Archive for the Uncategorized Category

Indestructible Noise Commando – Terrible Things

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on 3rd May 2019 by izaforestspirit

Indestructible Noise Command
Terrible Things
Released 8th March 2019
Thrash Metal
Self-Released

I.N.C. - Terrible Things

‘Terrible Things’ is the latest album from the American thrash metal band I.N.C. as known as Indestructible Noise Command. The band was originally formed back in 1986. They released two albums in the 1980s before going on a long hiatus from 1990 to 2010. This release is the follow up to ‘Black Hearse Serenade’ which came out in 2014.

This is my first encounter of I.N.C. and I really did not know what to expect. All I knew was that their style has been described as thrash metal. With a name like “Indestructible Noise Command’ it is already pretty clear clue as to what you could expect the music to sound like. If you want melodic guitar and ballads then this is definitely not the album for you. Speed and aggression is clearly what these guys are going for here. Each song offers a barrage of fast guitar riffs, pummeling drums and ferocious shouting. Some of the tracks are so fast-paced that they actually come close to speed-thrash metal. It’s full speed ahead right from the start and these guys are not going to slow down.

Pledge of Legions follows the same pattern as most of the other tracks but it features some good guitar work midway through the song, which makes it a bit more memorable.  Identifier also has a few good guitar parts. The one thing that I wasn’t expecting was the melodic and somewhat technical-sounding instrumental intro to Nemesis. If there is one song on here that stands out, it is definitely this one mostly thanks to the intro. Oddly that intro features some of the best guitar work on the album and that is what makes it memorable. As soon as the shouting vocals begin, the atmosphere changes and it’s back to another onslaught of thrashing guitars and shouting. Don’t get me wrong though, the guitars are good, it’s the vocals that I find a little irritating at times.

Overall, the main issue I have with ‘Terrible Things’ is that a lot of the songs sound very similar. It is all about the speed and aggression with limited variety in terms of style.

3/5

Iza Raittila

Uncle Paul – Dot Rotten

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on 14th April 2019 by mickbirchy

Uncle Paul
Dot Rotten
Noise Rock, Stoner Rock, Psychedelic
Released 14th January 2019
via Introclusor Records

You guys know me by now. I’m usually the first in line for the weird and experimental side of rock n roll. After all, today’s experimental music is tomorrow’s mainstream. So, why not listen to everything that you can? Which leads me to this EP. Dot Rotton is the newest release from the weird and wonderful Uncle Paul and let’s just say it’s an interesting listening experience, to say the least. Sounding like a weird hybrid of Butthole Surfers, Deerhoof and Lightning Bolt, this band have really captured my imagination. Though this isn’t the best example of the genre, the North-West UK rockers certainly work as a weird noise rock psychedelia band, that incorporate elements of garage rock and stoner rock into their style. Referring to themselves as “refined musical dyslexia” is a good call, because this is what this is, a random assortment of musical ideas thrown into a melting pot and left to simmer.

Though it would take you longer to listen to “In A Gadda Da Vida” than it would this entire EP. I think there is some merit to the EP. In the sense, that you shouldn’t try to investigate it or look into it too deep. It’s more just a musical experience with a hodge-podge of ideas, riffs and distortion just blasting full force at the listener. With vocal effect layered over the sound and weird noise coming from every which way. It’s an EP to lose yourself in and not worry too much about its motivations or connotations. It’s just music for music’s sake and, you know what? That’s actually quite refreshing from time to time. The production is all over the place with nothing really meshing or coming together. Very much like the noise rock movement of the early 90’s this band just make what they feel like and run with the ideas they have.

Let me put this straight, this is not of the average consumer of music. There are no hooks or ear-worms to be found here. Yet, there is some creating bass work, some great riff ideas and guitar licks littered throughout the EP. Which makes it enjoyable enough. Also, considering that a couple of the songs don’t even reach two minutes long and the longest track here is four minutes, the music just passes by so quick that you don’t even realise that you’ve just heard something really fun and ridiculous.

By no means is this a great example of modern rock music. Yet, it serves as an interesting example of the noise rock sound and how it can still be relevant today. Then again, noise rock usually exists outside the normal boundaries of music anyway. If you like that  90’s Gen-Xer sound or watched a lot of Bevis and Butthead then I would recommend this in a strange way. It’s not a masterpiece, nor is it trying to be. It’s designed to be off-putting and weird and to be honest, that’s what I liked about it.

3.5/5

Mick Birchall

Tara Lynch – Evil Enough

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on 10th April 2019 by izaforestspirit

Tara Lynch
Evil Enough
Released 1st March 2019
Heavy Metal/Hard Rock
Released via Cargo Records

Image result for tara lynch evil enough

Evil Enough’ is the debut album from the American heavy metal singer and multi-instrumentalist Tara Lynch. The album features several guest performances from a wide variety of metal and rock musicians including the following: Vinny Appice (Dio, Black Sabbath), Phil Soussan (Ozzy Osbourne, Billy Idol), Glen Sobel (Alice Cooper) and many others.

This is a very guitar-focused album. As far as the genres go, I would call this classic heavy metal with hints of hard rock. Most of the songs feature great guitar work and each of the guest musicians is given a chance to shine. Yet the real star here is of course Tara Lynch herself. I can see how she earned the nickname “Gui-Tara!”. Her guitar skills are nothing short of impressive and she has a good voice too. Her vocal style reminded me a little of Doro Pesch.

Antidote caught my attention due to powerful vocals and excellent guitar work. It also acts as a means to showcase Tara Lynch’s vocal range. There is a lot of emotion audible in her vocal performance which is great to hear. It’s pretty clear why this song was chosen as the first single from the album. Kringeworthy, one of the more melodic songs on here, also deserves a mention. It starts off slow, melodic and ballad-like before picking up the pace towards the end. Once again the guitar work is impeccable and the vocals work well with the music. Then there are the instrumental Gui-Tara Rises and Enigmatic being the most guitar-centered tracks on here with no shortage of memorable riffs and solos.

Overall, there is a lot to like on ‘Evil Enough’ especially if you are a fan of guitar-focused heavy metal. I think that hard rock fans will enjoy it too.

4/5

Iza Raittila



The Raven Age – Conspiracy

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on 27th March 2019 by Paul Macmillan

The Raven Age

Conspiracy

Hard rock/metal

Released March 8th 2019

Self-released

This is an interesting release for one major reason; it doesn’t fit neatly into a specific sub-genre of either rock or metal. Kicking off with an orchestral piece, which comes across like a meandering fantasy adventure film soundtrack, could easily give you a false impression of what follows on Conspiracy. This is, however, the second long-player from Londoners, The Raven Age, so if you’re familiar with predecessor, Darkness Will Rise, you might be more prepared than others. Regardless, they are still a difficult prospect to pigeonhole.

Whatever they are, it seems to be working for them. Their mass-appeal, melodic metal has already received rave reviews from Kerrang, Metal Hammer, and Powerplay magazines, to name a few of the bigger hitters. It’s easy to see why. These accessible tunes come from the shared house of Disturbed, Killswitch Engage, and, maybe at the rough edges, In Flames. There’s certainly a large, existing market for that.

While there are immediate metal tinges, this release leans more to the classic end of that spectrum much of the time, overlapping into old-school hard rock, despite the overall contemporary feel. The clean, powerful singing throughout is one of the stand-out features to represent that. Heck, I think they might have even half-borrowed a vocal melody from Phil Collins’ Land Of Confusion at one point. It’s catchy and effective, and one of the most memorable parts of their sound.

Perhaps one of the reasons this band are currently picking up so much speed, and in just a few years a few years of existence, is that not many others are currently taking this approach. If you like your heavy not so heavy, this might just tickle your fancy. However, if something more extreme is your go-to, it ain’t gonna tick your boxes. Either way, it’s worth a spin, just to find out.

3.5/5

Paul Macmillan

Fallen Tyrant – Children of A Nuclear Dawn

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on 18th March 2019 by izaforestspirit

Fallen Tyrant
Children of a Nuclear Dawn
Released 19th November 2018
Black Metal
Released via Bleeding Heart Nihilist Productions

Fallen Tyrant - Children of a Nuclear Dawn

‘Children of a Nuclear Dawn’ is the second album from the German black metal band Fallen Tyrant. The band started out as a solo project of bassist/vocalist Mithras back in 2008, then two more members joined two years later.

This is one of those cases where the cover and the song titles are a good indication of what you can expect from the music. The vocals are ultra creepy, angry shouts and the music is equally aggressive and eerie-sounding. So far so typical for raw black metal. At least that is what I thought after the first track, but then things changed… Approximately half-way through Shifting Tides Along the Rhine the song took an unexpected turn and things went a little haywire. I am somewhat accustomed to fast, thunderous guitar riffs and blast beats but the distorted bass tunes took me a while to get used to. But that is still nothing compared to what happened next. Suddenly the pace changed and they switched from fast raw black metal to some jazz-esque guitar jamming session! The only thing missing up to that point is the sound of a saxophone playing the background… Luckily it doesn’t last long and what follows is more fast paced black metal.

There are a few melodic parts on here such as the title track with its acoustic guitar intro and less vicious-sounding guitar riffs. This is one of the more consistent songs on the album. The long instrumental part towards the end is one of highlights on here thanks to the guitar work. If only the other songs were as well composed and consistent as that one. For example, what the hell is going on with the vocals in the second half of Death Code: World Manifest ?? It sounds like a completely different band and the music switches from black metal to something akin to Motörhead then to black metal again. Very strange and not in a good way either…

Overall, ‘Children of a Nuclear Dawn’ left me feeling a little confused as to what Fallen Tyrant were trying to achieve with this record. It feels disjointed, almost as though they had too many ideas to squeeze into one album. The songs seem too long and needlessly complicated.

2.5/5

Iza Raittila

Apocalypse – Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on 10th March 2019 by izaforestspirit

Apocalypse
Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum
Released December 2018 (original version) / January 2019 (re-press)
Epic Black Metal
Self-Released

Apocalypse - Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum

‘Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum’ is the debut album from the Italian, one-man black metal project Apocalypse. It was originally set up in 2015 as a full band playing power metal but the line-up did not last too long. After numerous line-up changes and rehearsals the founding member, multi-instrumentalist Erymanthon, made a decision to continue Apocalypse as a solo project drawing inspiration from black metal – particularly Bathory.

It’s pretty hard to miss the Bathory influence on this album. Starting with the cover art which looks remarkably similar to that of Bathory’s ‘Blood Fire Death’ album. Even the band name is written in the same font as Bathory. Also Erymanthon adapts a similar vocal style to Quorthon’s. The music itself is pretty much what I expected it to be from the description. I am not too comfortable using the term “epic black metal”; instead I would class this as atmospheric black metal with hints of thrash metal in guitars. There is an ongoing theme of war and battle scenes (as you would expect from the title) but there are no direct references to Vikings or Norse mythology. The pace varies depending on the song with the slowest being Chant of Glory Eternal which features an acoustic guitar and ballad-style clear vocals.

Soldiers of Rome has a definite thrash metal tinge to it due to the guitar work. It starts off slow with some acoustic guitar in the intro, then it gradually builds up the pace with some thrashing riffs and a few groove parts midway through the song. It reminded me of Bathory’s ‘Shores in Flames’. Erymanthon has a good vocal range and he seems to be fairly comfortable performing both the harsh black metal shouts and the clear vocals.

In summary ‘Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum’ is clearly a labour of love created in admiration and with the intention of paying homage to Bathory. In that Apocalypse has definitely succeeded. This album feels like a continuation of what Quorthon started.

4/5

Iza Raittila

Children of Bodom – Hexed

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on 27th February 2019 by izaforestspirit

Children of Bodom
Hexed
Released 8th March 2019
Melodic Death Metal/Power Metal
Released via Nuclear Blast Records


Children of Bodom - Hexed

Mr. Laiho and the Hate Crew are back with a new album. It’s been four years since ‘I Worship Chaos’, an album which I initially liked when it came out but after more listens it got a little repetitive. I still own it of course; I have all their albums, even the not so good ones. I guess that somewhere deep down I’m still that teenage Children of Bodom fan girl who had a crush on Alexi Laiho and dreamed of going to Finland to see them live. I used to listen to ‘Follow The Reaper’ on repeat for days and that album still holds a special place in my heart. If there is one band that has contributed the most to my obsession with all things Finnish and Finland it’s these guys. Not only did I visit Finland, I ended up relocating there and learning the language. I’ve seen Children of Bodom live on numerous occasions and I have even visited the Lake Bodom murder site in Espoo.

This brings me to ‘Hexed’, album number ten in Children of Bodom’s discography and the first to feature their new rhythm guitarist Daniel Freyborg. It’s astonishing just how much difference a second guitarist can make. Alexi Laiho is a great frontman and an exceptionally talented guitar player but there is more to this band than just him. Freyborg has his own unique style and he has definitely left his mark on this album. For example on Under Grass And Clover, the dual guitar harmonies work very well together, creating a smooth-sounding, catchy, melodeath metal song. Want something a little faster? Then skip right over to the next track Glass Houses – a classic COB track, with their signature ultra-fast keyboards and impressive guitar work. Speaking of keyboards, the title track features some of the best keyboard passages I have heard from Mr.Wirman in years.

There are quite a few moments on here that reminded me of their mid-career albums ‘Hate Crew Deathroll’ and ‘Are You Dead Yet?’. It is not all same old Bodom, though. There are parts that display the band trying new things such as the technical guitar work and melodic keyboards on Hecate’s Nightmare. It is not something that I would have expected to hear from these guys but it works surprisingly well.

In summary, ‘Hexed’ shows how much Children of Bodom have evolved over the years. Where some of their previous albums failed to leave a lasting impression, getting stale after a few listens, here the songs stand out. While it lacks the “WOW!” factor of their best work, it is a strong album that will definitely please their fans both old and new.

4/5

Iza Raittila

 

Stelios Gatziolis – Sphere of Resonance

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on 24th February 2019 by mickbirchy

Stelios Gatziolis

Sphere of Resonance

Instrumental, Progressive Rock

Released: 30th September 2018

Self Released

 

 

What do I say about this one? It’s weird, I mean I grew up listening to a menagerie of different rock and metal styles. One of the records I loved was Surfing With The Alien by Joe Satriani. From there on in I always made time to instrumental records done well. So, here I am listening to the new EP by Stelios Gatziolis and I’m not getting into it. I don’t know there really feels like there is something missing from this and I can’t put my finger on it at all. The new EP, Sphere of Resonance dropped last year and it’s done well for the solo guitarist. As well as that, this EP features ex-Dream Theatre keyboardist Derek Sherinian, who put his seal of approval on Stelios’ playing by featuring on the tune “Doomgazer”. Not a bad endorsement at all.

The four-track EP is relatively impressive from a technical level. The intricate guitar skill of Stelios is really impressive. The way he weaves in and out of melodies is awesome, it really is a captivating listening experience. The backing band creates a nice backdrop for the guitar to truly shine. The heavy booming bass perfectly syncs up with the well-executed drum work. The keyboard and synths add a really nice atmosphere to the tunes. The guitar playing is slick and you soon pick up on his playing style. As each song has a slightly different variant on this style. The songs all play on the rule of tension and release. Each song builds up the tension and then has a massive payoff of guitar goodness. The song featuring Derek Sherinian, “Doomgazer” probably uses this technique the best.

Unfortunately for all of its positives I still can not get into it. For the most part, it just feels soulless. It just feels like a passion project that was meant for the artist himself and no one else. In fact, it feels like a demo to a much bigger project yet to be released. Unfortunately, I don’t know if such a project is on the way but I hope it is. You know, to justify this EP’s existence. The songs, whilst impressive on a technical level, are meandering and trite. I’m fine with ‘progressive’ music but this feels like a jam session that was recorded and released.

It’s decent enough and I stand by both parts of my review. From a technical view, it’s really good. Yet, at an entertainment level, it’s a little toothless for me.

2.5/5

Mick Birchall

In Flames – I, The Mask

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on 24th February 2019 by Pieni

In Flames
“I, The Mask”
Metal
Released: 1st March 2019
Via Nuclear Blast Records

inflamesithemask

It’s been a while since I’ve stopped considering In Flames “melodic death metal” (even if I labelled them as such when I reviewed “Battles”, after going with just “melodic metal” on the previous one, “Siren Charms”). The truth is that they’ve developed such a characteristic sound that one would either come up with a genre described in a whole sentence or just fit them in one that pretty much covers it all. Let’s go with “metal” then (which, whoever runs their Facebook page, seems also okay with).

I believe I’ve said this several times – not just regarding In Flames – but I don’t see toning down the aggression as a bad thing; in this case, losing the “death” angle. All I care about is listening to quality music, whatever its nature, and “I, The Mask” is full of that.

Out of the three songs they’ve chosen to promote the album with, the title-track was the one which least impressed me. Curiously enough, one of the fastest tracks. It’s not a bad song, don’t get me wrong. It’s just too straight-forward in the middle of the richness that the rest of the album turned out to be. But then again, come to think of it, maybe that’s precisely its strength. “Burn” is up there as well, but with a less catchy chorus.

“(This Is Our) House” is sort of anthemic, with all that talk of standing your ground and the teen choir’s they’d already used on “The End”. At first I thought a spunkier chorus would sound better, but after hearing it a few times, this one is just right. In fact, this album needs a couple of rounds to grow on you as a whole.

“I Am Above” and the ballad “Stay With Me” are my favorite, as they’ve got that something-I-can’t-put-my-finger-on that just enthralls me. Perhaps the attitude of the first and the depth of the second, but I believe is much more than that, as it usually is when a song hits you hard.

There’s another ballad in the form of “Follow Me”, where you’ll certainly hear an echo of “Come Clarity”, but only on a musical level – the message in it bears a sense of hope that their old classic misses. And even though I can’t remember a title to compare – in a good sense – “Voices” with, you’ll see that the opening track is very much an In Flames song. Not so much with “Deep Inside”, the Arabian hints catching me somewhat off guard, but it worked out in the end. The only song I skip when it comes up is “In This Life”. I’m sure it will be someone’s favorite, but for me, it’s annoying as hell.

When I’ve first listened to this album – their 13th – I’ve automatically given it a “4”. Then, as aforementioned, it started growing on me and I thought a “4,5” would be more accurate. Now that I’ve put into words what I think about it… hell, it deserves a “5”!

5/5

Renata “Pieni” Lino

Сандарния – К оружию!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on 23rd February 2019 by mickbirchy

Сандарния (Sandarnia)
К оружию! (To Arms!)
Power Metal, Symphonic Metal
Released: 9th December 2018
Self Released


This has been a really interesting album to get into. Mainly because it’s the first album I’ve ever reviewed that is not in English. So, before we start, I just want to say that I don’t speak Russian so somethings will be lost on me. Yet, I still think this is a solid record. I think it’s important to discover as much of the world as possible and music bridges that gap much easier. When I first took a listen to the new album from Sandarnia I was immediately drawn into their passion, presence and their overall tone. This band is the brainchild of Russian musician Alexander Kuznetsov and it contains some incredible performances by a variety of awesome musicians.

To Arms! is an awesome record and it feels massive. The production is so bold on every song. It just flows so well from one track to the next, with heavy guitar, a bold bass tone and terrific drum work. If there’s one thing that this project has, it’s a great sense of tone. Every tune is dramatic and it sounds big. It’s like a heavy metal orchestra. One thing I do like about this record is the variety in vocal performances. Different tunes have different singers and each one brings something brilliant to the table. One performance that I did enjoy was Daria Mikolaevskaya’s on the song “Та, что встретит с тобой смерть”. I found this song to be impressive, with its sweeping melodies and excellent musicianship.

Now, there does lie the potential to alienate a wider audience by not making it in English. I will say that and that can put some people off. Yet, I think it’s something they overcome quite well. The music is largely accessible and if you’re into this sort of this already then, then I would highly recommend giving them a chance. Also, the production, whilst impressive, can be lacking at times, with the guitars and bass sometimes mixed over the top of the vocals and that can be a little distracting at times.

Overall, I would say that this was a rather impressive listening experience. The songs are epic and the band just have the charisma of megastars. If you like your power metal bands then, Sandarnia is well worth your time. To Arms! Is an amazing epic of a record that ends on a couple of excellent covers with “Warcraft 2 Theme – Tides of Darkness” and the “Game of Thrones Theme”. If you want some good power metal in your life that you may have never considered before, this is the band for you.

4/5

Mick Birchall

Omicida – Defrauded Reign

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on 19th February 2019 by izaforestspirit

Omicida
Defrauded Reign
Released 15th March 2019
Thrash Metal
Self-Released

Omicida - Defrauded Reign

‘Defrauded Reign’ is the debut album from the thrash metal band Omicida. The band was originally formed in Los Angeles, US in 2014 by drummer Giovanni Durst (ex-White Wizzard). They relocated to The UK in 2018, a few years after the release of their first EP ‘Certain Death’.

This is one of cases where the content is an exact match to its description. If it is classic thrash metal you are after then you have come to the right place. Most of the focus is on the guitars, with powerful and fast riffs dominating the album. The vocals are what you would expect to hear from your average thrash metal band, in other words aggressive shouting to match to overall pace of the music. These guys rarely slow down and they do not play any ballads. Most of the tracks are either medium or fast paced with the exception of the ambient, instrumental intermission Burn The Cross and melodic guitar parts in the intro to Divide Uncertainty.

If you like the fast and ferocious side of thrash metal, then State of Terror is the song for you. I reckon that Slayer fans would enjoy this one. It follows a fairly straightforward formula of aggressive vocals, a barrage of guitar riffs and fast drumming. It’s full steam ahead right from the start so you better hold on tight… Then there are a few songs with a more complex structure such as the aforementioned Divine Uncertainty with its deceptively melodic instrumental intro and the more technical-sounding guitars on The Supremacist. So there is more to this than just Slayer worship. It would appear though these guys have been listening not just Slayer but a whole range of old-school thrash metal bands including Kreator and Testament, all of which have left a mark on their signature sound.

Overall, ‘Defrauded Reign’ offers eleven solid works of uncompromising modern thrash metal. It maintains the right balance of aggression, speed and melody without becoming too fast or overly complex.

4/5

Iza Raittila

 

Avantasia – Moonglow

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on 8th February 2019 by mickbirchy

Avantasia

Moonglow

Symphonic Metal, Power Metal

Released: 15th February 2019

via Nuclear Blast Records

Every time a new album from the mind of Tobias Sammet comes out, you know I have to listen to it. The new album from Avantasia, Moonglow is another home run for the band. This is their eighth studio record to date and they keep going from strength to strength. This album is one of their most impressive in my opinion. It has so many interesting elements, mixing many different styles from around the world, they have created a complex and dynamic record that is consistently interesting. I have been really into this band for the longest time. The way they mix sounds, melodies and intricate lyrics has always captivated me.

The album was produced by Sascha Paeth and Tobias Sammet and I think they have created something beautiful with this record. Right from the very first track “Ghost In The Moon” the overall sound is so good. The  interweaving of themes, melody and lyrical poetry make this an exciting and interesting listening experience. All of the Avantasia tropes are present, the epic choirs, the fast and furious power metal energy and Sammet’s infectious charisma. His vocals just demand your attention and coupled with the overwhelming orchestral metal sound, every song hits you like a tonne of bricks. Also, this album contains an all-star cast of great metal musicians to accompany Sammet and share the workload. Massive names such as Hansi Kürsch (Blind Guardian), Mille Petrozza (Kreator), Candice Night (Blackmore’s Night), Geoff Tate (Queensrÿche), Eric Martin (Mr Big) and Michael Kiske (Helloween) all lend the assist to making these songs sound so powerful and making the word larger than life.

Personally, this is one of my favourite Avantasia albums. The hooks are simply massive and I’ve had a tonne of fun just rocking out to these songs. From the soft and tender ballads to the energetic and forceful power-metal songs. I don’t think that Avantasia has ever really sounded this good. The guitars can be punchy or lend to a gentle atmosphere. The keyboard and synths are simply wonderful encompassing the music in an aura of majesty. The bass is tightly locked in with the drums and keeps the rhythm beautifully. All in all, every instrument sounds massive and Paeth and Sammet’s production makes everything sound as good as possible.

This is a flawless album and already up there as one of my favourites of 2019. From the passion and conviction of the performances to the sharp and punchy melodies. This album is just one to listen to over and over again. I mean making great music is just Avantasia’s M.O. at this point, yet, this album goes above and beyond the call of duty and really delivers something special. Exceptional writing and fantastic production carry this album to a pleasing 66 minutes 45 seconds, that I just want to keep listening to as many times as I can.

5/5

Mick Birchall

Calea Dreaming – The Rainforest Canopy

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

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

Calea Dreaming - The Rainforest Canopy

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

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

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

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

4/5

Iza Raittila

Equaleft – We Defy

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on 27th January 2019 by Pieni

Equaleft
“We Defy”
Groove metal
Release: 1st February 2019
Via Raising Legends

wedefy

Equaleft are labelled – even by themselves – as “groove metal”, but their sound has always been too exquisite to be defined by just two words; but since we had to go for something, given the intense throb of said sound, “groovy” is a good broad definition as any. Now “We Defy” lives up to its name and keeps pushing the envelope, but I still won’t dare coming up with a new label.

I will say, though, that the somberness has reached a new level. The very first song on the album, for instance. If prog-doom isn’t a thing yet, “Before Sunrise” could be its genesis. But then again, there’s a certain… glow in its musicality, making it sound sad but not depressing, so I guess not so doom-ish after all.

In “Once Upon A Failure” there’s this heaviness and rawness that mingle oh-so-well with the ominous echoes of its melodic chorus, while the enthralling solo, by the hands of Sullen guitar player, André Ribeiro, gives off such a vibrant darkness. The title-track’s is even more mesmerizing, as the heaviness in “Fragments” is bolder – they all have something in common and something unique which, in the end, makes us recognize it as Equaleft.

There are two other guests but none of them performing vocal parts, even though in songs such as “Endless” or “Strive” you may wonder if it’s really Miguel Inglês singing. Trust me, it is. Many people don’t know, and those who do often forget, that Miguel used to sing in a gothic/doom band (Mysterium) and that this lower, deeper pitch is very much his and fits perfectly in the darker direction some parts of this new album have taken.

It’s not even about maturity, as the previous “Adapt & Survive” was already a pretty seasoned work. It’s simply moving forward and achieving greatness once again.

[On an additional note, their former guitarist Nuno “Veggy” Cramês takes the lead on “Realign” while the third aforementioned guest is José Pedro Gonçalinho, who plays a killer sax on the revamped “Uncover The Masks” (originally featured on the 2010 EP “… The Truth Vnravels”).]

5/5

Renata “Pieni” Lino

Blood Times – On A Mission

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on 26th January 2019 by izaforestspirit

Bloody Times
On A Mission
Released 11th January 2019
Heavy Metal
Self-Released

Bloody Times - On a Mission

‘On A Mission’ is the second album from the German heavy metal band Bloody Times. The band started as a solo project of bassist Simon Pfundstein back in 2014. He was later joined by two former members of Iced Earth, drummer Raphael Saini and vocalist John Greedy. This album also features guest performances from various heavy metal musicians including Ross Friedman aka Ross the Boss (ex-Manowar).

The first thing that struck me when listening to this album was how much it reminded me of old Iced Earth. Luckily I happen to like old Iced Earth, so it’s good to hear John Greedy behind the mike again. The mid-paced opening track Alliance is one of the more melodic songs on here. I guess that this was meant to be some sort of classic metal ballad and as such it works reasonably well. I just wish that they would have omitted the progressive, ponderous and slow guitar parts mid-way through the song. It’s not the best start to the album but luckily what follows is the energetic, thrash metal style Fort Sumter– easily my favourite song on here due to excellent guitar work and powerful vocals. Now that’s more like it! If only this track was the first one….

Die In A Hole also has that thrash metal vibe to it; it is more varied in pace, not quite as fast ‘Fort Sumter’ but not too slow either. There is a good range of guitar riffs and Mr. Greedy manages to find the right balance between low pitched shouting and clean vocals to match the tone of the music. I also like the reworked version of Curse of Genevieve. What lets this album down is a short track called The Warning (Until Blood Boils pt.1) which falls under the category of what I commonly refer to as “filler”. I honestly do not know what I found more irritating, the strange vocal effects or the ultra dull-sounding, doom metal style guitar riffs plodding along in the background. Time to skip this. Next! Luckily the part 2 marks a return to the fast and aggressive heavy metal.

Overall, despite its flaws, ‘On A Mission’ is a good heavy metal album which I would recommend to fans of old Iced Earth.

3.5/5
Iza Raittila

Joakem – Mind Matter

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on 26th January 2019 by mickbirchy

Joakem

Mind Matter

Progressive Rock, Heavy Metal

Released 7th December 2018

Self Released

It’s been a hot minute since took a listen to anything from the heavy metal community beyond the UK, so I feel it’s about time to rectify that. The Cyprus based progressive metal musician, Joakem has recently released his debut album Mind Matter and from the first moments of the album, I liked the sound. Musically the album is a blend of complex melodies and time signatures, heavy synth sounds, rough guitars, intricate and precise drum patterns and a blend of different vocal styles. It immediately leaves its impact on you and since the sound is so distinctive, you can quickly make up your own mind on whether it sticks with you or not. The album was recorded/mixed by Chris Charalambides at “Soundscape Studios” and mastered by 3x Latin Grammy-nominated, Alex Psaroudakis at “Alex Psaroudakis Mastering” in New York. So, you can bet the album packs that punch.

The album is certainly a gripping listen. The production is top-notch, with a great mix of all the instrumentation with Joakem’s vocals standing out. The complex and diverse rhythm patterns keep you hooked as you can never really guess where the song is going to go next. Also, the great balance of blasting synths and heavy guitars work well together. It comes together quite nicely and works for the range of styles that this album tries to tackle. Each song feels like a different sub-genre of rock and metal and no matter the style it still feels natural and the records keeps flowing. From all-out prog-metal to alt-rock and even some post-grunge elements work their way on to the album and it’s strange but all of the pieces work together and each song complement, as well as contrasts, with the previous.

Joakem’s vocals are indeed diverse as he manages to be competent in a variety of vocal techniques. I prefer his clean vocals over his guttural singing but that’s just me. I generally prefer clean vocals in music. It’s difficult to point at an element that lets the album down in a great way. I will say, that if you’re not into progressive music with changing time signatures and musical styles then this really isn’t the album for you. That’s sort of the let down for me, although it’s impressive, I prefer music to remain in a consistent style throughout. The high-points of the album are the more alt-rock and post-grunge style songs where he maintains more consistency, such as the opening track “A Peaceful Place” and the closing track “Departure”. However, I do think there is a happy medium for any fan of rock and metal.

Definitely an impressive and solid effort from an interesting artist. I would be more than happy to keep paying attention to him for future releases. Mind Matter is a decent record with a lot of positive aspects to it. It’s not something I would play all of the time, but if I’m in the right mood this is something I would consider putting on. If you’re interested in genre-mixing artists that break from normal convention, then Joakem might be up your alley.

4/5

Mick Birchall

Bring Me The Horizon – amo

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on 22nd January 2019 by Nico Davidson

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

01-343969

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4.5/5

Nico Solheim-Davidson

Belle Morte – Game On

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on 15th January 2019 by izaforestspirit

Belle Morte
Game On
Released 11th April 2018
Gothic Metal / Symphonic Metal
Self-Released

Belle Morte - Game On
‘Game On’ is the first EP from the Belorussian Gothic metal artist Belle Morte. This one-woman project was launched in 2015 and all her music is available for streaming and download from the Bandcamp page.

Female-fronted Gothic metal bands are a dime in a dozen these days. It almost seems that everyone wants to become the next Nightwish. Well, not quite everyone. If you’re looking for another Nightwish clone with over-the-top symphonic, Disney soundtrack -style tunes, operatic vocals under the guise of a metal band you have come to the wrong place… Belle Morte has a very melodic, ethereal voice but is not quite as powerful as that of Tarja Turunen or Floor Jansen. So forget the Nightwish comparisons. Her vocal style is more like that of Sharon den Adel (Within Temptation).

The one thing that I enjoyed most about this EP was the keyboards, the sombre sounds of the cello and violin sandwiched neatly between the guitars and drumming. It is impressive just how well all this works together. Devilish Deal is the most prominent example of this. The instrumental arrangements are absolutely beautiful as are the vocals.

Overall, the only issue I have with this EP is that it is too short. ‘Game On’ offers four tracks of beautifully arranged and skillfully executed Gothic/symphonic metal. I cannot wait to hear a full album.

4/5

Iza Raittila

Paul’s Top Ten Live Performances of 2018

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on 13th January 2019 by Paul Macmillan

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

1 – Virus at Smashed Fest, Perth, SCO

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

2 – Arroganz at The Viper Room, Vienna, AT

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

3 – Krysthla at Hordes Of Belial, Dundee, SCO

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

4 – Power Trip at Bloodstock Open Air, ENG

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

5 – Vuur at The O2 ABC, Glasgow, SCO

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

6 – Annihilator at QMU, Glasgow SCO

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

7 – Watain at Wacken Open Air, DE

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

8 – Suicidal Tendencies at Bloodstock Open Air, ENG

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

9 – Heilung at Wacken Open Air, DE

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

10 – Slayer at SSE Hydro, Glasgow, SCO

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

2018 – It was a real live one…

Arroganz. Photo Paul Macmillan/Slow Dragon Music

Paul Macmillan

Corroded – Bitter

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on 12th January 2019 by mickbirchy

Corroded

Bitter

Heavy Metal, Groove Metal

Released: 25th January 2019

via Despotz Records

After reforming in 2017 for the album Defcon Zero, an album that was created due to their frustrations with label executives. Swedish heavy-metallers, Corroded decided to keep the music coming out of this revitalised passion. Which leads us to this years album, Bitter. I have to say, I’m really liking this band ever since they’ve come back from hiatus. There’s really something so honest in their music since the 5-year break. Bitter continues this with everything here being presented with passion whilst also being really accessible to new listeners. I always say “every new album is a new chance to inspire new fans” and yeah it seems Corroded are going out of their way to entice a new following without betraying the older fans. It’s a delicate balance but I think they’ve nailed it.

This album starts with an atmospheric intro piece before kicking right into the riffs, which are awesome. The riffs are filled with bass and feel so weighty. The grooves they create on this record are fresh and you can tell how much time and effort went into the writing and recording. Every song just leaps out of the speakers and keeps you listening sense intoxicated until the very end. The precision guitar and excellent drum work are awesome on their own but coupled with the vocal performance it really is a treat for the ears. Vocalist, Jens Westin sings everything with such conviction you can’t help but try to relate to the lyrics and sing along with him.

There are just some excellent tunes that stick in your head long after the record is over. One of my favourite songs here is “Testament”. With its excellent groove, the anthemic chorus, blistering guitar solo and just overall fun appeal. It’s a song that really stuck with me. Another song that I really like is “Black” a wonderfully sombre tune but still injected with life thanks in part to the wonderfully arranged production. This album does just really run the gambit of emotional tone and all of it well paced. Seriously, I still think there is an art to putting an album together, this album is so well paced that 12 songs and 52 minutes long, it flies by like a breeze. Making you want to listen to it all over again, immediately.

Corroded are quickly becoming one of my favourite metal bands and I am so happy they came back off of that hiatus. Even better they came back stronger and filled with ideas. This album is such a blast and now a frequent companion on my car journeys. If you like your pure heavy metal, do yourself a favour and get this one as soon as you can!

5/5

Mick Birchall