Archive for Guitar solo

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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Blackthorn – Gossamer Witchcraft [2010]

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , , , , , on 26th July 2011 by Nico Solheim-Davidson

Band: Blackthorn
Album: Gossamer Witchcraft
Release year: 2010
Genre: Extreme Metal/Gothic Metal/Black Metal

It’s not often that one hears of an all-female extreme metal band from Russia, let alone any kind of metal band from Russia, as most of the exposure for metal seems to be in European nations such as Germany, France, Italy, Austria and Scandinavia along with some emerging from the US. However, Blackthorn, made up of five lovely ladies, whom hail from Russia, have been a force not to be messed with in the Russian metal scene, combining gothic and black metal into something new. Their debut album “Gossamer Witchcraft” will be the album to determine their success on the international metal scene.

”Immortelle for a Hollow Grave”, the shortest track on the album, offers up a very mystifying atmosphere with the use of whispers and a haunting piano medley. “Edenbeast” seems to carry on from where “Immortelle for a Hollow Grave” finishes, bringing with it a violent guitar riff and fast-paced orchestration. The drums are machine-like in their playing, yet more brutal and heavy than a drum machine could ever be. The vocals leave something to be desired as their operatic styling doesn’t seem to work along side the aggression of the guitars. The guitar solo is just amazing – Whoever said that a woman can’t solo is clearly wrong. The gothic orchestration of “Necromance” follows after, before the orchestration is wiped away by the guitars. The vocals are different to begin with, favouring good ol’ fashioned death metal grunts and growls but the operatically styled vocals can be heard on this track yet they seem to work with the savagery of the track this time. “Necromance”, put simply, is like a more extreme version of an Epica track.

”The Moon Emerged From Behind Clouds” begins with a faster tempo compared to the two last tracks. The brutality continues on this one as well, fortunately enough for those who enjoy the elements of extreme metal. The soprano vocals are simply memorising and enchanting. The riffs seem to have a bit more melody whilst the drums still have that machine-like precision to them. Classical meets gothic in the form of “Saturnia” during its introduction. The guitar riff that follows has a very death metal sound to it, whilst the drums appear to be lacking slightly in power. The keyboard  and vocal sections add a hint of beauty of the beasty violence of the guitars and drums.

“Blackthorn Winter” is another song with a gothic-turns-brutal introduction. Everything, except for the keyboards and vocals, seems faster, more violent and more angry. In some sections, it sounds as if the vocals are struggling to keep up with the tempo of the music. The best thing about the track would have to be energy and passion that just burst out at the listener. “The Blackness I Prowl” has an interesting beginning, being composed of dark orchestration and what could possibly be the sound of a howling wolf. The vocals are so powerful yet so haunting at the same time. The voice over about half way through adds a very horror film-like touch to the track as well. An interesting thing about “The Blackness I prowl” is the emphasis on the orchestration as opposed to the shredding guitars and pounding drums.

The title track “Gossamer Witchcraft” has a good introduction – Combining dark orchestration with narration. There is more emphasis on the orchestration throughout the song, with the guitars having a minor part in comparison though they do appear frequently through the track, fortunately enough for those who enjoy the face-melting riffs. Though the soprano vocals are featured through the track, there does seem to be more work done by the narration and voice overs which is somewhat of a let down but the guitar solo does heavily make up for the let down!

”Will-o-the-wisp” combined orchestration, acoustic guitars, soprano vocals and distorted riffs into a masterpiece of a track. Oddly enough though, it seems vaguely familiar in the eerie déjà vu kind of sense. “The Cobweb Veils Fall Down With Grace” acts as an interlude before the final two songs, bringing a terrifying essence to the album with its dark and melancholy piano medley. The final two tracks are the Russian language editions of “Necromance” and “The Moon Emerged From Behind Clouds”. They are a lot more exciting with Russian lyrics, bringing a sense of despair and horror with them.

Blackthorn certainly are different to most female fronted bands. They are more aggressive and violent in the music and more dramatic and haunting in the vocals – In fact, in terms of heaviness and brutality, they put a lot of male-dominated bands in the extreme metal scene to shame. “Gossamer Witchcraft” is a mammoth of a testament to the skill, talent and musical genius of Blackthorn. It’s a great addition to any extreme and gothic metal fan’s collection and clearly has the potential to be amongst the top metal albums of the century.

5/5

Nico Davidson

Aonia – City Of Shadows EP [2009]

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , , , , , , , , on 12th June 2011 by Nico Solheim-Davidson

Band: Aonia
Album: City of Shadows EP
Release year: 2009
Genre: Symphonic Metal/Power Metal

Aonia, named after the land held sacred to the Muses in Greek mythology, are a six piece female-fronted symphonic/power metal band from Worksop, United Kingdom.

The title track “City Of Shadows” is the first track of the EP. The introduction is very dark sounding, with a combination of a dark symphonic section and a light guitar riff. The track only gets better when the guitars turn aggressive. The drums give the track that extra edge as well. The vocals have are greatly contrasted from high-pitched operatic vocals to more hard rock-styled vocals. The guitar solo keeps the track interesting as well. “Gift of the Curse” comes next with a melodic intro riff. A second guitar, keyboards and drums soon join in leading into the onslaught of metal that is due to come. The drums are extremely intelligently played on this track. The guitar solo is masterfully performed on this track. It’s good to see that the epic sound from the first track has carried on.

The next is ”Prophecy of the Fallen Kingdom”. The intro, straight away, sounds sagaic. The riffs are powerful and astounding. This track, in terms of vocals, has more emphasis on the operatic vocals, which is a pleaser for anyone who is a fan of operatic vocals in metal. The fourth track of the EP is “Rabbit Hole”, which begins with a different sound to the previous three tracks. The riffs sound slightly more violent. Piano medleys can be heard through out the track, which contrast well alongside the cutthroat riffs and aggressive drums. The piano medley just over half way through is perhaps the best section of the track, bringing a certain calm before the storm that is the guitar solo shreds its way in.

“Liberate Mei” is the second to last track of the EP. The guitars domineer their way in straight from the start, along side the drums. The vocals contrast beautifully from an aggressive styled vocal section to the angelic operatic vocals. The guitar solo is expertly performed, making the track more fast paced and brutal. The final track of the EP is “The Song”, which starts with a heavy, slow-paced melodic intro. The track eventually turns fast paced, with some technical sections from the guitars. The keyboards bring a very symphonic sound to the track, working well with the brutal onslaught on the guitars and drums. The vocals are still going strong as well, thankfully.

It would be a mistake to describe Aonia as a band similar to Nightwish, as Aonia clearly have their own defined sound. With masterfully composed riffs and powerful vocals, City Of Shadows is a must have EP for any fan of female-fronted metal.

5/5

Nico Davidson

Alestorm – Back Through Time [2011]

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 5th June 2011 by Nico Solheim-Davidson

Band: Alestorm
Album: Back Through Time
Release year: 2011
Genre: Folk Metal/Power Metal/Pirate Metal

“Back Through Time” is the latest chapter in the legacy of Scottish pirates “Alestorm”.  It was released through Napalm Records earlier this month.

Beginning with the title track “Back Through Time”, this album already begins to sound promising. The track starts with the sound of waves followed by a pirate warning his captain of Vikings approaching. The track is then dominated by a fast paced drum section which is soon accompanied by a power metal-influenced keytar riff combined with an aggressive guitar riff. The track soon turns into a typical Alestorm track. The vocals retain their rough sound from previous Alestorm releases, giving this track a very piratey feel. The guitar solo is very hypnotic and old-skool sounding while the keytar solo brings more of a folk metal element to this track. “Back Through Time” has proven itself to be a worthy choice as he opening track of the album.

The second track is “Shipwrecked”. Its intro riff has a very raw sound to it, which is soon overpowered by the intelligent keytar riffs. The vocals are strong, keeping that pirate touch. However, the thing that stands out the most about this track are the drums as they seem to have more power than the guitar and bass and are virtually as loud as the keytar riffs. The next track is “The Sunk’n Norwegian” which begins with a very Celtic styled riff. The vocals sound more raw and aggressive, whilst the keytars have taken on more of an epic power metal sound. The guitar riffs seem more simplistic but heavier compared to the previous track. The bass work has improved since the previous track as well.

“Midget Saw” is the fourth track of the album, beginning with a more folkish keytar riff. The guitars and drums dominate this track in terms of aggression and heaviness whilst the keytar riffs bring some immense melodies. The bass sections are the most impressive thing on this track however, followed of course by the brilliantly composed guitar solo. Blasting its way next is “Buckfast Powersmash” which certainly does live up to its name with a fast paced, aggressive guitar intro. A keytar riff eventually joins it, bringing that folk sound to the track. However, the impressiveness of this track soon dies out. “Scraping The Barrel” comes next, bringing a very calm Celtic sound before the guitars and drums blast their way in. This track has a very solemn sound yet there’s a little bit of humour to found in this track as some of the lyrics have a very straight forward stab at the Alestorm haters. The guitar solo has a majestic touch to it, which pretty much completes this track.

The next track, titled “Rum”, starts with a very thrash styled riff before the keytars bring a piratey sound. This track has the potential to become a modern day drinking song, likely to be heard in pubs all around the world. “Swashbuckled”  blasts its way next with a combination of keytars and double bass pedals. The guitars bring the metal element to this track, whilst the vocals add an aggressive touch to the track. Despite been slow paced compared to some of the other tracks, this is one of the best tracks on the album, which is proven by the masterfully played guitar solo. “Rumpelkombo” speeds its way next in the space of six seconds, leading straight into the next track “Barrett’s Privateers”, which is originally performed by Stan Rogers. Alestorm have virtually made this track one of their own with their unique pirate sound.

“Death Throes of the Terrorsquid is next, featuring Ken Sorceron of Abigail Williams. The track begins with a very power metal sounding keytar intro riff which is soon accompanied by an immense and melodic guitar riff. The vocals seem to have much more power than the previous tracks. Some sections of this track seem poorly composed but overall the vast majority of it has been soulfully written for an extremely epic sound. Ken’s vocals bring a very black metal sound to the track, especially as the music turns dramatic. While this is an unusual sound for Alestorm it works brilliantly well!

The next track, a bonus track and a Wurzels cover all in one, is next in the form of “I Am A Cider Drinker”. Its intro sounds like an Irish jig while the vocals make it sound like a drinking song. This is a most suitable track for the album and one can only imagine Strongbow drinkers all around singing along to this. The last track of the album is a cover of Lazy Town’s “You Are A Pirate”. Surprisingly it sounds great. It certainly has a very piratey feel and is clearly superior to the original version. The only downside to it is that it’s too short.

Alestorm have proven themselves to still be ready to crank out the pirate metal with “Back Through Time”. Despite a few not so good parts of the album, it is a jewel in the folk metal scene. So, kick back and enjoy a shot of rum or bottle of cider with “Back Through Time”. It’s certainly worth it.

4/5

Nico Davidson