Archive for February, 2019

Children of Bodom – Hexed

Posted in Metal with tags , , on 27th February 2019 by izaforestspirit

Children of Bodom
Hexed
Released 8th March 2019
Melodic Death Metal/Power Metal
Released via Nuclear Blast Records


Children of Bodom - Hexed

Mr. Laiho and the Hate Crew are back with a new album. It’s been four years since ‘I Worship Chaos’, an album which I initially liked when it came out but after more listens it got a little repetitive. I still own it of course; I have all their albums, even the not so good ones. I guess that somewhere deep down I’m still that teenage Children of Bodom fan girl who had a crush on Alexi Laiho and dreamed of going to Finland to see them live. I used to listen to ‘Follow The Reaper’ on repeat for days and that album still holds a special place in my heart. If there is one band that has contributed the most to my obsession with all things Finnish and Finland it’s these guys. Not only did I visit Finland, I ended up relocating there and learning the language. I’ve seen Children of Bodom live on numerous occasions and I have even visited the Lake Bodom murder site in Espoo.

This brings me to ‘Hexed’, album number ten in Children of Bodom’s discography and the first to feature their new rhythm guitarist Daniel Freyborg. It’s astonishing just how much difference a second guitarist can make. Alexi Laiho is a great frontman and an exceptionally talented guitar player but there is more to this band than just him. Freyborg has his own unique style and he has definitely left his mark on this album. For example on Under Grass And Clover, the dual guitar harmonies work very well together, creating a smooth-sounding, catchy, melodeath metal song. Want something a little faster? Then skip right over to the next track Glass Houses – a classic COB track, with their signature ultra-fast keyboards and impressive guitar work. Speaking of keyboards, the title track features some of the best keyboard passages I have heard from Mr.Wirman in years.

There are quite a few moments on here that reminded me of their mid-career albums ‘Hate Crew Deathroll’ and ‘Are You Dead Yet?’. It is not all same old Bodom, though. There are parts that display the band trying new things such as the technical guitar work and melodic keyboards on Hecate’s Nightmare. It is not something that I would have expected to hear from these guys but it works surprisingly well.

In summary, ‘Hexed’ shows how much Children of Bodom have evolved over the years. Where some of their previous albums failed to leave a lasting impression, getting stale after a few listens, here the songs stand out. While it lacks the “WOW!” factor of their best work, it is a strong album that will definitely please their fans both old and new.

4/5

Iza Raittila

 

Stelios Gatziolis – Sphere of Resonance

Posted in CD, Metal, Rock with tags , , , on 24th February 2019 by mickbirchy

Stelios Gatziolis

Sphere of Resonance

Instrumental, Progressive Rock

Released: 30th September 2018

Self Released

 

 

What do I say about this one? It’s weird, I mean I grew up listening to a menagerie of different rock and metal styles. One of the records I loved was Surfing With The Alien by Joe Satriani. From there on in I always made time to instrumental records done well. So, here I am listening to the new EP by Stelios Gatziolis and I’m not getting into it. I don’t know there really feels like there is something missing from this and I can’t put my finger on it at all. The new EP, Sphere of Resonance dropped last year and it’s done well for the solo guitarist. As well as that, this EP features ex-Dream Theatre keyboardist Derek Sherinian, who put his seal of approval on Stelios’ playing by featuring on the tune “Doomgazer”. Not a bad endorsement at all.

The four-track EP is relatively impressive from a technical level. The intricate guitar skill of Stelios is really impressive. The way he weaves in and out of melodies is awesome, it really is a captivating listening experience. The backing band creates a nice backdrop for the guitar to truly shine. The heavy booming bass perfectly syncs up with the well-executed drum work. The keyboard and synths add a really nice atmosphere to the tunes. The guitar playing is slick and you soon pick up on his playing style. As each song has a slightly different variant on this style. The songs all play on the rule of tension and release. Each song builds up the tension and then has a massive payoff of guitar goodness. The song featuring Derek Sherinian, “Doomgazer” probably uses this technique the best.

Unfortunately for all of its positives I still can not get into it. For the most part, it just feels soulless. It just feels like a passion project that was meant for the artist himself and no one else. In fact, it feels like a demo to a much bigger project yet to be released. Unfortunately, I don’t know if such a project is on the way but I hope it is. You know, to justify this EP’s existence. The songs, whilst impressive on a technical level, are meandering and trite. I’m fine with ‘progressive’ music but this feels like a jam session that was recorded and released.

It’s decent enough and I stand by both parts of my review. From a technical view, it’s really good. Yet, at an entertainment level, it’s a little toothless for me.

2.5/5

Mick Birchall

In Flames – I, The Mask

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , on 24th February 2019 by Pieni

In Flames
“I, The Mask”
Metal
Released: 1st March 2019
Via Nuclear Blast Records

inflamesithemask

It’s been a while since I’ve stopped considering In Flames “melodic death metal” (even if I labelled them as such when I reviewed “Battles”, after going with just “melodic metal” on the previous one, “Siren Charms”). The truth is that they’ve developed such a characteristic sound that one would either come up with a genre described in a whole sentence or just fit them in one that pretty much covers it all. Let’s go with “metal” then (which, whoever runs their Facebook page, seems also okay with).

I believe I’ve said this several times – not just regarding In Flames – but I don’t see toning down the aggression as a bad thing; in this case, losing the “death” angle. All I care about is listening to quality music, whatever its nature, and “I, The Mask” is full of that.

Out of the three songs they’ve chosen to promote the album with, the title-track was the one which least impressed me. Curiously enough, one of the fastest tracks. It’s not a bad song, don’t get me wrong. It’s just too straight-forward in the middle of the richness that the rest of the album turned out to be. But then again, come to think of it, maybe that’s precisely its strength. “Burn” is up there as well, but with a less catchy chorus.

“(This Is Our) House” is sort of anthemic, with all that talk of standing your ground and the teen choir’s they’d already used on “The End”. At first I thought a spunkier chorus would sound better, but after hearing it a few times, this one is just right. In fact, this album needs a couple of rounds to grow on you as a whole.

“I Am Above” and the ballad “Stay With Me” are my favorite, as they’ve got that something-I-can’t-put-my-finger-on that just enthralls me. Perhaps the attitude of the first and the depth of the second, but I believe is much more than that, as it usually is when a song hits you hard.

There’s another ballad in the form of “Follow Me”, where you’ll certainly hear an echo of “Come Clarity”, but only on a musical level – the message in it bears a sense of hope that their old classic misses. And even though I can’t remember a title to compare – in a good sense – “Voices” with, you’ll see that the opening track is very much an In Flames song. Not so much with “Deep Inside”, the Arabian hints catching me somewhat off guard, but it worked out in the end. The only song I skip when it comes up is “In This Life”. I’m sure it will be someone’s favorite, but for me, it’s annoying as hell.

When I’ve first listened to this album – their 13th – I’ve automatically given it a “4”. Then, as aforementioned, it started growing on me and I thought a “4,5” would be more accurate. Now that I’ve put into words what I think about it… hell, it deserves a “5”!

5/5

Renata “Pieni” Lino

Сандарния – К оружию!

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , , , , on 23rd February 2019 by mickbirchy

Сандарния (Sandarnia)
К оружию! (To Arms!)
Power Metal, Symphonic Metal
Released: 9th December 2018
Self Released


This has been a really interesting album to get into. Mainly because it’s the first album I’ve ever reviewed that is not in English. So, before we start, I just want to say that I don’t speak Russian so somethings will be lost on me. Yet, I still think this is a solid record. I think it’s important to discover as much of the world as possible and music bridges that gap much easier. When I first took a listen to the new album from Sandarnia I was immediately drawn into their passion, presence and their overall tone. This band is the brainchild of Russian musician Alexander Kuznetsov and it contains some incredible performances by a variety of awesome musicians.

To Arms! is an awesome record and it feels massive. The production is so bold on every song. It just flows so well from one track to the next, with heavy guitar, a bold bass tone and terrific drum work. If there’s one thing that this project has, it’s a great sense of tone. Every tune is dramatic and it sounds big. It’s like a heavy metal orchestra. One thing I do like about this record is the variety in vocal performances. Different tunes have different singers and each one brings something brilliant to the table. One performance that I did enjoy was Daria Mikolaevskaya’s on the song “Та, что встретит с тобой смерть”. I found this song to be impressive, with its sweeping melodies and excellent musicianship.

Now, there does lie the potential to alienate a wider audience by not making it in English. I will say that and that can put some people off. Yet, I think it’s something they overcome quite well. The music is largely accessible and if you’re into this sort of this already then, then I would highly recommend giving them a chance. Also, the production, whilst impressive, can be lacking at times, with the guitars and bass sometimes mixed over the top of the vocals and that can be a little distracting at times.

Overall, I would say that this was a rather impressive listening experience. The songs are epic and the band just have the charisma of megastars. If you like your power metal bands then, Sandarnia is well worth your time. To Arms! Is an amazing epic of a record that ends on a couple of excellent covers with “Warcraft 2 Theme – Tides of Darkness” and the “Game of Thrones Theme”. If you want some good power metal in your life that you may have never considered before, this is the band for you.

4/5

Mick Birchall

Lord of The Lost live in Tampere

Posted in Gig, Live, Metal, Rock with tags , , , on 22nd February 2019 by izaforestspirit

Rain Diary, Lord of The Lost
Jack The Rooster, Tampere, Finland
21st February 2019

I originally had two live shows planned for this week. Sadly one of them got cancelled and re-scheduled for the autumn. So I will have to wait until September to catch Ozzy Osbourne live in Helsinki. Get well soon Ozzy!!

This brings me to the other gig that I have been looking forward to for weeks – Lord of The Lost. I first discovered them three years ago when they came to Tampere supporting Combichrist. I was totally blown away by their performance and since then I have acquired most of their releases. Their latest album ‘Thornstar’ was one of my top 10 albums of 2018. So, needless to to say I jumped at the opportunity to see them live again. This time they played at a rock pub called Jack The Rooster, one of the few music venues in the city centre that also serves food during the day.

First up was a Finnish dark wave band called Rain Diary. I have seen them live before; just last year when they supported Vlad in Tears. This time they had a much bigger audience – the show was sold out and there was already a sizable crowd gathered when they started their set. It was a good show and enjoyed dancing to their music. 3.5/5

Then it was time for the night’s headliners – Lord of The Lost. The venue was packed by then. Their frontman Chris Harms made some comments about how small the stage was. Apparently it’s been many years since they have played on a stage this small. Luckily it did not affect their performance. They played many songs from ‘Thornstar’ including ‘On This Rock I Will Build My Church’, ‘Haythor’, ‘Loreley’ along with some old crowd-pleasers such ‘Dry The Rain’, ‘Six Feet Underground’, Drag Me To Hell’ and many more. They even did a rather amusing “metal” take on Lady Gaga’s ‘Bad Romance’. Fantastic show! 5/5

In summary, it was a really good night and I am glad that I got to see Lord of The Lost live again. As I mentioned at the start of this report the band has been a bit of an obsession of mine lately. I cannot get enough of their music. I would recommend their music to anyone who likes dark rock or Gothic industrial metal.

Iza Raittila

Omicida – Defrauded Reign

Posted in Metal with tags , , , on 19th February 2019 by izaforestspirit

Omicida
Defrauded Reign
Released 15th March 2019
Thrash Metal
Self-Released

Omicida - Defrauded Reign

‘Defrauded Reign’ is the debut album from the thrash metal band Omicida. The band was originally formed in Los Angeles, US in 2014 by drummer Giovanni Durst (ex-White Wizzard). They relocated to The UK in 2018, a few years after the release of their first EP ‘Certain Death’.

This is one of cases where the content is an exact match to its description. If it is classic thrash metal you are after then you have come to the right place. Most of the focus is on the guitars, with powerful and fast riffs dominating the album. The vocals are what you would expect to hear from your average thrash metal band, in other words aggressive shouting to match to overall pace of the music. These guys rarely slow down and they do not play any ballads. Most of the tracks are either medium or fast paced with the exception of the ambient, instrumental intermission Burn The Cross and melodic guitar parts in the intro to Divide Uncertainty.

If you like the fast and ferocious side of thrash metal, then State of Terror is the song for you. I reckon that Slayer fans would enjoy this one. It follows a fairly straightforward formula of aggressive vocals, a barrage of guitar riffs and fast drumming. It’s full steam ahead right from the start so you better hold on tight… Then there are a few songs with a more complex structure such as the aforementioned Divine Uncertainty with its deceptively melodic instrumental intro and the more technical-sounding guitars on The Supremacist. So there is more to this than just Slayer worship. It would appear though these guys have been listening not just Slayer but a whole range of old-school thrash metal bands including Kreator and Testament, all of which have left a mark on their signature sound.

Overall, ‘Defrauded Reign’ offers eleven solid works of uncompromising modern thrash metal. It maintains the right balance of aggression, speed and melody without becoming too fast or overly complex.

4/5

Iza Raittila

 

Avantasia – Moonglow

Posted in CD, Metal, Rock with tags , , , , , on 8th February 2019 by mickbirchy

Avantasia

Moonglow

Symphonic Metal, Power Metal

Released: 15th February 2019

via Nuclear Blast Records

Every time a new album from the mind of Tobias Sammet comes out, you know I have to listen to it. The new album from Avantasia, Moonglow is another home run for the band. This is their eighth studio record to date and they keep going from strength to strength. This album is one of their most impressive in my opinion. It has so many interesting elements, mixing many different styles from around the world, they have created a complex and dynamic record that is consistently interesting. I have been really into this band for the longest time. The way they mix sounds, melodies and intricate lyrics has always captivated me.

The album was produced by Sascha Paeth and Tobias Sammet and I think they have created something beautiful with this record. Right from the very first track “Ghost In The Moon” the overall sound is so good. The  interweaving of themes, melody and lyrical poetry make this an exciting and interesting listening experience. All of the Avantasia tropes are present, the epic choirs, the fast and furious power metal energy and Sammet’s infectious charisma. His vocals just demand your attention and coupled with the overwhelming orchestral metal sound, every song hits you like a tonne of bricks. Also, this album contains an all-star cast of great metal musicians to accompany Sammet and share the workload. Massive names such as Hansi Kürsch (Blind Guardian), Mille Petrozza (Kreator), Candice Night (Blackmore’s Night), Geoff Tate (Queensrÿche), Eric Martin (Mr Big) and Michael Kiske (Helloween) all lend the assist to making these songs sound so powerful and making the word larger than life.

Personally, this is one of my favourite Avantasia albums. The hooks are simply massive and I’ve had a tonne of fun just rocking out to these songs. From the soft and tender ballads to the energetic and forceful power-metal songs. I don’t think that Avantasia has ever really sounded this good. The guitars can be punchy or lend to a gentle atmosphere. The keyboard and synths are simply wonderful encompassing the music in an aura of majesty. The bass is tightly locked in with the drums and keeps the rhythm beautifully. All in all, every instrument sounds massive and Paeth and Sammet’s production makes everything sound as good as possible.

This is a flawless album and already up there as one of my favourites of 2019. From the passion and conviction of the performances to the sharp and punchy melodies. This album is just one to listen to over and over again. I mean making great music is just Avantasia’s M.O. at this point, yet, this album goes above and beyond the call of duty and really delivers something special. Exceptional writing and fantastic production carry this album to a pleasing 66 minutes 45 seconds, that I just want to keep listening to as many times as I can.

5/5

Mick Birchall