Sky Empire – The Dark Tower

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , , , on 20th November 2018 by mickbirchy

Sky Empire

The Dark Tower

Progressive Metal, Groove Rock

Released: 26th September 2018

via The Rock Company

I know I don’t cover progressive metal all that often. It’s just not a genre that captivates me in the right way. Sometimes a band comes along that can change your perception on a certain style of music. I will admit, I didn’t know all that much about Sky Empire before now and I don’t know too many people that do. Their debut album, The Dark Tower is pretty enjoyable. Mixing well-executed music with impactful story-telling, they have managed to create a fairly decent debut album. The band straddle the line between dynamic and creative instrumental prog-rock and more classic rock standards. It’s quite an interesting listening experience to be fair.

Right from the first song “Marionette” you get a sense of what to expect from the album. Multiple instrumental parts flowing into each other, dynamic musical parts and an intricate atmosphere. It all comes through quite well, musically. The technical ability on display is certainly impressive. I am amazed by how it all comes together. The production is pretty much on point, making sure every member of the band gets their licks in, and also providing a great balance between the excellent guitar and keyboard solos. All the while, the drums keep the creative pace going. I have to admit, I’m not a fan of the vocal performance as it doesn’t really match the music here. He has a well-toned voice, I can’t think of any flubbed notes or anything, but it just doesn’t work for me personally. The rough and deep tone never really fits in with the style. Also, when he tries to hit the higher notes it sounds like he’s straining his voice.

Whilst everything here is certainly impressive, and it is, there’s nothing that really sticks to my imagination. There are prog bands that really stick in my head and there are ones that don’t. Sky Empire, sadly fall into the latter. I appreciate the musicianship on display and I respect the multiple parts, the rising and falling tone and the solos… Yes, it’s all so glorious. However, it’s not something that I think I would choose to return to, and I listen to bands like Iron Butterfly and Ex Libris for fun. There just needs to be more polish to the presentation and the overall style.

It’s a decent record and they’re clearly talented. As I’ve mentioned, the musicianship is out of this world. The album certainly has its rough spots as well, with the drums feeling a little muted here and there and the aforementioned issues I have with the vocals. There are some things they do incredibly well, such as the riff and solo work, building an atmospheric tone and keeping a tight performance through multiple (and often frenetic) parts. I just would have liked to have heard a little more polish in the production. I liked the time I spent with the record but I have no real desire to return to it.

2/5

Mick Birchall

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Thorium – Thorium

Posted in Metal with tags , , , , on 17th November 2018 by izaforestspirit

Thorium
Thorium
Released 9th November 2018
Heavy Metal/Melodic Power Metal
Released via Rock N’ Growl Records

Thorium - Thorium

‘Thorium’ is the debut album from the Belgian heavy metal band of the same name. Thorium was formed two years ago and their line-up includes former members of Ostrogoth.

Just in case the connection to the band Ostrogoth was not obvious, this album includes a song called Ostrogoth. It’s an entertaining, albeit a little cheesy, piece of melodic power metal with powerful vocals and good guitar work. I like how they managed to get the guitars to mimic the sound of galloping horses towards the latter half of the track. Watch out, the Ostrogoths are coming!! Some of the songs reminded me of early works of Helloween, mostly due to the pace and the similarities in the vocal style.

There are also elements of traditional heavy metal and thrash metal on here. This is evident in tracks such as Godspeed with its catchy chorus as well as more varied but no less cheerful-sounding guitar melodies. They continue with the same mixture of heavy metal and power metal for the rest of the album. The final track Four by Number, Four by Fate is one of those that listeners are either going to love or hate. It definitely stands out on here for numerous reasons. Let’s start with the length – it’s just short of sixteen minutes which is very long even for a ballad. The style is a mish-mash of everything ranging from acoustic guitar instrument parts, progressive guitar riffs, power metal, heavy metal to some thrash metal thrown in just to keep you on your toes. Personally I think this might have worked better if it was broken up into two separate tracks.

Overall, Thorium’s debut album has a lot of things going for it. They have created a good balance of catchy and melodic heavy metal with enough variety to keep the listener entertained. I think that fans of power metal and heavy metal will enjoy it, especially those who are into Helloween and Iron Maiden.

3.5/5
Iza Raittila

Planet of Zeus – Live in Athens

Posted in Metal, Rock with tags , , on 13th November 2018 by mickbirchy

Planet of Zeus

Live in Athens

Stoner Rock, Groove Metal, Southern Rock

Released: 30th October 2018

via ihaveadrum Records

There are two peaks in a bands career. Two heights of artistic achievement that they can wear like a badge of honour. One is the concept album, the other… The “live” album. Nothing really says “We’ve made it” like selling out a venue, recording the show and selling that show for all to hear. For me, one of the best live acts I have ever seen would have to be, Planet of Zeus. They are a force to be reckoned with on the stage. Their music is so anthemic and powerful, it can connect with pretty much any audience member at any show. All I can say is if you haven’t taken yourself to a show from them. Treat yourself the next time they’re in town. After their most recent record Loyal To The Pack, the band played their home countries capital city, Athens, to a ravenous crowd, giving birth to the bands first ever live album: Live In Athens (I know, such an original title).

I will say that this record sounds excellent all the way through. It captures that feeling of a Planet of Zeus show to an extent. From the heavy riffs to the excellent and gut-busting solos this album sounds so damn good. When Stelios Provis busts out the solos, the rest of the band create a tight foundation from which he’ll just let loose and create magic with the guitar. The set-list for this show was a solid one as it’s completely filled with energy, good vibes and their unique atmosphere that they bring to the show. You even hear those little echoes and refrains that you only hear in a live setting. When Babis Papanikolaou roars out the lyrics to songs like “A Girl Named Greed”, “Loyal To The Pack” or “Macho Libre” I can feel it right down in my gut. It’s the kind of voice that you take notice of. The production as a whole is wonderful.

The record is beautifully balanced and well mixed, I can only imagine what some of these songs felt like in the gig itself. If there’s anything that Planet of Zeus is known for it’s their riffs and they packed this setlist with their finest. Songs like “Leftovers”, “Devil Calls My Name” and “Little Deceiver” are definitely the moments that grab your attention. As their riffs just have that way of getting in your head and sticking around. It’s that great balance of groove, rock n roll and balls-to-the-wall heavy that makes Planet of Zeus such a compelling band to listen to.

However, I think there’s something that can be lost on a live record. Some things from the gig itself don’t always translate quite as well to the album version. This is the only downside I can think of to this record, yet, it’s more of a failure of the medium. Some bands can really transcend it and make you feel like you’re at the gig from the live album alone. Here, I don’t think Planet of Zeus has quite pulled that off. Although, it’s a great recording and there’s all of the unfiltered crowd banter, as well as the audience chanting for the band. The recording of the crowd is great too. You hear their chants as clear as a bell and their interaction with the band is great. It must’ve been quite the crowd to be a part of night itself. Yet, there’s just something missing from it that stops it being an amazing live album. Don’t get me wrong it’s still a great listening experience but it’s not a great “live album”.

This is a fun record to listen to. A must buy if you’re any sort of stoner rock or groove metal fan. If you’ve never listened to Planet of Zeus I would say that this is a great album to get you started. Not only did they provide some of their best material but you get a small sample of what it would be like to listen to them live. Which is a treat! I adore Planet of Zeus (if I haven’t made that obvious) and having missed the Loyal To The Pack Tour, this was awesome for me to listen to. They are simply one of the best bands going today in my opinion and this live record should be more than proof to anyone who denies that sentiment.

4.5/5

Mick Birchall

Sunflower Dead – Coma

Posted in CD, Metal, Rock with tags , , , , , on 12th November 2018 by Paul Macmillan

Sunflower Dead
Coma
Released  16th November 2018
Hard Rock
Released via Combat Records

Featuring former Fear Factory bassist, Christian Olde-Wolbers, Coma is the latest recorded work from Californian rock band, Sunflower Dead. If you’re expecting chuntering, mechanical metal, however, sit back and prepare for a surprise. This is nothing like the aforementioned metal giants of the 1990s.

Drawing in equal parts on nu-metal and 80s classics, SD have melded together a surefire concoction, utterly guaranteed for rotation on mainstream alternative channels. Big chunks of Korn, Dope, and Disturbed have been cherry picked to form a large part of the body of sound, but are equally matched by volumes of Skid Row, and Zakk Wylde (especially in some of the lead work shredding). Everything is further fleshed out with something else of the band’s own creation, plus a spritz of something akin to Pist. On. jamming with Sevendust.

Nothing groundbreaking, then, yet it still has character worth giving a chance. It wouldn’t be too much of a shock to see this band taking the reigns of the soundtrack for a sequel to Queen Of The Damned. Looking over their back catalogue, Coma is certainly a big step up from previous releases, but continues in the same style. Existing SD fans should get a real kick out of it. Personally, I’ve moved away from such things for the most part, as years have gone by. I wouldn’t shy away from it, but I’d be more likely to plump for yet another spin of Demanufacture. Maybe I’m just old…

3/5

Paul Macmillan

Hypocrisy and Kataklysm live in Tampere

Posted in Gig, Live, Metal with tags , , , , on 11th November 2018 by izaforestspirit

The Spirit, Hypocrisy, Kataklysm
Pakkahuone, Tampere, Finland
10th November 2018

This time I opted for an evening of melodic death metal. My exposure to Hypocrisy’s music is limited a handful of songs from their old albums but I am fan of Peter Tägtgren’s other side projects so I figured it was about time that I checked out his main band. Similar things apply to Kataklysm – I discovered them via their singer Maurizio Iacono’s side project Ex Deo. Out of the two bands I am more familiar with Kataklysm, particularly their mid-career works such as ‘Epic (The Poetry of War)’ and ‘Shadows & Dust’.

First up was a German melodic black metal band called The Spirit. I have never heard of them before but I really enjoyed their show. Their music reminded me of Dissection and Taake. 4/5

Hypocrisy drew in a sizable crowd and rightfully so because they put on one hell of a show. They started off slow with the first song but then they really got going. Mr Tägtgren is quite the show-man and these guys did a good job of entertaining the audience. I stayed clear of the mosh-pit but I did do a fair amount of head-banging. The only thing that could have made their show better is if they had played ‘Osculum Obscenum’ but I guess you can’t have everything. 4/5

This was Kataklysm’s first time in Finland and I guess that if you like their current style you probably would have enjoyed their show. They played a lot of tracks from their recent albums which I am not particularly fond of. I actually prefer their older material. Luckily they played ‘Shadows & Dust’ which was the only highlight of the performance for me. This was not what I expected and I was left feeling a little disappointed. 2.5/5

Overall, it was a fun night out but I did not enjoy all the performances as much as I thought I would. The Spirit were surprisingly good and probably the best show of the night. Hypocrisy also put on a good show. As for Kataklysm, I do not like their latest album and I was really hoping to hear more old stuff. Maybe the next time I will check out Ex Deo live instead.

Iza Raittila

Escape The Fate announce ‘This War Is Ours’ 10th anniversary tour

Posted in Misc., News, Rock with tags , , , , on 9th November 2018 by izaforestspirit

The American rock band Escape The Fate have announced that their ‘This War Is Ours’ 10th anniversary tour will come to Europe at the start of next year. The tour celebrating the 10th anniversary of the release of their debut album starts in The United States in December 2018. Then the European leg of the tour begins on 24th January 2019 in Bristol, The UK .

Here is the full schedule:

January 2019
Thu 24th – Bristol, UK, Thekla
Fri 25th – Manchester, UK, Gorilla
Sat 26th – Nottingham, UK, Rock City
Sun 27th – Dublin, Ireland, Voodoo Lounge
Mon 28th – Belfast, N. Ireland, Limelight 2
Tue 29th – Glasgow, Scotland, Garage
Thu 31st – Antwerp, Belgium, Zappa

February 2019

Fri 1st – Cologne, Germany, Kantine
Sat 2nd – Copenhagen, Denmark, Pumpehuset
Sun 3rd – Stockholm, Sweden, Fryshuset
Tue 5th – Helsinki, Finland, Nosturi
Thu 7th – Oslo, Norway, Parkteatreret
Fri 8th – Goteborg, Sweden, Sticky Fingers
Sat 9th – Hamburg, Germany, Grunspan
Sun 10th – Berlin, Germany, Bi Nuu
Mon 11th – Munich, Germany, Backstage Halle
Tue 12th – Prague, Czech Rep., Futurum
Thu 14th – Vienna, Austria, Szene
Fri 15th – Milan, Italy, Live Club
Sat 16th – Zug, Switzerland, Galvanik
Mon 18th – Paris, France, Le Trabendo
Tue 19th – Eidenhoven, Holland, Dynamo
Wed 20th – London, UK, Electric Ballroom
For more details visit:
http://www.escapethefate.com.
https://www.facebook.com/escapethefate/

Green Death – Hallowmass

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , on 31st October 2018 by izaforestspirit

Green Death
Hallowmass
Released 19th October 2018
Thrash Metal
Released via Combat Records

Green Death - Hallowmass

It’s been two years since I reviewed Green Death’s last album. Now the Iowa-based American thrash metal band is back with a new album called ‘Hallowmass’. I like the title, very well timed for this year’s Halloween…

The horror themes are difficult to miss as evidenced not only from the cover art but also from the song titles. Oh yes, Halloween is upon us. Get ready for your annual onslaught of werewolves, ghosts, witches and other spooky things. As far as the music goes, this is not far from where they left off with the previous album. They still remind me of mid-career Iced Earth. The predominant style is thrash metal but some tracks have a droning doom metal feel to them such as the slow and eerie-sounding She Couldn’t Live. The guitar work on that song actually made me think of Black Sabbath. They also occasionally incorporate elements of melodic death metal like the semi-growling vocals and the shredding guitars on The Betrayed – one of the more aggressive tracks on here.

The short instrumental Messis Diaboli is a beautiful, melodic piece which highlights the skill of the guitarists. Then it’s back to an unholy brew of thrash, doom and melodic death metal for the remainder of the album. It is not an easy mix for the listener to process. The vocals vary from howling to semi-growling. Personally I prefer the latter.

In summary, I had a hard time getting into ‘Hallowmass’. I was really hoping that this would be like Iced Earth’s ‘Horror Show’ album. Instead what we have here is an amalgamation of various styles which do not really work so well together. Some of the songs sound as though they were performed by a completely different band.

2.5/5

Iza Raittila