Archive for Gamma Ray

Blackwelder – Survival of The Fittest

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on 16th August 2015 by izaforestspirit

Survival of the Fittest
Released 24th April 2015
Power Metal
Released via Gold Core Records/ ZYX Music

‘Survival of the Fittest’ is the debut album from the international power metal super group Blackwelder. The band features Ralf Scheepers of Primal Fear as well as former members of Gamma Ray, Angra and Yngwie J. Malmsteen. Blackwelder was originally formed by the American heavy metal guitarist Andrew Szusc (Seven Serafim) back in 2012.

So, after reviewing some melancholic Gothic doom metal lately, I decided that it was time to lighten things up a bit. It is still summer after all, the sun is shining and everyone is out there sunbathing, swimming in the nearby lake or river or heating up the BBQ. There’s no better music for times like this than power metal. My personal power metal collection is limited to a handful of Sonata Arctica albums along with several releases by Sabaton and Helloween. Having said that, I have been to a Primal Fear show a few years ago, so when I heard about their singer’s new project I decided to check it out.

First up is The Night of The New Moon which is packed with lots of catchy guitar riffage and fast drumming paired with Ralf Scheepers’s high pitched, storytelling vocals. As far as this genre goes, Blackwelder’s signature sound tends to be a little slower than the speed-power metal style of Primal Fear and more akin to that of Helloween. They do pick up the pace at times though, such as the ultra fast “catch this if you can” guitar shredding at the start of Freeway of Life or the headbanging-friendly guitar solo at the start of Remember The Time.

Yet no matter how fast or aggressive the music gets, the vocals remain melodic and the chorus of each track is easy to sing along to. With Flying Colors is a good example of just how well the vocals fit in with the rest of instruments. Whilst the song is still very guitar-driven, the vocals are powerful enough to make the chorus linger in your head and to tempt you to start headbanging along to the tune.

Overall, this album was fun to listen to and it definitely has that “summer metal” feel that I was hoping for. It’s great to see that a bunch of experienced musicians from various corners of the world can get together to create something new and fresh. I’d recommend this to fans of Gamma Ray, Primal Fear and Helloween.


Iza Raittila

Vagos Open Air 2013 – 2nd day

Posted in Festival, Live with tags , , , , , , , , , on 18th August 2013 by Pieni

Testament, Gamma Ray, Iced Earth, Rotting Christ, Tarantula, Web
Quinta do Ega, Vagos (PT)
10th August 2013

Photos originally taken for Portuguese webzine Sound(/)Zone.

The second day of the festival was much heavier. And more experient, having all bands been founded in the eighties.
Without any record label to pull the strings, Web got a well-deserved opening spot all by themselves. And they simply tore the stage down! I’ve seen these guys literally dozens of times and this was one of their best shows, despite one of the shortest as well. The crowd seemed to agree with me, and right from the beginning the security guys had their hands full with the moshers and crowdsurfers, as “Life Aggression”, “(In)Sanity” or “Beautiful Obsession” sounded sharper than ever.

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When Tarantula got on stage, their power metal didn’t sound so powerful. Maybe we were all still too high from the adrenaline shot of the previous band, but whatever the reason, when “Spiral Of Fear” first echoed, the general feeling was a bit dull – and I don’t mean just the crowd reaction. Eventually things got a little better and there were loud shouts and fists in the air during songs such as “Afterlife” or “You Can Always Touch The Sky”. Still they lacked a little spunk. It wasn’t a bad show, not at all, but it was far from great.

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Rotting Christ restored the high spirits of the crowd, with a fierceness that is no stranger to their live performances. From the early days with “The Forest Of N’Gai” and “Transform All Suffering Into Plagues”, to the more recent “Kata Ton Daimona Eaytoy” and “In Yumen – Xibalba”, going through the Thou Art Lord cover “Societas Satanas” and the iconic “Athanati Este”, the Greeks put up a hell of a show (no pun intended).

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Iced Earth was probably the biggest surprise. I know it was for me. The band has been in a kind of downfall since the first time Matt Barlow left, and even if “Dystopia” was considerably better, it still didn’t impress me. I might listen to it again more carefully now, after seeing what “new” singer Stu Block is really capable of. He gave this band a fresh air, bringing back to life songs like “Burning Times”, “Pure Evil” or “I Died For You”. Also the songs from “Dystopia” – by the way, in “V” Stu wears the matching anonymous mask – get a whole new vibe when performed outside the studio. After “Iced Earth” there was still time for one more, and they chose “The Hunter”, promising to come back soon, maybe when promoting the new album, due for early 2014.

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It seems that Biff Byford suffered an injury of sorts and Saxon had to cancel in the last minute. Gamma Ray stepped in and they’re the kind of band to pull through a kiss-ass show with a 24-hour notice – even if Kai Hansen felt he needed to trade some of the high pitches for low ones, but I’m guessing that has nothing to do with unexpected shows…
“Anywhere In The Galaxy”, “New Order”, the new “Master Of Confusion”, “Rebellion In Dreamland”, “To The Metal”… a parade of traditional heavy/power metal tunes. And, of course, the mandatory Helloween cover, that this time came in double: “Future World” and “I Want Out”.

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I don’t know if Chuck Billy was tired or sick, but his voice was a bit hoarse. Not his presence, though – Testament hit the stage with full force and kept it up like that for almost one hour and a half.
First they promoted their recent stuff – a few songs from “Dark Roots Of Earth”, “More Than Meets The Eye” from the previous one – and then it was old school non-stop: “Into The Pit”, “The Preacher”, “Alone In The Dark”, “Over The Wall”… They didn’t come back for an encore and a few more classics – like I said, Chuck wasn’t at his finest – but that didn’t change the fact that Testament was one of the best bands of this year’s Vagos Open Air.

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Text & photos by Renata “Pieni” Lino