Archive for Music

Karisma Records sign jazz rockers Ossicles

Posted in News with tags , , , , , , , on 19th March 2014 by Nico Davidson

Karisma Records, the Norwegian label that focuses on the more progressive side of music, have recently signed jazz rockers Ossicles and will be releasing the duo’s follow-up album to their 2012 release Mantlepiece. The band will be entering the studio in the summer to begin recording and it is expected that the new, as yet untitled album, will hit the streets towards the end of the year.

Formed in 2011 by cousins Sondre Veland on drums, percussion, vocals and keyboards, and Bastian Veland on guitars, vocals, bass, upright bass and keyboards, Ossicles is, according to the band, a constantly evolving project that is influenced by genres as varied as jazz, rock, avent-garde, ambient, noise and minimalism.  Mantlepiece, which was a double album released on Ossicles‘ own label, No Weather Records,  was largely written when the two cousins were around the ages of 16 and 17, but also includes later material, as well as tracks written during the recording process itself.  On the strength of this release Ossicles was invited by Mike Portnoy to appear at the Progressive Nation at Sea Festival in 2014, an opportunity the band sadly had to turn down due to the high cost of travelling to the USA to join the ship in Miami.

Ossicles online:

http://ossiclesband.wix.com/ossicles
http://www.facebook.com/Ossicles

 

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Powerwolf – Preachers Of The Night

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 25th August 2013 by Nico Davidson

Powerwolf
Preachers of the Night
Released 19th July
Power Metal/Werewolf Metal
Released via Napalm Records

Powerwolf have become a recognisable name and band on the power metal scene, from their darker sound compared to other acts, to the corpse-paint and the almost fetish-like obsession with werewolves. Following their jump from Metal Blade to Napalm, Preachers of the Night – which is the band’s fifth studio album – was soon released thereafter.

The catchy number Amen & Attack opens the album, proving to be more infectious than the black death. The vocals are loud, boisterous and powerful added to the heavily symphonic elements and driving slabs of metal. The track proves to be a strong sword arm for the album, swinging left and right, taking unsuspecting listeners by surprise in the black of night – Which is exactly what any metal album needs to keep the attention of the listener.

Secrets of the Sacristy continues with the surprise attacks, proving to be unrelenting with the near-joy filled guitar passages and contrasting dreary symphonic lines. Coleus Sanctus (which apparently in Latin slang means something like holy testicles) keeps the strong flow of melodic riffs pouring forth whilst the vocals conjure up memorable lines that have a few hooks hidden for good measure.

The ambitious, hard-to-ignore riffs continue on through Sacred & Wild and straight into a total lycan-like metamorphosis with Kreuzfeuer which hammers out a darker, vastly sinister sound. Even the vocals have a cimmerian shade to their sound. Cardinal Sin begins with the hymn-like anthemic sound before the blazing trail of riffs bursts in. The chorus stands out the most throughtout the duration of the song.

In The Name Of God (Deus Vult) is a true power metal anthem through and through and the best track on the album. With an impressive and infectiously poignant chorus and eventful musicianship, the song soars above the rest of the album. Nochnoi Dozor is painted with a shade of dusk from beginning to end, each riff and symphonic passage adding a fresh stroke of twilight-coloured paint to the lyrics and the music. A tragic wave of sound comes crashing down throughout Lust For Blood, mixing typical power metal elements with a murkier – if somewhat vampiric sounding – concept.

Extatum Et Oratum brings a far more grand and majestic ambiance with its presence as well as references to Greek mythos, Roman nobles and dead civilisations. The guitar segments give off an intense sound, whereas the symphonic elements still bring the tragic voices. Last Of The Living Dead is a truly haunting piece of work, making a strong use of Latin lyrics and chilling symphonies with icy guitar riffs. Some of the vocal passages are still sung in English, though the most power vocal sections are those sang in Latin. The wolf howls add an eerie aspect to the song as well, as do the church bells.

Preachers Of The Night shows another development in Powerwolf‘s sound. Each track tells its own tale, both musicially and lyrically, and each track weave together perfectly to tell an overall story as well – Though some tracks are more memorable than others. Preachers Of The Night is the pinnacle of Powerwolf‘s sound.

5/5

Nico Davidson

Powerwolf online:

http://powerwolf.net
http://facebook.com/powerwolfmetal

 

Spires–Lucid Abstractions

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , on 21st July 2012 by Nico Davidson

Spires
Lucid Abstrctions
Released: July 2012
Acoustic
Self-Released

Hailing from the rich and diverse metal scene of Manchester, come the progressive metal quarter Spires, a band who have received critical acclaim from radio, printed and online media since their debut release of Spiral Of Ascension, back in 2010. Following their recent tour of Ireland and a busy 2011, where they toured with Incassum and two slots at the UK’s biggest metal festival Bloodstock, Spires have released their highly anticipated acoustic EP.

The grimly titled Under Bloodstained Skies opens the EP under with calm riff and intense set of vocals that add that eerie touch to the lyrics. The title track Lucid Abstractions follows next, in three parts. The track begins rather mystically with almost jazz-like musicianship that leads into the more progressive styling of the band. The main vocals are soothing, whilst the guest vocals, provided by Talena Cuthbert, add a certain warmth to the song.

Perception takes a subtle approach to the music but keeping true to the progressive spirit of the band’s sound. The vocals really stand out yet blend in well at the same time. The cello sections, provided by Jacqueline Wilson, adds a unique touch to the song. The melodic riffs of Inevitability bring a very enchanting aspect to the EP. The final track is none other than Sprial Of Ascension, which does take some getting used to when listening to this version if you’ve already heard the original version on the album of the same name. However, the acoustic version does really capture the essence of the song and project across quite brilliantly, though when I listen to it, I can’t help but epect to start hearing some major extreme metal styled riffs.

Acoustic music isn’t really my thing, save for a few artists, but Spires really have proven to be a band with a diverse and unique style. Each track contains its own unique sound and spirit without betraying the band’s sound.

5/5

Nico Davidson

Diabolical Reveals Album Title And Tracklisting

Posted in News with tags , , , , , , , on 5th July 2012 by izaforestspirit

DIABOLICAL have started the recording sessions for their fifth album – entitled “NEOGENESIS”.

Guitarist Carl Stjärnlöv explains the album title: “Apart from being a physiological term, the title ‘Neogenesis’ translates to ‘new beginning’. The word originates from greek and latin and it marks a new beginning for DIABOLICAL in many ways. Furthermore the title has a much more profound significance to the theme and concept of this album.”

The band entered Necromorbus Studio in June and have already recorded the basics for the whole album. The full “NEOGENESIS” track listing:

1. Into Oblivion
2. Metamorphosis
3. Oracle
4. Ex
5. World in Silence
6. Reincarnation of the Damned
7. Fields of Nihil
8. Dialogue with the Dead
9. Wolves’ Choir
10. The Age to Come
11. Humanitas

“The drum tracks laid down are amazing, and we are all very excited about continuing to work on ‘NEOGENESIS’. There are definitely some new flavors to our sound, and most importantly, the song material of ‘NEOGENESIS’ is by far the greatest we’ve done.” Carl concludes.

The band continues recording now at the infamous Necromorbus Studio facilities, with vocalist and guitarist Sverker Widgren producing once again.

The band is continuously reporting from the album production via their studio diary on youtube, second report being posted yesterday at:

For more information on ”NEOGENESIS”:

www.facebook.com/diabolicalofficial

Dragonforce – The Power Within [2012]

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on 17th April 2012 by underthenorthernstar

Band: Dragonforce

Album: The Power Within

Release Date: 15/04/2012

Genre: Extreme Power Metal

Label: Electric Generation Recordings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Review is dedicated to the memory of Vadim Pruzhanov’s Hair. RIP.

It’s been 4 years since the release of the last Dragonforce album, “Ultra Beatdown”, shortly after which singer ZP Theart left. It’s been a fairly brutal 4 years for the London-based Extreme Power Metallers; a new album in the works, a GARGANTUAN world tour freshly completed, and the singer, beloved of the fans, is gone? Surely, a bell tolling death for most bands? Not Dragonforce. Since footage of “Cry Thunder” was leaked, having been filmed by fans watching the band support Iron Maiden, I have been far more than enthralled. As for new singer Marc Hudson, I could hug the man. He is everything ZP was and more, and his entrance has injected huge amounts of life into the band once more. The songs are far more varied in structure, and thus make for a much more enjoyable listen, but every single one still manages to soar to the octane-guzzling heights of Glory of previous albums.

“The Power Within.” There could not be a more appropriate title. The whole album is overflowing with POWER. Herman Li and Sam Totman’s epic guitar shreddery is prominent in everything the band does, their mastery being an album’s worth of an air guitarist’s wet dreams. Drums are utterly insane; while restrained on tracks like “Cry Thunder”, the 220 bpm monster of “Fallen world” (fun fact: Dragonforce’s fastest ever song, beating “Cry of the Brave” at 215 bpm) shows off Dave MacKintosh’s insane skill. There are even a couple of moments where Bassist Fred Leclerq gets to show off his talent in several extreme bass passages. And one Mr Vadim Pruzhanov (God rest his hair) is one of the greatest musicians to ever mangle a keyboard. Wizardry is the only way to describe it. But Marc Hudson’s vocals are ridiculously good – he far surpasses the expectations of any of the fans, many of who would, in normal circumstances, be winging and pining for ZP. He has stupendous amounts of talent, and with layered vocals, he sounds positively majestic.

One of the main criticisms of Dragonforce with regards to previous works was that “all the songs sound the same.” It was often insisted that they relied purely on technical ability to make interesting songs, and that was included in every song. This is not a criticism that has any grounds on this album – the songs have for the most part been shortened to be more digestible by the listener (most previous songs were around the 7 minute mark), and not every song is a hyper-speed blast to the end. “Seasons”, “Last Man Stands” and “Cry Thunder” are all fairly different to the usual Dragonforce way, but in no way unwelcome. Songs like “Die by the Sword” also mark a return to the Lyrical style of fantasy, swords and battles, not seen truly since 2003’s “Valley of the Damned.”

This album… blew me away in a way I’m quite sure most of the albums released this year will fail to do so.  All the apprehension is gone, and we should welcome the new Dragonforce with open arms. Utterly, utterly stunning, utterly, utterly brilliant.

5/5

Alasdair Dunn of Norderobring

Tigers Jaw Stream New Song

Posted in News with tags , , , on 20th March 2012 by Nico Davidson

Run For Cover is now streaming the brand new Tigers Jaw song No Mask from the band’s upcoming split 7″ with Black Clouds. The record comes out April 10th and is now available for pre-order on both white and blue vinyl.

Pre-order it here.

This new song is a pounding indie punk song driven by vocalists Ben Walsh and Brianna Collins’ direct and desperate chorus harmonies.  The split features two other new Tigers Jaw songs as well as Black Clouds‘ first recorded material.

Tigers Jaw‘s other vocalist/guitarist Adam McIllwee also contributed a blog post to the Run For Cover website where he discusses appealing female qualities and new Tigers Jaw material.  The blog will be part of an ongoing series where different people involved in the label and its bands contribute posts. You can rad the blog here.

Amon Amarth Announce Celebratory 20th Anniversary Shows

Posted in News with tags , , , , , on 23rd January 2012 by Nico Davidson

Swedish Viking death metallers Amon Amarth announced that the band will celebrate its 20th Anniversary with a string of dates in Germany, Poland and Holland. The announcement on the band’s official website reads as followed:

“To celebrate our 20 years anniversary as a band we are going to arrange 5 special shows which will take place this August in Germany, Poland and Holland.

“We will perform 2 full sets with songs from our entire career and there will also be a meet and greet. More details to be announced later.

An evening with…. – the 20th Anniversary Shows are as followed:

05.08 CHEMNITZ (DE) / Südbahnhof
07.08 WARSAW (PL) / Progresja Club
14.08 SAARBRÜCKEN (DE) / Garage
16.08 UTRECHT (NL) / Tivoli
17.08 HAMBURG (DE) / Markthalle

ReVerbed – Lies You Can Believe [2011]

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , on 2nd October 2011 by Nico Davidson

Band: ReVerbed
Album: Lies You Can Believe
Release year: 2011
Genre: Alternative Rock

ReVerbed are a Doncaster-based alt. rock band, who despite being young have already played in venues around the UK, including in London, Leeds, Sheffield, Nottingham and so forth. “Lies You Can Believe” was released earlier this year.

”What Went Wrong” begins with an interesting piano medley which finds itself eventually replaced by an energetic, slightly-punk orientated riff. The vocals are an odd combination of gruff and soft pop-punk stylings that don’t agree with one another. The female vocals harmonise the leads vocals slightly but not enough to stop the lead vocals ruining the track. The riffs are well composed and the drums are soulfully played. The short acoustic section would have been more enjoyable without the vocals.

”Obsession” starts with a strange riff, which weirdly sounds similar to a small extent, like a part of “Enter Sandman”. The female vocals do the lead vocal work on this track, fortunately for the listener’s ears. The track feels lifeless and lacking of any sort of passion – Listening to it is kind of like being forced at gunpoint to listen to Justin Bieber. The third song of the album, “Run”, injects a bit of life back into the album though not much as the male vocals are doing most of the work. The guitar riffs are well enough composed, though it still feels like they need something adding to them like an extra dose of adrenaline. In all honesty, the drums are the most entertaining aspect of this song.

”You” has a typical bland sort of grunge sound, which would no doubt cause even the most active of people to slowly drift off to sleep. The vocals seem to drown out the guitars. The good sections of the song would have to be when there is no vocal work, as the music can actually be heard properly. “Scream” has a better start, bringing some kind of passion to the music, keeping it from being a tiring, droning sound. The female vocals are once again the lead, thankfully, though they don’t quite gel with the backing vocals on this track. The only major issue is the drums in one section of the track, as they don’t work well aside the guitar section in one part.

The sixth song “Not Alone” has the generic pop-punk sound that a lot of young bands seem to establish. The track as a whole lacks musical and emotional maturity, as well as substance, sounding more akin to something that a twelve year old would write. There really isn’t a redeeming thing about this song. It’s one of those tracks that would have been better off not being written – or recorded. “Shadow” is the halfway point of the album and is another part of the album with the overly generic pop-punk sound, which is heard loud and clearly in the vocals, to the point where it sounds like the band are trying to be the next Blink 182. The guitar riffs sound half-composed and the drums don’t really add anything interesting to the song either.

”Through The Rain” is an improvement to the previous tracks, though only by so much. Some of the riffs have real bite to them though some of the other riffs seem to be the leftovers of an MCR album. The lack of male vocals is a bonus for the song as well. Following after, beginning with a few samples, is “No Hero”. The riff that follows the intro is a fairly mediocre sounding composition and the vocal section is in need of major tweaking. The drum work sounds familiar to some of the drum work in the other parts of the album – Disappointing to say the least.

Nearing the end is “Burn”, bringing a tiny Bryan Adams sound at the beginning – To as whether this is an intentional part of the composition remains to be seen. The female vocals add life to the song while the male vocals ruin it, kind of like the way police ruin parties. The chorus drains a lot of the energy out of the music, which is unfortunately as this one could have been a party anthem, despite the lyrical content.

”Don’t Look Back” sounds more like a mature composition and the male vocals actually work with the music – For once. Shockingly, it’s the female vocals that don’t do this song any justice. The guitar work is well written and played, as are the drums. “Beautiful Lie” has a semi-mature sound to it mixed with a hint of punk, which the male vocals, again, work with well the music. “Tomorrow” is the final track on the album and is a poor choice to finish the album with. Nothing seems to blend well with anything else, the vocals sound out of key and dissonant and the song just seems to be the kind of song that you’d “accidentally” delete on your media player device.

”Lies You Can Believe” is definitely not a masterpiece, if anything, it’s more akin to a disasterpiece. The vocals are one of the biggest negative factors as neither vocalist seems to harmonise with the other – They could invest in vocal lessons or find a new vocalist – and the music sounds too similar to each track combined with the generic sound of pop-punk, which may or may not have been intentional in the composition. The sound quality of the album is excellent, however. The album doesn’t really say much about ReVerb’s talent as a band who have played all over the UK. Perhaps they should take more time writing songs and perfecting their craft than playing shows.

1.5/5

Nico Davidson

Ellerker – Ellerker [2011]

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , on 19th September 2011 by Nico Davidson

Band: Ellerker
Album: Ellerker
Release year: 2011
Genre: Melodic Post-Hardcore


Ellerker, having formed in 2006, have done well for themselves in the British hardcore underground, receiving various sponsorships and creating a live act that they are renowned for. After a two hiatus [2008-2010], the Yorkshire quintet came back bigger and better, with 2011 seeing the release of their self-titled EP.

”An Anchor Holds Me Under” begins with a great melodic intro which has a hook that catches the ear of the listener the first time round, though the clean vocals sound somewhat generic, leaving something to be desired. The drums fit perfectly with the music though and the sound quality is superb. There are some hardcore elements that can be heard throughout the track, despite the mostly melodic and soft riffs. Already the EP is off to a better-than-average start.

“Find Your Own Way Home” has a heavier sound than the previous song whilst still keeping the clean, melodic sound. The vocals still leave a lot to be desired, staying clean as opposed to the use of hardcore screams that fans of the genre would be accustomed to. The drums are tight throughout the song. The use of gang vocals throughout parts of the song adds an interesting touch to the song as well. The third track “She Loves Machines” has a more vocal-dominated introduction, a welcome change for those who aren’t so keen on melodic intros. The guitars seem to be quite bland compared to the rest of the EP, with the vocals being the most impressive part of the track.

”Carmy” brings back the melodic intro, a welcome change to the average sounding guitars of the previous track. The vocals still leave room for improvement though the guitar sections are near enough perfect, with some obvious hints of hardcore influences in their composition. The EP finishes with “Blinded By The Rear View Mirror”. The song packs a lot more energy than the rest of the EP put together and the riffs are very pleasing to the ear, though the massive use of cymbals does get tiring after a while.

Ellerker’s self-titled EP is certainly interesting one and certainly one that will shock fans of post-hardcore. The only major issues with the EP is the bland and not-so-exciting sound of the third track and the vocals. However, the sound quality of the EP is superb and shows that Ellerker take the production of their releases seriously. The Yorkshire quintet have shown a lot of potential and talent with this EP, so no doubt there will be great things from these guys in the near future.

3/5

Nico Davidson

Bloodstock Open Air 2011 [Live Review]

Posted in Festival, Live with tags , , , , , on 21st August 2011 by Nico Davidson

Bands: Wasp, Therion, Motorhead and more
Location: Catton Hall, Walton-Upon-Trent
Date: 12-14th August, 2011

It’s August again – and time for the Metal Militia to mobilise, monster-like, and materialise in the munificent meadows of Catton Hall, Derby for another magnificent Bloodstock Festival.

Bloodstock is a festival ‘by the fans, for the fans’ and the organisers genuinely cater for this by running active online forums and IRC chatrooms (in which they participate), taking into account the festival-goers’ suggestions each year to improve the event. Having attended four previous Bloodstocks (2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010), Bloodstock 2011 was, by 12 parsecs, the best Bloodstock I have attended.

Disclaimer – I attended this festival as a fan and a punter rather than as official press. I was not able to see every band due to conflicting stage times, hangovers and basic human needs such as food, water and ale.  Additionally, while this review does cover bands in the black / death / grindcore genres, due to my personal preferences in music, I saw many more power / melodic metal acts, so the review will tend toward these bands.

Overall organisation

Having queued in the past for – literally – hours to enter, I was pleasantly surprised at the efficiency and organisation of the door staff. Arriving approximately half an hour after the gates opened, we were through the entrance and pitching our tents within 15 minutes.

The layout of Bloodstock was well thought-out, with the camping areas clustered around the main arena and festively named ‘Valhalla’, ‘Asgard’, ‘Midgard’ and ‘Hel’. ‘Hel’ was the quiet camp and provided a positive environment for families and others who did not wish to be disturbed by revellers late into the night.  A small fairground was set far enough back that the noise from the rides did not disturb the enjoyment of bands on the Ronnie James Dio (main) stage and a market brimming with music stalls and alternative clothing and jewellery offered a variety of products that can be difficult to find out in the mundane real world.

The only negative aspect of the layout is that, for the past two festivals, the New Blood stage is at the side, beyond the Ronnie James Dio stage and near the Bloodstock Arms bar. In 2008, the stage was placed between the arena entrance and the main stage, which meant that many bands drew in a crowd due to simply overhearing something they were interested in listening to. Its current placement meant that crowd members had to make a conscious effort to go and check out unsigned talent and this meant that some acts which could have had bigger crowds simply didn’t.

Four stages offered a variety of acts, with the Jaegermeister stage and Ronnie James Dio stage alternating showtimes, which meant that, without moving from a vantage point just behind and to the right of the sound desk, patrons could enjoy eight hours of almost interrupted music – without even venturing to the Sophie Lancaster tent (second stage) or the New Blood stage (which housed unsigned acts).  In general, as well, acts on Sophie and New Blood stages were of a different genre to the Ronnie James Dio stage, which meant that there was always something of interest to watch, catering for the wide variety of tastes that rockers have cultivated.

Security at the arena entrance was tight as they searched bags / pockets for weapons and alcohol (got to protect the beer sales in the arena!). Showsec staff, mostly, were pleasant, friendly and joked with the crowd as they filtered through. The proximity of the campsite and the efficiency of the Showsec staff meant that it was easy to move quickly between the camping areas and the main arenas. The festival cloakroom also provided a secure place to store bags, phones, coats and purchases from the market stalls – my husband and I purchased a weekend ticket at £16 and found the service invaluable for keeping our goods protected while he went to play in the circle pits for…pretty much the entire weekend.

Toilets, while offensive to the olfactory sense, were generally clean and well-stocked, especially in comparison to Download, Sonisphere and previous years.  Showers were available in the Midgard camp for £3.00, though a ‘no time limit’ policy meant that queues were longer than the M1. (I did not partake. I don’t have to smell myself.)

Jaegermeister stage

The Jaegermeister stage provided an acoustic venue and offered the opportunity to see bands in a different light and in what felt like an intimate environment.

Alternative Carpark – Mark (vocals) started the gig with a good crowd rapport, offering good-natured abuse to festival-goers as they walked past the stage following Coroner’s set. His clear baritone voice and easy nature drew in an audience, who appreciated friendly banter and the band’s distinctive, eclectic style. The mixture of metal and blues with a funk-style slapping bass got the audience grooving and created a feel-good atmosphere.

Rannoch – Unfortunately, I was not able to see this band ‘plugged in’ but their acoustic set showed their strength as musicians, with interplay and harmonies between the guitars and bass. The vocals oscillated between an accomplished death metal growl and occasional, contrasting clean vocals. The band seemed at ease on stage and the addition of an Irish drum (and drummer) borrowed from Middle Age-inspired death metal band ‘Haerken’ added a folk element that gave the music a unique dimension.

Obsessive Compulsive – Energetic and driving, Obsessive Compulsive’s set comprised dark, anthemic tunes complimented by Kelli’s powerful, gravelly, alto vocals. A confident frontwoman, she genuinely appreciated the audience’s enthusiastic response and expressed her gratitude to the festival for their work with unsigned musicians. As the bass pulsated, driving riffs and intricate guitar work got the crowd’s heads banging

Guardians of Andromeda – This band is one of my favourite finds of the weekend. An easy nature and sense of humour go a long way in a cosy environment like the Jaegermeister stage – and frontman Mikael has both in spades, along with a tenor voice that is reminiscent of Hansi Kursch of Blind Guardian fame. Confident guitar work and haunting melodies with a tribal undertone further sustain the fantasy-world feeling of being transported to realm of mystery, honour and valour.  Layers of vocals gave a more orchestral feeling to the acoustic set. Joined by Sarah, of Zocolo fame for the last songs, intertwining tenor and alto vocals wrote a story which was supported by inter-band interactions reminiscent of powerful, classic musical theatre duets. Guardians of Andromeda’s music is a gourmet recipe, drawing ingredients from the whole world of music, rather than simply metal and the final product is nothing short of extraordinary.

New Blood Stage

The New Blood stage showcased some of the best unsigned metal acts that the UK – and Europe – have to offer. Venues across the nation and in Norway hosted ‘Metal 2 the Masses’ heats and the winners of these competitions were handpicked by Bloodstock organisers and the founder, Simon Hall.

Entro-P – Jake’s dark, driving bass pushes Entro-P’s songs forward and several tempo changes into Meshuggah-like non-standard time signatures are ably managed by Sean, giving Entro-P’s music a sensation that takes them out of the realm of normal run-of-the-mill death metal bands. Expert tremolo picking by the guitarists, along with several complex articulations combined to create a bed of nails upon which the growling vocals can rest. All elements merged to create a gritty, doom-laden sound that is heavy as a two-tonne weight in a black hole.

Training Icarus – Vacillating between dark, heavy songs and lighter, happier tracks, Training Icarus showed a breadth and depth to their repertoire and musical talent. Frontwoman Leigh displayed a strong passion throughout the entire set. Enchanting mezzo/alto/belter vocals rested comfortably on top of Maidenesque guitars and metronone-like, driving drums. Infectious, anthemic choruses became brainworms that refused to leave. (I found myself humming ‘Nightmares’ days after the performance.)  Orchestral accompaniments provided atmosphere between the songs. The backing track also sat low enough in the mix to add a subconscious feeling of fullness while sampled harmonised vocals emphasised key phrases and gave Leigh the opportunity to provide soaring descant ad-libs over repeated choruses. In a day when metal bands often never find their way out of minor keys, the bouncy, quick-tempo, major-key tracks provided a welcome contrast that left a happy, lively feeling.

Brezno – ‘Innovative, exciting and stunning’ are the three best adjectives to describe this band. Hailing from Slovenia, the seven-piece band’s half hour set on the New Blood stage took the crowd by surprise and by storm. Keyboards, violins, wind instruments and four vocalists, ably led by Sara wove a tribal blanket of sound that was comfortably worn by everyone in the New Blood tent. A traditional Irish folk feeling haunts Brezno’s music and the lilting melodies call forth images of warriors fighting for honour, justice and truth.

Soulsphere – Despite their vocalist being unable to attend, atmospheric doom metallers Soulsphere pulled off an energetic performance with ably ad-libbed lyrics provided by stand-in Gary from the band Fallen Few. Brutal, heart-pounding riffs overdriven by a thumping bassline and jackhammer-like drums offered a suitably aggressive base for Gary’s throaty growls. Soulsphere’s brand of in-your-face metal is like a left hook to the jugular – swift, brutal and leaves you gasping for breath.

Sacred Illusion – If Iron Maiden ever decide to retire and create a reality TV programme where the younger generation audition to replace them, these guys are it. The frontman – Bruce – beyond being the namesake of one of the best voices in metal, shares with Dickinson a stunning tenor voice with an operatic tone found in the very best power metal bands. A driving rhythm section created a strong foundation, which face-melting lead work uses as a launch pad into the heavens with spiralling riffs and anthemic melodies. Tighter than many signed bands, if Sacred Illusion carry on delivering blistering performances as they did on Sunday, they will skyrocket to the top of the metal mountain in no time.

Twilight’s Embrace – Dark doom metal with some floating melodies over the top comprised Twilight’s Embrace’s set. Frontman Dee effortlessly switches between clean vocals and a powerful, death metal-inspired growl. Clean guitar behind chugging power chords creates an ethereal sensation and lonely distorted lead creates echoes of emptiness reminiscent of some Opeth tracks.

Sophie Lancaster Stage

A new addition last year, the Sophie stage this year was much more effectively used to showcase a range of bands, giving crowdgoers an alternative to the music on the Ronnie James Dio stage.

Evil Scarecrow – Parody black metal is a risky style of music. Black metal in itself is quite obscure and oftentimes black metal fans can be somewhat elitist about the genre, rejecting what could be seen as an attempt at poking fun. However, Evil Scarecrow have persevered through being ignored by metal record labels and have, grass roots style, cultivated a massive fan base who packed out the Sophie tent (capacity approximately 3,000) on Sunday. Post-gig Facebook updates have also hinted that the band members themselves handle all merchandise sales – they are the very definition of a DIY metal band. Tight as a watch spring, the five-headed, ten-legged monster appeared overwhelmed and humbled by the response of the crowd, including several crowd members who came decked out in full robot regalia for the band’s signature tune ‘Robototron’. Tracks with interweaving melodies such as ‘Blacken the Everything’ and challenging changes between time signatures such as ‘Vampyre Trousers’ affirmed that the best way to parody any sort of music is to be accomplished musicians who write good music – then add in satirical lyrics and a ‘bloody’ good stage show! Doctor Hell’s sung introduction to the most metal cover of all – ‘The Final Countdown’ –  in a clean, strong baritone voice also proved what black / death / thrash metal fans have known for years: to be a good growler, you must first be a good vocalist! True fans of metal, the band members could be seen throughout the festival not just on the Sunday but throughout the weekend – and despite the overwhelming response to their music they were still humble, down to earth and genuinely thankful to the crowd.

Powerquest – With soaring, screaming guitar riffs that flew fast as lighting from the fingers of Andy Midgley and Gav Owen, melodic and atmospheric keys from Steve Williams and some frenetically fast drumming from Rich Smith, melodic metallers Powerquest unleashed a tsunami of sound that reverberated throughout the Sophie tent. Elevated over the top of this frenzied orchestration were supreme vocals from Chitral Somapala that cut through the music like a hot knife through butter. Reminiscent of Fabio Lione (Rhapsody of Fire) and ZP Theart (ex-Dragonforce), Chitral’s operatic tenor voice and passionate performance provided the icing on the cake (an extremely powerful cake) of a musically accomplished band.

Amaranthe – An unusual blend of three vocals – a male growler, a clean tenor and a mezzo / belter female – Amaranthe has a very unique sound. With thundering bass and melodic guitars providing a scaffolding for these three to climb to the stars, the mixture of vocals was novel. I was disappointed to say that the sound during this set was of less quality than previous performances (at one point the left speaker stack cut out completely) so at times it was difficult to differentiate between Elize (female vocals) and Jake’s (clean male) vocals. Animated interactions between the vocalists onstage made the band fun to watch as well as listen to – a strong performance from all involved.

Ronnie James Dio Stage

Named after the fallen legend, the RJD stage was the main stage in the arena, housing the very best of metal talent from all over the world.

Wolf – Classic metallers Wolf, hailing from Sweden, put in a solid performance that was full of fun and life. Niklas and Simon’s lead and backing vocals intertwined like ivy and the guitars and bass provided a thrumming support that was like a magnetic draw to headbang. The band draws clear influences from 70s and 80s metal bands such as Iron Maiden and Judas Priest which could be heard in their galloping riffs and seen in their enthusiastic stage show.

Forbidden – Circle pits erupted almost instantly during Forbidden’s set as Matt Camacho’s gritty bass thundered. Craig Locicero and Steve Smyth provided sweeping, face-melting accompaniment on the guitars with brutal, in-your-face riffs. Forbidden is a band grounded firmly in American early 90s thrash –reminiscent of very early Metallica – and these guys have stuck to this overall feeling in their music. Russ Anderson’s vocals – almost a scream, almost a shout and almost sung – add to the aggressive and brutal tone, building a 45 minute wall of anger that swept over the cloud like a thunderstorm.

Triptykon – Arising, phoenix-like, from the ashes of Celtic Frost, Triptykon’s heavy, doom-laden sound slowed down the pace of the day and provided a welcome rest from the circle pits and frenzied pace from earlier. Tom Gabriel Warrior’s part whispered, part growled, part sung vocals created a sense of intimacy in an open field designed for 10,000 people – not an easy task! Slow, heavy guitars painted a backdrop of darkness for the anger-fuelled lyrics and created a sense of trepidation in the crowd. Solos drifted over the top like a murder of crows, hanging heavy in the air.

Coroner – With a slow, melodic, acoustic introduction, Coroner misled audience members unfamiliar with their work to believe that their set would be a laid back one – this was definitely not the case! Self described as ‘technical thrash metal’, Ron Broder (bass) and Tommy Vetterli (guitars) illustrated this expertly, alternately juxtaposing intricate melodies and layering complex, galloping riffs that ploughed forward like a steam train. Marky Edelmann’s drums drove the music forward while never drawing emphasis from the melody at hand. Ron’s vocals were strong, a gravelly tone – almost a scream – and they rested comfortably on top of the guitars.

Wasp – Enthusiastic crowd interactions from front man Blackie Lawless created a feeling of togetherness in the crowd. The band seemed genuinely pleased to play the festival and they involved the crowd by running competitions and even pulling a fan from the crowd to sing ‘I Wanna Be Somebody’. Catchy songs and natural showmanship left the audience calling for more. Their choice of a ballad encore was unusual but finished off the day quite nicely, in a peaceful and happy ambience.

Tarot – Marco Hietala, of Nightwish fame, fronts this classic style metal band that were widely requested on the Bloodstock forums. Marco’s voice is incredibly unique – a gravelly baritone that often spirals into a higher, distorted tenor. Contrasted with Tommi Salmela’s classic rock style falsetto, the two men’s voices criss-crossed into a tapestry of pure energy. Zachary Hietala’s melodic guitar and Janne Tolsa’s keys similarly supported each other, alternating lead that floated above Marco’s metronome-like bass. Despite tripping over Tommi and one point and falling down backward onto the stage, Marco’s playing was solid and his frontmanship is second to none with humorous stories between songs and enthusiastic interaction with the crowd. The members are all clearly at ease and comfortable with each other, laughing their way through the set and genuinely enjoying each other’s company onstage, interacting effortlessly and occasionally poking fun at each other in a light-hearted way. Tarot appeared to really enjoy playing Bloodstock and the overwhelming sensation of happiness swept over the crowd, who eagerly chanted for them to return.

Finntroll – Black folk metallers Finntroll are repeatedly one of the most requested bands on the Bloodstock forum. With two keyboardists and three guitarists (‘Trollhorn’ doubles), intricately intertwining melodies rolled forth at the speed of light, evoking images of Middle Earth or of days long gone by. Catchy melodies flowed easily over heavy guitars and several pits erupted at once when they played their signature tune ‘Trollhammaren’ with several crowd members dancing Irish jig-style. Windmilling instrumentalists added to the spectacle and Vreth’s growling vocals fit easily into the mix, loud enough to be heard but not so loud as to distract from the melodies cascading from the keys and guitars. While it would have been nice to see the band in full regalia (fake troll ears and all), they put in an exciting and energetic show.

Ihsahn – Black / progressive metal, Ihsahn (from Emperor stock) provided – at times – screaming, blistering riffs that exploded off the stage, with aggressive, growling vocals and melodic keyboards. The machine gun-like staccato of the drums carried the melody forward in these tracks. Contrasting, slower songs carried a sense of trepidation, supported by the rasping black metal inspired vocals.

Wintersun – Hotly anticipated by fans who feared that the band would pull out of the festival, as they have in the past, Finnish folk metallers Wintersun did not disappoint. Switching between lightning-fast, syncopated, tremolo-picked, euphoric riffs that burst from the stage and slower, sweeter melodies that evoked a sense of peace and sorrow, Wintersun truly showed their range as musicians. Enthusiastic frontmanship accompanied a tight set. Jari Mäenpää’s vocals provided a rougher contrast to the smoothness of the music; his clear enunciation meant that his lyrics could be easily understood. Solid double kick drumming from Kai Hahto added to the frenetic feeling of the faster songs, while providing articulation and accompaniment to the slower tunes. The melody lines are infectious and memorable, providing a testimonial to the fans that their pleas for Wintersun’s appearance have not been in vain.

Therion – If Wagner had Marshalls, he would have written this. Combining the very best elements from classic opera and heavy metal, Therion is the most innovative band I saw throughout the weekend. Each song told a story, ably pantomimed and staged by four talented vocalists. Samples added to the orchestral, operatic feeling of the music, in addition to a melodic flute solo. The set started off slowly with ballads, and the band’s new mezzo soprano vocalist (Linnéa Vikström – Thomas Vikström’s daughter) was introduced. Lori Lewis’ coloratura soprano easily soared over the top of the other three vocalists, providing descants that spiralled into the stratosphere in a clear, piercing tone that would make Sarah Brightman jealous. As the band moved to heavier songs, the instrumentalists struck traditional metal poses, headbanging and interacting with each other, which juxtaposed effectively with the vocalists’ theatrical performances. The pent-up energy of the crowd exploded. The best way to describe this performance would be as a Gothic rainbow of energy and sound – eclectic, powerful and amazing.

Rhapsody of Fire – Possibly the most technically accomplished guitarist in the metal scene (if not the world), Luca Turilli’s fingers of flame did not disappoint the thronging crowd. With such an accomplished musician in a band, it can happen that other musicians become overshadowed – however, this was distinctly not the case! Patrice Guers’ jackhammer-like bass seemed glued with industrial strength adhesive to Alex Holzwarth’s drums, over which the guitars could leapfrog. Fabio Lione’s vocals were strong and clear, like golden laser beam shooting over the crowd. Christopher Lee’s voice provided a suitably epic introduction. The inclusion of the Italian language ballad ‘Lamento Erocio’, while a strange choice, was a fantastic performance, delivered with sentiment and intensity that brought a tear to the eye. Finishing strong with the frenetic, harmonised ‘Emerald Sword’, Rhapsody of Fire’s performance lifted the mood in the audience to euphoric levels and left them begging for more.

Hammerfall – With a slightly odd set list that left out a number of old classics (‘Renegade’ for one), Hammerfall, nevertheless, gave an enthusiastic performance with a number of songs that got the audience singing along, including the Quiet Riot cover ‘Bang Your Head’. Joacim Cans’ voice was on top form and his easy nature with the audience created a lively, fun atmosphere of celebration. Changing between slower, heavier songs (‘Last Man Standing) and technical, intricate songs that sped faster than a speeding bullet, Hammerfall clearly demonstrated their range as musicians. As they ended with the anthemic ‘Let the Hammer Fall’, the 45 minute set seemed far too short.

Motorhead – A statement released after Bloodstock explained that the three-piece hard rock band had been suffering from a virus which explains why their performance was not up to the standard expected by their fans. Firebreathing girls added some spectacle and guitarist Phil Campbell did his best to take over frontman duties, offering an extended guitar solo. Drummer Mikkey Dee had to leave the stage at one point but returned to perform a phenomenal drum solo from his perch high above the stage. Disappointingly, the band finished 20 minutes early after a somewhat lacklustre performance – while this was explained in retrospect on the Bloodstock forums, it would have been preferable to have that explanation on the night because, after the quality of music heard all weekend, the disappointing act of the final headliner left the festival on a bit of a down note. If there had been an official explanation before or just after Motorhead’s performance, the crowd would have been grateful to the band for making the effort to come on and play, despite less than ideal circumstances, rather than disappointed and annoyed.

Overall, Bloodstock this year was the best Bloodstock I have attended in terms of organisation, variety of bands and atmosphere. Well done to the organisers and roll on BOA 2012!

Melissa Adams

Powerwolf – Blood Of The Saints [2011]

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , on 16th August 2011 by Nico Davidson

Band: Powerwolf
Album: Blood Of The Saints
Release year: 2011
Genre: Power Metal/Werewolf Metal 


Powerwolf, well known for their grim sounding music, are back with their latest album “Blood Of the Saints”. The band’s keyboardist Falk described the album as “100% Powerwolf” and stated it will take off from where “Bible Of The Beast” finished. The new album [Blood Of The Saints] was recorded in five different studios and a church and brings back the use of classical elements that were also found on the previous album.

”Angus Dei” [Latin for the Lamb of God] is the introductory track of the album. The choir and church bells create a very grim, dark and eerie sound and atmosphere. The narrated voiceover adds emphasis to the haunting sound, as do the organs that soon follow. The track ends somewhat terrifyingly when the voiceover grimly says “Blood Of The Saints”. “Sanctified With Dynamite” starts brilliantly with the combination of vocals, guitars, organs and drums. Shortly after, the track is soon more guitar and drums orientated, speeding up the pace of the song. The vocals mix a strong operatic sound with a raw, almost-thrash metal sound which is interesting – Though in some sections, the vocals are purely operatic. The organs add the dark sound to the music which Powerwolf are so famous. The drums mix well with the changing sounds in the song as well.

The grizzly titled “We Drink Your Blood” begins with an interesting keyboard medley that is soon enough replaced by a heavy, face-melting guitar section – Fortunate for those who may not like keyboard medleys. The vocals are still raw sounding with that touch of operatic sound, though much lower on this song – Which isn’t a bad thing. The chorus well composed, adding a grim touch to the lyrics. The organ sections help bring a touch of Victorian-styled horror to the song and the drums are precise to the beat. The choir style vocals help the song sound extra Gothic.

“Murder At Midnight” seems like a name for a cheesy 1950s horror movie but the track is far from cheesy. Beginning with a slow, atmospheric guitar riff, the vocals creep in softly, painting the musical canvas with brilliant lyrics. After the first vocal section, the song picks up the pace and becomes heavier as well. Musically, the song seems a tad cheery for what a Powerwolf track though the vocals assure the listener that it is still Powerwolf that they’re listening to. The organs add a gloomy touch to the song when they’re played. Some of the riffs are pretty melodic, adding a brilliant sound to the song. The guitar solo virtually completes the song. The use of a wolf’s howl after the solo is a great effect for the song. The next track, “All We Need Is Blood”, begins with strong, low-sounding operatic vocals, choirs and organs. The guitars and drums, fortunately, follow straight after bringing an assault of metal of with them. Lyrics that are heard in the song such as “All we need is blood” makes the song sound like a vampire metal anthem, though any fan of Powerwolf will know there’s another story within the lyrics. “All We Need Is Blood” is certainly one of the best songs on the album, both lyrically and musically, as it changes sounds several times, making it a worthy power metal anthem!

”Dead Boys Don’t Cry” has a haunting introduction made up of primarily organs and vocals with a slight use of guitars. When the guitars begin to dominate the track, the temp increases massively. The vocals are more raw and aggressive than they have been. Even the music seems to have more bite to it. “Son Of A Wolf” brings back the use of melodic riffs with a raw edge. The vocals and organs add a very grim atmosphere and sound to the song. The guitars and drums are well played and the guitar solo is amazing. “Night Of The Werewolves” starts with a soft, palm-muted intro which is slightly drowned out by the organs and vocals. The power metal sound comes belting out of the speakers straight after however, favouring aggression and speed over melody it seems. The vocals mix their raw sound with an operatic sound once more. The riffs sound violent and bloodthirsty and the drums despite being precise, have a hint of barbaric aggressiveness to them. The vocal melodies in the chorus are hypnotic and catchy. The raw sounding narration, spoken in Latin, adds a very unique sound to the song.

”The Phantom Of Funeral” begins with choirs and organs, giving it a very dramatic feel. The vocals are, again, raw and angsty. The guitars don’t have much punch to them on this track in some sections. The vocal are extremely impressive throughout this track and the drums are masterfully played. “Die, Die, Crucified” begins with a very catchy riff which stays in the listener’s head for hours on end. The vocals are back to sounding more operatic. The use of melodic riffs make their return to this track as well for the chorus. The vocals are very majestic sounding, which is strange for Powerwolf but works awesomely at the same time.

The album finishes with “Ira Sancti (When The Saints Go Wild)”. The intro organ section sounds eerily similar to the keyboard riffs of “Nymphetamine” by Cradle Of Filth. The vocals blend well with the organ section before the guitars and drums kick in. The organ and vocals carry on doing their part even when the chaos of guitars and drums break in. The track is mostly dominated by organs and vocals, though the other instruments do appear in various sections. “Ira Sancti (When The Saints Go Wild)” brings a very mystical end to the album.

”Blood Of The Saints” is an interesting album from the Teutonic-Romanian metallers that are “Powerwolf”. They have outdone themselves with the mixture of metal, choirs and classical elements. While some tracks are fairly mellow, the others have plenty of bite, so there’s plenty for everyone on this album – even if you’re not a fan of Powerwolf’s unique form of power metal, this album is worth every penny and would make a great addition to your album collection.

4.5/5

Nico Davidson

The Obscene – The Torment Of Sinners [2011]

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , on 30th July 2011 by Nico Davidson

Band: The Obscene
Album: The Torment Of Sinners EP
Release year: 2011
Genre: Old School Death Metal

The United Kingdom underground metal scene is home to many great extreme (death & black) metal bands such as Hecate Enthroned and Venom. However, they’re not the only bands that have they’re home in the British underground. The Obscene, who keep death metal old school, are another band on the rise in the underground and their recent EP “The Torment Of Sinners” is just another step to the top for them.

”The Storm To Come”, aptly named, is the introduction to the EP. The use of sound effects throughout it, until the guitars and drum appear, leaves the listener on the edge of their seats – In a similar fashion to an extremely terrifying horror film. The guitars and drums are certainly old school in their composition. “The Storm To Come” finishes with what sounds to be the mutilated scream of a woman being stabbed, which introduces the second track “Embrace Oblivion”. The terrifying and violent concoction of vocals, guitars and drums greets the listener brutally at the beginning. The guitars are raw and just bursting with energy and the drum work is precise to the beat, brutal and intelligent.

”Grim Discovery” is composed of a voiceover which is a man speaking of bashing in a woman’s head – Can’t get any more violent than that unless you add in some raw, untamed death metal riffage which is exactly what The Obscene do, adding to the aggression and shock-value of the track. Beginning in a similar fashion to “Embrace Oblivion” is the slow yet heavy track entitled “Beyond The Hold Of God”. Some of the guitar sections seem to be choppy and lacking consistency though the listener can certainly feel the anger of the music – Which is a great thing for the hardcore fans of death metal. The drums are most impressive, more impressive the beast-like vocals.

”Skiprat Jane” begins with a voiceover of a female asking to borrow a body. The guitar riff that follows is just savage whilst the drums are on the verge of being Wall of China falling on a skull heavy! The vocals are pretty much bloodthirsty and hateful. Incorrectly named, “The Final Silence” comes shredding next – Bringing blissful death metal styled loudness with it. The scream, before the growls, sounds a tad like the ones found on a Venom record. The riffs are ingenious, mixing well with the hard-bitten drums, which sound to be doing a lot of the work in some sections. The vocals have a more beasty and demonic sound as well.

The last five tracks of the EP are bonus tracks, which can be found on the “Destroying the Heavens” EP from when the band went under a different name. The first of these bonus tracks is “P. S. A. S”. The guitars and drums certainly sound raw and unrefined, a good trait indeed. The vocals, on the other hand, sound more akin to black metal as opposed to death metal. The softer and clean section is certainly not what the listener would expect to find on this track – Fortunately it doesn’t last long before the track turns heavy again. “Destroying The Heavens” begins slow and clean, disappointingly. Though the blood-curdling scream signals for a change in weight and tempo for the track. The riffs and drums are barbaric and the vocals sound feral.

“The Man, The Martyr” brings the anger and savagery straight from the beginning. The music seems more fiery and rage-fuelled and the vocals are frenzied, much like a berserker. “Circle Of Despair” is different sounding as it seems to be more classic rock orientated, rather than death metal – though the vocals do keep a certain death metal dynamic to the track. The EP finishes with “And The Rivers Ran Black”, a track whose intro sounds slightly Gorgoroth inspired. The vocals are still raw and feral, whilst the music is savage, barbaric and bloodthirsty – A true death metal combination. You really couldn’t ask for a better track to finish the EP with.

”The Torment Of Sinners” might sound like a line out of the bible but the EP is far from biblical. The riffs and drum work would have Satan himself leaving a brown streak in his boxers and the vocals would give any demon a run for their money. Production wise, the songs are raw and aggressive – Perfect for the old school style of The Obscene. Despite the clean and slow guitar sections, “The Torment Of Sinners” is an interesting and entertaining EP, that’s not just for Hallowe’en, a jewel in Britain’s underground metal scene.

4/5

Nico Davidson

Drygva – The Son Of The Mighty Rod [2010]

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , on 29th July 2011 by Nico Davidson

Band: Drygva
Album: The Son Of The Mighty Rod
Release year: 2010
Genre: Folk Metal/Pagan Metal/Slavic Metal

Drygva, a two-piece folk metal band from Belarus whom are extremely proud of their ancestral roots and heritage, bring something new to folk metal, a genre that seems to focus on Vikings and drinking. Their debut album, “The Son Of The Mighty Rod”, has been described as being able to take the listener back to age-old times of the pre-Christian Slavic peoples.

“The Prophesy” is the first track of the album, though it is more of a prelude than an actual track, being composed of the sound of horses, wind, acoustic guitars and other folk instrumentation, alongside narration in the band’s native tongue. “Path of Volkhves” calmly follows next with a flute medley introduction. The track turns savage with the introduction of the vocals. The guitars and drums are beefy and violent, whilst the lyrics, growled in Drygva’s native tongue, add a very folk element to the song. The flute and and string medleys add a harmonious yet dramatic atmosphere. The song, unexpectedly, finishes serenely.

The third song, “Mother of Enhydris” begins with a slow, melodic and wild intro, which sounds more tame when the flutes come in. Everything in the song seems to blend perfectly well from the masterfully composed flute sections to the savage yet intelligent guitar and drum work. The vocals sound raw and feral, adding to the mastery of the track. The tribal-like instrumental break half way through the track is different but brilliant and it works oddly well with the guitars before they fully take over the track again. “Son Of Mighty Rod” starts with a strange sounding guitar-flute intro. Some of the guitar sections lack consistency and don’t work too well with the other instruments in parts. The vocals are still impressive, as are the flutes. “Son Of Mighty Rod” is, at best, an average track with room for improvement in terms of the guitars.

The first interlude-styled track of the album is next in the form of “The Watchword”. The track features more narration in the band’s native tongue as well as tribal drum work and some guitar work, though the flute medleys pretty much are the best thing about “The Watchword”. “Under The Banner Of Perun” blasts its way next with a beastly drum section and face-melting guitar riffs. The folk instrumentation adds a very mythic sound to the song, keeping the grand and majestic sound of the album flowing. The carnal vocals keep the track brutal sounding as well. If there was one song that perfectly defines the sound of “Drygva”, then “Under The Banner Of Perun” is certainly is that song!

Nearing towards the end of the album is “Sigh Of War”. The flute medley that begins it is very serene and soothing whilst the guitar riff that follows is feral and ferocious. The drum work is acute, heavy and barbaric and the vocals are aggressive. Some of the flute medleys sound similar to the ones found earlier in the album, which is disappointing. The guitar solo is a genius addition to the track. The second and final interlude of the album comes next. “Thunderstorm” seems wrongly named at first due to the calm music that echoes throughout it, mixed with the whispered narration. However, a strong and powerful guitar riff follows, mixed with drums, folk instruments and the roaring sound of thunder.

”If You Shall Die In Battle” begins with the sound of men screaming in battle and the roaring sound of a melodic riff. The drum are thunderous and savage, whilst the flute sections are intelligently played. The song seems to get more fast-paced and violent as it goes on. The vocals are still strong, feral and bloodthirsty. The sound samples of men fighting in armed combat mix in well with the theme of the song, though it does give it a slight Viking Metal feel. The album finishes with “Festal Song”, a more folk orientated song sounding a little bit like the old song “Greensleeves”. The mighty sound of metal does make itself heard on this track – Fortunately enough for those who can’t stand folk music on its own. The vocals don’t seem as impressive on this track however and some of the riffs seem choppy.

As a debut album, “The Son Of The Mighty Rod” is not extremely impressive but it is better than average. Their blend of folk music and metal is certainly unique sounding and the use of lyrics in their native tongue gives the album a very folkish feel. There are some sections that need working upon and the of interludes throughout the album did take away from its musical impact but Drygva do certainly show a great deal of talent and hopefully they will be releasing more albums in the near future.

3.5/5

Nico Davidson

Broken Mirrors – Strong Enough [2010]

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , on 27th July 2011 by Nico Davidson

Band: Broken Mirrors
Album: Strong Enough
Release year: 2010
Genre: Melodic Death Metal/Thrash Metal

Broken Mirrors, whom formed back in 2007, are apart of the unsung French metal scene. Combining melodic death metal with thrash metal, the band have been on a roll since forming, despite line-up changes. 2010 saw the release of their EP “Strong Enough”, which features two original tracks that are due to appear on their next full-length album and two punk covers.

The first track of the EP is the title track “Strong Enough”. The intro is completely synth orientated until the sound of eerie, melodic guitars with soft drums, which isn’t the kind of intro that is expected – Already ruining the atmosphere and EP. The track, luckily, does become heavier though staying slow-paced with the synth section reappearing which sounds like something heard on a Zelda game. The tempo does increase a fair bit later in the track though the song does keep switching between synth medleys and guitar riffs, which takes some getting used to. The vocals sound to be leaning more towards a black metal or metalcore effect as opposed to a death metal style. The guitar solo is mediocre though does show potential for the track to improve though the synth solo that follows doesn’t give the track much justice. Already, the EP is off to a, at most, mediocre start.

”Holding The Trigger” is melodic and average paced to begin with though brilliantly composed and beasty. The vocals have more bite to them and the synth sections do well to bring a different sound to the song. The drums are beefy and heavy. “Holding The Trigger” feels and sounds so much more aggressive, the way a thrash/death metal track should be. The voice overs in the middle with the sci-fi sounding synth add a very unique sound to the EP as well. The listener can certainly hear the death metal and thrash influences and elements on this track. The guitar solo is melodic and gentle yet like a raging lion at the same time. “Holding The Trigger” is certainly an improvement.

The last two songs on the EP are the previously mentioned punk covers. The first of these covers is “The Kids Aren’t Alright”, originally performed by The Offspring. It contains an old-skool punk feel to it yet bringing in a modern, beck-breaking metal sound, brilliantly mixing old and new together. The vocals are raw and full of angst, pretty much dominating the track. Broken Mirrors have certainly made this one sound like one of their own songs. The second cover and last song on the EP is “Anarchy In The UK” – A song originally performed by the infamous punk pioneers known as Sex Pistols. The synth parts don’t seem to fit in well with the other instruments. The vocals have a very punk touch to them, which would make the occasional listener to metal mistake this song for a punk version of the cover. The guitars have a lot of bite to them, whilst the drums just seem typically punk.

Despite the mediocre beginning and some dodgy synth riffs, “Strong Enough” is a decent release and a good example of what can be expected of the French metal scene. Broken Mirrors do show quite a bit of potential to be well-known on the international metal scene, they just need to work on the synth sections mainly.

3.5/5

Nico Davidson

Vinlanders [Band Review]

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on 27th July 2011 by Nico Davidson

Band: Vinlanders
Country: Canada
Genre: Folk Metal
Site:
Vinlanders @ Facebook

Folk Metal, originally a genre that originated in the United Kingdom, has slowly become an international genre with folk metal bands appearing in places like Finland, Argentina and Germany. In the snowy lands of Canada, folk metal is slowly on the rise and part of that rise are “Vinlanders”.

Like any decent folk metal band, Vinlanders have a brilliant use of melodic guitar riffs and folk instrumentation, as can be heard in their song “Duel Of Hundred Lights”. The folks are raspy and aggressive whilst the cleaner vocals have that hint of folk singing to them. The drum work is cleverly done, staying very consistent with the progression of the song. “Vinlanders (Defend The Land)” is a most interesting track to listen to as its introduction has a medieval-meets-Ensiferum sound and there is a use of what sounds to be lyrics in a foreign language which makes the song feel like a native folk song from the olden days. The only issue with these two tracks is that they don’t seem to be heavy enough to be folk metal, though they are brilliantly composed.

”Northern Sea Journey” is very solemn to begin with, due to the slow-paced and gentle introduction. Even the guitars are very solemn in their playing. The folk instrumentation is just brilliant and the clean vocals give the song a very majestic folk feel, though the harsher vocals don’t seem to blend well with the track. The song finishes with an immense use of acoustic guitars, flute medleys and clean vocals. “Exiled” is an odd track to begin with, as the introduction doesn’t quite seem folky though the accordion riff that follows does give the song a more folk-meets-pirate feel which is an improvement. The guitars and drums certainly play their parts well, contrasting with the accordion and harsh vocals. The biggest downfall of the track is that the clean vocals seem to overpower the music in sections, though this is no fault of the band’s.

”Vinlanders” certainly have the potential to be a great folk metal band and could easily be touring alongside the likes of Moonsorrow, Ensiferum and Tyr in the near future. Fans of folk metal should keep an eye – and ear – out for this very talented band in their quest of bringing epic Canadian folk metal to the world.

Nico Davidson

Blackthorn – Gossamer Witchcraft [2010]

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , on 26th July 2011 by Nico 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

Concept Of Time – Breathe [2011]

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , on 26th July 2011 by Nico Davidson

Band: Concept Of Time
Album: Breathe
Release year: 2011
Genre: Dark Symphonic Metal

Scotland, a land merged in folklore, Celtic heritage and the history of the bloody politics of the clans is home to a quite varied metal scene. Scotland is probably more known, in terms of metal, for the pirate metal band “Alestorm” than any other band. However, deep in it’s metal underground likes a dark, symphonic metal band called “Concept Of Time” who have been slowly but gradually establishing a fan base in the Scottish underground, gaining interest from webzines and magazines alike. “Concept Of Time” have gone onto support the likes of former Iron Maiden vocalist Blaze Bayley, Serenity, Kamelot and have even gone as far as playing at Bloodstock, sahring the stage with well-known bands such as Nightwish, Alestorm, Opeth and Iced Earth. “Concept Of Time” returned to the studio for the making of their digital release “Breathe”.

The EP begins with “The End Is Just The Beginning” which starts with radio voiceovers and a faded air raid siren. As the radio voice overs end, the song truly begins with a symphonic-heavy section and a driving guitar riff with precise to the beat drum work. The vocals are how they usually are styled in symphonic metal – operatic sounding and powerful. The symphonic sections are certainly well-composed, giving the track extra energy.

“Breathe” the title track, makes its way next with an immense symphonic-stylised intro which makes the song feel tragic and dramatic. The drum and guitar work adds a certain element to “Breathe” as well, making it that more enjoyable. The guitar solo however feels as if it has occurred too soon, leaving the listener expecting some epic to happen straight after it. Later on, the drum work seems to be lacking a little bit in comparison to the orchestration.
The slow and haunting introduction of “Visions” can be heard next before the tempo and heaviness increases while retaining a certain softness. The lack of guitar in some sections is disappointing though the piano and bass combination make up for that, fortunately enough. The guitar solo appears later on in the song, creating a sagaic sound for the track. The EP finishes with “A Dream Of Dystopia”, a track that has more bite, aggression and darkness than the previous three tracks. The vocals sound slightly more ruthless as well but still remain operatic and calm. The orchestration certainly brings with it a very grim, intense and dramatic atmosphere whilst the guitar solo seems to add to the aggression of the song. “A Dream Of Dystopia” finishes on a very solemn note.

It’s not hard to see why Concept Of Time have become a successful and domineering force in Scotland’s (and the UK’s) underground metal scene. The band is clearly made up of talented musicians, each of whom bring something different to the songs. “Breathe” is definitely a release worth adding to any symphonic metal fan’s collection.

4/5

Nico Davidson

Adamus Exul – Death, Paint A Vision [2010]

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 24th July 2011 by Nico Davidson

Band: Adamus Exul
Album: Death Paint A Vision
Release year: 2010
Genre: Black Metal

Australia is a typical tourist destination due to it’s wonderful sights and hot weather – Too hot for frostbitten music like black metal one would think, however, this is not the case because in the shadows of Australia’s tourist destinations lies an ever brutal, ever frostbitten, ever extreme black metal scene and at the heart of that scene are Adamus Exul.

The first track of “Death, Paint A Vision” is called “Dreams Of Desolation”. Even at a low volume, the listener’s ears are savagely assaulted by a great mix of guitars and double bass pedals. The vocals are strong, raw and beasty – As is to be expected of any black metal band. Interestingly, there are some slightly melodic sections which keeps the track entertaining. The drums are precise, almost machine-like though still barbaric and face-smashingly heavy.

”Ruins Of Zion” mixes melody with sheer aggression in its introduction whilst the rest of the track seems to favour straight forward brutality over melody, though this is not a bad thing for fans of no-holds-barred black metal. The use of a speech over is certainly unexpected but fits in well with the theme of the song. The vocal section that follows sounds very much like Dimmu Borgir and a casual listener to black metal would certainly make the mistake of believing it to be Shagarth. Another interesting section of this track is the short section that sounds very much like a breakdown of some sort.

The title track, “Death, Paint A Vision” favours a melodic yet bone smashing approach at the beginning. The drums add to the savagery of the track, whilst the vocals help it sound more beastly. Whilst the title of the track is somewhat poetic and intelligent, the track itself is the complete opposite, bombarding the listener with bloodthirsty riffs and demonic-like vocals. “Death, Paint A Vision” is very much like an old-skool Gorgoroth track in sections due to the fast tempos and sheer aggressive brutality. “In Absentia” is the half way point of the album and the interlude. Shockingly, “In Absentia” is acoustic though the acoustic guitar is a welcome change for those tired of orchestrated interludes.

“Echoes Of Self Destruction” tears its way through the album next, beginning with a frightening and hellish introduction of pounding guitars and drums. The vocals are more aggressive and unholy-sounding as well, mixing well with the demonic essence of the track. Though “Echoes Of Self Destruction”, there are small sections of melodic guitar licks every now and then which do keep the track interesting. The use of acoustic guitar returns as well, adding a certain calmness to the hurricane-like force of black metal, though this calm doesn’t long before the hurricane returns. “Abhorrent Euchrist” changes the style of the album a bit, bring a more melodic use to the album, which is both weird and refreshing. Even the vocals have changed, sounding more raspy, to fit in with the melodic stylings of the track. Drums still sound good despite becoming somewhat lighter for this track and the guitars seem to have less distortion. Fortunately for those who prefer black metal screams over raspy vocals, the screams make a triumphant return towards the end of “Abohorrent Euchrist”.

The final piece of the album is the song “Ashes” which like the previous song, begins melodically. However, “Ashes” brings back the raw aggression and savagery found on the rest of the album. The sound on this track seems to be more raw and barbaric with everything sounding like they have more punch. Interestingly, the acoustic guitar, once again, returns but combined with some majorly angry growls, making for a strange yet brilliantly created sound. Unfortunately, the sound doesn’t last for long. A military styled drum roll also makes an appearance, working well alongside the raw guitar riffs.

Adamus Exul bring a new sound to black metal with “Death, Paint A Vision” whilst sticking to an old skool Norwegian black metal sound as well. Most of the tracks are reminiscent of the early black metal scene in Norway while containing a fresh feel. Adamus Exul are certainly a band to keep an ear out for because they could be dominating more than Australian metal scene soon enough.

4/5

Nico Davidson

Disaster Plan – Disaster Plan EP [2010]

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , on 21st July 2011 by Nico Davidson

Band: Disaster Plan
Album: Disaster Plan EP
Release year: 2010
Genre: Post-Hardcore

Australia is a nation best known for it’s poisonous spiders and kangaroos. Unbeknown to most people, there is a fast-growing hardcore scene within Australia and Adelaide-based Disaster Plan have been a part of said scene since mid-2010.

”Pestilence” begins with a heavy but slightly choppy intro, which is straight away a let-down for the listener. The vocals sound like a mixture of black metal and hardcore screams whilst the cleaner, less harsh vocals sound of key. There are some good melodic licks throughout the track and the drums are precise to the beat. Some of the guitar work is great in sections but overall choppy. Clearly there is clearly a lot of work that needs to be done to improve this track.

”The Shark Didn’t Bite Me, He Raped Me” starts with a more consistent, melodic intro section combined with the spoken words of “Game over”, which is a pretty cool effect. The screams sound more hardcore-orientated though the clean vocals still sound out of key. Most of the sections have a decent flow them to them though there are a few choppy sections that could do with improvement. The solo is quite unexpected yet it certainly makes up for the not-so-impressive guitar riffs earlier in the song. The only other issue with “The Shark Didn’t Bite Me, He Raped Me” is that it’s too long and this could be quite irritating and unentertaining for a casual listener of hardcore and post-hardcore.

The third track is “Love Lost At Sea”, beginning with a bass and drums introduction. Overall, this one isn’t particularly interesting or great. It seems to lack the heaviness, brutality and passion of the previous two tracks – Even though the riffs seem more consistent and flow better. The poorly composed introduction of “The Ramifications Of Skydiving Without A Parachute” follows after. The track does gradually improve, however. Both the screams and clean vocals sound and feel stronger, while the guitars and drums become more violent and barbaric whilst retaining a hint of intelligence.

The final track, also the bonus track, “Alcoholic” is different to the rest of the EP as it begins with a very soft intro and increases only by a bit in terms of heaviness. The guitars don’t seem to really work well with the screams on this track and in parts the drums sound to be drowned out by everything else. This track really just leaves the listener thinking “So what?”.

Disaster Plan’s self-titled EP is not impressive but it isn’t terribly bad either. It lays somewhere in the middle. Whilst some sections do need a considerable about of work other sections show that Disaster Plan have potential to become a household name in the international hardcore scene.

3/5

Nico Davidson

Tersivel – For One Pagan Brotherhood [2011]

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , , on 19th July 2011 by Nico Davidson

Band: Tersivel
Album: For One Pagan Brotherhood
Release year: 2011
Genre: Folk Metal/Pagan Metal

South America is well known for its vast metal scene and community which grows day by day with new bands appearing on the scene. Argentinian pagan metallers “Tersivel” have been a dominating force within this scene since forming in 2006. “For One Pagan Brotherhood” is the third studio release by Tersivel and their first full length album.

The album begins with the synth-guitar intro of “As Brothers We Shall Fight”. An aggressive guitar-double bass pedal combined riff follows after, creating a machine gun sound effect, which is well suited to the song due to the title. The vocals switch between brutal grunts and powerful clean vocals, both of which give the track more punch. The last half of the song seems to be calmer compared to the violent sounding first half, however, this does not take anything away from the music. The synth and keyboard sections certainly bring some very interesting parts as well. “As Brothers We Shall Fight” is a very sagaic song and brilliant choice to begin the album with.

”The Heathen Sun Of Revenge” begins with a true folk sounding intro in the form of clean vocals, folk instrumentation and acoustic guitars. The track eventually turns heavy but still keeps that good ol’ folk feel about it, which contrasts strangely well with the aggression of the guitars and drums. The clean vocals add a very solemn and sorrowful sound to the track. It ends with an epic synth section.

Straight after is “Far Away in the Distant Skies” with a very synth-heavy intro, though this doesn’t ruin the composition or sound of the song, as the synth leads into a violent guitar riff. The harsh vocals, in true folk metal style, are raw and aggressive while the cleaner vocals are strong but still have that raw edge to them. The drum work is intelligent yet barbaric, bring a new dynamic of brutality to the album. The piano medley in the second half of the song is a very calming section and emotionally touching at times. The guitar solo that soon follows is masterfully played.

”High Germany – Erin’s Jig” is another song that has a folk sound at the beginning. Though the dominating force of guitars, drums and synth soon replace the majestic folk-like intro. The folk and metal sections bounce off each other exceedingly well. The flute medleys complement the clean vocals, making the listener feel as if they’re back in pre-Christian Europe. Without a doubt, this is one of the more impressive tracks of the album – Which is saying a lot considering most, if not all, of the songs are impressive. “And Fires Also Died Away” begins with a darker sound compared to the grand, sagaic and folk sounding introductions of the other songs. The tempo eventually increases but the song stays solemn and dark.

”Those Days Are Gone” carries on the heartbroken feel of the previous song. This one is mostly acoustic guitar orientated with some subtle orchestration that blends well with the clean vocals.  Beginning the second half of the album is the accordion-dominated “Tarantella Siciliana” [Which is also the name of a folk dance in Sicily]. The song contains that “get up and party until you pass out” feel that conjures up images of happy villagers dancing around in celebration.

Beginning with a synth-guitar-drum intro, “We Are The Fading Sun” blasts its way next. A dark, heavy piano medley follows the intro and is soon replaced by a vicious, face-melting guitar riff. Vocally, the track is dominated by harsh vocals to begin with, though the clean vocals do get some pretty epic sections as well. The chorus, itself, is very catchy. There is a calm section roughly half way through which suddenly turns heavy dramatic within the blink of an eye. The use of keyboards and guitars towards the end is brilliant. “We Are The Fading The Sun” leaves the listener wanting more.

Fortunately enough, the listener gets more in the form of “Aeolian Islands”. Like some of the previous pieces on the album, “Aeolian Islands” is composed of acoustic guitar, along with some use of flutes. It certainly has a very folk feel to it. “Cosa Nostra” starts with a keyboard-heavy riff, which carries on through most of the track. The vocals, to begin with, sound out of key and do sort of ruin the music, however in the chorus, they do improve massively.

The second to last track is “Pagan Nation”, beginning with the sound of swords followed by an aggressive guitar section. The keyboard sections are grand, majestic and awesome. The drums and guitars are aggressive and brutal, as they should be. The vocals are immense, contrasting well with the music. Overall, the track is very sagaic. The final song is “Cruzat Beer House” [named after a pub in Buenos Aires, Argentina]. The intro is a slow, melodic piano medley which is soon accompanied by an acoustic guitar. The song soon begins to feel like a good ol’ fashioned drinking anthem with the introduction of the accordions. Even the vocals echo the sound of a good time to be had with beer. The fast and slow tempos of the song certainly add to it’s folky jig-like feel. This will certainly become a drinking song for folk metallers around the world.

”For One Pagan Brotherhood” seems different compared to other folk metal releases – Be it the lack of Viking/Celt-based lyrics or the use of accordions with a brilliant combination of clean and harsh vocals. Of course, it’s different in the good sense. This is certainly a monumental album and will no doubt be considered one of the greatest albums of folk metal in years to come.

4.5/5

Nico Davidson