is bumpy. In short, well done, but also not as entertaining as the first five songs. This one and the previous can be considered as the - so to speak - second best songs, while for "Awareness" it's a bit more difficult to catalogue it. It's an instrumental track with a Jazzy start and again the drums play a key role, especially with the constant rhythm while the keyboards add the necessary melody and atmospheric elements. Even the saxophone can be heard further in the compositions. Don't expect real singing, as Patricia only adds "aaaah" and "oooh" now and then. This song is foremost about instrumental talk. The result isn't bad at all, just not as easy to swallow as the regular songs. But it's nice to hear something different without having a completely different style.

THANATOSCHIZO may be very similar to LACUNA COIL, but they do add their own stamp by means of melody and unusual elements like adding an organ or saxophone or even giving their songs an interesting Jazzy twist. The sound is more than good and there's a nice flow in each song. Aside from the annoying interlude, there's no bad song to detect. Sure, some are less interesting, but still good enough. Anyone into Gothic Metal with a different twist - it also helps if you like LACUNA COIL ;-) - is advised to check out this Portugese band and their newest release, "Zoom Code".

More info at

Eduardo Paulo - vocals, guitars
Patrícia Rodrigues - vocals
Guilhermino Martins - guitars, samples
Filipe Miguel - keyboards
Miguel Ångelo - bass
Paulo Adelino - drums

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GUN BARREL – Outlaw Invasion (Limb Music Products 2008)

Gun Barrel - Outlaw Invasion
  1. Invasion Warning
  2. Front Killers
  3. Turn To Black
  4. Wanted Man
  5. The Redeemer
  6. Keep On Movin
  7. Cheap, Wild & Nasty
  8. Brother To Brother
  9. Ghost Inside
  10. M.I.L.F.
  11. Tomorrow Never Comes
  12. Outlaw Invasion
  13. Parting Kiss

GUN BARREL has been Metallizing the world since 1999, with so far four albums up its sleeves:

Power-Dive (2001)
Battle-Tested (2003)
Bombard Your Soul (2005)
Outlaw Invasion (2008)

Their music is a mixture of Rock'n'Roll, Hard Rock and Heavy Metal. I got acquainted with their music via LMP's site and I liked the straight-forwardness, the balls, the power of it all. Especially Guido Feldhausen's rough vocals were an important aspect of that. He can be heard on the first two albums. Xaver Drexler replaced him in 2004 or 2005. Bassist Holger Schulz left the band in 2004, but was replaced by Tomcat Kintgen. Strangely enough I never considered buying a GUN BARREL album, again because my focus lied elsewhere. Still, afterwards I sort of regret it and will try to obtain one or more as time passes by.

Anyhow, a new release is ready: "Outlaw Invasion". This is the band's fourth release (out since the 11th of April) on LMP and it seems with this they are also gaining in status on this label. The new album was produced by Yenz Leonhardt (SAVAGE CIRCUS, IRON SAVIOR, STORMWARRIOR, ...) and mastered at the Jailhouse Studios by Tomy Hansen (PAGAN'S MIND, MANTICORA, TNT, JORN, ...).

"Outlaw Invasion" kicks off with an alarming situation, as if there will be bombings. Helicopters also fly by and you get some sort of hymnic playing. Then the battle commences as "Front Killers" sets in. This is Hard Rock/Heavy Metal like MOTÖRHEAD, DUSTSUCKERS and SAXON. Truly a very enjoyable song that should encourage you to turn up the volume.

"Turn To Black" rocks even more, especially riff-wise. The verses are in slow- to midtempo, while the chorus reminds of SAXON, of their hymnic songs. The mixing also turned out to be well done, as every instrument comes out very strong, including the bass guitar.

GUN BARREL took its time to build up the song "Wanted Man", since it's only after 01:15 that the train is on the rails and the tempo is heavily increased. In general this is not a bad song, but it lacks the power and feel of e.g. "Front Killers". Xaver's singing is partly responsable for that. He's a good vocalist, but Guido had more power and balls.

With "The Redeemer" the Rock gets Bluesier, with stop-start riffing in the verses. This is also one of the better songs on the album. SAXON makes its return in "Keep On Movin", but you might as well mention THE SCORPIONS, Y&T and AC/DC. Midtempo reigns here. Overall, no complaints, none at all.

"Cheap, Wild & Nasty" is another faster song, mainly via the drums. To keep the name-dropping intact: SAXON and MOTÖRHEAD and perhaps some EVIDENCE ONE, THE ORDER, ... Fact is that the drums play a vital role, adding more and more double-bass, particularly in the chorus. Xaver does a less good performance here, or better said, it's the music that makes the song worthwhile. I do want to add that someone with a voice like Tobias Sammet would fit better.

The slow "Brother To Brother" is next and is started by the drums and bass. There's not much change here like in the previous songs, but the whole has a decent flow, it floats better. The situation improves enormously with "Ghost Inside". Epicness is key here. The intro is very gentle, in AC/DC and SAXON-style, after which full power is activated. You can really distinguish the different parts: slow, but heavy verses and the bridge building up towards the chorus.... obviously, else there wouldn't be a bridge.

I guess no explanation is needed for "M.I.L.F.", right? Unless this abbreviation stands for something else. The music is quite variable, however, with nice harmonies and not forgetting the ultimate touch: Rock'n'Roll!

After all this energetic and wild Rocking, it's time for something more tranquil or at least, calm: the ballad "Tomorrow Never Comes". The atmospheric backing is filled with violin and/or cello sounds. A ballad, no problem, but it's nothing special and its playtime of 5 minutes is perhaps a bit too long.

The two last songs couldn't form a bigger contrast: "Outlaw Invasion" is pure Rock/Metal, uncompromised, with lots of bass. "Parting Kiss" on the other hand is an instrumental track, consisting of just the guitar and cello backing. As an outro this is a well-composed piece of music.

Although Xaver lacks some of the power Guido had, he's a good enough vocalist for GUN BARREL, who have shown they still know how to make direct and efficient Hard Rock/Heavy Metal. "Outlaw Invasion" might not be their best album, although that depends of course on your taste. To cut things short: if you want decent Rock/Metal, GUN BARREL is a band you have to check.

More info at

Xaver Drexler - vocals
Rolf Tanzius - guitars
Tomcat Kintgen - bass
Toni Pinciroli - drums

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FIRELAND – Fireland (Fireland 2008)

Fireland - Fireland
  1. Servants Of The Dark
  2. Star Crossed
  3. Gods Of Love
  4. My Eternal
  5. I Am Invisible
  6. In The Shadow Of The Sun
  7. Fallen
  8. Betrayed To The Night
  9. Coming Home
  10. In Her Strong Arms
  11. Little Pieces
  12. Widow By Morning
  13. Gotta Get You Gone

FIRELAND is an Irish Heavy Metal band, formed in the summer of 2003. Several gigs with various big names are already on their palmares (DRAGONFORCE, BLITZKRIEG, JEFF SCOTT SOTO), while in pre-FIRELAND eras the members supported acts like KREATOR, BLAZE, DORO, ROSE TATTOO and GIRLSCHOOL. Pre-FIRELAND is also known as RIFF MASTER GENERAL, AHRIMAN and PHM. I do have to say that none of these 3 last names rings a bell with me.

This new band released its debut album on its own in April of this year under the title "Fireland". Logical, since it's a first album. But the fact that the band invested in an own studio and did it all themselves makes this release extra special.

With this first release you get 13 songs that cover a playtime of 60 minutes, which is about 4.5 minutes per song. While bands like ANNIHILATOR, ICED EARTH, MOLLY HATCHET and BLACK SABBATH are mentioned as influences, I have to say that among these 13 tracks I found more similarities with CIRCLE II CIRCLE, SAXON, IRON MAIDEN, METALLICA and MEGADETH. But then again, those are also the bands whose music I'm a lot more familiar with than e.g. MOLLY HATCHET.

The album kicks off with the very good "Servants Of The Dark", where midtempo is king. The verses are heavy, while the chorus contains the melodic elements. Pluspoints go to the guitarsolo, which is only a start of what to expect in the songs that follow.

"Star Crossed" is a little less good, but still very much enjoyable. The tempo has slowed down a bit and the riffs have something Doomish. Overall the musicianship remains on a high level and the solo is more than welcome.

The situation improves enormously with the next 3-4 songs, as heaviness increases, the tempo goes up and in general the material flirts with Thrash. The drums also add to this and the double bass attacks in "I Am Invisible" certainly are a valuable addition.

Everything slows down again for "In The Shadow Of The Sun" and that's a good choice, especially after the faster songs. This is another very decent song, in which the guitarsolos once more are a lust for the ears.

"Fallen" is the ballad of "Fireland" and naturally the piano is in such a case indispensable. Andrew clean vocals are high in the mix, so that most of the attention goes to him. The accoustic guitar also fulfills a role in the first 2 and ½ minutes. The next part is heavier, as the electric guitars and drums take over when there's still 03:50 to go. That take-over moment reminded me a bit of GUNS 'N' ROSES' "November Rain", when Slash plays that solo. One minute in the second part the material gets a serious Metal injection and the playing is faster. Not that I mind, since I consider this a very nice shift.

But every story has its less good sides and "Betrayed To The Night" is the first where things don't really go as wished. The start is calm and peaceful, but then heaviness comes splashing in, building up towards take off. If it weren't for the heavy guitars, this song would even be less attractive, also because the chorus is a bit whiney, in my opinion.

"Coming Home" isn't a title you would expect with such music, but I can tell you that this song is another moment of quality, increasing the viciousness and speed once again. And yes, the double bass is present too, and yes, so are the solos. That's the way to go!

But then another down moment occurs: "In Her Strong Arms". The music is heavy, that's good, but Andrew's voice lacks power. His clean singing, present throughout the entire album, is also his weakness. That's why the chorus has something whiney... again. The verses are good, though.

Before the last less good (can I say bad?) songs "Widow By Morning" and "Gotta Get You Gone" close this debut album, another entertaining song comes along: "Little Pieces". This one is more straigh-forward, MEGADETH-like and the guitars' heaviness is simply wow! The other two songs, however, didn't catch my interest because of the slowness of "Widow By Morning", being - generally speaking - a boring song, although I must give kudos for the melody/accents of the accoustic guitar. Perhaps if I heard this song among other bands' songs, then my opinion might (!) change. "Gotta Get You Gone" made me cringe because of the LINKIN PARK-like rapping. The music sadly didn't help to counter that.

When I count the number of songs that would "go to the next round", there are seven. 7/13 = roughly 54%. But this score really is far below what FIRELAND presents here: a first album filled with qualitative Heavy Metal that should get them far, because there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that this is one of the bands that can give Heavy Metal (the pure kind) the boost to be as present (again) as all those Death and Black Metal bands nowadays. So, don't take my 7/13 too seriously, as it's partly based on personal taste.

Aside from the last song, I couldn't detect any flaws at all, except Andrew's singing. He can sing, that is clear, and his clean voice certainly complements the instruments, but the other side of the medal is that he lacks power/roughness which would make certain songs even better, or let Steve and co. create certain songs where a rougher voice is more suited. The musicianship, as said before, is of a high level and the solos certainly should be kept and cherished for the future compositions, because I find that lacking a bit nowadays, good solos. And last, the sound. These guys know what they want and already they set a good sound, although it can still get better. The Irish FIRELAND is a name to remember and their album more than worth checking out. So support these guys and order your copy!

More info at

Andrew Baxter - vocals
Steve Moore - guitars
Jamie Johnston - guitars
Jim Seymour - bass
Chris Mawhinney - drums

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DEZPERADOZ – An Eye For An Eye (AFM Records 2008)

Dezperadoz - An Eye For An Eye
  1. An Eye For An Eye
  2. Hate
  3. Days Of Thunder
  4. Wild Bunch
  5. Wild Times
  6. Riders On The Storm
  7. Here Comes The Pain
  8. Give Up
  9. May Heaven Strike Me Down
  10. When The Circus Comes To Town
  11. A Tooth For A Tooth
  12. 25 Minutes To Go

Two years ago DEZPERADOZ released its second album, "The Legend and The Truth", which dealt with the history of Wyatt Earp. DEZPERADOZ is band that implements elements from the western movies soundtracks from the 1960 and 70s into their Heavy Metal. That specific album was a very good one and the sole question was whether the follow-up would be as good.

The same band - well, Sascha Tilger was replaced by Markus Kullmann on drums - worked on the new album, "An Eye For An Eye", out since the 11th of April, with another important role for guitarist Dennis Ward: the production. Although it must be added that Alex Kraft and Thomas Lichtenwalter also had some hands in this. Only one guest appearance this time and no one less than Tom Angelripper (SODOM), who also sang on the debut album. Tom can be heard in "Here Comes The Pain", which is one of the better tracks on the album. The drums add a pounding touch, while the guitarwork reminds of METALLICA, ALICE COOPER, ... but that could also come from Tom's input. The western feel certainly is present.

Again the band travels back in time. Alex Kraft: "My new album holds that no religion, no faith, no god can approve violence, brutality and murder, The fervour of faith, the opposition of religions and their interpretation accompanied by violence and frustration, is still the source of all evil. This is what this story is about. It tells us about a good guy going mad in the last days of the Wild West!" And here's some extra background text: "1881: times are hard and the land is open and rough. Young Hank grows up on a farm in the south of Willcox, Arizona and the first thing he learns in life is................TO HATE........ "An Eye For An Eye" tells his story. A story about a man, who shot his friend out of revenge in 1898 and was condemned to death from the state - all in the name of god."

The music has increased in roughness, in heaviness, that's for sure. Considering the story, I can't say it's a bad move, although the overall result is far less good than "The Legend And The Truth". All in all, there's are +/- 5 songs that I (personal opinion here) find noteworthy:

Wild Times
Here Comes The Pain
May Heaven Strike Me Down
When The Circus Comes To Town

The music plays a huge role in this, be it its power, or the cohesion between the drums and guitars, the directness of the Rock-aspect, it all counts. Alex's voice on the other hand is where things don't go well, especially in "Give Up", which is a ballad, but one that isn't of the best and doesn't get much help at all from his singing. On the contrary even. In "May Heaven Strike Me Down" Alex also fails to go with the music and lift the song to a higher level. If I could mute the vocals here, I would. Focussing back on the music, songs like "A Tooth For A Tooth", "25 Minutes To Go" (a Country song, yay! *cough*) and the rather boring "Days Of Thunder" (good for one, maybe two listens) form a serious black spot here.

Sure, you've got the western-movies-soundtracks-meet-Heavy-Metal feel and atmosphere, but it's also a matter of making things interesting and keeping the listener attentive as the album flows from one adventure into the other. Not even half of the songs can fulfill that request/condition. The cover song, "Riders On The Storm", is a nice try, but nothing more.

As far as I'm concerned, I'd say it's best to pick up "The Legend And The Truth" to have a good impression of DEZPERADOZ and their view on Heavy Metal. That will surely keep you listening to the story told on that disc. "An Eye For An Eye", as dangerous this title may be, the Metal isn't, except for those 5 tracks. If you're an unconditional fan of the band, you already own this album or you will soon. Everybody else is advised to listen before you buy.

More info at

Alex Kraft - vocals, guitars
Dennis Ward - guitars
Alex Weigand - bass
Sascha Tilger - drums

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LUNARIUM – Journeys, Fables And Lore (Farvahar Records 2008)

Lunarium - Journeys, Fables And Lore
  1. Warcry
  2. Death Rides (On Winged Glory)
  3. Sea Dragons
  4. The Divine Infidelity Of A False Prophet
  5. Heritage Taken
  6. Liberation
  7. Hail The Fallen
  8. Brothers In Arms
  9. Feast Of Sargonnas
  10. 1066
  11. Elizabeth's Song
  12. The Waymen
  13. Ale
  14. Luna's Wake
  15. Trollslayer

In the second half of April I received a review copy from Datis from Farvahar Records of LUNARIUM's debut album, "Journeys, Fables And Lore", which came out on the 8th of April. The MySpace samples showed great potential, so I was looking forward to hearing the full album. LUNARIUM was founded back in 2005. The short biography was written in a style that fits with the music and songs and I strongly advise you to check it out for yourselves via the link at the bottom of this review. Musically the band plays a mixture of Folk and Heavy/Power Metal, easily comparable to bands like FALCONER, and that has also something to do with Cinnead's singing.

"Journeys, Falbes And Lore" contains 15 songs, yes, 15, covering a playtime of more than 64 minutes. That more than your standard Folk/Power Metal album. Now, this causes mixed feelings: on one hand you should rejoice for this massive amount of music. On the other hand you're going to have to keep your ears focused if you want to sit through the entire voyage.

I could go into detail of each song, but considering all songs dwell in the same musical woods and the length of the journey, I found it better not to. It is clear, however, that there isn't really one bad song on this debut album, on which LUNARIUM probably put every song they have written so far and want to have a fresh start with each release. Sure, not every track is as attractive as the other, but that takes time and the right mood, which is the case for many other bands' music.

The start couldn't be better with extremely catchy stuff (mainly in the chorus) that is to be found in "Warcry" ("Warcry!, into the fray, send the bastards back to Rome!"), the ICED EARTH-ish "Death Rides (On Winged Glory)" and the "LEVELLERS go Metal, then transending into FALCONER" kind of song called "Sea Dragons", in which there's enough room for instrumental parts. The positive atmosphere really shines through here and you feel compelled to join the band in their battle.

Then things get a little less interesting, because there are no hooks and melodies like before, or not as much. Metal prevails there, but the mix also has a hand in the fall: the vocals are very much in the forefront, while the instruments were pushed to the back in "The Divine Infidelity Of A False Prophet". In "Heritage Taken" the ICED EARTH influences return, but the overall result is average.

The situation knows another highlight with "Liberation", offering a good deal of change in tempo, melodies, singing and not singing or instrumentalism (including the accoustic guitar). There's even a sniff of RHAPSODY (OF FIRE) to be found. "Hail The Fallen" is another song that misses the feel of the first few songs, but unlike the 4th and 5th track, this one here IS very decent. LUNARIUM shows they can also compose something more melancholic if needed.

"Brothers In Arms" goes back to pick up the FALCONER option. Epicness prevails here and in a certain way this is a drinking song, musically then. Lyrically it's going to be hard, battling and drinking at the same time. A very good result, oh yes. Sadly, though, "Feast Of Sargonnas" can hardly be called a feast, as it's very hard here to stay focused. I don't know what happened, is it the mix? The compositions? Chances are big it's the last option. The tempo is slow, but the guitars remain heavy. I think the intentions were good, but it just doesn't fulfill the expectations. Perhaps this is one of those songs that need a live environment to show its assets. The studio version, for me at least, is dismissable.

But fear not, for "1066" is here to cheer you up again, bring you back in the mood of before, despite it being a war song. Here too, enough change in tempo and guitarwork was implemented to keep you stuck to the speakers. This is also the case with "Elizabeth's Song", where an announcement of this being a new recording has been added, on purpose, I guess. It sounds very demo-ish, more than the other songs. Still, you can consider this a good or bad thing, but it does accentuate the honesty of the music, inline with what has passed in the previous 10 songs. All in all, quite an enjoyable, yet slow song.

"The Waymen" brings back the Metal, pushes back the Folk. ICED EARTH served as an influence once more, specifically halfway the playtime. The Folk aspect does come through, specifically via the drums and the singing, in a way. With "Ale", a title that doesn't need much explaining, LUNARIUM enter Ireland. Happy Power Metal is what you get. A drinking song, tout court.

"Luna's Wake" brings us back to business as usual, with a better production, although I also liked the demo-ish sound of before. Again Justyn can go wild on the drums, first slow/midtempo, then pushing the pedal down a lot more and really (ab)using his cymbals. "Trollslayer" is the final obstacle our US Folk Metallers meet on their journey and it starts like METALLICA's "Hit The Lights", after which the band prepares for a midtempo Metal attack. The chorus brings back the simplicity of that of "Warcry" and Cinnead leads the charge. After a few minutes the situation escalates, preceded by tension-building toms. In short: a more than fitting ending song and also one of the better/best of this first release.

Oh crap, I've done it after all, an extensive block of text. The powers that be made me do it. Anyhow, a new Epic Metal band has set foot on the battlefield. With "Journeys, Fables And Lore" these Americans show they are real about their quest, offering an honest assembly of Folk and Heavy/Power Metal, with the unavoidable influences from bands like FALCONER and ICED EARTH, the two bands that can be referred to the most. Yet, LUNARIUM isn't a clone of either band, for the pleasure they add to the music is uncomparable to how the mentioned and similar bands perceive this mixture of two great musical elements. No big budgets were used for this recording, but that only increases the honesty and realness of the music. It's however far from a crappy sound, although it certainly wouldn't hurt to improve on that level. For anyone into the mentioned bands and specifically Folk/Power Metal, I urge you to check out LUNARIUM and their first album. This will provide you with many great moments, preparing you for battle when going to work or need a break from the stress of everyday. The only negative remark I can give is that the album's too lengthy. Playing it at random with other CDs will help to make you discover each song better instead of listening to the tracks in a row.

More info at

Cinnead Loreweaver - vocals, guitars
Rygon Riffaxe - guitars
Jarloc Darkstar - bass
Justyn 'Blade' van Stokken - drums

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DEBAUCHERY – Continue To Kill (AFM Records 2008)

Debauchery - Continue To Kill
  1. It Pleases Us To Kill
  2. Blood God Rising
  3. Continue To Kill
  4. Faith And Fire
  5. Hard Rockin'
  6. Apostle Of War
  7. Worship The Violence
  8. King Of Killing
  9. Angel Of Death (SLAYER cover)
  10. Warfare
  11. Cuntkiller
  12. Mincing Machine
  13. Metal On Metal
  14. Walking Glory Roads

The German Death Metal band DEBAUCHERY released last year its fourth studio album, "Back In Blood", where the Metal was injected with a lot of AC/DC elements, next to the Groovy Death Metal here and there. For me, there were only a few songs that were worth the attention. Seeing a review copy of the band's newest release, "Continue To Kill", in the mail was all the more a surprise. I was hoping that there would be more Death Metal again instead of a heavier version of AC/DC. The release date was set for the 4th of April.

For this new album the band got some guests to perform for some songs: guitarist Tom Naumann (ex-PRIMAL FEAR) and bassist Schmier (DESTRUCTION). To be honest, I don't know if Schmier handled some vocal lines or if he played bass parts... or both. And speaking of musicians: the press text mentions only Thomas (vocals) and Oli (drums), but I hope the line-up of "Back In Blood" has also recorded "Continue To Kill".

"Continue To Kill" is what I hoped it would be: a return to Death Metal. Musically DEBAUCHERY is of course comparable to CANNIBAL CORPSE, BENEDICTION and here and there some HYPOCRISY. Sure, that's a copy-paste from the press text, but I've heard material from all three bands to be sure they can be mentioned.

While the album kicks off with a short intro ("It Pleases Us To Kill"), it's in the first few songs that the heavy groove-laden riffs come bursting out, backed by ferocious drumming, including blastbeats. Oli also has an important role to add spiced fills and touches, but keeping a varied pace intact, as well. But the tempo does go down in certain songs, and that's not always a bad thing.

Although the material might sound simplistic at times, the heavy guitarsound is actually a lust for the ear. Dennis Ward produced and that is a surprise. His speciality is AOR, Melodic Metal and Melodic/Progressive (Power) Metal. Working with DEBAUCHERY shows he can make the material sound heavier, too, and that only adds kudos to his account, to his work.

The songs that stand out on this new album represent a majority: "Blood God Rising", "Continue To Kill", "Faith And Fire", "Apostle Of War", "Worship The Violence" for the Death Metal side, whereas "Hard Rockin'" and "Warfare" for the AC/DC, MOTÖRHEAD kind of side. Next to the typical songs, SLAYER's "Angel Of Death" was covered and I can tell you the result is so tastey!!! The heavy guitarsound and ferocious drumming come out very strong and fit the song tremendously. Hell, even Thomas's growling and screaming vocals sound very good. On "Back In Blood" I found them too monotonous.

Now, this list doesn't mean the other songs are bad, but they lack attractiveness, catchiness, riffs or melodic aspects that don't keep your attention vivid. Especially towards the end there's a lack of speed and this absence of peaks makes you hit the "Stop" button sooner or skip back to the first 5-6 songs. The tempo in each of the last four songs is too slow. Had Thomas and Oli thought of dividing them into two fast ones and two slower ones, be it in a fast-slow-fast-slow pattern, it would have made the album much better and more appealing.

All in all it's reasonably safe to say that "Continue To Kill" is a very decent and good follow-up of last year's release and you might be tempted to buy the album, especially if you're into Death Metal like CANNIBAL CORPSE and BENEDICTION. On the other hand, it seems DEBAUCHERY has released even better material in the past. If you've been a fan of the band since a certain time, you won't have much criticism regarding "Continue To Kill". For anyone not familiar with the band, I think this is a good start. But know that there's nothing new here, even though the AC/DC-type songs are an interesting change this time.

More info at

Thomas - vocals
Simon - guitars
Joshi - guitars
Marc - bass
Oli - drums

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MIDNATTSOL – Nordlys (Napalm Records 2008)

Midnattsol - Nordlys
  1. Open Your Eyes
  2. Skogens Lengsel
  3. Northern Light
  4. Konkylie
  5. Wintertimes
  6. Race Of Time
  7. New Horizon
  8. River Of Virgin Soil
  9. En Natt I Nord

MIDNATTSOL is for many another Gothic Metalband, where the comparisons with a.o. NIGHTWISH pop up again and again. Yet the band wishes to be seen as a Folk Metal band, primarily because of their lyrics. It was in 2002 that the band saw the light of night (MIDNATTSOL = midnight sun), thanks to Carmen Elise Espenæs, sister of ex-THEATRE OF TRAGEDY and LEAVES' EYES vocalist Liv Kristine, and guitarist Christian Hector. Both shared a common intrest in Nordic mythology. Once the band was complete, a demo was recorded and this lead them to a contract with Napalm Records. The band's debut album, "Where Twilight Dwells", got mixed reviews, again with the typical comparisons with other Gothic acts.

Now, a few years later, also because both guitarists, Daniel and Christian, worked on the debut album ("The Call Of The Wretched Sea") of their other band, AHAB - a Funeral Doom band - MIDNATTSOL has finished its second album: "Nordlys" ("Northlight" or "Northern Light"). The release was set on the 31st of March. Carmen's vocals were recorded at the Mastersound Studios (LEAVES' EYES, ELIS, ATROCITY, ...), while the instruments were done at the Klangschmiede E Studios, lead by THE VISION BLEAK mastermind Markus Stock. Tue Madsen mixed "Nordlys", while Finnvox handled the mastering.

On "Nordlys" you'll find a mix of English and Norwegian sung songs, inline with Carmen's roots and the lyrical content. Musically it's everything you expect from a Gothic Metal band, and yes, there are moments where you think of Folk bands like MOONSORROW, KORPIKLAANI, ENSIFERUM, ...

The album kicks off with "Open Your Eyes", which is in general quite a nice song. Carmen definitely sounds better than her sister, whose voice I can't stand at all. Instrumentally it's more than clear that the drums are very important for the sake of variety, change, fills. Carmen carries the melody, backed the keyboards, while the guitars provide just a big dose of power at first. Later they take over the leading melody. What also makes this song interesting, is the accoustic break around the fourth minute.

"Skogens Lengsel" follows. Here the guitars sound faster, more ferocious, so to speak. The drums are played in a humpapa-style at first, later the pattern heads into a more normal direction and that for the rest of the song. Carmen's input consists of operatic and clean/normal singing. Or is it Birgit who's responsable for the clean parts? Much kudos again for the drums, for their variability.

Musically I can say that "Northern Light" is quite nice, starting with the peaceful intro occupied by the guitar and bass guitar. The entire band soon joins and at full power this song has something ballad-ish. After three minutes it's time for the atmospheric keyboards to demand a moment of attention. So, the music is good, the vocals... aren't. Carmen sounds nerve-wrecking at this point. There is a tempo increase further in the song and Chris's input is again of very good quality.

"Konkylie" can be considered as a first resting point, as things slow down here. In general, it's an ok song, but nothing more. "Wintertimes" cranks up the pace again and I can't suppress the thought about NIGHTWISH. Pounding Metal is what you get here, but I have the impression the music might be a bit too atmospheric. Something is lacking and that could really make the song very much worthwhile. You do get enough variation, musically. The break around the second minute is neatly implemented.

And the pedal is pushed down even more in "Race Of Time". Carmen sounds like Tarja, or tries to, but for me Tarja is a better singer. The music is more Folk-ish than before and overall, it's very much recommended listening material.

At this stage it's time for the accoustic guitar to get into the spotlights. Resting point 2. Yet, the overall result of "New Horizon" isn't exactly that exciting, although it's not bad. Same thing can be said, in a way, about "River Of Virgin Soil", which also starts accoustically. Later heaviness kicks in. Musically I find this song alright, although there's a certain part that really troubles me. In one speaker I hear Carmen and the music (calm and melodic), while in the other it's on-off of shards, as if the LP is having scratches. I saw nothing scratchy on my promo copy, so either this a deliberate move or something went wrong with the recordings or mixing. This moment fades out, though, so my guess is that MIDNATTSOL deliberately added this 'problem'. I don't see how it fits in the lyrical context, though.

"En Natt I Nord" ends the story about the northern light. The music is once again very Folk-ish, reminding of bands like KORPIKLAANI, RIVENDELL, and even the Belgian ANGELI DI PIETRA. It starts with Carmen, who's assisted by some birds singing, which returns in the outro of the songs. The Folk Metal is added later, in midtempo. The violin isn't forgotten and the guitars sound very heavy, perhaps the heaviest so far. The keyboards perfectly fulfill their role of atmospheric backing. Overall, no complaints about "En Natt I Nord".

I haven't heard MIDNATTSOL's debut, so a comparison cannot be drawn. Yet I do know that with "Nordlys" they've done a good to very good job, mixing Gothic and Folk Metal. The music is very pleasant to listen to, despite a few minor moments. In general, "Nordlys" is a very decent album, but nothing super-de-luxe in this genre. For fans of the band, this will be a tasty treat, for others it's a nice addition to their collection. But one criticism remains and that is Carmen's voice. It's a matter of taste, yes, but there are songs where her operatic voice works well, in other cases it can make you cringe.

More info at

Carmen Elise Espenæs - vocals
Daniel Droste - guitars
Christian Hector - guitars
Daniel Fischer - keyboards
Birgit Öbrunner - bass
Chris Merzinsky - drums

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HEIDEVOLK – Walhalla Wacht (Napalm Records 2008)

SHeidevolk - Walhalla Wacht
  1. Saksenland
  2. Koning Radboud
  3. Wodan Heerst
  4. Hulde Aan De Kastelein
  5. Walhalla Wacht
  6. Opstand Der Bataven
  7. Het Wilde Heer
  8. Naar De Hal Der Gevallenen
  9. Zwaarden Geheven
  10. Dageraad

HEIDEVOLK is a Dutch Folk Metal band, which saw the light of day in 2002. The band is very well-known in their home and neighbouring countries, also thanks to the many gigs, including support for NILE, IN EXTREMO and KAMPFAR. In terms of releases the band has been doing a solid effort over the years with "Het Gelders Volkslied" (single) in 2004, their self-financed debut "De Strijdlust is Geboren" in 2005 and the single "Wodan Heerst" last year. This was also a pre-taste of the full album that would follow: "Walhalla Wacht" (released on the 31st of March). The Austrian label Napalm Records saw something good in HEIDEVOLK and signed them. "Walhalla Wacht" is therefore the band's first release on this label, but considering their connections, it won't be a problem to find HEIDEVOLK's album in the shops. The translation of the songtitles on "Walhalla Wacht" can be found at click here.

I had heard of HEIDEVOLK many times, seen this bandname several times, but never checked 'em out. Until I got a review copy of their newest release, "Walhalla Wacht". It felt strange to hear a Metalband sing in Dutch, especially when you're used to hearing English, Norwegian, Finnish, some French, ... The first quick listen offered me a good impression, but I also wanted to hear if there were any significant differences compared to their debut, "De Strijdlust Is Geboren". So I went to the shop, took a listen and concluded that the debut was good, in a way, containing the typical Folk elements and what not, but mainly the vocals were too much of the same: monotonous and sleep-inducing. The production was good, yet there was room for improvement.

The first notes (not counting the rainy intro) of "Walhalla Wacht" show that the guys realized this and upped the sound quality a few levels. The start is good to very good with the epic "Saksenland", which has a ballsy chorus. Needless to say that this is a highlight of this humpapa-song. The tempo goes down a little in "Koning Radboud". Epicness is still very much present and there's an important role for the drums, through the use of the toms. Although HEIDEVOLK play it all in a faster way, the overall feel made me think of BOUDEWIJN DE GROOT (a minor arts artist) and his classic hit "Land Van Maas En Waal".

After these two songs, the level of interest drops, at least from my part. "Wodan Heerst" clocks in after 8 minutes, which makes it the longest track on the album. Sure, you've got the typical Folk elements, the epic atmosphere, the tempo changes and more. But the monotonous vocals (in the verses) really don't help to make you stay focused. Like on the debut I find them boring and sleep-inducing, although that's perhaps a bit extremely put. Musically the song is quite alright.

The short tribute to the innkeeper, "Hulde Aan De Kastelein", contains only group singing, assisted by the flute. The band is in fact thanking the innkeeper for the beer, for giving joy and pleasure to his customers that way, etc...etc... Not bad, as it fits in this Pagan Folkish setting of warriors having some time off from battling. But you have to be in a drinking mood to fully enjoy this.

The title track is next and starts in an accoustic way with tribal drumming added soon enough. The tension gets built up and then *bam* the battle has started. The humpapa-rhythm returns, but it can't make the music more interesting. The most interesting moment lies in the middle of the song, or little over halfway: a nice instrumental part with blastbeats afterwards. Other than that, I'd say "Walhalla Wacht" is an average song. And the vocals play a significant role in this.

"Opstand Der Bataven" starts the second half of this new album and it's a good one: the balopping bass intro, shortly after accentuated by the drums is only the start, for then its full power is released. The Folk-elements are hard to detect, since the focus lies on the Metal aspect, the guitars and drums. There is a contrast in speed/tempo between the verses and the chorus, where everything is slowed down a bit. The double-bass attacks (like automatic firing) keeps the powerlevel high enough. what makes this song even more interesting, is that there's a good injection of Black Metal influences, not just on the guitars, but also the blasting drums. To break the violent flow, the band incorporated a calmer, accoustic moment. Overall result: enjoyable, very much so.

And it doesn't stop here, as the MÅNEGARM-ish "Het Wilde Heer" is another well-constructed song. It's energetic and a little wilder than the other songs, altough MÅNEGARM's material is rougher/rawer. Again the slower chorus forms a nice contrast with the verses. Halfway there's an instrumental, violin-driven moment, also adding a tempo increase. More of this, I say.

"Naar De Hal Der Gevallenen" is the second break, so to speak, next to "Hulde Aan De Kastelein". This one's quite hymnic and also fully accoustic. Not bad, not bad at all. but of course Metal prevails and once again I can't help but think of bands like MÅNEGARM, TAAKE, perhaps MOONSORROW and others when "Zwaarden Geheven" sets in. The Black Metal influences are clearly hearable (aggressive riffs, energetic drumming, incl. blastbeats, ...). This is one of my favourite songs. This is quality Folk/Pagan Metal!

"Dageraad" is what comes when the night is over. This is, like MÅNEGARM has done on "Urminnes Hävd - The Forest Sessions", a fully instrumental and accoustic Folk song, with just the guitars (accoustic, obviously), the flute and the violin (if I heard well). Can't say anything bad about this. Flawless piece of work!

As sceptic as I was about "De Strijdlust Is Geboren", as positive can I be about "Walhalla Wacht". After the first two songs, I was starting to fear if there would be anything as good for the rest of the album, especially considering the not-so-good first half of the album. But that's more than made up/corrected in the next 5 tracks, each with its highlights. The vocals have improved, although the vocal lines aren't always a hit. Those songs are in a minority, though. HEIDEVOLK has improved a lot and I think they're on the right track to European popularity, if the term is well-chosen. "Wallhalla Wacht" is a strong Pagan/Folk Metal album and a solid base for future works. Is it very much recommended? That depends how much you're info Pagan/Folk Metal, but let's say your money will be well spent. Who knows, HEIDEVOLK could be one of the Paganfest bands IF (!) there will a second version of that tour.

More info at

Joris den Boghtdrincker - vocals
Mark Splintervuyscht - vocals
Reamon Bomenbreker - guitars
Sebas Bloeddorst - guitars
Rowan Roodbaert - bass
Joost Vellenknotscher - drums

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HAIEETA – MVEMJSUN(P) (Realize Records 2008)

Haieeta - MVEMJSUN(P)
  1. Dragonflies Terrain
  2. Freeze The Flame
  3. Haunted Gangster
  4. White Knuckle
  5. Telepathic Love
  6. Residual Hill

HAIEETA is another band I recently got something to review from. These Irish play Stoner Doom, aka Stoom. My taste in Doom Metal ususally limits itself to Traditional/Epic Doom, Death/Doom and Funeral Doom, with some Gothic/Doom as well. Regarding Stoner Doom, here's some of the bands whose songs (one or more) I've heard so far: CATHEDRAL, ELECTRIC WIZARD and GRAND MAGUS. As you can see, not a lot, for the reasons stated above. Yet one should keep an open mind and I can tell that I like Stoom from time to time.

Although HAIEETA was formed in 2004, it did take them three more years for a first release, the EP "MVEMJSUN(P)", with a title that brings many questions to mind. Preceding this release, a 5-track demo was recorded in 2006 and titled "Ballistic". The EP was recorded in April 2007 and six of the seven songs made it onto this first release. "MVEMJSUN(P)" originally came out in October 2007, but I guess that was for Ireland only. Europe and other countries would have to wait until the 29th of March 2008.

It's clear from the start that the band wanted a realistic production, to give the songs and instruments the right, powerful sound. The hympnotizing drumming and droning guitars in "Dragonflies Terrain" immediately set the tone, but it's Dimi's vocals that have to keep the listener's attention vivid, as there's not much change in the instrumentation, although that's not much of a problem. Further in the song a tempo increase is found, with the drums becoming more active via the cymbals.

"Freeze The Flame" commences with a slow build-up via the guitars and drums (toms, cymbals)... and then we're off, with once again the drums increasing the energy level. Cymbals rule, while the hi-hat is forgotten or given a very minor role. Everyhing slows down again when the chorus is there. Fans of Stoner Doom might like this song, but I personally find this to be boring very rapidly.

Luckily the situation improves enormously with "Haunted Gangster", which features more 'normal' playing again. The rhythm is very good, the guitarwork dito, in a floating manner. Midtempo is the pace and Dimi's rough, filthy vocals top it off. A very decent song, no doubt. And that's not all, for "White Knuckle" cranks up the pace even more, which translates into groovier guitarwork, of which you can say "it really rocks!". Niall's drumwork serves as spice-adder, via the cymbals and pinpointed fills.

"Telepathic Love" is a continuation of the good work started with "Haunted Gangster", although the pace is slowed down again and you get a more easy-going song here. There is however a small speed increase in the chorus. The vocals are cleaner, less rough and I think that's Briain's input, no? As far the drumming and cymbals go, it's the riding cymbal that demands a leading role. All things considered this is another very nice track.

"Residual Hill" ends this EP, and how! This last track clocks in shortly before the 15-minute mark. This long playtime gives the guys enough time to construct the song and work towards a peak. The intro is of the droning kind, with the real start coming shortly before the 3-minute mark. The first 6 minutes are actually very good, but after that, when there's a slowdown, monotony sets in, the cymbals reclaim their place and the magic seems to be lost somehow. I mean, it's still good, but not as exciting as the first half.

"MVEMJSUN(P)" is - generally speaking, despite my preference for other types of Doom - a pretty solid first release that should please the fans of Stoner Doom and any open-minded Doom fan in general. The guys show they've got good ideas and the will to take it further, which should be clear on their forthcoming full album... if they're making one or plan to do so. So, while you can, check out HAIEETA and "MVEMJSUN(P)" and support upcoming talent.

More info at

Dimi - vocals
Rark - guitars
Pookie - guitars
Briain - bass, vocals
Niall - drums

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STIGMA – When Midnight Strikes! (Pivotal Rockordings 2008)

Stigma - When Midnight Strikes
  1. Walpurgis Night (Intro)
  2. I Am Dracula
  3. Silver Bullets And Burning Crosses
  4. To Be Really Dead... That Must Be Glorious!
  5. Flesh Ritual
  6. Beneath The Crown Of Eternal Light
  7. Blood, Your Precious Blood!
  8. A Call For Vengeance
  9. Walking The Fields Of Apocalypse
  10. Sons Of Midnight
  11. Epitaph Of Pain (remixed bonustrack)

STIGMA is an Italian Deathcore band that was founded back in 2000 by vocalist Stefano Ghersi and guitarist Morgan Ferrua. As time passed by, Flavio Magnaldi (bass), Stefano Ghigliano (drums) and Andrea Bailo (guitars) joined the fold. Anno 2003 the band's first EP came out: "Metamorphosis". One year later the second one was ready and titled "Epitaph Of Pain". To promote these releases STIGMA shared the stages with a.o. MARDUK, THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER, JOB FOR A COWBOY, ENTOMBED, NAPALM DEATH, SOULFLY and others, and this at festivals like Wacken Open Air and Slovenia's Metal Camp.

Last year the band entered the studio to record their first full album, "When Midnight Strikes!" under the watchful eye and ear of Ettore Rigotti (DISARMONIA MUNDI). Lyrically the album deals with horror stuff like vampires and werewolves. The tracklisting sure is quite clear on that. The artwork was done by Davide Nadalin (NILE, THE DUSKFALL, THRESHOLD, ...). The release date was set for the 28th of March. There were also a couple of guest appearances by members of THE CLASSIC STRUGGLE, DARK LUNACY and SLOWMOTION APOCALYPSE. Three bands I'm very much familiar with... not.

Deathcore is just a term and STIGMA does play more Metal than pure Metalcore, and is of course Melodic Death inspired. And as you may remember from the reviews of RINGWORM, SCARS OF TOMORROW, BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME and a few others, Metalcore and I will never be friends. Yet it's a little different with STIGMA. Let me first tell you that "When Midnight Strikes!" is one brutal onslaught, from start to finish. At the same time it's also quite catchy.

Mainly the music is where the power lies, but Stefano's throat surely is not to be underestimated either. Growling, but mostly screaming and yelling, he puts so much energy into the songs, it's as if he's possessed by the devil himself. The guitaraxe Morgan-Andrea are an unstoppably force of ferocious riffs and breakdowns, assisted by Stefano's furious hits on the skins and cymbals. Musically there are similarities with a.o. THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER, ARCH ENEMY, AT THE GATES, CARCASS, a sniff of MORS PRINCIPIUM EST and of course the typical Metalcore bands, but with the exception that STIGMA play it hard, real hard.

Not every song is a success, although that is mostly because of the screamy vocals that can make the specific parts quite monotonous or even nerve-wrecking. But at least 5 songs deserve enough attention:

I Am Dracula
Silver Bullets And Burning Crosses
Flesh Ritual
A Call For Vengeance
Walking The Fields Of Apocalypse

The reason is in general the same: because everything quite simply fits! The screams, the brutal riffs, the pounding moments, the very varied drumming. And also because these songs contain speed, sorry, Speed with a capital S. Stefano uses his entire drumkit, the toms, the kickdrums, the cymbals. He switches from fast to midtempo and back and manages to stay away from playing the same pattern over and over again. Here and there you might find a (short) guitarsolo, which is nice, but that's an area that still leaves room for improvement. Not that I deny the guys' musicianship, but choosing better solos, composition-wise, is what I mean. The level of technicality is also quite high and for that I appreciate STIGMA more than the regular Metalcore bands.

There's also a remixed version of "Epitaph Of Pain" as bonustrack. This one lacks the power of the new material and the song itself isn't that super either. But it's, in a way, a nice addition to show what the band played on that EP.

The fact that STIGMA play Deathcore with influences from Melodic Death Metal and here and there Black Metal, thus creating a furious monster of an album, makes them, or at least their music, more attractive. The brutal and aggressive Metal offers variation, be it melodically or tempo-wise. The instrumental skills are clearly present and overall I have no real problems with "When Midnight Strikes!", except for the vocals. Yes, they are a certain extent, for after several songs this is the first element that can make you put in a different kind of Metal (album) in your stereo. This album is not for wusses and for some people certain songs may even be too chaotic, technical or/thus hard to follow, like "Walking The Fields Of Apocalypse". All in all, STIGMA have put out a decent album that deserves to be checked out.

More info at

Stefano 'Vlad' Ghersi - vocals
Morgan Ferrua - guitars
Andrea Bailo - guitars
Flavio Magnaldi - bass
Stefano Ghigliano - drums

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ILLDISPOSED – The Prestige (AFM Records 2008)

Illdisposed - The Prestige
  1. Let Go
  2. The Tension
  3. Weak Is Your God
  4. Working Class Zero
  5. A Song Of Myself
  6. Like Cancer
  7. Love Is Tasted Bitter
  8. She Knows
  9. A Child Is Missing
  10. The Key To My Salvation
  11. ...Your Devoted Slave
  12. Ich Bin Verloren In Berlin

The Danish Death Metal band ILLDISPOSED has been brutalizing the world since 1991. Well, 1992, since that when their first demo came out. Their debut, "Four Depressive Seasons", came out in 1993 and since then the band has been putting out several decent albums, of which the last one was released two years ago via Roadrunner Records under the title "Burn Me Wicked". On this album the band delivered solid, bonehard Death Metal, yet with some groove here and there and melodic pieces nicely intertwined with the brutal riffing.

Next to ILLDISPOSED, its members were also active in other Extreme Metalbands, including PANZERCHRIST. This band has released nothing but solid records. And that's exactly the direction ILLDISPOSED chose for their newest album, "The Prestige", even though the references to KATAKLYSM cannot be ignored either. Not that that is a bad thing, not at all.

"The Prestige" was released on the 28th of March via AFM Records and requires some adapting compared to "Burn Me Wicked". The production is more polished, so to speak, and the songs are also closer to midtempo than the classical aggressive and uptempo crushers. The drums are just one example of that.

The new record kicks off with the instrumental "Let Go", which serves as an intro to prepare you for the full attack delivered with "The Tension". This one has the typical, yet slow humpapa drumming, bringing at least some speed to the Metal. And let's not forget the blastbeats in the final part of the song. Next to that the drums deliver a pounding touch. Needless to say that this is a very nice track. Bo's voice sounds like in PANZERCHRIST, very gutteral, but also very KATAKLYSMic. The music is of course also very much comparable to what these Canadian Death Metallers play.

"Weak Is Your God" starts with a German dialogue sample about "Tot" ("Dead"). I absolutely have no idea where they took it from, but the brutality of the Metal soon takes over. The general tempo is slow, but there are speed increases (e.g. chorus) as the song further envelops. BOLT THROWER comes to mind. And yes, there's even a solo here.

And so it goes on, with "Working Class Zero" being the first real speed booster. "She Knows" and "...Your Devoted Slave" are the other ones. Naturally there's lots of groove to be found (in "Working Class Zero") and the melodic touch was preserved for the chorus. In "A Song Of Myself" it's the humpapa moment, paving the way for the guitarsolo, that jumps out and is a welcome implementation.

The drums play a more important role in "Like Cancer" and this via the toms, thus avoiding a standard pattern of snare and kickdrum. The sound of the guitars has been sharpened, which is also the case in "Love Is Tasted Bitter". Bo's voice also comes over in a more demonic way. These are good elements, but overall the song is hard to follow compared to the previous ones.

I could go on and mention the rest of the songs, but they contain the typical Groove and Melodic elements that characterize ILLDISPOSED, and at the same time put them in the basket with mainly KATAKLYSM. You might - to a certain extent - call ILLDISPOSED the European KATAKLYSM, but that wouldn't be fair as both bands have been active since more than 15 years, each putting a stamp on the scene and influencing other bands.

So, all things considered - like "Burn Me Wicked" being a very good Death Metal album and in certain perspectives better than this new release - ILLDISPOSED is still able to create solid Death Metal, albeit in a Groovy manner and good sniff of melody. You can't really go wrong with "The Prestige", even though a bit more uptempo material wouldn't have hurt. We'll have to wait for the next release if the Danish will push the pedal to the floor again. ;-)

More info at

Bo Summer - vocals
Jakob Batten - guitars
Frank Gottschalk - guitars
Jonas Kloge - bass
Thomas Jensen - drums

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THY FINAL PAIN – Epitaph (Thy Final Pain 2008)

Thy Final Pain - Epitaph
  1. My Temptation
  2. Black in My Life
  3. Found Myself In Death
  4. Lord Of Children's Dreams
  5. Obey
  6. Wrath Of The Insane
  7. Emptiness
  8. Thy Final Pain
  9. Revenge For All
  10. Speaking Through The Black Heart
  11. Revelations Of Death

A few months ago (I'm writing this in August, so it was April then) I reviewed DEBAUCHERY's newest release, "Continue To Kill", which is a better album than its predecessor "Back In Blood". The reason why I mention this band is because bassist Marc Jüttner and guitarist Simon Dorn, both now ex-members it seems, decided to create their own band to offer some good old solid Death Metal, instead of the Death Metal meets AC/DC kind of music. The idea originated in 2007 and so THY FINAL PAIN was born. Since it was just the two of them, they didn't have to await other approval or take notice of other input. Hence the use of a drummachine. Live the band has gotten the assistance of Sascha Weber (guitars) and Lukas Nicol (drums), both from DUAL MENTALITY.

A first release came out several months ago, on the 26th of March, and was titled "Epitaph". It's a self-release, since THY FINAL PAIN is still unsigned. Marc and Simon have set the following direction as THY FINAL PAIN: "The songs of THY FINAL PAIN are about the ultimate and final pain which is to be felt within the last moments of life, where one will be confronted with the weakness and the ambivalence of one's lifework. Feelings and impressions of the whole human lifetime are shown from different views and are described in words anybody might easily understand." The music is described as Massive Rhythmic Death Metal and that's what you get.

The "Epitaph" starts with the midtempo basher "My Temptation", setting the tone for the rest of the album. Gutteral growls, ultraheavy riffing and bonecrushing drums, although I must add the playing sounds rather simplistic. And that's not only the case here, although it must be said that further down the tracklisting the situation improves a lot. Examples of that are "Lord Of Children's Dreams", where the tempo varies between mid and up. There's a nice fluctuation. Even the band's own song, "Thy Final Pain" has a nice change in tempo and the vocals remind of mainly Jan-Chris de Koeijer (GOREFEST) and a bit of Karl Willets (BOLT THROWER). It is one of the better songs on the album, though.

As midtempo dictates the law for the majority of the songs, things can also go a bit slower without really leaving the midtempo range. Proof of that is delivered by "Black In My Life", which has something KATAKLYSM-ic. Or how about "Emptiness", where neither speed nor technicality are important, more the overall flow and how well it can be absorbed by the listener's ears. Again KATAKLYSM comes to mind at a certain point. Not that THY FINAL PAIN is a clone or that this influence is a black mark on the music, not at all. This Canadian band is even one of my favourite Death Metal bands, but only because of their last few works ("Epic - The Poetry Of War" and later).

Focussing back on the midtempo stuff, there's the splendid "Obey", which has a very enjoyable rhythm and that alone makes it very much worthwile. "Revenge For All" and "Revelations Of Death" are also quite decent, although the other songs have something that makes them a little more interesting. But that also depends on your taste. Nevertheless, there are no flaws here.

Ofcourse, tempo changes also mean there must be fast(er) material. Rest assured, for what Marc and Simon have created are a lust for the ear. Take note of "Found Myself In Death", the first to increase the pace, the fast and excellent "Wrath Of The Insane" and last but not least, the midtempo-with-uptempo-attacks "Speaking Through The Black Heart". Its uptempo attacks are truly worth bonus points and I can only advise this duo to continue making such songs, or implementing such changes.

The Death Metal genre has become overcrowded the past few years, kicking Power Metal off the throne - it's hard nowadays to find decent Power Metal - and THY FINAL PAIN is another contender on the battlefield. "Epitaph" has a clear and powerful sound and the music contains influences (logically) from bands like GOREFEST, ILLDISPOSED, KATAKLYSM, BOLT THROWER, maybe some BEHEMOTH, and the likes. Rhythmic Death Metal is surely is, as it's all about rhythm here. Sadly enough, there aren't any solos, which is both good and bad. Let's hope this will be the case next time or wouldn't that make it rhythmic Death Metal anymore? That's just the only problem I have with this debut album. Oh yes, real drums on the next album(s)? Other than that, if you're into Death Metal (not the kind that brutally slays all in its path, mostly via blastbeats), and like the mentioned bands, then THY FINAL PAIN is a band you simply have to check out and support, for there is no lack of passion here.

More info at

Marc Jüttner - vocals, bass
Simon Dorn - guitars
Sascha Weber - live guitars
Lukas Nicol - live drums

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MOURNERS LAMENT – Unbroken Solemnity (Descent Productions 2008)

Mourners Lament - Unbroken Solemnity
  1. Suffocating Hopes
  2. Unbroken Solemnity
  3. Sadness Caress

MOURNERS LAMENT is a new Doom Metal band from Chile, playing in the Death/Doom category. The band consists of members from three other Chilean bands: MAR DE GRISES, POEMA ARCANUS and LETAL SOLARIS. MOURNERS LAMENT was founded in 2004 and they claim to be inspired by - and I quote - "the old school English doom/death metal scene (MY DYING BRIDE, ANATHEMA, CATHEDRAL, ...), as well as the epical riff attacks of CANDLEMASS or SOLITUDE AETURNUS." Although the members have been busy with their respective bands, they did manage to put their heads together for a first release: "Unbroken Solemnity". This EP consists of three songs, totalling a playtime of little over 30 minutes. The release date was scheduled on the 26th of March via Descent Productions, which also houses IKUINEN KAAMOS, GORATH and COR SCORPII.

With each genre you tend to think of other bands in that genre to use as reference/comparison and hearing MOURNERS LAMENT for the first time I thought instantly of MOURNING BELOVETH, EVOKEN and SATURNUS (not Death/Doom, though), even though the Death/Doom subgenre came after the Traditional/Epic Doom by CANDLEMASS, SOLITUDE AETURNUS and others.

The songs are slow, naturally, although it's particularly in "Sadness Caress" that you really hear and feel this. considering its playtime goes past the 17 minutes marker, the 5 musicians have enough time to create the right atmosphere and put their compositions together in a way that makes it easy to follow. Easy and Doom? You must have a clear head, though.

"Suffocating Hopes" is the first track, but has a direct start. The drums sound as hard as a bone, but their sound suits very very well. I alsolike the build-up of the song: peaceful passages in the verses (no real signs of heaviness, but the drums sounding high in the mix and Cristian singing in a whispering way), the guitar playing a melody in preparation for the brutal (incl. Cristian's growling) chorus outbreak, which really can fill the room and your head with its tremendous power. The guitarmelody in the chorus is really wonderful, touching and backed by the keyboards. Great for the sake of variety is the speed increase around 06:00, when the guitars also play a different tune and riffing. The drums add some double bass attacks to spice it up. This goes on for roughly 1 and ½ minutes. Then everything just falls back into the chorus like a heavy stone. The contrast is very well executed.

The threatening guitars of "Unbroken Solemnity" will give you a hard time, for the level of brutality has been upped a little. After this first part, you get a tranquil and relaxing interlude, so to speak, as if there a rebuild-up. Although heavier, it does remind me of, for example, SATURNUS's "Thou Art Free" or COLOSSEUM's "Aesthetics Of The Grotesque". No singing, yet more talking afterwards, when the guitars and drums have regained their full power. There is also a speed increase here, where the band goes more for Death Metal, but still not fast enough to leave the Doomy atmospheres, although there's a short boost towards the end.

Ok, I confess, I do feel something CANDLEMASS/SOLITUDE AETURNUS-ish in "Sadness Caress". The song is composed in such a way that the looped melody should keep on knocking inside your head, over and over again. The tempo is slow and it's as if Luis is at times a little too fast or too slow. Timing is very important. It's only a detail, very trivial here, since he does a very good job. We're only 03:34 minutes far and there's the first change in composition: a build-up towards something even heavier. The guitars and drums may be tuned for a heavier a sound, but this specific part has something AMON AMARTH-ish in the music. Cristian growls fit in and it's as if he's going through a very dark experience. Yes, there is even a solo moment. "Sadness Caress" is a very nice song, but it takes time to digest, which is easier done with the other two.

Doom Metal doesn't belong to a certain country or region, it's international - Sweden, USA, France, The Netherlands, Ireland, Australia, etc... etc... and Chile. If I'm correct, then a full album is in the making, but for now MOURNERS LAMENT presents you its EP "Unbroken Solemnity", which should still your Death/Doom hunger for some time, despite only having three songs and a playtime of a good 30 minutes. So if you're looking to expand your Doom collection, why not add this small block of crushing power?

More info at

Cristian Ibañez - vocals
Felipe Plaza - guitars
Sergio Alvarez - guitars
Rodrigo Gálvez - bass
Luis Moya - drums

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COR SCORPII – Monument (Descent Productions 2008)

Cor Scorpii - Monument
  1. Ei Fane Svart
  2. Endesong
  3. I, The Damned
  4. Our Fate, Our Curse
  5. Helvetesfossen
  6. Oske Og Innsikt
  7. Kjettar
  8. Bragder I Stein

COR SCORPII is the continuation of WINDIR, after that band was put to rest in 2004 and three of its members founded this new Extreme and Melodic band. Anno 2005 the new formation entered the studios to record a demo, "Atterganger", which consisted of 4 tracks, emphasizing melodies intertwined with aggression and atmospheric elements. This demo got them a deal with the Dutch label Descent Productions, which also houses GORATH, IKUINEN KAAMOS and MOURNERS LAMENT. After the release drummer Jørn Holen left COR SCORPII to focus on VREID. Around the end of 2006 Ole Nordsve took the vacant position behind the drumkit.

In the summer of 2007 the band entered entered Børge Finstad's Top Room Studio to record and mix their debut album, "Monument", whereas the mastering was done at Tailor Maid. The release was done on the 26th of March.

I was to review this beauty many weeks ago, but inspiration and disciplin lacked, although the will was there. But better later than not, right? "Monument" contains 8 tracks, totalling a playtime of almost 50 minutes. Musically and vocally it's everything you would expect from a Black Metal band, yet COR SCORPII's guitartandem is where the basis of the songs lies.

"Ei Fane Svart" - a pitch-dark banner, if well translated - starts with a gentle piano intro, accompanied by the crackling like you would find with LPs. Not too long after this the outburst is thrown at your ears, at first in a slow drumtempo, which gets increased later on, including the addition of blastbeats. Thomas's shrieks are well-done and at times you'd think he's dying and with his last energy and breath he tries to 'sing' those lines. The guitars sound as if they were classical instruments like the violin or something. Sure, it's not 100% the case, but if you listen attentively to the melodies, the classical similarity cannot be denied. And honestly, I like it a lot!

"Endesong" is next and is perhaps even better than the first one. The material is more focused on Black Metal instead of the melodic aspect, although a reasonable amount of time was given to instrumental parts, which again makes the guitars shine, together with the exquisite drumwork by Ole Nordsve, who keeps his playing diverse enough besides the usual blastbeats. Around the third minute there's beautiful symphonic moment. On the vocal level, it's of course the shrieks that occupy the throne. I really can't say anything bad at this stage, for the overall result is simply outstanding.

Continuing with "I, The Damned", this song also features the piano, now to add more gloom and darkness to the atmosphere. The start of the song is slow and close to Doom Metal - even though slow doesn't always mean it's Doom, I know. Little after the first minute is when the storm breaks out and you better hold on to something, for the brutality and ferocity of it all could kill you instantly. The melodic aspect is once again extremely important and that's the responsability of Stian Bakketeig, if I'm correct. Ole's drumming contributes to the variability of the song, not forgetting some nice fills. Around 03:30 there is a slowdown with the piano coming through another time and so this instrumental passage continues. All in all, I found this song being somewhat similar to what COVENANT did on "Nexus Polaris". Or in short: pure unquestionable quality.

Ole has shown what a valuable addition he is to the band, but so far he hasn't gone to the very extreme, although COR SCORPII is an Extreme Metalband, with roots in Black Metal. Therefore he found the time right to push the pedal down a bit more to present you with the fastest song on "Monument": "Our Fate, Our Curse". Vocally you get a mix of shrieks and clean, hymnic singing, which was done by keyboardist Gaute Refsnes. The melodic/symphonic aspect can be found in the addition of a woodwind instrument and I think it's either the bassoon or the oboe. I'll have to check both later, since it's been a while since I last focused on that. Still, I like this implementation a lot, as it also offers something fresh compared to the overused violins, cellos and similar. So... more woodwind instruments in Metal! Yeah! Around 02:15 things slow down, followed by the guitarsolo. Afterwards there's a rebuild-up to the aggressive music of before.

"Helvetesfossen" is an instrumental track. Nothing particularly heavy, as it's more the overall atmosphere that is important. Needless to say that melody remains key.

While the previous songs all had a playtime of +/- 5 minutes, the less heavy instrumental one was a kind of preparation - resting point if you wish - for the block that comes next: "Oske Og Innsikt". Now, I haven't got the slightest idea what "Oske" means, but if I googled well, then "Og Innsikt" would mean something like "And Insight". This song has a running time of +/- 10:25 minutes. It starts with the drums, which blast away soon enough, after having started in a slower tempo. The usual Black Metal elements are to be found when the speed is high. The guitars sound much heavier and the focus on melody has decreased quite a big deal. The contrast between the verses and chorus couldn't be bigger, at least in the vocal department: shrieks in the first, epic/hymnic singing in the other. Around 01:50 there's another instrumental moment, dominated by the piano, symphonics and drums, although quite serene. Afterwards it's back to business as usual, i.e. Melodic Black Metal, in midtempo. More than 10 minutes is something you have to take time for. It's really imperative to give the song multiple spins, to let it unfold all its secrets.

I can be short about "Kjettar" ("Chain"): the playtime is on the same level as the first few songs, but the Metal is a lot heavier again and somehow there's been an injection of madness. Blastbeats make their return, while further in the song the drums keep a steady, pounding way of playing. The overall feel of the song is more raw than what could be heard in the first part of the tracklisting. Does that mean the song is less good? It depends on your taste, but I didn't find anything that would make this a song to skip. On the contrary even, as it's perfectly inline with the quality presented since the very first note.

Regarding the last song, "Bragder I Stein" ("Bride In Stone"?), it's very clear that the band hasn't changed their way of composing. So, melody coming from the guitars like before, diverse drumming - 'normal' and blasting - and the music again at the core Black Metal. Symphonics fill the backing and the woodwind instrument(s) are present as well, specifically at +/- 03:30 or close enough. Later another, similar moment comes along and then you might think of HAGGARD. On the vocal level, Thomas does his best, while Gaute fills the blanks for his epic/hymnic singing. What else is there to say? Very nice Melodic Black Metal with interesting symphonic elements and a small hint at HAGGARD.

Final words then: Ever since I received a review copy I tried to listen to "Monument" as much as possible, also to write some draft comments, but to no avail, as there was something blocking me, forcing me to work on other reviews first. This morning I picked up the album again, and worked on the draft comments in the train to work. And it was GREAT! Reviewing under pressure can be helpful, taking your time as well. COR SCORPII have made a debut album of high qualitative Black Metal, indeed emphasizing on mixing melodies with the typical aggression of Black Metal and in between adding atmospheric elements to complete the painting. There just isn't one bad song here, although "Monument" isn't an album to listen to like it's disposable, for it's far from that. The many layers require you to dig a bit, to invest time, but the rewards are big. I can't do anything else but recommend this to anyone into Black Metal (obviously), also Metalheads who prefer more melody with their (Extreme) Metal.

More info at

Thomas S. Øvstedal - vocals
Rune Sjøthun - guitars
Stian Bakketeig - guitars
Gaute Refsnes - keyboards, clean vocals
Inge Jonny Lomheim - bass
Ole Nordsve - drums

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VOODOO SIX – First Hit For Free (White Knuckle Records 2008)

Voodoo Six - First Hit For Free
  1. Faith
  2. No Friend Of Mine
  3. Feed My Soul
  4. Walking On Nails
  5. Crawl
  6. I Am The Sun
  7. Saints & Sinners
  8. One More Day
  9. Mistaken
  10. Shine On
  11. Century
  12. Slip inside

VOODOO SIX released, well, re-released its debut on the 24th of March and titled it "First Hit For Free", whereas it used to be "Feed My Soul" some years ago. Prior to that they released the single "Faith", of which you can find the review lower on this page. Since that single contained three songs off the album, I won't comment on them anymore, but direct you to the single review. It was only after having reviewed that release that I was sent a copy of the full album to have a broader vision or hearing on the band's music.

So let's jump immediately to "No Friend Of Mine", which is for lots of people the best or at least one of the best tracks on the album. I certainly won't disagree. You've got calm verses with the drums being the instrument of power, in firm contrast with the gentle guitarwork. The real outburst comes in the chorus, where it's Rock with a capital R! The musicianship is of high quality and the excellent production helps to create the right feel and keep it honest at the same time. Everyone does of course a good job, but it must be said that the guitar- and drumwork is outstanding, including the screamy guitarsolo.

Next stop is "Walking On Nails", which is one of the few songs that made me think of - and here goes - BLACK SABBATH (with R.J. Dio), IOMMI and DIO. It's starts with some fuzzy guitars and Henry's vocals in the intro, buidling up the tension after which the entire band is activated. There's clearly more pressure in the bridge and chorus. The mix is well done, as the bass guitar comes through a couple of times. The dynamic playing makes "Walking On Nails" a good song, although the chorus can be a bit whiney at times.

"I Am The Sun" is the least good song, in my humble opinion. The bass (or is that the guitar) starts it all, followed by the drums and Henry falling in shortly after. Again the full power lies in the chorus, although the heavy riffing between the verses is not to be underestimated. Like "Walking On Nails" the melodic lines of the chorus are good for one, two listens, then it gets tedious, despite the music overall being good. The short guitarsolo is a nice addition, but nothing more. Henry's singing (incl. short screams) towards the end is annoying. Nothing personal, though, since he does a very good job in the other songs.

With "Saints & Sinners" we've arrived at another very beautiful song, oh yes indeed. The floating, dreamy verses are just one highlight. At its full energy level - despite the slow/midtempo - the band even makes the chorus very much worth the while. Everything is simply outstanding: the guitars, the vocals, the drums, the melodies, the heaviness, the balance between soft and harder parts, ... Respect!

The bass and drums fulfill another important role when starting "One More Day". The riffing is - like in "Walking On Nails" - IOMMI-style. Musically one might also think of bands like THE SCORPIONS, SHAKRA, and similar. The dual leads/solos are a vital element here, in order to keep the music interesting.

"Mistaken" is another of my favourites, for the first part alone: accoustic guitars, ballad-ish, Henry's appropriate, gentle singing. The chorus is an attack on your feelings and emotions. The accoustic guitars....backed by symphonics. Fucking beautiful and touching! After the first time the chorus has passed by, the drums are added and while it's a discussable change, I don't find it harming. It's even a bit better like this. You can already imagine how the chorus would sound this time. No words can describe this. But then... then... the electric guitars come in. WTF? Talk about a contrast. Somehow I understand the decision, but it totally annihilates the peacefulness, the perfection of the first part. Damn it! Why? Bad move here. The second part never reaches the level of the first one, the magic is gone. Not even the accoustic, fade-out ending can change that.

And the music continues to "Shine On". Midtempo with lots of activity in the chorus. In between you'll find the IOMMI-ish riffing. Although everything is well executed, the song misses the catchiness, the feel of the first few songs. The chorus is, as far as I'm concerned, the best part here. The same thing can be said about "Century". Poppy verses versus the heavier guitarwork in between. The rhythm is well chosen and specifically that makes this before-last song reasonably enjoyable. The chorus, and more specifically the music, makes me think a bit of METALLICA and their "Load"/"Reload" period. Only they made things a little better.

"Slip Inside" ends "First Hit For Free" in a very dynamic and energetic manner, from the start onwards. Grav took his foot off the hi-hat pedal, to make the song sound greasier, slippier. In general not a bad track, but a bit of a filler, if you ask me. Nope, the first 6 songs easily smoke this.

As enthusiastic as I was about the single, "Faith". I can safely say that my "Faith" in them wasn't betrayed, except for some less good songs, which are in a serious minority anyway. Is "First Hit For Free" the best debut album in years? Certainly not, since that's subjective to taste. Is it recommended material? Certainly! Especially if you like qualitative Hard Rock. VOODOO SIX have a very solid release with this album, one that should and will lead them to glorious victories... if they carry on like this and don't surrender to mainstream demand.

More info at

Henry Rundell - vocals
Matt Pearce - guitars
Chris Jones - guitars
Tony Newton - bass
Grav - drums

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HATE SQUAD – Degüello Wartunes (Dockyard 1 2008)

Hate Squad - Degüello Wartunes
  1. Degüello Wartunes
  2. Rise Up
  3. Killing Spree
  4. At The End Alone
  5. Anger From The Gutter
  6. Aggro Manticore
  7. Never Surrender...Die Fighting!
  8. My War
  9. Shank
  10. Hannover H8core
  11. Rivers Of Blood

HATE SQUAD, the Hardcore/H8core band from Hannover, Germany, is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year and what better way to do so than with a new album? After their comeback release, "H8 For The Masses", in 2004, I think the band waited an extra 4 years to bring out the follow-up, "Degüello Wartunes", and this on the 24th of March. The band's history started back in 1993, after which they soon released a first album, "Theater Of Hate". After that the band even got playtime on MTV, Heavy Rotation and Viva Metalla. Regarding gigs and touring, it's safe to say that HATE SQUAD has shared the stage with many bands, a list to be proud of.

For their newest release, the band entered Rape Of Harmonies Studios to record the new material. Bands like MAROON and HEAVEN SHALL BURN also recorded one or more albums at that location. And to make the connection even better, the band asked Marcus Bischoff (HEAVEN SHALL BURN) and Timo Böhling and Julian Tamke (both from MAINTAIN) for a guest appearance.

"Degüello Wartunes" is my first acquaintance with the band and their music, since before this review I had never heard of HATE SQUAD before. The album is full of energetic and pounding Metal, starting with the title track, indicating immediately you better not fool around with these guys. "Rise Up" is a typical Hardcore-styled song with the chorus being the important factor, also to keep the song sticking in one's head.

While HATE SQUAD are a Hardcore band, they do add influences from Thrash and Death Metal, like is the case in "Killing Spree". Here I cannot help but think of KATAKLYSM, because of the guitarwork, the vocals, ... just about everything. Not that I mind, not at all, for HATE SQUAD does a very good job here. Burkhard's gutteral vocals are no match for the whiney Metalcore singers. What also mkaes this "Killing Spree" interesting is the work Helge has put into offering a varied drumpattern, changing tempos, adding some tiny filling that still keep this track going.

"At The End Alone" is when the tempo goes down and the guitars sound groovier. In general this is not a bad song and there are even some SEPULTURA-influences - at least, that's what I hear. "Anger From The Gutter" is an all-explaining title, but it needs to be said that this is another very good song. You've got a clock in the beginning with the guitars setting in pretty soon, buidling up the tension together with the drums and then *bam!*, brutality sets in. The pounding rhythm swaps between midtempo and faster bits, which are mainly present in the chorus.

And it only gets better. "Aggro Manticore", for example, cranks up the pace a couple of notches, with Burkhard once again starring in an important role with his slimey, rough throat. "Never Surrender...Die Fighting!" is set in a boxing/fighting scene, with the bell and then all aggressivity is let loose. Ferocious riffs, battering drums and even some Thrash at a given moment, which is just pure ecstacy. Here too there's lots of variation in drumming, riffs, tempos, ... contributing to what makes "Never Surrender..." another highlight on this new release.

"My War" is another typical Hardcore meets Thrash song and especially in the verses the music is a delight for your ears. The chorus on the other hand is slower, yet quite vicious. All in all a decent song with even a short guitarsolo and that's the first, unless I didn't pay enough attention during the previous tracks.

"Shank", a prison-inspired song, also features the heavy riffing and pounding drums, with even some melody in the chorus, but fails to keep my attention as much as the other songs. Mind you, it's not a bad song, but a bit average, if you ask me. With "Hannover H8core" there's no need to really worry about anything, for this is just a decent football song. Lots of grooves here, lots of pounding drums and the fun-factor. Musically this is quite alright, although a little different than what you got previously.

"Rivers Of Blood" is the final "Wartune", with again a fast/uptempo and rolling basis, but slower when the chorus kicks in. There's no need to add more words, since this is a good enough song to end the album.

HATE SQUAD have been away in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but with their second album in the 21st century, it's clear they haven't lost anything of their Hardcore/H8core spirit. In fact, they might even have gained some. While I thought that the drums were a bit fuller on one of their previous albums ("I.Q. Zero", based on that one MySpace song), I did find it a bit thin on "Degüello Wartunes", although one gets used to it quite rapidly, making it a trivial issue. Other than that this is very, very decent material for anyone into Hardcore and certainly for those who have been following the band since many years. Happy Birthday, lads, and good luck for the future!

More info at

Burkhard Schmitt - vocals
Mark Künnemann - guitars
Martin Blankenburg - guitars
Bauke De Groot - bass
Helge Dolgener - drums

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ASSAILANT – Wicked Dream (Dockyard 1 2008)

Assailant - Wicked Dream
  1. A Day Tomorrow
  2. Wicked Dream
  3. The Sin
  4. Fade Away
  5. ...From The Hour Of Birth
  6. Catch 22
  7. Soul Degenerate
  8. Evolution Of The Wind
  9. The Cell
  10. Eternal
  11. Instincts

ASSAILANT, formed in 2004 and releasing their debut "Nemesis Within" in April 2006, are back with a new album: "Wicked Dream" (released on the 24th of March). I wasn't very positive about the first release, since it was more about a wall of sound, Peder's annoying screams and singing in general and so on, yet there were a few good ideas. It's usually better to give a band the benefit of doubt. Seeing a review copy of "Wicked Dream" in my mailbox, I was a little surprised, but still sceptic.

Musically it's said they're hard to categorize, yet we're dealing with a combo here: Melodic Power/Death Metal with some Progressive touches here and there. The keyboards do play a very important role.

It all starts with the slow "A Day Tomorrow", which is the first to indicate you'll find a lot of catchy elements on his new album. The screams are present, oh yes. And they're still annoying, yes indeed. But to add some contrast, Peder also sings in a clean way. Keyboards dominate and they defend their place furiously. The short guitarsolo is more functional that anything else.

"Wicked Dream" is the first song where I can be more positive than before. Pounding drums, fast tempo and even the bass guitar can be heard. Kudos for the mixing! Patrik does a very good job on drums, changing tempos, offering nice accents, ... keeping the listener's attention alive, so to speak. The vocals are like before, yet rougher and that's a pretty good option. But when Peder starts screaming you might wish you had ducktape. The keyboards claim victory in the chorus. At a given moment this instrument flows into piano-form, for which a short solo was made. Overall it's like PERSUADER meets IN FLAMES and/or DARK TRANQUILLITY.

"The Sin" is another heavy track, with crushing guitars and drums following in the same pattern. This is a dark and emotional song, reminding a bit of TOURETTES' last album. The accoutisc guitar comes in during the guitar solo. In other words, musically it's quite alright, but - and it's nothing personal - those screams really fuck up the song. No, seriously, it's not good.

"Fade Away" and "...From The Hour Of Birth" continue the positive line. The first having a gallopping rhythm with the chorus slowing things down while adding melody. The drums once again provide the spices. This time it's NOCTURNAL RITES that had a big influence, but ASSAILANT made the whole a tad heavier. "...From The Hour Of Birth" is one brutal song, yet very Progressive as well. Here it's PERSUADER's influence again. In the vocal area the band goes Screamo.

Going strong in the previous songs, it's "Catch 22" that takes the music to an average level. Sure, it's a faster song with the keyboards playing the boss again, but the overall result isn't that good. "Soul Degenerate" isn't helping much either to increase the level of quality. This is a slow track, hinting at NOCTURNAL RITES and/or PERSUADER, but very sleep-inducing.

In "Evolution Of The Wind" the crushing riffs return, yet soon there's the clash with the keyboards. Midtempo-paced, this song remains on the average level, although thé highlight comes around halfway with the keyboards. And yes, Peder screams here, too.

"The Cell" is where the surprise is: its intro is accoustic, so you might think it's a ballad. But once heaviness sets in, the ballad story is of no use anymore. The tempo is slow, and the guitars do pick their moments to set in. Patrik's input is of great value, once more. Vocals? See above.

The emo-factor was not forgotten, as is shown in "Eternal". The piano rules here and it's an entire accoustic song with symphonic backing. For one time you don't get screamy vocals. Hurray! Peder decided to go clean here. Musically there are even a couple of electronic accents, which aren't that appropriate, if you ask me.

"Instincts" close the "Wicked Dream" in a way that reminds a lot of IN FLAMES and DARK TRANQUILLITY. Musically I have no complaints, because this is another good song. Sadly enough, Peder found it better to add some screams and that ruins the listening experience for a great deal.

To conclude I can say that "Wicked Dream" certainly is better than "Nemesis Within", but Peder's vocals still remain the biggest black spot on the songs. The combination of Power Metal, Melodic Death Metal and adding a Progressive touch worked out well, to a certain extent. If you like the mentioned bands and you want someting new, then ASSAILANT might quench your thirst. Other than that, "Wicked Dream" is no release to be super enthusiastic about.

More info at

Peder Sundquist - vocals
Oskar Norberg - guitars
Marcus Sundbom - guitars
Joakim Jonsson - bass
Peder Sandström - keyboards
Patrik Larsson - drums

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UNINVITED GUEST – Malice In Wonderland (Maddening Media 2008)

Uninvited Guest - Malice In Wonderland
  1. Mother Nature Made A Monster
  2. Abigail
  3. Strange Gothic Romance
  4. The Law Of The Playground
  5. Sombre Défilé
  6. Your Private Hell
  7. Join The Dance
  8. Still I Miss The Man
  9. You Are Your Kingdom
  10. Jack Dandy
  11. Human
  12. Wonderland
  13. Double Dare (BAUHAUS cover)

UNINVITED GUEST is a Gothic Metal band from the UK and has been making music for some years. In 2005 they released their debut album, "Faith In Oblivion", which gave the band access to the first stages of popularity. The 4-piece brings a theatical form of Gothic Metal, mixing Gothic, Glam and Industrial elements. Somehow you can compare them to LACRIMOSA, to name one example. Yes, I know, LACRIMOSA is a different band, but the atmosphere of their music has a theatrical touch as well.

Two years later (2007) the follow-up is ready and titled "Malice In Wonderland", which was released by Maddening Media on the 21st of March 2008. Here the theatrical aspect is accentuated even more. The work on this new album was done without their original bassist Robert Baker. Shortly, about one month, before the release of "Malice In Wonderland" the band welcomed Ricky Raze as the new guitarist, replacing Shaun Cope.

The lyrics on the new release deal with the human race, its troubles and darker sides (Malice) and its joys and fantasies (Wonderland). Now, apply this to the world today and you'll notice that there are corresponding elements: war, climate change, child abuse, destruction of nature opposed to what we all want to be a better world, filled with love, freedom, fun, joy, ...

The first sign of the importance of the lyrics is found in "Rape the world, pollute the seas, poison the air that we breath, Mother Nature made a monster, human kind, human greed" in "Mother Nature Made A Monster", which deals with the debate about climate change. This song also offers the first example of the band's mix of electronic and sampled music, driven by the guitars. Dean's vocals are subject to taste, as he might make you frown a bit. His voice is clear and that makes the lyrics easy to understand, but the sound and timbre by itself conflicts sometimes with the music. In the chorus there's no problem at all, as his voice is doubled and/or there's someone else singing with him. The chaotic guitarsolo adds to the theatrical aspect of the music.

Another example of the themed lyrics is "Don't blame yourself for what your daddy did..." in "Abigail", where the same ingredients can be found. Here the drums are more sampled in a poppish manner than before. There's a strong contrast between the softness of the verses and the heavier outbursts in the chorus. Overall this is not a bad song, but the final result does require a change in your way of thinking, especially if you're used to something more Metal instead of electronic stuff.

"Strange Gothic Romance" is like a Rock rendition of a slow dance song (not dance as in techno or similar), but the music you can find at family parties, weddings, ... The strangeness of the situation is accentuated via the guitars that totally contrast with the melody, the use of a kazoo and the backing vocals. But it's a nice song, seriously. I like it! The song is over before you even realize it. And that's also the case with the previous two songs, despite them being 1 and ½ to 2 minutes longer.

Dean sets in "The Law Of the Playground", a capella. The subject of a boy struggling with being bullied is very well expressed in the lyrics, telling a tale that can be applied to anyone 'odd'. Our character prefers to stay inside the house instead of playing outside, he gets his lunch money stolen, he doesn't dare to talk about it to anyone, yet when he's alone he cries because of this torments. Parents blaming school and vice versa, etc...etc.... Dean's singing gets backed by a fixed drumbeat. A very emotional and touching song. Very well executed!

Marching drums fading in in "Your Private Hell" - being preceded by the instrumental "Sombre Défilé", being replaced by solid tom pounding and the tension slowly being built up by the drums, heavy guitars and electronic backing (repetition of the same note/beat/...). Then the heaviness comes back and continues as basis to sing to. The keyboard interventions create that theatrical and chaotic atmosphere again. It's however clear that the lyrics are an important element. The music for the setting and atmosphere, Dean's singing to tell the tale. If you need one track to show a sign of madness, this is it.

The musical compositions are a bit more inline with each other in "Join The Dance", although it's as if Dean is singing something totally different than how the melody is flowing. This one's difficult to follow and a pain for your nerves. Yuk! No, thanks.

The accoustic guitar is used in "Still I Miss The Man", which is a sort of ballad and a quite nice one, even. Reading the press text, I see this song is about Dean's deceased father, to whom "Malice In Wonderland" is dedicated. Not a bad song, to be honest. Not exactly the best accoustic song I've heard, but it's alright.

"You Are Your Kingdom" is about self-belief and being determinded to achieve your goals. The tribal feeling is very much present, right from the start. Later the guitars, drums and keyboards take over for the chorus. The tribal drumming remains the dominant factor in the verses, assisted by the guitars. The lyrics are very politically-laden and very much applicable to today's society. how do you deal with today's events, what society asks of you, ...?

Another strange, yet humorous moment is to be found in "Jack Dandy": the "waaaa wawawawaaaa" singing. Effects have been applied to Dean's voice, as if to reflect the 1940s or 1950s or so. The music is also very gentle and playful, with the piano adding the accents. Overall not bad and a nice trip back in time.

Religious beliefs are questioned in "Human", or at least how people defend their belief, how they would fight for it, how they blindly follow it. This is another song that can be applied to today's actuality. Midtempo is key, but it's so damn chaoticically multi-layered you can't properly follow it, except for the verses.

"Wonderland" shows the beauty of nature with birds tsjirping at first, but then you can feel doom taking over... with the natural elements being destroyed and eradicated by machinery. The pounding oil cans and mind-drilling feeling of it all is just... *speechless*. You can really picture yourself what's happening, how everything is simply being wiped away from the face of the earth.

"Double Dare" is a BAUHAUS cover. Who? Yes, I'm not familiar with this band's music, but hearing they play(ed) about the same kind of music as UNINVITED GUEST does, I can't say I'm unhappy about not knowing BAUHAUS. Sorry, but I really don't like this song at all.

Overall it's interesting what UNINVITED GUEST have come up with on "Malice In Wonderland", but my taste in Gothic Rock and Metal lies elsewhere. At most times the music is just too chaotic for me, too theatrical. I do value the lyrical aspect, for they've done a good job at tackling the chosen subjects. I can't really recommend this to anyone, except for the Gothic fans that are into this kind of eclectic compositions. If you're willing to delve into this world, be sure to take your time, because that's one big requirement.

More info at

Dean Hathaway - vocals, kazoos, melodies
Shaun Cope - guitars
Jane Dalton - live bass
Lucas Swann - keyboards, programming

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EMINENCE – The God Of All Mistakes (Locomotive Records 2008)

Eminence - The God Of All Mistakes
  1. The God Of All Mistakes
  2. Resistance
  3. Day 7
  4. Devil's Boulevard
  5. Undermind
  6. Injected Lies
  7. Written In Dust
  8. Snake Beat
  9. Stainer
  10. Enemy Inside

EMINENCE is a Brazilian band, formed in 1995, that combines Thrash, Death and Groove Metal in the spirit of PANTERA, SEPULTURA, MACHINE HEAD, and alike. Throughout the years the band worked hard on creating songs that would lead to an album and so far this is what they have made

Hunger (demo, 1995)
Faces (EP, 1996)
Eminence (EP, 1998)
Chaotic System (1999)
Humanology (2004)

"The God Of All Mistakes" is their third full album and came out on the 21st of March via Locomotive Records. The recording took place at Antfarm Studios in Denmark, where producer Tue Madsen (THE HAUNTED, DARK TRANQUILLITY, HALFORD, IN-QUEST, MOONSPELL, GOREFEST, ABORTED, SIRENIA, and many more) lives. He also did the mixing and mastering of the album.

EMINENCE (or Locomotive Records) made a good choice to opt for Tue Madsen, because "The God Of All Mistakes" usre as hell is one brutal beast of an album. The influences are easily detectable, but that's never a problems, as the band has contructed the songs to keep your attention to the music and not the influences.

It all starts with the aggressive title track, offering ferocious guitarwork and absolutely skull-crushing drumwork. Wallace Parreiras has a hoarse voice to sing with, although he switches to growls and screams at fixed times, like the chorus. Around 02:20 there's a short break preparing the next blast of brutality. Thanks to Tue Madsen's button work everything comes out very strong in a controlled way.

Things improve even more with "Resistance". The intro serves as a build-up moment, after which the drums demand the most attention. This is the instrument that is to provide the propulsion and how! Considering this is my favourite drums, I can't complain when drummers have full freedom regarding fills, tempo changes, grooves, etc.. Sure, you get some arrogance as if they wish to show their skills, but at least it's better than following a standard pattern. Plus, in Extreme Metal it makes the music all the better. Overall a great song!

Symphonics occupy the intro of "Day 7", for which a video was shot. You can see it on the band's MySpace page. Pounding drumwork is key in the verses with again Andre letting himself go behind the kit, playing around with his kickdrums, cymbals and making good use of his 'tool'. The chorus is much slower and at the same time more melodic. Wallace chose for a clean approach, but it's better when he growls. The riffing is absolutely delicious and catchy, if I may say so. Everything is put together very well.

With a playtime of 02:30 "Devil's Boulevard" is the shortest song on "The God Of All Mistakes". Again the drums are the dominant and most diverse instrument - pounding, tom rolls, blastbeats, slower playing... - with the guitars delivering the power like before. Wallace's growls sound even a bit lower here. Just the screams at the end aren't exactly expected or appropriate, in my opinion. Still, it's quality material overall.

The tempo goes down a little in "Undermind". Drumwise you get lots of use of the toms in the verses, whereas in the chorus it's the kickdrums that strike the hardest. Melody is key in the chorus, but somehow it's as if I'm listening to a P.O.D. song. What the hell? The rest of the song erases that thought, rather reminds again of SEPULTURA and MACHINE HEAD. Not bad, but the chorus really makes this a song to skip.

We're entering space in or we're at an industrial location "Injected Lies", where many strange and frightening happenings are taking place, far from civilization. Then the heavy guitar and crushing drums take over, giving a certain SOULFLY-feel to it all. The screams and growls are also very much present here. For once Alan doesn't just play the rhythm parts, yet adds a solo further in the second half of the song. This track is also among the better on the album.

And so it continues, starting with "Written In Dust", which might make you think of CLAWFINGER and/or RAMMSTEIN, especially because of the rhythm guitar-drum combo. Besides that, the guitarwork is absolutely marvellous, due to its heaviness being complementary with the drums. Top song!

For "Snake Beat" we've got MACHINE HEAD serving as inspiration again ("Burn My Eyes" album), especially in the intro. This is one very brutal song and totally not for the weak-minded. In "Stainer" Andre shows what a beast he can be behind the drumkit - in short: like before -, keeping the tempo high enough and injecting the song overall with a large quantity of energy. Wallace growls in the verses, but chooses clean singing for the chorus.

"Enemy Inside" ends the album, with Andre still being in the spotlights. He has to keep the tempo up, very much so to be even faster than the light. The guitar outs its final moments of rage, while the drums get through at specific intervals, to add some double bass attacks. Considering the previous songs and the musicianship, it's very obvious that "Enemy Inside" is a very decent song to end with.

It's pretty obvious that the drums stand out the most here, on "The God Of All Mistakes". While that can be a bit too much at a given moment, it does contribute to the spiceyness of the songs. EMINENCE is a band I had never heard of before, but thanks to Rock Inc. that has changed and I'm glad for it. One thing that keeps bothering me, and EMINENCE isn't the only band that does it, is the mix of growling/screaming and clean vocals. It brings contrast to the music, that's right, but depending on the vocalist the result isn't always super. As far as my personal taste goes, Wallace's mixed input is on the borderline of good and acceptable, but his growling is good. Musically, if you're into the mentioned bands or Groovy Thrash/Death, I advise you to check out "The God Of All Mistakes", for it's a brutal record that deserves attention. You might want to do the same for EMINENCE's previous releases as well.

More info at

Wallace Parreiras - vocals
Alan Wallace - guitars
Thiago Correia - bass
Andre Marcio - drums

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ABSTRACT RAPTURE – Democadencia (Maddening Media 2008)

Abstract Rapture - Democadencia
  1. Democadencia
  2. Noxious Utopia
  3. The Void
  4. Primal Sin Crisis
  5. Rejections
  6. Fracture
  7. Poisoned Love
  8. From Dust To Nowhere
  9. Carpe Noctem
  10. Mental Driftwood
  11. Observations In A Mirror (Through The Eyes Of An Alcoholic)

ABSTRACT RAPTURE hails from Luxembourg, like their colleagues from LE GRAND GUIGNOL. And like them they are signed to Maddening Media. The band was formed in 2001 by Drittt (vocals), Nol (guitars), Steve E. (bass) and Steve R. (drums). The first gigs were well received and so the band recorded their first demo, "Asphyxiation" in 2003. Although this didn't have aperfect sound, it did spread the name of ABSTRACT RAPTURE, resulting in more gigs. Another 2 years later the EP "Dead End Entry" came out. At that time guitarist Yogy (SCARRED) joined to assist Nol as second axeman. Anno 2007 ABSTRACT RAPTURE won the Wacken Metal Battle and thus performed at Wacken Open Air later that year. Soon after that the band entered the Tidalwave Studios again to record their debut album, "Democadencia", which came out on the 21st of March.

As it says in the press text, ""Democandencia" depicts the decline of man due to greed, manipulating media and the mental and physical depravity."

Let's see for the music. Let's say it's a mix of modern Thrash meets Death Metal, with here and there a good Groove injection. First proof of that is the title track, reminding of SEPULTURA. Not just because of the guitarwork, but also the Max Cavalera-ish singing/growling. I don't quite understand what Drittt screams in the chorus, but it's something like "Whore of the goooods...". The bridge is more melodic and has something Metalcore-ish, including the cleaner singing. The guitarwork is very good, including the solos. In general a very nice song, but the more melodic portion makes me frown a bit.

"Noxious Utopia" cranks up the pace and Drittt seems to be struck by lightning, as he screams like a madman, but all in a controlled way. The pounding, uptempo drumming simply makes your blood run faster, while the guitars blast out so much power it might affect your thinking. Quality material, to say the least. The production is top notch, making sure everything comes out strong and crisp-clear.

In "The Void" the drumming is more normal, less wild, but the tempo remains up. The guitarwork reminds of mainly IN FLAMES and PANTERA (and similar, of course), but because of the lead guitar around 01:20-30 there's something similar to what LEGION OF THE DAMNED did with their song "Undead Stillborn" on the "Sons Of The Jackal" album (2007). Again, the two axemen deliver a solid contribution, but so does Spit behind the kit. He plays a diverse pattern with interesting fills and tempo changes. The chorus is where the melody is. The tempo goes down at that time and I can't deny the singing is a bit whiney (TRIVIUM and similar).

One guitar and the riding cymbal have to build up the tension in "Primal Sin Crisis", before heaviness erupts shortly after. Once the train is on the trails, SLAYER jumps to mind, although we're soon in MACHINE HEAD waters due to the sharp riffing and pounding drums. Here and there there's a nice lead, during which the drums also play a simpler pattern. Variation is well provided by Spit, although the song in general is a bit chaotic and that is partly due to the guitarsolo. It's as if our Luxembourgians wanted to put as much as possible into this "Crisis". The whiney chorus is again in TRIVIUM style, another aspect that makes this song less interesting.

"Rejections" is on the other hand an improvement, leaning a bit towards AMON AMARTH, but still the modern-styled Metal dominates ery much. Low growling in the verses, going for a SLIPKNOT-ish scream/grunt in the bridge and going even cleaner (but still with a rough undertone) in the chorus. Variety on the vocal level, indeed, but again food for discussion regarding one's taste. The screaming in the last tens of seconds of the song comes totally unexpected, and isn't... well, sometimes it's better to let the instruments do the talking. But yes, one should see everything in the right context, so perhaps the lyrics can clarify this move.

The starting guitars of "Fracture" sound absolutely stunning! Awesome sound! What follows is a whirlwind of drumviolence and guitarstorms. Great material and of the best on "Democandencia". More of this, I tells ya! Although there's something KORN about the chorus (Drittt's singing in particular), I do like the song in general.

Time for another slower song, this time it's "Poisoned Love". Slow, but not less brutal, oh no. PANTERA/MACHINE HEAD influences, or, lots of groove to expect. The singing and screaming is the annoying factor here. No, seriously, it is. On a musical level it's alright, but never outstanding. And the playtime of 06:15 won't help either to easily digest the song. Let's just skip this one.

The switching riffing of "From Dust To Nowhere" promise something very nice. The drums soon follow neatly in this midtempo pattern. IN FLAMES comes to mind and the guitarsolos further in the song do a lot of good. With "Seize The Night" ("Carpe Noctem") ABSTRACT RAPTURE follows the path of Doom...before letting all energy get out and then they're back in the world of (modern) Thrash. Midtempo with attention for melody, reminding of the many Swedish Melodic Death Metal bands. Overall, quite a good song.

"Mental Driftwood" has one of the better/best intro I've ever heard: drumrolls with the guitars leading. Before the 30th second is there the total outburst has taken place. What follows tends to be SLIPKNOT-ish, mainly Drittt's screaming. The SEPULTURA-elements were used here as well. Speed is not an issue here, brutality and mental craziness all the more. Yet, there is enough variation to discover and that makes the song pretty enjoyable. The short solo on the other hand sounds a little too rough and not solid enough.

"Observations In A Mirror (Through The Eyes Of An Alcoholic)" is the longest track on this album and starts with an LP effect. You hear the typical cracking that is produced by a phonograph/gramophone/turntable. The riffing is slow, so are the drums and Drittt once again seems to be possessed by demons or at least in great agony, for his screams leave no doubt about that. Further in the song he also throws in some cleaner passages, something I'm no fan of. This is a complicated matter and very much subject to taste, but I like it best when Drittt growls. The cleaner singing and screams may be fitting here and there, but overall they remind too much of Metalcore bands and similar. With a playtime of more than 8 minutes it leaves a lot of room for experimenting with slow parts, leaving the drums away, adding a solo, increasing the pace and more. This 'interlude' of about two minutes is fully instrumental and that's also the case with practically the entire second part of the song, with towards the end the music fading away. In general this is a nice try, but you'll have to listen more than once to grasp it all, to see the structure.

When I received my review copy, I was very enthusiastic about "Democadencia", mainly because the first few songs are good to really good. But over the weeks my optimism has lessened a bit after multiple listens. Perhaps because my preference for old school always intervenes. ABSTRACT RAPTURE have created a very good album, let that be clear. They mixed modern Thrash with elements from older bands and a sniff of Melodic Death Metal. Their skills on their respective instruments cannot be denied, even though I (personal opinion here) would like to see/hear them add a bit more solos instead of clinging to the brutal riffing. But is "Democandencia" worth checking out? Very much so, yes. Worth buying? Yes.

More info at

Drittt - vocals
Nol - guitars
Yogy - guitars
Rol - bass
Spit - drums

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VOODOO SIX – Faith (White Knuckle Records 2008)

Voodoo Six - Faith (single)
  1. Faith
  2. Feed My Soul
  3. Crawl

How many times does one review a single? When I was contacted several weeks ago to review the new release of the British Hard Rock band VOODOO SIX, I expected "First Hit For Free", yet it seems there's still great value to be found in a single, hence me having received "Faith", available on the 17th of March. This (first?) single contains three songs and having checked the band's website, it occurs to me that "First Hit For Free" (to come out on the 24th of March) is actually a (retitled) re-release of "Feed My Soul", which probably was released in August 2006. The re-release was mixed by Mike Fraser, who worked previously with acts like VAN HALEN, AC/DC, AEROSMITH, METALLICA, THUNDER and more.

As is mentioned in the bio: "In voodoo tarot, the sixth card is Legba (the devil); the keeper of the crossroads between the worlds, the god who opens the door to the spiritual world." Hm... I'll have to check the lyrics to find out why they chose this name, VOODOO SIX. And here's what bassist Tony Newton had to say about the single, or at least the lyrics: "We are brought up to trust, but eventually we lose faith in many of the things around us. We realise that much of what we see and hear are lies disguised as the truth. We have all had our faith tested - whether it be by government/religion/friends/family - but the most important thing is to never lose the faith in yourself. 'This soul is not for sale'."

"Faith" is a decent rocker with the guitars fading in and thundering in the back. It's not pure Classic Rock, as there's something Stoner-ish about the riffs (the Belgian band COWBOYS AND ALIENS came to mind). Henry's voice fits perfectly and he shows he can be quite versatile: clean, melodic and even adding a bit of roughness. Pluspoints also go to the production, which is top notch and very realistic. Musically I detected influences (true or not) from JORN, METALLICA ("Load", "Reload") and a sniff of IRON MAIDEN.

"Feed My Soul" reminds of artists like JOE SATRIANI, THE BLACK CROWES and the likes. The tempo is still slow, although there seems to be more punch here. The mix has been done in a way that the bass is also very audible on certain occasions and especially when heaviness is put on a lower level, like in the verses. Although the chorus is nothing more than "Feeeeed Myyy Soouul", it quite catchy and has got a very nice melody. The guitarwork is absolutely tasty and makes you long for more. Riffs, solos, the lot. Pure quality, that's what these Brits deliver here. Around 03:16 there's a short uptempo moment, which should have lasted a bit longer, in my opinion. Or why didn't they make the entire song this fast?

"Crawl" is the third and last song on this single. There's something about the main riff, but I can't put my finger on it. I've heard it before. Wait, SHAKRA? Could very well be the case. Like with the other two songs, qualitative (Hard) Rock that puts you in a good mood. Here too a dose of catchiness was injected and the guitarwork is once more, top notch. Tony's bass shines through here as well. To avoid misunderstandings and discrimination, it's safer to say that the entire band has done a more than great job.

So there you go. Three songs that should give a decent impression of what to expect on "First Hit For Free". I can only be enthusiastic about VOODOO SIX and this single, "Faith". I have "Faith" in them. ;-) But seriously, this 3-track disc is great proof of the quality that V6 (no, not the chewing gum) delivers. Flawless over the entire line. So if you're into bands like the SCORPIONS, OVERLOAD, SHAKRA, JORN, THUNDER, Y&T and similar, don't doubt and buy this single or the album. Trust me, you won't be disappointed.

More info at

Henry Rundell - vocals
Matt Pearce - guitars
Chris Jones - guitars
Tony Newton - bass
Grav - drums

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HARTMANN – Handmade (Green Roof Records 2008)

Hartmann - Handmade
  1. Coming Home To You
  2. The Journey
  3. Somewhere Someday
  4. Alive Again
  5. What If I
  6. My Everything
  7. Nightblind
  8. Crying
  9. Millionaire
  10. Why Do I
  11. I Will Carry On
  12. Is It you
  13. Out In The Cold
  14. Listen To Your Heart
  15. Into The Light
  16. Lay All Your Love On Me
  17. Music (John Miles cover)

Oliver Hartmann is a vocalist and guitarist and made his name with a band called AT VANCE in the late 90s. With this Neoclassical/Power Metal band he recorded 4 albums, of which the 2002 release, "Only Human", was his last. Oliver left the band he founded in 2003, but that didn't stop him from working with AINA, AVANTASIA (here also as live guitarist this year), EDGUY, RHAPSODY, KAMELOT and many others. His solo career took off in 2005 with "Out In The Cold". Last year the follow-up came out, "Home".

Musically the Hartmann band plays a mix of Hard Rock and AOR. This also means that the material is radio friendly. Although I've only heard the few samples on his MySpace page, I can't really form a proper opinion about both albums, leaving just the recently released (15th March) DVD "Handmade" as my sole source. The DVD came out via Green Roof Records and is a 2-day show, recorded at the Pegasus Theater in Benheim, Germany, all accoustic with the setlist consisting of songs off both albums, plus one cover: "Music" by John Miles.

The band around oliver consists of musicians who have earned their stripes, and still do, with for example PARADOX, FREEDOM CALL and EMPYRIOS. Oliver handles most of the singing, but is assisted by pianist Jürgen Wüst, who also sings a few songs on his own. The songs work very well in an accoustic setting, not only the heavier ones like "Coming Home To You", "Alive Again" and "What If I", but also the softer like "Crying", "My Everything" and "I Will Carry On". It must be said though, that the softer songs prevail over the more rocking ones. Not that I mind, since such songs probably work best accoustically, but it would have been better if it were like 50-50 or 60-40 in favour of the rocking ones.

Aside from the band, let's not forget the three sympathetic ladies doing the backing vocals. They complement Oliver in a great way and are also given the chance for a few solo parts.

Next to the show the DVD also holds a gallery, a trailer, a "making of" and the video clip for "Is It You".

To end I can only recommend this DVD to anyone who's a fan of Oliver's work or those into AOR, but also if you want to experience the music in a different context. An accoustic show still has a different atmosphere compared to an electric one. Just go to to order your copy.

More info at

Oliver Hartmann - vocals, guitars
Mario Reck - guitars
Jürgen Wüst - piano, organ, vocals
Armin Donderer - bass
Dario Ciccioni - drums

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WINTER'S VERGE – Eternal Damnation (Limb Music Products 2008)

Winter's Verge - Eternal Damnation
  1. Eternal Damnation
  2. My Winter Sun
  3. Get Me Out
  4. Hold My Hand
  5. A Secret Once Forgotten
  6. Goodbye
  7. Spring Of Life
  8. Can You Hear Me
  9. For I Have Sinned
  10. To You I Sail Tonight
  11. Suicide Note

WINTER'S VERGE hails from Cyprus and was formed in 2003 by George Charalambous (vocals) and Stefanos Psillides (keyboards). The first to join this duo was drummer Andreas Charalambous, after which Charis Ioannou occupied the bass position. A first demo was made, containing 4 songs. Miguel Trapezaris replaced Charis soon after that, for the latter had to fulfill some military duties. The new line-up made another demo, "Another Life...Another End". Guitarist Pericles Mallopoulos, who was not mentioned before, also had to join the army, so Harris Pari became the new axeman and it was this third line-up that got to sign a contract with Limb Music Products. Anno 2008, on the 14th of March, the band's debut was released under the title "Eternal Damnation".

The recordings took place in the Prophecy and Music Factory Studios in Kempten, Germany, where MYSTIC PROPHECY vocalist R.D. Liapakis is king. The songs from the demo album "Another Life... Another End" were completely reworked and re-recorded, and two more songs were selected. Musically WINTER'S VERGE can be catalogued under Melodic/Epic Power Metal, comparable to ZANDELLE, SONATA ARCTICA, STRATOVARIUS, HAMMERFALL and alike.

"Eternal Damnation" starts with the pounding title track, where especially the chorus shines through. The keyboards provide the melody, while the guitars deliver the power to push the song forwards. The riffs are quite racey and the variation in tempo makes the song interesting to listen to. So far a good start, although the high-pichted scream at the end was not necessary at all.

"My Winter Sun" continues the pace in a galopping way. George misses power in his voice, making his contribution a bit weak. Why he adds the high-pitched screams at the end of the chorus is a mystery to me, because they don't really add anything useful or interesting or anything explanatory. The guitar and keyboard solos are good. Nothing spectaculer, but good. Overall, the song is good for one or two listens, then it gets boring.

Fast riffing and dito drumming introducing "Get Me Out" really put the stamp Power Metal on the album. Because R.D. Liapakis produced, mixed and mastered the album, it's clear that the sound and songs overall remind of bands like ZANDELLE, INNERWISH and other Limb-bands (in the Power Metal genre) he worked with. Still, this is one of the better tracks.

A title like "Hold My Hand" can't mean anything else than a ballad, right? Rightly so, for the atmospheric keyboards are the right start. The guitar and drums soon join. Musically you can compare this with SONATA ARCTICA, but in general this is a very mediocre song, probably also due to the production, which isn't really top notch. I can suppress the thought of listening to an mp3. "Hold My Hand" might be a nice song if you're in the right mood, but if you have to wait for that....

The fast and aggressive riffing of "A Secret Once Forgotten" erases all sentimental feelings and thoughts. The tempo is also higher again and the Andreas' hits keep the music alive and kicking, although they're not always in the right tempo with how fast the riffs sound. It would be better, yet also very predictable if he played faster and with double bass. In general the result is good, although never groundbreaking, which counts for the entire album.

"Goodbye" is a misleading title, as the intro (piano) makes you think ballad #2 is there, yet soon the rest of the instrumentation is added and the tempo increases a lot, also for the guitarsolo part. The chorus is much slower and forms thus quite a contrast with the verses. Another decent song, one might add.

"Spring Of Life" starts in a rocking way with more groove, but the fast Power Metal soon takes over and considering's George's voice, the production and the music the references to the above-mentioned bands cannot be ignored. The chorus again drags the tempo down and it's mainly the verses, or uptempo parts, that make the song interesting. Still, it's nothing superextraordinary. The STRATOVARIUS-ish keyboard solo is nice, but sounds a bit out of place.

Okay, there IS another ballad on this album and it's titled "Can You Hear Me". Starting with atmospheric keyboards and gentle guitarwork, the backings soon fall away for the piano and accoustic guitar to take over. The drums also play their soft role. If you're in the mood, then the song can be 'enjoyed', but else it is...*snoars*

For once the bass and drums get to build up the tension for this midtempo rocker called "For I Have Sinned". There's nothing that stands out here, since this is another average song. Can "To You I Sail Tonight" improve the situation? Its start announces bad news, ballad-style, yet the tempo and heavy guitarwork contradicts this. The keyboards have a hard time pushing through, making it hard to follow the melodies properly, especially if the guitar adds some playful licks. George is another time the weakest link, for he sometimes misses the right note(s) and lacks power in his voice. Strange, comical and sad at the same time is that the solos form the best part of the song.

Ok, ok, you get your third ballad: "Suicide Note". This could have come off an Emo album. It's entirely accoustic with violin-backing and George singing, although enough attention was given to instrumental moments. Not bad, but nothing outstanding either. The part "It's raining beer, Hallelujah, it's raining beer" at the end of the song doesn't fit at all with what was done before and although the guys probably wanted to add a humourous note, they didn't succeed.

For a debut I can't say that "Eternal Damnation" is a bad album. The first listen gave me an average impression, while the second and third were better. Yet now I can't really be excited about WINTER'S VERGE or "Eternal Damnation". There are a couple of good songs, let that be clear. But everything here has been done countless times and better, also with a better production, if I may say so. Perhaps the songs can be enjoyed more in a live setting, since the instruments don't always sound full on CD, but more compressed. Let's wait for the follow-up and I hope they won't have R.D. Liapakis behind the buttons then. For now I would only recommend the band and their debut album to any avid Melodic Power Metalfan, regardless of liking originality or decent productions or anything else that makes a band and release worth checking out.

More info at

George Charalambous - vocals
Harry Pari - guitars
Stefanos Psillides - keyboards
Miguel Trapezaris - bass
Andreas Charalambous - drums

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AYIN ALEPH – Ayin Aleph I (Invencis 2008)

Ayin Aleph - Ayin Aleph I
  1. Hamlet
  2. My Bloody Marriage
  3. Aleph
  4. Grey Ashes
  5. Butterfly
  6. Bridge
  7. Valpurgis Nacht
  8. Sebastian's Prayer
  9. Army Of Love
  10. My Bloody Marriage (Goule version)
  11. The Purchase Of The Cathedral
  12. Black Roses
  13. Es Muss Sein
  14. Alcove Rhapsody
  15. I Came
  16. Greed
  17. The End
  18. I Miss You

AYIN ALEPH is the name of not only the formation, but also the female vocalist of this act. She was born in Russia, but moved to Paris, France, very soon to start working on a musical career. Prior to that she studied theater and music in Moscow, later she follows a course in Brussels, Belgium. Singing, composing, playing instruments like the piano she invested a lot of time in several projects, but they always seem to know a fast ending. Over the years she also worked with a lot of people, each specialized in a certain domain: classical music, bass, drums, guitars, ... If you look at the bio on the website, you might think she's almost ready for retirement, like she's been doing as much as possible in an as short as possible time span.

Anyhow, a first album, "Ayin Aleph I" has been ready for many months and unleashed upon the world since the 7th of March. For this album of theatrical Gothic Rock/Metal she collaborated with Fernando Pereira, Daniel Bergstrand (a.o. IN FLAMES) for the engineering and mixing. The mastering was done at the Cutting Room Studios in Stockholm, Sweden, and at Sterling Sound in New York, USA.

Ayin combines several forms of singing: clean, operatic, sighing and a mix of everything. That is also the main element that will make you continue listening or just push the 'stop' button. I received my review copy several weeks ago, but even after at least 3 listens I just cannot commit myself anymore for a deeper analysis.

Musically there are a couple of good songs, be them midtempo or pounding with fury. The ones that stand out for me - and that's only because of the music, for Ayin's voice really works on my nerves quite rapidly, despite me trying to think of the context and setting - are, for example:

"My Bloody Marriage" - both versions and especially the Goule one
"Grey Ashes" - uptempo, with attention for the bass guitar and harpsichord. Ayin does sound as if she's going mad.
"Butterfly" - one might think it's a ballad, until heaviness kicks in. Very theatrical, this one.
"Sebastian's Prayer" - slow tempo here, almost Doomish. The singing is very much annoying, though.
"Army Of Love" - welcome the accoustic guitar, in the intro and further in a break. The tempo lies a bit higher here and strangely enough (or not), Ayin's singing is a bit easier to digest.
"Black Roses" - another pounding rocker, with an important role for the piano. Don't ask about the vocals. No, seriously, don't!

The other tracks are average, despite a few good elements. They're just not that enjoyable, or not as enjoyable as the others, mainly because of the theatrical and crazy singing. Oh yes, did I mention the many times she sighs? No, it's not Mariah Carey...yet.

The overall atmosphere fits that of horrorfilms at times, nerve-wrecking on the other hand and in general I wouldn't really recommend this to anyone, except to those into theatrical music and in need of something extraordinary. I have to agree with other reviews about staying focussed, because it IS difficult. The playtime of almost 80 minutes and the total of 19 tracks - well, 18 if you don't count #13, which lasts a few seconds - isn't very helpful either in that case.

More info at

Ayin Aleph - vocals, piano, harpsichord
Mark Mynett - guitars
Anthony Scemama - guitars
Jean-Jacques Moréac - bass
Yann Costes - drums

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CELTIC LEGACY – Guardian Of Eternity (Eternal Legacy Records 2008)

Celtic Legacy - Guardian Of Eternity
  1. The Sentinel
  2. Celtica
  3. Afterworld
  4. For Evermore
  5. King Of Thieves
  6. Absent Friends
  7. Erinmor
  8. Dance On Yer Grave
  9. Forgive Me
  10. Guardian Of Eternity

CELTIC LEGACY is an Irish Heavy Metal band, formed in 1997. So far the band has released two albums - "Celtic Legacy" (1998) and "Resurrection" (2003)- with their latest creation having come out last month, the 5th of March, under the title "Guardian Of Eternity". It was via ex-MOURNING BELOVETH bassist Adrian Butler, who runs Lugga Music Productions, which handles the promotion for CELTIC LEGACY and a couple of other bands, that I got to know about CELTIC LEGACY and these other bands. The new album was to be released three years ago, but the many line-up problems delayed this.

Heavy Metal is what these Irish play, but spice it up with Folkish touches. This is another new band for me and upon reading the press text and their page at, they sure had tough luck regarding the line-up, since it underwent many changes in a short period of time. Musically I reckon everything stayed the same, that the band has kept sailing the same course. The samples on their MySpace page, even though they're from the "Resurrection" album, don't make me doubt, although the production has improved with "Guardian Of Eternity".

The album starts with the instrumental intro "The Sentinel", where it's all about the guitars and atmospheric backing, except for the second half when the accoustic guitar takes over, together with the percussion and flow over smoothly into "Celtica", where the real outburst can be found. The guitars are responsable for the Folk-aspect, as it's like with TÝR: the playing is done so that you don't need a keyboard or other instruments to give the songs a Folk-feel. Midtempo is key here. Ciaran's got a clean, but very fitting voice for this kind of Heavy/Folk Metal. It's all about melodic singing here, no roughness to be found. Everything is well executed and you can just feel the honesty of it all. Quality musicianship, although the production lacks in power, if you ask me. You just know that with a bigger budget, the material could be so much more powerful.

Continuing with "Afterworld", where the tempo is reduced a little, but the rhythm is of the galopping kind. Again I have no real objections against anything musically, but the "wooo-o-o-o-oo-oh wwooo-o-o-o-oo-oh wooo-o-o-o-oo-oh ...." is just annoying and should just be left out, also because the guitars already fill the space between the verses.

Things improve in "For Evermore", which has the keyboards as starting instrument. Then the guitars and drums take over, in a fierce manner. What follows is not uptempo, but slow/midtempo guitar-driven Metal, backed by the atmospheric keyboards. Conor also keeps things interesting enough and tries to avoid the standard pattern by switching to toms now and then. The guitarsolo is well done and certainly not a filler, but a valuable element in this song.

Aha, heavier riffing this time. I guess the title "King Of Thieves" has something to do with it, to add a little suspense and evilness. Ciaran's melodic voice contrasts heavily with the guitars. Not that that's a bad thing, but it's something to get used to. Again, midtempo is king, although an uptempo song wouldn't hurt. Musically I had to think a bit of the Belgian CRUSADER, but also ICED EARTH. Again the guitarwork is of very good quality, including the dual leads.

Speaking of going faster: "Absent Friends" is the one that has gotten a, albeit light, boost injection. Especially the riffs indicate this, yet Conor prefers the galopping style of playing instead of, for example, use some double bass and more Power Metal-ish drumming. Not that I mind, but it would make that specific section (drums) all the more interesting. Still, "Absent Friends" is one of the best songs on "Guardian Of Eternity".

"Erinmor" is the second longest song here, clocking in after 7 minutes. Gentle guitarwork explores the path to be followed. Soon enough the flute takes over. All the while the atmospheric keyboards stay on guard. This first part really is very very nice and reminds of the "Lord Of The Rings" soundtrack. But that soon fades away as the guitars and drums take over, à la STRATOVARIUS and IRON MAIDEN. The verses are in midtempo, while the chorus is STRATOVARIUS-like uptempo. The overall result is well done, but Ciaran's singing starts to annoy a bit. Here it would be nice with a fuller voice or perhaps something rougher. On the other hand, I miss the magic of the first part, where the flute had its minute of fame, so to speak.

The band decelerate in "Dance On Yer Grave". Midtempo...or what did you think? The execution is flawless, but the song is just not that interesting on a melodic or compositional level. Especially the first songs are far better, in my opinion. They stick better, they last longer. Ciaran needs more roughness in his voice, that's very clear here.

"Forgive Me" breaks a bit with what can be found in the previous songs and aims for something in the vein of THIN LIZZY. There's an increase in energy and that's a good decision. All in all, nothing bad to report here, for it's a decent song. Nine songs done, and the biggest one was saved for last, with a playtime of over 11 minutes!

"Guardian Of Eternity"... it was to be expected that this would be an important track. The guitar once again commences the intro, with subtle atmospheric backing. Ciaran falls in after the first minute. Later the drums are added, while the guitarpower remains absent for very long while. The keyboards this time got a more important role. It's not until 03:30 that one can detect the electric guitars' presence. Melody is what they're programmed for and that's what they bring. Tens of seconds later they're allowed to add a heavier tone/rhythm. Yet, in the chorus their power is reduced in favour of the keyboards and Ciaran's singing. The dual leads after that are like before, showing Keith and Dave form a solid duo. Little over halfway there's a beautiful, flute-driven interlude, with the backing keyboards. Very well done and an interesting break. Shortly before the end the final outburst is added.

To cut things short, CELTIC LEGACY plays decent Folk-influenced Heavy Metal, offering solid musicianship and good to very good tunes. In that aspect any fan of such music should check out the band and their repertoire. The honesty of the music is another pluspoitn, as far as I'm concerned. However, we don't live a perfect world and that is reflected on lots of things, including recordings. I understand that not every band has a budget of millions of Euros or whatever currency they use, but CELTIC LEGACY's music simply CRIES for a better production, something I fully support, because then the songs will shine better, the real power will come through and I think the rough edges of Ciaran's voice can also be dealt with then. Anyhow, all things considered I'd say that "Guardian Of Eternity" is a more than decent album, of which the songs will certainly sound stronger on stage. Oh yes, one more advice, although it's up to the band to see if it fits in their musical plans: more uptempo material. More use of the entire drumkit. More spice, in other words. And to end: thumbs up for the very fine promo-folder that came with the promo CD. They've done a good job here.

More info at

Ciaran Ennis - vocals
Keith Hendley - guitars, vocals
Dave Morrissey - guitars, keyboards
Dave Boylan - bass, vocals
Conor Gillen - drums, thin whistle

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STUCK MOJO – Southern Born Killers (Napalm Records 2008)

Stuck Mojo - Southern Born Killers
  1. I'm American
  2. Southern Born Killers
  3. The Sky Is Falling
  4. Metal Is Dead
  5. For The Cause Of Allah
  6. Open Season
  7. Prelude To Anger
  8. That's When I Burn
  9. Yoko
  10. Home

STUCK MOJO have been one of the best-known Rap Metalbands, catalogued under Crossover Metal, since their forming back in 1989. Well, only since the release of their debut, "Snappin' Necks", in de 90's. Of course, it wasn't always colourful what happened throughout the years and the band was even put on ice in 2000. 2004 is the year STUCK MOJO was brought back to life by guitarist Rich Ward. The first release now is "Southern Born Killers", which was recorded with producer Andy Sneap (EXODUS, MACHINE HEAD, ARCH ENEMY, NEVERMORE, KREATOR, TESTAMENT, ONSLAUGHT, etc...) in the spring of 2006. After being available as free download (incl. booklet and bonus DVD), the Austrian label Napalm Records got the band in their sight and offered them a contract, resulting in "Southern Born Killers" being properly released on the 29th of February in Europe and on the 4th of March in the USA.

Although I'm no fan of Rap - the music and the talking - there are two exceptions (in Rock/Metal): CLAWFINGER and RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE, even though I don't own even one album from neither band. This should also tell you that STUCK MOJO is very unknown to me, except for the name. This new album is therefore my first real acquaintance with the band and their music.

It all starts with the patriotic "I'm American", which contains lots of grooves and quite nice guitarwork, to be honest. The rapping by Lord Nelson, who seems to be new in the band, is good and relatively easily digestable. Once the chorus comes in, he switches to singing, as is the case in some of the other songs, like e.g. "The Sky Is Falling" and "That's When I Burn". All in all, this is a decent song.

Other highlights come from "Metal Is Dead", a title I find quite laughable, but I'm sure I'll find the reason for this in the lyrics. The song can be considered Groove Thrash, but has a lot in common with CLAWFINGER. The tempo is also higher than before. Next positive stop is "For The Cause Of Allah", a song criticizing the muslims and terrorists. The 'lyrics' are delivered by a spoken part, as if coming from a film or telephone call or something similar. All the while the drums softly play in the back. A very nice 'resting point', so to speak.

Two more pluspoints, albeit a bit less than the two above, go to "Open Season" and "That's When I Burn". The first contains lots of symphonic elements, but there's also room for something eastern/Indian (no, not the Native Americans). Again CLAWFINGER (and perhaps some RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE) comes to mind. All things considered, it's pretty good. The second one, "That's When I Burn", is a lot slower, yet the grooves remain. "Prelude To Anger", which also consists of a spoken text (telephone call?), is the intro, even though the transition is flawless and you can easily play both tracks seperately.

And now, after the highs, the lows. "Southern Born Killers" (the song) contains too much rapping, even though the music is decent. This overflow of words, of talking, is just too much, too pretentious (even if it's supposed to be like that) and works enormously on my nerves. Like I said before, Rap is not my cup of tea. Why did I listen to the album then? I received a copy to review. "The Sky Is Falling" also suffers from the Rap problem. Plus, the samples (e.g. drums) that are often used in Rap. Overall I find this an average song.

Last but not least, the last two songs: "Yoko" (Ono?) and "Home". The first is a slow song, containing drumsamples, feeling more like a Rap than a Rock/Metal song and hasn't got anything (or very few) to keep the attention vivid. "Home" cranks up the pace and heaviness again, but fails to be as good as e.g. "I'm American" or any of the other highlights.

Personally, I'm glad to have heard what STUCK MOJO is about, or at least, the music. But "Southern Born Killers", or any other STUCK MOJO album, won't get much playtime in my stereo. I can however recommend this to anyone into Rap Metal and/or the band STUCK MOJO. I guess it also helps if you like, for example, CLAWFINGER and similar, although I consider them a little bit different. But that's my taste.

More info at

Lord Nelson - vocals
Rich Ward - guitars
Mike Martin - guitars
Sean Delson - bass
Rodney Beauboeuf - drums

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DRACONIAN – Turning Season Within (Napalm Records 2008)

Draconian - Turning Season Within
  1. Seasons Apart
  2. When I Wake
  3. Earthbound
  4. Not Breathing
  5. The Failure Epiphany
  6. Morphine Cloud
  7. Bloodflower
  8. The Empty Stare
  9. September Ashes

Since their signing to Napalm Records the Swedish Gothic/Doom Metalband DRACONIAN has been successfully buidling on their career, releasing only great albums: "Where Lovers Mourn" in 2003, the beautiful "Arcane Rain Fell" in 2005 and in 2006, by fans' request, the 'intermediate' album "The Burning Halo". This latter one consisted of three new songs and two cover songs and three re-recorded songs from the "The Closed Eyes Of Paradise" demo.

For each release the band chose another producer and studio. This time, for "Turning Season Within" - the band's 4th album on Napalm Records and to be released on the 3rd of March - DRACONIAN booked studio time at the Fascination Street Studios with Jens Bogren and David Castillo, who previously worked with a.o. OPETH and KATATONIA.

Lyrically it's about love again, although there were some religious elements on previous occasions. As vocalist Anders puts it: "Failing and hopeless love relationships, as well as how we deal with them is what this album is about."

"Turning Seasons Within" starts with the immensely beautiful and captivating "Seasons Apart". The piano is the dominating instrument in the verses, while Lisa has improved her angelic vocals enormously. Anders sounds as aggressive and dark as ever, forming a perfect contrast and duo with Lisa. The thick guitarwall comes through even better than before, although even back on e.g. "Arcane Rain Fell" this element was first class. Jerry's hits on the drums have been given more power to bring out the sadness and melancholy even better. I have to say that the sound of the drums sounds absolutely stunning and comes close to reality.

With "When I Wake" the tempo is upped a little, but that's also the overall change of the new songs: less really slow stuff. In at least two songs I cannot help but think of SWALLOW THE SUN: this one here - with double bass attacks to add extra power and a very nice break before Anders breaks out into anger, expressing the pain he feels (or at least, how he 'sings' the lyrics) - and "Morphine Cloud", although this one reminds heavily of older material, to be found on "Arcane Rain Fell". Needless to say that this is another flawless song.

Spheric keyboards lay out the basis for "Earthbound", assisted by the guitars. Lisa comes in for the softer moments, when the heavy guitars are left silent, while Anders handles the mic when those guitars set in again. Little before the third minute there's a little break, preparing for the sad part tha comes next, determined by the (symphonic) keyboards, enforced by the guitars. Another touching moment, sung by Lisa. Anders joins her in part two of this moment. Respect! The song ends with an instrumental part, although in the final moments Anders still has a few lines to sing, eh, growl. Funny, but there's something AMON AMARTH-ish about it, which isn't that much of a surprise, since Jens Bogren produced the band's "With Oden On Our Side".

The tempo goes down again in "Not Breathing". I haven't paid that much attention to it, but there's a sort of pattern: gentle, non-heavy moments are for Lisa, while the contrary is for Anders. Except the chorus, then it's the entire band and the two vocalists. Orchestral accents are implemented in a subtle way, but overall you're obliged to listen a couple of times to grasp it all.

Catchiness is something the Swedes also thought of and another example is the starting and chorus melody in "The Failure Epiphany", where the accoustic guitar has been given quite an important role. Lisa is the first to sing the lyrics, again when all signs of heaviness are deleted, Anders comes falling in together with the raging guitars. The excellent production makes this a perfect song and one of the best DRACONIAN has ever made. Somewhere over the middle an instrumental accoustic moment sets in, with the keyboards adding to the sadness. So touching it almost made cry.

The last three songs are also proof of the quality DRACONIAN can provide, although each has its special elements: "Bloodflower" has the splendid dual singing, but foremost the drums that are bit faster than the usual slow stuff. Now, not that is so special, but the fact that even if Jerry played a bit slower, it wouldn't hurt the song at all, as both speeds fit. In "The Empty Stare" Anders's growling sounds more bestial than before, which is the most noticable element, but the guitars have been sharpened a bit more here. "September Ashes" ends the "Turning" process, and this in little more than a minute. The piano is the dominant instrument, backed by symphonics (incl. cello), while Anders talks his way through the song. And to be honest, that is also one of DRACONIAN's strong elements, Anders' talking.

Since their signing to Napalm Records the Swedish Gothic/Doom Metalband DRACONIAN has been successfully building on their career, releasing only great albums: "Where Lovers Mourn" in 2003, the beautiful "Arcane Rain Fell" in 2005 and in 2006, by fans' request, the 'intermediate' album "The Burning Halo". "Turning Season Within" is the next logical and equally qualitative step. From start to finish the band takes you again on a dark and sad journey about life, about love, but not exactly the bird and the bees. With the help of Jens Bogren and David Castillo the sound comes out stronger, more powerful than ever imagined and DRACONIAN continue their quest for the Gothic/Doom throne, although they are - in my opinion - one of the best bands in this genre. This is very much recommended material!

More info at

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

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ATROCITY – Werk 80 II (Napalm Records 2008)

Atrocity - Werk 80 II
  1. People Are People (DEPECHE MODE)
  2. Smalltown Boy (BRONSKI BEAT)
  4. Don't You (Forget About Me) (SIMPLE MINDS)
  5. The Sun Always Shines On Tv (A-HA)
  6. Hey Little Girl (ICEHOUSE)
  7. Fade To Grey (VISAGE)
  8. Such A Shame (TALK TALK)
  9. Keine Heimat (IDEAL)
  10. Here Comes The Rain Again (EURYTHMICS)
  11. Forever Young (ALPHAVILLE)

Like in 1997, the German Death Metal band ATROCITY will soon (03/03) release a cover album based on Popsongs from the 80's, adding extra power via the guitars and drums. While I'm not so familiar with the band's discography (despite their long existence), I did manage to listen to their "Atlantis" album back in 2004, but I didn't like it at all, although there were some nice moments. Even when they came to Belgium in 2005 I wasn't that thrilled about them or their Metal.

But we're dealing with Popsongs here, dating from when I was a kid. At first I was a little sceptic, doubting how the band would convert these songs into something heavier or if they would really makes this a worthwhile conversion that would make me stand in awe. I don't know every song they chose this time, nor am I familiar with "Werk 80". For this undertaking ATROCITY got the help of a symphonic orchestra and choir. LEAVES' EYES vocalist Liv Kristine makes a guest appearance, while the French vocalist Jensara Swann was also asked to contribute. The comic aspect is having Nick Barker behind the drums, considering he has played in CRADLE OF FILTH, DIMMU BORGIR, OLD MAN'S CHILD and TESTAMENT. On the cover you'll find Dita von Teese.

Part II starts with DEPECHE MODE's "People Are People", not the song I heard the most by this band, but it does bring back memories. "Relax" (FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD) is one that was played a lot in my young days and even long afterwards, that I do still remember. And this is also the case with "Smalltown Boy" and SIMPLE MINDS' classic "Dont You (Forget About Me)", a song I've heard many times, wanting or not and one of those I remember the most.

"The Sun Always Shines On TV" is one I remember...not from the original, but from a Belgian dans act called MILK INC., who covered this song a few years ago. Even then I hadn't the slightest idea this was an A-HA song. Next familiar stop is VISAGE's "Fade To Grey", for which ATROCITY did a fine job. Their rendition of SIMPLE MINDS' song was also good.

TALK TALK was another big name in the 80's and this song, "Such A Shame", is another one that was part of my growing up. EURYTHMICS was one of my sister's favourite bands and there were many weeks that "Here Comes The Rain Again" was played. All in all I found this quite a good song, as long as it wasn't played too much. ATROCITY's version is more of a nice try than really something I'm wild about.

ALPHAVILLE's "Forever Young" was one I only heard in the early 90's, as far as I remember. It has been many years since I last heard it, so remembering the time is a bit difficult. This is another song of which you can say: hail the original. ATROCITY does a good job, but nothing more than that.

All things considered, it's a nice gesture and initiative that ATROCITY is bringing back to life and certain songs bring back nice memories, but not all renditions can be called a success. The heaviness is partly a problem, as it doesn't always match with the original compositions, but Alexander's singing works on my nerves a lot of times. For fans of the band and this 'project' I can highly recommend this, for others it's, in my opinion, a nice in-between. If you want to get to know some classics from the 80's, there are enough compilations out there. :-)

More info at

Alexander Krull - vocals
Thorsten Bauer - guitars
Mathias Röderer - guitars
Alla Fedynitch - bass
Nick Barker - drums

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NEVERLAND – Reversing Time (AFM Records 2008)

Neverland - Reversing Time
  1. Shooting Star
  2. To Lose The Sun
  3. Mankind Is A Lie
  4. Everlasting Tranquillity
  5. Reversing Time
  6. Black Water
  7. Mountain Of Judgement
  8. Mountain Of Joy
  9. World Beyond These Walls
  10. Transcending Miracle

NEVERLAND is a new formed band or project consisting of the Turkish Progressive Power Metalband DREAMTONE and the Greek vocalist Iris Mavraki, and this since 2006. Lyrically this combination wants to create music based on Fantasy worlds, away from the daily lives they and we lead. Iris is the 'stranger' in the band, not only because of her nationality, but also because of her musical background (e.g. gigs with symphonic orchestras). DREAMTONE previously played support act for e.g. MEGADETH, DREAM THEATER and BLIND GUARDIAN. After exchanging several ideas and thinking of the band's name, NEVERLAND found an orchestra (Philarmonia Istanbul Orchestra) to work with on their first album, "Reversing Time". AFM offered the contract and set the release date for the 29th of February. To make the album even more attractive, NEVERLAND contacted Hansi Kürsch (BLIND GUARDIAN), Tom Englund (EVERGREY), Mike Baker and Gary Wehrkamp of SHADOW GALLERY.

The recordings took place at ATM Studios in Istanbul, with Erim Arkman and Alp Turac - who won the Eurovision Song Contest back in 2003 together with singer Sertab Erener (for the song "Every Way That I Can"). The Philarmonia Istanbul Orchestra recorded at MIAM Studios in Istanbul with conductor Hakan Sensoy. Ethnical Instruments and Sax parts were recorded at Mars Studios in Ankara. The mixing process of "Reversing Time" took place at Division One Studios (EVERGREY, HAMMERFALL, IN FLAMES, etc...) in Gothenburg, Sweden. The mastering was handled by senior mastering engineer Leon Zervos (AVRIL LAVIGNE, SANTANA, INXS, SKID ROW, DURAN DURAN, AEROSMITH) at Sterling Sound in New York.

Musically everything remains of course ProgPower, since the formation is at its basis the band DREAMTONE. The orchestra comes in to make the setting more alive, more powerful, but at the same time make the music warmer, so to speak.

We enter the Fantasy-world via the "Shooting Star", which is, briefly put, a Melodic Power Metal song with the orchestra being added now and then. It's a midtempo song with clean male vocals. All in all a decent song. "To Lose The Sun" features the accoustic guitar, backed by the orchestra in the intro. Shortly before the first minute marker the entire band comes to life and the song flows further in Progressive waters. The mix was done to put the vocals in front of all instrumentation. Responsable for the singing here is Hansi Kürsch. The atmosphere is overall quite epic. One of the highlights is the break around 03:25, where tranquillity rules, where you can come to rest before the tension and pace are built up again. The final part is reserved for the violin, carrying the melodies towards "Mankind Is A Lie".

Things get more theatrical, yet still Progressive, in this song, featuring the first appearance of Iris Mavraki. She's not fully operatic, but more between 'normal' and operatic, although she chooses the operatic option more often.

"Everlasting Traquillity" is a title that says it all: a peaceful song with just the guitars at first, including the symphonic backing. Later the flute and foremost the piano takes over. Iris joins at the first minute, just a little short from a full opera-voice. At 02:35 the drums set in, keepin the pace intact. Musically I couldn't help but think of LUCA TURILLI's "Princess Aurora" song, off the "Kings Of The Nordic Twilight" album. In other words, a very nice addition to the tracklisting.

The title track brings back the Metal, although the start is still very gentle, thanks to the piano and orchestra. The latter one carries on, while the first is replaced by the drums. Guitars come in shortly after that. Male vocals tell the tale. Epicness is again present here and musically there's something KALEDON-ish about this song. The piano makes its return for the break, being a welcome addition. I did find the ending of "Reversing Time" a bit abrupt, like *bam* it's over, while I was expecting it to last 10-20 seconds longer.

And the positive line is continued in "Black Water", where the pace is cranked up a few levels, mainly in the verses. The chorus is slower and features choir-singing or at elast multiple singers, including Hansi Kürsch;. The guitar is more dominant again, or better said, reclaims its throne. Musically the French Power Metal band HEAVENLY comes to mind. At a given moment everything falls away and the flute and accoustic guitar take over, bringing this 'concept' even more alive. It's almost a musical you're listening to. Halfway the song there's an insane piano part, drums backing and evolving again to the normal pace, followed by the guitarsolo. A speed increase (with violin accents) is scheduled as the music carries on. Overall, a very nice song.

"Mountain Of Judgement" is a completely atmospheric, piano-drive track, once again on the same quality level as Luca Turilli's solo project (under his own name, not the DREAMQUEST one). "Mountain Of Joy" - obviously - should bring joy into the compositions and in a way it does. The tempo is slow, yet the music is very melodic. I'm sure I've heard some of it before, but I can't tell if it's a GAMMA RAY or HEAVENLY song. Anyhow, although the overall result is good, I did find it a bit hard to stay focused.

EVERGREY vocalist Tom Englund makes an appearance in "World Beyond These Walls", a song that should be fit for his dramatic voice - not that he's a bad singer, no no, just that his voice fits well in such songs. Iris fills in later in the song. Once again the vocals have been put very much in front, pushing the music to the back. While that can be a good thing, here it's a problem, as the instrumentation lacks power to compete with both vocalists. On a musical level, the orchestra plays another big role in this rather slow song. The Bluesy guitarsolo adds a beautiful touch to it all. Overall, decent, but nothing great.

As we're dealing with a ProgPower band, "Transcending Miracle" had to be the song that really puts this kind of Metal back in the spotlight. And how! No vocalists, just the instruments doing the talking: symphonic elements, pounding Metal, the keyboards given some time for a solo... the whole being a very qualitative track and one that should not have been left out.

NEVERLAND isn't really a new band (the musicians are experienced), since it's DREAMTONE with an extra, female vocalist (Iris Mavraki) and a symphonic orchestra. Still, DREAMTONE is a Progressive Power Metal band and although I'm not familiar with their music, I do think that they don't use as much symphonic elements as on "Reversing Time". So it's good that they chose a new name for this band/project. The guest appearances are good, and perfect for someone like Hansi Kürsch. Metal and Fantasy go hand in hand and with NEVERLAND it's no different. This ProgPower meets Musical combination has worked out well, really well in the majority of the songs and therefore it's to-check-out for anyone into such Metal. One final, although small, negative critique would be that the material sounds a bit too compressed, especially the drums. Other than that, "Reversing Time" is a nice first release.

More info at

Iris Mavraki - vocals
Oganalp Canatan - vocals
Onur Ozkoc - guitars
Burak Kahraman - guitars
Can Dedekarginoglu - bass
Emrecan Sevdin - drums

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STORMWARRIOR – Heading Northe (Dockyard 1 2008)

Stormwarrior - Heading Northe
  1. And The Horde Calleth For Oden
  2. Heading Northe
  3. Metal Legacy
  4. The Holy Cross
  5. Iron Gods
  6. Ragnarök
  7. The Revenge Of Asa Lande
  8. Remember The Oathe
  9. Lion Of The Northe
  10. Into The Battle
  11. And The Valkyries Ride

STORMWARRIOR will release its 3rd full album, "Heading Northe", on the 27th of February via their new label home Dockyard 1. Prior to this change the band was signed to Remedy Records, which houses bands like PARAGON, DARK AGE, SCORNAGE, TWISTED TOWER DIRE and more. STORMWARRIOR's been building on their career since 1998, with their self-titled debut coming out in 2002. Speed is their trademark, but musically they keep the legacy of old HELLOWEEN, RUNNING WILD, BLIND GUARDIAN, GAMMA RAY, ... very much alive. The last proof was 2004's "Northern Rage", which also got a lot of positive press. For both albums they got the help from GAMMA RAY's Kai Hansen & Dirk Schlächter, although the latter only helped with the debut. For the new record, "Heading Northe", the mixing was in the hands of Piet Sielck (IRON SAVIOR, SAVAGE CIRCUS), while the mastering was done by Tommy Hansen (PRETTY MAIDS, MANTICORA, AQUARIA, HELLOWEEN, TNT, JORN LANDE and many more).

Once again the songs are Viking-themed, just like on the previous two studio albums. The intro may sound as if it comes from "Lord Of The Rings" with the Uruk-Hai coming together to attack, but it's with the title track that all hell breaks loose. Thundering drums, raging guitars, faster than the speed of light and Lars's leading voice. Your blood instantly starts flowing faster, your heart cannot keep up with the intensity.

Before the next outburst comes along ("Remember The Oathe" - one of the best songs on the album) there are a few less speedy tracks, even though the tempo is still high enough to fit the standard that STORMWARRIOR set itself/themselves: "Metal Legacy" is the first and sounds a bit IRON SAVIOR-ish, which is not abnormal considering Piet Sielck did the mixing. Yenz's bass comes through quite good. This one's followed by "The Holy Cross" and "Iron Gods", with its catchy chorus. "Ragnarök" features the explosions that Piet loves so much and uses in multiple songs of IRON SAVIOR. This song also adds more velocity, with the bass getting through easily. Things really cool down with "The Revenge Of Asa Lande", an epic masterpiece in ballad-style.

The journey reaches another peak with "Lion Of The Northe", the rage being vicious once more, a danger for all who stand in the way. with it's 06:38 of playtime lots of attention was given to instrumentalism (leads, solos, wild drumming). "Into The Battle" is a title that would have to present you with another furious song, but Lars and co. decided not to push the pedal down too often. Epicness is all around and this is more of a hymnic track. At first this might not be as exciting as the others, but after several listens you feel engulfed by the atmosphere, the cameradship. MANOWAR and (old) HAMMERFALL come to mind. "And The Valkyries Ride" closes this chapter in MANOWAR-style, with choirish singing and orchestral elements.

"Heading Northe" is my first STORMWARRIOR album, although I heard bits and pieces of "Northern Rage" in the shop when the album was released. First I thought the latter's material was a bit too much of the same, so I never kept an eye on the band anymore, until I got to review their newest release. I was now obliged to check 'em out, hahaha. Not that I regret it, on the contrary even. I'm glad for this opportunity, as in my pile of recent albums it's a true pleasure to listen to and I was already wondering if there were still bands that played this kind of old school Power/Speed Metal. To cut things short, I can only recommend this to anyone into old school Heavy/Power/Speed Metal (you know the history, right?). One thing that (pleasantly) suprised me was that at a certain moment I had SAXON's "To Hell And Back Again" playing in my head during one of STORMWARRIOR's new songs. Nevertheless, "Heading Northe" is another indication of 2008's great start.

More info at

Lars Ramcke - vocals, guitars
Alex Guth - guitars
Yenz Leonhardt - bass
Falko Reshöft - drums

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KROSSBREED – Carved In Stone (Krossbreed 2008)

Krossbreed - Carved In Stone
  1. Legacy
  2. Leave You Bleeding
  3. Carved In Stoney
  4. Right Where It Belongs
  5. Means To An End

Two years ago the from Antwerp, Belgium, hailing crossover band KROSSBREED released its second demo, "Enjoy The Rage", after "Down To The Core" (2005). Since its forming in 2003 the band has been working hard to get their name out and even managed to play at Wacken Open Air last year, thanks to the Wacken Open Air Metal Battle competition.

Musically the band moved from Metalcore into a more Thrash-orientated direction, in vein of bands like PANTERA, SEPULTURA, SOUFLY, ... and that proved to be a good thing, although there still was and is some work to be done to perfect the compositions. One of the latest efforts is a new release, "Carved In Stone", which came out around the end of February. And to think RAGE released its newest album under the same title, also around that time.

Once again, 5 songs were prepared for this release. The aggression of before is still a trademark, as shown in the first riffs of "Legacy". The drums have been given a raw sound to fit the atmosphere. Michel's voice sounds as rough as before, perhaps even more. He's definitely not happy about something. "Legacy" is a midtempo grinder with threatening leads. It's strange, though, how the second half was filled in: snare rolls, gentle guitarwork, clean singing... gone is the heaviness of before.

The bass of Stef plays the first notes of "Leave You Bleeding", while Michel and/or Hendrik add some MACHINE HEAD-like accents. After that the grinding mill starts to turn. The production is rawer than before, which leaves a sort of noise when playing the CD. And no, I didn't put the volume too high and yes, my speakers are powerful enough. It's over halfway that a speed increase is needed and implemented, to complement the screamy guitarsolo. Afterwards things slow down again, for more headbang pleasure. MACHINE HEAD comes to mind once more. Michel adds another load of threatening vocal lines to this dark and gloomy song.

The fast guitarwork and riding cymbal accents that commence "Carved In Stone" promise a fast song, which is the case for the first moments. Tom even adds some blastbeats. After that, once the song really has found the right line, the tempo drops (especially in the chorus), but there's a lot of aggressive and furious guitarwork to be found. Michel screams as if something bad happened to him. Drumwise there's enough variation in terms of speed, rhythm, fills, although it's as one would expect from any crossover band. Around 03:20 the desired uptempo part is there and that's a good thing, for it breaks the monotony that lingers in the first few minutes. Considering the song lasts for more than 5 minutes, they did well to keep the music diverse enough.

Michel goes once more for clean singing in the verses of "Right Where It Belongs" and honestly, he's not that good, mainly because his throat is used to screaming in accordance with the brutal riffing and pounding drums, which are very well done here and perhaps the best so far. Before really bursting out the chorus, snare rolls and short grooves build up the tension, but if you listen carefully you'll detect an accoustic guitar, which is a nice addition and makes the song more complete. The last few minutes are slow, breakdown-ish and the song drags itself towards the end in that manner.

"Means To An End" starts ferociously, there's no stopping possible and that's a true refreshment at this stage. Uptempo, Thrashy Metal with sharp riffing, Michel's rough screaming. This is one mighty song and as far as I'm concerned, the best on "Carved In Stone". Seriously, everything is better proportioned, better aligned. The Hardcore influences will always be a part of KROSSBREED's music, since it's here as well, in the chorus.

KROSSBREED have been improving their their skills over the years. Already on the second demo, "Enjoy The Rage", Michel and co. showed they had good ideas, but not all worked out equally well. "Carved In Stone" is the next chapter in the band's discography and history, but somehow I'm not that impressed. Mainly the production is responsable for that. Sure, it's raw to accentuate the viciousness, the brutality, aggressiveness and more, but at the same time it makes the music more chaotic, compared to the previous demo. The Hardcore aspect is still present, and that's what makes KROSSBREED what it is, else they would have to change the name. In general, I consider "Carved In Stone" more as a promotional tool for the band's live performances, meaning that the material will come out better on stage. Fans of Thrashcore should find this new release quite pleasing, though.

More info at

Michel Vermoens - vocals, guitars
Hendrik - guitars
Stef - bass
Tom - drums

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THOUGHTS BETRAYED – Recollection (Thoughts Betrayed 2008)

Thoughts Betrayed - Recollection
  1. Disorder
  2. Reign
  3. Recollection
  4. Long Days
  5. Monument
  6. Rite
  7. Retribution
  8. Fading Thoughts
  9. Vision
  10. Time
  11. Passage
  12. Life

At the end of 2007 I was contacted by guitarist Zack Uidl for a review of his new project THOUGHTS BETRAYED, which saw the light of day in that very same year. He's only one part of the axis, with Dave Cardwell being the other one, in charge of the vocals and guitars. Since both aren't drummers and good people are apparently hard to find (or it might be a cost issue), Zack and Dave decided to use a drumcomputer. Both have occupations outside of this collaboration. Since the 26th of February a first album is ready: "Recollection". The roles (vocals, programming, rhythm and lead guitars, solos, bass, ...) were neatly divided between the two, even though Dave took on the biggest part.

In the accompanied papers the band mentioned NEVERMORE, OUTWORLD, DREAM THEATER and SYMPHONY X as influences. And although it's easier to have comparable bands, Dave and Zack did manage to make the music their own.

"Disorder" kicks off in Power Metalstyle, something like HAMMERFALL meets SILENT FORCE, even though Dave and Zack mention GAMMA RAY and STRATOVARIUS. It's not just the music, but also Dave's clean singing that reminds me of DC Cooper, vocalist of SILENT FORCE. The guitarwork is heavy, very melodic and at times inline with the keyboards, on which the melody was first composed. Despite having programmed the drums, I have to say the sound is very good and the pattern well chosen.

The groovy rhythm of bands like NEVERMORE, SHATTER MESSIAH and OUTWORLD are the dominant factor in "Reign". Dave's singing comes close to that of Warrel Dane (NEVERMORE). The keyboards are in charge of the melodic aspect, be it in piano form or as atmospheric backing. "Reign" is also more Progressive than "Disorder".

The midtempo of before goes up a couple of levels in "Recollection". Dave sings cleaner again and DC Cooper and even Ralf Scheepers (PRIMAL FEAR) come to mind, although there's still a distinctive difference between them. The melody lines are also his responsability, even in the chorus where he gets assisted by the piano. The drums come over in a more aggressive manner when the guitarsolo is set in around the third minute. Overall, this is one very fine piece of Metal.

Time for something else then, with the intro of "Long Days" containing a strong electronic/ambient touch. No pounding stuff here, as it's the feeling and atmosphere that make this song to what it is. The singing is more gently, although it gets rougher in the chorus. "Long Days" forms a nice resting point - so to speak - and the intro comes back as the outro, making the bridge with "Monument"...

...where the aggressive guitars and drums make their comeback. The keyboards add a spacey touch before the volcano erupts, by manner of speech. All the while the keyboard melody goes on and on, until Dave's singing takes over for the chorus. The drums don't sound as powerful as before, although this instrument stands high in the mix. Musically you can hear influences from DREAM THEATER, SYMPHONY X and the likes.

"Rite" is said to be a Thrash ballad like Metallica did in the past. The strange thing is: METALLICA is one of my favourite bands ever, mainly because they were a major influence on my Metal taste, especially their works until "Metallica" (aka the black album), but I never mention them in any review as reference band. Either I forget to use them or I just don't see/hear why I should add them. I'll have to invest more attention to that. But anyhow, I'd say it's a band like PRIMAL FEAR that can be used as comparable band. The verses are completely devoid of heavy elements, yet the power returns in the chorus, where the piano plays a countermelody to Dave's vocal lines. After the chorus there is a speed increase, the guitars have gained in sharpness and effects have been added to Dave's voice, to stress the aggressiveness of the music. The final part of the song is really tranquil and fades out towards "Retribution"...

...which starts with a heavy punch. Uptempo, raging Power Metal is the first step. In the next one the tempo goes down for the verses, where the guitars dominate and the drums add appropriate accents. Dave's singing is rougher and in the chorus he isn't afraid to even add a Halford-ish scream. The surprise comes from the solo moment, reminding of OUTWORLD, in which the drums go faster, adding double bass as if an electric shock was applied.

All signs of heaviness are gone in the piano-driven "Fading Thoughts". This song formed originally one song with "Retribution" and "Passage", but for this album Dave and Zack found it better to split into three speperate songs. Going back to "Fading Thoughts", the drums and guitars are added later on. Dave's singing is once again gently, inline with the piano. The guitarsolo is more Blues-ish, reminding in a way of THIN LIZZY. Dave and Zack have proven already they can create great ProgPower songs, and with this song they continue to surprise the listener.

The aggressiveness of before returns to claim its throne in "Vision". It's a fully instrumental song with a slow tempo. One might have the impression things will accelerate, but it's as if the engine refuses, at least until a certain moment, for there is indeed a speed increase. What is remarkable here is the attention divided over two instruments: one time the guitars, then the piano and so on. Musically one can put them in the same basket as DREAM THEATER and OUTWORLD. But that isn't so important, as the instrumental quality is very obvious.

It takes time to find a perfect balance between all instruments, the compositions, the structure, the variety. And it's in "Time" that the piano shows its importance. This is probably the first song on the album of which you can say it's a ballad. Dave's singing is rich in contrast: clean in the verses, higher/fuller in the chorus. As well-executed the compositions may be, there's less stickiness here.

"Passage", the third part of the song that consisted of the trio "Fading Thoughts"-"Retribution"-"Passage", is next and delivers a good dose of power and velocity... in Hardcore-style, I have the impression. Dave sounds more brutal in the verses, while the contrast with his melodic input couldn't be bigger. Overall this is a nice song with enough change and variety, be it via the riffs, the tempo changes or melodies.

"Life" ends this "Recollection" album. Based on its start you might think it's a ballad, yet when the entire instrumentation is active, things get more cheerful. The piano is the basis, while the drums follow neatly. The guitars come in next, taking over the lead. Dave chose a cleaner and melodic approach, like in the beginning, and that suits him and the music very well.

THOUGHTS BETRAYED is just two people, Dave Cardwell and Zack Uidl, but it's as if 5 people are playing - Dave on vocals and guitar, Zack on guitar, and three other people for the bass, keyboards and drums. Using a drumcomputer isn't always the best choice, as it can sound too artificial and what not. Here this is not the case, as the programming comes close to reality. The musicianship is of a high level and being able to create songs like bands in vein of big names like NEVERMORE, DREAM THEATER, SYMPHONY X and others only adds kudos to Dave and Zack. "Recollection" has turned out to be a very good Progressive Power Metal album, and all in DIY-style. Like with other bands, I wonder why these guys aren't signed, so this and future releases are easier available (on an international level). Just go to their website and order the album. These guys really deserve it.

More info at

Dave Cardwell - vocals, guitars, drum/bass/keyboard programming
Zack Uidl - guitars, drum/keyboard programming

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MADE OF HATE – Bullet In Your Head (AFM Records 2008)

Made Of Hate - Bullet In Your Head
  1. Bullet In Your Head
  2. An Eye For An Eye
  3. On The Edge
  4. My Last Breath
  5. Mirror Of Sins
  6. Hidden
  7. Judgement
  8. Deadend
  9. Fallout

Poland is known for its Death and Black Metal bands, like BEHEMOTH, VADER, DECAPITATED, and many more. But MADE OF HATE shows it doesn't always have to be pure brutality, that Poland also has more melodic bands hiding somewhere. MADE OF HATE isn't the most friendly name and shows you don't have to expect happy Power Metal. Instead they are between Power and Melodic Death Metal, sort of like CHILDREN OF BODOM, although this last one is more part of the Melodic Death Metal subgenre. Yes yes, you might not care about labels, but it does help to find similar bands.

Soon (on 22/02) the band's debut album will be available, titled "Bullet In Your Head". AFM Records grasped the opportunity with both hands when this young Polish band was seeking a label home. The album's cover raises little doubt of what to expect, although it's telling more about the lyrical content than the music itself.

The start, the very first punch on the snare in "Bullet In Your Head" is defining for the rest of the album. It's clear, it's powerful, it's hit to kill! The angry guitars come in instantly and little by little the storm is being unleashed. Michal's hoarse vocals remind me a bit of Oliver Lux of the German Thrashers CONTRADICTION, but at the same time this is a defining element for MADE OF HATE's music. And so is the truly remarkable guitarwork, with catchy leads, jaw-dropping soloing and technical riffing where needed. What also makes this so interesting and attractive is the resemblance with works of classical composers.

"An Eye For An Eye" could have been a CHILDREN OF BODOM song, as the tempo, rhythm, ... runs parallel with their (COB) characteristics. Uptempo in the verses, slower in the chorus, but that's also where the power lies to get the crowd on their hands. Around 02:40 you get a nice twist in preparation for the solopart. The introducing lead of "On The Edge" slowly builds up the tension and then we're off for a direct and uncompromising slice of exquisite Metal. Sharp riffing, piercing leads, the whole package is once again top. Once more, the chorus contains the catchy aspect. Only negative point would be the clickiness of the kickdrums, but with this album I find it a detail, for the music is so tasty. :-)

The tempo is dragged even more down in "My Last Breath", a heavy song carried entirely by the guitars and their leads, while other bands would make use of keyboards for that. I already mentioned the sound quality, no? In any case, it's superb and the mix makes the bass guitar come out strong enough to battle against the guitar attacks. This instrument even gets its (short) moments of glory, when the guitars hold their peace in those breaks.

The "Mirror Of Sins" grants our Polish Metallers with a speed boost and extra powers to make the song even spicier through the drums and the splendid guitarwork by the tandem Michal-Radek. Simply a stunning piece of Metal, to say the least. This has been composed in a way to eradicate all signs of boredom. More melody meets brutality follows in "Hidden", in which the guitarwork reflects that of classical composers once more, the fast "Judgement", going slower in "Deadend" and goes for one more erruption in "Fallout".

While I was going to praise MADE OF HATE and their "Bullet In Your Head" without limits, I did notice that towards the end things might get a little (!) less interesting having listened to the album in its entirety. Or at least, after having listened several times. But on the other hand I cannot say anything bad about this album, for the first time I heard it, I was sold. And each time I put it aside to listen to something else, it didn't cease to attract my attention. Even though there are similarities with (mainly) CHILDREN OF BODOM, MADE OF HATE do seem to put their own stamp on the music, which is quite important, as this Polish newcomer makes a perfect start on every level: production, sound in general, musicianship, the compositions (incl. lots of attention for instrumentalism). This is nothing more (nor less) than recommended material for everyone seeking bands that combine brutality and melody in a pure way.

More info at

Michal Kostrzynski - vocals, guitars
Radek Polrolniczak - guitars
Jarek Kajszczak - bass
Tomek Grochowski - drums

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DARK AGE – Minus Exitus (Remedy Records 2008)

Dark Age - Minus Exitus
  1. Minus Exitus
  2. Black September
  3. Outside The Inside
  4. The Dying OF Recreation
  5. Exit Wounds
  6. Seven
  7. (intro to No Way Home - almost silent part)
  8. No Way Home
  9. Cold
  10. Instrumental
  11. Life For Blood
  12. The Echoes Discipline

DARK AGE is a German band who plays modern Melodic Death Metal and this since 1994. Their discography counts 5 albums, including the newest, "Minus Exitus", which will come out on the 22nd of February and is the follow-up to the self-titled album that was released in 2004. Like on this last one, the band has asked some friends to make a guest appearance on the new album:

Leif Jensen (DEW-SCENTED - song 12)
Azathoth (ex-DARK FORTRESS, SINDECADE - song 5)
Ron Brunke (ex-NAYLED - song 4)
C. Dupont (SYMPHORCE - song 10)

Musically you have to think of IN FLAMES, SOILWORK, MACHINE HEAD, some (old) PARADISE LOST, DARK TRANQUILLITY, etc... and this is quite clear from the first song onwards: "Minus Exitus", an uptempo track with lots of melody, a characteristic that can be found in every song. Rough vocals are the norm, although clean ones also play a role, mainly in the chorus. I had to think a bit of DEGRADEAD and especially ANNIHILATOR's "Cold Blooded", due to the fast rhythm and riffing.

Things improve a lot when "Black September" comes into play. Here you have the same short guitartune that is a trademark of MACHINE HEAD. It's hard to put this into words, but when you hear it, you'll know what I'm talking about. The tempo is a bit slower here, compared to the title track and the atmospheric backing is more important. Once again, clean and rough vocals take turns in their own parts (verses vs chorus). Everything fits here: the heavy riffs, the melodies, the drumming, the singing, ...

After this second stop, it never gets as good anymore. Sure, there are good ideas in almost every song. From the accoustic guitar in "Outside The Inside" to the ferocity in songs like "Seven" and the Thrashiness of "The Echoes Discipline". The only song that really stands out is "Instrumental", as you then also don't have to worry about the vocals. That's where most problems lie: the clean singing. Imagine heavy riffing, pounding drumming (although with a very thin sound - yeah, that sort of cancels the 'pounding') and rough vocals. No problem, right? Just what you expect from any decent Melodic Death Metal band. But every time you've got clean vocals coming in at specific moments and although the contrast is big, naturally, it also destroys the power of the music. You end up pushing the 'next' button or quite simply stop listening. For example: in "Exit Wounds" it's as if a pussy/wuss is singing, in "Cold" the aggressiveness gets wrecked by the clean vocals, like a car's engine falling out and the car crashing into a wall or something. The same thing happens in the chorus of "Seven": great heavy music getting stripped to the bone when the chorus sets in. Mind you, I'm not pointing fingers at the respective guest singers, but it's clear that this is a minus point.

Anyhow, is DARK AGE worth checking out? Based on "Minus Exitus", not really, unless you like modern sounding Metal. The production is good, yet nothing special and particulary the thin sounding drums don't help much to bring out the right amount of power. I can't compare with their previous works, as this is the first time I heard DARK AGE on CD. So, if you want Melodic Death Metal, there's better material out there, even with the more modern bands.

More info at

Eike Freese - vocals, guitars
Jörn Schubert - guitars
Martin Reichert - keyboards
Alex Frank - bass
André Schumann - drums

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WALDHEIM – Fight Against Time (Santo Grial Records 2008)

Waldheim - Fight Against Time
  1. Fight Against Time
  2. Bridge Of Sand
  3. Lost In The Rain
  4. Break The Silence
  5. March Of Empty Souls
  6. We Will Fall Together
  7. Illuminati
  8. Memories Of Fate
  9. Valzer Infinito
  10. Forest Ending

WALDHEIM may be a German name, but it's connected to a Spanish band. This Melodic Death ensemble was founded in 1999, with several line-up changes over the years and also finding their place in Metal. It wasn't until 2004 that a solid group was formed to carry on.

The debut album came out on the 20th February and luckily for them they found a label willing to sign the band: Santo Grial Records. Title of the album? "Fight Against Time". Ten tracks totalling a playtime of close to 50 minutes. Regarding the tracklisting, it seems the one on WALDHEIM's website is different than what my discman showed me. Since I only received a press release and the CD itself (i.e. no booklet at all), I chose the tracklisting from the CD.

Melody and dual vocals are key ingredients in WALDHEIM's compositions, as are provided by Jessica and the tandem Fitti-Mina. Fitti is the growler/grunter, while Mina contrasts him wit her clean, almost angelic singing. Since WALDHEIM's music is heavy, the grunts are quite alright, but Mina's input isn't always good enough, as her timbre requires some adjusting. This beauty-and-the-beast kind of singing is a typical element in many Gothic bands and many times it's better than what you hear in WALDHEIM, but that doesn't mean that Fitti and Mina don't do a good job, because they do.

"Fight Against Time" kicks off with the uptempo title track, where it's clear that keyboards are a vital instrument not only for the melodies, but also for the atmosphere. Luckily the guitars also are spotlighted and there is a solo. "Bridge Of Sand" consists of two parts: the first being a little bit slower than what "Fight Against Time" offered, but with the drums being very active. It must be said though, that when the music dwells in a slow part, it has something Doom-ish. The second part gets a tempo increase and there are even some blastbeats to spice this dish. The keyboards are responsable for for the melodic layers as well as adding a touch of drama or danger (depending how you interprete it). All elements combined make this a more varied song than the first.

"Lost In The Rain" commences with a danger-announcing keyboard melody, which comes back later in the song. This song is very much guitar-driven and very direct, going straight for the kill. This gets undone by the slower melodic chorus, which forms a nice change and shows very well the difference between the different compositions. So far no real complaints, musically or vocally.

But then there's "Break The Silence". Although short, it's completely devoid of heaviness and contains only Mina and Jessica, or vocals and piano. The lack of heavy guitars and drums isn't the problem, more the accent Mina has (and her input really is nerve-wrecking), but also the music itself. The good news is that "Break The Silence" is the only bad song on this debut album.

Metal comes back in "March Of Empty Souls". The music has balls and a pounding rhythm. The keyboards are once again on their position and the tempo is kept in the midrange. This time Mina does sound good, except for her attempts to seek higher notes, since those are mostly beyond her reach.

And it gets better. First with "We Will Fall Together", offering energetic drumming and brutal riffing. Fitti's vocals are inline with the music and Mina's countering is well done. Melody and symphony are the spices, although it's nice to hear some Eastern influences, too. "Illuminati" is worth checking out on a musical level, also because of the calm piece halfway, which is dominated by symphonic elements, the piano... in short: an atmospheric moment. Mina's singing knows a drop in quality, though. But all of that belongs to the (recent) past when "Memories Of Fate" starts. Fully instrumental, tempo changes and quite Progressive, reminding of e.g. DREAM THEATER. Needless to say that this is one of the best tracks here.

"Fight Against Time" ends with a gentle piano tune, backed by rain sounds, but prior to this "Valzer Infinito" gives you one last ear on WALDHEIM's music. The compositions made me think of SAVATAGE, mainly because of the orchestral input. Both vocalists are present one last time, but it's especially Fitti's part that comes to life in a canvas of raging guitars and drums. All in all a very nice result.

What WALDHEIM presents here, "Fight Against Time", is decent. There are ofcourse better (comparable) Melodic Death Metal bands out there (DARK TRANQUILLITY, ENSIFERUM, WINTERSUN, WAYLANDER, ADOR DORATH, maybe TYSTNADEN, ...), but in all fairness this Spanish band deserves a chance. They will have to work on their skills, especially the vocal ones. The competition is tough, but with the right drive and devotion more should be possible for WALDHEIM.

More info at

Fitti - vocals
Mina - vocals
D. Hole - guitars
M.I. Sword - guitars
Jessica - keyboards, samplers
Aratz - bass
Alex - drums

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FATAL SMILE – World Domination (Locomotive Records 2008)

Fatal Smile - World Domination
  1. S.O.B.
  2. Stranger
  3. Primed & Ready
  4. Too Far Down
  5. No Tomorrow
  6. Out Of My Head
  7. Run For Your Life
  8. Fatal Smile
  9. Straight To Hell
  10. Eve Of War

FATAL SMILE was formed in 1995 by guitarist Y and he soon found the right people to write and composie the first songs. It wasn't until 2002 that a first album came out, "Beyond Reality". Big name here was Jonas Östman, who handled the production and had also worked with e.g. Yngwie Malmsteen. Lots of gigs, incl. the New Jersey Metal Meltdown festival in 2003, and inspiration later the follow-up was there: "Neo Natural Freaks" (2006). This one as well was produced by Jonas and mixed by Stefan Glaumann (RAMMSTEIN, BACKYARD BABIES and most recently, 2007, PAGAN'S MIND). Last year there was a big line-up change and these were the new SMILErs: Alx on bass, Blade on vocals and Zteff on drums. Together they recorded the band's newest release, "World Domination", which was this time produced by Y and the mixing was in the hands of Michael Wagener (METALLICA, OZZY OSBOURNE, MÖTLEY CRÜE).

Locomotive Records is doing a very fine job regarding their roster: MANTICORA, GRAVE DIGGER, BENEDICTUM, ADAGIO, ANUBIS GATE, ASTRAL DOORS, THE PROWLERS, WUTHERING HEIGHTS, ... and now FATAL SMILE, a Swedish Hard Rock band, who's about to start its quest for "World Domination", on the 15th of February.

Right from the start, "S.O.B.", the Swedes show what to expect: heavy grooves, melodic singing with a rough undertone and catchy melodies. Less is more, as it never gets super technical, yet to the point and efficient. In short: a song that gets your heart pumping, Rock 'n' Roll to the core. This all continues in "Stranger", where the drums get a slightly more important role to add spicy accents here and there, like for instance in the verses, building up the tension. Comparable bands could be IOMMI, DIO, THE ORDER, SHAKRA, etc... Y's guitarwork is of excellent quality and really makes this music come to life, as is the case throughout the entire album.

Next to such boosters (incl. "Out Of My Head", "Run For Your Life", "Straight To Hell", ...), there are also the slower songs like e.g. "Primed & Ready" and "Fatal Smile" - both sleazier songs -, "Too Far Down", which is something more Southern Rock-ish, or even the DIO/IOMMI/BLACK SABBATH-like "No Tomorrow". Just listen to the main riff in this last one and you'll know where Y got the inspiration. "Eve Of War" seems to be based on the RAMMSTEIN song "Keine Lust". The rhythm and grooving certainly made me think of that particular song, even though you could draw references to other songs, too. To put an end to the name-dropping, I do want to add this curious/strange 'similarity', so to speak, between the verses of "Run For Your Life" and those of PANTERA's "Cemetery Gates", as the melody and vocal lines flow in a parallellic way. Or it could just me my imagination.

While the impact may not be big from the start, it took me 3 spins to fully appreciate "World Domination", although the first one already left a positive impression on me. Considering the very good production, the great compositions (presumably written with gigs in mind) and overall quality musicianship, I cannot imagine that this new release would not find sufficient buyers, as it contains everything a quality Hard Rock album must have. Of course the material is much lighter and less technical than Thrash/Power/Death/Black/... Metal, so it forms the perfect addition to counter all the brutality and let your mind have an easier time. FATAL SMILE is currently on tour in the States with W.A.S.P., so don't miss 'em.

More info at

Blade - vocals
Y - guitars
Axl - bass
Zteff - drums

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DEGRADEAD – Til Death Do Us Apart (Dockyard 1 2008)

Degradead - Til Death Do Us Apart
  1. Genetic Waste
  2. Take Control
  3. Pass Away
  4. Burned
  5. Relations To The Humanity
  6. The Bloodchain
  7. The Fallen
  8. Day Of The Dead
  9. Resemblance Of The Past
  10. Reborn
  11. Til Death Do Us Apart

IN FLAMES need not worry about their legacy, for one of the heirs could be DEGRADEAD, who blend Melodic Death Metal with Thrashy riffing and very catchy melodies on their debut album, "Til Death Do Us Apart", which will be released on the 2nd of February through Dockyard 1.

DEGRADEAD was formed a few years ago and has so far released one demo album, "Death Row", in 2005. IN FLAMES guitarist Jesper Ströblad took notice of them and offered them the chance to record their debut album at the IF Studios, under the guidance of H.O.R.D.E., which consists of Björn Gelotte, Daniel Svensson and Jesper himself. Needless to say the influences are there, coming mainly from IN FLAMES material. Other bands to mention are (old) METALLICA, CHILDREN OF BODOM, DARK TRANQUILLITY, and so on.

"Til Death Do Us Apart" is completely the opposite of "'Til Death Do Us Unite", one of SODOM's albums, but it's the first album title that came to my mind when reading DEGRADEAD's. The album kicks off with the fast "Genetic Waste", which contains a great deal of IN FLAMES-ness. Over halfway there's a small resting point, close to silence, before the outburst for the main riffing and afterwards chorus comes in again. With this song it's instantly clear what to expect and if you're an IN FLAMES fan, you'll feel at home, so to speak. Mikael screams, almost Metalcore-ish, but after a few listens you're used to it.

In "Take Control" he opts for growling and that gives the material an own stamp. Still, for the sake of change he also adds some screaming now and then. "Take Control" has a slower tempo, although the heaviness and ferocity is certainly very much present. It's like a raging storm. Since the band doesn't have a keyboardist, electronic samples were added to increase the melodic aspect. The same thing happened in "Pass Away", where symphonic elements were used in the verses, to give the song a more emotional/dramatic touch. The riffing in the chorus was taken from the chorus of IN FLAMES's "Ordinary Story". Ok, maybe not deliberately, but the resemblance is striking! A little farther in the song, around of after the 2nd minute you'll hear some "Square Nothing" (another IN FLAMES song) influences. The start-stop riffing is another element that keeps the attention alive. Pluspoints go the solo as well.

"Burned" cranks up the pace again and we're off for another whiplashing ride. Mikael growls once more. In the chorus clean vocals set the tone, which really is a surprise amongst all the musical violence. It forms a big contrast with the screaming, to say the least, as if to represent a 'pussy and the beast' kind of characters. INTO ETERNITY is another band that incorporates clean and screamy vocals. To be honest, this is one of the less good songs. Still some IN FLAMES influences, but the wankery (if I can us that term) is too much. The final part is also less interesting after all the screaming, despite the calmer chord picking.

Watch out for what comes next, for this is another good song: "Relations To The Humanity". Uptempo in the verses, very melodic and midtempo in the chorus with overall the you-know-which-influences, although this time a little sniff of GOREFEST shows up. Jesper might call DEGRADEAD the future of Metal - which is food for discussion, of course - but one cannot ignore references to other bands. Via the drums some nice hooks are added, making it variated instead of straight-forward banging all the way.

"The Bloodchain" is groovier, very melodic leads and can be considered a happy song because of the rhythm. The screaming of course isn't really helpful for that matter. ;-) All in all, not bad, for you cannot really sit still with this, even if you're just tapping your foot/feet.

In "The Fallen" melody is particularly present in the chorus and its grooves, together with the clean vocals. No real uptempo stuff here, more midtempo, but sweet, heavy riffing in the verses. Here as well you might detect something from "Ordinary Story", once again in the chorus. Still, "The Fallen" is a pretty enjoyable song.

"Day Of The Dead" brings what is expected: uptempo drumming and fast riffing like in e.g. "Genetic Waste". But all that slows down once the chorus is there, where dual vocals prevail again (clean and screamy). Kill all who stands in your way, that's the main feeling coming from the verse parts. The chorus contains some more wankery, to be honest. Sure, the music somehow demands this kind of singing, but it's as if it makes the work from the verses undone. Screaming and growling, fine. Clean singing... mnah, leave it away when possible.

"Resemblance Of The Past" has one big difference with the previous songs: the sound of the drums and the guitars. It all sounds less plastic, so to speak. The snare sounds more realistic, and it's as if the guitars also have dropped their smooth cloak. This is another uptempo song, and not only musically, but the pureness (not 100%, but close) also makes this put a smile on my face. Electronic samples help to increase the melodic aspect a little more, but only in the chorus. Little over halfway the tempo is slower and you get chugga-chugga riffing. Overall, this is one of my favourites on "Til Death Do Us Apart".

"Reborn" starts in a galopping way before the ferocious drums give their all. The galopping rhythm comes back in the chorus. This is one dangerous beast that's coming out of the ground. The dual leads are a nice element here and take the heaviness to the back for a while, although it doesn't take that long before the brutality returns.

The title track fills the last 02:16 minutes, completely occupied by accoustic guitars. No drums, no vocals, no samples, no thundering riffs... just peaceful accousticness. A very nice way to close an album and come to rest after the ventilation of all that energy blasting in the previous 10 songs.

DEGRADEAD is a new player in the league of Melodic Death Metal and with "Til Death Do Us Apart" they have delivered a fairly decent first album. Whether it's a good or bad thing that it sounds a little too much like IN FLAMES depends on your personal taste. I'm neither pro nor contra, although it's becoming hard to not sound like one or more band(s) that have been doing this since many many years. DEGRADEAD try to put their stamp on it and succeed partly... via the vocals, although perhaps there as well you can similarities with other vocalists from other bands. Still, for now they keep the IN FLAMES spirit and legacy intact (that's the biggest aspect, even though they're not clones, obviously), also thanks to H.O.R.D.E., which leaves questions for what the next album will bring. Giving this first album all points 1) depends on your taste, and 2) doesn't give an accurate impression of where DEGRADEAD stands today. They still have a large growth margin, musically, instrumentally... on all levels. Fans of Melodic Death Metal, with the stress on Melodic can check these guys out, if one wants to add something new to the collection. Else, you'll probably find more consistent material with INSOMNIUM, OMNIUM GATHERUM, MORS PRINCIPIUM EST, INTO ETERNITY, AMON AMARTH, ARCH ENEMY, CHILDREN OF BODOM and others.

More info at

Mikael Sehlin - vocals
Anders Nyström - guitars
David Szücs - guitars
Michel Bärzén - bass
Kenneth Helgesson - drums

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KLUDDE – In Den Vergetelheid... (Sandstorm 2008)

Kludde - In Den Vergetelheid...
  1. Branden In D'Helle
  2. Metamorphosis
  3. Ignis Fatuus
  4. Reglement
  5. Kludde III
  6. Nachtmaere II
  7. Het Zout Der Mistroost

KLUDDE is a Belgian Black Metal band, which actually plays more than that. Its members add at least two other ingredients: groove and Doom-ishness, so to speak. Back in the year 2001 Uglúk and Snoodaert are the founders of KLUDDE, as they shared a common intrest in Black Metal. Over the course of the months that followed, the rest of the band positions was filled. In November of that year the band released their first demo, "Langs Scheld- en Denderland...". The music was inspired by bands like BURZUM, SATYRICON, DAKRTHRONE, ... Two years later a deal with NephereX was signed and a split CD with WANHOOP (Black/Doom) was recorded and released in 2004 under the title "De Verdoken Waarheid". From that point the band would incorporate more Doom parts. In 2005 a demo version of "De Paardenneukeraar" was featured on "The Lugbúrz Compilation Part III".

We're two years later when KLUDDE's debut album is finally ready: "In Den Vergetelheid...". This release was recorded, mixed and mastered at CCR Studio by Kris Belaen in November 2007, and released by Sandstorm in January 2008.

The new album kicks off - well, there's not much kicking involved, really - with a Doomy atmosphere and dito guitarpicking. All in vein of bands like, say, EVOKEN. Slowly the tension gets built up, ghostly sighing is added, and it's as if a world is suddenly rising up. And you're really at the gates when the drums and full-on guitars take over. Welcome to hell, muhahahaha! Enjoy your stay, for thou shalt "Branden In D'Helle". The tempo is upped and you're delivered to monstrous vocals, and on a musical level groovy Black Metal. The drums are an important instrument, changing style and speed while the guitars keep on playing. The lyrics are in Dutch and that's a surprise for me, because as far as I know there aren't that many Metalbands that use Dutch in their lyrics. Especially in a genre where you expect English or at least something Scandinavian. Still, it's a nice aspect here. There are even samples of flames.

With "Metamorphosis" we've got not only English lyrics, but also a very enjoyable uptempo part, very Black'n'Roll-ish. The playtime is also prolonged with 3 minutes, giving much more room for variety. The uptempo of first gets replaced by a slower kind of playing, especially in the chorus, which consists of the title of the song. Around 03:45 there's a beautiful calm piece, dominated by just the guitars and drums and hymnic singing and this for a good 3 minutes. Afterwards the rebuilding takes place for about 01:10 before bringing back the slower part of several minutes before. The last +/- 30 seconds contain a last spasm to let the final part burst out. Vocally, you could say that Uglúk sounds a bit like Johan Hegg from AMON AMARTH, but sharper. Still, Johan's voice would fit here, too. Overall, a very decent song. The good production is partly responsable for that.

"Ignis Fatuus" is a pure Black'n'Roll song, with lots of Roll. A great song to re-energize you after the long "Metamorphosis". Straight-forward, no frills, just pure Metal. Even the screamy guitarsolo shouts it out. Little over the middle the tempo increases to fall back a little for the verses and increase again afterwards for the final blow.

The doomish start of "Reglement" goes, around 01:50, over into something more Bluesy, but with a much heavier guitarsound. The Doom-atmosphere still remains present. The tempo does go down again little over the middle, but increases soon again. It's a regular flow of ups and downs.

"Kludde III" is most likely the third part, following the first two parts that were recorded for "Langs Scheld- en Denderland" and "De Verdoken Waarheid". The tension gets built up in the intro, like an engine being started and giving short pushes on the acceleration pedal. Once the band is on track, the music flows better, with the drums adding some accents, be it via the kickdrums or cymbals. Midtempo is key and the lyrics are in Dutch again.

Guitars fade in (lead and bass), with the riding cymbal indicating the rhythm, in "Nachtmaere II". I have no idea where "Nachtmaere I" is to be found, if it even exists. The drums soon set in and we're off for a relaxing ride. But then Uglúk growls come in and the guitars get heavier. The tempo is slow, the atmosphere Doom-ish. Between the verses and chorus it's all about relaxing music, there's no place for heavy riffs or pounding drums. Nope, everything is played at the same easily-digestable level. Here too you can detect a flow of ups and downs, of calm moments and heavier grooved ones. The final 2 minutes is when the pdeal is pushed down a lot more and the music gets more dynamic.

Choosing a Black Metal style again, here's "Het Zout Der Mistroost", including blastbeats. But to break the flow of fast playing for the chorus, the band has thought of slowing down and not forgetting the Doom of before. Uglúk still sounds as if he possessed by a demon or something similar. There's even some Progressiveness in this 06:37 minutes long song. Tempo changes, riff variation, dynamic drumming, ... everything is well divided and the various transitions are implemented flawlessly. At the end there's even a musicbox that claims all attention.

"In Den Vergetelheid..." may be the band's debut album, they did gain experience via the previous releases, but with a signed released, KLUDDE should have more power to start conquering territories. The several gigs and also that at Midwinter Fest in February should (have) help(ed) a lot to spread the name and fame of this Black/Doom band. I'm going to catalogue them like that, since those are the styles they mix the most. And although they're good live, they're even a bit better on CD. The production - even though not done with a big budget - certainly is worth hearing and brings out a good and appropriate sound for this kind of Metal. No, you won't find any modern stuff here, this is honest and pure Black meets Doom. Let's hope the gods are on KLUDDE's side and that "In Den Vergetelheid..." ("In Forgetfulness...") isn't a title that indicates the demise of the band. ;-)

More info at

Uglúk - vocals
Snoodaert - guitars
Cerulean - guitars
Basstaerd - bass
Stef - drums

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GRIMLORD – Blood Runneth Over (Grimlord 2008)

Grimlord - Blood Runneth Over
  1. March Of Martyrs
  2. Blood Runneth Over
  3. B.W.A.K.U.C.
  4. Grey Eminence
  5. Crawler
  6. No Surrender!!!
  7. It Bites You!
  8. Bitch & The Swindler
  9. Compensation Of Fault
  10. X
  11. Resting Place

Poland is very well-known for its extreme Metal like VADER, BEHEMOTH, DECAPITATED and others, but deep underground there are bands that take it lighter. One of them is GRIMLORD, who started as a Black Metal band several years ago. When GRIMLORD saw the light of days is unknown, but one estimates it's about 8-9 years ago. Their page on clearly indicates this, also showing they have quite some demos up their sleeves.

"Blood Runneth Over" is the band's debut album and self-released. No signs of Black Metal anymore, only Hard Rock/Heavy Metal. I don't know when this album was released, 2007 or 2008, but judging from other webzines, I thought January-February was the period. Not that it's that important, except when you put reviews in chronological order. I received my copy of the CD-R early May. The info on the band was lots of Googling and even those results weren't always helpful. And so time passes by until the band's website is completely ready, which it is not at this stage.

I had to listen to "Blood Runneth Over" a few times, but never was there complete conviction. Musically it's of course pure and clean Heavy Metal. Clean vocals, here and there with a rougher edge with the music flowing mainly in the midtempo department. There are faster moments, tempo increases, but there's not one song that really keeps up that pace for the entire playtime. One of those few 'faster' moments can be found in "B.W.A.K.U.C.", which also features sharper riffing. Barth also decided to play something groovier, Bluesier in "Grey Eminence", of which the music is quite good and the mix well done, making sure even the bass guitar comes through.

I'm going to cut to the chase: the biggest problem with GRIMLORD and "Blood Runneth Over" are the vocals. Barth either really has to work on his singing and the accent he has, or just focus on his guitar and let someone else handle the vocals or just leave the vocals away. The music is good in, say, about 5-6 songs. Good is the maximum, listenable is probably a better term. Personal highlights would be "March Of Martys" (instrumental intro), "B.W.A.K.U.C.", "Bitch & The Swindler", "Compensation Of Fault" and the last one, "Resting Place", which is an energetic, pounding Rocker. The about 45 seconds long drumsolo that is titled "X" is an interesting and surprising addition, but too short. It ends too abruptly. But it's definitely a good part of the album.

On the other hand, for example, "Crawler", the ballad "No Surrender!!!" and "It Bites You!" are just boring and uninspired, although the intro of "It Bites You!" stands in great contrast with the rest of the song.

GRIMLORD go from Black Metal to Heavy Metal. This trio has good ideas - I wonder how their Black Metal sounded - , but the result and at times the execution isn't always a success. Still, they can only learn and grow as time passes by. At this stage, it's just the ideas that make you have positive words about this release, but as a whole "Blood Runneth Over" is hard to pick up again, in my opinion. And that is due to both the production and the compositions.

More info at

Barth La Picard - vocals, guitars
Orson - bass
Lukass - drums

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ALESTORM – Captain Morgan's Revenge (Napalm Records 2008)

Alestorm - Captain Morgan's Revenge
  1. Over The Seas *
  2. Captain Morgan's Revenge
  3. The Huntmaster
  4. Nancy The Tavern Wench *
  5. Death Before The Mast
  6. Terror On The High Seas *
  7. Set Sail And Conquest *
  8. Of Treasure
  9. Wenches And Mead *
  10. Flower Of Scotland

Scotland, home to bands like... eh... let's see... mmmkaaayy... Wait, there is one that should start increasing the interest in Scottish Metal: ALESTORM. These guys will soon (28/01) release their debut via Napalm Records. "Captain Morgan's Revenge" is the title and logical deduction tells us we're dealing with Pirate Metal, or at least, that's the setting of the lyrics and music. On a sidenote, if you want a list of some Scottish bands, click here.

But back to ALESTORM. The band was formed in 2004 as BATTLEHEART and consisted at that time of two people: Gavin Harper (guitar) and Christopher Bowes (keyboards, vocals). In 2006 the other positions in the band were filled: bassist Dani Evans and drummer Doug Swierczek. Prior to this completion, a self-titled EP was released. The new line-up then recorded another EP, called "Terror On The High Seas". Now, two years later, the band - drummer Doug Swierczek was replaced by Ian Wilson - landed a deal with Napalm Records and are ready to conquer the world. For this first full-length album, the Scottish pirates re-recorded a few songs off each EP (see the *) and added new material as well, inline with the older stuff. Style-wise you can say they play Pirate Metal, but it's easier to catalogue them under Folk/Power Metal. Comparable bands - although not all being Power Metal - would then be KORPIKLAANI, FALCONER, THYRFING, TÝR, ENSIFERUM, ... but since we're dealing with a pirate-inspired kind of band, there's one big competitor that cannot be ignored: RUNNING WILD, also because this band plays in the Power Metal genre as well.

Some info on the lyrical content of "Captain Morgan's Revenge" or how the name ALESTORM was chosen, one of the two: "The day is the seventh of June, 1692. The place: Port Royal, Jamaica. A fearsome earthquake demolishes most of the surroundings and causes the drowning of almost 2/3 of the city and the death of close to half of the people in it. The locals that survived reffered to the disaster as an 'Act of God' because of the city's sinful reputation. The locals did not know that the real cause of that earthquake was just a couple of miles into the Caribbean sea, in the form of four scotish pirates - A guitarist, a bassist, a drummer and a vocalist with a keytar, jamming on a ship named "The Alestorm" - had just struck that fatal pinch harmonic."

The journey starts very directly, with trumpets (keyboards), thundering drums and roaring guitarwork. "Over The Seas" is only one of the many catchy and sometimes epic tales on this album. There's even an accordion in this song. The production is very clear, yet powerful enough to let the story, the passion and music come out as expected, even though the drums are triggered. Christopher may have a rough voice, it helps to sing along when you understand what he's singing and that's the case here. Great song to start with.

The captain will get his revenge and the wild drumming announces an equally wild song. What follows - the fast drumming, the trumpets, ... - reminded me, also melodically, of LUCA TURILLI's "Rider Of The Astral Fire" ("Prophet Of The Last Eclipse" album, 2002), which also has such a part. The tempo goes down a little bit when the song finally unfolds, while the guitar is the driving factor in the verses, and the accordion countering it with another melody. Epic singing, with backing vocals, is key in the chorus. A video would fit very much. The lyrics are very descriptive and therefore scream for visuals. Catchiness is applied here, too, particularly in the chorus. Around the 4th minute things get a little slower, more symphonic and bombastic.

Going more Folk/Power again with "The Huntmaster", where the guitar again dominate and the drums pushing everyone forward. "Hail. Huntmaster. Ride. Huntmaster. Fight. Huntmaster. Die. Huntmaster." is the simple, yet effective and warcry-ish chorus. This should convince everyone to scream along on live occasions. Around halfway there's a twist in riffing and the tempo also is upped a few levels, in preparation for the solos: Guitar and keyboard taking turns to fulfill that role. Afterwards it's back to the group feeling and warcry.

All this battling can make one thirsty and hungry. Therefore it's crucial to have a pub or similar in the neighbourhood. "So come take a drink and drown your sorrows. And all of our fears will be gone 'till tomorrow. We'll have no regrets and live for the day in Nancy's harbour café." is a good refrain to sing with a large pint of ale or rum, provided by "Nancy The Tavern Wench". Of course, alcohol decreases your awareness and reflexes, so the tempo is also much slower than before. ;-)

Ok, time to wake up and get ready for another heavy and physical day with "Death Before The Mast". The drums sound a little less powerful here, the riffs a little less layered and the keyboards a bit less bombastic, although the level of energy is high enough. Again the solos are divided between Gavin and Christopher. Overall, it's a very decent song, but the heaviness and bombasticness of the previous song seems to have been decreased a bit.

This is made up in "Terror On The High Seas", which is logical, seeing the title. Attention must be at 100% to be ready for some serious fighting and attacking. Although this is another wild and exctatic song, the keyboards miss a bit of power and impact, although they do have some. The guitar dominates more than ever and in a way I can't help but think of EXODUS, with how Christopher sings at times and how the riffing comes over. More Power Metal here, less Folk.

Trumpetting in the back while the Power Metal comes thundering out of the speakers, in galopping style, with "Set Sail And Conquer". Take no prisoners, slay to kill, let no one stand in your way to conquer new lands. That's the spirit of the song. Here as well, the Folkishness has lessened enormously, while the Metal aspect has grown a big deal. The musicianship is of a good quality and the solos are a welcome element to keep the attention vivid.

"Of Treason" is a fresh song after the powerful riffing and unstoppable drumming. It's all about 'accoustic' here: guitars, percussion and of course the accordion. The flute joins in a certain moments to increase the melody and assist the accordion. This song offers a nice break. And if you listen carefully you'll hear a vibraslap. Thanks to Rob Verheul (website) I found a picture and also the name. This instrument isn't used that much in Metal - at least, not that I know - but it's good to see that ALESTORM didn't stick to the 'conventional' instrumentation of Metal.

Time for something more uplifting again, in vein of "Over The Seas", but with a speed injection and reminding of KORPIKLAANI: "Wenches And Mead". Ian doesn't stick to a fixed pattern, but will interrupt his playing for some rapid fills, even though a bit more variation is always welcome. The accordion is the dominant instrument regarding the melody, but in between the guitars will decide what course to choose. Lyrically we're sort of back in Nancy's harbour café. ;-)

The story of "Captain Morgan's Revenge" ends with an anthem called "Flower Of Scotland". According to Wikipedia, the song "is an unofficial national anthem of Scotland, a role for which it competes against the older Scotland the Brave. In common with England among the Home Nations, Scotland has no official national anthem. Flower of Scotland was written by Roy Williamson of the folk group The Corries and presented in 1967[1]. The song refers to the victory of the Scots, led by King Robert the Bruce over the English King Edward II, at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314." Read more by clicking here.

Something new has popped up: Pirate Metal. Well, it's like calling AMON AMARTH a Viking Metal band, even if their lyrics are Viking-inspired, but the music is Melodic Death Metal. The same thing is to be applied here: lyrics are Pirate-inspired, but the music is a mix of Folk and Power Metal, with references to bands like - yes, I repeat - FALCONER, KORPIKLAANI, ENSIFERUM, TÝR and others, but foremost RUNNING WILD. So if you're a fan of the mentioned bands, you sure have a nice treat with ALESTORM. Although "Captain Morgan's Revenge" isn't fully perfect, the four lads do deliver the goods and show they've got the musicianship, passion and drive to take this further. Hoist the sails, mateys, for anno 2008 the Pirates have returned.

More info at

Christopher Bowes - vocals, keyboards
Gavin Harper - guitars
Dani Evans - bass
Ian Wilson - drums

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PRESIDENT EVIL – Hell In A Box (AFM Records 2008)

  1. Viva La Muerta
  2. Jesus Factor Negative
  3. Hell In A Box
  4. White Fire
  5. King Asshole
  6. The Anti Loser
  7. Bring Out The Dead
  8. The Return Of The Speed Cowboys
  9. Godforsaken
  10. One Brain Army
  11. New Junk City

Two years ago PRESIDENT EVIL released its debut, "Trash 'N' Roll Asshole Show", an album of which I didn't think highly. The production was messy (not Andy Classen's best work), the vocals were monotonous, the music was too distorted and the blend of Metalcore, dirty Rock 'n' Roll and some Thrash didn't really work out. In other magazines the album did get positive comments and apparently live they also got an enormous appreciation.

One big change in the line-up: bassist Typhoon Tilsener got replaced by Godspeed Topf.

The follow-up, "Hell In A Box", is ready to be unleashed on the 25th of January, again via AFM Records. The production was this time in the hands of Guido Lucas (BLACKMAIL, SMOKE BLOW). Andy Classen got to do the mastering. Fact is that the sound is much better this time, more controlled, yet still dirty.

It all starts very directly with "Viva La Muerta": an energetic song, composed of the typical ingredients that make PRESIDENT EVIL sound like PRESIDENT EVIL, although the references to bands like MOTÖRHEAD, SLAYER and ANTHRAX cannot be ignored. Johnny's voice still sounds as monotonous as ever, although I feel it can be more appreciated now.

"Jesus Factor Negative" continues the dirtyness, which is to be found everywhere on the album, with mind-destroying grooves and unstoppable drumming. The interesting part comes halfway, introduced by the drums and followed by Thrashy riffing. More Rock 'n' Roll comes along with the title track, which is also one of the better ones on the album. I do have the impression James and/or Ace were inspired by another song, which has a similar lead. It's annoying, though, that I can't find the title. Still, it's a very decent song, although the distortion on the guitars can sometimes be too much.

"White Fire" reminds me of "Feel The Fire" by ABANDONED. The riffing is ferocious, the drums heavier than ever and overall the Thrash-feel is more present. Yes! The chorus is where the tempo goes down, though. But this is the second decent song so far. "King Asshole" is not a parody on METALLICA's "King Nothing", although you might compare it in a way. PRESIDENT EVIL's song is heavier, rougher and also... Bluesier, as strange as it may sound. But I like it. :-)

The tension gets built up in the intro of "The Anti Loser", promising interesting Rock 'n' Roll/Metal. Once the entire band is plugged in, I can only say that it sounds fairly good musically - although the distortion really drowns anything melodic - and vocally it sure doesn't do the song much good, even makes one want to listen to something else or play with the buttons to adjust everything to something more controlled, more polished. Sorry, track #6 is the first lowlight on "Hell In A Box".

"Bring Out The Dead" starts slow and you might start to think PRESIDENT EVIL has gone Doom Metal. Once the drums set in, with accompanying riffing, building up the song, any references to Doom fade away, although there are some traces of Sludge. Lots of grooves here, but things are getting messy, really messy and it's getting harder to enjoy the song, to keep on listening.

The tempo goes up again a few levels in "The Return Of The Speedcowboys", a title that already announced this change. It's a welcome song, although the start is very direct and you don't have time to get ready for it. In general, an enjoyable song and one of the better here.

The main riffing of "Godforsaken" is one that makes you instantly tap your foot or band your head along with. Musically there are elements from PANTERA, RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE and similar in the verses. When the chorus is there, the tempo is also upped a few gears. Godspeed, the new bassist, has an important role here, a bit over halfway. In most songs there are no solos, yet here James or Ace did add one, even though the distortion once again ruins music partly.

While there were some trances of Sludge in "Bring Out The Dead", there are even more in "One Brain Army". Just in the infro, mind you. Then all hell breaks loose and you're in for another energetic ride. Halfway there's a break, after which an interesting lead follows (03:30), with tribal-ish drumming.

"New Junk City" is a song that doesn't need much commenting, as it could have been written by ANTHRAX. In addition, it's also one of the best songs on PRESIDENT EVIL's second album, no question about that.

"Trash 'N' Roll Asshole Show" was pretty crappy to me, "Hell In A Box" shows the band has improved, has gained experience and has kept the dirty sound, which is more controlled this time, although it still permeates too much in certain songs, drowning any melody or decent riff. Johnny's vocals are better as well, although the monotony of them still is one of the points that prevent me from really (and I do mean 'really!') enjoy the band's songs. Fans of the band can buy this without fearing for a waste of money. Anyone who likes dirty Metal, with a good dose of Rock 'n' Roll and Groove should also find something pleasing in what PRESIDENT EVIL has to offer. For me personally, this new album is better than the first, but it's not exactly my cup of tea, even if I can enjoy it now and then.

More info at

Johnny Holze - vocals
Ace Renner - guitars
James Lars - guitars
Godspeed Topf - bass
Diamond Dennis - drums

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SUIDICE – Dying D.I.Y. (Suidice 2008)

Suidice - Dying D.I.Y.
  1. Sharp Memories
  2. Open Life
  3. Scream Control
  4. Enduring Torture
  5. Symphony 7:06
  6. Bury Me Alive
  7. Driven
  8. Erase

A few months ago I received the album "Dying D.I.Y." from a band called SUIDICE. Who? Indeed, for they are one of the many underground and self-regulating bands that don't have a label deal yet or just aren't seeking one. I should have done this review a long time ago, but due to various reasons this just didn't happen. Anyway, SUIDICE was founded nine years ago, in November. You could basically say it's CHAINS OF DEVOTION with a new name and a new musical direction. Something other bands should also consider instead of going into another, but wrong, direction with the same name. While CHAINS OF DEVOTION played Shock Rock, SUIDICE has influences from different Metal styles and bands - or so it is stated on their MySpace page -, ranging from KORN, MEGADETH and TYPE OF NEGATIVE to CATHEDRAL, SEVEN WITCHES, LAMB OF GOD, RUSH and more.

Since the 20th January SUIDICE's debut album is available to the masses. Titled "Dying D.I.Y.", it contains 8 tracks totalling a playtime of a good 35 minutes. I'll leave it to the band and Kennedy Smith (drums) in particular to explain the title: "SUIDICE has always maintained a worldview that people have the strength and power to create the world and the things in the world in order to get what they want. This title is all about that concept. We all can have the life we want but only if we put forth the thought, effort, and the drive to go out and do it ourselves even when forces outside our control may even try to challenge or stop our visions. So, yeah, I just wanted to clear that up for anyone who may have been confused by the title or heard one of the inaccurate explanations that are floating around out there. I think the bulk of the SUIDICE audience has the mental capacity to figure that out on their own though so I probably didn't even need to explain it."

What you get on "Dying D.I.Y." is indeed a mixture of influences, with mainly Nu-Metal dominating. Especially bands like KORN, DISTURBED, and in a way SLIPKNOT have had an impact on the songwriting process. Sure, you'll hear some SLAYER-ish and STRAPPING YOUNG LAD-ish things as well, but never in such a quantity that SUIDICE can be put in the same bowl as those bands. The majority of the songs are in midtempo - except for the faster "Enduring Torture", where you'll discover some SMASHING PUMPKINS touches -, the sound is raw and very much demo-like. This results in a heavily distorted guitars, very pure drums that try to beat through the guitar wall and succeeds from time to time.

The drums are a key instrument here, keeping the songs going, adding certain grooves or accompanying the guitars on their path of destruction. Examples of this can be found in "Scream Control", "Bury Me Alive" (building the tension and later on trying to counter the guitars, of which it is hard to distinguish the riffs and melodies), "Driven" (a song with more drive and punch) and "Erase", the longest song with over 8 minutes of heavy violence. Well, not entirely, as there is a very short break that splits the song into two different parts. At the end there's a hidden song, "End Of The Road". It's completely instrumental and played by by drummer Kennedy Smith (on accoustic guitar, surprisingly enough) and Kris Miller on keyboards.

The music is one thing, and in general not that bad, the vocals are another. Matt doesn't really sing, he screams and sometimes goes so far in it, it's as if he has something to get out of his stomach (by manner of speech). Ok, I admit, there is an attempt at singing in "Driven" and the result is far better than in the other songs, but it still isn't good enough. But it's not just that, his input often doesn't flow well with the music, making it hard to stay focused and even try to follow the music. There's probably a reason why Matt screams the words, but also due to the raw production it does more bad than good.

SUIDICE is indeed "different than what everybody else is doing", and that can be a good thing, finding your own direction in music. Then again, creating material that can be entertaining to listen to with ofcourse a good sound is something that's equally important. And there are good ideas on "Dying D.I.Y.", but overall I found this an album that is hard to listen to. The reasons have been mentioned, but specifically the production is responable for this. In my opinion, you have to be in the right mood (wild?), since this isn't your everyday kind of album. Maybe this is another case of being live better than on CD. Given the fact that I haven't seen them live yet, I can't comment on this. Anyone who is interested in getting the album (for a very low price) can contact Kennedy Smith at suidice AT hotmail DOT com. Anyone else is advised to check out the songs on SUIDICE's MySpace page to find out if this will suit your taste.

More info at

Matt Henning - vocals
Kris Miller - guitars, keyboards
Justin Marko - bass
Kennedy Smith - drums

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SCAR MY EYES – This Machine... (Scar My Eyes 2008)

Scar My Eyes - This Machine...
  1. This Machine...
  2. The Game (Think About It)
  3. Through The K-Hole
  4. Disposition
  5. Hope In Silence
  6. This Machine... (reprise)

SCAR MY EYES is a Groove Metal band that keeps it modern, Metalcore-modern. They call it Thrash, but you won't find much Thrash here. Anyhow, the band was formed in 2004 and already within a time span of two years three demos were recorded. Two - including "Prayer" - in 2005, "Digital" in 2006. One year later a single was put out, titled "Double 'A' Side Single". Anno 2008, and specifically on the 18th January, the "This Machine..." EP was released. SCAR MY EYES signed with Transcend Media Group several months later to release the EP properly.

This review is long overdue (due to various circumstances), but let's carry on. So, no Thrash, but all the more Groove and Hardcore influences. The 23 minutes long EP contains 6 tracks of which two take the role of in- and outro. That leaves 4 songs to comment on. The intro and outro are identical, save for the drums in the intro. The guitar is the leading instrument, in a peaceful manner, melodic and somehow a bit Western-ish (as in Country & Western). The drums and bass increase the tension and feeling of mystery.

As for the other tracks, the situation starts good with "The Game (Think About It)". You get instant groovy guitarviolence after the calm intro. Mark's voice has two sides: one for the raw and bestial screams and one for clean, whiney kind of singing. To be honest, the raw throat fits him best, or at least, it fits better with the music. Here the blending of Groove and Core is well executed and the softer and heavier parts neatly connect. A highlight is the change for a more energetic approach with increased punch and tempo about halfway before going back to business as usual. All things considered, this is a good song. If only the clean singing wouldn't be part of it.

"Through The K-Hole" and "Disposition" are the best tracks on this EP, if I may believe my ears. The first has an even more violent start than "The Game" and aims for direct midtempo power! The sound of the guitargrooves makes me think of the latest PAGAN'S MIND album. Sure, the Norwegians play a different kind of Metal (ProgPower), but that's not important here. The drums play a very important role here, adding accents where possible and this does the song a lot of good. Furthermore you get a breakdown moment that in a way reminds of MACHINE HEAD or old SEPULTURA, mainly due to the screamy guitartouch. Vocally it's all about the raw screaming, so no complaints from my part.

"Disposition" is the other best song. The tempo is slower, but that doesn't mean the music is less aggressive or crushing. It's just a bit different. Once again there's a tempo increase in which Alex's skills are very convenient. But the real powerboost comes halfway the running time. First there's a piece that paves the way for the tank to pass through, followed by the brutal assault. A job more than well done!

Three good to very good songs, "Hope In Silence" isn't part of this selection. It starts melodically and the thought of Metalcore immediately pops up. And yup, that's how the song continues, with - you guessed it - the clean singing of before. The heavy parts aren't bad, and the mix of raw and clean singing even made me think of DEDICTED, who also use such dual vocals, but overall I can't be as positive about "Hope In Silence". This is the ugly duckling on "This Machine...".

The quartet that is SCAR MY EYES share an interest for Thrash, Hardcore and heavy grooves and combined the last two elements to create "This Machine...". With this in mind you would expect Thrashcore, like e.g. DAVIDIAN, but it turned out differently. The EP contains very decent to good modern Groove Metal and with only one uninteresting track it's clear these guys have done a good job. So anyone into Modern Metal and seeking new music for their collection can check out SCAR MY EYES without worries. But the road is still very long and the players are young, which means there's still lots of time to perfect the instrumental and compositional skills.

More info at

Mark Lewis - vocals
Neil Prenty - guitars
Simon Edwards - bass
Alex "Bear" Chapman - drums

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BENEDICTUM – Seasons Of Tragedy (Locomotive Records 2008)

Benedictum - Seasons Of Tragedy
  1. Dawn Of Seasons
  2. Shell Shock
  3. Burn It Out
  4. Bare Bones
  5. Within The Solace
  6. Beast In The Field
  7. Legacy
  8. Nobodies Victim
  9. Balls To The Wall (ACCEPT cover)
  10. Steel Rain
  11. Seasons Of Tragedy

Hailing from San Diego, California, USA, BENEDICTUM released their debut ("Uncreation") in 2006 via Locomotive Records. The press reviews were positive to very positive, although I was one of those that didn't really praise it. Since the beginning, the band has been pushed by DIO guitarist Craig Goldy, who also played a role on the band's second and newest release - "Seasons Of Tragedy" - which came out on the 11th of January, again via Locomotive Records, since the deal comprised 2 albums.

Producer-at-work was again Jeff Pilson (ex-DOKKEN, DIO, ...), who did a far better job this time. Being the fifth (or sixth) member of the band, he had a lot of influence on the sound, the compositions, ... offering advice whenever appropriate. Ex-WARLOCK bassist Tommy Henriksen helped with the mixing. Having toured with DORO the past year helped Veronica and co. to sharpen their skills and acquire new ideas.

"Seasons Of Tragedy" starts with the "Dawn Of Seasons", an intro with an eastern touch. The peacefulness of it all is soon shattered to infinite pieces by the machine-gun like snare drumming of "Shell Shock". This aggressive song deals with war from a soldier's point of view, who has to survive the shootings and violence and has no time to think about other things. Veronica sounds angrier than ever here and in most other songs, which fits perfectly with the music. The keyboard adds accents to represent the danger of the situation.

"Burn It Out" has a slower tempo, but the music is still heavy. Important here are the guitar grooves. Pete shows he has really improved his skills by adding some amazing solos, spread over the entire album. At that moment (solo), the tempo goes up with a few levels. Overall, "Burn It Out" also had something NEVERMORE-ish, so that will help to gain more fans, specifically those from the NEVERMORE camp.

"Bare Bones" has something IOMMI-ish, from his "Fused" album. It might as well be one of the leftovers and Glenn Hughes singing it wouldn't misstand on BENEDICTUM's newest album. This comparison is easily made because of the music, obviously, but also because Veronica sings cleaner, more melodically which makes me think of Glenn. Pete's guitar solo is well-executed and his guitarsound at that point has something in common with DEATH's "The Sound Of Perseverance" album. It's as if Chuck Schuldiner is playing, even if it's not such a supertechnical part. Jesse's bass comes through very powerfully, to assist with the heavy riffing.

With "Within The Solace" the tempo goes up a little more, Veronica gets a little more versatile and ferocious. New drummer Paul Courtois adds variety not only tempo-wise, but also via the kickdrums. Guitarist Pete plays a very important role, as usual, but here he has to make sure the right leads are perfectly inline with Chris's symphonic keyboard interventions - or the other way around. This element also adds a more dramatic touch in the final part and the tempo also goes down a big deal, although Paul does try to keep it interesting.

And then it's time for my favourite song on this new album: "Beast In The Field". Gentle piano intro, the heavy, aggressive riffs fading in together with the drums and then *bam*! Brace yourself for a wild adventure with direct drumming. In the bridge double kickdrums come in and Pete's guitarwork added to that results in a part that is meant to express approaching danger, i.e. the beast, the evil. Of course Veronica also helps to intensify the warning. I particularly like the piece of lyric "The whole world is turning, but we are not learning", which can be used for various situations: political, personal, professional, ... This sort of confirms man's stupidity in many cases. Little over halfway Veronica speeches about 9/11 ("that dark September") during a calmer part. Slowly the heaviness and tempo is being built up again for the last part. The 'danger' riffing and drumrolls announce this moment and the chorus gets repeated a few times before it really accumulates into chaos, with the faster drumming, screams, etc... The gentle piano melody from the start also finishes the song.

"Legacy" has a great main riffing, low and pure, enforced by the bass guitar. The chorus is very melodic, with Veronica going for soft singing as well as more energetic accents. The tempo once again is provided in various tastes, although mid- and uptempo prevail. Pete's screamy soloing is another highlight. All in all, this is a pretty 'simple' song, but it doesn't mean the other songs are better. Well, they are, in a way, but "Legacy" also has something. Mainly the directness is a word you can stick on it. The pinpoint keyboard stings increase the activeness of the melody. Sea waves and a soft piano melody put the heaviness to bed.

Speaking of heaviness and direct playing: "Nobodies Victim" is next and feels RAMMSTEIN-like due to the grooves and power, although the slow and emotional chorus breaks that illusion. The keyboards have no real purpose, except backing it all up with the right atmospheric elements.

"Balls To The Wall" is the ACCEPT classic and needs no further explanation, except that BENEDICTUM's rendition is pretty good and makes it a bit more Power Metal-ish instead of copying one-on-one. So, it's good and also a bit strange to hear a woman sing it, like Veronica herself stated as reason ("have a woman sing this classic"), but the thing with oldies like those of ACCEPT, DIO, and any other '80s band is that the original still is the better.

Another susprise pops up when you'll hear Veronica sing in a very clean way (but doesn't forget the rough side of the vocals) in the verses of "Steel Rain". This one's more of a ballad with the keyboards intensifying the touching chorus. Somehow I can't deny that the cleaner singing comes as a welcome addition, after most of the rougher sung songs. The song itself requires a few listens to fully grasp everything, since it's actually a good song.

The album ends with the epic title track, which fills the last 11 and a ½ minutes of recorded playtime. The start is a hypnotizing prayer/chant from a priest or similar, while the drums back it up with a marching rhythm. The guitars are slowly being added and all the while the keyboards keep this ambient setting in place. After 01:10 the entire band has activated their instruments. Veronica tells the tale in a very convinced manner, trying to present/transfer the passion for Metal and use this music to tackle spiritual themes. Although BENEDICTUM plays primarily Heavy/Power Metal, choosing to go Progressive is another (pleasant) surprise. Pete, Chris and Paul have managed to connect several different pieces together for this epic puzzle, offering lots of instrumental playtime. It's not just Pete who comes to the foreground to show his skills, but Chris also gets his moment(s) of fame. Due to the length, the compositions, and not to forget, the lyrics, this song really deserves multiple listens.

For those that like Limited Editions: "Catch The Rainbow" from the RAINBOW album "Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow" (with Ronnie James Dio) is on the European Limited Edition, in accoustic version with Craig Goldy (DIO) helping out on guitar.

Time for the (un)holy last words: In the review of "Uncreation" I wasn't that positive about the album and BENEDICTUM. There wasn't much of which I could say it was very much worth checking out, even though there were a few pretty decent songs. With "Seasons Of Tragedy" it's completely the opposite. Believe me or not, but I'm amazed as well of this turn-around and it seems my being critical paid of, so to speak, since the new album simply puts "Uncreation" to shame (extremely put). Everything is just so much better - I have to watch my words, that I don't exaggerate in positiveness ;-) -: first of all, the production/the sound. Jeff Pilson has really done a great effort, making sure everything sounds powerful and 'right', i.e. not too digital or plastic or... dull. The gigs of the past many months certainly helped to improve the skills of everyone. Veronica's input is more controlled and therefore her rough or clean singing fits in better with the melodies, the riffs, the atmosphere. Did I mention the solos and keyboard parts? The drums? To cut a long story short: "Seasons Of Tragedy" is quite simply a must-have! Ok, NOW I might have exaggerated, but one cannot deny the big steps the band has taken this time and showed that they are to be reckoned with, although they still haven't reached their peak, in my opinion. Anyhow, this is the path to follow, not that of "Uncreation".

More info at

Veronica Freeman - vocals
Pete Wells - guitars
Chris Morgan - keyboards
Jesse Wright - bass
Paul Courtois - drums

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PARADOX – Electrify (AFM Records 2008)

Paradox - Electrify
  1. Second Over Third By Force
  2. Paralyzed
  3. Monument
  4. Portrait In Grey
  5. Hyperspeed Hallucinations
  6. Bridge To Silence
  7. Infected
  8. Disconnected
  9. Cyberspace Romance
  10. Electrify

Formed in 1986 - the year of "Master Of Puppets", "Epicus Doomicus Metallicus", "Mad Butcher", "The Force", "True As Steel", "Pleasure To Kill" and many others - the German Power/Thrash band PARADOX has gone through some rough times after their first two albums ("Product Of Imagination" in 1987 and "Heresy" in 1989), showing they were a force to reckon with. Thanks to a licensing deal with RoadRunner Records, the Polish label Metal Mind Productions managed to remaster and re-release those albums - and those of other bands that were signed to RoadRunner in the 1980s and early 1990s (HEATHEN, SOLITUDE AETURNUS, TOXIC, XENTRIX, ...) - last year.

Both albums were hailed as classics, especially "Heresy". Internal problems (incl. the label) obliged Charly and co. to focus on other things and put PARADOX on ice... for some 10 years. Apparently there were labels who wanted PARADOX to reform and so it happened. The line-up anno 1999: Charly Steinhauer on vox/guitars, Kai Pasemann on guitars, and the brothers Oliver and Alex Holzwarth on bass and drums respectively. Together they played at Wacken Open Air and recorded a third album, "Collision Course" (2000), produced by Andy Classen. But personal problems for Charly made PARADOX take a break again and it wasn't until 2005 that he fought back and kicked new life into the band, together with Kai. With Olly Keller and Roland Johada completing the line-up, everything was prepared to record album #4, "Electrify". This will see the light of day on the 10th of January via AFM Records, which also released "Colision Course".

Charly composed the songs in his studio, while Kai concentrated on the lyrics, which are based on the influence of the Internet on people. For this, Kai took inspiration from the film "The Lawnmover Man". I have never heard of this film, let alone seen it. But I have the re-release of "Heresy" and this made me anxious about the new album. Charly produced "Electrify" himself, while Jacob Hansen (DESTRUCTION, HATESPHERE, ANUBIS GATE, AXAMENTA, TÝR, SVARTSOT, ...) handled the mixing process.

The album kicks off with "Second Over Third By Force", which comes over as a very competitive title. Its intro is pretty mysterious, atmospheric and the guitars slowly build up the tension. All of a sudden, *bam*, the dangerous riffs and überfast drumming take over, in pure (melodic) Thrash style. Catchiness is key, especially in the chorus. Now and then Roland adds a couple of double-bass assaults to give the song more power. What you get here shows that Charly used the negative stuff of the past as positive energy to create quality Power/Thrash Metal, as he has done since the founding of the band. The closure of the first song is like it started.

After this ferocious start, the next step is completely the opposite: atmospheric and just the vocals and guitars. Charly's singing reminds me a bit of Kai Hansen's (GAMMA RAY). The sadness aspect is more present here, as if to correspond with the title: "Paralyzed".

"Monument" continues where "Second Over Third By Force" left off. The dual leds and general riffing reminds a bit of the heavier stuff of e.g. GAMMA RAY and MASTERPLAN, although this latter focuses more on melody. It's obvious you get quite a lot of variety in terms of tempo, riffs, leads... which makes things all the more interesting. Jacob Hansen's mixing made it possible for the bass guitar to come through powerful enough and not be pushed to the back by Charly's and Kai's input.

Another atmospheric guitar start comes with "Portrait In Grey". Although the tempo is much slower, it doesn't mean the guys cut back on bombast and power. The compositions are also more Progressive compared to the direct Power/Thrash of the other songs. The most important instrument here are the drums, as Roland really makes good use of the toms, adding accents and 'spices' where necessary or useful. The layered guitarwork (riffs, leads, ...) is part of the variety in this "Portrait", more colourfully than the title makes you think.

"Hyperspeed Hallucinations" is a title that needs no explanations. But I will add some text anyway: this is another kick-ass Speed Metal song with a strong injection of catchiness, which comes out (especially) on the pre-chorus level - the chorus itself is a repetition of the title. The vicious riffing is so sharp it will slit your throat in a split second. While the drums are less varied, I do find them sounding a bit too sterile. Although Jacob Hansen can make them sound very powerful, it's also one downside of his 'sound': the sterility.

The "Bridge To Silence" starts with thunder rolls, a soft piano melody and simple (guitar) string picking, while the lead comes in soon afterwards, but not disturbing the flow of the intro. The leading continues once the entire band comes into play - except the vocals. In accordance with the previous songs regarding speed, the tempo is slow(er) again, without losing power. Overall the song is a bit harder to swallow, it takes multiple listens to hear and grasp it all.

Since a couple of weeks the video for "Infected" has been ready and viewable on the band's MySpace page, offering a pre-taste of what to expect from PARADOX anno 2008 and their new album, "Electrify". The typical ingredients are there: ferocious and fast riffing, uptempo drumming, mean vocals... and catchy as f***! Somewhere around the middle things slow down to rebuild for the solos (Charly and Kai taking turns) and rest of the song. The Thrash influence really makes this song a lust for the ear and in general "Infected" does not bore at all, even after playing several times after another. The title is well-chosen, because it infects you with the desire to find out more about the new album.

The heaviness continues in "Disconnected", which is faced with a small (!) tempo decrease, although there are faster outbursts. Mainly when the solo part is there, everyone in the band shift into a couple of gears higher. Musically there are comparisons possible with GAMMA RAY and ABANDONED - and anything alike, of course.

So, no ballads? It would be a bit strange for a Power/Thrash band, but don't worry, Charly thought about you ballad-lovers, too. ;-) The title, "Cyberspace Romance", is quite cliché, but once more you know what you'll get. Both accousitc and electric guitars were used, seperately and together, and in general I had to think a bit of AYREON, even though this is a Progressive Rock project. While I don't care much about the musical aspect here - it's not exactly the most interesting or best song - it is clear, however, that all spots should be aimed at the lyrics. They deal with online relationships, people getting to know each other via Internet and promising each other heaven on earth - even when they live miles away from each other. Personally, I think it's a great song - lyrically - since it also makes fun of this happening and how it doesn't always work out the way people think it will. In short, the naivety of people in such a situation.

"Electrify", the song, makes you stand with your two feet on the ground again and at the same time kicks you one last time in the butt. Yes, we've got another speedy song here, just like "Second Over Third by Force", "Hyperspeed Hallucinations", .... Nothing more to add, this is what PARADOX does best and so the album ends like it started: fast.

Despite or thanks to the troublesome times the band (and mainly Charly) went through, PARADOX is still alive and kicking. The band's fourth album is soon/just out. The quality is undeniable, be it regarding the compositions, the musicianship, the sound... the whole package. Power/Thrash as it should be, with a small touch of Progressiveness, and therefore recommended for any self-respecting Metalhead. Being a fan of the faster stuff of bands like GAMMA RAY, ABANDONED, MEGADETH (to a certain extent) can be helpful. I'm not going to make promises (yet) regarding lists, but PARADOX's "Electrify" is at least the first must-have of 2008.

More info at

Charly Steinhauer - vocals, guitars
Kai Pasemann - guitars
Olly Keller - bass
Roland Johada - drums

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GATES OF WINTER – Lux Aeterna (Gates Of Winter 2008)

Gates Of Winter - Lux Aeterna
  1. Life Force Rapture
  2. Burning Kingdom I - A Dark Affliction
  3. Burning Kingdom II - Heavenly Insurgence
  4. Burning Kingdom III - Lux Aeterna
  5. The Wildwood Pariah
  6. Winter Flight
  7. Gates Of Winter
  8. From The Flesh
  9. Omega

Canada has more in store than ANNIHILATOR, 3 INCHES OF BLOOD, KATAKLYSM, IVORY KNIGHT, WOOD OF YPRES, THREAT SIGNAL, STRAPPING YOUNG LAD and many others. GATES OF WINTER is a diamond that has been carved out of special stone and has been polished a great deal so far, shining quite brightly even though the best is yet to come.

The band has been brought to life in 2003 by Bryan Belleau (guitars) and Steve Furgiuele (bass), after which lots of work was put in a demo (2005) and an EP one year later. Even a young band isn't free from the classic line-up changes, but it only gave GATES OF WINTER more power to carry on. Anno 2008 the band's first album is ready under the title "Lux Aeterna". It was originally planned for release in the summer of 2007, but various problems delayed everything until the 1st of January 2008.
Although they're not part of the official line-up, these two persons contributed a great deal to the material on "Lux Aeterna": Jody Lynn Bedard (vocals) and Jon Harvey on drums. Luckily I checked the booklet, else I would have thought the band used a drumcomputer, but further on the album it did make me doubt, for if they did use one, it sure was very well programmed. But I'm very glad a real drummer played the parts.

GATES OF WINTER play Progressive Metal in the vein of SYMPHONY X, DREAM THEATER, OPETH (although I'm not really familiar with their works), ARTRACH (pure Belgian ProgPower quality), OCEANS OF SADNESS (yes, another Belgian band) and more. Of course, other bands also were of influence, like e.g. METALLICA, ICED EARTH, NEVERMORE, CHILDREN OF BODOM, KAMELOT, OUTWORLD, DARK TRANQUILLITY and more. To make things even more interesting they've got Brian to add the orchestral touches.

"Life Force Rapture" puts the first bits of current in "Eternal Light" (translation of "Lux Aeterna"). Well, bits? It's not exactly a 3-minute song, but a whopping 07:33 minutes long! Slow tempo, keyboard-driven and the guitartandem Lee-Bryan providing the power. The verses are sung in a very gentle way, inline with the peaceful music. It's in the chorus that everything comes to life and Lee also makes his voice a little rougher to better express the feelings, the emotions that this song needs. With that much playtime they can go several directions and it very easy to detect we're dealing with a Progressive band here. For a large part the instruments do the talking, especially via the guitars. Meanwhile Jon keeps on playing a fixed pattern in each section. Due to the dramatic nature of this song, it's easy to think of EVERGREY as a band that plays fairly similar Metal. In general, excellent musicianship here and good from start to finish.

The tempo gets cranked up a couple of levels with the trilogy "Burning Kingdom" (spread over three tracks), especially in the first part. Here we also hear the first appearance by guest vocalist Jody Lynn Bedard. Although she might not be the best singer around, she does a more than decent job and her voice blends in very well with the music. The keyboards again determine the melody - and add a moment of rest around 05:30 -, while the guitars boost the song forward. After a few listens it's clear that the melody has a 'sticky' feel, something I can only applaud for.

There's no specific transition to part 2, "Heavenly Insurgence", which commences with the accoustic guitar. Slowly the drums come fading in and the rest of the instrumentation follows swiftly, announcing great things. After that we've got almost the same as in "A Dark Affliction": faster drumming, keyboards laying out the melody and backing symphonics and the guitars making sure enough power is added. Barely 2 and ½ minutes far and already there's a break, with everything faling away, except the atmospheric keyboards. Come to rest during this short pauze, but be prepared for the boost that is injected afterwards. Lee again uses his rougher voice, but follows the keyboards neatly. Here too, enough attention was given to the instrumental portions, adding solos, leads, ... be it done by the guitars or the keyboards. Outstanding work, to say the least.

The transition to "Lux Aeterna", the third and final part, is flawless and you have to be careful not to miss it, for it might as well be a continuation of "Heavenly Insurgence". The entire part 3 is instruments only, with especially the drums given a key role: pounding, with skullcrushing double bass. Other than that, the Progressive aspect of the music comes out very strong and the variation in melodies, tempos, riffs, solos is something at least I cannot get enough of. As direct and heavy the beginning was, so soft and gentle is the ending: music box sounds. A very nice trilogy, although I would have preferred a better bridging from part 1 to 2, to show they belong together.

"The Wildwood Pariah" puts all heaviness aside and focusses on the accoustic playing. This is a melancholic song in vein of what has been done previously by , for example, ICED EARTH and REBELLION. Here the Canadians show that they can do more than heavy Progressive material. Certainly one of the best tracks on this album.

With "Winter Flight" the growling guitars return, while symphonic backing is provided by Brian. Jon's input keeps the tempo high enough and his playing varied enough to keep the attention fixed. Lee does another very good vocal performance, this time again in a cleaner way. Musically it's perfectly ok to refer to e.g. DARK TRANQUILLITY, SYMPHONY X and NEVERMORE. The overall result is once more very entertaining, especially if you take the time to 'fly along'.

Time for another instrumental passage, this time titled "Gates Of Winter". While the keyboards demand the most attention, one must not ignore or neglect the input by Steve (bass), who comes to the front once more. Somewhat over halfway there's a tranquil break, preparing for the outburst later, which is also the time when the guitars battle for the front spot. And they do get their moment of fame, so to speak, to end the song.

"From The Flesh" is a title that could describe anything, but its intro still can leave you confused: it's ferocious, pounding onwards until there's a deceleration for the verses. Between this and the chorus the raging madness can go about again. Lee puts his heart and soul into this song (clean, rough, and growling), although he has done a better performance on the previous tracks. the final part, again with the pounding drums, makes me think of one of the first songs off AXAMENTA's last album, "Ever-Arch-I-Tech-Ture". Just a thought, though, for an otherwise decent song.

"Omega" puts a dark cloak over the "Eternal Light", starting with a gentle piano intro. Soon enough the melancholic/dramatic aspect is there and I cannot help but think of EVERGREY again. The tempo is slow, the piano rules supreme in the calmer moments, yet Bryan and Lee occupy the rest of the song. There's nothing happy to be found here, only sadness, darkness, fearsome atmospheres. As it began, so it ends: piano and symphonic backing.

Isn't it great to see that there's still people more than capable to carry the Metal torch into the future, be them from Europe, USA, Australia or in this case Canada? GATES OF WINTER shows that it doesn't always have to be extreme or brutal or tough, as a lot of recent bands play it, but that one mustn't forget craftsmanship, complexity and foremost variable singing (clean, growls) without neglecting the melodic aspect. The band members combine influences from several great bands, from different genres, yet keep it inside the Progressive canvas. There's just one bad criticism: the production. It's good, let that be clear, but the drums could use more power, more heaviness, if you want. In short: "Lux Aeterna" is a grower, but when you take the time, you'll discover the many layers and sections that make this album worth the investment.

More info at

Lee Maines - vocals, guitars
Bryan Belleau - guitars
Steve Furgiuele - bass
Brian Holmes - keyboards

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Reviews 2008

On this page
Captain Morgan's
Wreath Of Thevetat
See My Blood
The Healing
Wicked Dream
Werk 80 II
Towards Eternity
Ayin Aleph I
The Money Grind
The Last Alliance
To Death And
Seasons Of Tragedy
Freedom Metal
The Man Who
Would Not Die
Guardian Of Eternity
Live It Up
The Rise
Minus Exitus
Hear Their Cries
Continue To Kill
Til Death Do
Us Apart
An Eye For
An Eye
Project Destiny
Dead Words Speak
Turning Season
Diabolo Domination
In Travel
En Busca De
The God Of
All Mistakes
Don't Swallow
World Domination
Core Of Despair
Lux Aeterna
Lifelong Days
Blood Runneth Over
Cloaked In Doctrine
Outlaw Invasion
Bootlegged In
Boston 1988
Black Tortured Metal
Degüello Wartunes
To Hear The
Trumpets Call
Heaven's Basement
Walhalla Wacht
The King Of Hell
Opus Magnum
Precious Time
The Prestige
Feast For The Hated
Chapter 5:
A New Era Begins
Beast Within
In Den Vergetelheid...
Carved In Stone
Songs For The
Last View
Journeys, Fables
And Lore
Bullet In Your Head
The Waterheart
Creations Undoing
Unbroken Solemnity
Reversing Time
Power Seeker
Be Gone
Visual Violence
Master Of
Hell In A Box
Where Dreams
Come To Die
When Shadows Fall
New Metal
Gust Of Rage
This Machine...
Fallen Sanctuary
The Hourglass
One More Piece
Crash & Burn
The Circle Shuts
When Midnight
Heading Northe
Southern Born
The Great Revival
Dying D.I.Y.
Malicious Pride
Voice From
The Silence
Zoom Code
Damned To
Rex Mundi
Malice In
Voodoo Circle
Faith (single)
First Hit For Free
Fight Against Time
Eternal Damnation
So Close, So Far
New Universal Order