Archive for Heavy Metal

Kilmara – Across The Realm of Time

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on 9th September 2018 by izaforestspirit

Kilmara
Across The Realm of Time
Released 31st August 2018
Heavy Metal / Power Metal
Released via Rock of Angels Records

Kilmara - Across the Realm of Time

‘Across The Realm of Time’ is the new album from the Spanish heavy metal band Kilmara. They have been around since 2003 and have undergone various line-up changes. This is the first album to feature their new singer Dani Ponce who joined the band in 2015.

My knowledge of the Spanish metal scene is very limited. Most of the bands I am familiar with are no longer active so it’s about time that I checked out something new… The description for this album was fairly vague – “melodic metal” could potentially mean anything from heavy metal, power metal, atmospheric metal ,progressive metal or even Gothic metal. Power metal on the other hand, is one of those genres that ranges from the sublime to the ridiculous. At it’s best it will entertain you and fill your mind with wonderful stories of fantasy adventures or epic historic battles. At its worst, it’s just cheesy, and so badly over-the-top that it becomes irritating after a few listens. That is why there are only a few power metal bands I regularly listen to.

So let’s see what category Kilmara fit into…. Well, for one thing it’s not cheesy so that is a good thing. The vocals are melodic and powerful but not high pitched, which is another plus. The use of keyboards is minimal and very sporadic and most of the emphasis is on the guitars. Fantasy adventure is a highly plausible theme based on the track tiles, the cover art and the cinematic style intro. So far so good… Some tracks have a hard rock feel to them – such as the mid-paced I Shall Rise Again, which is one of the more melodic songs on here. It’s one of those moments when the vocals are in harmony with the guitars, complementing each other. Mr. Ponce’s duet with guest vocalist Viktorie Surmøva works well and I can’t fault the guitar work either.

Principle of Hatred initially caught my attention due to the middle-eastern style acoustic guitar intro. A nice touch which I didn’t see coming. The rest of the song is essentially pure power metal, not too far removed from the likes of Helloween. Once again the vocals work a treat and the guitar work is top notch. Similar things can be said about The Forge except that song has a more aggressive stance when it comes to the guitars.

In summary, ‘Across The Realm of Time’ features a mixture of various styles ranging from heavy metal via hard rock to power metal. All the songs are well executed, not overly cheesy, melodic but not progressive. There is a lot to like on here if you’re a fan of these genres, especially power metal.

4/5

Iza Raittila

Trauma – As The World Dies

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on 20th August 2018 by izaforestspirit

Trauma
As The World Dies
Released 11th May 2018
Thrash Metal/Heavy Metal
Released via The Orchard

Trauma - As the World Dies
‘As The World Dies’ is the third album from the American thrash metal band Trauma. The band was originally formed by vocalist Donny Hillier in 1980 during the Bay Area Thrash Metal movement. The original line-up featured bassist Cliff Burton who then went on to join Metallica. Following the release of their debut album in 1984, the band went on a long hiatus before reforming again in 2013. The current line-up includes Greg Christian (ex-Testament) and former Danzig guitarist Joe Fraulob.

At first I thought that this was going to be one of those straightforward, classic thrash metal albums with fast, aggressive songs and shouting vocals. It turns out that’s not actually the case, there’s more to it than just that. The unmistakable Bay Area thrash metal sound is definitely present, audible in opening riffs and the drums on tracks such as the guitar-driven From Here to Hell. However, in addition to that there are also some more classic heavy metal elements such as melodic vocals, which reminded me a little of early Iron Maiden and to some extent Ozzy Osbourne. The guitar style and pace varies depending on the song ranging from the fast and furious to the melodic and more technical such as the title track.

Last Rites caught my attention as one of the slower tracks on here and probably the closest thing to a ballad. This time the guitars take a backseat and the song highlights Mr. Hillier’s impressive vocal range. Great vocals and an emotional performance. But, if you’re not a fan of ballads have no fear for there’s more ferocious thrash metal to come.

Overall ‘As World The World Dies’ turned out to be more complex than I originally thought. It’s a good mix of Bay Area thrash metal and classic heavy metal with enough variety to please fans of both genres.

4/5

Iza Raittila


 

South Park Festival 2018

Posted in Festival, Live with tags , , , , , , on 10th June 2018 by izaforestspirit

Helloween, Accept, Amorphis
Eteläpuisto, Tampere, Finland
8th-9th June 2018

Tampere’s prime metal festival South Park was back on this year after a brief hiatus in 2017. It’s a two day event but I only attended the Saturday. This year marked the return of the band that I discovered at the same festival three years ago – the one and only German power metal legend Helloween.

I arrived a little later so I missed the first two bands but just in time to see some of Amorphis. They’re one of the most recognizable bands within the Finnish metal scene and they seem to feature in most of the country’s festivals. I’ve seen them live a bunch of times before so I pretty much knew what to expect. I like their old albums though I lost track of them after ‘Silent Waters’. This was another solid performance, well executed melodic death metal. It’s always good to hear ‘House of Sleep’ and other favourites. So a good start to the night. 4/5

Next up was the Finnish thrash metal quartet Lost Society. They played some fairly decent-sounding thrash metal; sadly I’m not too familiar with their music so I could not appreciate it fully. 3/5

I did enjoy watching the Swedish heavy metal outfit Mustasch though. Their music is a mixture of Motörhead-style heavy metal with some elements of stoner metal. It’s probably not the kind of thing that I would listen to at home but it was fun to watch at a summer festival. 3.5/5

This was the second time that I’ve seen S-Tool live. For those who haven’t heard of them before, it’s a new band from Ville Laihiala (ex-Sentenced, Poisonblack). As a big a fan Mr. Laihiala’s other bands, particularly Sentenced, I was looking forward to seeing S-Tool. Music-wise, it’s essentially picking up from where Poisonblack left off only without the Gothic elements. Good show! I enjoyed it a bit more than the last time. 4/5

German heavy metal legends Accept were one of the day’s headliners and one of the main bands that I wanted to see. They put on one hell of a show. I’m not familiar with their recent material but it was great to hear some of the old classics such as ‘Balls to The Wall’, ‘Fast as a Shark’ and my personal favourite ‘Metal Heart’. 5/5

There’s not an awful lot I can say about Mokoma. They have a sizeable following here in their home country. Their performance was good but I’m not familiar with their music. 3.5/5

Then it was time for the night’s main headlining act Helloween. This show was special because it featured all three of the band’s vocalists from past to present together on stage. That’s right, all of them – Kai Hansen (the original founder of the band), Michael Kiske and their current vocalist Andi Deris performed together as part of the Pumpkins United tour. It was really good to hear some of the old classics such as ‘Heavy Metal (Is the Law) and ‘Halloween’ along with some of the more recent hits such as ‘Are You Metal?’ They also played one of my personal favorites ‘If I Could Fly’ from ‘The Dark Ride’ album. Fantastic show! 5/5

 

In summary I had a great time at South Park even if it was just for one day. It was worth it especially for Accept and Helloween. Amorphis and S-Tool were pretty good too. If the line-up is this good next year I will definitely come back again.
Iza Raittila

Savage Machine – Abandon Earth

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on 27th February 2018 by izaforestspirit

Savage Machine
Abandon Earth
Released 19th January 2018
Heavy Metal/Power Metal
Self-Released

Savage Machine - Abandon Earth

It’s been two years since I reviewed Savage Machine’s single; now here I am reviewing their debut album ‘Abandon Earth’. I’m already familiar with two of the tracks since they were on the ‘Event Horizon’ single. Based on the description, this is a concept album about a post-apocalyptic world in which humans are at war with the machines. So, it’s traditional heavy metal with a science-fiction theme. That sounds promising, let’s see what we have here…

This is actually a little more complex than I expected it to be. In addition to the predominant classic/NWOBHM-style heavy metal, there are also some elements of power metal. Take the The Hunter for example, the guitar structures made me think of the old albums by Helloween mixed with the story-telling vocal style of Iron Maiden. Then they reduce the pace with a ballad called Time Traveller,  a melodic heavy metal/thrash metal hybrid which reminded me of the early works of Iced Earth. Good guitar work!

Speaking of guitars, the “rifftasic” Event Horizon and classic heavy metal style ‘Savior’ are the undisputed highlights of the album. The former is an energetic, fast piece of thrash metal packed with killer guitar riffs. As for Savior, I already liked it two years ago and it hasn’t lost any of its appeal.

In summary, it has to be said that there’s not a single filler track on here. There’s good variety in the pace with just enough ballads to please fans of melodic metal and power along with plenty of faster songs for the thrashers amongst us.

4/5

Iza Raittila

Madam X – Monstrocity

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on 15th November 2017 by izaforestspirit

Madam X
Monstrocity
Released 31st October (The USA), 3rd November 2017 (Europe)
Heavy Metal/Glam Metal / Hard Rock
Released via EMP Label Group/ SVP Europe

Madam X - Monstrocity

The American heavy metal band Madam X are back after a long hiatus with a new album called ‘Monstrocity’, their first full length release since their debut album which came out in 1984. The band was originally formed back in 1981 by sisters Roxy and Maxine Petrucci. They remained active throughout the ‘80s before their drummer Roxy Petrucci joined the hard rock band Vixen. This album features the original line-up including the Petrucci sisters and vocalist Bret Kaiser.

Resurrection seems like a fitting title for an opening track for a band returning from a long break. They are back and ready to rock your world with a brand new, energetic heavy metal tunes filled with shredding guitars and powerful vocals. Similar things can be said for the title track which really puts the emphasis on the guitars.

While first few songs sound more modern, Freak Parade’sounds like it was originally written in the ‘80s. The chorus has that distinctive, cheesy 1980s style ‘glam rock’ feel to it. The glam rock influence might have something to do with the addition of Vixen’s Janet Gardner on guest vocals. Then there’s the oddly titled but highly catchy ‘Big Rock Rolls Heavy’, one of the more metal-sounding, fast tracks on the album. This would be the song to play at the start of their show to really get the crowd going. The guitar work is superb, drumming is great and the chorus is one of the most memorable ones on here. “Give me metal or give me death!” The icing on the cake is a re-recording of the band’s biggest hit High in High School which really puts a new spin on the song.

In summary, I’ve had lots of fun reviewing Madam X’s latest opus. It is much heavier and more metal than I expected it to be. I like that the band is able to stay true to their roots while creating something new and exciting. Glam metal isn’t normally my thing but I really enjoyed ‘Monstrocity’.

4/5

Iza Raittila

Chronus – Chronus

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on 28th October 2017 by izaforestspirit

Chronus
Chronus
Heavy Metal/ Progressive Metal
Released 27th October 2017

via EMP Label Group/SPV

Chronus - Chronus

‘Chronus’ is the debut album from the Swedish heavy metal band of the same name. They were formed in 2012 and their music has been compared to the likes of Mastodon, Goijra and Ozzy Osbourne.

There is something about the cover art that reminds me of the Swedish metal band Ghost. And it’s not just the artwork. Just like their fellow countrymen Ghost, Chronus seem to have taken inspiration from classic heavy metal and to some extent 70s prog-rock. Some of their songs feature distinctive prog-rock style guitar riffs. Take City of Light for instance, the melodic guitar tunes definitely have that Ghost/Opeth-esque, progressive rock feel while the vocals made me think of Ozzy Osbourne.

Then you get the more energetic, slightly aggressive yet still proggy-sounding songs such as Baron along with the guitar-centered, melodic tracks such as Avarice. “Progressive” is the key word here, so if you’re not into technically complex guitar melodies then you ought to stay clear of this album.

Overall, Chronus’ debut is likely to appeal to fans of Ghost and progressive metal bands such as Mastodon and Opeth. Personally, it’s just a little too proggy for my liking.

3.5/5
Iza Raittila

Shadowside – Shades of Humanity

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on 3rd September 2017 by izaforestspirit

Shadowside
Shades of Humanity
Released 26th July 2017
Heavy Metal
Released via EMP Label Group

Shadowside - Shades of Humanity

 

‘Shades of Humanity’ is the latest album from the Brazilian heavy metal band Shadowside. The band has been around since 2001 and kept active by front-woman Dani Nolden. Since then they have released a few albums and there has been a few line-up changes. The most recent addition to the band is the Swedish bassist Magnus Rosén (ex-Hammerfall). This album was recorded at the Fredman Studio in Gothenburg, Sweden with Fredrik Nordström (Arch Enemy, Hammerfall, In Flames) and Henrik Udd (Dimmu Borgir, Dream Evil) in charge of mixing and production.

The first thing that struck me when I heard the opening track was Dani Nolden’s powerful vocals. She is a talented singer with an impressive vocal range. As for the music, it fits most comfortably under the “heavy metal” bracket, although the guitars occasionally drift into thrash metal and even metalcore territory. The thing that it certainly ain’t, most of the time, is melodic or pleasant-sounding. Take Beast Inside for instance, it’s packed with aggressive guitar riffs and abrasive vocals filled with range. Parts of the song made me think of melodic death metal acts like Arch Enemy for some reason. Make My Fate contains some rather annoying sounding metalcore-style guitar patterns at the start, but luckily they do not last long and the rest of the guitar work on that song is pretty decent.

Drifter is a bit of an oddity on here due to the catchy and strangely uplifting keyboard as well as a guitar intro which makes it feel like a power metal track. The vocals are also far less aggressive-sounding on here than on most of the other songs. The song is very guitar-driven with large chunks of it being predominantly instrumental. Lastly we have Alive, which sees the band entering symphonic metal territory with the longest and the most melodic track on the album.

Overall, ‘Shades of Humanity’ is not an easy album to get into. It took me several listens. Even now that I’m more accustomed to Shadowside’s chosen sound, I still enjoy some of the tracks far more than others. I think that the lack of consistency is part of the problem. It is a bit of mixed bag with too much experimentation with different styles and not enough focus.

2.5/5

Iza Raittila

Wraith – Revelation

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on 2nd August 2017 by izaforestspirit

Wraith
Revelation
Released 4th August 2017
Hard Rock/Melodic Heavy Metal
Released via Ice Rain Records/Cargo Records

Wraith is a British hard rock band that has been around since the late ’80s. They were most active in the ’90s, after which they had a long break between albums. It’s now been a decade since their last studio album was released and now Wraith are back with a new line-up and a new album called ‘Revelation’. This is also their first work to feature the new vocalist Ryan Coggin.

Ten years is a long time to wait for a new album. This is my first encounter with Wraith so I can’t really comment on how their style has evolved over the years. Rather than commenting on how this compares to their past albums, I will just focus on ‘Revelation’. Here we have ten tracks which range from Bon Jovi -esque melodic hard rock to NWBHM-style heavy metal. An example of the former is the slow ballad ‘Leaving Me Again‘ and the latter ‘No Respect‘ – an energetic, guitar-driven song. The vocals on it aren’t half bad either.

Then there’s the catchy, somewhat sleaze rock inspired ‘Human Hater‘ which reminded me of Mötley Crüe for some reason. This is probably one of the simplest songs in terms of lyrics, but who cares? After all, who needs profound lyrical themes when you can just enjoy a catchy chorus and headbang along to the twin guitar melodies?

In summary, ‘Revelation’ embodies the saying “..good things come to those who wait”. It’s been ten years, but now Wraith are back with a strong album that’s bound to please both classic heavy metal and hard rock fans.

4/5

Iza Raittila

Mean Streak – Blind Faith

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on 5th July 2017 by izaforestspirit

Mean Streak
Blind Faith
Released: 31st May (Japan), 2nd June (Europe),
16th June 2017 (USA)
Heavy Metal / Power Metal
Released via ROAR Rock of Angels (Europe),
Marquee /Avalon (Japan), High Vol Music (USA)

‘Blind Faith’ is the latest album from the Swedish heavy metal band Mean Streak. The band was created in 2008 by the bassist Peter Andersson. Right from the start their main objective has always been to “write classic metal straight from the heart”. This album was mixed by Max Norman (Ozzy Osbourne, Megadeth, Armored Saint, Y&T) and mastered by Thomas ”Plec” Johansson (Soilwork, Onslaught, Armageddon).

The first thing that came to my mind after hearing the opening track Blood Red Sky is that in addition to classic heavy metal and NWOBHM, these guys have also been influenced by some old school 80s power metal bands like Helloween. Mean Streak’s music is essentially a hybrid of all three of the aforementioned styles. There is also the odd progressive element such as the guitar patterns midway through Settle the Score’. You get your classic heavy metal tracks such as Tear Down the Walls – an uplifting song centered primarily around the sing-along chorus and the guitar riffs.

The Helloween influence is evident on tracks like Love is a Killer, which is also one of the fastest and most energetic songs on here. Unlike a lot of power metal songs, this one lacks the ultra cheesy lyrics but has the right pace, the melodic, Helloween-esque vocal style and the catchy guitar tunes. Speaking of guitars, if you’re a fan of twin guitar harmonies, then you will definitely enjoy Fire at Will as well as most of the fast songs on this album.

Overall, listening to ‘Blind Faith’ has been a positive experience. What Mean Streak have created here may not be pure, classic heavy metal but it is thoroughly entertaining. It’s a guitar-driven heavy metal album with a modern twist.

4/5

Iza Raittila

Rock Goddess – It’s More Than Rock and Roll EP

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on 25th April 2017 by izaforestspirit

Rock Goddess
It’s More Than Rock And Roll EP
Released 19th May 2017
Heavy Metal/ Hard Rock
Released via Bite You to Death Records

‘It’s More Than Rock And Roll’ is the new EP from the London-based hard rock trio Rock Goddess. The band originally started out in the 1980s during the NWOBHM movement in The U.K. They were on a long hiatus in the mid-90s before reforming again with the original line-up in 2013.

This is a short EP, just three songs but it is enough to give an idea of what Rock Goddess is all about. The title track is an anthem, or manifesto if you like, stating what these ladies trying to achieve with their music. Their message is simple: they play good, old-school hard rock full of catchy guitar melodies and sing-along choruses. This is what they have always done and what they do best. Back Off is all about the guitar riffs while the closing track We’re All Metal sounds like a homage to the band’s roots with some honorable mentions of the famous bands from within both the hard rock and heavy metal scene.

In summary, ‘It’s More Than Rock And Roll’ serves as an (re-)introduction to Rock Goddess. It’s bound to please their old fans as well attracting some new ones, myself included. I can’t wait to hear more. Rock on, ladies!

4/5

Iza Raittila

Damaj -The Wrath Of The Tide (EP)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on 12th December 2016 by Paul Macmillan

Damaj – The Wrath Of The Tide (EP)

Released March 1st 2017

Heavy metal

Self-released

Although Greenock’s Damaj have been cutting about for some three years or more – playing with Blaze Bayley, Tygers Of Pan Tang, and headlining Spanish festivals, as you do – The Wrath Of The Tide appears to be the first physical release they’ve put their name to. It presents a somewhat personal blend of numerous classical elements, drawn from the spectrum of metal; thrash, prog, and classic British heavy metal being the order of the day.

Vocally, there is much in line with the more accessible edge of the current UK scene, comparable to the likes of Reign Of Fury or Sumer, but the music behind is telling a different story. The lead work on the guitars is quite the trip. Incredibly professional in terms of technical ability, yet without plumping for mindless shred overkill, it really feels like something great has been accomplished in this respect. There are some very nice touches and twists in many of the riffs and rhythms, too, indicating that consideration and taste have been injected throughout. If I was to be mean, I’d have to say there’s something about the production value on this release which doesn’t quite click for me. It’s like later Voivod (i.e. the eponymous 2003 album). The edges of the sound are a little too… fluffy.

However, this doesn’t stop the integral energy of the collective breaking through. In fact, it doesn’t seem too farfetched to wholeheartedly believe Damaj have an almighty live presence, based purely on this EP. Now that they’ve cut their teeth on the recording front, and nailed their song-writing style to boot, they’ve laid the groundwork to make themselves a formidable force.

4/5

Paul Macmillan

Metallica – Hardwired… to Self-Destruct

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on 25th November 2016 by mickbirchy

Metallica

Hardwired… To Self-Destruct

Heavy Metal, Thrash Metal

Released: 18 November 2016

via Blackened Records

So, it’s been 8 long years of buildup and hype. For many metal fans though, some trepidation. As Metallica don’t have a sparkling reputation for album releases. In my opinion, they haven’t made a solid album since “The Black Album”. I mean they’ve had the odd decent tune here and there. They just haven’t made a solid full album. So this album, Hardwired… To Self-Destruct was met with a lot of ears. How is it?…. It’s good. I’m not going to say great but it’s good. I think the whole thing is really damn good and definitely their best work in a long time. I guess it was too much to expect them to release a full on thrash album. Then again I don’t think they needed to.

The album sounds great. The production is sharp and they sound tight. Particularly on the title track ‘Hardwired… To Self-Destruct’ and on ‘Atlas, Rise’. The riffs are nice and they actually sound somewhat like Metallica. Weird, I know. Through both discs they’re pretty damn consistent. With a well composed and well arranged sound. It feels like someone took the time to put it together. I like the experimentation with other types of metal too. Ok, they’re not going crazy with this album, they’re playing it pretty safe, still it’s nice to hear.

Saying that though. I do feel that this album plods along at points. Never enough to get boring but it does feel a little long winded. This is way more apparent on disc two. Which feels like Metallica are overstaying their welcome. There are some nice riffs though, like the opening to ‘Confusion’ and I quite like the last song ‘Spit Out The Bone’ it was a good way to cap off the album. So hey not all bad there.

So, yeah Metallica are back. I’m not going to say this is a return to form. However, it is a solid album, and that’s all I really wanted from them. Just something that I can play and have a little fun with. Hardwired… works quite nicely. It’s got some brilliant songs, excellent guitar solos and it sounds like Metallica actually wanted to make this album. Which makes this a good album in my books.

3/5

Mick Birchall

Heaven Below – Good Morning Apocalypse

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on 13th November 2016 by izaforestspirit

Heaven Below

Good Morning Apocalypse

Released 14th October 2016

Hard Rock/ Heavy Metal

Released EMP Label Group

‘Good Morning Apocalypse’ is the third album from the Los Angeles -based, American hard rock band Heaven Below. The band was formed back in 2008 by singer Patrick Kennison (Union Underground) and Marty O’Brien (Disturbed, We Are the Fallen). After two albums, various line-up changes and extensive touring, Heaven Below began to work on what has been described as the “most ambitious” album of their career – Good Morning Apocalypse. This is a concept album about a modern day Dr. Faust and his dealings with the devil. It features guest appearances from Udo Dirkschneider (U.D.O., Accept), Kobra Paige (Kobra and the Lotus), Jason McMaster (Dangerous Toys, Broken Teeth, Watchtower) and Lita Ford.

As with any concept album, if you want to find out more about the story then I suggest that you check out the band’s website or read the song lyrics. That’s precisely what I did and I can say that the story itself is worth reading but I’m not going to talk about it here. After all, this isn’t a book review… So let’s discuss the music instead.

Now, I’ not particularly fond of the term “epic” since it’s grossly overused and it has essentially become a fancy way of describing something larger than life with very little meaning. In this case however, I can’t think of a better way to sum up the overall feel of the opening track Nefarious Angels feat. Jason McMaster — an epic and passionate heavy metal song with explosive guitar tunes and catchy choruses. A great way to start an album. Renegade Protest Movement has the atmosphere of a rebellion in the works with a simple call to action “come, join the Renegade Protest Movement!” It is like a forceful and aggressive blow that hits you right in the face. Ready or not, here it comes!

Devilina And The Damage Done (feat. Kobra Paige) caught my attention as one of the more melodic tracks on here. Kennison’s duet with Kobra Paige adds an extra dimension to the song giving it a somewhat softer feel without losing any of the power in the vocals. For those who prefer a more aggressive style then Killing The Deadman is the song for you – a straightforward yet highly effective onslaught of guitar riffs and compelling vocals with a very brief melodic interlude towards the latter half of the track. And let’s not forget Udo Dirkschneider’s appearance on Black Sunrise/War of The Gods, which transforms the song giving it a more dynamic feel.

In summary ‘Good Morning Apocalypse’ is a multi-faceted and complex album which mixes traditional heavy metal with elements of both modern and classic hard rock. Each one of the guest musicians leaves his or her own mark on the music. Heaven Below have created a winning formula of powerful vocals, catchy choruses and skillfully executed guitar melodies.

4/5
Iza Raittila

 

Existance – Breaking the Rock

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on 22nd October 2016 by izaforestspirit

Existance
Breaking the Rock
Released 15th October 2016
Heavy Metal
Released via Black Viper Records


‘Breaking the Rock’ is the second album from the French heavy metal band Existance. The band was formed back in 2008 by Julian Izard (son of Didier Izard from the speed metal band H-Bomb). Existance expressed their aim to “keep the spirit of the 1980s heavy metal alive”. Their music has been compared to the likes of Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Saxon.

First off is Heavy Metal Fury with a deceptively slow and melodic guitar intro paving the way to some classic heavy metal in which most of the emphasis is on the guitar riffs and Izard’s melodic vocals. The 80s heavy metal influences are fairly easy to detect; the guitar patterns, riffs and vocal style reminds me of the more prominent bands from the NWOBHM movement such as Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. If it’s retro-style, heavy metal guitar riffs you’re after, you will find them in abundance on tracks such as All Is On Fire, Pain In Paradise.

As with most classic heavy metal albums, there’s usually at least one slow ballad to show the band’s ‘softer’, more melodic side and (hopefully) underline the skills and vocal range of their singer. On here we get Sinner of Love in which it’s definitely the vocals that enter the spotlight. Izard’s vocals are a good match to the guitar melodies giving the song a pleasant vibe. By contrast there’s the adrenaline-packed title track which really speeds things up in the riff department.

Overall, ‘Breaking the Rock’ is more than just a homage to 80s heavy metal. Existance did a great job of replicating the sounds of that era in metal music and their influences are fairly evident. It’s practically a genre-defining album. This is classic heavy metal in its purest form.

3.5/5

Iza Raittila

Powerwolf live in Tampere

Posted in Gig, Live with tags , , , on 19th October 2016 by izaforestspirit

Civil War, Powerwolf
Klubi, Tampere, Finland
18th October 2016

It’s a while since I’ve been to a metal concert. The last time I saw some metal bands live was at Tampere Metal Meeting festival a few months ago. Now summer is over, it’s getting darker and colder and the leaves have all but fallen… I’ve never really suffered from the autumn blues as each season has its good points. Autumn means that Halloween is soon upon us and what better way to celebrate it then with some über-theatrical and ultra cheesy, horror-themed power metal brought to Finland by the German extravaganza that is Powerwolf.

First up was the Swedish power metal band Civil War which features former members of Sabaton. I was intrigued by them precisely due to the connection to Sabaton. Yet what I heard turned out to be different to what I was hoping to hear. Like their world-renowned countrymen, Civil War’s lyrical themes revolve around various historical events and they play heavy metal. But that’s where the similarities end; their music is slower with an emphasis on ballads and story-telling rather than catchy battle tunes for the mosh-pit. 2.5/5

Luckily Powerwolf were worth the wait. I’m not too familiar with their music but after that show I can safely say that I’m a Powerwolf convert. Their show was exactly what I like to hear from a power/heavy metal band – full of theatrics, ‘pomp and circumstance’ , songs about priests, religion, werewolves, vampires and chanting in Latin. Yes, just like most bands of this genre, their music is cheesy as hell but damn entertaining. The highlights included: ‘We Drink Your Blood’, ‘Dead Boys Don’t Cry’, ‘Army of the Damned’ and ‘Blessed & Possessed’ (the title track of their new album). 5/5

 

In summary I wasn’t too impressed with Civil War’s performance but I really enjoyed Powerwolf. It’s rare that a band impresses me this much during a performance, turning me into a fan of their music practically overnight. It happened last year with Helloween and now in 2016 with Powerwolf.

Iza Raittila

Darkthrone – Arctic Thunder

Posted in Review, Uncategorized with tags , , , on 16th October 2016 by izaforestspirit

Darkthrone
Arctic Thunder
Released 14th October 2016
Blackened Heavy Metal
Released via Peaceville Records

The Norwegian metal duo Darkthrone doesn’t need much of an introduction. Their early albums such as ‘A Blaze in the Northern Sky’ are regarded as classics of the black metal genre. Also, let’s not forget their drummer Fenriz’s witty comments and his passion of underground music. They’re one of those bands who isn’t afraid to alter their style and experiment with something new. Since the start of their career they have gone through various transformations ranging from death metal to black metal followed by experimentation with punk and heavy metal music. Personally I lost track of them after ‘The Cult is Alive’ album back in 2006. Then recently I heard their new song ‘Tundra Leech’ on Youtube and I decided to give them another go.

First up is the familiar, eerie sounding Tundra Leech – the track which convinced me to obtain a copy of this album. It’s great to hear Nocturno Culto’s haunting voice again, sounding just as grim as he did in the band’s early days of black metal. Nocturno Culto is singing on all the tracks on here which is really good in my opinion. I’ve always preferred his harsh and creepy vocal style to Fenriz’s hooting clear vocals. As for the music, the guitars have this old school feel to them as if they were trying to replicate similar riff patterns as they used in the 90s. By ‘old school’ I mean a mixture of old school black metal with a slight thrash metal tinge audible in the guitars.

In other words it’s still very grim-sounding but it’s way too fast and too catchy to be considered “true” and “kvlt” black metal any more. Boreal Fiends stands out due the melodic instrumental intro at the start; slowly drawing you closer into the deep dark forest with the grim guitars, drums and Nocturno Culto’s haunting howls as your only guides. Then there’s Inbred Vermin, a bit of an oddity, which sees the band play around with some heavy metal and (dare-I-say-it?)…Motörhead-esque guitar patterns mid-track, neatly sandwiched between frostbitten, ultra-haunting howls and black metal guitar riffs. These guys clearly enjoy both these styles, so why not combine those two? And why not? Who says that Motörhead doesn’t go well with Hellhammer or Celtic Frost? Also why stop there when you can also add some thrash metal into the mix? That pretty much sums up what the managed to achieve rather successfully with the title track.

Overall this ‘Arctic Thunder’ sees Darkthrone revisiting their roots – the sounds that have influenced them in the early days and putting a new spin on it. It’s got the same eerie and cold atmosphere as their highly regarded black metal albums, but it’s not restricted to one specific metal genre. The closest thing I can think of to describe their current sound would be something like ‘blackened heavy metal’. Luckily I’m not any kind black metal purist, so grim and frostbitten ‘blackened heavy metal’ sounds just as good to me.

4/5
Iza Raittila

Helstar – Vampiro

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on 18th August 2016 by izaforestspirit

Helstar
Vampiro
Released 26th August 2016
Heavy Metal/Power Metal with Speed Metal elements
Released EMP Label Group

 Helstar are veterans of the American heavy metal scene. The band was originally formed back in the early ’80s and they have released a number of albums including the critically acclaimed ‘Nosferatu.’ Their latest opus ‘Vampiro’ sees them return to the vampire theme with more tales of Dracula and other blood-suckers.

First they lure you in with a deceptively melodic intro to Awaken the Darkness – an eerie tale of Gothic horror brought to you with the aid some thrashing guitar riffs and high-pitched vocals. So that was the bait and now the real hunt begins. For what follows is Blood Lust – a much faster song with pummeling drums and aggressive guitar melodies reminiscent of the band’s early days back when they played speed metal. As for the vocals, singer James Rivera has an impressive range which incorporates all of the following: the clean, story-telling variety akin to the likes of Dio and Iron Maiden, the high-pitched style and the somewhat less pleasant screams.

From The Pulpit to The Pit is a slightly more complex track; featuring a progressive-style bass and drumming intro followed by some viciously fast guitar riffage and more pummeling drums. Yet it’s not all just thrashing and pummeling, this song also has some melodic parts to it, which are mostly audible in the guitars. Then there’s the Repent in Fire – a catchy power metal song packed with playful guitar riffs and powerful vocals which reminded me of Iron Maiden at times.

Overall, it’s great to see a band that’s been around for so long who can still produce something new and exciting. Rather than taking a stab in the dark in an attempt to produce something different or experimental; they have stayed true to their roots. ‘Vampiro’ is classic Helstar but with a new, modern spin on it.

4/5

Iza Raittila

Wolf Hoffmann – Headbanger’s Symphony

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on 11th July 2016 by mickbirchy

Wolf Hoffmann
Headbanger’s Symphony
Heavy metal, Neoclassical metal
Released: 1st July 2016via Nuclear Blast Records

After nearly twenty years Accept guitarist, Wolf Hoffmann has finally returned to his solo project work. Headbanger’s Symphony is an album that Wolf has been working on for a few years now, while on a break from Accept. This is a really beautiful record, whilst much heavier than 1997’s Classical, it still has a calm dignity to it and the simple beauty of the music is worth the price alone.

The sheer scale of the production on this album is absolutely massive. Everything feels big and you really can get swept away in the beautiful sounds.  Wolf’s guitaring is simply amazing as well.  The subtle little tonal shift and the quick quivers are simple yet really effective. There is absolutely no space wasted on this record. The Czech National Orchestra sounds simply divine with every passing second creating a near-perfect framework for Hoffmann to play with and he utilizes the time well.  I had to compare to anything it’s like the instrumental prog-rock of the the early 70’s, just in it’s imagination and the wandering spirit of the music. The whole album just feels epic.  Headbanger’s Symphony takes classic works of art and plays around with the ideas and the end result is a feast for your ears.

At the same time, the album will appeal to metal heads just fine as well.  Don’t think that this is some high brow art form.  At the end of the day it’s a musician playing around with ideas and with the music. There is plenty of energy and intensity to keep you hungry for more long after this is over.  It’s an album that will take your imagination to some strange and wonderful places. With great use of familiar classical pieces and blends that with contemporary metal for a greater experience than either could provide on their own. If you’re at all into symphonic metal music, you owe it to yourself to check this out. If you just want to hear what Wolf from Accept get’s upto away from the band, this is worth checking out.  Me… I’m just a music nerd so this was kinda up my alley from the get go.  

4/5

Mick Birchall

Blaakyum – Line of Fear

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on 2nd July 2016 by izaforestspirit

Blaakyum
Line of Fear
Released 25th June 2016
Thrash Metal/Heavy Metal with Middle Eastern folk music influences
Self-Released

Line of Fear’ is the second album from the Lebanese thrash metal band Blaakyum. Originally formed back in the mid 1990s, Blaakyum haven’t had an easy start. Some of the band members have experienced social oppression first hand, for example their singer was arrested twice just for being a fan of heavy metal. They have recently gained more international recognition, winning third place in the Wacken Metal Battle finals in 2015 and playing Tuska Open Air in Finland in June 2016. The hostile and turbulent situation in their home country has had a major influence on the band’s lyrical themes. This particular album is centered around the subject of freedom of thought and artistic expression.

After the initial background research, a question immediately sprung to my mind: Is it actually possible to successfully mix Middle Eastern folk music with thrash metal? Let’s see… In this case the Middle Eastern folk feel is created using a Middle Eastern drum called tabla. So that’s where the “folk” sounds originates from. Apart from that, Blaakyum’s signature sound combines influences of old school thrash metal acts like Slayer and Destruction with groove-thrash metal vibes and even the odd power metal element in one song.

Baal-Adon features an interesting mix of groove metal guitars with squeaky, power metal -style vocals with the profoundly melodic sounds of the tabla. Other standout tracks include the Freedom Denied thanks to the beautifully melodic intro created with just one guitar and the tabla, and the title song which serves as the perfect introduction to Blaakyum demonstrating everything that the band has to offer. Oh, and let’s not forget the angry-sounding, bonus track ‘Riot Against Riot‘ in which the guitars and drums mimic the start and the violent aftermath of a protest – the music matches the story.

Overall, Blaakyum definitely leaves a lasting impression on its listeners. Their chosen style is not an easy one to grasp and this album may take a few listens to get into. Thrash/groove/heavy metal influences aside, what really makes these guys special is their history, lyrical themes and combination of Middle Eastern folk music and metal. So, to answer the opening question; yes, it is possible to mix these two styles successfully.

4/5

Iza Raittila

Dead By Wednesday – Darkest of Angels

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on 20th May 2016 by izaforestspirit

Dead By Wednesday
The Darkest of Angels
Heavy Metal
Released: 15th July 2016
via EMP Label Group

‘The Darkest of Angels’ is the new album from the American Heavy Metal band Dead by Wednesday. The band was originally formed back in 2005. Since then they have gone through a number of line-up changes, the most recent being the departure of their singer Joe Morbidelli last year due his addiction problems. This album was recorded with the help of several guest vocals including: Brian Fair (Shadows Fall), Rob Dukes (Generation Kill, ex- Exodus) and Jon Arch (Arch/Matheos, ex-Fates Warning) as well as their new singer Rob Roy on one track. All the songs are centered around the theme of addiction.

The departure of the frontman is the type of thing that can make or break a band. As this is my first encounter with Dead By Wednesday, I don’t know much about how they used to sound prior to the line-up changes. Based on what I’ve read, their older material was a mixture of metal and hardcore. This new album is said to be heavier with more emphasis on metal. So let’s see what we have here…

Well for starters, there’s eleven tracks on here each featuring a different vocalist. The music itself is fairly consistent, melodic and mostly guitar-driven heavy metal. Some of the songs incorporate guitar patterns from both groove metal and even the odd metalcore-style break-down added in the mix.  Self-Medicate (feat. Paul Stoddard) is a good example of how all these elements can be successfully combined to produce something memorable. Sadly it’s the vocals that put me off some of the songs such as Power Troopers (feat. Ceschi & David Ramos) which is a mish-mash of System of Down -esque progressive wailing and shouts. Similar things can be said about the cacophony that is Phoenix Rising (feat. Kris Keys). It’s a shame because the guitar riffs are actually pretty good at times.

Highlights include the title track featuring John Arch and The Surgeon featuring the band’s new singer Rob Roy. Out of these, Darkest of Angels is one of the more melodic songs on here which has a certain power metal feel to it due the playful guitar tunes and Mr. Arch’s melodic vocals. What a relief to my sore ears! The other track that I enjoyed is, oddly enough; an acoustic song The Surgeon, the only song to feature the band’s new singer. Based on this I can see that he’s a good vocalist who seems comfortable and more importantly fully capable of clear vocals. It would have been interesting to hear him have a go at the more aggressive vocal styles that are present on this album. Other notable songs include Defining Fire (feat. Antony Hämäläinen & Waylon Reavis) and the thrash metal -tinged Break When I’m Dead (featuring Eric A.K. of Flotsam & Jetsam)’.

Overall this album is probably not the best one to tune into as an introduction to Dead By Wednesday. With so many different singers and a wide variety of different vocal styles it’s really difficult to deduce what these guys actually sound like. I would have preferred to hear more songs with their new singer Rob Roy. Instead this album feels like the band is still trying to find their feet again and establish a new identity.

3/5

Iza Raittila