Archive for the CD Category

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

Calea Dreaming – The Rainforest Canopy

Posted in Instrumental, Metal with tags , , on 4th February 2019 by izaforestspirit

Calea Dreaming
The Rainforest Canopy
Released 9th December 2018
Atmospheric Post Black Metal / Ambient
Self-Released

Calea Dreaming - The Rainforest Canopy

‘The Rainforest Canopy’ is the debut album from the Australian post-black metal one-man project Calea Dreaming. All his music is instrumental and it is inspired by nature, specifically the landscapes surrounding the New South Wales region of Australia where the musician is based.

I’m not all that well versed in post-black metal but based on my limited exposure to this sub-genre, anything with a “post” prefix, be it metal or rock tends to imply that it is a mixture of that style with some added ambient. This is definitely the case here. Aside from the guitar riffs and some of the drum work, this album has very little to do with black metal. As stated in the intro, there are no vocals on this album. The songs are melodic, atmospheric and very long, with the shortest track Rivers of Rosewood clocking in at over nine minutes. This is what I would describe as “chill-out” music, the kind that you might want to put on when you want to relax, enjoy a hot drink and a good book. I almost dozed off in my chair while writing this review!!

If any of you suffer from insomnia I would recommend that you give this album a go. It creates this tranquil mood, inviting the listener to close his or her eyes and picture themselves in one of the landscapes referred to in the songs. You can actually hear the sound of rain falling in the background on A Storm In The Mountains. There are also violins and other string instrumentals present on here, all contributing to the relaxing atmosphere.

Overall, ‘The Rainforest Canopy’ is a very atmospheric album which I would recommend to those who enjoy ambient and instrumental metal. It’s very relaxing and pleasant to listen to. It is not really my type of music though so I am unlikely to play it again unless I have trouble sleeping.

4/5

Iza Raittila

At The Gates and Behemoth live in Tampere

Posted in Gig, Live, Metal with tags , , , , , on 31st January 2019 by izaforestspirit

Wolves In The Throne Room, At The Gates, Behemoth
Pakkahuone, Tampere, Finland
30th January 2019

My first gig of 2019! I have been waiting for a long time for a chance to see Behemoth again. The last time I saw them live was Tuska Open Air 2012 on their first tour shortly after their front-man Nergal’s recovery from leukemia. I have kept up to date with all their releases and news and last year I could not believe my luck when I discovered that they are coming to my home town.

The venue was sold out on the night and the there was already a sizable crowd right from the start. I could not really get into the first band – Wolves In The Throne Room. Their sound can be described as a mixture of atmospheric black metal and dark ambient. Some of the songs they played were incredibly slow and more ambient than black metal. While this kind of music might be fine to listen to at home, it’s not really something that I want to hear live 2.5/5

I guess that most people who are into melodic death metal are familiar with At The Gates. They are after all one of the forefathers of the genre with some genre-defining releases to boot. This was not the first time that I have seen them live and I hope that it will not be my last. They had a few issues with their performances. First, their vocalist Tomas got the name of the city wrong, a minor mistake which he spent the rest of the night apologizing for. The other issue they had turned out to be more serious – a broken drum set.


It took some time to fix the problem but luckily they managed to sort it out in time to play a few more songs. A very good show overall despite the setbacks. 4/5

Finally came the moment I have been waiting seven years for. Behemoth started their set a little later than planned but it was definitely worth the extra time. They had an impressive amount of visuals and various props all contributing to a wonderful performance. They played some of the hits such as ‘Decade of Therion’(my personal favourite), ‘Chant For Eschaton 2000’, ‘Slaves Shall Serve’, ‘Lucifer’ along with lots of songs from the new album including ‘Bartzabel’ and ‘Wolves of Siberia. What a fantastic show! It was even better than the last time that I saw them live. 5/5

In summary, the only band I did not enjoy watching live was Wolves In The Throne Room. It was a little too slow for my liking. At The Gates managed to overcome their technical problem and put on a great show. Behemoth were everything that I hoped for and more. I absolutely loved their show. This was their first time in Tampere and I really hope that they came back again in the future.

Iza Raittila