Archive for the Review Category

Sorceress of Sin – Mirrored Revenge

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

Sorceress of Sin
Mirrored Revenge
Released 27th November 2020
Melodic Power Metal
Self-Released

Mirrored Revenge

‘Mirrored Revenge’ is the the debut album from a new addition to the British melodic power metal scene – Sorceress of Sin. The line-up includes singer, songwriter Lisa Skinner, her husband Paul Skinner on drums, guitarist Constantine Kanakis, bassist Topher O’Meagher (ex-Gehitka) and Tom Maclean (bass orchestrations). Their sound has been compared to the likes of Firewind, Helloween and Iron Maiden.

The main focus of this album appears to be the guitar work and Lisa Skinner’s powerful vocals. She has a good vocal range hitting the high notes with relative ease. So if you are fan of power metal with strong vocals, then this is the album for you. Luckily the vocals are not operatic and music is guitar- rather than keyboard-centric; otherwise this review would be riddled with Nightwish comparisons. There are keyboards but they are mostly in the background. The pace is varied but mostly energetic with the exception of one slower ballad-esque track Echoes of Existance. Speaking of that track, playing this was one of those moments that really reminded me of old Nightwish, mostly due to the vocals.

The rest of the album sounds much more uplifting, energetic and more importantly more like Iron Maiden than Nightwish. The title track, for instance, is packed with aggressive guitar work and dynamic vocals. Watch out, this vixen might have some virtue but she sure can bite! I also liked Aradia, another uplifting track with brisk guitar work and soaring vocals. Then there is fast and aggressive-sounding closing track Empyre of Stones – one of my favorites on here due to the catchy guitar riffs and powerful vocals. What a fun way to end the album on a high note. If you are not headbanging by this point, then you clearly do not like heavy metal.

Overall, ‘Mirrored Revenge’ was a pleasure to review. I didn’t enjoy the ballad but the rest of the album was definitely entertaining. Some power metal has the tendency to become cheesy after a few listens, this is not the case here. I would recommend it to fans of Iron Maiden and Helloween.

8/10

Iza Raittila





 

Dio – The Studio Collection 1996 – 2004

Posted in Editorial/Opinionated, Review with tags , , , , , , , , on 12th November 2020 by Mickelrath

Dio
Angry Machines / Magica / Killing The Dragon / Master of the Moon
Hard Rock, Classic Rock, Heavy Metal
Originally Release Year: 1996/2000/2002/2004
Release Date:  February 21, 2020 via BMG and Niji Entertainment Group Inc

If there is one band that I can safely say shaped how I hear music to this day I would definitely say Ronnie James Dio and his hard rock/heavy metal collective. Dio are up there as one of the many bands I would sit and listen to for hours on end. I remember my Dad playing me songs like Holy Diver, Rock ‘n’ Roll Children and many others which captivated my attention and informed my music taste. Ronnie James Dio, is an icon to the world of heavy metal. His distinct vocals and descriptive poetry are just the stuff of dreams for the genre. His heavy metal stories are still looked fondly upon today for any and all musicians. Simply put, if you listen, play or even pay the slightest attention to the genre then Dio is a famous and influential name. I remember sitting at my Dad’s computer desk listening to song after song from him and unknowingly learning how his influence is seen everywhere in the genre then and still to this day. 

As much as I would love to spend all day looking over the entire career of Ronnie, and maybe one day I will. Here, I will only be discussing 4 albums. The last four albums of the band Dio. 1996’s Angry Machines, 2000’s Magica, 2002’s Killing The Dragon and 2004’s Master of the Moon. Now, in 2020 we have been given remasters of these four albums and I have to say they sound really good. I mean, get yourself an up-to-date sound system and enjoy heavy metal in its purest form. Those last two albums are both albums that I got on their original release and listened to with my Dad but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I’ll get to those.  Just as an opening statement about these remasters before we get properly started. They’re pretty good. If you like classic heavy metal done well and sounding nice and crisp, I would highly recommend picking up the new remasters.

Firstly, let’s cover the 1996 album Angry Machines. This would be the last studio album with the original drummer Vinnie Appice. It would also serve as the last studio album appearance from guitarist Tracy Grijalva. The main remaster of the original songs is really good. You get this fresh crisp sound to the songs and it sounds a lot better. The bass booms and the drumwork sounds commanding. The overall tone of the album feels bigger and some of my favourite tunes from the record like “Hunter of the Heart” and “Big Sister” sound so good in a whole new way. The opening song “Institutional Man” is a cold mechanical song that leads into the heart of the album’s themes really nicely. Themes of the de-humanisation of mankind and the really oppressive overtone. It’s one of the heavier albums from Dio. A mix of doom and stoner rock that thud along. The riffs coming through loud and powerful with the commanding vocals of Dio captivate and enthrall. This would probably be the album that most general hard rock fans might miss in the Dio repertoire and is certainly not the album that I would say best represents his finest work. However, I feel like as part of the 90’s metal scene it was a good fit. Metal being in that period of crossover between old school and new school. That battle rages on this record as you can hear glimpses of Dio’s old-school ways mixed with a smattering of different metal styling. It feels very much like a band that was throwing everything at the wall to see what stuck. Unless you’re a hardcore fan of Ronnie, this might be one to skip. 

5/10

Moving forward a few years let’s cover Ronnie’s record from 2000, Magica. This album marked the return of guitarist Craig Goldy, who also had performed on Dio‘s 1987 album Dream Evil and in the 2004’s Master of the Moon. Magica also features Jimmy Bain on bass and Simon Wright on drums. Ronnie produced this album and originally planned for it to be the first as part of a trilogy of concept albums and was planning to release them after touring with Heaven and Hell. Sadly, Dio passed away on May 16, 2010 and the only song released from this potential project was titled “Electra”, which is included on this remastered edition. This album feels like a Dio album of old with themes and stories of mysticism, swords and sorcery, tales of otherworldly places and pure fantasy. This is Dio’s bread and butter. The album contains a much brighter and more hopeful sounding band than Angry Machines with lighter guitar and tighter production. It feels so much more consistent and, for lack of a better term, like a Dio album. The guitar solos that Goldy provides are hard-hitting and powerful and coupled with the strong rhythm section played by Bain and Wright and you get music that has more of a beating heart. The opening selection of tunes really set a great tone and get you captivated in this concept album and get you invested in the story that Ronnie is trying to convey. The album just allows you to become lost in its aura, making the story moments intriguing and the pure rock ‘n’ roll moments a real treat. I could personally do without the small interludes breaking up the album, I suppose it’s to flesh out the concept but they don’t add much to the overall listening experience. It feels like it’s more there to pad out the run time. Which isn’t really necessary as the album is pretty lengthy as is. It’s weird listening to “Electra” today. A hint as to what was to come from this icon before his demise. Although the audio quality is not great from a musical perspective, Dio’s vocals are sublime and I feel robbed from the potential project that never was. I would love to hear what Magica II and III would have been. However, Magica itself was a pleasant listen and one worth revisiting to this day.

8/10

Jumping right along now to 2002 and what was my personal introduction to the master himself. It’s definitely up there as one of my favourite albums from Dio, Killing The Dragon. I was a 10 year old kid when this was initially released and I can remember spending time at my dad’s computer playing video games and listening to this record. This album introduced guitarist Doug Aldrich (of Whitesnake fame) to the band. Goldy co-wrote some of the songs before leaving the band and you can hear his fingerprints in places here. This would be their final album with bassist Jimmy Bain. I love this album so much. Like everything about it. This album was such a huge part of my heavy metal christening. It led me to so many bands and informed so much of my personal music taste that I couldn’t really put it into words. Hearing this remaster is quite nice, the songs are just as powerful today as they were back in the day. Aldrich’s solos are very different from previous guitarists. Much more flash and flair to them, more effect pedals were used and they feel much more freeform. It’s like Aldrich was improvising on the day of recording. Though, if you listen carefully, each part is so well constructed and he uses the songs to just build and build. Songs like “Better in the Dark” and “Along Comes a Spider” just evoke that classic Dio sound that old fans, no doub, would love. Dio, sounds so lively here. His vocals are as excellent as ever and you are reminded of why he is the legend he is. The titular “dragon” of the album title refers to modern technology. Dio has expressed his concerns with it possibly threatening society in the future and felt like we needed to rebel against it. I think that in 2020 and the world now revolving around smart technology and peoples reliance on it, this album is more prevalent than ever. The album has some dark themes amongst the bright hopeful rock n roll. Songs like “Throw Away The Children”, “Guilty” and the title track “Killing The Dragon” have very foreboding lyrics. Yet, the heavily charged rock music keeps the pace of the album going and at no point does it linger. Dio gets in, makes his points and gets out. Leaving you with heavy moral questions and entertaining you at the same time. There’s just so much to ponder and enjoy with this album and it’s why I love it so much!

10/10

Finally on this review-rollercoaster, our last section will take us to 2004 and the final ever Dio album, Master of the Moon. If Ronnie has to leave his name-saken band with any sort of legacy, Master of the Moon is not a bad one to leave it on. For this album we see the return of Craig Goldy on guitars, Simon Wright on the drums and long time collaborator Scott Warren  on the keyboard. On bass guitar for this record Dio had Jeff Pilson, from Dokken. A commanding line up and one that delivered a damn fine album. Though, for me personally I don’t enjoy it as much as Killing The Dragon, objectively this is a good record. Deep themes interlaced with well constructed hard rock music with well performed instrumentals and Dio singing his heart out. The production is well put together with every piece of instrumentation doing their work and it all comes together really nicely. Yet, ultimately there feels like there’s something missing. There’s no standout songs, the album just blends together. If we’re comparing all of the remasters in this review, this lacks the aggression of Angry Machines, the imagination of Magica and the passion and persistent drive of Killing The Dragon. It mostly serves its purpose of more Dio music. It’s decently written and competently performed however it lacks that real power that would capture your attention. It’s not even hitting that nostalgia vibe as it doesn’t really capture the 80’s Dio sound that made him famous. It’s not bad by any means however, revisiting this albumin this remaster it just hits the middle of the road. Which is not what you want from the larger than life metal icon. 

6/10

This remaster adventure has been really fun and made me really think about what I look for in a Dio record which makes me think about my taste in heavy metal in general. The man was a legend, no doubt. His star will never fade and my love for his music will never die. He had one of the most complete and commanding careers in the genre. He worked with so many musicians and was a complete product of his era, which informed the genres of rock and heavy metal to a great extent. For me, he was an eye opener. Someone I truly looked up to and it pains me to this day that I never got the opportunity to see him in concert. A true master of his craft and a respective icon for generations to come.

Mick Birchall

DevilDriver -Dealing With Demons I

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

DevilDriver
Dealing With Demons I
Released 2nd October 2020
Groove Metal /Melodic Death Metal
Released via Napalm Records

DevilDriver - Dealing With Demons, Volume I

Groove metal has never really been one of my favorite metal genres. To be honest with the exception of one old Machine Head album, the only groove metal band you will find in my music collection is Devildriver. I’ve been following their career since the self-titled debut album, which, despite its many faults, gave us ‘I Could Care Less’ and helped to bring frontman Dez Fafara some recognition within the metal scene. I actually first discovered him via his first band, the cringe-worthy nu-metal outfit Coal Chamber. Yes, I too went through a very brief nu-metal phase as a teenager and Coal Chamber’s ‘Chamber Music’ remains a guilty pleasure of mine… Anyway, Devildriver is a better and much more serious band that I’m not embarrassed to like. They are really good live and they have produced a few memorable albums over the years. This brings me to the newest studio effort ‘Dealing With Demons I’, part one of a two album concept.

Despite the profound lyrical themes reflecting Fafara’s personal experience of social anxiety and agoraphobia, Keep Away From Me seems like an odd choice for an opening track. It’s rather slow to start with and I really did not like the droning guitar riffs and slow drumming in the intro. That is something you would expect to hear from a doom metal band, not Devildriver. Luckily it gets better later on – past the first minute mark and the groove metal riffs enter the fold. It’s still slow but at least it finally got going. So not the best start to the album…Luckily the next few tracks are better. The vicious-sounding Nest of Vipers may not the best song on the song on here but it features a varied paced and some good groove metal guitar riffs.

For me the real album highlights are: Iona with its haunting, down toned riffs and equally creepy growls and Wishing – a classic DevilDriver song with a memorable chorus and the best guitar parts on the whole record. The latter is without a doubt my favorite and the song that I’ve played the most. You Give Me A Reason To Drink (feat. Simon Blade Fafara), deserves a mention just because I really struggled to tell the two vocalists apart. Simon Blade Fafara sounds a hell of a lot like his father. I cannot fault the guitar work though.

In summary ‘Dealing With Demons I’ takes a few listens to get into. I would compare this to mood swings, here are the highs and then there are lows. I really liked some of the tracks, the others grew on me after a while but some never did. Considering that this the first of a two part album concept, I think that it shows some promise but it could be better. Bring on part 2!

6/10

Iza Raittila

Forn Kadr – Mystic Arcane Lands

Posted in Review with tags , , on 21st October 2020 by izaforestspirit

Forn Kadr
Mystic Arcane Lands
Released 9th June 2020
Atmospheric Folk Metal/ Atmospheric Black Metal
Self-Released

‘Mystic Arcane Lands’ is the new EP from British atmospheric black metal duo Forn Kaldr. The band was formed in 2017 by guitarist/drummer Kaldr and bassist Robin Green. Their music is instrumental and it is influenced by nature, mythologies and bands such as Amon Amarth and Caladan Brood. All their releases are available from their Bandcamp page.

Atmospheric and melodic are the key words that come to mind when listening to this album. I actually had some trouble telling the first two songs apart. They sound so alike that had it not been for me checking the Bandcamp page, I would have assumed that this was one very long song. The title track stands out due to the ambient-style keyboard intro. The intro and some of the guitar patterns reminded me of the Australian post-black metal artist Calea Dreaming, whose work I reviewed last year. The song is well structured offering a varied pace with each instrument contributing to the atmosphere, especially the guitars. If there was a soundtrack for a walk in the woods on a cold autumn night, this would be it. The keyboard mimics the sound of raindrops falling, a calm moment before stormy weather resumes. Then the seasons change in the aptly named The Last Breath of Winter. No keyboards, the drums remain in the background and all the focus is on the atmospheric guitar passages.

In all honesty, there is not much in the vein of black metal on here. Only the final, bonus track A Forgotten Age has a black metal tinge to it due to the raw guitar riffs. It has the right kind of eerie atmosphere to it as well.

Overall, ‘Mystic Arcane Lands’ is for some those who enjoy atmospheric metal. If you are fan of black metal instrumentals, then there is a chance that you might like it too. I found it relaxing and suitable on an autumn evening at home but not particularly memorable or stimulating.

7/10
Iza Raittila

Fjøssnisse – Unleashed Hymns

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

Fjøsnisse
Unleashed Hymns
Released 3rd September 2020
Black Metal
Self Released

‘Unleashed Hymns’ is the second album from the Norwegian artist Fjøsnisse. The one-man project was launched last year by vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Anders Vada. This album plus most of his releases are available on Bandcamp.

It’s been a while since I reviewed any black metal… With the exception of the new album from symphonic black metallers Carach Angren, the last black metal album that got my attention was the new Mgła which came out last year. As soon as I read the description I did not need any more reasons to check this out. “Black metal with thrash metal elements” sounds pretty good to me. Also some of my favorite black metal bands are from Norway so this had the potential to be very good.

After a few listens, there are two main things that can say about this album. First of all, this is a good example of very well executed Norwegian black metal. Secondly I really like it. It is definitely my kind of black metal. The first couple of tracks made of think of ‘Enthrone Darkness Triumphant’ -era Dimmu Borgir minus the keyboards. Despite the grim vocals, reasonably fast pace, thrash metal style abrasive riffs and relentless drumming there is actually a fair bit of ambiance and melody on here. The track The Nine Lords for instance, contains a melodic guitar section towards the latter half of the song. It reminded me of the pagan black metal band Kampfar. All the tracks have a very balanced amount of both melodic and harsh elements with smooth transitions in the guitar passages. Then there is the beautifully eerie and frostbitten instrumental The Wanderer, the closing song to what has been a very enjoyable album.

In summary, there is a lot to like on ‘Unleashed Hymns’ if are into black metal. This is particularly for those who enjoyed the bands that emerged as part of the Norwegian black metal scene in the 1990s. A few decades later Fjøsnisse is continuing with the legacy.

Iza Raittila

8/10

Goldray – Feel The Change

Posted in Review with tags , , , , on 27th September 2020 by Pieni

Goldray
“Feel The Change”
Psychedelic Rock
Released: 31st July 2020
Via AKA Shic Records

goldrayfeelthechange

Goldray’s sophomore album may be called “Feel The Change” but that’s something that won’t happen when it comes to its nature and its quality. Leah Rasmussen’s mesmerizing voice will once again lead you into a dreamy dimension, under a top-notch psych rock soundtrack. There’s the groovy “Oz”, with all that rich guitar work Kenwyn House has gotten us used to and the kaleidoscopic effects that I like to call “laser gun shots” (seriously, they sound like those sci-fi eighties movies!). Then the straightforward emotion of the ballad which the album is named after. The hippie-vibe “The Forest”, and its sequel (literally: “The Forest – Part 2”) in a heavier approach, resembling something in-between Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. The seduction of “How Do You Know”. “The Beat Inside” living up to its name – such an enthralling rhythm, coming from the artist’s heart and aiming at yours. The bluesy “Come On”. And then the ethereal “Phoenix Rising” wrapping it all up. Yes, I am aware I’ve used a lot of positive adjectives and remarks, but this is really an outstanding record within the genre. Is it perfect? Maybe, but I’ll leave that part for every listener to decide.

9/10

Renata “Pieni” Lino

Marilyn Manson – We Are Chaos

Posted in Review with tags , on 25th September 2020 by izaforestspirit

Marilyn Manson
We Are Chaos
Released 11th September 2020
Alternative Rock
Released via Loma Vista

MARILYN MANSON | We are chaos - Nuclear Blast

So here we are in the autumn of 2020- a terrible year for many people and one that we all probably wish would be over soon. The pandemic is still causing havoc with our lives. While we do our best to cope with the new challenges sometimes the best remedy for stress and anxiety is a suitable distraction. I for one, have used this time to revisit some of the things that used to bring my joy when I was younger be it books, films and of course music. However bad 2020 has been, it has also witnessed the birth of some really good new music. This brings me to the latest album from Marilyn Manson, a band who’s career I have been following since my early teens. I was pretty much ready to give up on them after ‘Eat Me, Drink Me’. The two albums that followed were unmemorable and I had serious doubts whether Brian Warner was cable of writing decent songs . Then ‘The Pale Emperor’ came along and I was pleasantly surprised as to how much I liked it. Three years ago he repeated the success with ‘Heaven Upside Down’. Now this year he is back with ‘We Are Chaos’ featuring the country musician Shooter Jennings along with a variety of session musicians.

The CD version comes with a copy of a painting by Marilyn Manson, which suits of the overall sombre tone of the album. It’s a bit of a slow start with the opener Red Black And Blue. Personally I found the speech at the beginning a little off-putting and I was almost tempted to skip the song completely. It is good that I didn’t though, as song itself is decent but hardly one of the highlights of the album. Luckily the title track is much better. I cannot get enough of the chorus and the emotional yet haunting vocals. I already liked it when I first saw the video and even after a few listens it still hasn’t lost it’s appeal. Now that’s more like it. Half-Way & One Step Forward also got my attention thanks to the melancholic piano intro and the creepy vocals. I also really liked Don’t Chase The Dead, another great alternative rock track that captures the right balance of a haunting atmosphere and dancefloor-friendly melodies. There are many moments that reminded me of Marilyn Manson’s ‘Mechanical Animals’ era. In many ways the songs on here contain the same vibe as that album, which just happens to be one of my favorites.

In summary, ‘We Are Chaos’ is a surprisingly accessible album that gets better with every listen. Each song is packed with emotion and there is certain melancholic vibe present throughout. It sounds like the spiritual little brother of ‘Mechanical Animals’, the next phase of Marilyn Manson’s evolution as an artist and his best work in years.

8/10

Iza Raittila

Kataklysm – Unconquered

Posted in Review with tags , , , on 21st September 2020 by Pieni

 

Kataklysm
“Unconquered”
Melodic death metal
Release: 25th September 2020
Via Nuclear Blast Records

 

unconquered

Kataklysm’s studio discography has grown more or less every two years and, despite the pandemic, 2020 didn’t miss the mark. In fact, “Unconquered” was written based on the current struggles the world is facing and the band describes this album as “a rebirth of aggression”, as a response to said struggles. In all honesty, I don’t think this is THAT much more violent than before, but it’s pretty clear we’re listening to a more elaborate work, richer in features – both modern and old-school – that enhance the melodic part in their melodic death metal nature. Also Jean-François Dagenais gave 7-string guitars a shot, and that alone offers new textures.

“The Killshot” lives up to its title, such brutality embedded in that riffing and double bass drumming – and yet its musical pattern lingers in your ear. That’s probably why it was released as first single, but for similar reasons, so could have been “Defiant” – the latter somewhat fiercer and more straightforward.

It’s funny how Kataklysm consider “Cut Me Down” a “haunting and melodic” song (featuring WolfheartTuomas Saukkonen, by the way), when I think those words best describe “The Way Back Home” (one of my favorites). But it’s the doomsday vibe of “When It’s Over” that makes it the most ominous track (and therefore another favorite of mine).

I won’t say this is their best record so far, but I can assure you the Canadian quartet is right to feel proud of it.

8/10

Renata “Pieni” Lino

White Virgins–No Safe Word

Posted in Review with tags , , , on 21st September 2020 by Nico Davidson

White Virgins
No Safe Word
Released 2020
Sludge Metal
Self-Released

Hailing from Germany, White Virgins formed in 2019. No Safe Word is the band’s debut EP.

The EP opens up with Glitter Dick. Though the track’s name may sound like some dodgy porno, the track is anything but dodgy as it hits hard and heavy with an assault of riffs., and thundering bass lines. Leatherwhip comes in with a gritty, almost offensive sound, whilst Double Slut Experiment fails to entice the ears with its trying-hard-to-be-crunchy riffs. Snuff Rider features more prominent percussion work but the riffs feel and sound very mismatched, leaving the track with much to be desired. Pussy Melter is another track that sounds like a dodgy porn title but there is definitely nothing pornographic about the lacklustre riffs or unexpected tempo changes. The EP ends on I Want To Have Sex o Marilyn Manson, which has a total change of a pace from the rest of the release. The sound of this track is much darker than the rest of the EP, with a certain melody running through the guitars.

No Safe Word is a very hit and miss release, with some tracks feeling rushed and written last minute. White Virgins show potential but overall the EP feels very lacking.

5/10

Nico Solheim-Davidson

Crushing Force – Remnants of Devastation

Posted in Review with tags , , on 21st September 2020 by izaforestspirit

Crushing Force
Remnants of Devastation
Released 25th July 2020
Melodic Death Metal
Self-Released

Crushing Force - Remnants of Devastation

’Remnants of Devastation’ is the debut EP from the New York based melodic death metal band Crushing Force. The band was originally a one man project of Bill Rotach (Desekrator, ex-Nazgül) created in 2016 with the aim of making instrumental music for video games. One of the tracks, ‘Inferior Humans’ features a sound clip of Fawkes from the video game Fallout 3.

Now I have never played Fallout 3 and I am not really into video games, so I cannot comment on how well this would work as a soundtrack. What I can say, is a few things about is the music itself. The EP is full of shredding guitar riffs along with a few well constructed melodic guitar parts. Mr. Rotach is clearly a skilled guitarist and guitars are definitely the main focus of the EP. The aforementioned Inferior Humans is the most aggressive song in here with crushing guitars and savage drums hammering away. At the other end of the spectrum, we have songs like the title track which is more thrash metal -esque and melodic in nature.

Overall, this is a well made EP from a promising melodic death metal artist. The lyrical themes and the overall tone of the music would not be out of place in a post-apocalyptic landscape. As to how well it works as a soundtrack, I guess that’s up to the gamers to decide.

7/10

Iza Raittila

Joe Bouchard – Strange Legends

Posted in Review with tags , on 8th September 2020 by izaforestspirit

Joe Bouchard
Strange Legends
Released 31st July 2020
Hard Rock
Released via Deko Entertainment

‘Strange Legends’ is the latest solo album from the American hard rock artist Joe Bouchard. He is best known as one of the founding members of Blue Öyster Cult. This record features drummer Mickey Curry (Alice Cooper, Bryan Adams) along with lyrical contributions from the the sci-fi writer John Shirley, co-screenwriter for the movie ‘The Crow’.

I have to admit that I’m not too well versed when it comes to Blue Öyster Cult. I am mostly familiar with just two of their songs – ‘Don’t Feat The Reaper’ and ‘Astronomy’ thanks to the Metallica cover. Despite this I decided to give the album a go… So, what we have here are eleven tracks of melodic and uplifting hard rock. The pace is varied but generally speaking the more energetic tracks are mostly in the first half of the record, then Mr. Bouchard mellows things down with a few ballads towards the end.

I enjoyed the guitar parts on African Queen and the chorus is pretty good too. It’s catchy, almost to the point where you are tempted to swing along to the guitar tunes. Speaking of guitars, if you like like jazz style guitar work then you should definitely check out the instrumental Racing Thru The Desert. The guitar riffs are very well done, but personally I’m not so keen on the trumpet noise on the background. Perhaps a little too much like a jazz jamming session for my liking. She’s a Legend is another standout track with a memorable chorus. The overall tone is a little darker thanks to the creepy synthesizer sound in the background. That the doesn’t make the track any less catchy than the others on the album, though. In many ways that song reminded me of some of Blue Öyster Cult’s best known hits.

In summary, ‘Strange Legends’ is a catchy, guitar-driven hard rock album. I enjoyed it despite my limited knowledge of Blue Öyster Cult and Joe Bouchard’s solo work. If you are a fan of Blue Öyster Cult, the chances are that you already have this record. I reckon that most hard rock fans will like it too.

8/10

Iza Raittila

Valkyrian Music

Breaking Today – It Dies Today

Posted in Review with tags , , , , on 28th August 2020 by Pieni

Breaking Today
“It Dies Today” (EP)
Punk rock
Self-released on 13th July 2020

breakingtoday

He may be the bass player in a metalcore band, but Luís Silva is a punk rocker. And he plays guitar. And he sings! And so Breaking Today was born.

The single for the title-track was released three years ago already – the original idea was for the EP to follow suit but, well, life happened… – and it’s indeed its most “single material”. All four songs have their own way of rocking your senses and lingering in your ear, but “It Dies Today” has that upbeat catchiness that sticks right away; you listen to it once, and by the second time you do, you’re already singing along the chorus. At least that’s what happened with me.

But first comes “Dropout”, faster, feistier, and therefore the right choice for opening track. And because punks have feelings too (please see a joke here and not an offense), the ballad “Save Me” delivers the right mellow touch. The strongest bass line – I won’t say the backbone but certainly one of the essences of punk rock – comes last, in the founding layers “Heavy Lies The Crown” was built on.

I won’t say Breaking Today is recommended for fans of this or that band, because a) it would look like I’m making comparisons and that’s just not fair, and b) every time someone tells me “oh if you like this you’ll definitely like that”, they fail miserably. So I’ll just say “It Dies Today” covers all the juicy feats of good ol’ punk rock and everyone who’s into that should at least give it a try – even if this turns out to be an “only child”. Not sure about this last part, mind me. All it’s been said is they don’t have any plans of playing live, and that frontman Luis’ dream has been fulfilled. Personally, I would like pretty much to listen to a follow-up, but if it doesn’t happen, this one’s worth it.

 7,5/10

Renata “Pieni” Lino

The Lightbringer of Sweden – Rise of The Beast

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

The Lightbringer of Sweden
Rise of The Beast
Released 15th July 2020
Power Metal
Self-Released

The Lightbringer of Sweden - Rise of the Beast

’Rise of The Beast’ is the debut album from the power metal band The Lightbringer of Sweden. As the band name suggests, the group hail from Sweden and they have been around since 2017. The line-up includes the German vocalist Herbie Langhans (also of Firewind, Beyond The Bridge and Avantasia live).

Now, when it comes to Swedish power metal the first name that always pops into my head is Sabaton. I can honestly say that I would struggle to name any others, except for Civil War which comprises several former Sabaton members. It’s good to know that there is more to the Swedish power metal scene than just these two bands. For starters The Lightbringer of Sweden sound nothing like their Falun-based brethren. There are no keyboards and Langhans’s vocal style reminds me of Andi Deris of Helloween.

I’m not sure what to make of the intro track ‘The Moon’… Church bells, something burning in background and the narrator’s voice informing you that the beast known as The Lightbringer is here to stay. Good to know, moving swiftly on. What follows is some fairly enjoyable melodic power metal complete with crunchy guitar, good drum work and powerful vocals. What’s not to like? The tempo varies from the mid-paced catchy songs such as Fallen Angels to the slower, ballad-esque title track. One of the highlights for me is ‘Skeletor’, probably my favorite track on here despite the somewhat cheesy lyrics. The chorus is super catchy, the raspy vocals are full of emotion and very well executed and the guitar work is top notch. I also enjoyed Into The Night, another catchy power metal tune. I’m not going to do a track-by-track review, I like some tracks more than others but, generally speaking there are not too many filler songs on here.

Overall, I enjoyed ‘Rise of The Beast’. This is one of the better power metal albums I’ve heard this year. As far as the genre goes, The Lightbringer of Sweden aren’t exactly re-inventing the wheel, but they are good at what they do. If they continue along the same path they will have a bright future ahead of them.

8/10

Iza Raittila

Battle Born – Battle Born

Posted in Review with tags , , , on 20th July 2020 by Nico Davidson

Battle Born
Battle Born
Released 26th June 2020
Power Metal/Skyrim Metal
Self-Released

Hailing from Windhelm (Apparently), Battle Born are a new power metal act on the scene. Described as “true Skyrim Metal” by some, I have to admit my curiosity was piqued. The self-titled EP is said to take the listener on an adventure through the rolling mountains of the frozen land of Skyrim.

The EP charges straight in with the gallant title track, Battle Born. It’s a strong enough opening for the EP, featuring the standard trademarks of European power metal. Bring The Metal Back is a catchy track with memorable riffs and an overall grandiose chorus, though some of the lyrics do sound quite cheesey. Man Of War takes on a more classic metal sound, with a styling that would be closer to early Manowar, or Judas Priest, than modern power metal. The chorus is poignant enough to have you singing it for days. For Our Home is a far gentler song, making use of more emotional keyboard passages and moving vocal lines. The guitars add to the uplifting sound of the track. The EP ends on Sovngarde Awaits, which despite the name, isn’t as mournful as one would assume. Instead, it thunders in with encouraging guitar riffs, exhilarating keyboards, and boisterous vocals. Such an enlivening song makes you want the EP to carry on.

For a Skyrim Metal band, the lack of Thu’um usage and sweetrolls which is disappointing, however the EP shows promise these sons of Skyrim. With an arsenal of fun choruses, and uplifting songs, Battle Born is a mighty release and just the soundtrack you need when taking the fight to the Imperials!

9/10

Nico Solheim-Davidson

Battle Born online:

http://www.facebook.com/battlebornuk

Damnation Angels – Fiber of Our Being

Posted in Review with tags , , on 17th July 2020 by izaforestspirit

Damnation Angels
Fiber of Our Being
Released 31st July 2020
Symphonic Power Metal
Self-Released

Damnation Angels - Fiber of Our Being




So here we were in the heat of the summer… Ok, so there is still a pandemic going on and many of us may not be in a “happy place” at the moment. But it’s still summer and I’m in the mood for some power metal. I’m in need of some escapism. I want to hear some uplifting tunes and to listen tales of epic battles or fantasy adventures. Helloween, Sabaton and Powerwolf are my favorite choices for the genre. This time though, I decided to take a break from those and to check out something new – the new album from the British symphonic power metal act Damnation Angels. These guys have been around since 2006 and their music has been compared to the likes of Avantasia and Blind Guardian. So far all their albums have been well received by the metal community both the fans and the critics alike, including Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson. Let’s see how the third full length ‘Fiber of Our Being’ measures up to its predecessors.

Well if it’s uplifting and epic power metal you are after, then you have come to the right place. Railrunner definitely has a positive feel to it thanks to the melodic guitar work, symphonic undertones and Iggy Rodriguez’s powerful vocals. Great chorus too. They managed to achieve the right balance between the the guitars and the orchestrations without overdoing it on the symphonic parts. The title track is by far the catchiest song on here. I’ve listened to the album a few times now and this is one of the tracks that I keep going back. It has the best chorus and the most memorable orchestrations as well as guitar riffs. In fact, come to think of it, there isn’t really anything that I dislike about this track. I also enjoyed Rewrite The Future – another energetic, uplifting and catchy power metal track. The guys probably had lots of fun recording this.

They occasionally slow things down too, as demonstrated in the slower tracks like the closing ballad ‘A Sum of Our Parts’. Here the vocals have a somewhat softer tone and the keyboards are more prominent than the guitars. It’s probably my least favorite track on here but it works well as a closing song, the final chapter of the story.

Overall, there is a lot to like on here and I enjoyed listening to ‘Fiber of Our Being’. I would recommend it to fans of symphonic power metal, particularly if you are into bands like Kamelot and Avantasia.

8/10

Iza Raittila

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