Archive for Blind Guardian

Blind Guardian – Beyond The Red Mirror

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , , on 27th January 2015 by Paul Macmillan

Blind Guardian
Beyond The Red Mirror
Release: 30th January 2015
Symphonic progressive metal
Released via Nuclear Blast records

Blind Guardian - Beyond The Red Mirror

I really have to be in the right mood for music centred on specific themes throughout a band’s career. Battle, pirate and fantasy focussed discographies don’t feature highly on my radar, and those that do lose out to more varied catalogues. However, it’s the same as any other genre (or sub-genre) on the go: if it’s done well, it’s done well. Few could argue that Blind Guardian imitators rather than progenitors of their own bombastic soundscapes, but in all honesty, I half lost track of them after the turn of the century.

Beyond The Red Mirror is massively produced to great effect, and displays a new stage of development in Blind Guardian’s sound. Much like A Twist In The Myth and At The Edge Of Time (incidentally, one of the track titles), this new offering is equal parts Iron Maiden, Wagner and Pirates Of The Caribbean, although it has stripped away yet more of the speed metal element that had been at least partially retained from their early incarnation. It favours, instead, bombastic moments which would put Heavy Devy’s most overblown tongue in cheek moments to shame.

There are still plenty of thrashier sections throughout, particularly from the album’s mid-way track Ashes Of Eternity onward, but equally, a surprising industrial edge is brought to bear in songs such as ludicrously epic opener The Ninth Wave, and it’s a good thing! If nothing else, Blind Guardian have always had their own sound, and these changes appear to have further exemplified this. The old dogs have learned new tricks, indeed.

Penultimate number, Miracle Machine, is one of the most genuinely old fashioned pieces I have heard in a crow’s age, harking back to the golden age of hard rock. Strongly reminiscent of Queen (seemingly a major influence on Blind Guardian), it stands alone as a truly intelligent musical interlude between the riffing and heavy orchestral power of the rest of the album.

The whole release has a far more upbeat, positive atmosphere than I was expecting. It lends the affair a very heroic bent, leaning away from the darkness of previous releases. It’s hard not to feel lifted while giving this platter its day in court, and as much as it’s not going to make my top ten, it is both accessible and powerful, and for that reason alone, it is definitely worthy of repeat listenings. If power metal and its ilk is your game, this may well make it into your memorable releases of 2015. Personally, while it’s a good release, I’ll hold my breath a while longer.

3 / 5

Paul Macmillan

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Minotauro – Master of The Sea

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , on 12th September 2013 by izaforestspirit

Minotauro
Master of the Sea
Released 13th September 2013
Symphonic Power Metal
Released via Dust On The Tracks Records

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‘Master of the Sea’ is the debut album from the Italian symphonic power metal band Minotauro. The band cite classical, especially baroque music as a major influence on their sound and they work exclusively with Croatian Orchestra IstiraPhonic. This album also features some special guests including Göran Edman (Yngwie Malmsteen) and Tom Naumann (Primal Fear, Sinner).

After a slow, orchestral intro akin to that of some adventure movie complete with the sounds of howling winds, we finally get to hear some metal. The first track The Idol combines Iron Maiden-esque story-telling vocals with a mixture of Blind Guardian -style power metal and the symphonic elements from Rhapsody of Fire. The guitar work ranges from progressive, as present in The Taste of Freedom, to guitar solo-infused and dangerously catchy depending on the track. Hero is a good example of the latter style as the guitars complement the vocals with some solos adding an extra boost of energy to the song.

There’s also a few tracks where the keyboards take the stage such as the aforementioned melodic and catchy Hero and the slow and downbeat ballad Another Day. This Is What We Need is much faster and heavier than its predecessors thanks to the pounding drums and the powerful guitar riffs ripping their way through the track’s symphonic undertones.

Overall this album would make a worthy addition to fans of symphonic power metal bands like Rhapsody of Fire and Blind Guardian. As for me, when it comes to power metal I think I’ll stick with Sabaton for now…

3.5/5

Iza Raittila

Lonewolf – The Fourth and Final Horseman

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on 1st July 2013 by Hannah

Lonewolf
The Fourth and Final Horseman
Released: July 2013
Power Metal
Released via Napalm Records


The Fourth and Final Horseman is a valiant effort from French power metal powerhouses Lonewolf. At times reminiscent of other fully fledged champions of the genre like Sabaton, or indeed legends such as Manowar or Blind Guardian, they also promise variety and versatility with tinges of Children of Bodom, Wintersun and even the late, great Bathory. However, this variety never fully manifests, and it’s something that lets the band down here.

Don’t get me wrong, in the long run, I think TFAFH is a cracker of an album. Jens Börner’s often criticised vocal style actually works in their favour, in my opinion; his voice is intensely gravelly, very throaty and I can understand why it puts people off, but I think it elevates their sound beyond the normally ultra-slick and squeaky clean production of most power metal bands and adds a heavy, gritty edge to their music. Of course there is a major Running Wild influence throughout but Lonewolf get too much flack for this and I think it’s time we accepted that, and moved on!

There are some fantastic tracks on offer here. Opener and title track ‘The Fourth and Final Horseman’ is a strong start, with a simple, repetitive and infernally catchy chorus that will get stuck in your head for the rest of the day- a formula Lonewolf tend to stick to throughout the rest of the album! Here, Börner and guitarist Alex Hilbert definitely show off their virtuoso capabilities with spiralling guitar harmonies; again, a formula they will stick to. Most of the time, this faithful adherence to this tried-and-tested method of song writing doesn’t detract from their sound, and I am tempted to say if something works, then by all means go for it! It works well in tracks ‘Hellride’ and ‘Time for War’, for example, but leaves ‘Throne of Skulls’, ‘The Brotherhood of Wolves’ and ‘Guardian Angel’ quite uninspiring.

Where TFAFH reaches its most impressive heights for me is in the tracks that promise echoes of something more; those hints of variety that I mentioned previously. ‘The Poison of Mankind’, for example, starts very strong with an almost cinematic, choral tinged opener that slowly builds into a stomping tune that eventually reverts to the usual Lonewolf formula, but still maintains that atmosphere created by the start of the track. A similar effect is achieved in ‘Dragonriders’, with its almost Celtic, folk-tinged melodies and in album closer ‘Destiny’, in which a slow, almost acoustic feeling promises a brooding and atmospheric closer before it once again falls into simply another stomping, energetic power metal track.

Don’t get me wrong; their formula works, and I don’t think any of the songs on this album are bad; on the contrary, they are impressively energetic, and good all-round metal songs with more than a tinge of the retro. I just wish they had the balls to stick with the slower, more melodic and quieter elements sometimes! This is why the standout track for me, by far, is the only one in which they manage to maintain that epic, melodic atmosphere throughout, and that is in the Bathory-esque ‘Another Star Means Another Death’. Change the vocals and it wouldn’t sound that out of place on Hammerheart or Blood Fire Death. It begins with a beautiful, brooding, slow burning melody that quickly builds into heaviness but manages to keep that brooding atmosphere bubbling throughout.

Overall, there is some fantastic guitar work going on throughout this album, and I enjoyed most of it. However, I can’t help but think that Lonewolf would silence their critics if they only managed to shake things up a bit, and show off the versatility that is so blatantly hiding under the surface. Having said that, I do think that this is a good album and a must for any fan of power metal, and I even think that this would be a good choice for those that don’t usually dabble in the genre. A good effort; I just want to see more variety on the next album.

3/5

Hannah O’Flanagan

 

Helloween – Straight out of Hell

Posted in Metal with tags , , , , , , , , on 20th May 2013 by Paul

Helloween
Straight out of Hell
Released January 16th, 2013
Power/Speed Metal
Released via Sony Music Entertainment Germany GmbH

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Along with Blind Guardian and Grave Digger, Helloween are one of the longest running and most prolific bands of the German Power Metal scene. Their career is a textbook example of the journey that many metal bands go through. Their first album, Walls of Jericho was a highly acclaimed debut that shortly followed by the band’s masterpieces: The Keeper of the Seven Keys parts 1 and 2. In typical eighties Metal band style, the group entered their second decade of existence with an awkward experimental phase in the early nineties, recording Pink Bubbles Go Ape and Chameleon, to far less success and acclaim than their previous releases. After this, the band bounced back with The Time of the Oath and Better than Raw and have since settled into a more stable pattern of creating a decent album every few years for the last decade or so. This brings us to 2013 and Straight out of Hell.

What should listeners expect of this album? It’s a solid effort from a mostly solid band. Worth at least a listen or two, the record features a relatively diverse amount of songs that showcase Helloween’s great style. Fast songs, slower songs, the epic 7 minute opener, anthemic songs and a decent sprinkling of the band’s trademark eccentric humour for good measure make up this record. Some album highlights include Far From The Stars, Church Breaks Down, the title track Straight out of Hell, the gloriously cheesy Hold Me in Your Arms and the epic starter track Nabatea. This is a reliably good record that should sit comfortably in the collection of any Helloween fan, but also any fan of modern Power Metal. With typical Maideneque song writing that has so often defined the band, soaring choruses and epic, neoclassical elements, this album is proof that Helloween can still write some entertaining songs.

3.5/5

Paul Gibbins

 

Holy Grail sign Europe-wide deal with Nuclear Blast

Posted in News with tags , , , , , , on 17th October 2012 by Nico Solheim-Davidson

Formed in 2008 and hailing from Pasadena in Southern California, North American up-and-comers Holy Grail offer a unique blend of the legendary NWoBHM scene with influences of several contemporary heavy metal sub-genres.

After numerous celebrated festival appearances, including Wacken-Open-Air and the UK’s Download Festival and extensive touring with bands such as Blind GuardianExodus and Eluveitie, the time is right for this promising quintet to hit the next level. In that regard, Nuclear Blast Records are proud to announce the Europe-wide signing of Holy Grail.

Nuclear Blast A&R Jaap Wagemaker comments: “Already after we’d listened to their debut EP Improper Burial, it became pretty obvious that Holy Grail – offering a modern version of the old-school heavy metal we’ve grown up with – were the most exciting metal band to emerge from the county of L.A. within the last two decades, as renowned American Decibel magazine had put it. After Metal Hammer UK had nominated the band as best new band at the Metal Hammer Awards even before they had even released their debut album Crisis in Utopia, we knew we had to keep an eye on them. All over Europe, music magazines loved that record and celebrated it by publishing rave reviews.  And ever since we’ve seen them playing two awesome shows at Wacken:Open:Air and British Download Festival, there was no doubt whatsoever that Holy Grail were bringing the leather and steel to a new generation of metal heads. So watch out for Holy Grail’s second coming in 2013!

The band states “We in the Holy Grail camp are very proud and excited to announce that we have recently become part of the Nuclear Blast family. We feel honoured to join the ranks of metal legends and many of our favourite bands, including Accept (who we’ve covered), Blind Guardian (who we’ve toured with) and Testament (who we’d love to tour with)! Fans of Holy Grail can expect all the metallic elements we’ve built our name on taken to the next level on our forthcoming new record Ride The Void. Coupled with the unequivocal might of Nuclear Blast, European domination is inevitable for our new album. See ya on the road!

The band’s upcoming second studio album Ride The Void is set for a European release via Nuclear Blast in early 2013; in North America, the record will be released via Prosthetic Records. Stay tuned for more info coming your way soon! And if you haven’t listened to Holy Grail before, now is your chance to start listening them.

 

Hammers of Misfortune – 17th Street

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , , , , , , , , on 24th July 2012 by mariadodarmata

Hammers of Misfortune
17th Street
Heavy/Progressive Metal
Released: October, 2011
Released via Metal Blade Records.

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You know that incredibly frustrating feeling you get when you hear something you know but you can’t quite tell what it is? After the initial perplexity that was caused because of my mind was being misled by the band’s name towards other genres, I spent a good couple of hours trying to figure out where I had heard that sound before.

I came to the conclusion it sounds like if you had thrown Dio, Helloween, Merciful Fate, Blind Guardian and the musical “REPO! The Genetic Opera” in a blender to then add 70’s Rock sprinkles. I have never been so unsure of under which genre should I classify a band! And to be completely honest, it feels a bit unfair to put under one classification music with such a rich selection of sounds.

Some songs are worthy of standing besides the mighty Power Metal marches while others could be included in Heavy Metal compilations. Some could easily be in one of those romantic rock ballad mix tapes and some others I would have definitely come from one of those modern Rock-Opera musical things. This album’s variety makes it exiting to listen to every time. You pick up on new sounds every time.

This is a band I can see both my 17 year old sister and my 50 year old mother enjoying. Although at first I was a bit confused by the sound of it, after several plays you understand it and the more you listen to it, the more you like it.

4.5/5

María Mata