Archive for the Review Category

Carach Angren – Francksteina Strataemontanus

Posted in Review, Uncategorized with tags , , on 22nd June 2020 by izaforestspirit

Carach Angren
Franckensteina Strataemontanus
Released 26th June 2020
Symphonic Black Metal / Horror Metal
Released via Seasons of Mist

Carach Angren - Franckensteina Strataemontanus

The Dutch symphonic horror metal masters Carach Angren are back with a new album. Their latest opus ‘Franckensteina Strataemontanus’ is a concept album focusing on the story of German occultist Johann Conrad Dippel, whose experiments allegedly inspired Mary Shelley’s novel ‘Frankenstein’. This is also the last album to feature the band’s drummer Ivo “Namtar” Wijers.

Carach Angren are a fairly new discovery for me. I only got into their music a couple of months ago. I’m surprised that it took me this long to check them out considering that I am a fan of several bands who make similar music including Cradle of Filth and Chthonic. The main things that make Carach Angren stand out are the frequent use of orchestrations in the music and Seregor’s storytelling. I wouldn’t really call what he does “singing”, it’s more like he is reading or narrating a horror story complete with all the theatrical antics and creepy voices.

The intro track ‘Here in German Woodland’ sets the scene for an eerie tale of Gothic horror. Speaking of spooky, there is something disturbing about the distorted guitar and keyboard noises in the introduction to the title track. It definitely conveys an eerie atmosphere, sending chills down the listener’s spine. Seregor does a good job playing the mad scientist in the story. Full marks for the theatrics. As far the lyrics go, Operation Compass seems a little disconnected from the rest of the album concept but the bombastic yet creepy orchestrations make you forget the confusion. Monster is one of the highlights on the album for me. The keyboards and the vocals really convey that feeling of something sinister coming towards you. They even added some cinematic style orchestrations and screams to create the right atmosphere.

Then there is the ultra-quirky Der Vampir von Nürnberg, one of those symphonic black metal songs that you’re either going to love or hate. The orchestrations sound fantastic in all their Gothic horror glory but the vocals might divide opinions. I am accustomed to Seregor’s creepy narrations but the ghastly (not in a good way) backing vocals and howling in the chorus started to get on my nerves. Dimmu Borgir did this too and I disliked it. Also is it just me or does anyone else think that the singer sounds like a bit like Till Lindemann when he is speaking in German?

Overall, ‘ Franckensteina Strataemontanus’ is a really good soundtrack to a horror movie that has yet to be made. As far symphonic black metal goes, Carach Angren are bit of an oddity, but as this album proves they are a force to be reckoned with. I would recommend this to fans of Cradle of Filth, Dimmu Borgir and Chthonic.

8/10
Iza Raittila

Beyond Shadows – Wolf’s Blood

Posted in Review, Uncategorized with tags , , on 16th June 2020 by izaforestspirit

Beyond Shadows
Wolf’s Blood
Released May 2020
Melodic Death Metal
Self-Released

Beyond Shadows - Wolf's Blood

Wolf’s Blood’ is the new EP from the New York -based, American melodic death metal duo. The band comprises vocalist and guitarist Daniel Shepard and drummer Chris Hawkins (ex-Midian). Their music is heavily influenced by the Gothenburg melodic death metal movement and they are inspired by bands such as At The Gates and Carcass.

This EP certainly does not lack aggression. Right from the opening riff on Never An Answer you are greeted by an onslaught of shredding guitars, blast beats and abrasive shouting. Yet in addition to the aggression, they also managed to sneak in some melodic guitar parts towards the latter half of the song adding some variety to the overall structure and pacing. The title track also features melodic undertones and lots of pace changes. The transitions between the vicious death metal and the melodic guitar work are very well timed. I particularly liked the acoustic guitar part at the end.

Just when you think that you know what Beyond Shadows is all about, they surprise you again. Based on what the first two tracks sounded like, the last thing that I expected was a keyboard intro on Regret Is My Name. It’s short but long enough to give the listener a chance to get ready for the next attack of thrashing guitars and blast beats. At The Gates made songs like this back in the ‘90s. Last but not least is Screaming Eyes (Go Unheard) which features another melodic guitar intro which reminded me of old Metallica for some reason. The guitar riffs are good but I could have done without the clean vocals.

In summary, ‘Wolf’s Blood’ is a well made melodic death metal EP, which is likely to please fans of Gothenburg variety of the genre. It has a few flaws but luckily they are minor and easy to overlook.

7/10

Iza Raittila

American Jetset – Saloon Rock Whiskey Pop

Posted in Review, Uncategorized with tags , , , on 15th June 2020 by Pieni

American Jetset
“Saloon Rock Whiskey Pop”
Rock
Self-released on 8th April 2020

saloon

“Saloon Rock Whiskey Pop” is said to be American Jetset’s first full length album, but as it features only six songs, I’d call it an EP instead… Whatever the term, its contents live up pretty much to its title, delivering that kind of rock which isn’t exactly hard but it’s harder than pop and that you expect to hear in a bar, while having a few drinks with a bunch of friends.
Personally, I’d like the voice to sound a bit more… passionate, but then it would probably make it feistier and closer to hard rock, and that’s probably not American Jetset’s goal. They play rock – period. And the whole guitar work – meaning solos, riffs, licks… – it’s already spicy enough to ignite a sparkle in your ear and then the rest just follows naturally. I must highlight the bass line in “Walking Contradiction”, as it’s very bold, but sadly it stays in the background in the other songs. Still plays an important role in the whole outcome, but it doesn’t stand out as in that first song. “1000 Ghosts” shows a more upbeat side of the band and “Never Be Goodbye” is the mandatory ballad, all acoustic, clapping hands on the chorus – which features the album title – and on the non-clapping parts you easily imagine the hands of the crowd holding a lighter (yeah, a lit cellphone will probably be more accurate, but a lighter gives out a more traditional vibe, fitting better in the mood). Meaning they cover all key bases of rock in about half an hour of juicy music.

7/10

Renata “Pieni” Lino

Behemoth – A Forest

Posted in Review, Uncategorized with tags , , on 5th June 2020 by izaforestspirit

Behemoth
A Forest
Released 29th May 2020
Blackened Death Metal
Released via New Aeon Music

Behemoth - A Forest

The ongoing worldwide pandemic has taken a heavy toll on the music industry. With thousands of shows and festival cancelled or postponed, musicians have found themselves with a lot more time their hands. Many have returned to the studio and created something new. The Polish blackened death metal trio Behemoth are one such band. They have teamed up with Niklas Kvarforth (Shining, Skitliv) to bring you a cover of The Cure’s ‘A Forest’. The EP also features to previously unreleased songs from the ‘I Loved You At Your Darkest’ recording sessions.

I have to admit I am not that familiar with The Cure’s music. I actually had to check out the original version of A Forest prior to this review. The Cure’s original post-punk song isn’t exactly cheerful but it’s nowhere near as creepy as Behemoth’s version. The eerie guitar work in the intro is enough to send chills down your spine. Orion really does a great job with the bass. Then there’s Mr. Kvarforth’s ghastly screams along with Nergal’s growls. This is definitely not a gentle stroll in the woods. These are the sounds of someone lost in a forest running for his/her life. The live version is faster, more energetic but it loses some of the eerie atmosphere in process.

Then we come to the two new songs. ‘Shadows Ov Ea Cast Upon Golgotha’ is a brutal piece of blackened death metal with harsh guitar riffs and varied pace. It is a decent song but it feels a little unrefined. I can see why they chose not to include on the last album. ‘Evoe’ is much more dynamic, well rounded and stronger in structure. Now this is the kind of Behemoth track that I was hoping to hear.

Overall, ‘A Forest’ is a good addition to Behemoth’s discography. They did a great job with the cover and the other songs are not without merit. I think that their fans will enjoy this release. I sure did.

7/10

Iza Raittila

Ravenscry – 100

Posted in Review, Uncategorized with tags , on 27th May 2020 by izaforestspirit

Ravenscry
100
Released 15th May 2020
Gothic Metal / Progressive metal
Self-Released

Ravenscry - 100

100’ is the latest album from the Milan-based Italian Gothic metal band Ravenscry. They were formed back in 2008. This is the first studio release to feature their new guitarist Federico Schiavoni, who joined the band in 2017.

So, based on the description, I was expecting this to be another Nightwish type, female fronted band. How wrong could I be? For starters, the vocals are melodic but their singer Giulia Stefani sounds more like Amy Lee (Evanescence) or Silje Wergeland (The Gathering, ex-Octavia Sperati) than any of the Nightwish singers. Secondly there are no symphonic elements. Instead, the guitars are low pitch, distorted and have a progressive metal feel to them. Keyboards are kept to a minimum, with the exception of the opening track ‘Maybe’, where they maintain the balance between the chugging guitars and Ms. Stefani’s angelic singing.

As I’ve mentioned several times in the past, I have never been fond of anything progressive and that is my main issue with this album. I like the vocals but the stop-start, distorted guitar work seems to disrupt the flow on the songs. I think that the symbiosis between the two is not as smooth or as efficient as it should be. They work on some tracks better than others. ‘The Entertainer’ is one of the better ones. Here the guitars take a backseat and the vocals are the main focus on the song. I really like Giulia Stefani’s vocal performance on that particular track. The melodic keyboard outro is a good addition too.

Overall, ‘100’ offers a mixture of progressive and Gothic metal. There is enough variety to keep the listener on his or her toes. Unfortunately the combination of the two might not be to everyone’s taste.

6/10

Iza Raittila

Raven Said – Beyond The Darkest Hour

Posted in Review, Uncategorized with tags , , , on 13th May 2020 by izaforestspirit

Raven Said
Beyond The Darkest Hour
Released 17th April 2020
Goth Rock/Post-Punk
Released via Secret Sin Records Ltd.

’Beyond The Darkest Hour’ is the debut album from the Russian Goth rock duo Raven Said. The band was founded in 2014 in Ekaterinburg by vocalist-guitarist Andrey Agapitov and Maria Agapitova (piano, synth, violin and percussion). I first discovered them after watching their performance at Lumous Gothic Festival. They cite ‘80s Goth rock, post-punk and new wave as their main influences along with an interest in the occult and spooky Gothic themes. Oh and in case the name wasn’t enough of a clue they are also fans of the works of Edgar Allan Poe. Some of the songs were previously released as EPs and their entire discography is available from their Bandcamp page.

Well, if old school Goth rock is your thing, then you are in for a treat. This album has all the hallmarks of a classic Goth rock record including melancholic vocals, eerie, scything guitar work and spooky synth melodies. Lenore was part of the live set at Lumous Gothic Festival. It’s one of the songs that stood out for me and what made me check out the band’s music after the shows. Ok, it’s a little slow but I really like the spooky atmosphere. There are also some more dance-friendly tunes such as Love That Black As Coal. This one is more keyboard-oriented and a little less melancholic.

Another song that caught my attention was Fragile Hope; the most dance-friendly track on here. It’s catchy with a good keyboard intro and the guitar sounds less gloomy. The guitar riffs can even been described as….(dare I say it..?) – uplifting. Yes, that’s right, I’ve just used the term “uplifting” in a Goth rock review! Oh no… Oh the horror! What ever shall we do? I say that we just keep listening and dance along, that’s my plan at least.

To conclude, ‘Beyond The Darkest Hour’ is a very well executed Goth rock album that is bound to please fans of the style. There are only a handful of Goth rock bands that I like and I am pleased to say that Raven Said is one of them.

8/10

Iza Raittila

Paradise Lost – Obsidian

Posted in Review, Uncategorized with tags , , , on 10th May 2020 by Pieni

Paradise Lost
“Obsidian”
Gothic metal
Released: 15th May 2020
Via Nuclear Blast 

obsidian

I believe that in all 17 studio albums Paradise Lost have released so far, this is the one with the most accurate title – its songs are deep dark and their refinement pretty clear-cut, just like an obsidian rock. And since we use the word “rock” in a metaphorical sense to describe something strong we can rely on, and “Obsidian” is, in my humble opinion, the strongest record these guys have done in years…

Paradise Lost have always managed to write sorrowful songs that will otherwise bring you elation rather than depression, and just a few seconds into that acoustic intro of “Darker Thoughts” will prove this statement right. Nick Holmes sings in a heartfelt clean pitch here, and as the electric, heavy part kicks in, so does his harsh growl. There are orchestral arrangements in the background throughout the whole song – violins, if my ears got it right – which a sucker for details such as me must point out. And as the two following songs are the ones I already knew from YouTube – the stricken “Fall From Grace” and the homage to The Sisters Of Mercy “Ghosts – it was already clear I was facing a masterpiece. A lot of “old school PL vibe” revamped, which I admit probably helped with the impact it caused on me – but I still think “masterpiece” is the right word.

The keyboard line and guitar work of “The Devil Embraced” are particularly riveting, while “Serenity” bears a more straight-forward and rawer heaviness that turns out quite catchy. And while the melody of “Ending Days” bears the beautiful sadness that I’ve implied before, “Ravenghast”’s nature is gloomier, almost ominous.

Saying “all gothic metal fans” may sound presumptuous, so I’ll stick to “the majority of gothic metal fans” will fall in love with this record; but for those whose lives were touched by “Icon” and/or “Draconian Times”, “Obsidian” will also be a blissful revival of the past.

9/10

Renata “Pieni” Lino

Vader – Solitude in Madness

Posted in Review, Uncategorized with tags , , on 2nd May 2020 by izaforestspirit

Vader
Solitude In Madness
Released 1st May 2020
Death Metal/Death-Thrash Metal
Released via Nuclear Blast Records

Vader - Solitude in Madness

My favorite death metal quartet, Vader are back with a new album. It’s been four years since their last full length ’The Empire’. Last year they released a teaser EP called ’Thy Messenger’ and now the wait is finally over. ’Solitude in Madness’ has been unleashed onto the world. What a fitting title given the present circumstances which many of us find ourselves in during this turbulent time…

Right from the moment you press the play button, you are greeted by a ferocious barrage of guitar riffs, relentless drum work along with Peter’s brutal growling. The opener Shock And Awe sets the tone for the rest of the album. What we have here are eleven tight-knit tracks of brutal death-thrash metal. The songs are short, fairly simple in structure and lacking the intricate atmospheric parts and intros featured on ‘Tibi et Igni’. They were already heading this direction with ‘The Empire’. However this change of style is not a new thing for Vader. In many ways this bears a lot of similarity to their earlier works, particularly their third release ‘Black To The Blind’, a personal favorite of mine.

For those who are not familiar with the band’s history, Vader started out as a thrash metal outfit and so this is a return to their roots. The thrash metal guitar riffs have always played a key role in what makes Vader stand out and this album is not an exception. Into Oblivion is a vicious beast packed with crushing guitar work and savage drumming. Ready or not, here it comes. You have just two options: either stand and fight it or run for your life! Emptiness and Despair were featured on the ‘Thy Messenger’ EP which I reviewed last year so I will not be discussing those songs. Then there is their cover of Acid Drinkers’ Dancing In The Slaughterhouse. No death metal here, this song is essentially speed-thrash. Full speed ahead, lots of shouting and vicious riffs.

In summary, ‘Solitude In Madness’ doesn’t offer too many surprises. For better or worse it is very straightforward, “textbook” Vader. More of the same death-thrash metal blend, the formula which they have stuck with for decades. For Vader fans like myself, it ticks all the right boxes. It sounds exactly like I was hoping that it would. It is a little short, clocking in at just under thirty minutes but there is not a single weak track on here.

8/10

Iza Raittila

Overlaps – In Your Room

Posted in Review, Uncategorized with tags on 27th April 2020 by izaforestspirit

Overlaps
In Your Room
Released 27th March 2020
Alternative Rock/Nu Rock
Released via Time to Kill Records

’In Your Room’ is the second album from the Italian alternative rock band Overlaps. They were formed back in 2015. Their debut album saw the light of day two years later. The band have also accompanied The Rasmus on their Dark Matters tour in 2018.

Right from the very first guitar riff I can already feel that this album is going to be fun. The opener Your Eyes features some catchy guitars and powerful vocals. Their singer Gloria Piccinin has a good, dynamic voice and she puts a lot of emotion into each song. I particularly liked the chorus of In This Room. It has that uplifting feel to it which puts the listener in a good mood. One thing I didn’t like though are the rapping vocals mid-way through Spleen. What a waste of a good song. I have no issue with the poetic lyrics and references to Baudelaire but I really can’t get past the rapping. Luckily that is the only time that they do this on here and what follows is more well-executed alternative rock.

As mentioned previously, I like the vocals and I think that they are part of what makes Overlaps stand out. As far as alternative rock goes, this is fairly melodic and radio-friendly, verging on power-pop at times. But enough about the vocals, let’s talk a bit about the guitars. There is some good riff work on here too. Take Wasted for instance, it is one of the heavier tracks on here with multifaceted guitar passages and varied pace.

Overall, I enjoyed listening to ‘In Your Room’. It offers a good balance of melodic, energetic and uplifting guitar work with powerful vocals to convey their message to the masses. Gloria Piccinin is a talented singer and with her at the helm, Overlaps have a bright future ahead of them.

8/10
Iza Raittila

Bloodyard – Orchard of Corpses

Posted in Review, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on 26th April 2020 by mickbirchy

Bloodyard

Orchard of Corpses

Heavy Metal, Groove Metal, Death Metal

Released: 1st May 2020

Self Released

Bloodyard is one of those bands that have always been on my radar but I have not really given much attention to. Not for any malicious reason, mind you, I just find it hard to keep up with all of the music I want to listen to and inevitably some bands fall through the cracks. So, it was nice that I could spend some time giving their music a thorough listen and where better to start than their latest album Orchard of Corpses. A twisted and heavy album that incorporates a thick tone, an in-your-face presence and tight musicianship to make a fun listening experience that I bet would sound good live. Bloodyard have a really decent album here, that I think a lot of metal fans should get behind. You can clearly hear their influences in the music and how they use those influences to manufacture their own sound.

As much as I like their music, I do have to comment on the production. Whilst, not the worst I have ever heard, it is noticeable. If there is one thing that I would say is standing out is the sound of the drums. They completely lack impact, with the other instruments overshadowing them. In fact, the production as a whole feels a little washed out and flat. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the tone or the way it was recorded. I just feel the assembly of the mix was a little off. I can’t put my finger on it, but there is something holding the full impact of these songs back and it’s in the production. I think all of the musicianship itself is great though. Not a bad performance here, with solid guitar work and well-performed rhythm and bass. The vocals sound great, very commanding and direct. All in all the production is a mixed bag.

However, I do like the songs themselves and I think they would work in a live setting. I could really see myself headbanging the night away with how these songs play out. Lots of tight rhythm with not much breathing room, so the album just goes from song to song in a very fluid way which makes the album a great listen-through and makes it re-playable. The band gets in, does their thing and gets out. So, yeah I think the songs themselves are pretty damn good.

This is a decent record. Sure, it has some rough edges, but those are things that can be worked out. I like the tunes and the pure intensity of the record. The music is fine and though not the typical band that I usually listen to, I still found this album to be an enjoyable experience. I would like to hear this band live as I think that is a better context for these songs and where the band would be more in their element. It’s a good listen and I’m sure the underground metal scene here in the UK will love it. If you like like you home-brew heavy metal then this is the band for you.

6/10

Mick Birchall

Kill Ritual – The Opaque And The Divine

Posted in Review, Uncategorized with tags , on 18th April 2020 by izaforestspirit

Kill Ritual
The Opaque And The Divine
Released 27th March 2020
Thrash Metal/Heavy Metal
Released via Dissonance Productions

Kill Ritual - The Opaque and the Divine

‘The Opaque And The Divine’ is the latest album from the American thrash metal band Kill Ritual. The band was set up a decade ago and they have gone through a number of line-up changes. This is their first album with new vocalist Chalice Blood a.k.a Brian Betterton (also of Dirt and Enchanter).

I was expecting this to be a straightforward old-school thrash metal album. It is that to some extent, but a little bit more complicated. It’s very guitar-driven and some of the songs have that aggressive thrash metal feel such as the opener Rest In Pain and World Gone Mad. In addition to these, there are songs which take on a more melodic tone such as Praise The Dead with acoustic guitars and ballad-style vocals in the intro. Yet do not let the intro fool you, this is very much in the thrash metal category; the guitar work bears a lot of resemblance to bands like Merciful Fate.

Veil of the Betrayer stands out as the longest, most complex and the only progressive type song on here. Personally I found it a little too ponderous at times but luckily it got better towards the end once they picked up the pace.

In summary, ‘The Opaque And The Divine’ turned out to be different than what I expected. The guitar work is good enough to please any thrash metal fan. There is enough variety to keep the listener interested until the end. I like some tracks more than others but it was a good effort overall.

7/10

Iza Raittila

Bullets and Octane – Riot, Riot Rock N Roll

Posted in Review, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on 4th April 2020 by mickbirchy

Bullets and Octane

Riot, Riot Rock N Roll

Hard Rock, Sleaze Rock

Released 24th April 2020

via Bad MoFo Records / Cargo Records UK

It’s always cool when you get a chance to review a band you’ve been listening to casually for years. It’s a weird feeling because all I want to do is enjoy the record. Yet, I’ll have to put my reviewer cap on for this one, as much as I just want to listen to it and have fun. Bullets and Octane are one of those bands I got into as a teenager and that I gravitated to instantly. I have also seen them in concert and I have to say they are one of the wildest and fun bands out there today. So how is the new album Riot, Riot Rock N Roll?  It’s pretty darn good. It’s a lot of the same from this band. Fast-paced and aggressive tone but it has that fun party rock n roll tone that will keep you coming back for more.

The whole album has that really powerhouse feeling to it. With every instrument sounding larger than life. It feels like you’re in their jam session room and they’re coming up with the songs off the top of their heads. IT has that wild and rowdy feeling to it. The intense tone coupled with the tight musicianship is infectious and, like their other albums, extremely re-playable. As soon as you’re done with this record, you’ll put it on again and again. Or you’ll take my advice and look up their previous records and play it all. The production is good, I mean it’s not the finest production in the world, yet it suits this style of music. Everything is turned up and each piece of each song is presented in a way to get you headbanging.

There’s a good variety of rock n roll tunes here. From fast and furious punk-rock-like to the more groovy riff-based tracks. All coated in a sleaze rock style that gives the music a dirty and gritty edge. The riffs are fun, the grooves are slick, the guitar solos are over-the-top and the choruses are infectious and easy to sing along to. Perfect for a concert, lots of moments left open for crowds to sing along and other moments to allow mosh pits to develop. You can tell that Bullets and Octane know their audience as nothing really new is here. It has the same feeling as their last couple of records but who needs to reinvent the wheel still turns so well.

They’re back and it feels so good to be getting some new music from the veteran rockers. It feels like they’ve hit their stride as a band and they know how to make this style of music. They have just made it look so easy when they keep making music this consistent and this fun. This is a solid reminder of why I have been a fan of their music for so long. The grit, the intensity and the engaging fun of their music should be enough to keep any fan of rock music coming back for more.

10/10

Mick Birchall

Ville Valo – Gothica Fennica vol.1

Posted in Review, Uncategorized with tags , , , on 3rd April 2020 by izaforestspirit

Ville Valo (VV)
Gothica Fennica Vol.1 EP
Released 20th March 2020
Gothic Rock/”Love Metal”
Released via Heartagram Ltd

Gothica Fennica Vol. 1

These past few weeks have been tough. All that time spent indoors has taken a toll on my mental health and it’s been a struggle at times to remain calm. I’ve always found music to be very therapeutic in times like this so I had a look at what new stuff has come out recently. I have a copy of the new My Dying Bride album, but as good as it may be, the current atmosphere of fear and uncertainty means that the last thing that I want to hear right now is doom metal. So I looked around a bit more and I came across this. My teenage idol the Gothic rock singer Ville Valo is back with a new EP. It’s been three years since HIM called it a day, so you can imagine my surprise and delight when I heard these new songs.

There are only three tracks, so I figured that I can write something about each one. Salute The Sanguine is probably the most catchy. It has a good chorus, Ville Valo’s emotional vocals work well with the keyboards and the guitar. Run Away From The Sun sounds like one of the classic HIM hits that I used to dance to as a teenager. This time the guitars fade into the background with most of the focus being on Mr. Valo’s voice. I feel like I’m sixteen again, dancing to the music while staring at HIM poster on my wall. Then last but not least we came to Saturnine Saturnalia, the slowest and most ballad-esque track on the EP. It’s a little melancholic and slow-paced but not entirely without its charms.

Overall, ‘Gothica Fennica Vol.1’ is an absolute delight to listen to and a must have for all HIM fans. This is technically a Ville Valo solo project and not HIM, but who cares? It may just be the next best thing.

8/10

Iza Raittila

Testament – Titans Of Creation

Posted in Review, Uncategorized with tags , , , on 1st April 2020 by Pieni

Testament
“Titans Of Creation”
Thrash metal
Released: 3rd April 2020
Via Nuclear Blast

Testament - Titans Of Creation - Artwork copy

“Titans Of Creation” isn’t just a powerful title; it’s also the definition of its songwriters. Not that it took 13 albums to recognize their grandeur – in all honesty, none of Testament’s members has had anything else to prove to anyone for a long time – but the fact they could push the envelope just a bit further this time is impressive. From what I gathered reading the press release, it seems the writing process was more dynamic, hence the little tweaks that are making all the difference.

I’ve always admired Peterson’s and Skolnick’s classy guitar work, but now it sounds even more elaborate – check out the solos and general riffing in songs such as “Children Of The Next Level”, “WW III” or “Symptoms”… hell, check out those in ALL tracks and you’ll see what I mean. It’s more diverse, so you get a better sense of what they’re capable of doing with those strings.

Peterson shows another side of him as he voices some parts of “Night Of The Witch” and “Curse Of Osiris”, in a demon-like pitch. The contrast between his and Billy’s tone is just perfect for the songs in question.

You’ll recognize the catchy chorus of “Dream Deceiver” as pure Testament, but the ominous vibe of “City Of Angels”, enhanced by its slower tempo and somber bass line, that will be new. But then again, as the lyrics refer to serial killer Richard Ramirez, it had to be something dark…

“The Healers” also sound somewhat different, with a more intense approach rather than a feisty one, its beat prone to become an earworm as well. It talks about Billy’s personal experience with his past cancer, but given the Corona pandemic situation the world is going through at the moment, it will probably become a hymn of hope to many metalheads.

8/10

Renata “Pieni” Lino

Collateral – Collateral

Posted in Review, Uncategorized with tags , , on 27th March 2020 by izaforestspirit

Collateral
Collateral
Rock
Released 21st February 2020
Released via Roulette Media Records

‘Collateral’ is the debut album from the British rock band of the same name. They have already made a name for themselves in the rock industry last year when they won a competition to support Bon Jovi on their Runaway to Paradise Mediterranean Cruise.

Everything about this album is pretty much textbook stadium rock. There are big, bold vocals, easy to sing along choruses and uplifting guitar work. I enjoyed the opening track ‘Mr. Big Shot‘. It has definitely got that playful feel to it thanks to the rocking guitars and the catchy chorus. ‘ You also get some Bon Jovi vocals on track such as ‘Lullaby’, another highlight of this album. Similar things can be said about ‘Midnight Queen’, though that one has a slight country rock feel to it in the guitars. It’s not exactly my style but it has its moments.

Then they mellow things down for the reminder of the album, closing off with a few slow ballads. Once again the vocals work well and I cannot find any faults in the guitar work. Yet even after several listens, none of the last few songs stand out as much as the ones at the start of the album.

Overall, Collateral have created a promising debut album which will please rock fans everywhere. If they continue along this path, they have bright future ahead of them.

7/10
Iza Raittila

Ozzy Osbourne – Ordinary Man

Posted in Review, Uncategorized with tags , on 22nd February 2020 by izaforestspirit

Ozzy Osbourne
Ordinary Man
Released 21st February 2020
Heavy Metal
Released via Sony Music

Ozzy Osbourne - Ordinary Man

The past few years have not been easy for the legendary heavy metal front-man Ozzy Osbourne. He has suffered from various health problems and injuries forcing him to postpone and cancel tours but he has managed to vent all that frustration and anguish into his latest studio effort – ‘Ordinary Man’. It is his first full-length album since 2010’s ‘Scream’. I have to admit that I had a little bit of catching up to do prior to listening to this. I’m a big fan of the old Ozzy albums, especially ‘No More Tears’, but the last album of his that I remember was ‘Down To Earth’. Luckily I managed to get hold of the ‘Memoirs of A Madman’ compilation to check out the stuff I missed.

So now that I’ve caught up on the past releases, it’s time to tune in to his latest opus… Straight to Hell marks a good start to the album, treating the listeners to an energetic and catchy heavy metal song. The guitars have playful, rocking feel to them, and Ozzy’s vocals work well with the music. So far so good. Then we get to the title track, which even after several listens, I still have mixed feelings about. It’s not so much that it’s a ballad. I have no issue with ballads. Ozzy has done a few good ones in the past including ‘Mama, I’m Coming Home’ and ‘Dreamer’. But this? I mean, the song itself is decent. I like the Beatles-style melody and Ozzy’s emotional vocals. But what the hell possessed him to to sink as low as to do a duet with Elton John? Seriously this is almost as bad as when Metallica decided to collaborate with Lou Reed. No! Just no.

Luckily the next track Under The Graveyard works much better. Now that’s the type of Ozzy song that I was hoping to hear. It reminds me of his earlier works and it is easily my favorite track on here. I also enjoyed It’s A Raid featuring Post Malone – another energetic and uplifting heavy metal song. Then the high descends into the low with the album drawing to a close with Take What I Want (feat. Post Malone & Travi$ Scott). Did I ever mention how much I hate rap and hip-hop? There is not a single good thing I can say about that song and vocals sound atrocious. Must skip. Oh wait! That was the final track!!

In summary I am a little disappointed with how this album turned out. There are a handful good tracks on here, about three of which I would happily play again. The rest range from the mediocre to the downright awful. I think that it would have been better without some of the collaborations. I really hope that this will not be his last album because Ozzy can do better.

5/10

Iza Raittila

Gorilla Riot – Peach

Posted in Review, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on 14th February 2020 by mickbirchy

Gorilla Riot

Peach

Southern Rock, Groove Rock

Released 31st January 2020

via Off Yer Rocka Recordings

I have been following this band for a while now. If you are from Manchester then you should know who these guys are. Gorilla Riot are the premier southern rock band of the northwest. They have been tearing up the underground rock scene in the UK for a while playing some of the biggest festivals and headlining venues around the country. I have been interested in their music for a while and was intrigued to get this album. Peach is the first full-length album from the band. I have to say I am pretty pleased with the outcome and if you have never heard of these guys before, then this is the time to get into their music.

The album is filled with all sorts of riff-rock goodness including tight grooves and a real old-school feel. They have the groovy rhythms of the ’70s infused with the style, flair and production of modern hard rock. If you’re into the likes of Sturgill Simpson or Steve Earle then this is something right up your alley. There’s that real down ‘n’ dirty hard rock with burning passion and soul.  The production just feels massive with a lot of depth to the music. You can really feel the impact of the three guitars in the band with sharp and concise riffs, blistering solos and co-ordinated harmonies. The bass adds this massive bottom to the songs and the drum work packs a punch as it forms the framework of each song.

Saying all of that, I could definitely understand how this kind of music is not everyone’s cup of tea. The twangy blues rhythm is really slow-paced and when listening to the album all the way through. It never really feels like it picks up with every song hitting the same groove, or at least it feels like it. It could have done with an acoustic country-style ballad or a high octane super-charged track. Just something to break up the album and give it some more flavour. It’s not that any of the songs are bad, I just think it needed some other style of rock to give the band some more character and to show they can be more versatile.

I quite liked this album. I think it does more than enough to entertain. It’s not going to be to everyone’s liking and that’s fine. I think the band knows their audience and they’re not out to please everybody. They’ll keep right on trucking and I think that’s fair. They’re a really fun band to watch live and their music pretty much speaks for itself. It’s a solid album and definitely worth a listen.

7/10

Mick Birchall

Apocalyptica – Cell-0

Posted in Review with tags , , on 22nd January 2020 by izaforestspirit

Apocalytica
Cell-0
Released 10th January 2020
Neoclassical Metal/Symphonic Heavy Metal/Instrumental
Released via Silver Lining Music
Apocalyptica - Cell-0

Apocalyptica don’t need much of an introduction. There are very few bands who have achieved what these guys have – bridging the gap between classical music and heavy metal with their unique mixture of the two styles. I’ve been following their career from the very start, the humble beginnings when the quartet played cello covers of Metallica classics. There has been some line-up changes, a few collaborations with guest rock and metal vocalists… But the real surprise came in 2015 when an American singer called Franky Perez joined the ranks for the album ‘Shadowmaker’. In many ways the ‘Shadowmaker’, however good it might be, seems like the odd one out in Apocalyptica’s discography – like an experiment that worked though it may never be repeated. With the exception of a handful of successful collaborations with guest singers, the band’s best work is predominantly instrumental. This brings me to their latest effort- ‘Cell-0’, an instrumental album with the old line-up sans Franky Perez.

And we’re off to a good start with Ashes of The Modern World, delivering everything that I was hoping hear from the Finnish quartet. It’s a beautiful song with lots of variety in terms of style and pace. It starts off slow with a sombre sounding melody, then picks up the pace half way through the track. As soon as the drums kick in the music takes on a more aggressive, “heavy metal” sound, with the cellos crushing through at full speed. Then they mellow things down again towards the end. I also really liked Fire & Ice. True to its title, it comprises two contrasting styles: the melodic part with mostly cellos and a keyboard at the forefront and the more aggressive part with faster paced cello and drums. So the latter was the fire I guess… Then it’s back to the “icy” sombre cello work at the end. The title track also deserves a mention being the longest and the most complex song on the album. Again, there are lots of changes in pace, mixing the melodic classical cello sounds with a touch of metal. The chorus is easily one of my favorite parts of the whole album.

I’m not going to discuss all the songs in detail but generally speaking I am pleased that Apocalyptica chose to go back to basics with this album. They are sticking to what they do best. No need for singers or guest appearances. It encompasses all the aspects that make this band special. There is not a single track on here that I do not like. Some, such as the title track require a bit of patience to fully appreciate.

Overall, I really like this album. Unlike ‘Shadowmaker’, which took me a few listens to get into, ‘Cell-0’ immediately drew me in and kept me interested throughout. It’s the best album Apocalyptica has made in years.

9/10

Iza Raittila

 

The SoapGirls – Elephant in the Room

Posted in Review with tags , , , , on 22nd September 2019 by mickbirchy

The SoapGirls

Elephant in the Room

Punk Rock, Grunge

Released: 12 July 2019

Self Released

If you’re not acquainted with The SoapGirls, then you’re in luck because neither am I. This is my first real taste of what they are about.  The Debray sisters, Noemie and Camille, have been around for a little while now, bringing their own brand of punk rock to the masses. From what I hear and what I’ve seen, they are an interesting and divisive band that deliver hard rocking tunes. Since their first album back in 2015, they have been pretty consistent release-wise and have garnered a decent fan-base. I say they’re divisive because, when I see conversations about them online, it almost always ends up in squabbling between the quality of their music. From what I can tell, the people that like them, really like them and visa versa.  So, where do I stand? Well since this is my first real exposure to them let’s take a listen and see what the crack is with these punk rock gals.

Pretty much from the get-go Elephant in the Room is a pretty entertaining listen. Not too aggressive or edgy and nothing overly produced. It falls somewhere in the middle of that. The production is clear enough and the music is well written. The melodies just flow so well and the harmonies are well integrated. This is nothing particularly fancy about the instrumentation, it’s all quite serviceable. The guitars are nicely toned with that typical hard rock tone and the drums are tightly locked into a decent rhythm on pretty much all of the tracks. The vocal performances are nice too. Again nothing overtly edgy or aggressive. In fact, they carry a tune really well. There are quite a few songs that really get stuck in your head as the choruses are quite catchy and leave a little bit of an ear-worm. 

However, my biggest problem with the album is the length. Whilst there is nothing bad per se on the album, there really isn’t enough of an incentive to keep listening to 19 songs straight. It’s not like this is a prog-rock opera with massive changes to the tunes. It’s just well played and well-performed punk rock. Yet, a punk rock album should get in and get out as quick as possible and this just drags on for a long time. Even though there is nothing explicitly wrong with the quality of any of the songs, there is just too much here for one sitting. 

This was fine. Though not something I feel I need to return to any time soon. The SoapGirls just aren’t necessarily my thing. I would have preferred it if their music was more intricate, unpredictable or if there was more an over-the-top personality to their character as a band. However, as is, this is just okay. Not bad by any stretch of the imagination, but not enough to keep me invested in their music or justify the sheer length of this album.

6/10

Mick Birchall

Sabaton – The Great War

Posted in Review with tags , on 26th July 2019 by izaforestspirit

Sabaton
The Great War
Released 19th July 2019
Power Metal
Released via Nuclear Blast Records

Sabaton - The Great War
Swedish power metal brigade are back with yet another historically themed album. As the title suggests it is The First World War, also known as The Great War. According to their official website they have been planning to make an album on this topic for quite some time. I wasn’t too impressed with their previous work but I decided to give this a go. After all it’s Sabaton, even their so-called bad albums have a least a few good tracks on them…

Well, after a few listens I can happily say that this album is a bit better thought-out and structured than their previous effort ‘The Last Stand’. While that album felt more like a collection of various ideas crammed into one full length, the songs on this one all sound like they belong together. Many of the tracks also feature a choir in the chorus making the music sound more dynamic. I quite enjoyed the opening song The Future of Warfare. It reminds me a little of ‘Night Witches’ from the ‘Heroes’ album. As far as the music goes, it’s classic Sabaton, with most of the emphasis being on Mr. Brodén’s powerful vocals and the catchy guitar riffs. Luckily they did not overdo it on the keyboards. Seven Pillars of Wisdom is one of the tracks that stood out the most for me. It’s very guitar-centric and the guitar work is pretty good as are the vocals. Also the lyrics are very well though-out and a serious improvement compared to some of their previous songs. As much as I enjoy Sabaton’s music, some of their lyrics are a little too cheesy for my liking. The title track is easily the best song on the album. Lots of energy, catchy guitar work, good use of a choir and powerful vocals. Nice work there, Sabaton!

If only the rest of the album were as good as those three tracks. Sadly that is not the case. There are several moments on here where I had this odd sense of déjà vu. Many of the songs sound like something that Sabaton has done before, albeit slightly modified and with different lyrics. I’m not going to list which tracks sound similar to older Sabaton songs because that would make this review into an essay. Let’s just say that there are many and if you have been listening to Sabaton for as long as I have, they are pretty hard to miss. There are also two songs that I simply couldn’t get into – the ultra cheesy -sounding The Red Baron and disco-metal of The Attack of The Dead Men. The latter really overdoes it with the keyboards and that chorus is just so irritating… I’m not sure why if find it so annoying, maybe it’s the frequent repetition of “again” and “hundred men”.

Overall, ‘The Great War’ is an improvement compared to Sabaton’s previous album but it’s still a far cry from the best work. It is a good album but not brilliant one. I wasn’t expecting them to make another ‘Carolus Rex’ but this is really the best that they can do?

4/5
Iza Raittila