Author Archive

Avantasia – Moonglow

Posted in Uncategorized 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

Joakem – Mind Matter

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on 26th January 2019 by mickbirchy

Joakem

Mind Matter

Progressive Rock, Heavy Metal

Released 7th December 2018

Self Released

It’s been a hot minute since took a listen to anything from the heavy metal community beyond the UK, so I feel it’s about time to rectify that. The Cyprus based progressive metal musician, Joakem has recently released his debut album Mind Matter and from the first moments of the album, I liked the sound. Musically the album is a blend of complex melodies and time signatures, heavy synth sounds, rough guitars, intricate and precise drum patterns and a blend of different vocal styles. It immediately leaves its impact on you and since the sound is so distinctive, you can quickly make up your own mind on whether it sticks with you or not. The album was recorded/mixed by Chris Charalambides at “Soundscape Studios” and mastered by 3x Latin Grammy-nominated, Alex Psaroudakis at “Alex Psaroudakis Mastering” in New York. So, you can bet the album packs that punch.

The album is certainly a gripping listen. The production is top-notch, with a great mix of all the instrumentation with Joakem’s vocals standing out. The complex and diverse rhythm patterns keep you hooked as you can never really guess where the song is going to go next. Also, the great balance of blasting synths and heavy guitars work well together. It comes together quite nicely and works for the range of styles that this album tries to tackle. Each song feels like a different sub-genre of rock and metal and no matter the style it still feels natural and the records keeps flowing. From all-out prog-metal to alt-rock and even some post-grunge elements work their way on to the album and it’s strange but all of the pieces work together and each song complement, as well as contrasts, with the previous.

Joakem’s vocals are indeed diverse as he manages to be competent in a variety of vocal techniques. I prefer his clean vocals over his guttural singing but that’s just me. I generally prefer clean vocals in music. It’s difficult to point at an element that lets the album down in a great way. I will say, that if you’re not into progressive music with changing time signatures and musical styles then this really isn’t the album for you. That’s sort of the let down for me, although it’s impressive, I prefer music to remain in a consistent style throughout. The high-points of the album are the more alt-rock and post-grunge style songs where he maintains more consistency, such as the opening track “A Peaceful Place” and the closing track “Departure”. However, I do think there is a happy medium for any fan of rock and metal.

Definitely an impressive and solid effort from an interesting artist. I would be more than happy to keep paying attention to him for future releases. Mind Matter is a decent record with a lot of positive aspects to it. It’s not something I would play all of the time, but if I’m in the right mood this is something I would consider putting on. If you’re interested in genre-mixing artists that break from normal convention, then Joakem might be up your alley.

4/5

Mick Birchall

Corroded – Bitter

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on 12th January 2019 by mickbirchy

Corroded

Bitter

Heavy Metal, Groove Metal

Released: 25th January 2019

via Despotz Records

After reforming in 2017 for the album Defcon Zero, an album that was created due to their frustrations with label executives. Swedish heavy-metallers, Corroded decided to keep the music coming out of this revitalised passion. Which leads us to this years album, Bitter. I have to say, I’m really liking this band ever since they’ve come back from hiatus. There’s really something so honest in their music since the 5-year break. Bitter continues this with everything here being presented with passion whilst also being really accessible to new listeners. I always say “every new album is a new chance to inspire new fans” and yeah it seems Corroded are going out of their way to entice a new following without betraying the older fans. It’s a delicate balance but I think they’ve nailed it.

This album starts with an atmospheric intro piece before kicking right into the riffs, which are awesome. The riffs are filled with bass and feel so weighty. The grooves they create on this record are fresh and you can tell how much time and effort went into the writing and recording. Every song just leaps out of the speakers and keeps you listening sense intoxicated until the very end. The precision guitar and excellent drum work are awesome on their own but coupled with the vocal performance it really is a treat for the ears. Vocalist, Jens Westin sings everything with such conviction you can’t help but try to relate to the lyrics and sing along with him.

There are just some excellent tunes that stick in your head long after the record is over. One of my favourite songs here is “Testament”. With its excellent groove, the anthemic chorus, blistering guitar solo and just overall fun appeal. It’s a song that really stuck with me. Another song that I really like is “Black” a wonderfully sombre tune but still injected with life thanks in part to the wonderfully arranged production. This album does just really run the gambit of emotional tone and all of it well paced. Seriously, I still think there is an art to putting an album together, this album is so well paced that 12 songs and 52 minutes long, it flies by like a breeze. Making you want to listen to it all over again, immediately.

Corroded are quickly becoming one of my favourite metal bands and I am so happy they came back off of that hiatus. Even better they came back stronger and filled with ideas. This album is such a blast and now a frequent companion on my car journeys. If you like your pure heavy metal, do yourself a favour and get this one as soon as you can!

5/5

Mick Birchall

Gates Of Paris – Gates Of Paris

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on 28th December 2018 by mickbirchy

Gates Of Paris

Gates Of Paris

Symphonic Metal, Progressive Rock

Released: 30th November 2018

 Self Released


I have to say I’m pretty damn impressed by this French symphonic metal act, and their new self-titled record is something to shout about. I have to admit, I don’t go hunting for new symphonic metal acts, but they always seem to find me, one way or another. Gates Of Paris are a metal outfit, funnily enough, from France and they bring everything that is interesting and fun about this genre to the forefront on this record.  Their debut album is quite interesting, mixing a variety of different styles of music to create their own unique blend of what I can only call, evil-metal carnival music. It’s epic and weird all at the same time.

I was hooked from pretty much the first moments. The stylistic atmosphere is excellent and sound beautiful right out of the gate. The sound of the band is great with excellent riffs and wonderful musical progressions. I like all of the musical elements that they include on the record, in particular, the Spanish guitar which makes it on to the record on several occasions. It’s always pleasant and great to hear whenever it comes in. Every level of the production is smooth and well integrated. From the great guitar licks, the powerful bass lines to the commanding drums, it all feels so glorious. I really like the way the album flows together, it almost has a serial or concept nature it and every song flows into the next seamlessly.

The album also has interesting musical cues here and there. All of these moments really shine a light how much fun this band can be. Such as having their own version of circus music in there. There really isn’t a lot here that bugs me or annoys me. Really, the only thing that got under my skin is that I never felt the need to return to the album once I listened to it. The music doesn’t have that “re-playability” factor, at least not for me. If you really like this style of music, then maybe there’s more “re-playability” in this for you, but this is a once in a while record for me.

In summary, I do like this album. Gates Of Paris are seriously impressive, considering that this their first record. The sound is crisp and well put together. The production is excellent and overall it’s really a well put together record. It may not be overly captivating to me but I can definitely hear other people really getting into this style of music. If you like your symphonic rock and progressive grooves this is certainly a record that you sink your teeth into.

4/5

Mick Birchall

BillyBio – Feed The Fire

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , on 8th December 2018 by mickbirchy

BillyBio

Feed The Fire

Thrash Metal, Rapcore, Hardcore Punk

Released: 30th November 2018

via AFM Records

 

It’s really cool being able to listen to the new project from the frontman of Biohazard, Billy Graziadei. Going under the new name BillyBio, he has released the new record Feed the Fire and I have to say it’s pretty good. I was interested to listen to this right off of the bat as I am a big fan of Biohazard and I’ve always like their mix of thrash metal, punk and rap metal. So, I wanted to hear what Billy could do on his own. This record is an interesting listen, it’s fast pace, heavy and filled with political statements. It’s clear Billy is a great songwriter and I have always appreciated him as a musician.

I like the production and the overall sound of the record. Right from the first song, the album hits you in the face with a blast of heavy guitars, bass and drums & the forceful presence of Graziadei. There are lots of moments on the record that get you amped up and raring for more. My particular favourite song in this regard is “Generation Z”. Which, along with the intensity, it has a catchy chorus. Everything presented here hits hard and fast. The general writing quality on display is great with Graziadei throwing in rap verses over thrash metal tones and it all fits together so well.

Although, the problem I have with the album is the guitar tone. It’s pretty much the same all the way and it can feel a little samey, hearing the same tone over and over again. It makes the album drag just a little bit. It just grinds away and that can get just a little boring here and there. Even though all of the songs are short and sweet, the never-changing tone just makes it feel like it’s longer than it really is. Only a few songs ended up sticking with me and that because of the great hooks and choruses.

So, I am a little mixed when it comes to this album. There are some really good songs when you take them individually but they just become one long mesh when put together on an album. So the album doesn’t really work as a cohesive whole. There is a lot to like, the strong social commentary, the harsh guitars and the commanding bass and drums. Billy is a fantastic frontman and his personality is what sells the album for me. If this was made by a band that didn’t know how to make these elements work it would just be so weak. Yet, Graziadei can take all these elements and throw them together to make a decent album. He’s such a forceful presence, you have to pay attention to him at the end of the day. It’s definitely worth picking up, though I wouldn’t advise sitting through it in one go.

3/5

Mick Birchall.

Sky Empire – The Dark Tower

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on 20th November 2018 by mickbirchy

Sky Empire

The Dark Tower

Progressive Metal, Groove Rock

Released: 26th September 2018

via The Rock Company

I know I don’t cover progressive metal all that often. It’s just not a genre that captivates me in the right way. Sometimes a band comes along that can change your perception on a certain style of music. I will admit, I didn’t know all that much about Sky Empire before now and I don’t know too many people that do. Their debut album, The Dark Tower is pretty enjoyable. Mixing well-executed music with impactful story-telling, they have managed to create a fairly decent debut album. The band straddle the line between dynamic and creative instrumental prog-rock and more classic rock standards. It’s quite an interesting listening experience to be fair.

Right from the first song “Marionette” you get a sense of what to expect from the album. Multiple instrumental parts flowing into each other, dynamic musical parts and an intricate atmosphere. It all comes through quite well, musically. The technical ability on display is certainly impressive. I am amazed by how it all comes together. The production is pretty much on point, making sure every member of the band gets their licks in, and also providing a great balance between the excellent guitar and keyboard solos. All the while, the drums keep the creative pace going. I have to admit, I’m not a fan of the vocal performance as it doesn’t really match the music here. He has a well-toned voice, I can’t think of any flubbed notes or anything, but it just doesn’t work for me personally. The rough and deep tone never really fits in with the style. Also, when he tries to hit the higher notes it sounds like he’s straining his voice.

Whilst everything here is certainly impressive, and it is, there’s nothing that really sticks to my imagination. There are prog bands that really stick in my head and there are ones that don’t. Sky Empire, sadly fall into the latter. I appreciate the musicianship on display and I respect the multiple parts, the rising and falling tone and the solos… Yes, it’s all so glorious. However, it’s not something that I think I would choose to return to, and I listen to bands like Iron Butterfly and Ex Libris for fun. There just needs to be more polish to the presentation and the overall style.

It’s a decent record and they’re clearly talented. As I’ve mentioned, the musicianship is out of this world. The album certainly has its rough spots as well, with the drums feeling a little muted here and there and the aforementioned issues I have with the vocals. There are some things they do incredibly well, such as the riff and solo work, building an atmospheric tone and keeping a tight performance through multiple (and often frenetic) parts. I just would have liked to have heard a little more polish in the production. I liked the time I spent with the record but I have no real desire to return to it.

2/5

Mick Birchall

Planet of Zeus – Live in Athens

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on 13th November 2018 by mickbirchy

Planet of Zeus

Live in Athens

Stoner Rock, Groove Metal, Southern Rock

Released: 30th October 2018

via ihaveadrum Records

There are two peaks in a bands career. Two heights of artistic achievement that they can wear like a badge of honour. One is the concept album, the other… The “live” album. Nothing really says “We’ve made it” like selling out a venue, recording the show and selling that show for all to hear. For me, one of the best live acts I have ever seen would have to be, Planet of Zeus. They are a force to be reckoned with on the stage. Their music is so anthemic and powerful, it can connect with pretty much any audience member at any show. All I can say is if you haven’t taken yourself to a show from them. Treat yourself the next time they’re in town. After their most recent record Loyal To The Pack, the band played their home countries capital city, Athens, to a ravenous crowd, giving birth to the bands first ever live album: Live In Athens (I know, such an original title).

I will say that this record sounds excellent all the way through. It captures that feeling of a Planet of Zeus show to an extent. From the heavy riffs to the excellent and gut-busting solos this album sounds so damn good. When Stelios Provis busts out the solos, the rest of the band create a tight foundation from which he’ll just let loose and create magic with the guitar. The set-list for this show was a solid one as it’s completely filled with energy, good vibes and their unique atmosphere that they bring to the show. You even hear those little echoes and refrains that you only hear in a live setting. When Babis Papanikolaou roars out the lyrics to songs like “A Girl Named Greed”, “Loyal To The Pack” or “Macho Libre” I can feel it right down in my gut. It’s the kind of voice that you take notice of. The production as a whole is wonderful.

The record is beautifully balanced and well mixed, I can only imagine what some of these songs felt like in the gig itself. If there’s anything that Planet of Zeus is known for it’s their riffs and they packed this setlist with their finest. Songs like “Leftovers”, “Devil Calls My Name” and “Little Deceiver” are definitely the moments that grab your attention. As their riffs just have that way of getting in your head and sticking around. It’s that great balance of groove, rock n roll and balls-to-the-wall heavy that makes Planet of Zeus such a compelling band to listen to.

However, I think there’s something that can be lost on a live record. Some things from the gig itself don’t always translate quite as well to the album version. This is the only downside I can think of to this record, yet, it’s more of a failure of the medium. Some bands can really transcend it and make you feel like you’re at the gig from the live album alone. Here, I don’t think Planet of Zeus has quite pulled that off. Although, it’s a great recording and there’s all of the unfiltered crowd banter, as well as the audience chanting for the band. The recording of the crowd is great too. You hear their chants as clear as a bell and their interaction with the band is great. It must’ve been quite the crowd to be a part of night itself. Yet, there’s just something missing from it that stops it being an amazing live album. Don’t get me wrong it’s still a great listening experience but it’s not a great “live album”.

This is a fun record to listen to. A must buy if you’re any sort of stoner rock or groove metal fan. If you’ve never listened to Planet of Zeus I would say that this is a great album to get you started. Not only did they provide some of their best material but you get a small sample of what it would be like to listen to them live. Which is a treat! I adore Planet of Zeus (if I haven’t made that obvious) and having missed the Loyal To The Pack Tour, this was awesome for me to listen to. They are simply one of the best bands going today in my opinion and this live record should be more than proof to anyone who denies that sentiment.

4.5/5

Mick Birchall

DC4 – Atomic Highway

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on 22nd October 2018 by mickbirchy

DC4

Atomic Highway

Hard Rock, Classic Rock

Released: 21 September 2018

via Highvol Music

With over 40 releases under their belts combined, it’s really easy to expect a lot from these bonified legends of the industry. DC4 are a supergroup formed by brothers, Jeff, Shawn & Matt Duncan with their brother-in-metal Rowen Robertson, who between them have appeared in such bands as Armored Saint, Odin, Killer Bee & the legendary Dio. So their rock n roll pedigree is far from in question. We know they can do the job. The question is this, are they any good? My answer, in a word, yes. It’s all the great aspects of classic hard rock and none of the fluff. Their new record, Atomic Highway is an enjoyable experience that will get any rocker’s mojo going. If the talent on display didn’t impress you, then know that Bill Metoyer produced and mastered the record. With bands like Slayer, Suicidal Tendencies, Corrosion of Conformity and the aforementioned Armored Saint under his belt. You can bet the album is going to sound as good as it can possibly be.

This album gives you everything you expect. Powerful riffs, gut-busting solos, commanding vocals and grooves for days. The band sounds so good, with strong songwriting and well-executed performances all around. It’s amazing how this automatically feels like a classic record with those familiar guitar sounds that you could swear you’ve heard before. The band just rides the groovy riffs and then go wild during the solos, whilst still maintaining that great control of the rhythm. No one member feels more important than the other, everyone plays their part beautifully. Sure, the rock style may be formulaic, but at this point, it’s a tried and tested formula of rock n roll and it guarantees that people keep listening and enjoy the songs. The impressive guitar solos are what sell this record for me. When the guitar is let loose, I can feel goosebumps shiver through my body. The precision and skill, blended with a wonderful rhythm section make the solos pop and really stand out.

Jeff Duncan’s vocal performance is great as well. He has a dynamic singing voice that ranges from powerful with a rough edge, to tender and well toned. When he sings, his voice sores above the production. The music matching the lyrical subjects really well and the squealing guitar contracts well against his vocal style. I really don’t think there is a dull moment of the album. A real shock for me came with their unique cover of The Who’s “Baba O’Reily”. Although it’s not a flawless cover version, this song is a beloved favourite of mine. So anytime I get to hear it, a smile comes to my face. It also comes with cameo appearances from Guns ‘N’ Roses’ Dizzy Reed on the keyboard and John Bush (Anthrax, Armored Saint) on guest vocals. So that was pleasant and made the song more whole then if the band just tried to do it outright.

In all honesty, you get what you pay for with this record. It’s meat and potatoes rock n roll. If you love your classic rock and that old school flair, then this is for you. As a kid who grew up thumbing through his dad’s old albums, this album is right up my alley. It’s familiar and new in all the right ways. It doesn’t beat you over the head with nostalgia. It simply feels like a record right out of the past with newer production. Atomic Highway is a solid album that will please people who love unapologetic rock music. Let me tell you, I’m having a ball listening to this record.

4/5

Mick Birchall

Browsing Collection – Don’t Want To Dance (EP)

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , on 18th October 2018 by mickbirchy

Browsing Collection

Don’t Want To Dance (EP)

Hard Rock, Alternative Metal

Released 26 October 2018

via Record Union

Sweden is such a hotbed for great rock and metal music. There just seems to be no end to the great bands I get to talk about from there. A new band for me, hailing from Skövde, are Browsing Collection. A punk rock band that hits you with the force of a heavy metal outfit. These four ladies are out to claim the world of hard rock for their own. Their new EP, Don’t Want To Dance, is certainly an attention-getter. Their metal influenced punk rock immediately grabs you and leaves you breathless. It all sounds so glorious. It’s honestly been a while since a band has grabbed my attention so immediately.

The EP opens on the tune “One Time A Year” an energetic song with lots of hype and an emphatic chorus that get the hard juices flowing. That energy flows through this EP like a surge of power. It’s the kind of song that gives that kick to get you up and moving. The next single from the band is “Something To Hold On To”. This is more of a party rock anthem and keeps that sense of intensity with its well-executed guitar lines and invigorating chorus. The EP just has a great sound and the band keep up an amazing energy throughout. Other songs I lie would be “Thank God It’s Friday” for it big sound and hard-hitting guitar, also, “Hi but No” is a great tune that shows the bands charisma and personality.

The production is outstanding with every instrument coming through loud and clear. These girls know how to make rock music sound so good, with an impactful and commanding presence that demands your attention. Their music has a big anthemic quality that’s great to sing along to. If I was getting ready for a night out this would be the music that would be blasting to get me hyped. Their riffs are kickass, their sound is tight and consistent with loads of energy and creativity. I have been listening to all of their releases on Spotify as well, let me tell you now, you need this band in your life a.s.a.p.

5/5

Mick Birchall

Alice In Chains – Rainer Fog

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on 16th September 2018 by mickbirchy

Alice In Chains
Rainer Fog
Grunge, Alternative Metal, Stoner Rock
Released: 24 August 2018
via BMG Records

The grunge rock icons, Alice In Chains return with their sixth studio album, Rainer Fog. They’ve always been one of those bands for me that I’ve had a bit of a love/hate relationship with. I think they’ve had some amazing songs over the years and their influence is certainly felt across the world of rock music. Yet, I don’t think I’ve ever really enjoyed a full album from them, I like a few songs but never a full record. So, when I got the chance to check out their new album, I was curious to have a listen. This album is the third album with William DuVall as lead vocalist sharing vocals duties with Jerry Cantrell, and the first Alice in Chains album in 22 years to be recorded in their hometown of Seattle. The album’s title was inspired by Mount Rainier, a volcano that overlooks the Seattle-Tacoma metropolitan area.

Straight away the grunge tone takes over with sharp heavy blasts of the guitar as the opening tune “The One You Know”. The riffs are heavy and have that chugging tone. A lot of bass and the drum hits come through sharp. From a production standpoint, they sound excellent with a great balance and a clear tone. I will say they have a lot of strong hooks that keep you listening. There are moments of the album that just get stuck in your head. Also, the weird vocal effect is so strange to my ears it gets lodged in my brain. The dueling vocals between DuVall and Cantrell creates some very nice moments of harmony. Even the weirder moments from a musical perspective are save by the harmony. Like on the track “Fly”. A song that sounds like it was cut and pasted straight from the nineties.

Musically, Rainer Fog has some particularly strong tunes. The title track is great as it has that old-school Seattle grunge feel injected into it. Also, I really like “So Far Under” with it’s Sabbath-esk riff and bass tone that hits you right in the gut. However, I can’t stand up for the whole thing. A lot of the album feels like filler from previous Alice In Chains albums and it might as well be white noise to me. It has interesting ideas but for the most part it does nothing super interesting with them. It sounds fine and if you’re in to Alice In Chains you’re probably used to the hit and miss songwriting. For me though, there are just long stretches of the album that either don’t pack enough punch like on “Red Giant” or feels like it’s there to just take up space on the album such as “Drones”.

Yet again, Alice In Chains just makes an okay album. Nothing bad just nothing that really gets me going. It’s produced well but lacks a lot of imagination and feels like a band that’s just stuck, spinning their wheels. There are some great songs here and ones I really liked, with strong riffs and hooks. Others, where just long windy tunes that didn’t go anywhere. If you’re really into Alice In Chains and the Seattle scene then… well, you’ve probably already got it.

2.5/5

Mick Birchall

Soul Desire – Ignite

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on 1st August 2018 by mickbirchy

Soul Desire
Ignite
Hard Rock, Alternative Rock
Released 13 July 2018
Self Released



I was quite interested to listen to Soul Desire. Formed this year, and already armed with an exciting and well-executed EP. I can’t say I knew much about their previous band, One Last Run, so I’m not really going to touch that. However, Ignite is the first taste that we’ve got from Becky Jade (Vocals), Rob Leach (Guitar) & Chris Smith (Bass) in this new project and I am thoroughly impressed. The sound is good, the melodies are catchy, the lyrics are well written all leading to a great debut for them.

The album opens with their lead-in single, “Rapture” and it automatically sets the tone for the EP, which is rocking hard and clearly enjoying it. I like the sound of the guitars and the bass which chug away and the riff is a great one to open with. It really feels like that sound that I have been listening to for a long time, with bands like Papa Roach, Skarlett Riot and Firewind. So points there and the same can be said across the EP. It has that really clear and defined tone that just punches you right in the gut. Also, the songs “Dark Light” and “Ignite” were brilliant headbangers as well. From the production standpoint, this album is great to listen to and catches the ear just right.

My only problem with the EP is that it reminds me too much of other bands out there. In all honesty, there’s not much in this genre anymore that you can make original without co-opting other musical influences. Whilst the lead vocalist, Becky Jade, certainly brings her own charm, energy and personality to the music, the overall sound is something I’ve heard a lot of. Not so much a problem with the band it’s more the genre itself. However, they do suffer from it. I would have liked some other musical ideas or just something to put meat on the bare bones. Maybe some backing tracks, electronics or other instrumentation, but that’s just me spitballing.

I will admit it’s a fine EP. It has some very strong production and beautiful lyrics. I particularly liked the ballad “Falling Apart”, it broke up the EP and showed that they’re not just a one trick pony. I would definitely like to hear more from them as they’re very talented musicians. I also would really be interested in hearing them in a live setting. Ultimately I’m giving this EP a thumbs up. If you’re into you alternative hard rock then I would recommend giving them a listen.

3.5/5

Mick Birchall

DevilDriver – Outlaws ‘Till The End

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on 18th July 2018 by mickbirchy

DevilDriver

Outlaws ‘Till The End, Vol 1.

Groove Metal, Melodic Death Metal

Released: 6th July 2018

via Napalm Records



This album is an amazing concept and something I kind of want more of. Judging by the title, we might just get it. DevilDriver, have created an album full of metal covers of classic outlaw country songs. Outlaws ‘Till The End Vol. 1. I’m a huge fan of country and metal music, so this works perfectly for me. Also, this doesn’t feel like a cheap cash-grab. There does seem to be a real effort and passion put into the album. It’s clear from listening to it that DevilDriver has a lot of respect and love for the artists that they’re covering. All of the songs pack a punch straight to the gut and give new life to these songs for a new generation, who may have never encountered them otherwise.

Covering artists like Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and The Eagles. They manage to capture the soul of the original songs whilst, at the same time, putting their own mark on the tunes. Giving every song that signature DevilDriver edge that sounds really brutal. Production-wise, the album sounds great. With chugging guitars, well-executed drum work and Dez Fafara screaming his heart out. Producer, Steve Evetts, did a great job putting this project together. Every instrument sounds brilliant and Fafara roars over the top of it all, creating an energetic and fierce sound. Joining DevilDriver on the project is an all-star cast of metal artists: Wednesday 13, Lamb of God’s Randy Blythe and Mark Morton, Lee Ving from FEAR, Glenn Danzig, Brock Lindow of 36 Crazyfists, Testament’s Chuck Billy, and John 5. Who all add that little bit of flavour to an already delicious sound. As well as the metal star power, there’s a cool appearance from country heavyweight, Hank Williams III. Who performs his song “Country Heroes” with DevilDriver.

The songs are already tried, tested and beloved outlaw country songs like “Ghost Riders in the Sky” by Johnny Cash, “Outlaw Man” by The Eagles and “A Thousand Miles From Nowhere” by Dwight Yoakam. So as far as the songwriting is concerned, it’s great. It really is the way DevilDriver have re-imagined these songs and made something truly original out of them. Almost turning them into their own songs. The way they take the familiar elements and put their own spin on things is mesmerising and is still enjoyable on the other side.

No doubt this album might be little divisive to some. Fans who might have just wanted more original content from the band may be annoyed by a cover album. Also, country fans may not like the idea of these metal versions, “destroying the original sound”. Yet, I really like the idea here. More importantly, I like the execution and delivery. DevilDriver has made a fun, compelling record that I think people will really enjoy. The existence of the covers doesn’t ruin the originals but continues their legacy by getting new listeners on board. Be that with songs they’ve never heard, in the case of metal fans. Or a genre they’ve never considered, in the case of country fans. Since the title is “Volume 1”  all I can say is when is “Volume 2” coming?

4.5/5

Mick Birchall

Urne – The Mountain of Gold

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on 30th June 2018 by mickbirchy

Urne

The Mountain of Gold

Groove metal, stoner metal

Released: 27 July 2018

Self-Released

Image may contain: night and outdoor

It always sucks when a band with so much potential, doesn’t go the distance. Hang The Bastard are a prime example of this. An excellent groove metal band that always brought the extra something to their live performances and it really sucked when they split in 2016. Well hopefully, this will go some way to easing that loss for the fans. As a new band formed by two former members of, Hang The Bastard emerges. Bassist, Joe Nally and guitarist, Angus Neyra have come together once again to make something new and special within the same vein of music, with their new group, Urne. Armed with their new drummer, Rich Wiltshire they’re ready to unleash their new EP – The Mountain of Gold. I’ve had the chance to listen to it prior to its release and I have simply loved what I’m hearing.

The album kicks off with this atmospheric build up to the debut single “Dust Atlas”, which then kicks into a powerful bombastic riff. Already establishing a commanding presence, they manage a great balance between heavy and melodic as Joe’s vocals come in. The music’s production sounds simply phenomenal, with the guitar roaring away, the bass pulsating and the drums sound as sharp as a tack. The riffs are groovy as hell and the whole EP packs one big punch. The bands also add that groove flavour to the riffs to keep the songs fluent and easy to listen to. In all honesty, I like the simplicity of the sound. It’s definitely bare bones metal but it’s really effective.

The only thing that I am not a fan of is the vocal effect that comes in from time to time. It’s I find the echo distraction and makes the production cluttered. However, I think that’s just my personal bias, toward vocal effects. On the other hand, I did like Joe’s screamed vocals. Although it sounds like he is straining himself at times, there’s real emotion to connect with when it comes in. I can’t think of much else that I didn’t like here. Urne really presents a great EP, it has a dynamic sound that keeps you entertained from start to finish.

It’s really good to hear new and fresh music from musicians that have already proven themselves in the arena. The Mountain of Gold is a well made first step into this new venture for the groove metal trio and I’m excited for what comes next.

4/5

Mick Birchall

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Sick N’ Beautiful + Supports @ Manchester Aatma

Posted in Gig, Live with tags , , , , , , , , on 4th June 2018 by mickbirchy

Sick N’ Beautiful w/ Bad Pollyanna & Novacrow

Venue: Manchester Aatma Date: 02 June 2018

This was an interesting show, to say the least. First of all, I struggled to find the venue. I like to think that I know Manchester pretty well but I had to lap the building a few times to even find it. So that wasn’t the best start. Also since this was one of the last dates of the tour and this date was a last minute addition to the tour, there wasn’t much of a crowd in the venue. Still the bands really brought the energy and intensity, resulting in a fun time regardless. I have recently reviewed the new album from Sick N’ Beautiful and I really liked it. It had so much personality to it, so naturally, I had to check out what a show from them would be like. Also for an added bonus the support came from Liverpool’s mad rockers, Novacrow. Also, one of my favourite bands, Bad Pollyanna. With all that in play I knew I was going to have a good time.

Novacrow


Straight from the get-go these guys brought so much fire. They just went absolutely crazy on the stage. The guitars roared and the bass pulsated as they brought their tunes to life. Unfortunately their drummer was absent but nothing that a cardboard cutout of Danny DeVito and a drum machine couldn’t fix and to be fair it was mixed pretty well into the set. They wouldn’t stand still for one moment and I liked that. Lead vocalist, Kitty was a mad woman, roaming around the venue and screaming with such passion. They were a lot of fun and I was really into it. Every moment they were playing the audience were captivated by their antics. I haven’t seen them in a long time and I have to say they haven’t missed a step for a single moment.

They’re just as fun and enjoyable as ever and they’re clearly having a good time when they play. The only real problem I had with the set is that the balance was out at times. There would just be moments where the distortion was just a little too much and you couldn’t hear the actual music more just noise. However they made up for that with their personalities. They were beaming with big grins as they played great tunes like “Fight The Horde” and ending the set on the ever popular “Fat Frog”. Where the band went into full on crazy mode. Definitely an enjoyable opener and it made me realise that I need to see them more often. They put on a great live I hope more and more people catch on to them.

Bad Pollyanna


I’ve already kinda gave this away but yeah Bad Pollyanna are one of my favourite bands. I could go to see them again and again and never really get bored. They have the really nice balance of rock and electronica. Once again they didn’t disappoint. They blasted full force on the stage and I think a lot of the audience knew who they were as well which added to the show immensely. I loved the set list, each song followed into the next, it all felt like it really flowed well. Songs like “Pull the Trigger” and “Bionic Heart” got the people moving and I was really enjoying myself. The electronic sections really add layers to their live set. It was mixed really well with the live instruments and the vocal performance was sublime. Frontwoman, Olivia Hyde and bassist Nikki Kontinen had some really great moments of vocal harmony as well. The whole set just felt so fluid. “Define Me” was really well received as well, as one of their biggest hits. They just injected so much charisma and energy into their set. Their performance was engrossing. Maybe a little more restrained that Novacrow’s set, but still really fun to watch. It was really hard to take your eyes off of them.

There wasn’t too much in the way of negatives in this set. To be perfectly honest I was enjoying myself too much to really notice. The mark a really good set in my opinion. The only thing I wish is that there was some new material for them to play. As much as I love the two albums they have I wish there was some new music just to spice up the set list a little more. To be fair though that’s not a bad criticism to give, I want more music.  Bad Pollyanna continue to be one of my favourite bands to watch live. Everything they do while on stage is really enjoyable and their songs are very entertaining.

Sick N’ Beautiful


Okay…This was actually really good. Very much worth the wait to see. Sick N’ Beautiful really know how to put on one hell of a show, even the smallest and cramped of spaces. Seriously talk about making the most of the space given to you. They really brought their set list to life in the best of ways. Their music was excellent as they played some of my favourite tunes from the album. Their performance was out of this world with strobe lighting and a very interesting presentation. The sound was pretty damn good as well. The songs were well played.

Unfortunately the crowd had thinned out even more than before so there wasn’t quite as much energy as there was for the openers. I would love to see them play to a much bigger and more energetic crowd because I think a show like that would be quality. They clearly put a lot of time into their stage personas. I really loved them for the short time they were on stage. The setlist was great I really liked “Megalomaniacal” and “All Wanna Go To Heaven”. They just performed really well. I loved that they put their all into the set, I can really respect that. They clearly have a passion for performing and it shone through here. I wish there was more of an atmosphere to the show, but beggars can’t be choosers and I had a great time listening to them.

Mick Birchall

Sick N Beautiful – Element of Sex

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on 31st May 2018 by mickbirchy

Sick N Beautiful

Element Of Sex

Shock Rock, Nu Metal, Electronic Metal

Released: 29 June 2018

via Rosary Lane Records

Sick N Beautiful are a shock rock band that took me by surprise. Their new album Element of Sex is absolutely superb. Mixing elements of rock, metal, pop and electronica and combining it with sci-fi themes. In my book this makes it a real winner. They have so much personality and they really use this album to express themselves. For people who may not be well versed in this style of music, it’s meant to be loud, heavy on the distortion and has character driven lyrics. So if you enjoy Lordi or Rob Zombie, you’ll more than likely get into this. I have listened to the album a few times now and I have to say I’m really enjoying the sound. It’s weird enough to be abstractly enjoyable but conventional enough to garner a wide audience. I think it’s a good place for them to sit.

Their music is this great fusion of rock and electronica with a gothic edge. It puts me in mind of German industrial music with its distorted guitars and well put together arrangements. The production is sharp and the unique sounds of the band truly engross you. Their sheer charisma is matched by an intense energy that persists throughout the record. The riffs come thick and fast, they really sound great. With the electronica influences the songs sound other worldly and give the guitars and bass a slightly weirder tone. It’s almost an orchestral vibe, intercut with nu-metal undertones. I have to give a lot of credit to the vocal performance of Herma. She sings the songs with such passion and conviction; every moment of her performance on the album is absolutely captivating.

Their lyrics are fun as well invoking scenes of sex, violence, space and ritual. All cleverly tied together with the use of imagination. They manage to use their lyrics to create scenes in your mind where they can tell their story. They sound like they’re having a lot of fun with the lyric writing and use their imaginations to tell stories and that’s what I like here. There’s never a feeling of being talked down to. You go for the ride with them and I can appreciate musical escapism.

Overall, I have really loved listening to Sick N Beautiful. They’re a strange band but very likeable. Their music is enjoyable and with their use of genre hopping and mixing it really feels like something fresh and new. Even though there’s nothing really different the way they piece it all together feels new and it’s a bit of fresh air in a genre that hasn’t progressed in a while. They make music they clearly enjoy and their not going to let anyone tear them down or make them feel ashamed. It’s a fun album and in my opinion definitely one to pick up.

4/5

Mick Birchall

Turbowolf – The Free Life

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on 20th February 2018 by mickbirchy

Artist: Turbowolf

Album: The Free Life

Genre, Psychedelic, Punk, Electronic

Released: 09 March 2018

via So Recordings

The Bristol based psychedelic punk rockers, Turbowolf, are back with their third album, The Free Life. They’re definitely one of those bands that are so different and distinct that you either love the sound or hate it. I personally, love what they produce. I like bands that really challenge their listeners and do something different and Turbowolf have that spark, something that their fans can connect with which leaves casual fans with intrigue (and I’m sure some confusion). I loved their 2011 self-titled debut so much. It was a burst of creativity and really delivered a full package of excitement, not bad for a first outing. Their 2015 album, Two Hands, left me a little disappointed, maybe it was just the victim of over-hype, but it just wasn’t as good. Some great songs individually but the album wasn’t as well put together for my liking. However, early demos and singles from this album sounded interesting enough for me to want to get the whole album and a proper spin.

The album sparks with energy straight off of the bat, with the infectious No, No, No. The synth, guitars and bass all meld together to create this delicious soup of electronic noise. Exactly how you want a record to open, with a punch of punk right in the senses. Across the board Turbowolf seem to have more of a toned sound on this album. Guitarist Andy Ghosh and bassist Lianna Lee Davies bring the heavy riffs that feel heavier. When they kick into full punk mode you feel this rush of psychedelic electronic sounds. The riffs are tight and the basslines are highly enjoyable. Every second of this album hits hard and fast with all of the verbose and intricate sounds that Turbowolf have become known for. Chris Georgiadis’s vocals fit well. He delivers the lyrics in such a way that you have to pay attention to what he’s saying. Then when the vocal harmonies come in, it leaves an impact. On a sound design level The Free Life impresses and on writing level it’s excellent. Turbowolf do everything in their power to bend the very concept of music to their whims.

Also, with this album comes a slew of featured musicians to collaborate on this project. Joe Talbot of fellow Bristol band Idles, lends his vocal talents to Capital X. Sebastian Grainger of Death From Above adds his musical mind to the track Cheap Magic. Mike Kerr of Royal Blood trades lines with Chris in the mind melter of a tune Domino. Finally, Chantal Brown of acclaimed psyche-metallers Vodun adds her flair to the song Very Bad. Usually I would say having this many featured guests cheapens a record. However every single one adds something unique to their respective song and makes the album all the more varied and diverse. One thing is for sure, you will not be bored with this album in a hurry. There is so much to appreciate and the talent on display is immense.

Now like I said Turbowolf are a very distinct band, so this will not be to everyone’s taste. If you’re not into this type of music then this album will do very little to change that mindset. They have definitely chosen their direction. Whereby they push the medium further with every release. I mean they do have some crossover appeal and casual audiences will probably take to the singles, as they do get radio play. However, the albums go full on weird mode and it can be a little much for the average listener. They’ve always had that effect though, so nothing new there. I’m very much into the sound on display here. There’s a creativity and splendor to the album that makes it sound so interesting. From its most intense punk moments to the mind-bending distortion and synths that gives them their signature sound. You will not mistake Turbowolf for anyone else, they hit the mark perfectly here.

5/5

Mick Birchall

MAKS – 3ft No Diving

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on 2nd February 2018 by mickbirchy

MAKS

3ft No Diving

Rock, Southern Rock, Adult Alternative

Released: 23 June 2017

Self Released

This is definitely an interesting release to listen to. MAKS is a Dutch multi-instrumentalist singer songwriter with a very distinct sound. It’s a big old mixture of rock, new wave, country and adult alternative. His new album 3ft No Diving is certainly something very unique, I guarantee you haven’t heard anything like this. It’s an album that really stretches the length of what you’d call “rock music”. The type of album you get here is an interesting musical soup of different instrumental styles and genres which when combined make for something really interesting to listen to. All of the songs are written by him, barring the two covers which I’ll mention later, so there’s some real personal ideas here which I feel are executed well. OK, this album is not going to be to everyone’s taste, I’ll tell you now but there’s some fantastic songwriting here.

The album opens with the foreboding tone of “Portal”. However this is quickly moved into the first song on the album “Lay Down Low” and automatically you learn what type of album you’re getting. A nice fusion of electronic new wave and folky southern rock and it actually works quite well. Obviously he’s not the first to make this odd pairing but he definitely has his own vision of how it should work. The guitar being very prominent and most of the other instruments falling into the background somewhere. MAKS voice is really good, a very soothing tone for the melodies and every so often he has that blues scratchiness to his voice which is great. In particularly for his cover of “Stones in my Passway” a blues classic by Robert Johnson. The other cover “Waiting for the Man” by Lou Reed is nicely performed as well, although I’m not the biggest Lou Reed fan, I can appreciate this. It’s very clear from the sound on the album that this was a passion project and the passion definitely shines through.

However, the production is not all there, at least not for me. Everything is quite tinny and there sounds like there’s a lot of audio filters. Hey, if this is your thing then fine but for me, I like a little bass and more of a bottom to the production. The acoustic guitar sounds lovely, however everything else is quite muted and feels synthesised to a degree and that gets annoying after a while. If the drums had a little more impact to them and the bass filled the bottom of the sound, then this maybe a little easier to listen to. Other than that, I have very little problems, the songwriting is great and I love how the melodies flow, it sounds well put together on a writing level, also the riffs are well executed.  

For me I like it. I didn’t love it, but I look forward to hearing him create more music. He obviously has an ear for lyrics, melody, harmony and rhythm and with that comes something that truly sticks with you. Again, the production may not be to everyone’s taste but I think with a little bit more of a punch and a thicker tone this could be something I could say I love.  Definitely worth checking out anyway. Hope you listen and enjoy.

3.5/5

Mick Birchall

Thundermother – Thundermother

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on 2nd February 2018 by mickbirchy

Thundermother
“Thundermother”
Hard Rock
Released: 23rd February 2018
via Despotz Records

In the spring of 2017, Thundermother saw some drastic changes. Four members left, three new ones arrived (Vocals: Guernica Mancini, Drums: Emlee Johansson & Bass: Sara Pettersson). Yet, guitarist and founder, Filippa Nässil stood as the only original member left. I admire that she’s standing by her vision of the band and the members she’s brought in play the parts well. Overall, the line-up feels stronger.

I really like the sound that Thundermother put on here. A sort of throwback rock n roll with more of a modern feel. Yet for my liking there’s nothing here to spice up the usual formula. There’s nothing new and so there’s ultimately nothing keeping me invested in the music and it turns into white noise. I want to reiterate I like the music, but because there is so little in the way of something different being performed all it does is make me want to go back a listen to old records. This sound has been done and the classic rock records are still classic, we don’t need more bands performing this sound anymore. It’s not even like Airbourne or Steel Panther, where they have so much intensity and passion, you can’t help but get into it. Here it feels so stagnant and lifeless.

As you can tell, I’m kinda torn on this album. In one way I really like it. They try to invoke a lot of the classic staples and they are all competent musicians producing a sound they clearly love. Yet I can’t get over just how formulaic the music is. If this were a few years ago, I probably would’ve eaten this up. It’s just after years of going to gigs and hearing endless copycats who just play this sort of music with nothing fresh added to it. Well, it all gets really boring, and my mind is craving for something else to be added to the formula. Anything that will keep my interest.

So before this becomes a whipping party, let’s talk about the good stuff. As I feel there is a lot to like. For one, it’s all performed well and the production is great. Everything being clear and concise. The vocals standing out on top of the production and you really feel every drum beat. There’s a sharpness to the tone and every little thing is done well. The riffs are also well done, with a constant groove and the bass is played well creating a nice bottom end to the guitar. So the tone is thick and the album does move at a nice pace. The vocals of, Guernica Mancini are simply immaculate. She has a really nice voice and it works with this style of music. All the pieces fit rather nicely. Overall the sound is nice and the songs are very likeable. If you’re into your classic rock and have no desire to move on past the 70’s in terms of musical direction then yeah this band is great for you.

I just wish there was more to this. No, I don’t demand that every rock album has to be experimental or a massive prog-rock concept album. However, I would like to think musicians want to push the boundaries rather than being so confined to one sound. I think that’s my biggest problem here. The complete unwillingness to really try to craft something not before heard. There’s no issue with being influenced by the classic rock bands of yesteryear, I just want to see artists try to make something fresh to my ears. It can be as simple as adding non-traditional instrumentation to create sounds never before present in the genre. Or you could go all out and start genre mixing have a bit of fun mixing and matching and seeing what works and what doesn’t. Hell, I’ll always give credit to those who at least attempt something out of the ordinary.  I just think that Thundermother play it far to safe here.

Like I said, if this is your thing and you like your throwback bands, the Thundermother do a fabulous job. It might not be for me necessarily be for me, then again I’m not the target audience. I do think they could be so much more if they tried to move past the standard rock n roll formula. As is though, it’s fine. The music is nice and the melodies are ones that get caught in your head and you find yourself singing. The shake up in the group dynamic, I think, was good for them and I admire the persistence of Filippa for not just letting the brand of Thundermother just die off. If you like classic rock with no surprises and left uncompromised then I say buy it and enjoy. It’s not bad music, it’s just nothing I haven’t heard before.

3/5

Mick Birchall

Cats In Space – Scarecrow

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on 28th October 2017 by mickbirchy

Cats In Space

Scarecrow

Power-pop, Glam Rock

Released: 25 August 2017

via Cats In Space / Cargo Records

In my continued search for something different in the rock/metal world. I happened upon a band called Cats In Space. I thought this had to be something new different and interesting. To my disappointment they weren’t some existential prog-rock act with themes of feline creatures in the vastness of space. Instead it’s another rock act trying to evoke that feeling of the late 70’s/early 80’s glam rock. To which they do a really good job. Their music is bright , happy and definitely has that sense of musical presence that gets that style of old school rock down almost perfectly. Once I got past my confusion of what they were, I really found myself getting into their music. Having grown up on this genre, it definitely struck a chord with me. It has the same feel as Whitesnake, well not really but it’s something I can get behind 100%.

The album has a weird tone on the production, like a really heavy digital processing, this works on some songs but can kind of sounds like shit at other times. Especially when it’s just the synths on their own. Every song has a really strong hook, with pretty simplistic lyrics so it’s easy to sing along to. They implore this masterfully, I have to say I was bopping along quite merrily to almost every track. Even though the production is a little weird, I love the songwriting, the way the songs flow should bring a smile to any hard rock fan, with swelling versus that just build to big choruses. Yeah, it’s formulaic but you can’t argue that it works. They just get the best out of their sound by making everything sound huge. The guitar tone is wonderful and the bass and drums lock in together really well. The vocals performance is damn near flawless, soaring on top of the production and hitting every note beautifully.

I have to say I was a little taken back by this album. It reminded me of listening to old school records with my Dad and it has those big overblown choruses to match. The production can be a little clumsy with the way it sounds at times, but that’s a very minor point. The songs are fantastic. It’s cheesy and a little bit silly but I think that’s the point. To be an over-the-top power pop/glam rock band with massive catchy choruses that are easy to sing along to. I actually liked this album in the end. Not enough to give it a perfect rating but you know with the amount of depressing shite that out there. I needed something like this.

4/5

Mick Birchall

Epica – The Solace System

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on 4th September 2017 by mickbirchy

Epica
The Solace System
Symphonic Metal, Progressive Metal
Released 1st September 2017
via Nuclear Blast Records

Epica have been on a roll as of late. Last year they came out with one of their most commercially accessible, biggest sounding and most fun album to date. They have followed this up with another little taste of this sound. The Solace System is the new EP that continues the big bombastic sound that they created on The Quantum Enigma and The Holographic Principle. When Epica are truly behind something they put their damnedest into making it sound its best.

They manage to effortlessly weave together beautifully poetic lyrics with brutally harsh and excellently composed and layered musical production. The production is simply phenomenal and every track really hits home. The tight chemistry of the band really shines through on the production, creating some really memorable tunes that feel more complex and interesting. The duel vocal stylings that they are known for sound great once again impress me as they seamlessly dart between the two. Although the EP sounds great, it does come across as a little formulaic.  The more I think about it, the more it feels like they’re treading the same water again. At times it just feels a little too… Expected of them. They really haven’t thrown much into this EP to give it it’s own identity. Maybe if they experimented with a few new ideas but there’s nothing here which isn’t territory they have covered before.

In all honesty, I keep flipping back and forth on this album. As much as it feels passe and ineffective, I’m still enjoying the work. It sounds really pretty. Simone’s vocal work is gorgeous, it sounds really clear and is filled with emotion. That is something that she can always do, she jsut throws herself into her lyrics. The music is tight and well written so I can’t complain. However, I wish they would have tried something a little different rather than give us the scraps of what probably didn’t make the cut on The Quantum Enigma or The Holographic Principle. As most of the songs sound like they could have been ripped straight off of one of them. None of the songs are bad by any stretch of the imagination and maybe these songs are different in theme. So yeah giving their own EP makes sense on that front but they could have used this as a platform to try something new.

I’m trying so hard not to make it sound like I don’t like this EP, I do. I really do. There’s some fantastic tunes and well written songs here. However, I’m one of these people that like artists to at least try something different on every release. Yet, after 15 years maybe they just know their market and know how to make the most out of their audience. As for my final thoughts on this EP… It’s good and let’s face it, if you’re an Epica fan… you’ve already bought it.

3.5/5

Mick Birchall