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Sonata Arctica – The Ninth Hour

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , , on 14th October 2016 by mickbirchy

Sonata Arctica
The Ninth Hour
Power Metal, Symphonic Metal
Released: 7th October 2016
via Nuclear Blast

The last time I talked about Sonata Arctica on this site I gave them a relatively positive review. I enjoyed “Pariah’s Child”, it was a fun record with a lot of good tunes. It got me into the band and I’ve considered myself a fan ever since. So I snapped up the opportunity to take a listen to the new record, “The Ninth Hour”.

Straight from the first song, “Closer To An Animal”, I knew I was listening to a bolder product with more focus and solid songwriting.  Every element of the album is alive and energized. The synth is just uplifting and makes for a nice atmosphere with its diversity. The songwriting is beautiful and is filled with emotion and passion. From slow and somber songs to the heavy and faced paced straight up metal songs. They just make an impression on every song.

The lyrical content is pretty simple when you think about it. The message of the album is life a good life, be kind to people and stop killing the planet. It sounds simplistic and something you’d sing to your kids. Yet, just because you learned it when you were young it does make these morals false. Sometimes you need simple things just said to you and Sonata Arctica really sell it. Tony Kakko’s voice sounds absolutely amazing on this album. He always seems to manage to match his voice to the emotion of the song and it sounds so sweet every time.

This is an excellent album. In my opinion, Sonata Arctica are the undisputed kings of power metal. If I were to recommend songs from the album, firstly “Life”. This is a belting track with a genuinely inspiring and cheerful chorus that sounds glorious. The other song I’d recommend is “We Are What We Are”, which sound sorrowful and passionate.  It’s a beautiful album that really live up to their reputation as one of the best. I love it

4/5

Mick Birchall

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Crobot – Welcome To Fat City

Posted in CD, Rock with tags , , , , on 27th September 2016 by mickbirchy

Crobot
Welcome To Fat City
Hard Rock, Glam Rock
Released: 23rd September
via Nuclear Blast Records

The third album from the hard rockers Crobot brings us more well-constructed riffs, thick funky bass lines, and just a feel-good feeling all around. The American foursome made some absolute belters over the years and the new album Welcome To Fat City, is just more of what they’re so good at, if not a more focused and refined version of it. The album shifts gears from blues, funk to hard rock and beyond without so much a batting an eye. I first heard Crobot in the run-up to this year’s Graspop Metal Meeting when I was listening to all of the band playing the festival.  Then I watched them perform and I was truly blown away by the musician and skill. When they announced that they were bringing out a new album I knew I had to have it.

Welcome To Fat City, is a really well-made album the production is fantastic.  It really is a great sounding album, everything sounds crisp and powerful. From the booming basslines to the shrieking guitars, the groove of every song is so well controlled and has an energy to them that sounds wonderful and keeps you in high spirits. The riffs are enjoyable and engaging and with lyrics that keep you entertained.  For me, I found this to be the most accessible album from Crobot, not that they haven’t been in the past but this album just feels easier on the ear and the production is spot on. It’s just all really likable.

The hazy funk sound is a lot of fun matched by the intense powerful vocal performance that sounds excellent but I felt at times gets lost in the music, not in a big way but just enough to be noticeable. The best songs on this album, in my opinion, are “Temple In The Sky” for it big noisy chorus and it’s grooved up riff.  Also, I’ve really enjoyed “Easy Money” for the weird guitar effects and maddening smooth bass. In fact, the guitar weirdness is something that crops up a lot in Crobot’s music, sound like the guitar has broken mid-riff. It actually a nice technique that gives their music a unique little stamp and separates them out from the plethora of riff-rock out there today.

Overall, this is an insanely catchy and fun record that has all the right ingredients to not only please their core fan base but does enough to bring in newcomers. It’s unique, intense and above all… fun.  Something you’ll want in your record collection.

4/5

Mick Birchall

Skyharbor unveil ‘Chemical Hands’ ahead of their UK / European tour

Posted in News on 27th September 2016 by mickbirchy

Indian prog-metallers Skyharbor unveil new song and video ‘Chemical Hands’, the third single from their upcoming third album, set for release in 2017.

First premiered on Metal Hammer, check out ‘Chemical Hands’ here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dv3njIwtAmk

Guitarist Keshav Dhar says: “Chemical Hands is possibly the boldest, most experimental song we have written to date. After releasing two fairly straightforward singles, we felt it was time to let rip and showcase the more bizarre and angry side of the upcoming new record.

“Michael Di Lonardo has created an absolutely stunning video for the song, perfectly representing the lyrical theme while being ambiguous enough for fans to pick their brains and stroke their goatees over. We’re stoked, and we hope our fans will be too.”

Skyharbor will hit the road with Sithu Aye and Modern Day Babylon throughout Europe following their appearance at Euroblast festival, where they play along sideAnimals as Leaders, Born of Osiris, Veil of Maya and many more.

Full dates are:

Oct-01   EUROBLAST FESTIVAL w/ Animals As Leaders / Born Of Osiris / Veil Of Maya + more
Oct-02    Sub 89    Reading, United Kingdom
Oct-03    The Globe    Cardiff, United Kingdom
Oct-04    Exchange    Bristol, United Kingdom
Oct-05    Talking Heads    Southampton, United Kingdom
Oct-06    Dingwalls    London, United Kingdom
Oct-08    Plug    Sheffield, United Kingdom
Oct-09    Newcastle University Students Union    Newcastle, United Kingdom
Oct-10    Audio    Glasgow, United Kingdom
Oct-11    The Craufurd Arms    Milton Keynes, United Kingdom
Oct-12    Patronaat    Haarlem, Netherlands
Oct-13    Logo   Hamberg, Germany
Oct-14    Freirwerk   Munich, Germany
Oct-15    Flosserplatz   Aarau, Switzerland
Oct-16    Legend Club   Milan, Italy
Oct-17    A38   Budapest, Hungary
Oct-19    Fluturum  Prague, Czech Republic
Oct-20    Elfer   Frankfurt, Germany
Oct-21    Garage  Saarbrucken, Germany
Oct-22    Gibus  Paris, France

facebook.com/skyharbormusic
instagram.com/skyharbor
youtube.com/skyharbormusic
twitter.com/skyharbormusic
omerch.eu/shop/skyharbor

Delain – Moonbathers

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , on 6th September 2016 by mickbirchy

Delain
“Moonbathers”
Symphonic Metal
Released 26 August 2016
via Napalm Records

Moonbathers, is the fifth offering from Dutch symphonic metallers, Delain. With big bombastic anthems and a more direct heavier sound, they seem to have progressed quite a lot since their début 10 years ago. I won’t lie I found this a slog to get through. I really did. It’s not that the album is bad per say. It just has nothing interesting or unique to offer. On a technical level this album is brilliant and on a production level, it’s excellent. However, I just can’t seem to get into it at all, none of the songs have really stuck with me, not like their older material has to this day.

It’s really hard to explain why it’s not working for me. I think it starts with the overall tone of the album. The heaviness is a problem for me. I wasn’t the biggest fan of this sound on The Human Contradiction. I find Delain are at their best when they’re making energetic rock anthems, like on We Are The Others or April Rain not these heavy songs that have a really serious atmosphere. Which “Moonbathers” is packed with. I mean, it will have a break from this like with “Suckerpunch” or “Fire with Fire”. Though, Moonbathers is bogged down and never reaches that level of energy that their older material, We Are The Others in particular, had.

Like I said on a technical level this is a really well made album. The production is gold with every member sounding as good as they can. Charlotte belts out her lyrics and this album has the band the tightest they’ve ever sounded. So I give credit where the credit is due. Merel has settled into her new post as full time guitarist really nicely, playing some super sharp riffs. Martin highlights the album with some superb synth and key work. It all sounds beautiful.

So the album is average. I like parts of it. However for me it lacks the fire and energy of the past albums. I’m quite conflicted about it, I think it’s good but I just want more from Delain and I hope they don’t become complacent. So yeah, it’s good, not great, but good.

2.5/5

Mick Birchall

Twilight Force – Heroes of Mighty Magic

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , , on 26th August 2016 by mickbirchy

Twilight Force
Heroes of Mighty Magic
Power Metal
Released 26 August 2016
via Nuclear Blast

This is one spectacular album to try and sum up, but I’ll try my best. Twilight Force bring us their second offering in the form of, Heroes of Mighty Magic. With shades of Tobias Sammet’s Avantasia, Sonata Arctica and DragonForce, Twilight Force have crafted an epic and bold album that completely plays to their strengths. It’s ultimately a fun record that has the right balance of dignified quality and having that sense of fun. I’m not a fan of when power metal bands take themselves too seriously.

The album covers the usual topics that you would expect – mythical warfare, questing and just your usual dungeons and dragons template lyrics. You know, all that good stuff. So not a tonne different in this department. It still works though, without getting tiring. Vocalist, Chrileon just sells what he’s singing with such conviction that it’s hard to think he’s from another dimension.  The production does everything to make him sound awesome and when the choir comes in on the choral parts it really gets you going.

The music is really good as well, don’t think that I’d forgotten. Not only is the metal instrumentation excellent with belting guitar solos and well incorporated synths. When the orchestral instruments swell around the songs it just makes them so much more epic. Seriously there isn’t a dead spot on the entire record. Everything in the production truly comes together to make an entertaining epic. I also have to briefly mention how good the album art is. The design is amazing and the colours just leap out at you. The artist Kerem Beyit has really crafted something beautiful and imaginative

Overall. Wow, just simply wow. This album took (and is continuing to take) my breath away. It’s entertaining in all the right ways. I’ve not wanted to put this album down since the first listen.

5/5

Mick Birchall

HEAVY SCOTLAND announce first bands

Posted in News with tags , , , , , on 26th August 2016 by mickbirchy


Brand new heavy metal festival HEAVY SCOTLAND is delighted to announce its first wave of bands for its debut year, to be held in Edinburgh between the 1st-2nd April 2017.

Announced already are the first headliners, melodic death metal legends Arch Enemy; plus acclaimed brutal death metal band Sodomized Cadaver; resurgent death metal favourites Dyscarnate and Scottish thrashers Disposable. Plenty more huge bands to come so stay tuned.

Early bird tickets are now available to purchase from here, for only £70: http://www.ticketor.com/heavyscotland

VIP ticket bundles are available but already close to selling out so get yours while you can!

Set to be the biggest and best new festival dedicated to all things dark, heavy, and vicious, Heavy Scotland is borne out of a love of metal. Aimed at supporting a famously dedicated metal scene but until now without a big festival, Heavy Scotland looks set to put Scotland on the map.

With accommodation options, more bands, and ticket options to announce, Heavy Scotland is already on the way to becoming the surprise festival success of 2017.

For more information:

https://www.facebook.com/heavyscotland
http://www.heavyscotland.com/
https://www.twitter.com/heavyscotland

Equilibrium – Armageddon

Posted in CD, Folk, Metal with tags , , , , , on 24th August 2016 by mickbirchy

Equilibrium
Armageddon
Folk Metal, Symphonic Black Metal
Released 12 August 2016
via Nuclear Blast

Equilibrium’s fifth album, Armageddon is everything that you want out of them. It’s big and bold. It hit’s really hard and gets you going. You will have to understand, going into this album, that I’m relatively new to their work and have only looked up them quite recently. Coming into this review I was completely blown away by the sheer scale of the album. Every part of the production is massive in delivery and even manages to have its fun jaunty moments. All of the songs are good and the writing really shines, even if I did have to look up some of the lyrics online.

The part of this album that I feel lets it down slightly is where is mushes the sounds together to get this muddied sound that’s a little too reliant on the guitars’ distortion. I feel this bogs the sound down somewhat and the guttural vocals aren’t helping. So what you get is this heavy mess of distorted noise. What saves it is the symphonic elements. The big orchestra sound really pulls the album together and gives the songs context. Along with the folk instrumentation, it highlights how fun and exciting Equilibrium are. In fact my favourite parts of the album are just the instrumental parts where there are no vocals.

For me personally Equilibrium’s Armageddon is a mixed goody bag. There are odd thing in it that’s just disappointing and I just don’t really like. Then you have the good moments that I find really impressive and interesting. I do feel the good outweighs the bad, as there is a lot of instrumental sections that have that epic quality to them. Overall I do enjoy this album and it definitely made me curious to check out their older material, so I can recommend it as a jumping on point for their music. It’s intricate enough and has a strong enough sound that you’ll want to listen to it a few times.

3.5/5

Mick Bichall