Archive for the Review Category

Skarlett Riot – Invicta

Posted in Editorial/Opinionated, Review with tags , , , , , on 6th May 2021 by Mickelrath

Skarlett Riot

Invicta

Heavy Metal, Hard Rock, Metalcore

Released 7 May 2021

Via Despotz Records

It’s a special feeling when you see one of your favourite bands rise up and release an album this good. Yes, this will probably be somewhat of a biased review as I really do like this band and I can confidently say that I’m almost proud of Skarlett Riot for making this album. Invicta is their third album and it’s been quite the journey listening to them grow and develop into the band they are today. They have always had a way with lyrical themes intertwined with heavy dark tones with a good measure of catchy melodies and this record is no exception with songs that will no doubt be taking centre stage of their setlists when the world goes back to normal and gigs are once again attendable. It could have been really easy for the band to not do anything during the lockdown, however they were laser-focussed on this new project and, armed with this new album, they’ll be ready to take over the hard rock scene.

The album opens with “Breaking the Habit” and it sets the tone for what to expect throughout. Dark and heavy melodies with impactful hard-hitting lyrics. It goes full-force and doesn’t really slow down except for the magnificent crescendo that is the ballad “Into Pieces”, which for my money, is really the centre piece of the album. A soft acoustic intro that builds into a solid hard rock ballad that really caught me off guard but I really enjoy listening to it. While listening to this, I found myself relating to a lot of the lyrics on here. Skarlett Riot work their magic with the lyrics. I especially like the dark lyrics in “Black Cloud” which perfectly sums up how depression and anxiety feels, it really hit me hard and the vocal performance really sells it to you with a lot of conviction and passion. 

The production absolutely packs that extra punch. The big difference on this record is the addition of guttural vocal work, which has never really been in Skarlett Riot’s previous work. Thanks to new bassist, Tim Chambers. He really works off of Chloe’s vocal work and complements it with big bassy sounding guttural vocals that really gives this album so much more of an edge. The guitar riffs are excellent and create a solid framework for the songs. Then you have the drums which feel so punchy on this release. The drum-fills are well worked and they add so much depth to the overall sound.

Okay, this was an outright advertisement for the album rather than a review. Yeah, it goes without saying that I recommend this album. It’s more Skarlett Riot with more of a punch and the new addition of the vocal work is so welcome in the band’s sound. Just an excellent listen and one already in my top ten albums for 2021

10/10

Mick Birchall

Indus Valley Kings – Indus Valley Kings

Posted in Editorial/Opinionated, Review with tags , , , on 28th April 2021 by Mickelrath

Indus Valley Kings
Indus Valley Kings
Stoner Rock, Hard Rock, Heavy Metal
Released: 22 January 2021
Self-Released

This was a neat little surprise of a record. I love looking up weird and interesting stoner rock music. It’s a sub-culture that I really adore ever since I discovered Kyuss and Orange Goblin. So I always take the opportunity to listen to new bands in the genre. So let me introduce you to Indus Valley Kings. They advertise themselves as “heavy, down-tuned music” and that is something that I kind of agree with. The band consists of Billy Fridrich on guitar & vocals, Dan Lofaro on drums and Jonathan Lesley Habers on bass and vocals. It’s definitely heavy but it has a laid back attitude like a band in a jam session. Sure, jamming out for a whole album might be off-putting to some. However, if you’re willing to chill out, it’s a fun ride of a record. 

The first thing you’ll notice about this album is… The bass! My god the bass is oozing and powerful. It encompasses all elements of the record and creates the framework for all of the songs and keeps the energy chugging throughout. It’s just so in your face that I couldn’t help but point it out. I listened to this on several pairs of headphones and it was just the most powerful part of the album. There’s something very primal and hard-hitting about the tunes. I love the vocal performance on this record, especially the hook to the song “Scapegoat”, it packs such a punch with Billy’s forceful voice kicking ass. Then you have the guitar solos. They are so good. Carrying on from the heavy and down-tuned music, the solos have that vibe at heart. 

It might be a little hard to listen to for people not used to this sort of music. The production isn’t amazing. I do understand the tone they were going for but I don’t think the execution was necessarily the best as the production feels a little stodgy and the bass swallows up all of the other instruments. There are times where the drums aren’t audible because the bass is too in your face. I like bass but there is such a thing as too much. 

It’s still a very enjoyable album as it is. I have the songs playing in my shuffle playlist for the last few weeks in the mix with the likes of Black Sabbath, Brant Bjork, Planet of Zeus and Black Moth and I feel like it fits in quite nicely with that sort of sound. It’s a free-flowing jam session condensed into their best moments for an album. Well worth the listen if you like your bass-heavy stoner rock.

7/10

Mick Birchall

Bodom After Midnight – Paint The Sky With Blood

Posted in Review with tags , , on 23rd April 2021 by izaforestspirit

Bodom After Midnight
Released 23rd April 2021
Melodic Death Metal/Power Metal
Released via Nuclear Blast

Bodom After Midnight, Paint the Sky with Blood, 10" Vinyl - Backstage Rock  Shop

The tragic death of Alexi Laiho late last year meant that his new band’s album was never finished. He did however manage to record a few tracks with Bodom After Midnight. His bandmates decided to release these as an EP dedicated to his memory. So here we have Alexi Laiho’s swan song – ‘Paint The Sky With Blood’.

The title track is by far the highlight on here. Laiho’s vocals sounds as sharp as ever and the guitar work is simply flawless. The keyboards work well in the background. Next up is Payback’s a Bitch, another solid melodic death metal track which reminded me of Children of Bodom’s mid-career work. Once again the guitar work is the prime focus. Last but not least is a cover of ‘Dissection’s Where Dead Angels Lie. This is not the easiest of songs to cover but they did a pretty good job of it. They successfully managed to capture the original atmosphere of the track.

In summary, as a long time Children of Bodom fan I am very happy that Mr. Laiho left his fans with one final parting gift. RIP Alexi Laiho. One wild child gone far too soon…

9/10

Iza Raittila

Sadistic Demise – Your Chosen Way of Sadistic

Posted in Review with tags , on 17th April 2021 by izaforestspirit

Sadistic Demise
Your Chosen Way of Sadistic
Released 21st February 2021
Death Metal
Self-Released

Sadistic Demise - Your Chosen Way of Sadistic

‘ Your Chosen Way of Sadistic’ is the first EP from the Russian death metal band Sadistic Demise. The group was formed last year. Three of the band members are also in the thrash metal crossover band Impress.

After a couple of listens I can safely say that this sounds pretty much exactly like I expected it to. Brutal, mid-paced death metal packed with gore themes. The growling style is fairly typical of the genre as is the guitar style. The main issue I have with this is that with the notable exception of the intro, all the songs sound very similar to each other. There is some decent riff work on songs such as Violent Autopsy but other than that, unless you have the track-listing in front of you, it’s difficult to tell when one song ends and another begins.

Overall, there is not much else that I can say about this EP. It is very much your standard brutal death metal. While this in itself is not a bad thing, if you like the genre, that doesn’t change the fact that bands like this are a dime in a dozen. In all honesty if I want death metal, I would rather listen to Cannibal Corpse or old Morbid Angel.

5/10

Iza Raittila

Mind Driller – InBolution

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , on 2nd April 2021 by Pieni

Mind Driller
“InBolution” [EP]
Electronic/industrial rock
Released: 21st January 2021
Via Art Gates Records

InBolution

Despite featuring nine tracks, which is an acceptable number for a full-length album, only three of them are new, hence the EP tag on “InBolution”.

“The Prophecy” is such a vibrant song that it’s totally understandable why they couldn’t wait to release it. The chorus is catchy as usual, but its overall rhythm is something more than that.

“Overthrow”, on the other hand, bears that dark wave seduction Mind Driller’s already shown us in songs like “Deadworld”, for instance, reaching out to your deepest senses rather than make you want to dance.

And then “Denken” offers a heavier beat, sounding more industrial.

The rest of the tracks are remixes (“Calling At The Stars” got a more dance-able one, while “The Game” went more somber) and instrumental versions (which made me go back to my childhood, when the B-sides of singles were often their instrumental tracks).

All in all, “InBolution” isn’t just a treat for the band’s fans but for everyone who appreciates the genre, given its diversity (and excellence) of features.

7,5/10

by Renata “Pieni” Lino


Rob Zombie – The Lunar Infection Kool Aid Conspiracy

Posted in Review with tags , , , on 17th March 2021 by izaforestspirit

Rob Zombie
The Lunar Infection Kool Aid Eclipse Conspiracy
Released 12th March 2021
Hard Rock /Heavy Metal
Released via Nuclear Blast

You got to hand it to Rob Zombie when it comes to coming up with bizarre-sounding album titles. Five years ago the hard rock musician released an album with the one of the longest titles ever ‘The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration Dispenser’. Luckily this new one has a slightly shorter title but it is no less crazy – ‘The Lunar Injection Kool Aid Eclipse Conspiracy’.

Sadly this is one of those cases where even after several listens I cannot get my head around this album. I really tried to like it and I hope that it would grow on me after a while. There are a few good heavy metal songs such as The Triumph Of King Freak (A Crypt Of Preservation & Superstition) and The Eternal Struggles Of The Howling Man and Shadow of The Cemetery Man. Then there’s the ultimate evil hellbilly circus track called 18th Century Cannibals, Excitable Morlocks & A One-Way Ticket On The Ghost Train delivering a highly amusing mishmash of country music and heavy metal.

So that was the good part. Now for the bad parts. There are way too many filler tracks. The instrumentals such as ‘The Much Talked of Metamorphosis’ seem a little out of place on here. I fail to see the point of having several interlude tracks lasting less than a minute. The style is a total mishmash of genres too. Oh and don’t even get me started on the lyrics. Seriously, I know that Rob Zombie is hardly a lyrical genius but even he can come up with better than “smoke your grass and shake your ass” and “the witch is sliding up the broom.”

In all honesty I expected better after a five year wait. There are a handful of good tracks on here but not enough to make this album worthwhile. If you were expecting another solid Rob Zombie album like ‘Sinister Urge’ or ‘Hellbilly Deluxe’ then prepare to be disappointed.

5/10
Iza Raittila

Fortress Under Siege – Atlantis

Posted in Editorial/Opinionated, Review with tags , , , , , on 15th March 2021 by Mickelrath

Fortress Under Siege
Atlantis

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal
Released: 9th October 2020
via  ROAR! Rock Of Angels Records

Well, it seems my love affair with the metal scene in Greece continues with the discovery of this band, Fortress Under Siege. From the first moments of this record, I was hooked. Their presentation is clean and their music packs a big punch. I had to take a deeper dive to get a better idea of the evolution of this band. The band have released two previous albums and their new album Atlantis is probably my favourite upon listening to them all. It’s big and bold with a lot to offer. The album was produced and mixed by Fotis Benardo (Septicflesh, Rotting Christ, Innerwish). Mastered by George Nerantzis (Pain Of Salvation, Abbath, Dark Funeral, Gus G). It was recorded at Devasoundz Studios in Athens Greece. The biggest hurdle to overcome was replacing lead vocalist, Mike Livas with Tasos Lazaris, however, I feel he stepped to the plate perfectly here. 

The album is big and bold. Loud guitar and intricate keyboard works give this album power and depth with the bass and drums giving each song structure. Then the vocal performance just hits so hard and whenever it comes in. The bombastic production is just great and the sound of the band is that of excellent riffs and wonderful musical progressions. I like the way the album flows together, it almost has a serial or concept nature and every song flows into the next seamlessly. Every song has this big-sounding chorus that gets stuck in your head and feels uplifting when listening to it. It all feels rich with beautiful and carefully crafted melodies. Not a second of time is wasted on the record. Right from the opening track “Love Enforcer”  I was presented with amazing use of lyrical imagery and a great sense of presence and tone. 

Overall, I would say that this was a rather impressive listening experience. The songs are superb and the band just have the charisma of megastars. If you like your power metal bands then, Fortress Under Siege is well worth your time and Atlantis is an amazing epic of a record. The album touches on themes of ancient Hellenic mythology and Trojan royalty. They even give social commentary on helicopter parenting and bullying. The lyrics are multilayered but also you can get a lot just from the surface level too. If you want some good power metal in your life that you may have never considered before, this is the band for you.

8/10

Mick Birchall

Leprosys – Obnoxious Futuristic Vision

Posted in Review with tags , , , on 11th March 2021 by izaforestspirit

Leprosys
Obnoxious Futuristic Vision
Released 1st February 2021
Death Metal with thrash metal influences
Self-Released

Leprosys - Obnoxious Futuristic Vision
‘Obnoxious Futuristic Vision’ is the debut album from the Canadian death metal band Leprosys. The band has been active since 2015 and they cite bands such as Obituary, Death and Pestilence as influences. All their releases are available for purchase via their Bandcamp page.

So, after a couple of listens I can safely state that this pretty much what I expected it to be. Leprosys play guitar-driven old-school death metal with a thrash metal tinge. So if ferocious guitar riffs are your thing, then you are in for a treat here. The tracks are fast-paced and fairly simple in structure.

Virtual Life caught my attention due to the cello part at the end. Similar things can be said about Transplanting The Brain which features a mouth harp noise towards the end. Other than that this is fairly standard death metal similar to the likes of Obituary and Death as could be expected.

Overall, as far death metal goes Leprosys have done a good job. It was difficult to come up with something unique to say about this album though that doesn’t mean it’s in any way bad. So if you are a fan of Obituary and Death then you should give Leprosys a go.

6/10

Iza Raittila

The Straddlerz – The Straddlerz

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , on 1st March 2021 by Pieni

The Straddlerz
“The Straddlerz”
Dirty rock’n’roll
Self-released
On 29th January 2021

thestraddlerz copy

When two strains of Latin blood – Italian and Argentinian – come together to produce rock music, the outcome must be passionate. And that’s what The Straddlerz self-titled debut album is.

The recording is way too raw, so I’m guessing the producer wanted to preserve the original intensity of both Linda Filippin’s yelling and Michael Reynal’s shredding. I understand that, but a little more polish would make the sound less messy without hurting their edge.

Not all songs roll out like a freight train, or not entirely. “Circle Of Insanity” has a less-than-a-minute seductive intro before all hell breaks loose; that same seduction lasts for half of the song “Addiction” but then Michael doesn’t help himself (did I mention there are two solos in “No Changes”?) and there go the guitars at full speed again, with everybody else following suit. Only “Don’t Go Away” has this bluesy seventies vibe and matching tempo, proving that the “pure and dirty” rockers know a thing or two about melody. “Junkie Bastards” has a groovy beat that’s quite catchy, but since it deviates a bit from their general stance it was “Streets Of Love” – a harder catchiness – that made it to a promotional video.

Someone called them “rock and roll with attitude”. I agree, but personally, I need more than that to fully appreciate a band.

6/10

by Renata “Pieni” Lino

Epica – Omega

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , on 19th February 2021 by Nico Solheim-Davidson, the North Sea Poet

Epica
Omega
Symphonic Metal
Release date: 26th February 2021
Released via Nuclear Blast

Epica is a name that many fans of symphonic metal will already be familiar. The band, formed by vocalist and guitarist Mark Jansen, have been a driving force in the symphonic metal scene for almost 20 years. Omega is the eighth studio album from Epica, and one I have been looking forward to greatly.

The album opens strong with the hypnotic medley of Alpha – Anteludium before Abyss Of Time – Countdown To Singularity blasts through the speakers with a driving combination of orchestral elements and roaring guitars. The vocal lines are gracefully performed, whilst the guitars and bass lend the track a more traditionally Epica sound. The Skeleton Key differs, marching in with a two-fold sound that comes across as violent and massive in some parts, and dramatic and shadowy in other parts. The haunting piano notes stepping elegantly throughout the track definitely aid in building up the latter sound, whilst the devastating guitar passages, combined with the drums and bass build up the former sound. Key Of Solomon carries a very Oriental sounding medley, which is furthered emphasised by the vocals.

Gaia has a bright, almost optimistic, and inspiring sound, leading this track to quite easily be an anthem sung by Epica fans across the globe. Code Of Life takes on a Middle Eastern aspect to its sound, combining a variety of different elements into a mesmerising, trance-inducing composition. Freedom – The Wolves Within blares out with everything you would expect from an Epica single: an awe-inspiring vocal duet, staunch symphonic elements, calculated drum strikes, compelling passages from the guitars and bass. Kingdom of Heaven Part III – The Antediluvian Universe eases in with a gentle, alluring flute medley that gradually builds into majestic orchestral and choir piece, which in turn opens the way for the rest of the track. Fusing driving sound of the guitars, bass, and drums, with the staunch power of the orchestral segments and Epica’s signature beauty and the beast vocals, Kingdom Of Heaven is probably one of the best parts of the album – which really says something given the magnificence of the entire album.

Continuing on with the album comes Rivers, a track that has a rather mystical resonance to its sound which is fortified by the emotive voice of Simone gliding alongside the eerie notes of the piano. The real strength of the track is found when the instrumentation from the rest of the band makes itself heard, reinforcing that emotive aspect to the vocals, whilst also making the track sound larger and more fulfilled. Synergize – Manic Manifest bursts in with a straight to the point, guitar-driven passage whilst the orchestration makes its own way, standing out noticeably. The choir vocals sound vibrant whilst adding emphasis to the main vocals of Simone and Mark. Twilight Reverie – The Hypnagogic State is a catchy track, making use of orchestration that could easily rival that of Nightwish due to the almost flamboyant sound it comes across with. The guitars and rhythm section also stand out considerably on this track, making Twilight Reverie another of the best parts of the whole album. Vicky Psarakis’ (The Agonist) spoken word section is what really helps the song feel complete. The album finishes with the grandiose sounds of Omega – Sovereign of the Sun Spheres, which is a poignant track to finish with. The track is a fusion of august medleys, sharp sounding passages, and fierce vocals that feels like a new experience which each listen, making it a powerful song to finish with.

Omega shows how capable Epica are of creating with a variety of elements and merging them into a distinct sound that stays so fresh. Omega is yet another album in Epica’s discography that can be easily summed up with one word: Epic but to do so doesn’t give enough credit to what an aural masterpiece the album is or how it demonstrates this band’s ability to break the mold of their own sound whilst staying true to their more traditional compositions.

10/10

Nico Solheim-Davidson

Nihilum – Call of The Void

Posted in Review with tags , on 18th February 2021 by izaforestspirit

Nihilum
Call of the Void
Black Metal
11th June 2020
Self-Released

Nihilum - Call of the Void

‘Call of The Void’ is the first of two EPs self-released last year by the North Carolina -based American black metal artist Nihilum. Both of his releases are available from his Bandcamp page.

As far as black metal goes, this is fairly fast-paced with Marduk-style pummeling being a key feature. The only notable exception is the ambient intro track The Overseer. Pestilence also caught my attention as one of the slower songs on here with a more varied pace. Here the guitars take on a more layered approach and the vocals are actually fairly easy to follow. Then the pace picks up for the rest of the album. The guitars have a certain bleak feel to them which is very fitting for this style of black metal. There is no shortage of blast beats on here but most of the drum work does really offer much variety to the overall sound.

Overall, ‘Call of The Void’ is a rather decent sounding black metal EP and a good introduction to Nihilum. I would be interested to see how this project progresses.

7/10

Iza Raittila

Ricky Warwick – When Life Was Hard & Fast

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , on 16th February 2021 by Pieni

Ricky Warwick
“When Life Was Hard & Fast”
Rock
Release: 19th February 2021
Via Nuclear Blast Records

wlwhnf

Ricky Warwick’s solo career has been a straightforward rock ride and this “When Life Was Hard & Fast” is probably the most genuine in such essence. He invited some friends over, some well-known names in the scene, but the fact that you don’t see “feat. Rockstar X” in any of the titles proves how those invitations weren’t a marketing stunt; just a bunch of buddies celebrating good ol’ rock ‘n’roll. The opening and title-track, for instance. A catchy, spirited tune where Def LeppardJoe Elliott’s crystal voice contrasts perfectly with Warwick’s raspy pitch in the chorus. Or how Andy Taylor (yes, that legend who used to play in Duran Duran) produces a mean guitar solo in the political vent “I’d Rather Be Hit”. Thunder’s Luke Morley also plays a sharp solo on “You Don’t Love Me”, but I’m personally more hooked on the groovy, smooth rhythm provided by the bass on this song.

The Mink Deville cover of “Gunslinger” is pretty loyal to the original but with all the perks of a nowadays recording, meaning it sounds more refined but keeps all the rock’n’roll attitude of the seventies. So it’s kinda funny to talk about “Clown Of Misery” now, as in order to preserve its candid acoustic nature they stuck to the demo version and it sounds like you’re listening to it on an old radio transistor. But it’s “Time Don’t Seem To Matter” that really shows you the graceful side of rock – also acoustic, with some delicate samples in the background and then an electric solo mirrors the chorus modulation sung by Warwick and his youngest daughter Pepper (whom the song was written for).

All the brisk and snappy traits on this record prove how honest Warwick is when he says “rock’n’roll ain’t dead – it’s just lost in its mystery”.

7,5/10

by Renata “Pieni” Lino

Onus Baal – Onus Baal

Posted in Review with tags , , , , on 3rd February 2021 by Mickelrath

Onus Baal
Onus Baal
Power Metal, Heavy Metal
Released: 15th April 2020
Self Released

So, let’s go back to 2020, I know it was a year from hell. However, there was a lot of great music released and I think it’s important to give credit to the bands that managed to put out something in the turbulent shitshow that was 2020. Rolling across the desks of Valkyrian Music is the Spanish power metal outfit Onus Baal. Started in 2018 out of Huelva. They have ground their way through the Spanish metal scene to deliver their debut, self-titled album. The band consists of Tomás Díaz (vocals/rhythm guitar), Javier Fraile (lead guitar), Fermín Cansino (drums) and Gabriel García (bass). Their style of music feels very much on the cusp of NWOBHM and the more traditional European power metal. The two styles blend quite nicely together. Giving them a polished and clear sound that packs that punch.

The production delivers a pleasant listening experience. Nothing feels muddy, each piece of the instrumentation works in harmony with each other. It hits that mark of great balance. Meaning, when the guitar solos kick in, or when the band hits those epic chorus lines, you get the full power of the band blasting at you. Which is what you want from music like this. You want that sense of attack and scale in the music. I just wanted to get up and headbang throughout. There wasn’t a point of the album where I wanted to skip or turn away to something else. Which speaks to how well the album is constructed. In fact, the only thing that was rather annoying was the mandatory Spotify adverts getting in the way. I think the true stand out moments of the album where the songs “Vientos de Ayre” (Winds of Ayre). Where the vocal performance is at it’s strongest on the record. Also, I really liked the song “Cárcel de Cristal” which has a really nice heavy tone that by far exemplified the strengths of Onus Baal.

A really strong record that has clearly been influenced by the likes of Dio, Judas Priest, Sonata Arctica and Hammerfall. It’s a wonderful soup of ideas and as a first album, it’s a great first impression to the metal community. I didn’t even let the fact that the album is in Spanish throw me off. Also, as someone who doesn’t speak the language, I still feel that it’s worth listening to. You can hear the drive, the passion and the enthusiasm for making music in these guys and that’s what I like about them. I stellar record that I think I’ll be revisiting again.

8/10

Mick Birchall

Moonspell – Hermitage

Posted in Review with tags , , , on 31st January 2021 by Pieni

Moonspell
“Hermitage”
Dark metal
Released: 26th February 2021
Via Napalm Records

hermitage

I’ve never been quite comfortable in calling Moonspell “gothic metal” as that’s too much of a specific term to grasp all aspects of their music; “dark metal”, covering a broader range of said aspects, sounds more fitting. Especially now, given that “Hermitage” is probably the most somber album the Portuguese band has ever released.

They claim to be aware they’re approaching their final years as musicians and I remember Fernando Ribeiro saying, at Vagos Metal Fest 2016, how he hoped Moonspell would play like Helloween (headliners of that edition of the festival) when reaching their age. The Germans were in their early fifties at the time, so either that’s what Moonspell consider “final years”, or something has shortened the expiration date of their careers. Something like this pandemic, I believe. This whole situation has changed everybody’s perspective on life and “Hermitage” is supposed to be an album where Moonspell put their hearts out and bring them closer to the fans “in these times of distancing”.

Their bass lines have always been intense – more so since Aires Pereira joined back in 2004 – and the groove of “The Greater Good” is quite a highlight among those lines, enhancing the whole omen vibe of its lyrics.

Ricardo Amorim has long proven his ability to make his strings weep (“The Future Is Dark”, out of “Extinct”, pops to mind, but there are others) but the bluesy foundation upon “All Or Nothing” was built simply excels. “Solitarian”, an instrumental track, follows suit in terms of emotional guitar work, but the drums and keys set up a more jazzy rhythm. Now the gloominess of “Entitlement” is endorsed – not solely but mainly – by Pedro Paixão’s piano, in such a seductive way that I found myself in some film noir scenario listening to it…

I hope “The Hermit Saints” is chosen to be played live: the choir of voices in the chorus will certainly give goosebumps when sung along by the audience. But in all honesty, this record is so rich that pretty much everything will work out live – and I promise it’s not my longing for concerts talking…

9/10

by Renata “Pieni” Lino

Echelon – Поехали

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , on 30th January 2021 by Pieni

Echelon
“Поехали”
Industrial
Released: 10th December 2020
Via Patriot

echelonletsgo

Rammstein have made such a mark that it’s almost impossible not to think of them when the term “industrial” comes up. And when the title-track of Echelon’s “Поехали” (let’s go) reminds you of “Feuer Frei” and the same album features a Russian cover of “Asche zu Asche”, you realize how much Rammstein still inspire younger bands of the genre.

Even if singer… I’m sorry, I don’t have a name for you – I can’t find any info regarding the band’s line-up! I did manage to identify the girl on the promo pic as Alena Meta, but since there’s a couple of songs with the note “feat. Alena Meta, I’m not even sure if she’s just a guest or a glorified band member… Now, as I was saying: even if the singer’s grave pitch and aggressive tone also resembles Till Lindemann’s, Echelon have managed to imprint their own stamp and create a sound of their own. The musical structure is more melodic, and the female voices here and there give it a classy touch: besides the aforementioned Alena Meta on the ballads “Особенный Путь” (special way) and the acoustic version of “Ничего нет дороже любви”(nothing more precious than love), they also have Valentina’s shrills spicing up “Действуй” (take action) and the more rock-oriented “Я Астероид” (I’m an asteroid). Another guest – male this time – is Freng, singing the English version of one of my favorites, “Течение Времени” (the flow of time), with a somewhat punk-ish attitude that, strangely enough, fits!

All in all, they combine the typical electronics with cranky guitar riffs, add occasional beautiful piano pieces and victorious vibes, and the outcome is quite charming.

7/10

by Renata “Pieni” Lino

Immortal Guardian – Psychosomatic

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , on 24th January 2021 by Mickelrath

Immortal Guardian
Psychosomatic
Power Metal, Progressive Metal
Released: 21st February
Via M-Theory

Oh man, I needed something like this right about now. This is the long awaiting second album from the epic power metallers, Immortal Guardian. I was genuinely blown away from the very first moments of this album. It’s certainly a really positive way to kick off my 2021. The band started the recording in early 2020 and would continue to update and add to it over the year, eventually scrapping the original theme and creating something completely new. This album truly is a product of 2020. At least that blasted year gave us something as powerful and as entertaining as this record. Psychosomatic has this real infectious energy to it and you can truly feel the passion, time and effort that went into this. Let me say this right now, I really appreciate this band and everything they put into this record. 

From a production standpoint, it sounds awesome. The music has this real polished tone to it. Everything feels clean and stands out. With each piece of instrumentation shining on its own but also it comes together to become something much bigger and bolder. The glistening guitar work is complemented by the twinkling keyboard and it’s all made bold by the strong bass and drum combination which gives the music that booming presence. Then you have the vocal performance which is so stellar and site right on top of the already impressive music. It’s power metal done right. If you want a powerful listening experience that grabs you and keeps you hooked in then I don’t think you can go far wrong here. It reminds me of Tobias Sammet albums, epic but also consistently engaging. 

Like I said earlier the band threw away the original concept they had planned for this record and started again. Well, you can tell that this was written in a worldwide pandemic. Not only do you have the song “Lockdown”, which is literally about the global lockdown but other lyrical moments of this record give you a real gut punch. Songs like “Read Between The Lines”, “Self Isolation” and “Phobia” have a surreal quality to them that really capture that feeling of dread, despair and the harsh reality we found ourselves in. At the same time, they manage to balance that out with themes of hope and optimism with “Find a Reason” and “New Day Rising”. 

This is an enigmatic and engaging album that really kept my attention. Immortal Guardian definitely has my attention. I even looked up their previous album Age of Revolution and I will admit that they are legitimately impressive. They craft songs that get stuck in your head and make you want to get up and move. This was quite a nice surprise to start 2021 with.

8/10

Mick Birchall

Therion – Leviathan

Posted in Review with tags , , , on 23rd January 2021 by Pieni

Therion
“Leviathan”
Symphonic metal
Released: 22nd January 2021
Via Nuclear Blast

Therion - Leviathan

Not sure what Christofer Johnsson meant with “giving the people what they kept asking for”, but it worked. Rumor has it they’ve analysed their most played songs on Spotify and inspired the new ones on those, but I honestly can’t see a direct connection between any except that they all sound like Therion. For instance, has the spunky rock rhythm of “The Leaf On The Oak Of Far”, mingled with symphonic choirs, the band’s old school vibe? Sure it has, but it’s not like you can say it’s a “To Mega Therion 2.0”.

There are a couple of songs that could be featured in a soundtrack of some Tolkien-style movie given the enchantment their melodies carry: the ballad “Die Wellen der Zeit” and the not-quite-a-ballad-but-just-as-graceful “Nocturnal Light”. Despite the German title of the first, only the chorus is sung in that language, just like you won’t hear that much Spanish in the catchy “El Primer Sol”. On the other hand, the only Finnish traits on the striking “Tuonela” besides the title are Marko Hietala on vocals and the “feeling” in the guitar solo. Add the Arabic hints in “Marquis Of Hell” and the Asian ones in “Ten Courts Of Diyu” and this record isn’t simply diverse – it’s multicultural.

As for the title-track, it is indeed the most powerful song of the album, its four minutes proving wrong the idea that a piece must last twice as much to be “epic”. Like I’ve said before, all songs sound like Therion, but this is the one with their name all over it. Is it “deliberately packed with hit songs”, like Johnsson assured? I wouldn’t go that far, but I bet the fans will be pretty pleased with the outcome.

8/10

by Renata “Pieni” Lino

Smerdead – Во Тьме Лесов

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , on 22nd January 2021 by Paul Macmillan

Smerdead
Во Тьме Лесов
Released 12th December 2020
Melodic death metal
Released via Sound Age Productions

Maybe something is lost in translation from the Russian, but I was not 100% sure what to expect from “zombie metal”. The nomenclature alone, however, was enough to pique curiosity. As it turns out, I doubt could have successfully predicted the sound.

What Smerdead offer is surprisingly melodic, given the brutal sounding, self-applied genre tag. Yes, it is heavy. However, it is most definitely not the knuckle-dragging, caveman variety of metal I imagined would greet me. Given my Russian language skills are absolute zero, I have no idea what frontman, Kozlodyor, is on about. One might assume the undead..? He is, though, a superb death metal vocalist, and his timbre is very easy on the heavy music ear.

The rest of the crew counter this with a highly accessible extreme metal backdrop. As a relatively new band, formed only in 2018, they are a completely fresh discovery for me. Во тьме лесов is, though, the second album of their short career, and it seems they have hit on a trademark “gallop and grunt” from day one. It’s well written, nicely produced, and deserves some widespread attention.

There is something of their sound which is particular to colder regions of the world. As much as they draw on traditional British metal, one can also feel a tundra-esque sway, and, at times, it can be a little like the music of the Steppes. It is, though, always metal, never drifting too far into the twee.

This is maybe what Skámöld would sound like, if their folk elements were to be extracted. Or if Týr ditched their clean singing in favour of a deadite snarl. Their slightly alien aspect allows for a little more escapism than the norm in metal, but doesn’t get too outlandish. This is a band who already know exactly who they are, and show great potential at a very early stage. Keep an eye on them.

7/10

Paul Macmillan

Avenger Kills – The End Has Come

Posted in Review with tags , , , , on 22nd January 2021 by izaforestspirit

Avenger Kills
The End Has Come
Released 10th December 2020
Thrash Metal/Power Metal/
Self-Released

The End Has Come’ is the third album from the Russian power metal band Avenger Kills. The group was formed in 2011 by guitarist Alexander Krasilnikov. All their releases are available from their Bandcamp page.

After just a couple of tracks I can state that this is a guitar-centric album within the thrash metal genre. The vocalist reminded me of Dave Mustaine of Megadeth while the guitar style made me think of the Finnish thrash metal band Stone with elements of old Iced Earth thrown in. Metal Child caught my attention due to the well-timed and reasonably well executed guitar passages. I’m not not sure what is happening on Hangover but it sounds like a completely different band! From thrash metal to hard rock…

Then it is back to thrash metal again for the remainder of the record. The songs maintain a good balance of aggression, speed and melody but mostly they sound very similar to each other. Notable exceptions include the cheerful-sounding power metal style on The Savior and the ballad-like closing track Time of Sins. The latter is also the slowest and most sombre-sounding track on the album. It works well as a closer, mellowing things down towards the end but I’m glad that it is the only track of this type on here.

Overall, what we have here is a fairly decent thrash metal album which I reckon would please fans of early Megadeth and Iced Earth. I emphasize the word ‘decent’ here as this style is not unique in a way but it is a pretty good effort.

6/10

Iza Raittila

Hadal – December

Posted in Review with tags , , , on 9th January 2021 by izaforestspirit

Hadal
December
Released: 5th December 2020
Doom Metal / Death Metal
Released via Planet K Records

Hadal - December

My first review of 2021. I do not normally review doom metal for the simple reason it has never been my favorite metal genre. Not even close. In fact the only doom metal band I listen to occasionally is My Dying Bride. Despite this I decided to give Hadal’s new album a go based on the description of it being a mixture of doom, Gothic and death metal. The Trieste-based, Italian doom metal quintet have been active since 2009 and this is their second album.

So, what we have here is primarily a doom metal album. All the classic hallmarks of the genre are present: a slower, bass-heavy, low-tuned guitar work, melancholic vocals and depressive lyrics. No violins but the music and vocal style bears some similarity to My Dying Bride. If only their singer had the same vocal range as Aaron Stainthorpe… Not quite, but he is doing a pretty good job. There is a hint of death metal audible in the growling vocals at the start of Dark Water, one of the more varied songs on here. I like the contrast between the two vocal styles and the gradual shift between the harsh to the melodic. The low-tuned guitar riffs are still present but at least this is not as ponderous as some of the other tracks on here. Similar things can be said about Without A Word, another song with a hint of death metal in the vocals and some of the guitar riffs.

The rest of the album offers a more varied pace. It’s still slow but the occasional death metal parts are a welcome addition. Speaking of variety, the closing track Stormcrow has some of the most diverse guitar work on the record, happily merging doom, death, Gothic and even thrash metal elements.

Overall, Hadal are not re-inventing the wheel here. Their style does not offer anything dramatically new to the genre. Having said that I reckon that fans of My Dying Bride and early Paradise Lost might enjoy it.

7/10

Iza Raittila