Archive for February, 2011

Woods of Desolation – Torn Beyond Reason [2011]

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , on 28th February 2011 by Nico Solheim-Davidson

Band: Woods of Desolation
Album: Torn Beyond Reason
Release Year: 2011
Genre: Black Metal

“Torn Beyond Reason” is the second full-length release by Australian Black Metal duo “Woods of Desolation”.

The album begins with the title track “Torn Beyond Reason”. The track starts with a slow, high-pitched clean guitar riff mixed with slow, pounding drums which soon increase their pace when a high pitched wail comes in. The vocals are rough and raw compared to the cleanness if the guitars. The drums sound as if they’ve just been added on to the track for the sake of trying to make it heavy and brutal. The guitars go slightly distorted for a while on the track and the use of constant double bass pedal ruins the track.

“Darker Days” is next. It begins with acoustic guitar, which does little to set a mood for black metal. Distorted guitars and drums come in soon after. The drums, again sound as if they’ve just been added in for the sake of heaviness and brutality as they overpower the guitars too much on this track. There is a slight use of an eerie sounding  choir alongside the harsher vocals, which adds a certain atmosphere to the track. The track isn’t any better than the previous one. Next is “An Unbroken Moment” which begins with a drum intro followed by fast-paced distorted guitars. The music completely overpowers the vocals, which sound like the faded screaming of a damned soul. The guitar riff is repetitive throughout most of the track, aside from a slow atmospheric section halfway through created by synthesisers and samples.

“The Inevitable End” comes after. It’s the longest track on the album. It begins with a slow guitar and drum intro, with a few tom-rolls here and there.  The vocals strong less faded on this track. It takes a while for the track to speed up its pace and when it does, there is no improvement in the quality of composition of the track. The guitars sound too soft, same with the drums. “November” comes right after, beginning with an acoustic guitar intro, which lasts for half of the track. The other half of the track is dominated by distorted guitars and drums. It’s a mediocre track at best.

“Somehow” is the last track and the album and it has somewhat of an old-skool sound to it, in terms of the composition. The use of an eerie choir makes an appearance again, giving some atmosphere and mystique to the track. The track does turn slightly heavier after the vocals have come in and the pace does increase but like the rest of the album, it is pretty poor for black metal.

“Torn Beyond Reason” is, without a doubt, an awfully composed album. It lacks thee raw energy and brutality one expects to find on a black metal album. Some of the production values are too good for black metal and the drums need more work. This would have probably been better as a demo, rather than a full-length release.

1.5/5

Nico Davidson

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Avatar – Millennia [2011]

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , , , , , , on 27th February 2011 by Nico Solheim-Davidson

Band: Avatar
Album: Millennia
Release Year: 2011
Genre: Symphonic Black Metal

“Millennia” is the latest and last release by now disbanded Belgian black metal quintet “Avatar”.

The album begins with the track “Mirrors”, which begins with a slow piano intro. The slow picking of a guitar soon follows. Surprisingly,  the combination works really well. Almost two minutes in the track turns heavy but retains it’s slow pace. The sound of synthetic organs from a cheap keyboard join in the rest of the music when the track turns heavy and the steady beating of a double bass pedal follows after that. The keyboard generated sound of flutes brings the track to a calming end, which is unusually good for a black metal track.

“The Unbodied Serpent” is next. It begins with a folkish and medieval sounding guitar intro, which is soon accompanied by keyboards and some very rough and raw vocals. The drums sound somewhat soft compared to the rest of the music. The use of female vocals along side the harsher male vocals is very reminiscent of “Ethereal”. The keyboards have a very eerie sound to them throughout part of the track and the drums seem to get heavier. The guitars get heavier as well with some nice tremolo picking in sections. The only problem with this track is that it’s too long, though the use of a guitar solo, despite being unusual for this genre, is very nice.

Following after is “The Ancient King”. It begins with an “Iron Maiden” sounding riff, which is soon followed by heavily beaten drums, synth sounds and pure black metal-styled brutality. The vocals, again, are rough and raw. The keyboards perform some nice eerie riffs again, which work very well with the vocals and drums. The use of a guitar solo, just like in the previous track, is brilliant. The bass performs some good riffs in sections of this track as well. “Smoky Mountain” comes next and it begins with an eerie sounding keyboard intro, which sets a dark and grim mood which is soon ruined by clean guitars making an appearance. The track does turn partially heavy and female vocals make an appearance. The keyboards can be heard all the way through the track which is a good thing. The male vocals finally make an appearance over half way through the track, bringing a bit more heaviness to it.

The title track “Millennia” begins with a combination of clean and distorted guitars, which are soon accompanied by keyboards and drums. The vocals seem to over power the track. The track itself seems to have a grand and epic sound to it, something which is rare in black metal, though it doesn’t ruin the track. After a line of clean vocals about two minutes in, the track turns heavy and a great solo finds its way on to the track as well. There is also a brilliant eerie keyboard section towards the end, which eventually is accompanied by a slow, hypnotic bass riff and a clean guitar riff.

“Le Secret Du Soleil”, which is French for “The Secret of the Sun”, is next. It begins with a sample sound of running water, mixed with a keyboard section and an acoustic guitar riff.  The keyboard sounds of flute soon dominate the track, with the distant sound of water in the background along the acoustic guitar. Following after is “Ultra Mare” that brings back the symphonic brutality with a keyboard and guitar intro, followed by pounding drums. The bass line is very rhythmic and works very well with the vocals when they make an appearance. The vocals sound more rough and raw than they have been on the previous tracks. The guitar riffs seem to switch between slightly melodic and brutal. The female vocals make an appearance towards the end and they work brilliantly well with the harsher vocals, which is always a good thing.

“The Summergate” comes next. it begins with a trumpet sound generated by the boards, followed by drums and a sinister sounding guitar riff.  The vocals sound like they’re overpowering the track. The drums keep a nice and constant fast pace throughout parts of the track. The keyboards help give this track a certain atmosphere. The final track “Weltschmerz” which is German for “World-weariness” comes next. it has a somewhat odd intro for a black metal track, as the drums sound very techno and there’s a use of samples from what would seem to be speeches by world leaders. When the keyboards come in, they add more of a techno sound to the track. Samples of other speeches and radio transmissions make appearances throughout the track. There is a slight use of harsh vocals over halfway through the track, which works oddly well.

The sound quality and production of “Millennia” isn’t great, which adds to the sheer brilliance of the album. The use of female vocals on some of the tracks gave the album a bit of a Gothic metal sound as well. However, the techno-sounding track at the end came as a surprise and did ruin the black metal element of the album slightly, despite the slight use of harsh vocals on that track.

4/5

Nico Davidson

Mercenary – Metamorphosis [2011]

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , , , , , on 27th February 2011 by Nico Solheim-Davidson

Band: Mercenary
Album: Metamorphosis
Release Year: 2011
Genre: Melodic Death Metal

 

“Metamorphosis” is the sixth studio album by Danish death metalheads “Mercenary”. This is the first album to feature Morten Løwe on drums.

“Through the Eyes of the Devil” is the first track. It begins with an eerie keyboard riff followed by a brutal yet melodic guitar riff. The vocals sound partially “metalcore” throughout most of this track and the drums seem softly played compared to the guitars and bass. The guitar retain its melodic riffs  as well. The use of clean vocals about half way through the track brings a very calming atmosphere to the track. The drums become slightly heavier towards the end of the track.

The next track is “The Follower”. The drums have increased drastically in terms of heaviness since the previous track. The clean vocals aren’t too impressive on this track. The guitar seems to have gone less melodic as well and there isn’t much use of keyboard on this track either. The track does turn brutal in some parts with some more metalcore sounding vocals. “In A River Of Madness” is next. it begins with heavy guitars and semi-heavy drums. The vocals again have that metalcore element to them as well. The guitar retains a certain amount of brutality for the majority of this track with some subtle use of keyboards here and there. The use of a breakdown about two minutes into the track gives the album more of a metalcore sound. However, the use of a guitar solo helps the album retain some of it’s death metal elements.

Next is “Memoria”, it begins with a brutal and melodic intro. The melodic riff continues when the vocals come in. The cleans vocals,  aren’t overly impressive and they have a slight pop-punk sound to them. The harsher vocals still have the metalcore sound. The drums sound softly played again. The guitar solo sounds choppy and poorly composed in parts. “Velvet Lies” comes next, beginning with a soft guitar riff as an intro. The cleans vocals, again, sound like pop-punk vocals. The guitar riffs seem to be going along the same line as the vocals with a pop-punk sound. The drums sound overpowered as well in sections of this track.

“In Bloodred Shades” is next. It begins with a brutal chugging of guitars mixed with a subtle use of keyboards, making for a great intro. The vocals soon follow and they sound more metalcore than the previous tracks. The drums sound heavy and brutal in sections of this track but sound softer when the clean vocals and keyboards make appearances. Following after is “Shades of Grey”. It’s intro sounds old skool metal and pop-punk influenced. The drums again sound soft. The clean vocals have that pop-punk sound again, something similar to “You Me At Six”. There is a subtle use of harsh vocals, faded out during in the clean vocals. The track itself, overall, is too soft to be any kind of metal.

Next is “The Edge of Sanity”. It begins sounding very death metal. Even the drums sound heavy. The vocals sound metalcore still though, almost along the lines of something you’d expect to hear on a “Bring Me The Horizon” release.  The cleans again, sound pop-punk, taking away the metal element of the track drastically. The guitar solo sounds poorly composed and choppy at best. “The Black Brigade” is the final track. It begins with drums before a semi-heavy guitar riff comes in. The harsh vocals in, bringing a very metalcore element to the track. The guitar riffs remain melodic for most of the track, which is a good thing. The guitar solo on this track is the best one of the entire album, though it didn’t have much to compete with in terms of the other solos. The drums retain a certain amount of heaviness and brutality for the most part.

While it’s not the best album to come of out the Danish metal scene, it’s not the worse. “Metamorphosis” seems to be signalling a new sound for “Mercenary”, a new sound for them needs a fair bit of work. Whilst the metalcore elements weren’t bad, they weren’t great either and sometimes didn’t seem to fit in with the music at all. The pop-punk styled vocals ruined a few tracks as well. The album is well produced, but poorly composed in parts.

3/5

Nico Davidson

Power Quest – Blood Alliance [2011]

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , , , on 25th February 2011 by Nico Solheim-Davidson

Band: Power Quest
Album: Blood Alliance
Release Year: 2011
Genre: Power Metal

 

“Blood Alliance” is the fifth and upcoming album by British power metal sextet “Power Quest”. The album features a whole new line-up.

The first track “Battle Stations” proves to be the beginning of a promising album with it’s drums and guitars intro which lead into a brilliant guitar solo. Despite being a two minute long instrumental, it is a very good track. The second track “Rising Anew” begins with a melodic guitar intro which is soon accompanied by some well-played drums. The keyboards fit themselves perfectly in as well. The vocals however don’t seem to sound powerful enough for this kind of music.

“Glorious” comes next. It begins with a very old-skool punk-ish sounding riff. The vocals soon kick in after and the riff turns dull. The track lacks energy during the vocal parts. Even the drums sound bleak alongside the vocals. The only really exciting part of the track is the guitar solo. “Sacrifice” is next and it begins with an old skool metal sounding riff which is soon accompanied the drums, the second guitar and keyboards. The riff retains some of it’s energy during in the vocal sections and this track is a slight improvement from the previous track. Like the previous track, the only exciting part of the track is the guitar solo.

After is “Survive” which begins with a wonderful mix of guitar, drums and keyboards, though this exciting combination is soon ruined by the vocals.  The guitar riffs on this track aren’t exactly well composed and they sound repetitive of the previous two tracks. The guitar solo sounds repetitive and dull as well. “Better Days” comes after and it begins with a slow synth-styled intro, something reminiscent of “Journey”, especially when the guitars kick in. The vocals sound more old skool on this track as well, which is an improvement compared to the other tracks. “Crunching the Numbers” begins with a fast-paced synth intro, mixed with some shredding guitars. The guitar riff sounds similar to a Dragonforce track, though this soon changes when the vocals some in.

“Only In My Dreams” and the title track “Blood Alliance”, like the previous tracks begin with synth intros before the guitars kick in. Both are dull and uninteresting tracks. The final track “City of Lies” begins with a guitar intro which is a welcome change, however, the track does revert back to synths dominating the music when the vocals come in. The guitar solo seems to be the only good part of this track. The rest of the track is just bleak.

“Blood Alliance” is a disappointing album. If the vocals had more power and less of a droning effect and if there was less use of synths, then this would be a much more enjoyable album. But if you enjoy synths and keyboards dominating metal, then this album will be right up your street. “Power Quest” are going to have to try a lot harder to release an album better than this mediocre production.

2.5/5

Nico Davidson

Serenity – Death & Legacy [2011]

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , , , , , , , on 22nd February 2011 by Nico Solheim-Davidson

Band: Serenity
Album: Death & Legacy
Release Year: 2011
Genre: Symphonic Metal/Power Metal

 

“Death & Legacy” is the third album by Austrian Power Metal quintet Serenity. The album features female vocals from Ailyn (Sirenia), Charlotte Wessels (Delain) and Amanda Somerville (Noted for collaborations with bands such as Epica, Kamelot, After Forever and Luca Turilli).

The album begins with the introductory track “To Set Sail…” which is composed entirely of sounds of waves, oars, boats and monks sinking. It creates a certain mystique that slowly lures the listener into the next track: “New Horizons”, which begins with a dramatic sounding orchestral introduction before the guitar and drums come pounding in. A guitar solo soon follows before male vocals enter the track. The vocals seem to have a soothing element to their, which is unusual for most forms of metal and in some parts of the track, the vocals sound some what like the vocals found on an “Hammerfall” album. The symphonic elements of the track bring add a very sophisticated feel to the aggressive guitar riffs and drums. The guitar solo about three quarters in just completes the track.

The next track “The Chevalier” begins with a soothing orchestral introduction with a haunting voice in the distant. The track soon turns heavy. The male vocals are again, soothing, which mixes well with the orchestration, guitar and Ailyn’s vocals. The use of piano on the track is simply brilliant as it adds a kind of harmony to the guitar riffs. The drums are well played as well. The piano section, just over half way through the track, sounds beautiful, especially when the soft orchestration comes in. More duets between Serenity and Ailyn? Oh god, yes please! Anyway, back to the review, the guitar towards the end is just mind blowingly good, even with the vocals.

“Far from Home” comes shredding in next, with an extremely melodic and fast-paced intro. The slight use of orchestration in the intro works surprisingly well, as it lets the listener enjoy the guitar’s intro more than they would if there was more orchestration. More melodic riffs make appearances through the track. The guitar solo halfway through is surprisingly fast paced and the use of a choir and orchestration straight after it is just genius. Straight after is “Heavenly Missionary”, which begins a vocal intro which leads straight to orchestration and ruthless guitar, drums and bass. The use of piano and orchestration through the track is astounding and the guitar solo that follows is just amazing.

The sixth track, “Prayer” is next, which is one of three interlude tracks on this album. Like “The Chevalier” it features guest vocals from Sirenia’s Ailyn.  The track is composed of church bells ringing faintly, choir-like vocals and what one could believe to be a prayer said in Latin. “State of Siege” is next and it begins with a military sounding drum roll on the snare mixed with folk-styled orchestration, giving the track a Braveheart-meets-300 kind of feel. Almost 2 minutes in the track turns with a shredding guitar riff into a solo, before the male vocals come in bringing the track to a sudden calm, mixed with piano and light drums. The guitars reappear after, bringing some heaviness back to the track. The guitar solo can on this track can only be described as “divine”.

Next is “Changing Fate” which features guest vocals from Amanda Somerville. The track begins with what would sound to be either a medieval acoustic guitar. The male vocals soon come in, which keep the track calm and slow paced.  The violin works well with both the vocals and the medieval guitar. Amanda’s vocals come in along side the drums. Her voice makes the track sound like a very soft and not-so-dramatic Nightwish track, especially when combined with the male vocals. Halfway through, the track turns heavy with orchestration and piano. A somewhat epic guitar solo soon follows. Towards the end of the track, only Amanda’s vocals and a beautiful piano medley can be heard before been accompanied by violin, the male vocals and the acoustic guitar.

“When Canvas Starts To Burn” comes after and it is perhaps the most aggressive track on the album. Straight away, the intro riff has the potential to burst the ear drums of any power/symphonic metal fan. The vocals have turned more aggressive and raw, though that could be due to the effect added to them. The track does soon turn softer straight after, with more use of orchestration and softer vocals. The track turns aggressive again later on, before switching back to soft. The guitar solo sounds as if it has some influence from a “Rhapsody of Fire” track.

“Serenade of Flames” is next and it features guest vocals from Charlotte Wessels of “Delain”. The track begins with a slow, solo-sounding guitar intro before the orchestration and drums kick in. The guitar soon turns raw and aggressive, before turning slow and clean for the vocals. The male vocals sound raw, to an extent. Charlotte’s vocals sound angelic. The chorus of the track sounds brilliant, as it combined both vocals and the previously stated aggressiveness of the guitar. The use of choir-like vocals helps add the symphonic elements to this track. The track finishes with a soft vocal and musical section before turning heavy for the track’s finale.

The second interlude “Under Eastern Skies” comes next. It’s mainly composed of middle eastern styled medleys and Arabic male and female vocals. “Beyond Desert Sands” comes bursting in next and it is surprisingly heavy and fast-paced to begin with, mixed with a slight use of piano. The vocals that follow after are no longer soothing like they have been in most of the album. The track is a mix of fast-paced riffs and heaviness and calm and slow-paced. The guitar solo is just brilliant and there is a slight use of female vocals on parts of the track.

Next is the third and final interlude “Lament”. It is performed by Fabio D’Amore. The language used on this track sounds to be Italian or an Arabic language. The final track “My Legacy” comes next and it begins with a piano medley and soothing male vocals before a melodic guitar riff comes shredding in. The track turns calm again and then heavy. The orchestrated elements are mind blowing, making this track the best track on the album. The guitar solo is also the best one on the album.

“Serenity” is a true masterpiece in terms of symphonic power metal. It is well produced and well-composed. It is definitely worth the buy!

5/5

Nico Davidson

Benedictum – Dominion [2011]

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , , , , on 21st February 2011 by Nico Solheim-Davidson

Band: Benedictum
Album: Dominion
Release Year: 2011
Genre: Heavy Metal/Power Metal

 

“Dominion” is the latest release by American Metal band “Benedictum”.

The album begins with the title track “Dominion”. The track begins with an eerie guitar sound combined with hypnotic keyboards before the track turns heavy. The vocals soon come in, which sound like a rougher and more raw version of Dio’s vocals. There is a slight use of death metal grunts about half way through the track, giving it a certain intensity and mystique. The drums sound perfectly timed, almost robotic even. The guitar solo sounds superb as well. The second track “At The Gates” which begins with the singular ringing of a church bell followed by a fast paced tom roll. The guitars that follow have an old skool feel to them, which makes the track that much more enjoyable.  The vocals sound great and the drums work really well with the guitar riffs on this track. The guitar solo is astounding.

“Seer” comes next and it begins with an old skool sounding riff. The use of soft and raw vocals throughout the track is a brilliant addition to the album. “Grind It” comes straight after. It begins with a quick bass intro before the vocals and guitars kick in.  The use of death metal styled grunts appears again on this track, which seem to fit in great with the intensity of the guitar and drums. The guitar solo has an old skool meets new skool kind of sound and feel, which works well with the rest of the track. The next track is “Prodigal Son” which has more of a modern sound. The vocals sound more raw and rough than the previous track and there is a use of double bass pedals, which makes the track that much more heavier. The tracks turns slightly “industrial metal” sounding for a short while before the guitar solo kicks in, but it surprisingly doesn’t take away from the brilliance of the track.

The sixth tack “The Shadowlands” is next.  It begins with an eerie, tribal-sounding intro before a somewhat epic guitar riff comes into play. The bass sounds very clear on this track as well. The drums seem to have lost their intensity and the vocals sound a bit iffy throughout parts of the track. The only great section of this track is the solo, the vast majority of the rest of the track is mediocre at best. “Beautiful Pain” comes next. It’s the shortest track on the album, consisting of a sorrowful guitar solo and the organ & choir effects of a keyboard. “Dark Heart” follows after. It begins with soft vocals and a piano medley before turning heavy. The vocals soon turn rough and raw and the drums sound more intense than what they were on “The Shadowlands”. The bass sounds clear again. The guitar solo on this track is more than likely the best one on the album.

The next track is “Bang”, which begins with a whistle and then a hypnotic drum beat before the bass and guitar begin doing their thing. The vocals sound more aggressive in some sections of the track. The riffs on this track are just amazing. This would be have to be the best track on the album! “Loud Silence” comes next, beginning with a slow, melodic riff before turning heavy but still melodic with a brilliant use of keyboards just before the vocals come in. It is a fairly soft track compared to the rest of the album but it is one of the best tracks. “Epsilon” is the the last track. It begins with a beautiful keyboard intro which leads into the drums and guitars. The pace increases well the guitar takes over the track. The bass can be heard clearly in sections of the track and combined with the keyboards and drums, it just adds a certain level of epicness to the track that only the truly talented can achieve.  The vocals don’t make an appearance until almost three minutes into the track. The vocals have retained their Dio sound from the first track, which is always, always a good thing.

“Dominion” is perhaps one of the best metal albums you’ll find in this day and age. With Dio-sounding vocals, epic guitar riffs and solos, amazing keyboards, awesome bass and drums, combined with brilliant production and sound quality, this album is a must-have for any true metal fan.

5/5

Nico Davidson

Mind Assault – Metal Rites [2011]

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , , on 19th February 2011 by Nico Solheim-Davidson

Band: Mind Assault
Album: Metal Rites
Release Year: 2011
Genre: Melodic Death Metal

 

Metal Rites” is the latest release by South African death metal quintet “Mind Assault”. It is their third studio release.

The first track “Retaliate” begins with a Eternal Tears of Sorrow sounding riff combined with some rhythmic double bass pedal. The vocals bring brutality to the track. The use of brutal and melodic riffs through the track is just astounding! The sound quality of the track is brilliant as well. The guitar solo is one of the best sections of the track. The second track “Die Rejected” sounds as if it begins where “Retaliate” finished. This track sounds more brutal than the previous as the drumming seems to have got more intense and aggressive. There are also more melodic sections as well. The guitar solo just adds to the immensity of this track. The track ends with the eerie ringing of church bells which work well with the outro guitar riff.

“Dark Continent” is straight after.  The track begins brutal before an extremely fast paced, Dragonforce-sounding guitar comes into action. The vocals sound more aggressive than the previous two tracks which works surprisingly well with the melodic riffs. Again, the drums sound more intense on this track as well. The pace slows down half through the track, taking a more slow, heavy approach before a shredding solo bursts onto the track. “Vrede Deur Bloed” comes next abd it begins with a fast paced, face melting and brutal guitar intro before the track takes a slow, heavy pace combined with vocals. The pace soon increases again though, adding a certain intensity, found only in death metal, to the track. The guitar solo is probably the best one on this release.

“Volksmoord” is the fifth track. Its intro is some what very folk sounding despite being played on guitar. The track soon turns brutal after the intro however. The intro riff appears again later in the track, working extremely well with the vocals and drums. Halfway through, the track turns brutal enough to burst ear drums wide open. The guitar solo reduces the brutality ever so slightly though. The final track, which is also the title track, “Metal Rites” comes next. Surprisingly, it begins with a slow and light intro combined with the addition of a heavier guitar a little while into the intro before the pace and brutality increase a fair bit. The drums seem softer and the vocals sound like they’ve lost some of the aggressiveness they had in the rest of the album. The only good section of this track is the guitar solo.
This album is well-produced and has a brilliant sound quality. Five out of all six of the tracks have the potential to become mosh pit anthems and even classics in the death metal genre. With a release like this, Mind Assault are going to go very far.

4.5/5

Nico Davidson