Archive for the Rock Category

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

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Joakem – Mind Matter

Posted in CD, Metal, Rock 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

Bring Me The Horizon – amo

Posted in CD, Rock with tags , , , , on 22nd January 2019 by Nico Solheim-Davidson

Bring Me The Horizon
amo
Released January 2019
Hard Rock/ Electro-rock
Released via Sony Music/RCA Records

01-343969

Hailing from God’s Own County of Yorkshire, Bring Me The Horizon return to the forefront with their latest album, amo. With an ever changing sound, Bring Me The Horizon have become one of the biggest acts to come from South Yorkshire, gaining themselves admirers and haters from all across the globe.

I Apologise If You Feel Something starts up the album with a hypnotic electronic medley and soft, almost-choir like vocals that build up to the electro-rock vibes of Mantra. Mantra has plenty of hooks to keep the listener engaged, as well as energetic riffs and some very memorable vocal lines. Nihilist comes in strong with a dark pulsing rhythm, and catchy melodies. The softer vocal duet between Sykes and Grimes suit the track well, dancing elegantly with the lashing synths and shadowy beats.

In The Dark stands out with its laid back pace and notably fetching riffs. Wonderful Life is one of the singles from the album. The track itself is interesting but doesn’t sound as strong as the rest of the album. Sykes’ are admirable throughout the track and stand out more than the guest vocals of Dani Filth. Ouch acts as interlude between the last track and the next one, appearing more as a chaotic whirlpool of differing beats with the odd vocal section thrown in.

Medicine bounces back from the previous two tracks, with medleys and riffs that one can quite easily dance to. Sugar is a track that employs satisfying hooks and active vocals that meld almost perfectly with the rhythm section. Why You Gotta Kick me When I’m Down sounds almost like a hip hop track due to the mesmerising beats and whippings of electronic sections but the vocals show that it is very  much a Bring Me The Horizon track.

Fresh Bruises has an emotive atmosphere radiating from its introduction before the spellbinding electro-like percussion kicks in, carrying the otherworldly vocal sections. The keyboard passages in Mother Tongue stand out valiantly, weaving all other parts of the song together into a majestic composition. Heavy Metal is an interesting song all on its own, turning heavy with synth-laden movements and vocal duets from Sykes and Rahzel.

amo finishes on a very orchestral orientated note with I Don’t Know What To Say, contrasting the grandoise sound of classical instruments with soothing vocals, acoustic guitar, and hints of electronic influences.

amo makes it clear that Bring Me The Horizon are still on top of their game, blending different styles into their music. While it might be as heavy or as aggressive as their older albums, it shows how far the band have come since their early days, and it clearly demonstrates the band’s versatility and talent.

4.5/5

Nico Solheim-Davidson

Paul’s Top Ten Live Performances of 2018

Posted in Editorial/Opinionated, Metal, Rock with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on 13th January 2019 by Paul Macmillan

As these end of year lists tend to go, a lot of those based on releases are quite similar. So, to side-step that, this one is going to be quite the personal account of various live experiences. Some may have been shared with tens of thousands. Others with barely one hundred. The one conjoining feature of each and every one is that they are embossed upon my own memory as something far beyond the average. So, without further ado,  and in no strict order, here’s my top ten list of live performances from 2018.

1 – Virus at Smashed Fest, Perth, SCO

While this was an amazing show to be part of, for many reasons, one of the things which will stay vibrant and real in the memory is the performance of headliners Virus. Headed by self-proclaimed “geriatric thrasher” Coke Finlay, this was the first of a big set of shows celebrating the 30th anniversary of their Force Recon album. At around an hour and a half, it was a pretty demanding gig, but they laid down the riffs and showed the young uns how it’s done!

2 – Arroganz at The Viper Room, Vienna, AT

While on a run to Vienna, we decided to take a chance on a local show. I had no idea who any of the bands were before buying tickets, but a quick advance scan of online videos quickly showed it was a full black metal event. While every band churned out a quality performance, it was Arroganz who really clinched it. Bringing their own sludgy death-groove riffs to a hard-hitting BM tradition, to sent me home with a big grin and a big handful of merch.

3 – Krysthla at Hordes Of Belial, Dundee, SCO

This Northamptonshire based tech-death outfit have got to be among the top five of British extreme metal bands at present. The never fail to blitz the audience at every show, from toilet gigs to big fests. Their first time at Hordes Of Belial saw them take on main support on stage one, and I have to say, they just blasted the place in half, leaving the Dundee crowd completely and utterly shell-shocked. The level of intensity delivered was simply unhinged.

4 – Power Trip at Bloodstock Open Air, ENG

Somehow, I hadn’t properly heard Power Trip before this show. A friend camping with us let me listen to a snippet or two, but the sound didn’t really let me know what I was in for. From start to finish their mid-afternoon onslaught was irresistible, and saw me inexorably drawn into the pit for a band with which I was previously unfamiliar. I didn’t remember having “my shit” with me when they kicked off, but I had sure as hell lost it by the time they were done.

5 – Vuur at The O2 ABC, Glasgow, SCO

Having been a fan of vocalist Anneke van Giersbergen’s previous band, The Gathering, for many years, I’d put my expectations on hold for this one. I was surprised to see the evening’s activities were to take place in a small-ish, cosy room of the (sadly now destroyed) venue. This only elevated the special charm of what turned out to be a beautifully intimate show, featuring emotional favourites, acoustic renditions, and sparkling new numbers.

6 – Annihilator at QMU, Glasgow SCO

It’s always great to see Testament, but I think I speak for everyone who was in attendance at this event, when I say Annihilator were truly the kings of the kill. Tighter than Scrooge McDuck’s bum, they smashed out hit after hit, Jeff Waters commanding the crowd with a maniacal grin. There was no huge stage spectacle. No special occasion. No tricks and traps. Just a phenomenal performance, at a great gig, from a band who nailed every aspect of being them.

7 – Watain at Wacken Open Air, DE

Have you seen Watain live? I’d only ever seen videos before. Witnessing their 2018 show live (twice, actually) was really something else. So much atmosphere. And so much fire! It’s no wonder they are gathering a mass fan-base with increasing pace, as being there could make you feel like you’re part of something bigger. Something empowering. Something dark. Looking close, one could even see rituals being muttered between lyrics. If the heat didn’t melt your eyeballs first.

8 – Suicidal Tendencies at Bloodstock Open Air, ENG

The odds were stacked against this legendary band making BOA, from the sound of things, mainly in the form of  various ‘transport issues’. When they finally arrived, their set shifted from the RJD stage to the smaller Sophie tent, they rolled straight into high-energy mode. Seemingly powered up by the trials of the day, they went on to make their show all about the audience, getting a kid involved in the drumming, and one wheelchair bound crowdsurfer pushed up and down the stage by Mike Muir. Simply lovely and legendary.

9 – Heilung at Wacken Open Air, DE

“Ethereal” is probably the one and only single word which could begin to describe this experience. Taking to the medieval themed Wackinger outdoor stage, in the middle of the night, Heilung swamped the intoxicated masses. I didn’t manage to catch them on their subsequent tour, but it’s really hard to imagine indoor venues matching the character of this performance being cast out into the dark of Germany’s witching hour. It was simply one of those moments in time which I don’t believe it will be entirely possible to replicate. You were either there or you weren’t. I would love to watch them again, but I suspect I would be chasing the elusive “first hit”.

10 – Slayer at SSE Hydro, Glasgow, SCO

Well, at the start of this article, I did say these events were in no particular order, but you know what they say about rules. The live metal crown of this year absolutely has to go to original thrash titans, Slayer. Aside from hosting one of the best under-cards for a long time, the atmosphere when the headliners took to the stage – seemingly for the last time in Scotland – was insane. This was not only down to them playing at their best. Credit is also due to the production crew, because they transformed that venue into another world. One last time, we were taken into Slayer territory, deeper than we had ever dared before. It was one Hell of a farewell.

2018 – It was a real live one…

Arroganz. Photo Paul Macmillan/Slow Dragon Music

Paul Macmillan

Corroded – Bitter

Posted in CD, Metal, Rock 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

Iza’s Highlights of 2018

Posted in Alternative, Editorial/Opinionated, Industrial, Metal, Rock with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 31st December 2018 by izaforestspirit

It’s that time of the year again! Time for my annual best of list or “highlights” as I prefer to call them. This year I have decided to do just one list rather than two separate ones for metal and non-metal. The main reason for this is that there have not been too many industrial/EBM releases that caught my attention this year. So without further ado, here are my top ten albums of 2018:

1. Powerwolf – The Sacrament of Sin
Genre: Power Metal
Powerwolf - The Sacrament of Sin

The German power metal wolves are back with a new album. And what an album it is!! I honestly cannot get enough of it. It may not be very profound as far as the themes go but it is hell of a lot of fun. Stand-out tracks are ‘Fire & Forgive’, ‘Demons Are A Girl’s Best Friend’ and ‘Nightside of Siberia’.

2. Lord of The Lost – Thornstar
Genre: Dark Rock/Gothic Industrial Metal
Image result for lord of the lost thornstar
I absolutely adore this band. They combine the best of dark rock with Gothic metal and Deathstars-like industrial metal. ‘Thornstar’ has to be their greatest and most complex album to date. In order to fully understand the concept, I would recommend that you download the 21 paged ‘Thornstar backstory’ from the band’s website. It’s a fascinating read that offers some insight into Pangaean history and culture. Alternatively you can simply enjoy music. Stand-out tracks are ‘On This Rock I Will Build My Church’, ‘Haythor’ and ‘Black Halo’.

3. Behemoth – I Loved You At Your Darkest
Genre: Blackened Death Metal

Behemoth are back with their long-awaited new album. As I mentioned in my review, this is not ‘The Satanist part 2’ but rather a mixture of both old and new Behemoth styles. It takes a few listens but once you get into it your patience will be rewarded. Stand-out tracks are ‘Wolves ov Siberia’ and ‘Bartzabel’.

4. Chthonic – Battlefields of Asura
Genre: Melodic Black Metal/Oriental Metal
閃靈 - 政治 / Battlefields of Asura
My favourite oriental metal band are back. Their latest album might not be a memorable as ‘Bú Tik’ but it has its moments. Music-wise it offers more of Chthonic’s unique blend of melodic black metal, death metal and oriental folk music with the addition of some choirs and guest vocals from the Cantopop singer Denise Ho. Stand-out tracks are ‘A Crimson Sky’s Command’ and ‘Millennia’s Faith Undone’.

5. MONO Inc. – Welcome to Hell
Genre: Gothic Rock/Dark Rock
Image result for MONO INC WELCOME TO HELL cover
More Gothic rock…’ Welcome to Hell’ is my favourite MONO Inc. album to date. Their music is essentially melodic hard rock but it also has this wonderful, eerie Gothic feel. Stand-out tracks are ‘Long Live Death’, A Vagabond’s Life’ and Reign of Rats’.

6. Grimner – Vanadrottning
Genre: Folk Metal/Viking Metal
Grimner - Vanadrottning

I had the pleasure of reviewing this album earlier this year. It’s been a long while since I’ve heard any folk metal that was this good. I would recommend this to fans of Finntroll, Ensiferum and Månegarm. Stand-out tracks are ‘Vanadrottning’ and ‘En Fallen Jätte’.

7. Monstrosity – The Passage Of Existence
Genre – Death Metal
Monstrosity - The Passage of Existence
My kind of death metal and my favourite death metal album of 2018. It is hard to pick out a stand-out track since in all honestly I like them all but ‘Kingdom of Fire’ and ‘Maelstrom’ are the ones that stuck in my head the most.

8. Hanzel und Gretyl – Satanik Germanik
Genre: Industrial Metal/Groove Metal/Extreme Metal
Hanzel und Gretyl - Satanik Germanik
‘Satanik Germanik’ is Hanzel und Gretyl’s heaviest and most metal album. As mentioned in my review it is darker and more serious than the material from the “Fukken Über’ era, much like its predecessor ‘Black Forest Metal’. Luckily that does not make it any less fun. Stand-out tracks are ‘I Am Bad Luck’ and the party song ‘Trinken Mit Der Kaizer (Die Bierz From Hell)’

9. Scandroid – The Darkness
Genre: Synthwave
Image result for scandroid the darkness
One of the few electronic releases that made it to my top 10. ‘The Darkness’ is the third album from Klayton (Celldweller/Circle of Dust)’s synthwave project Scandroid. Delightful retro synthesizer tunes, a little guitar and melodic vocals all with a futuristic feel. Stand-out tracks ‘Phoenix’ and ‘Red Planet’.

10. Auger – The Awakening
Genre: Darkwave
Image result for auger the awakening
A new discovery for me. I really enjoyed Auger’s show at Lumous Gothic Festival 2018. This British dark wave duo combine the best of darkwave and Gothic rock. I would recommend their debut album to fans of Blutengel, Gothminister and The Vision Bleak. Stand-out tracks are ‘Monster’ and ‘My Guardian’.

Honourable mentions:

Xentrifuge – Desensitized Parallels, Immortal – Northern Chaos Gods, Psyclon Nine – Icon of The Adversary. All good albums but with only a few outstanding tracks they missed out on a space in my top ten list.
IAMX’s latest album ‘Alive in The New Light’ also came out of the start of this year. While it didn’t make my top ten I did enjoy it, especially the track ‘Mile Deep Hollow’.
Check out the video here:

Best live show of 2018: Helloween live at South Park Festival in Tampere.
Biggest New Discovery: Auger
Most anticipated albums in 2019:
Blutengel – Un:Gott
Blue Stahli – Obsidian
Also hopefully new albums by Helloween and Rammstein.

Happy New Year Everyone!

Iza Raittila

Gates Of Paris – Gates Of Paris

Posted in CD, Metal, Rock 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